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!


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