Snow to Surf

This past weekend was the Snow to Surf relay - something I've been doing with a fabulous group of girls (women? - we were all pretty much girls when we started) for over a decade.  Every year when I get the email about registering, I think: should I do it this year? Am I too busy? Do I want to head up there again for a whole weekend, for a race leg that lasts less than an hour?  And I'm always glad I say yes in the end.

The team before the start.  With mascot Lucy.
It's a 9-person team, and we've had a core group with a few substitutions along the way.  The only one of us who hasn't missed a single year is Janet!  When we were talking late into the night Saturday (early Sunday, really), we realized we'd been here through master's degrees, marriages, divorces, children, new careers... I really don't have many things in my life that have been as consistent for so long.  It made me happy to think I have this wonderful group that has my back.

The order of the legs are:
- downhill ski (the catch is you have to run UP the mountain first - gawd): Erin
- xc ski: Malaika
- run 1: Kursti
- run 2: Jess
- mountain bike: Janet
- kayak: Catherine
- road bike: me
- canoe: Winnie & Sarah

We've switched around the legs a bit over the years.  This year we were missing Wendy (who was in AZ racing the Whiskey50), and Steph who was out with an injury (but came up for team support.)  This year was the first time we were all old enough to qualify for the master's category, which is what got us reflecting on how long we've been doing this and how we're all aging so gracefully.  We've placed as high as second and now figure we should crack the top spot of the podium now that we're in the masters category.  We have one rule: no training for Snow to Surf.  Of course, we're all always training for something; we're just not allowed to train for that.  We also stay up too late the night before every year, and drink too much wine.  But so far it's worked out and is probably the secret to our success.  We don't take ourselves too seriously until the start line of our legs, and then it's "puke out your nose" time.

The die-hards who lasted through the beer garden until the awards ceremony.

This year we placed 3rd... so we have some work to do (that doesn't involve training for S2S of course) to  win.  I'll let you know how next year goes!

Spring Swim

With Jason's Ironman coming up in a week, we thought he'd better do a lake swim since he hadn't been in open water since October.  Gotta get the feel for open water, make sure things are all good with the wetsuit, and remember what cold feels like!  I suggested he splash around for 10 minutes, and he said he'd do a half-hour workout.

Lonely lake this afternoon.
We headed to Fuller Lake after work.  Pretty quiet there this time of year; in the summer a Friday afternoon would be jam-packed with families, teens, swimmers, noodle-floaters, air mattress floaters, etc.  We had the lake to ourselves with the exception of a couple people fishing.  I was content to hold the fort down on shore, and he suited up in his sweet Blue Seventy Helix complete with swim socks and thermal cap.  A quick temperature check - verdict: cold! - and he was off.

Getting a temperature reading.
 His stroke looked strong and smooth, and 14 minutes later he was back.  Frozen.  So much for those 30 minutes!  With the water around 10 degrees Celcius (50F), who can blame him?  The reported 65F in St. George will feel balmy after that.

Bike Drama

We have had some serious bike drama over the winter.  I am pleased to report, and more than just a little relieved, that it is all now taken care of.  But it was touch-and-go there for a bit whether Jason was going to even have a TT bike to race St. George on next weekend!

Let's rewind a bit.  I guess I can take the blame for starting this whole thing.  You may remember when I did Ironman AZ in 2010, and Jason lent me his Specialized Transition rather than have me ride my road bike.  Of course, I didn't want to give that bike back - I love it, it's fast, it's comfortable, it's pretty... what else does one want in a bike?  But seeing as I wasn't racing any big races in 2011 and Jason was (IM CdA and Kona), he took it back.

Just before Kona, he bought a new Transition for himself, thinking I could get his old one and he'd build up the new one for himself.  There wasn't time to build up the new frame before his race, so it was still at home in the box when we flew to Hawaii.  There... we saw the new Specialized Shiv.  For those of you who remember my friend Wendy's dog Marty - well Jason was like when Marty saw a squirrel.  Whole body shook, salivating, mouth chattering... and I knew what was next.  Didn't take long once we got home for him to order a Shiv, and sell the still-in-the-box Transition.

We waited waited waited all winter for the Shiv.  It was supposed to arrive by the end of February, and we thought that would give him a lot of time to get dialed in before IMSG at the beginning of May, including putting some major miles on it during our March trip to Tuscon.  February ticked by, and soon we were boxing our road bikes to fly to Tucson.  During that time, Jason decided to build his old Transition up for me, which included recabling it.

