Monday 30 January 2012

I’m so confused!!!!!

I bit the bullet, and I bought a tri bike!!! A Cervelo P3.  I have been waffling back and forth on making this purchase because I love my Specialized Ruby road bike and have been very happy with its performance.  I have been told that a Tri bike is necessary for an Iron, so I began researching bikes and stores that sell them. 

I did not intend on making this purchase so soon.  I just felt lucky when I found myself in a bike store looking for a birthday present for a friend.  The store was having a sale on Cervelo. The small notice on the store entrance door said “up to $2000 off”. So I inquired. The young girl working the floor was new to selling bikes and cycling in general (I actually knew more than her, which is scary).  The store had one P3 left. I got on the bike and it felt big, but the store manager said it would be “sized” for me, even if they had to cut the seat steam. I left a deposit.

I think I made a mistake! Hours after my purchase, I started to question my decision, so I began researching on the internet and made a few phone calls to some seasoned cyclists I know.  I won’t get into the details, but OMG, forget about the bike size – it seems everyone has an opinion on tri vs road bikes.  So not only am I confused about the size of my soon to be picked up bike, but now I am questioning whether I should be buying one at all.

I’m still hopeful my deposit will be refundable, but now what? 

The debate it this… you trade-off comfort and speed on hills, on a tri bike (depending on who you talk to). With a road bike, you lose speed on flats and your legs are not as fresh when you get off the bike.  I have also been warned that some people never feel comfortable on a tri bike and that road bikes can be modified (to a degree) to be more aerodynamic.

So, I have a decision to make and I am so very confused.  The P3 size is still in question, but I can work through that with the store.  But if it fits… do I keep it? 

Wednesday 25 January 2012

My brain hurts…

Every morning is different, but nothing seems to change. New aches and familiar pain greet me as my feet touch the floor.  I have gotten use to this AM ritual.  Within the first few steps, I can feel the joints warming up and the muscles start moving without protest. Sometime I groan, sometimes I giggle.  I am of course doing this to myself.

This is not job related. This is not due to my age (I hope). It is only a reminder that I am doing everything I can to achieve the goal I set for myself.  As long as the pain moves into the background by the time I reach the other end of the bedroom, I am good. 

A couple of days ago, I felt a pain in my left heel.  I did not pay too much attention to it. I just added it to the list.  After several days of this constant pain, I told my coach.  Planter fasciitis, we both agreed. When we discussed the down-time necessary to heal (no pun intended), I felt the tears well up in my eyes. No running for weeks, maybe longer!!!! OMG!!! Within seconds, I had played-out all of the worst-case scenarios in my head, landing on: “I am done!”.  You see, my husband has PF and hasn’t run in 2 years.

“The Iron isn’t just about training. It’s about dealing with what gets thrown at you.  Your race is long, and a lot can happen, learning to maneuver is part of it.”

(To paraphrase my coach.)

Today I went to the Doctor. I do not have planter fasciitis. I have an infection, most likely from walking through new construction and old homes with no shoes on (part of my job).

So for now, I am not injured. But I did learn something. Injuries are probably going to be part of this journey that I’m on. I am tough as nails when it comes to aches and pain, but a complete baby when it comes to deviating from the plan that gets me to the end of my race. I am going to have to stretch that part of my brain. I wonder if there’s a plan for that? 

Monday 23 January 2012

I love Training Peaks

Every Monday morning I wake up an hour before everyone in the house, I pour myself a cup of coffee, and I sit down at my computer.  It has become my favorite time of the week.  I log onto Training Peaks (an internet application for athletes and coaches) and it’s like opening a Christmas present.  I get excited anticipating the week my coach has planned for me. Will it be a hard? How much cycling, running, and swimming? What kind of effort is planned? Does it look like a challenge? Does it look like fun? Is Alan going to give me shit for not listening to him the week before? :)

I have been doing this every week since April 2011, so I decided to poke around the program to see what my progress has been. What I found is very interesting: a definite behaviour pattern. It appears that I do not like running that much.  This is certainly true when you compare it to cycling. It was all there in black and white (actually, it was a very colourful graph). I am consistently coming up short in running training times.  Swimming less so, but still a little short.  Cycling however, (no surprise here), I am over training… ooops. 

It does appear that in the last couple of months, I have been getting better. I know that I am listening to my coach more, but I am still coming up short. The shortcoming is due to “sick days”. Everyone gets sick…right? Even when you eat well, and get lots of sleep and physical exercise, sometimes you just can’t avoid the odd flu bug.  It seems, however, that I am capable of convalescing on the bike. I have never missed a bike workout… ever.  I even have extra non-scheduled workouts, like yoga and strength, that I don’t miss.

