Arriving in Mont-Tremblant 


At this moment, I’m sitting in a beautiful cafe in the village of Mont-Tremblant. I can see the crew assembling the finish line for Ironman.

I pinch myself.

I’m just days away from the race and I feel ecstatic. This race I’ve been planning and working towards all year.

Just days ago I was running around getting everything ready. An endurance event in itself. I have a theory – I’m never more productive than the days leading up to vacation. Clean clothes, clean office,  clean inbox, clean house (ok, that last part was mostly a lie).

The final hours of work were busy, including a surprise party from my amazing colleagues (lululemon? How did you know! 😉 )


Finally, the out of office was on and I raced home to meet Karen. As I zoomed past the Dartmouth Sportsplex, a warm breeze blew through my window, smelling of chlorine. I couldn’t help but smile. How many hours have I spent in that pool, preparing for this adventure? Dozens? A hundred?

And I’m finally here, relaxing on my own and making a loose plan for the next four days. Short workouts – very short, dropping off my gear, exploring with family and friends, grocery shopping, etc.


According to my plan, I swim / bike / run today, tomorrow and Saturday. Less than 90 minutes in total each day. I’ve read enough to know about what mishaps can happen during taper. Over-training is common for athletes leading up to the race. I’ve certainly experienced watching athletes do big workouts before the main race and questioned myself about not doing it. Especially under these amazing conditions – the town is designed for athletes right now and we’d be crazy not to!

But ultimately, its cramming, and I know enough that training heavily this week will not move me towards victory, and more than likely, take away from my race day.

Taper time can also play havoc mentally. Did I train enough?!  Thoughts can pop up. But I’m feeling strong. I’m not sure if the totally hours trained but I’ve worked hard to get here. I’ve had low moments in the past month – typically in a hot and hard bike ride – where I wondered if I’m capable of even finishing. It’s an upsetting place to be and I’m glad I’m past those thoughts!

I’ve joked to people who don’t quite understand why I would put myself through this gruelling process:  “I’m pretty sure I’m not going to win, but I do feel confident that I will finish.”

I’m joking, but I have to believe the words I say!

Karen and I are fortunate to have a condo steps away from the swim start and to be able to arrive this early in the week. Arriving earlier than necessary has been a great experience and more than anything allowing me to find calm. I know the swim course and part of the bike course already. It is the calm before the storm as the Ironman activities don’t get started until tomorrow.


Until then I will explore this beautiful – and for right now, peaceful – village.

Crossing the t’s and Dotting the i’s

I’ve been reminding myself to let every training session be a learning opportunity.

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As we get into the final weeks before race day I start making lists and thinking about all the things I should be focusing on to make sure my race day goes as smoothly as possible. Essentially, the training is complete, but making sure I have the right gear, nutrition and mindset on race day still need to be ironed out. Let’s hash it out for my own piece of mind.

Nutrition.

I’ve heard a hundred times to not try new things on race day. I’m promising to follow this advice! I’ve been struggling with nutrition on my bike, needing way more than I thought I would. I get 40-50K into a ride and the gels are just not enough. I typically stop of a chicken sandwich, or a grilled cheese, or a donut. I don’t think I will have access to these things on race day, so I better sort myself out. Mars bars – surprisingly – have been easy going down with no ill side effects. I think I’ll bring a PB & Jam sandwich for my special needs bag, but will test it out on this weekends ride. Gels will be taped to my bike, along with water and an electrolyte mixture. I think we’re sorted out there. I’ve also planned a decent meal plan leading up to race day to keep me healthy and on track. Fingers crossed.

The flat tire – a different kind of anxiety. Does anyone else feel this way? The flat tire anxiety. It like nothing else! Thankfully I forced myself to practice a bit last year, with the help of some seasoned triathletes. Last night I practised with the flat tire I go 500M from my car on Sunday.

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I took away a lot of lessons:

  • It isn’t quick to change a flat
  • I know the mechanics of changing a back tire (yes!)
  • My hand pump doesn’t work (!!) 
  • Take a deep breath. Flats happen.
  • I’m going to get dirty, so maybe carry a towel.
  • I’m carrying around a bike tool I don’t even know how to use!   

Gear.

Sorry guys, but ladies I found the mecca of bras. The Lululemon “Stuff your Bra”.

