Race Reports

The Rustbuster – Lavington 10km

After the success of my Christmas runs, I didn’t really run for about six weeks. I could feel the shin splints beginning to rear their heads a d so I focused on cycling to try to maintain running fitness with a lower risk of injury.

The Lavington 10k is the first race of the Interior Running Association season. It is a beautiful course largely in the middle of nowhere, mostly flat bit with a few rolling hills. It seemed like as good a time as any to kick-start the 2015 season. The interior running Association is made up of local club runners, a slightly faster field than the more ‘generic races I usually partake in.

When I woke up that morning, I looked out of the window to try to ascertain the weather conditions, which would inform my clothing choices.

It looked cold.

I decided to throw a couple of different options into the car as I headed out to the race. After checking in and getting my number (and waiting in an incredibly long bathroom queue), I still didn’t know what to wear. It was very cold, but the sun was starting to peek through, so after much indecision, I opted for a T-shirt but long pants and gloves. It was risky, but I hoped it would warm up quickly and thus eliminate the need to carry a sweater for much of the race.

Thanks SeeKayTri for this picture!

Thanks SeeKayTri for this picture!

Right from the start, the field swarmed past me. I was ready for that, I had decided to start off slow, but still, as I looked back, there didn’t seem to be many people left.

I might come last!

Coming last is a constant worry for me, particularly in smaller, faster races; but I pushed it to the back of my mind and focused on maintaining a steady pace.

I saw the 1km marker.

Great, just need to do that nine more times…I can do that.

People were still passing me. I seemed to be running so slowly.

As if to underscore this point, at that moment, my friend Markus came past me, congratulating me on my ‘marathon pace’ as he did so.

Marathon pace?

This should be 10k pace!

Wow I really am slow.

Nevertheless, I ran on. I needed to maintain a good marathon pace for Ironman, so if today I couldn’t manage a 10k pace, I would make it practice for that.

2km marker.

Just need to do that four more times… I can do that.

I kept running, people kept slowly passing me, but my pace felt nice, my heart rate was good, this was sustainable.

3km

Just need to do that three, no, three and a bit times… (OK, I admit that little piece of math stumped me as I ran on).

Around this time I started to get a stitch. This was interesting as I haven’t really had that problem since I learned to run seven years ago. It wasn’t too bad though, I could still run, but it wasn’t going away.

4km took us into the shade of some trees, I briefly wished I has gone with long sleeves, but after about a kilometre (which felt like forever), we emerged back out into the sun (such as it was) again.

Then the stitch really kicked in. I tried all of the usual stretches, massaging, poking and swearing, none of them seemed to work. I wondered how much faster I would be able to go if I could breathe properly. That 3km was pretty miserable actually.

Luckily by 8km it was beginning to fade, there was light at the end of the tunnel.

Just 2km to go… I KNOW I can do that!

I began to zero in on a single runner ahead of me and slowly (oh so slowly) catching and passing them. The slower pace at the start beginning to pay off. As I came close to the finish I kicked up my speed a notch.

I passed two more people.

I came to the final turn, about 25m to go. Someone yelled that I would be under 65 minutes.

“He must be talking to someone else, I’m not that fast”

The next thought tumbled in:

“It doesn’t matter who he’s talking to, we started together, I’m under 65?”

There was one more person between me and the line.

I sprinted.

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I   Ran   So   Fast!

I could hear my friends shouting my name. If I had had even three more paces I would have passed her, but it wasn’t to be.

My final time was 1:03:37 a full six minutes faster than my last 10km race. I obviously wasn’t going as slowly as I had initially feared, perhaps it was an illusion caused by the proportionally faster field. A pretty good start to the year.

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Musings, Race Reports

Testing the Waters

I joined the Okanagan Masters Swim Club two years ago, after my first triathlon, and with a view to swimming across Okanagan lake.

I had watched the masters sessions from the public lanes for a few weeks before I was convinced to give it a go (thanks Jeanette). I was sure I wasn’t good enough, I mean, these guys were Masters afterall.

That first session ended with a set of sprints:

“Just dive off the blocks and sprint 50m down the pool”

10 times.

“Can I run away?”

Oh these people are so fit, they would probably catch me anyway.

I was so scared!

Blocks, dive sprint….

