Tuesday, April 6, 2010

2010 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Season

Here's an exciting promo video for the 2010 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Season.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Runner Kristina Pinto's Hell Week at Runner's World

Anyone reading my blog will appreciate this one from runner-mom Kristina Pinto who quips "When a running mom gets injured, the whole family pays."

Runner Kristina Pinto's Hell Week at Runner's World

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Running Drills to Make You Stronger and Have More Fun

When you spot a runner who is skipping, bounding, hopping, kicking their legs or otherwise running in an exaggerated way, please don’t panic, laugh or stare. She may simply be doing drills.

As part of my re-building phase, I’ve introduced more drills into my running routine. I'm betting that if I can stick with it, these will help me prevent injury when the training volume increases, or as I try to build the speed I lost when training for Ironman.

These types of drills are often referred to as plyometrics but they’ve been around for a long time under shorter or different names. In addition to the drills I was doing, I was inspired to incorporate a few more after talking to the wife of Aaron Case, a Vancouver based Chiropractor and an awesome runner, and I’ve imported some of them from Aaron’s website at www.RunningRules.com. I encourage you to check out more tips on that website.

Incidentally, Aaron and his wife also happen to have a beautiful 8-month old daughter who is likely doing her part in keeping training challenging.

Drills you can do “every” run:

ABCs (video)
ABC’s are three exaggerated leg swings that help with running form and posture. They involve a type of skipping, but kicking and high knee running. Easiest to see it to explain it. A warm up or cool down drill.

Strides (video)
You can do these at the end of every run. They are meant to be fun, fast and frisky. The point is to open up your stride, going fast for about 20-30 seconds and 6-8 repeats. If they tire you or leave you sore, you went too fast so build up gradually.

Leg Swings (video)

Really great for dynamically stretching your hamstrings, quad, inner and outer thigh. They’re much more fun than static stretching and will bring out your inner dancer. I like to do them after a run.

Cross-overs (video)
If you’ve ever done the grapevine in aerobics, you’ll know these. If not, it takes a bit of practice. Make sure to go both directions, and it is meant to improve form.

Backwards Running Drill (video)
The video is worth watching because it is quite funny. But, I’m not laughing. Really. Actually, it’s worth running because I definitely wouldn’t have run backwards this way. I like to throw this in during a run as a little ‘break’ and it is handy if you are near a field or school in which to do it.

In addition to the drills above, I’m also doing the following drills once a week instead of a weight room strength session for the lower body:

Bounding (video)
I do these after a hill workout on a bark mulch or grass surface (gives me extra bounce). They’re powerful. Think gazelle. It’s a very long running stride with exaggerated knee lifts. Bound for 30 yards, rest 1 minute. Do four repetitions. In later sessions, gradually increase the distance to 80 yards.

Skip for 30 yards; rest 1 minute. Do four repetitions. In later sessions, increase the distance to 80 yards. Warm up by doing it with only a toe raise and not a hop.

Split-squat jump (video - stationary split squat)
Start in a lunge position, and jump upward and forward, pushing off the front leg. Land in the lunge position, and repeat continuously for 10 yards. Rest 45 seconds. Do three repetitions, and work up to six. In later sessions, gradually increase the distance to 80 yards

Two-foot ankle hops
Stand up straight, and hop forward for 10 yards, keeping feet together; rest 45 seconds. Do three repetitions, and work up to a maximum of six.

Happy running and have fun with these!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Time to Re-focus

At six-and-a-half months since Ironman Canada (August 30 2009), I can hardly believe we are closer to Ironman Canada 2010 than IMC 2009. I’m not doing an Ironman this year, and maybe not even a triathlon. By choice. It’s time to re-focus and re-build. Time brings perspective and that is what I feel inspired to write about today.

One of the reliable questions I get when people ask me about Ironman is: Was it worth it? Without getting into the whole discussion about my perceived lack of choice in the matter (I simply had to do it) I can now emphatically say ‘yes’. In fact, the beauty of Ironman (or childbirth for that matter) is that the memory gets ever better with time.