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Pre-marathon, literally stuffing my bra 🙂

I can swim in this. Bike. Run. I can carry lip balm and enough gels  for a marathon. Heck, last week I even stuck a chicken sandwich in there. No chaffing whatsoever and another place to store nutrition. Another Lulu win. And it works for all shapes and sizes 🙂 

I’ve also discovered Sport Shield Roll – on the best anti-chaffing product out there. Waterproof, sweat proof. It’s magical. 

I’ve also been modifying my packing list. Confession: I hate packing. I always pack way too much and not always orderly. But Ironman is where I bring my packing “A” game. I did ok with my Challenge half ironman but we’re next level in 2015.   

So here it is. It will be modified and I’d love feedback! 

THE LIST

Pre-race essentials:

  • Training clothes for final workouts
  • Casual clothes and sunglasses
  • Gear (watches, power meters)
  • Hear-rate monitor strap
  • Charging cords for devices and phone
  • Favourite pre-race snacks
  • Compression clothing
  • Flip Flops
  • Identification for registration
  • Electrical tape/Duct tape – add a few strips around bike for emergencies
  • Safety pins 
  • Timing chip
  • Reflective tape or clothing
  • Tums
  • Hand wipes 
  • Goggle defogger spray
  • Plastic bag for bike seat
  • Water Bottles
  • Pump
  • Band-Aids (where to have these?)
  • Hair elastics (do headband braid)
  • My own pillow!
  • Bike lock
  • chamois cream
  • Tide

Swim essentials:

  • Warm clothes for race morning
  • Race swim cap
  • Stuff your bra and VS swim bottoms
  • 2 sets of goggles
  • Old pair of flip-flops
  • Wetsuit (long or short sleeves?)
  • Body glide / other rolly thing
  • Old shirt or towel
  • Waterproof sunscreen (face only until body marked)
  • Earplugs
  • 1 gel to take right before take off

Bike essentials:

  • Helmet
  • Cycling shoes and socks (grey icebreaker socks)
  • Bike Shorts (MEC)/Capris – temperature dependant
  • Bike Shirt (HTC sleeveless or NS with Sleeves)
  • Sunglasses (MEC)
  • Water bottle(s) – fill one with Ignite (Use Hammer Bottle)
  • Taped gels to the bike OR Bento box
  • Seat bag and tool kit: tube (2?), CO2, levers, multi-tool
  • Salt tablets and advil on the bike
  • Sleeves – temperature dependant
  • Floor pump

T1: Banana & Gel

Run essentials:

  • Running shoes (Asics)
  • Compression Socks / Fresh socks
  • Visor (epic)
  • Running shorts/capris (tbc)
  • Race belt/ Nutrition belt (put mini bodyglide/2 Advil/2 tums/pepto/blistex/gum)
  • 2 ziplock bags with 11 gummies in each

T2: Banana / Mars bar / Fresh water
Special Needs Bag on Bike

  • Spare bike tube
  • Salted chips
  • Sandwich
  • Extra gels

Special Needs on Run

  • Salted chips
  • Sandwich or skinny bagel
  • Extra gels
  • Long sleeved shirt

Food for thought:

  • Gu Gels**Plan when to eat caffeine & how much!
  • Stinger gummies
  • Bananas
  • Cut up orange
  • Ignite for electrolytes on bike
  • White Bread – PB & Jam
  • Mars bars
  • V-8 juice
  • Boost

Post clothing options:

A loooong dress. Flip flops. That’s it.

Bubbly for celebration!

Things I may need to buy

  • More Gels
  • Compression Socks
  • Extra Goggles
  • Aero bottle?
  • Bike gloves?
  • Anti-fog spray

To Dos

  • Check bike cleats
  • New tires!

T-10 days, 19 hours and 24 minutes…but who’s counting? We take off Monday night and I’m just so excited. I had some self-doubt there for a bit but trying to remain positive. I’ve worked all year for this. 

Self reminder: This is a great read regarding nutrition: http://www.endurancecorner.com/library/nutrition/race_nutrition

It’s all so much – too much!

Written on Tuesday July 28

Time management….Last week I was talking about Ironman with my hairdresser, and she asked me what I was looking forward to most after the race was complete. I think she thought I would say something like french-fries or ice-cream (neither of which I’ve given up, for the record). My response: Freedom! A blank schedule!