I guess it is human nature.  My weaker sports will get bailed on.  This is where my head will need to intervene.  “Just do it” (Nike).  “Push, Push, Push” (Tara Norton). "Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion." (Muhammad Ali). “Don’t be a wiener” (my husband).

I love training peaks. It lays out the weeks ahead, keeps track of all my completed workouts, allows me to review my history in eye-opening, graphic format, and it keeps me honest. Plus, the cherry on top is that it is free. A rare thing in this sport… perfect!

Sunday 22 January 2012

I miss the road….

I wish I could say that winter is half over but it is only mid-January and we have a long way to go before spring. I used to love our winters, the snow, the skiing. I was a real Canadian girl. Now that I cycle, all I want to do is ride. I am riding indoors, which is not the same, but is will have to do.  

Every Saturday morning my club has a multi-rider session.  Each rider is connected to a Computrainer that follows a section of an Ironman route. It is kinda cool…there are 14 riders, the room is dark and the music is loud – so loud in fact, that you feel like you are at a rock concert.   I could, however, still hear the hum of our wheels and that brings me back to the road every time.  Today, when I closed my eyes, I could almost feel the road underneath me.

So until the snow melts, I will just have to miss the wind, the sun, the rain, and even the hills. I will miss the laughs, the mid-ride coffee… I will miss my helmet, my gloves, my sun block, my friends…

I’m not missing the pick-up truck drivers that honk, or throw things at us.  I don’t miss the dogs that chase us, or the squirrels that scare the crap out of me when they dart across the road.  I don’t miss railroad tracks, potholes, cars, or waiting for lights to change.

I miss more than I don’t, so I will take a deep breath and tell myself to be patient…spring is coming!!!!

Friday 20 January 2012

Survival of the fittest

“OMG you are such a pig!” Those words have been uttered more times than I can count by my loving husband. “It not a race,” is the other frequent phrase I hear. These comments are usually over a plate of nachos, or some other appetizer we’ve decided to “share”.  With disgust in his tone, he complains bitterly about my metabolism.

At 6’3 and over 200lbs, Drew has always been amazed at how much I eat.  He claims I eat as much as he does and has even nick-named me Jethro.  Now that I train for triathlons, the fight over food is not just over the Friday night appetizer, it’s now a battle over the contents of the fridge.

Finishing a cheese plate (for 4) for dessert!
("Back-off, I have a knife")
I have an ally: my coach. “You need to eat more,” he says to me frequently.  He even has my strength trainer asking me how much and when I have last had food.  You see, my weight has been fluctuating too much lately.  When the training goes up, too many lbs come off. With the Iron 8 months away, the odds of losing more weight are pretty good. Therefore, I need to be careful not to lose too much too soon. 

So, it has been a race to the fridge – a race that I think Drew is losing. As my weight stabilizes, he comments on how much he has lost recently….over 10lbs to date.

Thursday 19 January 2012

The next gear….

If you have ever driven a 5 speed standard vehicle you know how the car feels when you are red lining (the rpm’s) before you shift.  The screaming sound it makes as it begs you to shift into a higher gear. And, when you finally shift, the engine reacts quickly; it calms down and settles in.  If you keep the speed steady, you hit a sweet spot.  The car seems to ride effortlessly, steady and quiet.  As soon as you apply more pressure to the gas pedal, the need to shift gears starts all over again.

I view training much like driving a standard car.  When I started to train seriously, which was about 9 months ago, I was a complete novice.  Gear 1.  Just before I competed the ½ Iron in September, I remember feeling like I was red lining. I was pushing the limits of my engine as far I could.  I entered the 2nd gear soon after that race, and with months of “maintenance” training I have finally hit that sweet spot.

The sweet spot in a new gear is my favorite place to be.  You are going faster than you have in the past and it feels effortless.  I was running on the treadmill last night after a long spin, and my feet felt like they were not touching the ground.  I felt like I could run forever.  This goofy smile began to liberate my face. I caught my image in the mirrored window I was running in front of, and I spontaneously laughed out loud. 

How many people feel like this?  Is this why this is the fastest growing sport? I know I will be leaving the comfortable sweet spot I am enjoying so much.  I want to shift to the 3rd gear.  I look forward to my body screaming at me, red lining, begging to be shifted.  I look forward to the sweet spot in gear 3.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

It’s more than endurance and strength…

Last February I started taking swimming lessons. These lessons (5 in total) took me from a very basic recreational swimmer to a level where I could swim the front crawl for hours. I want to get faster and be more efficient so I decided to go back for what I thought would be a tweak. 