I had never successfully dived (and some might say that’s still true), much less of starting blocks. And sprint? 50m was such a long way.

What on earth was I thinking, I’ll just slip off back to my safe public lane……

Well, you probably guessed that I did it…

Very badly!

My fastest sprint was around 66 seconds and my best dive could possibly, if one were very charitable, be better defined as a flop.

But I didn’t die…and the only way was up.

That summer I did swim across the lake, and it turned out I rather enjoyed open water swimming.

Fast forward to today and I’m still there, still slow, but we are a ‘seriously social’ swim club and it’s (nearly) always fun.

“So, when are you going to enter a swim meet?”

Oh probably…Never.

I’m too slow

I can’t dive (still)

I can’t turn

Did I mention how slow I am?

Theres so many technical rules

Its too exposed, in a lane on my own…it’s just TOO SCARY

I’ll just volunteer, we need volunteers right?

Recently the club President had asked me what needed to happen to encourage me to enter a meet.

Oh, so many things: Dives, turns….etc etc… I’d probably enter the next one…

He probably didn’t realise that in that moment I made a scary promise, that I would now be honour-bound (if only in my own head) to keep.

All too fast, a couple of months later, chatting in the hot tub after practise (I only swim so that I can sit in the hot tub afterwards), my friend tells me that there is a meet in a couple of weeks…I should enter.

Emergency, emergency! Sirens started going off in my brain.

They had an encouraging answer to all of my reservations – Masters is very inclusive.

And I signed up for my first swim meet.

I’d spent some time working on my dives and turns over Christmas, so whilst still a long way from technically perfect, they were slightly less of a gamble.

Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all

O woke up on the day to find it had snowed overnight, thus followed a nerve-wracking hour of driving along the highway to Vernon. A spin around half way really got my heart-rate up and did nothing to improve my stress level.

I bumped into my team mates just outside the pool, further ensuring that I couldn’t run away. We changed and headed poolside. As we checked the heat sheets, I felt totally out of my depth, a fish out of water – this is probably how these idioms originated!

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Everyone jumped into the water to warm up, I hung back, maybe they won’t realise I’m an imposter.

I tested a couple of dives and turns, which seemed to go quite well, I felt slightly better.

The first event was 400m freestyle.

As I stood shaking on the starting blockone of my teammates shouted my name – I hoped I wouldn’t let them down or do a spectacularly bad dive in front of everyone. I decided to just aim to complete this first race.

The whistle went, deep breath, dive.

That was OK…now, swim.

Here comes the wall, deep breath, turn.

Still OK…keep swimming…I’m going too fast, that’s bad, but I can slow down, not a crisis.

Wall again, deep breath, turn…

…and crisis!

The turn didn’t go well, I came off the wall at the wrong angle, and I took breath that consisted largely of water…keep swimming, slow down.

Can’t breathe

I tried swimming slower, breathing deeper, I swam with my head up for a bit, but I couldn’t get it back. I couldn’t stop (actually I was later informed that I could have stopped to catch my breath and then continued).

The realisation hit me – this isn’t going to work.

And so, in the first event of my first ever swim meet, I recorded the first DNF of my life.

My teammates were very supportive, but it felt like I’d proved that I shouldn’t be there. I consoled myself with the fact that the next event was unlikely to go worse than that, the only way was up!

There was a short break before my next event, 50m breaststroke. This was the event had been most worried about; I was worried that getting my stroke wrong could get me disqualified.

In the event it was fine, I concentrated hard on getting my stroke right. I could hear my teammates cheering, which made me smile. As I came to the wall I saw Brent there, encouraging me.

Don’t screw this up now

Two hands together…and go.

It felt really good. My time of 56:25, whist not groundbreaking in the slightest, was the fastest I have ever recorded. Not so long ago, a 50m breaststroke sprint was nearly impossible for me, so definitely an improvement.

100m freestyle came next. I was still jittery about those turns. I made the first one, but then my nerves go the better of me, I decided to err on the side of caution and finished the race with touch turns. I was definitely getting tired by the second 50m but I kept pushing on.

1:42:85, I’ll take that.

50m freestyle, I’ve already proved I can do this, just need to do it again.

47:88, cool, that’s quite a bit under a minute.

So all in all, the day turned around pretty well. Thanks to my OMSC teammates for their support… and for refraining from laughing (at least whilst I was in the room).

