Point Grey Triathlon 2013: Race Report

August 4th, 2013

The finisher’s jacket says it all: I did it!

IMG_0827

I’m going to try to keep my race reports short, so . . . It was hard. I knew my fitness wasn’t what it could be, but holy crap.

Swallowed way too much water on the swim and was pretty fried by the end of the bike. Kudos to the race organizers for routing a couple of kilometres of the run through Pacific Spirit Park — just a gorgeous run. And I survived it. And I loved being back racing. That’s got to be good, right?

Oh, yeah — note to self: Transition is the 4th sport. Practice! ‘Cause there’s nothing worse than having people who were behind you on the swim or the bike pass you in transition.

I haven’t decided on my next race yet; only that there’s going to be one. In the meantime, I’ve got plenty of work to do to get back into shape.

Thanks, Sugoi

July 26th, 2013

The timing couldn’t be better. Yesterday, Sugoi renewed me as a Brand Champion (BC). I’m looking forward to another year of training and racing in Sugoi’s excellent sportwear and will be reviewing some of their gear here. And I get to do my first triathlon in 2 years as a BC! Thanks again, Sugoi, for the vote of confidence. I’m happier than ever to be racing again.

SUGOI-logo

Racing again

July 25th, 2013

Don’t you just hate blog posts that start “Whoa! Long time since I’ve blogged.”

I do too.

So . . . On Sunday, I’ll be doing the Point Grey Triathlon, my first tri in 2 years. I’m doing the short course because that’s all I have the fitness for right now. But I’m looking forward to it and I even have a race plan:

  • Have a good swim
  • Keep it smooth and steady on the bike
  • Survive the run

Yeah, I’m talking about just finishing without doing too much damage to myself. But there’s one more component to my race plan, and it’s the most important of all: have fun out there.

I’ll post again after the race. (No, really.)

UBC Triathlon 2011: The SheBeast makes it to the middle of the pack

April 25th, 2011

Race report: In which I learn that I’m not as slow as I think I am

How cool is that? Sometimes, you think bombed out on a race, only to find you’ve turned in a respectable performance. And that forces you to recalibrate your perceptions, which could, in turn, lead you to a redefinition of yourself.

But let’s not go there. No, let’s talk about the weather.

It was a bright, cold day, the kind of cold Vancouver serves up in early March. The sunshine is only there to give you the will to live after months of rain, and it’s sucker bait. The minute you step outside, the cold whacks you. And what the hell, you have a triathlon to run today.

Another race, another transition zone

Another race, another transition zone

I do this to myself almost every year. The UBC Triathlon is my usual season opener, and (what’s more) it’s Ray’s race and is pretty special for me. And so every year I ask myself the fateful question, “What am I going to wear out there today?”

It’s complicated. The swim’s in an outdoor pool, and then you bike 20k and run 5k in the cold and wind before getting back inside. So pick your layers carefully, choosing wisely and well, because underneath them all will be your still-wet swimsuit.

And that can make a short race feel very long indeed.

The swim: During which I learn that colliding head-on with other swimmers is entertaining for spectators

That’s me in the yellow swim cap. The pool looks cold, doesn’t it? In fact, it wasn’t bad at all, and it was almost a relief to get into the water after standing around in my swimsuit in the cold on the pool deck.

Bobbing along

Bobbing along

I’d been working hard on my swim. Back in the autumn, I decided it was time to learn how to do the crawl properly. I took swim lessons with SeaHiker, which improved my swim form and speed. There was one niggling form problem I was still struggling with, however: a tendency to drift a bit to the right.

Usually, following the standard “keep right” format of pool etiquette, the worst that happens is I bash into the lane ropes. But this race swim had a “keep left” format.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

No need to dwell on it, then. Instead, let’s acknowledge (with apologies to whoever that was I clunked heads with) that it was a good day to be a spectator at the pool.

Nonetheless. I kept up a steady effort and finished the swim feeling that my time was going to be pretty solid. Which it was. Even taking into account that the swim this year was 100 metres shorter than the last time I did the race in 2008, I’d still improved my time by approximately 3:40. So thanks, SeaHiker, for the excellent coaching. And I’ll get that “drift right” thing sorted out.

I ducked into the change tent, dragged tights and a long-sleeved pullover on over my swimsuit, put on my jacket, socks, and shoes, and started the long, lonely run to T1.

