Thursday, March 16, 2017

LPC Florida Triathlon Camp - Day 6 - Mega Run at the Orange Grove Trail

If you're ever near Orlando or Clermont and want to do a long run, the best place ever is the Orange Grove Trail - a spectacular 16km loop (10 miles). It's incredibly quiet and running on the dirt/clay road - while challenging - is a lovely experience. You get to see the orange groves that give the trail its name, but also some cows, lots of grassland, and even some water (not sure I'd go so far to call this a lake).

The Orange Grove Trail - definitely a road less travelled.

Each year at the LPC Florida Triathlon Camp I've run this route. Some years I've run a bit more (up to 21km if I recall correctly).

This year, Coach Mark asked me if I'd be up to the challenge of doing 2 loops of the trail as part of my current marathon training cycle. That's to say, 2 loops after a long week of training, including the 95km Sugarloaf ride the day before.

My answer was something along the lines of, "Heck yes!"

I woke up on Friday morning a bit unsure of whether I'd bitten off more than I could chew. But I figured I'd get it done. My goal was to simply negative split the run. I didn't really have any time goals.

Because of construction, we ended up leaving a bit early - meaning that I started my run at close to the same time everyone else did. Well, technically I got about a 15 minute head start I think, since it took about 38 minutes before the speedy fast folks started to pass me.

Ready for a big run!

In my head, I split the run into 2 x 2 8km segments. This works because the 8km point is a traditional rest stop with a support vehicle (where you can re-fill water, etc.), while the loop ends back where you begin.

I took the first 8km segment quite easy because it was misty and humid and I didn't want to get into any breathing trouble. I stuck just under 6min pace per kilometre. About 7km in, Coach Mark caught up to me with some of the faster folks. He ran with me for a few minutes and suggested I try to take the next 8km segment a bit harder. By that point, I figured I was in good shape to be able to do so.

I didn't stop at 8km because I was carrying a Nathan Handheld bottle so I was good for water.

The second 8km segment was excellent - probably the best segment of the entire run, which is nice given the 'back half' is where all the hills were. I was very happy with my pace through there - still on the easy side, but faster than the first segment at about 5:30-5:45 per km.

As I came through the starting point, I also decided not to stop (bad idea in hindsight), although I did wave to the folks who had finished the first loop and got some motivational support as I headed out for loop #2.

The third 8k section started off pretty well. The mist was long gone, however, and the heat was ratcheting up considerably. I didn't realize it, but I started to fall off my pace from segment #2. Part of this was the fact I wasn't drinking enough water. A few km into the section, I realized I was running out and I didn't know if I'd see anyone to refill it. I knew my second loop was somewhat of an outlier in terms of folks running, so I wasn't sure if I'd see a support vehicle. So I started to really conserve my water. As the heat started to wear me down, I even walked for a minute around one very sandy corner because I was worried I'd trip in the dirt.

Thankfully, as I was getting close to the 8km mark, Coach James drove by to check up on me. I admit, he was a lifesaver. I chugged some water, refilled my handheld, and dumped a bottle over my head to cool off. Coach James also gave me a head's up that Coach Mark was running from the opposite direction and would meet me at the 8km point to run the rest of my run with me.

Sure enough, as I got to 8km, Coach Mark was there to meet me. I admit, having my coach there to run the last 8km with me made a big difference in terms of how it went. It was very hot by this point, so my speed plummeted. I don't think I talked all that much - particularly toward the end, but Coach Mark was positive and helpful the entire time.

At one point he gave me some form advice going up a hill. Basically it had to do with lifting my foot up when going up a hill rather than forward so I didn't shuffle (something more apparent after running for 28km I think). So for the rest of the run, each time I went up a hill, I thought "up, up, up" - and it made a big difference. It seemed to help both how my legs felt and my ability to get up the hill.

If Coach Mark hadn't been there, I might have stopped a few times to cool down - but with him there, I couldn't do it. I did take a 30 second walk break (again at a particularly sandy spot), but otherwise I just kept going.

As we reached the end, I realized that we were going to be a tad I did a (not very quick) out and back to get the last 500m or so in. Coach Mark did the same thing although he stopped to open the van door for my friend Karen first (sign of a good coach - he thought of everyone else first). Karen was kind enough to wait for us after she finished her loop of the run.

After a very brief cool down, we got into the car and went to check on Paula. She was happy with her mega-run and was more than ready to call it a day given the crazy heat. With all of us done, Coach Mark insisted on stopping back at the start for a group picture.

Hail the conquering heroes.

I was incredibly happy to get this run done, especially given the rest of the training week at camp. This was also my longest training run of this marathon cycle by 5km, giving me a nice boost. Other than the heat, I think I was in pretty good shape - which was nice since when I was doing mega-runs for Hamilton I had a very tough time. I hope this bodes well for a better race experience in April. We'll see!

Huge thanks to Coach Mark for helping me get 32k done!

On our way back to camp, we stopped off and grabbed some food (and a few balloons for the party that evening). I think we got back to the resort at a perfect time because I didn't really have time to sit down before it was time for the last bike ride at camp. While my coach had listed it as 'optional' in my TrainingPeaks, I knew I wanted to do it if I could. But I know if I'd had time to sit down, I might not have gotten back up.

