Author Archives: admin

Ironman Canada 2015

So then I went to Whistler. I can’t explain really why I needed to go, I just did.

It turns out that competing in two IM events 4 weeks apart is a little bit crazy. Most training plans, and coaches would encourage 2 weeks of recovery before doing any real training. Many training plans and coaches also recommend cutting volume back for the two weeks leading into an Ironman. There was no room for error here. One workout that set recovery back, or too close to Whistler to allow adequate recovery, and my day would be miserable before it even really started. So it was settled then, no training it is! I knew I was already trained, and to tell you the truth, ‘training for Whistler’ is a very daunting idea for me, it was suggested to plan for Whistler 2016, but I could not wrap my head around spending a year training for another IM, I just wanted to race.

Timing was lucky to make a new connection with coach and athlete Michelle Barns, who had done 2 IMs fairly close together, who was the same age as me, and who gave me some great advice that mirrored my own thoughts on how to approach the 4 weeks in between. The plan was to recover completely, get back in the pool right away, bike a little bit, and do some short runs. The primary goals through those 4 weeks were: 1) recover, 2) maintain strength. This was easy for me to plan and execute: a couple of 2-3 hour rides in high gears, lots of paddle work in the pool, and short easy runs. It was nothing that would stress the body so much that I required additional recovery, but enough to remind the muscles to engage.

A few wise words from my previous coach Mel Spooner, who reminded me that this would be a big experiment. I knew this was going to go one of two ways, it would either be a disaster, or be simply awesome. Mel reminded me that as long as I was ok with it turning out either way, and knowing it was an experiment, then why not?!?

And the BEST part!? Alanna wanted another race too, and signed up for Whistler with just a little over a week to go. SWEET! Road trip! Booked a hotel very close to the finish line on Blackcomb way with 2 beds, a full kitchen and laundry, no minimum # of nights, for $150/night!!!! This is unheard of in most Ironman locations. We threw everything in the truck and set off on an adventure. The support of my family means the world to me, and there is no way I could do this without their blessing, but the best support they could give me this weekend on my very selfish adventure was for them to stay home and have a great weekend doing whatever it was that they wanted to do, and not come with me for this one. The boys got to have some quality time with grandparents, and Shayne got to stay home and build himself a new mountain bike.

The entire weekend was Ironman oriented. We went over and over and over details of: course maps and aid station locations, the weather forecast, clothing choices, race nutrition, swim strategy, etc… It was the focus I needed, to get my head in the right place and work through the details, instead of ignoring them like I did in CDA. I wasn’t particularly worried about anything, and I still felt a lightness about going in with a ‘whatever happens is ok’ attitude, but I do think I was able to find a balance between the acceptance of what is out of my control, and needing to be more diligent with what was within my control. I had new tubes and tires on my bike, and new shoes ready to go (yes… yes… I know, never run a marathon in new shoes… but they were a new pair of shoes that I had run in before, and I trust Wendy from the Starting Block, with my feet 110% so all good!). I spent two hours on Saturday morning organizing equipment and clothing for gear bag drop off. The forecast this day was to be the extreme opposite of that in CDA, low of 9 degrees, high of 16 I think, and rain.

Many athletes were concerned about the cold, wet roads, and ‘technical descents’ – it’s not technical at all, but if you only ever train on a trainer, or on flat straight roads, then I suppose one might view it as ‘technical’. Race organizers were cautioning against riding downhill too fast, and reminding people today was not the day to try and break a course record. I on the other hand, was well aware of the forecast for SW wind to pick up at 2pm and decided once again that the more distance I can cover early in the day – even while cold, will be to my benefit. I planned to wear my aero helmet to keep my ears warm, ziplock bags over my socks inside my shoes to try and keep my toes warm and dry, and a new pair of neoprene gloves that I bought the day before the race to keep my fingers warm. My powerful 154 lbs furnace would keep my core plenty warm, so I planned to wear a tri top and tri shorts with bare shoulders and knees. It’s not often that I have an advantage over the smaller athletes, but today was to be my day!

On Saturday we rode our bikes to check in with Lynda, Allison and Julie. As we were waiting for the shuttle back to the village, we were chatting about the hobbies we might enjoy AFTER IM was over, stuff like travelling, dancing maybe…. Then Julie says with a GREAT BIG SMILE…. “Well, I’m doing this again!” She was radiating joy, and was expressing how much fun she had training for the event, and I made a point of soaking it all in. I knew that if times got tough out there, I’d be able to reflect all that joy and positive energy right back onto any of us who needed it. And, it always gets tough out there.

