Goals

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Off-season Challenge!

Super exciting, I know!  But before I go into the details of what I’m doing in my off-season I’m going to talk about what my goals are and why – because everything has a purpose.

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This is what the off-season is for.

My five main goals for this off-season, along with how I will achieve them:

Goal 1: Recover from training and racing hard in 2013.
> Take a two week break from formal training after the marathon (done!).
> Keep training light and relaxed for the months of November and December.

Goal 2: Fine-tune my overall nutrition by experimenting with different foods and recipes; come up with foods that are easy to prepare and nutritious, to support my Ironman training.
> Reduce my overall sugar and refined carbohydrate intake, focus on whole foods.
> Make a cookbook of foods that are easy to prepare (in advance if possible).

Goal 3: Lose some weight in preparation for next racing season, with the goal of reaching ~16% body fat by January (approximately 117lb, from 121lb today).
> Weigh myself every day (this isn’t for everyone, but it works for me), and track my weight along with my nutrition using the MyFitnessPal app.

Goal 4: Work on strength and flexibility to rehab and prevent injuries.  Specifically this means incorporating overall strength training and trying some different fitness classes.
> Weight training 3x per week with a focus on glute and core strength.
> Try yoga, kettlebell and/or Crossfit.

Goal 5: Work on refining technique (specifically in swimming) and maintaining a basic level of fitness.
> Get in the pool a few times before January – I’m being reasonable here…
> Spin class twice a week to maintain bike, run and overall cardio fitness.

So here’s my challenge: From today until December 31, I will do some form of exercise every day.

Obviously this doesn’t mean hard exercise every day! Once I’ve done my exercise, I’ll share what I did on Twitter.  Here are some ideas:

  • Spin class or trainer ride    
  • Core workout
  • Weight training
  • Swimming     
  • Stretching
  • Yoga/kettlebell/fitness class
  • Running or walking

Anyone else in for the challenge?

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Hamilton Pre-Race Report

I don’t usually write pre-race reports, but this race is the biggest and longest one I’ve done all year, definitely the most painful, and the only one I might not even finish – all of which makes me much more nervous than usual (in the best way possible).  I felt it would be worthwhile to write down some of my goals and strategies so I can review what I followed, what worked and what didn’t after the race.  You know, once I’m done eating my dark chocolate-covered almonds and cranberries that will be waiting for me at the finish line, courtesy of my race-support Dad! :)

First of all, the goals:

My top priority is to finish the race, obviously.  Feeling strong or smiling when I cross the finish line would be nice, but the basic goal is pretty simple: no matter what, finish the race.  Since it’s my first marathon, that’s a PB right there.

My secondary goal is to run under 4 hours, which should be doable and is a nice round number (as well as being completely arbitrary), but it’s more of a consolation goal because my really super-amazing awesome goal is to run 3:30 and qualify for the Boston Marathon!  I know it’s a really big stretch, but I also know it’s possible if everything comes together and I run a strong race.

Since I’m counting on a lot to work out, I’ve come up with strategies for just about everything.  I haven’t made them into an excel spreadsheet yet, but just wait; there’s still time. :)

Pacing is probably the simplest, especially since my goal time of 3:30 works out to just under 5:00 pace. I’m staying a little conservative since it’s my first marathon, and plan to run about 1:47 for the first half and 1:43 for the second half if I can, both of which are under my current half marathon PB of 1:52. Woohoo, double PB!

Nutrition is also relatively straightforward since I’ve practiced plenty in training.
Pre-race: Lots of healthy carbs today and tomorrow, spaghetti the night before, and a scrambled egg sandwich on a bagel with coffee before the race.
During the race: One GU gel every 5km, which works out to about 50g of carbs per hour and also breaks up the distance into nice manageable chunks, with sugar at the end of each. :)  I’m wearing my fuel belt with two small bottles, which will mean I don’t need to worry about missing aid stations and I can take my gels every 5k rather than every 6k at the aid stations.

The toughest part is my psychological strategy.

Beyond the usual difficulties with the distance, my piriformis refuses to behave itself and has been painful enough to stop my last few runs.  I’m going to tape up my piriformis with my gorgeous purple KT tape, and hope that the extra support will delay the onset of pain and/or potentially reduce its severity once it shows up, and I’m preparing myself to manage a lot of pain.  I do have my doctor’s approval to run through the injury, so I’m working on mantras and dissociative strategies to help me manage for as long as I need to.  I’ve written “Embrace the pain” on my left arm, and even though I’m wearing long sleeves, I’ll know it’s there.