At the beginning of the ride, we went to the fountain at the resort for a group picture. We had an amazing group at camp this year. The Orange Shirt is for Balance Point Triathlon Club - an awesome group in London run by the fabulous Coach Gabbi Whitlock. If you're in London, check them out. This is the second year Coach Gabbi has come to the LPC Camp - and she's been great. Several times she told me to quite downplaying my accomplishments. And that reminded me to tell other people the same thing.

LPC Florida Triathlon Camp 2017

After the picture, we separated into different groups as usual. I took the fairly short option because I wasn't sure how long I'd last. But like I said, I didn't want to miss it. The Friday ride (new last year after they moved the Allen's Challenge Ride to Tuesday) is wonderful. We ride out to an empty sub-division where you can do intervals on a completely empty square loop. Even tired, I didn't want to miss this ride. It's too nice.

After an easy ride out, we did a few laps of the sub-division. While I didn't have much tempo in me, I did manage 2 laps at a pretty good clip (31.5km) given how much I ran that morning. That was it for me though. Man, I was tired. Happy and smiling as always of course though.

Great gang at the Friday afternoon ride!

After the ride, I dropped my bike off at the main camp house for its trip back to Guelph, then headed back to House of Lido where I had another relaxing dip in the hot tub (and some time in the normal pool). It was a great way to relax after a great training day.

A shower and packing was all I had left to do before it was time for the end of camp party at the LPC Camp House. Was happily surprised to get my Allen's Challenge T-shirt when I got to the party. One of the camper's moms waited for over an hour to get our shirts for us on Tuesday and brought them with her to the party. It was a very kind and thoughtful gesture. See, even the LPC extended family is awesome.
 Allen's Challenge Winners - Ben, John (#3 and time record holder), and myself.
At the party, we had some great pizza (okay, anything would have probably tasted great after running so much - but it was good), and then a celebratory toast to celebrate LPC's 10th birthday.

Head Coach James Loaring toasting to 10 years of LPC.

I am really impressed by what Coach James has accomplished over the past 10 years. I am very grateful to him and to my own Coach Mark for always being incredibly supportive to athletes of every age, shape, size and ability. They've created something amazing in the collegial and friendly atmosphere that is teamLPC and the LPC Triathlon Club. From the people who win races to the people who are just in it for fun and to see what they can do - everyone feels welcome.

Having my brother Anthony insist I go to the LPC Florida Triathlon Camp back in 2013 was probably the best triathlon related thing that has ever happened to me. It gave me the momentum to dream big and go for it.

Here's to many more awesome years LPC! See you at camp next year for #6.

Monday, March 13, 2017

LPC Florida Triathlon Camp - Day 5: 2 reps of Sugarloaf!

Day 5 of the LPC Florida Triathlon Camp started similar to our first camp day - with a run and swim at River Island within Orange Lake Resort.

Similar to the first day, Coach Mark had me skip the run - this time to hopefully help keep my legs ready for a 32km mega-run to finish off the camp. So while everyone else went for a run...I decided to lounge about enjoying the atmosphere for once in my life. LOL. It really is a lovely resort! Can't imagine what it must be like just to come to a place like this for vacation.

Enjoying the view!

Once everyone was back from their run, Coach Alex led us through a dynamic warm-up - which I most definitely needed in advance of the swim.

The swim itself was more technical than the one on Sunday - focused less on distance and more on body position (particularly sculling) and drafting. I appreciated this since I was a bit tired from the Wednesday bike workout and knew I had another 2 big days ahead.

The Lazy River itself continues to be spectacular to swim in - something that never gets old! Today, we even had some neighbours join in the fun.

Company in the Lazy River

After the swim, I got a Starbucks to go because I needed more coffee in advance of the Sugarloaf ride. Also had some lunch. Earlier in the week, I made a great little rice dish with mixed onions, carrots, beans and broccoli. I've been eating it all week - and have been pleasantly surprised how tasty and filling it has been without causing issues for my training. I plan to make it far more often!

Hitched a ride out to the starting point of the Sugarloaf ride - an Irish Pub. Of course, the pub also makes an excellent end point. It's a well chosen venue, that's for sure.

Decided to ride with the B- group (we had a crazy variety of skill levels at this camp so the coaches broke us up into more than the typical 3 groups we've had in past years).

Re-grouping at a corner

Riding with B- was a good choice for me since I didn't want to go too hard on the ride - although we had a few faster folks who had to wait a bit at times. Thankfully they didn't seem to mind.

Nice pic of Rob Buren on his hand-cycle!

This ride included a surprising number of incidents of people making wrong turns because they got too far ahead (or in my case, a bit behind) - although nothing like in past years. Coach Mark managed to find us each time before we ranged too far afield thank goodness. I suspect he rode well over the planned 95km trying to keep us all together.
Coach Mark

All in all though, it was a gorgeous day for a ride. Early on, I had a tough time keeping my power in check (my big goal for the ride since I was doing a mega-run the next day). I ended up having to push a fair bit of power on some of the easier climbs when I thought it should have been easier. I've been doing pretty decently with my biking this year so couldn't understand why I was having a tougher time than in the past.