Running to T1

Running to T1

There are some hard-core folks who do the UBC transition run in bare feet to save time by not having to swap running shoes for bike shoes in the T-zone. I’m not one of them. The temperature was close to zero (C) and so was the pavement, and I like to have some feeling in my feet while I’m on the bike.

The bike: From which I learn that one may be an average cyclist, but still end up with a cool race photo

I love my bike, but it still freaks me out a bit. I’ve been riding a road bike for about a year. I love the speed and agility of the machine, but the race-horse responsiveness can startle me. I ride with clipless pedals now and am amazed at the power I can transmit through them to the bike, but the learning curve was steep and difficult, and I ended up kissing the pavement several times in the early days, which weren’t so long ago.

That all adds up to me being a touch more nervous than I’d like during a race, and on the first loop of the bike course, I found myself holding back.

But you’d never know that from the photo the race photographer got of me:

I love my bike!

I love my bike!

On the second loop, I got a grip on my nerves and took advantage of the nice gradual downhill on Marine Drive. I felt as if I were flying, yet I also felt that I should be generating more speed than I was. There was a headwind on the way out, but still I felt I should be going faster than I was. By the time I pulled into T2, my bike computer was telling me that I was coming in a couple of minutes slower than the last time I’d done this race.

Mentally, that’s where things started to slide. There was no way I could make up that time on the run, where I’ve been struggling to rebuild speed. Even with my improved swimming, I stood little chance of turning in a better time than I had in ‘08. And that was demoralizing.

The run: During which I learn that zombie legs can be full of surprises

My legs were dead, and 5K seemed like a long way. It’s not, but that’s how it felt. I zombie-shuffled out of T2, and the first kilometre was horrible. I kept thinking, “One foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other.”  Other racers were passing me easily.

At the turnaround, my legs started to lighten a bit, so I picked it up and held that pace for the next 1.5K, then just gave it all I had left for the last kilometer — which wasn’t much. I just couldn’t make my legs go faster.

Until I got about 100 metres from the finish line. A woman zipped past me. By that time, I was sick to death of people skipping by, and I thought, “Oh, no you don’t,” and tried to get my legs to move with just a little more speed.

They did it. I was so stunned that my legs could find another gear when I felt so beat that I started laughing. And by the finish line, I’d just about caught up to her.

The legs are not quite dead yet

The legs are not quite dead yet

However . . . should you find yourself tempted to catch someone who’s passed you in the closing moment of a race, learn from me and think twice. There’s a good chance you’ll end up feeling like an ass. See, that person who passed you might just have started in a wave after yours, and not only totally earned that pass, but did it with some spectacular swimming, biking, and running. Such was the case this time.

The summation: In which I learn that old clichés like “never give up” still apply

I’d felt that my race hadn’t been a good one. It wasn’t until the results were posted that I realized I’d turned in the best time I’ve ever managed at the UBC Tri by about 2.5 minutes. (I was slightly faster the year I did the du, but that’s a different race format.)

My bike time wasn’t as poor as I’d believed. A number of people, some much better on the bike than me, had bike times 2 or 3 minutes slower than in previous years. Whatever had affected me had also affected them. But my bike time led me to give up a bit when heading out on the run and not push as hard as I really could have. The fact that my legs had a sprint left in them at the finish line shows that. The lesson is that you never know, so you never have a reason to give up.

My final time was 1:49:06. That’s not a tremendously fast time, but it was good enough to put me solidly in the middle of the pack, for both my age group and my division. As I’m usually a back-of-the-packer, that feels pretty good.

Any day spent racing is a good day

Any day spent racing is a good day

Fall Classic Half-Marathon: Retro race report

November 14th, 2010

This is my race report from last year’s Fall Classic. That’s right — I’m late with it, oh yes, but I’m dedicating it to all those who are doing this year’s Fall Classic in just a few days. Brave souls! I salute you.

Here we go, jumping back nearly a year.

I was so pumped, so ready to do this race. I’d trained consistently and felt soooo prepared. And I was insanely thrilled by my vanity bib. I’d registered early enough that I could get my name printed right on the bib. So there was my name: SheBeast!

All is vanity!

All is vanity!

