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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

Monday, March 28, 2016

Catch up. Weeks 12 and 13

When we left off, our hero (ahem, me) had developed an ITB/Knee pain problem and was hoping that a combination of Physical Therapy, strength training and adapting workout schedules would help solve the problem. The past two weeks have seen improvement and regression. Sigh.

As you can see, I went ahead on week 12 and took my time to rest the knee more, switching a run for a  45 minute trainer ride on the Monday. Tuesday, I played it smart and  ran a super easy 5k on the treadmill during my lunch hour. The knee felt stiff, but not bad, actually. Still being smart, I did a pre-PT ride on Wednesday and was happy with the way things felt.

Upon hitting PT, my therapist attacked my problem leg and I seriously almost had to ask her to give me a moment the (good) pain was so intense. I joked that I never knew she could hurt me so good. HAHA. I took Thursday off to allow my legs to recover, meanwhile I had been adding in clamshells, leg lifts, butt bridges etc all week to increase strength. By Friday, I decided that I needed to run to at least test my knee before a planned long and hilly run the next day. The run was okay, but that day I headed to the pharmacy to grab a knee brace (ended up being too small) and adhesive spray for my KT tape. I taped up my knee and met up with Jamie Saturday for a challenging, but lovely 27k run around Milton.

Jamie has this way of getting people to agree to climb all of the biggest hills around. I do admit that the view from the top of the escarpment was worth it though! A combo of KT tape, Aleve and a slower pace made the run bearable and I knew I'd be okay to run Around The Bay on April 3rd, but racing it was still in the air. That good feeling was tempted right away when I heard from Sam that she had sprained her ankle on her long run. Man! What is with us training for marathons together!?!?!

Week 13 started well.

A photo posted by Nicole (@macnic05) on

I turned 39 on Monday and so I took off at 4:36am and run the year. My knee held up really well (with tape, but no Aleve) until about 12k and then it "seized" a bit. I was able to run through and finish. The pain is so weird. It comes and its horrible, but then it just ... goes  away as I run. I have no idea how to temper it.

Tuesday I rested in order to ... rest my knee. I also went back to PT and she used shockwave on me this time. CRAZY! But oh so good! She was telling me that I'd be better pretty much right away and she wasn't wrong! I ran on Wednesday (a treadmill 8k, with 4 at 5:11/km) and had ZERO pain! Again, playing things smart, I decided to hit the bike for a short, if intense ride on  Thursday.

A photo posted by Nicole (@macnic05) on

It was all systems go for the now traditional Good Friday Road Races. Per usual, Alasdair was running the 1k but this year Fergus joined in the fun. I like that they stagger the kids races by age, so Alasdair took off with his hockey friend and a few minutes later, Fergus and I were off as well. Both kids put in great efforts with Alasdair coming in 7th (his friend came in 3rd!). Alasdair and I will be running his first 5k race sometime this summer for sure.

Top is Fergus, Bottom is Alasdair. I may not keep up on our 5k!
My friend Kelly came to run the 5k and blasted to a 4th overall victory and 1st in our age group (30-39) with a blistering time of 21:03, netting her a personal best for the distance and a massive truffle filled, chocolate egg as a prize. I forgot to change my 910xt from the display above and ended up running by feel for an average pace of 4:55/km. I'm very happy with the effort, especially considering I managed to call Swiss Chalet with my new blue tooth headphones in the 2nd KM and ended up walking to hang up my phone. I bettered my placement from last year and was 6th overall for F30-39. Net time for 5.11km was 25:07. My knee didn't bother me at all.

On Saturday Ivanka, Sam and I met up to run a double out and back to ensure that neither Sam's ankle, nor my knee would cause us further problems. We ran a very easy flat route in Burlington and kept the pace reasonable. I didn't tape but I did take an Aleve pre run. Not taping was a mistake. My knee was bothersome pretty much throughout the run, even if the weather and company was spectacular. I struggled through the last 8k especially. Sigh. I've got to figure out how to get back into PT this week and I must ensure my knee is taped VERY well for the race on Sunday. But you know what? You can't beat these  morning views.

