Friday, August 30, 2013

Belated brokeaversary

It was August 26th, 2012 when I broke myself at the Mine Over Matter Off-Road Triathlon.

I don't recommend it.

Well it's not too bad, is it?


Assessing the break post-reduction (which means "after they yank on it and let it snap back like an elastic band to set it, fortunately after giving you large amounts of rave drugs"), my orthopedic surgeon was of the opinion that it was a "borderline case" for surgery. When I elected to see how it would heal without surgical intervention he was a bit dubious, but agreed to give it a go. While I did end up with some shortening of the radius (the bone I broke - the one closer to your thumb) due to the tension in my forearm muscles, the prognosis was that I'd end up with "a pretty good wrist".

I didn't go easy on myself during recovery. While I was basically helpless for the first few days (thank gawd Tanker had a week of holidays, so could drive me to work and back as well as waiting on me hand & foot), I immediately returned to my idiot ways, even to the point of going minigolfing while still in the splint - it was 2 days after the break, and an idea born out of a haze of codeine.

I'm not sure I could have counted my legs at this point.
I even went to a motorcycle rally (the same one for which we leave this evening - whee!) just 5 days after the fracture, enjoying riding on the back seat of other people's bikes and coming home with the best rally souvenir of all time:

This still hangs on the wall in my livingroom!

I returned to running 11 days post-break, as soon as I got a waterproof cast, then got back in the pool and on the trainer - I'm not good with the idea of "can't". Three weeks after the fateful DNF at Mine Over Matter, I was back on the starting line of a triathlon, enjoying the hell out of myself at the Lakeside Olympic.

The ill advised racing kit has never been so apropos.

Then there was a 50k mountain bike race 5 weeks post-break, just days before my final cast came off. I may have walked a lot of the really sketchy, technical stuff, but damnit I rode trail!

One of my favourite race photos of ever.
Through it all, I worked hard with therapy putty, testing my limits and trying to improve each day. I had a lot of pain and depressingly little strength in the wrist when the cast was finally removed; there was a lot of atrophy and stiffness, making me wonder if I'd ever be able to have a normal life again.

I think I've seen this somewhere before..

Yep, that's it.

It took months before I was able to return to normal push-ups, working with a barbell, and even simply go more than a day pain-free. I've been persistent, though, and as time passes I find myself doing something unthinkingly (like pulling a water bottle out of a bike cage with my left hand) and marveling that "hey, I couldn't do that without pain (or at all) just a couple of months ago".

This season I've raced another off-road race on my mountain bikea tough spring classic, a half iron distance tri, and numerous other events. I've done a 9-day / 3,000km motorcycle tour, and will be leaving in a couple of weeks to go backpacking in Algonquin Park. My amazing new mountain bike - which I had for a week and a half before breaking myself, damaging it in the process - has been repaired and is now just as much fun to ride on the trails as he ever was.

His cast will never come off, though.

While not everything is perfect and I still have some aching and soreness from time to time (it's actually a pretty good warning sign that I'm starting to over-train), Dr. Bischoff was right - I do have a pretty good wrist, and a lot for which to be thankful. It wasn't until after the cast had come off that he really let me in on how serious the fracture had been, and he was constantly amazed by the progress I made - I'll never forget the look on his face when I told him I was miffed at having to use grips to do push-ups 10 weeks after the initial crash, since I didn't have the range of motion back to put my hand flat on the floor! I've since regained that, though it's not quite as good as the flexibility I have in my other wrist. I'll never be quite the same again as I was before, but my new normal really just serves to highlight how far I've come in the last year, and not to take what I can do for granted.

Sometimes "good enough" really is.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Spacing out the stupid.

It's not like I make a secret of being a complete and utter bonehead. I'm pretty sure "I'm an idiot" is the unwritten sub-heading for this entire blog.

Once in a long while, however, I do display a modicum of sense. This is one of those rare occasions.

With Midsummer Night's Run out of the way, I started looking toward the rest of the season to plan out the training that will (hopefully) see me through the Run for the Toad 50k. The calendar that greeted me looked like it was put together by some drunken frat boys taking on a bet:

Aug. 24/25: Free weekend to train. Somewhat still recovering from Midsummer.

Aug. 31/Sep. 1&2: Motorcycle rally in Michigan. Will probably be able to get a couple of 1-hr runs in.

