Monday, April 24, 2017

On the slow road to recovery...

I most definitely fell off the face of the blogosphere world. Yes, I am more than aware. And it hasn't entirely been because things have been absolutely horrible for the last two years, but mostly because I went back to school in September of 2015 and started my PhD, and continue to work 15 hours/week at Toronto Rehab Institute (Cardiac Rehab).

Today, I am sitting under the sunny skies in the backyard of my lovely and most gracious homestay's home in Barbados. I felt the need to put some words on a page prior to heading to the airport and homebound for Toronto.

Just to quickly recap and summarize what last season was all about in a nutshell, I will do it in bullet points:
-started PhD in September of 2015
-tore my Posterior Tibialis Ligament during a race in the Dominican Republic December 2015
-had the goal of finishing all of my course work in Year 1 of the PhD program and prove myself to my supervisors so that I could get back to racing ITU in 2017 and hopefully hit it hard
-raced in the inaugural Major League Triathlon (MLT) Series predominantly in 2016 (supersprint mixed gender relays), which was a BLAST!, and used last year as a "build" year as best as possible
-got fit for Nationals only to crash the week before and pull out from the race
-laid low from racing except for the MLT series and an impromptu, last minute entry into the European Championships in Nyon, Switzerland in August

In 2016, I finally found a swim club that I could swim with starting November 1st-the North York Aquatic Club (NYAC) National Group with Murray Drudge as the head coach and Eddie Toro as the assistant coach. The opportunity was and still is phenomenal and they make me feel so welcome there-I help coach whenever I can. I also started a brand new strength training program at the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport at U of T last fall, and have some phenomenal coaching support there now as well. The plan was to REALLY focus on the swim, so that I could come back to ITU racing with a stronger swim in my arsenal. It was a great plan, but since I am the slowest swimmer in the NYAC group, it means that every training session is really hard for me, even if it's relatively easy for the rest of the group.  I made the classic mistake of jumping into WAY too much mileage and intensity too soon, and with the strength program, maintaining bike and run, I just wore myself down by the middle to end of February. With school and work deadlines and pressure, and my dad being diagnosed and treated for Lymphoma starting in December, the load was just too much for me to handle. I just could not recover in the way that I needed to perform well, and for a while, I kept my head down, trying to push through, but last month I just needed to stop and take a break. My torn posterior tib ligament has now become a chronic injury, and it flared up really badly last month as well. This sparked some queries and concerns with what was going on with my body and overall health. The bottom line was that I was diagnosed with Overtraining Syndrome (OTS), which exacerbated the pain and flare up of my foot injury. All in all, not a fun end of February, March, and April, to say the least.

Though I thought that I could come back and race in April, even if not in top form to get used to ITU racing again, I wasn't quite ready two weeks ago in Bermuda, and even though I felt better physically and mentally heading into this race in Barbados yesterday, I got unlucky in the swim and got my goggles knocked off and lost both my contact lenses in the process. If I had one, I could have continued, but with both gone, and a prescription of -9.25 diopters, I am just blind as a bat! I can't tell you how frustrating that was, because I was actually in "the scrum" that is known as the swim, which was already a big improvement compared to two weeks ago, when I just didn't have the energy to hang with the pack right off the bat. Nevertheless, I realized yesterday that I shouldn't feel rushed to fully recover and that I should actually feel good before I return to racing. My mind wants to get out there, but my body isn't entirely ready yet, and the disappointments don't exactly help my mental state and desire to race at the moment either.

So, instead of testing my fitness to see when it comes back and when it is that I start feeling good again, I am just going to head home, ease back into "smart" training, and let my body sort itself out over the next few weeks. At this point, I think that I can be healed up and ready to go for Nationals in June, so I am going to loosely set my sights on that race, and take things one day at a time, while trying to find that fun and joy in triathlon again.

That is where I am currently at, and it has been helpful to express this all in writing. The pics below show you how and where I did all of this post-race contemplation yesterday (east coast of Barbados). I couldn't be more grateful to Lisl Lewis and Peter Arender for showing me around the island,  and for being the best homestay hosts and support crew that a girl could ever ask for this weekend!

