Monday, June 20, 2011

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

As I thought might happen, I jumped back into running a bit too quickly after the onset of shin splints. I had taken a full 2 weeks off, and gradually eased into running, hopeful that "achy" wouldn't lead to pain. However, once in Cairns, I was in racing mode and when racing I'm processing so much that I didn't really process any pain. In the sprint tri I did, I didn't feel anything. In the high-intensity runs I did in the week leading up to the race... I did. I felt pain. But the half-iron had rolled around, and I just kind of "went", and yes I had a phenomenal run because my aerobic engine and endurance were big enough but...

But... when I returned to Melbourne, by first run was achy. My next run was HOLY SHIT PAIN. So, so, this needs more time. I'm going to give it more time. I'm taking a month off running, giving me 5 weeks easing back into running for my next race (Calgary 70.3 on July 31st). I'm ever so hopeful that things will be alright by then.

However, that's not the point of this post. That was just a quick update on my sad run life. Once I realized I couldn't run, instead of the planned track workout, I did circuit training along the track for about 1 hour. This included 100m lunges, 100m backwards lunges, 100m butt kicks, 100m high knees, rinse and repeat for 1 hour. No big deal, right? Well, holy mother of batman, I spent the next 5 days in the most intense quad and glute pain.

I felt as awkward as this fucker.

I haven't had such an extreme case of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) in a very very VERY long time. After training week in and week out, I am rarely sore. My body is tired, yes, oh yes, but I'm rarely sore. After races (from all-out 5k run races to iron-distance races), I'm not sore. Sometimes I feel like I've been run over by a truck, but the muscles aren't actually incapacitated. The joints ache, the heart is tired, I want to sleep, but nah... not sore.

The point is, I was surprisingly schooled!! I forgot what "sore" felt like. I used to be incredibly sore after soccer games because I would push myself so hard each game (and also get pushed by others because I was small), but that level of intensity in soccer games left after I returned to soccer after my knee surgery. So, it's been years since I felt proper, debilitating muscle soreness. I used to relish feeling muscle soreness because it made me feel as if I'd worked very hard but now... I try to avoid it.

After my quads and glutes were punched in the face last week, I felt bad ass. Then I realized I still had the rest of the week of training to get through. Crap!! I did have to shuffle things around so I just had swimming for at least the day after, meaning a lot was left for the end of the week. It all got done, but damn, I will try to avoid overdoing it like I did. Lunges all on their own are great (I do them regularly as part of my strength training routine), but the excessive number of "lunging" I did was unnecessary and probably counter-productive as they debilitated me for several days, thus reducing the quality of my training. Nevertheless, it was still good to "get schooled". I'm not invincible, my muscles will cry out if they've been overloaded.

Lastly, and probably most happily, the boys from my cycling club that I've gotten to know during the year I've been "studying" at the University of Melbourne presented me with a parting gift last night when I went out to dinner with them. I'm flying back to Canada on thursday, and it's likely I won't see them for at least a year, if ever!

Check out what they got me:

A MelbUni water bottle with messages
and signatures from them!

These guys know what I love in life, and if I could, all I'd do
is live in a beautiful place and train all day. 
Inside the water bottle were a great set of tire levers and a permanent marker for "when I have to start signing autographs". Ahahaha, the laughability of it all. But seriously. I'm 22, and if I keep working hard, who knows what I'll be capable of in 5-10 years' time. I went from not knowing how to swim to being a 1:32/100m (for 1500m) swimmer in just about 3 years' time. I can fucking do whatever I want, as long as I work my ASS off, enjoy the suffering (and the views) along the way. Speaking of awesome views, I'll be riding with a friend of mine tomorrow for one last hilly ride in Melbourne, and I'll have some GREAT pace booty views. High five!! 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Swimming over the Great Barrier Reef!

Triathlon has really become the conduit for me to explore the most beautiful places of the world, and I wouldn't have it any other way! I'd much prefer to see a natural landscape by strenuously exerting myself running over it, riding through it, swimming across it than by simply, boringly sight-seeing.

I made my way to Cairns and had a couple awesome events lined up in the week leading up to the inaugural Challenge Cairns and Cairns Half races.