For well over seven months my Sunday evening routine consists of sitting down with a calendar, my planner, my training guide and my work schedule which looks like some game of odd Tetris puzzle. When my week is organized there are colour-coded boxes filling every block of time. Chamber. Cyclone. Training. Volunteering. Family & friends. Dog Walking. Land lording. Looking at my completed calendar gives me a sense of accomplishment, mixed with overwhelmed anxiety. I often went to bed thinking “How will I do it all this week!?”

But I do. Mostly. I feel like I let people down from time to time. My social outings consist of training with friends mostly. I don’t feel like the worlds best volunteer this year, but I’m trying. I wonder about those brave souls that do Ironman every year! And the ones with children…I can’t even imagine.

Overall, I am still feeling excitement about my vacation (yes! I’m calling it that!) and the wonderful opportunity that I have, don’t get me wrong. My training is consistent and no new injuries. My knee is recovering and I will make it through that marathon!

There was a little dark time this week, and I just happened to be texting with my girlfriend, who has been following my training journey from the start – even throughout her pregnancy and arrival of her brand new baby girl. I confided that it was all too much and I just didn’t know if I could do it all. Her response to my overwhelmed schedule was: “You’ve got this. It’s nothing that you can’t handle.”       

And breathe.

The Open Water Swim, never to be confused with the Open Pool Swim

I’ve always had a decent level of confidence when it came to open water swimming. My sisters and I grew up spending summers on the ocean, near the lake or at the local pool. I’m thankful my mother insisted we all take lessons….and continue with it passed yellow. (Yes, I’m that old the Red Cross levels were in colours…I think I made it to Green. Green was pretty high, no bronze medallion like my sister scored, but not too shabby either). But the water…It went beyond swimming – I’ve played in some of the craziest waves Martinique Beach could offer, Snorkelling off a boat in Mexico, Scuba diving from the shore in Turks and Caicos, Surfing…you get the idea. Put me in any water and I’d be just fine. 

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Off the cruise ship and into any water I could access. Corfu, Greece was the nicest swim. 

So it came as a huge surprise to me, during one of my first open water swims 2 weeks ago, I started to panic. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, but I was faced with a shortness of breath, uncontrollable fear, and felt like someone had just put 30 wool blankets on my chest. I tell myself: “Relax. Take a few deep breaths”. In the throws of a panic attack – especially one happening 20 feet from shore – those words mean nothing. I did manage to calm myself down in fairly short order, with the assistance of the bestest friend in the world, floating on my back and taking it easy. 

Where did this come from?

It’s hard to say. Maybe my wetsuit is too tight. Maybe I just need more practice in the open water. Maybe all my “cool as a cucumber” talk about ironman is just a cover up and I’m going to go into a full meltdown on race morning.

I know a lot of triathletes have concerns about the swim portion, claiming it as their weakest sport and the thing that causes the most anxiety when it comes to race day. That was never me! I held back and let the crazy swimmers take off, allowing myself a less congested area to swim in and somehow managed to miss most of the head kicking. But now! Now I was just like the rest of the swim-fearing athletes out there!

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Despite the jellyfish sting, I felt pretty decent in the open water swim in June

By my calculations, you can’t pop an Ativan and expect to exercise (successfully) for 16 hours.

I know I can swim 3800M, but just to be sure I decided to do a little research on making life easier. Here are my tips I’ve learned:

  • Practise
  • Try swimming with my eyes closed in practice to increase the level of stress and learn how to handle it
  • Practice swimming in groups OR
  • Hold back in my heat, and let the swimmers fly! Head injuries are avoided in this tip. The only set back is that my swim is fairly strong and I wind up trying to pass some of these people I let get by at the start. 
  • I must remember that swimming is ~10% of the race. Don’t burn out in the first 1.5 hours of a 15-16 hour race.
  • Break the swim into different sections to make is seem more manageable (Via buoys or other sighting tricks)
  • Sight every 8-10 strokes
  • Get Anti-fog spray for goggles
  • Focus on technique – it’s easy to lose all focus on this when things get rolling
  • Breathe
  • If I can practice in open water, that’s best, 50 M is better and 25M as a last resource.
  • Practice swimming with what clothing I’ll be wearing. Don’t forget the anti-chafe glide for the neck!
  • I need a strong positive mental focus for those 90 minutes. Something to think about and calm me down. That will go into my Race Day Plan. (More on that as it gets developed).
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Proof of an open water swim, well done

So, I have lots of advice and I’ve been back in the water twice since my incident. Still not feeling 100%, but moving in the right direction. And I always swim with a buddy, for the record. 

