Sometimes you just need a good run. 

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The view from Tim’s start line. Hubbards is beautiful!

Every year at my work we hold a “Surviving September” party for the team. It’s a celebration of making it through the events, the hustle and bustle of the “back at it” month. It’s a celebration on surviving those 12-14 hour days getting the events going, the magazine to print, the office moved, and to get everything else going. It’s non-stop.

These are the times that training and the health-conscious me begins hibernation. I know better to sign up for the final triathlon of the season, knowing that my training wains and I end up cursing my way through the course (it only took 2-3 years to realize this fact!). Miraculously, I’ve kept my swimming up, and leading classes at Cyclone keeps me in the saddle. But running. Oh, running. It’s like drying dishes, submitting my taxes, or cleaning out the fridge; I’ll do anything but that. Anything.

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September Sunflowers. My favourite!

I find it sad that running and I were taking a break. We’d become so close over the last 9 months. I promised myself – after countless ‘re-starts’ – that I wouldn’t quit running. If I didn’t give it up, then I wouldn’t have that horrible first run back. You know the one. The sweaty, slow, painful, first run back that hurts the lungs, the head and the heart.

But there’s this marathon that I signed up for in 2 weeks….I’ve been battling about which distance I should realistically complete on October 11th, because I sure as heck aint ready for a marathon. I ran home a few weeks ago (6K) and I wanted to stop and walk, no crawl home. It was hot, I was sore, slow and the whole experience just wasn’t what I had been experiencing with running over the past year. I could not motivate myself to go running this month, even with Tim coming home from really great runs, I just wouldn’t dig out the runners.

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My speedy love, kicking relay butt. (4th place!)

Rum Rummers Relay happened today. Tim and I had signed up for this relay in May, and today was the day. I didn’t set any expectations for myself, knowing my 9.3K leg was a hilly one. I wanted to finish without the desire to crawl into the ditch (that is so 2014). But you know what? I killed it. I frigging loved the hills, down and up. Seriously. I ran hard, pushed myself and wouldn’t let ol’ wheezy behind me pass, though he tried. One woman passed me on the first 3 hills, going up and I promptly passed her going down. I challenged myself. It was amazing. The sun was shining, but it wasn’t 25+C like last year, the wind was moderate and I was well rested and fed. I smiled at the volunteers and cheerers. I love it, and thus loved running all over again.

A good race was exactly what I needed to get my running mojo back. Do I think I can achieve a PB on my marathon next month? Not likely, but heck, let’s give it a go!

RUM RUNNERS 2015

Catching my breath and oh so happy at the finish line! (49:08 / 9.3K)

The Clean Eating Experiment

It’s easy to determine if I’ve had a good training week or not. There are red and green boxes, sore muscles, and hours logged. Tangibles. It’s not quite as easy to talk about nutrition. If someone asked me how my week was, and I had just eaten an apple, I’d say great….if I has just finished off the doritos, I may second guess my choices.  

I’m no angel when it comes to food. I don’t deprive myself of anything, but have confidence I know what’s good and bad for me and tend to focus on the former.

Except for the past month. If I were being graded, I’d say my nutrition in March would result in a C. Minus. I’ve been struggling to make smart nutrition choices, and some nights been guilty of consuming three cadbury eggs, along with “loads of ketchup” potato chips. Gross (and delicious). I wondered to myself: Why do I even have this crap in my house!? I typically start my days off strong, fruit smoothie, eggs, salad, fish, vegetables and then….garbage, garbage, garbage! Sometimes the garbage starts earlier in the day…say around 3pm in the lunch room. This garbage consists of leftover meeting sandwiches, the boss’s jujubes, baked cookies and loaves from my coworkers. And on my worst days I realize that all of my meals have come through a window or out of a frozen tray. Disgusting.

If I was featured on one of those episodes of what I eat in a week, it would be shameful!(http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/what-the-world-eats-shocking-photos).

