Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lesson learned!

I'm back into IM training - 1 week done, however many more to go until Ironman Louisville!!
Because I've been living in a hostel these last 2 weeks (trying to find a room to rent), I've had to do all my bike training indoors, GHETTO-style... i.e. on a stationary bike at my university's gym. Chris McCormack does this as well when he's traveling - he isn't elitist, he'll get on that stationary bike if that's all that is available to him (true fact: I did hear him say that in a video interview posted on, I think, I'm not saying I'm like him, all I am saying is that I AM JUST LIKE HIM. Almost.

Haha, but in all honesty, although I am back in the city (read: I hate my life), I am still going to strictly enforce the one training rule I have always had ---- BRING A CAMERA. In New Zealand (read: most beautiful place on earth), I brought my camera everywhere, and had fantastic images to boot. Here... biking, running and swimming in the big city, I won't exactly get those same epic shots. So, I abandoned my camera over the last week and I regretted it when I went for my long run. I ran in a really ugly area I had never run before, so why would I want to take a picture of that???

WELL... I missed photographing one of the most beautiful graffiti pieces I've ever seen (for my own reference: under a bridge on Moonee Ponds trail, just before I pulled off the trail to take a whiz behind a tree). I also saw a sign instructing humans to pick up after their dogs and instructing dogs to ruff, yip, bark. This was an official Victoria road/park sign, and I seriously approved. Nevertheless, I needed that photo and I was without my camera.

Lesson learned! Never go anywhere without my camera!! EVER!!

On a side note, training is going immensely well. I am far more focused and driven this time around. It's not that I wasn't focused last time, for my first iron-distance race. I was. But not for each and every single workout; I was more "long-term focused". This go around, I'm assigning a purpose to every workout, I'm maintaining my focus and executing everything to the absolute BEST of my ability. It's going splendidly, and I feel that it puts me in even more control of my progress than ever. And we all know that triathletes are individualistic control freaks, am I right???

Here are some photos. A friend and I are signing up for the Great Ocean Rd half-marathon, in May. I'm going to be doing plenty of events before then, but this is a race that I am really looking forward to. A weekend on the Great Ocean Rd, what could be better?? With views like this, I can't complain:

 It's a pretty big drop! 
 These are the Twelve Apostles. You can read more about them here.
I biked a large chunk of the Great Ocean Rd last semester, and
it was one of the more memorable moments of my life! I can't
wait to go back!!!

Finally, and here's the last tidbit of the day... I'm writing this post on my university campus on a Saturday afternoon. It's summertime and there is a couple getting their wedding photographs taken maybe 100m from where I am standing. Sure, our campus is beautiful, but if only they knew that a couple days before there were uni students chugging beer and barfing on that very same spot. Ah, university life sure is special. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Training begins again!

Since Challenge Wanaka (race report here), I've taken a 5 week break to rest, recover, and do whatever I felt like doing. Four of those 5 weeks were spent in New Zealand, in which I hiked my heart out exploring New Zealand's South Island. Mount Aspiring National Park is a thing of beauty. On one of my adventures, a 2-day hiking trip to Liverpool hut, I encountered cows, waterfalls, snow and mountains.
 Entering Mt Aspiring Nat'l Park
 These mischievous cows followed us for a good 2-3km. 
 Waterfalls at every turn. 

After 15k of hiking on our first day, we were faced with the remaining 2km of the hike to reach the hut. The signpost said it would take 2 hours to hike 2km. How could this be? 2km is nothing! Oh no, 2km when carrying heavy backpacks up a rock face at a 35% grade is... something!! What did I do? Well, I tried to hike/climb those 2kms as quickly as possible. I very quickly dropped my friends (they couldn't suck wheel well enough, apparently), and scrambled up in a respectable 1h10m. It was a hot day, and the entire time every pore of my body was dripping sweat. However, the hike up and above our hut was well worth it, I was treated to stunning views of the valley of the West Matukituki river.
Liverpool hut and the West Matukituki branch. 

But, all good things must come to an end and so my 3-month summer vacation in New Zealand did... I flew back into Melbourne on February 13th and since then I have been living in a big city yet again, staying in a hostel and scouring the city for a good place to live. I'm seriously battling feelings of utter crappiness because I truly detest living in a city. There are far too many cars, roads, buildings and unfriendly people. Nature and beauty is impossibly far away. I, however, have got to stick with it - last semester at Melbourne Uni! I've decided to appease myself by taking a 2-week vacation back to NZ mid-autumn (57 days left!), and I can also comfort myself by the fact that these next 4 months are the last 4 months of my entire life which will be spent in a city. I didn't know it, but I am a small-town girl. And not just any small town, I require such epic natural beauty (as can be found in NZ, and I'll see if Colorado and Utah can imbue some happiness in me as well when I visit those 2 states in June-July-August). 