Last night I entered the endless pool for the 6th time.  Murray (a national swim coach) who hasn’t seen me for over 6 months, watched as I showed him my stroke.  I swam for about 30sec in the best way I knew how (I practiced for 15min before the lesson) and when I stood up to listen to his remarks (which I was hoping would be “very nice Carmen”) I heard,

“Oh,”… long pause… “I can fix that.”

Absolute Endurance endless pool

And so we began.  For an entire hour, we focused on little more than 2 things.  The finish and the entry of the stroke, which needs to happen at the exact same time (I didn’t know that).  Over and over again I tried, but it is hard to correct bad habits.  By the end of the hour, I was apparently getting it.  

Murray says that he is now teaching me the “high end, finessed” version of free style swimming. However, my stroke feels awkward, the rhythm is different. So, it’s back to the pool today, to practice the stoke and my catch. I feel better knowing that once I have this down, I shouldn’t feel like I need a nap after a long swim. Hopefully, I will feel like getting on a bike and riding for 180 kms.

I am starting to realize something as I train for the Iron.  This race will be difficult and I know I need strength and endurance – hence the 8 months of training.  But, what I also need, is polish and finesse.  Muddling my way through is not going to get me to the finish line. Efficiency is key. 

Thursday 12 January 2012

A sobering moment....

My cycling coach from 2010, Ilija Petrovski of Above Threshold (, was in a cycling crash this past Monday. He was trying to avoid a couple of (unleashed) dogs, and hit one. He is currently at Sunnybrook Hospital in an induced coma after brain surgery.  He is an amazing cyclist, a great teacher, and an all-round terrific guy. He still invites me on rides with him and his TT gang. My heart hurts knowing that he is fighting for his life.

This sport has its dangers, that’s for sure. I struggle with this from time to time. I love to ride and currently miss the road. I was just whining tonight to my friend Judy after our indoor spinning class, how I can’t wait for spring.

There is no way to know what the future holds. But what I do know is you aren’t living unless you are doing what makes you happy.  Cycling made Ilija happy. This is a sobering moment for me. I will be praying for Ilija and lovely wife Jackie.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Sooooo lazy!!!?

How is it that I have energy to train for hours everyday of the week, and little to none when it comes to the simple tasks?  I need to clean the inside of my car (desperately). I need to put the clothes away that the cleaning lady washed, folded and put neatly at the door of my closet.  I need to take the year’s worth of empty beer and wine bottles back for recycling before my neighbours think we have a drinking problem.

Several clients of mine have asked me how I have the energy for work, parenthood, and training. I just shrug my shoulders and smile. I don’t tell them about my disorganized desk, or my purse that looks like a wastebasket when viewed from the top, or the three-legged, birch bark reindeer that only needs a nail and 10 seconds of my time.

I guess you could argue that these are things that have no immediate priority, so I am not lazy.  Well, (I can’t believe I am admitting to this) am I lazy if I get in my car after grocery shopping, and drive to the other side of the parking lot, a mere 200 meters away, just so I don’t have to walk to the pet food store?

Ya, I’m lazy. Or perhaps, it’s a yin yang thing… and my way to stay balanced. :)

Monday 9 January 2012

The voice inside my head

She talks to me all the time. She amuses me. She bores me. She keeps me company. She gets me into trouble when she convinces me that doing more is always better. I can’t turn her off. I don’t want to. This week is a swim-focused week. Swimming is my least favorite event.  This is where the voice is the loudest.

In the pool there are few distractions.  A blue line, the wall, a blue line, the wall – again and again.  I bought an MP3 player, but the sound is muffled by the bubbles that pass my ears.  So the voice is what I hear the most. 

“Oh my God this is boring.”

“What lap is this?”

“I wonder if that kid over there has peed in the water?”

… Are but a few comments running through my head. 

“Focus, stop thinking about the kid…chlorine will kill anything…focus”. 

“Ok, are you focused?”

“Check your stoke, are you catching?”  (What is catching, really?)

“Am I doing it right? (I am moving so I must be.)”

“Where is that kid?”

This goes on from km to km. 

The Ironman is a test of strength and endurance, and that applies not only to the body but also to the mind.  My coach says he is going to get inside my head…. Lord help him.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Athletes make the best friends!

