Friday, June 26, 2015


I kind of feel like I've been invited to watch a car accident tomorrow.

While I still struggle with that damn, niggling hamstring tendon issue, I have managed to run a bit lately. Mostly because I well and truly hate life when I'm not running, but also because I knew I'd have to run at least 8km of hilly, technical trail at Mine Over Matter. Tanker and I had signed up to do this as a relay this year, partly because his interest was piqued by doing another off-road tri together (which hasn't happened since the Belwood Fat Tire Try-a-Tri we did all the way back in 2010), and partly because he wanted to check out the bike course that broke me.

The race has evolved since then, going from a tiny little event with under 100 people the first time I did it in 2011 (when I finished successfully) to a 300+ strong qualifier for the Xterra World Championships. To make things even more interesting, both the bike and run courses have changed since I went back to reclaim a bit of dignity last year.

The bike course is now a short 1st loop of 7.8km and longer 2nd loop of 13.2km, so Tanker will be riding 21km instead of the 2 x 9km loops of prior years. No problem - he's totally going to rock it, having got his bit of mountain bike teething trouble out of the way last weekend.

This washed out riverstone is neither easy to ride nor friendly to elbows.

I, however, am facing three very real problems.

1) The swim. It looks like it won't be wetsuit legal due to the temperature of the water, and after my utterly hapless swim at Woodstock 3 weeks ago (in spite of the extra flotation provided by my full-sleeve wetsuit), I'll be lucky if the water safety crew doesn't have to fish my sorry arse out of the pond.


2) Temperature. The high for Saturday is supposed to be 17c/63f, and I'm going to emerge from the pond soaking wet with probably at least 90mins to hang around and freeze while Tanker goes forth and rips up the bike course like it owes him money.


3) The run. Even assuming I'm not a solid block of ice by the time Tanker returns triumphantly from shredding the gnar, I'm going to have to limp my damaged carcass through almost 10km of terrain almost purpose-built to worsen the particular injury I'm trying to fight through. I can't even rely on my reconnaissance from prior years, as the route has changed for 2015 while increasing from 8.64 kilometers to 9.8k. The only thing I know for sure is I'll still have to do the lung-bursting scamper up the side of the quarry to reach the trails, try not to trip over the multitudinous roots and rocks while I'm up there, and endeavour to save something after the quad-destroying descent back to the quarry floor for the final loop around the pond.

All this while I haven't run more than 5km since I hurt myself on May 30th, clocking just under 37km total for the month of June so far - just a smidge less than the 200+k/month I'd averaged from January to May. 

At least I'm well tapered?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Cambridge Tour de Grand 50k - June 14th, 2015

June is bike month, and what better way to celebrate than with a ride around Grand River country?

I think our feelings about this are best expressed in sock form.

Tanker and I were late - as always - getting down to Churchill Park to get rolling. Might have made the 9:30am start for the 50k if we had managed to pick up our kits on Saturday, but we simply had too much on the go until after the 2pm packet pickup cut-off.

To be honest, given the forecasted thunderstorms, the absolute torrent of rain which awoke us just before 6am, and the grey skies that greeted us when the alarm went off, we'd been tempted to say to hell with the whole thing. However, having done Paris to Ancaster a couple of times (including in blinding snow), cycling in the rain on a warm day didn't seem like such a bad wheeze. Apparently we weren't the only ones who were dubious, though: out of 2,600 registered participants, only about 1,600 actually turned up to ride in the event.

Just barely beating the start of the 40k.

As I was taking a break from running to try to let an injury heal I'd actually been on my various bikes all week, including 31km of hilly commuting to and from the pool on Saturday afternoon on my nubby CX tires. Saturday evening had been spent changing up rubber on both our cyclocross bikes to some road slicks, but as we finally left Duncan McIntosh Arena around 5mins to 10am after chatting with some friends, I could tell the decreased rolling resistance wasn't going to be enough to make my legs respond with any kind of snap.

40k riders waiting for us knobs to get out of the way.

The roads had actually dried up a fair bit from the early morning deluge, and I hoped they'd stay that way. I hadn't rode my ballin' white wheelset with their 23mm near-slick tires since sometime last fall, and while they'd been ok for the riot of rain that was last year's Tour de Grand, I just didn't have the time in on them recently enough to feel comfortable knowing their limits on wet roads. To make things even more interesting, we'd both forgotten our cycling glasses - Tanker had his regular sunglasses in the car, but I was relegated to letting my inner Euro take charge for the day.

