Saturday, April 30, 2011

On your mark, get set....

I decided to update my blog on the eve of my first tri this season, in Florida nonetheless!  Yay!  I am here in St. Petersburg, Florida for the St. Anthony's triathlon.  As I expected, this is a pretty huge deal being a 5150 Ironman branded race.  The expo rivals any Ironman event, the transition area is huge, and there are a whole bunch of really fit looking people leaving me questioning what am I doing here! LOL!

Leanna and I arrived Thursday afternoon and were shocked by the heat and humidity!  The moment I stepped off the plane all I said was wow!  Leaving TO in a rainstorm and arriving to sunshine is awesome, but our system is just not used to this.  It will be interesting to see how my body will respond to the heat and humidity on race day.  I do love walking around in flipflops, shorts, and a tank top again!  So happy to be here away from the cold and not having to wear tons of layers to cycle or run.

In front of the expo entrance

Thursday we swam in the hotel pool and then ran around a bit while doing a bit of sightseeing at the same time.  We also took care of assembling our bikes together which was pretty painless.  Friday we rode around a bit but it wasn't the ride that I had planned.  I was suppose to ride 50km but we quickly found out that riding in downtown St. Petersburg is not that easy.  There were a lot of stoplights and quite a bit of traffic which did not make for a great ride but it was fun to ride in the sun along the water and palm trees!  We then ran for about 20min off the bikes and took care of registration and the mandatory shopping at the expo on our way back from our run.  There were some pretty awesome deals at the expo including 'cheap' running shoes compared to our Canadian prices.  I got some pretty good deals so that is always a bonus.  And another bonus, we were dolphin watching!  On our run we spotted  three dolphins in the water.  Here is a pic of their fins:

Saturday we finally managed an ocean swim.  The water is actually quite rough and the swells were pretty big and I was being thrown around a bit.  I just hope the swim does not get cancelled as has happened in the past at this race.  The water was warm and most likely will be a non-wetsuit swim.  I actually did not even bring my wetsuit so I will only be swimming in my speedsuit regardless of the water temperature.  We also did a short run too and from the swim.  We then relaxed for a bit back at the hotel before we had to go and take care of bike check in.  As in most big events, there is a mandatory bike check in the day before.  It kind of makes race morning a little easier as we do not have to deal with transporting our bikes to the race site.  

Posing with Limey just before bike check in

Leanna and myself

Oh, and on our way to bike drop off I decided to get a new saddle. Haha!  I am breaking the cardinal rule of never trying anything new on race day!  Yet, this is not the first time I am breaking this rule.  I've even tried race wheels for the first time on race day, at my first ironman to boot!  I've been wanting to try a new saddle for a while now.  I am ok with mine, the Specialized Jett, but I wanted to try something else.  I have heard good things about both the Cobb and the ISM saddles and wanted to try either of them.  ISM was at the expo here and were offering a good deal for their saddles (especially compared to our prices at home) and they included a full set up.  So after I hummed and hawed for a bit I decided to go for it.

The ISM Adamo Breakaway saddle, the saddle I went with after trying this one and the new Time Trial one

  The guys at ISM did a great job of making sure I was set up properly and he took his time.  In fact, I also had superstar pro triathlete Michellie Jones help out a bit in making sure I was fitted properly!  Yes, that even meant Ms. Jones touching my back side to make sure my hips were even! LOL!    I am kicking myself that I did not take the opportunity to get a picture of this!  Actually, I missed out on a great opportunity to get a pic with her along with Andy Potts and Sarah Haskins as they were all at the ISM tent while I was getting my new saddle.  I did not want to be that crazy fan but in hindsight I really should have asked for a picture which I then could have posted here.  Maybe I can get a pic tomorrow at the post race party!?

Now I am back at the hotel with a full belly and all packed and ready to go. Here is a pic of a typical triathetes' hotel room, lol!:

 It will be an early wake up call in the morning.  So that is my update for now.  I am excited and it will be interesting!  I'll update with a post race report as soon as I can!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Here I go again!

So I have developed a habit, whether it be good or bad, of deciding to race pretty last minute.  And I am talking about pretty big races.  In the past this included Rhode Island 70.3 (I registered on site), Taiwan 70.3 (got in after registration sold out), and Ironman Cozumel (also got in after registration sold out), plus numerous local races.  I was trying to veer from that this year and stick to my race plan.  But once again, I was talked into another race! LOL!