Coach Mark figured out the issue not long before we reached Sugarloaf. He noticed my cassette was small (I don't know the right term...but basically, I didn't have any easy gears making climbing much more difficult). Apparently when I switched my PowerTap wheel to an 11 speed cassette to work with my new bike, I didn't get a very good cassette type for climbing. Needless to say, I am going to have to get a better one before Collingwood. If this ride was hard with the current cassette...doing Collingwood with it would be nuts.

Regardless of my cassette type, I made it up to the top of Sugarloaf. In my Training Peaks, Coach Mark had suggested I do 2 reps of the hill - including going -down- (something that made me nervous given the hill is quite steep). He's made this suggestion in the past but I've never actually done it. This time, when I got to the top, I confirmed I had enough time to do a second rep - so I turned around and rode right down.

The descent wasn't as bad as I was expecting (although I took it at a snail's pace compared to what anyone else might do). Apparently Coach Mark watched to make sure I made it down safely - a fact I appreciated.

There were some men working on the side of the road about half-way up the hill. As I crawled up the road the second time, I'm pretty sure they thought I was nuts. We did exchange smiles though. I didn't have any breath in me to say anything though. It was hard!

Made it to the top just in time to get into the group picture (which I'll post when someone hopefully passes it on to me). Then I had time to quickly down a few cups of water because the house at the top of the climb kindly keeps a cooler of water by their mailbox for cyclists. I've never met these people - but they have my eternal gratitude.

I didn't even have time for a selfie at the top before we rolled out (well, I probably did but I didn't think of it). This is what comes of working harder than you have before. Ah well. I can just post a picture from a previous year and pretend it is current....LOL!

At the top of Sugarloaf in 2014 or 2015.
Same shirt but a different bike this year!

I rode most of the last half of the ride with my friend Paula - going fairly easy and enjoying the scenery. We stopped at a convenience store where I got a longer break than at the top of Sugarloaf, which I appreciated because my back was feeling tight. I took the time to drink a Dr. Pepper (which tastes amazing) and also to lay down on the ground to get my back in order. Really, that was all it took for my back to re-align or something because I was fine after I stood back up. So funny.
Rest Stop

Coach Gabbi's husband Ken was at the rest stop, which came in very handy when a 20-something woman with 2 young kids asked Coach Mark for help. Apparently she'd taken the car to the store to get something - except her mother had the keys back at the school down the road. It was one of those cars with auto she didn't notice this until she stopped and then couldn't turn the car back on How awkward!

Thankfully Camp LPC came the rescue with Ken chauffeuring the girl and the kids down the road to get the keys. Nice to have the right people in the right place to help someone out. It might have been more complicated without a car to help - so big cheers to Ken!

We made it back to the Irish Pub in good time to get our bikes loaded in the trailer and meet other groups for a nice cold beer!

Kirstie Kniaziew, Coach James, and Rob Buren

I admit, the beer tasted great! I stuck to French fries at the pub along with my beer - then ate a regular dinner when I got back to my camp house.

A well earned reward!

After getting back to the camp house, we learned that the maintenance folks had managed to get our hot tub working at some point that day. I admit, it was both a wonderful surprise and an utter joy. I took plenty of time to soak in the tub (which started out lukewarm but heated up while I sat in it). I think it made a huge difference in terms of recovery for my legs!

Blissfully enjoying the hot tub!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

LPC Florida Triathlon Camp - Day 4 - Lake Louisa Brick Workout

I'm way behind posting my daily doubt because I was so busy at camp I finally ran out of time to keep up my blog. But I'm home now - and able to spend some quality time thinking back to a great week.

On Day 4 of camp, we went out to Lake Louisa State Park for an interval brick workout. Coach Mark had put 5 reps of the brick in my schedule, (Warm-up, 3 hard sets, cool-down) which I figured was a bit much for the time, but I was willing to give it a go.

There was a lot of traffic en route to the park due to construction, so we got there a bit late. Since the truck with the bikes was still stuck in traffic, Coach James suggested a warm-up run. I ended up doing 1 mile relatively easy - finishing just in time to see the truck arrive.

Nothing like having transition racks for a brick workout!
Once everyone was set up, we had a warm-up rep of the 11k bike and 1 mile run course. I ended up doing a second run warm-up since I'd already done the first one. But I figured it would all work out in the end (which it did since I didn't quite have enough time for a full cool-down rep of both bike/run).

For the main set, I wasn't sure how well I was going to do. My stomach was still very iffy after the Allen's Challenge the day before, but I figured I would do my best and see what happened. We all lined up together to simulate T1 - although the folks doing a 'draft legal' brick went first.

Before the start of the first rep

Turned out the first rep of the brick was pretty good. I averaged 31km/h on the bike, and then around 4:50 per km for the run. That was by far my best loop. While I thought the other two bike reps were closer...they weren't really. Both of those clocked in at 29km/h.

On the run, I faded a lot on the second loop as the heat started ratcheting up and I started to get hungry (I only had 1 slice of toast for breakfast - which wasn't enough to fuel a hard workout, but all my stomach could handle at the time). My pace on that loop fell back to the same pace as the warm-up. But while I was taking a short recovery break, Coach Mark said something about how once your mind stops pushing, you fade (I can't remember his exact words...but I took it to mean: mind over matter). That gave me a bit of spark to push into the third rep. While the bike was the same as the second rep, the run did get a bit faster, landing somewhere in the middle of Lap 1 and Lap 2 in terms of pace. I took the speeding up as a good sign.

