70.3 miles of southern goodness. And then some.

When I qualified for the 70.3 Worlds way back in April, it was a very pleasant surprise. I took my spot, paid my money and then pretty much put the idea out of my mind.

Summer went by in a flash. My time was filled with work, training and many happy distractions.

Every few weeks, Liz and I would text each other a quick note regarding the race: sometimes it was logistics or a question about training, but usually, it was something along the lines of HOLY SHIT WE’RE GOING TO TENNESSEE.

It only really dawned on me about 10 days before the race that we were really doing this. We were going to Chattanooga to race in the world championships.

I had no idea what to expect other than knowing the swim would be tough as it was partially upriver, the weather was going to be hot and the field very talented.

Fast forward to last Thursday, and we stepped off the plane in Nashville, only to pretty much drive straight to a Waffle House.

Kicking it off in style, y’all.

The day before the women’s race (we had our own day all to ourselves, the men raced Sunday) we arrived at the race site for the practice swim in the river. The place was jammed and I wanted to vomit at the thought of fighting the current for 860m. Let me just say that swimming downstream was may more fun.

Post-swim, I was still very nervous about the whole race thing the following day, but I threw time goals out the window upon getting a feel for things and vowed to race to my ability and, more importantly, smile till my face hurt more than my legs.

I couldn’t believe how great the southern hospitality was, how kind and generous the volunteers were and what a great vibe surrounded the event.  It felt different from any other race I’ve done, and it made me feel like this exercise contest was a big deal. And ladies first? Yes, please. I am SO grateful we didn’t have to watch the men go first. Pretty sure I’d have packed up my shit and left town.

I’ll quickly break down the race itself.

Swim: 42:55 (putting me 189/230 AHAHHHAHAAHAHAHA)

It wasn’t terrible, I just swam terribly. Or, more accurately, I swam to my current level of swim fitness. I haven’t been in the water enough this summer, I’ve lost my feel and it showed. I felt fatigued when I finally made the down current turn. On the plus side? I swam straight AND I cannonballed in!

Bike: 2:54 (putting me 87/230 DO YOU THINK I LIKE BIKING?)

Absolutely awesome. And the best part? Shortly after the 10 mile marker, I heard Liz and I’s agreed upon theme song… which means that I got to ride a world championship bike course with my coach/training partner/brain twin. I am fairly certain no one else gets to do that. I loved how hard it was, even if it didn’t feel too terribly hard. I was determined to not overbike, like the good old days. I came off the bike feeling good, and ready to run. Or at the very least, strongly jog.

Run: 1:51 (putting me 79/230, I’ll take it).

Really, really hard. Never a dull moment, it was a roller coaster of terrain. BUT: I smiled my way through the entire damn thing. Coming down that final hill to the finish line, I was negotiating with my legs not to cramp, I was all emotional and giggling like a crazy person. I crossed that finish line absolutely elated.

Travelling and racing with your Brain Twin ™ is amazing: you don’t need to negotiate, you pretty much always know what the other person needs and you have a day drinking partner to debrief on the day with.

And, yes, we did very well in the day drinking department, too. Go us! I mean, our speed tour of Nashville may warrant a whole other post.

When I raced Oceanside 70.3 in April to qualify for this race, I burst into tears of unhappiness at the finish line. I didn’t have fun, or enjoy my day at all. I’ve thought about this a lot and was determined to change my mindset for Coeur D’Alene, and I wanted to race happy. Sometimes, when it hurts, you have to force the happy, but I can’t even describe how much better it makes things out there. I made friends, stupid jokes, mistakes and I had the best day.

My times were nothing spectacular. I’m used to being at the pointy end of races, so the result was, in a sense, a bit of a shock. But I don’t need be disappointed after the fact, or over analyze the results. I am so proud of the day I had.

And yes, my face hurt from smiling.

 

 

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Fun wins.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a very informal poll on Facebook:

This is but a sample of the answers that were heavily weighted in favour of happy = success.

I’ll admit, I was sceptical. Doesn’t anger fuel you? When you are in a bad mood, don’t you just want to smash things? And by things, one could argue that smashing oneself on the race course totally counts.

With that in mind, I thought back to the last few races I’d done and while I was motivated to do well and put my heart into it, there was a certain joy in the execution that was lacking. I *always* dreaded the 4am or earlier morning alarm, and I just felt like I was going through the motions and ticking the boxes:

eat ✅ swim ✅ bike ✅ run ✅ go home ✅

For Coeur d’Alene 70.3, I really didn’t have anything to prove or high expectations. I’d secured my spot for World’s in April; my training was sporadic since spending a month in Baku. So I updated my goals for the race to a) take risks and b) really, truly have fun.

