Thursday, July 21, 2011


I'm very excited to announce that I have joined the Aquadiva team!

Aquadiva is a wonderful swimwear company from Australia who support a group of girls who are working hard in their water sports.  I am so excited to be a part of their team of absolutely amazing girls!  I would like to congratulate Aquadiva on being so welcoming of another international athlete to their team - I'm proud to be a part of it.  The other athletes sponsored by Aquadiva are amazing girls & I highly recommend you check out their results - so inspiring!

I train in Aquadiva and obviously love their swimwear.  It's so nice to have training suits that you are excited to wear to the pool - and can be comfortable in.  I started swimming a couple of years ago and I've always had the same boring one or two suits that gave me absolutely no happiness when I put them on.  That changed when I found Aquadiva!  Learning to swim was tough - but the rewards have been amazing and swimming is fast becoming one of my favourite sports.  Now I feel like a kid in a candy store with my Aquadivas - so many colours - it makes me excited to swim now more than ever!  And swim faster!

I think to succeed in sport, or life, or just about anything - you need to have fun along the way, and Aquadiva certainly understands that concept.  I'm very excited to have Aquadiva as my first sponsor and represent their gorgeous swimwear.

Click here to view the Aquadiva Sponsorship site.  Aquadiva has been very generous to donate part of their sales directly to the athlete.  So, you can click through my profile and when your purchase is all said and done, you're directly supporting me as an athlete - how great is that?  It's important that you go through this link because that is the only way Aquadiva can track that you wanted to support me.  You may never have heard of Aquadiva, but I encourage you to go and check it out - I bet you'll have a hard time narrowing down what you want to get!

Happy Swimming!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Valley First Okanagan Axel Merckx Gran Fondo

The name is almost as long as the ride.

I had the opportunity to jump into the VFGFAMO (let's call it 'the fondo') this past Sunday, July 10th.  What an amazing experience!  I have to say, I've always been a bit jealous of the more local Whistler Gran Fondo, but have never been able to register for it due to it's proximity to Ironman Canada.  I always thought how fun it would be to be riding my bike in a huge group on the roads - and I finally got to enjoy it!

The Okanagan is a gorgeous place to ride.  I have had the opportunity to ride there many times, whether it be training or racing for a 1/2 Ironman, or Ironman Canada.  The roads up there wind in and along the heart of the desert, the vineyards, the mountain passes, the serene lakes, all of which make up the architecture of the Okanagan.  It is always a luxury to get on your bike and ride there.  The warmth, local fruit & wine are also a wonderful bonus.

A tremendously well organized event was this fondo from start to finish.  I think bike culture is a wonderful culture.  Sure, there are some dark parts to the most competitive arenas of cycling, but to the average ridership of you and me, cycling is a genuinely healthy and positive event.  And yes, bikes can be as expensive as you'd like them to be, but if you just ride your darn bike, you can be as good (or better) than those with the fanciest cycles.  So you get out what you put into it.  And it was clear on Sunday that a lot of people had put a lot of hard work into developing the fitness to do a lengthy and challenging ride.  Plus, no one was wearing aero helmets - finally, a race I can wear my regular helmet and feel like everybody else :)

I had gotten up early to bike in an extra 15 km from Summerland into Penticton (because 160km isn't enough? no...because I feel that others should get to sleep in when they're on vacation).  An absolutely perfect weather day, 25-ish C with some cloud cover, we lined up our bikes behind the Peach in downtown Penticton. I have to say, and I've said it before, that when I hear Steve King's voice, I feel instantly comforted.  And without fail, he was announcing at the fondo.  It's ingrained, the positivity and encouragment that resonates from this man's efforts to speak to each and every single participant who brings their own hopes and dreams to the starting line.  It was great to hear him there on Sunday.

The course wound around Penticton & Summerland, and then out to McLean Creek Rd, to those who ride the Ironman route, over to Oliver and then onto the Oliver 1/2 Iron route, then making a left hand turn up to the mountains just before arriving in Oliver.  After climbing (and climbing....and a little climbing) you pop back onto the gorgeous finish of the Ironman course once again as you descend into Penticton, that familiar sweet downhill to the finish line.

