Friday, December 17, 2010

and so it begins again...

It’s a really strange time of the year you know. I’m totally over the not training for an event thing, but it’s still 3 weeks before the formal training plan for my 50 miler starts.  I’m getting in about an hour a week of running, mixing up high and low intensity on the treadmill, getting to the pool once a week and just enjoying my 9 km (round trip) walking to and from work. But I’m preparing for the battle(s). I’m thinking about projected times for both the 50 miler and Ironman. I’m thinking about what music I want on my journey. I’m thinking about whether or not I can do it. Because, it’s not a given you know. You have to respect the distance. At the longer races finishing is always the first victory, the first goal. Over the course of 50 miles/80 km on a trail, ankles can be rolled and the race over, GI issues can flare up that can’t be ignored until later. Oh, and the agony of blisters. The distance left can be just so long that it’s not a matter of mind over distance; it becomes very much a physical wall that you might not be able to climb over. There’s a good reason “the wall” is the perfect metaphor for the point in the marathon when you run smack up into a very physical barrier. It’s not all mental.

I’m researching  and preparing to practice blister prevention and learning about the wonders of the GI tract and what happens after hours and hours of physical effort. Knowledge is power and I’m trying to become powerful.

The imagination needs training too and along with post it notes with my “achievable time” and “ideal” times on them I’m also collecting snippets of inspiration, great writing from people’s blogs and, of course, some Steve Prefontaine quotes. This stuff really helps me, it reminds me of the commonality of endurance athletics, of Steve P’s “guts” in racing, of the journey that we all take on this earth to be fitter, healthier and therefore happier.

There are so many reasons to be doing what I’m doing. I was able, for instance to run a trail in Sedona that left me breathless with beauty along with the elevation. I think when I listen to U2’s “Elevation” as I train this year, I’ll remember the glow of the red rocks against the blue sky and the feeling of moving over the landscape at just the perfect pace, at a pace that felt very human and very ancient.

Contrast that with how we felt watching this year’s race as some many at the peak of their fitness moved over the course in Tempe. I really missed my Iron fitness that day. I missed the feeling of endless possibility that my training had given me. I’m not unrealistic, I knew last year that I wasn’t going to beat 16 hours by much, but gosh, to move across 140.6 miles in less than 17 hours fuelled only by my body, how awesome was that?

So, right now I’m at the first stage – “can I”?  Can I finish in 12 hours in Ancaster next May? Can I finish in 14.5 hours in Tempe next November? Can I do better? I don’t know right now. I do know that the next stage is “I think I can” and, most wonderfully, the third stage is “I know I can”. I love that stage.

And then “I’m doing it”, and the most beautiful place in the world is laid out before me and I complete a 50 miler, and I’m an Ironman again.

Thanks to Molly for this spectacular picture of the IMAZ finish chute. It’s currently my desktop at work and I know I’ll return to it many many times in the 11 months to come.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Niche Construction

Helloooo, anybody out there? I know I’ve been away for a bit, but, truth be told, I’m pretty boring when I’m not training. I had a cold that got better and then got worse. I watched my husband continue to install solar power at our not so new sleeping cabin up north. I ate too much and then not enough as the lack of training corresponded to a lack of appetite. Also, see cold above.

And I got grumpy. Not training meant that I also haven’t been sleeping very well which left me tired not feeling like training, which left me not sleeping very well etc. This cycle was ended yesterday as my husband told me to get my butt to the pool for a swim. So, I did. 1000 metres, nothing extraordinary but I did feel better, and today, I did a short run ladder on the treadmill at lunch. That killed me. Damn I miss last year’s Iron fitness.

So all this has me thinking about something that I’ve been reading about lately – niche construction.
It’s out of a book,Adam's Language, on language development which I’d really recommend if you’re into evolution and history.

The compelling argument of altering your environment at the same time as your environment alters you is a perfect analogy of understand what happened when we decided to change our life and our destiny with the purchase of ridiculously overpriced, skinny little shiny road bikes.

Inevitably when someone starts to get active they seem to start with the “reward” stage. You remember that stage – if we walk to X we can get Y, Y being a big ice cream cone, a moccachino, an entire rash of bacon – that sort of thing. We have all done it. We did it. 20 km runs got cake. 20 km runs get nada now unless they are matched with 90 km bike rides.

I don’t think that this stage is all bad because it’s the beginning of niche construction. Let’s say that normally you’d still have the rash of bacon but now, instead of driving to the restaurant you decide to walk or bike. Wham – big environment change. Alex and I used to ride to a restaurant (about 1.5 hours) and eat fish and chips. Now, before the bikes we still ate fish and chips but after the bikes we rode there. We changed our environment and in turn the environment started to change us. We looked around at the other people at the restaurant and realized, bike or no bike, we just didn’t want to live like them, or, most importantly, look like them. They were unhealthy. The fish and chips started to taste worse and worse. We grew conscious of how our stomachs felt riding home. We stopped going there. We had changed part of our environment, adding exercise, and the rest of the environment, greasy food, no long fit.

So, we started racing. And continued racing. That changed our social environment as we started to find ourselves with less and less in common with many of our friends. That was sad but inevitable. We still have friends who don’t race, they look upon our lifestyle with tolerance and compassion and don’t always call us crazies, but, it’s pretty nice to meet up with people that you don’t have to explain yourself to. People who just get it. That’s another bit of niche construction. Our social life changed from staying out late at bars to getting up early and going to races.

As an aside, I still get the feeling at races that there was this whole parallel world populated with crazies in Lycra and we had NO IDEA it was all going on. Still. And I’m wearing Lycra.

So, we started eating better because we knew what it was like to feel good physically, we started meeting and spending time with other crazies in Lycra and we created a new environment for ourselves. It acts on us, we act on it. I remember worrying about taking some time this year, after Ironman, to just chill out, get flabby, and have a life. I realize now that I really didn’t need to worry about that. I’m so pumped to get training for my 50 miler, I still have no desire to eat junk food (I retain the right, however, to define “junk food”), and having taken a few weeks off I can feel what I’m missing. And, I hope, that part of the environment that I’m affecting (and that definitely affects me) is the social environment where I meet people who are thinking they’d like to join the crazies. We always need new crazies, Lycra is not an endangered species, and there is still lots of room on the roads and the trails.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Two kinds of mud

There are two kinds of mud in Paris Ontario. There is the suckin' mud, the mud that grabs onto your foot like a crazy boyfriend and you have to scream at him "no I won't bear you 12 children and live in a shack in the woods" as you pull yourself out of the muck. That's the kind of mud that the Paris to Ancaster cross country bike race specializes in. Crazy boyfriend mud. Harmless really. Just don't return that mud's calls and he'll suck in someone else.

The mud on the trail at The Toad didn't look all that bad at first. Not suckin' mud. Just a couple inches on the trail, nothing you can't run through, walk if you have to, but easy peasy and you're on your way. Mud that you think resembles more the guys you met in bars at University. Sure they were grabbing their crotches as they offered to buy you a drink but you and your girlfriends had a laugh at their pickup lines -"so if we went for breakfast tomorrow, would I nudge you or call you?"- but in the end, you all went off for pizza - sans boys.

But you know, that mud in Paris on the The Toad trail, it didn't take no for an answer. It was stalkin' mud. You try to avoid the mud on a flattish portion of a trail and you find yourself slipping down the modest sideways incline. You think you'll just slide down the hill like skiing on butter but the mud has another idea. The mud takes you and won't let you go. The mud found out where you live, where you work and it's waiting for you. The mud was my enemy - I didn't like it, it didn't much care for me, but I kicked it's brown, slippery, stinky ass.

The Toad was my second trail race, the first ending in a very long walk in the woods. You might remember my helpful medic from the Limberlost race. Well, he was at the Toad, running the 25k and introduced me to his family as "The Ankle", we shared a moment laughing at the tree that almost took us both out and wished each other well. It was nice to see a friendly face because, although there was plenty of evidence of triathletes, and indeed Ironmen wandering around the race, I didn't see anyone else that I knew at all.

The race locale was really quite lovely with a rainbow over the lake and a wonderful fall feeling in the air. The weather report had switched over from massive deluge to light rain all day so there were no anxious moments rainwise.

Off we went on a 12.5 k route that varied between some paved road around trailers and tents in the park, a lovely meadow with rolling green hills, lots of nice wooded areas and one monster, I'm guessing 30 degree 30 foot high hill with a delightful skeleton at the top - drinking a cup of Tim Horton's, natch.

