Monday, May 31, 2010

Shawnigan Half Iron - Race Report

Well, I’m quite happy to say “Chapter 1” on the road to Ironman is finally complete. It may have taken a while to get there, but I think that made it a little sweeter in the end.

So, now for my Shawnigan Half IM race report....

Overall I am pretty pleased with how the day went. There are definitely things I would have liked to go a little better (*cough cough* the run *cough*), and definitely a few things I know I need to work on (*ahem* the run), but I suppose that’s part of the learning process and probably very rarely does someone walk away from a race thinking “that was perfect – nothing to improve there.”

I was a bit stressed on Saturday afternoon when it was time to take the bikes to the race site (I had to drop off Kirsten’s as well and pick up her race pack as she was out of town until the evening) but as soon as I dropped off the bikes, picked up the race packs and walked through transition a couple times I relaxed quite a bit. I felt a sort of eerie calm on Saturday evening and still can’t believe how relaxed I was. It was nice (especially after a week full of tummy cramps and noxious farts).

Sunday morning was equally as relaxed. I woke early enough to have some breakfast and a small cup of coffee, as is my usual routine. I felt pretty calm and just ready. I think I had sort of gotten to the point where I realized I'd done all the prep, and now whatever was going to happen, was going to happen. “Whatever Will Be, Will Be” as the song goes.

When we got to the park, I set up transition, had a quick look around and then decided to get into my wetsuit. Before I knew it, it was time. The water was cold, but didn’t shock my system quite as badly as it had the week previous on our training swim. Although, it sure was bloody cold, so I’m guessing it was just a little adrenaline keeping me warm at that point.

The swim went great. I was really really happy with it. My main focus was on staying relaxed and I did that. Of course there were a few times when I would get bumped or pushed to one side and I got momentarily flustered, but I was able to regain composure quite quickly. I’ve had a couple 'hypoxic' breathing drills recently in different workouts, and I actually think that they really helped me to just focus on my breath and keep my stroke long. Oddly enough, another thing I was really pleased with on the swim was how well I felt like I took all the turns.

T1 was slow, but again, relaxed. The run up to the racks was fine, but when I got there, I got really quite dizzy. I had to just stop for a moment and take a deep breath. This seemed to help and as soon as I didn't feel like I was going to pass out, I got my gear on and headed out. I had practiced my “flying mount” onto the bike in the days preceding the race, and pretty much felt like I had it dialed. Of course, I did not account for how numb my feet would be! So yeah, the “flying” part of the mount was pretty much non existent. I found it pretty comical though, so that kept any frustration at bay.

I took a gel pretty quick on the bike and got some water in and felt really strong for most of the ride. The bike went pretty quick and I definitely kept a really positive self talk going in my head which I was proud of myself for. I think it’s so easy to get down on yourself during some of the climbs or when other people are flying past you on their fancy tri bikes. I did start to fade a bit on the fourth loop unfortunately and got a bit dizzy again. I also got a bit hungry just past the last water station, but every time I took a sip of Gatorade I felt kind of ill, so it turned into a weird balance of trying to get some calories in without chucking them back up. My feet were still numb when I tried to dismount, so it wasn't super fluid, but much like my mount, I wasn't too bothered by it. Kirsten was also running into the finish line (she raced the Olympic distance) just as I was coming in on the bike, so that was kind of fun to see her sprinting to the end.

I think T2 went quicker than the first one. Got my bike gear off and my socks and shoes on and off I went.

I won’t sugarcoat it; I really struggled with the run. I actually ended up walking right near the start. My breathing was really fast and I found I just needed to take a moment to get my breath back in check. I also took that time to take my bike jersey off (which I had forgotten to ditch in transition) and eat another gel as I couldn't tell if my stomach was hungry or unhappy. My calf really hurt and my feet were still numb pretty much for the first 5 or 6k. Shane came out to a point on the trail just before the first turn around which was great and gave me a little boost. Once my calf sort of flushed itself out and stopped cramping and my feet woke up I found a better rhythm for a short period. I was definitely moving at a slow pace, but I think it was a consistent one. Between the 11 & 16k mark I again started really struggling and my guts really got to me. I actually had to stop to use the washroom, which I very rarely ever have to, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I walked a couple more times, and just kept trudging along. All the volunteers I passed told me I looked very strong and steady, but I'm sure they say that to everyone. Kirsten came out to the trail and ran with me for the last km or two which really helped. She’s a great support and while I’m glad I did this race on my own, I’m looking forward to doing Ironman with her and being able to support each other throughout the day.

