Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Race!

I realize it's now Wednesday and I have yet to write something about the race. I didn't plan for my last blog, about the joys of Japanese toilet seats, to sit at the top of the page for so long! 

Don't worry, more exciting things have happened to me over the last few days than enjoying these heated wonders! I have been busy, busy since the race, with pack-up and travel and am now laying low in my hotel room as I battle a bit of a nasty cold. Likely I picked it up while traveling to Japan, or the during days before the race. I feel as though today I am experiencing the worst of it (at least I hope!) and should be back to good in plenty of time for Saturday's race. I actually had a great run this morning, running with my friendly Victoria rival, Chiropractor Hasegawa. I was surprised with the spring in my step, but then again, I am probably still on the high from our 5k battle earlier this year :)

Below is my race report from last weekend. More from Korea soon!

Ishigaki World Cup, 5th Place

The weather on race day was rather chilly for Ishigaki, around 18 degrees with a pretty strong wind. I woke up more nervous than normal for this race, but as the first real race since Beijing, I wasn't too surprised by this. I had been waking up about 6am most of the week and race day was no exception. Usually I love having this extra time before the start to go for a jog, eat a good breakfast and relax in the hotel room, but our race didn't start until 1:15pm so this made for a long, and rather boring morning. When I got to transition, I was relaxed and excited to go. I had a great swim warm-up, feeling sharp but smooth. My swimming had been going incredibly well leading up to this race so I was really looking forward to getting in the mix. Between the swim warm-up and the race start, I got quite chilled and actually found myself shivering. I guess I hadn't brought enough warm clothes, but I'm often chilled a bit before races, so nothing to panic about. But, once the race started, I struggled to get it going. I felt nothing like I did in warm-up or during training. I tried to stay calm and focus on turnover, but I felt very tense. I could see the field up ahead pulling away and I couldn't seem to close the gap. I finished the swim about 30 seconds down from the lead group of 12 or so women. Once on the bike, I put my head down and made the decision that I had to do whatever it took to get into that group. I knew the race was in that lead pack and I didn't do all this training NOT to be a part of the race. Thankfully my teammate, Kerry was just behind me out of the water, and we knew what we had to do, just like in training. The two of us worked together, riding our butts off. The gap stayed at 30 seconds for a couple of laps, then went to 35. We stayed on it and had narrowed it to 25 seconds by the 4th lap. Those 10 seconds we gained gave us some serious motivation to find another gear. We gave it everything going up and over that bridge, catching on to the group around 30km. Phew! Lesson learned: swim faster! I did my best to recover and spin the legs for the final few kilometres before the run and was ready for a good one. From the start though, the spark wasn't there. I felt strong but not fast. For the most part I found myself running on my own so used my mental cues to keep pushing hard on the uphills, downhills, corners, etc. I finished in 5th place with a 35:55 run split. I had initial feelings of disappointment with this result as I knew I was capable of more on the swim and the run, but after speaking to Adam and coach Phil, I realized there were a lot of positives than I am not giving myself credit for (ie. bridging the gap on the bike & still running strong off that effort). I was glad I had this opportunity to blow out the cobwebs at a lower-key race as I am now feeling confident and really excited for the first of the World Cup Championship Series this Saturday in Tongyeong. 

Here are some photos from a school visit Kyle and I did before leaving Ishigaki on Monday morning. What a wonderful, memorable morning! 

Singing, drumming and dragon dancing.

Notice the feet poking out of the costume!

Playing the "human knot." These kids were GOOD at this game! 

The Q & A period included some pretty funny questions, such as, "how many pushups can you do?" It turns out this boy just wanted to show us how many HE could do! His goal was 20 but things started to get a little shaky around number 15. Everyone was cheering, counting him down, but he collapsed at 19.... so close! 

5th Graders.

6th Graders

Friday, April 24, 2009

My Ishigaki Top 5

A few reasons why I love this place:

1) Biking the island. I've never actually done the entire island (about 75km around) but if you ask any athlete who has raced here, likely one of the first things they will mention is this scenic ride. This is a good example of a time when it's hard not to be a "sports tourist" and to stick to your pre-race plan, resisting the temptation of the 2.5 hour ride. We rode 90 minutes yesterday, mostly along the coast and I found it hard to keep my eyes on the road. On one side is the ocean, brilliant blue with white sand beaches. To the other side is lush and tropical, with wetlands and mangrove forests. The island is fairly mountainous so the roads are rolling, but quiet and incredibly clean. I look forward to returning one day as a real tourist for some adventuring.

