Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pikes Peak and COUNTRY MUSIC BABY

So, given my shin splint tenderness, one of the things my coach has me doing is running less (duh), and hiking more. I'm not worried about IM Louisville's run. It's flat, which suits me, it'll be hot as fuck (which doesn't suit me... but suits everyone else LESS because I'm skinny and can dissipate heat awesomely!), and it's not like I need huge amounts of top end speed. Top end speed? I don't even know what that is at this point.

Anyway, on one of our hiking adventures, my coach, his wife and I hiked up The Incline starting in Manitou Springs (a 1 mile set of stairs that is at like a 40% grade?), then hiked to the top of Pikes Peak, where I got nauseous from the altitude, then hiked back down. Once back at Barr Camp (with ~10k to go), I realized it would take another 2 hours to hike down, so I was like FUCK THIS, it's downhill, LET'S RUN!!!! So we ran the last 5miles back into Manitou Springs and ate a shit load of awesome vegetables and REAL FOOD. I love sugar during training but damn, I was craving proper, nutritious food. Oddly enough, all the regular training/energy products I use (Powerbar, Gu, Clif etc) were not doing me any favors in the high altitude stuff -- from 10,000 to 14,110ft. However, I thankfully encountered some dude also struggling and he had the common sense to bring AWESOME SUGARS like Skittles and M&Ms. He gave me a bunch of bags of candy and I had a skittle or two as I hiked, just to keep myself distracted from the vomitey feeling I had going on. He was a total life saver (thanks Taylor, you're the best!!!)

So, why did I spend 10-12 hours hiking after a big week of training? I don't think my leg (left leg, shin splints) could handle the long 2.5-3hr runs in training, and I do need SOME practice being on my feet for a fuck load of time... thus the hiking. Also... pretty pictures, because that's why you're here:

Early morning start...

The Incline! Sweating profusely at 6am.

There was a race going on from Manitou Springs to Barr
Camp -- so cool to have a distraction and to see runners of
all levels running up and down the mountain. 


I was feeling pretty nauseous at this point (12,000ft). 


The hike itself is easy. The altitude is not! I'd
only been at 7000ft (CO Springs) for 2 weeks.
By 10,000 ft or so, I was starting to move
verrrrry slowly. Rough. The expression says
it all.  

At the top, yay! My first 14er (14,110ft)

Above the treeline. 
Oh, and I've developed this penchant for country music -- Americans and Western Canadians have awesome country stations!!! Some current tunes, a playlist:
  1. George Strait - Here For A Good Time
  2. Alan Jackson - Small Town Southern Man
  3. Chris Young - Tomorrow
  4. Tim McGraw & Gwyneth Paltrow - Me and Tennessee
  5. Jake Owen - Barefoot Blue Jean Night
  6. Kenny Chesney ft Grace Potter - You and Tequila
  7. Taylor Swift - Sparks Fly
  8. Lady Antebellum - Just a Kiss
  9. Tim McGraw ft Faith Hill - It's Your Love
  10. Zac Brown Band ft Jimmy Buffett - Knee Deep
  11. Garrett Hedlund - Chances Are
  12. Carrie Underwood - Cowboy Casanova
  13. Dave Barnes - God Gave Me You
  14. Luke Bryan - Country Girl (Shake It For Me)
  15. Scotty McCreery - I Love You This Big
That's all folks, racing Calgary 70.3 in 2 days, can't WAIT!!!!! Super stoked about this race! Really relaxed about it, too.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Jackson Hole, WY

Okay, so after all the exploring and adventures in Colorado over the last month (I really should post on this stuff, but by the time I think about it, I've already moved on and it seems silly to post about something that was a while back)... anyway, after Colorado I started driving north back towards Canada because I am racing Calgary 70.3 this weekend. And by "racing" I mean swim/bike racing and then just hanging on for the run because my run training has been almost non-existent b/c of the shin splints. Who knows what is happening there.

ANYWAY... on the drive up to Calgary, one of the guys at a Boulder bike shop (University Bicycles, totally recommend them, they treated me well) suggested I drive through the west side of Wyoming instead of the more direct, eastern route. He's from Jackson Hole, WY. Let me just say... HOLY CRAP, I totally fell in love with this place and can't wait to return. Wyoming is off of most people's radar (where is it, again?) and I didn't really know it for anything other than a state I'd forget if I had to name all the United States.

