Birthday Workouts

I celebrated my birthday in style this weekend - I recruited some of my amazing friends for a day of what we affectionately call "no-fun fun".  No-fun fun usually involves some sort of suffering at some level during training, wondering why we do what we're doing and think that it's fun.  Actually, most of the day was pure fun.

We started off with a 4200 meter swim.  I have to admit that there was a bit of an evil glint in Amanda's eye (our masters coach) when I told her what I wanted last week... and she did not disappoint.  Well, she may have disappointed some of the other swimmers who didn't want such a long workout!  My awesome friends Tim, Catherine, Corinne, and of course Jason were all in for the swim, and the trio met us at the pool to join our masters group for the Saturday morning swim.

Partway through our main set (an 1800 m pyramid - and yes Tim you are the best friend because you had to do it pretty much straight with no rest to keep up with Corinne's pace in that lane...) a group of about 20 kids and accompanying adults arrived and announced they had booked 12 lanes of the pool to do a modern pentathlon!  And yes - we spied horse trailers in the parking lot so they weren't making it up.  Amanda was trying to figure out how they booked 12 lanes when our pool is only 10, but she was generous and gave them half the pool, while we had to scramble and reorganize lanes.  That just added to the drama of doing a long swim!  We capped it off by a few laps of the lazy river.  Next year I think I'll celebrate by simply doing 43 lazy river laps.  Much less tiring.

After shoving some peanut butter bagels in our mouths, Catherine, Corinne, Jason and I headed out for a 42 km ride.  I planned a route through some quiet back roads, rolling hills, and turned out MapMyRide didn't mention we'd be riding through a fun fair... we got a few funny looks as we wound through tents and festivities.  It was heating up so Corinne suggested we stop for popsicles - brilliant! 

Not long after our popsicle stop, my shifter decided to explode internally and Jason had to do some roadside repairs.  Since the shifter broke, the rear derailleur decided to stay in my 11 and Jason had to manually pick a different cog for me to ride as I'd never get home in that one!  We still had a few hills to ride, including the one up to our house which is at the top of a hill.  So he picked a 20-something, and I had the option of either big-ring or small-ring and that gear for the rest of the ride.  Turned into a bit of a high cadence workout on the flats!  But we made it home and changed for our final birthday workout of the day, a 4.2 km run.  In case you haven't figured it, I'm turning 42.

Jason turning my bike into a dual-speed
for the rest of the ride.  Gotta keep it interesting!

My friend Candace joined us on her bike for the run, and Humu was glad to have Candace's dog Shadow along for company.  I promised a nice shady trail for our quick run, which of course was spent talking and laughing the whole way.

I'm not totally sure what they're doing in this picture...

We had to cut through a school yard, where
apparently they don't allow runnin'.

What birthday run isn't complete without some playground time?
The rest of the day was spent in the sun on the deck - with more friends, pizza, wine, cake... perfect!  Some of us headed to a local pub for music trivia, and the day closed with us taking the victory (and the $20 prize!).

Great birthday, because I have great friends.  Can't wait until next year!

15 Points about the Oak Bay Half Marathon

  • There simply cannot be a more beautiful half course in the world; running along the ocean, past marinas and multi-million dollar homes.
  • I decided to wear red 70's-rollerskating-style shorts for fun.  Made my butt look huger than normal, dang.
  • Warmest day of the year so far.
  • Humu was popular with the spectators and Jason had to hold her back when I'd go by.
  • Did the early start (one hour ahead), so the Kenyans didn't catch me until kilometer 14.  It was like gazelles going by, they run so beautifully.
  • My scheduled walk breaks (8 min run / 2 min walk) never hit any of the uphills.
  • It wasn't windy, which is super rare for Victoria.
  • My friend Lori caught me with less than 2 km to go.  I pretended I was holding off a 2-time Ironman world champion, but of course she started an hour after me.
  • Vega pre-workout energizer rules.  Also as a during-workout energizer.
  • The website states "downhill finish".  Yeah, the last two blocks are downhill.  What they don't mention is the several kilometers of uphill just before that.  Downhill finish, my ass.
  • I missed a few weeks of training because I was sick.  Didn't affect me during the run, but I tell you it's affecting my after - my legs are wrecked.
  • Pretty much every flavour of Old Dutch chips (or "BC Spud" as Matt would say) were being handed out at the finish.  Remind me to do this one again.
  • Only deviated from my race plan once, and that was a quick stop at the "Hug a Sheep" sign.  How can I pass up hugging someone dressed as a sheep?
  • Vaseline on my crazy weird toes = no blisters.  Thanks Kiki!
  • Sunday afternoon sitting in the sun without feeling guilty/lazy... bliss!

Celebrity Guest Blogger: Jason - Ironman St. George Race Report

Was it the toughest Ironman ever?  Ironman Corporation is branding it as such.  Ironman St. George, Utah race report:

When did I get the idea that it would be a good idea to race Ironman St. George?  Well that depends.  I thought about it last year and almost signed up last minute.  But really it was the enthusiasm of our friend Kirsty following my trip to Kona last year.  She was pumped up from watching me race and declared that after a six-year absence from the distance that she was coming back and it was to be at St. George.  She wanted a challenge.  Hmmm? (Can hmmm be a question?)   Should I do it too?  I waffled for a few months and finally committed. 