As I crossed the road and made my way down into the park for that final kick to the finish line I had to fight back a small lump in my throat. The thought that I had been in the hospital at this very time last year crept into my mind for one last time. I crossed the finish line in 6:12:48 and all I could do was smile – even as I noticed that single tear run down my Mom’s cheek.

In short, I was pretty pleased with the day. I did something not a lot of other people will do in their life. Sure, I would have liked to have had a better run, but I suppose it just gives me something to work on and hopefully improve on next time.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nerves – Anxiety – Excitement – Anticipation

Sunday May 30, 2010 is the Subaru Shawnigan Lake International Triathlon.
For me, it will be the first time racing a Half Iron event.
For me, it's time to finally finish what I started last year.

It’s taken a while, but the pre-race jitters have finally kicked in. My mind is swirling with a potent mix of nerves and excitement. As usual with my pre-race anxieties, I know I can do the distance but the butterflies just won’t go away.

I had a nice pre-race massage this morning, just to give my battered legs a little flush and refresh before the big day. I’m eating and hydrating and visualizing and trying my best to only think positive thoughts.

I’ve had a couple people ask me today about my goal times, and it’s funny, because while yes, of course I have a time in mind that I want to finish under, it has not been my sole focus. More than anything I really just want to enjoy this race. My main goal is to have a positive day, to cross the finish line and feel like I did my best and that I never got down on myself or had a negative thought cross my mind.

I had a great pep talk (via email) from Kelly that went something like this:
You have done a mountain of training - you are ready to do this!
Take the race for what it is, a great event to blow out the winter cob webs.
There is no pressure on this race, it is to give us a base line to continue to build from and most importantly give you a chance to have some FUN and get some fitness through racing.
Treat it like a training day with a big group of people.
The most important thing that I want you to do is:
#1/ Have fun, enjoy the day.
#2/ Nail your nutrition.
#3/ Be steady and strong throughout the race.
#4/ Enjoy the race and have fun!

So… I guess we’re on the same page :)

Monday, May 24, 2010

May 16 and Beyond

Well, let’s see... I’m happy to report that on May 16, I woke up and I felt good.

Shane and my Dad had a rally cross in Nanaimo that day so Shane had left the house early. I slept later than I normally do and when I finally opened my eyes, I took a little longer to get out of bed. I found myself just staring at the ceiling, thinking about how different this morning felt compared to the same morning one year ago. I realize now, I felt relief.

I got up and had some breakfast and enjoyed a bit of down time before heading down to Colwood to do my long run. On the drive down, something hit me and I had a few tears. This actually happened a few times throughout the day – just a sudden, random onset of emotion. The tears were not those of sadness though, but I think tears of relief.

That weekend, I actually had a really great couple of days training-wise - starting with Saturday the 15th. The plan for the day was a 4k swim, followed by a 5hr 30min bike (approximately 130k). Since Kirsten was away, this was a solo mission. I got up quite early to head into Crystal Pool (as it was the only pool I could find in Victoria that opened at 6am). My swim wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t the worst either, and the distance felt very manageable. I got out of the pool feeling confident in my abilities. Almost immediately after the swim, I hopped on my bike. I struggled a bit in the first hour as my tummy was cramping slightly and I was feeling a little overwhelmed mentally by taking on such a long ride with no one else around. At one point in the ride, I actually said to myself “if you can get through this workout today, you can do Ironman” and I truly believe that to be true. Once I found my rhythm on the bike, the ride actually went by very quickly and I started to feel really good. Some of the climbs burned a little on the legs, but for the most part, I felt pretty strong. I know Ironman is going to be as much of a mental battle as it is a physical one, and for some reason conquering such a large workout on my own, on such an emotional weekend, really boosted my confidence.

Sunday (the 16th) I had a 2hr run. It went really well and at the end I actually felt pretty amazing. About an hour after I finished running I headed to a technical swim and run session with Kelly and some of the other LiveFit athletes. The session was great, I would say probably one of the most helpful sessions yet, and not necessarily because the coaching was any different, but more so that something in me just clicked. Like a light switch finally turned on.

After the workout, in the car on the way home, I had a few more tears. Again – they came in a wave of relief. I think I had this moment where I felt like, not only have I bounced back, but I have actually come further than where I was a year ago. To have two pretty big training days and come away feeling like they went so amazingly well, on such an emotional weekend, well, it leaves me without words (well, any more words that is, haha).

