Monday, March 30, 2015

Around the Bay 2015 Race Report

The light makes that second one look gold, HAHAHAHAHA. It is not. All bronze.

Around the Bay #4 is in the books. I have always had a lot of trouble pacing this race. 2015 would be no different, but the end result is something I'm pretty proud of.

So what happened?

Race day, just like last year, dawned cold, leading me to second guess all my clothing choices. That is also an Around the Bay race tradition. But I resisted the urge to overdress and stuck with my long sleeve and crops combo - basically the same thing I wore for Road 2 Hope, since that worked there and conditions looked similar.

Amusing myself pre-race.

My brother picked me up and we got to Coppsthe arena (whatever it's called now) absurdly early, as is our family tradition. It's all about tradition with this race. It was nice to relax and have time to chat nervously with the rest of the Daily Mile crew as they arrived.

We were much less sweaty and wearing a lot more clothes in the pre-race pictures. Thanks Irina for the pic!

Soon enough one last trip through the bathroom line and then Amy and I headed back to the open corral (everyone else had corral seeding and got to be fancy up at the front). We worked our way to the right position by the pace signs, and within a few minutes we were off.

Amy and I going to work. I'm way too cool for this race in my sexy shades.

Amy was planning a somewhat slower pace, so it wasn't long before I was solo. The plan was to run 5:28/km.

(as an aside, I'm super impressed with how well the corral system has worked over the last two ATBs. My first two ATBs the first km or two were a mess of dodging walkers - since they started the corrals I've been able to get to pace almost immediately, and no dodging around anyone)

1-5k: 5:25/5:24/5:24/5:21/5:23

Not so much with the 5:28s. Saw Patty for a bit, and we wondered what on earth was going on with the pacers. Not only was the 2:45 pacer well ahead of us, the 2:50 pacer was too! In fact for the first 3km the 2:50 pacer was in front of the 2:45 pacer (and he was well under 2:45 pace, too). I overhead the 2:50 pacer say something about her Garmin not working, so I knew I would need to just ignore the pacers and try not to let it mess with my head to have them in front of me. The 2:50 pacer did eventually fall behind, but it took quite a while. At least it gave me something to think about for the first part of the race!

6-10k: 5:29/5:32/5:26/5:20/5:25
10k split by the race clock: 53:36

The first 10k felt great. Obviously. Too fast. Although I did settle the pace down a little over the Burlington St. rollers (I'd forgotten how steep that first one is. And the second one you don't get to the downhill for quite a while so it felt like that km took forever). Around the ramp and over the 10k timing mat. Feeling fantastic. Even chatted briefly with another runner about triathlons (she was wearing a tri club jacket from a town where I'm doing a tri this summer). Took a gel at 8k, as usual. All systems go!

11-15k: 5:24/5:27/5:26/5:28/5:34
15k split by the race clock: 1:20:34

On the beach strip I found myself running with the 2:45 pacer, and he now seemed to be hovering around the 5:28/km or so I was aiming for, so I stuck with his group for a bit. There wasn't any wind, and I was starting to overheat a touch (I'd discarded my gloves within the first 3k of the race). I was a little worried about my clothing options, but nothing to do about it at that point. Crossed the 15k timing mat at the lift bridge feeling strong and confident.

16-20k: 5:19/5:27/5:29/5:26/5:36
20k split by the race clock: 1:47:41

After the lift bridge the route is no longer sheltered by houses on either side, and it felt like there was a bit of wind. Nothing too bad, and I took a gel at 16k. Spotted a Daily Mile friend (Ivanka) and said hello.

And then we turned onto Northshore. And it was a little like a switch flipped in my legs - my quads suddenly started to quietly protest. Although the true Northshore hills come later, km 18 and 19 have enough elevation change that you can start to feel it. And then 20k has the first real hill. The pace was no longer coming easy. And it got colder, so at least I was no longer worried about being overdressed!

