My training, racing, things that go through my head, memorable moments, and such.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Closing Time

It’s been two and a half months since I cracked.  Two and a half months since I last swam in a pool. Two and a half months since I did a real workout.

The funny thing is those two and a half months feel like a lifetime. A lot has happened in 2.5 months! But let’s go back (seeing as it’s been over a year since my last blog post, and because this may be my last blog post EVER). Let’s go back to when I was a kid in swim club, participating in local triathlon races in the summer. Or maybe to high school, when we sometimes did ten swim workouts in a week, and my coach taught me to smile off every wall even when I was crying. Or when Kyla and I were 17, and we moved out to Victoria to train with the National Triathlon Center. Maybe back to when results started coming together, and all of our efforts were rewarded by making National Development teams and travelling around the world! And finally to when I chose to move to Guelph to train with Craig Taylor and the amazing crew of athletes out here. All of these life moments, from the time I was 5 years old until two and a half months ago, revolved around competitive sport. When was the last time you took 2 days out of the water? Up until 2.5 months ago I could say it was a very rare thing if I took 2 days in a row out of the water. Including at Christmas. And now here I am, going on two and a half months. Let me say that again… I’ve never stopped thinking about training in my entire life. MY entire life!!!

Now you must all be anxiously wondering what led to the “crack”. Let me elucidate.

In the spring of last year I received word that I had been awarded a CIHR master’s award for the fall of 2015. I came to the realization that I would be a fool to pass it up, and therefore despite knowing it was an Olympic year, and that I was finally seeing the results I knew I was capable of under Craig, I would be going to school in the fall. I was very excited about doing my Masters, but also knew that pursuing a full time graduate degree was not going to be the same as a part time undergraduate degree, and that I would likely be finishing my triathlon career. I tearfully called Craig and told him that this was likely my last year. He understood, and we decided to still have a killer final season.

Then I proceeded to have a decently killer final season.

Edmonton WTS 2015
When it came time to say goodbye, I couldn’t do it. I decided: NOPE. Imma do both. I’ll train. I’ll learn. I'll continue to coach.  Luckily my supervisor is awesome, and he was supportive of me giving the Olympic-year a shot, as long I didn’t forget about school.

The fall started out great. I was insanely busy, but still hitting my sessions, and doing all of my work. I distinctly remember thinking “Wow. Considering how impossible this schedule is, I’m doing great!” I also remember thinking, “I wonder how long until I crack?”

The winter was my decline. The chaotic energy that I had maintained in the fall started to fade. My routine sometimes looked like “swim, run to school, run to weights, run to school, go to biking, go back to school, come home, answer emails and do some coaching, go to bed. Repeat.” Thursdays were designated melt-down days. I think the only people who could semi-comprehend the struggle were my lab mates, who watched me running in and out, and who witnessed my mood swings.

Lab Crew
Despite that, I managed to have an unexpectedly good race in Cuba in February, and then okay results in Florida, with my career best swim happening in Sarasota. So I did get in a couple of nice triathlon moments this year. My plan was to race Gold Coast WTS, Yokohama WTS, FISU in Switzerland, Edmonton WTS, and then my first elite world championships in Cozumel. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to race any of those races, and my achilles flared back up when I pushed through a bout of pretty extreme fatigue, and so here I am today, still not running, and also having raced none of those races (let that be a lesson to you).
Habana ITU Continental Cup
But back to the breaking point. It happened quite unobtrusively. It was a Tuesday. Our morning swim workout was something like 30x100 on 1:35 as 5 hard, 5 tempo, 4 hard, 4 tempo, 3 hard, 3 tempo, 2 hard, 2 tempo, 1 hard, 1 tempo. I felt fine in warm-up, and my brain was in the game, but I had been feeling the cracks forming for a couple months. I hadn’t really been performing in workouts for a while. The set started, and I knew instantly it wasn’t going to be pretty. It was one of those full-body-pain, swimming through mud, bad-dream, type of workouts. If I had been smart, I would have stopped. I am doing a degree in overreaching, so I do know what the symptoms are. However the frustration and accumulation of months of this got to me, and I became quite angry. There was no smiling off of the walls despite the tears. My times were abysmal, but I was still going hard on the hard, and tempo on the tempo. The start of every hard 100 I asked myself, “What the hell are you doing Alex?” and myself replied “I. Will. Never. Quit.” And at one point the thought came to me that “This is my last swim workout ever” and I didn’t stop.

