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

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I Am Still Here: "Little" Update

I think I mentioned in one of my last blogs (a looooonnggg time ago) that I would fall off of the map once school got started again, and boy was I right! I can't believe it has been 6 months since my last post! However I have my convocation in 5 days, so I can't use school as an excuse now that I am officially done my undergrad!

Since I haven't updated in forever, I'll try to do a brief overview of my year so far.

As you may or may not know, my fall was a little slow as I had ITB release surgery in October, and then proceeded to gradually build up my training after that. At Christmas I remember doing a 20 minute run and feeling quite proud of myself, so I have definitely come a long ways since then! At the end of February, in the middle of midterm season, we took a little 2-week trip to Florida to hit two sprint distance continental cups, and the Pan American Mixed Relay Championships. They definitely weren’t amazing, but they were a solid little wake-up call. If anything, I think I gained confidence in my ability to race with little hard training under my belt. I placed 12th in the first race, 8th in the second, and my relay team place 3rd! It was great to stand on the podium with my team, even though our third place finish was mostly due to an amazing final leg by the junior elite athlete Xavier Talavera from Quebec (and super impressive legs by Alison Hooper and Gabriel Legault as well... basically I was the weakest link).

March training was really solid for me! One of my best blocks! I am quite proud of myself for maintaining over 20 hours a week of training with school at that time. Unfortunately right at the beginning of April things started to slide a bit. I strained my adductor/medial hamstring tendon at the knee during a 20 km time trial on the bike, and my biking volume dropped drastically for about a month because of that. Luckily it didn’t seem to affect my running, so I was able to swim, run, and do strength consistently, and wrap up my Honours Thesis! At the end of April I raced the Times Colonist 10 K road race in Victoria. I was aiming for around 36:30, but only managed to run 37:23. I was a little bit disappointed, but I think my goals were still a little unrealistic for the amount of running I had actually done. Don’t worry, I feel a sub-36 minute ten kilometers by the end of the year for sure! Unfortunately at the beginning of May I caught Kyla’s death flu, and it wiped me out really badly. I rallied for our “NTC Training Weekend” in the middle of that flu, where we spent all weekend training with some of Victoria’s age-group triathletes as a fundraiser for our international racing this year. We made a lot of friends and connections, and everyone seemed extremely pumped about it!  
NTC Training Weekend
Back to my woes… my death flu held on tenaciously for over 2 weeks, at which time I began to panic slightly about the Dallas ITU Patco Championships Pan American Cup. The whole year Dallas was seen as our “prove yourself” race, whereby we were supposed to aim for a podium finish in order to be able to race World Cups and possibly secure funding for some racing in Europe. Needless to say, with 2 weeks out from the race, and with no voice or energy whatsoever, I was definitely not feeling super fit. The one positive from the illness was it finally allowed my knee to heal up!

After a couple mental breakdowns and the realization that I would be going into a key race without having trained hard for about 3 weeks, I decided to set more realistic goals (My new goal was to come top 8-10), and to work with what I had. I had done 3 solid months of building up my running, only about a month of good biking in March (but who needs to bike anyhow), and up until I got sick my swimming had been going the best ever, so I wasn’t in such rough shape. I’m not going to talk about my little foot niggle that occurred 2 weeks out either, because then you are definitely going to give up on me, but no worries, it is all cleared up now!

So the second last week of May was spent mostly in the heat chamber, getting acclimatized for Dallas, and then on Tuesday the 27th we flew down! Time flies when you are having fun or panicking about racing J. My prep in Dallas went pretty well, and despite having “moderate confidence” I was happy and ready to see what I could do.

Ali and I in our ice vests pre-race
This leads me to my race report from this past weekend in Dallas! Unlike 2 years ago where we raced in 38 degree heat and around 85 percent humidity, our race this year was only about 26-30 degrees, slightly overcast, and 88 % humidity. Although it was still hot, very few of the women didn’t finish due to the heat, which is a good sign. I was also well prepared for the heat this year. I had a lot of electrolytes in my bottles on the bike as well as two gels, and on the run I decided to bring a little squirt bottle that had a gel mixed with water and added salt in it. It was really disgusting, but if you squirt a tiny bit in your mouth before each water station, and then take a splash of water, it really helps keep the heat stress at bay.