Sep. 7/8: Wasaga Olympic Tri (Sat) and water safety volunteering (Sun). Can probably run 1.5-2hrs Sunday after returning home.

Sep. 9-15: Backpacking & camping in Algonquin Provincial Park. Probably no running, and must pack/leave almost immediately on return from Wasaga.

Sep. 21/22: Tour de King (Sun)

Sep. 28/29: Free weekend to train. Should be in taper mode for Run for the Toad.

Oct. 5: Run for the Toad 50k.

Even I could see that this was going to be sub-optimal if I planned to survive the Toad, let alone be able to turn around and run the Horror Hill 6-hour 3 weeks later.

We had originally scheduled the backpacking trip such that we'd still be able to do Tour de King, but that just doesn't look like a good idea - I probably wouldn't run at all after mountain biking through the moraine all day, and back-to-back longer runs will be my best bet to get through the 50k. I should just go run instead, though I will be sorry to miss such an awesome event.

Image courtesy of Patrick Ivan

As for the trip to Algonquin, there's no way we're calling it off! We've got a lot invested in this and have been looking forward to it for months. Furthermore, hiking with a 30-odd pound pack on my back will probably almost exactly replicate the sensation of walking unfettered up the hills at Pinehurst during the latter kilometers of the Toad, so it qualifies as decent training. However, attempting an Olympic distance tri, water safety volunteering and then leaving for said trip all within 72hrs seems a bit on the optimistic side. We'll simply move it back by a week, giving us time to pack at a more leisurely pace. I can get a long run in on Saturday (Sep 14), we'll leave Sunday morning, then we can be back the following Saturday (the 21st) so I can do one final big long run on the 22nd before tapering.

It may still be a bit ridiculous - after all, I still haven't rode my tri bike since Welland and have an Olympic distance tri in 2 weeks - but it's not like I've never done anything ill advised before..

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Midsummer Night's Run 30k - Saturday, August 17th, 2013

Had I known what was in store, I probably wouldn't have registered.

"Race on the island" they said.
"It will be fun" they said.

I spent way too much time on my feet Friday evening and Saturday during the day, between cooking, packing, hitting the farmers' market, and getting suckered into eating something I shouldn't have on a race day by some of my favourite people.

Could you resist a fresh strawberry and Chantilly creme parfait topped with white chocolate curls?

I did actually get some sleep (what with not having to be up early; rolled out of bed at 9-ish), but I think I ended up over eating a bit during the day and was a bit late getting on the road after a shower, shave and the requisite hair braiding. Still, leaving the house around 1:45pm I figured we should have lots of time to make a 5:30pm start..

We hit up Tim Hortons to grab Café Mochas, then got on the 401, only to crawl our way out of town. Things opened up through Guelph, but then we came to a screeching halt in Milton due to the new stinkin' outlet mall. Back up to speed momentarily, then stop again in Mississauga just because it's Mississauga. It rolled past 2:30pm, so I drank the meal replacement shake I'd brought with me - after a bit of sticky rice, grilled chicken, green onions and kimchi for breakfast, half an Udi's Cinnamon Raisin bagel with almond butter and honey, some fresh pineapple, the parfait, egg-in-a-window, a waffle with maple syrup, a slice of avocado toast and about 1/3 of a packet of Jello, I figured that just 1 shake instead of my usual 2 would be plenty (see above re: over-eating). Starting to worry about time, I then went through a fascinating series of contortions in the passenger seat that resulted in my changing from shorts and a t-shirt into my favourite running bra, a merino wool tank topmy trusty old running skirt and my calf sleeves. If that doesn't sound impressive, try doing it all with your seat belt still fastened.

Friday night's amazing bi bim bap - everything is better with a runny egg on top.

Sticky rice, leftover grilled chicken breast, green onions & kimchi...for breakfast!

We finally arrived and parked - after a missed turn and finishing off my Café Mocha - at the Novotel Toronto Centre for packet pickup just before 3:30pm. There was no lineup by this time (kit pickup ended at 4pm; about 25mins later), so I breezed in, got my bib (with its integral chip) and race shirt, picked up the last meal voucher they had for Tanker (also realizing I'd forgotten the cash I'd taken out for sundry race day stuff in the car), and completely failed to get any ferry tickets since they were out. Of course, noone told me there wasn't a ferry ticket in my race kit - there was even a piece of paper inside saying that there was, contrary to any actual evidence. Back to the car, then hit up a washroom at the hotel to "get down to race weight" and take 2 minutes to brush my teeth. Too much sugar!