But as far as running the actual distance is concerned…well, I haven’t.  I don’t know exactly what to expect, and even for distances I’ve done in training, I have a difficult time coming up with mantras ahead of time since they’re typically different for every race.  Some of the mantras that have gotten me through other races are:

“Just keep going”
“Strong and smooth”
“Make it count”
“Own the pain”
“I am stronger”
“Make them suffer”

I’m not sure which of those will find their way into my head on race day, but tonight I stumbled across a slightly longer quote that really clicked with me:

“Energy and persistence conquer all things” – Benjamin Franklin

I think I know what I’m going to write on my other arm. :)

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Toronto Waterfront (Half) Marathon 2013

How did I start for the half marathon and end up handing out water at the 16k water station? Funny story…

Today’s race strategy was to run a relatively comfortable 1:45 half marathon, which would not only confirm my goal marathon pacing for Hamilton in two weeks, but would also be an easy 7-minute PB over last year’s finish.  Sounds simple, no?  It should have been, but I’m starting to think that I have a half marathon curse; I’ve never been able to run a half marathon to my fitness level because something always ends up getting in the way.  This year I was nervous that my recent hip issues would flare up, but hopeful because everything was feeling normal for the past few days.

Starting out on the slow side of a 5:00 pace felt so easy, just like I was floating (more…)

Ironman Canada

Blissfully Oblivious

Have you ever attempted something that you didn’t know was difficult?

When I was about 16 years old, I decided to try making a cheese soufflé for dinner one night.  I pulled out my family’s copy of Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, followed most of the instructions (even back then I had a habit of modifying recipes on the fly) and served up a cheesy, puffy soufflé for my family about an hour later.  My stepmom was incredulous: apparently soufflés are supposed to be very difficult to make, and somehow I had stumbled through the instructions as a novice cook and managed to turn out something puffy and cheesy that tasted exactly like a cheese soufflé is supposed to, despite opening the oven and poking it to see if it was done.  Had I known that they were a very finicky food to make I likely would have thought twice about attempting the recipe, but my ignorance meant I succeeded at something that “everyone says” is difficult.

My first experience with triathlon was pretty similar; I didn’t find out until a few years after my first (tri-a-tri) triathlon that a lot of people think they’re really difficult.  I’m still amazed when I hear marathoners and centurion cyclists talk in awe about triathlons and their goals to maybe-one-day attempt one; if only they knew that the most difficult part is starting!  Finishing your first triathlon is such an amazing accomplishment, but it’s not an unreachable dream for all but a few, as common knowledge would imply.

What if none of us knew how difficult things would be before attempting them? Sure, we’d probably get in over our heads at some point and fail spectacularly at something we thought we could do.  But we’d also take on things we’d otherwise never dream of trying, and we would succeed in accomplishing some incredible things, to the amazement of ourselves and others.  What would you try?

Ironman Canada

In making the decision to move to Ironman distance and sign up for Ironman Canada 2014, a lot of advice went through my head; echoes of friends telling me how difficult the training is, how brutally tough it can be to even make it to the finish line and that you really have to understand what you’re getting into before you commit.  I carefully considered what I’m capable of and if I have the time to dedicate to such a big goal, but in the end I decided to jump in with both feet and see where it takes me.

Being blissfully oblivious to what’s considered “difficult” has worked out pretty well for me in the past.

Garmin 3:17:25, 33.01km

Sunday Recap: Moving Forward

Saying it’s been an emotional day would be a bit of an understatement, and that doesn’t even include my BIG NEWS! (It’s at the bottom).

Today I tackled my longest training distance in preparation for the Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon: 33km with just me, the rain and my very awesome playlist.  Last week’s 30km run with Héctor was tough enough, particularly after 27km, and this week I had not only an extra 3km but I was on my own with no one to talk me through those last few kilometers that were so painful.  Plenty of challenge!

My route started on the east side of Burlington at Appleby Line, and followed the lake to Hamilton where I covered the last 10km of the marathon course before turning around and retracing my path.  Immediately I stumbled across a power line trail, which was absolutely gorgeous in the morning fog and filled with fellow runners and walkers to keep me company for the first several kilometers.  I decided to run by effort today rather than by pace like I usually do, and quickly settled into a very comfortable 5:45 pace (the fact that I can even honestly write the words “very comfortable 5:45 pace” makes me feel so amazed at the incredible improvement I’ve experienced over the past month of training).  I also ran through the preparations for Burlington’s CIBC Run for the Cure and garnered some cheers and jokes about my “headstart” from volunteer course marshals, before moving down towards the lake and feeling the power of Lake Ontario waves crashing into the pier.

After crossing the bridge into Hamilton, I was officially running on the course for the Hamilton marathon and I was struck by how beautiful and energetic the trail becomes, with waves and surfers dancing in the lake, photographers capturing the action and beauty of nature, and a multitude of runners, cyclists, walkers, dogs, children and squirrels filling the trail with the joy of being outside and active.  How could I not enjoy the run?  I was smiling the whole way and didn’t want to turn around when I reached 16.5km. (I did though, because I know how long runs work – you’re supposed to feel great in the middle of them, but it’s a terrible time to make decisions regarding distance).

