Monday, April 25, 2016

Muskoka 70.3 build: week 5

Oh man, what a week that was. Things are generally all around going awesome. Other than the cold I seem to have picked up from my youngest (kids: SO MANY GERMS), but I've had pretty good luck this year with avoiding illness so far, so I can't complain too much.

Monday: 1800m swim
Tuesday: TR Matthes +1 (75 min VO2s)
Wednesday: 8k run; 1850m swim
Thursday: TR Petit (1 hour aerobic); 2200m swim
Friday: TR Phoenix (90 minute tempo)
Saturday: 100k ride outside; 6k run
Sunday: 2000m swim; 13.5k run

Swimming paraphernalia. 
Kind of misplaced my rest day this week. Oops! But it was way too exciting to have my lunch hour pool reopen; I couldn't resist a trip over there on Monday. And swimming just felt fantastic this week. I'm so looking forward to getting into open water soon and seeing how all this pool swimming translates. That said, I'm fully expecting the first open water swim to be...interesting. The pool on Monday was very cold, and I got the panicky tightness in my chest I remember so well from my first 6 weeks or so of open water last spring. With cold water plus the constriction of the wetsuit, I won't be surprised at all if I have to work through panic on the first few open water swims of the year.

Doesn't look like much, but a 25m pool is a 25m pool. Especially when it has lunch hour lap swim. And I'm usually the only one in the fast lane.
I was really happy with all my swims this week. I've been working hard at it and it seems to be paying off! I even woke up with sore lats after a swim this week, just like a real swimmer. Progress!

On the trainer this week, I used my webcam to take a few pictures of what I look like at the end of a VO2 max interval.

Doesn't that look fun? HAHAHAHA. Probably not really selling the whole Trainerroad thing, am I? It's painful but it works, I swear!

Saturday I headed outside for my first metric century of the year! Despite it being cold and windy, I had so, so much fun. I had company with Danielle from the club again for the first 20k, which was lovely. Then I rode the rest solo, other than the few km where I was leapfrogging back and forth with a small group of roadies. Got in a little draft zone and passing practice there.

And I finally got a picture of the road sign that cracked me up during the century ride in the fall:

COME ON. I love whoever designed this so much.

The sign is accurate, too. This hill is ridiculous. It's just outside a village named 'Kirkwall' and I swear they must have named the town after the wall-like nature of this hill. Good times. Pretty sure I swore out loud when I saw it in front of me.
What was perhaps even more exciting than getting out for such a long ride so early in the season, was how strong my legs felt throughout. I was tired at the end, but my legs felt pretty much fine. I was even able to follow up with a strong feeling run that afternoon. All the training is paying off!

And then I hit a milestone for this training cycle: I fell asleep on the couch for 45 minutes late Saturday afternoon and had a very restorative nap. That's how you know you are really getting into the tough training; I had a few random naps at the peak of Barrelman training last year.

Re running, I saw my physio on Tuesday and he did assorted physio voodoo to get my SI joint to cooperate (ART, mobilization, etc), and it seems to have fixed me right up. My hamstring feels back to normal and my sciatica has cleared up. I did end up having to move my Friday run to Saturday because of life stuff, which was fine. The extra day off running was probably helpful.

Sitting in the spring flowers, taking a selfie. Totally normal thing to do.
Sunday's run felt great for the first half, but then the aforementioned cold chose that time to move into my sinuses. Running with painful sinuses is not something I would recommend. So that was a bit of a downer. But hey, at least the cold has decided to peak on me just in time for rest day. Ha. Always looking on the bright side. I expect to be over the worst of it in time to get back to training on Tuesday, but, as always, will modify the intensity if necessary.

The super glamorous 'trail behind the Walmart'. Jealous?

What's up this week:

Monday: well-earned rest day
Tuesday: swim; TR VO2s* + brick run
Wednesday: easy run; swim
Thursday: TR over unders; swim
Friday: easy run; TR aerobic
Saturday: long outside ride + brick run; swim (?)
Sunday: long run; swim (?)

*both this week and next week have utterly terrifying VO2 workouts on the schedule. 4 minutes at 120%? I don't even want to talk about the over/unders. Sometimes I really do think Trainerroad is trying to kill me.