Ooh, so pro.

I'm really, really glad I grabbed a cycling cap at the last minute before we left the house.

As we pedaled out of the parking lot and up the hill on Champlain Boulevard to begin our day, we quickly caught up with another couple on road bikes who confirmed we weren't the only ones a bit tardy for the 50k start. We rode together for awhile, then dropped them as we climbed a hill on Clyde Road on the way out of town.

See ya!

50k route map - full details here.

Tanker taking a pull.

The skies were still grey but the weather remained calm as we rode our way through the first half of the course. We were riding smoothly, picking off groups of cyclists ahead of us as we rolled through the countryside - every bike we saw ahead of us was a target, and there were none that we spotted that we failed to drop.

Target: acquired.

The only one I didn't drop.

Arriving at the Clyde rest stop on Village Road, there were at least 3 dozen other participants enjoying refreshments and a pause, so I assumed we must have at least caught up to one of the waves of the 50k start.

Tanker refilled our one empty water bottle each, not having touched the others on our bikes despite the sticky warmth of the day. We were about 27km in, having taken just over an hour to get there, and I took the opportunity to adjust my rear derailleur a bit to smooth out some hesitant shifting due to a difference in dishing between The Biggest Wheel in the World I'd removed the night before and the sexy white hoop I was riding today.

Our bikes getting a break.

I grabbed a couple of banana chunks and an orange slice from the lovely volunteers once I was satisfied I wouldn't have to deal with any further shifting frustrations, then joined Tanker in the line for the portajohns. I didn't need to go, but figured I'd keep him company, and ended up holding his place while he helped himself to a couple of aid station cookies. He finally got his relief, then we prepared to saddle up again just as the skies opened and a gentle rain began to fall.

Just before the dampening.

With a cooler breeze having started to blow through the fields and parking lot at the rest stop, I decided that prudence dictated donning my vest as we set off for the rest of our ride. It wouldn't keep me dry, but it would help trap some heat and keep the wind from chilling my rain-soaked chest as I rode. I've talked about my love affair with vests in the past, and my Vanderkitten VIP vest with its awesome Ophelia "houndstooth" has been a great addition to my arsenal of gear.

Soggy kitty.

Tank was pleased with his King of Lions kit, too.

For the rest of the ride, it seemed like the rain had something personal against us. What began as a light patter soon turned into a steady drenching, then a bloody deluge as we finally re-entered Cambridge city limits. We rolled cautiously through up to an inch of flowing water beneath our wheels, taking corners wide and easy to maximize traction on the sodden streets. Tanker's brakes became more and more useless with each passing minute as I watched the water rooster tail off my front wheel. Fortunately, other than a single fat drop that somehow got lucky, my cycling cap managed to keep my eyes protected from the torrent.

At least I didn't have to worry about my glasses fogging up, right?

Yeah, great day for a ride.

My bike needed washing anyway.

Exercising extra caution as we came through the Elgin Street tunnel and across the soaked wooden footbridge, we grunted our way up the final climbs before sailing down the long decline through residential streets back to Churchill Park. Drenched right to the bone, we ditched our cycling shoes for flip flops at the car and traded our helmets and gloves for dry shorts and t-shirts. 2 hours, 4 minutes and 1 second of ride time for 50.8km per my cycle computer - an average of 24.5kph/15.2mph.

You know it's been a wet ride when you can wring out your cycling gloves and socks.

We both got changed, then split up for a bit as Tanker went in search of post-ride food in the arena and I knocked back a can of coconut water and a chocolate chip cookie while I registered for some complimentary soft tissue massage provided by Peak Performance. While I had the ongoing problem in my right leg, my left hamstrings had been feeling a bit strained since my tough ride to and from the pool the day before. Fortunately, after just a few minutes, I was directed to a table and the masseur got down to work.