21-25k: 5:50/5:41/5:37/5:40/5:33

Womp womp. Oh, those Northshore hills. Doesn't seem to matter how often I run them in training, they still kick my ass in the race. I ran them stronger than I ever have before during the race, but I couldn't get my legs back under me to ride the downhills fast enough to keep the pace under 5:30/km. When I crested the second big hill (the one after Lasalle Park) I was mentally preparing myself to take full advantage of the small downhill you get before you turn up to Plains...and got smacked in the face with the first real headwind of the day. I tried to tuck in behind other runners but it didn't make much difference. So instead of taking it strongly it became a struggle.

26-30k: 5:46/5:45/6:12/5:31/5:22

That little bit of headwind on the last part of Northshore? A gentle breeze compared to what awaited me on Plains and York. It was nasty. Many curse words were muttered. Again I tried to tuck in behind people but the wind just seemed to snake around them and it didn't help.

Longest. 5k. Ever.

I was somewhat delirious when I spotted this photographer, and I literally just copied the hand motion of the guy in front of me. 2 km to go? Bunny ears? Victory? Table for 2? Who the hell knows.

My quads had moved from quiet protest to picket signs and flaming oil drums and chants of Solidarity Forever ("What do we want? To stop running! When do we want it? Now!"). All I could think about (other than my burning quads) was getting some sports drink. I don't know why I fixated on that. I had water left in my Simple Hydration bottle, but I really didn't want water. And that's where that 6:12 came from - I grabbed a Gatorade from the last aid station and it tasted like heaven. The jolt of energy was exactly what I needed and I ran the last 2k in as hard as I could.

The smile is only because I know I'm about to turn into the stadium and it's ALMOST OVER.

Artist's rendition of my epic finish, since the photographers seem to have missed it. I used to work for a graphic design software company. I think my talent is obvious*.

*I wrote help files and user guides

Chip time: 2:45:15.4
Gun time: 2:46:59.7
Overall place: 2166/7277
Gender place: 657/3425
Age group place: 112/525

15.4 seconds.

15.4 seconds.

So on the one hand, AUGH. But on the other, I ain't even mad. The obvious culprit was that stop at the very last aid station - if I hadn't stopped, I wouldn't have had that 6 minute km. But if I hadn't stopped and taken the Gatorade, maybe I wouldn't have pulled out the faster last 2k and my overall time would have been even slower. If I could go back and change anything, I'd have grabbed the Gatorade the aid station BEFORE that one. That might have helped. But maybe not.

On the verge of falling over, but sure I'll stop for a pic.
At any rate, I am incredibly happy with this race. Yeah, yet again I didn't pace it properly, but I did a hell of a lot better than I ever have before. And I got my 2:45! When I think about that it's almost unbelievable to me. Paces like this were a distant, crazy dream a few years ago (my first ATB? 3:29). In addition, I got a 7+ minute PB running significantly fewer miles in training than I did last year. Again, that seems a little crazy, but it's working for me. I don't see myself going back to being a single-sport athlete when it's clear that multi sport suits me so much better.

Post race, I met back up with my brother and the DM folks and a few others. Everyone was highly amused by my sudden inability to walk. Or climb stairs. Or stand up. My quads were NOT HAPPY. Seriously when I tried to get out of my seat to take a picture with my brother it took me about 2 minutes and the help of two other people. I think I hurt less after the marathon!

'Little' bro (I never get tired of that joke, sorry I'm not sorry) set a huge new PB too!

Post race via our official photographer Irina. Fingers crossed next year you are running this with us again!

Mr. Silver medal Zindine
Finally, I want to say thanks to my 'unofficial coach' Zindine. I think I first met him at the ATB expo last year, and over the last year I've gotten to know him and his lovely wife Irina (photographer and ironman Irina!). Zindine helped guide me through buying my road bike last year, preparing for the duathlon, and then getting a indoor trainer and figuring out winter bike training. He and Irina even gave me a speed/cadence sensor for my bike to help me get totally set up. He recommended both the bike and run training plans that kicked my ass all winter long, helped me make modifications when needed, and is just absurdly generous with advice, congratulations when things go well, and commiseration when things don't. Getting put on the right track to training plans that work for what I want to achieve and that fit my abilities and the time I have available to train has been huge for me. I really don't know what I would have ended up doing without his advice - I doubt muddling through on my own would have been nearly as effective. Thank you so much for all your help, Zindine!

Friday, March 27, 2015

ATB weekend!

