Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Saunders Subaru Victoria Olympic – Race Report

Sunday marked the “two weeks to go” spot on the journey to Ironman Coeur d’Alene.

The taper has begun (hallelujah!) and the nerves are beginning to set in. The constant back and forth of my mind plays out in a “heck yes, I'm ready!/oh-my-gawd-did-I-do-enough?!” narrative.

On Sunday, as a final (mini) dress rehearsal for IM CdA I raced the Olympic distance event at the Victoria 70.3 at Elk Lake. My plan was never to go out and crush it, it was simply to give the body a nice strong training day, mix it up in the swim with a hundred or so of my neoprene clad friends, and have fun. Kick off the taper on a high note and what not.

Overall, I'd say the race was so-so. I did some things right, I had some struggles, I put in a solid effort and (spoiler alert) happily ended the race on a high note.

Standing on the beach as we waited to start, I remember saying something to Shane along the lines of “I'm not sure my competitive spirit is here today” to which he reminded me, that's okay – this isn't the big one. This isn't what all the training has been for.

We gave each other a kiss and he headed off to his wave start.

As I waited for my turn, I decided that I was going to begin the swim out wide and would make my way closer to the buoy line as the masses began to spread out, as I didn't feel like getting right into the wrestling match that the swim can be. I wasn't nervous about getting kicked and clawed and what not, I just didn't feel like being touched.

Of course, this is all good in theory, and of course, I still got grabbed and bumped and poked and swam over, but it eventually thinned out and I found some open water. Unfortunately, my plan of easing on over to the buoy line didn't really happen, and for some reason, I found myself a good 25-50m outside of the course through the whole thing.

I felt relaxed, and like I was swimming at a decent effort. Not too hard, not too easy. The chop on the lake was a bit annoying, but nothing that I couldn't handle. I swam right to shore, popped out of the lake and headed toward transition.

[In that moment, I wasn't upset with my swim, it was only after the fact when I looked at my swim time that I was a bit disappointed with how slow it was. Funny how that happens, isn't it?]

My T1 could have been more efficient, but it wasn't too terrible. It was actually kind of funny... At open water swim practice we've been working on getting our helmets on as we get our legs out of our wetsuits, but on this day, I couldn't put it all together. I found myself with my helmet on and nicely secured, but my wetsuit still very much on my legs. Once I finally freed myself from the neoprene, I unracked my bike and headed out.

I had a pretty good mount and with that was on my way. 45km of a moderately hilly, somewhat windy bike course awaited!

I found my legs fairly quickly and got into a decent rhythm. Up some hills, down some hills, I reminded myself to spin steady and strong and to just stay within myself. For the first 25-30km everything felt great. I was moving well and wasn't being passed left, right and center like had happened at Shawnigan (heck, I may have even passed a few people!).

I leaped frogged back and forth with another woman – me passing her as we climbed the hills (I was feeling really strong on all the climbs, which was a great confidence boost for CdA) and her flying by me on the descents. All was good.

Early on. Still smiling.
Also, yes, this is 'borrowed' from FinisherPix.
Until it wasn't.

Somewhere in that 25-30km leg my hips decided they hated me. Both sides. Cramping. Spasming. Every time I tried to go into aero or into my drops I felt like I was being stabbed right in my hip crease (or course, this was oh-so-perfectly timed as the headwind really picked up – oh joy). The most comfortable thing I found was standing up on my pedals and riding like that, but of course, that was hardly efficient. So, I compromised and rode on the hoods and forced myself into aero here and there.

I definitely lost some time in those last 15km or so and started to get passed a little bit more than I would have liked, but what can you do. I tried to remind myself that this was just a trial run and that all of my long bike rides in training have been much more comfortable.

Rolling into T2 I dismounted rather slowly and jogged my way into transition. I wasn't sure how my hips were going to react to running, but I was going to find out. Again, my transition was a bit slow, as I decided to put on socks for the run. Normally in sprints and Olympics I don’t bother, but with only 2 weeks until the big show, I didn't want to risk blisters.

Thankfully, as I started running my hips started loosening and I found myself rolling along at a comfortable but decent pace. I’m going to sound like a broken record between this and my Shawnigan race report, but man, the run was easily my best leg of the day and I was incredibly happy with it!