More soon!

One month until Ironman!

One month. It’s hard to believe I’m this close to Ironman. My training feels strong, but the plan is never 100%. When I look back over my training some weeks are as low as 7-8 hours (!) But there is no point in focusing on that.

IMG_8125Packing. Oh the packing for a 14 hour training week.

       

Last week was a killer. A nearly perfect training week, less a bachelorette party resulting in my less than perfect bike ride on Sunday (I could have called that). Although I paced myself during said festivities, I still woke up with less vim and vigour then my usual self. I’ve turned into quite the lightweight when it comes to booze.

I'm proud of this week.

I’m proud of this week.

After Sunday’s ride – which was far from sunny and hot – I forced myself to dunk into the ocean for as many drinks as I consumed the night before. When I told my girlfriend (and fellow cyclist) what I had done she laughed and said “You’re hard on yourself!”. Isn’t she right?

I was NOT hungover in the ride. Snapped during the Heartland Tour – 100K around Peggy’s Cove 

But aren’t we all? This crazy sport of triathlon is much more mental then I ever knew. The thoughts that go through my head at the end of a 18K run, or the “you got this” to the “you don’t got this” back and forth for one large hill climb. The feeling of being the strongest I’ve ever been in my life – unstoppable even – to the self doubt of “Who do you think you are, going to ironman – have you seen these other athletes?” Sometimes my thoughts exhaust me more than the actual workouts. Other times – most of the time – I stay positive and enjoy the view. 

I really only have 3 decent weeks of training left until race day. What I do now will have only minor impact on race day outcome, assuming that I don’t push to hard and get injured. That leaves the mental preparation. I’ve not been overly nervous and when I talk about the race (and when people tell me I’m crazy), I let them know that the training is intense, I’m looking forward to my “vacation” and I’m looking forward to race day. That I will get through. (And I’m likely not going to win 😉 )

95% of the time I believe what I’m saying. But truly, I’m lucky that I have this opportunity to travel with my friends, experience their first, or second, or 20+ ironman. To visit a beautiful, new place, and stay in a wonderful condo with my best friend. To have amazing support and what I know will be an experience of a lifetime. I don’t want to blemish this event with a lot of anxiety and worry. That comes from a positive mindset and takes its own preparation!

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Inspirational ladies!

Over the past few weeks. I’ve enjoyed the training, especially the bike. I’m biking with a half dozen people on a somewhat regular basis. The other evening after some gruelling hills I wondered out loud: “Am I even getting better? Its hard to tell when everyone around me is getting better too!” But I know the answer…100K rides don’t seem scary (where they seemed near impossible less than 3 months ago), and while I still have a long way to go on the hill training, I’m no longer concerned that I will have to get off my bike and walk up a hill that is too steep. I know I can power climb through (the tears).

I still have some homework – cramming at this point! – I’m working on my run – still having knee issues that I’m working on with the help of an amazing osteopath – and I’ve discovered I have a new found anxiety when I’m swimming with my wetsuit on and my food. Always working on putting the best fuel inside my tank.

I have 4 weeks to work out these kinks! Wish me luck 🙂

A beautiful view from my not so beautiful run, A beautiful view from my not so beautiful run.

Making the call. 

In 12 hours I will be taking off for my second half-iron triathlon. I’m more calm than I ever thought possible. I packed quickly, and have little stress about what tomorrow brings.

Except for one small thing. I haven’t run in two weeks. I had a fast 18k in the valley that brought on some pain that lasted for a large part of the race. The pain had started a few weeks before and was building at each run. I quickly got myself to physio, but I’ll confess, biking has taken the forefront in my training. And this week was filled with family, friends and many, many meetings.

There’s a voice in the back of my head that keeps saying “Tomorrow isn’t the A race”. “You don’t have anything to prove”. “You know what the right decision is.”

It’s incredibly hard not to get caught up with always pushing the hardest, making every race count and attempting to do better each time. I guess that’s what racing is all about.

For some people.

I know if I run tomorrow, I will have pain (I even had pain walking my dogs today).  I know if I run tomorrow, I could potentially injur myself further. I know if I run tomorrow, I won’t have my best time.