We're riding on a bus!

We hopped on the shuttle that would take us down to the ferry docks, got launched out of our seats repeatedly by the crappy Toronto roads, then hopped off the bus at the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal to see an enormous lineup. It was now 4pm, there were at least 2,000 people waiting to board boats, and I still needed to get a ticket for Tanker! I rummaged in my envelope to find my ferry ticket and found nothing but safety pins and a zip tie, plus the aforementioned piece of paper telling me my ticket was inside. I hadn't tipped the envelope upside down or anything, and had folded it tightly before putting it in my bag (upright, no less), so I couldn't have lost it. I asked some fellow racers if there was a physical ticket or if my race bib would do, and was informed that there was an actual ticket, but they'd run out at the hotel so I had to find a volunteer to pick on up. Awesome. I didn't have nearly enough stress yet.

That's 74mins before the starting gun.
I generally like to be at the race site by then.

Photo shamelessly lifted from A Whole Lot of Soles

I did locate race personnel and managed to procure my ticket, being told that the huge lineup was "a ferry problem, not a race problem". Then we had to line up among the general public at a ticket kiosk to pay Tanker's fare, and stand around in the hot sun on a cement surface waiting for a further 45mins to board a boat. My lower back began to ache, and I was sure I was getting sunburned as well as sweaty and annoyed. There were people butting in line, including the ass who jumped in front of me and elbowed me in the boob without even bothering to acknowledge he did so, let alone apologize. I was freaking out and ready to commence punching strangers - I hate being rushed at the best of times, but it was becoming doubtful I'd even make it to the starting line on time! This was seriously turning out to be my worst nightmare..

Oh thank gawd! At last!

It was 5:04pm - just 26mins before the start of the 30k - by the time we finally boarded for the 10 minute crossing. I needed to use the washroom once more before the race, so headed there immediately after procuring a seat on the lower level for Tanker and I. While in there, I cursed my idiocy - I should have brought my stick of BodyGlide with me to lube up my naughty bits in privacy. Fortunately, I don't really give a damn what anyone thinks of me, so proceeded to do so once I'd returned to my seat on the perimeter bench with only the merest of pretense of modesty. I'd rather deal with an offended onlooker than chafing, as the former will only annoy for a couple of minutes but the latter will be a pain for days! Now fully lubricated, I managed to get my socks and shoes on (there was no way I was running in my recovery sandals!), then do my little ankle warmup before docking.

Approaching the Toronto Islands and IYC.

Off the boat at Centre Island, it was a "5-7min walk down the Avenue of the Islands" to the starting line, complicated by the hordes of humanity in front of us - racers, stroller-pushers, dog walkers and children all meandering along as if they'd nowhere to be. We did our best to get around all that, only pausing for a moment at a bench for me to apply some additional BodyGlide to some areas that had been hard to reach while seated on the ferry, then grab my handheld water bottle and flask of EFS Liquid Shot. I think I saw the 5k leader coming into the finish as we made our way to the race site. With a grand total of 6 minutes until the starting horn, I did some leg swings and hip circles as my only warmup, kissed Tanker, and plunged into the crowd at the starting line to try to find the 3:00 pace "fairy".

Made it! Barely..

The plan was to try to hang with the 3-hour pace group and see how I felt in the last few kilometers - as I mentioned last week, I had no idea if I could even run 6 minutes or less per kilometer for 10k, let alone 30. I'd done a zippier run on Thursday and had tapered in the week prior, but I felt tired and my back ached even before the race began. I had told Tanker to look for me anywhere between 2:55:xx to 3:05:xx.

The horn sounded at 5:31pm by my watch and I took an additional 40 seconds or so to cross the timing mats, with a huge mass of runners between me and the pacer I was targeting. I was actually back with the 3:30 pace fairy instead, and finding it very difficult to make any headway on the narrow paths - they're designed for walkers and cyclists, not thousands of runners all jockeying for position! The first section was a short out-and-back, which meant things got even more cramped as the faster packs made the turn-around (at which I had to practically stop due to congestion) and started to occupy more and more space on the left of the paved walkway. I was having to look, dodge out to the left of other runners, pass quickly and then dodge back in to avoid a head-on collision with one of the studs!

I'm not built for speed; you'll know it if you run into me.

