Wednesday, September 30, 2009


The surprise I was holding back on is that I am leaving for China in less than 2 weeks! Alex is going there on business, so I'm tagging along. In total we'll spend close to 5 weeks in China, starting in Shanghai where his business engagements are. We'll have about a week and a half after his business is complete to tour the country until we leave from Beijing.

I'm hoping to train a lot while he's busy at work so you'll definitively be along for the journey. Hopefully I can find some nice running routes even if Shanghai may not be the best place for a runner with all the traffic. If you are interested in following me with my non training activities, I've set up a new blog: Buzzing In Shanghai.

Lots of preparation to do, so that explains my lack of training this week. I have a charity race tomorrow where I'm hoping to make my department proud in a 4 way contest for the title of the healthiest department (I think that's what the bragging right is called!)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Training without a goal

It feels kinda weird to train without a definitive goal in mind. I've always had a race coming up helping me push myself to the limit. Whenever I'd feel a bit down, I'd think of myself crossing the finish line and meeting my goal. That always boosted my energy levels and allowed me to push just a bit harder. While I'm pretty sure that my next race will be a marathon, I still haven't decided for sure or set a time goal. Watching Marlene redeem herself tomorrow and rip the STWM apart will surely push me over the edge. Good luck Marlene!

Training this week was pretty easy. On Thursday, I was planning a 10k at lunch, however the schedule quickly filled up. I still managed to get out for a nice 5k in which I did a bit of stairwork (5 repeats of 27 stairs, not bad!)
I think I may have started out a bit too fast with km times of 4:02, 4:26, 4:35, 5:15 and 5:18.

Then on Friday I biked to work. It was really cold again so I layered up. I just can't seem to go very fast with all those layers. My times were 1:03 and 56m. I'm thinking that I will be lucky if I ride once or twice more this year. My schedule over the next 2 weeks is incredibly busy and then I have a surprise for everyone that will definitively make commuting to work impossible for the following 5 weeks (stay tuned!).

I think I had a good riding season this year. It was definitively different than last year's especially since I was trying to throw in some short distance running and lots of swimming in the mix. My training plan for the winter is to keep swimming, hopefully at least once a week and increase the running to meet a marathon objective that remains to be set and do some biking on the trainer when I need to catch up with television or if the weather is truly horrible.

In the mix on Friday was Vatos Loco's Welcome 2 da barrio and Vibrasphere's Echo.Link

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Super Swim

After more than 2 weeks without swimming, I wasn't sure what to expect today. I thought the swim would be though and slow. On the contrary, I was pleasantly surprised. Since I don't seem to find the time to go as often as before, I changed my sets to be a bit longer, hopefully that will come out to the same in the end.

So my new sets of 900m took me about 16 and 20 minutes. Very impressive! I had a cool-down of 270m of breast stroke in there as well. I'm very satisfied. The goal over the winter is to move to sets of 1500m so I can be ready next year if I want to move on to Olympic triathlon distance.

I feel really good right now. I don't think I ever got this nice of an endorphin buzz from swimming before.

Monday, September 21, 2009

How did I ever do this?

I was getting ready to bike in to work this morning when I looked at the weather report: 5 degrees with mist! It was a cold commute for sure. The whole way I was thinking how crazy I must have been last year to ride in until the 12th of November! It's not even October yet and I'm already willing to hang the hat until warmer weather! My motivation last year was a little bit higher due to the bad bus service my new community was receiving. The bus service is much better this year so maybe I'll cave in earlier and just call it a season when Autumn is here tomorrow ;)

The commutes were reasonable today at 1h01m each. It takes a while to dress up with so many layers and I just can't seem to get the kind of speeds I used to get with all the layers and the cold all around. Maybe the gears need a special cold weather grease? Anyways, the weather forecast for the remainder of the week is predicting warmer temperatures so I think I have a few more rides to work in store before I put the bike in storage.