I was focused the night before the race, and I spent some time writing down exactly how the next day would go. I also received a text of encouragement from good friend Dave: “find that spot on the road when you hear nothing, when it’s just you, your bike and your heart.” “control you, and your bike and nothing else.” In addition to writing down all the logistical details (4:30 wake up, 5:00 leave hotel), I also wrote myself the following instructions:
Take on the day, own it, enjoy it, embrace it, be great. Swim with an aggressive attitude and clean entry. Don’t be sloppy. Be strong, quick and clean. Be me on my bike. Just be me on my bike. Work, enjoy, play. Run. Run with rhythm. Open up when it’s right. Stay on task, run well. Be a runner. Run the back half first, then keep going. Leave it all on the course. Be brave. Be willing. Be strong. Pass people. Celebrate the finish, see it. Enjoy it.
We toed the water’s edge at about 6:35. Trying to stay warm and dry, we opted for a very very short warm up, only the 2-300m swim out to the start line. We swam out to the start and lined up front and centre to watch the women pro start at 6:55, and wait for our turn, a very long 5min later. The plan was to start about 50m wide and angle in to hit the buoy line after about 400-500m. It seemed as if we had seeded ourselves well, the fellow on my left last swam this course in 2014 in 51min and the guy on the right in 1:08. We opted to stay close to speedy on the left. With 30seconds to go, we realized that Alanna on the left and me on the right was just strange (she had been on my right in Oliver and CDA), so we swapped places, and in the calm moments before the storm, all felt right in the world.

I swam hard off the start and tried to take some fast feet. I swam with a fast turnover, and paid attention to my left hand entry on every single stroke (thanks Kit!). I saw Alanna for the first 200m, then it was a sea of green caps, with the odd pink spotted here and there. There was a thick pack of swimmers close to the buoy line 15m to the left, and a thick pack of swimmers angling in towards the buoys 15m to my right. I knew the buoy turn was going to be frantic, so choose to aim for the corner buoy instead of cutting in early. I rounded the corner, got kicked in the face a bit (no more than usual though), swam over someone’s back to make the turn (SERIOUSLY people… learn to swim around a corner!), and was happily working my way along the buoy line. My shoulders were already getting fatigued at 8-900m in, that’s what happens when you don’t train in a wetsuit, but I knew I could deal with it, so kept the pace. The soreness passed after few hundred meters and I started thinking about other things. After about a mile I felt my goggles and cap slipping up off my head and I didn’t want to lose them, so I swam wide outside of the buoy line to quickly pull them back in place. I swam right back into the draft pack, and continued with my pace as if I hadn’t skipped a beat. This happened again 1k later, but no big deal, quick fix. The pack I was in was moving really well. I opted on the second loop not to sight off the buoys. Swimmers were 1-2 deep on my left, and 1-2 deep on my right, the draft was good, so I just swam and made sure there were always swimmers on each side of me. The first pro woman we passed was at the 2k mark. I wondered what happened. The second pro woman we passed was just before the swim exit, I won’t lie, that felt really good. It is a race after all!

Transition was quick and easy. I dumped out my transition bag, which was full of rain water, and put on my wet helmet, wet socks, wet shoes and asked the volunteers to hold open my wet arm warmers, then my wet gloves so I could slip my hands right in. I was already wet from the swim, so I actually didn’t mind this at all. I am glad I didn’t take my time, as I was still warm from a good swim by the time I got going on my bike. A quick run from the worst transition spot ever (that’s what happens when you sign up 2 weeks before a race!), and I was on the bike. Swim 1:01 – 1st in AG out of water and onto the bike, T1 3:18.

I rode well right away. I was strong, I was focused, and I was cold. I remember thinking I had never been so thankful for having my head stay warm inside my aero helmet. I really enjoyed being inside that little oven of coziness. My hands were warm in my neoprene gloves. My knees and shoulders were cold, but remembering the heat of CDA, I was actually grateful for this. I felt the cold, but it didn’t bother me, in fact I was feeding off of it. Others were suffering, and my perspective was just so different. The only thing that I found hard to do on the bike was hold slippery water bottles with gloves on. I missed a few aid station grabs due to this, but I had most of what I needed on my bike already anyway.

I remember wondering where the heck everyone was on the bike ride up Callaghan, the first substantial climb. Last time I raced this section, I was passed by a least 200 athletes on the climb to Callaghan. I still saw many strong men pass me and a couple of women, but not as many as I expected. I was still wondering where everyone was, specifically the top female athletes, as I rounded the hairpin towards the gates into Olympic Park. I thought maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention, and that I had missed seeing them. Maybe because many athletes had on so many clothes I wasn’t recognizing anyone. I finally saw women heading down when I got a little further into the park. I hit the turn around there were good tunes, and I started singing. The ride back down from Callaghan was phenomenal. I was singing, smiling, and had figured out where everyone was. They were behind me. Yee haw!!!

The roads were wet, it was raining, but I was feeling fairly confident in my bike skills. I had good grip on my bars, I wasn’t slipping around at all, I knew to stay off the paint on the road, I knew to stay out of puddles, and I stayed on the high part of the road, not the car tire grooves. Cyclocross was an extremely valuable addition to training this season, my bike handling skills have improved significantly.

I passed a few athletes who had some pretty serious speed wobble (or shiver wobble??) on my way down to Pemberton. I ate my bar on schedule, even though it was dry in my mouth and yucky. I remembered that I regretted throwing it away in CDA, and choked it back as best as I could. I didn’t drink a lot, but did have a pee, around 80k into the bike (yes… on the bike…. it was raining anyway!), so knew things were good with regards to hydration.

The day was going pretty well according to schedule, and as if I had planned it myself, the sun peaked out and the clouds parted just as I hit the Pemberton flats. They are called the Pemberton flats, because they are dead flat. 50k of flat. Awesome, I tucked into aero, spaced myself 10m behind some strong looking aero dudes and rode. A few times I accidentally got too close and had to make a pass, so I’d pick it up from my 32-33kph to 37, make a clean pass, hold it for a bit to make some room, then settle back into 34ish, and let it drop over the next 2min to 33. I took off my gloves and ate the same crackers that I ate halfway through every long ride this season, they were delicious. I wondered (but not worried) about the possibility of a headwind on the way back because I was moving so well on the way out, but the grass wasn’t moving, there were no signs of a breeze. I turned around and rode back even faster. I called a girl out for drafting on the way back, but otherwise the flats were fairly uneventful and temperatures were perfect by now.

I hit 147k at 4:50 bike time, and knew that the 34k climb would take approx. 90min if I worked at it, so I settled in for the long haul back up to whistler that had mentally destroyed me in 2013. The first portion wasn’t too bad, not too steep, then a little downhill to pick things back up before the next climb. The second climb felt bit steeper, I had to push a bit harder, I may have stood up a few times to regain some momentum to get to the top of the portion before the next little downhill. I was working, and it was not fast, and a few girls passed me, but that’s when I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and it occurred to me that it’s really not one big 34k climb to Whistler. It’s not like Silverstar. It’s just a series of smaller climbs, and after every single one there was a bit of a downhill or a flatter section to pick up some speed and get the rpm up. For some reason I had in my head that the total ride was 190k, and at the 160k mark when I realized I had 20k to go, NOT 30, and being able to approach it one small section at a time, it felt a lot easier. It wasn’t easy by any means, and my legs were definitely getting tired now and I wondered how that might affect my run (wondered, not worried), but it felt manageable, it felt in control. I reminded myself to try to keep the cadence high, with quiet shoulders, to sit well on the bike (thanks Dave), and just climb like I knew how to do. Back into Whistler with a smile on my face into a slight SW wind exactly as the forecast predicted, I rolled into T2 with a 6:26 bike time, 4th in AG, 20minutes faster than last time I raced this course. I expected to go a little faster than that, but I was very happy none the less.

I had my very own personal volunteer in T2, and it was Adrienne!! Adrienne was my finish line catcher in 2013. To be caught by someone that you know at the end of an IM is like getting a hug from someone you love. You know immediately that you are safe and secure and that everything is going to be ok. Adrienne, Tara, Sue and Cathy had come from Vernon to volunteer, and to cheer and to surprise the women from Vernon who were racing. Anyway, in T2 she helped me get through there in a flash in 1:45. I was very excited to run, I LOVE this run course, it’s my favourite, and I hit the run course knowing that I was within reach of an 11:30 finish, so I flew outta there and onto the run.

I ran well, really well. I ran up some hills, around some corners, down some hills, on trails, on boardwalks, beside the lake and through the forest. I saw the km signs tick by. I remember seeing the 8k sign and thinking HOLY CRAP when did that happen?! I just started running and I’m already at 8k! I knew to have a Gel at all the km markers ending with a 2 or a 7, with a gulp of water at every aid station as I kept my pace running through. All of a sudden I was on loop 2 running around Lost Lake. I was wearing my CDA finishers hat which got me some congrats along the way, and at least one ‘woah, that’s crazy’ comment as well. I was feeling happy, fast, fit, and joyful. I thought again of Julie and the joy she had radiated the day before, I was feeling it, and wanted to pass it along. So I started chatting with the runners I was passing (first loop runners probably, I don’t think I was passing any second loop runners).
“Wow this is like an adventure, it’s a new surprise around every corner”
“Can you believe we are lucky enough to get to do this today?!?”
“Wow… turn around for a sec and look at the view!”
“It’s hard to take in the view and not trip on this amazing trail at the same time!”
“Isn’t this great?! Every time we run up, we get to run down!!”
I ran really well until about 26k into the run. Too bad this was not CDA and I was done at 26(miles…). I was really looking forward to the last 10miles, I figured once I got there it would be smooth sailing as I cruised back to the village for the finish. It wasn’t. With 10miles to go, my legs decided they were done. Totally done. General soreness in every muscle and joint, every fibre of every bit of soft tissue just hurt. A quick assessment including a short walk break to assess, I was fairly certain that I was not at risk for injury, as it wasn’t localized, pinchy, pain, it was definitely a generalized throbbiness. (Disclaimer, in case you can’t tell, I’m not a doctor.) So I pressed on. The next 16k were a constant negotiation between the legs (“we are done, you can’t make me keep going”), the brain (“come on, 8 miles left, hold pace”), and heart (“would you two shut up and just run?!”). I managed to keep rhythm and run tall, but my stride length had deteriorated and I was moving a LOT slower than I wanted to be. I knew now that my legs were not prepared for what I was asking of them. My last long run had been barely 2.5hours long, and probably 8-10 weeks ago by this point. So, even though I was grimacing with every step, I was very very happy to be racing to the fitness that I had trained. I had no right or reason to expect any better than that. I got what I was looking for out of this run, I needed my head and heart to push my legs to their fullest ability, I did that, and am very proud.

I knew my pace had slowed considerably in the last 10miles, so I would be well over 11.5hours, but when I rounded the last corner and caught the sight of “11” on the clock I was very pleased. Run was 4:21, 4min slower than 2013.

I slowed a little bit as I ran down the chute, enjoyed the steady stream of spectators lining both sides of the road, enjoyed the sounds and music, and smiled, Dad always says the most important thing is to finish with a smile. I became a 5 time Ironman finisher, in 11:54, a PB at the distance by 4minutes, PB by 15 minutes on that course, and 25minutes faster than 4 weeks previous in CDA. Adrienne was my finish line catcher again, which was awesome.

I am completely satisfied with my effort, I feel like I did what I needed to do. I placed 8th in my AG, 35minutes behind my AG winner – who also raced CDA. While very stiff, totally exhausted, and with a long day ahead, I looked at the times for the top 7 in my AG, and thought “I can do that”.

Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2015

I was so excited to race IMCDA, which was to be the main event on my calendar this season. Alanna signed up first, I quickly followed suit, thinking how fun it would be to train and race with her. June 28 would be perfect timing to fit an Ironman into regular life. Little did I know a year ago, I would have a new job working full days, nor did I anticipate I’d be solely operating the Tri Monsters as a branch of Laura Medcalf Coaching. It’s all great stuff that I have chosen to take on, important stuff, and none of which I am willing to give up, so challenge accepted, let’s do this.


Training went well this season, I worked on getting strong. I pushed big gears on the bike, swam hard, and ran descending pace 7k loops of Middleton. I am the most powerful I’ve ever been, and I’m faster than I’ve ever been with PBs this season already in: 400fr, 1500fr, 10k run, as well as Sprint and Half Iron distances. I had absolutely no desire whatsoever to train long distances this year, I just wanted to train harder, and train with better quality of movement. I want to be faster, and to do that I need to be stronger. I’ve done iron distance before, I know I have a good base to support training and racing without injury, so my plan was just to build power above all else.


The days leading up to our trip to CDA were not great, actually they were horrible. I was quickly collecting a number of good excuses that would legitimately explain a less than great performance. I had a few good ‘outs’ going in. But, I HATE excuses, and I know that I would be very disappointed with myself if I allowed a distraction or an excuse to get in the way of a performance I had earned, so I tucked those away.


I arrived in CDA with a casual attitude. I enjoyed not worrying about every little detail. I wasn’t worried about the heat, the unfamiliar course, or even the new rolling start format for the swim, I was just ready to go to work and swim, bike, and run. I was ready for a great race, ready to break a personal record, ready to get back under 12hrs as I had been in 2012, maybe even closer to 11:30, as my half iron pace (at 5:32) felt very manageable and it seemed realistic to hold a similar pace for longer distance.


I had a moment the night before the race when everything I had done in the leading months all sunk in. I was lying in bed after reading some of the words of encouragement I had received, when I had an opportunity to reflect on how much we (our family of 4) have really achieved and enjoyed this year. I felt a wave of pride as I realized that it didn’t really matter the outcome of the next day, we were here, together, and we were healthy, happy, and supporting each other in what we each choose to do.


The day started out great! Despite not sleeping a wink after a mouse crawled across my leg in the middle of the night, I felt alert, excited and ready to go.


I had some trouble pumping up my rear tire in the morning, there was quite a bit of fussing around with the top piece of the valve, it was unscrewing itself from the rest of the valve, I just tightened it in there as best as I could, pumped it up, screwed the valve shut and moved on. My happy-go-lucky optimistic attitude was what I needed to carry me through this race, so I chose not to worry about the tire. Mistake #1.1 – should have changed that tube.   Mistake #1.0 occurred in the weeks before the race. I knew I was getting close to needing new tires, but I really wanted to keep riding the blue ones that matched my bike. Seriously.


Down to the swim start, with my new swim skin, I was feeling so happy with the decision not to wear a wetsuit. It was going to be a million degrees for the day and I really didn’t want to start the day feeling warm and cozy and lazy, I wanted to feel crisp and cool and speedy. The rolling start was very orderly, not very ‘racey’ at all, I didn’t like it. There was a lot of clean water, plenty of room to work at any pace I wanted, but to me that didn’t feel very competitive, it felt a bit watered down. The swim skin however was SOOOO streamlined, it was amazing! I felt like I was effortlessly slipping through the water. And here we have Mistake #2.0 and #3.0. I know better, swimming fast does not feel effortless. Streamlined, yes, effortless, no. Swimming fast also doesn’t feel like slipping through the water, it feels more like crawling OVER the water. I realized my legs were not at the surface about half way through the second lap, when I clued in to what was actually happening. I can’t help but watch the swimmers around me, and I was seeing a lot of sloppy entries, dropped elbows, and slow- extra-glidey stroke rates and I didn’t understand how they were swimming so fast. BUT when I realized I was swimming slower than usual, it all made sense! The other swim mistake I made this day was not racing the way I had trained. I trained with a pull buoy all season so that I’d be strong enough to swim with a wetsuit, and in the position that extra buoyancy would put me in, but I had chosen not to wear a wetsuit, so I ended up swimming in a position that I hadn’t really trained.   Ah ha! It felt good to figure that out, and I was absolutely ok with being a bit slower on the swim, I felt warmed up and ready to ride, so an extra minute or two was no big deal over the course of the day.


After the swim, I stood up, took 4 steps up the beach, and then I fell over! Not exactly sure what happened, I practice running up the beach all the time with the kids practices. Why is this happening? Did I trip? No. Shit, I’m dizzy, why the hell am I dizzy?! Oh well, slow down a bit, stand up straight, look way ahead, and ease into the bike.


Did I say ease into the bike? What I actually meant was push those pedals hard and ride like the wind! I was on the bike at 6:51am, which after a 5:45am start, I guessed was a 1:03 swim and a 3min transition, it was. (I don’t wear a watch, but my bike display has time of day so I know when to eat and drink.) I knew I had work to do right away. The last time I saw Alanna was 300m into the swim, so I knew she had at least a minute on me by now. I also knew that with the forecast hovering around 42degrees, it would be to my advantage to cover as much ground as I could early in the day, even if that meant going a bit harder than I might otherwise pace an IM. I knew I had to do everything possible to manage the heat situation, as I was going into race day at a powerful 152 lbs, which is great on the flats and downhills, but definitely not advantageous in the heat or hills. I figured the best way to deal with the heat was to get as much of the race done in the morning as possible, the longer I am out there, the worse it will be.


I rode really well for the first loop. I saw Alanna early on, and knew she wasn’t far behind. I also got to see Lisa and Tanja at the turn around and they were smiling and looked great! Yay, we are all having a great day! I was right on schedule for approx. 6:05+ bike split at the 90k mark, and was very pleased with that. I knew the second half would be a little longer, but not by much, so was pretty excited to be so close to my goal for the day, and figured that at a 6:15 ride and a 1:03+3 swim, I was on track for close to an 11:30 finish, if I could run like I did in Oliver.


Then it got hot.


To me it felt like it happened all of a sudden. On the second lap, about 80miles into the ride, on the longer climb, it got hot. All of a sudden I was rationing my water, trying to decide whether I should drink it or pour it over me to cool off, but doing neither for fear of running out. I rationed that I would pour water on me just before little downhills for maximum cooling effect. I was trying to get in some Gatorade but wasn’t able to drink it because it was too sweet. I was tired, my pace slowed, and athletes started passing me like I was standing still. I wasn’t literally standing still, but my pace was approx. 9kph on a hill that I had climbed the first time at 11kph. I wondered if I needed another gel, so took one, but without enough water to wash it down, it made things worse. Now I was sticky, burpy, and starting to not have any fun at all. I decided that was a really dumb attitude, it was supposed to be tough that is the fun part, and at the next aid station at the top of the hill I would stop, take 2min to cool off, have a proper drink, and re-start with a fresh perspective.


At almost the exact moment I decided to stop at the top of the hill, I noticed that my back tire was going flat. Not 100% flat yet, but definitely 50% squishy and in need of repair very soon. I thought I was close enough to the aid station to make it, where I had conveniently planned to stop anyway, so no big deal, this will actually work out well. In hind sight (mistake #1.2) I should have stopped there for a quick CO2 top up, but I was afraid that if I stopped there, I wouldn’t be able to get going again on the hill.


I stopped at the aid station, took off the wheel and got to work changing the tire. Immediately as I pulled over I was met with a quick assessment by the medics (not the first time this would happen this day). The medics were instructed to be diligent in looking for signs of heat exhaustion, and all the athletes knew that if you appeared to be in distress you would be pulled off the course and your day would end right there. I gave the medics my biggest possible smile and said “Isn’t this a great day!! I’m good, I just have to change a flat.” Phew… I think they bought it, I’m still in this race.


The volunteers here were more amazing than I can begin to describe, they offered to pour water on me while I changed the flat. Let’s just say this was not the fastest tire change I have ever completed, I was enjoying the cooling way too much to rush through this. I had asked the volunteers to call bike support as well, even though I was totally fine to change the tire, it didn’t hurt to call, and have them on the way just in case I ran into problems. Alanna went by after a few minutes, and offered to help me, but I told her to KEEP GOING! It’s a race!   Bike support came just as I finished re-mounting the tire. He took a look, told me I did a crappy job, and insisted on re-doing it. I didn’t complain. I happily stood and watched and drank another bottle of water.


Stopping at that aid station was the best possible choice I made that day. When I got back on the bike, cooled from both the inside and the outside I felt great again. My bike felt fast again, and I very quickly started to pass people again. Now instead of rationing my water, I was using as much as I could. I added it up afterwards, and I think I went through 12 bottles of water in the last 30miles of the ride. I stopped at each of the remaining aid stations to completely cool and re-stock all three cages. I knew I had lost about 20min with the flat, and another few min stopping for water, but I felt great riding, and was looking forward to running, so spirits were high. I may have even been signing on the way back. I think I was humming a Christmas tune, but I can’t remember which one.


It surprised me on the way back down to town, how many people were walking their bikes up the same hill on which my melt down had occurred two hours ago. Not one person was riding it at this point, they were all walking their bikes. This should have clued me in to how tough of a day it truly was, but it didn’t, I rode as fast as I could all the way back to town.


The absolute best part of the day was catching Alanna at the dismount line, and coming off the bike at the exact same time. Turns out she had tire troubles as well.


Another quick assessment by medics at the dismount line: “how are you feeling?” met once again by the biggest grin I could paste across my face “AWESOME!”.   Phew… they bought it again, now I get to run.


I ran through transition right on Alanna’s heels, she stopped for sunscreen, so I did too, and then I was out onto the run course right behind her. I stayed with her for all of about 50m before I noticed she was getting farther and farther away from me with each step. I was ok with that, she is fast, very strong, and an amazing athlete, and I was proud of myself for keeping up with her so far, but had my own race to run now. I thought at that point that would be the last time I would see her.


I tried to settle into my normal run rhythm, but it just wasn’t happening. I felt too hot, too tired, and my legs were moving too slow to feel familiar. I banked a corner early in the run that had a slope to it, and I stumbled a little bit in the direction of the slope. I was immediately reminded of my fall out of the water earlier in the day and the dizziness that I had, I decided that the best course of action was to stay upright today. If I cannot do anything else, I will stay upright and keep moving forward, I will stay off the pavement, and I will finish what I start. This is the point in the race at which I had flipped the switch from ‘racing’ to ‘surviving’.


I made a point of staying cool by running through the sprinklers and hoses, but it just wasn’t enough. I ate some chips, had some pretzels, tried some Coke early on, but just wasn’t finding my stride. I decided to run when I was wet and cool and in the shade, and walk when I was hot and dry and in the sun.


That was a good plan for me. Having made that decision early on, allowed me to pay attention to some other important components like water/sugar/salt. Once I sorted out the walking/running nonsense, I was able to re-focus on paying attention to getting what I needed into my body. I don’t need chips, coke, or pretzels, and I know better than that. Alright, water only at the next aid station, I’ll give myself a chance to digest what’s in there and figure out what I need next. I paid attention, and over the next 6miles settled into a consistent pattern with water at every aid station, and a gel and eTab at every 3rd aid station.


Feeling like things were under control, and most importantly, upright, I was starting to run a little bit more, and walk a little bit less. What was even better, was realizing that my mind was still in the right place, as I was beginning to question my walk breaks, as opposed to just accept them. Every time I walked, I questioned whether or not I really needed to, and I was able to talk myself back into a run a few times.


I was happy with my routine finally, just before coming back through town at about 18k, which was great timing! This allowed me to appear on the surface to be having a great day and running really well, even though I knew it wasn’t 100% true. I got to see Shayne, Brody and Max half way through the run, near special needs, which was a huge boost, and was a great opportunity to try to pick up the pace to something more familiar.


At exactly 21.1 k, over the timing mat to turn around for loop 2, I caught Alanna. I asked her how things were going, and she said not very well, some nutrition/tummy troubles. I told her to figure it out. At that point Kit saw us, and was very quick to remind that this was a race, and not to run ‘together’! Kit always says “it’s a race, pass someone”, so I did. I picked it up a bit, sure that Alanna would chase me, and we would be able to push each other through the rest of this tough day.


After the last turn around, I saw Alanna who was now a few minutes back, I reminded her that she needed to figure it out and get what she needed so she could have a strong finish. I was running downhill and feeling great now with 10k to go. It was still hot, and I was still walking the dry parts, but with only 10k left, and still very much upright, I actually felt like I was running, and maybe even felt once again like it was a race. I saw Lisa, and she smiled, she looked like she had it totally under control and was even enjoying this whole thing. I saw Tanja, and she looked so strong, she looked like she was battling the tough day, but was pushing through it and doing what she needed to do.


I ran back through town, picking up the pace mile by mile, then got to run down the finishers chute in what felt like a full out sprint. I high fived Lisa’s family, totally oblivious to the whereabouts of my own (mistake #4.0 – not soaking it in or truly experiencing the moment), I crossed the line in 12:20.


And that is that. Friends Michelle and Bowen had driven down to watch and it was great to have them at the finish line and the share the experience with someone who has never been to an Ironman. The boys were excited to wear my hat and medal, and to tell me all about their day of ice cream cones and cheering. They had had a very long day of spectating in the heat and were a little bit sunburnt from the fun day before, so very shortly after the finish, we picked up gear bags and bike and went back to the campsite for bed. We were excited to get up and go to the roller coaster park the next day.


The finish of this race didn’t feel like a finish for me. I didn’t feel done yet. It didn’t feel like I had accomplished what I had set out to accomplish. I was a little stiff, but not really sore the next day. I was very happy with my results, I was 12th in my AG, 65th woman, and 3xx overall out of 1700 athletes. I had never placed that high before, and was happy with those rankings, but didn’t feel satisfied with my own efforts. I do realize it was a hot day, and that there was a 34% DNF rate (hundreds of people started, and did not finish), but I still wasn’t satisfied.


I wanted a do-over. I knew I was trained for a better race than I had, I knew that I could be better and faster, simply by not making some of the mistakes that I had made, and by paying attention to the details a little more closely.


I was on the IMC registration page checking availability on Monday June 29, less than 24hours after my previous IM finish.  I re-arranged my work schedule the next week, and had signed up to go again.  With exactly 4 weeks between iron distance races, even I will admit this was a little bit crazy.  Whistler, I’m coming back.



Oliver Half Iron 2015

A few people have asked me about my race on Sunday, specifically what I did to manage in the heat, so here is a race report if you are interested.


My goal big race this season is Ironman Coeur d’Alene on June 28th, which will be IM #4 for me, so this past Sunday in Oliver at the Half Iron, 3 weeks before the ‘big day’, was perfect timing in my opinion to get my head back into the long distance triathlon game. It’s only been 2 years since IMC, but that’s long enough to forget things like how many gels per hour you need, and how to pee while running….you know, important stuff like that.


A few people had asked me leading up to the race, if I was really going to ‘race it’ or if it would be more like a long training day. It’s a race…. so yes, I am racing. Racing however, doesn’t always mean going as hard as you can, especially if you have another race coming up, or like to keep your body in tact, uninjured, and healthy for things like riding bikes with your kids. That is what I learned on Sunday, and that is what I’d like to share, a successful race is not as simple as going as hard as you can, and in a lot of ways, it actually can be a lot easier than that.


Now I’m far from being at the front end of the race, but I am learning and getting faster. When I talk about success, I am talking about my own success, which sometimes equates to placings depending on the field, sometimes not, but know that it’s in the context of a busy age group athlete, who lives and breathes the sport, but has a lot of other stuff going on besides my own racing. My success on Sunday, was quite simply because the fitness was there, and honestly all I had to do was not let my head get in the way of that. I’ve had good fitness before, but hadn’t yet figured out the frame of mind needed to let it carry me through a race. We knew a few days ahead of time that it was going to be a very very hot day, and I’ve raced in Osoyoos enough times to know what can happen on days like that. I knew that there would be a lot of people suffering in the heat, and times would be a little slower than they typically might, and that the best way to get a fast time, was to keep it relaxed, under control, and manage hydration/electrolytes/fuel, and stay as cool as possible. It was to be a perfect practice day for a full distance race coming up.


My swim was not good. I didn’t wear a wetsuit as the water was 24degrees so wetsuits were optional. I figured I would be so hot the rest of the day, I wanted to start the day cool and refreshed. I knew this put me at a slight time disadvantage to the other women, but also knew that I wanted to be comfortable and enjoy the day, and I hate feeling hot when I swim, can’t stand it actually. Tactical error #1 – not wearing something more streamlined for the swim. Top was way too baggy, definitely not speedy, I knew it 2 strokes in. Ooops. Tactical recovery: enjoy the swim, don’t fight the resistance, settle into a relaxed but purposeful pace because fighting the resistance won’t be worth it. Accept the 2-3min loss, but enjoy being cool, and smile while cruising past as many men from their wave as possible. 33min swim, 2min T1.  Pre Swim: ¾ bottle water + banana + eTab.


Bike – I didn’t make any mistakes on the bike. All I did was ride. The first 13k did feel like work, my legs felt like they were pushing, and I had a bit of muscle soreness, I figured it would pass, as it had on the previous weeks 8.5hrs of cycling, so I pressed on, and it did pass, as it had in training so many times. By the time I got to the hill I felt settled and had brought lightness to the effort. I’m lucky to have a fast bike from Sun Country Cycle, and my legs are really strong from all of the hills I climbed as prescribed by coach Melissa Spooner in 2013. I feel like now, two seasons later, I am now reaping the benefits from those efforts, and am able to put the pieces together. Having lost a few pounds earlier in the winter has me feeling pretty zippy on the bike, so I just rode. I didn’t ride super hard, I just made sure not to waste any pedal strokes. No coasting, no time in the wrong gear, no time lost to poor gear changes (easy with Di2 electronic shifting). In the entire 93k, I probably spent a total of 2minutes of ‘wasted’ time on the pedals, and that would have been going through the sharp corner twice, and coasting at aid stations. I was focused and strategic. I passed people when I could see they were having a tough time, even if I knew they were stronger than me, I took advantage of my competitors times of weakness. I passed with a cheerful smile and a few words of encouragement, made it look way too easy, and didn’t look back.

2:52 93k bike, :26second T2. 5 gels, 2 bottles eLoad, 2 bottles of water – drank half of each, used the rest to stay cool, and wash sticky gel off my hands, and a little bit of spit up to wash off too J. I accidentally dropped my Shot Blocks, which were ½ of my fuel and a good portion of the sodium I wanted to take on the bike. As I was cool and calm, and not pushing so hard that I couldn’t think, I corrected by taking two more gels than I was planning to – to get the sodium, which meant taking more water to dilute the sugar solution in my belly.. which led to the little burp/spit up, but it was all very thoughtful and purposeful. I remembered that I would need to take an extra salt tab as soon as I got off the bike because I didn’t have any with me. Thanks again to Dr. Chris Spooner of Paradigm Naturopathic Medicine and Melissa Spooner from Endurance Health and Fitness, for the excellent race nutrition workshops. Every year I learn something new, and every race, it all makes a little more sense, and I’m able to apply what I know a little bit better. Water + Electrolytes + Sugar. It’s really a simple equation, but to figure out what you need, at what point in a race, can be tricky. I didn’t go in with a ‘nutrition plan’, but I knew what I needed, and more importantly what it feels like when you are missing one of those three components.


