Musings

When motivation deserts you

It’s the end of the season, all the hype is over. Everything we have been training for all year has come and gone and it’s common for athletes to fall into a bit of a ‘funk’ at this time of year. Suddenly our goals are all complete (for better or worse) and we don’t know what to look forward to anymore.

I thought it wouldn’t happen to me.

But it did.

I spent almost a year working up to Ironman, every spare minute seemed to be devoted to training and my life operated on a schedule. This ended with me crossing the finish line at Ironman Canada, and whilst I was ecstatic at the achievement, there was an air of anti-climax to the whole thing.

How do you top Ironman?

Another Ironman? A harder one? Something longer? Or faster?

As I cast around for my next challenge, my training foundered.

Here are the tips that work for me when motivation deserts me.

Forgive yourself

It’s a vicious cycle. You miss a workout, you get stressed about missing a workout, so you miss more, this weeks a bust already right? You’ll do better next week.

Now, whilst I don’t think we should just turn into couch potatoes, it is OK to take a short break, especially if you have just completed a major race. In fact, it’s something you probably should do!

Make it Fun

Try some fun workouts, do something different. Many cross training activities will benefit regular training and it can offer a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family (who can sometimes get a little neglected during peak training sessions).

Maybe a mountain bike ride or hike, cross country skiing, paddleboarding or a class at the Y. Doing something is better than nothing.

Remember why you like to train for your sport and what makes it fun.

Phone a Friend

Everything is better with friends. Having a friend waiting, makes me far more likely to show up, and usually makes the workout more enjoyable as well. Can’t find a friend? Go make some new ones. Join a club or sign up for a series of classes.

Alcatraz

Set a Goal

Scheduling the next season can be a big motivator, and always lights a spark of excitement in me. It doesn’t have to be another monster like Ironman. Maybe you want to get stronger or faster and that’s a perfectly good goal.

Write down you goals and remember to keep them SMART:

So for 2015 my goal was

Specific Complete Ironman Canada
Measurable Easily measured by my crossing the line
Achievable Past experience indicates that this is achievable
Realistic Finishing in 10 hours would not be realistic, 16 is
Time based Race date was about a year away, and fixed

Maybe you aren’t there yet. Maybe your current goal is just to exercise every day. Whatever it is, write it down and start working towards it.

Just Do It!

Sometimes just getting out of the door is the biggest barrier. In this case, getting ready and forcing yourself out of the door can be the best strategy. Promise yourself that if after five minutes you still aren’t feeling it, you can stop. Often once you start, you realise it’s not so bad after all.

The five year old in me still loves the visual and tactile sticker chart. It allows me to see progress at a glance – a chart full of stars always makes me smile. There are of course numerous online tools for this as well.

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Staying Accountable

When considering a workout, I find it useful to ask myself:

Will I be happier?

Will I be stronger/faster?

At least one has to be a yes!

Most importantly, equating a missed workout to a major failure in life is a mistake. Motivation ebbs and flows and accepting that will go a long way to fixing it.

What are your tricks for staying motivated and accountable?

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Race Reports, Swimming

Escaping Alcatraz

The summer of 2014 saw me doing a lot of swimming. Near the end of the season I found myself surfing the internet looking for a cool race to do next year (this was before I was convinced to sign up for Ironman).

Alcatraz.

That definitely fits into the *cool* category.

I researched some events, but then I didn’t think about it for a couple of weeks until a post on my Facebook feed caught my attention:

“We are doing this Alcatraz swim, anyone want to come?”

Hang on, I looked at that event. I had been on the fence about entering, but if my friends were going… I signed up immediately.

No Wetsuit division. Go big or go home, right?

Alcatraz has a storied history. On an island off the San Francisco coast, as a Federal Prison it was considered inescapable and housed some of the most notorious criminals in history. Today, it stands empty, preserved as a National Park and museum.

Of course, there were some escape attempts. Most notably that of June 11 1962, immortalised in the movie, Escape From Alcatraz. Under the cover of darkness, three men, who had spent months digging through the walls of their cells, attempted escape on a raft fashioned out of old raincoats. The jury is still out on whether they actually made it; the official line of course being that they drowned.