After six months, here are the reasons why Ironman-after-a-baby was worth it:

  1. Forced me to realize my weaknesses, not just my strengths
  2. I got in great shape after having a baby
  3. Hannah bonded with other family members and get used to mommy coming and going once a day
  4. Gave me a focus and identity other than ‘mommy’
  5. Provided a huge boost to my self esteem when I needed it most
  6. I had fun
  7. I ticked it off my list (at least for a few years)
  8. Improved my mental stamina for training alone (it was hard to stick to anyone else’s schedule because mine revolved around Hannah)

Of all the items on the list, the first is the one that might not have appeared if I’d written this a week after Ironman. It’s not that I didn’t realize my weaknesses, they were unfortunately all too obvious, it’s that I wouldn’t have recognized this as a benefit. Now, I can take a step back and start to rebuild my strength without the pressure of a big race.

I’ve designed a training program for myself that is manageable and incorporates elements that I hope will make me stronger and faster. I also know what my body needs in order to halt the endurance injuries that I know will creep up if I go business-as-usual. Here is the plan:

  • Monday: Upper body / core work
  • Tuesday: Run – tempo pace building from 5 to 13 km (to train for a half marathon)
  • Wednesday: Run - speed work with warm up and cool down done on treadmill (stops me cheating). A bit of core work afterwards.
  • Thursday: Yoga
  • Friday: Run - Hills or sprints
  • Saturday: Bike ride – 1.5 to 3 hours
  • Sunday: Run - long slow

I’ll also be doing some of the runs (building up gradually in mileage) in the Nike Frees to strengthen my foot and improve my postural issues.

As you can see, it isn’t exactly a triathlon training program. But, this is what my schedule and my body need right now. The focus on running will improve a weakness and hopefully make me stronger in the long term, and the simplicity of program will allow me to spend time with Hannah. Besides, I’m getting in the pool twice a week with her, so that should count for something!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reflections on Having a Baby as a Triathlete

I found inspiration to write this blog from a reader. To paraphrase, she is torn between having a child and continuing to progress and improve in triathlon. This is a dilemma I can deeply sympathize with. It is a tricky area in which to give advice, though, because there are so many factors that only she can truly understand. Instead, I’ll comment based on my experience (that’s the waiver).

Be warned: this isn’t a sappy love-in about how you really can do it all – that you’ll have to find in a ‘parents’ magazine!

What I love about triathlon is that it keeps me in shape, gives me ever-challenging goals, provides inspiration to be the best I can be, delivers a healthy dose of humility on a regular basis and lends structure to every day and every season.

Children are pretty much the opposite of all of that. They wreak havoc on your body (pregnancy), drive you towards mediocrity and compromise, and lend chaos to every day and every season. I suppose they do provide a healthy dose of humility on a regular basis, but deep down, if I’m totally honest, I don’t think I truly love that about triathlon, either.

However, luckily for us, I didn’t fully appreciate all that when I got pregnant. Sure, I thought I knew. But, now I know that I really had no clue as to how much work a baby is. It’s incredible.

I say luckily, and I mean it. The amazing thing about kids is that once you’ve got one, you don’t mind all that stuff. It blows me away. I still don’t really get it on a purely logical basis but it’s true. I actually love taking care of Hannah and spending time with her.

So, yes, children are a disruptive force. The next question is, can you have kids and still do triathlons, stay in shape and not completely lose your identity?

If you are like me, you were in your early thirties before you were in a place where you even considered children. But, at 34, I still hadn’t done an Ironman and I had a really annoying desire to do one that I couldn’t shake. I also realized that if we were going to have kids, I didn’t want to wait much longer. I knew that my 60-year old self would want children, but I joked that my biological clock must have been digital because I had never heard it. So, we left it to fate and decided to try. If it worked, it worked. If not, it didn’t. We were shocked when we found it worked (embarrassing but true). Immediately. So, my incredibly awesome husband agreed to support me in training for Ironman after having the baby. So yes, you can do it.

This brings me around to the question – would you want to do it? In retrospect, doing IM within 14 months of having a baby isn’t something I’d recommend to a first-time Ironman like myself. But again, ignorance was bliss and I forged ahead with dogged determination. The other thing I discovered in retrospect is that I probably could have done better if I was coming off a triathlon season instead of coming off of pregnancy and childbirth when I started training. But, that’s where the compromise starts. And doesn’t every triathlete say “I could have done better if only…” The nice thing about coming off pregnancy is that you won’t find someone rolling their eyes when you say this.

