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Marathon Training Week 5 Rewind: Uphill Battle

19 Aug

Wow! My 20km run kicked my butt! Long straight stretches in the sun with minimal shade – I was really beat when I finished.  Although I was able to control the choice of the course, I purposefully made it hard to try to mimic Athens as much as possible. It was a tough run and it really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was so focused at one point that I almost missed this guy starring right at me:
Horsy
I’m sorry this photo is blurry. I was standing across the street when I snapped it. And, of course, he turned his head right as the flash went off. Oh well… The look in his face was pretty clear: “Silly human.”

But back to running. This week I added a hill repeat to my Thursday morning hill repeats.  Honestly, they are friggin hard! Every time I’m running up that hill I feel like my heart is going to explode out of my chest. I was just reading an article on uphill running and the author’s advise: Keep your breathing under control. Yeah, easier said than done!  I’ve tried shortening and quickening my arm swing motion and taking shorter strides. I even stay focused to maintain good running form but it’s still not any easier.

Do you have any uphill running advice?

I know I haven’t been talking about the Gran Fondo that I’m doing in September. Truth is, I haven’t been riding my bike as often as I should. I did a short 30km bike ride this morning just to get back into it. I practiced my uphills and concentrated on making nice, round circles with my feet while pedaling. When I got home after my ride, I had received this in the mail:

Epic TourAs far as cycling jerseys go this one is pretty comfortable and I must say, it was actually pretty neat receiving my race kit in the mail as opposed to picking it up the day before the race. What service! Now this ride is real. I should really get on that saddle and add some miles to my Giant.

Peterborough Half Iron Race Report

11 Jul

I’ve had a few days to reflect on the Peterborough Half Iron while my muscles ached and my motivation was thin. Three days later I can say my muscles are feeling better and I am not as fatigued as earlier in the week. I had a great day, despite the overcast and rain. But in hindsight I’m glad for the rain and cloud coverage because it was still hot and humid.

DSC01158All packed and ready to go! My whole race needs fit in one bag (except for bike and wetsuit, of course).

I have to admit that I was not very nervous leading up to the day of the race. In fact, I was actually excited. I knew that all I had to do was get over the swim and then I’d be, basically, home free. I knew I could bike 90km and I certainly knew I could run 21km.

Race day came early on Sunday. Mark and I arrived at the race site around 6:30 and set up our transition zone. Once all set up, I squirmed into my wetsuit and went for a quick warm up swim. Mark’s parents and god parents made the trip to Peterborough to cheer us on. So after a quick hello, we waited on the beach for our start.

Swim

I was concerned about the swim but it went very well. The swim consisted of two 1km loops with a short run on the beach between loops. The water was warm and a little murky. There was a bit of seaweed near the shore but that did not stop me! The start was a mass start, but racers were grouped by estimated finish times with different coloured swim caps. I was in the last group – the navy blues. When I came out of the water the final time and my watch was at 38min, I looked around for other navy blue caps but I was the only one. I couldn’t believe it! My day was starting out great. After a short run into transition, I stripped the wetsuit off, tried to dry my feet and got ready for the bike.
Total swim time (incl. run to transition): 40:56

Bike

The bike course was fairly tough. There were almost continuous rolling hills with one big hill one the way out. On the way back, that hill was not as bad, but a little longer. I had tried to stick to my nutrition plan but it was tough to have a long enough flat stretch to eat. I ate bites of my sandwich every once and a while and about an hour later I ate a Clif Bar. Shortly before getting off the bike, I ate a gel for one last boost of energy. I was feeling pretty good all through out the bike. Although I was cursing the hills and couldn’t wait to hit the turn around, my average speed was 28km/hr. I think that’s a pretty fair speed for a headwind for most of the ride with quite a bit of hills.
Total bike time: 3hr:04mins