I look awkward, but at least am smiling!

When I finished the run, Coach Mark said I still had time to do a cool-down loop on the bike, so I did. This was actually my favourite bike loop of the day since it seemed like I was the only one out on the road. It was like I had the entire park to myself since I didn't see any other bikes or cars. I simply enjoyed the ride and looking at the scenery since I wasn't trying to keep to a specific pace. It felt wonderful: a great way to end a hard workout.

Of course, by the time I got back, the truck was pretty much loaded and everyone else was ready to go for the swim. I had just enough time to pass my bike off to some of the camp coaches (who kindly took my bike off my hands and got it loaded) and pull on my wetsuit - and it was time to swim.

Thankfully the swim was pretty short since I was well and truly starving (okay, not really - but I was hungry). The water was lovely. We did a couple of warmup loops, some hard/easy reps, beach starts, and exits. I was pretty tired from the 5 reps of the bike/run (even if I had to count my last run-rep as the extra run warmup loop) so not really sure how hard my efforts really got. But I thought it was pretty good all told. Wetsuit performed beautifully and fits much better than my old one.

Running start...

After the swim, there was a bit of time for pictures - including one of all the women at Camp in order to celebrate International Women's Day. What a wonderful group of strong, inspiring and motivating women!

Awesome ladies at CampLPC

Later that night, I headed out to Disney Springs with Paula, Karen, Coach Mark and Coach Alex. Paula exchanged some running shorts at one store and then we took Coach Mark out for pizza for his birthday. 

Happy birthday Coach Mark!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

LPC Florida Triathlon Camp - Day 3: Allen's Challenge (and a bike ride)

I admit, I was somewhat dreading Day 3 of this year's LPC Florida Triathlon Camp because of a promise I'd made last year to do the Allen's Challenge for my 5 year Campiversary.

The Allen's Chain of Lakes Challenge (aka the Allen's Challenge) involves eating a ridiculous amount of ice cream in under 15 minutes. Specifically:

The Allen's Challenge
The thing is - the stop for the challenge is after a 43km bike ride to get to Allen's Creamery in Windemere....and before a 43km bike ride back to the resort.
I've watched a fair number of guys take on the challenge over the past 4 years - but only one woman has done it at the LPC camp. So the odds were not in my favour. But I promised that I'd do it....and I did.
The actual day began with a hands on tire changing clinic, although I admit I skipped the actual tire changing part since I've done it before and didn't want to jinx my tires (lol). It was a very useful clinic though. Everyone should know how to change a tire.
Once everyone was ready to go, we split into something like 5 groups for the ride to Allen's. We have an incredible diversity of riders this year - so 5 groups made it more sensible pace wise. I rode to Allen's with the B- group (we had 3 "B" groups) - enjoying a beautiful and relatively easy ride out to Allen's. It was a spectacular day for a ride so I was glad not to worry too much about pace.
At Allen's, I admit, my stomach was queasy before I even got my ice cream. That morning, Head Coach James Loaring had asked if he could sponsor me in the Allen's Challenge to celebrate my 5 years at camp - which I thought was extremely kind - and totally unexpected. So I  was under a lot of pressure to get the job done.
He also got an ice cream sunday....we compared them.
Guess which one is mine?
I admit, I tried to be very strategic in my ice cream choices. Originally, I thought to soak vanilla ice cream in 6 servings of hot chocolate fudge, but a previous Allen's Challenger warned me the fudge would freeze and be hard to deal with if I wasn't fast - which I knew I wouldn't be.
So when I got there, I studied the ice cream selections and decided to go for simplicity by picking the ice cream that had the least amount of dairy in it since dairy really hates me before running. Thant ended up being Orange Sherbet which basically tastes like an orange creamsicle. Technically I could've had the Lemon Ice, but I couldn't think of anything even remotely palatable as a topping for it. So Orange Sherbet it was.
After confirming I could have 6x the same topping rather than 6 different toppings, I also went for simplicity with rainbow sprinkles. I don't like having bits in my ice cream and I figured the sprinkles were small enough not to need chewing.
On top of that went a pile of whipped cream and some cherries.
The biggest  bowl of ice cream I will ever have!
Looking at my bowl of ice cream, I admit I had no idea how I was going to eat it all. It was hilariously large.
When no other woman stepped up to compete, my friend Paula kindly volunteered to keep me company in the challenge. You know an awesome friend when!
With the timer set, it was time to dig in. The first minute or two went pretty smoothly, but then I realized how much ice cream was actually in the bowl. Coach Mark mentioned that he got a bit worried about whether I could do it at that point - since my expression was a bit 'What on earth am I doing?"
But then Paula said something funny, and I made a joke about how delicious the ice cream was and hammed it up a little for the quite large and cheering audience of LPC campers, the person video taping, and Coach Mark who took a picture and posted it on Twitter.
Does it look like I'm eating a bowl of melted cheese?
That's when the tide turned I think. From that point, I focused simply on eating the ice cream and trying to have fun while doing it. I realized that my triathlon goal of "Finish and Finish Smiling" would work well for this as well. I was happily surprised that because of my simple choices, the ice cream actually tasted good and never got gross. Mostly, it was just 10 times more that I would normally eat.
Around the 12 minute mark, I was pretty sure I had it - since I was nearing completion. The key was not think about what I was actually doing. To be honest, the quick eating likely was helped by my recent beer mile experience - particularly since I didn't actually like the beer I ended up drinking. Eating the ice cream was much easier in some ways.
I completed the challenge in 13min and 30 seconds, well under the 15 minute time limit - and setting a new LPC Camp record for women (the men's record is something like 10 minutes and a bit faster...I have no idea how that's possible, even if I watched it happen last year).
After I finished, Paula decided she'd had plenty of ice cream and didn't need to have any more. I owe her big time for making the attempt because I couldn't have done it without her.
After we were done, 2 guys went head to head, with one trying to Do the Double and finish 2x the Allen's Challenge worth of ice cream. While he finished the first bowl very quickly, he lost a bit of steam on the second. All power to him for trying though. Just watching him work on that second bowl was amazing. Now that's dedication. The other guy went for the normal challenge - also finishing it in a great time. Glad I didn't have to compete with either since they've have been done well before I was!
Right after the challenge, I wasn't feeling too bad, just very full. Knowing the real challenge was riding back - I refused the offered ride back to the resort and simply decided to ride with the easiest of the easy bike groups for the ride back.
The ride back wasn't actually that bad. The pace was nice and easy, making it simple to focus simply on getting fresh air and not thinking too much about my stomach. I burped a lot - but that was almost funny after a while.
Made it home in time to basically fall into bed. I skipped my run, slept, did some work...and really only got out of bed to make a small sandwich at 9pm. Honestly, I was more hungover from eating that giant bowl of ice cream than I've ever been in my life.
All in all, it was a fun day. I'm glad I can say I did it - although I really want my free t-shirt. I'm hoping the manager actually did show up with the shirts (for some reason, they don't keep any at the store), since one of the awesome family members of one of the other campers offered to wait for them to show up. No idea if they actually did - but I really want my memento of this very important day in my life that is never going to be repeated, so fingers crossed!

