Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The gift of Ironman: a sort of race report.

Our story so far:

The heroine/protagonist has trained diligently. A winter spent on high volume running has resulted in a stress fracture,  but, her cycling speed is up, she’s no longer afraid of swim starts and she knows she can go easy on the run training with such a great aerobic base. Oh, and did she mention that she was 6th in her age group in a bike race in April and 4th in a du in June? (‘cause she’s happy to tell you yet again, and again) She is an endurance rock star!

The morning of the race looms. Mostly the iron husband and I have been anxious. I know that I’m ignoring the fact of the race hoping that arriving in Tempe, at the expo, will put some fire into my iron heart. I does, a bit. It’s great to see Molly, Ms Speedy Gonzalez again, to meet Mr Gonzalez  and to get some dog time with Max, Stanley, and Puck. Such good boys all of them.

I had 3 realistic goals this race.
1.       No backstroke, face in water, front crawl the whole way
2.       Honestly, finish in under  17 hours
3.       Eat the post-race fries and eat at Denny’s afterwards. This implies a GI tract that was un-ravaged by the race.

I won’t leave you in suspense. Goal one was achieved. The swim was a constant of beer bottles falling, and alternating views of green/yellow water and blue sky. Temple Town Lake was rumoured to be 61 degrees but I wasn’t at all cold like last time. I pick up a few minutes over 2009 and head to the change room – which is packed, no chair, no helpful dresser. I’m playing with the main pack this time and it feels good to have to sit on the grass and get ready for the ride.

Ironman is about dealing with boredom, managing nutrition and overcoming pain. As the day progresses the boredom declines, nutrition becomes more and more critical and pain becomes the dominant feature of your day.

Arizona is a flat course. In some ways a flat course can be seen as deceptively easy. Those of you who ride, pick your poison, hills with a rest on the way down or a flat course with wind and no real chance to give the legs a break. The swim finds an anxious mind that can go to scary places in the absence of stimulus but the boredom on the bike leads to a lessening of effort as the mind wanders. As well, no climbing gives you no natural need to get out of the saddle and the body tightens up and pains sets in.

So, I’m sure you can appreciate how happy I was to hand Doris Day over to a stranger and head off for that little marathon thing.

How am I feeling at this point? So kind of you to ask. Well, I’m pretty sure I smell, my new racing skirt (same size as 3 others from the same company) feels too small, and my shoes are unhappy with their arrangement of arch support.

As an aside, I had agonized about how to best manage my stress fracture. I had gone back to neutral shoes from the minimalist ones I had been wearing, only to find out my orthotics were too short for the new shoes. A gap between the tip of the orthotic ended at the mid-point of my toe pads and that was a recipe for disaster. Too late to get new inserts I took very good advice and cut the orthotics off to the arch support and put a thin Dr. Scholls over it. The problem with the Dr. however was that he was a slippery fellow and as the run went on more and more energy went to stabilizing my foot in my shoe.

New things on race day are always a good idea!

But, all things considered, I run most of the first of three laps and I assume I can continue at a decent pace.
But, here’s the kicker, I just don’t have that iron fire and I’m having a tough time, quite honestly, getting motivated. Lap 2 of 3 finds me bonking physically and I decide to concentrate of getting food in, absorbing all that water, sugar and salt, hoping to find myself re-energized. I know people have often found the middle of the marathon to be the toughest with a triumphant return at the end.

I eat, my stomach pops outs and I know I’ve taken in more than I can process. I skip a couple of aid stations, gut happiness returns. The fire doesn’t show up however and I’m in a pretty dark place when a stranger yells out “Susie”. The Arizona run course has several places where you are running one way on an upper trail around the lake with others on the lower. I look for Alex at all these places but I’m not looking any more when he sees me and the aforementioned stranger between trails acts as a go between calling out to me. I tell Alex that I can’t bear the heartbreak of worrying about making the midnight cut off and we both agree that we just don’t want to go long ever again. We part and I continue to the end of lap two.

Ahead, at the end of the lap is the left turn to the finishing chute and everyone else, seemingly, is finishing. I’m congratulated on my finish by spectators, I look finished after all, but another 14k waits for me out on what I know is a dark and lonely pilgrimage. I break down on a bench just after the turn off and an aid station volunteer hears me sobbing, “I don’t know if I care” over and over again and asks me if I need a hug. I do, of course, she sits down beside me and tells me that I can turn my chip in at any aid station and get a sag wagon back but she wants me to be sure of my choice. I tell her I had seen my husband and he told me to keep going so I will. I’ll decide again, I say, at the next aid station. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is my last Ironman but I’ll finish. I stop at special needs and get my food and my envelope that I put together for inspiration. In it is a picture of me at my first try-a-tri and my finisher’s picture from 2009. The change in my body is very apparent, you can’t picture the change in my mind but I can see it. I also have a picture of the finishers’ chute and a copy of a letter from a new friend thanking me for inspiration. I sit and sob some more.

I go forward working on changing my mindset from defeat to appreciation. I decide I’m ok with walking because that gives me a chance to look around, take in the atmosphere, and connect with people.

And what wonderful people there are around me. These aren’t the $10 000 bike people, these aren’t the egos that filled the expo, these are the midnighters giving it all just to make 17 hours. I meet one man who missed the cut-off and is trying again, a woman with Team in Training who has multiple ribbons attached to the back of her jersey representing those she has lost to blood cancers. I think often of Jerry F, and Jon Blais, the Blazeman. My feet hurt more than I think they have ever hurt but my stomach is happy and I calculate and recalculate that I can make midnight by walking. I hand the picture of the finish line off to someone struggling.

At last, and honestly after a seemingly short walk, I come to the finishers’ chute. A young, impossibly perky guy with a big M-Dot on his chest grasps my hands, congratulates me and reminds me that this is my moment and I should enjoy it. I walk into the chute and connect hand on hand with the spectators. I think, this is the last one, the last Ironman chute, this chute is the gift.

I am wrong, the gift is still waiting. I finish, I don’t even know my time but I have the French fries and a sprite and look at my watch. It’s 7 minutes to midnight. We can see the final athletes; we can experience a midnight Ironman finish line. We work our way over to the bleachers, climb up and see the impossibly perky young man signal to the announcer that there are 4 athletes still to come in. To come home to the finish. Time seems to stand still, we all stop breathing and they start coming in. It is incredible, the last woman is supported by the announcer -  assisted forward motion rule be damned. I love Ironman all over again because the impossibly perky young man was wrong. It wasn’t my moment, it was ours, athletes and spectators.

What does it all mean? Well, there is no one more alive than an Ironman finisher or spectator. Those of us in the back, I think, both received the gift of the crowd’s support and gave the gift back to them of an affirmation of life, of living.

Ironman 2.0 was so tough because I forgot that endurance sports are a team effort and I tried to go it alone. My ego wanted to go under 15 hours, physically I should have been able to but Ironman wouldn’t let me. Not because Ironman is cruel, but because the race calls us all to participate in order to educate us. The heartbreak of struggling to make midnight really was the gift of that struggle and the more I slowed down and connected with the other midnighters the more I received the gift of Ironman.

The clock strikes midnight, Ozzy sings Ironman, “Is he alive or dead”, and I, very much alive, throw my hand up in the air in a devil’s horn on the walk to the car.

And then we go to Denny’s.