In any case, I am back in Melbourne. And I'll be restarting IM training this very Saturday. I can't wait!! 
Here's the race schedule on a monthly basis:

19th: Restart training... and continue to train consistently until the end of the month
26th-27th: On the 26th there is a 145km cycle event on the Great Ocean Rd: 2XU Great Ocean & Otway Classic Ride. I will definitely be a part of that. On the 27th, also on the GOR, there will be a 10km trail run, part of the tri X series. I think I'll make a long weekend of it and spend some time by the ocean in the fall. It should be beautiful!!
The rest of the month is good ol' consistent training. 
From mid-April to beginning of May I will be flying over to NZ, renting a van and living in that as I travel the South Island. It'll be a run-focused 2+ weeks, giving me the opportunity to fall in love with NZ and its beautiful mountain trails even more than I already am. I'll also rent a mtn bike for half-day periods and do some mtn biking, as I won't be bringing my road bike overseas with me on such a short trip. I'll swim if I am in a town with a pool. 
15th: Great Ocean Rd half-marathon! It's a hilly course, but I am doing it with a running friend, and it's a gorgeous location, so it should be thoroughly epic. 
At the end of May, once classes are done, I am flying to Cairns and staying there for up to 2 weeks because... the true tri racing season begins now!!
5th: Challenge Cairns half-iron!! Yes, the first triathlon of the season is one I am really looking forward to. I am a huge fan of the Challenge family, they treat their athletes amazingly, and their races are impeccably organized, far more friendly and less corporate than the Ironman brand. It's also in a beautiful, hot location - THE GREAT BARRIER REEF. I'll grab this opportunity to snorkel in the most biodiverse ocean environment in the world!
6th-24th: Exam period. I hope to goodness I don't have an exam on the 6th because that would mean flying back right after the race... Not good. Here's hoping!!
On the 25th (or as soon as my exams are over), I'll fly back to Montreal, visit the family and... wait for it...
26th: My friend, Steph, will be running her first ultra!! She's doing a 50k from Beaconsfield to Mont Royal and I will be her support crew in the Mont Royal Summit Quest. I can't wait!!!! She's an inspiration. After a breast reduction several years ago, she started exercising consistently and fell in love with running. She gradually moved her way up in distance, from her first 5k, 10k, half-marathon up to marathon, which she completed a few months ago. This'll be her first ultra and I can't wait to be a part of it. 
I'll then take my car, now sitting at home, and do a cross-country trip into the United States. I'll find a place to live in a small town in gorgeous Colorado and continue to train. 
Train consistently. 
31st: Ironman 70.3 Calgary! Another incredibly scenic course. 
7th: One week after 70.3 Calgary, I will be doing Ironman 70.3 Boulder, Colorado. It'll be smashy, that's for sure!
28th: And, the cherry on the top of this international-sized cake is Ironman Louisville, Kentucky! Yep, second iron-distance of the year, and second one of my life. I truly cannot wait!!!! There's a lot to work on in training, I am very excited to tackle all the challenges... both mental and physical. Here's to a good season!! 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lake swimming!

I love my Garmin, I really do. The data files that I create with my 310xt when I swim/bike/run are one of the tools I use to communicate with my coach. However, given that I am in the off season in between two iron-distance races, I figured I would test myself informally to see how good of a "feel" I have for pacing, for time, and for HR.

Yesterday, I did a 5400m swim in the lake - a favourite swim of mine is out to a tiny island (Ruby Island) and back.

Ruby Island is a tiny island in Lake Wanaka. It's maybe a 1 minute walk from
one end of the island to the other end. The swim from the Wanaka lakefront to the 
island is approximately 2.6km (5.2km+ total), depending on how accurately you sight!

This summer I didn't swim in a pool, but trained solely in the lake. Thus, when I first
arrived in Wanaka in November, I rented out a kayak, and mapped some key sight points. 
I knew the true distances between each sight point, and thus had motivation to swim
as accurately as possible. 

Water conditions yesterday weren't ideal, but far better than the previous few weeks: water temperature is still on the cold side (15-16C), air temperature was a cool 10C and although there were no whitecaps, the lake wasn't exactly calm. Nevertheless, it is one of the last days that I have to spend in New Zealand before I return to Melbourne, so I grabbed at the opportunity for a nice, easy swim. On the way back from the island, I would tell myself to swim 5 minutes and then check my watch to see exactly how much time had passed. For the entire 50-odd minutes back to shore, I was consistently "right on the money". Each time I checked the watch, it was 5 minutes later, give or take 5-10 seconds. This might seem totally pointless and inane, but I feel that many of us, myself included, are losing our feel for time, pace and HR/effort. Without our Garmins, we just wouldn't know how far we ran, how hard we worked and for how long we were out there sweating. I like to think that I wouldn't totally fall apart but truth is, sometimes I'll be running at a pace I think is quite slow, then look down and see that the pace (and effort) is quite high. And vice versa.

I'd never trade in my Garmin, but I'd like to start looking at it less, simplifying my data fields and trying to align my inner self with what my outer self (i.e. my body) is actually doing.

Anyway, for the remainder of my off-season, I'll continue to hike boatloads, and swim when my legs aren't up for any more hiking. It's been working well for me so far, and given me the opportunity to see parts of New Zealand I'd never seen before while I was swim-bike-running. However, the fall semester begins soon (end of Feb), and I am absolutely dreading my return to Melbourne. I truly wish I could stay in this New Zealand paradise forever. However, time and scholarly commitments leave me unable to return until next January. Until then, I'll have to satisfy myself with what Melbourne has to offer!