In the mix today is the awesome Lost Finger's Rendez-Vous Rose and Yann Perreau's Un serpent sous les fleurs.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Giving Back

Not competing in this year's army run gave me an opportunity to experience the event from another point of view: that of a volunteer. Life as a volunteer at a race is quite different. While I did have to wakeup even earlier than if I was racing (shift started at 6:30am), I did sleep much better without the excitement/anxiety of an upcoming race.

My day started with a short run (~3.5km) to the bus stop, since local buses don't run on weekends where I live, especially that early on Sundays. I got to the bus stop just in time for the first bus of the day. Woohoo.

When I got to the site, I was surprised to see so many volunteers out there already. The sweat check was run by the same person who runs the sweat check for the Ottawa race weekend, a much bigger event, so we knew we were in good hands. The volunteer crew consisted mostly of high school students earning their community credits under the Ontario school system. Some were really productive and engaged, while some other were clearly there just to get easy credits. One of the kid there was really impressive always getting bags before even being asked and moving so quickly nobody could keep track of him. Good job! Another young girl was interested in studying kinesiology and thought the event was really good to get closer to her interests.
Our tent was pretty big and divided into two areas, one for the 5km where I worked in the first half of the shift and another one for the half marathon where everyone worked to retrieve bags after the 5k was all done since there were so many of them:
The numbering system worked well enough even if it wasn't always perfect. To my knowledge we didn't lose a bag and the most it took us to locate one must have been about a minute with an average time of under 15 seconds.

Experiencing the event from this perspective was awesome. It felt almost as good as competing. Seeing all those runners happy and beaming from their performance or consoling the ones that didn't do as well as they wanted was quite an experience. I don't think I ever met so many runners in a day. I met colleagues (current and former), friends, family of friends, even the guy that sold me my last pair of shoes. Some of the girls working beside me thought I knew everyone until I pointed out that I was simply reading their names from their bib :)

Thanks to all the athletes that were nice and thankful for our work and congratulations to everyone for their amazing performances!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Inspired by the Mels

I got out of bed today and saw that it was a beautiful sunny day. I knew I had to go for a run. Then as I woke up a bit more and checked on my emails, I saw the weather report: 6 degrees! BRRRrrrr. This would be one cold training session this early in the fall. I proceeded to stall and procrastinate in the hopes that I would miss my window of opportunity to run and move on with the remainder of the day. Fortunately, it wasn't so. You can tell I'm obsessed about Endorphins and how to release them when even my procrastination is workout related. My wasting time online consisted of checking up on Ray's 310xt review and ShirleyPerly's crazy goal of 2 irons in 2 weeks among other blogs and articles I follow.

I decided to take some inspiration from the two Mels I follow.

Mel 2nd chances is an amazing athlete that recovered from a brain surgery and almost completed a marathon. Now she is into Triathlons. In recent days, her son Terron has lost his dad and yet he will still attempt his first Triathlon and dedicate it to his father. I am amazed and touched. Best of luck to Terron and my thoughts to the wonderful mom, staying strong during these trying times! Goosebumps and everything when I think of you Mel!

The other Mel that inspired me is all the way in Australia. She describes herself as trying to run, however she got past the trying and is now quite succesful with her first 6km completed earlier this week. Good work Mel! Reading about her running beginnings makes me think back of when I started running a few years ago and how exciting it was. It still is quite exciting but in a different way now. I get excited about better times and new gear, where when I first started I was happy just finishing a run. To honor Mel, I made my workout today a 6km run! :)

When I got out what hit me right away is how chilly the air was. Fortunately the sun was really strong and warm so it compensated somewhat. After stretching and making sure I was ready to go, I turned on the tunes and hit the pavement at what I expected would be an easy 5m/km pace. The music didn't agree with that and Oforia's Delirious got me pumped and completely out of my comfort range. I amazed myself at how long I could sustain the improvised tempo run. Look at all that beautiful green on the heatmap from RunSaturday:
I kept the engines on full steam until the 5km mark and then allowed myself a little bit a a breather in the last stretch (you can see it in blue on the map, I love this thing!). My 5km time was 21:30, the breakdown for each km:
  • 4:12
  • 4:21
  • 4:10
  • 4:19
  • 4:27
  • 5:05
It's always nice to realize that your training has taken you further than you imagined. Thanks for the inspiration everyone :)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Colder and Darker

I rode to work twice this week. Both commutes were pretty uninspiring at about an hour for each leg. It's getting harder and harder to get motivated with the colder weather moving in, I have to plan more time to get dressed and the extra clothing does add a certain amount of discomfort while riding.