2) Ishigaki Beef. This meat is tender and TASTY, and apparently a rival to Kobe Beef. I'm not normally a big meat-eater, but it's been two nights in a row that we've enjoyed this local dish at our "secret" restaurant. You can see it sizzling on the plates above! Yum, yum!  

3) Modern Japanese Toilets. Not exactly unique to Ishigaki Island, these "bidet" toilets are found everywhere in Japan. They have some features that I would never use, such as the spray, with its various pressure levels (yikes!), as well as a running water sound that automatically turns on when you sit down (it's actually rather soothing). But, as I do love all things warm and toasty, the heated seat is hands down the best feature. If I had one of these at home I would have the heat cranked all the time! For this very reason, I am sure Adam is happy these toilets are not readily available in North America. Maybe they will ship overseas.....hmmm....

4) The people. I find Japanese to be generally happy and welcoming people, but those on the Island are incredibly and almost over-the-top friendly. From our server at the "secret" restaurant to the ladies working in the CoCo convenience store, there are always big smiles and loud welcomes, "Arigatou gozaimasu!" Their energy really is infectious.

5) The weather. Ishigaki has my ideal climate: a low of 19 in the winter and a high of 29 in the summer. Heaven for me.

As for racing, I'm really excited to get out there tomorrow and start the World Cup season. Taper week has been everything I hoped it would be with lots of rest and recovery from the travel, some sharpening sessions (and feeling "sharper" by the day :), and more than enough time spent watching episodes of Gossip Girl. 

More tomorrow....RACE DAY!

Ishigaki Fun

Update to come!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Joys of Travel

I forgot how far away this race is!


YYJ – YVR – NRT – Bus ride – Airport Hotel – HND – OKA – ISH


This travel was all to be squished in between noon on Tuesday and noon on Thursday.


As I'm typing this, we're actually not in Ishigaki just yet, but somewhere in the air over the East China Sea.


Kerry, Kyle and I arrived in Tokyo yesterday afternoon after an 11 hour flight. I don’t know if I am getting used to this travel or if being upgraded to the “pod” makes a huge difference, but the flight wasn’t overly unpleasant (I’m thinking it was the pod :) I have trouble sleeping during the daytime flights so after the 30 minute cat-nap during take-off, I started the movie marathon: Four Holidays, Marley & Me (I was crying my eyes out!), and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Despite the decent food and lie-flat bed, I still have to admit that I wasn’t feeling too fresh by the time we landed. I would have done anything to be able to curl up in a ball and snooze right there, but, we still had to collect the bags/bikes, transfer airports and go for a jog before I could put on the pj’s. I’ve done a few “airport runs” over the years and as amusing as they always are, this one might take the cake. Apart from the strip of sidewalk out front for bus pick-up, there really was nowhere else for foot-traffic (I realize this is probably normal as most people DRIVE to an airport and have no need to walk (let alone run) to/from the terminal). We started to run, in the darkness, along a narrow road that had what we thought was a bike lane. However, when buses started to race towards us, INSIDE this lane, and we had to jump to safety onto the guardrail, we decided this probably wasn’t a bright idea. We even had a police officer chase after us, blowing his whistle like mad. Kyle just kept trotting along like nothing out of the ordinary was happening, probably thinking he could definitely outrun this guy. Kerry and I stop, laughing, and realize for our own safety, it’s probably best to head back. We got in just enough to loosen up the legs and finished the run inside the terminal for some dinner. Beyond tired at this point, we opted for the take-away restaurant, which was very busy (a good sign, right?!). I had been raving about Japanese food since the start of this trip and was SO excited to finally indulge. There wasn’t much selection so we just grabbed some bento boxes of salmon, rice, and various other mystery items. Kerry takes one bite of her rice and says, “ it tastes kinda fishy.” I take a closer look the flecks of green/black and realize there are about a million little fish mixed in the rice. We could even see their eyeballs and “insides”. Gross. Kyle then announces, “I can’t do this!” I have NEVER heard those words from him, especially when it comes to food. I guess his meat patty, cold gravy/noodles and mystery gelatin creations were not so delicious. Ok, so the last scraps of airport take-away were not the best, but I promise Japanese food is usually pretty good!