We found out that some 2009 Transitions have a defect, and turns out ours did.  While recabling, one of the cables got permanently stuck in the cable guide.  Specialized assured us this was a warranty issue and would ship a new frame, which they did... but it was the middle of March and we still had no Shiv and now no TT bike at all as a backup in case the Shiv didn't arrive in time.  There were some chewed fingernails around our house.   

A call from our bike shop, my new frame was in!  And Jason's Shiv was in!  Hooray - two bikes and two very happy people!  Jason got the Shiv built up and took it for a Retul fit, and I got the Transition built.  He spent the last month dialing in his position and fit, and is ready to rock St. George.  

The lean, mean, ready-to-race machine.
I still have lots of work to do on my fit, but it's great to ride and I'm not in a rush since my Ironman is still many months away.  Funny thing is, my new frame is the same year/model as the one Jason bought & sold in October - a 2011 Transition Pro.  I guess fate wanted us to have that one.  And cool thing is it's all mine, never having been ridden by anyone else.

Drama over, back to our regularly-scheduled programming.

Happy spring everyone!  Love, Humu

Training Advice

There are heaps of articles out there on training advice.  I thought I'd add to the fodder and write one myself.  I, however, may not have the pedigree of some authors in this field, so I convened a panel of experts to contribute their tips and recommendations.  OK, really I just asked some friends, but I have some superstar friends!  They weighed in on three categories: advice for anyone doing Ironman (or similar events); extreme training; and funny/goofy advice.

Here is my panel of experts:
Jason Sandquist (JS) - my husband (say no more), 19X Ironman finisher, 9:02 IM PR
Kiki (KI) - good friend, coach, 10X IM finisher, my triathlon hero
Sean Clark (SC) - multi-time IM finisher (and fast!), head of CMS Coaching
Wendy Simms (WS) - multi-time Canadian National Cyclocross champion, uber-talented at pretty much any sport, and seems to set a course record in every race she enters, whether she's trained or not
Seamus McGrath (SM) - 2-time Olympic mountain biker, 2-time Commonwealth Games medalist
Coco (CO) - good friend, former IM swim course record holder, former marathon swimmer
Steve King (SK) - the "Voice of Ironman Canada", ultramarathoner.

Here is some good, solid advice from the above experts to anyone training for Ironman or other endurance challenges:

WS - Always keep a training log - it's the only way to track what works for you, and more importantly what doesn't.  What makes you fast, slow, sick, tired, cranky, injured.  Everyone is different and it does not take long to see patterns in yourself if the information is all laid out in front of you.
SM - Always make your training fun.  This is the heart of success - enjoy your training!
KI - Know the purpose of each workout you are doing and how it helps you get to your goals.  Doing workouts for the sake of chasing numbers is not helpful.
SK - Work on some of the possible psychological barriers by cleaning and clearing away any negative core beliefs such as not being good enough or not being worthy of or deserving success.
CO - Take advantage of wetsuits, even strong swimmers benefit from them.  There is nothing equivalent for non-runners so take the free speed where you can get it.
JS - You only have to be motivated enough to get dressed and out the door on a bad day.  Once you're outside, your workout will happen.
CO - Find a comfortable saddle.  Your partner will thank you for that.
KI - Train your weaknesses and race your strengths.
WS - Do not get swayed by other athletes spouting off about their training programs.  Neither should you doubt your program when you see/hear others doing more than you.  This usually happens mid-season and has cost many athletes more than just a bad race.
KI - Have a plan that is made for your goals, not the other guys'.
SC - Strength is much more important than speed in Ironman racing.  Durability is often overlooked as to how important it is; if you can't absorb the miles, you will never reach your full potential.
WS - Big ring in spring.
JS - Get a professional bike fit.  People spend thousands on a bike, and a good fit is less than $200, and it dials your bike in perfectly to you.
KI - Communicate with your coach.  Don't do secret training that you hide from your coach, and don't secretly skip workouts either.  If you've hired a coach, make them work for you and they can't do that with limited information.  Also, only hire a coach you trust and commit 100% to their program, otherwise save your money!
JS - Carry a cell phone - I've had rides (pre-cell phone days) where I've had 11 flats.  Out of tubes, out of patches, middle of nowhere...  Today I would simply call Alison or even the local bike shop.  Actually - run road tubeless as we do now, and never be in that situation anyway.

