Friday, November 30, 2012

Five for Friday

1) I “raced” Gunner Shaw last weekend. I use the term “raced” very loosely.

I went into this race having only run a handful of times since Auckland and feeling very pudgy and out of shape. I signed up, not to race, but because I like the atmosphere of this event. While every year I inevitably question why I decided to put myself through the pain of this race as I’m trudging up some steep-ass single track, I always finish with a smile on my face and fond memories of the day.

I truly love the giant puddles (which were the biggest I’ve ever seen them this year) even though they kind of stink and make your legs really cold. Oh, and the lake finish ~ totally dig it! There is something so awesome about going out and running in the muck and mud and splashing through puddles with 500 or so other people. It is pure playtime and it is So.Much.Fun.

Anyway, I had no goals for this event and made it very clear to anyone who would listen that I was merely going for a big slow “group run”. I didn’t want to hurt, I didn’t care about time. Oh, and I got passed. A LOT!

Of course, I did push myself enough to hurt, and at the end, kind of had one of those “well, I probably could have gone faster” moments, but overall (and most importantly) it was a blast!

Definitely a must-do fall event.

2) Since 2013 will be the "year of the run" I signed up for a half marathon in February. Considering it is only about 10 weeks away, I realize I should probably be running a little more than I am right now and yet, for some reason, I am not.

On top of that, I also realize that riding your bike on the rollers for 30-45mins is no substitute for actually getting out and running. Yet, for some reason I continue to opt for the rollers over a run. Go figure.

I guess there is just something so nice and easy about not having to leave your house for a workout. It also means I get to enjoy coffee and eggnog with Shane in the morning and shower in my own bathroom. Definite win!

Which reminds me, I am starting to forget what the pool looks like and I don't really mind. Weird.

3) My motivation has been pretty low lately. I’m on my self-imposed, unstructured, non-coached, do-whatever-the-hell-I-feel-like training program until the New Year.

In all honesty, I could really use some structure. I do better with structure. Buuuttt... I find December always ends up being a bit of a write-off (and I’m not great with moving things around and “going with the flow” when I have a training plan [written by a coach] in the calendar) and so I figure it is better to keep the pressure off for now.

I figure there is no need to feel stressed or burned out heading into the next training cycle. So I’m not doing too too much right now (other than gaining weight). One workout a day (if that) at a very easy aerobic effort level.

4) Running with the above theme…  I found this post sums up a lot of my feelings about the holidays – well, today at least (ask me tomorrow and you may get a different story).
Lately I waffle between:
a) feeling the need to get back into structured training ,combined with the guilt of feeling “lazy” and
b) not giving a crap and just wanting to eat what I want and exercise (or not) when I want.

Not giving a crap seems to be winning out most days.

5) Through most of November, in my head, I kept thinking of December 1st as a “go date” for when I needed to start getting serious again, but man, that day is coming pretty dang fast (in fact, it’s tomorrow. Wooo!)

One big glitch in the December 1st plan is my quest for better vision. That’s right, I’m getting my eyes did. LASIK-styles.

On December 8th I am going under the light saber in hopes of never needing to wear glasses or contact lenses again. There are a bunch of rules about recovery which will keep me out of the pool and any heavy sweat sessions for a couple weeks.

So, December 8th plus a couple weeks "recovery" leads to Christmas. Which leads to my birthday. Which is followed by New Year’s… and then, oh look, it is January already. So yeah, LASIK will likely prolong my lazy ways, but I think that is okay. February 10 might really hurt though.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

From Triathlete to Trail Runner?

I’ve found myself looking ahead a lot to next season and feeling both excited and nervous for what I am about to embark on.

I think I mentioned in one or two of my earlier posts that Kirsten and I have officially signed up to take part in the TransRockies Run in August 2013. We actually signed up before Ironman Canada this year, as the early bird rate was too good to pass up. At that time, I wasn’t really sure I wanted to do this race/event and was in a bit of denial – refusing to really talk about it or think about it until after Ironman and Age Group Worlds in Auckland. It isn’t a secret, running is not my strong point, nor is it my favourite sport.

So, why would I shell out the big bucks and commit to something that I wasn’t super keen on?

Well, obviously no one was holding a gun to my head. I am an adult, so I do make my own decisions (most of the time), but this decision was made from a very different place than most of my other sporting and triathlon goals.

When I first got into triathlon, the goal was to get in shape while trying something new. When I signed up for my first Half IM it was to push my endurance limits and see what I was capable of. When I decided on a full Ironman, it was to prove the doctors wrong and redefine my version of moderate.