Run

By this point, I just couldn’t wait to be finished. My plan was to run to every aid station and give myself a walking break when I reached one. I stayed pretty true to that plan but there was a bit of walking between aid stations too. The run course, much like the bike course, was hilly. I began drinking Pepsi at 5k which did help me to continue mentally. This was what I found the biggest hurdle. My legs were not so much ready to give up as much as my mind was willing to go no further. I found the Pepsi gave me a big enough caffeine jolt to run about half way up a hill which allowed me to walk up the rest. Once at the top, I would run down and carry that momentum through to half way up the next hill. This was my plan and it seemed to be working quite well. The last 2km were the easiest. We were off the country roads and into town. Things seemed to be moving faster and more efficiently. I ran into Beavermead Park and spectators were saying “This is the last 100metres!” I was so elated, I couldn’t wait to cross that finish line. The final turn I spotted the finish line and the time. Mark, his parents, god parents and the crowd cheered me through the chute and I know I had the biggest smile. But I also had the biggest burst of emotion. I hobbled to get my medal and to have my timing chip removed and I couldn’t contain the tears. I know, what a sap!
Total run time: 2hr:09mins

Total race time: 6:00:51

DSC01175Sitting down to pack up my T-zone. Getting back up was tough.

I had a great day out on the race course. It was tough, but not insurmountable. I do see myself completing an other half Iron distance in the future but I don’t think it will be for an other few years. For this race in particular, I don’t think I would change anything to my training. Although I will approach training a little differently for my next half Iron.

Two week countdown and a new toy

24 Jun

I know I’ve been MIA in the last few weeks. Summer holidays are in full swing so that means extra shifts need to be picked up at work. That translates to completing my training at different times. No worries though, the training hours are being put in.

Mark threw me an awesome birthday full of surprises with friends and family. We went horseback riding and enjoyed an awesome meal that was a complete surprise. Both our parents made it down from Timmins which was totally awesome!

DSC01153But back to the Half Ironman! We are now two weeks out and I can’t believe it’s already here. It seems as though I still have months of preparing ahead but I’m all ready. I’m going to start to taper soon where I will maintain fitness but not put in hard workouts.

The main thing constantly on my mind is the swim. I try to practice the open water swim as often as I can. I’ve gone a few times and, once I get into a groove, it’s really not so bad. But then there’s the sea weed that totally grosses and creeps me out. I swim through it as fast as I can but eventually it just becomes too much. I really hope the lake in Peterborough is clear of sea weed. Or perhaps the number of people swimming through the sea weed will clear it for me.

But enough about the swim. What I’m really excited about is to get on my new bike. That’s right! I spent a small fortune on my own brand new Giant Defy Composite 2. GiantThe quality of the photo isn’t that great. We’re low on space in the den now with 3 bikes. We’ll have to figure out a solution to fit them all comfortably. I have yet to take her out on a spin but Wednesday is looking to be the day I go on one last long ride.

Sunday’s run was terribly hot. The humidity was really high at 93%. I went through almost all of my four water bottles on a 17km run. There was almost no shaded areas and I had to walk a few times. Although it was a tough run, I know it was a great training experience. The Peterborough Half run is a course with almost no shade in similar temperatures. It’s good to now how my body will react and how to stay moving. If it’s a stinkin’ hot day, I am so having ice cream when I cross that fiinish line!

Four Weeks until Race Day

4 Jun

As I approach the final four weeks of training for the Half Ironman in Peterborough, there is rarely a time when I am not either training or thinking about the race. My days either begin or end with some kind of training – swimming, running or cycling. Although I am enjoying pushing myself I have to admit I will be happy when I cross that finish line. I’m four weeks out and I’ve already started race dreams. I don’t think I was having race dreams this far out from the marathon!

I cycled 90km today and I have to admit that I had a great ride with a smoking time! It was a tough ride filled with hills. They were rolling hills but steeper than your average rolling hills. If I would have known that I would not have mapped my route on such roads. But that’s what you get when you live beside the Escarpment.

90k

To get a better look at the route, you may need to click on the image. In hindsight, while looking at the elevation map, it doesn’t seem so bad. But after 50k and another 40 to go – those hills seemed like mountains.