I had to chuckle a bit at the horror expressed by the RMT when he encountered the damage in my right hamstrings. After he did some rather aggressive work on me - even having to enlist the help of a Cambridge Times reporter to hold the massage table in place, as it was trying to slide away under his ministrations - I was feeling a little less of the annoying pull and stab in the backs of my legs. Good deal! He'd rubbed some Biofreeze gel into my hamstrings, though, and the chill from it made me very happy I'd brought a dry change of clothes and a hoodie to keep me warm.

Of course it had quit raining completely by the time we got home, and not another drop fell for the rest of the day. Just our luck.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Heels & Wheels 5k Trail Race - June 7th, 2015

Just call this the phoenix.

Having raced a 50k fifteen days prior, damaged my right hamstring tendons 8 days beforehand and raced a sprint triathlon the previous day, I had zero expectations for this particular race. I was also going to run with a friend of mine doing his first race in ages, and he warned me his pace would be leisurely at best.

Just getting to the start line was a little on the stressful side. I woke up panicking because the sun streaming through my bedroom window looked far too high in the sky for a race morning, then slumped a bit when I realized I still had 5mins before my 7am alarm was to go off. Rolling out of bed, I munched back my pre-race bagel, then decided I'd have a bit of a nap as we didn't need to leave until about 8:30am for the 9am check-in.

I failed to silence my phone, and at 7:50 heard a text come in. It was the friend with whom I was supposed to be pacing, letting me know that either allergies or illness were preventing him from breathing, let alone running. He apologised profusely and said he owed me, but I told him not to worry about it.

Hmm. There go my reasons for taking this leisurely.

I decided to nap for another 10mins, figuring 30mins was plenty to throw on kit and get out the door. This time I managed to silence my phone so it wouldn't disturb me with its various noises.

Then I woke up at 8:55am and realized I hadn't actually started the damn timer.

With a bit of a yell at Tanker because OHMAHGAWDIT'SSOFREAKINGLATE I went from horizontal to vertical in one single motion. Frantically pulling up info on my phone, I finally started breathing again when I looked at the race website and learned that while the 5k WALK started at 10am, the 5k RUN wouldn't go off until 10:45am.

Mmmkay. We got this.

Out of the house in about 18 minutes flat, we jammed to the hockey-related coffee purveyors then up to Bingemans to pick up my race kit and ruminate. Did I want to do a warmup run, or save the hamstring for the race?

Motivated by the small number of runners in attendance, the fact that I'd actually managed 3rd woman overall at this race in 2014, and wanting to see how the injured leg was responding this morning, I trotted out to the 1k marker on the course and back after some dynamic stretches to open things up a bit.

After all, I was still a bit blurry.

The warmup felt ok, and the short acceleration I did toward the end didn't seem to make a difference to my discomfort level. Back to the starting area with about 15mins to go before the gun, I hit the washroom and then kept myself moving in an attempt to stay loose.

Jazz hands help.

While someone led an aerobics-style group warmup with static stretching, I did some high knees and butt kicks, then bounced up and down a few times to see if my calves were awake yet.

"Skip to my lou, my darling.."

I was just starting to walk toward the start line, telling Tank it was getting close to time and I'd better head over, when suddenly we were off.

Um, what? GO!

Looking up ahead, I saw 3 females in front of me: a lady not in her first youth who fell outside the typical distance runner physique (like myself), an 8 or 9 year old girl, and a tall, willowy young lady in compression socks. The other 5 ladies behind us didn't appear to be threats to the course records, though I was relying on the assumption the fittest-looking one of them was probably a Crossfit practicioner with limited endurance. I'd seen her doing deep lunges with her arms overhead as a warmup, so it seemed legit, but you never can quite tell how people will run from appearances.

In any case, I set off at a moderate clip, not wanting to hurt my injured leg with too hot a start off the line. I passed the mature lady ahead of me within the first couple of hundred metres, even before we left the paved road and headed into the campground and onto the trail.

Sunshine and phlox
Photo from my warmup run

As we passed the gate onto the Grand River Trail, the little girl (who had run enthusiastically so far) stopped to wait for someone behind me. I pressed onward, threading my way through some of the walkers on course as the trail narrowed, and passed the 1k marker with the skinny compression-socked girl a few metres ahead as the trail began to climb.

This never gets any easier.

It turned out that, while the young lady might have a much more ideal frame for distance running than my fire hydrant-esque build, she didn't have much strength on the uphill. I powered past her, puffing like a locomotive and hoping my hamstring wouldn't object too much to the unsure footing caused by the soft, washed-out gravel surface.

Jeebus. I was in first place.

Ok, there were a bunch of guys ahead of me, but I was the first female. Overall.

Holy crap.

Up, over, and down the other side of the big stinkin' hill, I came around the sweeping curve and into the blinding sunshine as I passed the 2k mark. It was getting quite hot out, and once again I'd neglected sunblock. Another mild rise to climb, then through the turn-around and back the way I came.

Starting to suffer a bit, I saw that I had about a minute's lead on the young lady in the compression socks as she headed for the turn-around. I passed the 3k mark in what seemed to be under 17 minutes; I didn't really know when the clock had started as compared to the time on my watch, and it's not like I could do much about pacing at this point anyway. Hitting the back side of the big stinkin' hill again, I was already death whistling and wondering if I'd have to walk. I still tried to offer a friendly word to the other athletes on the course, 'cause why wouldn't I?

Of course I only got photos of the flat bits during my warmup.

So the problem I faced now, as I made my tortuous way up the many steps of the hill that stood between me and the finish, was that all of the steepest bits seemed to be in full sunshine without a trace of shade.  I was hot, tired, and seriously wondering if I was going to blow myself up.

One last IAR gang sign before I assplode.

I kept telling myself I only had to suffer for a few more minutes, keeping my steps short and trying not to wrench on the sore tendons any more than I had to. Hitting the long downhill, I avoided some more walkers on the narrow trail as I passed the 4k marker.

I tried telling myself that I could ease up a little, as I couldn't hear anyone coming up behind me and figured I could ride out my lead to the finish, but my body was firmly under the influence of the part of my brain that was screaming THIS IS FOR THE WIN DAMMIT and stubbornly refused to stop pushing.

Back onto the pavement, I knew I had the women's division sewn up...which was a good thing, since I had no kick whatsoever.


Official time: 27:43 @ 5:33/km
1/9 Women

So that's how I got my first ever overall women's division win.

Accepting my prize package

So from zero expectations and a rather mediocre showing at a sprint triathlon the day before to my best placing ever in a race, despite being slightly busted. 

While it's a little disappointing that there were no medals this year (I got one for 3rd woman overall last year), a quick peek at my prize package revealed another first for me: I WON FREAKIN' MONEY! The envelope pictured held a $100 Visa gift card donated by one of the race sponsors. 

So yeah, I felt pretty safe texting my friend afterward to tell him he didn't owe me a blessed thing for bowing out of the race that morning.

Woodstock Sprint Triathlon - June 6th, 2015

Like triathlon's goofy slapstick cousin, this was ill advised racing at its finest: just 2 weeks after the Sulphur Springs 50k, still badly over race weight, almost no bike fitness and a fresh, tender injury to boot.

At least I was stylish in my Vanderkitten tri suit!

Meh, whatevs. You punches your ticket, you takes your ride. Pre-race faffing went fine: up at the crack of stupid after something best described as a nap, bagel stuffed in face, arrive at site with plenty of time in the chilly morning air to pick up race kit.

My race bib seems to know me well.
At least I didn't pay full price for my idiocy.

I got my transition area set up neatly, basically working on autopilot. It had only taken me about 10mins total to pack everything up the night beforehand, and even less time to lay it all out ready to go. 

It's almost like I might have done this once or twice - or maybe two dozen times - before.

Portajohn, body lube, drink water, shiver a little. Did you know that BodyGlide goes crumbly after 8 months without being used? Totally fail to apply sunscreen. Do own bodymarking anyway, adding a little essential that the volunteers wouldn't have.

At least part of me will be smiling through the whole thing.
Stuff great walloping mass of lower body into teenytiny rubber suit that hasn't been off its hanger since last September. Remember that I haven't done a swim interval longer than 200m in at least a couple of months. Feign optimism while seriously doubting my ability to even get through the first leg of the damn race.


With assistance from Tanker the Wonder Sherpa, ascertain that it is at least possible to get the wetsuit zipped up over my ample insulation.

If one of these seams lets go, there will be no survivors within a 100 metre radius.

Into the lake for a laughable warmup swim, the 20c/68f water feeling much chillier than advertised. Swim most of the way out to the first buoy, note that there is some chop running from the East, get swamped, tired and discouraged. Do some kicking and treading water to try to gently warm up the damaged leg while trying to adjust my too-snug wetsuit so it might feel just a little less constrictive. Realize the only true way to achieve that would have been to put down the damn fork a month ago, and swim back to shore while trying to avoid getting whacked in the face by other athletes.

Werrlllll, I survived that bit anyway.

I was in the first wave right at 9am with the pros, elites, men <24 and women 30-39. So, I figured I'd probably be somewhere around last out of the water in my wave, 'cause I've got no damn business being in with the fast bunch.

Or the medium bunch. Or the less-than-glacial-pace bunch.

The horn sounds, I take a couple of steps forward as everyone else leaped in with gusto, and then dive in like a bloated sea lion. There's a mess of flailing limbs around me, some of which are mine.

The less said about the swim, the better. That bit of chop - just pathetic little 14" wavelets - seemed intent on swamping me every time I'd try to breathe on the way out to the first turn buoy. Even breathing to the leeward side, they were just big enough to wash over my head and try to drown me. Not having practiced any in more than half a year, I wasn't having an easy time sighting, but seemed to be swimming reasonably straight.

That's about the only thing that went ok.

Between unintentionally hydrating myself with lakewater and my total lack of endurance, I ended up side stroking a bit...and then even flipped on my back to kick for a little. This happened more than once, though I did manage to get myself from the 1st turn buoy to the 2nd swimming front crawl. The chop was, after all, running in the same direction I was swimming at that point. Heading for the swim exit after turn 2, the chop was now coming in from my right and there was more side strokery.

I mean, I know my swimming is never good when I'm recovering from a tough race, but this was pathetic. Overtaken by the 2nd wave of athletes just past the second turn buoy, I felt like a failure.

To distract you from my abysmal swim, here's a picture of some ducklings beside the starting area.

I eventually flopped & flailed my way back to land, got to my feet and gave my damaged hamstring tendons their first test of the day as I waddled toward transition. I had sort of forgotten that I'd have to run up to T1 until I was approaching the swim exit.

750m swim: 17:01 @ 2:16/100m
Haven't been that slow since 2012.

Fortunately, the damaged leg seemed to hold up as I staggered along and started stripping my way out of my rubbery casing. Entering the transition area, I ran along the rack looking for my bike...only to discover I was at the wrong rack. Wobbling my way further along, I finally located my gear.


I methodically went through the process of donning my race number, sunglasses, helmet and cycling shoes (a process complicated by not wanting to strain the sore hamstring tendons by bending over too sharply), then began timidly trotting up the hill toward the bike course.

Leg, don't fail me now!
T1: 01:34
00:12 slower than 2014 

Here's where the comedy of errors really gets rolling.

As I ran along, holding my bike by its saddle, the bars swung completely over to the right - effectively halting me in my tracks. I had to use my other hand to correct it and then try to get back into my cautious stride. I finally made it to the mount line just behind a knot of about a dozen other athletes who conspired to completely block the way forward. I mean, I have no problems with running a few metres past the line before hopping on to give other people space, but I literally could not get through. So, I waited. Suddenly making sure my bike was racked with the pedals in the proper position seemed ridiculous - I probably lost 30 seconds just waiting for the mounting area to clear enough for me to swing a leg over my bike. I did actually manage to start my cycle computer, though.

Once I was finally in the saddle, I felt better than expected - didn't even have as tough a time climbing the big stinkin' hill out of the park as I'd feared, just focused on keeping the pedals turning. The air was still cool, but the sun was bright and my own effort kept me warm. Spinning along in the small ring up and over the hill Northbound on 13th line, I settled in and started to enjoy myself a bit, coming through the turn East and then the 5k mark in 12:05 - just under 25kph average.

While learning that being in the 1st swim wave means there are even more people to pass you on the bike.

I made the second turn onto 15th line and pulled out my only nutrition for the race about 17mins into the bike: a single packet of Salted Caramel Gu. I got it into my face without crashing or coming out of aero - for which I feel like I deserve a damn medal, what with it only being my 2nd ride on my tri bike since last fall. I even made it through the hairpin turn-around, though slowly and slightly wobbly, while thanking the police officers on course for keeping us safe. Headed back North again on 15th line, I climbed a rise and then shifted to the big ring as I came over the top and into a gentle downhill..

