Swim/bike/run: The transition

Tranistion area: Helmet, bike shoes, running shoes, sunglasses, gel, Garmin, towel.

I did my first transition today!

Six of them, actually.

My tri group had our first race simulation of the season this morning out at Thetis Lake, where we got to practice our swim-to-bike and bike-to-run transitions, as well as doing all three sports back-to-back.

The day before, however, I decided to see what my legs felt like on the run after a 35 km ride (the Olympic triathlon bike distance is 40 km).

I had a great ride out to Sooke, despite getting a bee in my helmet. (more…)

How to cure a hangover and get into a triathlon wetsuit

Main Beach at Thetis. Photo credit: AndrewS

Discovered a new hangover cure this morning: open water swimming.

After a late night at a friend’s wedding (too much wine and dancing in heels… ouch my calves this morning), I surprised myself by making it to my tri group’s first open water swim session on time.

The last thing I wanted to do was stuff myself into a wetsuit and jump in a lake.

Getting the wetsuit on was a bit easier this time, though. Noa gave me a few pointers, such as to use BodyGlide around the parts your suit gets stuck, like your wrists, ankles, behind the knees, etc., and to cut off any extra suit length near your feet and hands if it’s too long.

While the majority of the group did laps around the small islands in the middle of Thetis Lake, I stuck near the shore with a few others and practiced swimming out and counting strokes, and running in and out of the water.

By the end of the swim I wasn’t feeling the effects of last night at all — in fact, I felt great! I felt I could have kept going, but we still had a run to do.

My Achilles was bugging me during the slow but hilly hour-long trail run around Thetis with the group — I’ve never had pain or tightness there before, but I have a feeling it may have been caused by me trying to do the LMFAO shuffle dance last night on the dancefloor at the wedding in heels… not from running 🙂

Oh! I also got my tri team cycling kit (cycling kit = a bike bib and jersey with my tri group logo on it) AND bought some new kicks!

Officially one of those spandexed riders I used to make fun of on the Goose. Woo hoo!

I’ve been running in Mizuno Wave Inspires for about 6 months, and they’ve been great. I tried on the same shoe in the newer version and wasn’t really in love with them. Not sure what they changed… but they definitely weren’t as comfy. I think they are a bit higher around the ankle than last year’s model.

It was a toss-up between Saucony ProGrid Guide 4 (which had a bit of a higher heel to make you run more on your forefoot) and the Saucony ProGrid Hurricane. The Hurricane felt most like my current shoe, so I decided to play it safe and get them instead of the Guides.

Saucony ProGrid Hurricanes. Will now run at a hurricane-force pace!

(I actually don’t need new shoes right now, but I got a gift card as a grad present… it was burning a hole in my purse.)

Oh, and I also bought some swimming goodies.

BodyGlide, new goggles, a new swim cap in white and chocolate & espresso gels for fuel.

I’m still on the hunt for a new swim suit and a tri suit… and hopefully that will be it for triathlon gear spending for this season.

(How many times have a said that in one of these posts? Still hoping…)

It’s open water season! Taking the wetsuit out for a spin

 

Like a stuffed sausage

I am finally in possession of the last expensive piece of triathlon gear I need: the wetsuit.

(Huge thanks to Dave at Pen Run in downtown Victoria for hooking me up with a sweet deal on a brand new wetsuit, just in time for my first open water swimming session!)

Since most of my tri training group were racing today at the Subaru Victoria Triathlon (congrats to Adam and Leif by the way — first and second place overall! Amazing!) and I couldn’t get a ride out to Elk Lake to watch, I walked down to Langford Lake to test out the new wetsuit and go for a swim.

I struggled to get into the suit for about half an hour. You have to be careful not to puncture the rubber with your nails; even with gloves on AND cut nails I think I still managed to put holes in it. I managed to get it a bit further on than I did with the help of Dave in the store, so I’m hoping next time I’ll be able to have it fitting properly. Getting your legs in is definitely the trickiest part — after it’s pulled up to a certain point you just pull your arms in, put your shoulder blades together and have someone zip you up, then you can kind of wiggle yourself in more by putting your arms over your head and bending at the hips, and doing high steps and squats.