Monday, March 6, 2017

LPC Florida Triathlon Camp - Day 2: Faulty memories

Today was the day we went to the National Training Centre in Clearmont Florida for a track workout, a swim workout, and a few panels. I always look forward to this part of camp - because it is fun and usually incredibly motivating. Today definitely lived up to those hopes.

On the Track

National Training Centre - Track

We started the day with a warm-up on the cross country course - probably the only day of the year I run trails officially....although I guess that isn't quite true anymore since I've done a few easier trail runs with RunTOBeer.

I found it quite humid, so I took my inhaler well before the workout, but was still feeling a bit heavy legged and lung-ed (which isn't a word but basically means I could feel my breathing was not the best).

The dynamic stretches were terrific - running though As, Bs, Cs, Karaoke, ballerinas, penguins, this one where you hop and open up your hips forward, side and front again taught by Coach Gabbi, and another one involving skipping and arm swings.

Then....we had the main workout: Sets of 3x400 descending. My watch isn't great at proper pacing for short workouts, so I just guessed based on times I ran at Monarch Park.

But here's the thing....when you think about 400m times based on the times you were running on a 367m track (which I completely forgot about at the time)'re going to go way too hard.

And low and behold, my first three reps were 1:44, 1:42, 1:41. All of these times seemed in line with my previous results from what I recalled, so I was happy....but I was also really gasping for air. I assumed it was my asthma, so just tried to grin and bear it.
Then I did the second set. This set was much slower (1:55, 1:49, and 1:47). I decided to stop after that rather than do a 3rd set, knowing I was cooked. I felt like I'd dropped time like no tomorrow, so I was obviously really having a bad day.
And this is where it gets funny. When I actually looked at my actual paces in hindsight, the second 3 reps were right where they should have been in the first place given the goals (~10k pace, 5k pace, a bit faster). The first set ended up being much faster because I forgot that the times in my head had been for a slightly shorter distance. I honestly just went too hard accidentally and couldn't sustain it. Sure my asthma issues didn't help - but I honestly can't blame my inability to do more reps on it entirely. Not when I realize my early three reps were much faster than I'd planned.