I was really nervous for this race, as it was my first Olympic distance race since Auckland U23 Worlds 2012! Crazy huh!? As mentioned before, my confidence wasn’t super high because of my rather pathetic month of May training, but I did have confidence in my ability to race at this level.

When the gun went off I dove into the familiar washing machine of 45 other thrashing ladies, and focused on my first 40 strokes as usual. Although my goggles had been knocked askew with the dive, I still had a pretty good first 400 meters in front pack. Unfortunately my swim went downhill from there, and it ended with me swimming solo, fully aware that it was the worst swim of my career (barring the Birds Hill fiasco of 2009), and I was so terribly disappointed in myself. It really is one of the worst feelings in the world to be dropped repeatedly in the swim, as you can feel your race being taken away from you in slow motion, for a very long 20 minutes of full body pain. I could end my race report here, as really this was the end of my race (as they say, you can’t win the race in the swim, but you can lose it), but then you wouldn’t hear about all the positives that came from it.

I re-focused coming out of the water. In my past, I would have been panicking after a swim such as that. Full-blown crying-panicking. However over the years I have learned that panicking is a giant waste of energy, and the only way to salvage a race is to stay in the moment, and forget what happened prior. I jumped on my bike with a bunch of other slow swimmers, and just prayed that my bike wouldn’t feel as absolutely awful as the swim had felt.

Within 2k on the bike I realized that I was going to be fine physically, and that it was now my job to get my pack of very inexperienced bikers working. The thing that most ITU triathletes know is that if you have a bad swim, chances are you will be in a pack of new triathletes who are also slow bikers. This was exactly the case. I started yelling in English, with random French and Spanish words thrown in to try to get my girls to take short strong pulls (“Let’s go!” “Ok good job, pull off now!” “Allez Allez!” “Vamos!”). I demonstrated. I encouraged. Nothing really worked. On the third lap I essentially “broke away”. I wasn’t really trying to break away, as I knew that my fastest pace solo was about as fast as the pack could go if they were working together, but I was trying to get the pace up and drop a couple of the stragglers. The girls became a single line behind me for about 3 k, and our pace picked up considerably. When I pulled off, I made sure the girl behind me had to do a baby surge to keep the pace up, and so for the next couple of laps our pace stayed fairly high. I wish retrospectively I had thought to do that on the first or second lap, as I think we may have been able to catch the chase pack while they were still disorganized. A lesson for next time.

Although I had my pack working the best they could, we really weren’t going very fast compared to the front pack, and by the end of the 40k bike we had lost 5 minutes to front pack, and 2 minutes to chase pack. Refocus. The new plan was to have my fastest run possible, and so I had a very quick T1, and exited strong and fast. It was really hard to pass girls on the opposite side of the road who I usually am running with, but who were almost 2 kilometers ahead of me that day. Still: “fastest run possible.” So I dug deep and over the next 10k I was able to pull away from all of the girls in my pack, and catch 3 girls who had been in the chase pack. Not much, but I think enough to get me some ITU points. The heat was intense, and word on the street is the run course was a bit long, so my run time wasn’t amazing by any means. However it was still as fast as I could go on the day, and so I am proud of it.

I finished the race in 22nd, and then the wave of crushing disappointment hit me. It seemed ironic that for the weeks leading up to the race I had been worried about my lack of biking, and my foot that had impeded my running, and in the end it had been the swim that got me! I had a good tearful talk with my coach though, and we realized that with all of the little obstacles, we had forgotten that my swim is always my Achilles heel, and that we can never be complacent about it. With my sickness I had not done enough quality in the pool, and we hadn’t realized how much quality I need to stay with the top girls.

They say you learn the most from the bad races. This race has forced my wide angled gaze into a fine focus. I have 5 weeks to bring my swim up to a front pack level. My swim will always have to be my priority. I am ready for that challenge.

I have a lot of support from a lot of people... many of which are probably wondering when I am going to get myself healthy and in control. Husssshhhhh... it's already happening :). Thank you Tri-It, Elevate ME, CEP, Aqua Sphere, Schwalbe Tires, Total Body Chiropractic, Level 10 Fitness, Momma, Poppa, and Coach Carolyn! 

Austin and Ryan coming 3rd in the Para-triahtlon PT5 category!

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