Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Race Report: Multisport Canada Gravenhurst Olympic

On Saturday, July 15th I raced the Gravenhurst Olympic for the first time! As an event known to sell out well in advance of race day, I knew that it would be an awesome event. I was not disappointed. The location, the course, the event organizers,volunteers and so many spectators made it such a great race. It really enjoyed racing alongside new du/triathletes, elite du/triathletes, both young and old (there was an 85year old participant this year!). I got to see people I hadn't seen in awhile and I got to meet new people.

Although I am training for the full Ironman in Mont Tremblant on August 20th, there is HUGE benefit to racing some shorter races in preparation. The shorter and harder workouts allows you to train your anaerobic energy system and help make your aerobic system more efficient and the longer easier workouts build your endurance. Both are required to put together a good Ironman. So, that, and the fact I love to race, was why I included Gravenhurst in my race schedule.


The weekend prior to Gravenhurst I had put together a solid training weekend: a 170km ride + 11km run off the bike (Saturday) and then swimming the relay in Muskoka 70.3 and then running 29km (Sunday). I had a bit of a rest week this past week, but did a 140km ride + 12km run (with 2x2k at 4:15/km) on the Wednesday. So, my legs were a little tired. I was hopeful that a day off and a massage on Thursday night and a light day Friday might get my legs ready to be fresh on Saturday. Unfortunately, I worked at the massage clinic until 8pm the day prior to the race (5 hrs on my feet) and then didn't get to where we were staying in Severn Bridge until 10:30pm that night. So, I would be racing Gravenhurst on less than 7hrs sleep. Not something I like to do! Nonetheless, I was excited and was hopeful that the lack of sleep would only start to hit me later in the day on Saturday well after the race was over.


Luckily, or unluckily, for the pros and elite age group athletes we got our own boat ride to the start line. It was nice to be on a private boat, but I was a tiny bit disappointed we wouldn't get to jump off the steam ship. It sounded like those who did had a lot of fun! The start of the race was fairly uneventful as there were only about 8 people in my wave. Jessey The Elf took off way ahead of us, but Daniel Clark and I managed to swim together. I tried to pass him a few times but I need glasses for distance and even with my mirrored goggles I could not see where I was going. So, I hoped he knew where he was going, and I just followed him to the finish! I felt like I was pushing myself, but didn't have much extra energy to go one gear harder, which I sometimes have on race day.

STATS: 22:56 (Sportstats) and 20:56, 1500m, 37 strokes per minute, 1:23/100m (Garmin)


After what seemed like a long run from the swim to my bike, I had a relatively uneventful T1 and before I knew it I was off on my bike. I used to dread the bike portion of the race, but I actually enjoy it now with my Cervelo P5 and Blade Carbon Wheels! About 500m ahead of me was another athlete, and I made it my goal to keep him in sight. I knew roughly what my average power should be for this race (205-215W) and where my heart rate should be (165-170bpm) and while both were a bit higher than that in the start, I felt OK so I continued to aim for my "carrot" up the road. I wasn't making up the gap on the rider in front, but I wasn't falling behind, which is usually what I let happen. My legs were starting to hurt at around 15K in and it wasn't as easy to ride at 215W as it had been at the start. I also got passed by two riders which hurt, mentally. So I focused inward, as is what I do when things happen that I can't control. I watched my cadence steady at around 85-87rpm, aimed for a power goal between 205 - 215W, took my fluid and my nutrition. At the 20K turnaround I was at 211W NP and around 169bpm. I continued to focus inward for the next 10km and wouldn't you know it, I caught that rider up ahead! We caught and passed each other several times, before I took the lead for good. I died a little in the last 5km and finished the ride at 206W NP.

Oh, and let me just say this, that when you are training for Ironman, 40km goes by so fast!!! I have done 3x 140-170km rides and 2x 120km rides in the past three weeks. So, although 40km at just below threshold power/heart rate is VERY hard it definitely went by quickly. Also, I really liked the course - rolling hills are my specialty.

STATS: 1:05:54, 36.42kph (Sportstats) and 1:04:57, 37kph, 40.0km, 203W avg power, 206W NP, 167bpm avg HR, 87rpm (Garmin)


I think I was starting to feel the busy week and lack of sleep as the run started. I really wanted to average 4:10 to 4:15/km, but it was evident early on that I wasn't going to reach my goal. I was finding it hard to push myself to go fast. I took some calories and some water at the first aid station and that seemed to help. The course is pretty tough with lots of steep climbs and descents and it makes it hard to pace it. So, instead of worrying about pace, I stayed focused on heart rate and keeping it in 172-177bpm range (threshold heart rate range). My legs were pretty heavy by the end but I tried to stay strong to the finish! It was great to break the tape to take the overall female win and be welcomed by John Salt (the race and series director).

STATS: 43:50, 4:23/km (Sportstats) and 43:49, 10.17km, 4:19/km, 174bpm (Garmin).

So that was the day in Gravenhurst! Unfortunately, I did re-aggravate my sesamoid bone in my left big toe, likely during the long run barefoot during T1. I'm hoping the inflammation clears up in the next few days, as I have my last big training weekend planned.

Next race up: Kingston Long Course Triathlon (I hope to see you there!)