..promptly dropping the damn chain.


So, laughing a bit - 'cause what else can you do - I coasted down the hill until it started to level out, then pulled over and stopped to sort myself out. It occurred to me later that I could have tried using the shifter to pop it back up onto the chainring, but by that point I'd already dismounted, coated my right hand in grease setting the chain back in place, and had to stand on the pedals to get myself moving again.

Fortunately, the rest of the bike leg was uneventful. I successfully shifted to the big ring and back down again a couple of times, and tried to strike a balance between making up a bit of lost time and saving my legs for what promised to be a fairly feeble run.

But hey - no crashing!

Approaching the dismount line I weighed my options while trying to gauge how well my damaged hamstring was holding up, and elected to forgo my walking-on-air parlour trick in the interest of health and safety. Coming to a complete stop, I gingerly swung my sore leg - which was actually feeling ok - over the bike and lumbered back toward transition.


20k bike: 47:08 @ 25.46kph
02:11 slower than 2014.
(My cycle computer recorded 45:32 of moving time)

"Running" to transition

Changing from my bike shoes to my run shoes took longer than it should have for a couple of reasons. First, I was still leery of putting too much strain on my sore hamstrings, so had to be careful picking things up off my little mat on the ground. I was also vainly trying to keep from smearing the chain grease that coated my right hand all over my pristine white cycling shoes, so ended up working left-handed while two-thirds of the way through a race for which I was severely undertrained. I'm sure you can imagine how well that worked out. Grabbing my hat at last, I headed for the exit before they decided to start charging me rent.

T2: 01:06
00:05 slower than 2014.

Shift yourself, woman!

The run may have been the source of my greatest trepidation, but it actually went better than I could have expected. I went out fairly easy, partly to test the hamstring and partly because it was pretty clear I wasn't racing for a PR anyway. As always, it seemed to take forever to reach the dam and the 1km marker, especially since they'd poured some aggregate stone on the trail that was rather uncomfortable to run on with chilled feet in my tri loafers.

Which I keep on wearing at Woodstock, despite knowing the course is mostly trail.

I took the steep descent off the far end of the dam very cautiously to spare my poor, damaged tendons as much as I could, and breathed in the phlox-scented air along the river. The sun was scorching, but the air remained cool so I wasn't suffering too badly. Of course, it seemed like everyone in the whole race was running past me like I was standing still, but that was nothing more than I expected.

I figured I might end up DFL, but didn't really care.

Up the sharp climb to the road, I grabbed a cup of water at the aid station just past the 2k mark and took a couple of sips before tossing the rest down my back. I pattered my way up the false flat to the turn-around, then began the final jaunt as I shouted my thanks to the amazing volunteers and offered some encouragement to the other athletes on course. I'd find out later that I unknowingly said a few much-appreciated words to a fellow Vanderkitten VIP who was having a tough time on the run, managing to brighten her day just a little. Honestly, even if I got nothing else out of racing, that would be enough to keep me coming back.

And where else can I flash the ill advised racing gang sign?

With 1k left to go I was death whistling and my sore leg was talking some serious trash to me, but I pushed on and even managed to just barely pass the guy in the Triathlon Club of Burlington kit who appears in all these photos. He beat me on chip time, of course, but it was nice to pass at least someone out there.

Into the chute with zero kick.

I hit the final turn and the gentle downhill to the finish line, glad I didn't seem to have done any further damage to my injured leg and not having had to walk. Some lady who clearly hadn't left it all on course came flying past me and my TCOB companion, but I crossed the line upright and smiling.

We'll call it a win.

5k run: 28:58 @ 5:47/km
00:05 PR!

Just barely holding off the competition.

12/23 W35-39 - 96/156 W - 283/388 O/A
02:51 slower than 2014

Just happy to be done.

So it appears I'm getting slower every year I do this race - I went 1:31:06 while undertrained in 2013 and 1:32:55 three weeks after being by a car in 2014. While I may have a few excuses - and maybe even something that qualifies as a reason - I really would like to go under 90mins at this race someday. 

2015, however, was not that day.


Still had a hoot doing it on a really beautiful day, though. Of course, then it was time to try to recover hard for further stupidity the next day..