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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Christine really loves to ride her bike, and it is evidenced by the fact that she passed roughly a billion people.
Christine learned the hard way that 8 runs in 6 weeks does not a good half-marathon make.
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.
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.
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?
Every triathlon I’ve done starts exactly the same way.
With an alarm. At a very miserable hour. It’s always still dark outside. And I always have the exact same thought shoot through my brain as I roll over under the warm blankets:
“Man alive, this is such a stupid sport.”
Ironman Arizona? Absolutely no different!
(Good: I got up and and left the hotel room. Evil: It was oh-dark-thirty).
The lead up the this race was pretty great. My training had been consistent (which is pretty much a first – I have traditionally been the queen of just “going with it” and not following schedules and plans too closely). My body held up, with the help of regular physio and massage. I caught a cold in the week before the race, but I gagged down lots of oil of oregano (officially the most disgusting substance on earth), and I found that I was pretty excited to hit that start line in the hot Arizona sun (foreshadowing!)
We flew into Pheonix on Thursday and settled into the hotel and got on with the usual logistical stuff that goes along with these races. Packing, organizing, last minute workouts, eating and resting. All things I am pretty good at and yet I really dislike the day prior to the race. Nerves are rampant, there’s too much to think about and I just want to get on with it already. I did get to meet my Team TRS teammates, so that was cool (and not as awkward as I’d expect, this merging of social media and real life).
Not like Pemberton!
Team TRS at IMAZ!
I met some guy who was 6’9′” on the course. I bet his bike touched the ground.
4h layover in LA? No problem.
Tucked myself into bed with one last swig of oil of oregano, and I drifted to sleep by trying to daydream about anything non-triathlon related.
(Good: I am ready! Evil: I have a cold, and I have an alarm set for 4-something).
The alarm rang at 4:23AM and I dragged myself into the shower and mumbled to Liz to make the coffee. It was going to be a long day.
We got packed up and Christine picked us up (how in the world does this woman look so pulled together at this hour?) My stomach was feeling a little off, and I was hoping it was just nerves. We got to the venue much earlier than I normally do, so I had lots of time to sit and contemplate just how crappy I was feeling. By then, my stomach hurt like hell and I alternated between trying to curl into a ball and just die with trying to stretch, walk around and snap myself out of it. I was questioning whether I’d be able to keep down food, let alone exercise in circles all day.
Eventually, I sucked it up, squeezed into my wetsuit, bid the girls goodbye and followed the masses to the start line. Arizona has a rolling start, meaning that they expect everyone to self-seed, then gradually move into the water based on their estimated swim times. I staked my claim at the back of the 1:10 corral. I had lots of room to swing my arms about (which would have to do as a warm up) and since I’d been swimming well in training, I was confident that this was where I was meant to be. I looked up, it was still kind of dark and I saw clouds. Huh, guess I won’t need to worry about the sun burning my eyeballs on the swim (foreshadowing!)
The gun went off and so too did the herd of athletes headed to the stairs that led down to the “lake” (I use this term loosely. It’s more like a murky, brown, stagnant canal. What fun!) I jumped into the very cold water and started to swim. And then… bam! I experienced a very unpleasant and very full-blown panic attack. What. The. Hell?! My head popped up, I was cold and having trouble breathing. For some reason, I was imagining a wall of humanity bearing down on me and I couldn’t get any perspective. I was far enough away from the boards and kayaks that I knew I had to figure this out on my own, and I knew that that meant just keep moving forward. So I did. Likely in terrible form because I was stiff and cold and grumpy. I couldn’t wait to get out of the water and I bargained with myself the entire way around.
Finally out of the swim, I was hauled up the stairs by amazing volunteers, stripped of my wetsuit and sent on my way to the change tents. I was fairly certain, during transition and during the entire time that I was getting dressed to ride, that I was not going to get onto my bike. Oddly enough, I did. Huh. Mind over matter, I suppose.
(Good: I did not abandon the swim. Evil: I sure as hell wanted to. And I had a personal worst).