Nevertheless, I totally fell in love and can't wait to spend the last few weeks training before IMKY in Jackson. Some photos, of course:

On a windy ride

Camping in Teton National Forest. 
I can't wait to explore the town proper, see what it has to offer. 
Now... it's time to get ready for Calgary 70.3, here's hoping I still remember how to run!!!! If you want to track me, I'm in the 18-24 F age group (which is probably small, it usually is). Not sure what my bib number is but my first name is unmistakeable: Krystyna. 

Will report back on that once I can!! :D

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Early morning swims... just the best!

So, you'd think this would be a blog about triathlons. It is. Mainly, however, it's about pretty natural landscapes. 

Sun rise over the pool before my masters swim begins.

Pristine. Shot of the pool before everyone shows up. Taken
just shy of 6 am this morning. 
Awwww yeah.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Altitude acclimatization, cuss words included

Okay, so apparently you don't really feel the effects of living at altitude within the first 36 hours or so of arriving, which was when I wrote my last post stating that I "haven't really felt any difference living at altitude".

Well, holy crap let me take that back right now!!!!
The body goes through a couple physiological changes in the days and then weeks after arrival at high altitude. First, because of the pressure gradient difference between my lungs and the air from sea level to ~1900m (which is where I live), the oxygen that I breathe in simply does not diffuse as easily into my lungs, and similarly from my lungs into the hemaglobin cells in my blood. What happens? High resting heart rate. CHECK.

My RHR, which usually is somewhere between 49-53, depending on how tired I am, jumped to 62-64. Holy crap!

Secondly, after that initial 36hr "grace period", the high altitude punches you in the heart, the lungs, and the brain! While riding and running on those first few days, my HR was skyrocketing, but more than that, my muscles felt like jelly and I just couldn't GIVE any huge efforts. Swimming has been the worst (and it's my favourite of the 3 sports). I usually breathe every 3 strokes and just before the flip turn every 5. Just don't do that here!!! The coach and the swimmers I've joined for masters here in Colorado Springs were amazed that I was trying to keep that up. BREATHE EVERY 2, apparently. Well, that feels pretty wuss (and I don't want to become uneven), so I am still breathing every 3 but every so often I breathe every 2 just so my brain doesn't feel like it's going to explode and I don't feel like I am about to go into 1900s-esque fainting fits.

Finally, I'm at the stage where the heart is starting to quiet down and stabilize in terms of heart rate (but it will always be higher at elevation, both resting and at work). Now, despite a low heart rate while spinning on a bike, I seem to only get as much oxygen to my lungs as you would breathing through a straw. A very thin straw. I'm winded at 136bpm.

It's been a fantastically interesting process so far, and thank goodness for the little things...

  • I'm house-sitting for my coach, and he's got an AMAZING selection of triathlon, run, bike, swim-related books. Check out this bookshelf:
I'm currently reading "The Great Swim" by Gavin
Mortimer. It's the story of how a couple females in
the 1920s challenged to swim the English Channel
and pretty much revolutionized women in sport.  
  • Food in the United States is cheap, so I'm making fabulous, healthy, anti-oxidant rich salads and other yummy food. 
On the left, "Spicy Southwest Salad", on the right "Mango
Salad" and on the shelf above "Cucumber Dill Salad". 
I should make a post in the future that includes some recipes, but for now... I won't. This post is probably long enough as it is.

  • Lastly, despite the acclimatization to altitude, it's pretty darn beautiful here. More photos, more pretty stuff. 
To the east and north of Colorado Springs are more open
roads. They are either very gently rolling or false flats.
Some are set in open fields, others are more protected in the
so-called "Black Forest". 

Palmer Park, a local excellent place for short trail runs. 

Up a bit higher above CO Springs (at approx 2300m), on the
Palmer Red Rock trail. 

This is a tree.

I found a notebook at the top of a climb in which you
could contribute and share whatever you felt like sharing.
It was posted there atop of a small garden, in memory of
someone's mother that had passed away. 

Next up: ??? who knows!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Living at high altitude

So, after 4 days of driving (and 1 day of riding the IMKY bike course), I've made it to Colorado Springs, CO. This city is at 1839m asl (6035ft), and is thus categorized as a "high altitude" city.
  • High altitude = 1500-3500m (4900-11500 ft)
  • Very high altitude = 3500-5500m (11500-18000 ft)
  • Extreme altitude = above 5500m (18000 ft)
(Source: Wikipedia, of course)

I had no idea what to expect in terms of how my body would react to living at high altitude, and especially how it would react to training at high altitude. So far? Well, I haven't really noticed anything at all. I've been riding, up to 2133m, and I still didn't notice anything shocking. If I were really looking, I'd say *perhaps* the heart is working a tiny bit harder to get up the hills... but that's something like 2-3bpm higher than expected. And maybe I'm just imagining it? I'm not sure.