Since then there have been many attempts to prove that escape could have been possible, and of course, the swim has been completed many, many times. Tides and currents have been studied to allow optimal conditions and plenty of boat support would be provided to ensure that even if a swimmer got off course and missed the entrance to the swim bay, they would not be swept under the Golden Gate Bridge and out into the Pacific.

Even so, I was nervous.

The swim, isn’t actually that long. Only about 2.5km. However currents mean that sighting is very important.

The route you need to take to combat the currents

The route you need to take to combat the currents

Also, I would be swimming in the ocean, instead of my comfortable lake. The expected temperature was 12-16 degrees Celsius, and there would be waves, and salt, and…animals?

I started swimming in the lake early in the season, to accustom my body to the cold water. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I had lost some weight whilst simultaneously training for Ironman (Hooray!), but that meant less insulation in the cold water (not-so-hooray). Temperatures I had swum in easily last year left me shivering.

I also discovered that the Bay is in fact an estuary, meaning it is fairly shallow (relatively speaking) and has a lower salt content than the surrounding ocean (could have fooled me!). As such scary man (or woman) eating sharks don’t like to go there, so I had only to be concerned of ‘littler’ bottom feeding sharks and the odd sealion.

So that’s fine then, nothing to worry about.

And so, two weeks after Ironman, I found myself catching an eye-wateringly early flight to San Francisco, with my friend Leora. Ashley and Meagan arrived shortly after us, and James and Phred travelled separately with their families. We called ourselves Team JailBait, and we had had shirts made up and had found some awesome prison themed bathing suits online.

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Leora, Me, Phred, James, Meagan, Ashley – Team JailBait

We spent much of Thursday and Friday playing tourist. I marvelled at the hills, which changed from block to block. Who in their right mind would decide to build a city on such terrain? We visited the Crookedest Street, a one block hill, with 8 switchbacks on its steep gradient. Then, as we walked towards Fisherman’s Wharf, we got our first glimpse of Alcatraz Island.

It doesn’t look too far…

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Alcatraz San Fran AR (5)

Maybe move it a little closer…

A walk through Ghirardelli Square and a ride on the famous San Francisco Cable Cars rounded out Thursday.

On Friday, I met Phred at the Dolphin Club, and old Swim club right on the beach. We took a swim in the swim bay, a sheltered area, setup for swimmers. The temperature seemed OK. It was 18 degrees Celsius – unusually warm. I had brought my wetsuit with me, just in case my last minute test swims indicated that going ‘naked’ might be too dangerous. A second swim later in the day, this time with the others, sealed it. I would likely be cold, but I probably wouldn’t die. I then switched back to tourist mode, with a city Duck tour, and a trip to Alcatraz Island (the others had tickets for a different boat). The tour of Alcatraz was fascinating, and I totally recommend it to anyone visiting the area. I stood  and looked back at San Francisco. I would be swimming that in less than 24 hours.

It doesn’t look too far…does it?

Saturday dawned, and I dragged myself out of bed to my 4:30am alarm. We took a taxi down to Fisherman’s Wharf in the half light, where we picked up our packages and had our numbers written on our hands (probably for identification should we drown). The sun came up as we waited nervously. Finally it was time to walk to the boats.

The boat ride was quite quick and soon enough, we were being told to jump off the sides of the boat and make our way to the start line (a row of kayaks).

Suddenly I was terrified.

What was I doing?

But there was no turning back now, not with Team JailBait all standing there!

With some last minute encouragement from Ashley (Thanks!) I jumped. It wasn’t too far, maybe six feet to the water’s surface, where I immediately began swimming, both to keep warm and to avoid being jumped upon.

I paddled around near the start, trying to keep warm. Happily, I bumped into the rest of my teammates and began to feel much better. The sighting information had been a little unclear at the briefing, so we chatted about where to aim for, before the boat horn sounded the start.

I started off fairly well, nice and steady. Aiming a little to the left to combat the current. I didn’t dare look back. The city didn’t seem to be getting any closer and I was fearful that I might not have pulled away from the island at all. Every so often I would get hit by a sudden swell (which I was later told might have been caused by the massive container ships plying the area). When this happened it would throw off my stroke, I would get a mouthful of water and be left coughing and spluttering, trying to stay afloat whilst I regained my equilibrium.