Considering the lack of actual ultra-marathon, or even marathon training I felt pretty good heading out. I took an easy pace, barely elevating my heart-rate reminding myself that the speedies around me were probably only doing the 25k and also, probably, getting themselves into trouble later. I'm not fast, I know I'm not, but I am ridiculously persevering. I honestly think it goes back to my years working in food service. 10-12 hours shifts create a certain work ethic and mentality. Work hard, drink beer, do it all again, don't whine, everyone else is tired too.

The second lap was challenging mentally because many of those 25 k runners were running out of steam. I tried to focus on how good I felt and tried to not get sucked into the negativity that many were falling into. Not so much a feeling of superiority as a sense that I have been at this long enough to know that I can do anything. As the 25 k runners picked up the pace in the last 3 k I hung back and though about how glad I was to be doing the 50 as I really felt I had it in me. I was pretty pumped.

There were only about 150 of us doing the 50 k and as I headed out on the third lap I could feel the energy change.

Sadly it seemed to really change for the worse. I tried my best with a couple of women who were really feeling it but, honestly, I just didn't have the energy for them so I picked up the pace both times and dropped them. The third lap was inspired entirely by my desire to not be lapped by my ride, the two fast women discussed in the earlier post. I'd look behind from time to time certain that I would see the two of them coming behind me like the hounds of hell. I was pleased to make the start of the next lap without them catching up.

Or so I thought. They had actually dropped out, the mud had just become too ridiculous for them. You see, the rain, although not a deluge was enough to loosen up the dirt portions of the trail creating the above referenced stalking mud. And it was bad. The only trees to grab onto seemed to be prickly bushes, the 30 degree hill in the meadow gave you the choice of all mud on the mowed portion or prickly plants on the perimeter. It was stupid hard for about 5k per 12.5 k loop.

I love stupid hard. Why the hell do you think I did Ironman. That course was not going to defeat me, I wanted that medal more than I remember wanting any other one during a race. It's funny, at Ironman I wanted the finish line, I wanted Mike Reilly to tell me I was an Ironman, I wanted the crowds, Saturday I wanted the medal. It was that tangible.

So, with a very guilty heart, I declared my intention to finish the race. I felt awful keeping them there but I just had to finish.

And then, my new friend Cathy appeared. We were to meet before the race but lost cell numbers etc thwarted that but there she was, Boston finisher's jacket, glowing face, and big, big hug. I took that energy on offer and set off. Now, the fire under my ass was running as fast as I could on the runable parts of the trail to make up for the mud and to finish as fast as I could so my chauffeurs could go home to well deserved beer.

And damn, I moved. I've said it before but it's true - Ironman training showed me how much endurance I have in me. There is no tired until the legs wobble and drop below you. Until then, suck it up buttercup. So I ran and ran, and slipped and slipped and broke the loop down into parts, 3 k to the aid station, 3 k to pass it again, 2 k to the massive hill, but then, only 1 k to the end. And the end, it was glorious, the medal is delightful (althought it doesn't say 50 k).

And now I have a hankering for a belt buckle.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Muskoka 70.3

It was hard.

The end.

How’s that for an epic race report?

This was my third time that I had done the race, previous report here and I was just not feeling the love. See previous post.

The summer has fallen apart on race goals but I’m good with that. I am, after all, not a pro, not an elite, not even a FOP (front of packer). It's not like it's my job.

Ironhusband was injured so was not up for the race, a friend from Cruise to Run arrived, also injured, and, along with her new boyfriend, proceeded to run interference on any plans to avoid the adult beverages before the race. Short story on that – I had a lot of fun Friday night but I think it came back to haunt my stomach on Sunday. I’m just not a spring chicken anymore.

Now, generally, given my pre-disposition to THE CRAZIES, I don't tend to even take a look at the swim course until it's basically too late. This year, so certain was I of kicking THE CRAZIES to the curb I actually I shoved myself into my wetsuit and hit the lake the day before the race.
It was cold.
But, other than the fact that my new women's specific goggles were constantly leaking (always try things out before a race!), I was very calm just swimming around the water toys at the beach, talking to others in the lake, and generally proving to myself that I was going to be great tomorrow.
And it was.
I'm going to cut to the chase and just go by the numbers. Absent transition times (boring story - honestly on why they were longer), I was actually 2 minutes faster than last year, and more importantly, moved way up in ranking. My bike was almost the same as last  year to the minute, my run sucked at + 4 minutes but, wait for it:
I took 8 minutes off the swim and only back stroked to, well, belch a couple times. I didn't even have any asthma problems. I freaking rocked.
I did feel the lack of training. The bike started out great and then I faded large on the last third or so, same story with the run, but it was just great to be able to complete a very tough half-ironman on what is now my general fitness level.
Right now I just have the Run for the Toad a week Saturday. I'm still registered for the 50K but I'm sure it will be just 25k for me. And that's ok. It's all ok. I'll just run the trail, maybe hug random strangers, and eat the great food waiting for my ride. Alex can't be there so I'm going with a couple of very fast women (and no, I don't mean what you think I mean) - hmmph - a couple of very speedy women (not much better) - what I mean is, they are doing the 50k and I don't imagine  that I'm going to be waiting very long for them. I'll have a lawn chair, a book, an iphone, and a big plate of food. And, a new friend to get to know who is running it as well. We've been fixed up on the date by a mutual friend from the cruise. I'll be sure to shave my legs.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Anatomy of a Burnout: Incorporating many metaphors that don’t particularly go anywhere

We’ve all been there – suddenly the things that used to be bring you joy, the obsession that once bored everyone around you, and, let’s be honest, the vast money pit that you threw all your ill gotten gains into, well, it’s just not so interesting anymore. And that hurts.

At first I thought that the metaphor of hurting would lead to a conclusion that it hurt like falling out of love, but, it’s not that. You know the love will be back. You’re just not ready for that much love right now.

The winter run season started out with a greatly reduced desire to do much of any kind of training. I just wanted some time to myself to do some interesting things that I hadn’t had time for before. What I really wanted was to learn to make cheese, although amount of cheese made was something very close to zero. But, to that end I created and embraced a super low volume training regime that somehow took me to a bunch of PBs. I got an ego burst from the PBs, no doubt but I should have listened to that cheese maker in my head and should not have signed us up for two half-ironman races.

But it’s scary you know. Triathlon saved us from a future that I know would have seen both of us obese, unhealthy and, regardless of what Ironhusband often says, very much unhappy. Physical fitness is happiness. So, to take off time from training is a little bit like being surrounded by your drug of choice when you’re newly out of rehab. We’ve been 5 years “fitness-sober” but that doesn’t mean deep fried cheese sticks and the couch don’t look awfully tempting. As well, we’re doing Ironman again next year and we didn’t want to lose too much fitness.

But you know what – we’re good around the cheese sticks and the couches. I know we would have gotten out on the bike, on the trails to run, and maybe even into the lake for some laps around the bay. Mostly because, for us, physical fitness is happiness and we really dig the happiness.

So, I’ve got two metaphors going right now, the idea of love that hurts and the metaphor of drug addiction. I’m not saying I’m a professional writer so stay with me as I work that out in my mind.

Most of the time I love triathlon. I do. I love the three sports and the wonderful way that one rejuvenates the body that is exhausted from the others. A swim after a run is wonderful, stretching out all the muscles that just took a pounding adding further quiet, contemplative time to the workout. Getting off the bike and starting a run is tough, that’s why we practice it but, you get to slow down and feel the nature that you’re running though at a speed more favourable to noticing the details. Then, if you’re lucky, you get back on your bike, cool yourself down with the wind and experience the speed that allows you the fantastic sensation of flight.

And the races…all those people with all those body types, everyone excited, nervous and very much proud of themselves and each other. And everyone wearing spandex. Oh the glories of spandex. We should all wear it more, especially since it seems to alarm the non-sporty types.

So, back to the narrative. This year we actually DNS’s a race. (DNS = did not start) The saying is that DFL (dead f&^%ing last) is better than DNF (did not finish) is better than DNS so there was some dishonour in that for us but, well, we DNS’d. The weather was calling for a 90% chance of 10-15 mm of rain for our Bracebridge half-iron distance and, although we wasted a perfectly good Saturday night on nothing more adult than San Pellegrino mineral water, (not wanting to make the call not to race just in case the weather changed), it was a good call as the heavens opened up right at the 8 am start time and didn’t stop all day.

Now, we are very close to our last race, our A race of the year – the Muskoka 70.3. Alex can’t do it, he’s had a shoulder injury that just isn’t getting any better and that keeps him from being able to swim. Me, I’m just not so excited about the race but we have a non-refundable hotel reservation at the host hotel so, although that’s a sunk cost we might as well enjoy it.