Lesson learned though: For short stuff....even a few seconds different can make or break your ability to keep going. If I'd paced both reps like I did the second, I probably would've been fine for more reps. I admit, it was a bizarre mistake to make - but at least I actually had 6 nice 400s, rather than just the 3 I thought were good and the 3 I thought were terrible! :)
Rob Buren - Definitely Rocking his Chair
In the Pool
After some Honey Stinger Chews and a short rest, I actually felt a lot better. On the pool deck, Coach Gabby walked us through some mobility exercises, and then we split into 3 groups for some swim work.
The NTC has an amazing pool!
Our group started with Coach James for a good main set. The core of this was descending 50s (yards, not meters). This went extremely well for me - with my pace much faster than I would've guessed. We then had Coach Alex and Coach Gabbi each work with us  on different drills (hip lead roll, fingertips, fists, sculling, one arm).
At one point, Coach Mark came by to pull us out of the water to do the swim video - which I did. He always does a good job of making sure I'm extra tired in these videos...I'm almost afraid to watch!
Special Guest Speaker - Rob Buren
After the swim, we were treated to subs for lunch and an amazing guest speaker - someone I've thought was inspiring since the day I met him at camp a couple of years ago: paratriathlete Rob Buren. I actually interviewed Rob for my blog last summer when he was about to race his Kona Qualifying race.
Guest Speaker Rob Buren of Rock the Chair
Rob's talk was amazing. I knew part of his story from when I interviewed him for my blog - and from talks we've had at camp, but hearing him talk through his life, the accident and how he earned his way to Kona was incredible nonetheless. I learned a lot more about him than I'd known before - like his joy racing motorcycles and how his friends helped set him up so he could ride after becoming paraplegic. If anyone is an example of 'Anything is Possible' - Rob is it. His blog Rock the Chair is a great name - because Rob does that every singe day.
If you ever need a motivational speaker - Rob is a great one. He's great guy, honest and funny, and really has an amazing story. I think everyone could do with conversation with Rob, particularly if you wonder if you can do something. The answer is Yes, You Can.
Perfect words from the end of Rob's presentation
Coaches Panel
We wrapped up at the National Training Centre with a coaches panel with all the camp coaches. It was a great time with lots of questions asked. The one I put forward I figured we could all learn from - was what has been their biggest training mistake. The most prevalent answer was one we probably all fail at times: Going too hard on the easy days. The trick is to go easy on the easy days and hard on the hard days - so you don't get stuck in what I think one coach called 'Tempo Hell.'  Coach Gabbi also mentioned remembering to have fun and not beating yourself up if you miss a workout. The reality is most of us are in triathlon to have fun - and we all have lives. Balance is critical.
All the camp coaches - except Coach James who moderated
The Afternoon: bike drills now with more glass
After a brief grocery store run, lunch and a bit of time working on actual work, I headed down to the bike skills session. Normally this involves a lot of riding in cul-de-sacs at low speeds working on cornering and, yes, some U-turns.
Coach James giving an intro to the beginner bike handling group
Coach Alex ready to roll
But this year, there seemed to be a whole lot of glass lying around, so after a few loops of the resort and a few minutes of cornering, Coach James decided to take us out for a ride instead and work on paceline riding.
Brief stint of cornering practice before finding all the glass
Given all the glass lying around (and we had to wonder if someone had dumped glass intentionally since the glass was sprinkled very oddly everywhere around the resort without any signs of anything being broken), it was definitely the right choice.
We went out to a very quite sub-division near a school, working on paceline drills for much of the way - picking up the speed of the transition over time to make it a rolling paceline. By the end, I think we were really getting it down.
Not a bad bike selfie!
Champagne Toast for Paula's Birthday
Back at the house, a few of us worked on a jigsaw puzzle Paula had brought, and had dinner. While debating Allen's Challenge tactics (you'll hear more about that insanity tomorrow no doubt), Paula pulled out a small bottle of Champagne to share. It was her birthday yesterday and the coaches got her a small box of 4 very cute bottles. So we had a little toast to Paula - although the picture didn't turn out all that well unfortunately - it's a bit blurry. Thankfully we have 3 more bottles - so we can keep trying!
All in all, it was a great Day 2 of camp. The weather was particularly great - and the forecast is good for the rest of the week. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

LPC Florida Triathlon Camp - Starting off on the right foot (Days 0 and 1)

Hard to believe it's been 5 years since I first came to the LPC Florida Triathlon camp. Well, technically it's only been 4 years and a week, since my first camp was in March 2013. Every year, I've done a daily blog of my experience - and I am so glad I did because it really shows how much I've improved over the different years.

Looking back, there was the very first camp (I am posting the links to the March archive for each year, so start at the bottom and read up to get the posts in order) where I was completely out of my league but had a blast anyways (and didn't die!). I'd never been on a bike with clipless pedals, fell numerous times (going 0km/h) and pretty much needed a personal coach on the bike because I probably would've died otherwise.

In my second year, I wasn't quite a hazard on wheels (but I was still by far the worst rider) but I think I broke my bike distance record 3 times over the course of the week (crazy, right?).

In my third year, my bike group got lost what seemed like every day...but that led to my having a massive day to end the camp with a 19km run AND a 90km bike. I almost did the equivalent of an Ironman over 2 days when you include the swim workout. This was also the year I 'graduated' from the C group to the B group for biking - which was an amazing feat for me. I was (and am) still a terrible bike handler...but I was getting faster.

Then last year, we had what turned out to be an absolutely perfect week of training. It was probably my favourite year of camp -ever- (no doubt this year will be even better). I was a much better rider, was solidly in the B group on the bike and actually enjoyed all the rides immensely (the previous years were mostly me just being terrified and hoping not to die).

And so, I've made it safely to my fifth year camp-iversary. And I still love coming to camp and sharing the love of all things triathlon with friends old and new.  I wonder if anyone really cares about these blog posts given you really just need to read through any of the previous years to find out how awesome this camp is - and why you should come. But I personally want the record of what I do because these blogs show my incredible progress while coming to camp- and I expect to continue that progress many years to come (fingers crossed and knock on wood) because there is always something new to learn! It's nice to have this record to look back on!

Pre-Camp: Long run and short bike - with a new accomplishment

Today was Day 1 of camp. Although this year, I had a pre-camp workout day because Coach Mark gave me the option of doing my long ride in Florida or in Toronto before I left. Glad I picked Florida because work was insane and it got really cold the day I would've run. Here, I woke up  bright and early Saturday and was out the door for my 20k run by 8am (which is pretty much a miracle for me). The run itself was absolutely magnificent. I wandered around the resort, found some nice out and backs and just had a very smooth, even and nicely paced run...all without having breakfast!