My knee was horribly painful for the rest of the day and night. Waking up on Sunday didn't offer any relief either. Still, I jumped on my bike for a 45 minute recovery spin. When I got off, the knee pain was gone and hasn't yet returned. Hmm, who knew? This week will likely spell more rides of similar effort and intensity before heading into my fifth consecutive 30k race at Around the Bay. If nothing else, I'm looking forward to crossing  my favourite finish line on Sunday.  I'll be back to set up the goals once they are solidified. Until then, please do some anti-wind dances for us for Sunday, okay? The weather is looking BRUTAL.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Road To BQ: Week 11

Suffice to say, with week 10 ending on the high of the Chilly Half Marathon, I was eager and excited to tackle week 11 with renewed vigour.

The week started with Sam and I discussing if we should look at changing the harder workouts in the Pfitz-Douglas plan I had adapted from their Advanced Marathoning book. Suffice to say, after more than a bit of discussion, we agreed that we'd both do what works best for us, but that a few ending KM at race pace wouldn't go astray and decided to test the theory on Saturday's long run.

The rest of the week went really well in terms of workouts and pace. I nailed my 6x100s workout and ran my final split at 3:33/km pace - or 100m in 20 seconds. I know that my form was awesome and I could feel the difference ensuring perfect form made in the pick ups.

Wednesday was supposed to be 18k with 11k at half marathon pace, but as Sam and I had agreed to run at least 3k at marathon pace in the Saturday long run AND due to the fact that my legs were absolutely SHOT from the previous efforts, I ended up just running an easy 13k before work. The weather was amazing for March 9th and I was over dressed.

Wednesday was my work "Christmas" party and I decided to stay down town in order to ensure I got a really good nights rest. I left the party around 10pm, hopped into a cab and immediately sent him in search of McDonalds. I hadn't had much to eat at the party and sometimes you just need a Big Mac.

A photo posted by Nicole (@macnic05) on

After an awesome 8 hours of sleep at the Strathcona Hotel, I woke up and decided to finish off my 18k run, with the final 5k on the Martin Goodman Trail. I had mapped out a route in Strava but basically just ran out until my watch said 2.5k and turned around and ran back. What a lovely way to run on a dedicated path in the city. It was nice to wave to the other runners who were out and also to see the city slowly come to life. Too bad it was a foggy (but warm!) day; I didn't get to enjoy all of my normal Toronto views

This run felt fine. I had felt a twinge in my right glute on the Wednesday morning run, but it was totally gone by this time, so I was happy to write it off as a one time random thing.

Saturday was long run day. Sam, Ivanka and I met near the lift bridge in Burlington to run the Around the Bay route, plus 2k for a total of 20 miles. We started at the 14k point of the Bay Race course which is awesome because it front loads the run with all of the hills which hit normally from about 19-24k. Right away, the run was a gong show. I forgot one of my gels on my front hall table. Luckily, Sam had a French candy thing from Zindine which was absolutely fine at 24k, but not something I'd go back too (just a taste thing). Ivanka and I were both running with the new Spi Belt Bottles and we kept losing them. Turns out, we were both weighted down too much to keep them still. Then, my ass was frozen. Like bad. Turns out one of the bottles had broken and spilled water all the way down my ass. Awesome. Finally, my left knee basically gave out around 12k or so. I had to stop every so often to stretch it out a bit and take Ivanka's emergency Advil to get through the run.

With about 4k left to go, I noticed a good spot for Sam's regularly scheduled Insta post and we laughed our way through yet another fun video capture

A photo posted by Sam J (@sammykaye71) on

As soon as I straighten up, I knew I was in trouble. Right away, I told the girls that I'd start to walk a bit before running to give my knee some time to get used to the movement again. I started a light jog and fell into a good running pace again by the time they caught me, but soon after my knee buckled. IT Band Pain is real, yo! Sam yelled at me to walk the rest of the way, but I didn't listen. I did end my run right at 31k though when I made it back to the parking lot. I came home and took an Aleve, had a shower, rolled and taped up the knee as best as I could.

Yesterday I was still in some pain, but doing little jogs or lateral movement while playing catch with my son, didn't hurt, so I think (I hope) rest, a massage and more rolling TLC will do the trick. Oh and focused strength training as well. I guess. 7 days away from birthday 39 and my body is telling me that I need to focus on the TLC part of running too.

Needless to day, there was none of the planned 60 minute recovery bike yesterday, but I hope this is a mere bump in the road and recovery will come quickly.