Thank you:

- Bill and Lynne for letting us stay at their home in Severn Bridge
- The Multisport crew, volunteers and officials
- My parents for their continued love and support throughout this crazy adventure of mine.
- My sisters for being my inspiration to work hard and never give up.
- Adam for keeping me calm when I get anxious and for making me want to be the best version of myself. It helps so much to have him there on race day.
- My step-kids: Saige, Rhys and Mack for being there on race day, cheering me on and for the high fives!
- My health care team of Dr. Mark Schofield, David Lamy (RMT), Bill Wells (Chiro) and Michael Hong (Acupuncture). I wouldn't have been able to race this one without you.
- Kim Lumsdon at KLSC
- All my readers for their support and for following me in my triathlon endeavours
- Fellow athletes at the race and training partners, especially Sara and everyone at WattsUp and TTC!
- Endurosport for building me the perfect bike and all your mechanical help
- My sponsors: Title Sponsor:High Rock Capital Management, WattsUp Cycling, MultiSport Canada, Blade Wheels, The Urban Athlete, Fitt1st Bike Fitting

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Race Report: Welland Long Course

When planning my races this summer I was fairly stuck on where I wanted to race on June 25th. I debated whether I should go to Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant or whether should I race in Welland. Ultimately, the pros of racing in Welland won out: the proximity to Toronto, the timing (doing a half-ironman just 9 weeks before a full Ironman wasn't enough time to recover and ramp up the training and then taper - for a full time working step-mum anyway!), the venue, the community, the course is better suited for me (windy and flat!), practice on the Barrelman course, getting to race alongside my sister (Sara), and mostly because I LOVE racing with Multisport Canada. And what a great event the Multisport crew and volunteers put on in Welland! It truly is a spectacular race. The course, the location and the organization are tough to beat.


The week before the race was far from an easy week. I had raced a half-ironman two weeks prior to Welland which I had put in a good two week taper for. That meant that I would race Welland at the end of a Build Week. I usually taper for all my races, but with Ironman on August 20th being one of my key races this year, it meant that I would not be able to do so for Welland. So, the week leading up to this race was as follows:

Saturday: 95km ride + 4km run
Sunday: 6000m swim
Monday: 7km descending run
Tuesday: 3000m swim, including 2000m race pace swim & 22km run
Wednesday: 1500m swim, 90minute ride with 6x(1min at VO2max-4min at Threshold)
Thursday: 2000m swim
Friday: 1500m swim, 30min bike & 3km descending run
Saturday: 1hr bike with 3x(2min at race power) and 3km run off the bike, and then I got married in the afternoon!

Still a bit of low volume week, but add about 50 hrs of work (including giving about 20 x 1hr massages) and it's a lot!


The Swim

I positioned myself close to Nigel Gray (NRG head coach, great guy and super speedy). I knew that I could swim at around his pace and draft him if I needed. So, when the gun went off I tried to stay on Nigel's feet. I don't have a lot of speed at the start so I found myself working really hard to stay with him, but eventually I settled into a rhythm. I tried to pass him a couple times, but when I was out of his draft I couldn't pass so I stayed on his feet. This worked well until about 1400m into the race, when speedy Hector caught us from the 2nd wave. Nigel was able to hang on to Hector's feet, but I was left behind :( So, I swam solo the rest of the way, worrying about how much time speedster Angela Quick would gain on me by the end of the swim.

Stats: 2000m, 29:11, 1:28/100m, 38 strokes per minute

The Bike

I had a quick transition and was off and on my bike in 2nd place, with my main focus being to try to make up time. I knew within a few pedal strokes that I didn't feel as fresh as I did at Eagleman, but I put that out of my mind. I just tried to push hard, and that's just what I did the whole way. Yes, my heart rate was higher than I wanted, and the power was a bit lower, and other athletes seemed to be just flying by me on the bike, but I tried to stay positive and focused on my nutrition, my cadence and staying low and aero. When things happen that are beyond your control it's best to focus inward and on what you can control (like nutrition, cadence, bike position). I got a bit frustrated as the winds picked up, but I continued to remained focused and *eventually* I was back at T2.

Stats: 1:33:31, 36kph, Garmin Says: 200W NP (198W avg power), avg HR of 165bpm, cadence of 83rpm

The Run

I started the run with spectators saying I was about 2 minutes behind the leader, so I put aside all thoughts of properly pacing myself for a 15km run and just decided to run as hard as I could for as long as I could. If I got in the lead I would slow things down a bit. I remained focused on what I could control: taking in fluid/nutrition and pouring cold water on my head at the aid stations. But I didn't pay attention to my heart rate, which said I was running to hard! My first 7km were at around a 4:10/km pace until I made it into the lead. Then I slowed down a bit to try to get my heart rate under control, but that was proving difficult. In the last few kms I had to slow my pace significantly and I was experiencing signs I had run to hard at the start. Then I got an extremely bad cramp in the last km that forced me to slow to about a 5:00/km pace and I was so glad the finish line came when it did!

Stats: 1:04:29, 4:17/km and Garmin says: avg HR 173

Overall, I'm extremely happy to take the overall female win! An added bonus is that I got to win a race on my honeymoon. Who else can say that?!? I'm also happy that I can compete at this level, while working full time and dealing with a lot more stress in my life than ever before!