The final question is how to do both. My blog may help answer how to do both for a little while. But, I discovered that training for Ironman and having a baby is not a sustainable proposition. It took a lot of help from family, a lot of understanding from friends, and the ability to not work outside the home for over a year. Now I’m back in the ‘real’ world. Well, sort of. I’m (ahem) working 2 days a week.

Nowadays, I find if I can get in 4 runs, two swims and two core-work/stretching sessions a week, I am doing well. Really well. Most weeks it’s 3 runs, 1 swim and one core work/stretching session. Forget biking for now. Of course, other triathlete moms probably find a different balance and it also depends on the age your children are at. It seems triathlon can still provide ever-challenging goals and structure so long as you don’t mind lowering the bar a bit.

In a nutshell, I would have been happy and fulfilled even if we hadn’t decided to have a baby. It’s true! We would have travelled more, gone out more and trained more. Not a bad life. But at some point, I am afraid this would have gotten old along with me and I’d be left without the wonderful little being that we have. Yes, she is a ton of work. But, like triathlon, the reward is proportional to the effort put in.

And, I know triathlon will still be there when Hannah goes to school in just a few years time.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ironman Race Report Part 1 – I Did It!

It has been nearly a week since I became an Ironman, and it still feels great to wake up in the morning and remember that I did it.

We were really lucky to be given a place to stay at Apex Mountain Resort, which is about a 45-minute, winding, steep, mountain-road drive away from the race site in Penticton but the place was big and best of all, free. We were totally cut off from internet, as well as the hype and nervous energy of Ironman.

This really helped my mental state, and I got tastes of the energy by going into town for a few swims in Okanagan Lake during the week prior to the race.

On one of the pre-race visits I bumped into Rena from Calgary, who recognized Hannah from this blog! I told her that she should be writing the blog, as she was doing IMC just 8 months after having her baby!

After very little sleep, I awoke at 4am and we were at the race site with thousands of others before sunrise.
Race day conditions were almost perfect. Sunny, just under 30 degrees and not much wind. The only bad thing was some low-level smoke from nearby wildfires.

I felt excited to get going, and kept my nerves at bay by joking around (these antics landed me a goofy photo in the local paper’s race results).

Feeling euphoric, I started singing along with the national anthem, but soon realized everyone else was listening in silence so I quickly shut up. Then the countdown and the air horn blew. People were friendly at first. I had seeded myself in with the 1:10 to 1:20 crowd so it took a few seconds to get moving and the water got deeper fairly gradually.

After a few minutes the chaos started. There were some very scary minutes with people grabbing and hitting. You couldn’t stop because it would only get worse. I was almost hyperventilating and thoughts of quitting were loud a clear in my head. I looked around and wasn’t even at the first buoy yet. I battled on for a few more minutes and my breathing calmed down. I started being more aggressive about holding my space but in a field of over 2600 swimmers in a mass start, it took until past the half way point to find water instead of bodies to swim though. The final leg of the swim was pretty much on my own, thankfully, and I relaxed into it and found it even enjoyable.

Oh yeah, and for the record, there is no ‘current’ effect sucking you along on the swim. It was like a washing machine, with water going every which way and having to swim left, right and every which way to avoid getting kicked.

I exited the water in 1:16:57, 73/159 in my division (W35-39), and heard my husband David shout “Way to go, Cheetah, you’re right on track!” That was good to know because I hadn’t thought to check my watch. It felt great to be done the swim.

I spent nearly six minutes in transition (I had to pee) and was then out on the bike. I had some problems with my water bottle – the internal bottle on the “Fuel Cell” kept rising up and out of the exterior bottle so I had to secure it down while still riding. I took the first 65 km very easy and ate 5 or 6 Cliff Bars and drank 3 bottles worth of Cytomax. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to face another Cliff bar.

When I got to the climb at Richter Pass I was still feeling strong and passed quite a few people. My family was all over me on the bike – they cheered as they drove by, they were on the side of the road, they were everywhere. At one point, as they drove by slowly (I know it’s frowned upon, but man did it feel great to have the support) I could just see my baby girl’s eyes peeking over the side of the window frame. It took a few seconds of talking to her and then I saw her expression change to one of recognition. Just then, they had to speed away to keep traffic moving. I was laughing for the next kilometre.

At the half way point I refreshed my Cytomax (really getting sick of it now) and stuffed in some roasted potatoes.