So, how to turn the attitude around and enjoy this race. It’s a tough bike course and I’m massively under trained for it. But, I’ve made great strides in my swimming so I’m looking forward to testing that out in the swim. I will get through the bike because I’m an Ironman and I can’t let the tattoo down. Some of the big hills might be walked but that’s not my plan. I’m debating whether to not wear a watch to take off any pressure of worrying about a PB and that idea sounds good right now.

I am excited about my 25k trail race the first Saturday in October. I signed up for the 50 k but I know I’m just not ready for that. After that, it’s 6 weeks off, vacation in Arizona with bikes, volunteer at Ironman and sign up for next year. I’m still thinking 50 miler next May but, if as it approaches I think 50 k is a better bet there is no ego on the line and I can go for the shorter distance.

Hmm, ego, now there’s a third leg to triathlon table. (warned you on the metaphors!). When I started this journey 6 years ago I knew that part of the motivation was to get people in my life to perhaps pay some attention to me. What I’ve come to realize is that those people won’t suddenly be impressed by something they don’t understand, and something done by someone that they don’t particularly respect because, well, why would facts change an opinion they have based on anything but facts.

So maybe that’s why I’m a little wobbly right now. Tables need 4 legs for stability. So far I’ve build the ego leg, the love leg, the fear of fat leg – I’m missing a leg.

Off to find that leg – talk to you soon.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I'm here

I'm training, kinda. I'm really finding that without THE BIG GOAL it's hard to get motivated this season. I'm already planning on a 50 miler next May and going into Iron training next July and that is what's keeping me buzzed. The Muskoka 70.3 that I have coming up is, truthfully, kinda freaking me out. I'm not sure if I might clock the 50k trail race in October down to the 25K distance. I'm just not feeling the training love. After Ironman next year I wonder if we might just take the year off racing.

But I'm buzzed about starting 50 miler training at the end of November and then going into Iron training again with a great run base. I'm just about 2011 right now.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bala triathlon 2010: Now with less crazy

Sunday morning found me in the car, music on, driving to my first triathlon since Ironman and I was just plain happy. That's all. No anxiety, no underlying fear of a panic attack, just a sense that I was so lucky to be able to do what I was about to do and gosh, I was going to do it well.

This is unheard of.

I've struggle with swim panic almost since I started racing. I spent 12 weeks with a therapist to overcome the anxiety, gave up chocolate and coke for a while (they're back baby!), and lastly got needles stuck in my sensitive skin to treat the anxiety.

Bingo needles. The rest worked to lessen the level of anxiousness but it never really went away. Having done the swim portion of Ironman as back stroke I was actually starting to feel like that was just who I was and as long as it was manageable then I'd just consider that my invisible handicap. Well, this summer I've been our open water swimming 4 times - real open water, not just swimming around our bay - and I can tell you that I'm a different person. I'm really enjoying it and feel a little sad on those weekend days when I can't get in the water.

So, back to the race. It was what I think of as a long sprint, 750m swim, 30 k bike and 7.5 k run. It was the third time that I'd raced this one and the first time that I didn't panic. I actually swore off sprint races as the atmosphere was too tense with tri newbies hanging around talking about how nervous they were but, given my complete and total, almost unnatural relaxation in swimming this year, well, I signed up to face my demons.

Demons stayed home that day. What am I saying - demons have been kicked to the curb and left to rot.

Absent of the mental panic I can now see that I do get a little asthmatic for the first portion of the swim and I did resort to some back stroke to get in some shallow breathing to calm down my lungs. That worked fabulously and I was back on with front crawl for the rest of the race. After the 3.8 k Ironman swim 750 m was such a delight.

Also delightful was the 30 bike ride. The road is closed to all but local traffic making for a very safe atmosphere and the hills on this course are just perfect. Lots of rolling fun and decent pavement.

The competitors were also very much different from Ironman and longer races, lots of mountain bikes and hybrids. I really had to laugh as I passed a guy on his mountain bike (that's fine), wearing his Crank the Shield jersey (famous MTB race, that's fine too) and wearing a Camelback (not so triathlon, but that's fine) but the very ancient aero helmet that he had on just set me off.

I laughed less when he passed me on the last 5 k. Guess I couldn't compete with the helmet.

I was hoping to hit a new record for the bike portion but ended up about the same as last year.

The run was much easier this year - I've always hated the course, it's very hot, there are a bunch of little out and backs that screw with your head and there is a big hill right near the end that sucks out the happiness in your soul.

This year, pacing with my new friend Nancy, I felt strong and steady and took off over a minute over 2009. Not stellar but I'll take it. With the swim and better transition times it all added up to 4 minutes less than last year which, for the first time in my life, put me in the middle of the pack at a triathlon.

Perhaps I'll do more sprints after all. I'll have to take off an hour at my upcoming half-iron to move up from last in my age group and that's just not going to happen this year. There are some seriously fast women out there.

The most groovy thing, I think, that came out of the race was the announcement that the top 5 men and women in the race were all over 40. I love triathlon for setting examples of how incredible the human body is if we just take care of it. I passed women in their 30s and in turn was passed by those in there 50s. I've got lots to look forward too it seems.

Recovery, however, still seems to follow age and Monday was a tough day to get through.

As an aside, the ankle held up but then seized up about an hour after the race. No track workout this week and the only running for the weekend is the 3x3k runs that match up with our 3x25k bikes for Saturday's brick workout. Just open water and a 60k hill workout on the bike for Sunday.'s good to be fit. (insert happy face!)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

'Cause everyday should start with a lube up in the bathroom at Walmart

A few months ago, probably before summer training started, and therefore feeling full of vim, vigour and unrealistic expectations, I signed up for two trail races - one 28 k and one 50 k. They would open and close my season with the 28 k in July just before triathlons began and the 50 k 3 weeks after my A race, the Muskoka 70.3. They would be fun, a change and a challenge.

My husband thought I was being an idiot. Post 28 k evidence seems to support him somewhat, but, there was a mitigating circumstance to Saturday's DNF race.

Which takes us to the bathroom at Walmart approx 7:30 on Saturday morning as I whip in to buy generic Vaseline for immediate application to all know hot zones on my body. That would be pretty much 99% of the body, I've yet to chafe anywhere on my forearms but, well, time will tell.

So, off we go, me delightfully greasy in my Skirtsports running dress, Alex packed for his planned double brick that should correspondent, time wise, with my trail race. He's sceptical that I'll be done in 3:30 hours but he's not wearing the dress so what does he know.

Like so many other Saturday and Sundays in our life, we wind up in a field praising the practicality of our Subaru and look around a perky, fit, excited people in various stages of preparation for the race.

I'd like to take a minute right now to pass on some advice to buddy seen lubing up the boys in public - there was a change tent, perhaps you could use it next time. Just sayin'. Anywho...

This is no triathlon, there is something decidedly low key about the event. The athletes look scruffy, a little wild and there certainly isn't that undercurrent of materialism that permeates a transition zone full of bikes that cost more than my first car.

There is also no chip timing! This takes a moment to comprehend. I'm a little thrown; how am I to validate my existence without that reassuring buzz from timing mats? Further evidence of the downhome feeling is the fact that the race simply starts with a countdown from 5 to "go" led by one of the race directors.

We're a mixed group, 14k, 28k and 56 k racers and I remind myself to run my own race since there is no use keeping up with the 14'ers. It's tough going, a real black diamond trail and I try to settle in at a steady run/walk pace so I can still have juice left over for a bike and swim the next day.

It's also just so beautiful in the woods and I was really enjoying the shade and cool and the camaraderie of a group of 56 k runners when suddenly, at about the 5 k mark I painfully went over on my ankle.

I saw stars. I did. Truly.

The 56 k crazy people stopped with me commenting on how bad it looked and said they'd report it to the next aid/medical station. I sat at the side of trail, overlooking a wonderful lake thinking that my race was over and feeling so disappointed. The pain subsided however, and I ran to the next check in feeling pretty good. I told the med station that I was continuing and confirmed it again at the next turn point.

Shortly before the 14 k turnaround at the start/finish line I went over again but managed to grab a tree to stop the twist and felt that the run was still doable.

As a side note, ultra running events appear to be all about the food and I was very tempted by the pancakes and bacon that I saw on the buffet and looking at at 2:15 time for only 14 k I really wondered if I should continue or just scratch myself from the 28.

Alex thinks that given my ankle I should have quit at the time and if he was there I'm sure he would have convinced me of the merits of that decision but, he was off running and riding his own black diamond course and having spent the last 5 years learning how to run through pain and having never not finished a race I was unable to really contemplate the possibility I went.

I got into trouble pretty quickly, my left foot screaming every time I was jostled by rocks or roots and the trail was nothing but rocks and roots. I considered dropping out at the first aid station at about 4 k but the presence of people and sugar gave me a boost and off I went. I considered dropping out again at the last aid station at 9.5 k but some crazy shirtless guy handed me some magic balm that made my ankle feel loose and happy just long enough for me to get away from the station.