While I do love to sit and watch a sunrise, starting out in the dark and having the sun rise while I am riding is not really as romantic as it sounds :)

Yesterday, I asked myself why I was still doing this, riding from a distance most would consider a fair drive in their cars. Today, as I sit in the bus, I wish I had ignored the empty threat of rain and chosen the bike instead of the sleepy bus.

Okay, my whine is over ;) For those interested I'll be volunteering at the sweat check for the army run. Come and say hi, I'll be wearing my red Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon shirt from last year's race.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

5k + Terry Fox Run

Sunday morning runs are my favorite. Even after a somewhat late night yesterday at a good friend's wedding, I managed to get up early (with an alarm on Sunday, that's how much I wanted it!). Today is special because I wanted to participate in the Terry Fox Run. Terry Fox was such an inspirational athlete and his dedication to raising money for cancer research resonates with me since quite a few of my loved ones have been affected by cancer.

The day began with a tempo 5k run to get to the start line:
I did pretty well with a total time of 22:37 with km times of:
  • 4:21
  • 4:38
  • 4:40
  • 4:26
  • 4:31
The volunteers at the race looked at me funny getting to the race already hot and sweaty. They were very friendly and I was impressed by the amount of people showing up, hopefully we raised lots of money for research. The run itself was 10km and even if it was only for charity, I still enjoyed reeling in runners ahead of my and passing them one by one. I didn't even go that fast with a time of 51:13. I went home instead of onward to the finish line but the distance of 10km checks up. The knee is a bit sore today after a few months of not complaining, but that's nothing compared to the adversity that Terry faced as he ran across Canada.

Thanks Terry for the inspiration, the marathon of hope lives on.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What's next?

What's next? Being without a goal when I train is refreshingly weird. I took my bike to work on 3 days this week (nothing exciting, about 1 hour each time) and it was quite refreshing to be riding just for fun. Leisurely riding along reconnected me with why I love it so much. Not having to worry about times and effort lifted a big weight off my shoulders and let me concentrate on enjoying the moment for what it is, instead of pushing harder and harder.

That being said, I need a new goal. I don't remember the last time I was training with no goal in mind. I know that my next race is a running race. I know I will run in the Ottawa race weekend next year but I have to wait until the sponsor is announced before I decide which distance since I pledged to run the full marathon if Rogers decides to be the title sponsor!! And I want something a bit sooner... Does anyone know of any fun events in Ontario/Quebec between late November and March?
One option is the Winterman. That event has always puzzled me, a full marathon in the middle of winter. Should be fun. Then I found out that the marathon course is an out and back course. I hate out and back courses. Not only that but it is only 5km, which you repeat 8 times for the full marathon. I don't think I have the mental stamina to run the same 2.5km stretch 16 times.

Another fun option would be a race somewhere warm. Something like the Arizona Rock and Roll Marathon could be fun. I even found a Caribbean cruise with a running twist where you can share the experience with famous runners like Bart Yasso.

I don't know why I'm focusing on marathon courses since I haven't decided for sure that I want another crack at the distance. I'm pretty sure most of these races feature shorter distances such as the HM or 10k.

What I know for sure is that I will be going to the Terry Fox Run in Kanata this Sunday and that I gave my name to volunteer for the Army Run on the 20th but I am still awaiting confirmation.

It's funny that I wrote most of this post this morning but had to leave it in draft when I ran out of time. Then just before I got off work, I received an email from a colleague about a 5k race for Charity on October 1st. I guess that is my new goal. The race is a friendly just for fun (and charity!) contest between a few government departments. I hope I can make my department proud!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I am a triathlete!