It was a dark and stormy race morning. And bloody cold! But what did I care? I’d set my 5K and 10K PRs when it was near freezing, so what with the cold weather and my consistent training, I was expecting a sparkling half-marathon time. And the Fall Classic is such a civilized race that they give you a nice indoor space with tables and chairs to sit down and wait for the start of the race. This was going to be great!

Lookin' fresh

Kinda clueless about the race -- but nicely dressed!

Fashion statement: I was wearing my Sugoi visor and my absolute favourite Sugoi Zap tights. I’ve been a Sugoi Brand Champion for about a year now, and I’m still tickled about it. Love their products.

When start time came, I toed the line with all the other runners. The horn sounded, and we took off. I was going at a cracking pace right from the start, and that’s not a good thing to do.

And . . . we're off!

And . . . we're off!

See, 21.1K is a long way to run. And if you hit it hard from the start, you’re likely to finish feeling like cr@p on toast. I know this, knew it then, even.

What was I thinking?

Not much. I was feeling great, like I could turn in a terrific effort. Sure it was cold, and the wind was whipping up, but it wasn’t raining yet, and that’s got to count for something, right? I hit the 5K mark ahead of schedule and congratulated myself. Only problem was, I noticed I wasn’t really warming up much. But who cares? I was doing awesome! I’d taken off my jacket because I knew I would warm up . . . sometime. Right?

And here’s a tip for those doing the race next weekend. By the time you hit the fabled turnaround somewhere about the 5K mark, you’ve been loping along a nice, gentle downslope for quite some time. Once you turn around, however, it isn’t a downslope any more. And it’s a long way back up.

By 10K, I was still ahead of schedule — though not so much. And my legs were tired and feeling a funny stiffness for having gone only 10K. But I still had enough energy to be arsing around like this when I saw the race photographer.

High spirits -- there's a cost

High spirits -- there's a cost

A couple more kilometres put a stop to that. I was really slowing down and panicking because I could see my sparkling, awesome PR fading away. So I picked up the pace.

The wind was howling now, and it was raining too — the kind of rain that comes down so hard, it bounces up off the pavement when it hits it.

The going gets tough. The tough slow down.

The running gets tough. The tough slow down.

Somewhere around the time the photo above was taken, my left calf muscle started to cramp. I had to slow to a walk to give it a chance to ease. Then I picked up the pace again. Then had to slow to a walk again. Calf muscle was really frosted. Just didn’t want to play anymore.

And it was walk/run, walk/run for the rest of the race.

No. Let’s be honest. It was walk/shuffle quickly, walk/shuffle quickly.

I finished. Yay. Time: 2:26. I have done 3 half-marathons in my running “career,” and this one was my 2nd slowest time. Or my 2nd fastest time, which is an even scarier thought. Here’s a photo Scott got of me a few hundred metres from the finish line. I’m surprised by it, because I actually look . . . sort of OK.

Oh, so close!

Oh, so close!

The ride home was unique. Scott always comes out to support me, and I love him for it, but’s he’s also seen me in all sorts of conditions coming across the finish line. I was shivering and my teeth were chattering so much that at one point in the car afterward, Scott looked at me and said, “Should I take you home or to the ER?” He was serious. (Poor guy. Living with the SheBeast can break a man’s spirit. Lucky for me, he’s tough.)

So here are my tips for those doing the Fall Classic 2010:

  • Dress for all kinds of weather, because that’s what you’ll likely get.
  • Gently, gently, softly, softly does it at the beginning.
  • That turnaround at about 5K that leads back uphill? Remember that this is a 2-loop course. You’ll hit it again at about 15K. Leave some gas in the tank.
  • The course is beautiful. It’s also tougher than it looks.

Good luck, and have a great race!

Gone running

June 5th, 2010

I left this drawing on the fridge one day so that Scott would know where I was when he got home. It says it all:

Loves to run!

Loves to run!

Yep — training is going well!

Hitting “reset” on my training

May 23rd, 2010

The first 4 months of this year were a bust in terms of training. An ongoing hip injury plus a number of other unexpected life goodies combined to leave me unmotivated, stalled, and in negative territory where swim, bike, and run were concerned. I wasn’t getting out there as often as I wanted, and when I did, I wasn’t getting results and wasn’t happy about it.