The sad thing is, I know better. I studied nutrition in school and one of my best friends is a nutritionist. I read about nutrition all the time and understand the importance of nutrients and vitamins found in whole foods. I’m also fully aware of  the empty calories / trans -fats / other harmful effects of processed, packaged foods. I know what is essential for a healthy body. Essential for an endurance athlete’s body.

But I suppose this is the part I don’t give myself enough credit for. That I’m not a real athlete. Not even a real runner. I’m an impostor trying to join the club.

The little voice in the back of my head pipes up: “Hey B. You’ve got an Ironman in 20 weeks. Now would be a good time to start believing you’re an athlete.”   

…..I’m an athlete. 

And I need to start fuelling like one. Despite my knowledge, it still felt overwhelming to start a new plan. There is so much talk about not eating carbs, fat, dairy, protein, but what’s left? Please don’t say legumes. And what’s all this talk about Paleo?

I don’t support diets, perhaps it’s because I haven’t been able to last for longer than 24 hours on one. Diets are so limiting and (in my extreme case) unsustainable….and I like so, so many food groups. I don’t crave sweet or salty or chocolate. I crave it ALL. And then I came across this book: 

eating clean for dummies

Don’t judge, I’m a HUGE fan of this line of books!

So, here goes my experiment. Clean eating. It’s a concept I can get behind. Removing the processed and fried foods from my life. Focusing on one-ingredient foods. Whole, fresh foods with ingredients I can pronounce and understand.

The simplest description of clean eating I’ve found is:  “If it had a mother, or grows in the ground, eat it.” Simple. Step two is focusing on non-GMO and organic. I was planning on starting with step one and buying organic when available. This plan reminds me of what I’ve been hearing for years….shop the parameter of my grocery store for the healthiest eating choices. I can get on board with that!

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My first round of grocery shopping, focusing on “Clean”

Eggs, nuts, fruits, vegetables, quinoa, lean meat, cheese and okay, okay! legumes. Fish, grains, whole grain pasta and bread and good god, did I read that right? Dark chocolate gets the green light.

So heres to trying something new (but with some concepts I’ve been practising for awhile now) and lasting at least 24 hours. I’m hoping that I can eat 90% clean for an entire week, and I started with a delicious salad from Pete’s! Here’s to the next (clean) week and the 20 weeks until the big race!    

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My first trip to the gym in weeks was rewarded with healthy, clean greens.

 

    

March

March.

I was so excited to turn the calendar page to March…with hopes of running outside on clear sidewalks, warmer temperatures and even a somewhat disillusioned thought that my bike may hit pavement – maybe once.  As you know, I struggle with February (See: Surviving February 2014) but February was a joy compared to this year’s setback. March.

Let’s start with my red boxes.

red boxes march

Ouch.

This isn’t for lack of ambition. I’ve been sick in some form or another since the start of March, from food poisoning, to this nasty cold that feels closer to flu then I’d like to admit. Midnight hacking, chills followed by fever and a general sense of just take me out back and end the misery. I think my dogs are sick of me at this point. Maybe not. Thank you Gus.

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And I can’t tell if this weather is making things better or worse. With more storm days then I’ve ever experienced in my life (and I’ve lived in Labrador!) with the non-stop snow, followed by the need to shovel and lack of sun…its been a doozy of a winter. (Bermuda feels like a very distant memory, let me tell you!)  We are all suffering with this cold, gray nonsense. Especially Tim, our primary snow clearer and dog walker. My hero…I have certainly not been able to pull my weight over the past 3 weeks.

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On Friday I woke up feeling moderate – a huge step up from the rest of the week. A 6.5/10, I’d say. I declared: “This is it, I’m done being sick!” My coworkers listened to my lingering hack and gave each other sideways glances, “Suuuuuure” they were all thinking. It was a bright and sunny day, and I really wanted to make weekend training plans. Sadly, my wishful thinking didn’t turn into reality. I made it through Tim’s 40th birthday on Saturday, well-drugged, while calling people by their wrong names. (Amazing)

Sunday I surrendered into my sickness (again) and rested.