Once I got in the water it was awesome. I was nice and warm, and the wetsuit makes you super buoyant. The hardest part for me once I started swimming was trying to blow bubbles in cold water (the cold temperature makes it harder to breathe at first) and being freaked out by seeing a dark, murky abyss instead of the bottom of a pool. I had to stop and pop my head up often to make sure I wasn’t swimming off into the weeds and that I could still see the shore. I think next time when I’m with a group and not alone in the water I’ll feel more comfortable.

But yay! My first open water swim! All that’s left of unchartered tri territory now is the transition.

Fort Rodd Hill Half Marathon: Harder than I remember…

We made it!

About 5 km into the 2011 Fort Rodd Hill Historic Half Marathon, I was seriously questioning my decision to run that day.

I started to come down with a cold the day before, and hadn’t run over 14 km since the BMO Half Marathon on May 1st. There was also that 90 km bike ride I participated in just seven days prior, so my legs weren’t feeling super fresh.

But the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day for a run.

Despite the fact my head was stuffed up, my throat felt raw and I couldn’t hear out of one ear, I headed down to the starting line on the beach near the Fisgard Lighthouse at Fort Rodd Hill.

Warming up for the race

I ran this event last year (see my race recap here) and remembered enjoying the run, even though the race was delayed and had to be rerouted due to an early morning fire that destroyed a nearby business.

I did not enjoy the run this year.

The race itself was well-organized, fun and friendly, but the route was tough. You’re pretty much running uphill for the first 7 km until you come to an extreme downhill that takes its toll on your joints… then you do it all again (the half marathon route is two loops of the same 11 km course).

My legs wanted to move at a half marathon pace, but my upper half was suffering: I could barely breathe, my head was pounding, I was coughing and sniffling and spitting (gross), and my stomach cramped up more with every step.

When I reached the downhill at Esquimalt Lagoon, I seriously considered dropping out.

Then I thought of Jess, a running friend who so badly wanted to complete the BMO Marathon this year that she ran injured and in pain for 21 miles before deciding to stop (read her marathon story here). I was only 10 km into a half and just felt uncomfortable, not injured… I needed to suck it up.

When I reached kilometre 17 at Esquimalt Lagoon on the second loop, my friend Mere caught up with me and we decided to pull each other along to the finish line. Mere and I run at about the same race pace on a good day, so I was glad I wasn’t the only one suffering on the course that day!

Getting our hard-earned participant medals!

We finished together in about 1:52:59, which is still a decent time, all things considered.

We were trying to pose for the finish line photo... didn't quite get my arms up in time

So what did I learn from this race?

Just because you probably could just get up and run a half marathon without much thought or preparation doesn’t mean you should.

Oh, and don’t tweet about your horrible race experience when your coach follows you on Twitter and didn’t put it on your triathlon training plan… sorry Noa! 😉

What a ride: The inaugural Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria

A mass participation cycling event in Victoria lead by Tour de France 7th place finisher and local cycling phenom Ryder Hesjedal AND “Captain Canuck” Trevor Linden?

Sure, sign me up!

Why not fit that in amongst all of the half marathons and triathlon training I’ve been doing lately. Might as well do it, since I just bought a proper road bike and my work happened to be a founding sponsor. It’s hard to say no when you’re working at the event’s headquarters.

I have to admit, though, I was incredibly nervous about riding it. I signed up for the 90 km route, and only managed to do only one 75 km ride a week before the event. That felt surprisingly okay (no aches, pains or exhaustion), so I knew I could tackle the distance—it was just the pack riding and the weather I was worried about. (more…)

It’s time for an action plan

My YouTube debut. Thankfully, Dave was nice enough not to film me walking.