Making these goals easier to achieve can be attributed to loading up the Shaggin’ Waggon ™️ with a few of my favourite people and heading south to some great weather and a fun little town. Not to mention the great house, complete with lovely housemates.

I was so relaxed all weekend that not only did I forget to collect a timing chip at athlete check-in, I also forgot my cycling shoes race morning. I almost panicked but pulled it together, sprinted back to the house and made it back to transition before anyone really noticed I’d gone missing.

I squeeeeeeeezed into my wetsuit, all the while making terrible jokes with the girls and wandered down to the start. Those fasties headed to the front of the pack, while I happily dropped back and hung out where I belong (rather than near the front, which is where I’d been starting the past few races, and really had no business doing so).

Well, what do you know… I not only enjoyed the swim, I swam in a straight-ish line, didn’t barf and I got out in respectable (for me) time.

Well hello there.

And then I totally killed it in transition.

The bike ride? It felt oddly effortless. It gives me tremendous pleasure to pass men on super bikes. True story.

Happy, happy, joy, joy.

And then I killed it in the next transition, too.

The run was through the ‘hoods of CDA, and I got to run most of it with Jordan (very famous race announcer and Oh Canada singer). There was chatting, high fives, smiles, we built this city on rock and roll, bagpipes, Christmas carols and finish chute that was pretty much perfection.

Jazz hands

All day, I had a smile plastered on my face.

Here’s proof, courtesy of the awesome team at BCC Live (minute 5 to see just how nerdy I can get).

So you know what? Fun wins. Race happy.

Just the facts:

Swim 38:18 35/138

T1 2:54 #winning

Bike 2:49 13/138 Bye boys!

T2: 1:59 #winning

Run 1:48 12/138

#allthefun

Now, I hang up the TT bike for a few weeks and play in the dirt.

Oceanside 70.3: Perception vs. Perspective

As I crossed the line on Saturday at Oceanside 70.3, I dissolved into a puddle of tears. I immediately saw Jen and blurted “I’m so disappointed”.

Good lord. I felt like such a loser for crying at a finish line of an amateur event I had paid for the privilege of doing. I couldn’t even pinpoint why I was so bummed. I just was.

It took a couple of minutes to pull myself together, thankful for sunglasses to hide the evidence and the chance to meet new people and talk about something else for a bit.

Here’s how I perceived the day, “in real time”.

Swim: By the time I *finally* hit the water in the rolling start, I was shivering uncontrollably and so thankful that the water felt warmer than the air. Until the turnaround, I was a satisfied fish. And then.

*crack*

I caught an ankle squarely in the chin, bit my toungue hard enough that I could taste blood and inhaled a bunch of delicious, murky salt water. Then I barfed. So that was neat! Sorry to those fine folks behind me.

Eventually, staggered out of the water and jogged through what has to be the world’s biggest transition, fumbled around and rode away.

Bike: There was a tank crossing! I mean, Camp Pendleton and all. They take their armoury seriously, I suppose. I was pretty grumpy for a long time. I couldn’t find a rhythm, I couldn’t focus, and I was trying to stay within the zones that Liz assigned to me. I kept waiting for that sleepy, drained feeling I usually get. It wouldn’t come. Was I going too slowly? Bah. I couldn’t tell. I felt strong but I maybe I was tricking myself? Let’s just get this over with already.

Run: This was the dialogue in my brain:

Kilometers 1-15: TICK/TICK/TICK KEEP MY LITTLE FEET GOING TICK/TICK/TICK EAT SOMETHING THAT COKE WASN’T FLAT *BURP*

Kilometers 15.1-19.1: UUUUUUUNNNNNHHHHH NO NO NO NO MORE.

Kilometers 19.1-21.1: Don’tcrydon’tcrydon’tcry if you cry you can’t breathe I think I’m making a really ugly face don’tcrydon’tcry dammit I think this course is long.

And then it was over.

Fast forward an hour or so. I didn’t know how (numbers-wise) the day had gone. I was still feeling pretty ambivalent about it and then I texted Liz… lo and behold, welcome the objective perspective.

She gave me her view on the event, “as seen from her bike”, as she virtually watched my race from the discomfort of her bike trainer. Her view was far more positive than mine and hearing that pulled me out of my funk. Maybe I didn’t need to quit this silly sport after all.

The reality is that I did indeed have a shit swim, but I put together a good bike and a solid run. I actually raced, like we’d talked about me doing. I didn’t give up, stuck to the plan. I have something to build on. Battled my own demons all day. I may not have won against them, but I held my own. It took me a few hours to realize that.