Here I am on Monday, still sick, and in no form to train the way I should be – the way I need to be – for Ironman. I’m even feeling a little panicky about how far behind I’ve come. In February I was annoyed at myself for missing the pool swims and strength training sessions, but now into my fourth week of inadequate training I can’t blame anything but this never-ending sickness and wonder how I’m going to come back!

But I will. I know I need to rest and not focus on the miles I’m missing on the treadmill (currently there are no sidewalks or foot paths for running in Halifax), pool and trainer. I will ease my way back into training and begin again with a new focus. It’s hard when I see my friends training and making progress and I feel weak and feeble, with zero appetite. Tonight I am missing my 3rd indoor computrainer session from illness and in exchange I will likely be reading or returning to Netflix with my box of tissues tucked under my arm.

My training plan is there. I will be ready and more than willing to get back on track when I’m recovered. I made a perfect training week in February and I hope to replicate this often in the twenty weeks to Ironman.

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Do you think it’s too soon to start hoping for April?

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We tend to fear the things we want most.

If not now, when?

I have recently discovered that I’m scared of setting big goals. I can easily sit down and plan my next week, the next month…but it’s those big ones that cause the “analysis paralysis”. The self doubt, the long term planning and lets not forget the possibility of failure. 

On August 18, I made a commitment to my future self. I took a deep breath and hit “register now” button. I was committing to completing my first ironman.

proof

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What does this mean? Plan. Train. Focus. Repeat. 

With some weeks peeking at 25hrs of training, not to mention travel time, pre and post workout time to account for. And all those showers and laundry 🙂 It was akin to taking on close to a full time job. Without giving up the one that actually pays me. 

You are an IRONMAN

See, I’d watched this video: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=767105323348548&set=vb.260375747354844&type=2&theater.

And I watched it again, and again.

It brought me to tears. Even today, four months after I first watched this video, I’m welling up.

Talk about impactful.

Triathlon is a sport that is performed completely solo, yet there is so much support and a family-feel through what it creates. The people cheering for the triathletes, whether it’s family, friends or strangers…their voices of encouragement are unlike anything else I’ve felt. And I want to feel. It doesn’t matter if you come in first or last, that unwavering support is there. 

When I first learned about what an Ironman actually was it sounded insane. Complete and utter nonsense, really. People pay for that?!? It was something that other people did…those elite athletes. That has ample time, money, gear and had a strong sporting background. And when some of my closest friends joined that realm – well, I still thought it was certifiable and unfathomable. But as time went on, I got stronger, I raced further distances and I began to pay attention…. something started to shift in my thinking…it was a desire that I ignored at first and kept under wraps. I didn’t even admit it to myself what I really wanted. 

Until now. I want it. I really, really want this challenge. 

Fortunately for me, my favourite training partner decided to take the leap in 2015, along with a few other of my favourite triathletes. Over brunch the deal was sealed. I was in. Mont Tremblant, get ready because here we come!

Mont_Tremblant_summer

With 277 days to go, I guess I better snap out of my “paralysis”. This is happening.

Step one: I finally got down to reading Joe Friel’s book that I had originally purchased for my 70.3 training. I’m disappointed that I waited until now to read it. I’m all in for Friel’s training method. His philosophy really speaks to me and I’m confident in his plan. From finding the right people to train with, to dealing with the off-season, to training in zones. I found my coach for the low-low price of $24.99. 

 tri book

My registration and accommodations are booked for August 2015. I guess all that’s left is the training. We’ll call that step two.

Let’s go.

tri canada 

 

 

 

Ramblings of a Runner

Ramblings of a Runner.

 GM3

(written in late July 2014 on a ferry)

The 70.3 triathlon was certainly what I’ve now learned to call, my A-Race for 2014. The event was amazing, I met my goal and now the dust has settled. I haven’t given much thought to what I would do after Challenge, race wise. I was primarily focused on enjoying some sunshine and gorging on poutine, with a side of beer. I did have s few races in my peripheral though, I’ll admit that!