We’re on our final two flights….almost there! More from Ishigaki soon.

Seeing this made me very happy.

No shortage of help. And yes, they were able to fit everything under that bus!

Leftovers, anyone?


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Oh Taper, Where Art Thou?

My legs were asking me this question earlier today. I was excited to tell them that in just a few days the bike will be put away in the box, the running shoes safely packed in a suitcase, and we will be on board a plane for Japan! They will be treated to compression tights/socks, stale air, endless movies and hopefully a little elevation in the Air Canada "pod" (fingers crossed on that one...). 

A lot of athletes get the "taper blues" and I cannot understand this concept so I will not even begin to describe it. I'll refer to my feeling as the "taper high," when my legs recover and feel GOOD. I love training hard (which is a good thing or else I would really be in the wrong sport), but I LOVE taper week more than anything. Yes, I can feel crappy at times and wonder when in the world the body will come around, but I love relaxing, doing the sharpening sessions and at the end of the week, RACING!

I am actually not hurting quite as bad as the title suggests but I had a peek at the calendar today and realized that my favourite week of all-time is on the horizon.... and this got me excited. Training this week has been a really great, full of intensity, a few great days, one not-so-great session, and as always, plenty of laughs :) I feel as though things are coming together just in time for these first couple of races so I cannot wait to get out there again!

The weather in Vic has been lovely, perfect for training. I forgot how much I love Springtime here (well, the years with the "nice" springs :) Because I'm a fan of all things beautiful and fragrant, here's a photo of one of the blossom trees on my street:

I realize my blogging has been somewhat sporadic lately, which seems to happen when the training ramps up and the energy levels go down. But, don't worry, with the Asian adventures starting up on Tuesday, and the taper in full-force, there will be plenty of time, energy and good times to share!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Blowing Out the Cobwebs


I pulled the race flats out of the closet for their first speedy test run yesterday and discovered I had a little running buddy. My heart skipped a few beats when I saw cobwebs billowing out the sides of the box; I had a feeling there might be a special friend in the vicinity. I am not a spider person (BIG surprise there) so I cannot lie, there was some screaming when I saw this guy scurrying into the toebox (Adam was lucky enough to witness the sheer panic over Skype....and he was laughing! This was NOT a joking matter!). 

I'm taking this as either a sign I need to seriously clean out the closet, or one of good luck... I'm hoping it's the latter because spring-cleaning is low on the priority list this week.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

New Coach, New Digs!

I can finally spill the beans on who the head coach will be.... Philippe Bertrand! Coach Phil, or Coach PB (I just made that up now... but I like the sound of it!) has been named as the new National Team Coach and I am really excited to have the opportunity to work with him as my personal coach. We had a fantastic camp in Tucson with Philippe and I know we are all anxious to get him and his family settled in Vic so we can keep the momentum going. 

Here's a link to the press release and Phil's personal blog can be found here. Just a heads-up that his blog is in French and although I do enjoy scrolling through it, I have to admit that my French is not good enough to understand most of it. Actually, not even close. Why didn't I pay more attention in high school french class?!

The last few days have been BUSY. We arrived late Monday afternoon and I spent the rest of that day and the following day getting settled in the new apartment. Wendy did MUCH more than simply toss the furniture inside the door. It was arranged (nicely), the fridge and cupboards were stocked with enough food to get me through the week, the bed was made, fesh flowers on the table, shoes in the shoe rack, and even the coffee maker was loaded with fresh coffee for the following morning!! My gosh, thank you, Wendy! The bedroom is a work in progress as it is lacking in storage space right now. My clothes have exploded everywhere and everytime I plan to start to sort through them, I seem to find something else "important" to do... I am astonished at how much gear I own. Clothes for 3 sports AND regular clothes (I realize I could fill an entire wardrobe alone with Lululemon gear... yikes!). It's no wonder I have so much trouble packing for trips!