The magic balm then ricocheted however and the tightness that I was feeling for the second loop just got worst and worst and it wasn't long before I was on my third loosening of my shoelaces.

Every race has a low point and mine came as I tried to climb up a steep hill when I was passed by a grey pony tailed crazy man, who, and I can't make this up, actually passed wind as he overcame me. I was very sad about just about everything at that point.

By the 11 k point I was reduced to using a stick as a cane and discovered that there were 3 types of people on that course. A minority went wizzing by me focused on their race. I have no problems with that as they knew the majority of runners would stop to give aid. Another minority stopped long enough to make snarky comments like "it's tough out here isn't it". Karma's a bitch however and I'm sure they will get bitch slapped.

The majority, however, were wonderful, offering water and Gatorade (note to self, it takes a long time to walk out on an injured ankle, take the water), an unbelievably cute couple in matching shirts took Alex's description and found him to update him on my progress (apparently I was injured but in good spirits). Countless stopped to assure me they would get medical in to help.

I walked on to the 12 k mark with no idea of what time it was only that I was very thirsty, very hungry and the Deep Woods Off was wearing off. Around this point my saviours started appearing - saviour on a mountain bike who assigned me saviour number two, one of the young people from a fantastic program that runs in the reserve. James served as my crutch but it was his incredible attitude that took what was at that time a really horrible day and turned it into just another wonderful experience of being the recipient of another's good will.

The saviours were coming fast and furious at this point, Lowell, the chief medic for the day, ran around the corner and introduced himself and took over a chief crutch as James went back to his volunteer station. Actually James tried to go back but at that moment we were shocked by a very loud bang, akin to thunder, and we all looked up in terror as the top of a very tall tree collapsed and started to fall. I'm sure Lowell was weighting the options wondering if he should just leave me and bolt but he might have been as shocked as I was, unable to move. Yup, a tree fell in the forest and we all heard it. We all saw that it blocked the trail as well and the detour that presented itself was straight through a bog. Good times!

The last saviour to present himself was Alex who seemed to appear suddenly as soon as the tree settled on the trail. The cute runners had found him and he started the hike in to fetch me. Having felt so alone on the trail for so long it was wonderful to have everyone, especially Alex, show up. I was helped out to the road, and then ferried in Lowell's car to the finish line where everyone came together to get me water and pop and ice for my foot.

So, my first trail run, my first DNF, and the first race I couldn't finish just through sheer force of will. That alone was a pretty humbling experience for me. It's not so much that I've built up any sort of outrageous ego from my journey from couch to Ironman but that I've really come to the conclusion that we are all capable of so much more than we think and suddenly, well, I wasn't.

I'm still on for the 50 k next October - the trail will be much less rugged and I'll be that much fitter but I'm certainly carrying my own water and I have a new appreciation for trail running and the hazards so I'll be doing some serious off roading to prepare this summer.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The pit of despair

 These are trying times to be in the investment industry and we are dealing with a couple of irresponsible pet owners whose dog is attacking and threatening ours so I've fallen into a bit of a funk lately.

I'm still getting in the workouts and in fact, I've picked up 2-3 km/hour in speed on the bike over this time last year but although I'm pretty stoked about making my 7 hour half ironman race times this year, it's recovery week and I'm feeling the heaviness in my legs which also makes it hard to get terribly positive. But, I'm trying. I'm focussing on that 7 hour mark in my workouts much like I kept the idea of the Ironman finish line in my head last year. By the way, anyone thinking about the Iron route, that finish line is a thousand times better than you can ever imagine. Get off your butt and get there.

To recap the race schedule, I have less than two weeks to my 28 k Limberlost challenge trail run and I'm really not sure what to think. I'm pretty sure that my Skirtsports running dress in the Endless Summer print will be perfectly appropriate (ultra runner females seem to put a lot of emphasis on cool outfits for the race) but the question of course is, will the legs be appropriate. Mostly I think that I'm Iron, I can do anything, but, training is making it clear that although speed has improved, endurance is lacking. I may have to race my endurance back that day.

The following week is a sprint triathlon in Bala, very close to our cottage. The absolutely unbelievable Gord Pauls will be there on his way to his triple Ironman this August in Penticton. Gord will be completing the Ironman Canada course on Friday and Saturday before racing Ironman Canada on the Sunday. He's doing this to race money for micro credit in Haiti. I'm so honoured to know Gord and his wife Esther (who did Ironman Arizona with us last November). The Ironhusband saw Gord on Saturday when we were out riding. Gord was in the middle of an epic training weekend and was actually on the way to have a hamburger in the middle of the workout to fuel the second half. Gord clearly also has an Iron stomach.

First half iron distance race is the second Sunday in August and second, and last, is the second Sunday in September. Then it's 3 weeks off before my first ultra marathon in Paris Ontario. When you can't get to France, there's always Ontario. Paris, Ontario is also the site of the Paris to Ancaster cross country bike race that saw the debut of the Ironprincess tiara last April so, if, as planned, I don't race again until that bike race next spring I'll have done a nice little Paris, Ontario race bookend.

In the meantime the appetite has increased with the training increase and I'm trying to fulfill my vow to not spend the summer mainlining sugar. I'm having fair to good results on that as Ironhusband continually rebuffs my suggestions of buying cookies. Of course, then I find chocolate bar wrappers in the car.

Finally had a chance over the last day or so to catch up on everyone's blogs. Dennis have patience you'll be running soon, in the meantime enjoy the pool, Big Clyde, have patience too, slow weight loss is the best, Barbara, don't force yourself to race if it's not in your heart this year, don't ruin the sport for yourself. Duane, you have come so far, you inspire me, keep it up, and Mike, wow, you are so close to the adventure, get lots of sleep and know that you can do it. Finally, Molly - please use your science skills to bottle your energy and enthusiasm and ship some to me. In the meantime, lots of video of Stanley on the course barking and barking. That always cracks me up.

Yours in health, happines and raw nuts and dried fruit (in lieu of ice cream - sigh)


Monday, July 5, 2010

Too many things trying my positive nature right now. I write these "go get 'em grrrl" postings for myself as much as others and I'm going to have to work hard on focussing on what's good in life right now. I'll get back to you on that.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

If you've read much of my ramblings you've probably figured out that open water swimming and I are not the best of friends.

The thing about taking on something when you're older is that you never get to get used to the activity during those wonder years of complete ignorance of your own mortality. When my friend Allison and I decided to trick out my wagon to make it into Snoopy's Sopwith Camel with me in the Snoopy role wearing an old football helmet, we never thought it would be anything but really really cool to fire the wagon downhill on our quiet residential street because the street ended in a T where the wagon could, I don't know, just quietly disgorge the occupant into the grassy field at the end, having avoided any traffic on the cross street during the trip as well. Quite a few things could have gone wrong but the adventure never happened and I'm not sure if we were found out or if some inner adult spoke up to me and said it was a bad idea. i just know that when I first started triathlons I so wanted to be that girl in the wagon again - focused only on the adventure, relying on a grassy field to provide the safety net.

So, what have I done to take care of the swim anxiety.
1. Gave up caffeine - and yes, chocolate does contain caffeine and yes, I really freaking missed it.
2. 12 weeks of anti-anxiety therapy with attendant changes in relationships that were making me crazy
3. Total immersion swimming lessons, looking like a goof starting all pool workouts with bobbing. I LOVE BOBBING by the way, makes me feel like a kid again.
4. The latest, having  needles stuck into me, by a professional who will read interesting things for me off Wikipedia to take my mind off the needles that are making me anxious, in the treatment for anxiety that involves needles.

My acupuncturist, as above, keeps asking me for any feedback on whether the treatment seems to be working for the anxiety. So far she's loosened up my back, my right ankle and hip flexors but, it was hard to gauge mental changes. Well, Kris, here's your mental change.

On Saturday, just for fun, I leap out of a moving boat into the mouth of a river and swam up it. And I didn't freak out a bit. My heart rate was elevated from the jump but I just had fun. I bilateral breathed in open water. For me that has been the holy grail. I have never been comfortable enough to keep my heart rate low enough to support that level of relaxed breathing.

I am so pumped for more open water adventures this summer. I have an island to swim around, that river to do again and again, and, perhaps this lovely lake that is the centre of a park that we visit to hike. No boats, calm, small enough to swim across. Open water swimming envisioned as trail running.

I'm going to kill those races this year.