It felt like forever and there were a couple of times when I genuinely thought that I couldn’t make it. I was cold and tired, and I was really struggling to swim through the waves. Eventually, the seawall seemed to inch a little closer; I realised I had aimed a bit too far to the left, so I adjusted my course accordingly.

Reaching the wall, I was relieved – nearly done.

Or not.

I still had to make my way into the bay and get to the beach. But at least now I was pretty sure I could make it. I pointed myself towards the tiny finish line and slogged on. As I reached the beach I looked up at the clock – over an hour!

It was with a mix of relief and disappointment that I made my way up the beach. My friends were waiting to cheer, and they soon banished my frustrations.

I just swam from Alcatraz!

Alcatraz ML

We headed off to warm up and get breakfast and I rounded out my San Fransisco experience with a Segway tour (so much fun) and a bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Ironman Training, Race Reports, Triathlon

Ironman Canada Race Report Part 1

If you had suggested three years ago, that I could complete an Ironman Triathlon, I would have laughed. And not just a little titter, a full-on belly laugh. Me? An Ironman? No, just not possible, a snowball’s chance in hell, pigs could fly…. You get the picture.

I had just struggled through my first ever sprint distance triathlon.

Did I enjoy it? Certainly.

Was I more active now? Absolutely!

But seriously, an Ironman is 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run.

More importantly, I didn’t want to, no inclination, zip.

What a difference a couple of years can make. In that time I really fell in love with triathlon and I began to get faster, I met some great friends and training partners, My new friend Kay (alongside whom I participated in that first race) completed Ironman Lanzarote, and I developed a stress fracture in my ankle prompting my doctor to tell me to quit running forever.

Well, if you have been following this blog, you’ll know I signed up a year ago. What followed was a year of ever increasing training and longer and longer bike rides.

By June, my fitness was greatly improved, I had completed a Half Iron Distance Tri in Oliver and a couple of half marathons. Kay and I signed up for an Ironman Prep Camp hosted by Balance point Racing and taking place in Whistler, on the actual Ironman Course.

The camp lasted 3 days, during which we swam in Alta Lake, cycled the entire bike course and ran most of the run course. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Alta Lake was not as cold as I had been led to believe. I had purchased a wetsuit that very week, and this was its first outing. (Actually, getting the wetsuit on was probably the biggest challenge of the weekend).

Whistler SS

Photo Credit Stacey Shand

Whistler KS 3

I was relieved to confirm that I could indeed cycle up that last 30km into T2 at the end of a long ride, completing the bike leg within the time allowed had been my biggest concern since signing up for this adventure, so it was reassuring to have successfully pre-ridden the course. I can’t imagine seeing that for the first time on the race weekend, as no doubt some athletes did.

The camp also gave me the opportunity to discuss nutrition and strategy with Coach Luke. He offered some excellent advice and tweaks to my nutrition plan. All in all, the weekend was a huge success and I left Whistler feeling relaxed and happy (and very tired), and now finally confident that barring any major unexpected hiccups, there was no reason to believe that I couldn’t complete my first Ironman in just under a month.

The next few weeks were spent finessing my plan. I completed my last big ride and started to taper for the race. Tapering is a terrifying time where one cuts back on training to allow the body to be rested and prepared for the actual event. My packing list went through many iterations and ‘what ifs’ and I booked my bus ticket to Whistler. Then all of a sudden it was time to pack (Thanks to my good friend Pat, who sat through all my neuroses and made sure I had everything I on my list).

Kay (and Erin) took my bike by car whilst I took the greyhound; we would meet at the hotel in Whistler. We were travelling down on the Wednesday, to allow a couple of days of preparation before the actual race. As it turned out, I arrived first and checked into the hotel, after a quick scout out of the area, I relaxed and waited for their arrival. Once they had settled in, we went over our plans for the next few days.

First order of business was athlete registration, I went down, waited in line, signed waivers and received my race number, timing chip and race bags (more on those later) as well as a goody bag which included a handy backpack that I would use for the rest of the weekend.