Once onto the bike course, it took forever for me to shake the negative feelings from that swim and focus on what I was doing then, which was riding my bike around in circles for many hours while eating. Doesn’t that sound like a riveting way to spend a Sunday morning? The ride actually went by fairly quickly — likely because I was passing a ton of people, wondering why everyone was going so slowly (this sounds mean and arrogant and yet, it’s the truth!) The course was pretty boring, windy and 3 loops. I got to see friends out there and I was wearing a suit that made me feel pretty sleek. So that was neat. And then… the rain! And not just drizzle. RAIN. It didn’t bother me much but based on how quickly everyone around me slowed down, it was pretty much like the sky was falling.
Still thinking about the swim
Pretty much as wet as the swim
The “Are We There Yet” posture
It took me most of the last loop to do some race math and realize that if I didn’t let up, I’d set a personal best for the bike. And so I went for it and beat myself by 10 minutes.
(Good: My brain finally stopped dwelling on the swim and I remembered I was meant to be biking. Evil: I biked in many circles for many hours).
Into transition, I quickly changed shoes and socks and was off again. I felt totally fine and my legs didn’t hurt (whoa). It was absolutely bucketing down rain and I was kind of laughing at the conditions. I am in the DESERT, might I remind you! Where is the sunburn I came for?
There isn’t much to report about the run: it was 2, not particularly scenic loops. The first loop was uneventful. I ate. I ran. I ate some more. I saw Liz and we joked around a bit – that was refreshing. The 2nd loop was a sea of space-blanket wearing humanity and I was now in that frame of mind where everyone needed to move it, you are in my way! I may or may not have growled more than once. People were oblivious to those around them and it was driving me batty.
The wheels started to rattle loose around the 23 mile mark. I was tired. I was bored. My left leg hurt and I felt a blister pop on my right foot (gross!) I looked down and my tummy was bloated, making me feel a lot less sleek than on the bike, that’s for damn sure. Liz, waiting at the finish line, said to Chrissy that I needed to get moving if I was going to make it under 11 hours. I must have sensed that because I basically said “F#*$ this, I am done!” and busted it (relative to the shuffle I was executing at the time) to the line.
I wish I’d known how crooked my visor was.
I feel kinda bad for this person. I tried to give him space, but then they just stopped.
Per usual, the last mile is interminable and I eventually made the turn to the chute and the finish arch. Erin caught me as I stumbled a bit and was pretty blinded by the lights — I’ve never finished in the dark before, so that was quite a different experience. I didn’t bother to look at the clock, I was just thrilled to stop moving for a bit. A quick trip through medical and I was done, done and DONE. I’ll leave our rather poorly executed post-game plan (read: none!) for another post.
(Good: I held pace, I did what I came to do. Evil: circles are boring and space blanket capes did not amuse me. I get that I am Canadian and hardy and all that, but was it really that cold?)
Maybe the best part of the weekend was recovery Monday: coffee. Big breakfast. Nap. More food. More coffee. Hot tub. Another nap. Beer. Sunset from the top of a wee mountain. Big dinner. More beer. More sleeping.
Recovery day sunset from the “A” on the hill
Wonder who I get to meet?
And now, I’m home and I’m ready to take a break for a bit. I’ve learned that I have to stop saying “ohmygodnevereveragain” when I cross finish lines. I didn’t do that this time because I know that soon enough, I’ll groan at the sound of a way-too-early alarm clock and head out for another start line.
(Good: All of the food. Evil: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).
Just the facts: 10:56, 9th AG, personal best!
Anja comes downstairs this morning and asks if I won my AG. I said no. She asks if I came second, I say: “No, I came 9th”.
It’s 5:30 in the morning. It’s dark and cold, I’m sitting here drinking coffee and reading dumb tweets and rolling my eyes at the general state of the universe. Why am I up, anyway? Oh yeah. Because I’m tired, tired, tired yet simultaneously keyed up and unable to sleep.
Oh, Ironman training. You’re a fickle friend, aren’t you?
