Sunday, May 26, 2013

Toronto Triathlon Club Training Weekend...and the almost disaster

Last weekend, I went to Collingwood with the Toronto Triathlon Club for their (I guess I should say "our" now, since I'm a member. I still feel like a bit of a poser bear with me).

I always knew this was going to be different from the LPC Florida Triathlon Camp - where James, Nissim, Jeff and Mark scheduled every activity around teaching, mentoring and providing dedicated help across the three sports and everything in between), but I was hoping to meet some Toronto triathletes, get some excellent training in (especially given I haven't had the spring I was hoping for training wise - what with the foot injury and the insane amount of real-life work), and also learn from fellow club members - pretty much all of whom were more advanced than me (not hard, I know).

I was fortunate to get a ride up on Friday with another TTC member, who has turned out to be one of the most awesome people in the world. She's had more than her own share of interesting experiences - and was headed to camp to settle back into training after some time away from Triathlon. We chatted the entire way there (and back), making it to Collingwood just in time to catch the tail end of the welcome session.

I was staying in a cottage with some wonderful folks - from all sorts of backgrounds. Many had done triathlon before - although not all - and a few are well on their way to prepping for some long-distance races, most notably Mt. Tremblant (I think a third or more of the folks at the training weekend are doing either the 70.3 or Ironman Mt. Tremblant races). The nice thing about everyone there though (which was a lot like the LPC camp) was that everyone was wonderful, nice and supportive - no matter how experienced or not.

That really gives me confidence that triathletes really are a good group. I had wondered if the folks at the LPC camp were just a unique bunch because of James and Co. In reality, what I've found is that triathletes, regardless of where I've met them (one day I'll mention the Starbucks encounter) have been unanimously awesome, supportive, and nice.

On Saturday, we split up into several groups for a bike ride in the morning. The weather was a bit cool, but really - perfect for riding. I joined the group planning to do 60k, which I figured would be incredibly challenging given the number of hills in Collingwood and surroundings.

And it was. I don't know what speed I was going, but it was definitely pretty slow most of the time. Fortunately, we had a nice little group going to keep each other entertained, so I didn't feel too behind or slow. Given it was my longest ride since the Florida camp, I was feeling pretty good. I'd gained a little (just a little) more confidence on the bike, and even  managed to use my aerobars for a short flat stint. We made it 50k without any problems on my part (although one girl had a bit of a tumble in her clip-in pedals...don't I know that feeling!) and I was feeling awesome about the day.

And then disaster struck.

You see, the roads in and around Collingwood are pretty well maintained....except that they've used tar or something to fill in some cracks and potholes. Someone referred to these fillers as Snakes, because there were like lines of black down the otherwise normal roads. Apparently these Snakes get warm and tacky in the heat...and in one particular spot which I just happened to ride over, the patching job wasn't quite graded (there was a bit of an indent in the road).

The Snake's divot (for lack of a better word) caught my tire and I went tumbling. Fortunately, we were going slightly uphill at the time, so I wasn't going too fast (not that I would've been going fast anyway). My helmet took the brunt of the fall, a fact I am very grateful for. It cracked like an egg, exactly like helmets are designed to do, protecting my head in the process.

I was all set to keep going -- and did for about a minute or two...until the most experienced person in our group rightfully said "hell no" given we were about to head into the biggest descents in the ride (although she probably wouldn't have let me finish in any regard...a fact I appreciate in hindsight. She was much smarter about the whole thing than I was) ... well, she didn't put it quite that way, but that was pretty much the gist of it. She called for the support van - which came to collect me.

The driver of the van was awesome and took me into Collingwood to pick up a new helmet so I could ride on Sunday (yes I was battered, scraped and bruised...but I also knew I wanted to get right back  out there). Around the time we got back, I found out the head folks wanted me to get checked out for fear I might have a concussion.

My head felt fine, but apparently that's not a given when it comes to concussions (as many of them knew for a fact) I acquiesced to going to emergency because I didn't want to spend the rest of the weekend sitting around doing nothing. As someone still new to any kind of athletic endeavor (and therefore to training accidents and the injuries that go with them), I probably took the potential for serious injury pretty glad other, more experienced folks, were there to keep me in check.

