Thursday, September 4, 2014

It's my party and I'll bike, run and swim if I want to! :)

Since starting my journey to become fit, I've used my birthday to hit new milestones of fitness.

In 2012, I ran my first ever half-marathon distance (in a training run).

In 2013, I ran my longest distance ever (at the time) in the Midsummer Night's Run 30k.

So, when it came time to decide what to do for my 36th birthday, I was a bit at a loss. I couldn't run a new milestone (Right now, a full marathon is as far as I expect to run at any one time. Not interested in running ultras).

And then my friend Kim (from Two Years to Kona and Our Fresh Kitchen) suggested the Toronto Island Lake Swim on my actual birthday (Sunday, August 17th). The race on the island had 3 distances, including a 3.8km one (that's the distance you swim in a full ironman). I've never swam 3800m in one go before - and the most I've swum in the lake was around 3200m. I'd once done a 2-swim day that was 3950 total, but that was split into two sessions (one lake, one pool) several hours apart.

So there I had it. My longest swim ever and it would be in open water!

But that's not all. Given I was training for Barrelman, I still needed to get my long run and ride in. Well, months ago at the Mississauga Marathon, I purchased entry into the Midsummer Night's Run at a low rate (they were also giving away extra shirts) on Saturday, August 16th at 6pm. So I was already planning to do that. But then my friend Emma (from Running in Tune) offered to give me a grand tour of the region around Burlington (i.e. take me on a long ride out of the city!) that day. So my birthday weekend became an epic training weekend, including:
  • Saturday morning: 90k hilly training ride
  • Saturday night: 15k Midsummer Night's Run
  • Sunday morning: 3.8k Toronto Island Swim Race
Now, one of the best parts about having Coach Mark is that I asked him whether I was nuts for doing all of this. Of course, his answer was "Go for it." In fact, he was great - giving me a good nutrition strategy to use - especially between the ride and the run. I think it made a huge difference!

So, how did the weekend go?

Training Ride

I got up pretty early on Saturday morning to make the GO train out to Appleby...but it wasn't too early that I couldn't nab a coffee to drink en route (priorities!). The forecast was talking about rain, but luck was in our favour. All we got was a handful of no complaints from me!

Now, Emma had warned me that the route was going to have some hills. "No problem," I figured. Hills are good, right?

What I didn't realize was that my occasional hills and the hills out at Angus Glen are nothing compared to the Halton Hills. The entire first half of the route was very rolling...and added to that was some excellent wind (crazy wind!). I couldn't believe how slow I was (meanwhile Emma proved to me she'd have no problems killing a duathlon since she's so strong on the bike!).

But - the hills were on beautiful and mostly silent roads. I loved riding out there. Also, I learned that some of the area we were riding in would be a part of the PwC Epic Tour - which means I'll be facing these hills one more time before Barrelman! Yikes!

I needed proof we did it, so here's a picture of Emma and I about 2/3 of the way through I think.

Midsummer Night's Run - 15k

After the awesome ride with Emma, I caught the GO train home, making sure to eat/drink on the way according to Coach Mark's guidelines. It started to pour just as I left the subway station near my house, so I did have to ride one block in a downpour. I'll take that over an entire ride in one!

I got home around 4:30pm, which gave me just enough time to relax for a little bit (and drink more fluids) before having to catch a bus down to the Midsummer Night's Run. Thankfully, the rain only lasted the 30 minutes I was in my house. The rain was done by the time I had to leave. Excellent timing, don't you think?

I really had no idea how this race was going to go. Last year it was on the island and I did the 30k option. I tripped on the boardwalk and ended up going a fair bit slower than I had been hoping for. So I had no expectations of this race, even though it was back in the Beaches (making it very convenient for me!). Given my 90k ride, I figured I'd at least get a nice 15k delayed brick, even if I went slow.

I got to the race very close to the start, but wasn't too worried. Had enough time to drop my gear bag and hit a porta-pottie. I did have an argument about what to wear (it was windy and cool) - but I rightly remembered that I ran Mississauga in shorts and a tank and that day was much I went with my standard race outfit and left my long-sleeved top in my bag. Wise decision that's for sure!

Much to my surprise, the race went incredibly well. I was told to run it without looking at my watch, which I did - and maybe that helped because it meant I had no expectations. The fact it was cool also helped. It's always easier to run when the weather is cool (and not that humid).