It’s clear I won’t be breaking any records in the foreseeable future, but that’s OK, we are a seriously social swim club after all.

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Race Reports, Running

The Happiest Place on Earth

How could an Avengers themed half marathon at Disneyland not be fun?

I posed this question to a few friends, and it turns out they had a rather long list of reasons.

Most seemed perturbed by the half marathon aspect, but wished me luck anyway. Those not averse to the thought of running 21.1km thought that Disneyland was generally excessive and not very serious. – but were ‘sure I’d enjoy it’.

Still being the ‘collector’ type, I signed up anyway.

avengers phone camera (2)

Now, if you have been following my blog (if you haven’t, where have you been?), you will know that having signed up for this race in the spring, my training rather got derailed over the summer. Four weeks out, as I checked my calendar, my longest run had been 9km. Not even half of my upcoming half marathon.

This of course, is the danger of destination races – whether I ran or not, I still had a California vacation booked. I decided to make the best of it and attempt some kind of run/walk strategy.

After a short chat with Coach Luke, we had a plan: 5 minutes run, 1 minute walk, repeat for 21.1km.

I hadn’t used this kind of strategy since I had learnt to run six years ago. Then it had been necessary as I didn’t have the ability to run further. As I had got fitter, I had left it behind to become a ‘proper’ runner that didn’t need to take breaks every few minutes.

As much as it felt like a step backward, I knew it was a smart choice if I was to attempt this distance without the requisite training. And whilst an x-ray had confirmed that the fracture was officially healed, there was still doubt about the strength of my ankle over 21km on the road.

I got on the plane in -10 degrees and stepped off a few hours later in Los Angeles to perfect running temperatures. The day before the race I was due to pick up my race package at the expo. Which, once I located it amid the sprawl of Disney, was very well organised and enjoyable.

Whilst at the expo, I took in a presentation by Jeff Galloway, Olympian and writer of a number of running books. Obviously he was promoting his preferred run walk run brand of training, which it turns out, involves a lot more walking than I was planning. His message was to take walk breaks right from the start, reasoning that any energy saved early on is available for use during the last few miles.

Remember that

All in all, it was a very interesting talk. I might not be switching to the 15/15 seconds he claims to use these days, but it definitely gave me more confidence in the plan we had selected.

The race itself starts at the eye-wateringly early time of 5:30am. Presumably to accommodate the extensive road closures and protect park revenues. So, at 4am I woke up, ate breakfast and walked over to the start. I spent a tense few minutes on the way over, trying to get my Garmin to co-operate and pair with its heart rate monitor; I decided we were no longer friends.

I lined up amongst the costumed runners, a plethora of Captain Americas, Thors, Ironmen (the Marvel kind, not the triathlon kind – though, who knows?) and other assorted superheroes. The race has around 12,000 participants, seeded into starting corrals based on anticipated finishing time. I was in corral H, the last and largest; populated by slowpokes, walkers, first timers and anyone else who had been unable to prove their pedigree by providing a result from an acceptable prior race. Of the 12,000, probably 11,500 started ahead of me.

The only way was up.

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As it turned out, it was easy to pace slowly at the start, as going any faster would have meant dodging between walkers. Even during my walk breaks (which I took from the start – thanks Jeff) I was faster than many of these people. I decided that even whilst walking, I would make it a goal to keep passing people.

The first 5km of the race winds through the two Disney parks. Actually it was rather less glamorous than it sounds and we took in a significant number of back lots. We did however run through Cars land, towards Paradise bay inside Disney California Adventure. We then entered Disneyland proper taking a route through Frontier land and Fantasyland, up through the castle and onto Main St USA before heading out onto the streets of Anaheim. Progress was occasionally hampered by runners occasionally unexpectedly darting off across the route to join a line (this is Disney!) to take a picture with Thor or Captain America.

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Later as I hobbled around the park, I tried to identify the route we took and was amazed at what I must have missed as I focussed on the job in hand.

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I do remember almost breaking the other ankle on this tram line!

As we left the park, the wind started to pick up. I kept running and walking, running and walking, trusting the plan and obeying the Garmin every time it beeped. It became my new best friend, holding my hand through this challenge. I forgave it for the stress it caused before the start.