This time, my friend Leanna, convinced me to join her to St. Petersburg, Florida to race the St. Anthony's Triathlon next weekend!  Yup....NEXT weekend! :)  I haven't raced an olympic distance tri in years!  This race is part of the new 5150 Ironman series so I am sure there will be quite the expo and event hype.  To tell you the truth, I was a bit tentative about the idea of going away to race as I was planning on training hard on my days off preparing for my ironman.  And there is also the cost of going away to race.  I still have to find a flight and deal with bike airline fees.  I wasn't planning on spending this money especially since I also had to give away a shift at work to do this.  But Leanna convinced me and it is also hard to say no to some fun in the sun!  I just really hope the weather turns out great as I am kind of tired of not so stellar training and racing weather. LOL!

Sunshine, here I come!  I need to top up my tan anyhow!  It's been a little too long! ;)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oui, Montréal était bon!

A new half marathon PB!!! Yay!!!  This past weekend I was in Montreal, Quebec for the half marathon.  I was feeling good about this race and was actually looking forward to see what I can do! 

My friend and I drove to Montreal Friday afternoon and we checked into our hotel in downtown Montreal for the weekend.  Even with limited time, I was hoping to play tourist and I think we did a pretty good job!  We ate some famous Montreal smoked meat, had lunch in the Latin Quarter, visited Old Montreal and had dinner there on the Saturday night, walked up and down Rue St. Catharines, visited the Olympic stadium and park, and of course, brought home some delicious Montreal bagels!

Olympic stadium - site of the 1976 Montreal Olympics

Saturday I did a short run with some race pace km thrown in.  I was to do 3x1km at race pace with 2min rest and run for a total of 30min.  My km repeats were actually much faster than race pace and it felt quite easy.  I don't know if it was the shoes, I was in my race shoes the Brooks ST Racer 4 which are lighter and I guess faster! LOL!  I also ended up running for about 40min, oops!  One thing though, it was COLD and WINDY!  Saturday we also saw a mix of rain, hail, and even snow! Ugh! Really?! I wasn't planning on running in winter conditions!  I was hoping for better conditions on Sunday but it wasn't much better.

Sunday we woke up to rain, wind, and cold.  I had some oatmeal, a banana, and a Boost for breakfast.  I also had a coffee on the way to the race site.  We got to the site early since we weren't sure how long it was going to take us so we just hung out in the car to stay dry and warm.  By the time the race started the rain had actually stopped but there were puddles everywhere.  The gun popped and off we were.  I always find it hard to hold back on the first couple of km because everyone else is also going fast and the atmosphere is full of energy.  My race plan was to run about a 5:25 pace for the first 10km and then try to bring it down to 5:15s for the second half.  Well, I was running about a 5:05-5:15 pace for the first half.  I actually found someone to pace me, although he had no idea!  I first tucked behind him to help block the wind and I noticed he looked like he was running a comfortable pace.  So I started running right behind him and just stuck with him.  I was surprised how comfortable I felt running at this pace.  At about 8-9km he started slowing down to about a 5:20-5:25 pace which was still my goal pace and I debated about whether to stay with him or try to keep the current pace.  Well I decided to gamble, leave him, and try to stick to the faster pace.  So my goal was to try to stay at 5:20 or faster.  I was doing well until I hit the 12km mark where we met up with a wicked head and cross wind.  I had difficulty just trying to run in a straight line.  I was seriously being blown around and not in the right direction.  So my pace for the next few km dropped to about 5:30-5:40.  There were a couple of km around 17-18km that we were sheltered so I managed to bring my pace back to under 5:20s but we met up with the wind again for the last few km.  It was just brutal! Apparently people's times were about 2-3min slower.  I still managed to clock in my fastest half marathon run time to date at 1:53:48!!!  Woohoo!!!  I was pretty happy with that!  Avg HR 164bpm and avg pace according to my garmin was 5:20min/km but it also read 200m long.