It's official now! I am a triathlete! I have new respect for people that do this all the time, it's hard stuff!! I think I rocked my first race by meeting both my goal of 1h45 (8s over!) and also beating my friend that was also racing to the finish line by 21 seconds! It may sound like an exciting close call but due to the staggering at the beginning of the race, I actually had to wait 5 minutes to find out!!!
So let's start from the beginning. We got up at 5:30am and started packing up. After breakfast, I worked on my nutrition plan, mixing a heavy sports drink for the bike part and a lighter one for the run (just how I like it :). I also got a bottle with water for my spare on the bike in case I get really thirsty and loaded my running belt with a gel pack in case I needed a boost. We packed the bike and all my bags in the van and left in somewhat of a hurry, not knowing how much time I would need to get my transition zone prepared and do the body marking.

This is where I unknowingly took a cue from Judi and forgot a whole bunch of stuff at home. About 20 minutes into the drive, I realized that I did not pack my swimming goggles. It's funny because I actually woke up during the night, knowing that I forgot, but too lazy to get out of bed to pack them in the bag. I'll remember for sure I thought in the wee hours of the night. After rationalizing that at 7am on a Saturday morning, all stores were closed and that turning back would definitively make me late for the race, I decided to try my luck with the on site vendors. That worked out quite well since I got a pair of [probably overprice] goggles that I was told are the best non fogging goggles in the business. When it came time to unpack the bike, I looked and saw something missing.... My water bottles!! Shock! Horror!! They stayed in the kitchen with my running belt. I had brought a couple of bottles of Powerade for after the race so that would have to do for me. The vendors again saved me where I got 2 new bottles for my bike to hold said Powerade for a dollar each! I set up my transition zone a few times, practicing/simulating what I would do and make sure everything I needed was easily accessible and in the right order.
It's too bad I don't get the transition time from the chip because I think I did fairly well and I am pretty proud of my setup, especially for a first timer.

Next up was body marking which was pretty easy since there were lots of black markers and Alex was happy to use indelible ink on me :) We then headed to the beach after a quick stop to the washroom. I was really relieved that the water wasn't as cold as I had feared. Relative to the chilly morning air, the water was quite comfortable. I tried to listen to the instructions but I couldn't make sense of them, it sounded so complicated. What had I got myself into? I got the important bits from other participants and was determined to follow them since they seemed to know where they were going. Note to organizers: Just tell me in plain language what to do, no need to spend five minutes on it. Run into the water, swim to buoy A, turn around and head to buoy B, then buoy C and come back to the beach. It was actually pretty simple once you got into the water.
I was now ready to start my adventure. Just in time for the countdown:5, 4, 3, 2, 1. I did nothing at 1. I waited for everyone else to get their stuff over with and followed them into the water thinking I would be one of the slowest swimmers anyways. After a few seconds of being a deer in the headlight, and asking myself why I am doing this, I jumped in. Ran as far as I could and then settled into a breast stroke. The journey to the first buoy was chaotic, everyone seeking their place and paddling over each other. After the first buoy, things weren't getting much better. I even swam backstroke for a bit trying to get my bearings. Looking around, I wasn't the only lost soul.