As for TransRockies, well, there was a different motivation…

Kirsten has been talking about wanting to do TransRockies for a long time – probably since 2010 when we trained for our first Ironman together (which I kind of dragged her into). Running is Kirsten’s passion. She’s been a runner a lot longer than I’ve been a triathlete and even though we may not have been the best of friends growing up, as we’ve become adults she truly has become my best friend (not to mention one hell of a training partner).

So, my main motivation in August when Kirsten asked me yet again about TransRockies (aside from the huge money savings of signing up early) was not wanting to disappoint her. I didn’t want to be the person standing in her way of getting to do something she’d been dreaming about for years. I didn’t want to stop her from putting a big check mark beside this item on her bucket list.

Also, selfishly, after two Ironman training cycles together, I didn’t want her to share this 6-day, 120-mile adventure with someone else. I knew it had to be the two of us.

So, with the 2012 season behind me, I’m ready to think about TransRockies. I’m even ready to talk about it.

2013 will no doubt be a different year. I’m going to have to face some fears and really focus on running (maybe even a marathon?).

When I first started thinking about TransRockies, I was really afraid of leaving triathlon behind – that probably sounds weird, but it has been a huge part of my identity for the past 6 years or so. When people ask me if I’m a runner, I always kind of shrug and say, “Well, I do triathlons, so I guess I’m a runner.” This year, whether I like it or not, I will truly become a runner.

That said, I’ve come to realize, I’m not really leaving triathlon behind, I’ll always be a triathlete – it will simply be taking a slight back seat to trail running for a short period of time. It definitely won’t disappear off my calendar all together; as I’m pretty sure I need swimming and biking to keep me sane!

However, I am not going to put pressure on myself to achieve any crazy triathlon goals. Any races I enter will be purely for the joy of it. No secret “get faster” goals. No secret “try and qualify for Worlds” goals. The goal for triathlon in 2013 will simply be to experience the joy of swim, bike, run.

As nervous as I may be about this change in focus, I think it will be kind of cool to start on a fresh new adventure.

Watch out Colorado. Two girls in sneakers are heading your way!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

New Zealand Ramblings

It has now been one week since we returned to Canada after 4 weeks in New Zealand. Slowly, I’m starting to feel normal again (and I’m not talking about the jet lag, as I actually felt like I bounced back from that pretty quickly). More than anything, it has just been a bit strange getting back into the regular routine.

At work, I spent the first few days feeling totally out of the loop – even though I wasn’t, as really nothing major has changed. I just don’t think mentally I was prepared to be back at work and back to “normality”. I enjoyed my month of zero responsibility and doing (and eating) whatever the hell I felt like.

That said, I am starting to get antsy to get back into a more structured training routine.

I really haven’t been training much, just kind of doing what I feel like. A 30’ ride on the rollers here, a 1500m swim there, the odd easy run… Oh, and a return to trainer class (by far my hardest workout in weeks! Although I must say, it felt flippin’ great!).

Next week I’ll meet up with Kelly and debrief the season and chat about what is on tap for next year.

In the meantime, since I’m missing New Zealand, I think it is time to reminisce (aka. indulge in enjoyable recollection of past events).

Checking out the surf at Manu Bay.

Waitomo Caves
Picton Harbour
Playtime in Picton.
Ferry to the South Island.
(Definitely made me realize we have nothing to complain
about when it comes to BC Ferries)
Riding the Rails.
Beautiful Queenstown
Jet Boating in Shotover Canyon.

Kayaking in Milford Sound.

First (and last) whitebait sandwich of the trip.
The start of an amazing day.

Getting extreme with a little Zorbing.

Followed by some Luge action. Oh yeah.

Some other random observations about New Zealand from this foreigner:

1) The speed limit is 100km/hr no matter what the road is like – and there is not a straight road in NZ!

Take the above as an example. That yellow squiggly line is a road. On the edge of a cliff. With no shoulders. The speed limit is 100km/hr. I’m pretty sure we barely got over 30km/hr.

That said, we were warned that NZ drivers are "maniacs" and while they did manage to drive about 100km/hr on any type of road (impressive), I found them to be courteous drivers who were much less territorial about their space on the road compared with Canadian drivers. That said, I wasn't the one doing the driving, so maybe my perception is skewed.

2) Bottled/canned drinks are bloody expensive. From a monetary perspective, you are probably better off drinking beer than you are drinking pop or juice.

3) Speaking of money. I think Kiwis have their monetary system figured out! I loved the fact that prices are advertised with the tax in - what you see is what you pay. Oh, and the whole rounding system is wicked awesome. Take note Canada. Take note.