Yep, you got it ~ FinisherPix
I did not get passed by a single person (other than some elites from the 70.3) and actually did a bit of passing myself. My confidence levels on the run right now are sky-high and I must say, I am really enjoying it. There really isn't much else to say about the run, other than it was awesome and super and fun.

Once again, it was great to end the race on a high note, feeling strong. 

"Charging" down the finisher chute.
I crossed the finish line and looked around for Shane. He came sauntering over a minute or two later, surprised to see me so soon after him. We got some food and drink, changed into dry, warm clothes and spent the next couple hours cheering in runners.

Hard to believe, this time next week we’ll be in Coeur d’Alene. Wowza.    

Is it time for more #100happydays? Yes, yes it is.  

Day 60
Twas a beautiful night for a run commute!
This view = much better than bumper to bumper traffic.
Day 61
Massage Day!
Day 62
Pit stop on our last long ride of IM training!
Day 63
The birthday/cancer-free card I made for the Amazing Audrey-Lou!
Day 64
Bedtime reading.
Day 65

If you live in Vic, no explanation necessary.
If you don't live in Vic, you should be very jealous that we have Jam and you don't.
Day 66
My trusty Nalgene always makes me happy ~ and hydrated!
Day 67
As seen on Facebook.
Day 68
This made me laugh so hard.
Day 69
Packed and ready for race morning.
Day 70
Race swag in the form of a fresh new bunny hug (aka. a new hoody).
Day 71
Treats in the form of black licorice. Yum.
Day 72
Wildlife on my lunch time wander.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Victoria Goddess Half Marathon – Race Report

All anyone needs to know about this race is that I beat my sister.


Just kidding!
There is more to the story than that, but when she looked at me about an hour post-race and said “savour it, it's not going to happen again” I secretly vowed to tell anyone and everyone who would listen that this one time, on June 1, 2014 at the 3rd annual Victoria Goddess Run – I beat my sister.

This is me shouting it from the rooftop.

So yup, I am savouring it – because it never happens – and I don't know when or if it will happen again.

But let's back up shall we?

Probably about a month or so ago, after chatting with Kelly about not feeling super competitive and planning out some races to get me re-energized on that front, I saw a discount code for the Goddess Run advertised on Twitter. This run had not been on my radar at all, but I'm a bit of a cheap bastard and so the idea of a discount got me intrigued. On top of that, the thought of running a semi-strong effort in a race atmosphere a month out from IM CdA instead of yet another long run around the lakes or on the TC trail actually got me pretty excited.

I didn't hesitate. I shot Kelly a text and said “Goddess Run. Half Marathon. Thoughts?”
He shot back with a “Yup, sounds good. You’ll be doing a 180km bike on the Saturday before.”

No problem-o. 21.1km following a 180km bike would feel short compared to the typical 25 or 30km.

So, I signed up, convinced Kirsten to join me in the half and even roped my Mom into doing the 5km.

Fast forward to race weekend…
There was nothing normal about “prep” for this race. I did my 180km bike on Friday (solo ~ yay me!) so that I could spend all day Saturday on the mainland for my friend's baby shower. I ate treats, drank mimosas, and baked myself in a sunny garden, all while visiting with some of my best girls. It was great, but also made for a very long day and a very late night on Saturday.

Sunday morning I popped out of bed, had my usual pre-race breakfast and coffee and made my way down to my parents place to meet my folks and Kirsten. We met another friend/training partner (Lesley) near the race venue a half hour before go time and all wandered down to the start area together.

There were a lot of costumes and a lot of pink, and the atmosphere was definitely one of fun and camaraderie.

The game plan was to run at a solid, steady effort and just see how the day went. Not try to kill it, but to have fun and see what I had in the tank. Kirsten, Lesley and I had talked about sticking together for the run, but none of us really knew if our paces would align.

The gun went off. We weaved and bobbed through the pack and about 500m in, the 3 of us were slightly spread out.

By 1km, Kirsten had dropped me.