Kirsty lives in California where the sun shines all year.  I live on an Island off the coast of British Columbia where the sun doesn’t shine from November through March.  Our winter training experiences were going to be very different.  We dubbed each other “Virtual Training Partners (VTP)” and kept each other motivated through killer bike trainer sessions, swing pace runs and masters swim sets.

Fast forward to May 5, 2012 and Kirsty and I found ourselves fit and ready in the front row of the swim wave.  Mike Reilly had just announced that weather conditions were going to be perfect with 11 mph winds from the northeast.  Boom - the cannon goes off and I am feeling great to the first turn-around buoy.  Then I notice some wave chop to my left.  I thought for a minute that it was just a boat wake; jerk boat driver.  The chop wasn’t dying down.  The wind had picked up unexpectedly and was now producing 3-4 foot waves and I was getting hammered.  The waves had no rhythm.  I was getting sea sick and was swallowing way too much water.  It was so extreme that the buoys all but disappeared from sight.  I exited in 1:12.  What, 1:12?  I am usually a sub-one hour guy.  Did everyone else almost drown?  And what is this finishing 35th in my age-group after the swim?  There were some fast swim times, but lots of people were cutting the course - not only because the conditions were so bad, but because it was almost impossible to see the buoys.  Oh well.

Some photos I found online of our swim.
Pictures never capture the extent of waves very well though.

Well, those winds were pretty extreme on the ride as well.  I struggled to hold the Shiv on the road.  A disc cover on the rear wheel seemed like a good idea given the weather forecast, but on this day it was anything but.  The side gusts were so powerful that we were getting sand blasted exiting the Sand Hollow Park.  Then it happened.  I started to cramp.  Very badly.  So much in fact that I started to panic about the run and that was still 5 hours away.  I don’t know if it was the extra energy output in the swim, having to use my legs more to stabilize my swim stroke or the puking up lake water but my legs were hurting badly and were tight.  One of the downfalls of riding in those winds is the inability to remove even one hand from the bars to access food.  At the 50-mile point my ride started to turn around just after climbing The Wall.  I got some major food in at the Gunlock aid station and my cramping stopped.

What to do?  One more lap of the bike still to ride.  Do I go for it and try to make up for lost time or wait for the marathon and do my thing?  I wasn’t able to run on the road from about six to three weeks out due to a torn anterior tibialis muscle.  My running confidence was not high.  I battled my way through the winds of the last lap and arrived at T2 about an hour later than expected.    16th in age-group after the bike.  But looking at the pro times, Maik Twilsek rode 4:36 in 2011 and 5:10 this year, so I guess I shouldn't be too disappointed with my bike split, as clearly it was a tough day out there.  Plus, what kind of Ironman has the top pros not able to split under 5 hours?  Yikes!

We can all control our attitudes.  I knew that it was a hard day. I knew that others would be suffering and I knew that if I tried to have fun I could turn this around.  I didn’t charge into my marathon, but wanted to let my body tell me when to run faster.  My gamble paid off.  Holding back on the bike meant that I had my running legs under me after about the first mile.  That made me happy.  Very happy.  And when I am happy I run well.  The St. George marathon course was also very spectator friendly.  I saw Alison about 10 times out there as she was able to move around to different places on the course, and got lots of encouragement from friends Tim, Heidi & Matt who were there as well.

Members of our cheering crew - wearing my VTP's Team Super Awesome shirts.
I ran the first 2/3 of the marathon in about 2:04.  On the third lap I wasn’t quite as happy; now I was on fumes and digging deep into the well to hold my pace.   At the end of my third lap Kirsty and I passed on the out and back section.  It was good to see her, we exchanged a few words but I was in a hurry to get this over with.  I finished the marathon in 3:10 and finished strong.

I had no idea that I was running in 4th in my age group and 28th overall (including pros).  There were about 280 registered in my age-group.  Shocking that a 10:28 time can do that well, last year that would have got me only 12th place, and it wouldn't have cracked the top 75.  But everyone was dealing with the aftermath of those crazy winds - the winning pro time (Ben Hoffman) was 9:07!  When was the last time the winner was over 9?  The 2011 winning time was 8:32.  This year had a record-setting DNF rate of 29%.  Legendary.  An epic day and I was happy I was there for it.  I had a massage, ate some food, and then headed out onto the run course to cheer on Kirsty.  We caught up with her on her third lap and she ran by us looking strong.

The finish chute at long last!
I passed on my Kona slot.  Hopefully the person that got it was excited.  After 3 Ironman races in 10 months I am in need a break from the distance.  It takes so much physically to get to the starting line and to finish. 

We always analyse our races and look back at what we could have done differently.  Could I have biked faster?  For sure.  Would I have run as well?  Who knows.  That is the puzzle of Ironman.  When is it a perfect race?  It is perfect when we finish it.  Anyone who did Ironman St. George deserves the title of “Ironman”.  It dished out a brutal day.