Oh, and later that day I tried to climb up a cliff to grab a suspended rope that would catapult me into the lake. Couldn't quite make it but it's early days.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bikes vs cars, cyclists vs drivers, courtesy vs anger

We're all seeing the stories about crazy cyclists taking on drivers, crazy drivers running cyclists off the road and ensuing assaults, those of us who ride have been told to "get off the road", I have told cyclists riding on sidewalks to "get on the road", and then there is the helmet vs no helmet issue as politics.

What is going on?

What strikes me is that there are two types of cyclist presented in media stories.

There is the urban cyclist who is seen as holy than thou, non polluting, an outlier of society - an old fashioned outlaw, someone outside of the protection or control of the law. Certainly the majority of urban cyclists I see on my daily walks to work obey the laws of the road, wear a helmet, and are generally considerate of both the potential dangers around as well as allowing cars to move efficiently on the road. But, and it's a big but, there is a very flamboyant, very noticeable minority that flouts the law, rides on sidewalks and seems to delight in giving drivers a heart attack as they run red lights and swerve in and out of traffic. They are generally called "couriers" regardless of whether they actually work as one.

The other kind is me - we're the ones on road bikes told to "get off the road". We're hassled for wearing spandex shorts for goodness sake. We ride in packs, which really upsets people for some reason, although not nearly as much as the spandex does. There is always some element of classism in the encounter - packs of triathletes (an elitist sport) having a run in with someone in a pick up - good honest working man who hasn't got the time for 100k rides in the sun.

For some reason it seems, the act of getting on a bike seems to be taken as an insult by those who aren't on a bike. When I'm out riding in the country I'm not making a statement about the ethics of driving a car, I drove a car to the country to ride. When I walk to work no one driving thinks I am making a statement that I am "greener" than they are. We drive to work every once in a while too.

Now, am I fitter - probably but I can't make a judgement that the overweight driver in the car that passed me isn't working hard to change their life. If they came within a foot of me I'm pretty sure they aren't but, tomorrow is another day and another start at things.

One thing I do know is that we have to get to the root of what's going on. People are dying.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The 7% Solution

Wednesday night I ran 5k in a charity relay on a team that Ironhusband's company put together. It was my third time I was included in the event and, occurring after work, in an unseasonably hot May - it was challenging. The only chip is on the final runner so I've never had a time before for my laps but this time I used my Ironman watch to get an approximate lap time. Comparing that with 2 chipped races on our running cruise in Barbados I found I have pb'd by 2 minutes or so. It was about as hot and both courses are flat so I think they are comparable. That 27 minute 5k came out to be a 7% improvement. And that 7% improvement is about what I have been wanting to do this year in my two half iron races. 7% at the Bracebridge half iron  distance takes me from 7:33 last year to 7:01 (and I'm going to run myself to the med tent to pick up those 2 minutes for a sub 7), 7% at Muskoka 70.3 takes me from 7:53 in 2009 to 7:20. If I was doing Ironman this year that would put me with a 15:20 goal.

Assuming I do 7% again next year that puts me at a 14:16 Ironman Arizona in 2011. Feels unbelievable for me right now but after I did my first half Iron in Bracebridge in 2008 at 8:11 I never thought I could make the 17 hour cut off at a full.

So, these are the goals. It's going to take all my awesomeness and a lot of vasoline. And my new Skirt Sports workout wardrobe, especially the hot pink running skirt.


While I have your attention the very awesome Bart and Laura Yasso (whom I am proud to call friends - I'm not sure what they call me) are running the Comrades Ultramarathon on Sunday in South Africa. Bart and others have paired up with World Vision to promote child sponsorship in Africa. Using a race like this to promote such a great program and give a hand up to some wonderful needy kids, well, it feels like a great investment in the human race. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Triathlon: A post modern, deconstructionist, feminist analysis incorporating chaos theory and linguistic analysis.

Actually no. Don’t worry – I’m just the product of a 1990’s art degree program. If I couldn’t get all the above into one of my papers then there just wasn’t any sense in handing the thing in. As an aside, during my time at university I determined that 2 beers was the perfect alcohol consumption level for me to illuminate my thoughts on anything while still able to include the above. Less than two and I could realize how silly it all was, more than two and I had a hard time getting chaos theory in there.

But, a little of the skill and desire to break things down and look at them in a different light seems to have be retained.

When I was growing up in the wilds of Canada, small town Canada, there was just one sport. Can we guess what that was? Yes - it was all about HOCKEY. I hated hockey. Hockey to me was an endless punishment – as the youngest with 4 older brothers I had to accompany everyone everywhere for tournament after tournament. I can still smell hockey arenas – I can still hear the sound that the bleachers made as I ran endlessly around and around in absolute mind numbing, resentful boredom.

As a girl I could, and did, take figure skating but figure skating was all about pretty outfits, pretty girls and a lot of money for coaches. It was, and I still think is, the sport of cliqued femininity. (Although I love to watch ice dancing still, my post modern, deconstructionist, feminist education has slightly ruined it all for me.) There certainly wasn’t any cash left over for coaches for me, even if I had shown any talent, which I didn’t, and I never looked pretty in any of the outfits that I ever got my hands on. So somewhere around 14 or so I stopped skating. That was the end of my athletic life. That, after all, was the end of my parent’s athletic vision for girls. I think I was expected to then learn to cook and sew so I could get me a good husband; I just got a job and started working.

Now, in small town Ontario, there was an endless succession of young men from other small towns who were signed up for the local Junior A team – their proving ground for the NHL. If I could sum up these boys in one word that would be – sleezy. Actually I need a second word – violent. Sleezy and violent. Most probably just needed to grow up and missed the firm hand of their parents. They were, after all, only 16 years old, living with foster families or in local small motels, playing hockey, partying, and passing a select few girls (often figure skaters) around. I was smart enough to stay out of that scene and combined with a far too intimate knowledge of the habits of my youngest brother’s hockey friends it left me with a distinct disgust of team sports – especially hockey.

Which was too bad because that meant that I wasn’t open to the joy of sport.

My journey into individual sport started in 1981 with Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope. Inspired by him, a friend and I started running in the morning. I have a vague memory that some sort of run was held but no memory of actually doing a formal event. I do remember the training and how much I enjoyed it. Yet somehow, even though my best friend in high school ran on the track team, I never even considered doing that. I won’t lie, I would have sucked but that’s not what kept me from it. That, very simply, was because no one ever said, “hey, why don’t you try running on the team”.

Fast forward through a montage of me running on and off through time at school and work. Slow down the camera as you get to my husband and I dragging our fat slow bodies through life. Zoom in on his pack a day smoking habit.

Somehow we made the connection and started to get active again. I took us on death marches all over the city. We bought a cottage and started to swim. We bought a house close to a pool so we could swim there. Alex quit smoking. We started running. We bought bikes. We started racing. We never looked back.

So, where’s the post modern, deconstructionist, feminist analysis incorporating chaos theory and linguistic analysis of triathlon you ask. Well thanks for sticking around this long. That would be a whole bunch of BS and my sport deserves better. The reason I love it - short and sweet. Men and women race the same distances. Men and women race the same events. There are no enforcers, no goons, and no swim/bike/run bunnies. It’s not a male sport, not a female sport, and you can spectate and participate at the same time. It’s not cheap either financially or in terms of the time it asks from you but the payback is priceless.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Total Immersion Swimming

Back in February I had a private Total Immersion lesson with Karin and promptly didn't get into the pool enough to really remember all the tricks. She was great in leaving me with diagrams outlining the drills to do (and also a fair amount of confidence) but getting back into it I needed a refresher of what we had talked about. Below is the text of an email I sent her with questions and her responses in blue. I know that I'd read a great deal about Total Immersion but didn't really get it until I was in the pool with her. You might, however, find this helpful.

Hi Karin, thanks so much for doing this update/rehash of the great swim lesson that you gave me. I know that I had read a lot about Total Immersion and seen some videos but until that lesson I didn’t understand what a difference could be made. What I really like was the emphasis on relaxation in the water – I know all triathletes could use a little more of that come race day. So, I wanted to just go over the drills that I’m doing these days. I had told you that I’d been maintaining about 21 strokes per 25 yards and that seems to be stuck there. I was finding that frustrating as I hit 19 with you and you are targeting 15 for me (based on my height of 5”4”: remember this is a target for a comfortable swim, as your increase speed your stroke count should be higher than 15) but, as I started with 27 then I’m half way there. (that is awesome!)

First Drill – The Lengthen Vessel

This one has me on my side with the lower hand relaxed below the water in about a 45 degree angle, the upper hand in my imaginary side pocket on my thigh and, unless I’m breathing, my head is positioned down and my eyes are on the bottom of the pool. So, along with trying to ignore anything strange floating around down there, what exactly is this trying to accomplish? Head position! Body position! This position is to try and maintain a horizontal position and find a balance with your head position, your arm angle and your hips. If the head is too high, the hips will drop, if the head is too low, the hips have a tendency to come up. If the arm is too high, it affects the body position! You want to find your balance with the least amount of resistance.

