Monday, August 31, 2015

Post-race report - MSC Wasaga Beach Olympic tri

Another great race put on by Multisport Canada this weekend! Wasaga Beach was my first tri 8 years ago, and always a favourite location because so many of my relatives live in the area. This year it served as Club Championships, and it was great to see so many teamLPC athletes out competing and cheering over the weekend.

This was easily the choppiest and most difficult swim I've done in a race. I'm glad I've done a bit of training in windy Kingston so I've at least encountered rough water before, but I wasn't prepared for how difficult drafting and sighting would be when I was also trying to hold a half-decent speed at the same time. Luckily there was a pretty big group of LPC athletes swimming about the same speed, so I did catch a draft occasionally, but I'm sure I was heading in the wrong direction half the time and I was feeling pretty seasick by the end. The feeling getting to shore was similar to how I'd expect to feel finally getting to port after a long, exhausting trip out to sea.

Thrown off by the swim and sitting further back in position than I was hoping for, I jumped on the bike and started pounding right away. A few minutes in I'd caught 2 girls but quickly realized I was going too fast and slowed down to a pace that was just comfortably uncomfortable. I think after that I was pretty consistent, a strong pace but something I could maintain, despite some uncomfortable false flats and some rough road.

After pushing the pace on the bike, my legs were feeling a bit heavy starting the run. I was very worried about starting out too fast, because that has ruined countless races in the past. The first k was right on target, 4:15, but the next few were a bit faster and by the turnaround I knew I wouldn't be able to maintain the speed the whole way. Just past the turn I saw Lauren behind me, barreling towards the halfway point looking much much stronger than I felt. I started fading right around 8k, and right about then she caught me, but luckily stayed right behind until the 500m-or-so homestretch. I tried making a move a few 100m from the finish but it was too far out, and I fell back. My dad was right there yelling "keep pushing!" and I'm pretty sure I yelled back "I can't!" (not my proudest moment...). Then, just before the finish, the small part of my brain that was still coherent quietly reminded me that the moment I crossed that line, it would be all over and I would instantly feel better. So I tried one last attempt at a full-out sprint. The result is below:

Not my worst pain-face ever. But close.

Overall I'm very happy with how the race went. I think I even handled those swim conditions okay, all things considered. Last step on the road to Barrelman, now less than 3 weeks away!

Thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way: family (so happy to have both of my parents and my Grandma there cheering me on!), friends, MainCycle Hamilton, teamLPC and the Hurdle Project, Multisport Canada/Recharge with Milk and the Ambassador team. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Post-race report - Multisport Canada Toronto Island sprint tri

Who knew you could fit an entire triathlon on a fairly small island? Granted, it was a sprint tri - which felt short after my recent adventures with long course racing - but it was still quite the feat. The bike was 2 loops and the run was 4, which made for a spectator-friendly and fun race course. Definitely one I want to do again!

"High" doesn't really relate to triathlon at all. So naturally this is the word we chose.

I came into this race feeling a bit unprepared. I'd been feeling tired and unmotivated the week leading up to the race, and the stress of waiting for the results of my physiotherapy board exam didn't help in the slightest. In the end though, a bit less training in that week gave me a bit of extra energy on race day and I ended up being very happy with my performance.

This was either right before or after Billy missed my attempted high-five. It's okay though, I'm sure all the spectators didn't notice :)

I've been used to starting the swim in deep water, so starting shallower threw me off a bit. The start was a bit chaotic and it took a while to get into a rhythm. I never did find anyone to draft either, so I swam alone and did my best to focus on good form. My arms felt tired by the end, which is probably a sign that I'm actually using them more, which is good! In the end the swim felt about average. I wasn't overly happy with my time but I never really am in the swim.

New Rudy Project helmet! I did like that giant golf ball but this one is much more aero :)

Rarely do I get the chance to bike with someone who is a similar speed to me - I'm usually all on my own with the occasional strong cyclist blowing by me as if I'm standing still. This time I was lucky enough that my MSC Ambassador teammate Lauren had a similar swim time and we were able to get out on the bike together and push each other. The course was very flat which felt great after all my recent training in hilly Peterborough, and I held a good pace and came into T2 in 3rd place overall right behind Lauren.

Finally!!! my run is coming back :) After almost 3 months off and a very slow and painful return to running (and a few disappointing run splits) it seems all the patience has paid off and I managed a comfortable 20:02 5k off the bike. This is great motivation to keep working on it, and hopefully pull out some solid sub-20s next season.

Overall podium - lots of MSC Ambassador representation! :)

Overall I was happy with the race, and now I'm feeling a lot more motivated going into two of my biggest races of the season: next weekend's MSC Wasaga Beach Olympic tri (also Provincial Club Championships!) and of course the MSC Barrelman half Ironman- less than a month away! Thanks so much to my family, friends and supporters: Multisport Canada/Recharge with Milk and my fellow Ambassadors, team LPC and the Hurdle Project, and MainCycle Hamilton. And thank you for reading :)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Post-race report: MSC K-Town Long Course

On Sunday I raced my first long course triathlon, at my hometown course in Kingston. I have done the K-Town Tri short course before but this year I decided to try my hand at the longer distance (the Barrelman half Ironman is now less than 2 months away!)

I think it being a very familiar course was a huge advantage, because there was nowhere on the course that I didn't know where I was and how much further I had to go. It certainly made the 3 1/2 hours a bit more bearable - even enjoyable! And it was the perfect weather for it too - very little wind, blue skies but not too hot until the very end.