Apollo Creed “Ain’t going to be a rematch”
Rocky “Don’t want one”

But then they did go on to make all those movies.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thanks for asking, trainings going great.

Having disappeared into the black hole of a new job, a weird virus that robbed me of my voice for a week, and left my eyes infected on and off for 2 weeks, as well as that little thing called Ironman training I see that I haven't posted for 3 months.

This time around I'm less exhausted, far less hungry (pout) and struggling a bit to find some inspiration motivation meaning, yes meaning, in it all.

I knew the second time wouldn't be anything like the first - nothing ever is. We're both faster in everything but somehow feeling less confident. We know that it's a very long day and a very tough race and we both want so much to take a couple hours off our time, that, well, the fear of failure at that goal can be overwhelming some days.

Well today a whole bunch of us runners/triathletes/endurance freaks got a kick in the pants that made the meaning in everything so very clear.

This is when the unspeakable sadness starts fogging my brain.

Race director and running cruise director extraordinaire Jerry Freisen died this morning, suddenly, from a heart attack on his morning run. Jerry touched so many lives that there are hundreds if not thousands of us wandering around stunned today telling all who will listen that we've lost a friend, and what a friend he was.

Jerry was the host to us on two Cruise to Run cruises, a race director at what I call the donut half-marathon (Tim Horton's as sponsor, a winter race with donuts waiting at the end - perfect), and a smiling face at a triathlon series that we participated in yearly.

The memory of Jerry that can to mind to me when I heard he had died was a run/walk I had done with him on our last cruise. I was a little pissy for a few reasons and not enjoying the run through the wilds of Antigua, Jerry, recently out of hip surgery, was thrilled to be able to move around without pain. He couldn't run again yet but that didn't dampen his joy at moving his body. I'm not sure how the conversation started but I remember very clearly his incredible comfort in his life and his role as a race director in changing people's lives for the best. He knew that he had an impact on the running community and was justifiably proud of it. I envied him that sense of a life well lived.

So really, I ask myself - who are you to struggle to find "meaning" in your journey to Ironman this year. I always  known that I am privileged to have the health, wealth, and support of friends to allow me to take my body and mind as far as I can in the water, on the road, and even that last painful bit on the run. I do remember my last Ironman as a celebration of what 2500 people can do with their bodies and their minds and, whatever time the clock shows when I cross the finish line, I know I will appreciated the opportunity to get out there.

It's time to quit whining and start appreciating. And also, to HTFU and make it hurt. It wouldn't be Ironman if it was easy.

Monday, August 8, 2011

How to get your bike down from the car roof rack.

 Simple edition.

Open passenger door, retrieve key from door pocket, open trunk, get milk carton and position at side of car. Climb on milk carton. Unlock rear tire rubber do-hicky, insert keys to front lock. Pull lock towards you and release bike. Lift bike down, insert front tire from trunk and roll along sidewalk to home.

Deluxe edition.

Follow steps above to the point of releasing the lock. When lock will not release, open back door and climb on back seat for better leverage position. When lock will still not release begin profanity. Pause profanity when you realize you could kick the lock open. Realize that involves climbing on top of the car.  Climb on top of car. Kick lock open. Realize you are *&^%$#@ because you are now on top of your car with your bike falling out of the rack. Attempt to lower bike to sidewalk. Realize it won't reach the side walk. Increase profanity. Hear "do you need a hand" from a tall blonde running god. Say "yes please". God takes bike and puts on sidewalk.

Coming soon. How to install the *&^%$# undercounter light bulbs. Deluxe edition only.


Permission to be extraordinary.

Hello, (tap tap tap), is this on? Anybody out there? Sorry, you may have all left by now, I'm a little late and all.

Been busy, training and stuff. It's been pretty awesome getting back into everything, getting the old iron fitness cleaned and pressed. And I've been thinking, of course, about the nature of extraordinary.

Now, if you didn't know me from this blog it might take me a couple of minutes to get around to the fact that I'm an Ironman. It's not that I'm looking for reasons to bring it up it's just that it's such a part of my life and who and what I am that it would be like not mentioning my husband, or my dog, or my love of cake. So, it comes to pass that Saturday I'm out on our raft at our cottage with our neighbours and their guests. We're all hanging out, 5 adults, 2 kids, and 2 dogs really enjoying the water and sun. The subject of Ironman comes up, naturally, as I chat with the guest about summer, our property, etc.

He's impressed and full of a dozen questions as we tread water, cooling off while I answer them. I try to be humble about the whole thing (hard for me 'cause I'm awesome) but I do imagine him expressing amazement to our friends and their (good natured) rolling of the eyes..."yeah, they're Ironman but did you check out the plywood on their deck, a little less Iron a little more deck building please", they would say.

So, back to the title of the piece. I didn't forget it. What was going on there on the raft and in the water was permission to be extraordinary. I'm proud of my accomplishment and I don't downplay it. I believe by acknowledging other people's interest and amazement I both honour their compliment and also put into their heads the fact that they too can be extraordinary.

I had already been extraordinary myself that day. We were doing a double race weekend with a sprint distance on Saturday and an Olympic on Sunday. Getting off the bike that morning I set out singing 99 bottles of beer on the run. I had gotten to about 35 bottles when I realized that I hadn't even thought about walking. I have never run the entire run course in a race. Granted, it had been a few years since I only had 5 k to run but, whatever the distance, I suddenly realized that I had to give myself permission to be extraordinary. I spend time giving others that gift so why didn't I deserve the same treatment?

I vowed to run the course, aid stations excepted, and I found in the end, it was much easier to do that then to play the mind games of when to run, when to walk, along with the physical agony of going from one mode to another. The idea that I could also run the 10k in the Olympic, the next day, started to form in my head and, well, you guessed it. I ran that 10k after a surprisingly tough 40 k on the bike. My stress fractured toe wasn't a big fan but if Jens Voight can tell his legs to shut up I can tell my toe to quit bitching as well. I also promised just 5 k running this week vs 65 last. And cake, I promised my toe cake. You do what you've got to do on your Iron journey.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Today’s food related blog posting

I had told a friend that the worst thing about the job related stress was that it had been interfering with my sleep and also, most horribly, was causing some stomach pain that interfered with my appetite. Ask me what I like most about heavy training and I’ll tell you that sleeping like a baby and eating like a teenage boy are pretty much the high points of the day.

Absent the stomach pains I’ve been finding that this time around I’m not so ravenous and that’s a good thing. I will confess that around 4:30am Monday morning I was coming down the stairs silently hoping there was yogurt in the house as I couldn’t sleep for the hunger. There was and I went back to sleep for a couple hours and dreamt about mac & cheese. So, naturally, after the bowl of fruit first thing I had the homemade mac & cheese that I decided had to be made. And you know what – IT WAS FREAKING THE BEST MAC & CHEESE EVER. I was stuffed for hours.

I’m trying to eat as my appetite demands but I still worry always about too much or too little. I left a falafel ball at lunch on Wednesday but then worried that half way through my swim that night I WOULD NEED THAT FALAFEL BALL – STAT.

I didn’t.

I am the supplement queen. Omega-3 is a big one for me, extra vitamin C when I’m training hard, vitamin D in the winter, a B complex capsule for stress, flax oil for breast health (so said the doctor) and now evening primrose as I approach THE CHANGE. I am in complete denial about it however, anything I’m experiencing is as a result of stress – damn it.