I still haven’t looked at the results, but I know that I ended up 7th, clawing my way back through the field after the swim. And while my goal had been top 5, I ended up with what I wanted: a spot to the World Championships.

By sheer force of waiting around.

Next up? Tightening my race director hat and getting back to it for Coeur d’Alene 70.3.

Oh. And a little month long jaunt to Azerbaijan.

I’ll wait while you look it up.

 

What keeps me rolling.

“So, are you training for something right now?”

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I get this question a lot. Seems a given that you’d be training for something when free time is taken up by staring at a black line at the bottom of a pool or sweating in my garage on a Friday night. I mean, who just does that for fun?

Oh yeah. I do.

Yes, I’m training for something. Again. And always. fullsizerender-6

I promise I’m not totally nuts. I mean, I’m a little nuts, obviously. But not completely.

The truth is, I really enjoy training. I love the racing aspect of sport, I love the fact that I’ve met some of the greatest people through sport but training is part of the package and I legit enjoy sweating my ass off to bad 80s tunes in the garage. I’d rather talk about boys with my friends deep into the forest during a trail run than over coffee at Starbucks. Training is a perfect angst and energy outlet for this introverted extrovert.fullsizerender-10

Endurance sport tends to keep me focused, happy and energized. It makes me a better parent. It keeps my inner narcissist (don’t lie – you have one, too) in check. It keeps me honest.

If my mum were still around, I know she’s roll her eyes, keep watch from a distance and ask me when I’m going to pack it in and “grow up; take up a more recreational pastime (gardening? Reading?) And I have the answer for that: fullsizerender-12

When the fear of getting slower surpasses the fun of trying to go faster.

Does that even make sense?

Even though I’m in my forties, I know that I’m still capable of going faster.

Sidebar: my kids are so confused about my age. Is she 24? 44? Why does it keep changing? Let’s keep them guessing, ok?

fullsizerender-11 I truly believe that every time I set foot on a start line, I’m going to go faster than the last time. And why shouldn’t I? Older doesn’t have to mean slower. I’m smarter (thank the good lord) than I was 15 years ago. I don’t eat like an asshole anymore (most days), and I use the tools and resources I have (like my smarty pants coach) to my advantage as much as possible. Not to mention, I thrive on the challenge of trying to beat myself. fullsizerender-8

So I keep at it, notching little success stories where I can. Thinking of races and challenges I can take on, plotting and scheming how to get there, and get there in one piece.

Let’s face it, Mum. I’ll probably keep doing this even when I start to slow down.

Eventually, I want my kids to get the call from the nursing home that “She’s at it again, racing her walker through the hallways and taunting Mr. Jones in room 204 again. Can you please talk to her?”

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Off to the garage I go!

Gauntlet thrown

We in the ‘Blog Squad’ shuffled the cards this week and each chose to answer one of the questions put forth to other squad writers in last week’s round robin. Jen got assigned this one and when I read it I was all “ooh! ooh! I have an answer for that one!”

The question is:

Who would you like to see attempt an ironman and why?

I didn’t have to think long about this one, the answer popped into my brain immediately:

My brother, Alex.

You see, Alex is a cyclist through and through. He works in the bike industry. He’s actually a pretty good runner. I think he knows how to swim, sort of.

You'd barely need to buy any gear.
You’d barely need to buy any gear.

He is also the first to line up and mock me for my triathlon tendencies.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I, too, mock myself for my triathlon tendencies. And I even poke fun at the sport in general. However, having been in the sport for too many years now, I feel like I have earned the right at this self-deprecation because I have toed the line at many a race and have actually completed an Ironman.

He, however, has not. Not even a sprint.

Therefore, I firmly believe that in order to keep making fun of me, he needs to earn this privilege. Once completed, I am going to give him free rein to say whatever he wants.

So, what say you, Alexandre?

Pick a race. I’ll even give you a head start.

Read the rest of the round robin questions in the coming days:

Erin, Jen, Liz, Caitlin, Elizabeth Laurel and Hailey.

When you suck at something you love

In this particular case, trail running races.

I love trail running. Love, love, love. I pretend to traipse through the forest with speed and ease.

Am I fast at trail running?

No.

Do I care?

Also, no.

Glass ankles, a fear of breaking my face and a general sense of “it so does not matter” adequately describes my lack of desire to push for speed on the trails. I think of Gary Robbins leaping down rooty mountain faces and admire his bravery whilst I hold on to trees, picking my own way down. I watch my friends bound from rock to rock and envy their dexterity. I try to bring my heart rate down as those around me chatter on effortlessly.

