About Me

My photo
Milton, Ontario, Canada

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Multisport Canada Woodstock Give it a Tri, Triathlon Race Report


This is not a test.

You read that right.

On Saturday, June 11, 2016, I participated in my first multi-sport event.

Let's back up, shall we?

I've watched the Kona special as long as I can remember. First of all, I love a good sports documentary as much as anyone and secondly, whatever my dad wanted to watch, we watched as well. Thirdly, the Kona special is so well done, that is has really got something for everyone. The elites racing for dominance, the age-grouper reminding you that anyone can do hard things if they put their mind to it, the celebrity taking on a challenge they never thought was possible. Ah, the Kona Special... gateway video to endurance sport.

When I started running, I entertained zero thoughts of triathlon (or marathon, or half-marathon, but I digress). Then, a funny thing happened. A colleague asked me to do an 80k bike with her and while training on a $179 department store mountain bike, I got hooked on road cycling. Then, last spring I bought a road bike. And went to the pool a few times.

And... my husband got concerned.

Rightly so! We are busy. I'm out of the house for 12 hours a day and most nights I don't come home, I go right to an arena to watch one of my sons play hockey or lacrosse. Triathlon training takes time. And dedication. And work. And the ability to swim. We decided it was best for me to keep any serious plans of triathlon until 2027. The year I turn 50. The kids will be 20 and 16 by then. There will be time. Not sure if I'll be any good at swimming by that time though.

But, I still kept cycling and improving. Of course I kept running. And life worked out that I was able to put in some more dedicated swim time. And I began to feel comfortable. And then, it was June 2nd and a Facebook notification from Multisport Canada came into my newsfeed and it said that there was still time to sign up for Woodstock. On June 11. My husband would be out of town the entire weekend. My parents were happy to help with the kids. Emma was already driving her extra wet-suit over and Sam was re-planning her weekend so that she could come along and help me for my first time (when I figure out how I got to be so lucky to get such AMAZING friends, I'll let you know).

And thus,

A Triathlete Was Born

Or something like that

About to get into the water for my first OWS, wet-suit swim... 50 mins before the race.

The Swim

Ah, the swim. The event I was most worried about. I spent the entire 25 minute drive to Sam's place telling myself that I could swim 400m and it didn't matter how slow I was that I'd do it no problem. All I had to do was breath and find the calm. I had swam 400m straight the day before (in the pool with a pull buoy, but... details). I could do it. Just finish the swim, "and then I'll start to Carfrae everyone" as I told Irina. HAHA.

Getting into the water before the race with Sam was a good move. I felt comfortable right away and figured out Emma's too long (I AM THAT SHORT!) wet-suit and my stroke. This isn't going to be bad at all! I'll just hang back, breath easy and front crawl my way through those 400m. Even my sighting was dead on right away. Pro. Obvs.

Sam kept swimming while I went for the briefing and I met her again before we went down to get in the water. She was looking over my competition and picked out a lady with a braid that I was told I had to beat, "no matter what." This girl was going into the water with a bathing suit! She was hardcore! I'll do my best Sam! Sam also told me it was choppy closer to the turn buoy, so to be prepared to breast stroke and take it easy.

The horn went and I started the triathlon feature on my watch, walked forward and started to swim. I felt great! I started to pass people! This is amazing. Stroke, stroke breath, sight, I'm catching feet, WTF is this, I'm a pro... I'm, gah! I'm swallowing reservoir water, gah, gah! Gah!!!! Backstroke! Abort! That feels all wrong. Breast stroke. But with my head up. Okay, okay. I'm okay. I'm not actually freaking out. I just want to get back to front crawl, but every time I try, I get a few strokes in and then choke on some water. I always turn around when this happens, but don't go on my back again. Instead I employ a super effective and likely after this point, much copied, head up breaststroke, doggy-paddle, side-kick thing. Whatever, it keeps me moving forward. I realize that I'm in the back of the group, but I'm not last. I do not even care. Flap my arms, kick my feet. Try to front crawl. Hey! This is working again! The chop is gone! I keep my swim calm and controlled and swim for the exit. I get all confused by a HUGE tree in the way  but I can hear people yelling, "Swim under the tree! Swim UNDER THE TREE," and I'm up and out of the water and on the ground before I know it.

And then, I'm back on my ass. Whoops! A volunteer helps me up and all I can say is, "I didn't die! I didn't die!!! Shit! My watch stopped with that fall. Okay hit lap. I didn't die!!!" Sam see's me and tells me to stop with the smoke break and to run! I exclaim my happiness about being on this side of the grass and she gets a great video of me running through to the bike. "I didn't die! I backstroked though! I didn't die!"

