Girl Trio at the Tri and Conquered Hills!

Race Three of Five: Muskoka Short Course, A.K.A Super Awesome Cottage Weekend with the Girls! That is really what it was. Many cycling, running, hiking, and delicious food adventures were had. Then we raced. I actually got into the water a whole 15 minutes early, to test out the water temperature, after the last Triathlon’s Iceman incident, I wanted to know what I was getting into. Well, to my surprise, the water was actually pleasant. So much so, that I just stayed in the water and took some time to ground myself and truly appreciate the scene, nature, the opportunity I was presently gifted with. Then, the horns blew, and the adventure began. I was calm, collected, slow, but steady. I also swam right in the middle, where the current was strongest, instead of following the pack and swimming on the far left, which may have been why the swim felt longer than I expected. I got out of the water happy, and with less swim jello legs than usual!

 

On to the bike ride! Last year, I thought the Muskoka hills were going to be the death of me, and I really doubted I would be able to conquer them, thrice over, two weeks later at the 70.3 Ironman. This time around, those hills weren’t so bad, in fact, I found that I was able to recover at the top of the hill much faster than before, allowing me to pedal strong consistently.

Last, but not least, the run. Again, it was hot, but this time I had my new arm coolers on and a proper application of sunblock. This was also the third time I was going to encounter the hill of doom along a short trail section of the run course. Every time I have faced it in the past, I was determined to run all the way up without having to stop. The issue was, I would push with everything I had, and I could see the top, and I knew I was almost there, and then, just as I thought I had made it, it turns and climbs higher and my legs gave me a big NOPE! This year, I figured I would try, but expected the inevitable. Except, there was a sign, a literal sign at the bottom of the hill, that said something about starting slow. So, I slowed down my run, and made my way up the hill, it was a snail’s pace, but as others around me started huffing and puffing, walking up the hill, and before I knew it, I was at the top. Not only once, but I had to encounter it once more during the two loop 7.5km run course, and believe it or not, I made it all the way up a second time. So, my run was kind of slow, but it sure did feel good to finally conker that hill!

This Time, I Finished!

Race Two of Three: Ottawa River Triathlon, now called the Britannia Park Triathlon, was, believe it or not, the first race I can distinctly remember being anxious about. There were several subtle differences leading up to this race. One, I could not pick up my race kit the night before, I’ve never had to pick up the kit the morning of. Not really a big deal, but, it made me feel unprepared and added to the things I had to do in the morning. Two, I had not done an open water practice swim yet. Three, if any of you followed my journey last year, this is the face I got my first and only DNF. Which means, I did not finish. I got freaked out in the water and only finished two of the three 500m swim loops. They let me complete the rest of the race, but I had to give up my timing chip.

Race Two of Three: Ottawa River Triathlon, now called the Britannia Park Triathlon, was, believe it or not, the first race I can distinctly remember being anxious. Several differences were leading up to this race. One, I could not pick up my race kit the night before, I’ve never had to pick up the race bag last minute in the morning. Not really a big deal, but, it made me feel unprepared and added to the things I had to do in the morning. Two, I had not done an open water practice swim yet. Three, if any of you followed my journey last year, this is the face I got my first and only DNF. Which means, I did not finish. I got freaked out in the water and only finished two of the three 500m swim loops. They let me complete the rest of the race, but I had to give up my timing chip.
So, there I was, at the swim start line, flustered after trying to get my race kit (after race kit pick up ended) and forcing the wetsuit onto my slightly bigger than last year’s body. I get into the water, and it was like Marvel Comic’s Iceman froze me from the inside out. My feet felt like solid bricks of ice. Now, let me remind you, the last time this happened to me, it was my first Triathlon ever, and I did not have a wetsuit. I learned a precious lesson that day. I always wear a wetsuit on race day. Which means, the water was ice cold, and my heart rate was through the roof. I made my way, somehow, through the first 500m loop, at which point, you have to step out of the water before going right back in. Well, let me tell you, I stood on that sandy beach for a long minute and thought real hard about whether or not I was getting back into that water. I don’t know when I made the decision that I was going back in, but I started slowly walking into the water until it reached my chin, and went for it. Only to be derailed second later by the other swimmers lapping me and losing my focus. I “calmly” waited for them to pass before giving it another go. Not a short time later, I was faced with the decision of whether to get back in or not. By now, I was sort of warming up, and I already had 1km under my belt, if I got back in, I was already further along than last year. So, I did a quick check to see if I was going to be the only swimmer left out there, luckily for me, there were a couple of heads still bobbing in the distance and one coming right behind me for another loop. So, in I went. Heart rate reasonable, body relatively warm, no swimmers for me to get in the way of, and away I went. My final loop was faster than either of the first two. Geordie, an OTC swim coach and volunteer at this event, said, “Now we know what you have to do. You need to arrive early, swim a km, and then you will be ready to race!” Sigh.
Now that the swim was done, it was time for the bike ride. I always love the bike ride. This ride was no different, though, by the time I got to the run, I was boiling, and I wanted so much more water than the race water station could provide me. This was also the first weekend where, despite the ice cold water, the sun was beaming down with all its marvel, and fury, and I did a poor job of reapplying sunblock during the transition. This might have been the longest 10km I ever experienced, okay, not the longest. That one goes to when I tackled a 10km trail run without any trail practice, and it took me nearly double my usual time. None the less, this run was at a what felt really slow, pace, my skin felt so salty and hot, and I just wanted more water, but a couple of sips from a cup at the water station was never enough. Nonetheless, I still finished the race with a smile!