To add to the confusion, there were 3 different sets of kilometer markers on the course - I eventually put it together that the yellow ones were for the 5k, the white ones for the 15k, and the black ones for the 30k, which corresponded with the bib colours. It messed with my mind, though, passing a 2k marker that I only glimpsed briefly through a crowd, and looking at my watch seeing I'd only been running 5mins. I was making up some ground on the field, though, passing the 3:15 run/walk and 3:15 continuous pacers, the latter of whom was done up in full fairy costume including light-up wings! Having seen said wings bouncing on his back with every step, I commented as I passed him that "I do not envy you the chafing you may encounter", only to hear him say he still has scars from an ill-fitting costume he wore to pace the 30k two years ago. Pace Fairy Mark, you're a damn hero!

Also pictured: some of the multi-person bikes available for rent on the island.
We had to dodge those throughout the entire race.

I finally made my way up to the 3:00 pace fairy by the end of the out-and-back, having averaged around 5:30/km for the first 2.5k - that wasn't going to last, so I eased back and just hung in with the 3-hour pace group...until the pacer stopped at the first aid station. Carrying my hand bottle gave me about enough water for an hour, so I just kept on trucking - I didn't really have much idea of where I was on the course, as not every kilometer seemed to be marked. I took a gulp of EFS Liquid Shot right around 30mins, remembering that a pre-race email said the route would be the out and back (short loop) plus two long loops, and there would be aid stations every 3km. The huge pack had finally started to string out a bit, giving everyone some elbow and breathing room; there were no hills to really break things up, but the land did gently undulate a bit (no more than a foot of elevation change) so you didn't get completely in a rut of muscle engagement. Additionally, the paved paths were crowned a bit, so you could run on the (relatively) flat middle, or either side to change the stresses on your feet, legs and hips as you ran.

It was still quite warm at this point, but the scenery was lovely - at one point we turned and the CN Tower rose above the treeline directly in front of us! Running through the trees near the beaches, a weasel came scooting across the path a few metres in front of me, then we made our way along the South side of the island and ran along the boardwalk toward Ward's Island Beach. A number of other people complained about the boardwalk, which did admittedly have some loose planks and require a bit of attention (some runners apparently went sprawling), but I loved it! A couple of the trails I run regularly have similar boardwalks, and I adore their springiness; they combine the best of both worlds between impact reduction and energy return for running, and when you add in the delicious breeze off the lake I was absolutely in heaven! I passed the 8km marker, a little disturbed by the fact I was only 45mins in; I shouldn't have been running that fast.

Map courtesy of

It was shortly after the boardwalk section that I ended up filling my near-empty bottle at the third aid station - I had to actually stop and dump in a couple of cups of water, as my left hand was occupied by my elastic-banded gel flask and I wasn't as dextrous as usual. Soon after I reached the 10k marker and checked my watch - while I hadn't started a timer, it looked like I'd run the first third in 56mins. That, I knew for sure, was not going to be a sustainable pace! I'd have to back off to keep myself from blowing up, and in more ways than one; the dairy content of that incredible parfait was coming to haunt me, and I was having to spend some concentration on dealing with some rumbling of my belly and other...noises. I sincerely apologise to anyone whom I cropdusted during the race, but at least gas was the only thing escaping. Hopefully the mouth-watering scents of grilling steaks and burgers I smelled along the way were enough to overpower any horrible stench I left behind me. I know I seriously thought about running off course to accost someone for their meat!

Dude behind me is checking his pulse to see if my gas has killed him.

I finished the first loop-and-a-half and came through the starting line timing mats, seeing somewhere around 1:10:xx gun time. I was starting to feel tired by the time the 12k marker came up, and was getting somewhat demoralised by the endless profusion of kilometer signs; even just looking at the ones that pertained to the 30k, there seemed to be an awful lot of overlap, making it look as though we'd actually have to run 3 loops instead of two. I started chatting up some people on course just to make the time go by and take my mind off the threatening sensations coming from my lower GI tract - a friend had already rode past and told me I had a mere "100 kilometers left to go" (thanks buddy!), and I'd spotted a friend-of-a-friend pacing the 3:45 group, but in the interest of being conversational I asked a fellow near me wearing this year's Mississauga Marathon shirt if he'd done the half or the full, and gabbed about racing for a few minutes. This actually happened twice; two different gents, exactly the same circumstances - they'd both done the full, too. Interesting coincidence..