As the crowd thinned up a bit, I finally got into a groove and started my crawl. I think I was pretty fast, judging by my breathing, I would say I never pushed that hard while in the pool. When I reached buoy 2, there was ample room to swim around unencumbered. I started heading to buoy 3 and I had such confidence at that point that I didn't even slow down to look where I was going. OOPS! I was zigzagging and almost collided with the second wave of swimmers. I adjusted my trajectory and got back into the groove only to look out of the water and realize I had overshot and was swimming away from the course towards the middle of the bay! I got back on the right trajectory and having learned from my mistake, looked out every 30 seconds or so to ensure I was going where I was supposed to. I reached buoy 3 and turned heading towards the beach. Even then, I was a bit too much to the left of the beach but I made it in time to see Alex, my mom and her boyfriend cheering for me! What a wonderful sight out of the water. It gave me the boost I needed to run the 500m or so to the transition zone.
Open water swimming is quite different from the pool. I think it's faster and there's currents you have to be mindful of. There's also no markings or rope to lead you in a straight line. And at Mooney's bay in particular, there was a lot of weeds. Even in the middle of the course, they would reach up all the way and sometimes if I dug in too deep while swimming, my hands would get tangled with seaweeds. Swimming was the part I was the most afraid of, because of water temperature, speed issues and not knowing how deep it is. It turns out that in retrospect, it was probably the funnest and most pleasurable part of my race.
I headed to the transition zone and quickly changed into my shoes and put on a shirt. There didn't seem to be a real sense of urgency to the transition as I had expected, maybe I was late to the party. My head was still spinning from the swim so I took it easy but I don't think I took too much time to get ready to head off on the bike.
I was quite surprised by how much running there was to the bike portion. The area is grass and rocky so I had to carry the bike for parts of it to be faster. That could definitively be better in some future races. I attempted (and succeded somewhat) a fly mount where I ran to get some speed, put all my weight on the handlebars and jumped on the saddle. I probably saved about 5 seconds for doing that but the pain that it caused me was probably not worth the extra time. I'm sure I looked like a total pro if anyone was watching ;)

Once I got on the bike course, the first thing I noticed is the wind. Thankfully, I had lots of training under windy conditions so it didn't faze me too much. However, after putting in a good effort for the swim, I found it hard to get the bike into the higher gears. The Garmin says my average speed was 32.3km/h. I still managed to pass quite a few people on my first lap but nowhere near as much as I had hoped I would. Some guys (and even girls, yes, I got chicked a few times!!!) would pass me as if I was standing there doing nothing. They had the expensive bikes and the waterdrop helmets so I didn't challenge them too much for it. During the second part of my first loop however, someone name Nicholas passed me and that was too much, I decided that I would not allow him. I passed him back. We played this game back and forth for about 8km.
Once I was into the second loop, I started passing more people. Laggards from the swim that were in their first loop perhaps? I didn't think there could be that many people behind me after my less than stellar swim. I finally allowed Nicholas to pass me not able to put in the effort to keep challenging him. I was really glad to approach the end of the second loop. I had been looking forward to the run for the whole race.
I quickly transitioned into running (ie: dumped bike, dumped helmet, pick up hat, drink a bit and run away from the mess :). Ouch. My legs were heavy. Everyone says it, I've even experienced it in training a few times, but I can never be fully prepared for it. I just couldn't get any speed at all :( As much as I would push the machine, there would be no response. The run was embarrassing really. I call myself a runner. I love running. And yet everyone was passing me. Boys, Girls, Men, Women. I even joked about it with some girl on the course when she was challenging me and she said that if I didn't like being chicked, I should just run faster :) I was happy when I saw the finishing stretch where Alex was waiting for me.
After seeing Alex, I managed to get some more energy and somewhat sprint to the finish where my mom and her boyfriend were waiting for me. Coming up to the finish line, I was relieved to see the clock turn from 1:44:59 to 1:45:00. Despite the pain and the perceived slow spell that hit me today, I had accomplished my goal. I waited impatiently at the finish line for my friend to whom I had issued a challenge to cross. He started 5 minutes after me, so he had to come in at least 5 minutes after. He finallly showed up 5m21s after me, so that makes it a pretty tight race even if only for the clock.
For those that like graphs, here is the speed chart for my bike course:
You can clearly see the bits where I had headwind and the parts where it turned into a tailwind. I think having Nicholas challenged me helped a bit as well, I do much better competing against someone than being on an empty course. The run was also touch and go:
My first Triathlon was a lot of fun but also a lot of work. It's too soon really to take a decision about my future. If I had to choose today, I would stick with running. It's simpler, requires less equipment and generally easier to manage in the schedule. If I am to continue doing triathlons, I think it's obvious that I need to invest a bit in a crucial piece of equipment: a racing bike. I could probably shave a few minutes off my bike time by simply getting better gear. I think I would also go for a longer event such as an olympic distance. It would also be more even on the bike vs running portion. I would need to do lots of brick training also to get my running to where I don't get passed by everyone and their cousins. I felt that Triahtlons, especially sprint type events are more geared towards attention deficit disorder and strategy masters while running is more about being focused on the end goal. Triathlons are much more fun to watch however, so if I want to please my family and friends when they come and watch me at races, Triathlons is definitively the way to go.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Saturday race?!?

