Friday, 11 October 2013

The Hills are Alive...and So am I

Peak phase of my Ironman training started at the end of August and ran right through September (and sometimes over me as well). 

This is when it gets tough - I mean really tough.  Long swims, long bike rides, long runs = very little time for anything else.  I did have to fit a full time job and husband in there somehow, although both have been incredibly wonderful and supportive.

Training Review - 917.57k / 64:45 hours / 43 workouts

All of the hilly bike rides, conquering Steeles and hilly runs led me to my Half Ironman race - Ironman Muskoka 70.3 on the first weekend of September.  This is one mother of a course - good swim, but tough bike and run.  The pros come here to get ready for Kona...and I'm here why?

My friend Shelley and I travelled up to Muskoka on the Friday and got prepared to race on Sunday.  This was my first official Ironman race, so I was interested in how the process worked (to give me a taste of what to expect in Florida).  It was extremely well organized and in no time, we had racked our bikes in transition, got our race kits and were on the shuttle bus back to the hotel.

During this journey, I have been so blessed with the most incredible support team anyone could ask for and this race was no different.  A car load of supporters left home at the crack of dark to drive to Muskoka to see us race - love my peeps!

Race day was perfect weather and I was surprisingly calm (hoping part of this will translate to Florida as well).  I had a stellar swim (11 minute PB over last year's Half Iron), a strong bike and a strong run.  I said I was not going to get off my bike for any hills - I didn't.  I exceeded my time goals that I had in my head for both the bike and run and finished with a smile on my face.  It doesn't get much better than that...or so I thought.

Once we were done and on our way back to get our bikes from transition, I saw Mirinda Carfrae (who won Muskoka this year) and asked if we could have our photo taken with her.  She was so accommodating and even hugged us (sweat and all!).  This was definitely the icing on my race cake.

So all my hard work definitely paid off in Muskoka.  I had an awesome race and loved every minute (yes, even climbing at 7 km/h and running up that last hill).

I know that if I can finish Muskoka, I can finish Florida.  Coming into that Ironman chute and being greeted with my medal, finisher hat and shirt was a great feeling - can't wait to do it again on November 2.

Learning to Deal Smart

I have been very remiss in posting in my IM blog and really have no excuse, other than training like a fiend and cramming the rest of my life into whatever time is left.

Having said that, I am going to make two entries to get up to speed on my journey to Ironman Florida.

The month of August seemed to fly by with my training in full swing with lots of hill biking, long swims and longer runs.  I registered for the Bracebridge Olympic Tri which was being held the second weekend in August.  This was going to be a training race for me, but I had planned on racing strong and hopefully seeing some improvement over my results two years ago.

Training Review - 768.51k / 58:38 hours / 51 workouts

We travelled to Bracebridge on the Friday so I would have lots of time to get ready to race on Sunday.  The weather was perfect and we enjoyed some time in downtown Bracebridge, shopping in the small stores and having lunch by the water.

Unfortunately on the Saturday afternoon, I began to not feel well.  By the time dinner rolled around, I had been violently ill several times and could not keep any food down.  Needless to say, racing the next day was going to be a race morning decision.

On Sunday morning, I had hardly slept and hadn't kept any food down, so I made the call to not race.  While I knew that this was the right decision (eye on the prize, Kerry), it was very difficult for me.  I am not a quitter.

Once I decided to not race, part of me was relieved that I could get better so I wouldn't lose any training time.  But part of me was thinking - suck it up, it's just an Olympic distance.  This is where my life lesson came in - learning to deal smart.

It was absolutely the right decision for me not to race an Olympic tri and risk getting sicker and impacting my IM training.  Everyone told me I had made the right decision - I had to learn to accept it and move forward.

Even the best laid plans sometimes go sideways and something totally out of our control throws us for loop.  We can't change it, but we do have control over how we deal with it.  I said at the beginning of this journey that one of the things I wanted to get better at ws to accept that I'm not perfect and not everything will be stellar.

Here was my opportunity to see if I had grown (just a little).  While I did have my moments of wondering if I could have gotten through Bracebridge, they were fleeting, and I had full confidence in the decision I made being the right one for me (not anyone else, for me).

Guess who's grown just a

Thursday, 15 August 2013

There is an "I" in Ironman

On August 2, I posted on FB that IM Florida was only three months away...three months...WTF?  Where has the time gone?  When I started this journey in April, November 2 seemed a lifetime away.  Now with Peak Phase quickly approaching, I am having moments of hyperventilation.

But only moments.  I know that if I follow my training program, stay healthy (as much as a klutz like me can - face plant into the dining room table corner) and focus on the positives, I will complete my Ironman race.  Now it's a matter of how well I can do.

July was a good, solid month of training.  As my last post attested to, I conquered the Steeles Avenue hill (now more than once) and had some awesome runs.  My swim is my swim - my challenge - but I am so much more comfortable and confident in the water, that completing the 4k swim is definitely doable.