I've looked at this map repeatedly and still can't make much sense of it.
Nor this one.

Between chatting, trying not to poop myself and completely failing to do any math that would allow me to figure out how long each loop was (I'm pretty dumb when I'm racing; it's rather a theme in this blog), I had slowed quite a bit. Coming through 15k in 1:28:xx, I'd already lost two of the three minutes I'd banked against a 3-hour finish within the first 10k. Taking another little swig of EFS Liquid Shot (not wanting to risk a full one due to the rumbly tum), I knew I needed to get a handle on this pace decay before I ended up with a finish that would leave me grumpy, and geting lapped by the leaders was some good motivation to pick it up. Being 13lbs lighter and much better trained than Around the Bay 2012, I wanted to do myself some justice on this much less challenging course! I needed to fill my bottle again as the first 2 cups I'd got had been very small, but this time I managed to get the aid station volunteer to pour 2 larger cups directly into the bottle for me, so I was on my way a little more quickly. I still had to watch my footing, though; the pavement was broken in a number of places, with potholes and sand traps that could do some damage if you stepped wrong. You also had to be constantly aware of pedestrians, rollerbladers and cyclists (both on regular and multi-person bikes) who posed constant obstacles to forward progress. While some were friendly and encouraging, the larger portion of them were completely apathetic to the plight they posed toward the racers.

It's a nice fountain, but I didn't need to see it 3 times.
Photo from

By this point I was also having to dodge a lot of the 15k walk and run participants, who had started at 5:45pm. They were mostly quite obliging, but there were a couple of times I ended up having to weave around a line 4-wide of chatty walkers. I was in a bit of a dark place, just trying to keep myself together but starting to have nasty thoughts about dropping to a stroll, just for a few minutes. I was also completely soaked! The back of my skirt was dripping with sweat, with some of the drops hitting my legs - I actually thought on a couple of occasions that I had actually crapped myself, and kept looking down to make sure that wet feeling wasn't something more awful than sweat. I took another little sip of gel around 18.5k, just after hitting the boardwalk again, and used the breeze and the springiness to pull myself together a bit. I came through the 20k marker at about 1:59:xx - the second 10k section had taken me around an hour and three minutes, which was unacceptable. Time to get moving damnit! I got what I figured would be one final fill of my bottle, this time the fantastic kid at the aid station actually running with me to pour two cups into my bottle. You rawk, lad!

Thanks man!

I found a second wind at this point, changed my stride to more of a forward-leaning knee-driving style, and set off like I was bloody well racing. At one point my left calf tried to end that for me by threatening to cramp, but it never quite seized - maybe thanks to my Compressport calf sleeves. I took a tiny bit of gel in my mouth around 22k, almost finishing my water with it. I was running harder than I had all day, but actually felt pretty good - the different muscle engagement from the more aggressive stride meant that movement pattern hadn't been subject to that much fatigue, and the lack of hills meant my quads hadn't been pounded into pudding on any descents. My belly settled itself down a bit, too, and the day finally started to cool off as the sun dropped - both of which helped immensely. I hit the timing mats at the start line in 2:17:xx gun time for around 23km, which meant I'd started pulling back some precious seconds that I'd lost in the middle portion of the race, and also that I was finally into my last loop! The highest numbered kilometer markers now applied, and I was starting to reel people in ahead of me at an even faster rate as they broke down and I sped up.

Photographed by Tanker near the finish line.

Right around 25k I took one last little nibble of EFS Liquid Shot and got the same amazing aid station kid to pour one more cup of water into my bottle. I probably could have done without the water, but I didn't want to suddenly end up doing a walk of shame in the last kilometer or two because I got too dehydrated! I got lapped one more time by the leaders as I marveled at the gorgeous sunset over the lake from the boardwalk, saw that damned fountain one more time and was directed to the right (instead of straight through), being told by a volunteer that the 28k mark was just over the bridge. The cruelty was that the bridge to Centre Island was the only hill on the whole course, and the descent down the other side only marginally less cruel on tired legs than the idiot ramp down into Copps Coliseum at the end of Around the Bay! I'd been running for over 2 hours and 45mins, the last three quarters of an hour being quite hard, and I wasn't at all pleased about these sudden obstacles! 

Just trying to stay upright.

