Miami 70.3 – racing and coaching

My career choice is very rewarding. When I think of people who go to work every day and hate their jobs, or just “spend time” doing something mindless, I think about how lucky I am to have built something that I really like doing every day. Helping people get and stay healthy and helping athletes achieve goals that are important to them – how can every day not be a good day?? People set goals in health and fitness for many reasons. And people set goals in endurance sports for many reasons just the same – which I get to be part of, not only in planning and taking them through a training schedule, but also getting to know each persons personality and what drives them. Relationships are created between a coach/trainer and athlete that are deeper than most people realize.

2 weeks ago I was in Miami for the 70.3. I went there to race – but also to support five of the athletes I coach. To be there for them before the race and after the race was my favourite part! Knowing how some of their lives have changed, what they have given up and what they have introduced into their lives, and being part of the up and downs of their journeys to race day is something that is hard to describe.

As for me, I raced too! The end of the 2015 Triathlon race season. If you know me or if you have followed my blogs throughout this year, you know that it wasn’t the best year ever for me and triathlon, but I have been feeling better as the weeks go on. I dealt with a chronic hip injury over the winter months and then some overtraining in the spring and first half of the summer. After recognizing that and making some changes in the summer, I have been feeling better and stronger each week. I’m looking forward to getting through the next bit of off-season and getting stronger and faster for the 2016 season! Miami was a great way to end things off this year. Here is the story…:

The swim: This part wasn’t so good – but that’s because of the jellyfish!! There were jelly fish every few metres. Big one’s!! I was stung at least 12 times, all over. One big one in the arm and armpit that is still a pain 2 weeks later. This was the first time I ever saw a jellyfish…and I’m not looking forward to seeing them so close up ever again! Other than that, I felt okay in the swim, although it was definitely hard to focus on swimming!

The bike: The bike was fun. Flat and fast. The first half with the wind at our backs was FAST. It was important to stay in control on that piece though and not get too excited.. because the second half was back in the opposite direction with that same wind as a headwind!! It was fun to fight through the wind, to stay focussed on pedalling, stay strong mentally and work on passing one person at a time. I felt good on the ride and was consistent most of the way through.

The run: It’s hot in Miami! When I got off the bike I was feeling good. Quickly I realized that sun was hot! The run was a little slower than I would have liked, but I kept going without looking at my watch so I wouldn’t be stressed by the data – this is something that has been a good thing for me to learn to do this year! Having data can be good for some people, but for others it’s better to put it away and listen to your body instead at times. This course is fairly flat except for a big overpass that you run over four times. I kept going one foot in front of the other and trying to keep a smile on my face – my last race of the year and five coached athletes racing.. that kept me going and kept me in a good headspace! I saw a few of my friends who were racing a few times during the race because of the out and back x 2 course. It was nice to see them and their smiling faces! In the end, I ran significantly slower than I would have liked, but I did give it a good effort overall and it turned out that almost everyone ran slower than they normally would. I ended up 11th overall in a big field of pro’s! Overall, I’m happy with this race and the way it ended up, and I’m excited about getting back into it in a couple of weeks once off’season is over. For now.. time to put up the feet and take 2 weeks of rest and recovery!

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70.3 Timberman: Back to racing!

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This past weekend I raced 70.3 Timberman.  And, for the first time in a while, actually felt like I was in a race instead of going through the motions.  I have been having issues for a while now with self-defeating thoughts related to both training and racing.  One of the things I have really appreciated about training and racing endurance sports is that you can let your mind be free of day to day thoughts and stresses and just focus on the task at hand.  Until you can’t… !  During the months before Ironman Austria I felt myself getting more and more tired and performing worse at workouts despite getting in the time/volume that was prescribed in my training schedule.  I found myself regularly wondering “why am I doing this?” and thinking “I’d rather be doing this instead,” and thinking “I can’t do this anymore.  It’s too much, I’m not good enough…” and on and on.  Triathlon is hard… and takes a whole lot of focus and commitment to be good at.  So when this starts happening, it’s impossible to race as well as one would like.  After Austria I decided I needed a change.  It was time to change focus – I decided to switch coaches within QT2 Systems and to start focusing on half iron distance racing instead of iron distance. These two things were what needed to happen if I was going to stay in the sport and start loving it again!

The goal at Timberman was to race fast of course but more than that it was to find focus, to keep my head in the game, stay positive and have fun.  As a professional triathlete it is so easy to get caught in a game of feeling like you’re not good enough.  There can be a lot of pressure – from yourself and others.  (As well as a ton of work!  It’s definitely not as glorified as people think.)  Coach Vinny told me to pretend it was my first triathlon ever and re-experience that excitement.  He gave me some ideas to stay focused on my body during the race and nothing else.  I did it… and that’s the biggest reason why I feel like this race was a success.

I traveled to this race with another local pro, Kristen Marchant, and my boyfriend Al who basically played race-sherpa and helped us with whatever we needed – a huge support to us.  We met friend and teammate Amy down there and it was great to spend time with good people while prepping for a race.

Pre-race it was great to see a few fellow QT2’ers in transition to chat with and lighten the mood.  As we walked toward the swim start I looked around and took in the positive energy.  Tried to think about the great things that would happen that day instead of “I can’t swim fast enough right now” or “my bike power isn’t where it should be right now”… etc.  I got in the water, warmed up, and actually felt great.  The gun went off, I went out with the group and managed to stay with a few girls in the middle of the field.  It was a strong effort throughout the swim.  Into T1 – it’s always a good thing when there are a number of bikes still in transition!  A couple girls got out of T1 in front of me… time to work on transitions!  On the bike I was focused on pedaling.  That’s it!  Every time my mind started wandering I recognized it and brought the focus back to “it’s just me and my bike.”  I managed to stay consistent from start finish, keeping heart rate where it was supposed to be and keeping rpm up when possible.  I passed a couple of girls on the bike and a couple passed me.  Through T2.. onto the run.  This run is challenging – lots of long hills which can kill the legs if you’re not careful.  Again, I headed out with an eye on heart rate and just worked to keep it where it was supposed to be – not worrying about what everyone else was doing, just running my own race and doing what I was supposed to do.  I didn’t run my fastest race but I did run one of the smartest – by listening to the plan and not starting out too fast I was able to stay more consistent than others and pass a few girls in the second lap.  During the run I was able to do the same as on the bike – as soon as the mind started wandering I was able to recognize it ASAP and bring focus back to my body – in a positive or neutral kind of way.  I was able to push the effort a little in the last mile and come across the finish line strong.