I arrived at the coffee shop at 8am this morning for my first group run in almost a year.  I love to run alone and have avoided running with people.  If you read my last post, then you know why I got up at 6:30am and drove 15 minutes to a coffee shop just to go out for an hour run with a group. 

Today must have been a reunion for many of the runners.  With the holidays now over, it was time to get serious for the upcoming season. After the hugging and quick holiday reviews were over, we headed out. As a newbie to the group, I felt a bit awkward, but the few people I knew stayed close to me. Our pack of about 15 or so headed up the road and, almost immediately, smaller groups began to form. 

The air was crisp and the roads were dry. This has been an amazing winter so far for outdoor activities (that is, if you’re not a skier).  I ran a little faster than I would have normally, just to stay with the pack I latched onto. The pace wasn’t hard – a bit faster than my comfort zone.  My group’s plan was to go further than my plan, so at my halfway point, I broke off and doubled back alone.

I passed several other packs of runners on my way back to the coffee shop, smiling and waving to me as I went by. I couldn’t help but notice the camaraderie: the bantering back and forth, the giggling.  “So cool,” I thought, “I’m going to like this.”

I was one of the first to return from the run, so I changed and grabbed a cup of coffee and waited.  As the group filtered in, a birthday card was being passed around.  Soon, there was a cake with candles, and the room filled with song. I stayed for two and a half hours – laughing, listening, and sharing stories.  What a great way to start the day. What a great way to make more friends. Running alone is over-rated.

Saturday 7 January 2012

My coach said "run outside tomorrow". No big deal, right?

I run by myself and I love it.  I love the flexibility of going out when I want and I love the solitude.  I never cycle alone, or swim in a lake alone, but running is different – a time to think.   I have been warned by my friends that it could be dangerous but I don’t go when it’s dark and I live in the suburbs so I’m safe…right? 

Hmmm, maybe not… A couple of months ago something happened that changed everything.  Except for a few out of town, outdoor runs, I have been treadmill-bound.

This is what happened. I have a wonderful 4km (out and back) trail that begins steps away from my front door. It is a stunning part of the neighbourhood, densely treed in some areas, and meandering gravel paths. It ends with a short, but challenging switchback hill. Normally it is full of people taking a stroll or walking their dogs. But on the day in question, it was cold and raining. 

I began my run around 2pm in the afternoon and for the first 15mins I did not see a soul. This bugged me a little, so I decided not to do a repeat, but to carry on into the subdivision when I got to the end of the trail. It had been a good run so far. I was running at a faster pace and felt very strong. I entered the forested part of the trail, which descends into a valley. I normally love this part of the run – it always takes my breath away – but today I felt very alone and aware of the isolation.


Down the hill I went, music playing, rain hitting my face. This would normally be a high point for me, but out of the corner of my left eye I saw something. 

“Oh f***, what was that?” 

I looked again, longer this time.  I was now on a wooden bridge and there it was…a man (late 20s) standing behind a tree just 30 meters away from me, on the floor of the valley.  He was wearing a hoodie and smoking a cigarette.  “This is not a good sign, this is not a good sign at all”, my brain kept yelling at me.  I looked again, still trying to process the situation.  Then I saw it! He had something in his hand and it was big and silver.  I knew immediately what it was. It was a gun!!!

“Now, what?”

My brain was still trying to process. What was he doing, what did he want?  He was staring at me. We looked at each other, eyes meeting. I figured I had a bad situation on my hands, but I just wasn’t sure what I was going to do.  If he ran and caught me, would I fight, or would I submit?  He had a gun… “submit you idiot, submit”.

Ok, I was resolved to submit if he caught me.  I was now at the end of the bridge and I took my last look over my shoulder. 

“What the hell…he hasn’t moved?  Why hasn’t he moved?  Why is he not chasing me?“

Then it hit me, if this guy was not a rapist, maybe he was a complete psycho, and he was going to use me for target practice. 

I was now at the base of the switchback hill, and I began the ascent. Panic like I have never felt before washed over me. 

“Any second now, am I going to feel a bullet in the back of my head? Why aren’t my legs moving?... Why can’t I feel my legs?” 

I knew I was moving but it felt like I was dragging a 100 pounds behind me.  It felt like the awful dream you have, when you want to run, but you move in slow motion.  I was now halfway up the hill where it turns back to the other direction.  My legs were burning, I couldn’t breath, and my heart rate was beyond anything I had ever felt. 

I was now headed in the same direction as the creep with the gun. If he ran up along side the forest he could cut me off at the top of the hill.  I was keenly aware that this might be his plan. Drag out the hunt, if you will. When I got to the top, nothing… no one. 