Training through the past week has had its ups and downs. Some days the workouts went well, other days I felt a bit tired and unmotivated. All in all, it was pretty typical I suppose.

Flash forward to yesterday (Sunday, May 23)...
I had my first open water session of the season – in a very cold Shawnigan Lake. While my fingers and toes were a little numb upon exiting the water, I was happy with how things went and know I will be fine on the swim next weekend. Now, here I am, Monday night, my taper week has begun and I’m noticing that all the pre-race jitters are really starting to set in. May 30 and the Shawnigan Half Iron will be here in no time.


Friday, May 14, 2010

One Year Ago

One year ago I woke up and went for a swim.

One year ago I went to work, and then came home, like any other day.

One year ago I woke up in the middle of the night in overwhelming pain.

One year ago I felt an indescribable fear.

One year ago I was diagnosed with a blood clot in my lung.

May 16th is the “anniversary” of my pulmonary embolism. It is a day that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind for weeks now.

This may seem a bit twisted, but for some strange reason, I feel like I have just been waiting for this date. The idea of May 16th has been looming over me. I want so badly to wake up on the morning of the 16th and to feel good. It’s hard to describe, as I’m not really sure why this date should really mean so much, but maybe deep down, it’s like if I make it one year and make it through May 16th, I can officially say that my PE is in the past. That I’m better, fully healed, and all the rest... of course, I don’t really know. I don’t know if, on May 17th, anything will change or feel different. Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe getting through the Shawnigan Half Iron at the end of the month will be my “milestone” that helps me to move on. Again maybe, but maybe not. I suppose what is most likely, is that there isn’t going to be any particular date or event, and one day I’m just not going to think about it so much anymore.

I suppose I just find it amazing how so much can change in a year, and yet, how emotions can surface so quickly and easily. How feelings can come back so suddenly and powerfully. How a morning run, like I’ve done so many other times throughout the past year, can feel so much more monumental; how just the thought of the clot can cause a lump in my throat and my eyes to brim with tears.

All that said, I have come so far in the last year, and am so thankful to be healthy, to be strong and to be fit. I’m excited for all the new opportunities and challenges coming my way... and last but not least, I’m so happy that I’ve been able to redefine my own meaning of the word moderate.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Crossing the 'hat

“The Malahat is the term commonly applied to the Malahat Drive — a 25 km portion of Highway 1 running along the west side of Saanich Inlet — and to the region surrounding it. The Malahat begins in Goldstream Provincial Park, just north of Langford, and takes a famously winding and steep route over the 352 m (1,155 ft) Malahat Summit to end just south of Mill Bay.”

This weekend Kirsten and I made our first trek over the Malahat (by pedal power that is). I’m not sure why - considering I drive the thing every day and know that countless others ride it every day - but I’ve always found the idea of riding the ‘hat a little daunting. In my mind I suppose I had it built it up as this almost insurmountable climb. Thankfully this was not the case and I came away from the ride feeling incredibly encouraged and excited.

We headed out from my parent’s place in Colwood fairly early on Saturday morning – partly in order to get the ride out of the way early enough to not eat up the entire day, and partly to get the majority of the ride done before traffic got too heavy.

Soon enough we were making our way through Goldstream Park and beginning our ascent of tunnel hill. I found I was a little nervous at first, especially when the big trucks went whizzing by, but as we got farther along into the ride I started to feel more at ease. As we crested the summit for the first time, I couldn’t help but feel a small victory.

[I also had to commemorate the moment with a photo-op... although it's not the best photo is it? haha]

After a brief stop at the summit, we then made the descent into Mill Bay and carried on our way up to Crofton before turning around and heading back toward Victoria. The shoulder along Highway 1 is really great and the ride flew by. It seemed like before I knew it we were back in Mill Bay, making a quick pit stop at the Petro Can for some Gatorade and a pee break, then we were on our way again. I knew the climb out of Mill Bay back to the summit was going to be a bit tougher than tunnel hill and I wasn’t wrong, but I found a nice gear and just went at it, slow and steady. I’m definitely not going to win any races at the speed I was climbing, but I made it to the top yet again, the “Malahat Summit” sign shining back at me.

With the final descent back into Langford behind us, we carried on back to my parent’s place. Our first Malahat crossing in the books.