As I said in the beginning this race was a success for me.  Not because of my time or my placing.  But because I was able to get my head in the game, keep it there, and feel like I was actually in a race instead of going through the motions and not sure why. Coming out of Timberman I feel motivated to keep it up, get stronger, get faster, and race again soon!  There will be no more full ironman races this year – half distances and shorter only.  The plan is for 2 more half iron races and maybe a running race thrown in there for fun.  Time to lay down the hammer and get strong again!

Thanks to all those who support me in my triathlon dreams, including:  Coach Vinny @ QT2 Systems, PowerBar Canada, Pearl Izumi, Quintana Roo, Base Performance, Normatec Recovery, Rick Choy and Reel Kool Products.

Until next time…

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Ironman Austria 2015 – The Whole Story!

Wow, what a trip – one of things I like about racing triathlon is that it brings with it the opportunity to travel to different places in the world, some that you may have always wanted to visit and others that you may never have thought of!  My race calendar this year has changed a number of times for various reasons and ended up with race #1 of 2015 being Ironman Austria.  This adventure came about after Challenge North America cancelled the pro race at Challenge Atlantic City about a month and a half ago.  I’m going to tell the whole story of getting my mom, my bike, and myself to Klagenfurt and then getting myself to starting line and the finish line of this race.

Last Thursday we (my mom and I) headed to Toronto Airport to begin our trip.  Our final flight destination was Venice, Italy and we had a short 40 minute stop-over scheduled in Vienna.  From Venice our plan was to drive to Klagenfurt, Austria, where the Ironman was going to take place.  We got to the airport almost 3 hours early, thinking we would have more than enough time to get ourselves checked in, through security and to the gate and we would not have to stress about time.  When we got to the airport and found the Air Canada check-in area, we put our passports into the self-check-in machines and our reservation was not found.  Okay, well, we had a piece of paper with us that told us our AC flight number and the time and date, so after making sure we had that right we went to see an agent.  We then found out it was actually Austrian Airlines that we were going to fly with and learned of the new flight number.  So away we went to the Austrian check-in area.  The check-in line was pretty short so we were happy to see that.  We got to the agent at the desk pretty quickly and she takes our luggage minus the bike, tags it, sends it away, and then begins to look into checking in the bike.  There looked to be some confusion and she said “I cannot check in your bike, you have to call your travel agent and pre-book it, or you can go over there to the ticketing area and she can do it for you, and then come back.”  Okay.  So.  We head to the lady at ticketing.  She says she can book the bike to Vienna but not Venice and as a result we cannot take the bike at all.   I speak with her a minute and then someone else comes over and tells me to call our travel agent – which we don’t have because we booked it directly with Air Canada.  I call Air Canada and explain the situation and they laugh and say they have no idea, it’s Austrian Airlines we are dealing with and they can’t do anything about it.  I ask the lady at the airport if she can speak with the person on the line w/ Air Canada and explain what they need and she says “No, we are not permitted to speak with them.”   Eventually I find someone else to speak with.  He puts in a call to someone else at Austrian and asked for special permission to put the bike on the plan from Vienna to Venice.  He says “wait 20 minutes and then come back” and he would let us know then, he said he’d asked for special permission and that there were no guarantee’s.  You can imagine how much time has gone by at this point.  Here we are, my mom and I, in Pearson Airport with this bike box, wondering if we are going to get on a plane at all, or if our luggage was going without us and we were staying in Toronto with this bike.  I think my heart rate was running in zone 4 throughout this ordeal.  The good news is, after 20 minutes I went back to this “guy” and he said okay, you can take the bike, now go back to the agent and check it in.  We go to her.  She says “go to ticketing, she has to do it there so you can pay.”  It’s about 6 minutes before our check-in deadline at this point.  There’s a line-up.  Everyone let us go ahead of them and we got the thing checked in and then ran with it to the oversized baggage area and they took it.  We have to then get ourselves through security, now it’s boarding time for the airplane.  They let us skip the line through security.  We get through and we run to the gate… to be told we have no seat, the plane was overbooked and is now full.  We DID get assigned a seat eventually though, thank goodness!  We got on that plane, we got to Vienna, we RAN through Vienna airport to try and catch our connection, assuming we were not going to since it was already 5 mins past when it was supposed to be leaving when we got out of the first plane, but we made it!!! Big sigh of relief.  We were going to get to Venice after all!!  That flight was short and sweet.  We got off and headed to the area to pick up our luggage.  We get our bags.  We go to oversized luggage area and some bikes come off.  Not mine though!  Oh the adventure continues.  We see the lost and found people and fill in some forms and the guy says not to worry, they would have a courier drive it to Austria to where we were staying and it would arrive in the morning.  Okay, that’s fine, they knew where it was and it was going to get to us the next day.  Off we go to get our rental car and we drive to Klagenfurt.  The next morning we do a few necessary things related to the race and there’s no word from the airport.  I go to the pro meeting, then call the airport.  They have my bike there.  They’re not couriering it after all.  They said they could send it on a plane to Vienna that night, have it then go on another plane to Klagenfurt and then come to our hotel by courier the next day.  By then it would be Saturday morning.  My confidence in that bike betting to Vienna, making a connection to Klagenfurt and then getting to me was not high.  I lost my cool at that point and told that guy he better find a way to get that bike to me today or he could keep it.  The words that I actually used were slightly different than that.  I guess that’s what you have to do, because in the end they did end up couriering it to me that day and it arrived at about 8:30pm on Friday.  *Phew*!