So, there I was, at the swim start line, flustered after trying to get my race kit (after race kit pick up ended) and forcing the wetsuit onto my slightly bigger than last year’s body. I get into the water, and it was like Marvel Comic’s Iceman froze me from the inside out. My feet literally felt like solid bricks of ice. Now, let me remind you, the last time this happened to me, it was my first Triathlon ever and I did not have a wetsuit. I learned a very valuable lesson that day. I always wear a wetsuit on race day. Which means, the water was ice cold, and my heart rate was through the roof. I made my way, somehow, through the first 500m loop, at which point, you have to step out of the water before going right back in. Well, let me tell you, I stood on that sandy beach for a long minute and thought real hard about whether or not I was getting back into that water. I don’t know when I made the decision that I was going back in, but I started walking slowly into the water until it reached my chin, and went for it. Only to be derailed second later by the other swimmers lapping me and losing my focus. I “calmly” waited for them to pass before giving it another go. Not a short time later, I was faced with the decision of whether to get back in or not. By now, I was sort of warming up, I already had 1km under my belt, if I got back in, I was already further along than last year. So, I did a quick check to see if I was going to be the only swimmer left out there, luckily for me, there were a couple of heads still bobbing in the distance and one coming right behind me for another loop. So, in I went. Heart rate reasonable, body relatively warm, no swimmers for me to get in the way of, and away I went. My final loop was faster than either of the first two. Geordie, an OTC swim coach and volunteer at this event, said, “Now we know what you have to do. You need to arrive early, swim a km and then you will be ready to race!” Sigh.

Now that the swim was done, it was time for the bike ride. I always love the bike ride.  This ride was no different, though, by the time I got to the run, I was really hot, and I wanted so much more water than the race water station could provide me. This was also the first weekend where, despite the ice cold water, the sun was beaming down with all its marvel, and fury, and I did a poor job of reapplying sunblock during the transition. This might have been the longest 10km I ever experienced, okay, not the longest. That one goes to when I tackled a 10km trail run without any trail practice and it took me nearly double my usual time. None the less, this run was at a what felt really slow, pace, my skin felt so salty and hot, and I just wanted more water, but a couple of sips from a cup at the water station was never enough. Nonetheless, I still finished the race with a smile!

The Race of Hilariously Ill-Timed Mishaps!

Race One of Five: The Early Bird Sprint, the race of hilariously ill-timed mishaps. Just as I was about to step out the door to head off to the race destination, the zipper to my trisuit broke. Did I happen to have a second suit I could switch into quickly, maybe, but I am stubborn and wanted to wear this one in particular. So, I grabbed a pair of scissors, snipped the bottom most part of the teeth and slid the slider back on and hoped it lasted, and that I didn’t have to use the washroom facilities before the race started (of course, I had to, more than once, sigh). 

Next, I bump into a friend on her way to the triathlon, walking with her bike instead of riding it. FLAT TIRE! Worst timing ever, but alas, maybe not everything was ill-timed. If I hadn’t struggled with my zipper just before leaving, I may never have bumped into her at the precise moment our paths crossed, and I would not have been able to inform her that I was taking the O-Train…which was much preferred over walking the entire way. 

Then, some fellow triathletes and I, two of which were participating in their first triathlon ever, were just about to head over to the swim start, when a pair of goggles snap in half. In HALF! How do these things even happen? Nothing to worry about, there were goggles for sale on site, and the sales representative even tried to mend the goggles for us.

As for the race itself, despite the swim start delay, I had a blast during the whole race! This particular race rocks a pool swim at Carleton University, and I was calm and steady during the 500m swim despite crashing into the person in front of me in the first 25m, turns out, we are horrible at seeding ourselves at the correct speed. The 20km bike ride was fast and furious, and the run, once I figured out where it started, felt great! I finished the race with a smile, friends at the finish line, and a tiny bit of reserve energy to enjoy the rest of my day! 

Thoughts & Words I Had During My First 70.3 Triathlon

Before the race started:

    • Those bikes are really fancy. I’m feeling kind of out of place here.
  • I’m just going to pretend I’m racing all by myself, never mind all these elite looking athletes with their fancy schmancy bicycles.

The Swim:

    • Sh#t. My nose-plug is slipping off. I’ll just swim without it.
    • Nope. “COME ON YOU DAMN NOSE PLUG! STAY. THE. F#CK. ON. I  AM DOING THIS TODAY.” (The actual words came out of my mouth while I was stopped in the middle of the water watching everyone swim further and further away from me.)
    • Why is everyone so far to my left. Ugh. I thought this turn was going to be perpendicular.
    • Ok, I’m passed the turn, I just have to swim forward. I swam this a couple weeks ago, easy peasy.
    • WHAT THE….(some guy on my left managed to swim right on to me and punch me on the right side of my face.
    • Ok, just adjust my goggles, check that my nose isn’t bleeding, ugh, they are leaking. Where is a boat when I finally want one? Oh, I’ll just breaststroke to that one over there.
    • “Can I hold onto the boat for a moment?” “Oh, never mind, I can stand.”
    • That was awkward.
  • F#ck off!  (as I vigorously kicked my feet at anyone who dared brush me with their fingers…I might have been a tad bit paranoid after the punch to the side of the head.

Transition One:

    • Gosh, why is my stuff all the way at the back? I have to walk an entire block just to get my bike.
  • Oh man! Do I have to pee? But…body, couldn’t we have communicated that before I got out of the water?

The Ride:

    • Ahh, this is nice. I like cycling. Excellent time for some treats and pretty views.
    • Those are some fancy bikes passing me.
    • More fancy bikes passing me.
    • Is it really necessary for us to know how old the person passing you is? I mean…I don’t think that 72-year old that just passed me is boosting my confidence in any way…especially because I do not think I have the energy to go faster than I currently am.
    • Ok, seriously, how many people can there possibly be left to pass me.
  • Weeeeeeeeeeeee! Downhills are the greatest!

Transition Two:

    • Ugh. My stuff is still too far and now I have to get there wearing these shoes.
    • Again! Why didn’t I know before I got off the bike that I had to pee again?
    • Ok, you got this legs. Take a breath. Slowly lift your foot to put your shoes on. (As I desperately try to stay balanced holding onto the portapotty in order to get my shoes on.)
  • I’m just going to take my time eating this gel as I walk over the run exit.

The Run:

    • Ok. Running. I got this.
    • I don’t really want to get sprayed with that water, I’m going to go around.
    • I should have let myself get sprayed by that water a few kilometers back, it is scorching hot.
    • I think it is reasonable for me to drink water while walking. As soon as it is done I will run again. (And that is what I did every time. Eventually, I would drink Gatorade and poor water on myself while walking and start running as soon as I hit the garbage pail at the end of the tables.)
    • About 12km in: I’m not sure if it is necessary to run a half marathon after all that swimming and cycling.
    • Light Bulb Moment: I think people choose to do crazy races like this because it is a challenge they choose for themselves and then conquer, giving them the strength and confidence they need when life throws hurdles at them unexpectedly.
    • I think I might stick to Olympic Distance Triathlons. I’m glad I’m doing this. I can do this. But, this is just a long time to be running.
    • So many turns to the finish line. I just want to see it, just a tiny glimpse. Oh, there it is. I’m just going to speed up and finish this thing.
  • Great. Done. Water? Yes, please! Oooh, and Gatorade. I never drink Gatorade, but today, this stuff is like the golden elixir.

The Day After:

    • This is definitely a cool shirt. I really like this hat they gave me too. I don’t even like hats. But I like this one.
    • Jenna said to wait until tomorrow, I’ll change my mind about not wanting to do another 70.3 Ironman. I don’t know about that.
    • I feel super badass wearing this shirt.
  • D#mmit Jenna. You are right. I think I want to do another one.

And there concludes my thoughts and words on the matter. Until the next race, good day!

Natasha

I’m Still accepting donations for Children At Risk! Every little bit helps!

https://www.canadahelps.org/en/pages/tri-for-children-at-risk/

Thank You.

So, the day is almost upon me. 70.3 Muskoka is two nights of sleep away, and many have asked if I feel ready. The answer. No. But I am ok with that, because if I waited until I was “ready” I would never “do” anything. 

The past week has been a whirlwind of emotions, mistakes, and tears that I would not take back if I could, because then I would not have learned and grown just a little bit wiser, a tiny bit stronger. This sentiment goes for the entire journey towards the day,  which commenced months before training started in the bitter cold of Canadian Winter. 

Along with that journey, I have many people to thank, because, without them, I might not be the wiser, stronger, inspired individual I am today. First, I must thank Sarah for introducing the idea of triathlon to me in the first place, and then being there to support and cheer me on in every race I have participated in so far. I must also thank Terri and Jenna for teaming up and convincing me to take the plunge into an adventure I did not think I was ready for. I want to thank Adrian for making me think long and hard about what my motivation is to train and complete this Triathlon. Without him insisting that we dig deep, and find what that is, I might not have made it this far. I might not have started a fundraiser for a charity, and I might have backed out of this weekend’s race in favour of taking on an easier, closer to home challenge. I want to thank Larry for his insight, kind words, and advice on what type of bike shoes I might want to choose. I must also thank Larry for selling his old road bike to Matt because then Matt let me use it to train and race in this Spring/Summer. Of course, I must also thank Matt for helping to keep my muscles in working order and giving me some pro tips on how to get started riding a bike with clipless shoes on. Haha, 3.5 falls later, three scraped knees and a couple bruised elbows later, I”m still peddling away with a smile! 

Then, there is Karen, who made sure I strengthened all the right muscles, which I’m sure helped keep me injury free throughout this training adventure. She even put up with my whining when it came to arm/shoulder exercises, that we both know likely helped my swimming. Let’s not forget about swimming. Good Old swimming, my nemesis. I have many people to thank for my journey to overcome my hang-ups on swimming. I have several friends who joined me for a variety of open water swims, Sarah, Mandie, Rachel, and Laurel, all of whom helped me become more comfortable in the water itself, to the point of almost looking forward to it. An enormous sized thank you goes out to Geordie, whom without, I would still be choking on water while attempting to keep my head up, resulting in the worst swimming form possible. Geordie taught me to find my “zen” in the water and forced me to push myself harder than I thought I could. 

Last, but not least, I must thank my friends and family for their support, and for making me feel like I am “superwoman” even though I always see myself as needing to improve or do more. Thank you for being my motivation. You inspired me to show you that anything is possible, it is never easy, and you won’t always succeed, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying, and you can’t be afraid to fail.

I have written this before the race because, well, I’ll likely be exhausted after the triathlon and I know I will be swamped and engrossed in my Summer work activities for a relentless two months. Aside from the expected reason, I might not get to this after the race, is that I want people to know I appreciate everything I have gained this year from them, regardless of if this race goes well or not. It won’t matter if I fail to complete the distances on Sunday, because I’ve already gained so much. I feel healthier than ever before. I am more confident than I was a year ago, six months ago, last week. I’m not afraid to fail that I’m prepared to work hard. I’m aware that each moment is filled with choices, and they may not always turn out the way I want, but they were mine to make, and there is a freedom in that. 

So, I will end this letter with one more request. My race will not end with me crossing the finish line, but I will continue on to power through what is the most challenging yet rewarding “marathon” I embark on every Summer. Each Summer I get to spend my days organizing activities, mentoring staff, solving Crisis, handling meltdowns, and best of all, getting to know the fantastic children and staff that work at Camp Kaleidoscope. A camp for children with Autism. This camp is like no other, because they do not turn a child and their family down because their son our daughter are too difficult to manage. We take on every challenge at this camp, and we do so with open hearts and a smile. We go home exhausted and we come back bright and early the next day, next week, year after year. So far, I have raised almost $1,000 for this Charity, and although I can choose to look at this as another failure on my part, because I am no where heard the $10, 000 I enthusiastically sought out to raise at the beginning,  I choose to see this as a success, because I’m $980 towards my goal, and I learned a heck of a lot along the way. It would mean the world to me if you could help me get a little closer to my goal while I race this Sunday. In Muskoka, starting at 7:00 am I get to take off on a challenge I never knew or thought I would be a part of, and I know there will be some tough moments to get through, and I’m sure I’m going to wonder at some points why I ever chose to do this in the first place. In those moments, I will be digging deep to grab hold of whatever and everything I can find to motivate me to keep moving forward, because it won’t just be one thing, it will be everything combined together that will get me through the tough moments I know are to come. 

Again, thank you for being a part of this journey!

Tash

 

Donate: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/pages/tri-for-children-at-risk/

 

The Calm Before The Storm

Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending a lovely girls weekend in the Muskokas before we all embarked on the adventure that was the Muskoka Short Course Triathlon. It was a great way to get a feel for the bike and run course for my next race in a less stressful setting, though they were only a fraction of the distance I will be racing next weekend at the 70.3 Ironman. This is how the experience went.

The day before:

We went for a leisurely swim near my friend’s cottage at the brink of dawn. Ok, it wasn’t that early, but in the chill air, it sure felt like it. I was also the only one that insisted on wearing a wetsuit; I’m still clinging on to my safety nets okay, nose plug included. While I squirmed my way into the water as my feet plopped through mushy bottom and plants brushed up against me, eww, totally gross, I had a flashback of last year at this time. Last time, when everyone else swam off into what seemed like an impossible distance away, my alternative plan was to swim to the next dock and back (maybe 25 meters away) and I struggled the entire way against the mild current. Fast forward to this chilly morning, I figured I could make it to some rocks in the distance, and I would be happy and content with that. Along the way, I took time to just enjoy being in the water and even take in what I could see at the bottom while Sarah (yup, you know it, tri related adventures don’t often happen without Sarah) tried to convince us to do backflips. That was a big NOPE for me, as I reminded her that last year at this time I was still struggling to even put my head in the water. She did though, somehow trick us into swimming around the little Island that we were adamant was too far and most definitely were not going to swim around. We were wrong, another win for Sarah, and we had no regrets!

What did I gain from this experience? Well, I gained some confidence in my swimming abilities, but most importantly, I learned to put aside my goals and fears and just enjoy swimming and exploring in the water. I wasn’t focussed on pushing myself or trying to get out as soon as possible. I was just taking my time while developing an appreciation for the water and enjoying the opportunity to be literally submerged in nature.

The Morning of:

We leave almost on time, nothing to worry about though. Then, we realize we do not have enough gas to make the 45-minute drive to the race location. Anxiety starts rising all around, because how many gas stations are open at 6 am? Well, long story short, we eventually got gas, we made it, albeit a tad bit later than we planned.

The Swim:

My wetsuit went on beautifully. I finally figured out my secret from last year and why it was so much easier to put on. Nope, I did not gain weight this year making the suit tighter, but rather, I bothered to put sunblock on before getting in the water (because  that makes sense right? Not really, but I don’t have much time afterwards) and it turns out it works kind of like body glide I would assume, since I have never actually tried it.

Now, for the important part. The actual swim. In Muskoka, it is a water start, so everyone is already in the water before the horn blows. I have now concluded that this method is preferable over running in like a stampeding herd of Jumanji creatures, which is way more stressful, for obvious reasons. The horn blew, and I just chilled for a few seconds as everyone else started off, then, I took in a deep breath, dunked my head into the water and started swimming. As Geordie would say, “find your zen” and I did.

I just did my thing, slow and steady, all the way. I always made sure I could see swimmers to my left or right. I figured I must be going the right way unless we were all going the wrong way, and in that case, we have a whole other onslaught of problems. I just kept thinking to myself, just breath, keep stroking, and is that the finish up there? No? Oh, ok, keep going. Slow and steady. Were there people who started in later waves swimming past me? There sure were, but I was fine with that because, hey, look at me, I’m just swimming. Not panicking. Not counting clouds. Not hyperventilating while using the breast-stroke to move forward in vain. I even tried to see the bottom, which I couldn’t, but I was calm enough to contemplate exploring. Eventually, when the water exit was within view, I noticed that one of the swimmers to my right was none other than Sarah herself. A boost of confidence and excitement surges through me, did I just catch up to Sarah? Me? So I proceeded to give it whatever I had left and swum to the swim exit, achieving my spontaneous mini goal of beating Sarah out of the water.

Let’s just say, this has been the most successful open water swim experience I have ever had to date. I’m hoping I can carry this new sense of enjoyment of the water and my calm to the 1.9km swim I must conquer next weekend because although this swim was a pleasant experience, it was only 750m.

The Bike:

In preparation for this part of the race, I purchased a small fuel bag to attach to my bike. I put into it one GU energy gel, one package of energy gummies, and a nut & seed bar. I don’t usually consume a whole lot of food while riding, but I figured I could space these out over the course of the ride, only 30km, and likely not even need it all. I figured, maybe one GU to make sure I was ready for the run after. NOPE! I devoured everything in the first 5km in which I thought I was not going to make it. I was sincerely concerned that my legs were most definitely out of commission after the last hill. I was also really concerned that I had already packed the fuel bag to its max capacity…how am I ever going to survive 90km next time? Well, I’m still working on that issue, but back to the Short Course Race. Somehow, and I guess this is what Coach Adrian from the Iron North Triathlon club meant about how our legs get warmed up and settle in at some point. It took me just over 5km to get past that hump, and just settle into a rhythm where it was tough, but I felt confident I could just keep peddling.

The best part of the ride is when I got to go down “the hill” which was the death of me on the way up. I am almost a certain that this must also be “the hill”  one of the organizers informed us we could potentially hit 70km an hour going down. Yes, you read that correctly. 70km an hour! They also warned us that we should make sure we “want” to go 70km an hour. All I can say is, I have no idea how fast I was going, but these were my thoughts.

Oh, I think I’m on a hill, I should put this nutbar away and focus on what I’m doing. Hmm, I’m going pretty fast, should I pedal hard and go even faster? Hmm. Maybe not, this is already pretty fast. Uhhh. Maybe I should ride the breaks a bit. Or…actually. This is a lot of fun. Ok, but also dangerous. Focus. But also, this is amazing. “WOOOHOOOOOOOO!!! “ as I shout out going down the hill. Oh, hey, that’s Sarah making her way up the hill of death. “HEEEEY SARAAAAH!!” In hopes, she will see how much fun it is to go down and inspire her to keep climbing. I have no idea if it worked, but maybe I gave her something else to think about for a few seconds that wasn’t the pain of that hill.

The Run:

The run was not too bad. I trotted at a nice and easy pace, had another GU for some energy and convinced myself I would not walk up the forested hill of doom. Except, that hill just keeps going, and winding, and getting steeper. I definitely walked it. I told myself I would be stronger and make it all the way up during the second loop. I got a tiny bit further, and I still walked it. My second mini-victory of the day will have to wait until another time.

To finish the race, I sprinted the last 100m because I felt I could and I wanted to pass some people that had passed me shortly before. Not sure why I felt compelled to do so, but I still had some run left in me so I just went for it, and it felt great!

The End:

Moral of this experience? Just have fun. Find little moments to enjoy, be a little silly, remember that this was a choice and you had the privilege to make it. You don’t have to. You get to. So, take pleasure in the moments you can. Embrace the struggles, because that is when you get stronger. Most importantly, remember that it is ok to fail. It is good to fail. You will learn more from failing than you will from succeeding. I’m sure I read or heard that somewhere, but I believe it.

This was the calm, now into the storm I go. 70.3 Ironman Muskoka here I come.

Olympic Tri Incomplete: But I Did Not Fail!

This weekend I attempted my first ever Olympic Distance Triathlon. This was the race that would assure me that I CAN DO THIS! I can finish the race I have been training for, the 70.3 Muskoka coming up next month.  So, I conquered the 1500m open water swim slow and steady, zipped through the 40km bike ride and finished strong with a 10km run. Or, at least that is what I thought was going to happen.

What actually happened is, I didn’t finish the swim. I’ve been working too hard at work with next to no days off for a month. I got terribly sick with a sinus cold just days before the race and barely slept for days. I decided to give the race a try anyway since I felt less awful that morning than the day before. I got in the water.  I was feeling calm, confident, and at ease. About 150m in as I was thinking, hmm, I’m not doing too bad, I’m still with the pack, maybe I will just follow them for a bit so I don’t have to site as often. Then, the inevitable, I started to feel people touching me, which I expected and was cool with. In fact, I had just brushed the leg of the person ahead of me, so all was well. Until someone kicked my hand and piercing pain stops me in my tracks. I let everyone else pass by me as I worked through what I was going to do next. The only option was to just keep moving forward, this pain is familiar and it does go away, so I will forget about it and keep going. At least, that was the plan.

Looking back on this moment, I realize how powerful self-talk can be and how integral having a plan for these moments, actually visualizing them before they ever happen, can be so beneficial. Fatigue and pain in the body can be overcome by the mind, but if you do not have a plan for your moments of mental weakness, then that is when you can fail. At some point, the pain went away, but I could not get my mental game back on track. Every stroke felt like I wasn’t moving forward, each buoy seemed impossibly far away. At 350m I had already given up. There was no way I was going to do another two loops of that course. I was barely able to finish this one. In fact, I was still struggling to finish this one. I finally got to the beach, loop one complete, but I looked exhausted and defeated. Tears were welling up in my eyes. Coach Geordie asked if this wasn’t working today, I nodded yes. Sarah, oh that amazing Sarah exclaims on my behalf that I had been sick and barely slept. That was it, I wasn’t going to finish the swim.

Except, Geordie gave me a choice. He said either I could take off my timing chip and go ahead to the bike ride and run, or I could get back in there and complete at least one more loop because I would learn more from the swim than I would from the rest of the race. I took a few minutes on the beach, in tears because I did not want to give up, I did not want to fail, I wanted to be able to do this. If I couldn’t do this how can I even think about the 70.3 in less than a month?

I don’t know when I made the choice, but the goggles went back on, and I walked towards the water and started swimming again. This loop went a bit better. I was able to stay calm and focussed for 50-75m at a time. It was all going well until I started to swim around the first buoy thinking ok, I can do this, only to hear shouting from the boat, “wrong way”, I had to keep going until the next one. I was derailed yet again, but I thought, ok, just keep going, only to get continuously peeved that I’m horrible at sighting and I kept swimming off course. All this to say, I had no zen that day.

I finished the second loop in half the time of the first nonetheless. I arrived at the beach, gave away my timing chip and went off to complete the bike and run portion of the race. I felt strong during both, finished the 10km run feeling like I could have kept going, but it was a bittersweet finish. I didn’t really complete the entire race, I failed.

Or did I?

Geordie was right! I learned a heck of a lot about myself during that second loop and just how integral managing your mental state of mind is during a swim and that my swimming ability has less to do with my physical ability than I realize. So, learning from an experience is never a fail. But also, that first loop alone was the furthest I had ever swum in open water until I swam another loop and 1000m became the furthest I have ever swum in open water. This in itself is a victory!

So no, I did not complete an Olympic Distance Triathlon, but I swam 1KM in open water for the first time in my life. I’ll take it!

Tri Family!

I have been fairly quiet so far in regards to my first Triathlon experience of the season, perhaps because I needed a bit more time to reflect on the various aspects of the event and how I felt afterward. There were a lot of wonderful pieces of my day that all fit together to make it exceptional. Some of these pieces were just fleeting moments or completely random interactions or scenarios I never expected would make the whole day just a little more special.

For instance, I probably could have walked to the location of this Triathlon, maybe I should have even ridden my bike, but instead, I took the O-Train. The O-Train to a Triathlon! How random and neat is that? Even better was that I met another young woman on the train heading to the same event, and it was her very first time so I got to share some of my knowledge and personal experiences which helped to reassure her. We even got to cheer each other on as we crossed paths several times during the race. I look forward to seeing Andrea at future races since she totally rocked this one.

Of course, my sporty friend Sarah was there to support her various friends and myself. I don’t think a race could feel quite complete if Sarah is not there to participate or cheer us on! Little does she know, now she probably can’t ever miss an event, haha. It wouldn’t be the same. Speaking of supporters, this is the first event my husband was able to make it out as well, and it was always a pleasant surprise when I spotted him in the crowd as I came out from the water, dashing out of transition, or during my many loops of the course while cycling or running. He even doubled as my own personal photographer!

Other special moments included seeing fellow Bushtukah Ambassador Theresa who ran her first (I believe) triathlon and even won second place in her age category. It is just extraordinary to be around so many people who are enjoying the same experience as you, sharing their excitement and positivity with those around them. I even encountered a familiar face as I exited the water, I don’t recall her name, but we first met all the way in Muskoka after we had to exit the water because of lightning. We discovered we were both from Ottawa while shivering inside waiting for when it was safe to get back in the water and start our race.

Could this day have been any more special? It sure was! I also got to race using a road bike for the first time. A friend (Matt) from my Iron North Fitness community loaned me a bike for the season, since buying a road bike is a super pricey endeavor. It was exhilarating to get to ride so quickly so effortlessly, compared to when I ride my hybrid. I may have struggled to get my right foot clipped in at the start, but was it ever fantastic to have the option to both pull and push on the pedals!

The first race of this season was drastically different from my first race of last season (my first Triathlon Race ever in fact). Last year I listened nervously as Geordie gave us his speech and had us recite something like “I am sorry for touching your body,” since we were bound to get touched or touch others while we all frantically started swimming with our adrenaline overflowing at the start of the race. On that day, I struggled through a 200m swim only months after I had one workshop with Geordie, in which he taught me how to swim with my head in the water for the first time. This time around, I’ve been training with him once a week, and he was there to lead us in a stretch, to give me a high five before I entered the pool for a warm-up lap, and to reassure me just before I started the race. He said as a reminder for me to remain calm,  “find your zen and then swim.” The result? I was calm, I swam 500m in 14 minutes, which is a drastic improvement from 17 minutes for 200m last year. I didn’t panic. I wasn’t last out of the water and my biggest issue was trying to safely pass swimmers in front of me. It still has not completely sunk in that I just completed my longest swim in a Triathlon to date (last year the furthest I swam was 350m) and it wasn’t a struggle.

So what have I learned from this experience? I learned, of course, that consistent practice and dedication will drastically improve skills and comfort level. What I truly took away from this experience is the sense of community and family I have found myself a part of. A lot of my training is solo. Many of my struggles are alone, but when I get out there and do what I’ve been preparing for, I have friends, family, coaches, fellow athletes, complete strangers, right there with me. Once you get there, you are never alone, and there is always someone rooting for you. You are part of a grand family that just keeps on growing.

What I Learned at a Recent Triathlon Workshop

I attended my first Bushtuka workshop for women recently, and I am pleased to say I’ve acquired a variety of tips about participating in triathlon events. I wondered if I would encounter new information after completing a couple of Try a Tri’s last Summer, attending workshops at my local gym, and participating in an Ottawa Triathlon Club (OTC) workshop a year ago, and I did. Judy provided us with so much insight, practical as well as useful, that I don’t know how I will narrow it down enough to share, but here it is!

Top 5 things to note if you are entirely new to Triathlon:

  1. Everyone is better at one of the three sports and worse at another. DON’T train only for the part you are comfortable with, put the time into the one you do not enjoy. 
  2. Do BRICK workouts. It may be tough to accomplish this with the swim, but you can easily do Run/Bike workouts.
  3. OPEN WATER is harder than the pool. Therefore, you must prepare for it.
  4. Bring a pump, DO NOT over inflate your tire the day before, they may pop as a result of the temperature fluctuations.
  5. DON’T do anything for the first time on race day.

(Ahem, like try out back stroking because you saw someone else doing it and it looked way faster than your breaststroke, and then you proceed to crash into people. Not cool. Don’t do that. I might have done it once, but I know better now.)

BONUS: You can never be too early!

Tri Suit Pros & Cons:

PRO-Two piece (shorts and Jersey): it is practical during washroom breaks

CON-Two piece (shorts and Jersey): the bike Jersey will likely ride up during your bike ride, and you will get a sunburn on your lower back.

PRO-One piece means no sunburn on your lower back, and it is more comfortable when swimming.

CON-One piece also means going pee is, well, complicated.

Wet Suit Pros & Cons:

PRO-You will float.

PRO-Yucky things won’t touch you

PRO-You will be warmer

CON-You have to get it on first.

Top 5 Swim Tips:

  1. Start where you will finish ( That means if you are a slow swimmer start further back and avoid being trampled over)
  2. Stay wide at turns; DON’T hug the buoy because that is where it will be crowded with other swimmers. Not worth the distance you may save.
  3. Wear goggles under your swim cap, this helps secure them if you get knocked about a bit.
  4. Boats/Rafts are your friends. If you need a rest, you are allowed to hang on to one of them for as long as you like. (They have to make sure they don’t move you forward at all)
  5. Again, Open water is very different from the pool. Prepare by learning how to site and practice alternate breathing in case there are waves or sun in your eyes.

Top 5 Transition Tips:

  1. Put your bike where you can find it. e.g., use a landmark such as a tree or garbage can. Also, practice locating your bicycle from the point at which you enter the transition zone after your swim.
  2. Flip flops, cheap ones you do not care about, just in case there is gravel or cement between the swim location and the transition zone.
  3. Bring a unique, silly, bright coloured towel for your Transition zone to lay our your items. It is useful for drying your feet, but most importantly, it will help you find your spot when you return from your bike ride (if you thought locating your bike was tough, imagine finding your place when you are on the bike you used to identify it the first time).
  4. Take your goggles and cap off after you finish getting your wetsuit off, this way your hands stay free to tackle the task at hand.
  5. Practice.

Top 5 Biking Tips:

  1. Do a casual ride of the course in advance.
  2. You have gears on your bike, use them!
  3. Spin legs out at the end of the ride (this helps will jello legs before running)
  4. Know how to change your tire and learn how to use a Co2 pump. 
  5. Nutrition! Your bike is the most accessible place to eat.

Top 3 Run Tips:

  1. Where a hat for the sun/to catch sweat
  2. Experiment with your gear, find what works. For some people that may include arm coolers, arm warmers, leg compression socks, etc. To each his own, but find out what works for you.
  3. Speed laces (I love these! They are quick, always the right tightness, and never get undone, so I don’t have to stop in the middle of a run to tie my laces.)

Now that I have “narrowed” down what I learned at the most recent Bushtuka Triathlon 101 workshop, I hope this has provided you with at least a couple useful takeaways. I also learned a bit about Tri bikes compared to a road bike, or aero bikes and aero helmets, and how a race belt can be super handy. We even discussed some of the rules regarding drafting during the bike ride and things you should bring with you just in case. I will have to save all that for another time, or maybe I have enticed you to attend one of the workshops yourself!

Cheers and Bike Gears,

Natasha

 

Bushtukah has many free workshops planned for the Spring. You can check them out here!

https://tockify.com/bushtukah.events/monthly?startms=1522555200000

Runner’s Wave

The runner’s wave, nod, smile, or even the occasional high five, are a phenomenon in solo running I only recently discovered.

I first encountered one of these expressions of camaraderie whilst running in – 20-degree weather early in January. At the time, I passed it off as simply recognition that we were possibly the only runners in all of Ottawa crazy enough to even try running in those icy and bitterly cold conditions. On that day, with a layer of frost covering my eyelashes, my tuque pulled down to the edge of my eyebrows, and my neck warmer pulled up with just enough space for me to see where I was going, I encountered one runner going in the opposite direction. We locked eyes, he nodded, I nodded back, and I thought to myself. “Yeah, we are dedicated! We aren’t going to let this outrageously cold weather stop us from achieving our fitness goals!”

I’ve now come to realize, the friendly smile or nod when passing another runner is not just something encountered during extreme running conditions, but rather, any time you pass a fellow runner. I have even had the experience of receiving my first ever high five whilst running. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.

All that to say, it feels kind of special to be a part of the running community, especially on those days when it is a struggle to get out the door. I wonder how many other runners have encountered one of these friendly gestures during one of their runs.