31/35 for females out of the water!
17:14 for 400m 

The Bike

Into transition with my watch in my mouth stripping off the wet-suit with much more ease than I imagined seeing as I couldn't find my body glide when I put it on. Until I got to my feet. How the hell do I get out of this thing! WTF am I doing? All the while a constant refrain of "Shit. Helmet. Chin strap. Helmet. Don't forget the helmet. HELMET." Is going through my head. 

Finally, I realize that I need to step on the wet-suit to get it off of my feet. Okay. Timing chip didn't come off (HELMET). Where is my shirt. Okay, shirt is on (HELMET). I grab my bib and the belt won't click together (is it broken? HELMET. No.). I get that on and yes, get my helmet on and done up. I shove my foot into my bike shoe and it won't go. WTF!!!! Oh! There's my body glide! No time for socks or drying my feet or anything. Okay, I have time for a quick drink of Gatorade and a piece of gum, but I dump the water from my bike (IDK! would it have made my ride lighter?!).


I rip out of the transition area. There are two people ahead of me with their bikes enjoying a Sunday stroll through the park. Can I pass them? What are the rules, WTF! I see the countless Kona races flash by and I decide I can. I fly by them on cleats and realize that bike shoes aren't bad to run in. People are cheering my effort on and I'm about to get my ride on. I clip in, surge forward and immediately take a girl on a mountain bike on the hill. Sorry sister, I've got a braid to catch. 

My heart rate is through the roof. Screw it, I think. Its only 10k, LET'S GO, REVOY, LET'S GO!!! And at that moment, the music from the Wizard of Oz comes into my head. Do you know when the Wicked Witch is riding her bike through the tornado? That's me right there. Its wind AF and I'm spinning like a mad-woman and thinking, "I'll get you my [braid-girl]."

About 3k in I realize what a mistake it was to dump my water off of the bike. I am DYING of thirst. I am so happy I had gum to keep my mouth somewhat from drying up like a prune, but the wind and heat and rolling hills (WTF!!!) are all not the best. My race is spent gearing up and down, spinning like the Witch and screaming "LEFT" at a bunch of people. I got passed too. Twice. By men both times. 

I finally passed braid girl at 8.5k.

Rank is 7/35 on the bike
26:17 for 10k

The Run

I un-clip too early and have to one leg pedal my way to the dismount line. I yell to the guy, "And to think I cursed every single leg drill in Trainer Road." I hop (haha, no but it sounds good!) off my bike and start to run down the grass that I had zipped up 26 minutes ago into transition. I turn off the road too soon and have to barrel thorough the orange traffic cones to get back on track, but I ain't got T-I-M-E to worry too much about that. "Now's the easy sport!" I yell at the guy who got me back on track. Then I yell to some spectators, "Who runs in these bullshit bike shoes?!?!" They ALL yell back, "I do!!!!"

HAHA! So much fun!!!

I get to transition, and its a gong show. Shit is everywhere! Okay, there is my shit. I rack my bike, tear off my helmet, look up, see braid girl (FUCK!) and shove my runners up and tie them. I a'int got time for socks, yo! I look up and braid girl is GONE! GONE!! AHHHHHHH. I don't think another second. I'm gone. Time to Carfrae. Its too bad, braid girl but, sorry-not-sorry, running is my thing!

Running out of transition, I see Sam who yells at me, "Go get Seagall! Seagall!!!" I have no idea what she's talking about, but I know she means that its time to catch braid girl. I wonder how Sam managed to find out her last name! That's some friend dedication, yo (I don't even know now what Sam was yelling, but she was totally telling me to get after that girl.)!

This is so weird. Running is not feeling good at all. Must be the grass. No biggie, I never did cross country so I'll just give-er when we get on the road. Wait a minute, this is gravel. ARE WE RUNNING THIS WHOLE BULLSHIT 2.5K IN MIXED TERRAIN?!?! Every single person in front of me is walking. Monkey see, monkey do. 

The lady in front of me has a 61 on her leg. Good God! WHAT ARE YOU DOING, NICOLE!!! You've run marathons in much worst shit than this. Who cares what your legs feel like? Get going. GO. 

So I begin to run and pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. See you. 

Water station. Drink, dump. Run, run. 

1k. Okay, we are on asphalt now. Pick it up. Pass. Pass. Pass. Oh. My. God. It is 5,003 degrees out here. Where is my visor! I didn't even put on my visor. I was too busy chasing braid girl who is long behind me now (she may have been right behind me, but that's not the point). 

I go through the water station again and am back on the gravel and grass and bullshit run. I see a girl in front of me not going too quickly. 3..... 7 on her leg. CRAP. I have to pass her too. Damn. Sorry 37, see ya later. Then I come up to a girl with a 31 on her leg. She's not in my AG! Its 5 year increments, right (Nope, its in 10 year increments). I don't chase. Screw it. I want a good finish photo, so I don't race her to the end (I'd like to think I'd have taken her). She crosses and then so do I with my hands up. I can hear the announcer being very excited because four of us finished on top of each other, but I don't care. I hit stop on my Garmin, grab my cup of water and keep walking over to the shade of a big tree and lie down on my back. I'm dead. 


8/35 on the run.
13:27 for 2.5k.

Final Thoughts

I'll be back. Of course. I did just bad enough and just good enough to want revenge. On the swim. On the run. I'll take the bike. The bike I'm fine with. I felt strong the entire time on the bike. My transitions were on point. The only mistake I made was not taking water on the bike. Look at what dry-spittle mixed with gum does to your face

But yeah, I'll be back.  I ranked 5/11 for W30-39 (and 1st and 3rd overall were in my age group), and 4/7 for W35-39. Most importantly, I came out of the water in 31st place and finished the race in 18th for all females. I'll take that improvement any day. Next time, I want a better shot at a medal though. You don't get a medal unless you place.

Catching up and Sulphur Springs 25k Race Report

When we had last met, I had just finished yet another failed Boston Qualifier Marathon attempt. Round three and it was NOT a charm. In hindsight, even though the weather was horrible, the course was not built for me either. That much downhill right at the beginning of a marathon trashed my quads and there wouldn't have been any way for me to recover, regardless of the wind (or lack there of). I have my "dinner plate" medal now, and it will be a long, long time before I attempt the 42.2k tour of Toronto during a May marathon again.

I took the rest of the month easy as I promised myself I would. I hopped back on Trainer Road and ran whenever I felt like it. Things worked to my favour in that I never really missed a long run as I was able to run with Emma one week and Sam the next.

Then, like all good friends do, I talked them into running the Sulphur Springs 25k trail race with me. ("talk into" may be a strong saying here. I said I wouldn't mind doing it and both Sam and Emma were keen to return to one of our fave race sites).

A photo posted by Nicole (@macnic05) on

We decided not to take ourselves too seriously and opted to play matchy-matchy as you do. Because if you look good, you feel good and you run better. Or something. Or at least you look good. ANY-way, turns out the rainbow socks were a huge hit on the day because I'm pretty sure we got no less than 76 compliments on them.

Which was good, because it was HOT. In fact, it was so hot that I took the race director's advice and soaked a buff and wore it around my neck. This strategy worked really well and my heart rate and heat never really got so high that I felt horrible. The girls suffered a bit more than me, but they are both training for a 70.3 to my "taken-er easy" so I likely had way more in the tank anyway.

Despite feeling good, keeping cool and hydrating perfectly, I still managed to fall twice in the last 7k. Only me! I didn't get hurt at all (just embarrassed) and as Robin says, its not a trail race without a fall or two.

The damage
Our shirts were awesome as well, with Sam and I wearing the Donut and Beer shirt respectively and Emma joining in on the fun with her, "Training for the Zombie Apocalypse" tank. We got a lot of good comments on those and I even got offered a beer at an aid station. Too bad it was a stout. If it had been any kind of lager, I'd be all in. HAHA.

While we had great plans to PB this course (sub 2:49), the super warm and humid weather meant it wasn't to be so we settled instead for a great run-walk thorough a beautiful place with a bunch of like-minded people. I'll be back to Sulphur again and soon. I really like this race.

Final time was 3:00:30 and 1001 laughs.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Goodlife Toronto Marathon Race Report

In the days before the Goodlife Toronto Marathon, I settled into a quiet nervousness that seemed appropriate given the task at hand. My body wasn't in perfect shape. My knee and IT bands were still not 100% (though a few Chiropractic sessions had helped, a lot), I hadn't made any gains on my core strength and the fasciitis was acting up in my left foot.

Still, I was confident. I had a great season of training behind me and I had nailed the last few long runs which ended at (faster than) pace. I would be at home the night before the start of the race and in full control of my diet and sleep. The weather was looking increasingly worst, but I took to heart the advice from the Canadian Elite runners I follow on Instagram and focused on controlling what I could control.

I kept my mind positive.

Race morning dawned as predicted: cold, rainy and windy. Still, meeting up with Sam at the carpool lot and Ivanka at the shuttle buses to the start settled my mind. We've done this before. Today, we would go for that elusive Boston Qualifier time, if not, at the very least, Personal Bests. So, out to the porta-potties one last time and here we go, time to line up, the race is off!

Racing: The First Half

First off, my Garmin went wonky due to being downtown, so pacing in the later half of the race is all a great big question mark. But for the first half, things were okay. We took off fast because we were following a pace band that saw us with a positive split, which is what Sam and I favour in races. We had a pace band from paceband.org that was also specific to the elevation of the course, so it was very helpful in knowing when we could slow down, stay even or push. Or, it would have been. If we had followed it.

