Three things from the week making me a better triathlete:
1) Wednesday Night’s Disappointing Swim
This is the time of year to establish a baseline for swimming, and at Wednesday night’s session, Pacific Spirit Triathlon Club swim coach Liz gave us 5 x 200’s to determine an average for future pacing. She instructed us to push ourselves to a sustainable, hard pace, but I didn’t. I was too conservative. I hung back. I wimped out. My average does not reflect what I can do. I was frustrated with my performance, but in the past two days, that frustration has turned to determination in pushing myself to my true limit in the future.
2) Sleeping Late
Instead of leaving my bed at the typical 5:00 a.m., I stayed under the covers for an extra hour several mornings this week to accommodate a tired body and mind on the fritz. I blame increased training, a lingering cold, and the rain. With recent articles describing the physical and mental benefits of adequate shut-eye, I enjoyed the 60 minutes of sleep without guilt.
3) Vancouver Running Festival
This fall’s inaugural Vancouver Running Festival sounds fun. The event, more than a simple replacement of the canceled Rock-n-Roll Vancouver races, will feature several running races through the city, an expo, and perhaps more important, an organized effort to promote Vancouver as a thriving running town. From October 20th to 22nd, the full spectrum of local running – clubs, teams, pros, amateurs, events, services, vendors, histories – will be on display. If the multi-day format inspires a similar triathlon or multisport festival, that’d be cool too.
Being a U.S. citizen living in Canada with my Mexican husband means that our months overflow with holidays.
Last month, I celebrated Thanksgiving with the rest of Canada. Today I follow on social media the United States as it progresses from Turkey Trotting-Macy’s Day Parade viewing-baking-asking for cooking help on Facebook-traveling-eating-filtering Instagram posts-watching movies-watching football-eating-resting-drinking to sleeping. On Saturday, husband and I will have our own Thanksgiving dinner since we are going to his office’s winter holiday party tonight.
I love that my current life provides these opportunities to learn about and experience new national and cultural holidays. It also requires me to coherently explain U.S. holidays and their customs to my inquisitive husband.
I still am looking for a good rationale to justify marshmallows on Thanksgiving sweet potatoes other than they are sweet and gooey.
Though it’s a regular day in Canada, my cultural DNA motivates me to think about the many people and things I am grateful for this past year, and two activities come to mind.
I relied on writing (personal and professional) and running to keep me strong and optimistic while adjusting to this new life of freelance writing, marriage, and immigration. I am grateful for how the two activities combined into a single tonic for my mind and body that often felt queasy from all of the changes.
I also am grateful for how running lets me be a better writer or at least provides the excuse to take a break. Nick Ripatrazone beautifully writes about the link between writing and running in his recent piece for The Atlantic. It’s a terrific, encouraging read with many profiles of and quotes by authors who run. The piece itself is like a long run along Vancouver’s seawall with sudden, stunning views:
“Through running, writers deepen their ability to focus on a single, engrossing task and enter a new state of mind entirely—word after word, mile after mile.”
“Why do writers so often love to run? Running affords the freedom of distance, coupled with the literary appeal of solitude. There’s a meditative cadence to the union of measured breaths and metered strides.”
I am grateful to celebrate Thanksgiving every day I open my laptop and pull on my running shoes.
Three things from the week making me a better triathlete:
Ironman champion Linsey Corbin writes in this post about the physical and mental challenges faced by professional triathletes, specifically during the recovery time following an injury. The candid and well-written reflection provides a look at how the hard work getting to the podium sometimes includes being patient.
2) Potions, Lotions, And Pills!
After two weeks of caring for an aching ankle, I completed a 30-minute slow run without any pain yesterday. I am relieved and thank the rest, exercise ball, ice bag, Ibuprofen, a chemical lotion, and a homemade potion for their support.
3) Zooming In the Sun!