Collingwood's hospital is pretty small - although I am sure the 3 hour wait in Emergency was much less than I would've faced in Toronto. I eventually saw a Doctor who gave me a few tests, asked me a lot of questions, and said he didn't think I had a concussion. He said he wouldn't tell me not to continue with the training weekend, given my lack of symptoms...but told me to listen to my body.


I gave this positive news to the folks back at the TTC..., had some food, and then headed to bed...promptly set my alarm for the 7am swim on Sunday.

Sunday dawned very early...and I was starting to get sore. Fortunately, the worst part of an injury doesn't really happen the next happens the day after that. So I made it to the swim feeling like if I took it pretty easy, I'd be okay. And I did. I actually swam in a slower lane than I would've otherwise (I swim 100 in under 1:50...and was swimming in the 2-2:15 lane). I found swimming with a bunch of other people in the lane really annoying (I know we all did, so that isn't meant to be a knock on anyone), but it was good for keeping me slow and steady. I didn't push at all, until we had the 100 meter time trial.

I was lucky...given my injuries, I got to swim in my own lane for the time trial (I think the club was much more concerned about my injuries than I was...probably rightfully so). I swam the 100m in 1:26, winning my heat by 1 second, which was kind of awesome (The fastest person there was like 15 seconds don't think I was fast by any means). I felt like the last 25 was really slow given my shoulder injury, so was pretty amazed to get my best 100m time ever (I can't remember what I swam in high school, but I was pretty awful and 25 pounds heavier, so I expect it was slower).

After the swim, we had a Tim Hortons run, then it was back to the house to get ready for the next ride. This was the bigger-hill day (kind of scary, given the day before blew Sugarloaf out of the water). I decided for the shortest ride - 50k, with a couple of other girls who were about my pace (I think either could've gone faster...but they were kind enough to stick with me).

Riding that day was hard. I knew it would be...but I also knew I had to do it. I am already terrified of riding my bike and given enough time after an incident to think about it, I probably would've been even worse. So I did it.

I kept my hands gripped on the brakes the entire time. I took the down hills at a pretty timid pace. I barely changed gears (despite the crazy hills...thank goodness I have a little power if no speed) because I was too twitchy to take my hands off the brakes.

When we finished the ride (no comment on the fact we took a gravel road that turned out to be pretty treacherous), I was utterly relieved and overjoyed to make it back unscathed...or at least, no more the worse for wear than the injuries I got the day before.

When we got back, the three of us did a pretty easy 1k run, followed by a 1k walk. I admit, it was nice to run...I like the steady feel of the ground!

Later in the day, I took part in the Yoga session (which I missed the day before, since I was in Emergency), which felt pretty good after the swimming, biking, and short run.

We had a lovely dinner out as a group (and were all give a Toronto Tri Club hat and socks, which will no doubt come in handy) and then our house went back and had some pie and ice cream. Okay, there was a Beaver Tail too. ::laugh::).

On Monday, I was definitely on the sore side of sore (my shoulder hurt *a lot*)...and had had my fill of nerves for the weekend. I decided to go all in for a good run, rather than do another bike ride. I went out with a handful of other folks, my first real run with other people.

I loved it!

Okay, it was darned nice to finally, finally be good at something. (Am I allowed to say that?). A bunch of us went out, and five of us kept to the front. A few km in, one of the girls (who leads one of the Running Room Marathon Clinics I've been debating doing) turned back, only scheduled for a short-run that day (or no run, I can't remember), leaving 4 of us. One of the guys had some stomach issues, so stopped for a potty break, leaving three of us...then on one of the hills, the other girl told us to just go I finished with one guy who was a darned good runner probably keeping it a bit easy for me.

We chatted a bit the entire way, even speeding up on the last mile or so without realizing it (a first for me). Guess running with other people really does make a difference!