I’m finding that I’m really sinking down in this – is that correct or am I too relaxed in my core stability to bring myself up? Depending on your body density, you might find yourself partially or completely submerged. I'd have to watch you to help answer this one!

Second Drill – Underarm

This one takes the Lengthen Vessel position and adds a movement to the top arm. I find I think of it as bending my elbow to bring my hand up to my face, as if I’m bringing a mirror up to check myself. Have I got that right? Yes

What should I be thinking about doing this – how does this action extend into the long relaxed stroke I’m trying to achieve? Maintaining head position, body position, careful to how you "breathe"... as your head + body moves, it affects your horizontal position.

Third Drill – Underarm Switch

I take the Underarm drill and when my hand is at my face I swap my arm positions. This actually feels very elegant when I do it but as all the action happens under the water I’m left wondering again what I should be thinking about achieving in it. Distance per stroke+ body rotation... always thinking about your head position and body!

Fourth Drill – Zipper

This is, to my mind, the old fingertip drag and I’m easily able to see it’s connection to a full stroke. Careful, finger drag is different than the Zipper, the Zipper drill you literally pretend there is a zipper on your body, high elbow, your body is on its side.

Fifth Drill – Zipper switch

Building on the Zipper this has my arms switch position when my hand passes my head. I know I should be thinking about pulling all the way at this point. Anything else I should keep in mind? Always remember, correct your head position, your body position (you want a nice rotation creating the least drag possible)

I’ve really enjoyed starting my workouts with the bobbing as you suggested. I’m absolutely going to do that when warming up for races this year. It gets me into the mind set of relaxed breathing that you emphasized. I’m also working on not deliberately/forcefully inhaling and exhaling as I can feel the tension that it creates. Good! You want to breathe as normal as possible!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Help me plan our vacation

In November the Ironhusband and I will return to the scene of the crime in Tempe to volunteer and sign up for Ironman Arizonia 2011:Once Is Not Enough. We're taking extra time this trip to see the sights and we're thinking of taking our cyclo-cross bikes to do some driving and day riding. We'll have 2 half days to begin and end the week of riding and 5 full days and we need ideas. I'd love to be able to ride some dirt roads and easy trails through some of the desert parks and possibly stop by the Grand Canyon for a day hike. Thoughts??

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Paris to Ancaster “Psycho” Cross Country Race: A tale of the triumph of the Iron Princess containing within it an ode to boys.

The course consists of 20km of gravel and dirt roads, 18km of rail trail, 13km of singletrack (1-3km sections), 8km of paved road and about 3 tons of mud – give or take a ton. It ends with a climb up a dirt hill surrounded by more hills on top of which are perched, like vultures, various onlookers cheering you on (not so much like vultures, that part). On the side of the road are the fallen warrior men (never a woman) screaming in pain at the cramping of their quads. If someone would just play Ride of the Valkryies over a loud speaker, the scene would be complete.


It is also very very male. Really male.

Now, I like males. I really do. They have within them such a core of self-assuredness that they will show up at the above race with a piece of crap bike that looks like grampa used it during the Second World War. This is admirable, but stupid. I’ve elected to be in the third of three waves and it is by far the most unattractive group of bikes I’ve ever seen. There are kickstands, fenders, handmade whatchamacallits and doohickies. One guy is wearing a golf style wind breaker and a pair of pants. People are massively overdressed as newbies always are.

Off we go and within a few kilometres the side of the trail starts to be littered with mechanical breakdowns. Clearly, male self-assuredness, absent of bike tune-ups, is actually highly overrated by the self-assured males.

But you know, you’ve got to love them, when they aren’t parked in the left track of the rail trail holding you up.

I’ve decided that what this race needs, to offset the testosterone, is a dollar store tiara on my helmet. It is brilliant. I knew that the women out there would love it, it’s so very Barbie, but the men are having a good laugh as well. And there is something about wearing your own personal crown jewels that gives you that perhaps unfounded belief in your ability to ride a ridiculously varied course on whatever 2 wheels you have lying around the house. Ah ha, so that’s it – my dollar store crown jewels gave me the same abilities as those crown jewels that the men though they too were wearing, snuggled up in their bike shorts.

As we whip throught the Ontario spring countryside I point out to my fellow competitors all the pretty flowering trees so they can tell their wives about them later. As I past them of course.

I LOVE CHICKING GUYS. Is that wrong?

I pop out of a mud trail onto a road I recognize as the start of the short course race and, checking my watch, am dismayed to see that it took me 1:35 to ride 25 km. Given that I finished the next 35 km (the short course) last year in 2:27 I’m feeling a little down that I’m going to be over 4 hours. I honestly thought it was doable in 3:15 which would have put me in about the same placing as last year’s short race. This year I absolutely refuse to not PB every single race I do. I just refuse, so clearly I need to somehow PB this one somehow.

I’m mentally kicking myself for walking so much of the mud in the first portion but I know what’s ahead of me and, except for the formal mud hills, the trails are pretty much going to be dry. Riding a cyclo-cross bike also gives me an edge on the portion left as it’s not quite so technical. Mental readjustment and it’s back on.

So, I start sailing past those boys, down in the drops to fight the wind, cursing the fact that I’ve dropped behind and I’m now faster than everyone so I can’t find anyone to draft off of. Not that I don’t receive some drafting attention, notably from a guy who tells me he’s never done it before but can he draft off of me. Sure I say but then proceed to put the hammer down to shake him off. I just didn’t want any newbies with kickstands taking me down. Sure the scars would look impressive but I might ding up my tiara.

On we go, over hill, dale, farmer’s fields, rail trails and fast happy pavement. Two guys on a tandem go down behind me as we struggle through muddy tractor tracks and I watch the process of remounting before seeing them take off yelling in tandem as they tackle the ruts. I do a bit of my own self encouragement a little later on as I get to the top of a forest trail hill that suddenly seems to end in an awful lot of loose dirt.

And then, the mud, the famous part of the race. We are all corralled into a steep little valley not much more than maybe 10 feet wide with mud oozing over our shoes. The husband, having seen someone loose one of their shoes last year, counselled a tight fit. I’ve ratcheted them on but I can still feel them slip around in the suction. The other key to success is to carry your bike so as not to gather up 5 pounds of mud on your frame. Another bonus of the cross is that it’s much lighter than the mountain bikes around me and I manage to carry it all the way to dry land.

After the mud is a brief respite of pavement and hard pack dirt roads. And then there is more mud. It was so much fun the first time that the course steers you into another mud valley. Same routine, carry the bike, hold onto the shoes, scrape off the cleats, remount.

I’m getting tired here but I’m pretty sure that the race is almost over and when I see the “chewed up” dirt road I know that we’re starting the uphill slog to the finish line. All I can do at this point is to stay on my bike as much as possible as I work my way through massive ruts and small ponds. Then, the final ascent has me off my bike, calves burning at the angle and I walk to the top. You can’t walk the finish line however – that would be shameful so it’s back on and I ride across the mat.

So, how about the personal best dream. Well, I sailed through the second part of the race over 20 minutes faster than last year so I’m taking a PB both on the 35k route and the 60k. I may not have placed as well as hoped on the 60 but it’s always a PB for the first time.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Can't let down the tattoo.

Pants that used to be too big now fit and new pants seemed to have fit for only the briefest of moments. This Iron(wo)man has been letting herself down. Life just got in the way but, exam is over, kitchen is so clean you could eat in it, basement still mouldy but Ironhusband has made great strides in destruction preparing for anti-mold fogging so, it’s back to what now passes as life. As an aside, in the midst of Iron training last year the back half of our basement began to harbour another form of life on the walls – so, of course, we just shut the door, waited for it to dissipate in the fall and then, since it wasn’t visible any more, well left it until this spring. Then I got the brilliant idea that since I’d like a cold room, the easiest thing was to strip the walls of the mouldy drywall and insulation and get instant cold room. Apparently the devil is in the details and the husband is worrying about this and that – heat to the kitchen just above for instance – he’ll figure it out.

Triathlon training is slated to begin gently the first week of May but that doesn’t mean that I can’t get into more activity before that. I know I do much better with a formal schedule but I need to make the effort to get into the pool, back on the treadmill at lunch a couple times a week and, most pleasurably, the bike on weekends – both days! I know that all that activity, coupled with journaling my food, and those too big pants that were on the list for charity will be gone and I will be able to do cartwheels in the new ones. Not that I don’t want a cookie right about now…ugh!