Thanks for tuning in and reading:)


Sunday, February 22, 2015

2015 Blog Resurrection

Hi everyone!

It has been a very long time since I have last written a blog post, but I am here now, and back in action! I will be posting race reports and training/life updates moving forwards. Now that I have written that down, I am accountable for my actions.

Thank you to all of the wonderful staff at the new Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre  (TPASC) for encouraging me to start blogging again, because it makes me feel very special to know that there are people who read my posts and look for them. I am truly humbled.

I just got back from a cycling-focused training camp near Santa Monica, California a week ago, and despite feeling beat up and tired this week, I am feeling quite fit for this point in the season and I am looking forward to racing soon!

On another note, this may come as a bit of a surprise and complete 180 for those of you who thought that I had already moved out to Victoria, but I now plan to pursue my PhD in Medical Science at U of T starting in September of this year, so hopefully, if all goes well, I will find out definitively within the next few weeks. I had my interview on Friday:). More on that later, if it all comes into fruition...;)

Next weekend I'll be racing at McMaster University at the Indoor Triathlon put on by Personal Best and Barrie Shepley. I have never done it before, but I will have a hard training week this week, and it'll be good to get my feet wet again in racing in a fun environment. Then I fly to Florida on the 4th of March to race my first Pan American Circuit race of the year on the 7th!

I am very excited to continue working with Beet It America this season, and to have GU as my nutrition sponsor this year as well. Caramel Macchiato and Root Beer flavoured gels?!?! What?!?! You MUST try them-even if you are not so much a fan of endurance sport:)

I'll start with that as my first post back, and leave you with my favourite descent and stunning view from Mount Baldy on my recent trip to California. We took a moment for a photo op on the descent down Glendora Mountain Ridge. That's Dr. Don MacDonald on the right-a truly exceptional person & doctor.

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Protect Your Rest

I've learned a very important lesson this week, and that is that while trying to train or perform at an elite level, protecting your rest at all costs is just as important as the physical and mental training components are, and if anything even more important. I've been sick all week with a nasty combo of the flu and a throat infection, and I know that it's the result of not protecting my rest over the last 3-4 weeks. I bit off way more than I could chew, and battling this illness is a blatant reminder that I am not Superwoman, but merely a mortal human being who is subject to being worn out and broken.

When I say that I bit off more than I could chew, I mean that I raced the ITU Toronto Pan American Cup/Pan Am Games Test event on July 12th, followed by Canadian Nationals one week later in Magog, Quebec, on July 19th, while trying my best to be a good homestay host over that 2 week block of time, working some what close to my regular work hours as my boss has been newly promoted to the position of the Research Chair of the University Health Network, and then launching into a high volume week of training immediately after Nationals. It goes without saying that by week 3 of this chaos (high volume training week), there was nothing else going on other than train, work, train, work, train, which meant no down time for me, and no time for others. For me specifically as an athlete, that is not sustainable...and so I got very sick this week. This has made me realize that unfortunately, you do have to be very "selfish" when it comes to taking some time out for yourself, and saying no to certain commitments, if you know that it will do more damage to your recovery and rest than good. It's extremely difficult to do, but so necessary in the long run if you want to be able to consistently train and perform at your best.

On to my ITU Toronto Pan Am Cup Race Report and Nationals Race Report:

The Toronto race got off to an early 7am start, and the water temperature in Lake Ontario was pretty chilly at that time-16 degrees Celsius. This meant that it was a wetsuit legal swim for us. It was a pontoon start, which means that you get to dive in, and I am a big fan of this type of start. In water starts, and dive starts are better for people who have stubby, short legs like me, who can't take advantage of beach starts with long runs into the water...people with long legs can run a lot farther and dolphin dive farther in those situations. Anyway, I actually had an excellent start and was right with the leaders for the 1st 100-150m or so before getting punched in the face, dunked under water, goggles knocked askew, and feeling like I was going to drown after 3 consecutive attempts at taking in air, but got nothing but water in my lungs. I had to take some time to re-group, get my goggles back in place, and take a breath at some point soon after that, so needless to say that front pack was gone, and I was gapped by the time we got to the first turn buoy on the way out. If felt like a really long swim for the rest of the way, as I was only swimming with a much smaller pack after that and I believe that the swim course was a bit long too.