Saturday was bike check-in day.  I had built the bike on Friday night and took it for a short spin on Saturday morning to make sure all was good and it was ready to go.  These legs hadn’t ridden for a number of days, but hey, that extra rest could be a good thing right?  I drop the bike and my transition bags in transition and we head back to where we were staying (which was a really nice apartment in Portschach at a placed called Haus Pickert – I would recommend this place to anyone racing IM Austria).  All is good, I always feel a little bit more relaxed when things are dropped and I can’t do anything else with it but show up and race the next day!  We went about our day, fell asleep pretty early and woke up at 3:15am for breakfast.  All good.  We got in the car and headed to the race.  We got there and my bike shoes are not there.  “Oh man, this race is not meant to be”.  I took a deep breath and I found someone to talk to about this.  Somehow I found a guy who had a bike shop at the expo.  He loaded me into his car and we drove to the expo, found my size of shoes, he put some cleats on them and we drove back to transition.  *Phew*.  I quickly got things set up properly, found my mom and we walked the mile or so to the swim start.  At that point I realized that everything was going to work out, I really was going to do this race.  I’ve never started a race with so many less than ideal things happening in the days before, but hey, “let’s just go for it and enjoy it and see what happens”.

I get the warm up in, and get on the dock to start.  Pro athletes at this race have to dive off a dock to start.  I think that has something to do with the race being broadcast live on an Austrian sports station.  I laugh to myself that everyone watching that sports station is going to see me do a belly flop and my goggles fly off.  Hahaha.  I didn’t care, I just laughed to myself about that.  The gun went off and all was fine.  The swim was nice, it was nice clear waters and calm.  The swim is usually my weakest link but has improved a lot in the past year working with QT2.  I was able to stay with the pack for the first 500m or so and then settled in with a couple of other girls.  The course was a little bit difficult to navigate because of the sun rising but we did it and it was all good.  Through T1 we go and onto our bikes.  Into my new bike shoes.  I laughed to myself a bit about the whole thing and start pedalling.  My mom and I had driven the bike course the day before to take a look at it.  It was really nice!  Lots of hills and curving roads, through lots of nice towns.  It was a two loop course.  I didn’t feel great on that first loop – physically and mentally.  I decided eventually to just ride my bike and look around and enjoy the fact that I was riding through Austria and not be stressed by the data and the details.  That was a good call.  The second loop went better after I decided to do that.  My bike time was significantly slower than I would have liked and lower power than it should have been, but I had been struggling with some health/hormone stuff for the few weeks before the race so I just went with it and did what I could on the day.   T2 was quick and smooth and out onto the run course.  As many of you know, I had a hip injury for about five months this past fall/winter, a nagging thing that just wouldn’t go away.  I finally got that sorted out in March and started running at the beginning of April.  As a result, run mileage was about half of what it ideally should have been, with a long run of about 13 miles leading up to the race.  Coach Tara had told me “don’t worry, the run will be a bit of an unknown but you will be okay, I think you will just be a little bit more sore after the race than usual.”  I took that in but I wasn’t so sure :).  I started out cautiously as she suggested, and kept going at between 7:30 and just under 8:00/mile for the first half, knowing I had a long way to go and hoping I could just get myself through it running, without causing any injuries.  I had decided I was going to get to the end of this Ironman whether I was running or walking, so if I could just keep running no matter what the speed, that’d be the best case scenario rather than running a fast half and then walking a slow one.  At about the 14 mile mark my legs started feeling the way they normally do at mile 20, tightening and stiffening and feeling like something was going to give.  I decided to slow down a lot and just jog my way as far as I could.  I talked to some people along the way, stayed positive as best as I could, realizing I was here in Austria doing a race and that’s pretty cool.  Aside from walking a few aid stations to take in anything and everything I possibly could, I managed to jog my way through the marathon, crushing 9:30 miles for much of that second half :).  I have to say, I was happy to see that finish line!  I was okay at the end, one of the only Ironman’s I have done without needing some medical attention at the end.  My legs were sore and couldn’t move much more, but that was to be expected considering I had just “run” a marathon off a 13 mile long run, but the rest of me was okay.

This was definitely not an Ironman experience I would dream of, but you can’t expect the best every time.  I felt that this one was a success just by getting to the finish line after for months earlier wondering if I was ever going to be able to run pain-free again.  I like to learn things from every race experience, and my thoughts from this one are:

  1. If you want your bike to get to Europe, you should probably ship it some other way than with the airline. It’s probably not that much more expensive to do that either, the fee’s to bring a bike between continents are not cheap!
  2. Always arrive at the race early. You never know what you might need to do once you get there.  Find a new pair of cycling shoes!  Race morning is stressful enough already!
  3. Sometimes you just need to chill out and do what you love. Things don’t always go your way, even when you do your best to prepare yourself.  Shut off your technology if necessary and just do your thing.  Racing should be fun, for most of us it’s a hobby and not a job.  For me it is a little bit of both, but it still needs to be kept in perspective.
  4. Klagenfurt and the surrounding areas is beautiful. Crystal clear waters and mountains all around.  It’s safe and clean and the people (at least those that I met) are very nice and happy to have foreigners visit.

Post-Race my mom and I went back to Venice and spent a few days there.  What an interesting place – one unlike any other I’ve seen.  A few thousand locals and a few million tourists.  A water town with no motor vehicles, no bicycles, and no roads at all.  Everything built centuries ago and unable to be changed.  All travel is on foot through narrow stone alleys with tall buildings on either side.  Very minimal greenery, mostly in the form of plants on people’s balconies.  Public transportation is by boat which takes you to various terminals around the islands, functioning pretty much like the bus transportation system in Toronto.   Overall, really an interesting place to visit!

Before signing off, I’d like to say some “Thank You’s” to those who have helped and supported me along my triathlon journey.  Firstly to my own sponsors and QT2 team sponsors, including Quintana Roo Bicycles, Pearl Izumi, PowerBar, Normatec Recovery, Smith Optics, Base Performance and Rick Choy of Reel Kool Products.  Secondly, to my family and friends who continue to support my pursuit of goals they may see as “crazy” :).  Thanks to Jeff, friend and Physio extraordinaire, for putting this body back together again when no one else could.  To Shiela, the best RMT and co-worker I know (as well as a great friend).  To Coach Tara of QT2 Systems for having the patience to work with me through this hip issue I’ve had “forever” and getting me to the starting line at all.  To my triathlete friends from around the world who are always there with encouragement and motivation when it’s needed.  And special thank you to my boyfriend Al Caballero not only for just being awesome all around but also for supporting me no matter what – including spending so many of his weekends keeping me company in the pool, on the bike and on the road.  (And for putting up with me falling asleep 14 seconds in to any move or TV program we ever put on).  What will the future hold?  It’s time to sit down and look at what’s next!  Stay tuned 🙂

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Good Things Come to Those Who Wait… and Those Who Persevere

Wow, it’s been a long time since I wrote a blog – where to start? Life has certainly taken some twists and turns since last year at this time, presented some big challenges as well as opportunities. The title of this blog describes how I feel coming out of the past 8-12 months. Life is about experiences…some that are great and others that are just plan old hard that make you tough, make you learn about yourself and others, and teach you what is really important to you in life. In my opinion, the most important thing when you face adversity is that you stay true to who you are and what you believe in. My belief is that when things sort themselves out, good things happen to good people.

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Part 1:

One year ago I made some big decisions related to business and my Chiropractic career. Understandably this came with a significant amount of stress that lasted for months. Negative stress is very harmful to the body and leads to problems sleeping and recovering, among other things. Last (triathlon) season started out as my best season ever – as the season progressed I got tired and with everything going on it was hard to maintain focus on the triathlete part of me. I kept myself together for the most part until the end of the triathlon season. Almost immediately after my last race, Ironman Chattanooga, I ended up with a hip injury, which became chronic, which I blame on lack of good sleep and corresponding chronic under-recovery. This pain hung around until a month ago when I did my first 20 minute run/walk “workout”.
There were many times in the past 6 months where I thought I may never run again at all, and certainly not at the level I was at and wanted to be at. It has been a game of finding ways to stay focussed, stay motivated, and making mini-goals along the way to give myself a fair chance of healing and getting back out there on the race course! Going through challenges like this makes you learn about yourself, your personality, and teach you how to work your way through challenges in other parts of life as well. Now that I’m here in April and able to build up running again pain free, I’m excited to have some racing goals coming up!

Life is about learning and experiencing and growing as a person as you go through each experience. Every time I have gone through an injury I come out with a new perspective on training and racing and my body. To me, bodies are amazing. I see it every day when I’m at work as a Chiropractor, Coach and Trainer. Recovering from injury is a constant reminder to respect it, listen to it, and give it what it needs in order to heal.

As a result of the above, my race calendar this season has changed significantly from what was originally planned out. Specifically, starting a little bit later and focussing on racing the Challenge series events. I’m excited to support this series and I believe they will do nothing but grow and expand around the world in the next few years. At this point the plan that Coach Tara has put together starts with Challenge Atlantic City full distance race at the end of June. It’s time to get things done!

Part 2:

QT2 pro camp was this past February. Talk about finding motivation! Once again the friends, team mates and training partners that I’ve found with QT2 played a big role in building motivation, appreciation and love for the sport again. I make it a habit to constantly remind myself that I’m lucky to be able to do this – to be a pro athlete while maintaining control of the other parts of my life that are important. I admit though that is very very hard sometimes to do this when you’re doing it on your own, when it seems like everyone around you is having fun staying up late, going out, sleeping in!! etcetera. Being part of this training camp and around all the other pro athletes and coaches at camp is so important to me – for the early season push, the strength and motivation I get from the other athletes there, and a fitness kick start at the time of year when it’s needed most. I’m thankful for the friends I’ve made who I get to sweat with, cry with, laugh with and just plain love life with!

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Camp #2 this year was a camp in Tucson, AZ where I played the coach role for a group of athletes from Toronto. This is a camp that I ran together with others at my previous business which this year I did independently with another friend, coach and athlete from Toronto, Deirdre Casey. I love coaching athletes – helping people achieve things they never thought possible, and the relationships that are created in the process, there’s no better thing. This camp made me realize this more than ever. As much as I love being an athlete – I love helping other people excel! Our athletes did 5 days of swimming, cycling and running and achieved things they never thought possible. My favourite day was the day that they all rode up Mt. Lemmon – a 26 mile climb. Driving the car with the music blaring and camera on, cheering people on all day, making them smile and laugh when times got tough and getting them to just keep pedalling when they thought they couldn’t.. my favourite experience of camp. Deirdre and I are looking forward to next year – in AZ and perhaps a new destination, details to come!

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Part 3:

On a more personal level, I’m looking forward to sharing everything in the days, months and years to come with a special person who has come into my life since my last blog. The title of this blog refers to all that I wrote about above, and also fits in here as well. Good things come to those who wait, and those who don’t just settle! It’s easy to settle for what is “okay”, that is convenient, that is “easy”. But every so often you see two people that have so much more than that – obviously in love and best friends. That’s what I’ve been waiting for. Just another reminder to never give up on anything in life!

Stay true to yourself and what you believe in, through all the twists and turns that life throws at you, and everything else will work out eventually.

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The Road to a Healthy and Injury Free Season!

Many endurance athletes experience lingering / nagging discomfort throughout the year that they just “live with” and “train through” and are able to continue doing what they love to do.  Most of the time this doesn’t result in any severe long term effects.  However, it does take a little bit of joy out of what you’re doing and will affect your ability to perform at maximum capacity both in training and on race day.  Many of these long term injuries can be addressed with a combination of physical therapy / chiropractic care and some time in the gym working on specific strength.  Some of the most common injuries experienced by runners, triathletes and cyclists that should be addressed so they can heal fully include:

1. Plantar Fasciitis: This is pain on the bottom of the foot, specifically at the antero-medial aspect of the heel and perhaps into the arch of the foot.  The most common causes for plantar fasciitis include poor foot and ankle  mechanics, improper footwear, tightness through the posterior kinetic chain (including calves and hamstrings), and muscular imbalances in the hips and legs.

2. Patellofemoral Pain: This is diffuse/unlocalized pain deep in the knee that is “hard to touch”.  It often feels like a burning type pain that can be sharp at times.  At first it improves with activity and progresses to pain with activity.  A classic sign is “movie-goers sign” which is pain deep to the patella with prolonged sitting.  Patellofemoral pain is usually caused by a problem with patellar tracking that is related to function of the quads, hamstrings and glute muscles.  It can also be associated with faulty foot and ankle mechanics.  PFPS is so common in runners that it is also labelled by some as “Runner’s Knee”.

3. Iliotibial Band Syndrome: This presents as localized pain at the lateral aspect of the knee.  ITB pain starts as pain that comes on after a predictable amount of time running and progresses to the point where the pain may be present right from the start of your run.  Most common cause of ITB pain is imbalance /and dysfunction of the glute muscles.  In a cyclist it can also be caused by improper placement of cleats on the cycling shoes.

These are three of many injuries sustained by endurance athletes.  All three of them can be managed / prevented / healed with a combination of therapy, specific strength training, and changes in sport biomechanics.  Now is the time to start feeling better – make next season a season of feeling great and performing at your best!

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Developing Running Efficiency

The fall is a great time to really focus on your biomechanics and form. Here is an article I wrote some time ago on how to improve running form – to stay healthy AND get faster!

Running seems like a simple sport… put one foot in front of the other, and repeat, and repeat. However, just like cycling and swimming, running efficiency is one key to both improving performance in the run leg of your triathlon event and to reducing the risk of injury.

Here are five keys to efficient running biomechanics:

1. Lean forward. Running can be looked at as controlled falling. Your body should be tilted forward slightly from the ankles. It is important to maintain a strong core to avoid forward flexion at the waist. Maintain a proud chest and visualize yourself leading with your chest and your hips.

2. Knee flexion. Most triathletes could improve their running speed simply by bending their knees more during the swing phase of the running stride. As you pull the leg through for the next step, the knee should be bent so that the lower leg is parallel to the ground. However, the knee should be bent underneath you, rather than behind you. Previously, coaches taught a “butt kick” running drill whereby you kick your butt from behind with the heels. More recently, we teach a forward knee drive, which ends up pulling the heel and lower leg up underneath you, along your centre of gravity.

3. “Running on hot coals”. Visualize yourself running on hot coals. You don’t want to keep your foot on the ground for any longer than you have to or your feet will get burned. As soon as your foot hits the ground, snap the hamstring and bend the knee underneath you to go right into the next stride. The longer your foot is on the ground, the slower you will go.

4. Foot strike. Landing on one’s mid foot is the most efficient and will result in the lowest impact forces. With fatigued muscles after the bike portion of a triathlon, many triathletes head out on the run with a full on heel strike. In order to heel strike, the foot lands out in front of the body’s centre of gravity. Besides increasing impact forces through the ankles, knees, hips and low back, this also results in a braking force – slowing you down rather than continuing to encourage forward motion. Instead, try landing right along or just slightly ahead of your centre of gravity, on your mid foot as opposed to the heel. This will continue to push your body forward, put you in a position to snap the foot back up underneath you, and ultimately increase your running speed.

5. Cadence. For most triathletes, the most efficient cycling cadence is close to 90rpm. The most efficient running cadence is 90 strides per minute, per foot. This makes things easy – our bodies can maintain the same rhythm of turnover throughout the bike and the run. Besides increasing your speed and eliminating the need for your body to adjust to a new rhythm on the run, running with a high cadence also encourages a mid foot landing.

Running is more technical than it seems at first glance. Running with good technique will both reduce your risk of injury by minimizing impact forces and the associated stress on bones, tendons, muscle and ligaments, as well as increase your running speed at any given amount of effort. Spending some time on run technique this winter is a worthwhile endeavour.

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Long Distance Triathlon: Staying Strong and Injury Free

Many people have said to me over the years: “Aren’t you worried about the damage all of this training is doing to your body?” And my response always relates to the fact that if you take care of yourself, listen to your body, and do your utmost to mitigate your chances of injury, that I believe the positives much outweigh the negatives associated with training for long distance triathlon or any of swimming, cycling and running individually.

There are several important factors to consider when thinking of how to stay healthy, strong and injury free when training for an endurance race such as triathlon:

#1. Training Program Design: A training program should be specific to the athlete, goal oriented and most importantly it should be periodized over the course of the training season from a macrocyle looking at the entire season plan in a general sense all the way down to the microcyles looking at what happens day to day during a week. Organized build and recovery cycles need to be planned into the program at every level of organization, from the day to day to the yearly plan.

#2. Focussed and Specific Strength Training: Strength training for endurance athletes comes in a few different forms. It can be very sports specific and involve things like hill workouts for running, low cadence intervals on the bike and swimming with paddles. It can and should also involve some specific work in a gym to work on both getting the muscles we need for the sport stronger and more powerful and also work on activating and strengthening the muscles that we don’t use as much in order to ensure a balanced body, balanced joints, and decrease chances of creating imbalances around joints and within muscle groups. Just as the program for swim/bike/run is periodized, an athlete’s strength program should be periodized as well. Strength program design in terms of exercise selection, number of sets and repetitions, rest intervals and frequency of execution changes in terms of what is appropriate for different phases of the overall training plan.

#3. Treatment: Chiropractic and Massage: Most endurance sports involve repetitive motions and chronic use of the same muscle groups through the same movement patterns over and over again. Over time the chronically used muscles get tight and it’s often difficult to stretch them out and optimize their function on our own. Soft tissue therapy and adjustments via Chiropractic and/or Massage Therapy can be a big help in terms of keeping muscle’s strong and functioning optimally. A shortened muscle cannot generate as much force or power as a muscle at optimal length. This type of therapy should be considered part of your overall program – aim to keep your body healthy and prevent injuries from occurring rather than waiting for pain to happen.

#4. Biomechanics/Technique: Biomechanics of a sport are important for both performance and risk of injury. Improper biomechanics can over stress structures and lead to injury to muscles, bones and/or tendons. Improvement in these sport specific movement patterns will minimize negative stress on the body while also improving performance by improving efficiency. A good sports therapist, including Chiropractors and Physical Therapists, and/or trainer should be able to look at your form and provide feedback on any changes that will help you stay healthy and get faster. Technique assessment should be part of the initial stages of starting out with an endurance training program and it should be also be ongoing. As you get stronger and faster your biomechanics will change and so periodic assessment can be important.

These are four important factors to consider when thinking about endurance training (for triathlon specifically in this case) and how to stay as healthy as possible and make sure you are creating positive change in your body rather than negative change. Many athletes end up with chronic injuries that do affect them later in life and I am sure that is why the question of “Aren’t you worried about the damage all of this training is doing to your body?” comes up. Keep a holistic view of your training and your body, look after your body and don’t train through pain, in order to increase your longevity in the sport!

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Ironman Louisville 2014 – Race Report

A few people have been asking for my report on Ironman Louisville 2014, so here it is!! Wow, what a day!!

Going into Louisville, I felt great. It was a “no excuses” race – my body was healthy and I was ready to go! I also felt like this was a special race because it’s my fav North American Ironman – and this was the last year it would be a pro race!! (Ironman has decided to cut the pro field out of a number of the North American Ironman races). Louisville is a city that I really like – and I’ve had some good experiences at this race so it holds a bit of a special place in my heart.

The few days leading up to race day were fairly typical – trying to fit in some workouts, re-learn the course, check in, etc. The difference this time was that my parents were at the race with me (I was happy to have them there! They haven’t been to a race since 2007) and therefore we were staying at a hotel across the river in Indiana rather than staying with a homestay. This meant eating restaurant food too often and feeling like we were constantly running around.. trying to find food, get workouts in, etc. But all in all, it was a fairly “normal” pre-ironman week. My friends from QT2 Caroline Gregory and Amy Javens were also racing and so it was great to be able to ride with Caroline and eat pancakes with Amy – it’s a great thing to feel like you are racing with friends and despite the fact that we’re all racing eachother, that we also all support each other out there on the race course.

Race morning we (my parents and I) headed into transition at about 5:00 am. Got into T1 and something was up with my front tire, I couldn’t get the valve to open to get air in there properly. It “felt like” the tire pressure was right, but I took it to the people who were pumping up tires to see if they could check it. A nice lady fixed the valve for me and made sure air pressure was right. Other than that, things went fine getting stuff in order, and I was fairly quickly taking the 1 mile walk to the swim start. At the swim start we hung around for probably 45-60 minutes before the race started. Amy, Caroline, Rachel and I were all there, along with Coach Tim and my parents. I obviously felt a little bit of pre-race anxiety but nothing out of control. I felt good.

When the time came to start the swim warm up and we all jumped in, we quickly realized there was quite a current in the river! In order to stay in one place you really had to side stroke to not get dragged down the river. The first approximately 800m of the swim was going to be against that current! But the good thing was that once we made that turn at the 800m mark we’d be swimming with the current – so mentally it was just important to be aware that it was there, get through that first piece of the swim, and then it’d be smooth sailing. When the gun went off, we were off! Pro men and women were started a few minutes apart at this race, so were were on our own. The fastest swimmers took off, and I was swimming with a couple of other girls for pretty much the whole swim. Like Texas, it ended up that I lead that second group, which is great to know I’m not at the end of the swimmers anymore, but which means I have done a terrible job finding someone to draft off of at all my races this summer :-). But I”m very happy with my progress on the swim – I feel stronger, faster, and have been coming out mid pack this year which is a great way to start the bike ride.

Out of the water and into T2 all was good. Out of T2 seemed fine. Until about 1 minute down the road when I tried to make a turn and realized my front tire was flat!! Booo. So I kept myself calm, got off my bike and started collecting what I needed to change it. And realized I had no CO2 valve. It must have bounced off when I came over that bump coming out of transition. I realized what had happened, and I thought “my race is over. I came all the way here to do a swim, and now I”m done.” A minute or two later, the bike tech guys came by on motorcycle and they gave me a new wheel to use! Yay! My friend Brooke got a flat last year and ended up coming 2nd overall in the race… so I thought of her, I stayed focussed on what I was out there to do, and off I went! I was on my own for about 2 hours and then finally started catching people. I passed a few girls and rode strong for about 3/4 of the course, then started feeling the heat! Pushed on to the end of the bike, thinking “just keep going, it’ll be over soon and you’ll be fine once you start running”…

When I got to T2 I got off my bike and started running to the change tents. My legs didn’t feel great, but that’s typical for that point in an ironman! I got through T2 and right away my stomach and legs were rebelling. I ate the banana I was supposed to eat as I ran out of T2 and I couldn’t take in the whole thing. I thought “okay, just run, it’ll get better”. My first mile was significantly over 8 mins/mile. My stomach felt nauseous. My mind wasn’t positive! I ran 3 miles before seeing Tim out on the course – he asked how I was feeling. I said “I feel terrible, my stomach is nauseous.” At that point I was running 9+/mile. He said “don’t worry, just slow down, it’ll pass”. I thought “but I’m already running close to 10 mins/mile!! You want me to slow down even more??” But I did what he said… and after a couple of miles I really did feel better. But only better enough to be running back in the 8’s! And this went up and down for the entire run. I’d feel “okay” for a mile, then terrible for a mile, and repeat. I knew after seeing him a second time that I was in it for the long haul, that he was going to make me keep going, so I just thought, okay, keep running and get to the end of this race!! The fact that this race is an out and back run course that you repeat twice was a race-saver. It meant that I could see the other girls racing a number of times – and I could see that they were all having a rough time out there as well!! I knew that if I just kept plugging along I would probably be able to catch a few of them, even if I was going slow! So that’s what I did. This was the hardest marathon I’ve ever run in an Ironman – harder in a different way than most races are. By this time the temperature was near 42 degrees celcius with the humidity and the air was still – it was like running in a sauna. People were dropping on the race course. You could see them running one minute and lying on the ground the next. It was a tough day out there!! The final 5 miles were so hard. My legs felt like they could cramp at any moment and I knew if they did I’d be on the side of the road and that would be it. I prayed that they would hold out and keep me standing – I took in salt and calories and fluid as much as I could. Amy was running in front of me and I was smiling watching her run, knowing she was in the same situation as I was!! Talk about the “Ironman shuffle”, we were doing a good job showing the spectators what that is all about! At mile 25 I started crying suddenly and without warning. One mile to go and I didn’t know if I could get there!! But I did.. finishing another Ironman at the end of a brutal day.

I’m happy to say I did end up finishing the race in 10 hours 10 minutes and placing 6th. This was not as good of a result as I was hoping for, but you have to respect every race and every race day, and considering the day I am very happy with the result. Thank you to Tim to keeping me on that course and not letting me stop! As has been quoted about this day between my friend Amy and I, it was a “breathing fire” kind of day, and this race experience definitely added to my toughness bank!!

Lessons “re”-learned include:
– Never give up. Well, this is a lesson learned over and over again in this sport. There is never a race where you feel positive for the entire thing. It’s important to recognize negative thoughts, be okay with them, and surpass them. It happens to all of us.
– Even when you think you’re at your wits end, you can keep going.
– Ironman is a race of patience. It’s a long day and a lot can happen – to all of us. Be patient, race your own race, and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. If you’re having a rough day, it’s likely others are as well.

Thank you to Tara Rash and QT2 Systems (and Tim Snow for being out there on the course), Quintana Roo, Normatec Recovery, Powerbar Canada, Rudy Project, NUUN, Rick Choi and Reel Kool Products, Mizuno Canada, and my supportive friends and family for helping make this all possible!

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It’s Amazing What Our Bodies Will Do When We Ask Them Too…

Many times every single week it surprises me what our bodies are capable of doing when we train them appropriately. When training loads get high and Coach Tara tells me workouts to do day after day and hour after hour, it’s hard to believe that it’s possible. Until I get out there and do it. The first few swim strokes, pedal strokes, and/or running strides are sometimes challenging. But I trust her, like I hope my own athletes trust me, so I attempt to do what she says. And almost always things come together and it happens, despite what physical and mental fatigue might be there.

Yesterday was Calgary 70.3. If you read my last blog post it was a challenging lead up to this event. Yet, somehow, I pulled off the best 70.3 race I’ve ever had. This year has been a year of learning to shut off the mind and focus on the task at hand. Racing has become a refreshing experience of letting the rest of life’s stress’s go and being focussed on only the goal at the present moment. I’ve read about mental strength and focus and how important it is for endurance performance. I’ve done presentations to groups of athletes on that same topic. However, I feel like only now am I truly grasping the power of the mind and how to have more control over it.

First, about this race. This race is beautiful. The swim was in a small man-made lake just outside the city of Calgary. Warm and clean water in a supportive community. For me, the swim can be the most challenging. It’s a “go hard and hang on for dear life” approach we have been practicing. I haven’t been good at succeeding at that approach so far :-)) But feel like I’m getting better being comfortable with that mindset with each race. Yesterday I went out hard and was happy to be on some feet… until I realized that suddenly there was only one set of feet there. And that I was swimming faster than that set of feet. So off I went on my own for my own 1900m swim, once again. It was a nice peaceful swim though! And I felt I could stay focussed on keeping the effort up and not let thoughts wander and not let negative thoughts come in. I could see the group ahead at all times so that was good, I knew they weren’t too far away! So away I went, stroke after stroke, thinking about just staying relaxed, working hard, and keeping technique as efficient as possible.

Out of the swim.. into T1… and again happy to see a number of WPRO bikes still on the rack. Off I went on the bike.. starting to get into my happy place. I’m more confident in my ability to ride and run with the others than to swim with them. I look at my powermeter. And realize if it was accurate I was FLYING and would catch everyone, man and woman, by the end of the ride. So I figured, I should probably not ride by power, there was a good chance it was not accurate for some reason :-). So watching heart rate numbers and going a little by perceived effort, off I went for a nice 90km ride. It’s funny how 90km seems short these days. It was fun! And beautiful. Calgary’s version of “rolling” hills, some nice countryside, and smooth roads. One of the nicest bike courses I’ve ridden. The end of this bike course is FAST. You fly into T2.

Into the running gear. And off for a pretty hilly half marathon!! The run in a triathlon is never easy, as you might imagine! This is where you really get to see how your body is going to hold up, and how far you can push your limits. My race plan said “This run looks pancake flat…”. I can’t remember any places that were flat. There were many hills. But it was all beautiful! On a bike path for pretty much all of it. One step at a time, focussing on keeping cadence up, keeping heart rate up where it was supposed to be, and again not letting negative thoughts in. A friend who is an inspiration to me in the way he lives his life said to me… “Just go until you puke, Cindy”… LOL. And another who said “Never give up. No matter what you do, never give up.” So I kept those two things in mind and tried to just keep pushing and not slow down. And although I did not puke, I felt like I did my best job thus far in pushing that effort from start to finish and never giving up!

Approaching the finish line I knew I had just had the strongest half ironman race yet. I was happy to cross with a finish time of 4:27.59 and 8th female pro.

I would recommend this race to anyone looking or a good half iron distance race. Calgary is a beautiful city filled with friendly people, beautiful mountains, and the race course is one of the nicest I have seen. Being in the middle of a big city (like Toronto) it’s easy to sometimes forget what is important in life. Being in the mountains is a peaceful experience and I believe it helps to ground us. If you go to Calgary, for this race or any other reason, spend time appreciating the beauty of what is around.

Now. Some other cool things about the trip to this race:

– My homestay family, Gail and Richard, were amazing. A huge THANK YOU to the two of them! I have been so lucky to be able to meet great people in many areas of the world through this program. These two went above and beyond to make me feel comfortable and make sure I had everything I needed to have a successful day on the course. Not only that, RIchard did the race himself, putting out a solid effort on the course and gaining some confidence for his first full Ironman coming up in a few weeks!

– I got to spend some time with some people from back where I grew up in Northern Ontario, which was great. The world is big but it can also seem small sometimes! From visiting the mountains and lake louise to floating down a river on a raft for four hours, I can’t think of anything I’d rather have done on this trip – even with the added unplanned “excitement” that happened at the end of the day yesterday. 🙂 I hope to see these people again sometime soon!

Final notes..

– I feel lucky to be able to do what I do and live life the way I live it.
– Visit Calgary. If you’re looking for a 70.3 race, definitely consider this one.
– Do what you love. Love what you do. And give it your best shot.

THANK YOU to those helping me along the way…
Quintana Roo Bicycles, Normatec Recovery, Rudy Project, PowerBar Canada, NUUN Hydration, Pearl Izumi, Rick Choi and Reel Kool Products, Absolute Endurance Training and Therapy and of course QT2 Systems and Coach Tara.

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July 24, 2014 – Life and Racing

I am writing this blog post so that athletes can read and understand that life brings challenges for all of us, nothing is easy all the time for anyone, and it’s okay to not feel amazing all the time!

A lot of changes have taken place in my life since Ironman Texas! Overall some very good changes, but with them brought some training challenges. Life is made up of many different things which all interact with each other and sometimes the balance between one and another changes temporarily and the best we can do is try and manage it!

The biggest change has taken place on the career front. For the past seven years I have owned and operated Absolute Endurance Training and Therapy in Toronto and given it my full focus as far as work and business are concerned. Like any small business it brought with it many challenges and many experiences for personal growth and learning. In the past couple of months some other opportunities have arisen and things have changed quickly – I am now practising as a Chiropractor and doing some one-on-one training at Bayview Chiropractic Health Centre in midtown Toronto – while continuing to coach athletes at Absolute Endurance for triathlon, running and cycling.

The details of the new clinic for those that wish to contact me there are:

Bayview Chiropractic Health Centre
1555 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, ON
Phone: (416) 481-7901

Some thoughts:

– Life is short and time goes by quickly. Always do something that makes you happy, makes you feel fulfilled, and allows you to have a balance in life that works for you. Put time into thinking about what this is.

– Life balance is different for everyone. Figure out what is best for YOU.

– Do what makes YOU happy. Have good friends and always look out for them, but don’t let others hold you back or keep you somewhere that isn’t comfortable for you in the long run.

– Change can be frightening. But it can also be great. Sometimes change is hard at first but hang in there and good things will happen.

– It’s all about perspective. Two people can see the same thing in opposite ways. A positive perspective will often result in a positive outcome. Stay focussed and good things will happen.

Through these changes, one might imagine there was a little bit of emotional stress and with that came some sleep problems, extra physical and mental stress and associated training and recovery issues. I feel like I took it in stride pretty well though, and did my best to keep everything in control as much as possible – and reminding myself not to stress over what wasn’t in my control. Knowing the reasons for not feeling great in training helped keep things in perspective and helped to get through it the best I could. Having Coach Tara “in the know” and working with me to make sure I didn’t dig myself into a huge hole really helped as well. I feel like the last couple of weeks I have finally gotten back on track and am excited to move forward in the next couple of months with some very positive forward strides in physical and mental fitness and some great races!!

So here I am on a plane to Calgary to race a half ironman. Am I ready?? I am ready to get out there and give it the best shot I can in present circumstances! I am excited to be in a race again – there were times in the past couple of months that it was hard to realize 100% what I was doing and why – when fatigue hits, emotional stress hits, and life just changes, it can be tough to stay focussed. So I plan to get out there and re-find the focus I had moving through this past winter/spring and get back on track to some great success’s in sport in the next couple of months and the next couple of years! Send positive energy on Sunday.. and I will be in touch post-race to give my thoughts!

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