The wind got stronger, soon we turned onto a path which ran alongside a large expanse of sand. The sand was being blown across the course painfully hitting exposed skin and making it very difficult to see or breathe. I was reduced to running with my eyes closed, hoping not to run into someone else doing the same. Capes were snapping in the wind and shields and hats flew by. I held onto my race number for dear life as it flapped in the wind, it represented my access to the finish line and more importantly, my official timing chip was stuck to the back of it, so it was clearly a vital piece of kit!

Respite came as we approached the Angels baseball stadium where we entered through the tunnel and ran around the home plate before leaving.

How cool is that?

avengers phone camera (17)

No seriously, I have no idea how cool it is, and I have not even a passing interest in baseball, but I have to admit, images of a dozen movies ran through my head in that moment – yeah, it was pretty cool.

An announcer helpfully informed us that we had only four miles to go, which was useful as the mile marker had blown over just like most of its comrades throughout the course. I took a peek at my watch

Big mistake!

When will I learn?

I think it was a bit of half marathon brain addled maths. But in that moment I calculated that I was on track to finish in over three hours.

Disappointed didn’t even cover it, this was the hardest part of the race for me. I decided the best thing to do was to keep going and hope I was wrong.

Three hours would be a good achievement because I knew I was doing my best.

I continued to remind myself how many people I had passed already and was continuing to pass. I felt pretty good

Perhaps I wasn’t trying hard enough?

No! Don’t change anything now.

By mile ten I was feeling better. I took my last walk break at mile eleven. When my trusty Garmin, which had brought me so far, dutifully beeped to alert me of my upcoming walk break, I ignored it.

Soon afterward, I questioned this decision. But I knew it was the right one. Every beep I ignored, galvanised me further. I tried to speed up, in fact this turned out to be the fastest kilometre of the race. It felt good to open up; I was passing people like crazy now, I just needed to keep it up to the finish.

I crossed the line and collected my fancy Disney medal. Someone handed me a Disney branded space blanket which would no doubt have been more effective if it hadn’t immediately turned into a parachute. The wind was so high that tents were flipping in the finish area and they had to cancel the awards ceremony and move everyone on.

My final time was 2:37:19 – well under three hours, which was a relief

I don’t know if I could have gone faster, though, I think it was probably the right decision not to try on this occasion.

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Things I learned:

I can run a half marathon.  I know that a lot of people claimed to know that about me beforehand, but I certainly wasn’t sure. It is also reasonable to believe then that I could also run a marathon in the not too distant future. Even if it will be slow going.

Jeff Galloway was right, saving at the start pays of at the end. That was a new experience for me.

Trying to walk around Disney after a half marathon is a bad idea.

Do not attempt maths on the course, and never look at your watch.

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Race Reports

Throwing a little trail into the mix

Pursuant to my goal of increasing mileage gradually, I decided to sign up for a small 6km fun run as a stepping stone to a slightly more serious 9km cross country race. My hope was that running off road would afford my ankle a more forgiving surface whilst I built up distance.

The Kokanee Fun Run is a very small, family oriented affair intended as a fundraiser. At the same time there was a 3km run, popular with children.

Immediately, a whole hoard of children sprinted off a head of the adults.

I tried to keep up.

They are just little kids.

But I quickly realised this was unsustainable. I slowed to the pace that I knew I could and should be running at to complete the course. By 1km, most of those little speed demons had slowed down and I congratulated myself for finally learning the lesson of the tortoise and the hare, after only 34 years!

Speedy children aside, my run was going well, I fell into a rhythm. I caught myself smiling. A friend even remarked on how well I was running.

I knew he was right, I just didn’t know why. I had taken four months off running and now I found myself running faster than ever before.

Maybe I should be injured every summer?

I passed one last kid. Then we were directed up a set of stairs and off the nicely groomed gravel path and onto a mud trail.

Suddenly I found myself unable to run on the uneven surface. I felt so uncoordinated. The kid came back past me.

I pressed on carefully, marveling at how difficult this had suddenly become, and soon came round for my second lap. I was on my own now, the people around me stopping at 3km.

I considered stopping with them, it was only a fun run after all. But my newfound determination surprised even me, I knew I could do this.