I’m slowly getting everything ready for race day. I rented a wetsuit from a local tri shop. I would have liked to buy my own but renting a wetsuit for $40 instead of purchasing one for $200 makes way more financial sense.

I’m also prepping myself mentally because the course for both the bike and the run are out and back courses. I think the course will be toughest on the run. So what I’ve started doing is going on long runs that are out and backs. Sunday, after work, I ran 6km down one road and ran back the same way. This particular route did not seem long because of the hills and the farm animals in the fields. I swear some of the cows and horses were looking at me thinking “What is this crazy human running from?” If only I had an answer.

Early Bird re-cap

22 May

I’m sorry for the delay in getting a race report on here. We just got home from Ottawa and the hotel we were staying at did not have Wi-Fi. Although it was initially frustrating, it was also kind of liberating. The hotel did, however, have cable which is a luxury we don’t have. Needless to say, I was glued to the TV.

Anyway, down to business. The Early Bird Triathlon was Saturday and started at 8:30. The novelty with this race is that the swim portion is in a 50metre pool. The water in Ottawa in mid-May is still pretty chilly. The pool is much  more comfortable and controlled – great for first timers.

We arrived at the transition zone around 7am. I raked my bike and organized all my clothes and gear on a towel. For first timers, remember this: untie your shoelaces! Undoing knots is not fun when your wet and under stress. Mark and I ran into old friends and our triathlon coach. It was so nice to see familiar faces! I proceeded to picking up my timing chip and to get body marking. We had to do our own body marking in this race. Luckily, I had Mark with me. After a final pee check, I practiced transition. This always seems a little funny but its worth it. Running into transition with a plan and knowing where you’ve racked your bike will save you lots of anxiety. I also practice how I will put on my clothes, helmet and sunglasses.

swim

Swim

Shortly after 8am we headed towards the pool and waited on the deck. The way the swim operates is through timed corrals. Every racer lined himself or herself in their anticipated finish time slot. I was feeling fast so I lined in near the back of the 10min corral. I hadn’t timed my 500m in the pool during training but figured my estimation was correct based on my 100m. The line moved slowly but I chatted with the people around me which passed the time. Finally, it was my turn. When I was told to jump in, I realized my goggles were not over my eyes – oops! I quickly pulled them down and hoped they weren’t going to fill with water. I started swimming and there was no panic, no fear and no anxiety. I felt great! I did not get tired and continued until the first turn around. This is where things got congested. I caught up with the person in front of me, who was caught up with the person in front of her, etc. The swim was slow and I tried not to touch the feet of the swimmer in front of me. I’m sure she probably appreciated that. My total time in the water was 11 minutes. Slow, but I was not fatigued when I came out of the water. This was perhaps a blessing because the run to transition was 500metres.

 

Bike

My time in transition went without a hitch. It could have gone bad as I put my shoes on before my bike shorts. Pulling up shorts over bike shoes: problematic, will never do again. Once on the bike, I put the pedal to the metal. I had some serious time to make up. I kept telling myself that it didn’t matter if I didn’t place in my age group. After all, I was now at the bottom of a very competitive age group. As I pedaled, I kept passing people. The canal’s Colonel By Drive is mostly flat with two inclinations. Only one of those inclinations is a problem and even then, it’s not so bad. The bike route was 2 loops of 11.8km. I took the time to enjoy the scenery. That route used to be a staple for running and cycling when we lived in the capital. Nearly a quarter of an hour later, I slowed to dismount and ran into transition. My time on the bike was 44 minutes.

Run

The run after swimming and biking always kills me! I knew I had a fairly long incline up ahead just after the 1km mark so I started running slow and steady. I was uncomfortable and unable to push that feeling out of my mind. It seems so easy to do on the bike. I kept going and put one foot in front of the other. At the first kilometre I looked at my watch: 5:00min/km. Wow, was I ever running slowly! Where did the endurance go? I told myself that I had to keep that 5min/km and that I could not go any slower. However, at 3.5km I totally forgot my rule and walked for 30seconds. I had been climbing for a few hundred metres and knew I had to climb for another few hundred more. This little rest helped and I started running even stronger. When I came into the chute, Mark was waiting with two really good friends. I came into the chute with no one behind me and I sprinted to the finish. Run time: 26 minutes.

finishingMy overall time was 1 hr 26 minutes (transitions included) and placed third on my age group!