So it turns out I did actually tear a calf muscle. At the insistence of Kirsty, I went and made an appointment with Dr.Mike to get it checked out. That was my first time going to see a specialist for anything sports-injury related, and now I know why Kirsty didn’t tell me much about what to expect.

Active Release Therapy HURTS. Dr. Mike busted out this metal spatula device and started scraping my calf, like one might try to scrape the blackened burnt part off a piece of toast. But more violently.

Then he dug his thumb right into the torn muscle and asked me to FLEX my foot, which is something that hurt to do anyways, let alone with a thumb digging into the muscle. “Go go go go go! Pull pull pull!” I felt like a Biggest Loser contestant at the mercy of Jillian Michaels the way my face was contorting in pain.

But then I hopped off the table, and I could walk without a limp. I had zero pain in my calf, and haven’t felt pain in it since. Dr.Mike works (painful) miracles.

A few other pointers he gave me: You started out to fast. Get a coach, train properly. Six half marathons in one year is too much. No running for two weeks. Take up swimming and do some light cycling. You should be good to go for the Bear Mountain 10K  in November (yes! — that’s all I needed to hear).

So now my plan is to join a marathon running group and a triathlon club in January. I also need to take swimming lessons and get a proper bike. I signed up for the Gunnar Shaw as well, an off-road 10k at Thetis Lake in November that takes you through mud pits and freezing lake water (already bought some sweet trail running shoes for this adventure from MEC!), and have my sights set on doing the Island Race Series and another marathon in the spring.

Nothing helps to heal a running injury more than coming up with a new action plan — well, to help to mentally heal, anyway.

The marathon

GoodLife Victoria Fitness medals. Earned that gold one in the centre!

Well that was painful.

I think I may have underestimated the 42.2. I knew 32km hurt. But that extra 10km was excruciating.

All went well up until the 30km mark. I had run a solid half at 1:49 and was keeping up my 5:00 pace until about the 23km mark. I felt my calves get tighter and less willing to move, so I did a run-walk combination until the 30km mark. I was taking a walk break when Dave, the videographer, caught up with me and made me run again so it could at least LOOK like I was trying.

 He stayed with me until the 32km mark then rode off, and that’s when my left calf cinched up so tight I thought I heard a pop. I hobbled up the hill at Clover Point, tried to start jogging again and couldn’t get my legs to move. I felt two huge blisters under the pads of my feet just waiting to burst. That, coupled with the pain, changed my focus from sub-4:00 to just finishing.

But I didn’t care. As much as it hurt to even walk, I was happy to be out in the sun and excited that in a few hours time I’d be sitting down to a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with 15 of my family members, who would all be excited to hear stories about my first marathon.

Tyler was waiting for me with 3km to go. I was walking still, and he ran over to me and tried to get me to jog. I couldn’t do it. Thankfully, he had a bottle of painkillers with him and some water, so I down a few pills and continued walking. He stayed with me until I was coming up on the last 800 metres and the Tylenol kicked in. I started a pathetic jog, ignoring my pulled calf muscle.

I saw Katie near the finish line. When she saw me she waved, and I think I yelled out something like “Kill me now”. I have never been so happy to cross the finish line.

Numb from the pain killers and feeling pretty good since I had just been walking, not running, for the last 12km, I grabbed some post-race eats and met up with Tyler, Katie and Dave. Dave filmed me for a post-race recap, and I think all I said was “I get to go eat 2500 calories worth of Thanksgiving dinner right now, so I’m feeling pretty good.”

Yes, I’m disappointed. But that was my first marathon. I had no idea what to expect. I could go on about how I didn’t train enough and should have done more long runs, but I was just happy to finish. Now that I know, next time will be different. At least my time of 4:36 will be pretty easy to beat, so a new marathon PB is almost guaranteed.