The ride is long and the ride isn't easy.  It was great to ride a new route through the White Lake hills and countryside, as I'm more accustomed to the IMC route.  I didn't really have a great idea of where I stood in the biking world, as I had never done a bike race outside of a triathlon before.  I had received an entry in a contest through IMPACT Magazine, (big thank you to IMPACT!!) so I hadn't prepared for this ride per se, but, training for IMC leaves you with a substantial reserve for jumping into endurance events.  As I would have been doing a training ride anyways, this was a total luxury to have a fully supported ride, company, and some terrific swag (honestly, a beautiful wine glass, a musette bag and more = awesome).

I had no intentions of smashing this ride and racing anyone.  I managed to hold off any competitiveness for at least 90km.  I think that's pretty good willpower.  However, as the crowds began to thin out (the Mediofondo, 90km) I was so thrilled to be on the open road with speedy company, so it was nice to stay with them, and occasionally ride in groups - something I am totally unaccustomed to being a cyclist who does non-drafting racing only.  Let me tell you, it is FUN to ride fast in a big group, especially a big group of boys who block the wind, as my brother calls it, "like a garage door".  And everyone was so friendly.  I've been a little intimidated by big serious groups of cyclists, but really, I think because there were so many individuals, you just naturally work together to get where you're going faster.  It was great!  It's fast paced, so there isn't a lot of chatting going on, but it's focused and positive work.  That's what cycling is all about.  Putting in the miles.

There were lots of great memories about this ride, but I'd like to share a couple that stood out.

When we started the race, you ride out on a flat, take a couple of turns, and then you start climbing up a hill.  At this point, I was riding beside a guy who said out loud to himself, "Wow, that is so cool" and he was referring to the sea of cyclists that were packed together peddling themselves up the hill en mass.  He was right, it was totally cool and I'm glad he said it - it made me appreciate that I'm surrounded by a whole bunch of people that were feeling they were part of something special.

Secondly, as we were climbing a heck of a climb up towards White Lake, the chatter in the group basically ground to a halt.  This was hard work and we had already cycled 120km I'm sure, so you're not feeling your freshest at this point.  People who neglected nutrition or hydration were probably feeling like they were about to fall into a fresh type of hell.  As we climbed in silence for minutes, as I watched one guy get helped up the hill with a double push on the back of his seat, a man slightly behind me said, "I'm hot".  Then silence followed.  Then I said, "Me too".  And that seemed to stir up a bit of laughter in the crowd, and then we were all happily cycling again.  Camaraderie is everything sometimes.

Lastly, after it was all said and done, I had to congratulate one of the men on the bike in our group, who did a heck of a lot of front of the pack work.  He must have been 6 feet tall at a minimum, and not the slightest guy on the block although quite fit, and obvious target for folks who like to draft.  Honestly, it's like watching mosquitos go after a plump juicy steak of a person.  After resting my little legs behind this guy for quite a while, I did take a couple of turns at the front of the group, although I did eventually get passed again when my front riding offered some respite to the group (and when I began to die off the front - it is HARD work up there).  At the end of the ride, this guy looked shattered.  I told him it was great riding behind him.  He said he wondered if he should start charging a toll to the pack behind him.  I laughed.  I told him he was a great garage door.  He laughed.  I found him later lying on the grass with one of the wonderful ice cold towels we got upon finishing on his head, looking tired.  I had two popsicles.  I offered him one and said that was my toll.  He looked thankful.  It made me happy.

As I left to ride off to meet my friends, all I could see at this event were smiles.  I couldn't help think to myself, am I ready to do this again and then run a marathon?  I tried not to second guess myself, and just told myself it would happen when it needed to happen.  I felt very privileged to have been a part of this event.  So again, a big thanks to IMPACT Magazine for this opportunity!  I really do think this is something that every cyclist should do at least once in their lifetime - and by the looks of things there are going to be lots of opportunities in amazing places to do so as more and more fondo's pop up.  The europeans know what they're doing when it comes to bikes - and I'm elated to see Canadians taking notice and following suit.

In the end, I finished 23rd for women, and 341st overall.  It wasn't a race, really, but it was fun to see where I stacked up in my first 'bike' race.  It definitely improved my group riding skills, and quadrupled my appreciation of drafting.  I'm going to miss that when I go back to triathlon.  Oh well.  I finished in about 5:04 with maybe 5-6 minutes of stopped breaks, so I was pretty happy with the result.  Training does work after all.  Who knew?

That's it for me.  Enough of the fun stuff, it's time to go into lockdown and focus on IMC.  I am excited - and the fire has been stoked after being up in the Okanagan on my bike this weekend.   Can't wait.