And yet.

I can finally accept that I’ll never lead the pack in a trail race. And the very best part of coming to this realization/acceptance that I kinda suck is that I just. don’t. care. And it’s delightful! How liberating! How good for my ankles!

True acceptance of personal suckiness can lead to happiness. That, my friends, is the hot tip of the day.

Edit: this in no way reflects on the trail capabilities of those around me during said race. In fact, you folks are the only reason I don’t walk off the course at the first available trailhead. Onwards!

Moments in the Lone Star State

Can we all just agree that race reports are boring? Unless accompanied by a lot of photos and human interest filler, I lose interest pretty quickly. Mostly because tales of watts and nutrition bore me. So I shall endeavour to keep this short, sweet and with lots of photos and useless and completely unrelated movie quotes.

The lead up

As summer wound down, work slowed a little and the dependants went back to school, I was able to focus a bit more on training. It was… condensed. Not quite off the couch, but still. Am I getting too old to do it this way? Maybe.

The Lone Star State

Last time I went to Texas, I said I wouldn’t go back anytime soon. Well, surprise! I lied. Austin fit into my life, and as I’ve gone on and on about, I was super excited about my little camper.

Turns out travelling solo was fine, but it added an air of seriousness to the race that I didn’t really want. Part of racing is being social and hanging out with friends. In this case, I kind of folded inward and didn’t make much effort to be social. I did my thing, caught up on rest, read and pretended I could totally fit my life into tiny home living.

Talk to me, Goose.

Fast forward to race morning, and watching the fog settle onto the lake. I wandered aimlessly, peed behind trees (it was foggy! No one could see me!) and went to find friends working the race who could give me the goods. Sure enough, I learned the quick way to be careful what you wish for: swim cancelled… Surprisingly, I wasn’t super happy about this. I mean, I had a new wetsuit to try!

You’re ego’s writing checks your body can’t cash

Onto the bike, I thought I felt good. I trucked along, kept and eye on the über bumpy road and my numbers and, as it turns out, totally over-biked. Woo! Also, I hit myself in the face with a flying water bottle.

Good morning gentlemen, it’s 110 degrees

That about sums up the run. Heart rate sky high, melting from the inside out, running in circles through the rodeo grounds. Extremely grateful for the unicorn hat that created a little bubble. Also, my aim for cups into trash bins was exceptional at this race. Was it the most scenic of runs? Nooooo. Did I stick to my race plan? Also, nooooo. It wasn’t for lack of trying.

I refuse to pay $25 for this photo. Also, when this lucky bra disintegrates, I will cry.
I refuse to pay $25 for this photo. Also, when this lucky bra disintegrates, I will cry.

Great balls of fire

Stumble across the air conditioned finish line, see double for a few minutes, cool down, regain composure, meet up with friends, beer, burger, juan pelota, eat some more, netflix and bed.

All in all, just another Sunday in the Lone Star State.

Hello, off season.

Just the facts:

Swim: 0:00 PR

Bike: 2:42:10 Meh.

Run: 1:53 Oopsie Daisy.

6th AG.

Solo Mission

I do a lot of stuff alone, particularly when it comes to sport. I mostly train alone and have never played team sports. All that togetherness and camaraderie, it’s all very intimidating and so not me.

The closest I come to Team Sports.
The closest I come to Team Sports.

Don’t get me wrong. I love running and riding with my friends when I can, mostly because it’s a fairly rare treat. I even like swimming with friends (we know how that goes – you chat for 30 seconds at the end of the lane then debate where to have post-swim coffee).

Perhaps what makes training alone so rewarding is the culmination of it all, which for me traditionally results in a trip somewhere with a bunch of friends to do whatever race or event you’re gunning for. You prep together, analyze the forecast together, etc etc. And of course, post-race beers. Post-race beers are the best beers.

Now, here’s a question.

Am I going to still have post-race beers after Austin?

Because Austin is the first time ever (I think) that I am going to a race completely by myself. Like a big girl.

I can’t even recall the last time I even went to a 10km running race where I didn’t at least have an acquaintance to chat with on the start line! Maybe I’ve been spoiled. Anyway.

Austin fit into the schedule for me and initially, I was pretty convinced in my own powers of persuasion and that I’d talk some friends into coming with. Well, lo and behold, people have lives beyond a triathlon that I picked that suited me. And so, here I am. Solo mission.

There’s a part of me that’s super excited to have 5 days alone with no one to think of but myself (hello, selfish triathlete nature), to live in my little vintage camper that I scored (no one over 6ft allowed) and to do what I want, when I want, particularly if that means having breakfast for dinner.

However.