Training Review - 811.68k / 73:14 hours / 58 workouts

I refer to my Ironman training as a journey.  At Christmas, my coach bought me a Pandora charm named "Journey" to symbolize what I was going to embark upon in 2013.  She said that she wanted me to enjoy not only the IM race, but the journey that will lead me there.

This journey is definitely one of discovery - self-discovery really.  I am finding out just how much I can push the human body and human spirit.  What, if any, are my limitations?  When I reach those limits, how can I go beyond them?  How much can I accomplish (in my IM and non-IM life) while being tired...sometimes dog tired.  How much do I really want this...and what am I willing to do to get it?  How long can I swim in sub 60 degree Lake Ontario waters before I tap out?

What I am coming to realize is that while I have a fab team of supporters who have been with me every step of the way in this four year odyssey (and whom I love with all my heart) - this is about me. 

It is finding a strong sense of self-reliance and knowing down deep in my gut that I can do this and I deserve this.

It is knowing that things change, situations change and being able to adapt to these changes and make the right choices for me (not anyone else). 

It is knowing that I can't control everything - all I can control is what I do and how I react to situations.

It is accepting that it's okay not to be perfect and every workout won't be stellar.

It is taking pride in how far I have come and having faith in how far I can go.

I am still learning on this journey, but they are lessons that will be with me for the rest of my life and hopefully will make be a better person in the end.

Yes, there is an "I" in Ironman and for good reason - on November 2, I am going to be the one crossing the Ironman finish line and I will have gotten myself there.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Steeles Avenue is my B***ch

Ironman training is going - and going well.  I am putting in my multiple workouts, cherishing my Monday rest day and am also starting to feel its effects.  My Saturday long bike ride is a culmination of a week of tough workouts with limited rest, but that is IM - you learn to do everything on tired legs and with a tired body.

A few weeks ago on a Saturday long ride, I was introduced to the Steeles Avenue hill.  This hill is really in two parts with the first (shorter) part being a 13% grade then a "plateau" where it is still climbing but the grade eases and then the second climb with a tougher piece at the end.

This first time, I had to get off my bike and walk to the plateau or I thought I would fall since I was going so slow.  I got back on my bike and finished the climb, but had to retrieve my lungs from outside my body. 

I was not a happy camper that I had to walk some of the hill, but my coach and Shelley encouraged me and said that I could do this - they haven't steered me wrong yet. 

Aha, a bite size goal - climb Steeles Avenue hill without stopping!

The second attempt was with just Shelley and I managed to climb to the plateau, stop my bike to try to breathe (but didn't get off my bike) and then continue to the top, where I stopped to once again retrieve my lungs.  Better, but not quite there yet.

This past Saturday was my third attempt at Steeles (three's a charm, don't you know) - it was on the first 60k loop of a 120k ride.  I had fab support with Shelley beside me and my coach behind me when I turned onto Steeles and got in my granny gear. 

It is a tough slog and when I could see the plateau, I really, really, really wanted to stop (which of course I verbalized).  That was greeted by a surround sound chorus of "You're not stopping - keep pedalling".  Apparently the plateau is where I can at least retrieve one of my lungs.  I tried to negotiate by asking if I could stop at the top.  "Only if you have to" was the response.

So I kept pedalling through the plateau (which actually did allow me to breathe a bit) and then continued up the second half and around the corner through the tougher finish.  By this time, I am sure that all of Milton could hear my gasping, but I did it...and kept pedalling.  I didn't stop at the top but just stayed in my granny gear to spin my legs and recover. I also knew that the long downhill of Bell School Line was just a few minutes away.

That was one proud moment for me - I set a goal for myself, learned from my previous attempts, toughed it out and accomplished it.  Sometimes when the overall goal can be overwhelming (hello...Ironman Florida), achieving bite size goals allows you to have your mini moment in the sun, while reinforcing belief in yourself and your potential.

While the goal of climbing the Steeles Avenue hill is a wee bit smaller than finishing Ironman, the concept is the same. 

I have to believe I can do this - I have to learn from my training - I have to tough it out - I will accomplish it.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A Garden of Positivity

Yesterday marked four months until Ironman Florida...that seems like a short period of time for me to be ready to step into the ocean and embark on the hardest thing I have ever done.  That was my moment of sheer panic.  Once I started breathing again, I realized that over the past three months, everything I have done in my training (along with the guidance and mentoring of my coach and support of my family and friends) has confirmed the fact that I can and will finish my IM race.  Now my focus is on finishing it well.

With that affirmation planted...there is gonna be a whole garden of positive self-talk growing...I had a fabulous month of training in June.  My build phase kicked in which increased my swims to three times a week (3k each) and the Saturday bike ride is getting longer.  I continued to push myself on the bike and kept my speed and tempo runs strong. 

The Healing Cycle 100k ride was awesome!  It's a bit of a tough course with some hills and climbs, but I did it with some amazing friends and we raised over $18,000 for Carpenter Hospice - doesn't get much better than that.