When I crossed the line at Ironman Coeur d’Alene, almost immediately I said “never again”. But within minutes, I knew I was kidding myself. That race was hotter than hot and didn’t go as expected , but I learned a lot and knew that even though I was proud to have finished in such unpleasant conditions, I didn’t want my last IM to be one that I merely survived.
I took a few weeks to settle down, think about it and then begin plotting another race. And here we are… one month out from Ironman Arizona. My body’s holding up (with the help of regular physio and eating my body weight in… everything).
Arizona seemed like a good one to tackle. There wouldn’t be a crazy work schedule leading into for me, I’ve never been to scenic Tempe and I have a holiday planned immediately afterwards. It’s challenging for me in that it’s a flat course, so it doesn’t play to my strengths. What I hadn’t counted on was the fact that everyone pretty hangs it up after labour day so training has been a solo effort with a LOT of time spent inside my own head.
Holy smokes, do I ever bore me.
Anyway, you know that expression that refers too insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Well, it was time for a change — particularly if I wanted a different time on that finish clock!
In no particular order, some of the changes:
I bought a fancy new bike. Behold, Carlos the Felt:
That’s right. I named my bike. Because saying things like “I rode Carlos” makes me giggle. Did I *need* a new bike? Of course not. Did I *want* a new bike? Obviously. This bike goes nice and fast in a straight line, and the fine friends at Comor helped me get him going.
Next? I am taking swimming lessons. That’s right, swimming lessons.
When I first met Mike the Swim Coach, here’s generally how the conversation went:
Mike: “So tell me about your swimming.”
Me: “You know when swimmers talk about feeling the water? Well, I don’t get it, I am in a pool. I feel water everywhere.”
Mike: “Ok, hop in, and let’s see you swim.”
I swim for about 200m under Mike’s watchful eye. And a camera. And a mirror *shudder*.
Mike: “Ok, so you have zero feel for the water.”
Needless to say, it’s rather humbling to swim staring at yourself. But! Gains are being made! Mike is some kind of weird voodoo miracle worker. Go see him.
Let’s see, what else. I have a coach! The key, I believe, to a good coach is finding someone that knows you better than you know yourself. I have that person. Plus, we crack each other up. What more can you ask for? She’s pretty hard on me.
With a few weeks left till I get to go south, I am supremely sick of spending time with myself and I know pretty much every crack and pothole on the roads around here. Guess I just need to keep reminding myself of rule #5.
Said no one training for one, ever. The chafing. Oh my lord, the chafing.
But the eating! All of the eating is glorious! And a bit exhausting.
I suppose I’ve been pretty quiet around here for the simple fact that life has been rather monotonous in its form of kids/eat/train/eat/work/train/eat/work etc… How’s that for riveting reading? Told you… all glamour, all the time.
Sidebar: did I shower today?
I’m starting to get anxious for this start line. It’s been 8 years since my last Ironman and – not unlike childbirth – I’ve kind of blocked out how hard getting ready for this thing is. I’ve been unceremoniously reminded of that fact, however, in a few of my last key workouts. Not to mention, my deep, deep desire for sleep. Case in point:
Last week, I was lying on the floor as the kids were watching a movie (apparently, it was too trying for me to heave myself onto the couch). I’m yawning and stretching, wondering aloud when the movie will end so we can call it a night.
Anja turns to me and in her 5 year old wisdom says: “Mama, it’s ok. You got to bed, we’ll tuck ourselves in.”
I suppose I needed that reminder to put on my big girl pants.
I’ve set a lofty goal for myself, one I fully intend to achieve, even if it means going way to the back of the hurt locker to get there: a Kona slot.
Doesn’t that just mean the post-race beer will taste that much better?
3 weeks to go…
It’s a family affair…
Last long ride rewarded with this delightful find on the highway!
See? Glamour. This selfie taken many, many hours post-run. Still in run clothes. Yum.
If we are social media pals, you may have noticed that I broke all kinds of posting rules a few weeks ago by bombarding my feed with pictures of Liz and I on a training trip to Sunny Southern California.
I was going to write up some kind of recap of the week but Liz did a WAY better job than I ever could, and you can read about it here. I will, however, bombard you with more pictures and my own race report.