My friend and I post race, she ran her first half marathon! Congrats Sabrina!
I felt pretty good after the run as well.  I wasn't really crampy or anything which really surprised me.  We actually went for a swim at the Olympic venue pool.  We found the pool when we were playing tourists and there was no way I was not going to swim in that pool once I found out there was lane swimming for only $6.  So after we checked out of our hotel room we headed for the Olympic sports centre and swam for about 40min.  I did an easy 2x1km swim and again, I did not cramp.  The last couple of times I went swimming after a run race I always cramped.  Not today! :)  Maybe it was those torture Thursdays! LOL! (side note - there will be no more TT until the fall since masters swim now conflicts with masters run in the spring/summer and I am going to stick with masters run as I need work on this the most and I am having quite a lot of fun!)
the Olympic pool at the Olympic sports Centre, the venue for the 1976 games.
Overall, a great weekend despite the weather which had us driving back in near white out conditions!  That's right, a blizzard in mid April!  I really hope the snow and cold is done with now!  At least I got some Fairmount Montreal bagels stocked in my freezer now! :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Introducing the new face-lifted Limey!!!

I just realized I haven't posted a pic of the new Limey!!!  First of all, I do have to send out a HUGE thank you to David at Ontario Trysport for taking good care of Limey!  I really did not have to do anything but decide on a new colour scheme.  David took care of all the nitty gritty from contacting Guru with my frame issues, sending it to Guru, and then rebuilding it when he got it back.  So, thank you David!!!

Now introducing, Limey!!!

I'll have to next get a pic of myself posing with the new Limey! ;)  I was hoping to do that in North Carolina but it was never really sunny enough to stop and get one.  Next time!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Asheville, North Carolina

I am currently down south in Asheville, North Carolina with some friends (and new friends) on a week long bike training camp.  We are heading home tomorrow and I thought I would write a bit of a summary of our adventures this past week. 

We drove down on a rental and the drive wasn't too adventurous.  We got here at Black Mountain which is just north of Asheville and where our home base is for the week.  The one thing that really caught us by surprise is how HILLY it is here.  Just to get to our house, we had to drive up 1050ft in about three kilometres, which means some steep hills.  After a grocery run, we decided to ride our bikes within the complex and that was an immediate shock to my legs.  That same 1050ft ascent was what we had to descend and ascend on our bikes in the rain with about a 20% grade as the max.  I am not a fan of downhills and my brake pads can attest to that! LOL!  The other thing we noticed right away was the temperature.  It is cold here, ok, maybe a little warmer than TO but not the balmy 20C or so I was expecting and with no hope of getting some bike tan lines.  The whole week I was layered in cold weather cycling clothes. 

View of the sunrise from the house on Black Mtn on our last morning there.

The  following day (Sunday) we had our first long ride, about 85km, up Jeter Mountain.  This ride we logged a total of 3596ft of climbing with the steepest part being a 21% grade.  This was a pretty demoralizing ride for me.  I was unable to keep up with the group (which took me a couple of rides to accept and then was able to enjoy riding solo),  I got cold, I lost my sunglasses lens which popped out when I put my sunglasses in my back pocket when it got too foggy, I bonked because I made a rookie mistake of not taking any nutrition during the ride, and unfortunately, someone crashed!  The crash was really unfortunate but he was back on the bike bravely the next day.  The ride was a tough one with the first half being quite hilly.  I was actually a bit proud of being able to out climb a couple of people who had to get off their bikes and walk because they weren't able to climb the hills.  At least I can muscle through them and not have to get off the bike.

Monday we swam in the morning and then climbed up Elk Mountain with a total of 3573ft of climbing with a 17% grade as the steepest hill and about a 10km steady climb.  I had my trusty Garmin 705 with me so I would not get lost.  I had uploaded our route and even though this process took some time I at least had something that would tell me if I got off course and showed me where to go.  Pheww!  This helped the group out too when I was with them and was able to tell them when we got off course.  After this ride I told the group not to wait for me though.  The last thing I wanted was to hold the group up and have them wait for me.  I feel terrible because I am holding them up and because I am the slowest one.  I am fine with riding on my own if I know this is what I will be doing.  And I still had fun!

Tuesday we headed for Mt. Pisgah and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  This was the first day I was able to wear tinted sunglasses lens as the sun was out and I didn't have to wear a ton of layers.  I even got a bit of a sunburn on my face, although that may have been a mix of wind burn.  Even though the sun was out we had to contend with quite a strong headwind which meant some teeth chattering descents.  We climbed a total of 4200ft with a 12km climb up the mountain and the steepest part being 13% for a total of about 98km, our longest ride for the week.  I even managed to take a picture when we stopped momentarily to add some more layers at the top of the mountain.  I also did a short 10min run off the bike.