Tim and I have been running the Boys & Girls 10K and Half Marathon race for two years now, and it’s becoming a bit of a tradition. It’s the perfect excuse to make it back to Tim’s homeland of Grand Manan. It was also the perfect excuse to convince my “other” mother and dad to explore a little taste of New Brunswick’s paradise (no that’s not an oxymoron!). My first year I completed the 10K and last year the half marathon.

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The view at Swallowtail, Grand Manan

The interesting thing about last years race was I expected little, ate far too many bagels beforehand an managed to finish with 2 times. 1:59:18 and 2:00:06. I could have lived with either of those times, if I had in fact broken the two-hour half marathon before. I swore redemption for 2014 at that time, the under 2 hour half marathon would be mine.

So here we are, 2014 and me not really having the best running situation given my earlier injury and still in recovery from Challenge. Tim and I signed up again anyway, it was a flat course and we were heading over on Thursday regardless! Low and behold Connie signed up as well. Her first 10K in, well, likely a decade!

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A comment I said to my friend in passing – and is surly a reflection in how far I’ve come this year – was: “I’m not expecting to beat records this weekend…but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try.”

And try I did. The race begins at 730 PM , which is a bit awkward for planning meals and I spend the whole day thinking about the race. I wasn’t worried, I was just going to do my best and see what would happen. I ate some more of those bagels that made me go so fast last year.

When the horn sounded I was off! I knew I was starting strong because I could still see Tim for at least 2 KM’s but I went with it. I’m always so bloody conservative and hold back until the end, etc. etc. Now was my time…I was ready to beat 2hrs or blow up.

The weather was beautiful, the aid stations were plentiful and I had a few runners to chase/pace/leapfrog with. Dad (and eventually Connie) were cheering me on and Tim, after winning the 10K, ran ahead of me for the second half of the race.

At 10K I was at 54 minutes and feeling strong, but the next 11.1K could have brought anything. I didn’t get excited. I ate my gels and drank my water.

My loving words to Tim were “Run ahead of me, I can’t talk……faster, faster.” Aaaaand that was about it for the next hour. (Sorry babe.)

I made it. 1:54:48 according to my garmin:

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It felt amazing and I was amazed at the entire mental side of this race. I continued to push myself and because I didn’t know anyone else racing, I didn’t get lost in what other people may have been thinking of me, because I didn’t care.

What if I could always have a strong mental attitude, and could push myself to the limit during a race? The ability to stomp out that self doubt that is always lurking in those low moments, and to maintain confidence. To focus on my own race and not worry what other people thought?

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Feeling happy and ready for wine @ 930PM on Grand Manan

In order to achieve a challenging goal, one needs to put in the training, the hours of running, biking, swimming and what goes along with that. Proper diet, sleep and dedication are also important factors to a successful race. Ideally, self-assurance would also be growing and help push through those mentally weak moments to cross that finish line feeling proud and accomplished.

May your training be smooth, your attitude be positive and amazing treats be waiting at the end!

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Amazing finds at Island Art Cafe in Grand Manan

Let’s have some FUN!

The final days (hours!) of training and preparing are upon me now. The race day is 8 days away. If I opt in for Bridgetown, that leaves 37 days.

In all honesty, I thought by this time I would be filled with panic, worry and stress.

But what is there to stress about? I have done the training and will do what I need to do leading up to the race. Could I have trained longer, harder, and with more discipline? Always. Could I have improved my diet? Certainly. (More spinach and less chocolate for starters). But I’ve done what I can for this 70.3 and have learned a lot for future races. Let there be many future races!

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It’s true. I requested 36 Gluteny Cake pops to consume all on my own for my birthday. No shame.

I’ve pushed myself further than I ever have before. I’ve had some amazing moments training when I’ve done more than last year’s me could ever thought possible. I have this photo of Tim and I getting ready to race the bluenose two years ago. I was completing my second half marathon and you can tell in the photo – I was terrified! It’s a good reminder of how far I’ve come. I certainly need that when I hit a wall training or get left in the dust by a fellow athlete (this happens a lot).

I also have moments when I’m running (ahem, slogging) up a monster hill and think “why haven’t I been hill training more!?” or biking into the wind using every curse word I can come up with wishing that my legs were strong to push faster, faster, faster. Damn you, wind!

I won’t become an endurance athlete over night.

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A fun 60K in May with amazing support

I wasn’t sporty in high school, dabbling here and there in a multitude of soccer, basketball and track. I never took anything serious and just had fun. I’ve been swimming since I was 5, but not competitively. I never considered myself an athlete…and while I find it hard to consider myself one today, I know I’m moving in the right direction. At 35, I am getting there. It’s a slow journey, but I’m in it for the long run. Literally.  The difference between the past and this year is I’m pushing myself further, following a plan and focusing on an end goal. I know an end goal is key in my progression.

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Team “Cherries Were on Sale” pushed me through a tough 8K in 45 minutes. Without them there, it wouldn’t have happened.

I’ve had some amazing support over the past 6 months. Words on encouragement: (that I thought may be “turn off that alarm clock!” at 5am were actually “I’m really proud you’re sticking with this”.) to advice from experienced triathletes (“you got this!” and “gradually add more time in your aero position to get use to it”) to training swims, bikes and runs with amazing people. A not so great bike ride can turn into a good experience with a good friend to commiserate with and then remind ourselves how far we’ve come! I am lucky and have truly enjoyed this journey, I would have given up a hundred times without the help of my training partners.

I’ve completed my first 90K bike this week, which felt surprisingly good. My bike is fitting and the seat feels good (huge relief on both fronts (and backsides!)). Of course, I should have done more hills.

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My first 90K!

My run is almost back to 100% of where it was, I’d say. I’m even back to enjoying the activity and not constantly focused on “Is my knee ok? ….how about now?….now?” and last week I ran a 61 minute 10K under the scorching sun. I was hoping to break the hour mark but when a friend of mine confessed that she had been chasing me the entire time and couldn’t catch up it made me feel like I wasn’t the only one suffering out there!

And the swim; I’m in the open water and it’s an adjustment. My heart rate skyrockets and I feel like I’m floundering for the first 500M. Practise makes…better and I’m taking advantage of Banook Lake being open for public swims this week.

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I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some amazing people through the Halifax Triathlon Club. Here are a few inspirations.

My dear friend commented on one of my triathlon photos from back in the early days…[In the photo I’m trying to get my bike shorts on after the swim at one of my first triathlons. I wasn’t concerned for time or what the other athletes were thinking of me and I was just having a blast. I didn’t know any better]…and her comment was “I hope we have this much fun in St. Andrews”.

Amen. Let’s go have some f*cking fun.

 

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Sprint Triathlon 2010

The Road (Trip) to St. Andrew’s

This past weekend was my first triathlon training camp. I recruited two friends to accompany me and we piled into the “mom van” bright and early on Saturday morning and took off to St. Andrew’s by the Sea, New Brunswick.

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3 bags for 1 night seems about right

I felt that experience the race route before the actual race day would help me feel more comfortable in the weeks leading up to the event, and this would also be a great way to devote a good part of the weekend to training. Alternatively, testing the route out could also scare the crap out of me. Risky business, I know.

The training camp was scheduled for a full day on Sunday, so when I arrived on Saturday I had the afternoon to focus on my favourite part of training; fuelling up and napping.

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A bird’s eye view of St. Andrews by the Sea (it looks flat from up here…right?)

Shannon and I quickly got out butt’s in great and headed toward the swim course. It was a dark, overcast day and we had to sneak through a fence to reach the water. We noticed 2 people swimming in the distance, and took that as a sign that the water was safe.

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Are you sure we’re getting in there?

The air was chilly, and despite our wetsuits the water was even chillier and somewhat cloudy. We couldn’t see the bottom, or 5 feet in front of us for that matter. I was 300M into my swim when I felt my hand brush by something mushy. I pushed the thought from my mind and swam on. 100M later, more mushy.

IT’SNOTADEADBODY. IT’SNOTADEADBODY. IT’SNOTADEADBODY. IT’SNOTADEADBODY. IT’SNOTADEADBODY. IT’SNOTADEADBODY.