“Is that it? Am I safe?”

I didn’t stop.  Still running as fast as I could, I had another 350 meters or so before I was at my house.  I had nothing left…I couldn’t run any faster.  “Run, run, run”, that is all I kept telling myself.

I reached my front steps, opened my unlocked front door, and sprinted up the stairs to get my cell phone. Why didn’t I run with my phone? What was wrong with me? 

“911, what’s your emergency?” 

I couldn’t talk, nothing was coming out…not a sound.  Again I heard “911”. By now little squeaking sounds were coming out of my mouth, but nothing coherent.  “Calm down,” the 911 operator told me in a demanding tone. “CALM DOWN, CALM DOWN”, I wanted to scream at her.  “Do you have any idea what just happened?” 

I was still struggling to catch my breath, but I was only able to say “gun…he has a gun”. 

A few moments later I was able to give my address and describe in detail what had just happened, no more than 5 minutes before.  An impressive ten minutes later, there was a police officer standing on my porch with a shotgun.  Four cruisers had closed off my street and there were men with rifles everywhere. By now, my husband had returned home to witness the chaos. He begged me to change out of my clothes – I was soaking wet and shivering from the rain – but I wouldn’t leave the porch.  “I need to see him”, I said. I desperately needed to see him being dragged out of the forest in handcuffs.  I stood on my porch for over an hour, fixated on the path, and drinking hot tea Drew was now forcing on me. 

It took forever, but finally an officer came over to give me the news I dreaded the most.  They didn’t find him.  They told me that some of the neighbours had seen kids in the past playing with paintball guns in the forest, so maybe this was just one of those kids.  I really wanted to believe that (believe me), but I knew what a paint gun looked like and that wasn’t what I saw. 

Maybe this guy was only guilty of mischief, for being ignorant and scaring the crap out me. But he took something away from me that I want back. 

I am going to run outside in my neighbourhood tomorrow. I called my friends and they are happy to have me join their running group. Group running is better for training, so I am hoping this is the silver lining. Maybe solitude is over-rated.

Friday 6 January 2012

Getting my groove on…

The Christmas break was a wonderful time to lay low and regroup with family and friends. I ate a lot more than I normally do, missed a few workouts (completely sanctioned by my coach, btw…a nice Christmas present), got a lot less sleep, and gained 5 pounds. The result is, every workout this week has been a hard slog.

I am amazed at how fast our bodies (or maybe it’s just mine) rebel when it get a little down time.  I know rest is good for people in training, so I really can’t categorize what I did last week as “down time”. It was pure reckless fun:).  So, I guess it’s normal that I would have to pay.

I think if I knew how hard this week was going to be, I might not have consumed the #? bottles of wine, the “couple” of beers, the (shhhhh) 5 bags of potato chips I did not share with anyone. (I am lying of course, it was much worse than that.) Maybe, just maybe, I would have behaved differently (but probably not).

Today, I am finally feel like myself again and it was only towards the end of a 2hr workout that I got my groove on and my first really good post-workout buzz of the year…finally!!!  I hope this is a sign that I have recovered and that my workouts will get back to normal.  Just in time for the weekend. Anyone up for a pint at Hogan’s? (Just kidding.)

Thursday 5 January 2012

What a difference a day makes…

Sometime in October I decided to train for a full Iron. The day I entered and paid my entrance fee, I felt elated.  This feeling stuck!  Every morning I woke up with a big smile on my face. I leapt out of bed and packed my gym bag for whatever my coach had in store for me.  Well, guess what…the calendar year flipped over and bam!

On New Year’s Day I woke up, and I did not leap out of bed. I dragged my butt out, laced up, and ran for an hour around Niagara-On-The-Lake.  It was a beautiful morning, sunny and peaceful – perfect for a run.  But my stomach felt funny, like butterflies before a test.  I thought it was residual from my New Year’s Eve indulgence, but it hasn’t gone away.  I want to laugh, but honestly I am a little concerned.  If I am like this now, what am I going to be like in Aug? A complete basket case I suspect. 

I guess this is all part of it, and when the calendar year flipped over, so did my brain.  This is real, and it is now time to get serious.  As I train, I just hope my brain keeps up with my body.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

The Forth Event

There is a popular belief that triathlons have a forth event and it is the transition. I don’t subscribe to this, not yet, and not if your goal it to just finish the damned race (lol).  I do, however, believe there is a forth: swim, bike, run,… nutrition.