- Sunday May 29: Coral Coast sprint triathlon
A huge blast! It was a last minute decision, but it showed me how well I can run if I simply go by feel. I would often feel constrained in races when running my HR because my legs were so willing to "go" when the HR was high. Or, in reverse, I would feel like death even if HR was low. This gave me mixed feelings and didn't let me judge the course and the distance all on my own. So, when I went out to have fun on this course, I just WENT. I ran my heart out, and had a killer run split. Not only that, it would be one of a few events that really gave me confidence that I could run (and run FAST) in blistering heat.

- Thursday June 2: Quiksilver Great Barrier Reef 3k swim
This was HUGE bang for your buck. 65$ to take a 45' catamaran trip from Cairns to a small island (Green Island), where not only did we race over the Great Barrier Reef, but we could then spend the rest of the day sightseeing on the island as well as getting a free snorkel, face mask and fins rental to explore the Great Barrier Reef. On what could arguably be one of the best days of my entire life thus far, I had a phenomenal swim (3rd in open female, 5th female overall) as endless gorgeous corals, fish, even turtles swam below me. I then spent the rest of the day relaxing with 2 new-found friends, an almost-pro named Markus and a good ol' American, now living in Alice Springs named Kevin. We snorkeled over the Great Barrier Reef and I could not have asked for better company. Here are some photos:
Most of the swimmers, either doing the 1.5k or 3k. Perfect
winter day in Cairns! Credit to the photographer of the event,
got off the Challenge Cairns Facebook page. 

Warming up, looking out at the buoys

View of the finish line from the water

Getting some hardware -- 3rd in open (5th OA). Not that it
was particularly chockers with females (13 in the 3k)

Opposite side of Green Island -- what a sight!

I am looooovin' this weather, this view!

Just some snorkeling! Beautiful sights, I was
constantly surprised with what I could find.

Big ass, sad-looking fish!

Parrot fish, gorgeous colors, tricky to photograph.

Ah! So beautiful!

This was just ecstasy to stumble upon. I couldn't fathom
seeing something so beautiful in the natural world.

Fluorescent dots, absolutely intricate!


Epitome of what the Great Barrier Reef looks like!
- Friday June 3: Cairns Post 5k Fun Run. I just went by feel and had the fastest 5k pace I've ever had -- not that that's particularly blistering. I am NOT known for my short-course speed. I don't really think I'm known for anything, other than willingness to suffer and be a general WORKHORSE in terms of mental and physical suffering, stamina and endurance. Nevertheless, a good 5k run.

- Sunday June 5: Cairns Half-iron! My 4th half, and my first half of the season. I had a phenomenal swim given I was swimming in the ocean (I am a freshwater gal, 100%). Just cruised along, kept the effort consistent. My ride was good in terms of effort and it is slowly, ever so slowly, getting better. I'm still falling behind and hope to make it up in the run, but with each passing race I am falling LESS behind in the female category. And, the biggest surprise of them all, I did not drop any spots in my age group coming off the bike! HUZZAH!!!! Onto the run and the first thing I noticed was that there was... total carnage. It was hot, the run course is out in the dead open with no shade, and it's a point-to-point so it was all against the wind. Thankfully, wind was minimal so it didn't impact our speed (unlike Challenge Wanaka, when we were faced with 70km/hr winds on both the bike and run... b-r-u-t-a-l day, but will forever be the most memorable day of my life). Anyway, I got onto the run, tried to get a grip on myself and my hydration, and especially on keeping COOL. And what can I say?? I frickin' MOTORED past people like they were standing still. I ended up passing hundreds of people, no one passed me but 2 people doing the half in teams and Macca himself going out on one of his marathon run loops (legendary!). It was the most well-executed race I have ever done. I managed the heat, I dumped 3 cups of ice down my tri suit every chance I could, I relished the buzz and focus the Coke was giving me, and I never once looked at HR, pace or time. I smiled, I ran people down, and I went entirely by feel. PERFECT execution, something I am especially proud of given the heat of the day. I can't afford buying race photos, but here's a water marked one of me running: all smiles!