Keep working kids.  Pedal hard, wear your helmet and don't bonk.  It's that simple :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Vancouver 1/2 Iron Race Report or, the 'Tortoise & the Hare'

The UV Index is generally at it's highest point between 12pm-2pm.  I have the luxury of being able to be up & finished my first workout (or two) before noon.  I try my best to be out of the sun and get back to 'work' sometime around 3pm or later.  If training is my 'job', then the sun's rays are a major work hazard.

So, I found time today to collect some of my thoughts on this weekend's Vancouver 1/2 Iron, which took place along the very scenic shores, roads and trails of my neighbourhood.  In short, it was great!  I managed another whopping PB of 19 minutes over the 1/2 Iron distance, cutting my last PB in May at the Shawnigan Lake 1/2 from 4:57 to 4:38.  Even I impress myself sometimes.  I ran into a person I met when I did my first 1/2 Ironman up in Oosoyos.  She asked me what my time was there, and I told her I was just under 6 hours (5:58 I think).  She seemed a bit shocked, and when I thought about it a little more, I was a bit in shock too.

That's the short.  However, I have a tendency to write long though, so, here you go.

Cutting to the chase.  Why alternatively entitle my blog the Tortoise & the Hare.  Not for the reason you think.  Not some clever take on my race strategy or competition.  It is simply because, on an easy run the week of the race, as I was running along the trails, I almost tripped over a large turtle (is that the same as a tortoise?).  I thought of it as a good luck omen.  Then, as I was biking on my black Nishiki Rally super awesome commuter bike at 5am, yes, wearing a black aero helmet (I felt like a ninja), I decided to bike along the seawall to get to the race start, I found myself biking among bunnies galore (is that the same as a Hare?).  So I laughed as I pulled in to lock up my bike, perhaps the theme of the race would be the Tortoise & the Hare.  In reality, I don't think it has any meaning.  It's just cute.

Ok, ok, the race.  In an attempt not to bore, and drone on in large sentence format, I'm going to go for the race in step format.  So, just like the New Kids, step by step.  I grew up in the 90's.  I'm allowed this indulgence.  And as a side note, I do believe this was one of the first tapes I owed.  And if you have to ask what a tape is...

Step one: 'We can have lots of fun'
Swim time: 33:03

My first ocean swim.  I do believe the best way to start off your swim is to swim straight into somebody during warm up.  I mean solid contact.  I took quite the punch to the face while swimming into shore pre-race.  I did quite frequently check to make sure I had space to swim in prior to the start, but this shark man came out of no where.  I immediately knew I split my lip, and laughed.  It can't get too much more exciting for that, so it settled me before the swim.  So, look out, if you see me warming up at the next race, I'll be the girl intentionally trying to swim into you.  I'm not kidding.

This was quite the exciting swim & I really have no complaints, just as always, I would like to keep getting better at the strategy of the swim.  I have insider tips now, so, I will be employing these at IMC.  The current was noticeable as I noticed going around buoy #2 that I slid metres to the right as I tried to go left, but, I seemed to make it back to shore in ship shape.  And I did it all over again - I have to say I love the challenge.  It's not my forte but as you make gains it is just so motivating to keep working hard at it.  I love the swim - and to love it, I think you have to have a sense of humour.  I can help you with that, just come see me in warm up.  It would give true meaning to the term, 'sucker punch'.

Step two: 'There's so much we can do'
Bike time: 2:38:36

The bike is so familiar to me and I love it.  I love climbing hills.  If I had it my way, Ironman would be a 180km climb.  But, that's a bit radical, so I'll take IMC the way it is and I also really liked this course.  I don't think you really know what you can do on the bike until you try it, and after doing the sprint course in Victoria a couple of weeks ago, I got to ride fast and see what my legs felt like after.  I think it's really hard to replicate this in training.  So, I worked on the bike and I certainly was rewarded.  I managed to bike faster than the last half in Shawnigan while covering 3 more kilometres (88 vs 91km) than last time. Success!

I am now a total convert of knowing a course and seeing the result when you race it.  Racing a new course is always fun, but if you're looking for speed, knowing what is coming is such an advantage.  And, speaking of advantages, Sunday was the debut of my head in an aero helmet.  If nothing else, they keep your ears lovely warm.  I'm sure it made a bit of a difference.  At least 6 seconds I'm sure....