It took me a couple of attempts to fasten my helmet strap, but after that was secure I was off to start the 7 laps on the bike...there was work to be done to make up time after that swim! I was more than prepared to put the work in, so the initial strategy was just to chase people/packs down one at a time. That strategy was great, but I can't say that it wasn't frustrating to be doing the majority of the work while others chose to sit at the back the entire time.The course wasn't too hilly, and the technical sections made it quite difficult to shake people off your rear wheel once they caught on. Regardless, I had trained to ignore that and do my job. I made a huge tactical error though in the bike leg of this race, because once I had caught the main chase pack after lap 5, I should have eased off and taken in some fluids and nutrition at that time. I didn't do that however, and just pushed on through all of the 7 laps. By the time, I got off the bike with this now giant chase pack, there were only the two leaders who were ahead of us ( be it well ahead of us:) ).
Working hard off the front...

In T2, this is where my troubles began. After that stellar ride and barely any nutrition, I bent down to put my shoes on and both of my quads just seized up completely, and I fell back down into a weird crouching position. My right quad in particular was feeling a bit strained, and I was very worried that I wouldn't be able to get back up and run at all. After 10-15s in this position, I managed to get up, and try and shake out my legs. I just had it in my head that I wasn't going to DNF in my hometown in front of my family and friends who had come out to support this Pan Am Games test event. So, I stumbled my way forward and out of T2, but by this time, all of the girls that I had come into T2 with were gone. I was extremely disheartened to not be able to run to my potential after that, but in hindsight, I really should have been just happy to get up and get through the run. But after putting in so much training, and really working the run after the bike, the disappointment ripped through me as I got to the finish line with both quads seizing. I collapsed into a volunteer's arms as my legs weren't functioning well at all at that point, and just let the emotions and disappointment come out. I couldn't help it, and wished I could have held it together better, but sometimes you just can't. I felt like all that work that I had done on the bike was for nothing, and that I benefited the least from it. I was upset that my legs/body had failed me and I just wanted more from myself in that moment. I was disappointed in me. I finished in 12th place, which really was a solid result in the end, and helped improve my World Ranking, but again, I just wanted more out of myself.

It took me a while to reflect on that race and to be able to walk away with all of the positives from it, which is really essential for moving forward in the realm of elite sport and high performance. You always have to take away positives, and lessons learned, and things to work on in training and in future races. This one just stung a little bit more that's all!

One week later, I raced in Magog, Quebec at the Canadian Nationals. It was a sprint distance race this time around (as opposed to Olympic), and I love the sprint distance! Unfortunately, I don't think my legs had quite recovered from the beating in Toronto that they had received the week before. This time around, I came out of the swim in a solid position, and the main chase pack on the bike was just within striking distance! But alas, it was not meant to be. It was one of those days where you are putting in maximal effort, but your power just isn't there and your legs can't respond and you are just flat. Nothing more in the tank that you can give. I had one of those days in Magog. My "normal" bike legs were not there. So, after not being able to bridge to that pack after the 1st lap, I knew that I had to be tactically smarter if I was going to get through the day. I decided to ease off at this point, and not burn any more matches, as they were all used up anyway! I just rode at a pace that I could sustain and was solo at this point as I had dropped the pack behind me, but had not bridged up to the main pack in front of me. The run course in Magog for us is on a bike trail, which is nice and flat. I got passed by a couple of girls on the run and passed one, so I lost one spot overall in the run. I finished as the 9th Canadian in our Nationals race (13th overall), and in contrast to the previous weekend in Magog, I didn't feel disappointed in myself at all, because I knew that that was all I could do on that day. I pushed through as hard as I could with what I had in the tank and that's all that my body could give. Of course, I would have like to place a bit better, but that's just how things go sometimes. Looking back now, and understanding this important lesson in protecting your rest, I see that my schedule that week was also not the most conducive to the recovery that I likely needed going into my consecutive weekends of racing. I am always learning:)
Swim Start at Canadian Nationals in Magog, Qc

What's next for me? Well, I was supposed to race in the Ontario draft legal Provincial Championships today, but obviously wasn't in any shape to do that, but I will be racing the ITU Kelowna Premium Pan American Cup on August 17th. Just a couple of weeks away now, so the first priority is to get healthy and then to work on those lessons learned from Toronto and Magog, and apply them in Kelowna! After Kelowna, I plan to race the Brunel TT at the Lake of Bays (Sponsored by Real Deal/WaspCam!) on August 24th, and the Provinical Cycling TT Championships in Barrie on Sept 7th. Then a week off/unstructured training, where I will likely head to the west coast, and then back to an Olympic distance, draft-legal race focus heading into the ITU San Juan race on October 12th and then the ITU Asian Cup race in Hong Kong at the end of October!

Thank you to all of my supporters out there, and to all of those amazing volunteers who helped me out in Toronto a few weeks ago, and who made me feel better by wanting to take pictures with me still despite me looking like one hot mess:) It has been inspiring, humbling, and flattering to have people reach out to me through this blog, so please don't ever hesitate to do so, or to introduce yourself at races. It's always a pleasure for me to meet you!


Monday, June 9, 2014

ITU Dallas Pan American Championships Race Report

As promised, I said that I would start writing race reports again after my race in Dallas that took place on May 31st. I was barely home for 48 hours before heading to Seattle last week, so this is the first chance that I have had to write a post.

I was hoping to have a really exciting outcome to report after racing in my biggest ITU draft legal event that I have ever done, with a start list of almost 50 Elite women. Instead, I have to report that I seemed to have a very "flukie", very rookie, and very embarrassing tumble off the bike after loop 1 (5km) into the 40km ride. I was heading into the 2nd hairpin, 180 degree U-turn that marked the completion of the 1st loop of the bike course, which was stationed directly in front of the Finish Line and so-called "grand stand" area where there were the most spectators present. I think I took the hairpin turn a little bit too hot, which caused my wheels to slide out, and it is very possible that I hit one of the reflectors on the road, which caused my wheels to come off the ground. I'm not sure if I tapped my front brakes or not (which would have been a big no-no), but regardless of whether I did or not, I was absolutely shocked to find myself putting my arms out to break my fall over the handle bars. You really shouldn't fall that way either, as it's the easiest way to break a collar bone, but that was my immediate instinct. I would say that I absorbed the fall by doing something of a hand-stand push-up, if you can visualize that, and as a result I saved myself from a lot of road rash. I'd love to say that the fall was graceful and had some redeeming qualities, but I ended up pinned under my bike lying on my left side, with both feet still clipped into my shoes. I couldn't even unclip my shoes from that position, so I had to undo the velcro straps to slide my feet out, in order to pick myself up from the ground....did I say that this was in front of several onlookers standing around the finish area? By the time I actually stood up, and played with my chain to get it back on the chain ring, I felt like an eternity had passed, and still felt like a deer in head lights. This was not an outcome that I even remotely entertained, so I felt like I was still moving in "shock-mode". I finally jumped back on my bike, and received a very hearty cheer from the crowd, and started pedaling down the road, only to find my back wheel rubbing fiercely against my frame, and then a front flat a few seconds after that. Needless to say, that conclusively ended my race day.

My bike took the bigger beating and needed some new cables and parts, but I was super lucky to escape with just some bruised legs, a sore shoulder/pec/elbow/neck for a couple of days, and banged up finger, but it was more the sting of disappointment that hurt the most. To know that I had so much support going into the race and so many people rooting for me, as well as a wonderful sponsor, AB, who stepped in so valiantly in the very last minute to cover the cost of my flight to get to this race, I couldn't help initially feeling like I had lost out on such a great experience and opportunity, and that I had let people down. I took out my frustrations on a 10km  "punishment run" in the 4pm Dallas heat after I got back to the hotel after the race, with fellow athlete and friend, Amanda Hahn. I was still sulking a bit the day after the race, but quickly snapped out of it after watching all of the Para-triathletes competing in their Pan American Championships. I was immediately reminded to regain some perspective and to appreciate the fact that I am lucky enough to have this opportunity to get to do what I love to do, and to have had the chance to start in the race in the first place. I have two back to back Olympic distance races coming up this weekend and next, so things will certainly only get better from here. I feel like I have made some good gains in the pool, but I am hoping that they'll translate in the open water as the season progresses. I will be very swim focused from now until the next ITU race in Toronto on July 12th, where redemption will be sought:)