4) The landscape reminded me of a cross between Vancouver Island and Hawaii. Two places I love. Yeah, it was pretty spectacular.

5) There were sheep everywhere. EVERYWHERE! And I loved them.

6) I never once felt unsafe, even in Auckland. I felt like everyone was super welcoming and wonderfully mellow. The country just has a great vibe to it. Oh, and I found it to be very clean and very eco-friendly.

7) NZ has some very creative and funny road signs. “Merge like a Zip” was my favourite.

8) It seems that once you are outside of Auckland, most Kiwis are not too fond of Aucklanders. Oh, and the rivalry between the North and South island is very interesting.

9) Pedestrians do NOT have the right of way. At. All. Not anywhere in the country. End of story. Look both ways before you cross the street. Then look again. Right, then left.

10) Overall, NZ is a great country. Warm and friendly people with visually stunning landscapes. A wonderfully relaxed place. Plain and simple – it is incredible and I’m so thankful I got to spend the time there that I did.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Age Group World Champs Auckland – Race Report (+)

We arrived in Auckland about a week before race day. While the flight was awesome and went super smoothly, the actual arrival at the airport and baggage claim was a bit of a cluster f*&k.

Our flight was packed with triathletes, so the amount of bike boxes waiting for pick up was pretty wild.

At the carousal I patiently waited for my bike box to appear figuring it would come out with the next group of boxes, or maybe the next one, or the next... but it never did. When an airport worker finally announced there were no more bikes to be unloaded, a sick feeling washed over me.

As I stood there wondering how my bike could have been lost on a direct flight, I noticed that the one box not yet picked up was the same as mine (minus the giant rainbow strap and Canada baggage tag I had on mine – oh, and plus some very distinct yellow stickers that I didn’t have). Anyway, at that moment, it became painfully clear that someone had taken my bike!

My bike! Really, I swear, it is mine.
I realized they were likely on Team Canada and would want their bike back and that I would in turn, get my bike back, but it just annoyed me so much. I guess I didn’t understand how someone could be that mindless (and of course, I was slightly sleep deprived, so that didn’t help my shock).

Walking out to the shuttle (which I was kinda surprised actually stuck around for us) after filing all the appropriate “lost baggage” paperwork with the airport I don’t really know what I was thinking. Then, when our shuttle driver opened the trailer for us to put our bags in and I saw my bike sitting there, well, to say I was relieved would be an understatement – and yet I was sooo annoyed.

“Whatever” I figured, the person took it accidentally and would likely apologize for the inconvenience and we would all have a laugh, right? Not so.

The guy who took it (mistakenly thinking it was his wife’s bike) was kind of a jerk. He would not admit he made a mistake and somehow thought we were lying. He claimed his wife’s bike box also had a rainbow strap on it when she checked it in – and somehow thought we had taken that strap off and put it on my bike box. Not sure when he figured I would have done that, but whatever.

On top of that he was annoyed I left her bike in the airport and didn’t just bring it with me. I’ve watched enough Locked Up Abroad to know that isn’t a smart move - there is no way I was going to take some stranger’s luggage. Who the hell knew what was really in it. They could have left it there for a reason, haha.

It was a tad uncomfortable getting on the shuttle bus, as it seemed like everyone was staring at us and super annoyed they had to wait so long. I just wanted to yell “It wasn’t my fault!” but managed to restrain myself.

Anyway, we eventually arrived at our Auckland apartment and it was amazing. A beautiful place to stay, pretty much within spitting distance of the venue. You could even see the finish line from our deck! It was pretty cool.

Okay, so you maybe can't spit on it, but if you look between the two big towers,
you can see the blue carpet of the finish line.
The week leading up to the race only got better. It was pretty much all triathlon all the time!

Of course there were all the typical things like checking out the race expo, doing some workouts and getting familiar with the course, but on top of that, there were also lots of races to watch and some other events to attend.

The Aquathon World Champs took place on the Wednesday before my race, and then on the Thursday there was a Team Canada Meet & Greet followed by the Parade of Nations and Opening Ceremony. The Junior Elites, U23 and Elite races took place on Saturday and Sunday, and then Monday it was my turn!

Parade of Nations.
Race morning, I woke up earlier than I probably needed to and got ready. It was a short walk to transition from the apartment and I got all set up... then I waited. Not really knowing what to expect, I definitely allowed myself a little too much time. Ooops. Lesson learned I suppose (one of many).

I was quite nervous about the swim – which is not something I usually deal with. Something about it being in the ocean, between two large piers, made me feel like it would be really claustrophobic.