Our celebration afternoon was spent lounging in the Arboretum and taking pictures.

DSC01048

Chocolate Race Recap

13 May

The day of the Chocolate Race started early. Mark hopped on his bike to ride to St Catherines and left shortly after six. His ride was supposed to take him just over two hours. I resolved to leave shortly after seven which would put me in St Catherines around the same time Mark was expected to arrive. The morning was exceptionally windy. I was praying that the wind would die down at the start line. The race started at 10 which meant I had to carefully plan out my eating schedule. I ate half of a banana around 6:30 and prepared a bagel with peanut butter and jam which I would eat around 8.

I packed all my stuff and jumped in the car. This was my first drive by myself down the 403. Thankfully, it was Sunday morning and there wasn’t too much traffic. I arrived at the expo shortly after eight and picked mine and Mark’s race kits and waited. And waited. And waited. The time was now 9:15 and Mark was still nowhere to be found. He hadn’t called or texted which meant he was still on the road. I was starting to get anxious. I really did not want him to miss the race. I waited as long as I could. At 9:43 I started to walk towards the start line. I left his race kit in the car and texted him the directions to find the car. Hopefully he would get there in time. As fate would have it, as I walked towards the start line, I decided to take one last look behind me. There he was. A cyclist all in black with a white helmet. I dashed towards him and pointed to turn around. I directed him to the car. Mark quickly got changed while I placed his bike in the car. It was a made dash. When he was all ready we ran back to the start. With four minutes to spare, we made it! Mark made his way to the front while I stayed behind him a few rows. I was expecting to do well but I didn’t want to be at the front.

The gun went off and I started passing people like it was nobody’s business. The terrain was half trail and half road with minor inclinations. We ran along the Lake Ontario with a head wind.  This was no minor head wind. They were wind gusts of over 30km/hr. I was not expecting stellar results at that point. But, I stayed positive. No one was passing me and I was gaining on the person ahead of me. Thankfully at the turn around, the wind was now at my back. I gained speed and I felt like I was flying. I definitely flew through the finish line. I did not have a personal best but I finished 2nd in my age category and 15th overall! My time was 50min and 44seconds.

DSC01006Pink champagne at the finish line. I really could have had a few more glasses to keep me warm (it was freezing!)

As we waited for the award ceremony, we had chocolate croissants and truffles. Everything was so rich and delicious. I was surprised to find out that I finished 2nd. I wasn’t expecting to top my age group. Especially in this race as the age group was between 20 and 29. But we also had to wait for medals because Mark won his first race. He left everyone behind him in his dust. We both could not believe his incredible race.

DSC01011Here we are with our finisher’s medals and our winner’s medals.

Thankfully Mark did not want to ride his bike back home so he drove and I was able to relax in the passenger’s seat. Of course, training really paid off. But I think for my next race I’m going for another pedicure and will definitely stick to homemade pizza for supper. This might be the beginning of a great tradition.

I am a Marathoner

22 Oct

I am proud to announce that I ran the Niagara Falls International Marathon in 4 hours and 42 minutes. Those hours were long and painful and 42.2 kilometres certainly put me in my place but I am happy that I completed what I set out to accomplish. The weekend in Niagara Falls was nice as I haven’t been to the city in over a decade. It’s a beautiful city, albeit a little tacky (mostly Clifton Hill).

We arrived in Niagara Falls around noon on Saturday, checked into our bed and breakfast (which was hosted by wonderful people) and went straight to the expo for race kit pick up. The day was gloomy, rainy and windy but I knew Sunday’s weather was going to be much better so I didn’t complain. The expo was fun, well organized and most people were happy to market their races or display their running gear/attire.