Even worse, 1 day about 3 weeks ago, I found time for a run, laced up my shoes, turned on my Garmin . . . and lo, it was dead. I was pretty damn annoyed.

I was bemoaning my bad luck on Twitter when a fellow tweeter, @stplatt, suggested I do a hard reset of the device before going out and spending big bucks on another. What did I have to lose? I gave it a whirl.

My Garmin sprang back to life. There it sat, ready once again to log my mileage, calculate my pace, map my route and tell me how many calories I’d burned — just like old times!

That’s when I decided I’d hit “reset” on my training. I’d just wipe out the last 4 months of struggling, and start May as if it were January and I was only beginning my season. Instead of being frustrated by my lack of results, I’d map out a plan to get them, working up to the level of fitness I should already be at.

Of course, it would be well into summer before I’d get there, but that’s what happens when you hit “reset.” The trick, I figured, would be to recognize the need to do it and get on with it without getting annoyed at having to do it.

So I’m about 3 weeks into a simple triathlon training program, progressing step-by-step to longer workouts. I’m working with my doctor and the local sports med clinic on solving the hip problem — and I’m loving training again. I keep looking at what’s next on the schedule, and I can’t wait for the next day to get back out there.

That’s the way I used to feel. It was easy to get back to it, once I’d had done with the angst and just started over.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere, but I’ll wait to sort it out some other time. Right now, I really want to get to the pool for a swim.

My new ride: Argon 18 Plutonium!

February 13th, 2010
A machine of beauty

A machine of beauty

I did it.

I bought myself a sleek new road bike and, with nostalgia and some regret, turned in my membership card for the Society of Dorks Who Do Races on Mountain Bikes.

It’s a thing of beauty. It’s as fast as a racehorse — and as nervous as a racehorse too. I can pick it up easily with one hand. I’m still getting used to the totally different riding position and the bike’s hyper-responsiveness, but already I feel like I’m flying.

Damn, I'm happy!

Damn, I'm happy!

I’m feeling revved up to get rolling and dreaming of bike splits. Next to come will be a set of clipless pedals and bike shoes. The transition from dork to road-bike rider takes time. But I’m up for the challenge.

Ready to roll

Ready to roll

What a season this will be!

Tour de France dreams in my head

Tour de France dreams in my head

Sugoi makes it official: I’m a brand champion!

November 24th, 2009

SUGOI-logo

Who says wonders don’t happen? I mean, think about it — a sportswear company setting up a sponsorship arrangement with a recreational athlete like me, whereby it gives generous discounts on its products in return for said athlete using its products to train and race? Not likely, eh?

But it happened! The company is the Vancouver-based Sugoi, the arrangement is its Brand Champions program . . . and I’m thrilled to be part of it.

I’ve used Sugoi products for years. The first pair of running tights I ever had were Sugoi’s Mid-Zero Zap Tights, and I’ve had a pair ever since. You can see them in this photo, taken at a race I did earlier this year:

ubc09finish2

(I love Zap Tights. They make you look fast, even if you’re not.)

I’ve owned many other Sugoi products, and have always been impressed by their quality and functionality. So when I heard about the Brand Champion program, I applied immediately.

Sugoi’s website stated, “The main criterion for inclusion to the program is not always the people who are fastest in the competition, but it is the person who inspires other by chasing their own personal bests.”

Was that me? (The part about not being the fastest certainly was.) I sent a link to my blog, mentioned my Twitter, and gave some background on my racing and training.

Two weeks later, it was done: I’d been accepted, and was now officially a Brand Champion!

It’s given me a real boost to be part of a program that recognizes and supports “everyday athletes,” and spreading the word about Sugoi is something I’m happy to do. In addition to wearing their gear, I’ll be doing a little blogging over at the Brand Champions website.

What about you? Do you have the makings of a Brand Champion? Find out more about the program here.

brandchamp

Race report: Subaru Vancouver Sprint Triathlon

November 1st, 2009

It’s been a long time coming . . . but here it is: my race report for the Subaru Vancouver Sprint Triathlon!

There are those summer days that are perfect for racing. Then there are those days that are sparkling and baking hot — and, if your training’s been a bit haphazard for the last 3 weeks, those are the days on which you just know you won’t set a PR.