Post-run: relaxing in the sun

Thank goodness I found these nuts. I was starving when I finished my run

In fact, I felt so good after the bike and chatting with Coach Mark, that I ended up doing the afternoon 'unofficial' group ride. I was a bit at a loss when I showed up to find the people biking were mostly the crazy fast guys. I was debating not riding after all, but Coach James and Coach Jack (who I interviewed for my blog back in 2015) confirmed the first 25km loop was going to be their easy pace and I'd probably be fine. Sure enough, the guys were wonderful and I had no problems riding at the back of the pace line (enjoying a very nice draft!) for 25km.

When we got back, the guys headed out to get more distance at speeds I can only dream of. I decided to take a little bit of time getting to know my new bike (this was just my second ride outside - and my first non 'just for fun' ride on it). I worked on my left U-turns (and failed dismally). But then for some reason, I decided to work on grabbing my water bottle from my bike cage...and much to my shock, I was able to get the bottle out and put it back in - without falling over, veering wildly or dying (priorities!). And then I did it again and a few more times!

After the bike
That's a huge accomplishment for me - and one I honestly didn't think I'd ever figure out. Sure, I was only riding like 5km/h at the time, but I will have to practice it again going faster when I don't have anyone near me (otherwise I'd be too nervous).

Saturday night, I made a rice with veggies dish for the potluck (on Sunday) and for my main meal for the week. It was a bit of a mess, but the final result turned out much better than I expected. Then I went to bed because I was exhausted.

Day 1: No Run, but a swim, exercises and a bike

This morning, we headed over to River Island - a wonderful 350m pool at Orange Lake Resort (apparently the largest resort in the world - or so I heard today). I love the lazy river and today was no exception.

Technically, the day started with a short run, but Coach Mark told me to skip that given I'd just run 20km the day before. I ended up walking with one of the other campers and taking some pictures instead.

When everyone got back from the short run, Coach Alex led us through a dynamic stretching routine which included a number of great exercises. Some new ones, and a few great variations on ones I did know with much better mobility focused exercises for the shoulders and hip flexors. It was great.

Exercises with Coach Alex

We then jumped into the Lazy River and did a couple of loops warm-up. Just finished my second loop in time to join the A swim group (made up mostly of people way faster than me, but thankfully a few my speed) for some practice turns in one section of the river. We worked with Coach Gabby first, then switched over to work with Coach James for some dolphin dives and drafting practice which was a lot of fun. Challenging, but fun.

Spent a little bit of time in the hot tub before getting a coffee at Starbucks and sitting out in the sun for a bit.

Coffee time!

We came back from the swim and ate lunch. Had plenty of time to relax for a bit before it was time to meet up for the short bike ride. After Coach James chatted a bit about the ride, we split into three groups. Coach Mark ran our B group through a safety checklist  and then we left pretty soon thereafter.

Pre-bike discussion and demos

Coach Mark and Coach Alex highlight how to draft

The bike ride was so different from yesterday despite being the same loop. It was insanely windy at times and got a bit challenging toward the end because of it. But this kind of ride is why I come to camp....I could really see my progress. While I was a bit nervous about the wind, I was also convinced it didn't matter and I'd be fine. I just tucked my head down as much as you can on a road bike and did my best. I got back to the camp house feeling pretty awesome, I must admit. I was tired, but I felt great about how I'd handled myself in the wind.

After the ride (and a shower), I sat down intending to do a bit of work on an article, but my brain was a bit fried. Decided to let it wait until tomorrow or Tuesday. It's not due until mid-week (and it's short), so I felt okay procrastinating about it. I am writing this blog instead of doing work - because apparently writing a blog isn't actual work. At least, not to me.

Tonight, we had our giant all Camp potluck at the LPC Camp House. My rice dish seemed to go over well, with only one spoonful left of a giant bowl of it at the end. Glad I kept a second giant bowl for myself so I can eat it all week.

Coach James talking about the camp at the potluck

Avid listeners to Coach James
At the potluck, Coach Mark gave me some hints on running a Beer Mile - mostly about the fact you can get 355ml cans. On the Thursday before camp started, I ran a Beer Mile. I admit, I had a heck of a time finding bottles - and the one I did find tasted like revolting grapefruit. Oops. Next time I need to be more prepared!

Now, I'm back in the Hose of Lido (the house I'm staying at this year) writing this blog. Need to stop soon because it'll be an early morning tomorrow to get out to the National Training Centre in Clearmont!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Long Overdue Hamilton Road 2 Hope Post

Here I am at the LPC Florida Triathlon Camp (my fifth year year). I want to write about today (Day 0) - but I realized that I really needed to say something about 2016 first - about my race at the Hamilton Road 2 Hope Marathon.

To be honest, it's been hard putting Hamilton (and 2016 as a whole) into words because it was a tough year training wise.

You see, I worked really hard all year - particularly leading up to Road 2 Hope. My goal at that race was to try for a BQ (a Boston Qualifier) time of under 3:40. I trained a lot. I did one run that was 38 km long. The problem was - most of the training was terrible. Heading into the race I wasn't feeling all that positive because practically every run I had was a mess.