We had three days of recovery this week and got back at it today. I can't say I felt wonderful today but that's the way it goes sometimes. I've learned that I usually come back from a mini-break feeling refreshed and ready to go, but I struggled a little today. We leave for Ishigaki in just under two weeks so definitely no time to dwell on or overthink the fatigue. So, I put the burning legs on the bike and the uncoordination in the water out of my mind, and focused on the effort. It turned out to be a bigger day than expected: 5k swim, 2 hour ride with 2 x 30' "solid", and an hour of running with 4 x 8 minutes hard off the bike. Kerry joined me on the bike and I couldn't have been more thankful. We traded off pulls for the hour, probably spoke about 3 words to each other, just doing our best to push each other and keep the pace on. I jogged over to Beacon Hill (which is about 30 seconds from my new place!) and started the run. Much to my surprise, my legs felt strong! I was thankful I had the Garmin (GPS) with me so I could monitor my pace and it was definitely my best run off the bike this year. This is what I love about our sport: you can feel terrible one moment (or in one sport) and great the next. I even got to see my favourite Bedlington Terrier, Gatsby while running through the park (I can see Adam rolling his eyes :) I seem to have an incredible memory for dog names and breeds (I can remember exactly what the little brown poodle, JB, was wearing in Lausanne as I passed him on race morning....3 years ago...) I have only met Gatsby once on a run during the summer and as soon as I rounded the corner by the petting zoo, I knew it was him! I think I nearly gave his owner a heart attack as this sweaty, snotty, crazy girl comes barreling around the corner yelling, "Gatsby! HI!"

I'm off to ice in the ocean before the sun sets!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Goodbye, Tucson!

Since my last training update, my stomach has recovered. Thanks to everyone for the great ideas. I'm not sure what did the trick in the end, but I got on the probiotics, upped the electrolytes and tried to cut back on the sugary energy products. 

The 3-week camp has come to an end. I am sad to say goodbye to the warmth, the sun, and the simplicity of a camp environment, but I am looking forward to settling into routine in Vic and moving in to our new apartment. Actually, I don't know how much I will have to actually move because Wendy went above and beyond today: furniture, unpacking, cleaning, groceries, even fresh-cut flowers! The running joke is that I am NEVER around to help with a move (and we move a lot). It is always Wendy, Randy, Adam, and/or my parents who do the dirty work. This time though, I thought I would get the chance to make-up for my absence and excuses over the years (i.e. broken elbow, can't lift boxes :), but by the sounds of it, Wendy did the ENTIRE move today. Wow. Thank you SO much!!

We've had a great last few days of the camp, but, I cannot lie, I am very much looking forward to a few days of recovery. Here's a quick recap of last half of the week:

Thursday: 1 hour run along the river wash. I felt surprisingly good today which is always a pleasant feeling for a base run. 5km endurance swim in the afternoon (with some "steady" bits and pieces)

Friday: 5km hard swim in the morning. Main set was 6 x 200 (150 hard, 50 fast) and 4 x 300 (200 hard, 100 fast). In the afternoon we headed out for a 2.5 hour base ride. This was another WINDY day. Our 2.5 hour loop turned in to almost 3 hours of base (++) riding. I was pooped by the time dinner rolled around that night!

Saturday: We started our ride from Udall Pool. Warmed-up to the base of Mt. Lemmon, then continued up to mile 5. We started our workout here: 3 x 3', 3 x 2', 3 x 1'. Sounds short and easy, right? Oh my gosh, hands down, this was the toughest bike session I've done this year. The wind was GUSTING (for a change....). I'd go around a switchback on the recovery and the wind would hit me like a wall....and then it was time to hit-it again. We re-grouped after the intervals, around mile 14, and finished the ride to the top (26 miles, ~8000ft). It was cold up there and we were all pretty smashed at this point. This was my first time at the summit and couldn't believe the options for tasty treats; there was the pie shop, the fudge shack, and the cookie cabin. We all headed to the Cabin, each devouring a plate-sized cookie of sweet deliciousness. We finished the day with an hour run along the river wash. 

Sunday: Track workout this morning: 4 x 1600m, 4 x 200. We all hit our paces but the fatigue was definitely there. We finished the camp with a 4km easy swim mid-day and then spent the afternoon packing-up and getting massages. 