I then went to meet with my to-be-newest friend Lisa, an Australian athlete, we had been connected by a mutual friend, and it was nice to make new connections like this. We went for a swim in Alta Lake, along with Tracy (who I discovered was racing in the pro division) they were both incredibly fast and incredibly encouraging.

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I was having so much fun that I had to rush to make my appointment with Majo, Kinesiologist Extraordinaire. Seriously if you are in the Whistler area, I wholly recommend a visit! Once she had finished stretching, releasing, activating and otherwise working her magic; I felt relaxed, loose and raring to go. That evening Kay and I went for a quick bike ride along the run course, partly to check out the bikes one last time and partly to recce the run course turn around point (which it turned out, we hadn’t actually quite reached). We rounded out the evening with a swim quick soak in the hot tub of the hotel pool.

Friday morning dawned and I headed off to visit the expo. I wandered around the tents making some last minute purchases including a rain jacket as it was looking increasingly likely that the race might be wet. I also stopped by the ART tent, where Dr. Shannon Snow was volunteering his skills for a quick tune up.

We then decided to take the gondola up the mountain and see some more of the beauty that Whistler has to offer. The views were spectacular in the fog/clouds (no doubt equally spectacular on a clear day) we walked some short looped trails and marvelled at the beauty (and the marmots). We also took lots of fun photos and generally had a blast.

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Not competitive at all! Photo Credit: Erin Moure

IMC EM (1)

Photo Credit: Erin Moure

IMC EM (12)

After a pizza dinner, we headed back to the hotel to organize our race bags. Ironman gives you 5 coloured bags:

White: Morning clothes. Handed in at the start, it contains the clothes you were wearing just before the race as well as anything you need immediately after.

Blue: T1/Swim to Bike: Everything you need for the bike portion, you throw your swim stuff in there to be picked up at the end.

Red: T2/Bike to Run: Everything you need to go on the run, bike gear goes in here to be picked up at the end.

There are also two ‘special needs’ bags (orange and black). At the athlete meeting these were referred to as a “power up” and I think that’s a good explanation, you pick them up half way around the bike/run course. The contents vary from person to person, but they usually contain spare clothing or equipment and nutrition items. It is also customary to have some kind of treat inside.

During my long planning phase, I had put much thought into what should go into each of these bags. Unfortunately, those plans had been based on the race being hot. I had trained for a hot race and packed for a hot race; and now it looked as though it would not only be cold, but wet as well. Now, as I sat on on the floor in my hotel room with all of my gear scattered around me, I was paralysed with indecision. I started with all of the obvious things; towel, bike gear, spare tube, running shoes, salt tablets, Tylenol, emergency gels… I added a bottle of Ribena to each bag – It might not be sporty, or even that good for you, but I don’t recall a single time in my life when I have not wanted to drink this stuff, so it was the obvious choice for a race where I might need to entice myself to drink more. I also had a Kit Kat in each bag (though strangely in the end, those KitKats all went untouched).

Shorts or long pants?   Sweater, yes or no?

I laid everything out.

“OK, Final Decision!”

Kay and I then talked each other through the contents of our bags to ensure we hadn’t forgotten anything or made any silly mistakes.

IMC AR (10)

After that, I spent the rest of the evening putting my fleece into my T2 bag… and taking it out, and putting it into the special needs bag…and then switching it back again.

Early the next morning, I went out to watch the kids race, in which Lisa’s niece was running. I then visited Dr Snow in order to get my ankle taped in preparation for the big day. Much of the rest of the day was taken up with racking our bikes in transition and dropping off our transition bags.

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Kay and I lined up our bike-to-run bags with the hundreds of others in T2 in Whistler Village and then took one of the provided buses out to Alta lake where the swim and therefore the first transition was located. Here we dropped off our swim-to-bike bags and our bikes, minus any food. Apparently the location is a favorite of the local bears, who would sniff out our tasty offerings and ransack our bags if we were to leave so much as an energy chew lying around. That done, it was back to the hotel for an early dinner before bed.

Stay tuned for Part 2 Coming Soon!