This was to be one of those days . . . but it would still be a good one.

prerace

Catwoman does the swim

What I remember most about the day was just how damn beautiful it was. The ocean looked gorgeously blue and smooth. I put on my wetsuit and walked down the beach and thought I couldn’t have picked a better day for an open-water swim with 100 new best friends.

Good thing, too, as the swim is always nerve wracking, no matter how beautiful the day is. But we’d been informed the swim would be wetsuit-legal, and I was glad of it — my wetsuit keeps me from sinking!

Have I mentioned I love my wetsuit? I put it on and I feel like I’m Catwoman — invincible!

wetsuit

That Catwoman confidence disappears pretty quickly once I’m in the water. I start thinking about things. Things like sharks. Like eels. Like giant octopuses, and getting pummeled and swum over by my competitors.

But none of that crossed my mind this time. There was a cool magic in the water, and every time I turned my head, every molecule seemed to shine. As we headed out, the water sparkled like broken glass.

And you can see the blue, blue beauty of it, too. Just look at this photo and tell me that wasn’t a perfect day:

theswim

I had already hit the second turn buoy and was starting back toward the beach when I realized how un-nervous I felt about the whole thing. I got on with the job of finishing and was soon running up the beach to T1.

I caught sight of Scott taking photos, and I was the happiest triathlete on the beach!

beachrun

Swim was done!

That was some bike course, guys

I pulled off my wetsuit on the way into T1, pulled on my shoes, and gulped some water. It was still early in the morning, and I could already feel how baking hot it was. I was glad to be getting on the bike, but was uneasy about the run. The day would be scorching by the time I’d start the run, and that was gonna be real work. But the run was a long way off.

I sometimes think I smile too much in races. After all, this is serious stuff, where you’re supposed to be going at your limits, right? Eh? So this was going to be the race where I kept my game face on all the way, nothing but business from start to finish.

But there’s just something about triathlons that cracks me up . . .

T1

. . . and I headed out of T1 grinning like a dork.

Note to the race directors: way to design a bike course, guys. Starting it at sea level and making everyone climb the hill all the way up to the university totally separated the athletes from the poseurs, and I know which category I fell into.

I climbed and climbed and climbed, but it was like I was going backwards given the number of people passing me. When I reached the top of the hill and started making my way around the university, my legs were shredded. And, as the bike course was 26k, I still had most of it ahead of me!

(And speaking of dorks, I saw very few of my brethren from the Society of Dorks Who Do Races on Mountain Bikes. We were not represented well at this event, and that’s a pity — must change that next year. It was lonely out there.)

I felt like I was out there a long time. I held a steady pace, but my legs and lungs were burning. I was so happy to see the hill again, this time going down, that I just let it fly and sped back to the transition zone, cheered to see that I had done the bike course in exactly the time I’d planned on.

I had only one more thing to do: run.

runstart

Running is for wimps

I left T2 doing a good pace, but the heat was sizzling now. Once away from the transition zone, there was no shade. The first part of the run route was alongside the boiling ocean. All I could think was don’t-stop-don’t-stop-don’t-stop.

The She-Beast is not a hot-weather animal. I’ve known that for a long time. But it was stunning how fast the heat ground me down. The spring in my step quickly became unsprung, and the sun was sending it’s roasting rays right through the top of my head into my body to cook me from the inside out as well as the outside in. A volunteer offered me a paper cup of Gatorade, which I took, and I managed to give him a death’s-head grin before swallowing it and suffering on.

I reached the part of the route that follows a trail through a wooded area. I thought, “It’ll be cooler in there.” And it was — by about 0.0000000001 degrees.

I said to myself, “Running is for wimps.” Think about it. When the courier des bois opened up this country, did they, in fact — despite their name –  run through the woods? No. They walked.

So did I. For a glorious 60 seconds, I trudged. Then I thought “This is no PR day; just get it done,” and picked up the pace as much as I could. Which brought me up to a shuffle, but I kept at it and even found a bit of speed going back along the ocean.

As I was getting close to the finish, I saw Scott again, and that was all I needed to start smiling:

almostdone

It wasn’t my fastest traithlon run by any stretch of the imagination. Never have I come closer to being DFL overall.

Of course, the question needs to be asked: Given results like that, why do I keep racing?

Easy.

Because sometimes I surprise myself with what I can do.

And even when I don’t, it still leaves me feeling like this:

DSC_0805