Here is a pic while on the Blue Ridge Parkway on our one of two sunny days:

On Wednesday some people wanted to take it easy with a break form the bike.  A small group of us still went out on our bikes and did a shorter ride, about 39km up Morgan Hill.  Still some steep sections here, the steepest being 13% and a total elevation of 2342ft.  Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy and by the end of the ride I was shivering and wet.  I was probably hypothermic as I was unable to do stuff, lol!  I wasn't such a happy camper at the end of that ride but was still happy that I went!

Thursday was probably the stupidest stunt I/we have ever done!  Definitely something to talk about for years to come.  We decided to climb up Mt. Mitchell but had to re-route our original route due to some rock slides.  So we were going to approach the mountain from the east on the Blue Ridge Pkwy rather than the west.  It was another chilly day but we had no idea what was going to hit us.  I started the climb feeling pretty good and just kept a good steady effort until we hit the Blue Ridge Pkwy.  By this time it was quite cold and very foggy.  Ironically, I noticed the sign that read to not use the pkwy in snow, ice, or foggy conditions.  Wish I would have paid attention to this.  After some time waiting for another rider, I soldiered on, but now quite a bit cold from waiting.  It was raining so we also had to contend with wet conditions.  Further along the pkwy the fog got more dense.  I was happy I had both a tail and headlight in hopes that motorists could see me.  I was barely able to see two feet in front of me.  I fully admit I was nervous riding on the winding rodes with no visibility.  All I knew was that I wasn't going to descend because the little bit I did try to do I got extremely cold and lost all feeling in my hands and feet.  So my plan was to keep riding and wait at the top for someone in the group to pick me up and I was going to tell someone of my intentions when I would see them on their way down since the route was an out and back.  Well, with about 6km to get to the top I see Ming coming down and he was yelling at me to turn around right away as it was too cold higher up.  He didn't make it all the way to the top as he realized it was too cold and he started descending to get to the car and pick us up.  I didn't really realize how cold it was because I was steadily climbing but when I turned around and started descending I knew I couldn't do it.  Another rider from the group that I met up with wanted to just get to the tunnel so we can be protected from the elements.  That was the hardest few km for me.  I absolutely froze!  I couldn't feel my hands or feet, I could barely brake, it had started to hail then snow, I was almost in tears and was just desperately looking for the tunnel through the thick fog.  I was ready to quit until I saw the sign for the tunnel.  I was a wreck!  The other girls managed to hitch a ride down.  Three of the guys made it to the top and nearly froze to death themselves and managed to hitch a ride from a park ranger that was radioed in and took them half way down the mountain.  I stayed in the tunnel with the other rider waiting to be picked up.  There was no way I was able to descend, so we waited.  I would have rather continue climbing because at least I can generate some body heat.  But instead, I resorted to becoming the tunnel troll waiting to be rescued.  I was for sure hypothermic here.  I just wanted to go to sleep to end the shivering and pain.  It was not fun!  Probably after an hour or so of waiting in the tunnel we got rescued by our other group members!  I was shivering uncontrollably and it took at least 45min for me to stop shivering, and more to warm up.  What an experience!  I managed to pull out my phone and take a couple of pics of the tunnel and the fog while waiting:

the thick fog on the Blue Ridge Pkwy - this picture does not do it justice

where I became the tunnel troll - my refuge until we were rescued

Needless to say we were all happy to be alive and that no one got hurt while pulling that silly stunt.  We really should have turned around when the fog got really dense or when it really got cold.  The outcome could have been completely different.  I still managed to climb 4150ft in about 38km, the whole ride was pretty much climbing with the steepest part at about 12% and most of the climbing was at about 6-9%.

Surprisingly enough, most of us were still willing to ride on Friday.  We went back to Morgan hill and this time it was sunny although quite windy and a bit chilly on the descent.  A better ride for me the second time around.  After the ride, a few of us headed to the pool and I did about a 3.3km recovery swim.  We are heading home tomorrow after a short run.  I hope I have made some gains here this week.  My legs feel it for sure!  I wish I was able to take more photos but I was either always climbing, decending, or it was too cold to stop to take a picture.  Ah well!

North Carolina definitely has some beautiful cycling terrain but I do not know if I would be willing to come back here.  It would have to be warmer for one thing.  Maybe South Carolina!?