42.2

Turned down wine with friends last night and stuck with water. Have successfully spent most of my day off my feet. Got a massage and a facial this morning (okay…so a facial isn’t really necessary prep for a race, but it was awesome). Carb-loaded. Hydrated. Still need to go for that last 10-minute run to loosen up the legs and make myself a pasta dinner.

I feel pressured to run well tomorrow. I know ‘just finishing’ is an achievement in itself, but it’s not just going to be Tyler waiting for me at the finish line; my parents will be there, standing on the sidelines somewhere in Oak Bay; one of my friends said she’s going to come and watch, even though I’ve never come to watch one of her baseball or soccer games (sorry Katie); my co-workers will be there, some running and some watching.

And not only that, my whole run is going to be documented and filmed for my company’s YouTube account and plastered all over our social media.

Talk about pressure! What kind of a YouTube video would that be if I got a DNF or had to walk after 30k due to disabling leg cramps?

Dave, our videographer, said he’ll be riding his bike alongside the course, filming me as I run. Great. Can’t wait to see myself at the 35k mark, shuffling like a zombie, face contorted in pain.

I hope I can block all of that out. I just want to focus on putting one foot in front of the other – hopefully at a 5:10 pace, listening to some awesome tunes and feeding off everyone’s energy.

The marathon countdown is on

Indy & me hiking up Mt. Kobau in Osoyoos in the summer.

24, 26, 30, and 32 down without a single blog post. I thought I was supposed to be blogging about my marathon training?

Maybe I didn’t because those longer runs were draining any desire I had to write about running. When you spend 2.5+ hours running on Sundays, the last thing you want to do is go home and relive it in a blog post. Not that I didn’t have some interesting runs.

I ran a 26km after work once with a backpack full of clothes, work shoes and lunch containers, into a strong headwind along part of the marathon course and then down the Goose. I was going away for the weekend to see a concert in the states, so it was then or never. I felt surprisingly good, although my upper back felt buggered.

I ran a 30km on the hottest day of the year. I ran Elk/Beaver Lake three times (was supposed to be doing a 32km that weekend), and I was so hot and dehydrated I jumped in the lake with my clothes on when I hit 30km (shoes and Garmin removed, of course). Just didn’t have it in me to go on.

Last weekend, I finally ran 32km. The plan was to do it the weekend before, but I ended up racing the Lands End Half Marathon that weekend (more on that in a minute). I went out the night before and had a few glasses of wine, so it took awhile for me to get going. I didn’t end up leaving until 4pm. When I set out, a group of Langford’s finest were stumbling their way to the Luxton Fair, beers in hand. One of them decided to run alongside me, much to the delight of his friends, as I made my way to the Goose. He was stumbling and struggling to keep up, saying something like “slow down, I’m spilling my beer!”, so I ran faster. He gave up after only 20 seconds!

After that amusing episode, I headed off down the Goose to Swan Lake and back. I felt great, took a bunch of walk breaks and made it about 25-28km before the leg cramps started. I ended up having to wait over 10 minutes to cross Sooke Road thanks to a broken cross walk button, which didn’t help the situation. By the time I reached 30km, my muscles were seized up and I had slowed down to about a 7:00 pace. Ugh. I overshot my kilometre estimate too, and finished my 32km still one kilometre from home. I hobbled home in the dark and ate my weight in pasta that night.

So here I am on the taper. I have a 1:30 run to do today. I did I 10km yesterday plus a workout DVD, which probably wasn’t the best idea, since my butt, legs and thighs are screaming at me right now. I need to ease up a bit with my workouts and wine consumption if I want to finish the marathon in an upright position.

More on Lands End: Kirsty and I both ran half marathon PBs at Lands End. So glad I gave up my Beerfest tickets for that weekend…I don’t think a PB would have been possible if I spent 6 hours drinking beer the day before.

It was pouring rain and the course was up-and-down, but I managed to finish in 1:45:46. About half of my kilometres were sub-5:00; crazy, since my usual training pace in 5:30-5:45. It’s amazing what your body can do when your racing.

