personal best

Sporting Life 10k Race Report

I think this race gets filed under the “I forgot I’m doing an Ironman” category of race entries.  In February, March and even April it was easy to keep thinking that I had lots of time before my long course races – Welland, Ironman Canada, Barrelman – that is, until I realized that Welland Rose City Tri is on June 15th, which is NEXT MONTH. Exactly 5 weeks, which is considerably less than the “lots of time” I thought I had.

I pretty much signed up for this race because I wanted to buy an Icebreaker merino shirt, and I got a $35 gift card with my $40 race entry. That was about 87% of the reason, the other 13% being that I really love racing.  Like, really, really love it.

That being said, I did pretty much everything wrong in training:

#1: I haven’t done any speed training since last October unless you count a track meet, a half marathon, or a 3x1200m that I did sometime in March.

#2: I’m only doing two decent runs a week: hills on Tuesday and long on Sunday, with some scattered recovery (read: mind-numbingly slow) and brick (read: mind-numbingly slow and uncomfortable) runs. Did I mention that I walk-run my long runs? I don’t know what fast is anymore.

#3:  I spent over 9 hours training in the week leading up to the race, including 5 spin classes from Wednesday to Saturday.  I went a little too hard on my Thursday class, because apparently I don’t have an off switch.  Oops.

raceweek

But who cares about race-specific training for a 10k, right? I have a half to train for in…oh yeah (eep!)…5 weeks. (more…)

Chilly Half Marathon

Chilly Half certainly lived up to its name this year!  Despite the -20 wind chill and a dusting of snow overnight, over 2000 brave runners came out to Burlington for the Chilly half marathon and Frosty 5k – and brought along even more courageous spectators who didn’t have the benefit of running to stay warm.  This was my first time running the Chilly Half, but I had heard great reviews; it’s certainly one of the more popular winter races among my group of running friends and a nice way to keep some motivation going through the winter.  After having the best race of my life, I have to agree!

Starting off with my goals and expectations…

This was my first race following a DNF at Scotiabank half marathon and a disastrous marathon debut in Hamilton last fall.  Although I’ve done six half marathons, I’ve never felt that I raced a half to my full potential – there were always cramps, blisters or piriformis injuries that held me back – and I knew that my PB of 1:52 from fall 2012 didn’t really represent my current fitness level.  So with having done next to zero speed training since taking 6 weeks off after my marathon – I’m not completely sure racing the 400m, mile and 3000m races at the TTC track meet last weekend counts as an ideal speed training strategy – my time goal was to finish under 1:45, taking 7 minutes off my personal best…and honestly I wanted to beat that goal by a couple minutes and hopefully finish in the 1:42-1:43 range.  I also wanted to do this with a negative split, and feel strong at the finish.  Having fun goes without saying! (more…)

Duathlon World Championships

A little over a year ago, I signed up for a standard-distance duathlon in Cobourg on a whim. The timing fit with my racing schedule and I had never raced a duathlon before, so I figured why not try it out? It turned out to be the wonderful beginning to a journey that culminated in racing for Team Canada in the Duathlon World Championships.

I had no illusions that this would be an easy race, either from a competitive or personal perspective. As I’ve gotten faster, I’ve realized that racing short(ish) distances becomes more and more difficult – the endurance comes not from the muscles, but rather from mental fortitude saying I can do this – because I finished blazing interval sessions, tempo rides with a headwind and neverending long runs. Just keep going. Faster. Faster.

I have never raced in Ottawa before, but after this experience I would highly recommend it. The bike and run courses followed a winding parkway along the river, with gliding turns and shallow grades but no major hills to speak of. The first run was two laps of a 5km course, the bike was two laps of 20km and the final run returned to the 5k course for one lap.