To make things even worse, we were then directed to run across a grassy section full of little ankle-twister gopher holes with no markings whatsoever (which was completely dark and confusing to later racers, according to my friend who paced the 3:45 group), then another painful bridge to Olympic Island, then finally onto the path through Olympic Park. I was at my very limit - almost to a death whistle - and the darkling sky was making it tough to see. Volunteers kept saying it was just a little further, but there was no end in sight and no sign of even a 29km marker; I found out later that the head pace fairy estimates it was actually 2.5km from the 28k mark to the finish, making the race 30.5km in total. In real pain now and giving it the very last I had in me, I finally spotted the arch with its giant floodlight and clock. The final photo tells the story: no smile, just trying not to trip over the timing mat as I saw 2:58:15 or so coming across the line.

Chip time: 2:57:35 @ 5:55/km.
39/94 in W30-39, 112/310 Women, 315/616 O/A

As soon as I dropped to a walk, got my medal and waterbottle in the chute and turned off to look for Tanker, I suddenly felt like I was going to pass out - it turned out later that I'd only taken in about 3oz of EFS Liquid Shot during the whole race, for about 240cal in total. I managed to completely miss the post-race food, most of which I couldn't eat anyway; the bananas would have been welcome, but the cookies and (from what I hear, stale) bagels were off-limits to me due to allergies. I did manage to find Tanker and keep myself upright while I walked to try to bring my heart rate down slowly, pausing over at the edge of the water for a photo with the Toronto skyline behind me.

I am exactly as zombiefied as I look.

While Tanker had taken advantage of the beer garden during the time I spent chasing my own arse around the island, I didn't really have any interest in hanging around so we headed toward the ferry dock to start our journey back to the car. Of course, the hundreds who'd finished ahead of me were already queued up to leave, so it ended up being over an hour before we could even get on a boat. My right shoulder felt sore from carrying my bottle and tensing up, and I was still completely soaked with sweat and crusted with salt - bless the lady in line ahead of me who spared me one of her baby wipes to clean myself up a bit! I'd thrown on a lightweight hoodie to try to keep me warm for the few minutes I had thought I'd be in line (I'm pretty dumb after a race, too), but the breeze off the lake was chilling me quickly. I'd drank the large can of coconut water and the chocolate macaroon I'd brought for my post-race snack, but even just standing around I was starting to feel a bit faint - fortunately I'd packed some corn chips in our little cooler bag as well, so I snacked on those until the Thomas Rennie came to take us back to the mainland, while also providing a washroom for me to change out of my smelly, dripping clothing and into some cozy, dry things.

It was a nice view in line, though.

I was ultimately very pleased by the fact I could basically tell myself "RUN BETTER" at the 20k point of a long race and actually have it happen - that last 10k is something I'll treasure for a long time, though of course I wonder what I could have managed had I not dawdled through the middle 10k of the race. I'm very happy with the 06:48 PR at the 30k distance, and amazed at the shape my legs were in afterward; I was a bit sore but completely functional both that night and the next day. I actually felt a bit guilty, as it seemed like I hadn't run hard enough! The pain was worse after running an easy 5k on Sunday afternoon (less than 24hrs after the start of the race) and I still have a bit of lingering soreness 3 days later (now Wednesday), but thirty kilometers on pavement is a long damn way and I'm in a better state than I used to be after a half marathon. Part of it, I'm sure, is the near-flat nature of the course, but I'd like to think the high (for me) mileage consistent training is paying off. In any case, it's a good confidence boost for the Run for the Toad 50k in October, which is really what this race was about - it's all part of the build.

Ridiculously huge medal.
How do they expect racers to cart that anchor around after running 30k?

As for Midsummer Night's Run, there's simply no way I'd do this race again if it's going to be on the Toronto Islands. Of course, we didn't find out about the change of location until June 18th, despite the organizers having been denied a permit in April! I can't recall precisely when I registered, but I had no way of knowing at the time that I'd be running anywhere but the usual race venue of Tommy Thompson Park. The logistics were nightmarish; the organization was poor; the volunteers were enthusiastic but not always well informed (some of the faster runners report uncertainly about route direction); the course simply had too many loops to be enjoyable; the kilometer markers were inconsistent (some short, some long per the pace fairies) and demoralizing while in the earlier loops; the bridges at the end were painful; the lighting for later finishers was abysmal and the whole experience was stressful. At some point in the future, if I can be relatively assured that it will be in its usual location, I may consider doing it again...but it will likely be some time before the poor taste this race experience left in my mouth is forgotten.

Lord, what fools these mortals be!

