Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My First Official Brick Workout

Saturday morning I woke up before my alarm. I immediately turned my basal insulin down to 50% for 4 hours. I got dressed, had a bowl of Dorset cereal with kefir and a banana sliced on top for which I took 1.5 units of insulin instead of 5.

I was heading to my first Saturday morning brick training workout and had no idea what to do with my insulin or my blood sugar. I was playing it very conservatively because I did not want to find myself having to pull over in the middle of a workout due to a low.

I tossed my running shoes and my glucometer into a bag, along with six emergency packages of fruit chews (in addition to the four that were already shoved into my the bag on my bike) and headed off. I was the first one to arrive. Followed soon after by three very young, lean, fit-looking people with bikes that could eat mine for breakfast.

I forced myself not to bolt and ignored the voice in my head that said to run away now while no one knew me so they'd never know who the crazy girl was who showed up and then left.

Two friends showed up, thank heavens, and assured me that I would indeed be fine. Perhaps a little tired at the end but fine.

The plan for the day was the following. Cycle about 5k to one of the athlete's houses. Our coach would bring his car loaded with our shoes and meet us there. Then head off for a hilly 12k (or so) ride (at tempo pace) to a meeting point. From there, we would do a 5 1/2k loop at race pace. Most people would do it three times. A few of us, including me, would do it twice. Cycle back to our shoes. Go for a run. My run was to be a 2k run (run out 1k, turn around, run back), rest two minutes, then run out 1k again, rest 1 minute, and run back 1k. Cycle about 6k home.

Grand total: 42k of riding. 4k of running. Time spent moving: a little over 2 hours.

That's how it worked out on paper. Here's how it worked out in real life.

Five minutes before leaving, my pump alarmed to tell me that battery in my continuous glucose monitor transmitter was low and instructed me to order a new one. Bloody hell! I've worn this transmitter for about 8 months now. I knew that would happen eventually but not on the Saturday of a long weekend. I couldn't order a new one until Tuesday now and I have no idea how long a low battery will survive. Hours? Days? Weeks? I tossed my glucometer in my bag just in case and headed out, grateful for and yet cursing technology.

I kept up fairly well during the warm-up ride. Everyone did a 'leisurely' 25km/hour pace and I pedalled madly to keep up. It worked. I was quite warm quite quickly.

The tempo ride up and down the hills outside of town was faster than my race pace. It was crazy. Everyone else was just gone. One friend, who was on an easy week to recover from her Olympic triathlon the week before, held back with me but the rest of the group was just gone. I would have despaired if I wasn't so freaking proud of myself for keeping up such an aggressive pace (for me anyway).

Then came the 5 1/2k loops. "I want you to race this" were the instructions. And I want your times at the end of the loop because we'll do this again in a few weeks.

"I've been going faster than race pace already" I mumbled. "This should be interesting".

It was. The loop had some pretty tough sections with some pretty steep hills. I pedalled hard up the hills and hard on the flats. We finished the loop in about 14 minutes. Rest two minutes and do it again.

The instructions on the way back were 'go at tempo pace. Don't race it but it shouldn't be easy.'

I was dropped, and I mean dropped, within a minute. I lost sight of everyone despite forcing my tired legs to dig deep and hold a 30+ km/hour pace on anything that looked remotely flat. By the time I made it back to the meeting point, everyone else was in the running shoes and ready to run.

I changed quickly, received my instructions and headed off...for what turned out to be a really good run.

I ran the kilometres in 6:12, 6:18, 5:49 and 5:54 min/k. Anyone who knows my running speed knows that this is crazy fast. And yet it felt pretty comfortable.

I cycled home, guzzled my chocolate milk, stretched, showered and spent the day not doing too much. It was fun and I'll definitely do it again.

Blood sugar report: I hung out around 10.0 for most of the bike ride. I had dropped to 7.9 by the time we were ready to cycle back so I had a package of fruit chews. I finished the run at 8.9 and was 6.9 by the time I got home. That, my friends, is success!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Just Like a Fingerprint

When I first started running, I noticed pretty quickly that every runner seems to have their own particular stride. In fact, most are so distinctive that I can usually spot the runner I'm looking for when they are still a pretty small spot on the horizon. Perhaps it's the way they bounce when they run. Or the fact that they don't bounce at all. Or the way their arms swing, or don't swing. It's most likely a combination of a bunch of tiny things that each runner does but the end result is a running stride as unique as a fingerprint and it has helped me scout for runners in all sorts of races.