Ironically (And this is the nature of triathlon. No one will ever know the internal battles you go through during a race or in a workout) my coach didn’t really notice how bad my workout was. Afterwards I walked off the deck, didn't say anything, body uncontrollably shaking, with tears on and off, and (as is my nature) I went to the gym for our strength workout.

The rest of the day was definitely a disaster. I shook, continued to cry on and off (not from sadness, but from extreme fatigue), and could barely put a thought together. I missed Tuesday night Hammerfest, and talked to my sister on the phone, and realized I couldn’t keep doing this. I was no longer able to get faster. I wasn’t even running again due to the achilles! Something had to give. In respect for my future goals in academia, it was sport. The next morning I waltzed into the lab, with a cheerful “Morning guys! This is the first day of my new life!!” Everyone concluded I was clinically bi-polar.

My career best swim in my last race in Sarasota, Florida
Since that fateful Tuesday, I am still coaching with LPC and obviously working on my master’s thesis (which is entitled "The Effects of Functional Overreaching on Cardiovascular and Autonomic Nervous System Function in Endurance Athletes"- I'm still recruiting!). I got my first paper published, which you can read here. It was one of the projects that I worked on for most of the winter while I was still training, so it represents the blood, sweat and tears of this year. My life still feels very busy, but now I have time for myself, and have an hour here or there to read, or to go to yoga with my pals. I’ve been climbing and biking and going to the gym. It’s a little hard living with triathletes and seeing them come home from big sessions. I miss the extreme highs and sense of supreme self-worth from conquering workouts, or excelling at races. On the flip side, this is the first time in my life where I can do what I want, and not feel constantly guilty.  I am learning to let go (very slowly). As Andrew Yorke put it, "As a triathlete every decision that you make directly affects your training. If you have an easy day on a Wednesday, and decide to go to a baseball game in Toronto, you are going to feel that in the water the next morning. That swim then affects the ride later on in the day, and by the end of the week that baseball game took away from half a week of training." I'm not saying triathlon is a huge sacrifice - it isn't a sacrifice, it is a life decision. However unlike any other job, or even most other sports, you are on 24/7. Every little piece adds up when you have 3-4 workouts/day, with 2-3 of them being quality. 

I suppose what I am trying to conceptualize is not necessarily how hard triathlon is, it is how all-encompassing it is. I am trying to explain how my decision to focus on my master's this year, and my PhD in the next couple years, is also not a sacrifice. It is a life decision.

Thanks for following along with my triathlon journey on this blog for the last 10 years! And thanks to all of my supporters, sponsors, coaches, athletes, friends, family, teammates and competitors. The journey was one I will never forget, as it formed every aspect of who I am today. Who knows where it will take me from here?

Later Dudes.

Scrambling in the Bugaboos

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Yearly Musings

I'm back. You thought you shook me for good, but nope. Sorry, you can't get rid of me that easily. I'll admit it has been a stretch since I last posted. I've been coaching and training, travelling and racing, and now have been in school pursuing my MSc. for over a month! Looking back at exactly a year ago, I was just settling into Guelph. I was new to the RTC group, new to living all on my own, and new to Ontario. Now here I am, a year gone by, and Guelph is starting to feel like home! This Rocky-Mountain West-Coast girl is starting to appreciate the Ontario lifestyle.

So... since I haven't posted since pre-race season... Here is a season recap! 


My first race of the season was Huatulco ITU sprint World Cup. Due to my achilles injury that nagged me all year, I was nervous about the run. However, my swim and my bike were feeling very solid (Thanks Tuesday night hammerfests with Speed River!), and so I was confident I could race with that caliber of athletes. Unfortunately I had a little crash on the last lap of the bike, but still managed to finish 16th overall. While it would have been nice to run a top ten in my first World Cup of the year, I still was able to take a lot of confidence from this race and apply it to the rest of my season. 