With about 2 hours and another steep climb to go, my bike shoes started to kill my feet. There’s always something that happens that is completely new and unexpected. It felt like my baby toes were jammed in a door and nothing I did could extract them out. At least it made me look forward to the run. I hobbled off my bike after 6:01:28, 31/159 in my division.

I spent a long time in transition (9:24), most of it in the port-a-potty. I’d never actually sat down in a port-a-potty before, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I felt better after the visit to the little blue plastic house and headed out on the run after taking a gel and grabbing a new Cytomax.
I ran a few km’s and started to wonder how I was going to do a full marathon. I saw Jordan Rapp, the men’s winner, go by. I slowed to a walk and did very little running for a few km’s. I saw Theresa Macel, the female winner go by and a few other pros. Eventually I got insanely bored of walking and was driven to run in order to get it over with.

I didn’t see my family yet, and was desperate to ditch my still-full Cytomax bottle, yet too cheap to toss it. The thought of passing it off motivated me to run - amazing how your judgement changes after 8 hours of going all-out.

Finally I found my slow and painful groove (nothing at all like running fresh, even after running 3 hours). I saw my friend Chris Allan go by the opposite way and he looked strong. With two miles to go before the half-way turnaround, I saw my husband David. He had the handycam and was there with Sean Rogers, a friend of ours who had come to watch. Totally against all rules, they ran along with me and cheered me and other racers on.

At the turnaround I saw my parents and my mom even ran along with me for a bit. David saw my gritted jaw and decided to keep running with me. He ran beside me, sprinting ahead to whip up the spectators into a cheering uproar and then filming me. I was too tired to protest. He was the most awesome supporter ever. Everyone around us got extra cheering as a result. I walked the aid stations and gradually made my way into town. Finishing under 12 hours looked possible, but it would be tight.

My discomfort seemed to increase exponentially during the last 5 km’s. I felt as though I had nothing left and was running on autopilot but I knew I couldn’t quit. I literally couldn’t stop, otherwise I knew I’d never start again. On the IMC course, you pop out near the finish line but then have to do a cruel out-and-back that seemed about 2 km’s. Thankfully, I saw many of my friends and supporters: Erin and Andrew Harlos, Brian, Brenda and their daughter Sophie (who high-fived me), Ken Lee, Jill Savege, and others I heard but didn’t see.
At long last I stepped over the finish line and felt such relief and happiness that I was crying and laughing at the same time. I was an Ironman! It was a magical moment.

My final time was 12 hours, 3 minutes.

Post Race
I felt like an Ironman for at least 5 minutes before my gut turned to something significantly less solid than iron.

I spent the next hour in the medical tent until I could walk out and see my family. In another cruel turn of events, we had to get my gear out of transition (I had forgotten to bring the little pass for a designate to do it).

David accompanied me and when we were almost at the front of the line to get out, I had to make a desperate search for the port-a-potties again. I barely made it and David made me keep the door unlocked because I guess I didn’t look so hot. Finally we got back to the car and loaded up. I vomited twice on the way home (not in the car, thankfully). I showered and fell into bed, but I couldn’t even take in a sip of water. At 4:30 I woke up, and then it would be two more days before I could sleep because my body felt so wired and tired at the same time.

Two days after the race (Tuesday) we ventured into town. Everyone was gone. The place was almost back to normal. I felt like I had just missed a great party. We went for lunch at The Bench and David struck up a conversation with a neighbouring party at the restaurant. Turned out to be Belinda Granger. She autographed my race guide. I felt complete.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Big Push

Hard to believe I am in my last build month before Ironman Canada on August 30th. I went up to Osoyoos and Penticton (IM country) for a week with my parents and Hannah. I was able to ride the course almost twice and go for a long run in the heat, and swim a little in Lake Okanagan.

The biggest thing I learned was that I need to eat (on the bike) about twice as much as I thought I would need. After my first ride, I was exhausted and couldn’t imagine running a marathon. However, I rode 130km of the course again a few days later, and ate more than the first time and I actually felt pretty good afterwards, capping it off with a 40 minute run.

I’m trying to swim more for the next month, because I still feel a little weak on the swim. I’m also trying to ‘manage’ my heel injury which is looming but isn’t slowing me down too much. I’m trying a bunch of therapies including using the Strassburg sock (to help with Plantar Fasciitis), using orthotics, stretching, icing and massage. Just need to get through one more month....