Goals

This is the most important race I’ve ever done, and of course I had time goals – both realistic and “secret” ones – and process goals. Some of these were based on my experiences in other races, some based on my training leading up to the race. Besides finishing and having fun (which are goals for every race), I wanted to:

  1. Maintain an even pace throughout. This meant evaluating my pace to make sure I was pushing hard enough but leaving some energy for the finish – particularly since I have a habit of going out too hard in the beginning, slacking in the middle and finishing hard to make up for it.
  2. Push hard on the bike. I admit, I’m a wimp on the bike – I once had someone tell me I don’t know how to suffer, and I see this when I finish a race knowing I could have gone faster. No mercy in this race.
  3. Run the first 10k in 46 to 47 minutes (average pace 4:36 to 4:42). I wanted to have a solid first run without going out too fast, and aimed for 0:30 to 1:30 off my 10k running personal best. But if we’re being honest? I really wanted to see if I could run a sub-45 10k.
  4. Average above 30km/hr on the bike, which means finishing 40km in under 1:20. I’ve never broken the 30km/hr barrier, and averaging exactly 29.3k/hr in two previous races was frustratingly close!
  5. Run the second 5k in under 25 minutes (average pace under 5:00). Beating a 5:00 pace off the bike would be a first for me, especially after a hard ride, but my secret unrealistic goal was 22:30. Don’t tell anyone.
  6. Finish under 2:30 overall. Somewhere between unrealistic and achievable, if everything came together perfectly.
  7. Not last place. Please.
parade

Waving the flag at the Parade of Nations! (Photo courtesy of Lesley Furnell)

Race Morning

I had already picked up my race kit, attended the race briefing and dropped off my bike in transition the night before so race morning was pretty straightforward, but I never really relax until I’ve gotten my transition area set up. My 7:25 wave start meant I was up at 5am, out the door with a blueberry bagel in my tummy by 5:45, and on the race site with my coffee shortly after 6am. I went through my ritual of setting up my transition (realizing that I forgot the purple transition towel I’ve used in every race for the past 5 years), pumping my tires up to 118psi, dropping off my extras at bag check and doing a little jog and some strides to wake up my legs. I wasn’t nervous at all (which was pretty weird), and feeling strong and ready.

The First Run – 10km

All 171 women started in the second wave, with a brisk cool headwind as we headed west along the parkway. I focused on maintaining a consistent pace as I watched the majority of the field pull away from me – although it was disappointing to see everyone pulling ahead, this is my race and I knew if I raced others now then I would burn out. Save the kick to the end – more people ahead means more passing opportunities later!

My kilometer splits were all between 4:32 and 4:45, with the exception of the last climb up a slight grade towards transition. My chip time was 47:59; however my Garmin recorded a distance of 10.26km and time of 47:53, putting my pace at 4:39 and (in my opinion) achieving my time goal for the first run!

The Bike – 40km

I had a blazing fast T1 (in true Kim fashion), and in 45 seconds I was hopping on my bike and slipping my feet into the shoes waiting on my pedals. I looked down to check my speed and – damn! – realized that my bike computer decided this was the perfect time to stop working. Speed and cadence were transmitting but registering as zero, so something was up with the sensors. I started my Garmin belatedly since I wasn’t planning on using it on the bike, and started doing the math (yay!) to convert km pace splits into km/hr (in case you’re wondering, 2:00 pace is 30km/hr).

The majority of the course was fairly straight and flat with a slight headwind on the way out, but honestly I didn’t even notice a difference with the wind. After about 3km we turned off the parkway to my favourite part: an extra loop with 9 turns within about a kilometer, meaning I could fly fearlessly around corners and overtake people without even trying!

photo

Chasing Donaldson after the 20k turnaround. (Photo courtesy of Lesley Furnell)

I finished the 40km bike in 1:18:11, beating my goal time by almost two minutes and averaging 30.7km/hr! I was very happy with my effort, and I knew that I couldn’t have gone any faster – my heart rate averaged 165bpm which is a pretty solid sustained effort for me. One last tri-berry GU through T2 (0:58) and I was ready to run!

The Second Run – 5km

So apparently when you actually work hard on the bike, it makes the transition to running more difficult. Who would have guessed, right? Well my legs felt awful heading out into the run, and the best I could manage was a jog. Yup, 5k to go in the world championships and I’m freaking jogging.