On smaller tri’s, like the Sprint or the Olympic, you can most likely get away with little to no food (not advisable but doable).  However, within a Ironman race, I have read that you will burn around 10,000 calories (yikes!!!). So if you wish to finish, you need to have a game plan.

Apparently, it is impossible to replenish what you lose during the race, so the trick will be to consume enough calories to keep your body moving.  It is a constant battle between using it and replacing it. 

I wish I had spent more time and energy listening to my coach and reading-up on this subject before I attempted the ½ Iron distance in Ottawa last Sept.  The fact is, the bike leg is the most important time to eat. It sets you up for the long run. In my race I absolutely failed to consume enough nutrients and salt during the ride.  On top of that, Ottawa had a heat wave, reaching 40 degrees with the humidity – so salt replacement would have been paramount. 

That's me...walking....Arrrrrrgh!!!!!
During the run I was dizzy, my legs cramped, and I felt liked vomiting for most of the 21k. Like myself, many runners were reduced to walking, but there were some that just seemed to float by (it was a looped course, so seeing them float by over and over made me want to vomit all the more). I beat myself up that day, telling myself that I did not train enough for this event, when in fact I did. I just did not train enough for the forth event.

I will need to learn to eat while I ride and run. I will have to practice with all kinds of foods to see what works and what doesn’t. I will need to pay more attention to seasoned athletes, and to listen to their advice. I will lastly need to remember that what works for someone else, may not work for me, so I will therefore need to make this my event.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Thank You Drew

I am going to pause for a moment and thank my husband Drew for creating this blog (and teaching me how to use it).  I am not sure how many spouses out there would be as supportive as he has been.  Drew has never complained when the alarm goes off at 5:00 in the morning, or when I get home late in the evening, leaving him to feed the kids. 

Drew has been to every event I have entered, and has been my own personal paparazzi. He listens with enthusiasm when I babble on about each new workout, and every new goal I reach.  I must bore him to tears, but so far he has never shown it. 

Drew and me in at the Welland 1/2 Iron

On the days when I feel like skipping a workout, he is there encouraging me, pushing me (sometimes literally), out the door.  He would say to me “you wont regret doing the work out”, and he has been right 100% of the time. 

Last summer I bought him a road bike so that he could come cycling with me and my crazy cycling friends. Well, what a natural. He climbs the hills like he has been training for years.  Our rides are long (usually 120k - 160k) but he never complains, even when he’s bonking. 

Training for three sports is time consuming, training for a full Iron (I’m told) will be nuts! I realize I am embarking on a selfish adventure and I am in awe of this man and his willingness to ride the rollercoaster with me.  

I love you Drew.

Monday 2 January 2012

My do’s and don’ts

I woke up this morning feeling the need to create a list of do’s and don’ts.  Training for this race is going to be hard and a little focus will go a long way:

  • Appreciate my supportive family (you can’t do this without them)
  • Listen to my coach (he knows more then me)
  • Eat smart (protein after your workouts!!!)
  • Stretch (15mins after all runs and rides)
  • Listen to your body (before it yells at you)
  • Learn to change a tire (quickly)
  • Enjoy all the endorphin highs

  • Listen to the coach in your head (she is sick and twisted)
  • Believe that every workout should feel great
  • Ignore your friends (just a ½ tablespoon of self-absorption permitted)
  • Avoid running in the heat (Louisville is hot in Aug)
  • Panic

"Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection." - Mark Twain

Sunday 1 January 2012

Today is the first day of 2012...

and the first official day of training for Louisville Ironman 2012.  The past year (2011) has been a journey of self-discovery. I began the year trying to train for a full marathon, which ended abruptly with a hamstring injury.  Months and months of training with a coach out the window, I was devastated.  What was I going to do now, if I wasn’t a marathon runner what was I?  First things first I told myself…get better… then…try again…?

My coach Kevin Smith (Marathon Dynamics) recommended I get rehab advice from Dr. Cindy Lewis of Absolute Endurance (AE).  This is were I left my dreams of running the Boston Marathon and began to fall in love with triathlons. I hired a coach at AE, Alan Chud, who has so far been the only person that can successfully infiltrate my thick head.

My first Tri. Placed 3rd in my age group. That's Alan on the right. 

The main reason I failed to finish the training for a marathon is due in part to me.  My brain is wired to believe if your coach says, “run 5k today” then 10k would be better.  Some of my past coaches were ok with this (or were just not paying attention), but not Alan…more about him later.