Today I plan to use the husband’s zoomers during my swim set at the Kitsilano Pool. Fast zoomers, outdoor pool, warm sunshine, happy me.
On Sunday May 3rd, I completed my fifth BMO Vancouver half-marathon, enjoying a steady 8:19/mile pace, facial exfoliation, and unfulfilled sugar vomit along the streets of Vancity. The husband also scheduled a visit from Toronto to support me, and I showed my appreciation by photo-bombing a few of his #selfies.
Don’t Screw It Up
The BMO offers many things to love: its fast route connects Queen Elizabeth Park, Cambie Village and Cambie Street Bridge, Chinatown, Yaletown, and Stanley Park before ending in Coal Harbor; the happy off-leash dog bouncing among frightened runners; minor hills arriving at just the right time; cheering fans holding SEO signs and eager volunteers holding tiny cups; its Smurf-blue gloves. The downhill on Cambie lets you savor eventually passing younger runners who rocket too quickly from the BMO start.
When the sun is warm, sky blue, and wind soft like last weekend, the BMO Vancouver half teases, “Hey, I am setting up a perfect race for you. Don’t screw it up with your cockiness.”
Training By the Gut
This was the first time in years that I had trained myself for a half-marathon, and I was a bit apprehensive. For months, my gut and legs informed the weekly session and volume plan. I developed a pattern of tempo runs on Tuesday and Thursday (their total mileage equaled the upcoming long run), a long slow run on Saturday that increased by 1.5 miles each weekend, and then a 30 to 40 minute run on Sunday to stretch out my legs. My longest run was 12.5 miles two weekends prior, and on race morning, I was uncertain if I could complete the race without walking.
But I did not walk. In fact, I had an awesome run in the sun.
I had negative splits (except mile 10 – Curse you, Stanley Park!) My final time was 1:49, about seven minutes faster than 2014.
I paid attention to my body temperature level, keeping cool by running in the shade, pouring water on my head, and sucking from crinkled cups at the aids stations. I stayed inside HR Zone 3.
Because several layers of dried salt accumulated on my body, splashing water on my crusty face and then scrubbing with my wrist band let me exfoliate dead skin cells off my face. It was a nice, unexpected add-on to the registration fee.
Nutrition worked out fine with a tasty tangerine gel about 20 minutes prior to run, thicker chocolate gels 35 and 65 minutes in the race, and another tangerine sucked down the final 15 minutes for comfort.
I risked a sugar vomit with that final gel, and that’s ok, because sometimes an efficient and fast purge is all you need to move faster.
I crossed the finished line with a sprint, ignoring my aching feet and chopping arms. I think that underscores I was faster than, but not as strong as, 2014.
Add this race to your season if you are looking for a fast course through a beautiful city.
I’m already excited to run and exfoliate next year.
What Changes Will I Make For 2016?
- Drink pickle juice to increase sodium and potassium in-take.
- Build core and glute strength.
- Own my corral placement.
- Have a faster and stronger run.
While most people were rightfully cheering Lelisa Desisa and Caroline Rotich for their Boston Marathon victories on Monday, I was thinking about the runner in a shiny, dark purple track suit with a matching fanny pack who yelled “YOU GO GET IT!” during the previous day’s Sun Run.
With the BMO half marathon two weekends away, I did a long run on Saturday in order to spectate Canada’s largest 10K race on Sunday. With iced Americano in my hand and occasional guilt in my stomach, I stood on the corner of Oak and 6th as the swells of Sun Runners rolled by: intense-looking leaders with beautiful, tight form; loose packs of triathletes in their tri shorts and distinctive short steps; corporate teams with their sweat-soaked, white cotton t-shirts; a couple moving together like locked branches floating through a rough river current; teenagers walking in dejection after rocketing from the race start; steady pacers devoutly staying inside their zone 2; random sprinters frogging from the empty centers of the running swirls; a guy dressed as a bacon strip.