I started July with a little local hit at the Belle River Triathlon. I went into it after a huge week of training, and was definitely tired. The whole point was to go in feeling exhausted and still race well, as I would have to do in Tiszaujvaros a month later. Luckily I grabbed the win, and more importantly the experience to trust my training and the process in the face of fatigue. 

A couple weeks later we drove to Magog to compete in the CAMTRI Magog American Cup which also doubled as Canadian standard distance nationals champs. This ended up being my only Olympic distance race of the season! I had a great swim - my first good olympic-distance swim in a couple of years (Thanks Coach).  Joanna and I worked together to hammer the bike, according to our race plan. I didn't have my best ever 10 kilometer run, as I didn't have the run volume under me to do so, but I did finish 5th overall and first Canadian, and was definitely proud of this accomplishment. 


At the beginning of August Domi, Gaspar and I headed to Tiszaujvaros, Hungary. This was one of my key races of the season. If you don't know much about Tiszy, it is the only World Cup on the circuit that has a heats and finals format. On Saturday you race a sprint distance triathlon in the smallest lake on the planet (first turn buoy only 100 m away), then proceed to try to not destroy yourself in the insanely hot bike and run. The top 14 women and top 7 men from each heat made it to finals this year. The next day (providing you made the final), you do it all over again on a more technical and spectator friendly course. In the evening, the top 20 girls and guys are presented up on stage! Craig told me that I wasn't allowed to come home unless I danced on the stage.

The semi went fairly well! I had an okay thrashfest-of-death swim, and came out in chase pack. Although our plan was to crush the start of the bike, I immediately blinked out my contact lens (my worst fear!) from the hot dry air, and spent the start of the bike trying to get it back into my eye while riding at the back of the pack. I was unsuccessful, and ended up doing the rest of the race half-blind (I am quite blind). The rest of the bike was fairly un-eventful other than the contact lens drama, and we caught up with front pack without too much effort. I started the run quick, and was sitting in top 5 for the majority of the run. I briefly let my ego get the best of me, and thought I was a shoe-in for the final. Then, in the last lap, a huge pack of girls caught me! It turned into a fairly close finish and I qualified for the final in 11th position in my heat. 

The next day was hilarious, because all the competitors seemed to be of the same mindset. Namely, "We have to do that swim again!??" and "WHY do I do this to myself!!??" My swim felt worse than the previous day, but I came out in chase pack again. Emmie Charayron was the star in getting us moving, and we caught the front pack quickly. The rest of the race was all about tactics into the corners. Onto the run I went out hard again, and ended up finishing in 13th! This was my best World Cup finish to date, and I am very happy with it. 


At the start of the year last year, Craig and I laid down some goals. One was to compete at the ITU World Triathlon Series Edmonton! I thought for sure this wouldn't happen when my season was delayed due to my achilles injury, and then as my run volume never increased as I managed the injury throughout the season. Somehow I was still able to hit this goal! And man, it is an amazing to feeling to finally have raced my first WTS! The best part is that, despite the fact that I had my worst swim ever, I actually felt like I belonged in that race! It didn't feel out of my league at all, and I feel ready for future WTS races. 

Thanks Family for coming to watch!
Edmonton was by far the coldest race I have ever done. As soon as I dove into the water my body ceased functioning. I couldn't breathe, and I couldn't move my arms. The only consolation was that I knew a lot of the other girls likely felt the same way. I came out of the water pretty far back, and then worked with 3 other girls for the remainder of the bike in the freezing rain. The run actually felt amazing, because I couldn't feel anything at all! I felt like I sprinted for a kilometer at the end, because I kept ramping up the pace and it never hurt. Entering the finisher's tent was another experience, as the majority of the girls were hypothermic and bawling their eyes out. I wonder if the men's finish tent was the same way...