Here is Jason demonstrating a piece of advice from Sean:
"Ride for the show, run for the dough."
There's some great stuff in there, money tips for sure.  A lot of what my expert panel had to say really hit home with me, so hopefully there's something for you, dear reader, to take away too.  Now, pretty much everyone I know is insane when it comes to training and fitness, so some of their contributions fall into an "extreme training" category.  The following suggestions are not for the faint of heart:

SC - Swim 5-6 days/week, bike 4-5 days/week and run 5 days/week for ultimate success at long distance racing.  If you can handle that, you can handle anything.  (Note to self - maybe I'll try that one week this summer.  Kiki - just ONE week...)
SM - Live like a monk for 10 years - this is the path most Olympians/pros take.  After a 15 year career and 2 Olympics, it worked out!
JS - If you fall asleep on a cool-down backstroke set in the pool, or while riding in your aerobars on the road, you have done too much and need to take a rest day.
SK - A friend once did a 48 hour stint on his windtrainer to prepare for the RAAM.  Maybe an 8-hour indoor ride could build mental stamina for longer, lonely rides.
SC - Doing 6 hour training rides with no food and only 3 bottles of Gatorade in 40 degrees Celcius heat, thinking it would train our body to adapt.  That was before we knew better.

And of course, not only are they insane, but they are also pretty fun and goofy.  So here are some tips you should take with a grain of salt!

SC - Group mass swim starts blind in a pool.
KI - Always tell everyone about the workout you just did, or the one you have coming up after swimming, as they really care.
CO - Try new things to keep it interesting.  I have always tried new things: new food/nutrition during a distance race, new shoes on race day, no specific training for the event (i.e. just did swim training for a running race) and it all worked out in the end!
SK - Do a backwards beer mile.
SM - My Euro teammates said to eat only the crust of bread and not the inside, as supposedly it bloats you too much.  This is also a way to cut calories.
JS - Here's something to never do:  Do NOT put a dairy-based Boost-type nutrition drink in your Kona special needs run bag, checked in the day before.  Unless you want to puke out hot, curdled grossness.
CO - Don't let your partner/spouse/friend videotape you at your lowest point during your race.  This will not help out next time when justifying the costs of training and traveling to your next race.  (Note to Coco - but that video is SO funny!)
Here we are taking Seamus' advice - enjoy what you do!

Back To It Tuesday

Finally on the mend and really needing to get some exercise... Humu too.  I headed up to some favourite mountain biking trails - The Zoo - which are basically an extension of our neighbourhood.  Sooooo lucky to live where we do!  Humu pretty much knows her way around that entire mountain and could probably take herself for a run.  I'll remember that next time I'm sick and she has cabin fever.

Holy bright shoes, Batman!

I'm not sure if you can see... but Humu's ears
are sticking straight up.  I love when that happens! 

Getting creative with trail sign placement.


There's been a lot of frustration around here lately.  Frustration because I'm sick and frustration because Jason's injured.

I have been sick for a week.  My normal pattern of sickness occurs once a year.  I have a day where I feel like I'm getting sick, a day where I'm sick, then a day where I'm getting better.  Then back to normal.   This time it's different.  Last Saturday I said to Jason - I'm feeling a bit under the weather, I'm going to take it easy this weekend so Monday I'll be good to go.  Well, Monday came around and I was worse.  Tuesday even worse.  Wednesday I went to work and realized in about 5 minutes what a bad decision that was.  Luckily my classes were sympathetic - I have awesome students.  Thursday back in bed.  Still sick today.  Frustrating.  

Jason tore a muscle in his lower leg, or maybe has a shin splint.  We're trying to figure out why he gets injured pretty much every time 4-6 weeks before an Ironman.  With the volume and intensity he does, it's fine line between a top performance and an injury.  That's an area I obviously don't have experience with. He's resting, getting treatment, but still it's frustrating.  It's to the point where he's wondering if he can be on the start line of St. George next month.  Frustrating.

It's a holiday weekend, so hopefully the extra time off work and extra chance to rest will turn things around.  And frustration will be replaced by elation.  Or even contentedness would be good.

The only one who's not frustrated around here is Humu -
lots of bed and couch time for her.