I'm aiming for four swims a week now, which is easier since I've come around on the whole evening swim thing. It's still tough to talk myself out the door at 8:15 pm, but it's worth it. That said, if it ends up being three swims I have no problem with that, either. And now that my hamstring feels 100% I'm going to add back in the brick runs. Very short on Tuesday (probably 3k or so) and see how that feels.

Two weeks of hard training before recovery. Let's do this!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Muskoka 70.3 build: week 4

I think spring is finally here!

Gotta be a good mood now. The weather is warm, there's bikes all over the roads, and soon we'll be open water swimming again. Can't wait!

What happened last week:

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 1650m swim; TR Spencer (VO2s, 1 hour)
Wednesday: 2000m swim
Thursday: TR Avalanche Spire (over/unders, 1:15); 1300m swim
Friday: 7k run; TR Petit (aerobic, 1 hour)
Saturday: 52k ride outside
Sunday: 12k run

So, three big things to talk about this week.

1) The run. I saw my new physiotherapist on Tuesday and it turns out the tight hamstring is a different than usual manifestation of sciatica. That dates back to my very first pregnancy (an overall miserable experience, although the resulting kid is pretty awesome). 11 years later it likes to pop up every few months, be a literal pain in the ass for a week, then go away again. He thinks we can improve that situation a bit, so I'll have a few more sessions while we try and get my lower back to stop being such a cranky bitch.

more quality time with these guys on the schedule, too
Since it is only two weeks after Around the Bay, it seemed sensible to keep the running minimal this week. By yesterday's 'long' run it was feeling about 98% back to normal, but still not quite there. So I'm going to keep things easy and on the shorter side this week and pretty much take the run one day at a time. No hurry - I clearly have solid run fitness, and there's no need to push it right now.

Just happy to be out in the sun, only wearing one layer.
2) The bike. I rode outside on Saturday. It was glorious. I think the bike started to cry when I put her back on the trainer.

My friend Danielle looking spiffy in her Iron Canucks kit climbing Snake for the first time. I had no idea she'd never done that climb when I planned the route!
3) The swim!! So Thursday I got some swim coaching from a member of the club, Lara. It was so great. As I suspected, my catch isn't right. She had me swim with finger paddles (cool!) and do some drills (6 kick switch; 1 lap slow, 1 lap fast), but mostly gave me two pieces of advice which I think are going to make a significant difference. First, she helped me figure out just what exactly my hands are supposed to be doing on the catch. I'm not quite getting it right most of the time, but I can feel such a huge difference when I do manage to nail it. Now I'm definitely chasing that feeling of properly 'grabbing' the water!

The second thing was to engage my lats more. Just thinking about that seems to have made my pull more powerful, in the one swim I've managed to fit in since our session. That was actually today, which means this should go in next week's blog, but whatever, this was an exciting moment for me:

Unfortunately due to life stuff I wasn't able to get to the pool over the weekend and apply any of this new knowledge, but there was no way around that. Well, technically I did go to the pool, but it was for family swim with the kids, where I multitasked by teaching them how to do underwater somersaults and practiced flip turns at the same time. No guarantee I actually try and do a flip turn at lane swim any time soon, but theoretically I think I could. Maybe. Probably without giving myself a concussion or drowning.

On tap for this week:

Monday: 1800m swim (done!)
Tuesday: TR (VO2 max); maybe evening swim
Wednesday: easy run
Thursday: TR (tempo); swim
Friday: easy run; TR (aerobic)
Saturday: long bike ride + maybe short brick run
Sunday: long easy run (15k?); swim

Really excited for swimming this week (!!) and of course to get the bike back on the road!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Recovery week

Last week was all about recovering from Around the Bay. I didn't plan any workouts because I just wasn't sure how I was going to be feeling after the race effort, but I recovered well, with one small (I hope) issue that I'll talk about below.

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 1600m swim; TR Mont Albert -1 (1 hour; endurance)
Wednesday: 5.5k easy run; 2200m swim
Thursday: TR Guyat (1 hour; intervals of increasing difficulty to threshold)
Friday: 10k easy run; TR Black (1 hour easy)
Saturday: TR Icefall (2 hours; over/unders); 2000m swim
Sunday: 15k run; 1800m swim

Four swims! Look at that. Amazing how when your long run is only 15k you have so much more free time. Swims were good this week - did a lot of it with the pull buoy to give my legs a break, plus to try and work on my position in the water. I'm not sure I made any progress there, but hey, I swam a bunch and felt good doing it, so that's a win.