Past experience has taught me that the first kilometer always sucks, so the best strategy is to suck it up and run fast anyways so I did my best, most efficient post-bike jog and managed a 5:04 split on my first kilometer (apparently I’m pretty good at jogging). My legs evened up after about 3km, so I turned up the dial and passed a few people, one of whom was a fellow Canadian in my age group, Mesiti. Nearing the finish, I glanced behind me again and saw Mesiti gaining on me from about 100m back – this girl was determined. No problem, but I figured I’d turn it up a little anyways and at least look like I wasn’t tired (and yes, I did pass the guy in front of me). Good call, Kim.

run finish close

Sprinting for the finish! (Photo courtesy of Lesley Furnell)

Anyways, don’t you just hate when people in your age group sprint past you 50m before the finish line? Me too, so it’s handy to have a little finishing kick so you can pass them back and win by 2 seconds. I don’t think Mesiti was very happy about how things turned out, but I managed to snag a 2:33:17.9 finish and 20/25 placing! My run was 25:25, and again my Garmin read 5.26km, making my actual pace closer to 4:50.

Full results are available on Sportstats and the ITU website.

Recap and Lessons Learned

I consider all my race goals acheived, with the exception of a sub-2:30 finish – but honestly, I’m not too concerned about that because I broke my personal records in all three individual events and beat my previous personal best by over 13 minutes! Everything came together and I was absolutely ecstatic about my race performance.

That being said, there are a few things I learned for future races:

  • Despite all my training, I have lots of room for improvement in both running and biking (the best description came from a fellow competitor the day before the race: “it’s a humbling experience”). The fastest women in my age group finished the 10k in under 40 minutes and the bike portion in under 1:12!
  • I need more practice running off the bike. When comparing my time in the run portions I realized that many women running 47-48 minute 10ks (similar to mine) were running 23 minute 5ks off the bike, more than 2 minutes ahead of me.
  • My pre-race and race nutrition wasn’t optimal – I didn’t have any specific issues with nutrition, either before or during the race, but I felt that it could have been better. I took one gel about 5 minutes before the fun started and four more during the race, along with about 400mL of gatorade and 300mL of water on the bike (plus some water from aid stations). My future training will involve some experimentation to figure out what and how much to eat and drink to improve my performance.

So what’s next?

I’ve already registered for the olympic duathlon National Championships at the Esprit Triathlon de Montreal on September 7th, where a top-10 finish means I qualify for the 2014 World Championships in Pontevedra, Spain!

Gravenhurst Sprint Triathlon

If you ever race Multisport Canada’s Gravenhurst triathlon, you’ll thoroughly and overwhelmingly come to understand the need for heat training. Something about consistent temperatures close to forty degrees and no shade on the run course seems to be rather convincing.

But it’s easy to forget about the heat when you’re chatting with other triathletes and drinking ice water at the bar on the Winona Steamship, watching and cheering as a blast from the ship’s horn sends off the first wave of swimmers. Although some athletes find the five foot jump off the ship to be a little scary, it’s a straight swim in to shore with a wide start line and no pileup around turns. The bike course is quiet and scenic with a few turns and rollers to keep it interesting, but nothing that really makes it difficult.

The intense heat on the run is only a bonus for those of us who love racing in conditions most people would describe as insane.

Pre-Race Thoughts

I had some pretty tough goals for this year – I wanted to finish the sprint distance in 1:20, which is about 8 minutes faster than my equivalent time from last year (I’m approximating my time from last year because the bike course was 2km longer in 2012).

Unfortunately I came down with a sore throat and stuffy nose on Tuesday, and I wasn’t able to shake it off despite concentrating solely on sleeping and eating well for the remainder of the week. While it’s tempting to blame this on a cruel twist of fate, I know that this was my fault for pushing my body’s limits for training volume and lack of sleep; I only ever get sick when I’m overtraining or under-sleeping and I was probably doing both. Not a recommended strategy, just in case you were contemplating giving it a try.