Back along the gravel path, I ran, dreading that upcoming trail. The second time was just as bad as the first, but at least I knew it was coming this time. I just didn’t seem to be able to place my feet firmly, my ankle proving that it was still weak after it’s unexpected vacation.

kokanee 3

Finally, the gravel returned and I ran to the finish.

36:06 – about the same pace as I kept on the road, very encouraging, especially considering how much I was struggling on the trail. I felt so tired, how could I go half as far again in just a couple of weeks?

The Larry Nicholas Memorial 9k is part of the Interior Running Association cross-country series.

My memories of the compulsory annual cross country at school are 100% negative – rain, fog and a large muddy field and being forced to (try to) run in the cold. I would never have guessed that one day I would do this voluntarily and even pay for the privilege.

I was far from confident going into this race. I didn’t know how well my ankle would hold up for 9km on the trails that had given me so much trouble only two weeks ago. To this end, my leg sported some rather fancy athletic tape to support the joint, but I was prepared for it to be slow going.

I was also concerned because being part of the IRA series, this event attracts real runners – and by that I mean fast.

I might come last.

After much pleading, Kay laughingly promised to personally hold up the finish line if they attempted to dismantle it before I had crossed (another bad memory from my childhood), even though she assured me she was certain this would not be necessary.

LN 5

Of course she was right.

Right at the fast I went out too fast

Slow down you idiot!

The course was three laps of undulating trail. I focussed on trying to remain consistent. A lot of people passed me early on and I wasn’t sure how many might still be behind me.

“Just keep running

I really enjoyed the course, enough terrain to keep it interesting, but not so much as to be too difficult and quite a pretty little trail. Unfortunately every lap felt interminable. Lap two was much the same as lap one, except a little slower – let’s call that smarter. I was breathing hard, but felt good. Suddenly people began passing me again, fast. It took a few moments to realise I was being lapped – and I wasn’t even half way around. The initial disappointment soon gave way to amazement, they were so fast.

“I don’t think I could even keep up with them at a sprint” I marvelled.

As I started the third lap, I was definitely tiring, the pretty little hills were growing into mountains and the muscles in my legs were screaming for me to stop. But somehow I knew I could finish. I walked up the steepest hills near the end and then turned towards the finish.

It was still there!

(and Kay wasn’t holding it)

LN 4

Thanks Dirk, for taking the picture!

I finished strong, a smile crossed my face. I’m really starting to enjoy this.

And what was that?

56 minutes?

I must have misread that!

56:27

It didn’t feel like a particularly good run. Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate what a good run might feel like. I have had so many recent improvements and achievements that I don’t quite know what to expect anymore, but it’s exciting stuff!

Where will the next discovery take me?

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Race Reports

So near and yet so far…

After the success of Cultus Lake triathlon, I set about timidly increasing my running frequency and distance. I say timidly because I can only describe the process as absolutely terrifying! Every little twinge in my ankle sends my brain spinning into a wild ‘what if’ analysis:

What if it isn’t healed properly?

What if I’m breaking it again?

What if I go too fast and end up unable to run for months again?

What if the doctor was right and I can never run any significant distance again?

What if the world implodes tomorrow?

OK, that last one might not be directly related to my bone health, but the truth is, it might have the same probability of happening…

I had planned on increasing my mileage over the summer and fall leading up to a half marathon in November (stay tuned for more on that). But now I had been reduced to volunteering at events and watching everyone else have all the fun.

Or promoted to volunteering – which can also be fun.

I decided to try a 5km run. I chose the annual Canadian Cancer Foundation Run for the Cure, a no pressure 5km event where I could test things out.

Eagle eyed viewers will probably note that I have already completed a 5km run at Cultus Lake, however, that was mostly on flat trails and beach which are rather more forgiving on the body than the concrete paths of City Park. I had also been very conservative during the run as my ankle was clearly barely healed, and was hoping to feel some significant improvement.

I got there in time to watch the inspiring, traditional parade of Survivors across the stage. Then it was a quick warm-up (which ironically turned out to be harder on the ankle than the run, lateral movements being more painful) and we were off.

The Run for the Cure is not a competitive event, with many people walking the distance. This helped me to pace myself at the start. I forced myself to keep running, trying to quash the aforementioned ‘what if’ analysis going on in my head. I told myself I would stop if any pain presented itself.

“Yeah, of course you will!”

