Friday, December 19, 2014

Stick a fork in it.

Since this will be my last post of  2014 (yes, you'll be spared my drivel next week - REJOICE!), I figured I'd take a look back at what the year held for this ill advised racer.

I started in January with one of my favourite events - the Frosty Trail 3-hour. It was a tough day with tricky, ever-changing conditions, and I'm pretty sure the end result was a personal worst distance to go with the bruised feet and torn up shoes.

These were in mint condition before the race.
Still, it was great fun and I actually won my division - trail racing is so subject to the conditions on the course that even a personal worst can be a decent outcome! It was widely regarded as one of the slowest days ever at that particular venue.

February was devoted to training my butt off so I'd be ready when the end of March rolled in, bringing the Around the Bay 30k with it. I had worked incredibly hard for this, and it paid off with a 10+min PR at that race and 3.5min PR at the distance. My sub-3 goal? Yeah, got that, and then some. This was probably my best performance of the entire year, and I have months of kicking my cranky arse out the door in a polar vortex to thank for that.

Of course, there was no time to rest on my laurels, because I had stupidly decided it would be a shame to "waste" all that run fitness and signed up for the Waterloo Marathon at the end of April. I caught a cold, soldiered through idiotically instead of resting up, and fell short of my 4:10 goal time by almost seven and a half minutes. I just did not have it in me on race day, though as much as I whine about it I still bagged a 20+min PR at both that distance and that race.

That'll do.

So with triathlon season about to start, it was time to gear the running down and ramp up the cycling. I had every intention of spending the next couple of weeks after the marathon absolutely living on my bikes, trying to translate some of the aerobic fitness into pedaling power. Then, this:

Snorky's ok.

Being hit by a car (two days after crashing my mountain bike, no less) put a significant damper on my training for the next few days, and it was weeks before I was anywhere near 100% again. Nonetheless, at less than 3 weeks post-hood ornament, I lined up for one of the coldest starts to triathlon season yet: the Woodstock Sprint.

I put together a really slow swim, a bike hampered by idiot drivers and poor fitness, and a pretty poor run to come in almost 2 full minutes later than I did in 2013, when I simply hadn't done the training I should. Who knew that playing bumper cars on a bicycle would be bad for performance?

Though I suppose finishing at all was enough of a win.
Maybe even starting counts.

Then came a crazy block of events in June - the Heels & Wheels trail 5k at which I actually took 3rd woman overall (!), the Cambridge Tour de Grand 72k (not a race, but lots of fun!), the Welland Triathlon that Tanker and I did as a relay, then an extra-poignant Together We Travel Ride for Angels in which I wore the same kit that had gone skidding across the pavement in May.

My first overall award at Heels & Wheels!

Rolling through Grand River country with my sweetheart.

Tanker off to kick the Welland bike course's ass!
Riding around Niagara Falls after the Welland relay tri

Together We Travel - Ride for Angels is a critical mass ride
to raise awareness for cycling safety, in memorial of a man
who was killed when he was hit by a car in Waterloo Region.

I finally had a couple of weeks to buckle down for some serious training before returning to the site of my unfortunate horizontal trackstand of 2012 for the Mine Over Matter Full Off-Road Triathlon on the first Saturday of July. Despite a head-on collision with another athlete during my swim warm-up, I made it through the whole race unscathed and didn't even mind too much when I had the absolute slowest bike split out of any athlete that day,

My saddle coming loose and turning skyward probably didn't help.

A couple of weeks later I was back to one of my favourite race sites for a new experience - doing the Belwood Triathlon as a lone competitor! Tanker and I had always done this race as a relay in the past, but after hearing him rave about the lovely cycle course we decided to switch it up for 2014. I had a pretty good swim, suffered in the hills on the bike, then had a breakthrough run out of nowhere! I ran faster for the final 7.5km portion of that tri than I ever have in a stand-alone 5k.