It was hard to get on pace right away (as it always is) and so our first split came off too slow at 4:58. We were targeting an average pace of 5:16/km (8:28/mi) for a finish of 3:42:00. A BQ for Ivanka and me with 3 minutes to space and for Sam with 13 minutes to spare. No worries, we were still well under pace and lots of race to go. We made up for it, sticking together through the first 5km with an average pace of 4:57. 

Then came Hoggs Hollow. 

So this hill isn't bad. Really, considering its the only one in the race and it comes so early, its just one to get up and over and forget about. But I was struggling and felt my heart rate climbing. Ivanka quickly surged ahead (such strength!) and I knew Sam could of as well, but she stayed with me, even when I called a walk. I felt really comfortable doing so as I knew we had a buffer and I also knew we'd have tailwind at some point. No big deal, the hill was negotiated with a 5:41/km (9:09/mi) pace and off we went to tackle the rest. 

My watch was off by almost 40m at this point so I hit lap, hoping it would reset itself. In hindsight, I wish I had just left well enough alone as by the end of the race the watch was just a pretty looking thing on my wrist. I couldn't trust it at all in those downtown buildings. Still, Garmin Connect shows some strong and consistent pacing here and I have to trust that we kept things in check until about the 12k point. 

This is when I called my first of about four stretch breaks. My quads were fried. The plunging downhills so early in the race had come too fast and I was paying for it now. I stretched and prayed for more gentle rollers. Flats were hurting so freaking bad. Sam was fine with stopping. While the wind wasn't much of a factor yet, we were both soaked and this may have been the first of many times that we agreed, "this race is ass."

We carried on, hitting strong splits again despite our discomforts and hit the half at 1:53:27 on PB pace of 5:22/km (8:39/mi). PB for me, BQ for Sam. Things are looking good.

Surviving: The Second Half

After the half, we are in totally familiar territory for me. River Street, my folks old hood. Sumach: look right and there is the house my mum grew up in. Past the Berkeley Street Theater where I worked for a few years in sales, calling people to get them to renew their season theatre tickets. The Flatiron building, the Tim Horton's I used to stop at when I worked at Zenith. And on and on. This stretch was a bunch of holding on and having zero clue what our pace was. My watch was in the low 4s per KM. I couldn't judge a thing, so instead, I watched my footing on the streetcar tracks and hoped that the tailwind would be glorious.

At this point, I'm visualizing the 27k route marker that we saw on our way to the shuttle buses and I just want to get there. My only discomfort is those quads. Just brutal pain and I can't believe I just kept running. Sam's stomach is going off and she's digging around for Zantac to help. What a pair we are!

We pass through the Exhibition and I take out my ear buds to hear the finish line. Jerks. They are celebrating the winner's expected finish time, though he hadn't come in yet. I know a load of people feel discouraged by this kind of out and back, but at that point the distraction was 100% worth it. 

We plod on out to Lakeshore and I'm mad that I didn't look at the map closer. I have no idea when we are turning back around and it sucks to keep pushing through the MGT in ignorance. I'm not sure when we made the decision to hit 10s/1s (run/walk), but we did. Sam really started to suffer and tried to push me ahead to a finish without her, but I wasn't hearing any of that. "Why? My goal is gone. We are on pace for you to PB. Where am I going? Let's do this together."

In my head, the entire time I'm thinking, Don't rob Sam's PB. Stay on pace. Don't rob Sam's PB. And so on we plod. 

We see Kenny coming home. Man, he looks horrible. We see Mark (husband of Marlene); he looks defeated. God, this race is ass.

We finally make it to the turn around and understand why.

Oh. My. God. The. Wind.

The turn comes with 7k to go. The wind hits at 36k. It NEVER ends. 

We catch up with Ivanka and lose her. Marlene passes us looking amazing. 

At one point, a blister under my right big toe pops and its amazing because it gives me something other than the pain in my quads or the wind to focus on. 

Sam and I don't speak. I don't bother with my music as the wind would make it impossible to hear. We walk through every water station and grab water and for me, Gatorade (yellow, gross). We thank everyone for their support. Many, many, many people tell us that there is beer and donuts at the end (there aren't. There isn't water either. This race is ass). 

And we plod on. We stick to the 10s/1s. 

At the 41k route marker, I hit the sign as hard as I've ever hit one and scream, "Fuck you, Goodlife."

The woman in front of us turns around and agrees, "FUCK YOU is right!"

And still, we are on pace for Sam's PB.

And somehow we are passing 10 people. 

"This is horrible" I scream to the photographer.

But still, we finish. And we get Sam her PB.

A photo posted by Nicole (@macnic05) on