Nevertheless, it feels damn good to be here!! I'm a bit afraid of how big Colorado Springs is (approx 416,000 people). Then again, any town or city that is not walkable from one end to the other I find enormous. It, however, is spectacular here. I'm house-sitting for my coach while he is away, then I am going to Estes Park, Colorado, where I am couchsurfing at a fabulous young guy's place for about 2 weeks. Now, a small town of approx 4000 people... that I can handle!

Here are some shots of Colorado Springs so far:

Look at how CRISP and BEAUTIFUL everything looks!
The roads were quiet and the vegetation smelled AMAZING!

Basically: AWESOME. Hilly riding, I love it. 

It was a quiet morning and I cycled up to a deer on the road.
Took a photo of her when she'd moved off to eat some grass. 

At the top of Gold Camp Rd. Don't ask me the names of those
reservoirs... I do not know... I chatted with some cyclists at the
top, but they were telling me sooooo many things that I remember
just a small percentage of the info!!
 Next up: this week I have one run very tentatively scheduled. After a full 3 week break, and about 6 weeks of inconsistent run training, let's see if these shin splints are still around.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

On the road again...

Since my last post on June 20th, I've finished my exams on minimal studying, flew from Melbourne back to Montreal, visited home for a few days, and took to the road again! Phew!

I'm doing the long drive from Montreal to Colorado Springs. The first day from Montreal to Cleveland was pretty uneventful. It's past Cleveland where I encountered the real heart and soul of America. I'd forgotten what the United States was like, and how AMERICAN Americans are (and I say this in the kindest way possible). Their accents are bizarre, their shops are massive, their highways are busy yet still somehow smoothly flowing, and the food... by god... the food in grocery stores is so cheap. As is their petrol. I nearly cried when I saw I had to pay 52c/lb for bananas, or 4$ for 2 cartons of blueberries. In Australia, I'd be paying 13-17$/kilo for bananas because Cyclone Yasi destroyed 75% of the banana crops in Oz.

I did drive through Louisville, spent one afternoon checking out the run course and transition, and another day riding the 180k bike course. I wish I could have taken more pictures, but my recon of the IMKY course can be summed up thusly:


- Smooth smooth roads to ride on, constantly rolling terrain. I need to practice minimizing loss in momentum going up and down these bad boys. Quite different from the longer climbs I am used to.
- It's hot and humid as all hell here, I'll need to manage that carefully. I'm thinking up strategies to keep myself hydrated and cool on the bike so that I'm in an optimal position for the marathon. This includes white arm coolers, grabbing an extra water bottle at each aid station to dump on myself, staying on top of my nutrition and hydration (well, duh), and minimizing the impact of the heat throughout the day, all while not gear mashing too much... which I have a tendency to do over "the small climbs"... Well, they are ALL small climbs, and all that gear mashing, out of saddle stuff are unnecessary power spikes.
- The run course is going to be electric, and definitely a marathon of attrition. I know it's going to be impossibly hot and humid (think 31-35C, with high humidity and relentless sun) so I've got to come off the bike almost rested and fresh, because here's where "taking it easy" on the bike will pay huge dividends on the run. I'm small and can thankfully manage the heat better than most while running, but it will still be a major sufferfest. I also have no idea where my running is. I haven't run in just about 3 weeks, and will start slowly again next week to see where my shin splints are at. This would worry me, but at one point marathon IM's are not about speed but about massive overall endurance, and mental strength. I've got both, just need to get the body used to some pounding a little bit. A combination of long hiking days (as a substitute for some of the long runs I won't be able to jump back into... to prevent shin splint reoccurence), and shorter 20k runs will do the trick, I think.

Until I reach Colorado Springs and the real beauty of THE ROCKIES begins, here are some shots of America so far... Some of the signs I've encountered have been truly bizarre.

Florence, y'all!!

Here's one of a entire flock of artsy birds by the waterfront
in Louisville, KY. For some reason, I thought they were
hilarious?

Quiet, smooth KY roads... beautiful! Now... to get used to riding
and driving on the wrong side of the street all over again!

LOVE GOD
REPENT
... wait, what?

My heart belongs to a truck driver! 
I should reach Colorado Springs tomorrow, which is where I'll stay for 2-3 weeks before I head north in Calgary for my second half-iron of the season. Then... I'll return to Colorado for another half-iron a week later (LOL)... and then figure out where to base myself for the remaining 3 weeks before Louisville. My, time flies!