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Race Reports, Triathlon

Memories of my First Ever Triathlon – Kelowna Apple Triathlon 2012

I’m not sure what originally made me think that triathlon would be a good thing to do. I had recently attempted to return to running and was having the usual recurring injuries and problems, so I was looking for something different.

Triathlon: Swim – Bike – Run. I can do those three things, maybe I can do a triathlon.

I didn’t jump right in. That first year I just volunteered.

A few hours of standing and cheering, watching people achieving their own goals, convinced me that I ought to be able to do this too. The seed was sown.

The following year I signed up for a training clinic advertised on the Kelowna Apple Triathlon website. As I walked into the first session I was absolutely terrified, it really took all of my willpower not to turn and run crying in the other direction! Everyone seemed to be so fit and confident…and then there was me.

I am so glad I stuck it out though, despite being possibly one of the least talented athletes Chris has ever worked with, and certainly the slowest in this group by far, I made some friends that I still train with today.

Over those eight weeks I swam in the lake for the first time, and the Knox mountain hill, after a few abortive attempts, went from absolutely impossible to “I might just make it”. I agonized and discussed all of the details, what to do when, what to wear and how to put the whole thing together. It seemed like I was capable of more than I had given myself credit for.

As the event drew near I took a deep breath and, with the encouragement of my new found friends, instead of signing up for the try-a-tri event as I had timidly indicated on day one, I registered for the Sprint distance. There was no backing out now!

The day before the race we met as a group to check out the course, and went for a swim in the lake, my previous swims had all been at the nice sandy Gyro swim loop where the bottom was mostly visible at all times, Tugboat Bay is not like that, it’s deep and full of weeds and once again I was terrified – what had I done? Could I back out?

Luckily those friends talked me down, and I’m so glad that they did.

Race day arrived and I woke up early and headed to the event with plenty of time. I had my race number written on my arm and legs and headed into transition. I looked around at the rows of beautiful and expensive bikes, then looked at my trusty mountain bike, I felt so out of place. But I needn’t have done, everyone was very friendly. I set up my tiny transition area, checked it again and again, and headed down to the start.

Lining up at the start I felt surprisingly relaxed, having already made a decision to just have fun and not worry about how fast or slow I was going. Suddenly we were off.

I ran into the lake and started swimming, focusing on my stroke and maintaining a consistent pace. Eventually, the beach loomed and I jogged out of the water and into transition. Part one done! I pulled on my shoes, grabbed my bike and headed out of the transition area. A couple of weeks ago I had attempted to ride the bike course (just to make sure) and had found the first hill to be very hard, almost impossible, but today I rode up it slowly but steadily. I can’t tell you how glad I was to get to the top!

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Two laps later, and I was on the run…I was running! I didn’t manage to run the entire 5km, but it didn’t matter, when I saw the finish line coming into view, the feeling of accomplishment was amazing.

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I’m a triathlete?

Apple 2012 cert

Since that day in 2012, I’ve completed 12 more triathlons and even signed up for Ironman!

Turns out I love triathlon and I’m improving all the time.

(and for the record, that hill on Knox mountain that was once impossible, is now just another little hill…meh!)

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Ironman Training, Musings, Triathlon

Five things They Never Told Me About Ironman Training

Training for Ironman is pretty much a full time job, it consumes your life for much of the year.

Here’s five things I really didn’t fully understand before I started training for Ironman Canada.

You are always…

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You are always, on your way to another workout! I was warned about the volume of training required before I signed up – up to 20 hours a week. Sounds doable, until you realize you have to schedule that around work, buying ever increasing amounts of groceries, family commitments (My family aren’t nearby, but my cats are at risk of forgetting who I am), and the usual time-wasters like sleeping and eating and well, everything else. So now my life is scheduled around my workouts. Seriously, if you don’t swim, bike and/or run, we just can’t hang out!

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As a consequence, no doubt, of the aforementioned busyness, you are always tired! 5am workout? Certainly (when else am I going to fit it in?). 8pm hang out?  Are you kidding? I’m already on my way to bed! No I can’t come out this evening, I just finished a five hour ride and I just can’t move. If they do see me, my cats know to aggressively request food immediately – lest I fall asleep and they are unable to wake me!