- Heon photography


(Almost done, I promise). Cozumel World Cup was my last race of the season! It was another sprint, and the location was hard to beat. My swim went really well, but unfortunately I was just off front pack, and due to a pack that wouldn't work together, we never caught the leaders. It was definitely a frustrating ride, and I think I worked a little too hard trying to keep the pack moving. My run felt horrible, maybe due to overworking the bike, the heat, or my lack of run volume finally catching up to me. I finished in 29th, and was quite disappointed. However, I remembered how far I have come this year, and am now just happy for having had the opportunity to race. Hopefully next year I'll be back racing in Cozumel in the Grand Final! 


Racing has given me the opportunity to travel the world, make deep and lasting friendships, find the limits of my strength, push past those limits, and learn all about myself and others. I am so grateful for all of these experiences. Thank you MOM and DAD because I never could do this without you. Thank you CRAIG for such an awesome year. Thank you LPC for being a sweet group of Triathletes - especially my own athletes who are a pleasure to coach. Thank you Triathlon Canada for supporting me. Thank you RTC GUELPH for being such a supportive group of amazing athletes, and the best friends. 


Finally, thank you kick-ass sponsors! SKECHERS: Awesome shoes - awesome clothes - awesome people. EASTON: Best wheels on the market. I am a corner demon out there on the bike. ARGON 18: I love my baby Argon/ Apollo 2.0! An amazing little Canadian bike! 

You aren't a true triathlete unless you own at least 5 pairs of compression socks, so luckily CEP Canada covers my compression sock quota with the best compression on the market. BLUE-SEVENTY provided me with the wetsuit of my dreams! Finally thanks CHAMPION SYSTEMS for the race suits! I am very lucky to be set up so well! 


Over and Out! 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Spring Cleaning

We are into May now, and I realize I haven't posted much. I've been training and coaching and living life, so while it seems like not much has happened, plenty has. Here is a list of notable events:

  •  Road tripped to Clemson, South Carolina and trained with an awesome crew for the month of February

Clemson Tigers Baseball Action

After a time trial effort up Caesar's head
Sunny day on the lake
  • Drove from Clemson to Clermont, Florida, for 2 weeks of training prior to ITU Sarasota Continental Championships at the beginning of March. I coached a couple sessions with the LPC camp! What a great camp! James and Mark do an amazing job, and all the athletes were having a blast as far as I could tell. I also cheered on the Canadians at the Clermont Continental Cup. 
Swim coach at the NTC with LPCers

Back in orange country

RTC boys doing work (1-2-3 Work Hard, 4-5-6 Together!)
Joanna and I being team Moms at the race

Exploring Downtown Disney for dinner
  • Drove from Clermont to just outside of Tampa (because we were unsuccessful in finding accommodations in Sarasota!), and got settled into a luxurious Motel 6 for two nights. I raced the swim-bike in Sarasota, but unfortunately made a call to pull out on the run due to an unhappy achilles tendon. 
The glamorous life of pro triathletes
Sarasota elite women start
  • After doing some training and watching the Canadian teams crush the relays, Johnny, Alexander and I rinsed off in alligator swamp-lake and commenced our very long road trip home. We drove from 3pm until about 2 am, stopped at a $44 Red Roof Inn (split 3 ways!), and then continued on in the morning until we made it home around 10pm. It was glorious. 
Sunset on day 1 
Zander takes the wheel
Our fitness stop
  • Back in Guelph it took about a bit longer than expected to recover from the trip (read "drive"), but then training settled back into a good rhythm. We joined Simon Whitfield, Jennifer Sygo and Toronto Triathlon Festival organizers for a little Q&A in Toronto mid April, and were treated to a beautiful day there! Thanks for having us TTF! 
Getting ready to answer some Questions 
Coach, Jennifer Sygo, and Simon answering questions

Gym with strength coach Jordan Foley
  • On a more personal note, I have been working with Champion System on perfecting a SuperAlex kit! Here is a 3D proof of it. Once I get things rolling, I'll put in an order for anyone who also wants to be super. So let me know if you would like a super jersey, or cycling jacket, or vest...or really anything! 
SuperAlex kit
  • Finally (we have caught up to present day), I did my first Speed River hammerfest ride last night! I was pretty nervous (there is a lot of hype around the Speed River rides), but it was awesome and I had tons of fun! 