Random photo of the bay. Doesn't look like spring. Sad panda face.
The bike felt surprisingly decent all week. Granted I didn't try and go over threshold (even the over/unders were only up to threshold, not over), but I was expecting more fatigue. I'm not complaining about it, though!

Doesn't really look like spring.
The run is...OK. Wednesday was ugh, as expected. Friday my hamstrings felt super tight. Sunday the right one felt fine but the left was still tight, and I could feel a big difference between them when I foam rolled Sunday night. So that's the wrinkle in my otherwise great recovery. I ran 15k on Sunday, and overall the hamstring felt ok until towards the end of the run - it's not painful, but it is stiff. Which is not exactly ideal. I have an appointment with a physiotherapist today to see what he* thinks. I don't want to continue running on it if rest would be a better choice, especially given that I'm still in recovery mode this week. And resting now when the goal race is still far away is a better option than pushing through and maybe making it worse.

*my beloved physiotherapist who used to fix my hips up all the time is no longer practicing. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Hopefully I like this guy!
Memorial bench seen on my run
In other news, for our 10th anniversary my husband got me a new toy to play with.

The 10th anniversary gift is supposed to be fitness gadgets, right? Something like that.
So realistically it's not like I need an activity tracker for my health (lulz), but this is the version with the built in heart rate monitor and it's making it a lot easier to track my resting heart rate. It'll take a few weeks to get enough data on that to be useful, but right now it's just kind of fun to obsess over. Plus this way when I forget or can't find my HRM strap I can just use this little guy! (comparing the two the wrist monitor is definitely slower to respond to changes in heartrate, so seems overall a bit less accurate. So I'll still use the chest strap for things like sprint intervals. But for a steady state run, it should do the job).

Only slightly obsessed with this.
Plus, it's significantly more attractive than the 920xt, which let's face it, is butt ugly. I really love the wrist notifications from my phone, so being able to get them on a more attractive device is an upgrade.

(I have not yet gone maximum triathlon dork and worn both the watch and the new HRM in the pool. It is waterproof, and I'm curious how/if it will read in the pool, so maybe I'll test that out this week...)

Enough of that nonsense, what's up next week - week 4 of the build plan! My hamstring doesn't bother me at all swimming or cycling, so full steam ahead on those two. Running, we will see.

Monday: rest
Tuesday: swim, TR (VO2 max)
Wednesday: run if physio says OK, swim
Thursday: TR (over unders); swim
Friday: run?; TR (60 min easy)
Saturday: Ride with 60 minutes tempo hopefully outside OMG OMG OMG; swim
Sunday: run?

This week I'm going to get some swim coaching from a very generous member of my tri club who has volunteered to do some stroke improvement sessions! Really excited to hear all the things I'm doing wrong. Heh. And fingers crossed the hamstring is a minor issue that clears up quickly.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Around the Bay 2016 race report

...and it only took five tries to finally learn how to pace this race properly. It doesn't matter that I intellectually know that going out too fast will cost me late in the race (especially as the distances get longer). Somehow I have to experience it myself to really believe it. Over and over and over again.

I have not been very smart with this race in the past. Although I've gotten better every year!

This year? A+. It was a good day. Two races this year, two PBs. And I continue my streak of PBing ATB every time. Also my streak of terrible finish line photos for the year, although I'd kind of like to end that one.

So how'd the day unfold?

As Nicole put it, the ritual is soothing.
First up, last second wardrobe change with the addition of a vest to all that stuff up there. Since it turned out to be pretty damn cold at the start. 

Got a ride with my brother to the race, arriving stupidly early as we always do. Tradition! Other guy is my husband, Steve, bundled up before his first ever ATB. Thanks to Irina for the pic.
You see how early we are? Practically the first people there! Yes, we are the people who actually show up at 7 to your party when you tell us that it starts '7-ish'. Sorry.
Hung around being nervous, visiting the bathroom, etc, while the running/tri friend crew gathered.

That's a lot of very fit people. Again thanks to Irina for the pic!
Ivanka was going to start the race with me and Steve, but at some point on the way to the start we lost her (foreshadowing: I could have titled this race report "Ivanka Lost and Found"). We did see my friend Christina and also ran into Mari in the start corral. It's so fun to go to races and meet so many people I know! Some encouraging words, shedding of throw away layers, and we were off.