Totals on the week:

I'll take it. Wish me well for week 12!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Chilly Half Marathon Race Report!


This past Sunday was the 20th running of the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington, Ontario. I had signed up right away after the race last year when the call was out for $50 registrations... or had I? 

So, it turns out, I HAD attempted to register, but my payment never went through. I ended up paying full price for the race. Good thing it was a good one! 

The plan was to go out with the 1:50 pace bunny and hold with them until the turn around 13.5k. From then, the thought was to pick it up if I was feeling good, or to stick with them until the end and then finish strong. This assumed a number of things: The pace bunny would be bang on pace (5:12/km), the weather would be good (no ice or snow or headwind), and that I'd actually, finally have a good race for the first time in over two and a half years.

Not too much to ask.

A photo posted by Nicole (@macnic05) on

I knew a few things going in: 1) Sam, Emma, Ivanka and I would start together, 2) I'd run with music, 3) I'd run this one for me and no one else (sorry Sam, Emma, and Ivanka). I was nervous going into this, my 19th half marathon and 49th (!!!) race. I wanted so, so, so badly to have a good race. One where I didn't shit the bed (literally or figuratively) as Sam says. I needed a race where my mind didn't break down on me either. To be honest, I knew in my heart of hearts that I could hold the damn pace - I'd been doing a lot of random 1 miles at this pace over my treadmill runs, but I didn't know if my mind could take it. Thus the music. Music is a huge mental help for me, something I needed to go back and remember. It was sad to not run and joke with Sam during the good parts as usual, but I'm confident she understood.

Race day dawned a bit colder than predicted. CRAP!!! Do I change my planned outfit? Will my sweet-ass PUMA Clash by Rhianna Tights hold up to the -1c? Maybe I should grab a heavier top? In the end, I stuck with what I had planned to wear, mainly because everything else was in the laundry and I wanted to wear those sweet, sweet tights, dammit. I ate my now typical pre-long run breakfast of plain oatmeal, made with water, topped with brown sugar and chased with a small apple juice. I tempted fate and had a small coffee. With the 10am start time, I figured I was good to go on the coffee. I grabbed a banana and some powerade to have while waiting. 

I met up with Sam and Ivanka right on cue at 8am and by 8:25 we were sitting in the theatre at the Performing Arts Centre waiting for the race to begin. Emma and her husband got there about 20 minutes later and we all checked bags, ate bananas, cued playlists and got race ready. 3 trips to the bathroom and two shoe removals for me (to warm up my feet!) and we were ready to hit the corrals.

Right away, we found the 1:50 pace bunnies. There were two! Both continuous! WooHoo! Then, they started talking about running at 5:16/km pace (wrong) and being told to race for gun time (wrong). Whatever, this race was for me - they'd be a good target and help to keep the pace in check for the first few KM. The gun went off and so did the bunnies and the five of us (Emma's husband started with us; poor guy was battling the end of a cold and it wasn't his day). The bunnies started quicker than 5:16 and even 5:12, but no worry. They were going for gun pace afterall and had about 45-60s to make up. I stayed right with them. Sam stayed right with me. Emma, Ivanka and Steve were all lost. 

I sang a few lyrics to Sam when good songs came through my playlist in the first 3k. I couldn't really hear her much, but it didn't matter. I was still taking the advice that Robin had provided before Ottawa last year and was conserving energy for running, not high-fiving and talking. After the turn, Sam said to me, "These guys [pace bunnies] are running too fast! We have to let them go." I agreed of course and tried to reel in the pace, but it was just one of those days where the pace came easy. 

5:08-5:10-5:08-5:08-5:05-5:08-5:06-5:07-5:07-5:12. 10k Total: 51:19 I'm not sure I've ever paced my own racing so well.

Smarter this time about what I needed to get through the race in terms of nutrition, I had decided to carry Powerade in my handheld. I also stopped at water stations and grabbed water quickly. I didn't take the time to walk through them in the first half and they had no effect on my overall pace. I coupled this with half a gel at 6k and the other half at 9k. Sam had been bugging me lately about nutrition and I figured that I would use this race to experiment a bit if nothing else. I continued to take water at each station and had a final and full GU gel at 14k. I felt great the entire time; my stomach did not complain once.