Swimming is apparently like that too. I have spent a lot of time swimming but I haven't spent a lot of time watching swimmers. Especially swimmers I know. I've never watched Doug compete in a triathlon from a position where I could see the swim portion. So I have no idea if I could spot his arms among all the other wetsuit-clad arms out there. He has assured me that I was pretty noticeable in races that he has watched so I guess it must be true.

Cycling, well, I haven't noticed too many different kinds of cycling techniques. At least not to the point where I can recognize someone from afar by their spinning legs. Usually I am watching for helmet, bike and shirt colour combinations. White helmet, grey bike and red shirt typically means I've spotted Doug. Long lanky legs usually help confirm this but are the last thing I notice, not the first.

I'm saying all this because yesterday after work I squeezed in a 15-minute golf lesson. During the lesson, I had to hit balls at a Trackman which is basically a large screen with all sorts of funky sensors. When my ball hits the screen, it analyses the angle, the speed, etc etc and it spits out all kinds of data that can help explain why I do things like hit beautiful long drives that always fly way off to the right.

Turns out I have a 'weak grip'. My initial reaction when I heard that was 'what!?! I have a strong grip! You should see when I shake hands'' but I quickly realized that weak had nothing to do with grip strength and everything to do with the angle with which I held the club. A weak grip = balls flying off to the right. A too strong grip, I quickly discovered, sends them careening off to the left. I finally found a sweet spot and the balls starting going where they should.

The trick now will be to remember that feeling and be able to repeat it. Over and over again.

On the way home afterwards, I mentioned to Doug that it must be hard for golf instructors not to burst out laughing sometimes when they see the way some people swing the golf club.

"Go to a driving range and watch people" he replied. "It's crazy how different everyone swings. It's pretty darn funny to watch too."

Sounds like golf is a lot like running. You can spot your favourite golfer a mile away once you figure out how they move.

PS. during my Trackman session, the following two things happened as soon as we switched my grip:

1. I swung the club, whacked the tee cleanly out from under it and the ball plopped down to where the tee had been and just sat there.

2. On the second try, I swung the club and the ball shot straight up in the air, hit the ceiling, dropped back down onto one of the narrow metal beams holding up the Trackman system and had to be pushed back down to earth with a golf club.

Neither feats had ever been seen in that room and, odds are, neither will again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What's in a Name?

The other night there was a show on television about the Mont Tremblant Ironman 70.3.

First of all, I was a little confused by the name as I had never seen Ironman 70.3 before. I had seen Ironman and I had seen Half-Ironman. I had seen 70.3 and 140.6 and I knew that the first represented the distance covered (in miles) for a Half-Ironman and the second represented the Ironman.

An Ironman is an Ironman just like a marathon is a marathon. It's a set distance, a predetermined race and when someone says they ran a marathon or did an Ironman, there should be no question about what they actually did.

So when I read Ironman 70.3 I wasn't sure what exactly the distance was. I soon discovered that it was a Half-Ironman, no small feat in itself mind you, not an Ironman.

I did do some online checking and an "Ironman 70.3" is apparently the same as saying a Half-Ironman but it feels a little different. Perhaps because not everyone knows what the 70.3 is. They will just see "Ironman". It's kinda like saying that I completed a marathon 21.1 isn't it?

Anyway, that's not actually the point of the story. The point of the story was the story itself. The show talked about the elite athletes and it followed them along the course as they competed at mind-boggling speeds. But it also followed some other folks. The regular folks. The ones who take hours and hours and hours to finish. Folks who, three years prior, weighed over 300 pounds and freely admit that they didn't do any exercise. Folks who had decided to get in shape, learn to run and progressed from there.

I saw these people training and I saw them competing and I saw them cross the Half-Ironman finish line.  And I thought to myself - bloody hell, good for them.

Olympic distance triathlons are just about half the distance of a Half-Ironman. Not quite but close enough for me to know that doing twice what I just did is not for the faint of heart. It's also not something that the average person can just wing. It takes a huge amount of training, commitment and guts to get to the start line of a Half-Ironman, let alone cross the finish line.

So yes indeed. Bloody hell, good for them.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Temporary Kindred Spirit

Every once in a while I get to talk to someone who shares something in common with me. Perhaps it's a love of running. Or of open water swimming. Or perhaps it's a faulty pancreas.

Last weekend I met up with a few high school friends for lunch. One of my friends brought his partner along. His partner, a great guy as it turns out, alluded to some health issues he had recently had, I asked a few questions and the next thing I knew we were talking about faulty pancreases (pancrei?).

He doesn't have type 1 but he did go through a period where he was on insulin (up to five injections a day). He's now down to a few pills per day and will hopefully be right as rain in a few more months. But for now, he was browsing the brunch menu with a certain look in his eye.

"Once your pancreas starts sputtering, everything becomes all about carbs doesn't it?" I asked.

His eyes widened "yes, exactly!" he said.

"Food is no longer just food. Now you have to think before you put anything into your mouth" I said.

"It changes everything" he responded.

Someday soon, I hope, he will be completely over the health issues he suffered and will no longer have to think about every food choice he makes.

It was nice to have a kindred spirit at the table who understood how different a menu looks when everything you eat really does matter.

But I'll be happy for him when he gets to be like my other three friends. Laughing and chatting and deciding at the last second what to order based on what sounded good and what the person before them had asked for.

Over the years I have recruited a lot of people to my running, cycling and swimming ways. The world probably has a few more curlers and golfers too thanks to the fact that I decided to join up.

And over the years I have learned to thrive in spite of (or more likely because of) the fact that my body does not produce insulin. It has given me the secret handshake to a few other clubs full of wonderful people that I will be forever grateful to have met.

But I would never wish a faulty pancreas on anyone. And I don't begrudge in the least the fact that the next time all we friends get together, he most likely won't be thinking about carbs and blood sugar.

Good for him.

If only we could all be so lucky.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Reunion, lots of Doug time and a golf lesson = a great weekend

The weekend is over and, as usual, it went by much too quickly.

But it sure was fun!

Doug and I enjoyed a Friday evening golf game together followed by a Saturday morning run and a Sunday morning bike ride.

I also managed to squeeze in a brunch with three of my dearest high school friends, one who I see regularly, one who I see every few years and one who I haven't seen in almost a decade. Other than one receding hairline, we pretty much look exactly the same and it was great fun to reconnect as a 'gang' again.

I also had my first golf lesson of the season. I know, it's the end of July, but we figured it was time for me to get a few of the kinks worked out. So one hour later and two key tips (don't bend your left arm and fix your alignment) later, I was ready for a Sunday afternoon game. It took a few holes to get things feeling right but, once I did, look out!

I managed to get my best ever golf score (110), drop my handicap and get two pars, all thanks to a few tips. Here's a video of me looking like I know what I'm doing. And yes I realize that I'm not actually hitting a ball. We were just working on my swing.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Brick Training...With a Coach!

On Wednesday I wrote a blog about the fact that it might be time for me to seek some professional help.

Professional triathlon training help that is.

Within a few hours of posting the blog, several local friends had replied and all of them had recommended the same person. After work that day, I ran into a great friend that I haven't seen in months and we had a great catch-up chat in a grocery store parking lot. Having read my blog that morning, he recommended the same person.

So I figured I had better contact said person and figure out what all the hullabaloo was about.

Turns out that he runs a triathlon club out of my favourite running store. He explained how it works and I can either pay a weekly fee for three group workouts (one swim workout, one running workout and one brick training workout) + a personalized weekly training plan + feedback and support or I can pay a la carte for as many of the workouts as I want, a training plan if I want or just some support if I need it.

I'm not sure I'm quite willing to jump into the deep end and sign up for everything but I was pretty intrigued by the Saturday morning brick workouts that are offered.

The plan is that we meet at 7:50am on our bikes. We bring our running gear (shoes etc) that he then drives to a set location. We do a tough bike workout that apparently involves some distance, some hill training or other fun things. The rides tend to be between 40-50k based on each person's individual goals. We then meet as set spot, put on our running shoes and head out for a 5k (or so) run while he watches our bikes. Return to bike, switch shoes again, and bike back to the beginning spot where he will arrive with our shoes. Head home and probably have a nap.

Sounds like a tough, long, tiring workout.

Which is probably exactly what I need and is certainly a challenge I will enjoy.

There is no workout this Saturday as most people in the group are heading off to do triathlons. But on August 1st - watch out! This lassie is doing her first official brick training workout.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

And That Makes Us the Lucky Ones

I'm a sucker for a rich-sounding radio voice and I'm also a sucker for eloquent writing and people who speak with a certain poetic flair. 

The other day I was driving and listening to the radio. The show, which I missed the beginning of, was talking about the power of the written word. They were talking about the author and scientist Richard Dawkins. 

I have read and thoroughly enjoyed several of his books but not the one they were talking about. It's called Unweaving the Rainbow and they read his opening paragraph to illustrate the power of great writing. 

By the time they had finished the paragraph, I was on Amazon downloading the book and I have been savouring it ever since. 

His opening paragraph went like this: 

"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?”

Read it. 

Read it again. 

Read it out loud. 

Savour the words and how they roll off your tongue. 

Savour the message. 

And take an extra second or two to think about just how right he is.