I have a great team of sponsors/partners this year, so thank you Argon 18 and Ciclo Werks for the awesome bike (I love baby Argon so much!). I'm about to get my new racing wheels from Easton, and I am so excited about that! Just in time for my racing season to start! Skechers has me building up my running swiftly with style! CEP is keeping my achilles happy. Champion System is obviously going above and beyond for me with the SuperAlex kit and new racing suits! And I have yet to swim in my blue seventy wetsuit open water, but it feels amazing in a pool. Also thanks Team LPC for the lovely welcome into the LPC family!

Later Dudes

Thursday, January 22, 2015

New Everything & Everything is Awesome.

So many new things... one doesn't know where to begin!

I suppose I should start with the fact that it is 2015. Whew. Now that I have that off my chest, I should tell you that 2015 means I am now 25 years old. I have officially entered the years where I am older than most current celebrities, my friends are getting married, and some are even having children. Stop it. Just stop. I also just moved into my own little basement suite, and am flying solo for the first time. So far, despite the fact that I am 25 years old and am not in the slightest bit ready to have children, both emotionally and financially, 2015 has been great.

This year is exciting for me in many ways. It is the first year where I am officially done my undergrad, and am focusing solely on triathlon. It feels a little strange to literally have exercising as my sole focus for the week (it isn't actually exercising, it is training. There is a difference), but I am loving it. I am also really good at making myself busy. You'd think that having to only worry about training would give you plenty of free time, but the truth is I am still learning how to calm down and not overload myself.

That being said, training is going really well! This is one of the first fall/winter blocks in a long time where I can say that. I'm focusing on swimming and consistency (no injuries, no illness), which are my weaknesses. I believe the work will pay off. I also had an awesome Christmas at home (Calgary), complete with lots of cross-country skiing, some beautiful Radium swims, and family time!

I've also started a new job. I am officially an online personal coach for Loaring Personal Coaching, which is based out of Guelph, but is comprised of athletes from all over Ontario, and even some international athletes. So if you wish to be coached by me, I happen to be accepting athletes who are ready to make some magic, crush dreams, take names... you know the drill. ( I also accept athletes who don't necessarily want to destroy the field, but are instead looking for fitness and fun. That is cool too).

I wrote the CSEP Certified Personal Trainer exams and passed, so now once I re-certify my CPR and First Aid I will be a certified personal trainer. Not quite as neat as my sister who passed the CSEP Exercise Physiologist exams and is now a certified ex.phys, but I do what I can. 

Finally I have some new partners and sponsors who have invested in me this year, and I am determined to make their investment worthwhile. To begin, I am now running with Skechers Performance! If you haven't checked out their shoes, I think you should. I was extremely impressed by the quality and feel of their running shoes. I am not lying to you even a little bit when I say they are my favourite shoes I have ran in to date. Their clothes are sweet as well.

I have a new bike thanks to Argon 18 and Ciclo Werks! Argon 18 is such a cool company, because not only are they Canadian, but just this year they are partnering with a German Pro Team - Team Bora Argon18! I am privileged to ride the Gallium Pro, which is the same bike that these riders will use. It doesn't get much better than that. Ciclo Werks is an amazing little bike shop in Waterloo that carries top of the line bikes and has an awesome Euro feel. Thanks for partnering up with me this year guys! 

Easton Cycling is another sponsor I am really stoked about! For a long time I have wanted to race on carbon clinchers, because of the fear of getting a flat right before a race on tubulars. It happened to Kyla once (PATCO Champs Oklahoma 2009. She still won the race, but it was stressful). Anyways, imagine how stoked I am to now be partnered with the company that makes the fastest carbon clincher on the market! You can read about it here - I'm not making this stuff up. 

I also have some other partners that might be joining me or re-joining me for another year, but we'll hold off on that until loose ends are tied up. 

I also have a new Espresso Machine. 

So that is all that is new with me in this new year of 2015. Remember: Happiness creates success! 

Signing off - SuperA