After 10k, the race gets interesting if you've run it before and know what to expect. You begin to anticipate the elites and faster runners coming at you as the course is an out and back. There isn't much spectator support running out east, but what I did notice this year was that the course, while basically flat, has enough small, small rollers to keep things interesting. Sometime before the turn, I realized that I had lost Sam at a water station. I figured she'd catch me eventually. I figured that if something bad had happened, she either 1) didn't tell me as she could see how in the zone I was, or 2) would have told me so I knew not to expect her. Sure enough, so caught me back up and told me promptly, "You're running way too fast! I've got a 4:40 here!" I reminded her that she would show a faster split as she was just running hard to catch me. That made sense to both of us (phew) and we continued on. I was so in the zone.

The turn around came and none too soon; I needed to get there for my mental game. It had been super strong thus far with nothing threatening it, but making the turn at 13.5k means that you can count down the rest of the race and force yourself to stay on pace dammit-its-only-eight-k-more. Sam's husband was at the turnaround and she dropped off her water bottle to him and I said "Hi." We saw Emma shortly after the turn (yay, looking good) and could still see the 1:50 guys ahead of us. They must have settled in to about a 5:05/km pace based on the gap. 

Right around here, we also came up to a kind of unofficial pace group. There was a clear leader (a tall blonde in a pink coat) and a clear group running with her. She was telling the group that they were perfectly on pace and that the plan was to hold on for these next 8k. Seeing her face and hearing her voice made me realize that it was Michelle. I asked her what the pace they were holding at was, "5:12-5:16" Perfect. We had enough time banked to hang with them. "Sam, let's stay with this group. This is Michelle. She's a track Super-Star."

Michelle, though smiling, was puzzled - "How do you... how do I...?" "Instagram" I managed to breath out. And then I left Sam and Michelle to chat about ages and BQs and I just followed. Ah, the beauty of a pacer running the speed they say and you just hanging on.

We had picked up a slight headwind after the turn, but it died down quickly (or I got used to it). I was happy to have my vest after hating my life with the tailwind on the way out (where I was super hot). My mental ability threatened starting at 16k, but I held firm. I WAS doing this today. I WAS not failing. I WOULDN'T let myself down. And so I ran. I took the final water station with a bit of a walk, but nothing lost - the KMs were still coming well within target, if not so even. 

5:07-5:08-5:15-5:08-5:13-5:12-5:11-5:08-5:07, Total 11-19k: 46:29

As we came up to the 20th kilometre, Sam began to separate from the pace group. She veered over to the north side of the road as I did. I was behind her, but clearly saw what she was doing. She was making sure she didn't lose me when I made my way over to hit the 20k route marker (Every half. Always). Cheerleader by OMI was blasting in my ears and Sam was in full on cheerleader mode. "Let's go, Let's go!! C'mon!!!" Oh God, Sam my legs are lead, but I'm going as fast as I can. I'm not going to stop. I AM going to do this. We are going sub 1:50. We have time. 

20 was my slowest kilometre of the bunch at 5:21. There was nothing here to slow me down... no hill or even slight rise, so I don't know why I slowed so much. I kept chasing Sam though. As always, I was chasing Sam to the end. 

Let's go!!! RUN!!! Let's GOOOOOO!!! Jackman Styles!!!! 

KM 21: 5:09

And I'm thinking 800m, 2x around the track.You got it, you got it. Saw Hi to Mari for me Sam. (Mari was at Brant and Lakeshore). 

I'm pushing and Sam goes (as she does, damn finish kick). I see Mari and give her my only high-five of this race because I'm hitting all God-damned goals today and I'm feeling amazing. I hit Brant and see the crowd. And I run straight down the middle, watching Sam finish 5 seconds ahead of me and I wave my arms up and down, "Make some noise crowd! Celebrate me!!!" I even pulled a Usain Bolt move (I was in PUMA after all). And I cross the finish line and Sam tackles me and I know, this is what I needed. These people, these friends, this work. This is why I race. And this, this is the road to BQ. I know it.

Gun: 1:50:32
Chip: 1:49:20 
Place: 749/2233
Gender: 213/1159
F35-39: 32/156

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Update! Weeks 8 & 9 and Chilly Goals!