It's (almost) go time!

My favourite finish line.

So, the training is all done. The last couple of weeks things really couldn't have gone any better. The interval paces suddenly got easier and I was hitting every single one. The tempos went well. The long runs felt amazing. Race pace on legs tired from cycling felt doable. I don't think I could be any more ready for this race.

Check me out, with the successful 1k repeats. woo!

I owe the City of Hamilton a thank you for keeping this street free of snow and ice all winter. It made a great track.

So it's all systems go, with the small exception that my lovely germ vector daughter brought home a cold last week, and it's been hanging around the back of my nose and throat since last Friday. It never developed into a full blown cold, but I haven't been feeling 100% this week. Just sort of head ache-y and slightly congested and not quite right. Fingers crossed it's gone by Sunday or at least doesn't interfere with racing.

I'm not above trying to work the placebo effect to my benefit...
The race plan

Around the Bay and I have a bit of a history, and that history is essentially summed up as run the first 10k way too fast, spend middle 10k in denial, hate self for last 10k. So my race plan pretty much boils down to DON'T RUN THE FIRST 10K TOO FAST, YOU DUMBASS. Even if it feels really good. Even if those 5:15s are coming up easy. That's a surefire way to do yet another death march to the finish. So.

Overall A goal is come in under 2:45. Overall goal pace 5:28/km to give some buffer room due to tangents and general GPS weirdness. Don't get too far under that during the first 5k, even if it feels really good.

B goal is a PB (last year I ran 2:52:23). C goal is if it all falls apart, at least take some fun pictures and cross the finish smiling. D goal... well, I think we all know what the D goal usually is.

Now on to the time honoured tradition of freaking the fuck out about the weather and what to wear.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... oh wait. This looks pretty decent. Can we keep this forecast?

See you on the other side of the finish line!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Overdue ATB training update

So I've been lazy the last few weeks and just didn't feel like writing training updates. No, no injuries or issues or anything. In fact, training has been going incredibly well.

Swim: My stroke clinic has wrapped up, and I'm now sure I can manage up to Oly distance without too much danger of drowning. Still plenty of room for improvement (obviously!), but for this year, my swim goal is pretty much just to get through it and onto the bike in one piece, so I'm happy to have done a bunch of swimming and to have gotten comfortable with it. I'm swimming once a week right now to maintain my feel for the water. Next step is to obtain a wetsuit so that I can be ready to try out swimming in open water in the spring.

Bike: The bike plan is KICKING MY ASS. Sweet Spot Base II introduced V02max work, and I've been spending a lot of my bike time making this sort of face:

"I just did 60 minutes of insane threshold/V02max work and I think I might puke" selfie

It's tough stuff! This week is the peak of the plan, then I shut it down on the bike and go into full taper mode for Around the Bay.

Speaking of Around the Bay...

Run: So. Damn. Good. Since the weather changed at the beginning of March the running has been coming together amazingly well. I'm hitting the interval paces, the tempos are solid, and the last two long runs have been phenomenal.

With Nicole. Sam, and Ivanka after a kickass 26k run. I like how happily ever after starts with my head. Photo swiped from Nicole.

I'm into the taper now, although I dunno who came up with some of the alleged 'taper' workouts in this plan, because they are still pretty fast. I have a 5x1000m workout on the schedule for Wednesday that will be an interesting challenge (that's runner talk for 'I'm going to hate my life and wonder why on earth I inflict this torture on myself').

That's my 8x800m SUCCESS smile. If I can pull off the 1k repeats in the prescribed times you'll be able to see my smile from the MOON.
So the bike and the run have been pretty intense for the last few weeks, but... I feel great. My legs feel strong, very little in the way of DOMS even after several days in a row of tough workouts, and mentally my head is in the game. I cannot wait to see what happens at Around the Bay when I'm well rested and not doing crazy shit like a 21k race pace run the day after a 90 minute bike ride with criss-cross intervals that essentially alternated threshold with V02max.

So, there we are! Race day coming up fast. Can't wait.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Awake Indoor Triathlon race report

My first tri! Doing it indoors seemed like a good way to get the feet wet (hahahaha) without the pressure of transitions and open water swimming and all that sort of nonsense.