Our flight leaves at 6:40am tomorrow so I am off to bed!

Some photos from Lemmon:

Clearly before the intervals (still smiling...)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Saguaro Cactus

This is completely non-triathlon related, but interesting....to me, anyway, and probably other nature-lovers :)

I have been in awe with the size of cacti in this area. I had pictured the desert landscape to be rather barren, but for the most part, Tucson's desert lands are covered in "forests" of Saguaro cacti (pronounced "sah-wah-roo"). 

I decided to do a little research on these massive plants and am amazed with what I have learned.

These forests are actually old-growth, with the largest cacti being up to 200 years old. They grow incredibly slowly, about one inch every year, but up to great heights of 20 to 40 feet. They grow side "arms" to increase the plants' reproductive capacity, but again, this is a slow process (75 years per arm!). The rate at which they grow is dependent on the precipitation, which is why they are so large and abundant in Tucson (apparently they get double the rain here than western Arizona, but I have yet to see even a drop!).

The saguaro flowers are the state flowers of Arizona and they are "night-bloomers," opening in the wee hours from May to July. Their aroma is incredibly pungent, similar to an overripe melon. Here is a disturbing fact: they are pollinated by BATS, hence the blooming during the nighttime (I classify bats in the same category as snakes. In other words, NOT my favourite creatures). So, as much as I love fragrant and beautiful flowers, I am thankful they are not in bloom right now for this very reason. I do not need another animal to be fearful of in the desert. 


These cacti tend to be rather resilient to frost, but in severe temperature drops, the "arms" can be damaged, causing them to droop. I've seen a few of these sagging arms while out on the bike, and it can make the cactus look quite pitiful. Occasionally, the arms come back to life and begin to grow upright again. 

Not surprisingly, water comprises most of the weight of these giants. A fully hydrated large stem is more than 90% water and weighs 80 pounds per foot!

Saguaros can provide homes to some desert animals (thankfully not snakes). I often see them with numerous holes, similar to that of a birdhouse, and inside live woodpeckers, pigmy owls, and even lizards. 
If saguaros don't live to their ripe old age, the most common causes of death are lightening, severe frost, windfall, or humans (e.g. target practice!). When the cacti decompose, the woody ribs that store the water are visible.

That's enough of a horticultural lesson for now! 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tummy Troubles

I have never been one to have a "stomach of steel" (and I am not referring to my abdominal muscles... ). Spicy food is out. Greasy-goodness is usually out. Garlic is out. Bananas are out. Most dairy is out. I'm pretty particular with what I eat, especially during heavy training blocks when I feel my body is more worn down than normal, but, every once and awhile, something sneaks its way in and wreaks havoc on my system.
The latest tummy stuff started on Saturday afternoon. I will spare you the details.... But, it still seems to be lingering and I am getting impatient with simply "waiting it out." Anyone have any suggestions for an "upset" digestive system? My appetite is still good and training is going well, so I am hopeful this thing will eventually work it's way out.... 

We've had a couple BIG days this week. The highlight of yesterday was the Kitt Peak climb. The workout was 2 x 20' hard up the 12 mile climb, finishing at 7,000 ft. My SRM has been on the fritz lately so Phil unplugged it and had me ride based on effort. To my surprise, once those (incorrect) numbers were out of my face, I put the focus on pushing myself and had a great ride. 

Today we were back out on the bikes for 1 hour 45 "easy" with a run session off the ride. Well, the winds were STRONG today and I think my training partners were equally STRONG so it made for a tough ride. As much as I tried to find the "sweet spot" in the draft, it simply did not exist today. Just hanging on to the guys was a challenge so when we got to the run, I felt a little more than an easy spin in the legs! We jogged over to a park for 3 x 10' mins, building effort. I love this type of session, building from strong to fast. Basically when you finish, it feels pretty darn close to the feeling after a race. My stomach really wasn't right at this point so cool-down consisted of doubling with Phil on his road bike back to the van. We were so shaky and unsteady that I was certain we were going to crash at any moment, but, I guess Phil felt in control because he casually chatted about the session as he pedaled along.

Only 4 more days in the desert before we're back to Vic!

A few pics from the ride yesterday: