Posted by: Tina | January 28, 2012

Week 4: Dragging to the pool

In a recovery week. These are always welcome, but they’re never quite as easy as I think/hope they will be.

It has become apparent that the swims – as usual – are going to be the toughest workouts to get motivated for. Last year, the pool I used was just downstairs in my office building so it didn’t take too much effort to get there. I switched jobs in September, so now I have to really plan ahead on swim days because it requires a bit more travel to and from the pool. The Monday swims with the tri club should be a bit easier to get motivated for because I am nothing if not cheap, and I hate missing workouts that I’ve already paid for (but it’s a 25-minute drive!).

Sunday, January 22 (#16): An hour-long slow and easy 10km run on a blustery Sunday morning. Felt good, although I was a bit stiff in the right hip by the end of the day. It was nice to get this done and out of the way early.

Monday, January 23 (#17): UBC Aquatic Centre has fixed its heater and the outdoor pool was nice and toasty. I wore earplugs but I’m not sure they were necessary since the pool temperature is now the same as an indoor pool. It was a great workout, and swimming with the club is definitely going to push me to go harder. It’s lovely swimming in an outdoor pool in the dark evening, steam rising from the water. Doing backstroke during the cooldown, I thought of how lovely it will be on a clear night, stars winking down.

Tuesday, January 24 (#18): 40 minutes on the spin bike at the gym over lunch, all in Z1 (under 140 bpm). Reading Roger Ebert’s Life Itself, which is excellent.

Wednesday, January 25:  Um, nothing. Skipped the scheduled early-morning swim due to multiple nocturnal visits from my toddler.

Thursday, January 26 (#19): 45 minutes on the spin bike at the gym over lunch, all in Z1. Caught up on a couple of back issues of Maclean’s. When and how else would I find topics that make me appear more erudite and interesting?

Friday, January 27 (#20 and #21): A double workout day, because I couldn’t bear the thought of swimming only once for two weeks in a row. In the morning, I hit Hillcrest Pool for an endurance workout, completing a total distance of 2000 metres. The incredibly fast swimmers who clogged up the pool last week – apparently, Canadian Olympic Team hopefuls – were gone this week so the pool was quiet. At lunch, I went for an easy 35-minute run criss crossing the trails of Central Park in Burnaby. Ran past a coyote.

Posted by: Tina | January 20, 2012

Week 3: Balancing work and training

I completed only five workouts this week. My swim club cancelled our Monday night swim because of heating problems with the UBC outdoor pool (i.e., water very cold!). I was grateful because the outside air temperature was hovering around 0 degrees (C). My coach, who also swims there on Monday nights, told me to enjoy my night off. I took the night off, sans guilt.

Work escalated into full-on pandemonium this week and – for the first time since starting triathlon training two years ago – I seriously wondered if keeping it together this year will be possible. My structured training/life schedule is not conducive to putting in extra hours or taking work home. But I will persevere, if only because training keeps me saner. And being busy and just a little bit stressed makes the workouts feel even better.

Sunday, January 15 (#11): 55-minute Z1 run on a treadmill at the community centre across the street. Listened to two episodes of Freakonomics radio. Total distance was approximately 10km. It’s always a bit of a crap shoot going to this gym as they vigorously enforce the 20-minute limit on all the cardio equipment. If it’s a busy day, you get booted off the moment your 20 minutes is up. But late afternoon on a Sunday appears to be golden. I was able to get off and sign up for the same treadmill three times.  I should note that I prefer to run outside, but the snow and ice made running on outside sidewalks more precarious than I like.

Tuesday, January 17 (#12): 45-minutes hill work on the bike, alternating 2-min Z3 hills with decreasing amounts of Z1 descent rests (2m, 1:30, 1m, 30s). Went through the set twice, plus warmup and cooldown. I did this on the trainer in my garage, early in the morning.

Wednesday, January 18 (#13): Morning swim at Hillcrest, where the calibre of swimmers has suddenly shot up. As a result, I’ve been shunted into the medium speed lane. Thankfully, the lanes are wide, though there are a few swimmers in the lane who haven’t figured out that they should now move into the slow lane. I did 600 meters of scull drills, then 2 x 500 meters, plus warmup and cooldown, for a total of 2000 meters. Arms were tired from the drills, and a bit sore the day after.

Thursday, January 19 (#14): Busy day at work, but went to the gym at the end of the day to do some hill repeats on the treadmill. There are no shortage of hills around my office building, but I didn’t feel like running in sub-zero temperatures on ice. Some people live and train in places where there is real winter for months on end, but I do not. I do not like it, so I take it indoors when it gets cold and slippery. 40 minutes total. My left knee was sore later in the evening.

Friday, January 20 (#15): 6:30am start on the bike trainer in sub-zero temperatures in the garage. Some single-leg intervals, followed by 2-min Z3 intervals, interspersed with 1-min Z1 rest. I was supposed to do five sets, but did six without thinking. Total time on bike: 45 mins.

P.S. Three out of five of my workouts were in the early morning, so my prediction of evening workouts has already proven inaccurate.

Posted by: Tina | January 13, 2012

Week 2: Six days of training

I’ve been doing a lot of late-in-the-day workouts, which is not my usual modus operandi. I have long been a morning workout person – I like to get it over with early and then sloth out in the evenings. But life seems to dictate I’ll be doing a few more evening workouts this year, at least partly because I’ll be using my real bike more often, rather than spin bikes at the gym. This was also the first week in a long while when I had six straight days of workouts, so I’m feeling pretty tired and looking forward to the Saturday rest day.

Sunday, January 8 (#5): 50-minute run in the cool wet drizzle, which was a deluge by the time I finished. Ran a circuitous route to my brother’s house for dinner, a distance of 9.16 km according to the foot pod. Kept it in Zone 1 (below 151 bpm), though there were a few spikes as I ran uphill. My heart rate graph closely matches the elevation profile of the run.

Monday, January 9 (#6): Only lasted about 25 minutes in the outdoor pool with the Pacific Spirit Triathlon Club (600 metres of warm up and drills). Then I was hit something fierce by cold water vertigo and did not complete the scheduled hour of swimming.

Tuesday, January 10 (#7): Heart rate test on my bike, on the trainer, in the garage. 2 x 5mins as hard as I consistently could, with an 8-minute easy spin in between. It made sense to do this twice since it was much easier to crank up the heart rate on the second set after getting well warmed up during the first. The difference in heart rate reflects this. First 5min: 159 avg, 170 max (barely moving!). Second 5min: 172 avg, 180 max (much harder).

Wednesday, January 11 (#8): Speed workout run over lunch hour on a crisp and sunny day. Headed over to Central Park and did a bit of this on the track at Swangard Stadium. Just alternated bouts of Z3 and Z1 pace. Felt great! I got my Garmin Forerunner 50 battery replaced, and am still impressed by the accuracy of the foot pod (rivals, if not betters, GPS).

Thursday, January 12 (#9): Some Z3 intervals on the stationary bike in the gym at work. I had planned on getting up early to do this on my own bike on the trainer in the garage, but failed to do so.

Friday, January 13 (#10): Swim test at Hillcrest Pool, which was very busy this morning. 100m: 1:40, 1000m: 19:35. Both are slightly approximate because it was so busy and I got waylaid a couple times by traffic jams, and running into someone who wanted to chat briefly. Almost skipped this workout but realized that I shouldn’t give myself license to skip workouts so early in the training. Glad I went, because I felt great afterward!

Posted by: Tina | January 10, 2012

Swimming, cold water vertigo, and ripped abs

My swim day yesterday began with enthusiasm, and ended with a puddle of vomit on the sidewalk.

I have joined the Pacific Spirit Triathlon club for Monday night coached swim workouts at the UBC 50m outdoor pool (January to June). In a few months, the experience is sure to be pleasant with lovely evening swims in the sunshine but, in the meantime, it means hitting the pool deck in the dark chill of night and shivering with cold when stopped for longer than ten seconds at the end of the pool lanes.

Last night – my first with the club – the swim director told me that the water, usually a tolerable temperature on par with any regular indoor pool, was 1-2 degrees Celsius colder than usual. That set my warning signals flashing, as I consistently experience vertigo when swimming in water cooler than about 22 degrees. Unfortunately, though I saw my earplugs at home the night before, I pooh-poohed the idea of bringing them with me. After all, I competed in the Point Grey Triathlon in July in the same pool, didn’t use earplugs, and had no problems.

But, last night, I managed to only get through the warmup and a drill set before vertigo took over. The coach reminded me to bring earplugs next time as I teetered out of the pool and made the frigid dash back into the aquatic centre.

The bus ride home was terrible, rivaled only by a winding long-distance bus ride in the Costa Rican mountains in 2000, clutching a plastic shopping bag of barf in one hand. I managed to keep it together through sheer force of will, until I arrived at my stop and proceeded to eject all the contents of my stomach onto the sidewalk.

And, so, my friends, the moral of the story for Tina: always keep earplugs in the swim bag.

* * *

As an aside, I got to the aquatic centre a bit early and had the great pleasure of watching the varsity – competitive, at any rate – swimmers practice in the indoor pool. Holy, ripped abs, Batman! I’m so used to seeing skinny middle-aged triathlete bodies, that I forgot just how amazingly great competitive swimming can be for body aesthetics.

Posted by: Tina | January 3, 2012

Week 1: Optimism as training begins

I started training this week, armed with optimism and enthusiasm, and greatly motivated by the copious amounts of baked goods, Bailey’s, rum and eggnog, and other assorted junk I consumed over the holidays (must there be chocolate every day at work?). As you can see from this weekly workout summary, my coach has me easing back into it even though I feel ready to go out hard. But it’s the smart way.

Tuesday, January 3 (#1): 35mins easy on the bike at the gym at work. Finished a book. My right knee was bothering me for some reason, which is unusual. For the first time since starting at the gym, two of the three bikes were in use (resolutions driving attendance?), but the spin bike that I prefer was free for me.

Wednesday, January 4 (#2): 630am, first time at Hillcrest Pool at 50m lengths. They keep the medium and fast lanes extra wide to aid with passing, which makes the pool feel a bit like an open water triathlon swim. Did 1500m, some as drills, some as building sets of 50m and 100m. It felt great to be in the pool and still be able to keep up in the fast lane.

Thursday, January 5 (#3): Today, the completion of a horrible task: the dreaded heart rate test at the track. I headed to Swangard during lunch hour for a 3km test. My fitness is way down because I held a pace slightly faster than my PR 10k (4:30/km) and thought I was dying, plus my legs are now incredibly sore. My heart rate average was 178 bpm, and max was 184, unchanged from last year. I timed each 1km lap, and my speed declined on each – 4:21, 4:28, 4:35. On the bright side, it wasn’t raining, though I had prepared for a drenching.

Friday, January 6 (#4): Pumped up my nearly-flat road bike tires and climbed on the trainer just after 6am this morning. An easy ride with a few builds and pick-ups. Watched an episode of Californication, season 1. Have you seen that show?! Incredible.

Rest day tomorrow, which is welcome since my legs are sore enough to make walking uncomfortable (clearly, the “easing” comment in the intro paragraph was written before the track workout).

Posted by: Tina | December 3, 2011

Weight Loss Secrets Revealed!

Or, how my brother lost a bunch of weight and learned to love running!

First, a warning. There are no “secrets” to weight loss. I can guarantee that what you are about to read is nothing you haven’t read before. The story is very similar to the ones you often see as inspirational profiles in Shape Magazine or Runner’s World.

My brother has long carried a bit of extra weight, even though he has been a bike commuter for many years (and he’s fast on that bike). However, you may also know there are many fast and fit bikers out there who also carry extra weight, unless they’re trying to be faster and more competitive, in which case it’s better to be skinny and powerful.

In 2010, he made a bunch of lifestyle changes. His goal wasn’t necessarily to lose weight, but the changes he made had the happy outcome of helping him drop around 25 lbs in 3-4 months. Most importantly, he still keeps the weight off more than a year later. These are his success factors:

  1. Diet. This is #1, bar none. He started eating breakfast. He cut back on quantity (half a sandwich at lunch instead of a whole). He combined food in a smart way (proteins/fats/carbs).
  2. Exercise. He started running. I’m not sure where the motivation for this came from, especially since he used to mock me for running races.
  3. Consistency. This applies to both diet and exercise. So much so that he now talks about “needing” to go for a run because it makes him feel good.
  4. Willpower. I have seen him turn down a second piece of dessert on more than one occasion. His portions at family dinners are also markedly smaller despite the ridiculous amounts always on offer. He knows it isn’t his last meal. He will have other opportunities to taste those delicious things!

And that is it. These are his weight loss secrets. Not secrets. Not new. But there’s a reason this is broken record advice. They are the only things that will actually make you lose weight.

P.S. Don’t tell my brother I wrote this because he would kill me. But I think it’s a good story.

Posted by: Tina | October 18, 2011

Granville Island Turkey Trot 2011 – Race Report

Shall we examine my personal best in a 10K? Yes?


Obtained October 10, 2011 at the Granville Island Turkey Trot.

My team, Team Gobbledygook, also took the coed team division in a massive field. Of 3. But still, who doesn’t love to come in first place?

Race synopsis: Rain, then drizzle, but fun and mostly flat course around the seawall. And I think I could have been even faster, although I was sore in the days following the race. I’ve run the seawall many times over the years, but was still surprised by how quickly the kilometres flew by from Science World back to Granville Island. When I got to Science World, it felt like I was still so far away from the finish, but I was actually more than halfway.

The post-race food was suboptimal. I recruited my team members with promises of an amazing post-race spread (last year there were hors d’oeuvres!), but this year there were just platters of veggies and fruit, plus some rather pedestrian scones, muffins, and bagels. Though it was typical post-race food, I was disappointed because one of the Turkey Trot’s marketing tactics is to highlight the quality of the post-race food.

Other than that, it was great. I would like to reiterate that this was not only a personal best, but the achievement of a goal to run 10k in under 46 minutes. Huzzah!

Gun vs. Chip Time: An Aside

Although I knew when I finished that I had achieved a personal best, I wanted to know if my official time got me under my goal of coming in under 46 minutes. The first set of posted results showed gun time only, which put my time just over 46 minutes. I really wanted the official chip time results. Consequently, I turned into an annoying pest, asking the organizers within hours of race finish about chip versus gun time and whether/when they would be putting up chip time.

I should note that I have never been in a race where organizers did not end up posting chip times, so I knew I didn’t need to have my panties in such a bunch. But I was so impatient to know! They posted the chip times the next day and I whooped jubilantly when I saw my final time (goal achieved!).

In the course of my pestering and research, I did learn that IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) rules say awards should be based on gun time only. The Timex BC Road Running Series says that chip times are “for personal interest only.” So if you think you can be a contender, it’s best to be right up at the front at race start.

Posted by: Tina | August 28, 2011

Kelowna Apple Triathlon 2011 – Race Report

A few days before the Kelowna Apple Triathlon 2011, I asked Simon Whitfield if he feels nervous before his races. His answer? “Absolutely. Always think everyone looks so fit and wonder what I’m doing there. Always have. Funny eh?”

This illustrates not only the wondrous power of Twitter that allows me to directly interact with a two-time Olympic medalist, but also that feeling nervous before a race is universal and not something that will ever go away.

I started feeling nervous a full five days before the race. And as I put my bike into transition the day before the race, I felt as Whitfield describes. How come everyone looked so taut, so toned? Was I really trained enough to race with them?

Turns out, I was! I had a good race and finished with a solid time that wasn’t way off from last year. My bike time was down by 4 minutes (!!), but I basically held steady on the run and even managed to surprise myself with a faster swim.


Other than comforting my 4-year-old daughter as she threw up on the drive to Kelowna, the day started well. I was able to sleep the night before. I muscled down a decent breakfast. It was clear and beautiful. Body marking and transition set up went smoothly. My wave (women 30-39) was at 9am so I had plenty of time to warm up, squeeze into my wetsuit, gobble a Guu, and wonder briefly if all the athletes loitering in the swim warm-up area were discreetly going pee. And then, all of a sudden, the horn went, I was racing and, as usual, the nerves dissipated.

The Swim

The first 100 metres or so was vicious. Although I was in a small wave start, I got kicked and swum over a few times because, unlike 2010, I started in the middle of the pack. For the first while I was forced to take a lot of breaths on just one side because I couldn’t get a proper swim stroke going. After about a hundred metres, I was finally able to get a rhythm of swimming and sighting. Although I was not excited to have to do a second lap as I finished the first, I got a mental boost when I started passing a few of the men who started five minutes before the women. Other highlights: swimming past a school of fish and waving at a scuba diver hanging out under a course buoy.

Overall the swim felt tough. While I was swimming, I attributed this to my lapse in training this spring, but my final swim time contradicts this conclusion. With a time of 28:22, I was faster this year! This was the biggest – and most pleasant – surprise of the day.

The Bike

Oh, how I love riding my bike.  When my coach asked me afterward how I felt on the race, I told her I really enjoyed the bike portion. Why? Because I’m not strong enough on the bike to not enjoy it. If I had been adequately conditioned, it would have been hard. I certainly wouldn’t have been talking or smiling at people as I was (it drives my husband crazy how I enjoy races so much). But the bike course* is so fun! The Knox Mountain climb is a nice short challenge (x3); I felt exhilarated on the downhills back into town; and I love how the course swings through transition three times. On each pass my whole family was there cheering wildly for me (husband, two kids, niece, mom, and dad).

I paid for all the bike love with a slow time: 1:19:34. I can’t say it wasn’t expected and at least it wasn’t my slowest Olympic distance bike time yet.

The Run

Unlike the bike, the run was not enjoyable. The reason? It was hard. I have spent the last couple of months training my body to accept an uncomfortable 10k run pace so I was prepared for it. By the second half, I was having trouble smiling at people cheering me on. The tiny 10m incline at the furthest point from transition – on an otherwise pancake-flat course – felt like a mountain on the second loop. And, oh, how the kilometres ticked by so agonizingly slowly! But I kept focused and it paid off. I passed seven women in my age category, which gave me a needed boost as I ran. (Race category is marked on the back left calf of all competitors so you know who you are racing against as you pass or are passed.)

My final time on the run was 48:11. While this is slightly slower than last year, this year I stopped as I exited transition for a “nature break”, which ate into my time (a pox on you, hydration!). So physically I performed the same as last year, although this is not reflected in my time.

The Finish

I burned into the finish line and the official photographer got a photo of me looking relaxed and happy, adjectives I would not have used to describe how I was feeling at the time. After walking around to bring my heart rate down and eating a bit of food, I went right back to being a full-time mom. The first thing out of my niece’s mouth, for example, was not “Congratulations, Tina!” or “Go, Tina!”, it was “Tina, I’m thirsty.” Having been to enough of these races, she knows how much food is at the finish and was basically demanding I get goodies to feed her. My own kids were similarly commanding.

My final time was 2:40:19 (2010 time was 2:36:46). I moved into a new age category this year and it was competitive. I finished 23 of 58. Still, I was happy because I achieved my goals and I truly enjoyed the race. Almost all of my lost time was from the bike, so at least I have a clear picture of where I need most to improve.

And that brings to an end my brief 2011 triathlon season. One more 10k run race this fall, and then planning for 2012 begins.


*A great video of the 2011 Pushor Mitchell Apple Triathlon Bike Course

Posted by: Tina | August 20, 2011

Kelowna Apple Triathlon 2011 Eve

It’s the night before my second Kelowna Apple Triathlon. My goals are to:

1. Go as hard as I can, especially on the run.

My training was off this year, so in recent weeks I focused on running. This is where I will put my attention in the race. And I’m not going to use my Garmin anything. Just me focusing on maintaining the pace I’ve been practicing. Oh, and go hard up Knox Mountain.

2. Not be too hard on myself or set expectations too high.

It is unlikely that I will be faster than last year, as my bike and swim fitness is much lower. Plus the temperature is going to be high and I start late so it’ll likely be a tough day. (But, secretly, I hope to surprise myself.)

3.  Have fun

My entire family is going to be there with cattle bells ringing. I plan to enjoy the noise my kids are capable of making.

If you’re in Kelowna, watch for me – I’ll be wearing hot pink and a huge grin.

Posted by: Tina | July 24, 2011

Point Grey Triathlon 2011 – Race Report

Top lesson learned in the Point Grey Triathlon: if you are even the slightest bit competitive, do not relent. It could mean the 0.7 second difference between you and first place.

The Point Grey Triathlon is held each year at UBC (sprint and short distance course only), starting with a swim in the outdoor pool, a standard bike course, and then a run partially on the trails of Pacific Spirit Park. The number of participants is small and because of the staggered start – small groups of swimmers grouped by estimated swim time start about 20 minutes apart – it doesn’t have the “race feel” of races with a mass start.

The Swim

After lining up in order of anticipated swim time, a female athlete hopped into line behind me and I let her know that if she wanted to pass, she could just touch my toe and I would stop at the end. She must have grossly underestimated herself because before reaching the end of the first 50-metre lane, she had already touched my toe despite starting 10 seconds after me. As she passed, I worried I had underestimated my swim time, but I was passed by only one other athlete a few lengths later. After that, I had a steady swim, although I felt a bit queasy on the first few lengths. When I popped out of the water, I was relieved it was over.

The Bike

There was a jovial mood in transition and I exchanged a few words with a couple other athletes as we changed. I threw on my tri shorts and a t-shirt over my swimsuit, strapped on my cycle shoes, and I was off.

The bike course took us on two loops out along SW Marine Drive (basically the same route as the UBC triathlon in March). It was fun going out as we had the downhill behind us, and then there was a very gradual slog coming back. Because of the staggered start, I didn’t feel like I was racing. Was that person ahead of me on her first or second lap? Was I being passed by someone in my race category? There was no way to know. Instead, I made it a game of, “Can I catch that person ahead of me?” I did quite well, eventually catching the girl who passed me in the pool.

My overall mistake on the bike was that I was so worried that my legs might cramp on the run (having completed a grand total of just one brick workout prior to this race), that I a) didn’t push as hard as I should have; and b) let myself spin my legs out on the gradual incline back into transition, which brought me in too slowly. As I dismounted, the fast swimmer girl I had passed caught me. And she was fast in transition! Seeing her lace up and blast out motivated me to move more quickly.

The Run

I surged out of transition, and kept my feet moving at a high cadence, but not a sprint. It didn’t take me long to catch the girl who passed me – after exchanging a couple friendly words around the 1km mark, I was off. I felt good on the run, and fast. It was over quickly, and I raced to the finish line as soon as it was in sight.

Race Aftermath

This was the most anticlimactic triathlon finish I have experienced. There was absolutely zero fanfare and a bare minimum of food. I was happy that my family and coach were there to give me hugs.

Nobody had thought to time me so I had no clue what my results were. When the results came up online that afternoon, I was surprised to see the following:
Swim: 14:23
T1 + Bike + T2: 46:33
Run: 23:08
Total time: 1:24:03

I was faster than I expected and the final results put me at 2/14 in my age group (Females 35-39), 9/101 women, and 28/179 overall. I should note that an original goal for 2011 was a Top 3 finish in my category. This result translates into goal achieved! And while this was not a target race at the beginning of the year, the result is not too shabby considering I stopped training for six weeks in the spring.

The big shock was that I came in 2nd in my age category by less than one second!  It wasn’t a footrace – there was no Simon Whitfield throw-my-hat-down in the final stretch moment. The first place finisher was nowhere to be seen because she started in a different swim heat. Because of the peculiar logistics of a triathlon with a pool swim, I had no idea I was racing anyone other than myself. Had I known, would I have slowed down on the bike into transition? Would I have been so jovial with other athletes in transition? Would I have walked as slowly (as per the rules) after exiting the swimming pool? The answer is no. But hindsight is 20/20 and changes nothing.

The important thing, then, is to distill something from my 0.7 second comeuppance. Which brings me to…

Lessons From my Point Grey Triathlon Performance
  1. Always race like I am competing. Be relentless. Because even if I don’t know I am competing with someone, I could be. And even if I am not racing against a real person, I’m always in competition with myself.
  2. Focus. Focus. Focus. Think about what my body is doing at all times. Find my mind drifting to what eggs benny will taste like later? Bring the focus back to my cadence, which has probably dropped precipitously.
  3. Get faster on the bike. Biking is still my weak point. Even without the accident that derailed training this year, I would not be much faster on the bike. Riding lots and bike commuting doesn’t necessarily equate to being fast – I have to work on this in a targeted way.

Despite the above, and as I become more competitive, I must remember to still have fun. I’m not a pro. This is not my job – it’s my hobby. I love it and I am competitive, but it wouldn’t be something I spend time on if it wasn’t fun for me and my family.

The Point Grey Triathlon was my first of two triathlons this year. I’ll bring some of these lessons to bear during my return to the Kelowna Apple Olympic triathlon on August 21.

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