Next up: Gravenhurst Olympic Triathlon

Thank you:

- The Multisport crew, volunteers and officials
- My parents for their continued love and support throughout this crazy adventure of mine.
- My sisters for being my inspiration to work hard and never give up. Seeing Sara out there on the run helped me push through my own discomfort (Sara had the 4th fastest run time in her age group!)
- Adam for keeping me calm when I get anxious and for making me want to be the best version of myself. It helps so much to have him there on race day.
- My health care team of Dr. Mark Schofield, David Lamy (RMT), Bill Wells (Chiro) and Michael Hong (Acupuncture). I wouldn't have been able to race this one without you.
- Kim Lumsdon at KLSC
- All my readers for their support and for following me in my triathlon endeavours
- Fellow athletes at the race and training partners, especially Sara and everyone at WattsUp and TTC!
- Endurosport for building me the perfect bike and all your mechanical help
- My sponsors: Title Sponsor:High Rock Capital Management, WattsUp Cycling, MultiSport Canada, Blade Wheels, The Urban Athlete, Fitt1st Bike Fitting

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Race Report: Eagleman 70.3

It feels really good to be able to write about Eagleman 70.3. This race was as close as I've ever gotten to "the perfect race"...you know, that race where everything comes together and you have an amazing day. Well, Eagleman wasn't perfect, but it was pretty close! This was a definite shocker as I questioned my fitness and preparedness over and over again leading up to it. Why? Well, I've been working 50-60 hours a week in the past couple months and trying to train 15-18hrs a week, I was managing a possible stress fracture in my big toe (turns out is was sesamoiditis - still very painful!) and dealing with some other stressful issues. So, I am incredibly grateful that everything came together on the day.

To what do I owe my success? Pacing. This race what not about racing others, it was about racing to my potential. After 7 years of competing in half-ironmans, and 5 years coaching other long course triathletes, I have learned that an athlete will not have a magical day on race day where he or she can race beyond his or her ability. The athlete will only race to the level that his or her physiology allows. I believe the best predictor of whether an athlete is racing too easy or too hard is heart rate. Not speed, not power, not pace, not RPE (though this is closely linked to heart rate). What proof there is that heart rate is so important for long course triathlon is a topic for another blog post. For now, I will just say that this is the first race that I have focused solely on heart rate and I believe that this was the most well executed triathlon I have ever done. Not sure why it took so long, as I've always told athletes to pay close attention to their heart rate in long course racing, even though I have never done so!

If you stop reading this blog now you will get my basic takeaway from the race :) If you want to know more, read on:


Friday: Drive to Cambridge, Maryland (~10hours), load up good food for fuel, drink 3-4L of water (pre-hydrating before a super hot race is important!), post-drive easy 30 minute bike and 10 minute run and then healthy supper

Saturday: Adam to bike the 90K bike course, Miranda to do a 50 minute bike and 15 minute run with some pickups, drink 3-4L of water, super intimidating pro meeting, swim in the river and then chill, salty dinner - no tomatoes.

Sunday: Race, drive back to Toronto so I could work on Monday!


Friday: Drove to Cambridge, Maryland ( actually 12 hours), loaded up on Bulk Barn chocolate/snacks for fuel, I did drink 3-4L of water (made for lots of pee stops!), post-drive easy 20 minute run and pizza for supper

Saturday: This went according to plan, except for me finding a HUGE hole in my speedsuit! Luckily I found one a new one at the race expo - thank you TYR! Pro meeting was even more intimidating than usual - nerves super high. I had bowtie pasta with alfredo sauce and chicken, and a small salad for dinner. Drank 3-4L of water.

The hole!

The new suit

Sunday: The Race, Drove to Painted Post (almost made it home) - luckily I didn't work till 1:30pm on Monday



- Woke up at 4:45, had oatmeal bread, PB, banana, coffee and water. I was well fuelled enough that I didn't need a big breakfast. Thank you Bulk Barn!
- Biked over to the race site for 5:30am, set up transition, did some pre-swim activation (arm and leg swings - good to open up shoulders and the hip flexors), tested out my speedsuit for the first time (eek!) and then lined up for the start!


The goal: Don't kick too hard

Firstly, this was a non-wetsuit swim for the Pros. The age-group athletes were allowed to wear wetsuits. I started out fast to the first buoy to catch some fast feet. My "fast" is not that fast though so I did miss the pack I wanted. I swam with another girl for a bit and then did a surge to catch up to the few swimmers that were about 10-15m ahead. We all swum together the rest of the swim and I tried really hard to kick less as part of my pacing strategy (you do have to kick a little as it's important for your rotation in freestyle). Anyway, I tend to kick too hard and this causes my hip flexors to tighten up and, I believe, causes me to fatigue more easily later in the race. So, I wanted to be sure that my speed was coming from my arms and not my legs. I think I did this pretty well. I made a mistake at the end of the swim, though. The other girls picked up the pace and I was daydreaming or something, because they were able to put a 10 meter gap on me in the last 150m of the swim.

Time: 29:14, Garmin says: 2100m swim, 1:23/100m pace (right on CSS!), 36 strokes per minute.