There’s a part of me that is already fretting. Who’s going to remind me to bring body glide to the start? What if I sleep through my alarm? What am I going to wear? There are 2 transitions! I have a headache already. Who is the first person I am going to talk to at the finish line?! Am I just going to follow some randoms to the closest brewery?

“Hi folks! I’m Canadian! Can I have a post-race beer with y’all?”

Man alive, you’d think I’d never been anywhere on my own, ever.

Time to put on my big girl pants. Sheesh.

My teeny home away from home.
My teeny home away from home.

 

Texas 70.3: my report card

I’m having a hard time coming up with anything truly interesting to say about this race. Let’s face it: race reports are boring. So instead, since it was report card season for the kids right before I left, I’ll grade the experience.  Imagine this read in the voice of your grade 9 math teacher.

Pre-race

While Christine generally exhibits good pre-race planning and preparation, she seemed to treat Texas 70.3 as a university final. One for which it was appropriate to “cram” and/or “party all night long the night before”. By cram, we mean “pack the day before flying without a checklist” and by party all night long we mean “work a super high-stress event and neglect sleep, nutrition and training” for 8 days.

Unfortunately, this also meant that Christine was peppering her pre-race talk with pre-emptive excuses, making her “that asshole”. She can do better.

Actual pep-talk from coach.
Actual pep-talk from coach.

Grade: C+

Travel + Texas

Christine was able to use her web surfing prowess to secure a beach view Air BnB (which did not have a working coffee maker or cutting board, but whatever) and comfortable air travel while skirting bike fees. However, she failed to read the Athlete Manual and was that idiot who showed up at the race venue looking to swim… at a venue that was clearly closed.

Regardless, beach swims trump lagoon swims. Therefore:

Grade: B+

Race day

Christine flat out refuses to get up at 4:something, so the alarm was set for 5:01AM. She was able to choke down coffee, oatmeal and other flavourless foods and accompany friends/roommates to the venue with little fanfare. She also, apparently, harshly shut down the stranger trying to make small talk (unbeknownst to her). She then forgot her wetsuit in the car parked miles away, earning her extra warm up time.

Grade: A (because no one likes early morning chit chat).

Poor Carlos can't even touch the ground.
Poor Carlos can’t even touch the ground.

Swim

Christine tends to treat the swim as though it’s some kind of leisure activity. This is not an acceptable way to begin a race. Therefore, her esteemed coach told her to get her butt in gear and focus; which we believe she did, sorta. She successfully swam over people, as well. While still molasses-uphill-in-January-slow, it’s believed her work in the pool is paying off. Somewhat.

Grade: B-

What you get when you race a lot.
What you get when you race a lot.

Bike

Christine really loves to ride her bike, and it is evidenced by the fact that she passed roughly a billion people.

Grade: A

 

I actually said this to myself many, many times.
I actually said this to myself many, many times.

Run

Christine learned the hard way that 8 runs in 6 weeks does not a good half-marathon make.

Grade: C

Finish line

Christine looked skyward as she crossed the line as if she’s been through war, not some catered exercise contest. Next time, she should try harder to look presentable.

Overall, Christine earned a solid B on this race due to the fact that she was able to earn a 4 minute PB. Surprisingly, 8 days of pre-race slacking does not completely negate some solid months of training. Therefore, Christine is encouraged to continue on in this silly sport and should look for another race to do.

The end.

I feel like I beat the Blerch.
I feel like I beat the Blerch.

By the numbers:

Texas: 4000km away from Pemberton

Swim: 38:15   Bike: 2:40    Run: 1:54

Total: 5:15:54

Fake it till you make it.

I’m 5 days post-event, that event being one of the bigger projects that I have worked on in recent memory.

I also happen to be 2 days pre-race, that race being my first 70.3 of 2016, here in Galveston, Texas.

That right there demonstrates my excellent time management skills.

Editor’s note: “First 70.3” implies there are others coming up. That is not the case. I have not planned beyond Sunday, 1:30PM, at which point I will be at Sonic Burger.

IMG_4369
Doesn’t this stunning post-nap self portrait scream “Let’s do this!”

In a nutshell, I’m pretty tired.

But, *shrug*, that’s ok. I’m here to have fun. Swimming and biking have been going well, and running hasn’t been going anywhere until the last 2 weeks (I seem to have gotten on top of this stupid knee pain and can shuffle again).

Everything came to a screeching halt 10 days ago when work took precedence over play. So it was time for some race goal re-evaluation: don’t freak on the swim, crank the bike, survive the run.

I mean, how much fitness can you lose in a week, anyway?

Well, let’s just wait and see!