Kirsty ran it in 1:56; a new PB for her after running the Nanaimo Half Marathon (and setting a PB there, too) the week before. Two consecutive halfs in two weeks; not even I would do that! She’ll be running the half at the GoodLife Victoria Marathon; a sense another new PB for her there, too!

I promise I’ll update more. Now with less time spent running, I’ have more time to write. The countdown is on.

What are those things on your feet?

My ugly toe-shoes. Tyler calls them my "fast" shoes.

Sometimes you have to forget everything you thought you knew about running.

After reading the popular Born to Run by Chris McDougall, I found myself in MEC trying on a pair of Vibram’s Five Finger shoes.

For those runner who haven’t read the book, it’s about a running tribe in Mexico called the Tarahumara that run crazy distances with nothing more than a thin piece of rubber under each foot, and never suffering any running injuries or problems despite all this.

A major portion of the book is dedicated to explaining why, as humans, we never needed shoes in the first place; apparently, barefoot running is the key to running more efficiently and injury-free, which is why I found myself in MEC trying on a pair of these silly-looking shoes mentioned in the book.

As I was stuffing my toes into the little toe slots in the water/paddling section at MEC, a few older ladies passed by the shoes on display, saying “Now who in their right mind would wear those? Those are hideous.”

Hideous, yes. But as an anthropology student, I couldn’t deny that the science in the book was compelling. According to Harvard biologist and runner Daniel Lieberman, the human foot is made to run. We never wore shoes for the first some-odd million years we’ve been on this planet, so why do we need all this cushioning, arch support and motion control that we apparently need now?

 Arch support? That’s what your arch is for, according to the science. For someone like myself, with flat feet, over-pronation control shoes just weaken your foot muscles by supporting and correcting everything for you. If I were to run barefoot (barefoot being clad in VFF’s – still gotta protect the skin on your feet), I would actually be able to rebuild the arch in my foot over time, making it stronger and more efficient at running, even changing my foot-strike pattern. Interesting, isn’t it?

So why is cushioning so bad? According to Dr. Lieberman, cushioned shoes cause you to strike the ground with your heel first, which is “literally like someone hitting you on the heel with a hammer.” All that cushioning and the way your foot strikes is more jarring than if you were to be running without cushioning or support, because your feet would come down mid-foot first and therefore much lighter as it makes contact with the ground. When all that cushioning is in the way, your body instinctly comes down hard until it finds solid ground. So in essence, according to Dr. Lieberman, “the way in which barefoot runners run is more or less collision-free,” making them far less prone to injuries that plague so many runners today.

From the race mentioned in 'Born to Run'. Check out the difference in the foot-strike between the two runners.

 But since we’ve been wearing this super-support shoes for the majority of our lives, you can’t just squeeze on a pair of VFF’s, run a marathon PB and never get injured again. We’re used to our support shoes, and to all of a sudden run barefoot would most definitely cause an injury. But if you build up to running barefoot, you can strengthen your feet, change your foot strike to mid-foot instead of heel, and ultimately run like we were meant to run: barefoot.

After a few short training runs in my VFF’s, I’ve noticed my calves burn a lot more after than when I wore my over-pronation control New Balance shoes. You do feel much lighter and quicker, and your feet turn over at a much faster rate when you run with a mid-foot strike.

But don’t your feet hurt with only a thin piece of rubber underneath?

Surprisingly, no. My feet feel great. That said, I’m not planning to run the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon in VFF’s.

Thanks to shoe companies realizing that what they’ve been doing all along is actually causing injuries rather than preventing them, there are some great minimalist shoes on the market right now. Even Nike jumped on the bandwagon with their Nike Free. Since I needed new running shoes for the marathon, I went with the Brooks Racer, a racing flat, instead of anything too minimalist to avoid injury.

I’ll wear my VFF’s and get strange looks from folks for my short, half-hour runs to strengthen my feet and help change my running style, but for long runs, I think I’ll stick my racing flats – for now.

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