One runner stopped in front of me and unclipped his phone from the holder on his leather belt looped around his pleated Bermuda shorts. He slowly positioned his smiling face against the background of the running blob, clicked a selfie, slid the phone back into its holder, inhaled, and resumed his run.
Less Gear, More Speed?
I wondered if the amount of gear worn during a Sun Run was inversely related to speed. Less gear, more speed? I’ve been there. I avoid photos from my first year of triathlons, 5Ks, 10Ks, and half-marathons. The gear comforted me, but now the stuff makes me hot. With more years of training and racing, with events disappointing with their times, nutrition intake, or heart rates, I learn that my speed comes from my body’s fitness, not compression socks. Those things condition me and help my training, but it is all me on race day.
“YOU GO GET IT!”
Then came the loud runner, standing out with her purple track suit, head down, arms pumping. Another racer came to her side. I think the two knew each other since the faster woman tapped the track suit lady’s elbow. She looked up from the ground through her glasses, coiffed hair eroding onto her forehead, and yelled above whatever music or podcast playing on her ipod “YOU GO GET IT!”
Her loud words burst the steady rumble of rubber shoes skimming across 6th Avenue.
Spectators turned their heads to discover the screamer; some grabbed their phones ready to either call the police or make a video.
Runners looked around to do see if one of the pack had gone down, like a gazelle in those nature documentaries.
But no…No stopping to hug, no high-five from the track suit runner, just a moment of one runner breaking from her zone to acknowledge another.
She stayed with me on Marathon Monday. Her head-turning declaration was a fitting encouragement for the nearby runners whose gaping mouths could barely voice “water.” To me, it was encouragement to swim near the surface of this training and racing ocean – just deep enough that I can break surface, take a breath, congratulate a friend for their effort when they pass by.
I ran by the Terry Fox Plaza in front of BC Place last Sunday.
The memorial for the Canadian hero consists of four bronze sculptures representing the iconic image of Terry, curly hair and simple shoes, running with a thin prosthetic leg towards you, approaching you along a road.
Sunday was the 35th anniversary of his starting the Marathon of Hope, a cross-country run from Newfoundland to Vancouver he planned to raise awareness about cancer. An earlier diagnosis of cancer in Terry resulted in the amputation of his right leg.
The experience also resulted in his personal commitment to instill hope in others living with cancer by doing something incredible, such as running across Canada. At the age of 21, he ran 5,373 kilometres (3,339 miles) before the cancer returned, forcing him to end the Marathon of Hope after five months. The story of Terry continues to inspire people today, and the foundation set up in his honor has raised over $650 million dollars for cancer research and generates an unlimited amount of global awareness about cancer.
“I’m not a dreamer, and I’m not saying this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer, but I believe in miracles. I have to.” Terry Fox
I ran by the memorial for appreciation and inspiration. Terry started his Marathon in 1980 without the aid of an ipod or GU — while recovering from cancer and running with a basic prosthetic leg. He ran without the benefit of the information we easily have now about proper gear, hydration, and training for an endurance run. I wonder if any one then knew how such an effort would impact his body.
I wonder if not knowing all of that made it easier for Terry to go forward with the run.
In my current world of launching a freelance writing service while trying to stay healthy, it’s easy to either be complacent with the advantages of this moment or ridiculously freaked out about the risks. It’s easy to obsess about my running plan or be despondent when my Garmin drops its reception on 12th Avenue.
It’s easy to read one more blog about freelance writers writing as freelancers for freelance writers wanting to be freelance writers. It’s easy to find a podcast proclaiming the latest myths, truths, to-dos, things to avoid, secrets, common sense, thought leaders, and accidental entrepreneurs about launching a small business.
It’s easy to not move forward with too much information.
I then run past Terry Fox’s memorial facing towards his final destination of Stanley Park, and immediately feel that my moments without gratitude ignore opportunities, my moments with hope create more opportunities, and my moments of not knowing bring me the most satisfaction.