Meanwhile, Hannah is cuter than ever (the photo is from a few days before her first birthday), making it super hard to leave her for the 7 or 8 hour workouts once a week (the long ride) and for shorter periods in between. But, I think in an unexpected way, training is getting both Hannah and I used to gradually increasing separations...so that hopefully the transition back to work will be easier.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Blissful Thinking

This is a funny story. I discovered these date, nut and chocolate confections called Bliss Balls at the local Whole Foods and my husband and I became addicted to them. Pretty soon I’m bringing home four packages of 8 Bliss Balls (which really are blissful) and we’re popping them a couple times a day. Luckily (we justified) they’re relatively healthy (dairy free, wheat free, mostly raw, mostly sugar free) and they pack a great carb punch for post workout (or pre, or in-between) snacks. The only problem was, as with any addiction, it can get a little pricey. So, when I found out they were locally made by New World Natural Foods, I e-mailed them to see if I could buy them ‘direct’ or even ‘in bulk’. I sheepishly added in my e-mail that the reason I am eating so many is that I am training for Ironman Canada.

I immediately got a response from the company who not only told me that I could buy direct, but also that they would be interested in sponsoring me!

So, the following week we picked up some organic granola, organic almond butter, assorted chocolate Bliss Balls, and assorted Live Bars. It took less than a week to give away everything to the hungry athletes around me. I didn’t want to go back to them too soon but now I’m in withdrawal. Probably a good thing, as I’ve been cutting back my workouts due to leftover fatigue from the Half Iron race and I wouldn’t want to turn into a ‘bliss ball’ myself!

My husband and I pondered some of the fun things you could do with a “Bliss Ball” sponsorship, but now that we have a baby we decided it would have to remain clean cut and thought “Powered by Pure Bliss” might be a good slogan for a bike jersey. We’re open to suggestions from the wider triathlon community out there!

For now, New World Natural Foods are available across Canada, but their stuff is SO good, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before it breaks into the US market. In the meantime, if you are in Canada, you can find them at Whole Foods, Planet Organic, Sweet Cherubim bakery (Vancouver) and other retailers. It’s worth the journey!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Warning: don’t bother reading this article if you’re not an ardent triathlon fan or triathlete. It could bore you to death (or at least to tears, which may be embarrassing).

On Sunday, June 7, I raced in the Oliver Half Ironman. It was the third time I have done this race, as it is a beautiful course and not too far from Vancouver. It was a milestone race, because I have done it twice, pre-baby, in 2006 and 2007. It was also the first time I put the new training program to a real test. So, after popping 4 Ibuprofen and taping up my sore heel, I was ready to go.

Race conditions were near perfect – a moderately warm day after a week of blistering heat and relatively calm after a day of strong winds. There was nearly double the number of participants compared to 2007, and the transition was moved to a larger venue that was at least a few hundred metres from the swim exit to accommodate the masses.

The swim was a 2 km single loop lake swim. I concentrated on not kicking for the first section, which really helped to control my usually-panicky breathing that borders on hyperventilating. It still took me 400 metres to calm down enough to breath bilaterally. The swim was crowded enough that at one point when I turned my head up and left to suck in some air, I was mirrored by a male competitor who was exhaling at the same time, and I instantly knew he had dined at the new Greek restaurant the night before. I erred right a little too much and nearly smacked the balloon like buoy, but at least I was on course. In the end, I was able to cut 2 minutes from my previous best swim time on this course, coming in at 37:27. I’m not a swimmer, so I was 312th out of 906 competitors at this point.
After a long, barefooted run to the transition, I swallowed two more Ibuprofen, swigged some Cytomax and hopped on the bike for the 93-km course (slightly longer than a standard half iron). I got ready to eat one of my two carefully unwrapped Cliff bars from my Bento Box, and promptly dropped one on the ground while going about 40km/hr. Oh well. Next time I won’t unwrap them ahead of time so that they stick together when I pull one out.

I gained some time on the bike course, finishing after 2:44:06 (average 34 km/h, or 21.25 mph) and ranking 154th. I pushed the bike and experienced strong adductor (groin) fatigue. This is something I have never experienced before and it haunted me on the run as well. But, I cut nearly 8 minutes off my 2007 time.