Usually, races are on Sunday. It makes sense. It gives you a break between the work week and allows you to focus on resting and hydrating. Well, not for me. The race is tomorrow! Saturday!!! As I am heading to work today, I wonder how I will hydrate myself properly between meetings and if I can find somewhere to stretch once in a while.

At least it gives me plenty of time to recover after the event since I don't go back to work until Tuesday because of Labor Day. Will I be able to ride in to work triumphantly???

If anyone is there tomorrow, please say hi before or after the race (and feel free to cheer when I swim/cycle/run by!) I don't know my bib number yet so I can't post it but if you comment / tweet me for it, I'll make sure to get it to you asap. My start is at 8am and if everything goes according to plans, I should cross the finish line between 10:30 (yeah right?) and 11:00 (hope not!).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bare Bones

In an effort to cheat the clock out of a few more seconds, I decided to take my fully loaded commuter bike and make one more change to it before the race. The new tires really help me get some more speed so I figured that taking a bit of weight off may help even more. Here's the bike with the usual accessories:
I removed the lights, the speedometer thing that I use to secure the garmin on (I'll be wearing it on my arm for the tri), the saddle rack and the fenders. The bike looks even faster now even if it can no way compare to some of the elite bikes that will show up for sure this weekend.
I also took some time to refresh the lube on it even if it didn't really require it. All I have to do now is pedal hard and get a good time! Here are the parts that I will no doubt reinstall once I start commuting again after the race:
I'm not sure how much they weight but I'm told by people that know much more than I do that every ounce counts!

Taper Run

Yesterday was a busy day at work. I was still able to escape during the lunch hour to put in a short taper run training session. I was joined by my new running buddy Thiago. We just went along the canal for a ~4km stretch in about 20m25s (5m10s/km pace). I was a bit faster than I would have wanted since it was a taper run, but slowing down is so hard especially since Thiago wanted to race :)
I love running along the canal, it's so scenic. Hopefully once this triathlon business is behind me, I can start focusing a bit more on the running portion.

I'm not sure what I will do after the race. I haven't lined up any specific goals for after I become an official triathlete. Maybe I will love the tri race experience so much I'll never go back, but my gut feeling is that running is really what I am about. I'll leave this open until after the dust settles, but knowing myself, I *will* need a new challenge to train towards, whether it's an olympic tri, half/full iron or just getting a better marathon (I can hear Boston qualifier in the back of my head already as Alex made it clear he would like to visit Boston some day).

Today is probably a short swim. I may switch it up for a short bike ride depending on how the schedule organizes itself.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


This tapering business is always hard. First, I get this urge to go and do something, burn all that energy. But I have to keep things quiet and slow so I can be totally ready for Saturday. Second, I have to watch what I eat. I like to eat a lot and I usually can burn the extra calories quite easily. Not so easy while I am tapering... I wouldn't want to gain a few pounds that would slow me down during the race.

Tapering is otherwise going good. I've upped my stretching a little bit. I'll try to fit in a yoga session if I have some time. I feel really good about my capabilities looking forward to the race. This is a bit new for me as I usually tend to bite more than I can chew.

I am watching the weather reports like a hawk and my anonymous poster will be happy to know that everything should be perfect for picture taking with mainly sunny skies. What worries me the most about the weather is the frigid cold temperatures we are experiencing lately. I have to swim for ~20 minutes in Mooney's Bay which I don't think really gets hot anyways in the summer. It will make for an interesting experience. I really don't want to wear a wet-suit since I never trained in one but I may have to change that decision at some point this week if it gets obvious that the water temperature will be too cold for my speedo trunks.

Sorry for the quietness. Everything is going well, there's just not much to report. I am getting pretty excited about the race now and hope to see a few of you there... Let me know if you think you are coming and we can try to coordinate something.