After a weekend off from racing and taking some time to divert my attention to balancing a personal life outside from work and triathlon, I am ready to put my head down for the next six weeks and to get back to training hard and racing every weekend. I will write again after the Welland Olympic Triathlon this coming Saturday, and hopefully, we can keep the rubber on the ground this weekend;)

As always, thank you for reading!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Whirlwind that is 2014

I cannot believe that my last post was back in January...where does the time go? I am very happy to report that 2014 has been going really well so far, and I don't have much to complain about. Life is good!

My last race was the ITU Bridgetown Pan American Cup in Barbados at the end of April, and all things considered, I had a good race. I had some serious trouble navigating the currents in the ocean swim, so I ended up time trialing myself back into the race solo, and rode myself into tied for 6th place at the dismount line off the bike. That probably hurt my legs a bit, and the heat definitely played a factor as well...I didn't really have that extra gear on the run. I lost a few spots in the run, but ended up finishing in 9th place which was a solid result. It was definitely a good place to build from.

Coming up to a month later, I am getting ready to race in Dallas on Saturday at the ITU PATCO Pan American Championships. This will be my first Olympic distance race of the season! It looks like a stellar field, with many Olympians in the mix, and amazing representation of the Pan American Countries. Dallas is remarkably hot at this time of year, so I'm hoping that my heat exposure in Barbados will help me this weekend;)

I also had the amazing opportunity to start working with the very talented photographer, Aric Guite, and did my 1st studio photo shoot with him this past Saturday. The whole experience was great, and the crew did an amazing job of making me feel comfortable and not overly self-conscious about anything. I can't wait to shoot outdoors and underwater with him again in the near future....here are a few proofs, that have yet to be touched up yet from the weekend...let me know what you think:)

There are many more exciting things and potential opportunities in the wood work, and I will report on them if they actually pan out and come into fruition...I will however, be sure to start writing race reports, so my first one of the season will be after this weekend's race...so, please stay tuned and always, thank you for reading:)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Looking forward to 2014

Happy New Year! I thought I would start the new year off right and give an update on what's been happening over the past couple of months and a few things that I have to look forward to over the next little while.

After I enjoyed a couple of weeks off from structured training back in October, I was unlucky enough to tear my left calf in both the gastroc and soleus muscles during my 1st week back to training in November. My original plan of building running mileage and making that my major focus until Christmas was no longer an option, so I had to take a step back and  re-adjust my training. Instead, we decided to spend time in the pool, work on leg speed and cadence on the bike with low resistance, and pool run. I'm happy to report that the calf is healed now, and I gradually introduced running, and intensity on the bike into my training again as of the 2nd week in December.

My 2nd session back of bike intensity down in the High Performance testing labs of Dr. Greg Wells at U of T was captured by the CBC's camera crew for "Marketplace"! I didn't expect the crew to bear witness to the pain and suffering incurred with my critical power testing with Coach Ming, but they captured everything in all of its glory. I was supposed to be the "highly-trained" athlete/research subject for the upcoming episode of "CBC Marketplace" that investigates the need for electrolyte drinks in the recreationally active versus high performance athletes. What a way to kick start my training again! I had to show at least some signs of fitness! I expected to play a small role in the background, so it was a bit of surprise when I had cameras about 1 mm away from my face at all angles, and when I had requests to form sweat droplets onto the camera lenses, and when cameras were strategically placed in my sweat puddles. That wasn't invasive at ALL:) It was actually a TON of fun, and the whole crew at CBC was amazing, and they are actually coming back to shoot me swimming and running on January 9th. This time I will at least know to shave my legs for the cameras. This sporty episode, which will also feature the incredible likes of both Simon Whitfield and Clara Hughes is slated to air on January 31st at 8pm-right before the start of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. So, please stay tuned!
Lights, Camera, Action!
Photo courtesy of Dr. Greg Wells.