I felt great all the way up to about 20km when I started to feel little twinges of pain in my left knee.  A tight IT band is not a new issue and it just means I need to spend more quality time with my roller, but it was tough to realize I was in pain and still had 13km to finish.  (Just in case you’re worried, yes I can run through it, yes it’s painful, but often it gets better after a while and I’m not making it worse).  I kicked it up a notch with a special Espresso GU gel I brought along for when things got tough.  Cause I’m tough too.

With 8km to go and my knee pain fading, I started picking up the pace again…and realized that the difficult part of the run had started while I was distracted with my knee, and that this was going to be a very long 8km. I had the mixed blessing of running back through the now-dispersing Run for the Cure, which was nice because I got some cheers and encouragement, but sucked because there were now lots of people to dodge – and my legs weren’t really in any condition to be dodging anything.  Shoutout to the guy I passed, then informed that “I’m a ninja!” when he commented that I snuck up on him: I was delirious and my blood sugar was probably very low.  Apparently I get a little crazy around 28km.

Around 29km, I had to cross a street then run back up onto the pathway.  I cried a little because of that slope that I am going to call a hill.

At 30.5km, I started talking to myself.

At 32km, with 1km to go, I picked up the pace to a blistering 6:20/km, a little terrified that my legs would just collapse, throwing me into the pavement without enough energy to even raise my arms.  I avoided this doomsday scenario (which I’m sure would have ended with me curled up on the sidewalk bawling), finished that last painful kilometer by talking myself through 100m increments, and stumbled to a halt as my Garmin beeped my 33rd kilometer split.  Then I started crying as the low blood sugar and incredible sense of accomplishment hit me all at once.

Garmin 3:17:25, 33.01km

So with my monster 33km and a few tears out of the way…

I have some BIG NEWS!

I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and decided to finally take the plunge and register for my first full Ironman!  On July 27, 2014 I will be finishing a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run in Whistler, BC at IRONMAN Canada.

There’s a story behind this, and I’ll share it once everything sinks in a little.  Until then, enjoy looking at my registration page, and appreciate that it took me about 10 minutes to actually press “complete payment” after filling out all my information.  It’s kind of a big deal.

It's official!  IM Canada here I come.

OMG I’M DOING AN IRONMAN!!

Boston jacket

Doing the Audacious: Road2Hope Marathon

Marathon training officially starts today! Fortunately it was pretty easy to get started because Mondays are my off day in my new training plan, so I spent about 40 minutes in the gym doing core work and rolling out my well-rested muscles. Phew!

We’ve already talked about my audacious (isn’t that a fabulous word?) goal to train for my first marathon in 10 weeks and qualify for the Boston Marathon. We’ve already agreed that I’m crazy, so let’s move on to how I plan to make it happen!

Here’s the qualifier – I’m not a new runner. In addition to my other triathlon training, I’ve been running between 35 and 45km/week for most of the summer, and I’ve done at least four long runs 20km or longer in the past two months. Obviously this training plan isn’t for someone just starting out, and I’m not a coach or a doctor so please use discretion if you choose to follow along.

My Audacious 10-week Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope Training Plan:

Week 1: August 26 – September 1 (43km)
Monday – off
Tuesday – 5km easy
Wednesday – 10km intervals
Thursday – spin class
Friday – off
Saturday – 8km distance, spin class
Sunday – 20km long

Week 2: September 2 – September 8 (55km)
Monday – off
Tuesday – 10km distance
Wednesday – 10km intervals
Thursday – spin class
Friday – off
Saturday – Esprit de Montréal, Olympic Duathlon
Sunday – 20km long

Week 3: September 9 – September 15 (47km)
Monday – off
Tuesday – 7km recovery
Wednesday – 10km easy tempo
Thursday – spin class
Friday – 5km recovery
Saturday – spin class
Sunday – 25km long

Week 4: September 16 – September 22 (62km)
Monday – off
Tuesday – 10km distance
Wednesday – 10km intervals
Thursday – spin class
Friday – 5km easy
Saturday – 12km easy with some hills, spin class
Sunday – 25km long/tempo

Week 5: September 23 – September 29 (69km)
Monday – off
Tuesday – 12km distance
Wednesday – 10km intervals
Thursday – spin class
Friday – 5km easy
Saturday – 12km easy, spin class
Sunday – 30km long

Week 6: September 30 – October 6 (55km)
Monday – off
Tuesday – 7km recovery
Wednesday – 10km tempo
Thursday – spin class
Friday – 5km recovery
Saturday – spin class
Sunday – 33km long