About half way around, I began to believe that I could do this, around 3.5km I saw a friend cheering (Maybe not specifically for me, but it still made me smile). As I came back into the park, about 500m to go I wondered if I could speed up into the finish.

”What’s the worst that could happen?”

No, don’t answer that.

I gave it a try. Just a little faster.

I crossed the line in 30.47

A PB!!

By only 2 seconds, I admit, but still the fastest 5km I have ever run.

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Two weeks later was the Okanagan Marathon, which has a number of shorter races attached for those of us not quite fit enough or crazy enough for 42km. I had planned to do 10km, but on reflection, I decided it would be smarter to stick to 5km at this stage in the game.

Smart, yes, that’s me.

Some might question, since I was being so smart, why I then entered into a bet to try and crack 30 minutes.

Under 30minutes = buy breakfast

No we do not need to analyze why winning the bet left me liable for the post race meal, contrary to usual betting practice – I was obviously blinded by the excitement.

I admit that I made this bet fairly safe in the knowledge that it couldn’t happen, but as my mother always said, “It’s the thought that counts”, and I was thinking fast. I’m sure she also shared many other wisdoms over the years that may have been useful here such as:

“It’s not the winning it’s the taking part” or perhaps “Maybe you should give this more thought…”

In the event everything went remarkably well. Almost boringly so in fact, you definitely don’t need a running commentary (awesome pun – sorry about that). The pain in my leg wasn’t particularly worrisome and I felt strong throughout.

This time I knew I could make a fast finish.

So I did.

When I turned into the finish straight, my eyes immediately sought out the clock.

What did it say?   It starts with 29

“Run faster”

“You can’t get there before 30”

“Run faster anyway

The.

Longest.

100m.

Of.

My.

Life.

30:12

Take into account the seconds before I crossed the start line in this non chip timed event and my GPS confirmed, I missed the 30 minute mark by 6 seconds!

It’s funny how knocking 40 seconds (yes, 40 seconds!) off your PB can somehow be negated by coming in at 30:06. – Runners are weird like that.

Hey did I just call myself a runner?

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Classic runner shot, turning off my GPS instead of smiling for the camera!

Oh and sorry about breakfast Don, I will definitely buy when I crack 30min, can’t be long now, next time…

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Race Reports

An Abbreviated Triathlon Season

Having missed the majority of the 2014 triathlon season due to injury, as soon as I was cleared to return to try running again I was thinking about how many tri’s were remaining.

I managed to take part in three races during the final month of the season. I stuck with Sprint distance (750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run), partly because my training had obviously not been as effective as I would have liked and partly because I was still very much in the recovery phase and wasn’t sure of being able to run. I reasoned that a 5km walk was something I could definitely achieve if I had to.

 

Apple Triathlon

This was the site of my very first triathlon in 2012, so it will always be a bit special. I really love racing so close to home and this race is large and well supported.

The swim went off without a hitch, all of the practice of the summer paying off. I came out of the water feeling great.

I had made the slight miscalculation of having my bike fit changed (radically as it turned out) in the week before the race. For the record, I don’t recommend doing this, but I thought I would get away with it, especially since this race had gone from being my season goal ‘A race’ to more of a fun participation/test event.

Now I found myself riding an unfamiliar machine, and recruiting muscles that, judging by their protestations, had never been used to cycle before

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Never mind, I was still having fun!

Perhaps predictably, my ankle hadn’t healed enough to run, so I was forced to walk for most of the run portion. Although disappointing, it was somewhat expected, so I had planned for it when considering my goals for the race.

I just remember thinking “Wow, a 5k walk is so much longer than a 5k run”

In the end I completed in 1:42:39, around a minute slower than last year, despite a five minute increase in my run split. I took 90 seconds off the swim and a full two minutes off on the bike – quite encouraging considering the limitations of my training this season. Looking back it was really too early injury wise, however I am still really glad I joined my friends and had fun that weekend.

 

Summerland Sprint

Two weeks after the Apple, I entered Summerland sprint, a much smaller race with a Kids of Steel event on the same day.

This was both my worst tri ever and my fastest.

The swim didn’t go perfectly, and I got a bit off course in the current, a bit slow but not too bad. The run into T1 was very short, leaving me feeling very dizzy as I switched to the bike. Slow down, deep breath….and go again.