After all the necessities were done, we wandered Clifton Hill and enjoyed a ride on the Sky Wheel – a large, enclosed ferris wheel similar to the Eye of London. It was a great way to see the Falls and enjoy some time to reflex on Sunday’s run. Mark and I found the closest Italian restaurant for a carb load: a HUGE plate of fettucini aflredo!

We hit the hay pretty early: 8:30. I didn’t sleep as soundly as I normally do but I woke up rested. I started to get a little nervous – a feeling that I hadn’t really felt since earlier in the week. Mark walked me to the bus, said our goodbyes, see you at the finish line, and I was off for Buffalo, NY.

I have to write my race report in miles as the course was marked in miles, not kilmetres. I’m sorry to all my Canadian friends.

Miles 0-11

I found a friend at the start line to run with. She was from Ottawa so we had common ground. She had a slow pace which was fine with me. I wanted to start slow as I wasn’t sure how my knee was going to hold up. However, as we got closer to the half way mark I found myself pulling away from her and slowing myself down to keep up with her. We said our goodbyes at about mile 11 and I was able to quicken my pace to something faster but still comfortable.

Mile 12-19

I ran by myself for a bit and found myself passing quite a few people. I caught up to one girl who, again, was from Ottawa and we kept each other on pace for a few miles. We ran with each other from about 6 miles. Her aunt and uncle were on the course twice so we had extra encouragement from them which was nice. They were loud and enthusiastic. I needed that extra push because I was starting to get tired, but we kept passing people. Although I walked through every aid station for water, it was beginning to get harder to re-start running once I passed the aid station and finished drinking. At mile 19 I had to leave my friend behind. She was starting to hit the wall and I still had gas in the tank. We wish each other luck and I continued my run. I held a good pace and the only thing keeping me going was knowing that at the end of every mile, I could walk and receive encouragement.

Mile 20-23

I was able to keep a steady pace, albeit beginning to slow down. I didn’t want to walk because I knew if I started to walk it would be difficult to re-start running. My knee was starting to protest but it held up. Funny, it wasn’t the injured spot that was bothering me but the outside of my knee – I think perhaps my IT band. I was staying positive because I kept passing people. At one point I starting thinking about the finish and how proud I should be that I began to get chocked up. I wanted to cry and my breathing became laboured. Not good! I need a steady breathing rhythm. I told myself to stop, calm down and I can do all the crying I want at the finish line. When mile 24 came around I was tired. My legs just didn’t not want to run anymore. In a group of spectators, I spotted a little girl with a sign that read “Jellybeans up ahead.” Oh my god, really? I had to yell out to her “Is that true? Are there jelly beans?” I think I scared her, she didn’t answer but her dad did. “Thank you!” I turned the corner and sure enough: Jelly beans! I grabbed two little cups full and ate them as fast as I could. Oh my goodness, instant sugar and energy.

Mile 24-26.2

So those jelly beans gave me energy for about 1 mile. I started to slow and eventually, I started to walk. Until one woman came up behind, gave me a tap of my arm and said “Hey, you can’t stop now! I’ve been following you for a while so don’t let me down!” That gave me motivation. I started to run and keep her pace (she was pretty fast for nearing the end of the marathon). At mile 25, I told myself “Ok, just 10 more minutes and then you’re done.” In reality, it turned out to be 12 minutes. But after 4 hours of running, it really doesn’t matter. I began the last mile, which was thankfully downhill, that gave me enough momentum to finish strong. I ran hard down the finish chute, spotted Mark and covered my face and started to sob. I had made it! Once I crossed the finish line, I was overcome with emotion. I was sobbing through a smile. I wrapped myself in a space blanket, received my medal and grabbed a banana and two granola bars.

Unfortunately the official Niagara Falls International Marathon t shirt was not very nice. It was bright, high lighter neon yellow with a little logo. So I bought my own NFIM shirt at the expo.

So, how do I feel? Tired, sore but proud. Would I do another one? Maybe, but let me recover first.