I could describe in detail all of the events I entered last year but I think for now I will just highlight the good, the bad, and the truly ugly of 2011.

The Good...


That's me in the pink cap!


I successfully conquered my debilitating fear of lake water.

I would have panic attacks every time I entered a lake.  I went to a therapist (Margaret Powell) and she used EMDR technique on me.  With one 2hr session I was cured. Sounds impossible but it’s true.  She uncovered a repressed memory of an event that happened 25 years ago.  I almost drowned by falling under a moving boat that was entering it’s slip.  I have attached a link with more info on EMDR and its ability to help people with posttraumatic stress disorder, if anyone is curious (


I learned how to swim (correctly). 

Yes, now that I can swim in the lake I wasn’t going to get very far with my 50-meter max front crawl. I hired Murray Drudge a national swim coach and swam in an endless pool with mirrors on the bottom.  Literally one lesson later I was bilateral breathing and swimming many more lengths than 2… LOL.  I have had 5 lessons with Murray and will need more, but currently I can easily swim well over 3 km.



I climbed Mount Lemmon in Arizona (April 2011). What the hell was I doing there?… I am still scratching my head.  I think I was still under the devastating influence of having left my marathon journey, and I needed a distraction.  I signed up for the AE Arizona Triathlon Training Boot camp.  I was fit from running but was only cycling once a week in a spinning class – and this was a full on 5-day intense cycling/tri training camp.  It is a good thing that I don’t over-think these things, because if I had, I probably would not have gone.

Taking a break on Mt. Lemmon
I owe so much to this trip.  Mt. Lemmon is a 52km uphill climb in your lowest gear.  The day we climbed the winds were up to 40mph which made this epic uphill ride much much tougher.  I pleaded with the wind that day, mostly because it had the capacity to pick me and my bike up (and it did several times).  I made deals, I made promises, I swore, I laughed and I almost cried…almost. I still can’t believe I did it. Every hill since (well almost every hill) looks easy.  I am going back in April 2012 and have some new goals for this climb…stay tuned.


I have discovered that I am pretty good at cycling.

Ottawa 1/2 Ironman

I love riding with guys because they challenge me.  Cycling is my best event and I love, love, love it.  I may one day just cycle (time trial racing) but for now, three events feel right.


2010 Sporting Life 10K. In the chute after the finish. 

Ahh… running… what can I say about this love/hate relationship? Well, my running career started with me slowly jogging my newly adopted, fat rescue dog (Yogi) and the semi fat, 30lb heavier me, around the block in late 2009.  I was convinced at that time that I would never be a runner.  However, as Yogi and I continued circling the neighborhood my confidence increased and so did my distances. I entered my first race in May 2010 – The Sporting Life 10km.  I will never forget that day. I cried for the first 2km (yes I cried at the beginning, not the end) – the sights and sounds were more than I could handle.  The sense of accomplishment is something that still drives me today. I was hooked – hooked on seeking experiences that will challenge me.

My running gets better everyday.

a video of me learning to run with a new form

Several months ago my coach, Alan, helped me change my running style from a heal striker to a midfoot landing.  This has been difficult and painful but I PB* my last 10k by 5min without trying. 

*Personal Best


Yoga…specifically hot Bikram Yoga.  I discovered this wonderful 90min moving meditation style yoga when a friend (also a triathlete) suggested I try it.  What an incredible exercise. The focus, the challenge, OMG the heat! I didn’t think I was capable of sweating so much. Very hard, but so good for you.


Cycling for a cause.  There are races and cycling events that sponsor charities and last year I rode for Coast to Coast / Tour for Kids, helping to fund camps for kids with cancer. This incredible organization ensures that 100% of the funds raised goes towards improving the quality of life of the children and their families impacted by cancer. What an unbelievable experience, that is all I can say.

I rode somewhere meaningful.

Meeting new people and forming new friendships.

After riding 2 x 100 miles in the Ride to Conquer Cancer 2011
Judy, Michael, me, Marc, Karin, Allen 

It has been an incredible year for meeting like-minded people.  The new friendships I have are likely to be the kind that will last forever.   


Last, but not least… I eat (and drink) whatever I want, and recently my coach told me I need to eat more… nice perk.

The Bad


The cost…geeeeez this has been an expensive journey.  A road bike (a couple k)…a yet to be purchased tri-bike (more k’s), coaching, two club memberships (don’t ask), massages, training and race gear for 3 sports, shoes, clothing (cuz a girl’s gotta to look good!!!), special food, gel, protein crap, race fees, travel expenses… etc… etc… etc… I don’t want to add it up. I just don’t want to know.