The bike course is mostly flat and generally considered fast. But it felt like I really overdid things here, it felt awful, and I considered quitting, more than once.

Well. I may at times be untalented, unfit or unmotivated, but one thing I usually am is STUBBORN, and I was not going to record a DNF without a damned good reason (death in the family, preferably my own?). So on I went.

I started the run feeling sick and exhausted.

Luckily I had a plan. My gradual return to running was up to 3 minutes walking/3 minutes running and this was what I intended to do for this run.

“Just keep to the plan.

This gave me something to focus on. People I knew – and a few I didn’t – shouted encouragement as they passed on the return leg of the run loop.

“I’m keeping to the plan….”

And then, as if by magic, on my third run interval, I just kept running.

“Keep to the plan” my brain screamed

“This is really cool, let’s see how far I can go” a totally academic discussion was going on in my head on the merits of running, walking and defining pain or discomfort (well that gave me something to focus on!), whilst my lungs questioned whether I had ever run a step before in my life.

As I ran through the finish line I couldn’t stop smiling.

“I just ran 4k – just don’t tell my doctor”

I ended up with a best ever time of 1:34:18.

Maybe that bike wasn’t so bad after all…

Cultus Lake

The last race of the season was at Cultus Lake, an interesting little race with rather loose organization. I’m going to be polite and not get into a discussion of how the organisers dropped pretty much every ball they had at this one…

Cultus Lake is out of town for me, so I was staying with some family friends, always nicer than a hotel. Also, it came with my own personal cheer squad, though for some reason, they were reluctant to accompany me to setup at 530am and opted to come in time for the 8am start….

After a cold, delayed start, the swim seemed to be going well – it just seemed to be lasting forever – I couldn’t understand it, it felt like I was swimming well. Eventually I saw the final turn and headed for the swim exit and ran across the rocky ground to T1. I felt good as I headed out on the bike. The course had been described to me as pretty flat. I guess everything is relative, but flat wasn’t the word that leapt to my mind. I had not had a chance to fully scope out this course before the event and I regretted it now. I had no idea what to expect and therefore couldn’t plan a strategy for it, that was a silly mistake, I should have known better.

I did know better.

However, by the time I was climbing back up to the lake, I was feeling good. Coming into T2 I got held up by slower riders (YES Slower than me! Painfully slow and in a no passing zone)

Cultus 3 (1)

A whole stream of less than polite phrases came to mind which I won’t detail here, lest I lose my PG rating – how could they actually ride this slowly without falling off?

My cheering squad were there shouting my name, which never fails to give me a kick and make me smile. They had no idea how annoyed I was or that my bike leg hadn’t gone as well as I would have liked, they were just excited for what I was achieving in that moment – maybe I could learn something from that.

I was frustrated at the time, but later realised that only a few months ago I had never been held up by anyone, in fact it was probably me doing the holding.

Yes, there’s DEFINETLY something to be learned from that!

At least I was fired up for the run. This time I ran the whole 5km. It went out along the beach (just touch the sign at the end and come back!), I was taking care not to stress my ankle. The sand had the advantage of being a little softer to run on, but also made it harder. The course then took a small detour into a residential area before heading back to the finish, still I held back a little, scared to run hard in case I felt the familiar twinge, but I kept moving and finished pretty strong.

But when I looked at my time, my mood dropped… 1:45:17.

When I saw them at the finish, my friends told me that they thought the swim was long. A quick check of my time and those around me seemed to back this up – 24:08 for 750m! Around seven minutes longer than usual. I don’t recall any crazy currents à la Across the Lake, so I really hope that was mis-measured. One guy said his GPS recorded 990m. If that’s the case, then my time wasn’t so bad.

So all in all, not my best race, not my worst. A learning experience.

So now the season is over, it ended fairly well, just a few things to improve for next year:

  • Continue to improve efficiency on my swim stroke.
  • Cycling is still my weak link – must try harder.
  • Crack that 30 minute goal for a 5km run – Train smart to avoid injury.
  • Practice more efficient mount/dismount at transition.

So… that’s just about everything then, let’s get to it.

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Race Reports

An Unexpected Swim Focus

Due to the whole stress fracture thing, running, biking and generally using my legs was out for much of the summer.

Cue a focus on swimming.

I actually had something of a light bulb moment on my swim stroke.