Absolutely pumped for Paris to Ancaster, a point to point cyclocross/mountain bike race – I’ve never done the full 60 k but I’m ready for it. Well not quite. I decided that such a macho, manly, muddy race needs a tiara for my helmet. If I can find one that will fit on the helmet then I will be Iron Princess, slayer of boys on bikes. A tutu was suggested but that just isn’t aero you know. That’s Sunday. Look for race report of great glory and awesomeness next week.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

So, second attempt at the exam is tomorrow and I think that success is at hand. I went back to basics and worked my way through all the problem areas, trying not to think I was too smart to start with 1+1=2. We can get into a lot of trouble thinking we are too smart to start with the basics, with the structure of whatever we are trying to build - a garden shed for example, or the risks and rewards of option trading, or gosh, a banking system. So I took my conservative Canadian banker self to the desk and did the grunt work. Please feel free to plead on my behalf to any deities. I'm a great fan of deities.

In addition to my scholastic awesomeness I also obtained great glory on the streets of Hamilton during the annual running of the Around the Bay Road Race - tagline, older than Boston. Makes you feel older than Boston anyway.

Like all great human athletic endeavours this one started with a drunken pledge between 2 newbies, 1 junior runner and 2 sceptical Ironmen. The sceptical Ironmen (husband and I in case you're not getting it) were really looking forward to a winter off formal training but the drunk newbies were so cute, well, we agreed to sign up once the drunk newbie names appeared on the confirm list. Weeks went by, no newbies on list but then suddenly the junior signed up and changed the game. I really couldn't let such a trusting soul down and so entered Ironhusband and self.

Twelve weeks before the race I get a 12 week half marathon plan and proceed to modify to cover off a 30 k race. We started out on the program with just one newbie (almost puppy like in his energy and enthusiasm) and the junior who is moving up to the big times with her first full marathon, one Ironhusband and self. And gosh, we have fun. When we started out this journey it was just the two of us training and I'm so happy that as time has gone by we've managed to gather up a crew of like minded fools for this ship. We run the trails that have opened up the ravines of Toronto, we spend time on the waterfront following the Humber River north past very lovely homes that will have to wait for our next life, we exhaust ourselves and the resident Irondog. But still, I just can't get into the long weekday runs and I decide to lower my expectations and add in 2-3 lunchtime treadmill workouts alternating between 30 minute hill workouts and 40 minute run ladders.

One benefit of all this rest is that I arrive at the race for the first time in 4 years with no injuries whatsoever. None, nada, rien, nichts. Honestly. Winters traditionally have been spent battling IT band issues, Plantar Fasciitis, Irritable Wife Syndrome, all the stuff you read about in the running magazines. I've always found that triathlon training with limited running and lots of cross training to be considerably easier on the body so I'm pretty stoked to feel so good.

None of that changes the fact that THIS RACE IS A BITCH - and not in a cute cuddly new female puppy way. The first 19.5 km is lovely, if you consider running past drunks and a very smelling water treatment plant lovely. If you do, you should move to Hamilton. It's very affordable.

Oh now I've gone and slagged Hamilton which is not fair, I love Hamilton. We train there, the Maple Leaf Pancake House rules and our house would be about a quarter of what it costs in Toronto. If we didn't like walking to work so much we might be tempted.

Right, so back to the race. Alex had come down with a nasty stomach bug, combined with too much travel and decided that he really didn't have anything in the bank so race morning found us with his cyclo-cross bike strapped to the Subaru for Sherpa and cheerleading duty.

Newbie and junior were pumped. Oh, maybe that was me yelling "RACE DAY" just as they sat down in the car but well, they were pumped after that.

The weather was perfect, just slightly overcast, about 4 C, the promised rain holding off for the morning. Newbie, being young and male, seeded himself well ahead of junior and I. Junior looked me in the eye and assured me that 3:15 was absolutely obtainable given the paces we had been running on Saturdays and I believed her and shoved myself in just in front of the 3:15 pace bunny. We took off and it felt great. Now, the ugly truth is that races can be boring so the first 20 km were really just about monitoring how the body was feeling (awesome), was I too hot (off with the arm warmers), what flavour of Gatorade did the aid station have (pleasantly varied amongst all the colours of the Gatorade rainbow), what kind of pace booty was ahead (sorry but triathlon has the best looking men), you know, all the sort of stuff.

So, around 20 k the hills start and happily that's about when I saw Alex. That was also the last I saw of Junior until post finish line. But that was ok, she got me to 20 k in 2:06 and I felt lots left for the hills. I had worn the Ironman finishers shirt that I bought and I've got to tell you it's not conceit that had me choose it but both the opportunity that it gives in terms of opening up a dialogue with people in the race about what I truly believe we are all capable of and also, reminding myself of what I can accomplish. That second purpose really came in handy as I pushed myself beyond what I think I would have done had I been wearing a generic shirt. I was very publicly an Ironman and had to make sure the brand was well represented. The shirt and I dug deep and I came in sprinting (cause that's the way I roll) and in the end I took about a minute off my best time ever, and more importantly, placed well beyond what I had done in the past.

So, here's the dilemma - that was going to be my last Around the Bay road race for the foreseeable future, but, well, I PB'd large on minimal training (and not much later it became obvious that I had also picked up Alex's stomach bug and presumably been working on that during the race)...damn, I'm so going to have to do it next year.

PS - Junior and Newbie rocked the course. Unbelievable!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Back on the horse.

"Just because we are not so good at something the first time doesn't mean we can't teach ourselves to do it. It just might take a little more time and practice. Break it down and reward youself for baby steps."

And so I shall. Next exam booked for April 8th.

I did Ironman I can do anything.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What do you do when you fail?

I've failed a work licensing exam that I never wanted to take but was pressed upon me. I've given up Sunday riding in the first winter ever that one could actually ride most weekends. I spend one day a weekend at the office studying the other weekend day was our long run and errands.
So now I'm back studying when we absolutely have to strip the drywall and insulation from our basement to get rid of the black mold that sprung up last summer while we were training for Ironman. Everything that was put on hold for Ironman now weights heavily upon me and I feel overwhelmed and resentful and actually, very very stupid. Everytime I think I've made progress on the material I self test and it's lost. I've told the portfolio manager I work for that the only way I will be able to pass again in 2 weeks is to take time during the day to study because, well, my personal life just has to go on.

I'm trying so hard not to throw a pity party and invite everyone to it but I'm tired and sad and frustrated. I'm human I guess.

My positivity sponge has been wrung dry.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Life Lessons at Agility

Being inspired by Molly, I enrolled my 5 year old springer spaniel/miniature poodle cross at the local agility hotspot in Toronto. We've done 5 weeks now and I think she's clueing in to the fact that it's a place we go to work, and more importantly, get treats. After all every dog loves a job and Chindi sure likes the pay. I was thinking about the class as I walked out with another dog owner and her greyhound. Our dogs were as different as could be, the greyhound sleek, mottled brown, built for speed whereas Chindi white and fluffy with Snoopy inspired black patches, is very muscular and a wizz at endurance. She's 25 lbs and has run as far as 29 k with us - pound for pound, or pound for kilometre, she's an ultramarathoner. The webbed feet and her amazing stroke make her a master swimmer as well. If we could just get her a bike that fits...

The thing was, Chindi excelled at everything the greyhound didn't, and, you probably also figured out that the greyhound rocked the stuff Chindi just couldn't get. I think you know where I"m going but here goes.

 Top 5 things we can learn from dogs at agility.

1. Give yourself an out. The instructors keep emphasizing that this is for fun, if your dog balks at running up the ramp or jumping on the table, that's fine. Just keep up the energy and try again, it will happen. And when it does, there is no such thing as too much praise.
2. We should try scary things because they can be fun. Chindi was not going to go through the barrel last night but then she did and it became her favourite of all time.
3. Just because we are not so good at something the first time doesn't mean we can't teach ourselves to do it. It just might take a little more time and practice. Break it down and reward youself for baby steps. Chindi can't do four weave poles right now but she can do one and sometimes two and she gets just as much praise on the one as she's going to get on the four.
4. Little dogs get different sized equipment than big dogs. Big dogs aren't better or worse than little dogs, they're just a different size.
5. There is nothing wrong with doing things for treats. Just don't let anyone give you the cookies that give you gas.

And yes, that's Chindi leaping from a diving board up north. Fearless and having the time of  her life.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Actions speak louder than words

The title above refers to a mysterious comment I got on my last post. Now I’m a curious person so I can’t figure out why a poster with Chinese characters for a name has such a good handle on English vernacular and if they’d like to introduce themselves I’m sure they are a very interesting person. But, in the meantime I deleted the post and set myself up to approve all future posts because although I can take the implied sarcasms and negativity in the post, well, I don’t think it’s very sporting and therefore has no place on my blog. And I also don’t think it’s at all true.