Inspiration Point overlooking LA
If there’s a beach, there’s a handstand attempt
This is my artsy attempt.
This was hanging on the door to our room. The irony was not lost on moi.
Meet Joey. Joey grosses me out. Apparently Joey ‘likes to meet new people’. Uh huh.
Incapable of hiding my glee
Cutest. Human. Ever.
This swim started 4000m ago in the pitch dark. I survived.
I’d like to say that this is the aftermath of something. It’s not.
Not unlike Liz, my level of caring about this race was hovering somewhere between “F&^ it” and “Can’t I just stay in bed?”, particularly when we got up in the morning, in the desert, to the sound of pouring rain on the roof. Do you know what rain in the desert after jamming Instagram with pics of sunshine is? This is what it is:
thegoodorbademanationsfelttobegeneratedbysomeone or something:
So anyway, yeah. It was raining. Hard. Oh well. We hearty Canadians squeezed into wetsuits, high-fived and got it done. Here’s how it went down for me.
Swim: I do believe that while my swim is improving, I still swam like an inebriated eel. The saving grace is that I got through transition quickly and out on the bike efficiently.
Bike: The bike was totally flat, which usually puts me at a bit of a disadvantage, what with my huge size and all. I much prefer a course that has big hills on which I can pass all those big boys. No matter, I put my head down and pedaled my gradually freezing self to the transition. I didn’t race with a watch or a bike computer, so I didn’t really know where I stood. I just know that no girls passed me, so that was good.
When I got back to transition, lo and behold, there were no other bikes there. Neat! I fumbled to take off my helmet and shoes and off I went with frozen feet and hands.
Run: Also totally flat, also not my fave. I was off in lala-land for most of it, picking people off and focusing on moving my frozen feet. I finally warmed up for the last 3kms, passed Bobby within sight of the finish line (sorry, Bobby!) and managed to win my age group. So yay me!
There was no loitering post-race. We had one mission and one mission only in mind: In n Out burger.
I was thumbing through some crappy magazine in the checkout line at the grocery store the other night and read one of those “What’s in your bag” articles (and I use the term “article” very, very lightly here).
I scoffed at how totally ridiculous this list was because, mainly, it was way too perfect. I challenge anyone to upend a bag they use consistently and not find an old balled up kleenex, a wrapper of something or a pen that doesn’t work. These perfectly styled layouts? Not my reality.
Let’s start with the fact that the bag I carry most often is a GIGANTIC backpack that doubles as carryall, locker room, computer bag and mobile snack station.
While it’s big enough to carry pretty much everything I own, I know that I look like a kindergardener trundling along on her first day of school when I wear it. I also realize that should I fall over backwards while wearing it when it’s fully full, it might be Game Over.
Since I am currently training for Ironman (and stuff) and spending a few days a week out of the house away from a home base, I tend to rely on this bag more frequently than usual. So I thought I’d play the game with myself.
“Christine, what’s in your bag?”
Well, let’s see, shall we? (Dumps bag on kitchen floor).
Damp bathing suit + towel;
Swim bag with all manner of swim toys;
Anja’s swim goggles (huh);
2 pairs of running shoes;
Trucker hat, running toque, favourite Planks toque;
Running shorts (forgotten in there from Friday’s workout. Gross.)
3 pairs of underwear: 2 of mine, 1 of Anja’s (useful!);
iPod. Battery dead. Typical.
2 pairs of earbuds;
1 pair of tights;
Sunglasses (it’s been raining for daaaaaaays);
$2.85 in change;
A bag of training food;
A ziploc bag with 2 dates;
3 gym pass cards (so THAT’S where they were!)
Travel toiletry kit;
2 sports bras;
Nok anti-chafe cream;
Day planner + pen;
2 headbands, countless bobby pins and 7 elastics (and I don’t really tie my hair up).
3 lip balms;
Lots of bits of gravel.
I guess I’ll never get a page in Fashion magazine. But I bet you’re all dying to know what I’d answer to the paparazzi yelling: “Christine, Christine! Who are you wearing?!”