First 10k
10k: 54:02

There were more people in the way this year than I remembered from last year - maybe because of the self selecting corrals instead of requiring people to prove their times, or maybe they just weren't policing things on the way into the corrals. At one point I had to dodge a woman walking. WTF, dude. But overall it wasn't too bad. And it helped a bit to keep that first km on target, as my pacing plan was to try and stay closer to 5:30 for the first few km, then work down to 5:25/km.

Early in the race. I can tell because I'm still wearing my gloves, my ponytail is super enthusiastic, and Steve is with me (awwwww).

Still overshot my target a little bit (it's so hard not to with all the race excitement!) but I kept things largely in check for the first 5k. Looking at some of my past ATBs where I've done crazy things like run the first 3k at 5:17/km?? It's a big improvement in pacing! It helped having my husband alongside reminding me to keep it easy. We also found Ivanka again early in the race for a bit and ran more or less together. At around 5k Steve decided to pick up the pace and disappeared into the distance.

And shortly after I lost Ivanka. Again. She's a tricky one to keep track of! Maybe I need to get her one of those kiddie leash backpacks.

My legs, to be honest, were feeling like garbage through the first 6-7k. It seemed to take a really long time to warm up and get them on board with the whole race thing. So although the race was going well, my confidence was not super high. Which in the end may have been a good thing, as it helped me avoid the temptation to speed up! Took a gel at 8k without any issues.

The wind on the Burlington St section of the course was at our backs, which meant I was a little too hot, but it was handy to have it pushing us up the overpass hills. I don't mind running through the industrial section of Hamilton (to be honest I find it a lot more interesting to look at than the run-down neighbourhoods the race used to go through), but the three additional hills definitely change the flavour of the race a bit.

15k: 1:21:06

The run along the beach strip, where I manged to basically waterboard myself grabbing a drink at the water station. You'd think I'd have mastered drinking water at this point in my life. YOU WOULD BE WRONG.

I think this photographer was just before the water station where I almost drowned. Happy happy joy joy.
Ended up running behind/with Sam and Nicole for a while, but I was in my own little world since I was in a good pace zone/groove and rudely didn't chat or ask them how things were going. Sorry guys, got my race face on.

When I hit the 15k timing mat at the lift bridge I was feeling great. I was a little ahead of my goal pace, although not so much as to be scary. Just enough to know I had some wiggle room for the hills. And it was looking good to be under 2:45 gun time as well as chip time. 

20k: 1:48:12

I was in the zone for this section. Took my second gel, and just held pace pretty well. People always say the last 10k of ATB is hilly, but really the hills start right when you turn onto Northshore, with a gradual incline up to King Rd. But I was feeling really good! In fact I was kind of marveling at how great my legs felt. A couple of people from my tri club were out at King with our team flag and I made sure to snag some high fives for encouragement. That sort of thing really helps! Hit the 20k mat feeling like a million bucks.

25k: 2:15:53

This is the danger zone. This is where you tackle the two LaSalle Park hills. In my experience, this is where you learn if you ran that first 10k too fast, and just how much that is going to pay you back. IN PAIN. #melodramatic

21 includes the first Lasalle hill. I don't try and kill myself maintaining pace on that one. There's no point. Accept that you will slow down and hope you can make some of it back later. Or that you have enough time in the bank to compensate. Natalie from the tri club was waiting here on her bike and rode a bit of the hill with me, telling me I was looking really good and strong. And I was feeling good and strong. First main hill done. Thanks, Natalie!

22k was also a bit slow because I walked the water station to make sure I got some fluids down. If there's one thing I learned at the Chilly, it's that you can walk for 15 seconds, get down your nutrition, and then restart strong. It's worth the little time sacrifice. 

The second Lasalle hill, though. Oh boy. All aboard the pain train. My legs were not happy with the climb, and let me know they were really, really ready for a break. Shut up, legs. I pushed forward and brought the pace back down once I crested the hill (which takes approximately a thousand years because that hill is mad deceptive).

Where Northshore turns up to Plains, it was time for another round of my new favourite game, OMG Hey That's Ivanka! And not the fake Ivanka like the girl I yelled hello at earlier in the race who turned out to be someone else!