I will spend the next few weeks ramping up my training and gaining some fitness leading into the first Real Deal cycling camp down in the Solana Beach area of California from Jan 24-31. After that week with my teammates, I will head over to Santa Monica where I will spend the next 5 days with my friend and fellow pro triathlete, Amanda Hahn, and her hubby, who have so generously offered to put me up in their home. I'll fly home on Feb 5th, spend a couple of days of down time in Collingwood with friends and family, and then swim in a local meet on Feb 9th! I haven't told my boss yet of these plans...I'm sure it'll go over super well;)

Finally, I have set some ambitious goals for the 2014-2015 season, but I thought I would share them to make them concrete and to hold myself accountable for my training. I am setting my sights on qualifying for the Pan Am Games in 2015 in both the Individual Time Trial for cycling, and the triathlon event. Once the qualifying criteria become more clear, and as I see what my chances are for qualifying for each of the events, I'll focus on the event that seems more possible leading into 2015.

I have my work cut out for me, no doubt.

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

2013 Tri Season Update

I've done a magnificent job of thoroughly neglecting my blog since writing about my Edmonton WC race back in June-this I completely recognize and apologize for. This season has been an absolute whirlwind. I have raced more than I ever have in one season, even going 5 weekends in a row! The good news is that I'm ending the season healthy this year, injury-free, and 100% psyched for the 2014 season. I feel like I've exposed just the tip of the iceberg in terms of where I know I can be in the near future.

I did quite a few Multisport Canada Series Triathlons this year for the first time (Belwood, Bala Falls, Wasaga Beach, Lakeside) as part of my training blocks and building for my longer-term race plans and goals. I had a blast doing each and every one of those races, and was happy to pull off the wins and finish in the top 10 with the men at the majority of those events.

I raced my first ever official cycling race in my life back on August 31st at the Ontario Provincial Time Trial Championships in Chatham, Ontario. I raced in the Elite Women's category on my R3 road bike, as my TT bike is the non-UCI legal Specialized Shiv Pro. I wavered for a while trying to decide whether I should just race in the Sportif category, or just give it a go in the Elite category. I figured that there was no reason for me to play it safe and I had nothing to lose (except all of my pride of course), so I decided to race EM style and stay in the Elite category. I ended up coming in 4th place, so I'm quite proud of myself for not shying away from something that was scary. And the best part of that whole experience was that I got to race for the Real Deal/Gears/pb/Fieldgate Team for the first time (decked out in my skinsuit) at least once in 2013, even though my official debut on the Team was slated for 2014. That's the other big news for the 2014 season ahead....that I have been named to the Real Deal Perform Team for 2014, managed and directed by Ed Veal and Mike Mandel, respectively. I am absolutely thrilled to have this opportunity and can't wait to get to know my knew "family" even better into the future. They are an amazing group of people!

I just finished off my tri season last weekend at the Lifetime Fitness Finale/Triple Crown Championships in Oceanside, California. It was an awesome venue, and even though it was in California, it was only about 10 degrees Celsius during the race with thick fog! It took a few attempts for me to get my feet into my shoes in T2, because they were completely frozen and uncooperative. I am really happy to have finished the season with a solid race all round-swim, bike, and run, with the exception of being very frustrated with being sent in the wrong direction on the run course (uphill no less!), and losing a chunk of time on the run, and very likely a position. I finished in 12th place in an incredibly strong field of ladies. The positives that I can take away from this race are 1) that I went into the race with confidence and being excited to race after a rough patch of feeling unmotivated, exhausted, and sick in the few weeks leading up to the race that really shook my confidence, and 2) that I am walking away from that race feeling more confident than I ever have about my ability to close the gap and really "be in the mix" in the near future, and 3) that I am coming out of this season already hungry for the 2014 season, because I feel like I have so much more in me that hasn't been showcased yet!

I have more to say, and many "shout outs" and "thank yous" owing to all of my loyal supporters, but that shall await another blog post! For now, I'll spare you from reading further, and just say that I am enjoying 2 weeks off from structured training, and I will start training for 2014 as of November 4th.

As always, thank you for reading and following my journey:) Here are some pictures from the Oceanside race, courtesy of Dad.
Still cold and dark at the swim start.

And we are off to the races (literally)!
Smiling?! I did love that bike course!

Not as smiley running up these steep ramps.

Off season fun!!!!!!!