I know if I run tomorrow, it won’t be the right decision.

With a lot of thought put into it, I won’t be running tomorrow.

That is the beauty of the race I’ve signed up for. I can still swim and bike – both of which aren’t causing me pain – without sacrificing the race day.

I am worried about disappointing people and having to explain why I didn’t run. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of work on figuring out what’s right for me and less about what I think people expect from me.

I am focusing on being authentic.

It’s time to get focused for what I want to achieve between now and ironman, while avoiding (further) injury.

I have a slew of physio exercises I need to focus on and a half marathon in mid-July that’s become a bit of a tradition for Tim and I. I will focus on making myself better for these future races and not push through tomorrow’s triathlon for the sake of finishing it.

I have to remember that 1800M swim and 90k bike ride are nothing to baulk at!

So in slightly less than 12 hours, I will be starting my Aqua bike race. Without shame.

 
Our swim start!

Time is a tickin’!

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus with writing in my blog. I promised myself that I would check in at lease monthly. Time seems to be slipping away and when I check on my countdown app it shows me that in 18 days I will be competing in a half-iron distance tri…and 67 days, the full.  A FULL IRONMAN. Am I where I planned to be at this point? Oh, hell no. I’ve completed one outdoor bike ride and my swimming seems to be digressing. My run is consistent, and sadly, that’s the positive news!

My parents meeting me on my first outdoor bike ride.

My parents meeting me on my first outdoor bike ride.

April was filled with heartache and my life was flipped upside down. I couldn’t run, or bike, or do anything at all. Breathing was a chore. The weather didn’t improve and I felt 2015 was turning into a huge crapshoot. I questioned all of my recent decisions, especially the plan to complete an Ironman. When I worked out, as infrequent as it was, it was over my lunch hour to clear my head. I skipped paid for workouts and avoided my friends. I spent a lot of time at home. I don’t want to get into the details more than to say things have certainly improved and I’m forging ahead with my training (and my life plan). I’ve come out of the fog and despair from April and now, into June I’m feeling drown right happy and blessed.

The beginning of May brought about the Fredericton Marathon with two of my closest girls, Karen and Sara. Karen aiming to qualify for Boston and Sara excited to have a weekend with the girls. Me? I was hoping to do a 4:25 marathon….except my longest run was a 16K in early March. (Gesssh!) My second-tier goal was to finish without injury in under 5 hours. The weekend turned out great. I really reconnected with my girls and it was nice to get out of the city. The threat of Spring was there and their was light at the end of this miserable winter tunnel. I did hit a PB – 4:35 – but the last 11K were killer. I felt pain that I’ve never felt before and it was only the help of a friend that kept me from crying/crawling/breaking. Ron and I crossed the finish line dancing and smiling. A friend of mine captured this on their phone. Every time I look at the photo, I smile. These are the memories I want to look back on when I’m 85.

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May brought on sickness – yes MORE! – and Tim was injured so we both stayed on the sidelines for the Bluenose race. Despite my hacking cough, I made posters, cut up oranges and had one of the best Sundays cheering the marathoners up Maple Street. It was so inspirational, I cried as people made their way smiling (or perhaps, grimacing) up my steep hill.

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Luckily, Tim and I pulled it together for the following week which brought the Cabot Trail. I could write an entire blog post on the CTRR. This is the reason I run and I think it’s impossible to have a bad time during this event. Tim and I completed our 4th year in the relay, both completing our respective mountains. Me, North. Him, MacKenzie.

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We celebrated with new and old friends in a cottage in Ingonish until the wheeee hours of the morning. We talked about our legs. And then we talked about our legs :). My goal is to someday complete all 17 legs!

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And now, delightfully, we enter June. My training is back on, but I’ve skipped a few races and a few training weekends. As I mentioned earlier I was hoping to be in a better position, but all I can do is make the most of the next 2 months.

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I need to get more sleep and I need to focus on healthier fuel. I have the desire and the support and I’m going full steam ahead. Tonight a few friends are getting together to bike hills. We all admitted that it may end in tears for our slackish training ways, but at least we’ll be in it together. I will not stay awake until midnight finishing an awesome book. I will not biggy size those fries…now is the time. I can do it. And I will cross that finish line knowing I gave it my all.      

…..And just in case you were wondering, North Mountain looks like this: 

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