Hello... is this thing on? Sorry, I've been MIA, which usually happens when work gets crazy. And its been two weeks of full  on crazy, but we had our first big presentation yesterday and whew, it went well. So now I have a few down days before I get right back into revisions for the next round (advertising - all glamour!)

I've never seen an episode
So, how did the weeks go? Pretty okay. I missed some distance, but not the long runs, which are key. I actually fit all of my runs in last week including a 23k Tuesday run (spread over two runs!)

That's right, you even seen one trainer session in each week.

Week 8 I managed to run 6x100m run on the Monday and  noped the nope out of any other work for the week. The week did end well with a 30k run along the Around the Bay route with Sam (for 18k) and Emma (for the entire run), and then tacked on 2k to hit my first 20 miler of  the  training plan. It was a tough run (what with the elevation changes and distance), but I'm super  happy to have put the distance behind me, even if I was a bit delirious by the end.

A photo posted by Nicole (@macnic05) on

Emma waited for me to jog out to the pier and take photos finish my run so that  we could  get a post-run selfie together and bask in our awesomeness. I was shocked when I loaded the splits and  saw just how amazingly consistent they were for the last half of the run (all in the 5:30s/km - go us!).

Week 9 was planned as a huge week: 69km with a 23k run on Tuesday and 26k with 19k at pace on Saturday. Thankfully, Sam became the voice of reason, asking why we'd run race pace the week before an actual race that  we were all planning on ... racing? Whew! With that settled, I tacked the week of long work and long runs and hit all of  my distance and a bike ride! The long runs and long work hours meant far too many of these:
A photo posted by Nicole (@macnic05) on

Its never a good thing to work a 7 minute walk from a Bulk Barn.

With the weekend long run clear to run easy, Sam decided that she'd plan a hell run, her favourite route which meant all of the Around the Bay Northshore Hills and then more hills followed by other hills after that. And one super sweet downhill. I wasn't feeling the run from the second I woke up, but I did my best to keep up with the girls and they were awesome about waiting for me to crest the hills and in the end, I felt great for having put the mileage in.

It will make me stronger
A photo posted by Sam J (@sammykaye71) on

Everyweek, Sam #doesitfortheinsta

So, two good weeks, building base, if not speed. I was on the treadmill a few times in those weeks, so that does mean I was running some speed within those, but no tempo or anything. That is something that will come back next week. For this week, the goal is the nail the Chilly Half Marathon.

This will be my fifth running of the race. I PB'd my first race here and have always enjoyed  the run despite varied conditions. I've decided to go out with the 1:50 pacer and the goal is to come in at 1:49xx. This is faster than I need to run to qualify for the Boston Marathon and if I manage to nail it, it will be a huge mental boost. Besides, Emma is looking to PB at sub 1:51:19 (and I was part  of that!) and I want to do my best to help her get there. I know she can do it and I know I can too. Sunday will tell! See you on the flip side with the race report!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

#BQorBust, Take 3: Week 7

Back to reality this week. And reality meant a deep freeze!

Coming back from vacation and being sluggish coupled with a travelling husband and the cold meant that I spent a whole lot of time on the treadmill this week. In fact, only one run wasn't done on the treadmill and that was done on the indoor track at the Milton Sports Centre. Here's what the end of 53 laps around a 200m track looks like.

The weekend provided a much needed break though! We had a long weekend in Ontario to celebrate family day and I really feel like we actually got a chance to relax and chill out. There was hockey for my boys and rep lacrosse tryouts for my oldest son, but we also had friends over for dinner and did some simple things, like rolling all of the coins we had hanging around.

A photo posted by Nicole (@macnic05) on

I even managed to watch the US Olympic Marathon Trials live and was super inspired watching all of the runners, especially Amy and Shalane who reminded me of the Ottawa marathon run from last year. As Sam noted, we're the original A&S. As always, I was routing heavily for Meb who proves time and time again that age is just a number and I was thrilled to see him come in second place. I do admit that I got a bit afraid after a commercial break when I couldn't see him in the lead pack any longer, but I quickly realized that he had just tucked his singlet into his shorts. So funny how you can get personally invested in the elites. I actually spent the first hour watching the trials on my bike with Trainer Road and am happy to have fit cycling back into the mix. I hope to hit the bike at least twice this week.

Here's how my week 7 shook out:

Monday: 6k on the treadmill at lunch. I slept in and totally missed the 16k I was supposed to do.