Frickin' LOVING IT!!!!
So, finally, some stats:
5:41:05, 247/606 OA, 71/221 Women, 4/9 F18-24
SWIM: 31:47, 184/606 OA, 48/221 Women, 5/9 F18-24 (good enough for salt water swimming)
BIKE: 3:11:22, 408/606 OA, 122/221 Women, 5/9 F18-24 (yes, I know... one day I won't drop back on the bike, and then I will be a fuckin' unstoppable cannon)
RUN: 1:53:24, 132/606 OA, 32/221 Women, 3/9 F18-24 (bombing it at ~4:50-4:55/km pace, with full dead stops at all aid stations to keep cool, water, ice, cola... PERFECT run for where I'm at)

Next: finish exams in Melbourne, fly back to Montreal (visit family, friends for 4 days), drive through U.S.A. to set myself up in Colorado for a solid 4 week block of training (camp style: live, breathe, sleep triathlon -- can't wait!!), Calgary 70.3 July 31, Boulder 70.3 one week later, another 3 weeks of training, IM Louisville August 28. Shit gets awesome real quick!!!!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

2 weeks of holidays and racing in Cairns

Oh my, there is SO much to talk about! I'm in Cairns, QLD (that's an Australian state) primarily for the Challenge Cairns half-iron which I will be taking on in about 16 hours time. However, since then, I've done a sprint triathlon on last minute notice, swam under waterfalls, swam with dolphins, swam 3k over the Great Barrier Reef, run the fastest 5k I've ever run (which is still at a pitiful 4:32/km pace... damn it, when will I find some short-course SPEED??), and biked with the ocean on one side and rainforest on the other. Cairns is a special place, and being the inaugural Challenge Cairns event, it's interesting to see how the town is taking the week-long string of activities. In general, I'd say they are LOVING IT, but it is tropical farming territory as well and I can definitely sense a bit of farmers/truck drivers getting a bit gripey about all the aero cyclists on the road. The roads here are tight, and there's not always as much room as you'd like.

All in all, however, I think in a few years' time, when Challenge has sort of refined itself a bit here in Cairns, this will be an even more spectacular event that it is in its first year!! I've participated in almost all the events, I've met absolutely FABULOUS people, yesterday I met Chris McCormack (MACCA) himself, and then spent my taper time reading his book "I'm Here To Win". I could talk at length about my perceptions of him as a person and as an athlete, but I'll leave it at this: this guy took the mental side of the sport, the "I'm Here To WIN" aggressiveness the sport was lacking and brought it to the forefront. I'd like to see if, in a few years' time, when the women's field is deeper, if the same thing will happen there. I think it'd be good for the sport, and give it far more character. I don't want mean athletes, I want outwardly competitive athletes. I don't think we have that just yet in the women's field. Everyone is either terrified of Chrissie or simply too nice to make pro women triathlon a bit rough and tumble.

Anyway, here are some shots of Cairns and tropical north Queensland:

There are many waterparks for kids along the Cairns Esplanade.
Summers are stinkin' hot, and winters are high 28C and low 21C -
warm by anyone's standards!! 
Riding the bike course of the half-iron a week before the race.
It's a beautiful one, that's for sure!

This is where I saw wild dolphins after sunrise.
I jumped into my bathers, swam out to them... I
swam with wild dolphins! One of the highlights of
this trip, FOR SURE!

Waterfalls are absolutely everywhere inland, in
the heart of the tropics! Some you can swim to,
such as this one!

This same waterfall, but with a bit more perspective.
That's a nice German guy in the right hand corner. 

Swimming in a volcanic crater lake inland, in truly the heart
of the rainforest. Gorgeous!

Lake Eacham, with picturesque clouds reflected off its surface!

Me and Macca - I asked for a cheesy thumbs up shot and
I got one! I was surprised by how much he looked like a
young skater boy. But, I mean, he's 37 and thus 15 years
older than me. 

His book... which I read in its entirety that very
same day (what? I'm in taper mode! I've got nothing
else to do but lay on the beach in the shade and read!)

Boom baby. 
I think I'll save my racing adventures and my experience swimming 3k over the Great Barrier Reef for another post, probably when I return back to dreary Melbourne! Until then, I'll be resting for another 16 or so hours, and racing yet another half-iron! Cairns Half, HERE I COME!!!!! (Here's 100% hoping that the shin splints don't act up. I haven't run a "long run" in about 5 weeks' time)