My final time was 1:16:54 (pace 5:08 per km) - which landed me 29/245 in my age group, 63/730 of all women and 201/1047 overall. Fantastic results on any day, but given what I did that morning, I was shocked I did so well. It was a nice confidence booster for Barrelman, even with the several hours of rest in between the bike and the run!

Crossed the finish line and saw a few of my friends before heading back home for more food and a good night's sleep. I think I was in bed by 10pm.

Toronto Island Swim Race 

The next morning, I took a cab down to the Ferry docks for the Toronto Island Lake Swim. Now, I was a bit worried about water temperature - but I remembered something Coach Mark had said before the Toronto Triathlon...which was dump a thermos of warm water inside my wetsuit before I got in. So I did. And despite getting funny looks, the water really helped because it meant the warmer water stayed close to my skin and made it easier to acclimatize to the cold water during my warm-up!

A bunch of friends came out to the island too...swimming in the 3.8k with me were my friends Hector and Kim (who had done Ironman Canada just weeks before) and my friend Lori.

Here we are (Lori, me, Hector and Kim)

Other friends - Brenda, Linda-Kay and Carole came to watch and cheer! Kind of awesome of them! :)

The swim was surprisingly good. It was a 3 loop course, which made it more manageable to think about. There were a lot of swimmers (and the waves didn't correspond with anything so I caught up with the slower folks from the first wave pretty quickly) so I took an outside line for the first lap. A little too far outside in hindsight...but c'est la vie.

The first loop was pretty nice but over the course of the next two the water got a bit more rolling and choppy. Thankfully I've practiced in that so it didn't throw me off. I did find I would get the odd chill at times when the sun ducked behind a cloud, but overall the temperature wasn't nearly what I'd been led to expect. I think it ended up being around 16 degrees - which is not terrible for Lake Ontario.

I think my last loop was actually my best since I knew I was definitely going to be able to finish. Came out of the water feeling pretty good and thrilled at my new swim distance milestone!

My watch said I swam 4k in 1:23:55 (and I stopped it late), but my official time was 1:24:46. Apparently, they timed everyone from the first wave start and didn't adjust for the people in the second wave. Annoying, but that's the way it goes. Either way, I was really happy with my time! It was better than I was expecting that is for sure.

I was a bit surprised to be a bit topsy-turvy when I got out of the water, but a nice volunteer suggested I sit down - which I did. That's when my friends found me. Here I am with Linda-Kay and Hector (who finished a good 20 or more minutes faster. Speedy!).

It only took me a few minutes to get my bearings and then I had enough time to quickly change into dry (and warm) clothes so I could see Lori finish.

Once we were all done, we settled down to have some wonderful peach sharlotka coffee birthday cake that Kim made (after my friends convinced the live band to play Happy Birthday for me).

 The cake was absolutely delicious. Thankfully, she posted the recipe on Our Fresh Kitchen!

Here I am with the cake (with Carole in the background!). Interestingly, it looks like I am holding the full cake, but we'd already eaten about deceiving photo. But wow, that cake was amazing! Thank you Kim!!!

Much to my surprise, my friend Brenda actually made a photo/video montage of the Toronto Island Lake Swim, including the birthday song. She posted it on YouTube, so I can share it with you too!


So my epic birthday weekend was a wild success. Couldn't have had a better time, that's for sure. So great I got to share two days with so many friends. Thank you to everyone who helped make the weekend awesome!

And as a side note (in case you think all I do is train)...after the Toronto Island Lake Swim, I went out for an incredible birthday dinner with my friend Wendy - where I didn't worry for a single second about how much I ate or drank! I also went out the following weekend with more friends, since several were out of town on my actual birthday.


  1. You will have to come back and tackle the hills with me again, on a non-windy day! A pleasure to share part of your birthday celebration with you :) I think you will really enjoy the Epic Tour, assuming the weather cooperates the route has some spectacular riding on it.

    1. I look forward to it Emma - thanks again for being a great guide (and incredibly patient!)! The Epic Tour was actually fantastic - with very little wind. Couldn't believe how different the hills feel when you don't have wind - but that's probably why it didn't feel as crazy - having had the experience riding with you first!