We quickly realized that it was jellyfish. And as the water cleared they were everywhere. I’ve been stung before, it’s not a big deal but something about the situation caused me to panic. I quickly made my way to shore and exited the water at once, telling myself that was the last time I was getting in the water before the race directors pushed me in on July 6th.  But then I pulled it together. I don’t have the power to change anything about those little guys, and did they even have stingers on them anyways?

After the swim Shannon and I took off for a run. Good for training purposes, good for raising our core temperatures too. My run is improving. I finished the 5K feeling strong, happy and like I could run further. My GI system did not.

The rest of the evening the three of us explored the sweet town of St. Andrews that I fell in loved with over a decade ago. We found a nice meal (and wine!) at The Gables on the water and speculated about our training day. I knew tomorrow wasn’t a race, but I still was feeling anxious.

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From the patio of The Gables, NB

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View from the Gables

Sunday.

6:20AM

Anxiety. I still haven’t gotten in the long rides that I was hoping to for my training, I still have a bit of time, but truthfully, I’m not where I wanted to be on the bike.

90K. All at once. Phew.

It turns out however that we are only doing 60K, which was still a challenging ride, but not nearly as scary as I had psyched myself up for. I was at the back of the pack, but did my best NOT to focus on my position.

Training camp kicked my butt. But isn’t that what it’s all about?

On the way back in, I felt stronger especially after some tips from more experienced riders (ironman!) and my confidence grew (ever so slightly!). I’m not saying the course is easy – it’s not. There are hills and there was wind on this day. I knew that we may be dealing with warmer temperatures than I’m use to on race day, but wind and rain may also be a factor to contend with.

After biking, we swam. Yes I got back in the water but with 20 people so it didn’t seem that bad. We had a great 1K swim with my “mushy friends” and I only got stung once, answering my earlier question about the stingers.

I completed my second outdoor swim of the year in my brand new wetsuit that I was delighted to discover I can actually move in. This would be my 5th attempt as a wetsuit…and finally success.

Our training day continued with the biggest chicken sandwich of my life and a few talks from the race organizers.

And then for our final activity of the weekend, the 10K run. This would be my first 10K in over ten weeks. My knee was feeling fine form yesterday’s run and I was ready to get out there. Karen, Shannon and I started with the group. I should first mention that Karen did more training than the weekend entailed, including a half marathon and some serious hours on the bike above and beyond what was prescribed for the weekend. It was OK when she stopped at 4K. I didn’t feel OK about stopping though, but that sandwich was coming back to haunt me. I was just too full even hours after eating it. I threw in the towel and walked through St. Andrews back to the hotel. I didn’t beat myself up too badly. A 60K bike, 1K swim and 4K run coupled with some great advice (and great company!) was a pretty successful day in my books.

I was so glad to have made the 5.5 hr hike up for the weekend. It was time and money well spent for me. I had some great learning’s:

  • More biking….and running….and open water swims
  • Need to load up on calories on the bike
  • Transition 1 will be a nightmare. ~500M. Up a hill.
  • I need to really figure out what I’m wearing.
  • I need to practise fixing my flat.
  • I know where I’m going (more or less) on race day: WIN
  • Practice getting in aero position for minutes at a time…bit by bit I will be more comfortable here. I go 2-3-4K/hr faster down there
  • I’m dedicated to the final kick at the training plan.
  • Perhaps I will look at full coaching in future events
  • I’m hoping to incorporate the lactate/ HR monitoring more so for my next race.

I’m feeling good about completing the race. My (ever-fluctuating) time goal is less important to me now, but finishing the race is key. I will do my best leading up to and on race day. I’m even hoping to have a little fun!

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Practising my aero position & having some fun at the Algonquin Resort, NB

I don’t often visualize myself racing and I’ve never think about crossing the finish line of any of my races past or future, but this weekend as our group finished up the run portion they ran through our future finish line and we cheered each other on as if it was race day. Talk about fun!

I’m ready for race day….just about 🙂

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St. Andrew’s By the Sea, NB