Step three: 'It's just you for me'
T1: 2:18
T2: 1:05

This lyric makes very little sense in terms of the race.  I can't seem to come up with a clever analogy of transitions - both of which, by the way - where stunningly fast compared to my previous attempts.  I did worry that the aero helmet would get stuck in my hair and I would have to run in it.  That would be amazing, but alas, the helmet came off.  Compared to my previous transition times, in retrospect, I could have baked a cake in the time it took me to get in and out of there.

Step four: 'I can give you more'
Run time: 1:23:38

I really felt a bit short-changed during the last 1/2 at Shawnigan.  I had raced a marathon 4 weeks prior, and my legs were toast.  I can only imagine that my muscles probably resembled something of swiss cheese consistency.  So, the run soured my race slightly, as I knew I could do better than that.

And clearly on Sunday I did.  My strength has always laid within my ability to run.  Now that I am trying harder and harder to swim and bike with the big girls, I'm realizing just how different/difficult running becomes when you are really stretching yourself to your physiological limits.  That said, I am still a good runner in the sport, and after having a solid, consistent run on Sunday, now I'm really to go to the edge my next time out.

It's a scary thing, to someone who is very accustomed to the physical feelings of a open road race, to start a race of the same distance feeling less than fresh.  To say it's a different sport is an exaggeration, but it certainly takes a different approach.  If I had to sum it up, road running to me is mechanical and mathematical, with a heaping dose of guts & courage at the end.  Triathlon running is a waiting game, an art, an act of faith with your dose of guts coming about half way through the run.  Very different.

Step five: 'Don't you know that the time has arrived'
Final time: 4:38:39
4th place Female, 1st place non-elite and W30-34.

I looked at my watch at the 1st, 2nd and 3rd km splits.  Then I stopped.  I checked it again at roughly the half way point (10km), at about 41 min, which was just fine with me, and I never looked at my watch until about the 18 km point, and although I had a hard time computing km splits, I do believe I was around 1:30.  Math is tricky when you are also considering peeing your pants at the same time.  So, I just left that to chance.  Left what to chance you ask? Ha.

I knew I was in fourth, I knew no female without a tremendous Usain Bolt like sprint was near, and I knew I was getting tired & just needed to get to the finish line.  I have to now plug that I (and others) had TREMENDOUS support out there on the race - it seemed people where in each and every one of our corners and I can't express how wonderful and how much of an advantage that is.  Guys in the finish chute with me commented on how great my fans where - I couldn't agree more.

I finished, stunned as usual, and I stopped my watch.  4:38:39.  That really didn't sink in until much later in the day, when I realized what a great time that was.  I had left time expectations to the back of my mind seeing that although I was feeling good and ready to work hard, I had been sick for about a week, 2 weeks prior to the race.  It happens.  What it really meant was that I got more rest, and a little bit less training, so I don't think it affected me at all - psychologically though, I was worried I wasn't ready to handle pain.  But that punch to the face was really truly key.  When I could laugh about that, I knew I was ready to race.

Everyone says the course is beautiful and the volunteers are great - it's all true.  This really is a great event, and to be able to sleep in my own bed, eat at home, ride my wicked Nishiki past the tortoise & the hares and drag my butt 3kms back to my house (actually more like the floor, where I had the most delightful tuna sandwich there ever has been), is just the best any girl could ask for.

Now it's break time before the last push toward IMC.  Very exciting.  I just got the wonderful opportunity to ride the Axel Merckx Penticton Gran Fondo this weekend while we're up in Penticton, so that will be quite a treat - a nice relaxed, 160km ride.  No really!  A fully supported ride is such a treat, and that doesn't happen often.  And, should I get a glimpse of Trevor Linden that wouldn't be so bad either.

So rest & relax, staying out of the shade and enjoying easy swims, rides and runs is the theme of the week.  I'm very excited to be a spectator at a "My first triathlon" where many of my friends are participating - it's so inspiring to see them all tackle the challenge.  I hope they have fun - in the end, it may not be all that matters, but it's so important.  No matter how good you are.

To all of you working hard out there - keep up the great work!  Enjoy the sun, but protect yourself & be smart - I don't think there are many excuses for sunburns anymore.  Or just do what I do - the number one sun protection?  The nap.

Enjoy summer - we've certainly deserve it!
no more arm warmers! yahoo!