My bike "Ruby" in Arizona. Priceless.  

The pain, the pain, the pain.  Nothing good comes without a little pain…right?  I guess I have a lot of good coming my way then.  I ran 10km this morning, I was sleep deprived and a little hung over (it is New Year’s day remember)  my calf muscles hurt so much they felt like they were bleeding (still working on that new running form).  Like I said earlier, a love/hate relationship.


The boredom is sometimes palpable. I solo train most of the time with all three sports, but swimming is incredibly mind numbing.  I recently bought a waterproof MP3 player. I hope it gets better.  


Goggleface – every time I swim I get the worst goggle impression that lasts for hours (to say nothing about how I look with them on).  I have given myself a black eye, and broken a few blood vessels!!! If someone out there has figured out a way to keep the chlorinated water from leaking into goggles so I don’t have to keep them so tight, I am all ears.   And don’t tell me to buy new goggles, I have tried that.

Note bruise forming under right eye.

Anytime you try something new you have to be prepared to look stupid…right? Well, I have had my share of embarrassing moments, especially on the bike.  My first ride on my new road bike is a great example.  I asked Larry Optis a PT and cycling coach from my club to teach me how to properly ride my new fancy bike.

Larry Optis
Ok, so the first stupid thing I did was to forget my helmet, so down the road I went wearing Larry’s helmet.  Moments later at the first major intersection we stopped at, I fell over!  I still can’t figure out to this day how with one foot firmly planted on the ground, I could fall over.  Now, I am clipped-in so once you start falling there is virtually nothing you can do about it.  Poor Larry stood there probably wondering what he just got himself into.  To his credit he has never poked fun at me, a true professional.

The truly Ugly


I DNF!!! (did not finish) my first triathlon race (swim/bike half Iron in Welland).
I had a panic attack in the water within the first 5 minutes.  OMG, there are so many things I wish I could tell that poor girl in the water now.  I would tell her that it takes a good 15 minutes of stressful breathing as her body warms up and not to panic…it’s normal.  I would tell her that the wetsuit she just bought wasn’t too tight, that she is not having a claustrophobic event, just STAY CALM.  I would tell her that the fish and the snakes she saw through her leaking goggles are pretty, and it is not dirty Lake Wilcox but the very clear, see-to-the-bottom Welland Canal, so STAY CALM.

click to enlarge (my shame)

I would then finally tell her not to skulk out of the water. Just dog paddle, swim on your back, side stroke, anything, just STAY CALM.  The upside to this first-time-out, disastrous event was I got on my bike and rode my ass off.   I was so mad at myself for quitting the swim, that I road hard and finished 90km under 3hrs.  Pretty good for a newbie.


Lost my big toenail just before the 2011 summer sandal season.  Yes, this falls in the category of truly ugly.

Drew (my husband) says
this is what my toe looked like.
I have never lost a toenail before but apparently you are not a true “runner” until you have lost at least one nail.  Well, I have lost two and I hope that is it!!! I have my toes crossed.


Pick-up truck drivers hate cyclists!!! Like cats to dogs, I guess. I am not sure why but this is truly a phenomenon.  I have had drivers yell at me, throw water bottles, and squeeze me over to the gravel shoulder.  If they only knew how dangerous their actions were, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t do it…?

I have one more thing to add to the “Ugly” list which could be in its own category.  These sports have a really gross side to them.

As mentioned, cycling with men has its training upside but it also has a disgusting down side. They spit!! And the spray always seems to find me.  Once, this guy decided to clear his nose and yes, it landed on my shoe (actually my black shoe cover or “booty”). It’s so much better to see a booger on a black canvas. I couldn’t stop looking at it. I gagged a lot that ride.

One swim several months ago, I saw something moving at the bottom of the pool, so I went to pick it up, and it disintegrated in my hand!!!!! Did I mention it was brown? I swear I had the hottest, longest shower 5 seconds later.

oh, come on....this is funny:)
I have also heard about (and hope never to experience) getting sprayed with pee while cycling… yup, you read that right.  In races, if you draft off of another cyclist (which is a disqualifying offense), some competitors will urinate while riding to get you off their back.  It’s a rumor, and it’s an effective one if you ask me.  

Summing up the year...

As I sum up the past year, I feel lucky to have found the people who I now call my friends: my coach, my instructors, and my training partners.  2012 will undoubtedly bring a whole new set of challenges. And, as I train for my first Ironman I pray that my body, and my mind will persevere.  Let the journey begin.