Week 7: October 7 – October 13 (67km)
Monday – off
Tuesday – 12km distance
Wednesday – 10km intervals
Thursday – spin class
Friday – 5km easy
Saturday – 15km easy with some hills, spin class
Sunday – 25km long/tempo

Week 8: October 14 – October 20 (62km)
Monday – off
Tuesday – 14km distance
Wednesday – 10km intervals
Thursday – spin class
Friday – 5km easy
Saturday – 12km distance, spin class
Sunday – Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon, 21.1km at goal race pace

Week 9: October 21 – October 27 (40km)
Monday – off
Tuesday – 10km easy
Wednesday – 10km intervals
Thursday – spin class
Friday – 5km easy
Saturday – spin class
Sunday – 15km easy

Week 10: October 28 – November 3 (63km)
Monday – off
Tuesday – 8km easy with strides
Wednesday – 8km tempo
Thursday – spin class
Friday – 5km easy
Saturday – off
Sunday – Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope, 42.2km

New to this training program is the addition of core work, strength training and roller sessions; every weekday I add about 30 minutes of cross training with core and roller on Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and strength training on Tuesday/Thursday.

Run types:
The key to building strength and speed is to vary the training intensity, which forces your body to adapt to different stimulus and increases your running efficiency. Also, if you want to run fast in racing, you have to run fast in training!

Recovery: it’s impossible to run too slowly during a recovery run; they should be very, very easy.

Long: around 5:45 pace, sustainable effort.

Long/tempo: maintain long run pace for the majority of the run; in the middle 10km, run every second kilometer faster than 5:00 pace (marathon race pace), maintaining long run pace between fast kilometers.

Distance: relatively easy run, pace around 5:30 depending on the day and terrain; some of my distance runs include hill work since my goal race has a significant downhill portion.

Easy: pace around 5:20, medium effort over shorter distances.

Tempo: slightly slower than 10km race pace, around 4:40 based on my 10k PB.

Intervals: these change from week to week, but involve running faster than 10km race pace (4:00 to 4:30) over shorter distances (1600m and shorter). If you’re looking for ideas, check out my running workouts page.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s go run!

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Goal Setting: Looking Back, Looking Forward

As athletes, we like to analyze; power output, heart rate, cadence, elevation, pace…with modern technology there is no shortage of statistics available to us. Every race involves a post-race analysis of what worked and what didn’t, how we could have gone faster, what we could have done differently, why we didn’t meet our goals or how we could have exceeded them.

This ongoing analysis makes me really appreciate the time between training cycles, when I forget the details and focus on the big picture: what do I want to accomplish? What will get me there? How do I structure the details so they support my long-term goals?

With the 2013 season not quite over (I still have my first marathon in the works), I’m spending this time focusing primarily on the next 12 weeks of training, with an eye on competing at the Duathlon age-group World Championships in June next year. As I’ve been training more or less constantly since February, I’ve given myself a two-week break from training to recover; it’s not only physical recovery but also a mental break from a structured training schedule, and an important part of making sure my marathon training doesn’t cause burnout.

My upcoming fall races include:
September 7 – Esprit Triathlon de Montréal (Olympic Duathlon, World Championships qualifier)
October 20 – Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon (Run to End Poverty and tune-up race)
November 3 – Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon (Boston Qualifier)

Looking Back

Whenever I see someone making a positive change in their life, like starting an exercise program or cooking their own meals, I tell them to remember this point and look back on it to see how far they’ve come. Think about the first time you went for a run – it probably wasn’t far or fast, but simply starting was a bigger step than any you’ve taken since then. Think about what you can do now, and imagine how impressed your past self would be; or maybe you’re like me and you couldn’t have possibly imagined what you would achieve.

This has been a transformative year for me. A renewed focus on my training has given me incredible results in a variety of distances and sports: this year alone I have beat my personal best times in 3 running distances, duathlon and triathlon. Every race is a new PB and I feel stronger every time, which I’m hoping will carry me through some incredible fall training.

Looking Forward

Training for my first full marathon will be my primary focus for the next training cycle. The Hamilton Road2Hope marathon is only a terrifying 12 weeks away and I’ll be relying on my base running fitness as I condense training into only ten weeks.

My ridiculous, big and scary goal is to finish the full marathon in 3:30 and qualify for the 2015 Boston Marathon. I know it’s crazy; the best dreams are. When I’m 3/4 of the way through my training and just want to give up, I’m relying on my friends and family to remind me that big and scary goals take a lot of work, but they’re worth it.

I know one very important thing from watching my friends train for marathons, ironmans and ultras: nobody does this alone. It takes the support of training partners and loved ones to make big scary dreams come true, and everyone around me deserves a big thank you for getting me to where I am now and supporting me as I chase my own big scary dream.

Bring it on!

Bring it on!