The other girls were running much faster than me out of the water and towards their bikes. Although they exited the water only a few seconds ahead, they were already running with their bikes by the time I reached mine. Something to learn from and do better next time. Other than having a slow transition, everything went smoothly: speedsuit, goggles, cap off, helmet on, grabbed bike and then an easy mount and ride.


The goal: 155bpm avg HR, which I believed would lead to a 200W NP

Once on the bike, I could see a group of girls about 500m down the road who I made it my goal to catch. I thought, "OK, push the power for the first 10-15K and see if you can catch them. If you can, ride with them (legally) and if not, settle into your target heart rate of 150-160bpm". Unfortunately for me, there are a lot of turns at the start of the bike course there. I'm not a very technical rider so they were able to pull further and further ahead. Also, if they were working together, they would have had an advantage versus me working solo. Nonetheless, I was able to catch up to one girl at around 20K by pushing about 215W and holding a HR of 160-163bpm. Probably owe a bit of this speed to my new P5 and my new Blade Wheels!!! Once I caught her I stayed at a legal distance behind her and made her my carrot. When I did so I was between 195-205W and a 155bpm heart rate, which was right within range. So, I stayed well back of her so be sure I wasn't drafting (I got a drafting penalty in 2014 so am super careful not to do that again!). At around 70K a few other females caught up to us and passed us, but we were able to hang on with them for a bit. In the last 5K though, my hip flexors started cramping and it was an uncomfortably ride from that point. I just wanted the bike to be finished!

Time: 2:25:44, Garmin says: 90km, 37.2kph, 200W NP, 196W avg power, 86rpm, 155bpm avg HR


Very uneventful except for the fact that I became very aware of how tight my hip flexors were.


The goal: Pace this properly, run the first 12km under 165bpm avg HR

I started out on the run very uncomfortably. The hip flexors were cramped and my heart rate was high (170s) and it was SO HOT! I didn't know how I would finish. But I saw Adam at the 1K point and he said that I looked good and that the other girls ahead were breathing much harder than me. I thought, "OK, relax, focus, HR < 165bpm, take water and dump ice and water on you at aid stations, that's the only way you will get through this". So I tried not to look at my pace. At the 12km mark I felt comfortable at a 165bpm avg HR and decided I would push it a bit, but no higher than 170bpm. It was a bit more uncomfortable, but only 9km at this effort seemed doable. With 4km left I decided that I felt pretty good, so now was the time to push. And I did, all the way to the finish!

Time: 1:35:40, Garmin says: 21.1km, 4:31/km, 168bpm average HR. (first 12k: 165 bpm, 4:28/km| from 12-17km: 4:34/km, 170bpm | from 17-21.1km: 4:30/km, 173bpm)

If you recall, in 2015 I had knee surgery and the surgical residents who operated on me told me I would never run more than 10km ever again. So, the fact that I could even compete in this event, let alone place in the top 10, amazes me! And there's no way I would be able to do that without the amazing help of my friends, family, sponsors and supporters.

Thank you:

- Our homestay hosts, Brenda and Paul and Bella (their dog), who were incredibly welcoming and had the most comfortable bed!
- My parents for their continued love and support throughout this crazy adventure of mine.
- My sisters for being my inspiration to work hard and never give up
- Adam for keeping me calm when I get anxious and for making me want to be the best version of myself. It helps so much to have him there on race day.
- TYR for getting me a speedsuit very last minute!
- My health care team of Dr. Mark Schofield, David Lamy (RMT), Bill Wells (Chiro) and Michael Hong (Acupuncture). I wouldn't have been able to race this one without you.
- Kim Lumsdon at KLSC
- All my readers for their support and for following me in my triathlon endeavours
- Ironman and all the volunteers!
- Fellow athletes at the race and training partners, especially Kevin McCormick for really pushing me on those race simulation rides and everyone at WattsUp and TTC!
- Endurosport for building me the perfect bike and all your mechanical help
- Nick DiCristofaro at Velofix for helping with my last minute requests!
- My sponsors: Title Sponsor:High Rock Capital Management, WattsUp Cycling, MultiSport Canada, Blade Wheels, The Urban Athlete, Fitt1st Bike Fitting

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


Transitions are important for ALL triathletes. Whether you are a beginner or an elite, just there to compete or to win, a good transition will help your race run smoothly.

Good Transition Setup:

Check out this photo for a good transition area setup (the key: organization!) and below for more details on transitions.

Note: You can rack your bike by the rear of the saddle or the front. This bike is racked by the rear, but if you rack it at the front, ensure that you can slide your bike under the rack without it getting stuck! And keep your gear bag along the fence of the transition area (or in the appropriate area) and not crowding someone else's bike.

Transition One: Swim to Bike

1. Prior to the race start, walk through the transition area from the swim exit to your bike and then from your bike to the bike exit. Note whether there is a grade at the bike mount line so you know whether your bike should be racked in the big or small ring. Put Vaseline on your ankles and arms to make it easier to get your wetsuit on and off. If you plan to use sunscreen, apply it before the race start (so you don't need to do so in your first transition).

2. When you are about 200m away from the swim finish, start to pick up your kick to increase the blood flow to your legs. This will warm them up for the run or walk to your bike and the following early part of the ride. This is also a time to start visualizing your first transition.

2. Once the water gets shallow enough that you can actually touch it while you are swimming, start doing dolphin dives (jumping up off the bottom of the lake and diving forward), and once the water is about knee deep you can start running towards the exit.

3. Exit the water and lift your goggles up (but leave them on your head ). Unzip your wetsuit (or use a wetsuit stripper if it's going to be a long run to your bike). Take off the upper half of your wetsuit while you make your way to your bike. Once your wetsuit is half off, you can take off your cap and goggles and run/walk with them in your hand towards your bike.

4. When you get to the bike, put down your cap and goggles, take off your wetsuit (stepping out of it if you need to), then put on sunglasses and helmet, then bike shoes (if they aren't clipped into your pedals). Then take your bike by the stem or saddle and walk or run with it towards the mount line. Once PAST the mount line, you can get on your bike. Take your time clipping in, don’t rush! You should be in an easy enough gear so that you aren't grinding right from the start. If it's a muddy transition area, you may want to carry your shoes to the mount line and put them on there.

Transition Two: Bike to Run

1. Race morning, walk from the bike finish or dismount line towards your spot in transition, then from your bike to the run exit. Take note of surrounding landmarks near your spot (or mark it with a bright towel) as running shoes are a bit harder to spot than your bike (as in the first transition). You might want to put baby powder or vaseline in your socks or running shoes to prevent blistering.

2. Unclip (or slip your feet out of your shoes) and slow down a couple hundred meters before the dismount line. Be sure to dismount BEFORE the line.

2. After dismounting, run/walk your bike towards your spot in transition (where your run shoes are). You can rack your bike by the handlebars or the saddle, whatever is easier. Then take off your helmet and bike shoes. Slip on your socks and running shoes (use speed laces for quicker T2, speed laces are elastic laces that expand and retract so you can easily slip your foot into your shoes during your second transition - and don't have to waste any time tying them up!). Apply sunscreen if necessary. Grab your race belt, hat and water bottle/gel flask and head for the run exit. Clip on your race belt while heading to the transition exit and then head out on the run!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Weekend Recap: Training on the Muskoka Course

This past weekend WattsUp Cycling held a training camp for athletes in Huntsville. Adam, Kevin and I were the coaches that helped the athletes navigate one of the most difficult courses on the Ironman circuit. These athletes may not realize it yet, but they are significantly more prepared for this race (and any race) then they were before. Even if they might be a bit more scared then they were before!

The training camp was Friday to Sunday. We planned to swim the race course on Friday and Sunday, but water temps of 11C prevented that! 10 brave people still got in the water though (not me!). On Saturday, we got to ride part of the bike course by taking part in the Spin the Lakes, a fundraiser for the Canadian Mental Health Association, followed by a run off the bike. We practiced some open water swim skills in a warm pool later on Saturday afternoon. Sunday, some of us swam (not me!) then we rode the first 15km of the Muskoka bike course and back, then ran the run course. It was a full on weekend that is likely harder than the actual event itself!

The new Muskoka 70.3 course is very similar to the old Muskoka chase course. The swim course is identical. It is in a river which bends and twists. But having a good swim at Muskoka is not impossible. Taking steps that are within your control to prepare you will ensure that you do have a good swim. This includes familiarizing yourself with the course (swim the river the day before the race), sight often - don't keep you head down and swim blindly, defog your goggles prior to the race (use Aquasphere anti-fog or baby shampoo) and just follow the shoreline on your left. If you follow all these steps, the course is as easy as any other swim.

The bike course combines some of the old Muskoka Chase bike course with the old Ironman 70.3 route. It starts out along a relatively flat/rolling Brunel Rd, then you make a quick left turn onto Britannia - watch out for this turn as it comes up quick. Then you will face the hardest part of the course on Britannia - it's VERY important not to surge too much on these hills as those short and hard efforts will really tax your legs towards the end of the ride. Accelerate into the hills and keep a high cadence throughout the climb. You should be in your easiest gear at the steepest part of the climbs. Don't try to grind up in a hard gear or your heart rate and power will soar way too high. Try to keep the heart rate and power steady. If you know what your threshold heart rate/power is, then try to limit the time you spend above that number. As you near the end of Brittania you will descend a hill and then you make a very sharp left turn onto South Portage Road, which you will take north for awhile. There are quite a few climbs on this stretch, though there are some flat sections too. There is a steady climb before you turn right onto Dwight Beach Road. Dwight Beach Road is mostly downhill - yay!. Then you are out on the highways. If it's windy you will feel it here, but the climbs are far less steep. Try to ride this in aero position as much as possible. If you are on a grade, but can still feel the wind against your face and your cadence is above 70 then stay low in the aero position. Only get up out of aero if the cadence drops too low. The final stretch of the ride is along Brunel and this is not nearly as difficult as the beginning of the ride. Keep the cadence high and select an easier gear as you approach the finish of the course so as to not leave your legs feeling heavy for the run. If you paced the swim and bike properly and had patience early on in the ride then you will be just fine. Another note for the bike course is, if you can, use a compact crankset (I have a semi-compact and that seemed fine) with an 11/28 or bigger cassette - talk you your bike mechanic if you have questions about gearing. You want to have access to some easy gears on this course.

The good news is that the new run course is much flatter than the old run course. The best part - it's two loops! A lot better for spectators to cheer you on. There are still a few hills (one coming right out of transition), but otherwise the course is more rolling ups and downs than anything steep. If you pace the bike properly (if you think you rode slightly too easy that's a good sign!) and stayed on top of your nutrition, the run will not be overly difficult. However, there isn't too much tree cover on the course. If it's hot then keep your core temperature down by splashing water on your head, face, body and legs. Take in fluid at every aid station. Watch your heart rate, if it's slowly drifting up then you may be dehydrated so take in some extra fluid.

The Muskoka Chase (in 2004) was the second triathlon I ever did. I had no idea what I was getting myself into! I had no one to give me advice or tell me what to expect. So, this training camp (and hopefully this blog) will give anyone who hasn't experienced the course a good idea of how to handle the event. Good luck and feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about the course.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Don't fear the swim!

Many triathletes find the swim portion of the triathlon to be the most daunting. The number of times I hear that the swim is an impediment to athletes trying a triathlon is too many to count. And the number of triathletes that lack confidence about their swim is just as many. So, I decided to write this post about a logical progression to get from being scared of the swim, to being able to conquer the swim! This post is relevant for the non-swimmer who wants to get into triathlon, or for the swimmer who has failed to progress in the sport since they started.

The steps to better swimming:

1. Get over your fear of triathlon swims
2. Learn to swim and/or improve your technique
3. Get faster

Read on for a more detailed explanation of the above and click on the links for videos.

1. Get over your fear of the triathlon swim

If you've never done a triathlon before, here are a few things you need to know about the triathlon swim that might make it seem a bit less scary:

- You can wear a wetsuit (unless the water/air temp is too hot that it would be dangerous to your health - very rare occurrence) and a wetsuit gives you a natural buoyancy. So, if your excuse is that you sink when you swim, well, that’s not going to happen because of the wetsuit. Not only that, but a wetsuit keeps you warm. so, the water temperature isn’t an excuse either!
- You don’t have to do front crawl the whole time. Yes, you can do backstroke, you can do breaststroke, you can run along the bottom of the lake if it’s shallow. You can even grab on to a lifeboat as long as the lifeboat is not moving forward and you don’t use it to propel yourself forward.
- You don’t have to start with a huge group if you don't want to. Usually a triathlon is broken into “waves” so you are in groups of people in your age group. You can choose to either start 30s or so after your age group is signalled to start their race or you can even sign up to start in the very last wave of the event.

2. Learn to swim and/or improve your technique

So, now that you've registered for your triathlon (maybe one of the many Multisport Canada Events :) - what do you do?

Join a Learn to Swim program offered by the City of Toronto
Get private swim lessons
Do it yourself!

Start with buoyancy drills! Basically, just practice floating! Float on your back, on your side, on your stomach. Always try to keep your feet, hips and head at the surface of the water. Practice treading water in the deep end. Practice vertical kicking.
Do this for the whole 30 minutes every 2-3 days for 1-3 weeks.

Next, work on breathing drills. Blow bubbles with your head in the water, kick with a board and blow bubbles with your face in the water. Next, practice some freestyle strokes with a board.
Add this (20mins) to your buoyancy drills (10mins) every 2-3 days for 1-3 weeks.

Next, master your kick: Kick on your back with your board over your knees, make little splashes with your toes when you kick, kick with a pull buoy/band between your thighs to prevent yourself from kicking with your knees, do some lower back stretches and hip openers to loosen those hips.
Add this (20mins) to your breathing (5mins) and buoyancy drills (5mins) every 2-3 days for 1-3 weeks.

Master your body position and streamline: Progress your kicking drills to the 6-kick switch drill progressing to 3 strokes of swimming between each 6 kicks (3-6-3-6 drill). Think about being as long as possible when you are moving through the water. Keep the top of your head pointed in the direction you area heading. Limit any side to side movementDrive the rotation with the hips.
Add this (20mins) to your other kicking drills (5mins) and buoyancy drills (5mins) every 2-3 days for 1-3 weeks.

Work on your feel for the water: Sculling on your front, sculling on your back head and feet first!
Add this (20mins) to your other kicking drills (5mins) and body position drills (5mins) every 2-3 days for 1-3 weeks.

Add the arms! (finally): Do some catch-up freestyle with a board for assistance with hand entry and front quadrant style swimming (more ideal for distance swimmers). Practice swimming 1 length of front crawl/freestyle at a time, each with a different focus: 1 length focused on heels and head position, 1 length thinking about being as long as possible, 1 length thinking about keeping the opposite arm out in front when you breath and 1 length thinking about arms entering shoulder width apart, 1 length thinking about keeping your hand below your elbow at all times - don’t slap the water with your elbow when you enter, 1 length thinking about pushing the water toward your feet.
Add this(20mins) to your other kicking drills (5mins) and other drills (5mins) every 2-3 days for 1-3 weeks.

3. So, you've got near perfect technique, but now you want to get fast, so what do you do?

Join a Swim Team (Such as Masters or Triathlon swim teams with good and attentive coaches. This will help you get faster, no question)
Train smart on your own

To elaborate on the "train smart on your own" I will remind you that:

- You need to continue to work on technique with the swim. As soon as you feel your technique fall apart, your practice is over or you need to take some extra rest before your next length/set.
- You need to vary your training. Speed work, critical swim speed work, endurance work, pull and paddles work, technique, and race simulation are crucial. You can't swim at the same speed all the time. You need to swim faster at times and slower at times. How much emphasis on faster or slower swimming depends on the race you are training for.
- Work on your weak spots. If your kick isn't very good then focus on improving your hip and ankle mobility. If you aren't strong, then do some swim chord work. If your elbow drops during your pull, then focus on that.
- You need to swim in the open water. Pool swimming is quite different from open water swimming, so if you want to be successful in the triathlon swim, you've got to practice it.

I've given you the tools for a good progression for a triathlete swimmer, now it's your choice to use them!

I coach Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday at Regent Park Pool year round for the Toronto Triathlon Club. I also coach open water swims in July and August for the Toronto Triathlon Club. Find out more information about the club and their swims here.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Is there still time to be my best?

As I've mentioned before, the days where I could spend my time training, eating, sleeping, recovery are well behind me. In 2011, I quit my full time job as a research associate at Sick Kids Hospital to pursue triathlon coaching and compete as a professional triathlete. I was lucky to be living with my parents at the time, and they were very happy to support my triathlon endeavours. I got to live a *relatively* low stress existence, with the bulk of my stress being the physical kind that comes with hard training. Winters were spent in the southwest US, springs and summers were spent racing in the northeastern US. And I was fast! I qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in 2013 as a Pro, finished Ironman in 9:38 and was among the top female triathletes in Canada.

Fast forward to now. It's 2017, I'm very happy, but life is more stressful. I'm post-knee surgery, working over 40 hours a week, a business owner, a part-time step mum of 3, dealing with the stress of ongoing legal issues and trying to keep up the same level of fitness. I'd like to think it can be done, I'd like to think that my best triathlon days are ahead of me, I'd like to think that a spot in Kona is mine for the taking. Is it? Are these realistic expectations? This, I don't know. But I won't give up that dream without a fight. I will train as hard, as smart and as effectively as I can. The next couple of years will determine whether I have it in me. The following elaborates a bit on my current training and my training for the rest of the season.

So far, 2017 seems promising. My swimming stays about the same from year to year. My CSS is between 1:21 to 1:23/100m and has been for the past 3 years. When I trained with the U of T swim team, my CSS was closer to 1:16 - but I'm quite content with where things are at right now. On the bike, I've seen some of the highest top end power ever, so I hope that means my long sustained power can also go up. On a recent 5hr ride I held ~150W NP (only 17W lower than Ironman in 2013) so that's a good sign. I continue to struggle with my running. Pre-surgery I could run a 4:30/km over 12 to 30km quite easily. Now, the pace for the same effort is closer to a 4:55/km. I keep telling myself that running is all about consistency...so, I will continue to just keep putting in the miles and hope for the best.

This trip to California has been a nice escape from the physical stress of daily life and has allowed me to up my training accordingly. The goal here is volume. A little bit of quality, too, as it's impossible to climb the Santa Monica mountains only in Zone 2 :) So far, things are going well. In the past 3 days I have completed 45 minutes of strength based work, 3 hours of swimming (8100m), 11.5 hours of biking (265km) and 2hrs (24km) of running. Tomorrow I will have a shorter day with a swim and then a short bike before travelling to San Francisco for the rest of the day and Sunday to visit a friend. The short break will allow me to adapt to the training I've done here so far and finish my solo camp off strong on Monday to Wednesday.

When I get back to Toronto, I will take a short rest to recover and absorb the training. The problem is that I will have to do this while catching up on all the work I've missed while being away! When I feel fresh again I will start another short and hard training block that will end at March break. Then it's Florida time with Adam and the kids and without my bike! So, I will use this time to build my run volume. (Special thanks in advance to my parents for helping out with the kids while Adam and I exercise :) ) Then, I will push hard on the bike in April with intensity, while I put in my biggest volume month on the run. May will see an increase in bike volume and a decrease in run volume, but an increase in run intensity. Then race season starts in June!

So, that is how this full time working pro-triathlete (who still believes her best performances can be ahead of her) is planning her upcoming training. Stay tuned - as nothing ever goes to plan. Or maybe it will this time?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Managing Sleep and Training

I often hear of athletes saying that they only get 4-6 hours of sleep in order to fit their workouts in. It never fails to surprise me: don't they know this is counterproductive? Then I remind myself that before I knew how important sleep was, I would do the same thing. So, I thought I would present a little background information on why sleep is so important, with the hopes that it will encourage you to find the right balance between sleep and training.

Sleep is an essential part of our daily routine, required to return our body to homeostasis and for us to maintain a healthy living. It is a time during which our body heals, both physically and mentally. It is when our bodies grow stronger from previous training as the muscles rebuild and our brain re-sets to handle the next workout.

There are two stages of sleep: Non-REM Sleep and REM Sleep. Non-REM sleep makes up most of our sleep time and is when our bodies are in a parasympathetic or "rest and digest" state, brain activity is low. REM sleep is a time when brain activity is high, yet our bodies remain paralyzed. This prevents us from acting out our dreams. The combination of both states allows us to store nutrients, promotes injury healing, restores cognitive function and gets us ready for the next day. Sleep is incredibly important for normal functioning and even more important for athletes, considering the mental and physical training we endure.

How much sleep do we need? The following is recommended:

Newborn: up to 18hours
1-12months: 14-18hours
1-3 years: 12-15hours
5-12 years: 9-11 hours
13-18 years: 9-10 hours
Adults: 7-8 hours or more
Pregnant women: 8 hours or more

Keep in mind, these are the requirements for the general population and athletes likely need a bit more.

How does lack of sleep effect athletes? Here are a few effects:

- Prevents muscles from healing and growing stronger, which can lead to lack of progress and injury
- Effects cognitive function, which may prevent you from mentally getting through either a high intensity or high volume workout
- Increased appetite - will lead us to consume excess calories and "junk foods" ... ever wonder why you are gaining weight while training for something that causes you to sacrifice sleep?
- Impatience and irritability - don't become an annoying training partner!
- Decreased performance
- More prone to illness. Athletes lower their immune system when they train, combine this with lack of sleep and it makes an athlete much more susceptible to sickness.
- Decreased reaction time. This is especially dangerous when riding out on the road.

What is my rule on sleep and training?

Let me preface this by saying that I have never needed a lot of sleep. This has been tried and tested as I've still been able to make gains in fitness with 7-8 hours of sleep per night (maybe with more I could get even stronger?). I have a very strong parasympathetic drive - my resting heart rate is 40-42bpm, which, I'm speculating allows me to "rest and digest" a lot easier than others. I actually have a hard time sleeping longer than 8 hours. So, my "rule" on sleep is that I need an average of 7.5 hours in 3 consecutive days in order to handle a big training load (TSS > 100) on a given day. So, if I have gotten 6-7-6 hours of sleep before a big training day I will need to modify.

How to improve your sleep? These are a few things that work for me:

- Write down all your worries on a piece of paper about 1hr before you go to bed, to help clear your mind and prevent worry at night
- No alcohol before bed (alcohol can initially help you fall asleep, but it can easily disrupt REM sleep later in the night as it becomes metabolized).
- Meditate to fall asleep
- Look at pictures of people sleeping before bed
- Don't nap longer than 30 minutes! While napping can make you feel better, it certainly disrupts your sleep cycle during the night, and prevents normal healing and sleep functions from occurring.
- Establish a sleeping routine. I go to bed and wake up at the same time almost every day.
- Medications can effect the sleep cycle, so try not to take sleep medication before bed
- Workout 3 hours or more before bed

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Bike Training in the Off-season: Strength and VO2max

I've never been a strong cyclist (relative to other female professional triathletes). I have swum competitively since the age of 11, I have run since I was 7 years old (as a soccer player, then on school cross-country teams and then as a triathlete), but I didn't own a bike before the age of 19. I never even liked to ride a bike! It wasn't until 2008 that I actually started training on the bike. Then, in 2009, I started riding indoors in the winter and in the summer to compliment my outdoor riding. I saw a HUGE jump in my cycling fitness that year and, since then, I have been able to make small gains every year (thanks to WattsUp cycling and computrainer). However, I've never been quite satisfied with my progress. My highest FTP has never been higher than 205W (3.8W/kg). My best normalized power for the bike portion of a half-ironman is 192W (187W average power) or 3.45W/kg. While these numbers are strong, they lag behind other Pro females, who have an FTP of 4.0W/kg and are at or above 3.8W/kg for the half distance.

This year, Adam and I decided to do something a bit different with my bike training. We decided to place a huge emphasis on training me to be able to recruit my glutes while riding. Adam did a lot of research this summer on glute recruitment and how to specifically train these muscles - which is now heavily emphasized in the WattsUp program. My "butt training" started with me riding in running shoes or with my bare feet on top of my bike shoes (to isolate the glutes during the "push down on the pedal stroke"), a lot of glute activation work (bird-dogs, side-band walks, glute bridge, etc.). This training progressed to lots of hills and slow strength work in December and some short VO2max sets. Without doing much VO2max work at all, I had a personal best 5min TT in December of 259W in aero position - that's about 4.9W/kg. Then, I went on to do a 20K TT at The X3 Lab, where I held 218W avg power for ~36minutes (~4W/kg). My previous best 20min TT from last year wasn't much higher than that. Currently, I'm doing a lot of work with short intervals at 240W to 300W. That makes 205W feel super easy!

In addition to on the bike work, I have included strength training. I have a glute activation routine that I complete 3-4 times/week before hard bike workouts. I also have a strength routine which I complete twice per week. Currently, my strength routine involves forward and reverse lunges with light weight, single leg deadlifts with light weight, single leg angled leg press with heavy weight and straight leg deadlifts with heavy weight.

As I move toward race season (my first race is June 11th) I will progress my 240W+ intervals to 2, 5, 10(?!) minutes. I will combine these workouts with FTP, tempo and endurance rides and continue strength training. The hope is to FINALLY hold 200W NP for a half-distance race!

Test Sets 2016 to 2017:

5min TT - Dec 23rd: 259W avg P (5min)

20K TT - Dec 30th: 218W avg P (36min)

5 minute TT - Feb 3rd
20 minute TT - March 24th
20 minute TT - May 4th
Half-ironman - June 11th, Sept 18th (Barrelman!)
Long course (56km) - June 25th (Welland) and Aug 6 (K-town)