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Hungry. I am always hungry. And I don’t mean in a “Oh, I’ll have another portion of salad or a small handful of nuts” kind of way. I mean if you sit too still nearby I might consider you food! I have become that person at the buffet with a heaped plate, then going back for more. At a pot luck event, I will be found hovering around the food table. Who ate my Kale salad with extra burger on the side? Why is there never any food in my house?

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Like seriously! How can those tiny pieces of Lycra make soooo much laundry? Do I even own this many clothes? Two or more workouts a day creates a laundry mountain of epic proportions, there are random pieces of sportswear air drying all over the place. I’m considering buying shares in laundry detergent.

BROKE

David Castillo Dominici freedigitalphotos.net

David Castillo Dominici freedigitalphotos.net

This one was sneaky. Ironman is expensive! I consider myself a generally frugal athlete, but even I had a rude awakening to some of the costs. First, you have the eye-wateringly expensive registration fee; then there’s no end of gadgets, bike parts, nutrition products, coaching costs, training events, physiotherapy, accommodation, travel, and the list goes on. And that’s quite apart from the costs associated with the increased eating and laundry previously mentioned.

What has your Ironman training experience been like?

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Musings

Looking Forward

Thanks SeeKayTri for this picture!

Thanks SeeKayTri for this picture!

Now that 2015 is underway, it seems like a good time to look back at 2014 and make some plans for the coming year. (I have deliberately waited a few weeks so as not to get swept up in the New Year’s Resolution wave of excitement).

2014 was a very up and down year for me; the highlights were very high, but the ‘lowlights’ very low.

Let’s start with the bad and get it out of the way. If you have been reading the blog, you already know…

I developed a stress fracture in my ankle.

Yes, I haven’t shut up about it for months!

I was off training for weeks, and it pervaded everything I did (training and otherwise) for months – the entire summer. I was really miserable, as many of my friends will likely attest!

But every cloud has a silver lining…

In a strange way, the injury motivated me to achieve even more than before. Perhaps because I always had an excuse for any failure (which it turned out I didn’t need, but offered a psychological safety net).

I got to focus on swimming, and made some exciting advances.

I reintroduced myself to cycling, met some great people, and started to learn to love it again.

I learned many lessons about perseverance and some about patience.

I watched  more television (and learned a lot of really useless facts and a few useful ones too).

Which leads me to the highlights:

I completed 19 events including:

9 runs of varying distances

3 open water swims

4 sprint distance triathlons

My first ever 100km cycle ride

7PB’s (plus a bunch of firsts)

I found new friends, and new focus

I signed up for Ironman Canada!

Pretty good for such a *bad* year…

So now to look forward.

I don’t like New Year’s resolutions. They rarely get kept, and sometimes even turn into demotivators as I realise my failure, so I have simply chosen 3 areas that I would like to work on throughout the year.

To train harder, but with more focus and consistency.

Well training harder probably goes without saying, especially with the Ironman goal hanging around, but now that my capacity is growing, harder comes more naturally. More important I feel is to improve the consistency with which I train and to train smarter, to maximize improvement whilst minimizing injury.

To make better nutritional choices.

This was also a goal in 2014. I did better last year but I think there’s still room for improvement – there probably always will be.

To enjoy the journey – not just the destination.

This is the most important of the three goals. I have a tendency to be rather ‘end-point oriented’ causing me to miss much of the beauty along the way (it can also be crushing if for some reason one cannot reach said end point). Ironman training is going to be long and hard. Merely enduring this (and putting all my eggs in one basket for one 17 hour day in July) would be such a waste, not to mention, incredibly boring.

Well, you probably guessed that my major race goal this year, is indeed those 17 hours (hopefully less) in July, other highlights will hopefully incude:

My first Olympic distance triathlon at UBC in March

A half-iron distance triathlon, location TBD

Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan (160km)

Across the Lake swim

A swim from Alcatraz

A sprinkling of sprint triathlons and maybe some runs, if it feels good.

A whole plethora of new experiences – because you should never turn down a chance to try something new! (Unless it’s drugs – don’t try those kids!)

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