At the time, I thought it was the weather. It was incredibly hot and humid last summer - especially humid. I went through 2 inhalers just trying not to die (that's an exaggeration, I promise) over the summer. My pace work was terrible.

But I still felt like I should be able to do a good race - even if I didn't have a BQ race. For once in my race career, race day was perfect for a run. It was mild, cool - and the course was downhill. I felt generally good, I had plenty of proven food (in this case, Maple Syrup Gels). I thought I was set up for a good day.

And then I couldn't run. Well, I ran, but it was like running through peanut butter. I managed a whole 10k before I fell apart. On the whopper of a downhill, I couldn't get my pace under 6 min kilometers. I faded even further as the race went on. By the end of the downhill, I realized I was really off - and so stopped looking at my watch. My only goal fell back to my simple standard which saves me when things go wrong: finish and finish smiling. I just wanted to run and enjoy what I could do - even if the day wasn't what I wanted.

I finished the race in something like 4:14 and change. To put this in perspective, I only ran 1 minute faster than I ran my very first marathon, which I ran with a stomach bug and only eating 2 shot blocks.

To say I was disappointed is putting it a bit mildly. I am sure a few people realized how I felt about the race, but mostly, I just felt utterly discouraged. I had no idea what was wrong. I swore off doing another marathon anytime soon.

It was my coach who figured it out. He suggested iron deficiency. Being far more observant of my training results, he was the one who noticed it wasn't -just- my run. He said it was my bike too - that workouts that should be relatively easy I was having issues with - and then, of course, the runs were abysmal.

So at the end of November, I started taking double doses of an iron supplement. I've been taking them religiously now for 4 months, but truth be told, I started to really notice a difference about a month after I started them. It's like I was wired compared to how I had felt.

Honestly, I didn't know how badly I felt until I started to feel good.

All of a sudden, I could do harder workouts. At Christmas, I unofficially broke my 5k PB on a treadmill because I felt good and was curious if I could. In January, I started harder bike workouts again - and could do them. I started speed work - and I could do them.

Don't get me wrong - I still have terrible workouts, particularly when I'm having girl troubles or am exhausted from work. But I no longer feel like my workouts for months have been relentlessly bad. When I have a bad workout - within a few days, I have a great one. It's far closer to what life should be like in my mind.

And so - writing about 2016 hasn't been a priority. It's hard to talk when things aren't going perfectly. It's much easier when you can write energetically about how awesome life is.

But hey, this isn't meant to be a lamentation post - just a retrospective. Truth be told, I learned a lot this year - and I did do some awesome stuff despite the training challenges.

One of those awesome things was backhandedly qualifying for the World Triathlon Championships (Olympic Distance) in Rotterdam next year at a race where there were more slots than people in my age group. I came in 7/8th - and they gave out 10 slots.

At that qualifying race (Ottawa Triathlon)...I had the best bike of my life by going 2km/h faster than I've ever done before in an Olympic Distance race -- on a rented carbon road bike. Sure, I didn't have great pre and post bike runs (it was turned into a duathlon because water quality tests hadn't been received yet), but I didn't care. My bike time made that race my big winner of 2016...and also led me to find my most important race for 2017 - because now I get to go compete in Rotterdam for Team Canada. How cool is that?

Yes, I may not have qualified for Boston - but I did qualify for something pretty cool...and it means I am going to be going to Europe in September because the race is a great excuse to do a bunch of travelling.

So while Hamilton was a mess, I can't really be too disappointed in the last year. It turned out to be a good one - just for different reasons than I was planning on.

And this year - I feel like a new person. I feel like all the hope that got a bit strangled last year is now back and raring to go.

Yet, I've also decided not to worry too much about this year. I want to have more fun - and simply see where I'm at after last year's tough year. I want to start fresh and see what happens.

And given I feel a lot better, I've also backed off swearing off marathons for a bit and signed up for the Martian Marathon (on Earth Day of all days...kind of hilarious) on April 22nd. I'm not really trying to BQ this time around - mostly because in 6 months, I'll get an extra 5 minutes on my BQ time. Instead, I'm just hoping to see where I'm at - and to hopefully get a PB at the distance (mine is 3:50:19 from Mississauga in 2014). Oh yes, and regardless of whatever else - I still want to finish and finish smiling.

That's probably not all I can say about 2016....but it's probably enough for you to get a sense of how it went. Oh, except for one of the best parts of the year - courtesy of my friend Karen.. I got to fly out to North Carolina to watch Karen finish Ironman North Carolina. Watching her at that race, and chasing her around to cheer for her for the last 21km of the run -  I had so much fun: probably the most I had that entire year. 

I left there remembering something a summer of heartbreaking training made very difficult.

I love to run.

Even when my speed isn't as fast as I want.

Even when it's humid.

Even when I feel like I'm running though peanut butter.

I love to run.

That day in Hamilton, I could have stopped. But I remembered that run in North Carolina - and I channeled that sense of joy into my race. I knew if I wasn't hurt, I could finish and finish smiling. So I focused on the love of running and forgot about my speed.

That's the big lesson I learned this year: do what you do because you love it. You can strive to get better. You can strive to hit goals (and I will BQ eventually!). But really, if you don't love what you do, why do it?