Heading into the run, I felt fatigued but managed to average a 5:10 minute per km pace (or about 8:16 min/mile) and finished in 1:48:11, which was about 2 minutes faster than my previous best time in 2006.

Overall, I cut off 14 minutes from my previous best time in 2007. Still, my favourite part of the race was seeing Hannah in the crowd (feverishly being carted over to where I was showing up next). She didn’t really recognize me, but seeing her little face scan the blur of people going by was a real boost.
Post-race, I wish I could say I had a snappy recovery and have hit the training plan verbatim. In truth, I have been fatigued and sluggish for nearly two weeks. I read that recovery time can be influenced by “training age” and I am a relatively young 4 years old in these terms. So, I guess I just have to be patient.
Anyway, a more important milestone came up today - Hannah turned one year old on June 18, 2009! Happy Birthday, Baby!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tri-Vacation with a Baby

Last weekend, June 7, I raced in the Oliver Half Iron in Oliver, BC. Oliver is about a 4 hour drive from Vancouver, but it took us 5.5 to get there, and 7.5 hours to return because Google Maps vastly underestimates the times for those travelling with a baby. Needless to say, I’m looking into flights for my next trip up.

For those considering driving out of town to a race with a baby, this is my experience, for what it’s worth.

The theory was to leave Vancouver at 6:30 at night. According to my sister, my (adorable) nephew conks out during such drives because it coincides with his regular night-time sleep. Sounds logical. Then, all you have to do is transfer the baby from car-to-crib when you arrive. Sounded a bit tricky, but worth a try.

Well, Hannah has never loved the car to begin with, and that pretty much sums up the entire trip.

She took a refreshing 40-minute nap between Vancouver and our first gas station (where Daddy introduced her to a local Harley-Davidson rider). After that, she impatiently protested her confinement to a car seat for 4 hours and got grumpier and more hyperactive as she grew more tired. We stopped several times (Maybe she needs to burp? Maybe she’s thirsty? Maybe she wants to stretch her legs?). Maybe she’s just bored. Finally, about 45 minutes from Oliver, she dozed off.

Once we arrived (at midnight) we were warmly welcomed to O’Reilly’s Organic Farm Bed & Breakfast by our hosts David and Allison (coincidentally, they share our names). We fumbled around as we tried to get Hannah into her bed, which my parent's had set up ahead of time, as seamlessly as possible. I guess we failed miserably, as evidenced by her renewed wails which made us wince for the sake of our hosts.

She eventually settled down in her new room, and I don’t remember anything past 2am. It seemed just moments later that I was awakened by beautiful sunlight and a warm breeze streaming into our room (that and Hannah’s little voice babbling happily away).

Saturday was full of the usual preparations: package pick up, eating, a light workout and other pre-race rituals. Sunday was the race (separate blog entry on that one).

On Monday, we decided to travel down in daylight hours. This was probably even more of a mistake. It took us 7.5 hours because this time Hannah really was hungry, thirsty, bored, needing to burp and wanting to stretch her legs. On the plus side, we got to try out some old-school teeter-totters in a small town that we otherwise would never have found.

When we weren't stopped, she thrashed her head back and forth in the car seat and threw her soft toys around in the back. I got a little woozy staying in the back seat with her, and in the commotion we forgot to refuel at what turned out to be the last opportunity to do so for 134 km. But, we discovered that our fully loaded Audi with 2 bikes mounted on top could go over 600 km on its 55-litre tank. Who knew!? I’m keeping the receipt for the 54.54 litres of gas which the car sucked up thirstily after we coasted it back into Hope without using the air conditioning or mp3 player.

Like I said, next trip up (July 2) I’m flying with Hannah and leaving the driving to the big kids.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Anyone Have the Time?

Time is a precious commodity, especially for parents. Even more especially for parents who want to train for Ironman. Finding time to write my blog has been a challenge lately, as training volumes are increasing and when the workout is done, sometimes I’m too tired to even think. Meanwhile, Hannah has more energy than ever and has been walking up a storm since 10.5 months, but she still stops to smell the roses, so to speak.