Oh, so that's the building where they hide the swimming pool.
I got to McMaster an hour early, and checked in.

Chocolate from the race sponsor. I haven't tried it yet, but those warnings on the package make me a little nervous!

After figuring out where to check in and where the changerooms were, I spent a few minutes watching one of the earlier heats swim:

Earlier wave heading out. Lane counters sitting on the pool deck.

The format of the indoor tri is 15 minutes to swim as far as you can, 15 minutes to generate as much power as you can on a spin bike, and 15 minutes to do as many laps of the indoor track as possible. I had no idea what to expect with this race, and no real expectations, so I was surprisingly not nervous.

Got changed, met up with my Iron Canucks teammates Natalie and Danielle, who were both going to be in the same wave, and got inked up with our numbers and ready to go.

The swim

I went out too fast and was desperate for oxygen by the end of the first couple of lengths. That sort of seemed inevitable. Eventually I got into a rhythm and overall the swim was good. I could hear the coach from the stroke classes in my head ("relax your neck! get your arms closer to your body! FOLLOW THROUGH!") but I'm pretty sure my form was a total disaster by the end. Then I screwed up the very end - I misread how much time was left in the 15 minutes and stopped swimming, and by the time my oxygen starved brain realized I should still be swimming, there wasn't enough time left to get in another lap. I ended up at 650m but really should have been at 675 or 700. D'oh. Next time, just keep swimming until you hear the whistle, dumb dumb!

The bike

We all gathered our things and were guided down corridors and up stairs to the bike/run area.

Previous wave finishing up the bike.
Once the previous wave was off the bikes, we only had a minute to get them set up. Then we had to stop pedaling and wait for the bike computers to zero out. This meant I really didn't get the bike set up properly to fit me, and I didn't get a chance to get a feel for the tension on the bike. But oh well.

Our 15 minutes started and it was immediately extremely discouraging - the tension lever on my bike seemed extremely fiddly (a tiny move would make it virtually impossible to pedal), and the watt reading I was getting was super low. Like I hadn't been expecting the numbers to be the same as the virtual power I get my trainer at home, but these were SO much lower that it just seemed impossible they could be accurate (over a hundred watts lower!). I was sweating buckets and my heart rate must have been high (I wish I'd worn my heart rate monitor, in fact, specifically to gauge the bike effort), so I was working my ass off but getting very little reward from the bike.

Now that I see the results from all the waves? Everyone who rode bike 11 had a low score, including the super speedy pro in the last wave (her watt reading was a 142, and there's NO way that is accurate). Because I'm a total nerd I even put the bike watts for the day into a spreadsheet and confirmed that the bike I was on had a way, way lower total average for the day than any other bike. So that's a little disappointing - going in I hadn't realized the bikes themselves might make things harder or easier, but that's how it goes sometimes. Just something I will keep in mind if I do this event again next year.

The run

After 15 very sweaty and heart pounding minutes on the bike, it was time to get ready to run. My quads were on fire, but fortunately (?) there was some confusion before we started running as one of the people who was supposed to be counting laps had disappeared. So it took a few minutes before that got straightened out - enough time for my legs to recover a bit. Soon enough we were off on the 200m circle. I hadn't been looking forward to this part, but it ended up being the best part of the day! The track surface was so enjoyably soft and springy, and the 200m loops weren't nearly as boring as I was expecting (granted, we only ran for 15 minutes - I don't think I'd enjoy doing a long run on that track).

The bike/run area. That's runners from a later heat, obviously, not my heat!
My final lap count had me at 2800m, but I'm about 95% sure my lap counter missed a lap and I was actually just over 3000m when the whistle blew. I'm really very pleased with that - running 5 min kms on tired legs is definitely a good thing, and better than I was expecting.

It was overall a really fun experience, and I'm not putting too much stock in the results because I'm pretty sure my bike was scored a lot lower due to mechanical stuff and not my actual effort level. Even with that, I would do this again for the triathlon practice and the experience. It's a good time! I recommend it, just keep your expectations for the bike accuracy low (and who knows, maybe you'll luck out and get one of the bikes that looks way off in the other direction - so jealous of the people who got bike 8...)