It was a happy thing to have someone to run with, because we sort of traded back and forth who was pushing a little harder and who was falling behind. I don't think we actually spoke to each other (I may have muttered some curse words about running in general at one point), but just having someone there is so helpful. I was starting to fall apart a little bit. Not too much, and I kept pushing, but ohhhhhhhhhhh it was hurting. "I'm never doing this race again. Finish this race and you never have to do it again" was about the only thing I was thinking.

30k: 2:43:21

In km 27 I was struggling. I felt like I was on the edge of giving up. I remembered how last year I kind of fell apart completely with less than 2k to go. I decided to give myself 15 seconds to get in my emergency bottle of Skratch and hope that would give me a boost to get through the last few km.

Those last 3 km took approximately 10 million years to actually run. It was a bit of a blur. Ivanka fell behind at some point (lost again! Damn it!), and then I realized the guy I was running behind was my husband! I'd caught up to him. He ran with me for a few minutes (I think we made it past the Grim Reapers together) and then he told me to push hard and go. So I did. Dropped the hammer with 2k left, telling myself 10 minutes. Just ten more minutes. 

It really, really hurt.

Running is the worst. I better go faster so I can stop sooner.
And the arena wasn't getting any closer.

Why is this last km taking so long??

But I could see on my watch I was going to be around 2:43 if I could just. keep. going.

Turning the corner, almost done pain face.
The sheer agony of the run to the finish - and the sheer joy when you hit your goal, the pain stops, and you know you did the best you could have.

So.... close...
Chip time: 2:43:21
Gun time: 2:44:55.6 (pretty tickled I got in under 2:45 gun time too!)
Overall: 1614/5255
Gender: 457/2589
Age group: 82/385

This would be a great finish picture if it had been taken by the camera on the other side of the chute. Sigh.
I'm so thrilled with how this ended up. I paced it well (which is really clear from my placings through the race - at 10k I was #2001. By the finish I'd moved up almost 400 places!). I was strong. When it sucked I kept going. I earned that PB, not just in the race, but in the many many hours of training I've put in this winter. Very, very satisfying.

I love this race, and I'll be back again. I've done it every year since I started running and it's my big benchmark of improvement every year. Why stop now?

Aren't we adorable? So happy my husband finally joined me for this race! He's already thinking about next year.
Putting together a nice collection of these!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Around the Bay taper week

Took a pause in the Muskoka training plan this week to prep for an attempt at a PB at Around the Bay. Which meant, taper!

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 2000m swim, 8k run
Wednesday: 2200m swim
Thursday: 6k run, TR Black (1 hour aerobic)
Friday: rest
Saturday: TR Taku-1 (30 min aeorobic)
Sunday: 30k Around the Bay; TR Recess 40 (40 min recovery)

I kind of felt blah and gross for much of this week. Which isn't entirely unexpected with taper. Or with the amount of food I ate over Easter weekend. Or with all the leftover Easter stuff I was eating (damn coworkers leaving candy in the kitchen). Geeze in retrospect no wonder I wasn't feeling great! I ended up switching my plans around and taking the easier option in a couple of places, since taper is supposed to be about resting and building energy towards the race, not killing yourself doing a workout you don't really feel up to.

Obvious shirt choice is obvious for pre-race intervals. Turns out it was also foreshadowing for this year's ATB shirts.
Overall, though, it went well. The end result was I hit the start line feeling pretty good on Sunday morning. But you'll have to wait for the race report for all the gory details on that!

Ordered something from Amazon for Sam. This is the item and the box they sent it in. WTF??
 Spent entirely too much time agonizing over the weather forecast for the race. There's really no point in even worrying about it until the day before, and yet I still found myself checking multiple times a day (really, what else was I going to do with all the free time I had this week? Clean the house? HAHAHAHAHAHA). In the end it turned out to be a pretty great day for racing, but as the snow was flying on Saturday evening it sure wasn't encouraging!

Not much else to say since I'm saving all the good stuff for the race report. I'm mean like that.

This weeks plan:


It's recovery time after the race, so I'm just going to make this up as I go along. Cannot wait to get into the pool tomorrow, though. My legs are sore and a swim always helps! Although the good news is I'm not nearly as wrecked, physically, as I was after this race last year. I'll be good to restart the training plan next week.