Thankfully, I’m at the start of a blessed taper for an upcoming half-ironman distance triathlon, the
Persona Oliver Half Iron on June 7. This gives me an extra day off next week and I’m already looking forward to it. Of course, I’ll be using it to pack and prepare for not only the race, but also the long drive up to the interior of the Province of British Columbia, to a town called Oliver. It’s one of the ‘wine capitals’ of Canada, so we always make time to visit a few wineries and stock up.

Being a mom-triathlete is not the most balanced lifestyle. For instance, it’s hard on friendships. It’s hard to make friends with other moms because I’m always working out in my ‘spare’ time and I feel like a bit of a freak around them. It’s also hard to build friendships with other triathletes (among whom I feel quite moderate) because I need to keep my training hours flexible, I train when others are at work, and I usually have to rush home after the workout is over. I’ve considered posting a personals ad on Craig’s List, but I’m not sure that I’m ready to commit.

Meanwhile, my mom has been trying to match me up with women she meets on the street. The latest candidate is a physiotherapist (that’s a plus) who “is really nice, new to Vancouver, and about my age.” But, I find out that she isn’t a mom and she isn’t a triathlete, so I don’t think it would work out in the long run. “When could I possibly nurture a new friendship,” I ask my mom, “when I can’t even maintain the ones I have?”

Things are so hectic that yesterday, probably for the first time in my life, I realized that I actually forgot to eat breakfast. I’ve skipped breakfast before in my life, or else not had time to eat it, but I can’t remember ever truly forgetting. I only realized it when I ran out of gas half way through a high-intensity workout and a person who was training beside me joked, “What, are you stopping for lunch?” as I pulled out my snack pack. I replied that I was starving, and then I realized why. Hannah had eaten well, but I hadn’t.

So, to all my current friends, and those I have yet to neglect, I hope you’ll understand why I haven’t had you over for dinner in a while…and Mom, one of these days I will call up one of the friends you make for me!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Every Step of the Way

It’s never good when a physiotherapist looks at you and says ‘hmmm, you’re an interesting case…’ when really, I just want to be regular, run-of-the-mill, middle-of-the-pack, average, when it comes to injuries.

“At first I thought you were JUST a butt-gripper,” he continues, “but you’re actually a butt gripper AND a back gripper.”

Sounds painful...

Actually, it has been painful but not in ways I’d expect from back and butt gripping! I had intense hip pointer pain when training for both the Vancouver and Boston marathons (2005/2006); heel pain (like Plantar Fasciitis, but not quite in the right spot) in 2008 and 2009; an upper back/shoulder tightness that needs to be relieved by ‘cracking’ daily; and, post-partum carpal tunnel syndrome in both arms.

It seems that my pre-existing posture (created through years of ballet as an adolescent), combined with training that pushes my body, and baby care activities that tend to make your posture even worse, has created the perfect storm.

So, I’ve spent the past few weekly sessions practising how to stand, bend at the hips and work (or at least find) my ‘glute meads’. I feel like I’m going back to the drawing board, but I hope it is a case of one step backward, two steps forward. Of course, I have to try and make these steps while using my core in the “right” way - something babies actually do quite well when they are learning to walk. My daughter is already teaching me!

On the positive side, I’m finally learning how to run without the telltale ‘duck’ turn-out of a former dancer, and I’m finally learning how to stand without hyper-extending my back. Plus, I'm pretty stoked about having some new exercises to add to my strength sessions (ha ha).
I guess when they say you learn something about yourself in Ironman, they mean that it happens every (turned-in) step of the way.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Good Fit

I have been meaning to get a proper bike fit ever since I bought my Cervelo P2C three years ago (really, I should have had a bike fit before I bought any bike at all). So, I jumped at the opportunity to get fit by a professional triathlete when the opportunity presented itself.

I was training at Peak Centre on the CompuTrainer. In walked Jordan Rapp and Jill Savege who are, incidentally, engaged and probably one of the nicest couples in triathlon. I felt like I was meeting celebrities! As it turned out, Jill had happened to have randomly met my mom the week before while at work (a weird coincidence, considering my Mom had no idea who Jill Savege was, other than a really nice person to talk with). Jordan was in town to train bike fitters (he is also Chief Technology Officer with Slowtwitch.com). I took this chance meeting as a sign and asked Jordan if he would fit me on my bike while in town.