On the move!
With no further racing on the schedule until September, there were adventures to be had! We laughed and paddled through rainy days in the backcountry at Frontenac Provincial Park, covering 6 lakes in 4 days before jetting off to Bon Echo Provincial Park for another couple of days of front country camping, hiking and kayaking along the incredible heights of Mazinaw Rock.

Soggy in Frontenac

Tanker's first canoe tour!

Bon Echo's quartzite cliffs

Tanker discovering pictographs on Mazinaw Rock

August saw some training happen as I tried to ready myself for fall racing, but the final week of the month was dedicated to our annual motorcycle tour. We had a wonderful trip exploring a science centre and a shipwreck museum, camping in Killarney Provincial Park, freezing ourselves at Brimley State Park on Lake Superior's southern shore, then drinking in the rich history of Fayette State Park before leaving Michigan's Upper Peninsula to return to South Higgins Lake State Park and on to the always-enjoyable Great Lakes Rally outside Detroit. We arrived home exhausted but full of incredible memories!

Making friends at Science North

Lake Superior sunset

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Charcoal blast ovens at Fayette State Park

Endless dunes on the north shore of Lake Michigan

Huge campsite at South Higgins Lake

Riding with friends at GLR
Suffice to say over a week of almost no training was not precisely helpful on the tough course of the Lakeside Olympic Triathlon in September. It was cold, I had navigation issues during the swim, a minor mechanical problem (that fortunately resolved itself) and a major fitness fail (which did not resolve itself) on the bike, and a somewhat redeeming run. Overall, a bit meh, but I'll take that 1sec Olympic distance run PR!

This bit, on the other hand, sucked pretty badly.
Since I hadn't entered any fall trail races other than my traditional season-ender, I was able to take the last weekend of September and join seemingly the entire province in Algonquin Park for a weekend of camping & solo backpacking. The weather suddenly turned hot and dry as the fall colours hit their peak, and I ended up exceeding all expectations I had of myself on the trail while seeing some incredible sights along the way.

Falls on the Madawaska River.

Sunrise over Head Lake

The Starling Lake lookout

Forest ablaze with colours

Two weeks after that, it was back to the woods for Campsgiving at Valens Lake Conservation area. We thoroughly enjoyed discovering this local gem, and will assuredly be back in the future to enjoy its beautiful lake, trails and boardwalks.

Overlooking the reservoir

Marsh boardwalk

I started to back off training to taper for my one and only ultra for 2014, and seemed to be running really well when I got hit with a calf injury out of nowhere right before the race. With an aggressive rehab strategy and absolutely no running in the few days before the event, I lined up at the start of the Horror Hill 6-hour with zero expectations other than to try and see. Much to my surprise, I made it through the entire race and even posted a PR distance!

Who would've thought?
Now ordinarily my season ends with Horror Hill. After you've run for 6 hours, what else is there really to do? Once again, I'd hatched a crack-brained scheme so I wouldn't "waste" my run fitness, culminating in a failed 10k PR attempt at the Kona Chocolate Run. Fortunately, I had so much spending the weekend with friends we dearly love and pacing one of said friends through the subsequent 5k race to a huge PR for him that it's impossible to think of doing the Chocolate Double as anything but a win.

This moment here is worth more than any medal.

Overall, I wouldn't say this year's race results were terribly impressive. I'm quite proud of the huge PR at Around the Bay and I have most assuredly taken my running to a new level this year, but between the lack of cycling and some other poor decision making, I wasn't really able to translate that into racing performance throughout the season.

I can, however, take away at least one positive thing from each race I did, and each one has fond memories or silly stories attached to it. Furthermore, there were almost no points I can think of in which I gave anything less than the best I had in me to give on the day. Since I'm just a Joe Schmo athlete that pays to enter these athletic events for the fun and challenge of them, I think that's more important than the final numbers anyway.

Wishing you all the best of the holiday season - peace, joy and a wonderful new year. I'll see you in 2015!

Merry Dorkmas to all, and to all a good night!

1 comment:

Go on, have at me!