I always find it amazing that I can be told something so many times and not be able to put it into practice, then, along comes someone new (and totally unrelated to swimming in this case), explains things slightly differently and BAM, suddenly it works! In this case it was a boot-camp instructor who, whilst patiently trying to get me to isolate a muscle, casually commented that I probably use it to swim.

“Hmm, nope.”

But next time I was at the pool, I gave it a try.

“OK, this is interesting, feels weird, but does seem to work….”

The next time the coach attempted to correct my stroke all of those things they had been telling me for months started to make sense – success!

OK, let’s not pretend I suddenly became an awesome swimmer, or even a very good one, but I did improve.

Across The Lake Swim

So, I set about training for the Across the Lake Swim, a 2.1km swim across Okanagan Lake. This seemed to be going well. Although I didn’t feel much faster I could definitely feel that my stroke was more efficient, and I was more comfortable in the water than I’d ever been. I has hopeful of beating last years time of 53 minutes.

The day before the event was really windy with a wildfire was burning across the lake, but on the morning of the swim, the water looked like a sheet of glass. The temperature had dropped though – particularly notable for a no wetsuit freak such as myself.

Everything started off well. The water was cold, so it took a few minutes to get into a rhythm, but after that I felt I was making good progress; my sighting was good and I felt relaxed.

Around the midpoint the water got a bit more choppy.

Interesting, but not a problem.

But then it all seemed to go wrong…

My sighting was off and I didn’t seem to be making progress anymore.

“How am I going to explain to all my swimming friends? I’m obviously the only one that’s screwed this up so badly”

I was convinced I was the only one struggling this much. As the beach stubbornly refused to get any closer, I made the mistake of looking at my watch – Bad Move.

Almost an hour and a half! I must have been too cocky, gone out too fast at the start and now I’m paying for it.

Finally a support boat paddled past me checking swimmers were OK. She commented on how bad the current was.

“CURRENT!? Wow, OK, that makes sense…..I thought, and What’s a current like that doing in the lake?

Well then, all I needed to do was beat this current and I’d be home free. I swam hard, and slowly (oh so slowly!) the finish line started to get bigger. It was painfully slow, like swimming in an endless pool. Eventually I saw weeds appearing on the bottom – I have never been so happy to see the dreaded weeds!

I got into the beach feeling great, I even had a burst of energy to sprint to the line.

2:02:49 more than double my goal time of 45 minutes. The mood at the finish line was subdued, people were tired and cold, over 100 had to be pulled out by rescue craft.

On the contrary, I was pleased. I had no idea I could swim like that for two hours and without a wetsuit. Though I would definitely have eaten more breakfast if I had known I was going to be going that long!

“If I can do that, what else can I do….?”

Apparently the high winds in the days before the event caused an unexpected current – a seiche wave, Google it, it’s a real thing!

Rattlesnake Island Swim

My next challenge was the Rattlesnake Island swim, 3.1km from the island to Peachland swim beach. My goal was under an hour and a half.

I went into this event fairly confident, after all, at Across the Lake I had swum I-don’t-know how far on a treadmill for two hours. I had also been out with a couple of friends two weeks before and made the swim, so I knew I could do it. It had taken 1:45 though, so I’d need to move quicker than that to meet my goal time.

The swim started with a boat ride out to the start. WE all jumped off the boat and I focused on keeping moving to stay warm (as, again I was doing this with no wetsuit) and beginning to get into a rhythm so that my start would be smooth. The horn went, and we were off.

It felt like I was swimming all alone forever, but finally the buildings on the hillside began to take shape and get bigger. I recalled, slightly deflated, that during the practice swim, this had happened around the half-way point. Nevertheless, the swim was going well and was uneventful compared to Across the Lake, even a bit boring maybe.

Coming into the finish was almost an anticlimax, strangely underwhelming.

“OK, Good, just wanted to prove I could do that…”

I walked out of the water and looked for my friends. I had actually beaten a couple of them, which was a first for me – maybe I am getting faster – and at 1:27 I even made my goal, guess I need a faster goal.

New Goal: I kind of signed up for a little swim from Alcatraz next summer….no wetsuit, obviously….. Like I needed a bigger challenge.

Note to self: Stop being so impulsive.

By the way……….Can I run Yet?……….How about now?

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