Tuesday: Rest. My husband was travelling so that took before and after work out of the equation and I couldn't manage a lunch run either.

Wednesday: 8k in the evening. My husband was back home! YAY!

Thursday: 5k at lunch with the middle mile at BQ pace and 53 laps around the track for 10k in total. That made 15k on the day.

Friday: Rest in anticipation of running my long run the next day.

Saturday: I couldn't make the timing work for the run meet up based on my son's activities, so I ended up on my bike trainer for an hour with Black during the US Olympic Marathon trials. 22.5k in total.

Sunday: 29k. On the treadmill. All at once. Thank goodness I haven't had time to listen to the last three episodes of season two of Serial. Do you know what's on TV on Sunday mornings? Fishing shows, Infomercials and Church service. But when the temperature is -31c, I'm not heading outside for 3 hours. On purpose.

I made the run interesting by stopping for a minute or so after each 6 miles and changing pace every mile. That also helped. Never has the mantra "Run the Mile You're In" been more clear to me.

And that's it for week 7. I did miss a bit of distance (13k), but I also fit in a spin, so I'm calling evens on the week. Week 8 is on track thus far and we're getting a break from the cold, so that's always a good thing.

Total: 80.6k (50mi), 5hr, 23min
Run: 58.1k (36.1mi)
Cycle: 22.5k (14mi)

Friday, February 12, 2016

Catching up!

Hello! So much to catch up on! I've been absent the past while due to vacation. First, there was the hustle in getting ready to go on vacation, then the vacation itself and finally, being back at work and settling back into a routine. That's been tough. I haven't even grocery shopped yet, so I've been stealing enjoying my kids lunchtime snacks as my own (goldfish crackers and cheese strings anyone?).

A photo posted by Nicole (@macnic05) on

That's about half of our 22 person group, ready to cruise on the Disney Fantasy (Yes, we were on the sailing that had mechanical problems and skipped Castaway Cay). The trip was awesome! This is was our third sailing with Disney and even before the discount we received as a result of the malfunction, we were already thinking about our next trip!

Let's catch up on running a bit, shall we?

Week 5 went well, very well. I ran 73.94k over 5 runs, including my long 24k run with Amy. It was a great run, but unfortunately, we saw a coyote hit by a car right in front of us and die. We stopped and called the humane society and they came to pick up the animal. the driver didn't even stop!!! There was a lot of damage to the front of the drivers vehicle as well, so I'm shocked that they just kept driving! I also hit the trainer for one ride, putting in 17.6k on Carter +1.

A photo posted by Nicole (@macnic05) on

Week six was the week were leaving on vacation, driving to Buffalo on Thursday evening, flying to Orlando on Friday and sailing on Saturday! I front loaded my week, but running the first half marathon pace run on Sunday which allowed me to take a bit of pressure off. In the end, I only fit in two runs, a 12k and a 26k, but that 26k was an epic run: All Treadmill! The last 16k was done at pace and the run actually went amazingly. I got a whole lot of support for this run from Emma and Sam which also made it easier. I couldn't quit as people were waiting for me to finish

 Then, we left on vacation.

Dry month also came to an end!
For the week of vacation, I ran three times! They were all on the boat and they all felt great!
Can't beat these views (Tortola)

Cool map from my 5 mile run as we docked in Tortola
While we were unable to make it to Castaway Cay, we still got a chance to run the race, around deck 4 of the boat on the running tack. I started with the first wave and even though I had no pace feedback from my garmin (it would pause and not track things correctly, for example a 4 mile run became 19k!), I still managed to run faster than half marathon pace for first place female!

We got home last Saturday night and I still managed to fit in a short run on Sunday, even though I could really feel that my "land legs" hadn't come back yet. That 6k brought my weekly total up to a respectable 25.5k run on the week! 

And now, we are back home and I'm tackling week 7 of the plan. With the success of the 26k treadmill run and the 5k at faster than half marathon pace behind me, I decided to pull the trigger and finally signed up for the Goodlife Toronto Marathon. Whew! In 78 days I'll toe the line at marathon #5 and BQ attempt #3. Let's hope this one sticks.

In the meantime, I'll continue to bask in the memories of another awesome family vacation as I run through cold, wind and snow.

A photo posted by Nicole (@macnic05) on