The Swim – 750m

Given the warm air and water temperatures, wetsuits were optional on the swim and many people chose not to wear them. I’m already hot stuff (ha!) so I stuck with my plan to wear my wetsuit. As a bonus, I think I sweated off a couple more pounds before jumping in the water – nothing like getting down to race weight at the last minute! My strategy was to stay relaxed and consistent on the swim, try to find someone to draft and come out feeling in good shape to have a fast bike split. I managed to stay relaxed and consistent…a little too relaxed as it turned out, as I discovered when climbed onto the dock, checked my watch and saw 16:44. Including the run up to transition, my total swim time was 18:17 – 3 seconds slower than last year!

Final thoughts: “crap, now I’m behind everyone”.

The Bike – 20km

I blazed through T1 in 1:02 for a new personal best, ripping off my wetsuit, donning my sunglasses and helmet and bravely leaving my shoes on the bike for a flying mount at the start line. I managed to accomplish all this (including doing up my shoes while riding my bike) without falling flat on my face. I know, I know, I’m practically a pro already.

Cresting the hill

Feeling strong out of T1!
Photo courtesy of My Sports Shooter.

The next 5 kilometers consisted of shouting “on your left!” every 30 seconds as I passed all the stronger swimmers who didn’t have the same level of bike fitness; it’s a great ego boost, but also very demoralizing to find out just how many people were ahead of me after the swim. Nutritionally, I decided to try out plain water on the bike rather than my usual 50/50 mix of water and gatorade, and only took two Clif gels, one before the race and the other 2/3 of the way through the bike.

I could tell the spin classes contributed to my bike fitness (see my previous post re: YAY HILLS!!) since I felt incredibly strong on the rollers outside of Gravenhurst, and while my average speed of 29.3km/hr wasn’t as fast as I liked, 40:58 is still a very respectable bike split, or at least respectable enough for a grade of “meh”.

P.S. It’s worth mentioning that I was also successful in getting out of my cycling shoes for a flying dismount, although I think I scared the volunteers at the dismount line when I came flying through (sorry!).

The Run – 5km

Running has always been my strongest sport, and with my specific focus on running this year I’ve seen some very significant improvements; I was hoping to be within about a minute of my 21:33 personal best from Pride Run several weeks ago (yeah, the race that was only running, and had nearly perfect conditions with a slight overcast and temperature around 20).

The strange thing was, my legs felt fine – relatively speaking, of course – but as I tried to push the pace I developed a stitch on my right side. I haven’t felt this in…a year? two? three? so I was a little confused by the sudden appearance of an old nemesis. Focusing on my form and breathing helped a little but I wasn’t able to go faster than about 5:05 pace without significantly increasing my discomfort. The heat really wasn’t a factor for me, despite humidex temperatures close to 40 degrees and little to no shade on the run course (see? heat training works!) and I actually felt pretty good as I crossed the finish line – which was actually disappointing because if I don’t feel like crap then I should have gone faster.

The upside? I was feeling good enough to snag a veggie burger before they ran out!

My total run time of 25:44 was still a triathlon PB, as was my total time of 1:25:52.6 (placing 4/21 in F25-29, complete results on SportStats).

Lessons Learned

  • Transition is obviously my best sport.
  • Sleep more! Don’t try to handle enough training volume for a half-ironman along with multiple races every month unless sleep and nutrition are absolutely perfect, or the result will be a compromised immune system, people who don’t want to hang out with a cranky triathlete and muscles that don’t have any kick.
  • Apparently doing my first open water swim during a race is not The Best Training Strategy Ever. If anyone is looking for me this week, I’ll be at Cherry Beach fighting with the weeds.
  • I’m not sure plain water and only one gel during the race really worked for me. I suspect the stitch was nutrition-related, so for the upcoming Toronto Triathlon Festival I will be returning to my 50/50 gatorade mix and Gu gels (with caffeine! woo!).