Friday, August 16, 2013

The race starts when?

Tomorrow is going to be a strange day.

I've been tapering this week, or at least trying to: after discovering I've put in almost 60 hours of training in the prior 4 weeks - including my highest volume run training week ever (didn't I just say that?) - it's been weird taking it down a couple of notches. I'm probably still training more than I should for optimum performance, but this is not really a priority race.

The event in question is the Midsummer Night's Run 30k, which has been moved for the first time in its history to the Toronto Islands. Ironic, as I'd decided against doing the MultiSport Canada Toronto Island Tri (which takes place next weekend) due to the logistics involved. However, I don't have to try to bring a bike and full tri accoutrements on the ferry, and I also don't have to get myself and my long-suffering crew/sherpa/soigneur up at stupid o'clock in the morning - the name of the race is rather a clue as to why.

With the start of the 30k slated for 5:30pm, I'm hoping it'll take the edge off the rather warm and humid temperatures we're expecting - predictions range around 25-27c/77-81f with humidex values 5c/9f higher, which will be significantly tougher to deal with considering most of my running lately has been deep into the evening with temperatures closer to 15c/59f. Why does it always seem to come up hot for big races this year? Fortunately, being out on the water, it should be a bit milder than the mainland; this forecast actually looks reasonable:

I can deal.

So, the remaining problems are threefold:

1) Course

I don't really know what to expect, as I haven't even been to the Islands since I was in my teens (woo Centreville!). I've looked at the course maps, the flyover, and even tried reading some reports from the Island Girl Half Marathon which is held on more or less the same paths. It appears that the Islands are almost completely flat, but that holds its own challenges with no change in muscle recruitment, though some bridges between islands may break things up a bit. I can't seem to get any real intelligence on this.

2) Training

I've done quite a bit, with a last long run of 25k two weeks before race day. I've been doing the long runs on Saturday evenings since just before the end of July for specificity, and have stuck to mostly flat (but not all flat) courses. It's gone ok, but I'm still running comparatively slowly. I've only gone under 6min/km twice since we got back from touring, and one of those was in a race. I really have no idea what kind of finish I'll be able to manage, though I would dearly like to beat my 2012 Around the Bay time of 3:04:23 - I'm much better trained (ie: not coming off an injury) and about 13lbs lighter than I was then, plus it's a much less challenging course.

3) Nutrition

a) First, the challenge of trying to figure out how to carry my gel flask: neither the pocket in the shorts I want to wear nor the pocket on my hand bottle is large enough to hold it, and I still kind of hate my SPIbelt. I may just have to resort to the solution I used for my final 15k run - rubber bands. I can still get the lid off the hand bottle in order to refill, and I don't have to risk chafing from stuffing the gel flask somewhere against my skin.

It's like the anti-tridork approach - cheap & simple

b) What the heck do you eat during the day when you're going to race at 5:30pm? I've done one single evening race before, but that was on a Thursday, so I was at work during the day - I ate normally during the day and had a bowl of oatmeal with almond butter, honey and raisins a couple of hours before the race, but it was only a 10k and my nutritional intake has changed drastically since then. For one, I prefer not to eat any solids within 12 hours of the starting gun, and I can't even tolerate oatmeal anymore due to my ridiculous number of food allergies. I think I'm going to have a small meal when I get up - rice, a bit of grilled chicken breast and some veggies - then stick with Jello and some melon until 3 hours out, when I'll down my usual pre-race meal replacement shakes and grab a Tim Hortons Café Mocha.

In any case, it's getting late and I still have a couple of things to do before I head to bed - I'll see you at the starting line, then sometime next week for a recap. Wish me luck!

Friday, August 9, 2013

On the shoulders of a giant

I have always known that my race achievements are not really my own.

For every minute of training, drop of sweat, grunt of effort or early morning I put in, my amazing husband, partner, crew, sherpa, soigneur and best friend has done even more to make sure I'm able to perform at my best.

You're there during the training days when I'm too stubborn to do an out-and-back or start from the house, ready to drop me off at one end and pick me up at the other even if it takes up your whole afternoon.

You're there when something goes wrong and I need to be bailed out, even plunging into a pitch-dark trail on a bike to come and save me in the rain.

You're there making sure we have clean dishes to eat off, and the kitties have their food and water.

You're there sympathizing with me when I get injured, going for walks with me while I heal and doing everything for me when I'm broken.