Two days later, I ran the Grimsby Peachbud 10k race.  While I was hoping for a PB, the heat/humidity and the Healing Cycle didn't quite agree with that plan.  I did, however, run a sub 1:00 and helped a friend of my husband's break the 1:00 mark as well.  Sometimes it isn't always about winning.

The final weekend of the month (Canada Day weekend) was spent at a cottage in Parry Sound.  It was a training triathlon (Kerry style) with swimming in McDougall Lake, a long bike ride consisting of kick ass hills, gradual climbs, rollers and false flats, topped off with a longer run on the very same rollers.

Training Review - 654k / 58:04 hours / 52 workouts

Day by day my confidence grows, along with my abilities to complete Ironman Florida and to do it well.  My heartfelt thanks to everyone who is helping me and following me on this journey - together we will cross that finish line when I can say that I am an Ironman.

Friday, 14 June 2013

IM Training - Becoming Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

It has been a while since my last post (my apologies but I am a little preoccupied with something call IM training).  However, it has been brought to my attention that this blog will be a meaningful keepsake when all is said and done after November 2.  It also might give others a sneak peek into this insanity.

I have completed two months of IM training (April & May) and am well into June.  For the sake of brevity, here is a Reader's Digest version of my first two months of training:


I must admit that I was quite nervous when April 8 rolled around and I officially started this journey.  Having never done anything remotely like this, the burning question is - will I be able to do Ironman?  Will I be able to finish?

Because I am in my base phase, the workouts were not overly hard compared to some of my previous training.  While I know this is the "honeymoon" stage, it gave me a sense of comfort that I could do what had to be done and survive.  That, along with some soul searching discussions with my coach, gave me the seed of an idea that is germinating in my brain - I can do this.  I can finish.

Over the winter, I have not been in a good place with my running (for various reasons).  With the onset of IM training, something seemed to click in my brain and I ended up with some wicked runs, including PB's at a 5k and 10k race and a third place podium finish (at the 5k) to boot!  I was some happy camper.

Training review - 310k / 34:34 hours / 45 workouts


In May, I settled more into the routine of 6 days training / 1 day off - how I relish Mondays!  My distances were creeping up slowly, along with my confidence in my abilities.  I train with a wonderful group of people who are the most supportive crew on the planet.  They ran the Good Life Marathon / Half Marathon on May 5 and my coach and I were their cheerleaders.  I didn't race because it isn't in my schedule - I have quickly learned that if it isn't in the schedule, the answer is no (and for good reason). 

My swim is my challenge in this sport, but I know that evey time I am in the water, I am getting better - no matter what water, no matter for how long.  Someone in the pool actually asked me for some technique advice because "I am such a good swimmer" - best compliment ever!! :-)

Training review - 452k / 34:36 hours / 39 workouts

June to date

This month, my coach told me that she is going to push me on my bike because she knows what a strong athlete I am and what my capabilities are.  She said something that has also taken seed in my brain - Ironman is not about being comfortable, it is about being outside your comfort zone...a lot

So with that seed planted, this week I decided to try to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable.  This has translated into a great speed workout on Tuesday night, a wicked bike ride on Wednesday night and an awesome Z3 run last night (besides some great pool drill sessions).  Weeks like this encourage that little seed of believing to grow, and grow it will.

Build phase of my training starts on June 17 - I will increase to three swims per week (3k each) and my Saturday bike rides get longer.  On June 23, I am participating in a 100k cycle to raise funds for Carpenter Hospice with my training family.  On June 25 (a mere two days later), I am racing the Peachbud 10k and I'm looking for a PB (sub 57:25) - fingers crossed!

So that's the journey so far - while it is a long road ahead (4 months 19 days to IM Florida), I am enjoying the experience and I'm sure I will be a better person because of it.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

4.15.13 - Boston

So today's the day for me to update my blog and talk about my first week of Ironman training.  With the events in Boston yesterday, it seems very selfish of me to go on about how great my first week went, how I loved getting outside on my bike, how I could have easily swam 4k this morning.

So I write with a heavy heart and a fire in my soul - the monsters who perpetrated this horrific act on innocent people cannot win.  They win if we give up.  They win if we do not move forward and prove to them that they are nothing more than the cowards that they are.  They will not win - I refuse to let them.

One of my friends rode with me last night and she told me that she had qualified for Boston but had decided not to go (she's been before) - she has a guardian angel watching out for her.  My coach is going to qualify for Boston this year, which means I'll be there cheering her on next year.

We all have to continue to run (and swim and bike) to honour those victims of Boston and show that we stand united in the face of evil.  Continuing to do what we love is the best tribute we can give.  We can't change what has happened, but we have the power to change how we react to it.

So I'm going to run tonight - while it's only a 30 minute speed run, it is for Boston - it is for all of us in our running family.  We are united.