The 2k swim was certainly the most daunting of the increased distances, but when I was in the water it surprisingly didn't feel much longer than the other swims I've done this year. I caught a draft right off the start as I always try to, but recognized after a few 100m that I could go faster so passed by and ventured out of my own for a bit. I found another pair of feet about halfway through, but these feet weren't thrilled about being drafted and, after dodging a bit, the attached swimmer just stopped swimming completely and moved out of the way so I'd go by. So I was back to swimming on my own. The whole swim I could see a decent-sized lead pack way out ahead, and realized how badly I need to work on my swim over this coming winter! But I got out of this swim feeling pretty fresh, which was the most important thing for the time being.

I'm not sure how I feel about that bike. The majority of it felt really good, I felt strong off the start for the first half, and finished feeling strong as well, but somewhere in the middle I got a fairly bad leg cramp and felt like I slowed down a lot. I wasn't being passed though, so maybe that was just that part of the course (going into a bit of a headwind - and maybe going a bit uphill? I can never actually tell these kinds of things unless they're really obvious!) Anyway, the cramp went away and I starting feeling stronger again in the last 10-15k and again this 56k course didn't feel quite as long as I expected it would.

Repeat after me: DON'T try something new for race day. Just DON'T.
... In my case this was a different, more effective type of carb-loading than the typical night-before pasta dinner. I tried increasing my carb intake significantly the two days prior to the race (including pasta lunch AND pasta dinner on Saturday!). Maybe it did help to some extent, because I didn't hit a wall or anything during the run, I just spent the entire 15k feeling very bloated and nauseous. In the end though, that forced me to start out slow, and I was able to maintain my pace and even pick it up a bit for the last 2k. I averaged 4:34/km and, when counting the two outhouse breaks, was probably closer to 4:30s, which I'm really happy with. And the best part of the run was running the last 100m with the friendly neighbourhood Pac-Man and two ghosts who looked remarkably similar to three of my Queen's Triathlon teammates - you guys are awesome!!

Overall, I'm very pleased with my first long course tri. I finished in 6th place in what turned out to be a very competitive field. There are certainly things I now know I need to work on (I didn't really need nutrition in the shorter races!) but having done the first one I now know I can do it, and it's all uphill from here (yes there's a double meaning there). 

I missed the overall podium but - slightly embarrassingly - was the only one registered as Pro rather than AG Elite. So I did get a podium pic!

Big thanks to Multisport Canada/Recharge with Milk (another race well organized and very successful!), MainCycle Hamilton, teamLPC and the Hurdle Project, and all my wonderful and supportive friends and family for all that you do. Thanks for reading! Depending on how I recover this week, my next one will either be MSC Bracebridge this coming Sunday or MSC Toronto Island three weekends later.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Importance of a Strong Core

As a physiotherapy student, one of my goals for this blog is to pass along some general training and injury prevention tips to my followers. I’ll start with a disclaimer though – every body is different and if you ARE injured, the best thing to do is to seek advice from a healthcare provider who can assess and treat your specific concern. These tips are meant as general prevention strategies for healthy athletes wanting to avoid injury down the road.

To start, think of your body as a chain of connected parts. Everything has to be working properly in order for you to function well as a whole. Someone with knee pain may have functional knees, but tight or weak muscles in their hips. Someone else coming off a shoulder injury may suddenly have problems with their opposite shoulder from overcompensating while the injury was recovering. In keeping with this theme, one of the best places to target for injury prevention is right in the middle of the body – your core.

“Core” is not the same as “abs”. Your core is essentially the muscles stabilizing your torso – including your abdominals, back muscles and pelvic floor muscles.

Generally there are two steps to strengthening muscles that aren’t used to working during a functional activity: first you isolate the muscle and strengthen it on its own, and then you add functional movements while still keeping the muscle active. Using the example of the deepest abdominal muscle, the transverse abdominis or TA:

Isolate: You’ll be able to feel the muscle just inside the front of your hip bone. Lying on your back, sink your fingers into your abdomen and start counting out loud without taking a breath. Around 10 or 15 you should start to feel a deep muscle tighten under your fingers. Once the muscle turns on, hold for a count of 10.

Add functional movement: Keeping your TA active and your torso still, slowly lift one leg off the floor at a time. Only add this step once you have had practice isolating the muscle and can keep it active during the movement. You can also activate the muscle during daily activities - even sitting at a desk at school or work - to get it used to being active.

Having a stable core is very important for both performance and injury prevention. If the core muscles are weak it will take more energy to try to maintain a good posture during a key workout or big race, taking away from energy that could be used towards a better performance. As endurance athletes this is particularly important because we are asking our muscles to perform for long periods of time.

Also, having weak core muscles predisposes your body to injuries because each muscle you use for each activity has an optimal position it should be in to perform at its best - so if your core can't hold your body in a correct posture there may be unnecessary strains on your muscles that, when a movement is done over and over for the length of a triathlon (or any other endurance-type sport), may lead to an overuse injury. Aside from muscle injury, a strong core also helps to protect the bones and ligaments of the spine from unnecessary forces during activity that may cause injury as well.

Often, endurance athletes neglect strengthening exercises when they should be an important part of any training program. (Myself included - I just got back to my regular gym routine a couple weeks ago after a very busy spring. It happens!) But, if nothing else, if you devote a small portion of your training time to core work every day or every other day, it will help you perform better and prevent injuries in the long run!