Nerves = Serious Face.
(Don't be fooled, I think I laughed after this).
Thankfully, as we were corralled, waiting to go down to the pontoon, I got chatting with a really nice Kiwi girl who took my mind off my flipping stomach. Unfortunately we were near the back of the pack though and by the time we made it onto the pontoon it was packed! Myself and the Kiwi girl had to cram ourselves into spots that didn’t really exist and unfortunately I ended up about as far left as you could get.

Before I could even think about setting my watch or being more nervous, we were in the water and my wave was off! Bingo, bango, bongo. (That's also about how fast I lost the feet around me).

I tried to get on some feet, and stayed there for a moment or two, but they quickly pulled away. I was swimming super wide, but could not seem to get myself closer to the course buoys. I was out in no man’s land, all on my lonesome ~ thank goodness there weren't any sharks, haha.

No zoom needed. I was this close to the pier.
The waves picked up as we got clear of the pier and approached the first turn buoy. At times I felt like I was being pushed backwards. About this time, I started to see caps from the next wave, and knew that wasn’t a good sign. I was just hoping I wasn’t last, haha. I didn’t dwell on it though and just put my head down and swam as hard as I could back in. I did pass a few people from my wave on that last stretch, so that helped to know I wasn’t in fact, last.

The run from the pontoon to T1 was long and it felt it. Once I was finally at my bike, I feel like my actual transition was fast and efficient, but man, the run up took forever!

I had a good mount and was actually really happy to be on my bike. I had ridden the course twice in the week leading up, and I thought it would be a fun one. I felt that it was challenging, but not necessarily hard.

All the hills were tough, but not IMC tough. The descents were really the most frustrating part as I kept getting stuck behind people riding there brakes. If I could go back, I would definitely be more aggressive  and vocal and would have gotten around them rather than working at their abilities.

I jockeyed back and forth with another girl in my age group from Team Canada quite a bit on the bike (she'd pass on the ups, I'd pass on the downs) which actually was kind of fun, as we started joking around with each other  each time one of us would pass the other and it helped take my mind off things. When we hit the turnaround at Mission Bay for the last 8k(ish) stretch back into transition, I finally pulled away from her for good (well, until about 4k into the run).

That last bit of bike was super flat, but unfortunately it was also straight into a pretty fierce headwind. I pushed as hard as I thought I could at the time, but looking back, I now question if I could have in fact gone harder (which is pretty much the story of my season I think). Regardless, it did take a lot of pep out of my legs.

Off the bike my dismount was good. This of course began another super long run into transition. Like T1, I felt that once I was actually at the rack, my transition was great – quick and methodical. It just took forever to get in and out, haha.

I felt pretty good as I started the run. My legs hurt and felt a bit heavy, but I was enjoying soaking up all the “Go Canada” cheers and was really enjoying the moment.

In fact, the entire run, I felt pretty good. I was relaxed and enjoying myself. I was happy. Could I have pushed harder? Most likely, but unfortunately in that moment, at that time, I could not get my brain or my legs to tick over into that next gear.

I smiled and cheered for almost every other Team Canada member I saw and tried to thank as many volunteers as possible. I ran slow, but I had a good time. Simply, it was fun and I ran happy.

I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face and was greeted by my “nemesis” from the bike. She had passed me late in the run, but waited for me at the finish line so we could chat and actually introduce ourselves. We walked through and got some post race food together, and then parted ways when we saw our families. It was a great way to finish off the race.

Officially on vacation...
Off Season here I come!!

Anyway, time to sum it all up I suppose...

Physically, it was probably one of my poorest performances ever in a sprint triathlon. I didn’t really have much “sprint” in me. I’m not sure if my nerves got the better of me or what, but “fast” was definitely not in my vocabulary (or body) during the race. In fact, when I looked at my times, I was slightly appalled (by my swim especially, as I had been swimming really well in training leading up to this).

It is funny, because I feel like I am capable of so much more, and yet, with almost every race this year, I continually fell short of my own expectations (and I don’t think my expectations are necessarily unrealistic). I’m not sure why, but I seem to be having a hard time giving it my everything in a race this year. I suppose it is a mental block and will definitely be something to work on through the off season.

That said, 'Negative Nancy' has now left the building... I really did have a blast! It was so much fun and, like I said, I think I smiled through the whole run (and most of the bike too). It was an incredibly amazing experience and I’m so glad I got to be a part of it. To be out there wearing the maple leaf, cheering on all the other Canadians and soaking up all the cheers of “Go Canada” from all the friends and families who made the trek to Auckland was unforgettable.

The day after the race we headed out of Auckland for 3 fun-filled weeks touring New Zealand... It was so so sooooo great! (But more on that another time, as this is long enough).