I admit, the run gave me a bit of confidence back. After two hard days of biking and the accident, it was nice to do something effortlessly to end the weekend off. When I got back, it was time to pack and head home...which I did.

All in all, it was a great weekend, despite the accident which I realize now could've been a heck of a lot worse. 

Mind you, I paid for my Sunday antics the rest of the week (My shoulder is still tender a week later, I have bruises all over --I mark badly and bruises don't go away quickly--, and I came down with a cold that knocked me flat for 3 days) but I still swear by the whole getting back in the saddle approach I took.

You want proof? I said yes when offered a lift to another club ride this weekend (40k)...and while I was still very, very twitchy, I made it through without any problems.

I know I am a terrible rider right now. I also know the only way I am going to get better is by riding. And the one thing I apparently have is a thick head (or at least a thick helmet). So onwards and upwards!

Did I mention my first sprint triathlon is in 3 weeks? Yes...I think I can start to panic now.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Pacing is critical: A clear lesson from the Le Chocolat 5k

So apparently I should listen to my watch, even when I think it is lying to me.

Yesterday I ran the Le Chocolat 5k in Windsor. I went down to do the run/walk with my mom for Mother's Day, rather than going home next weekend. My mom, Angie, and Colleen (two of my brothers' significant others) decided to walk the 5k together, while I ran it. The weather was gorgeous: sunny and warm with no humidity. Perfect for running.

Maybe too perfect, actually.

When the horn went off, I ran forward with a small group of other people. I wove around a few folks (who I thought were moving slowly, but in hindsight were probably going at a smarter pace than I was.) and ended up only a few steps behind the really fast people.

I glanced at my Garmin and thought it was acting weird. It was spitting out ridiculously fast pace times: 6:10-6:20 per mile. I figured there was no way my watch was right. So I just kept running, thinking my watch would figure itself out. I hit the waterfront trail and my pace did 6:30. It was about there that I realized that maybe my watch was correct...and if it was, I was running too fast.

My growing realization was proven when I passed the first kilometer marker at 3:43 - which was a crazy number to me. In hindsight, the KM marker had to have been miss-marked. According to my Garmin, I hit 1k around 4:10.

Of course, I figured out I was running too fast too late to do much. Between 1k and 1 mile (600 meters or so), I slowed down a bit. I finished the mile in 7 minutes.

And then I slowed down a lot. During mile 2: I dropped 90 seconds. Yes, I went from a 7 minute mile to an 8:30 mile. I picked up my pace again toward the end, but by that point, I'd already learned my lesson from the race: pacing is critical.

Let me repeat that: Pacing is critical.

I finished in 22:30...but the course was only 2.9 miles according to my Garmin. So if I extrapolate time-wise, I would've finished an actual 5k around 24:05. This would've been a good time for me - 30 seconds faster than I ran in April after I got hurt, although not as fast as my 5k back in December (23:16).

But I do wonder if I'd paced myself better for the first kilometer if I'd have actually finished faster. According to my Garmin, I ran the first 400 meters at a 6:17 a mile pace...a full minute per mile faster than the pace I'd been aiming for (7:15-7:20) - and faster than I've ever recorded on my Garmin.

So - lesson learned. Glad it happened in this little almost-5k race and not in the marathon I am running this fall!

And now for the fun side of the race...which was still awesome, despite the fact I didn't pace myself well.
  • I was running in a race with my mom. How wonderful is that? Really, that was the best part of the day. 16 months ago, I'd never have bet we'd do something like this together.
  • I came in 14th out of 532 finishers! Seriously. I was 12th out of all the women (It was for Mother's Day, so the race participants were mostly women). I was also 6/173 in my age group (30-39).
  • Running along the waterfront is fantastic. I need to do it more when I am in Windsor.
  • It was kind of awesome to see my mom, Colleen and Angie going the other way as I was heading back. They were cheering me on - and I did the same. I think that's when I picked my pace back up a bit!
  • The finish line medals looked like a half-eaten chocolate bar. Kind of awesome.
  • There was a lot of chocolate at the finish-line - and every participant got a Coach purse (another reason mostly women were running)!