Working with what he had (i.e. me and a bike already purchased) Jordan came to my house and did a consult. He put me at a steeper, more aggressive angle. My husband said that now I looked like a Triathlete. I tried out the new geometry on the CompuTrainer at the next organized indoor race and I had my best ride to date.

When the weather improved, I tried it outdoors, where I noticed the more aggressive angle and I had to get used to having more weight on my arms. It actually feels better the faster I go; definitely not a position for a sightseeing type of ride. I also feel more stable when on my aerobars.

I also bought new cranks (on eBay) and a new saddle on Jordan’s advice, and I’m excited to try these out as well. Jordan has been great about providing post-fit support via e-mail and even offered to check out photos or video footage of me riding if I need more input.

At the beginning of June I’ll be able to give it a real test on the
Persona Oliver Half Iron course (photo shows me in the old bike geometry in 2006), since I also did this race in 2006 and 2007. All-in-all, I think it was the best investment that I could have made in my bike.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Sleep. It makes all the difference. I’ve been behind on my blogging because until now I had been seriously sleep deprived. I was grumpy and tired looking.

The problem was, Hannah was waking up every 3 hours or so at night, and at random times. She would scream and then when I picked her up, she would burp and then, if she wasn’t too awakened, would go back to sleep after burping. This is probably not uncommon in babies up to 3 or even 6 months, but Hannah started getting worse at around 6 months.

We tried everything: sleep behaviour books up the ying-yang; I took her to our doctor; then the pediatrician; we tried all sorts of homeopathic drops and Ovol; we took stool samples (the most disgusting task yet as a parent); I cut out gluten (wheat) and lactose from her diet; I changed her crib position; I changed when I fed her; I tried night feedings, evening feedings and just-cereal feedings. The pediatrician said her digestive system was immature, and then on the next visit he thought she must be a ruminator/tooth grinder (which can cause air swallowing) and advised giving her Tylenol or Advil at night to knock her out. I tried this for one night and not only did it not work, I felt wrong about it.

Finally, I read that some babies don’t tolerate the iron supplement that is typically added to enrich baby cereals. So, I cut out the cereal (pablum) from her diet. Problem solved…I think. We are going onto night five and she has given us up to 7 hours straight. I think her sleep habits took a bit of a hit from all the commotion because she still wakes up once but she doesn’t burp. I am hoping that now we can get back into a rhythm.

With the lack of sleep I actually wondered if I was going to be able to go through with IM Canada in August. David encouraged me to wait until making any decision and now I’m glad I put it out of my mind. I’m also into a recovery week so I’m going to try to concentrate on taking advantage of this and resting up!

Monday, March 2, 2009


We recently celebrated my Mom’s birthday and it promises to be a great year because she also just retired from 40 years of nursing. She is very excited. I am very excited. Hannah, if she could speak, would be very excited.

But, it is not all about me (actually, it’s not about me at all, it’s about Hannah!). This is my Mom’s first opportunity that I can remember to do what she wants to do, when she wants to do it. One of the things she has committed to doing is to walk/run her first 10k race - the Vancouver Sun Run in April. She is learning first hand the joys of training – and that it can hurt! But, she is persevering.

It wasn’t until having Hannah that I started really appreciating my Mom. Let me qualify that: I appreciated my Mom, a lot, but now it is on a deeper emotional level. Now I know how much she loved me and why she put up with everything I put her through and why she still loves me!

My Mom’s support for my training isn’t something I take for granted. I know it must be hard for her to see me run (and bike and swim) myself into the ground at times, and that she worries about the potential for injuries, immune system shut downs, and the suffering.

I promised that I would ‘just do one’ Ironman and see how it went. Every now and again she seeks reassurance and when we are joking around she might ask “After this, are you going to do something normal?” If I’m being a jerk, which I normally am, I refuse the bait and feign ignorance. What’s not normal about swimming, biking and running? But, underneath I know she just wants to make sure I don’t harm myself, or my relationships, with my OCD tendencies.

I also don’t take this year for granted. I am trying to cherish every moment, even when it is tough. I will never again have a year (6 months to go) when both my mom and I aren’t working, I have an adorable baby, and I get to train for my first Ironman. Sometimes I wish I could just stop time from going by so quickly!

So, here’s to you, Mom. I wouldn’t be able to do this without you, and I hope I can show you even a fraction of the love, support and compassion you’ve always shown me. Now get running!!