I settled down a bit and found myself back with Lesley. We ran at a nice comfortable pace together, chatting and moving well until around the 4 or 5km mark when I gained a bit of ground on her going up one of the bigger hills on the route. [I guess all that running up and down mountains last summer helped with my hill climbing ability, haha.] I thought about easing off and joining back up with her, but felt like I was in a nice rhythm so just continued to cruise along on my own.

The course then turned onto some gravel and climbed up a little more. Then, around the next corner I found myself staring at what seemed like a gravel wall! It was one big (although relatively short) STEEP hill! I think I actually said out loud when I saw it “I guess this is why you should always check out the course prior to race day eh?”

I ran up half way and then my trail running sensibilities kicked in and I started hiking. I crested the top and bombed down the other side. I carried on in my steady effort, feeling like I was working, but not too too hard and was happy to see that Kirsten wasn’t too crazy far ahead of me on the out and back section.

She smiled and told me to hurry up.

As we neared the 8 or 9km mark I started chatting with a girl in the 10k and we encouraged each other up one of the many little rollers before separating a bit as she headed to her finish line and I headed back out for my second loop of the course.

The next 3-4km were pretty lonely and all I wanted was a splash of water and somewhere to throw my gel wrapper. Finally an aid station appeared and then the route turned onto a nice straight stretch along Jacklin Rd. To my surprise, I was able to see Kirsten a few hundred meters in front of me. 

I continued to plug along. Had a bit of banter with a nice spectator who told me “You’re almost there” before taking it back and saying “well, actually not really.” It made me laugh.

I had a slightly low moment around the 15km mark, but was actually able to stop the negative talk pretty quickly and vowed to just keep moving. Just keep pushing at this pace and try not to let off the gas pedal.

I walked the giant wall of gravel. Laughing with another girl and we clawed our way to the top.

I crested the top and bombed the downhill.

Slowly but surely, Kirsten was getting closer.

Part of me didn't really know what to do with this feeling that I was actually closing the gap on her. A part of me even thought “oh, how nice, she decided to wait for me so we could finish together”. When I was finally side by side with her, I noticed she wasn't matching my pace and I was starting to pull away.

“C'mon.” I grunted.
“I don't think I can.” she responded.
“Yes you can.” as I waved my hand in a ‘get your butt moving’ motion.

But she didn't come, and for the first time in my running life, somewhere between the 17 and 18km mark, I found myself in front of my big sister. Again, momentary thoughts of “maybe I should wait for her” crept into my head, but I quickly dismissed those and realized I needed to keep the pedal to the metal or she was going to go flying past me in the final stretch.

I gave Lesley a thumbs up as we passed each other on the final out and back and never looked back (mainly because I didn't want Kirsten to see the fear in my eyes if I checked over my shoulder, haha).

From there, my head and legs cooperated and did what they know how to do. Down the final little hill and onto the final flat stretch of road, I was working, but feeling good. I was pretty sure both Kirsten and Lesley were going to go tearing past me in those final few hundred meters until I saw my parents and the look of shock on their faces told me otherwise. I think my Mom said “where's Kirsten?” and I pointed behind me with a shrug and a huge smile (sibling rivalry at its finest).

I crossed the finish line in 1:49:36. Good enough for a new PB and a great boost of confidence. This course was much tougher than I expected it to be, and running this on super tired legs made me realize I've got an even faster half in me somewhere. My goal for a sub 1:45 half doesn't seem all that unrealistic anymore.

Anyway, it was a really fun morning, and while I've spent most of this post being a totally ungracious ‘winner’ it is all in jest. Kirsten had a much more unusual week leading into this race than I did, and I appreciate so much that we can challenge and push each other. But, like I said before, I may never actually beat her again, so I'll just savour this moment while I can.

Sunday was definitely a happy day. Here are a few more...

Day 52
The wondrous ways this guy sleeps.
Day 53
Seeing this image on Facebook. 
The arrival of this delicious package in the mail!
 Day 54
180km. Solo. Done... And feeling good!
Day 55
Garden parties with my favourite twins.
Day 56
Did you read the post above?
Then yeah, you know why this made me happy.

Day 57
The sweet squeeze of compression socks on tired legs
(and my inability to put them on the correct foot).
 Day 58
Totally dig this quote.
Day 59
The return of early morning swim sessions at the lake.
Photo courtesy Coach Kelly.