Pride Run and Olya’s Apricot Scones

My race mornings are usually fairly typical: waking up entirely too early, grabbing a bagel and some coffee, then driving for an hour or two to the race site and arriving about an hour before race start so I can set up transition and use the porta-potty before the line gets too long.

Last Saturday morning was entirely unlike any other race morning: it was relaxing.

I woke up early, before the alarm went off, and took my time getting out of bed. The sun was shining and it looked like a perfect day for racing – warm but not too hot, and slightly overcast. The combination of knowing that it was a short enough race that it was going to be really painful, and that I had a chance to place quite well if I had a good race gave me some pre-race jitters, but I like a little nervous energy before a race.

But the best part of my pre-race morning was walking to Café Olya for some coffee and the most delicious apricot scone I have ever tasted. CO is a very cute coffee shop and bakery owned by a husband and wife team, and the atmosphere is casual and friendly with a few bar stools and touches of coffee-inspired décor. The bakery is located just behind the coffee bar and we could watch Olya preparing some strawberry custard croissants that looked positively to die for, but what caught my attention was the little glass case to the right of the coffee bar where I saw a crispy and buttery apricot scone. How could I resist?

Of course the coffee was wonderful, nice and strong the way I like it and served with delighful conversation. I followed my first sip of coffee with a bite of apricot scone, and thought I had died and gone to heaven. The scone was crunchy on the outside and so soft on the inside, the apricots stuffed inside were sweet and moist and the creamy custard rounded out a delectable combination of flavours and textures. I enjoyed every bite of my scone and every sip of coffee.

It’s difficult to see how the day could possibly get any better, but I love racing so much that it was almost inevitable. My legs were feeling a little sluggish during my 3km warmup but felt better after some strides, and the run settled my nerves slightly. I knew my legs would feel better once the race started, and I was hoping for a sub-20 minute 5k.

We walked to the start line about 10 minutes before the 10am race start, just in time to wish some friends a good race and catch the pre-race announcements and group stretches. It seemed like the race would never start, but then the announcer was counting down from 10 and the confetti cannon marked the beginning of the race!

My race strategy was to stick to a 4 minute pace for the first 2km, then evaluate how I was feeling and adjust my pace for the next two kilometers then go all out for the finish. My first km was quite fast at 3:58, but my legs felt shaky and I was already working pretty hard just to keep my goal pace. The first lap of Queen’s Park was pretty open as I was still with the faster runners and ahead of most of the pack.

I slowed down a little in the second kilometer and was really struggling by the time I got to the halfway point where we started the second lap of Queen’s Park. By this time the walkers had reached the park and I had to do some doging and calling out to get around people, and almost ran into a little boy on the hairpin turn. I really slowed down in the third kilometer and was quite disappointed to see that it took 4:34, about 5 seconds slower than 10k pace, and I was struggling to maintain even that!

The last kilometer along Wellesley was incredibly difficult and I’m very proud of myself for pushing through for a fast finish despite heavy legs and being on the verge of tears. The moment I crossed the finish line, Sarp was there with a great big hug and a bottle of water. The clock said 21:36, which wasn’t fast enough to beat my goal but still gave me a personal best by almost a minute.

Finishing the race

Photo courtesy of Richard Bowry

My finish was good for placing 7/169 in the F25-34 category and 17/495 overall women, and my chip time of 21:33.9 was 56 seconds faster than my previous unofficial 5k PB (I ran the first half of the MEC 10k in 22:30) and 1:17 faster than my official 5k PB from last December. While I don’t think I could have pushed myself any faster that day, I do feel that I would have been able to finish faster if my legs weren’t feeling so tired. I suspect that my 140km ride at Cycle for Sight the previous weekend affected my race more than I expected, and that a week wasn’t enough to really recover enough to race. That being said, I’m incredibly happy with my new PB and it feels great to really race again!

Post-race group photo

With Sarp, Michael and Maya after Pride Run. (Photo courtesy of Richard Bowry)