I find that I naturally gravitate towards lots of maligned “white” carbs, pasta and sourdough bread especially but that also seems to naturally fall off when the training is lighter. Rice is always brown, however, and unless it’s summer, breakfast is a cup of whole grains, wheat, rye and flax. I eat a metric ton of fruit yearly, always know I should up my vegetables and avoid pre-process grocery story food (food should not come in boxes) as much as I can. Without thinking about it I’m usually at 60% carbs, with fat and protein bringing up the difference about 20/20 on average. I did try deliberately bringing my carbs down to 50% after Ironman last but found I felt unwell the whole time. I didn’t lose any weight and I didn’t enjoy my meals.

Ultimately, enjoying one’s meals is the key. We are very lucky to live in a time and a place in which hunger is virtually unknown (if you have the cash) but what we’ve done with that surplus is to stuff our bodies with more than we need given how little we use them. I like food, everybody does. So, for me the only thing to do is work on the energy out equation. And that, my dear readers, is as much fun as the energy in. Good energy out this morning on a hill workout and now I’m thinking of what to have along with the lettuce growing in my secret garden. Nothing is coming from a box tonight. It’s all sacred..

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It’s been awhile my faithful readers. Since my triumph at the St. George snud-fest (snow+mud=snud, brilliant, I know) I’ve been diligently working the plan for the planned triumph at Ironman Arizona. Triumph right now is being defined as feeling well enough to hit Denny’s afterwards.

My focus and energy has been sucked into the void called career far too much over the last few months. Not that I’ve been burning the midnight oil, quite the opposite. This blog is not about work but it is about positivity, teamwork, and integrity, all sadly, things lacking in my current work team. The mismatch between how I live my life and what I’ve learned to value and how the others I work with see their reality has become too great and I’m in the midst of moving to another, yet unknown, position in the same organization. That’s exciting but also scary, as all change is. What I have been overwhelmed with is the support and genuine admiration that I’ve felt from the co-workers that I’ve just picked up in the last 3 years after our independent company was sold to the bank.

I will say that I’m so much fitter than I was 2 years ago. I’m really keeping an eye on the fatigue factor. My new rule will be that if I’m not recovered after a day off then I drop optional workout(s) to get a second rest day. By the last cycle in September and October there aren’t actually optional days and the fact is that you do get tired from the training so I’ll play it by ear then. So far, however, Mondays off has left me super happy to get back on Tuesday.

Diet/nutrition is going to continue to be a focus. I dropped the WW after I dropped the 10 lbs because I was no longer logging my intake and I was starting to get the food crazies, the cravings for things that I wouldn’t even ordinarily want to eat; so, off the program and on to just eating smartly. However, I’ve adjusted to the new size and now, like a WW junkie I want more – or actually, less. I’m debating doing another 3 month stint. It did work very well with 50 miler training so I think that I could make it work at least until September.

I think that real effect of those kinds of diets is the novelty. With WW you become very aware of what you’re eating as you journal everything that passes your lips. It’s a great system that, if I’m going to journal my calories in and calories out, works very well and is simple to use.

On the other hand, I’ve been warned, quite rightly, that my goal now is not to lose weight, it’s to train for a faster Ironman and mentally and physically the two might not mesh so well. I have to refuel my body for the next work out and the next until that fabulous cold plunge into Tempe Town Lake starts it all again.


Lastly, Ironman Poutine (IM Mont Tremblant) has me in a bit of tizzy – 2013???

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Please ignore bullshit in previous post - time does matter.

Last Sunday, at approximately 2:30 in the afternoon, in the midst of light hail/snow I found myself wandering the Ancaster Community Centre with one shoe on, one shoe off and wearing only my bike shorts and jersey. And I also found myself with about a 15 minute PB on the race and 6th place in my age group, 20th overall in women. I was somewhat pleased. But I still couldn't get my shoe off, glued on with mud as it was. It was that kind of day.

I'm not sure if there is any other race like the Paris to Ancaster (long course) or St. George to Ancaster (short course). It's billed as a mountain bike race but most years it's really  made for cyclocross bikes and my sweet Specialized tri-cross Trinity and I are made for that race.

I first did it 4 years ago on an over sized heavy mountain bike during the early years when I was so determined to embrace this new lifestyle and so devastated by recurring anxiety and panic attacks. The race just ended up being one horrible long attack, I was terrified by the gravel trails, the endless stream of riders behind me, and the bike was so heavy to drag through the mud slides. I hated the day.

The next year I skipped and Alex raced without having to worry about me. Alex spend too many years and too many races worrying about my mental health and it's so wonderful to be over all that and know that he can depend on a very happy smiling wife running/riding across the finish line. Mostly.

Well, I am, if nothing else, ridiculously persevering so, armed with my new bike and new brain I towed the line a couple years ago on the same course and I loved it all so much that, yeah, I did want to marry it. Oh, and I finished 10th. That was pretty much unheard of in my athletic life to date.

Last year I graduated to the long 60k course and thought I'd stick with that one. I like playing with the big boys after all and, sitting her now, I'm still thinking I love to start out in one of three waves with a whole bunch of boys trying to out man each other. I liked slipping into the cracks wearing my helmet and tiara to chick the slow ones. Plus they have bagpipes to start the waves off and I loves me those bagpipes.

This year however, the consensus was that the 3 of us, crazy English friend Dave and husband and I, would do the 35 k route. Dave wanted to race the short course with the guys he competes with in other races and I have to admit that you do get all the fun and mud with 35 k and that might be the choice going forward. Alex, after a winter of too much work travel and too little training though the short course would be challenge enough this year as well. This year's weather was so nasty that 60 k would just have been a suffer-fest and another friend dropped down from the long course to the short to round out our group.

So, on to the race. We set off into a blinding snowstorm - no exaggeration. I found myself 5 k in at the 60k half way aid station, on the side, checking my fingers for frostbite. I also started to wish I had a mountain bike as the route was so wet that there were 2-3 inch deep furrows through the grass of the parkette hosting the station. I just decided then and there that it was a mountain bike race this year and Trinity and I would just do the best we could. Not much later, when the race went through a farmer's field my aborted 50 miler training came in handy as I jogged across the field faster than most mountain bikers were riding it. At that point I reconsidered my earlier call and decided the race was back on.

There are 2 official mud slides on the route, steep narrow valleys that require most riders to dismount and trudge through. They are truly the highlights of the whole day. This year, in addition to those two there were 2 or 3 other spots that were by and large too muddy to get much riding through. If the boys on mountain bikes were off their rides then I didn't worry too much about walking those spots. I was pretty sure my competition was also on foot.

There is a spot, about 2k or so long I think, when the race takes us to a double track trail with steep sides. The first year I just about exploded on that portion, there was too much gravel, and I was sure that I was going to slide down the side, clipped in, to my death. The last couple years found  me very comfortable in the right hand, less gravelly track but this year, this year, baby I was the one in the rough left hand side passing everyone as fast as I could. Once we got to the rail trail portion I was back on in passing mode - after a rest behind a couple big guys on mountain bikes I set off to say hi to every guy on a cross bike that I could catch up to. Lots of conversation there, if you know what I mean.

The last approach to the finish line is a portion of torn up road that I usually walk, not feeling very technically gifted. I always worry that I'm losing time at that portion but this year everyone was walking it as well. The mud was so thick that I was more slamming than rolling Trinity along the road and at some point something caught her back end and I continued to slam. A very hot tear hit my right wrist and I knew that I'd done something very unhealthy to myself.

Somehow I managed to get back on my bike for the ascent but was pretty handicapped by my wrist. At least that's my excuse for not being able to ride up the whole hill. Not that I've ever made it before. The weather kept sightseers at home it seems as the hills surrounding the last road are usually covered with people with cow bells and horn. Usually at that point in the race they look to me like vultures waiting for the inevitable but this year, I kinda missed them.

Back on my bike for the finish line and no one was waiting for me. At that point I realized I had a 15 minute PB and no one was there because I wasn't yet expected. That was a pretty nice feeling.

I freaking LOVE that race.

By the way, all the guys were in the top 10% of their age groups. Nice riding guys!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

St. George to Ancaster Popsicle Pedal

I'll be back to share just how freaking awesome that race was, how freaking awesome I was, and how freaking awesome the weather wasn't but right now my race/war wound of an injured wrist impedes my awesome typing.

Keep your knickers knot free - I'll be back.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Drama Queen - usually I leave that up to Alex

I’m fine, really I am. I had such wonderful feedback from so many people from the DRAMA post. Going into work the next day I was happy to see someone who had returned from an extended maternity leave, having been off on sick leave with a high risk pregnancy and then on Canadian maternity leave of a year (yes, that’s right, it’s almost civilized isn’t it). Well, don’t you know the first thing she said to me was, “congratulations on finishing Ironman, Alex (her husband) is doing Lake Placid this year because of you”.

Holy crap, he’s going to hate me several times that day.

The same day as Around the Bay, my Alex (husband) showed me a message he got from an old high school friend who had found his previously elite swim body 40 lbs too heavy and his self esteem fading. He told Alex that his Ironman finish had inspired him to get back into shape.

So, I guess it’s ok not to be fast. The time on the clock is not the only measure of worth – but, I’m not going to lie, I’d like to be faster and I still have lingering moments of thinking that I’m not going to get those 2 hours off at Ironman. And, you can quite rightly ask, as JohnP did, who cares what time I did it in as long as I finished. Well, I’d like to try some tougher courses and 16.5 hours at Arizona is probably 17+ at Ironman Wisconsin.

I went into Around the Bay training for long races, didn’t do a lot of 6 min/km pacing so why did I think I could pull that off on race day? I realized race week that I hadn’t actually done any dedicated hill workouts. I’m not strong on hills so, perhaps that wasn’t the best of plans. I did put in the hours but, and this is what I’m not sure of, were there too many junk miles? Without a coach I relied on a general training plan that modelled the ultra plans that are fairly ubiquitous on the internet. Generally they were 3 runs a week, shortest on Wednesday longest on Saturday with a medium one on Sunday. I know from Ironman training that going long doesn’t necessarily mean training long and, without  any calls for interval runs, speed runs or cross training it was also freaking boring. But, first ultra and all, I didn’t want to screw with the formula.

So what does this mean for the 50 miler. Well, I’m not going to continue on the plan, I’ve started in on week 5 Ironman training this week (only 32 weeks to go) and I’m looking forward to the cross training. The pool is closed for another month and the change rooms at the community pool by work are stinky and the showers suck, so, there might not be a lot of swimming but by Jove, there will be riding. Especially with the Paris to Ancaster short course (St. George to Ancaster) a week Sunday. Time to take Trinity, my cyclocross bike out, put on the tiara (tutu this year?), and become a dirty grrrrl. I’m still up for the Sulphur Springs race day, might be 25k, probably 50k, but I can’t see doing 50 miles at that point in Ironman training.

So it’s back to the grind, the gears and the chlorine. This winter’s training hasn’t been a waste, I’m lighter and smaller already that when I crossed the line at Arizona in 2009 and following (and continuing to follow WW) was great for tracking calories in and out and how to not end up getting over hungry and trying to cure that with eating too much sugar. But let me just say publicly - I freaking LOVE sugar.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Personal day from work, 2 naps, blt sandwhich, and some movement on taking care of the black cloud problem (will disclose later). Oh, and totally overwhelmed by the support here and especially on Facebook. "You like me, you really like me".

Monday, March 28, 2011

Valley Inn Road Existential Crisis

Valley Inn Road is the notorious hill on the notorious and “Older than Boston” Around the Bay Road Race (30 k) – always the last Sunday in March before shipping starts to the reference bay. I have done this race 6 years in a row now. There is no other race that I have committed to on a yearly basis since THE CHANGE (lifestyle, not hormones), and every year, it kicks my ass at the 20 k mark when the hills start. It kicks everyone’s ass but my ass seems to be more bruised than anyone else’s. Now, I find hills hard and perhaps that has to do with my complete lack of flexibility in my calves;  Alex, he’s nothing but flexible calves and up he goes with his heels actually still making contact with the road. My heels, when climbing hills, seem to be hovering somewhere around my ears. I think this might be a disadvantage but, can’t blame it all on the heels. Today, the only reason I can see is that I just suck.

Pity party at 8pm, casual dress.

I kept up a 3 hour pace until the hills kicked in. My awesome running partners, including my pilates instructor who was running her first race ever, were great in letting me catch up, reeling me in and pulling me along but after 20k they couldn’t help but drop me if they wanted their 3 hour time so I put the music in the ears and chugged away on my own. I had thought that the 4th in our group had also dropped me, and finding out later that I actually pulled ahead of her, I regretted not stopping to let her catch and because I think that would have helped both of us. I should have been more giving instead of assuming that I was last.

So, onwards, upwards and downwards I went feeling more and more tired and just emotional about it all. I tossed down some lovely Clif blocks to see if sugar would make my brain happy but just found it hard to chew with a chocked up throat. A little bit of asthma came to the party as well, ‘cause, hey, why leave that out. But the time I got to the top of the last hill with not much more than 3 km left to go I had lost it. All those weeks that Alex has been working out of town all week only to return on weekends when I did nothing but run, well, they just started to become too high a price to pay for such a crappy time. I became the crazy chick crying behind her sunglasses. Every freaking positive song on the ipod just sounded like it was mocking me and I just turned it off and went into survival mode. I stopped looking at my watch and calculating my finish time. I didn’t give a crap any more.

And in the end, here’s the thing. IT’S ALL SO FREAKING HARD. It is. I’m fitter than the average 47 year old for sure but it’s been hard fought. Getting to Ironman was the hardest thing that I think I’ve done as an adult. It was also the most rewarding but…damn it…it took me 16.5 hours. On a relatively easy course. In perfect weather. I want to take 2 hours off the thing this year but after yesterday’s performance I’m just not sure. I’m not sure of anything.

Hollywood has sold us all this fable, 3 acts to greatness, underdog gets an idea in her head, trains for the big day and triumphs over all adversity and adversaries. But it’s just a lie. If you sucked in sports in high school, you will suck at sports in your 40’s and nothing seems to change that. Nothing. I know that the fast ones, the elites, they work hard, they train, they sacrifice, they believe in themselves but they don’t bring up the rear. The rear is ugly. Glory is thin on the ground by then.

I just don’t know what to do about my 50 miler. I have 2 months, we have so much work to do on our northern cottage estate (ha) and I really just want to get started triathlon training. I want to mix it up. I’m so sick of just running and running and running. It all just hurts now.

I look back at what I’ve written lately and it’s all so negative. I don’t seem to be having fun and I know that a non-sport related part of my life has to change and has been a darkness on everything for a while, but, it’s also hard to think about that when I run, I’m tired, I run, I’m tired...

Gotta go pick out an outfit for the pity party. I’ll be serving sour grapes and a lot of whine.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Your 17 year old daughter can post where she "likes it" or what colour her bra is and that's ok, 'cause it's for breast cancer awareness! WTF!

I've gone and taken my ultra-bitch, ultra-tired, ultra-hungry self to the doghouse by replying to a group spam email that presented yet another one of those stupid breast cancer awareness games. I don't regret the thinking behind my reply, but, I didn't realize that I had replied to the whole group. Then again, I bet someone else on that mailing list had a second thought about the dumb idea and maybe another women realized how demeaning it was to women with cancer.

Because it was associated with a part of a woman's body that was sexual and therefore was shameful, breast cancer was not checked for, not researched, not treated. Because of that it was deadly. With a lifetime occurence rate of about 1 in 8 women that was a lot of women who died needlessly. A wonderful campaign created an awareness that made it ok for women to check their breasts for lumps, made it acceptable for men to talk about lumps they might have felt in their partner's breasts and gave rise to fundraising opportunities that have led to research and treatments so that 80-90% of women survive a breast cancer diagnosis.

So, why are we re-sexualizing it? Breast cancer treatment is not about saving breasts, it's about saving women. It's about saving mothers, wives, sisters, friends, triathletes, runners, cyclists, your co-worker.

Somehow we women have gotten caught up in this sisterhood so much so that if someone suggests we post the colour of our bra, the place where we put our purse (and therefore, "where we like it") and whatever the newest thing is, well, we just go ahead and mindlessly do that. We don't question what any of that has to do with breast cancer awareness (which is pretty freaking high in the developed world), and we don't question why we want, yet again, to associate breast cancer with sex.

I think about women who come from cultures that are more modest about the body and sexuality and I wonder how a "save the titties campaign", or an aweness campaign that is sexually related is going to help those women, and men touched by breast cancer. How are those women going to be conscious of changes in her breasts if she feels being caught up in some movement that offends her.

I don't have a teenage daughter but if I did I would be horrified if she was posting "where she liked it" as part of some bogus awareness campaign. I would however make her aware that breast cancer can be a lifestyle disease and her best defence, other than good genes, was to stay at a healthy weight through proper nutrition and lots of fun physical exercise. And if she wants to tell some boy where she likes it, well, don't do that in front of me 'cause that would freak me out. And use a condom. Actually, teenage boys should wear two. You know what I mean.

Hey, just a thought, why not start a testicular cancer awareness campaign that has boys and men posting "left" or "right" - you know, what side they shoot on. Would that be offensive or would it be ok because cancer awareness is so important we should all demean ourselves.

Ladies and Gentlemen: We have a plateau.

The fast weight loss has stopped.

Let's all wave good-bye to it. And log the points from that activity.

So, what to do. Well, I was pretty run down by the weekend, got a 4 hour run in Saturday and a 3 hour run/bike on trainer workout on Saturday. Then, as it was my birthday, I went out and consumed vast calories in the form of prosecco and edamane, wine and pork stew, dessert wine and an incredible sticky toffee pudding, and then, as I recall, another glass of prosecco for the road - which, being both and urbanite and responsible, just meant I was sloshed for the cab.

So, the weight is remaining stable, and happily below Ironman 09 weight. The running was taking a toll on my legs and ankles so it's time to shake up the diet and the workouts. Spring is coming so cycling will be starting up very soon and I'm planning to get in the long days via some brick work. That will spare the legs the pounding but still get me adept at running on tired legs. I'm a triathlete after all, and "runs on tired legs" is my middle name.

For the diet, I've given myself a couple wild cards this week for birthday dinner and recovery week. Week after week of caloric deprivation is never a good idea and many seem to think shaking it all up every once in a while and having a bit of a feed is the route to giving the fat a boot. I also think that losing more than a pound a week probably didn't help the energy levels and recovery from the training.

Up next, Around the Bay for the 6th year on Sunday. 30 km of second hand smoke, drunk spectators, an older little person who plays "We will rock you" at the bottom of the biggest climb of the race, and finally, Death, whose son appeared one year as well. Death waits on the last few kilometers as you run by the graveyard alongside the road. Then, you get to run into the colliseum like a rock star. It's all pretty much horrible up to the rock star moment. This year, however, has the biggest turnout yet for friends, possibly because I'm adding so many to my friend list. There will be an estrogen feed-up afterwards that I'm looking forward to.

I have a goal, set earlier this year of taking 12 minutes off last year's time. That was based on 10lbs being +- 6% in energy expenditure and therefore race times. I think I am down 10 pounds over this time last year so, we'll see how it all goes. I can't show up without a goal. I can leave without reaching it, but, without a goal, why get out of bed?

Friday, March 11, 2011

An Open Letter to the Creep at the Red Lobster Bar

Dear what-ever-your-name-was,

When we both found ourselves at the bar at the Toronto Eaton Centre Red Lobster it must has seemed like kismet to you. As we sat to the side, hoping for service, you glanced at me in what was, in retrospect, an inappropriate number of times. I though you were commiserating on our wait for adult beverages but apparently you were checking me out. I would not have half smiled back if I knew what was going on.

But, you see, I'm trying to live this life of positivity and joy and connection so, "yeah", (half smile) "gosh it would be nice to get some service."

Now, having more initiative than you, or perhaps, as became clear, the one who had not yet had a drink yet on this Friday night, I move to a main part of the bar and order a glass of wine and a dinner menu.

Well, goodness, suddenly, there you were beside me asking if you could join me and ordering a double scotch on the rocks. Scotch on the rocks - people actually drink Scotch on the rocks. I was starting to feel like I was somehow morphed into "Anchorman". I'm nice, I can't really keep you from the seat beside me, and honestly, I though you might be good for a laugh so, "yeah" I say, "have a seat". We chat for a bit, I ask if you are in town for work as most at the bar seem to be or are you meeting people? You tell me that I keep myself nice. CREEP ALERT AMBER

You stare. At me. And not in the good romance novel, Fabio ripped shirt off, undressing me with your eyes way. No, I feel dirty and the hot water heater at home is broken so I can't have a shower.

I should have shut you down right there but, what I do is conscientiously switch to using my left hand to drink thereby directing you, on my left, to my wedding band and the diamonds in it that should be fairly obvious. I figure you will notice and make a hasty but polite retreat.

You don't.

Am I single, you ask. "No", I say, tapping the ring. "Very much not". "Sorry?"

"Are you up for something" you say. CREEP LEVEL AT RED

"No" I say.

"Am I bothering you" you say.

"No" (blatant lie) I say but at this point I'm aware that you are slurring your words, that you have pimples on your forehead (how old are you??) and I'm thinking I really don't want to have the restaurant to worry about a scene in the bar. It's Red Lobster for god's sake. It's just all so weird.

I tell you that I've come for dinner and to catch up my reading and so get my Kindle out. You continue to stare. I've turned away from you but you are sitting, staring. There is no other word to sum you up but "staring".

I go to the hostess area and tell the staff that I have a super creep in the bar and, I know that they have a wait going, but please, could they find me a table away from the bar. The staff is incredible, they find a booth immediately, I go back to get my things.

"My table has come up", I tell you.

"Where are you going", you say.

"None of your business" I reply.

Later, after dinner, the staff tells me you have gone so I head out into the mall. I don't see you so I think it's fine to walk down Dundas St. It's a major street, lots of people, lots of open stores, and bars and restaurants. It's my city and I feel safe in it and I know everyone around me will have my back if you appear. I also know that I have an umbrella in one hand and new Weight Watcher's body fat scale from Sears' in the other. And I'm an Ironman and if you try to fuck with me I'll introduce you to both of them.

March may not be the cruelest month, but it's not invited to my next party.

My friends, my dear dear internet friends. I have spent the last couple of days struggling. Not with the ultra training – I’m getting that done and although there have been times of absolute boredom when I can’t stand to hear Muse on the ipod even one more time, the body is holding up, the scale registered a number that I hadn’t seen in since my 30’s, and I’m really remembering how great sleeping is when hard training.

What I’m struggling with lately is just a general sense of annoyance with my fellow man and woman. I'm at an age when I'm not sure if I should blame it on PMS or menopause but I do know that the seemingly endless alternation of snow and rain, interspersed with both snow and rain at the same time, and the grey, grey sky sure doesn’t help. This has got to be the gloomiest March in years. I should be taking more heart from seeing everyone's Facebook statuses - the weather isn't keeping anyone from training and I'm happy to know such a bunch of men and women with such great endurance (insert gender specific reproductive organs).

Finishing up my long run last Saturday on the work treadmill I paused at a walk break to pick up a 10 pound weight and then a 20 to get a feeling for what I've done and where I hope to end up. That was nice. It made up for a really crappy half-marathon that I ran the previous weekend. The race wasn't crappy, it was well organized and ended with donuts, but ugh, running on snow is getting SO OLD. I had added my prescription insoles to my trail shoes (always try something new on race day) and I ended up getting a blister about half way through. I was totally over that race before it even felt like it started. But then, I met an Iron-newbie who is signing up for IMLP this summer. She was fantastic getting me through the last third or so. I gave up all my extensive Ironman tips in exchange for her efforts in dragging my butt to the finish. The camaraderie in this sport can be the saving grace in some events.

Otherwise, the ultra training goes on. I really need some new music, I actually glimpsed into the husband's play list for some stuff that wasn't too weird and I'm thinking of doing a Thievery Corporation themed run on Saturday. I think I have about 4.5 hours of that and I can just do a trance sort of thing. Having read Dread Pirate's latest race report I think I need to practice some "mindless" running for the upcoming 50 miler.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Thoughs on Ultramarathon Training

1. I'm up to almost 10 hours of running a week and compared to 10 hours of triathlon training I would say that just running hurts much more immediately after the workout, 4 hours on the bike doesn't leave me limping, you can believe that 4 hours of running does, but, the next day I feel as fine as possible. No more tired than if I'd been swimming, biking and running. So, I got that going for me.

2. I was starving, ravenous, hunger at a 10 from Friday night until today, Monday, after breakfast. I'm definitely going to be over a bit on my points this week, but, truth be told, I've been over 5 to 33 in the past 7 weeks and I'm losing over a pound a week so I'll be fine with that.

3. You can conjugate "to bonk" in French if you've been running for 3.5 hours and you stop to get some chocolate milk to get you home that last, unexpected half hour. I came out of the convenience store, opening my carton of the nectar of the gods and found myself doing just that. You know, je bonk, tu bonk, nous bonkons, vous bonkez. I then tried it in German, which you would think would work better but French won. I then ran down the road singing "bonk, bonk, bonk" to Deadmau5' "Ghost n Stuff". It works well, try it.

4. I just debated the grammar of making Deadmau5 possessive. I don't remember the rule for the use of a 5 for an S. Mr. Fraser, you taught me the semi-colon but neglected that one.

5. I just have 21 k to run Wednesday night, an hour interval workout Thursday night and then I"m off to run a half marathon Sunday. Then, depending how I feel I might not run again until my long run on the following Saturday.

6. I miss my pool. I made it to the community centre by my office on Friday and found that 20 minutes fixed so much. Alex was flying in early so I didn't want to stay too long but, if he's as late as usual on Friday this week I'll get a full workout in with drills. I never thought I'd like doing drills. I never thought I'd like running on the treadmill. If there is anything you don't think you'd like, try it. Except liver and brussels sprouts. Only freaks like that kind of thing.

7. I'm still at the "doing the race to see if I can" point. The knowing is going to take a couple more months. I'll tell you when I get there.

Let's leave it at lucky 7.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Oh sacred Starbucks, supplier of clean, large washrooms and tasty hot tea lattes I sang your praises today on the 26k odyssey of urban delight i.e. no freaking snowy trails of horror, just a long run across the city and back.

Went to start the run from the house today but, Alex, hearing me lament the fact that my sport sunglasses were in my bag at the office, mentioned that he had to swing by the office at some point today so he'd drive me over, I could get the glasses and head out from there.

It started snowing hard on the drive. By the time we got there the promised sunny blue sky day was deteriorating into something decidedly less perky. I considered doing the run, or a portion of it, on the office treadmill.  Freudian slip there, I should have said the office gym treadmill, we all know the office treadmill doesn't exist - no one spends there time bored going nowhere with the view never changing in an office, do they? (bitterness sets in...) Where was I? Oh yeah. I was debating whether to jump on the dreadmill and slog out some or all of the workout. I farted around a bit changing designated pouch pocket assignments of sugar, kleenex, Starbucks' card, TTC token, key, cash, and inhaler. You'd think that I was heading for the steppes of Russia (east Toronto, hmm, not too far off). Well in that time the sun started to come out so I grabbed the gear and headed down to the street.

I exited the building, hit shuffle on the playlist and Bittersweet Symphony came on. The sun was shining, the day was ripe with possibility, and I looked awesome in my running gear. I felt like I was in a freaking Nike commerical.

Off I went. It wasn't too bad, not one of those transcendental runs when you begin to truly believe that the human race was built for running but definitely not an "I hate everyone and everything" run. Chindi was left at home as she just is too anxious running through strange neighbourhoods without the Alpha Male. Chindi doesn't get the whole Helen "I am woman, hear me roar" Reddy thing. Feminism seems to have missed the canine population.

Just as well as I couldn't have been constantly hitting up Starbucks if I had her in tow. My lovely, petite sized running tights from REI in Scottsdale needed constant applications of water to make them stick to my body. I got them last fall and considering my old ones had drawstrings (clearly a 20th century technology vs the new ones that are just supposed to "stick" to you) I was pretty happy for the upgrade. The problem is that I find I have to prime them with water on the waistband before I run, and, if, like today, I'm not particularly warm then there is nothing supplied by my own body for them to stick to. Hence 2 stops at Starbucks and one back at the office to prime the pump. Hmm, Prime the Pump, the new pioneer porno.

I also suspect, given my awesome 6 pound weight loss, that they might be on the large side.

So, loving the Starbucks. The last Buckstop, hahahahaha, was at the one the end of our street for what I have now decided is the perfect tea latte - tall, one pump each vanilla, hazelnut and cinnamon. Trust me. Heaven.

80 k right now seems like an impossiblity but Ironman was too, and look how that turned out. The thing is, I've been to the dark side of fear and anxiety and disbelieve in the power of my own mind and body. My reward for that journey was a finish line that showed me how awesome I truly am. The awesomeness was so thick that night that it's what really brought me in. I left some of my own for those for whom 17 hours and midnight really loomed. I accessed my awesome organ while I was out there (located just below the heart) and managed to actually negative split the out and back.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The super bad, horrible awful run.

Got your attention?

So, (sigh) they can't all be winners and sometimes all you get out of your workout is mental training, as in the training makes you mental.

It was supposed to be 26 km of  fun, with dog, sunny skies, feeling super duper, top of the world, all that good stuff. It happened right after a wonderful swim at a very swanky downtown club courtesy of the wonderful woman who puts needles in me. Now, in hindsight, and truth be told, also at the time, I should have had lunch before the run. Breakfast of champions, Red River cereal and fruit was at 8 am - run started at 12. Too much time and not enough calories. With the WW I'm running about 500 calories short a day (giving me my 1 lb a week loss) and I have to realize that that level of deprivation is going to lay a very thin line in the sand between happy fun run and depleted sad slog.

My best girl (dog Chindi) by my side, I set out with a great play list on the ipod and high expectations. My goal was Victoria Park, 13 km away up a lovely trail beside the Don River. The same trail run last weekend, twice, with happy dog and sunny skies. Chindi is not fond of the initial part of the run, we have to start off from my office on a busy street that smells like dogs she doesn't know, then she has to go down metal stairs that she can see through and she's stuck on leash until we get to the less used part of the trail. But let me tell you, she remained a sullen teenager for the entire run. I let her off leash to frolic only to have her sit down on the trail and refuse to move. Back on the leash until we got to a very wonderful part of the trail, with the river running right beside us. If you're a water dog that's got your name all over but this water dog continued to pout, tail down and more trail sitting.

Now, I felt guilty. I knew she was upset that Alex wasn't with us, she was worried that without the Alpha male we'd get ourselves into trouble and also, since he's been travelling so much, I think she just missed him. I considered turning back to find him on his shorter run and letting him take her home with him but I kept thinking she'd perk up. No perking happened just 25 lbs dragging behind me.

So now I'm getting sad and depressed, the snow is warm enough today to get sloppy with big divots that threatened to twist my ankle. Fast skinny guys kept running past me. I poured all 200 calories of Clif blocks into the stomach but got no sugar love.


But not in a good way - not in the "I'm becoming a better fitter person" way.

I have no watch on today but I'm guessing that if I turn around at about 16 and then add a run home from the office I'll have gotten in 21k today - about 3 hours at the speed I was able to go. I turn us around and Chindi, naturally, gets a second wind and finally starts contributing to the cause by pulling me along the trail. We exit the trail early to get on some snow free city sidewalks and the two of us fly down the road to the office, me dreaming of coke, Chindi dreaming of rancid fish wrapped in mouldy bacon (there, just turned myself off bacon - handy).

The security guard at the office tells me Alex is still around (aside, we work in the same building, it's a small one so everyone is well know, esp as the only married couple there). I call him and catch him for a ride home. I'm stinky, still in workout clothes, and I'm out of control, blood sugar crashing, hungry. An attempt is made to purchase back bacon sandwiches at the farmer's market on the way home but they just take cash. I stagger off to find Alex and further the meltdown. At that point I was the total Zombie runner, can't think, can't run anymore, possibly decomposing, stumbling around just needing brains, tasty tasty brains.

Made do with very tasty egg wrap created by he who is so good at taking care of me in Zombie mode. Tomorrow's another day and perhaps I can get that extra missed 10 km in. No trails unless it's colder and the snow sets up. There is a shovelling by-law and I intend to enjoy the results.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Into week 6 of  both the ultra-marathon training and weight watchers and the two continue to complement each other.

Nitty gritty on the WW - I switched my weigh in day to Fridays because I found that I was hoarding points for the weekend and going too hungry on Mondays. Traditionally training has always left me tired and hungry and grouchy on Monday so I wanted to try and work on that issue. Now, if say, I have a party to attend on a Thursday the only worry is having enough points left for a few drinks and that, if I'm serious about training and making a good weight for races, well, that my friends can be missed.

Last week's volume was about 50k, 35 of it on Saturday and Sunday so having earned the lion's share of my activity points I proceeded to have lion portions of food, including dessert both nights. Result - Monday saw me feeling great, no fatigue, no hunger, I felt like I hardly needed the rest day.

So, I continue to be an ambassador for the program, it's really working with my training and my life. I suspect that by end of March, when things start to really pick up, I might have to add a few more calories/points to make sure I'm recovering from the big weeks but, after the 50 miler, and the 2 week orgy of caloric consumption that results from these events, I'll have another window before Iron training gets crazy in September.

Weight loss has been steady, I should be down about 5 pounds this Friday which brings me back to Iron weight. After that, I'll feel like I'm actually losing something - well, actually gaining something.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Saturday’s long run, or, why I’m better than all of you

The thing about doing a spring race is that you have to train during the winter. For many that’s a pleasant little jaunt in California surrounded by green and sun. We hate them.

 For the rest of us it’s running in the snow. Running in the snow is all about attitude – you expect the worst, you prepare for the worst,  and as you run you work on your justifications for shortening the training session. Timed runs are better than mileage runs as there is at least an end to the horror – 20 km can be pretty open ended in a storm. Happily Saturday was a timed run of 2 hours, out and back along the waterfront from our house.

I will take this moment to praise the city of Toronto for keeping the Martin Goodman trail maintained in the winter. The joy of a ploughed and salted trail just a couple km from our house can not be underestimated. I can’t wait to get into some of the city’s ravine trails and back to Hamilton for forest trails but for the next couple months as the snow piles up I’m thinking the waterfront will work just fine.

I started out with the required attitude. I got down to the lake, into the driving snow just as Fatboy Slim’s “Right here, right now” came on the shuffle. “Yeah”, I screamed (inside words, not outside – that was later)  “this is how PBs are made baby. Sub 14 hour Ironman come to me honey”. I turned into the wind, appreciating the plowed route, put a stupid smile on my face and headed out. For a bit. The snow was picking up as I came across the city workers at the end of the plowed portion. I stopped and thanked the perky guy running the plow noticing that I’d run out of pavement before my hour was up. But I’m a Canadian, an Ironman, a woman, so there’s nothing to do but suck it up.

It was only about a km to my turn around point and I figured the snow would just force good form on me as I’d have no choice but to keep my knees up. Besides k-os appeared on my playlist and if he could get out of Somalia and make a career here well then I think I could run through a little bit of snow. (NB, k-os isn’t K-Nan but I didn’t clue in at that time, I'm pretty freaking white after all.) Didn't really matter in the end as whoever I was listening to didn't last as long as the snow drifts did.

I did get to the bridge only to turn around and see my night in shining armour astride his plow. Yup, city employee boy had caught up to me and laid down some lovely pavement for my return trip. Off I went smiling and happy and very much premature.

I don't know why I expected that the plow could keep up with the snow - it clearly couldn't and I was back in the drifts. I considered cutting up away from the lake to a major street that would take me home faster. It wouldn't have plowed sidewalks but at  least the wind would be less nasty. But, it was a 2 hour run, damnit, and there was not going to be any cutting it short. It's only week 2 - there's plenty of time for that coming.

Alex and Mad-Dog Englishman Dave were doing an hour run and as I had left the house about an hour earlier I started to look for them at their turnaround point. Dave appeared, swearing, which is ok as he is English and they did invent profanity after all. He screamed something about L3 above the wind, I smiled and didn't make eye contact. Dave's off alcohol for the month and there's no telling what might happen. Alex, who most assuredly isn't off the alcohol, pulled up in a considerably less than L3 speed. Alex had 2 social occasions on school nights the past week and wasn't enjoying running on that. I pretended to do an interval with Dave but secretly just turned around and headed back with Alex. I'm not going to say it was anything but a tough slog through snow, the music kept playing, probably perky little happy songs. It finally ended at home with chocolate milk.

No pictures, we all know what white looks like.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why do we accept so little for ourselves.


The Canadian government just lowered current recommended physical activity standards to 150 minutes a week. HUH??

I’ve read over and over again how that the three factors most important in maintaining a healthy body weight are:
breakfast every day
a low fat, high carbohydrate diet, and
7 hours of exercise a week, equivalent to walking.

Why has the Canadian government accepted such a lesser standard for our citizens?

Growing up in Canada we always knew that we were thin and Americans were fat. Then we got fat, but, Americans got fatter. That was kinda the deal, right. Now we’ll all fatter and south of the border they’ve progressed to obese and I have noticed now that when I leave the city, even in Canada, I see obese people. If that sounds like “I see dead people”, well, that’s pretty close to the truth. Obesity kills and before it kills the body, it kills quality of life. We should all rise up in spandex to kill obesity before it kills us. We can take it, it gets short of breath so quickly after all.

For some reason people my age (40’s) accept that activities like shovelling snow will result in them being physically wiped out for a couple of days. Why does this not trigger an alarm?

I think that we have, as a society, completely lost a sense of what our bodies were made to do. When 150 minutes a week of exercise is published as an acceptable standard then we have some pretty short memories. How is that “normal” for bodies that a scant couple generations ago grew their own food, carried water, and hunted long distances from home without an ATV?

I walk 2 hours a day, to and from work. That doesn’t wipe me out, I hardly notice it. I’m pretty sure that in the developing world, that’s a regular commute to school or work.  If I want to take transit to work, at rush hour, I would have to leave the house at about the same time as I do to walk. Coming home, I can get the streetcar and be home in 30 minutes. It takes 50 minutes to walk so that extra 20 minutes in the evening is not a big deal and it gives me half of the 60 minutes that I need to maintain a healthy weight. Mornings don't cost me more time to walk so why not do that and save the $2.50 fare. Starting out years before I even knew what Ironman was, I could have, like so many others, assumed that I didn’t have time to walk to or from work but, looking into it I discovered that I did. We can all find those opportunities if we start looking – but nobody looks.

We all moan that we haven’t got time but can recite 2 hours worth of TV plot points and contest results watched the previous night. We moan that we’re getting older ignoring all the people around us who haven’t accepted the idea of killing our bodies off prematurely. People treat me like I’m some sort of super human because of what I do. Pleeeease. I was never on a school sports team, I usually didn’t even get a bronze in fitness testing, I’m scared of any game that involves balls; volleyball gives me the whillies. Actually I’m scared of any team games because I know I can’t keep the rules straight. But, I would not accept physical weakness and ill health so, I ask, why does anyone else? I just don't get it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The point of the whole thing

I’ve been having pretty good success incorporating the new WW program into my lifestyle. After a week on, (down 1 ½ lbs) having eaten all my daily points, my extra points and my activity points I did find myself going to bed hungry Sunday night. Not optimal as I woke up at 3 am hungry still, and possibly a little annoyed with snoring husband. I headed downstairs and had a bit of chocolate milk (recovery food of champions) which took away the edge and got me to morning’s breakfast. The hunger continued through the morning at work. Breakfast filled me but there was still this little voice asking for more food please once the stomach was no longer filled with fruit and whole grains. I ignored the voice and made a far too small lunch of chicken, brown rice, chick peas and tomatoes. It was tossed with a lovely cilantro pesto but, I think I didn’t add enough fat to make it satisfying and I ended up sitting at my desk an hour later realizing that I really needed a cheese sandwich. Sigh, not a great choice, the cheese sandwich, but, there was no sense in continuing to get more and more hungry.

Dinner was a very hearty serving of pot roast, mashed potatoes and green beans and this little Ironman went to bed with a very happy body.

Lesson learned, even though last weeks training was minimal for me, Mondays are always a hungry day when training so, there is no sense in trying to conserve points for later in the week. I have plenty to eat, almost 100 extra this week from the walking to and from work, 3 hours of running planned, half an hour (min) of swimming, and a pilates class.

True confession, I was met by a co-worker this morning with a container of brownies. He makes his own, he’s a very good baker, two were consumed and duly noted in the log. Je ne regrette rien. (9 years of French, don’t like to brag or anything – of course, the husband, a product of French Immersion schooling weeps when I try to speak it).

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Snow Run

Out today for the inaugural 2011 long Saturday run. 2 hours of alternating between my dog pulling me forward to catch up with the guys, pulling my dog along as she got tired and bored, and bursts of off leash fun in the snow. It was hard to get a picture of her as she didn't sit still for long. You wouldn't sit still for long either if your bare ass was hovering above a foot of snow. Setting out was great, the snow was coming down but it was fluffy and light and easy to run through. Coming back as the day warmed the snow got heavier and I ended up that cursed "running on sand" terrain. There were a few walk breaks but not too much potty mouth, except from the dog, of course. Tomorrow a swim is planned in the morning to loosen out all the bits that got worked today.

The WW plan is just fabulous so far. I'm loving the iphone app, it makes staying honest very easy, and the program has not left me feeling hungry. I spend a lot of time thinking about the finish line next November and what I have to do to get there earlier. Mostly though I just enjoyed the waterfront on a snowy day.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Well now I've gone and done it.

Yes I have. Thirteen years after my first successful run at it I'm back with Weight Watchers. So, you say, quite rightly, gosh, if you were successful then isn't needing to go back the definition of unsuccessful? And no, it's not. To begin with, although clearly far away from optimal racing or modelling weight, I'm still within single digit jeans and I don't get breathless bending over to tie my shoes (true story-that's what took me there the first time) but I am far away from where I need to be to be faster. I'll look better for sure, and that's not trivial, but, damn it, mostly I love endurance sports and I want it all to be more satisfying and nothing would be more satisfying than a sub 14.5 hour finish next November.

I'll be back in a minute, I'm right now indulging myself and seeing the finish line with, say, 13:41 on it...hmmm...sub 14 hour finish...

Little plug for Weight Watchers here - they've changed the program to, in my eyes, make it much more doable for serious amateur athletes like yours truly. There are more points credited for working out so that, whereas previously, I would get only about 50% of the calories expended for extra food, now, I get close to 100%. Now, if you're just starting out on your life change, and you are getting yourself up to say a 30 minute walk most days, sorry, I don't think you need, or should, have those extra calories, but, if I'm training 10+ hours a week then, damn it, I WANT DESSERT ON SATURDAY NIGHT AND I DESERVE IT.

So, it's public, it's on a blog that a couple of people might actually read. I really am not setting a goal weight since body composition is what's key, but I want to be at least one size smaller by my 50 miler in May. If I can only maintain that with the 3500 calorie gorge-fest that is Iron training then I can live with that, but, I'm going for 15 pounds, 2 sizes, sub 14 hours.