I think words can speak very loudly when we say them to ourselves and to others. Actions follow words but actions also reflect words. If I say that I’m a bad swimmer, a slow cyclist and I hate running then on race day I will be a bad swimmer, slow on the bike and cursing the run. And it doesn’t matter if I say those words to others or just to myself – that language becomes part of my brain.

Everything is possible if we just find the right words.

Ok, now, I admit, that is just bull shit. I’m never going to qualify for Kona, there are no words that can take me there but, actually, maybe there are words that could - I just don’t know what they are. Maybe I just have to start with the small words, that ones that say that I’m not a bad swimmer, I can get faster on the bike, and truly when I’m fit for a race, I love running. Those are my small words. The words that would get me to Kona are big words like, lose 20 pounds, spend a lot of money on a coach, devote your life to triathlon. Quit drinking wine! Those are words that I just don’t want to say so, I accept not receiving the prize of Kona qualifying. But, that doesn’t mean that that language is outside of what I’m allowed.

I think maybe the first words we need to use are the positive small ones that replace the big negative ones. We need to replace words like, I don’t like exercise, I don’t have any time, I don’t know how to cook healthy meals, I don’t have enough money, I’m too old or I’m too heavy to start now.

When someone tells me I’m an inspiration, I’m heroic, I’m a good role model, I want to take those words, wrap them up and give them back to them to use for themselves. I want everyone to inspire themselves, to be their own hero and to try to live up to the role model they see in themselves. If we all do that then there just won’t be any room anywhere for those bad words that are filling up too much space.

Here is my manifesto to you: fill up the space around you with only those words that you would give to others. Turn the golden rule on its head and do unto yourself what you do unto those you admire.

Especially if you’ve been stalking anyone.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

On a lighter note

Wow, I have been so freaking introspective the last few posts. I blame that on my husband travelling so much lately. I end up sitting and thinking too much.

Regardless of anxiety and bad family mojo, life for me really is all about the laugh. And lasers, life should have more lasers. And perhaps also robots. I'm thinking of a fantastic show by Muse that we saw last night. I'm tired from not enough sleep and too much wine and I made a very tasty but bad choice at lunch which my body somehow thought would make it all better. I think I could, however, sell it as sacred; the burger was home made.

On a triathlon note, I had a Total Immersion lesson on Saturday that has left me feeling like I might actually be able to get to a point in which I can really enjoy the swim and come out refreshed and ready to race rather than drained. It's all about relaxation you know and that's a pretty good way to head off any panic attacks. As well, it was nice to hear that I wasn't actually a bad swimmer. Going to be better however.

That lesson felt like the beginning of training for IM 2011. There are so many things I want to work on to take 2 hours off my time. That's an ambitious target but I think it might be doable. To get there I want to take half an hour off my Muskoka 70.3 times each of the next years. I'm a consistent 2:45 half marathoner in a half ironman but a 2 hour stand alone runner. I really think I should be able to get that down to 2:30 this year and 2:15 next. I've come so far in cycling that I know I have it in me to get 15 minutes off my time this year and next. Getting out of the water with more energy conserved, if not faster, is the key.

And lasers, lasers that I would use to slay my opponents.

Friday, March 5, 2010

What we talk about when we talk about anxiety

Let's talk about anxiety and panic attacks. I'm so thrilled for Athena Diaries latest family additions and I'm not surprised that she said her panic attack was stopped by her one of her fabulous new puppies. I have a very sweet springer spaniel poodle cross sitting on my lap right now telling me how much she loves me. If only I could have her with me during swim starts I'd be the most relaxed triathlate every. But she's not and anyone who knows me know how much I have struggled with panic and anxiety in my fabulous triathlon life. But of course races don't happen in a vacuum and that wasn't the only place I had panic attacks.

You know I really hate how we don't talk about mental illness. So here goes. When I was 10, in 1974 my oldest brother shot himself dead. I can't say shot himself it has to be shot himself dead. He did it and that was the result. DEAD. SUICIDE. It was a time when cancer would still be whispered so I'm making up for that with all caps - no whispers. This is what we should talk about when we talk about mental illness, when we talk about anxiety, when we talk about depression but mostly when we talk about suicide. And it hasn't stopped. Walter Koenig and Marie Osmond have just lost children. We've all seen the news but we haven't seen the news about someone I know whose beautiful 22 year old daughter gassed herself a year and a half ago. No one ever saw the news of my brother's death, or the other brother up the street or the attempt by the very cute friend of my youngest brother. Or the co-worker of Alex. Or, or , or...

And we need to talk about how mental illness makes those who suffer not terribly pleasant to be around. And how it makes families not function and how that carries on for years or even generations after.

Wow, that moved off a tangent. But here is what I talk about when I talk about anxiety. Panic attacks in the middle of the night when I would claw at the door trying to figure out where the doorknob was so I COULD JUST GET OUR OF THE ROOM. I remember a panic attack at the side of the road on a ride with Alex and 2 friends. One friend made the mistake of coming up behind me and slapping me on the back to say hello. I'm sure that as he held my hands on the side of the road he wondered exactly where it all came from as I HAD TO JUST GET OFF MY BIKE AND OFF THE ROAD AND MAYBE EVEN OFF MY MISERABLE LIFE.

Panic attacks for me meant that I was in a war zone not knowing where the bullets were coming from. No use taking shelter the snipper was just as likely to be behind the wall I crouched behind.

So that's what I talk about when I talk about anxiety. But I also talk about the effect that omega 3s have had on my brain. How last year I did a cross country bike race that I had panicked in 2 years earlier and how this time I alternated between singing "keep the car running" and "I am the greatest man that ever lived" as I swept over all the gravel and single track that left me gasping for breath just two years earlier.

So when we talk about mental illnes, and we should, we should also talk about what we can do to allow us to do what we want to do. Little things like Ironman.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Gratitude part deux

I think it's probably just the time of year but I've noticed a few blog posts from people who really want to take control of their body weight. It's keep them from feeling good about themselves, or it's keeping them from being as physically active at a level that had hoped to achieve, and finally, because their body weight is going to shorten their life expectancy.

That got me thinking about the loss of any sense of sacredness in food. Nothing is sacred about deep frozen cheese stuffed pizza crusts that need a ridiculous amount of sugars and salt to make them palatable to us after sitting in boxes for so long. But fresh pizza dough, the yeast living inside, adding flavour to the wheat, the physical act of stretching the dough to develop the gluten and add texture to the whole... and then baked fresh with vegetables you cut yourself and cheese (oh the glories of cheese)...That is sacred, that is living food giving its life to you.

What would happen if, instead of counting calories and watching portions we just stopped to ponder whether that which we were about to put into our bodies was indeed, sacred. What would happen if we paused and asked ourselves if we could be truly grateful for those calories.

The cheese I drooled over above is a perfect example. Last year, in the midst of the economic system seemingly falling down around me, I got into a project trying to get Alex and I more self sufficient in terms of what we ate. It was aided by the books on food politics that I was reading, Michael Pollan, The End of Food, Mark Bittman, etc. Having read Barbara Kingsolver's book about her family eating local food for a year I decided I could move us more towards that in our own lives. Enter the the cheese making kit. Enter much frustration and very little actual cheese. But, the cheese I produced was sacred. I made it. I was grateful for it. There was no way I was going be glutinous with that cheese. Cheese stuffed pizza crusts - gluttony pure and simple and there is no way that any sacred cheese, your own homemade or a small dairy's handmade product, would ever end up stuffed in such an almost undignified manner.

You see what I mean?

Diet coke is for me another example of a food that is not sacred. Now, I used to drink a lot of diet coke. I lived on it when I was a waitress, when I studied and wrote papers, and when I, in my early thirties, was on Weight Watchers. It was perfect, zero calories, zero points, fizzy sweetness. The fact that it tasted like battery acid was not apparent as yet. So, what made me quit the habit. Plain and simple I just began to be aware how obscene it was to have to continue to consume food long past the point when my body needed those calories - to have a product that was created solely for the purpose of consumption that was not required. No benefit whatsoever. Children are starving in the world and I was so overfed I had to have a calorie free beverage to "treat" myself. I'm pretty sure not starving would be a great treat for those children.

Stopped it cold.

You see what I mean?

In The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan talks about visiting corn silos where the corn was spilling out onto the road only to be crushed under the tires of trucks. He contrasted that with the pre-Columbian Meso-Americans for whom corn was sacred. It was life itself and gave life itself to those people. Now, we take it, industrialize it and make corn syrup for frozen, cheese stuffed pizzas that we eat without really tasting and without really requiring.

You see what I mean