You're there with me on course for the "just for fun" races, making me laugh at every turn.

You're there making sure we have clean clothes to wear, even patiently hanging the piles of spandex that I go through each week.

You're there putting up with my aloofness and poor attitude when I drift out toward the ragged edge of overtraining.

You're there to keep me company when I'm grinding away on the trainer and change the channel to save me from horrible tv.

You're there doing the driving on our horrible commute, letting me catch a few winks in the passenger seat on the way to work.

You're there making yourself a snack to tide you over when dinner doesn't happen until 11pm...or later...or at all.

You're there to keep me company on a run when I'm feeling grumpy and having a hard time kicking my butt out the door.

You're there schlepping all my gear for me before and after events, even packing up my transition area while I get some post-race food.

You never complain about the late nights of training, the early mornings of races, the expense of race fees or my total dorkiness about all things endurance.

You're there watching the few bike racing and triathlon broadcasts we can catch with me.

You're there telling me I'm beautiful even when I feel like a chubby, sweaty mess.

You're there at every single race, cheering me on and telling me you're proud of me no matter how poorly I've done.

You're there to help me limp to the car and get some food when I've given everything I have.

You're there to let me vent and keep me sane when I get stressed or angry.

You're there with good humour when I'm deep in the grip of the taper crazies.

You're there to mourn with me when someone I love is lost.

You're there to make me smile and laugh, and show me that everything will be ok when all I can see is darkness.

You're there to share in my ideas and schemes, even when they're pretty dumb!

You're there joining in with me, just so we can spend more time together.

You make me try to be a better person for you, because you set such an incredible example.

You make me proud to be your wife.

You make me believe that anything is possible and that there's always something to look forward to.

You're there waiting for me when the day is done, ready to wrap me in your arms and make me forget all of my troubles.

You're still there with me, despite your drinking buddy being replaced with a worn-out endurance junkie who can't eat or drink like a normal human being and does nothing but generate piles of sweaty laundry and dirty dishes.

You're there when I finally wind down training so we can go ride motorcycles, play golf, snowboard, hike, relax, have a drinkie and enjoy ourselves!

You're there every day, making me feel like the luckiest girl in the world because I have you in my life.

Thank you for being there in a thousand different ways.

I love you sweetness. Marrying you was the best thing that ever happened to me; a gift I get to open again each morning. Happy 10th anniversary, with hopes for a hundred more!

A challenge to my readers today: go thank the person who makes your life and your training (or other hobby/obsession) possible, whether that's your parents, your coach, your spouse or a good friend. They deserve it!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Seems Like Science: I'm forever blowing bubbles

A neat little analogy occurred to me the other day as I was finishing up a run.

Imagine chewing a piece of gum and blowing a bubble. I'm pretty sure we've all done this at some point.

Now imagine that bubble is your fitness.

Because of the porous nature of bubblegum, you have to keep adding a bit of air all the time in order to keep the bubble from deflating - just as you need to keep training in order to keep from losing fitness. As you slowly add breaths (or workouts), your fitness increases just as the bubble gets bigger. However, if you try to blow too much air into the bubble too quickly, you'll pop the bubble and have to start all over! If you overtrain, you run the risk of injury or burnout, both of which will require time off, loss of fitness, and a slow rebuild. You'll get better results from adding small, regular breaths than just trying to blow in big blasts of air at long intervals - consistency over time. Sometimes outside forces come along and burst your bubble, too - an injury, illness, highly stressful life event or even just a big project at work can act like a pin against the bubble you built with all your hard work, or just rob you of the gum you need to blow a big, strong bubble.

As the months and years of consistent training go by, you get to add more gum to make the bubble stronger, so it will hold more air without popping. That's building your base fitness. Then, if you know you have a race or big effort coming, you can let a the bubble deflate a little by adding less air so it becomes more resistant to popping - that's why we taper, reducing the volume of training (or breaths going into the bubble) before a taxing event. Your bubble needs to be solid enough to handle that race effort, over-distance training session or interval workout, or you'll stretch yourself too thin and quickly end up deflated.

So when you're planning your next block of training, make sure to keep those breaths coming - regular workouts and appropriate recovery will see your fitness grow, and if you feel yourself getting close to the bursting point take the time to back off before that bubble pops! If it happens, though, remember you've still got the gum; just start back at it with smaller, regular workouts, and soon you'll have a bubble of which you can be proud!