Run was perfect. For me it wasn’t about running fast, it was about finding the rhythm that would yield speed, once I settled in and allowed the stride to open up. I talk and write a LOT about rhythm when describing workouts to athletes, and it’s not because I am trying to add extra words. I truly believe that you need to find a rhythm that you trust, that you are comfortable with and that you can rely on. This applies to swim, to bike, and to run.   What I mean by ‘rhythm’ is sometimes referred to as ‘flow’ in running magazines, or as being in the ‘zone’. But I like to call it rhythm, because it is very… rhythmic. I trained my swim and my run very similarly this year, I found a good stroke/stride rate, and a good stroke/stride length that worked for me, that produced good speed, and that I could settle into, and I trained that rate/rhythm all season. If I needed an easier workout day, I added more rest and went shorter. If I needed a harder day, intervals were longer, and eventually runs were longer too. I made a point not to run poorly at all this year. Not a single step. If I couldn’t swim or run well on a particular day, I went home. It paid dividends on Sunday. I only had one rate, only had one rhythm, and it was a good one, that I trusted, so I just ran. I knew I could hold it, because I’ve trained it, and the fitness is there, so I just settled into that rhythm and enjoyed the run. It didn’t feel like a lot of work for my legs or for my aerobic system, I felt like my body was just doing what it knew how to do. It was work mentally to stay focused, and relaxed, and trusting in the rhythm.

I had a truly joyful day, particularly the run. I felt so happy to get to be out there racing on that day. I felt grateful to be healthy enough to do what I love to do, and I felt a lot of confidence and trust in the decisions I made in training and on race day. I stopped at every aid station to drink water, I stopped when I saw kids with squirt guns so they could spray me, I stopped to leap through the sprinklers. I stayed cool, I stayed hydrated, I kept electrolytes up, and I had fun. Maybe that is not what some people think is “racing”, but it produced for me the best outcome that I could have, on that day. I ran as though I still had another 21k to go, which allowed me to not only finish running well, it allowed me to enjoy a cycle with the Youth/Junior Team Sunday night, a ride with the women’s group Monday night, and a solid early morning ride Tuesday with a Jr athlete. I did not put it all out there in the last 5k as I normally would, I will save that for IMCDA, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t racing. I ran 21k in 2:04, with 3 gels, 3 eTabs, and water at most aid stations. I thought this was very successful in the heat.

The most important lesson I learned on Sunday, which I knew logically, but had never experienced for myself, is that if the fitness is there, it’s there. You can’t force a performance beyond the training you have put in. All you can do, is trust the training, enjoy the day, and make decisions that allow the fitness to show up. I hope to stay calm, focused, and joyous through Ironman in 3 weeks. If I race with good decisions, the fitness that is there will yield the success that it ought to.

I was very pleased with a 5:32, which is a 3min PR for me, and good enough for 1st in AG and 8th Woman overall. I am feeling full of potential for IMCDA. My goal at IMCDA is to be closer to 11hrs than 12, but more importantly and more specifically is to: swim the rate that I trained, which does mean a higher turnover and more effort than Sunday, no slacking off; bike with purpose in every pedal stroke; and run the consistent rhythm that I have trained. If I can do those three things, and not make any major tactical errors, my time will reflect the training that I have done, which will be the best that I can do that day, and will yield whatever time is appropriate for those efforts, with the conditions of the given day.


Thanks for reading.



Laura’s Adverbs and Adjectives to describe Swimming

My style of coaching is VERY expressive, and I love to find words that describe how a swimmers’ particular stroke or style FEELS, and words to describe how that swimming SHOULD feel.  Finding a great cue word that provokes immediate positive change in your swimming is enlightening.  When you figure out what swimming properly feels like, having one simple cue word to remind you to swim that way, can save you from having to ‘think’ too much about all the various aspects of your stroke.  Let’s face it, there are a lot of things going on when you swim, all at the same time, and ideally it’s all happening pretty quickly.  Having one simple cue word can be a great way to tie all the pieces together, help create rhythm, and it’s something you can take with you to any workout or swim environment.

I keep a log of everything that I say to swimmers, so that if they have a brilliant moment in the pool, we can label it, learn to recognize it, and then pattern it.  I had a good chuckle this morning reading through my coach log when I realized how many different words I have used in the past 6 weeks to describe swimming, and thought I would share.  This is not a recommendation to swim any particular way, nor should any swimmer read this list and go try and change their stroke, that’s not the point.  Some of these words describe poor technique, and some describe good technique.  Some of these descriptions are good technique for one swimmer, while poor technique for another.   For example – a swimmer who is very flat in the water might be encouraged to be more ‘rolly’, while a swimmer who overextends/pauses/then scissor kicks might be encouraged to be less ‘rolly’.  I also realize that some of these are not actually real words.   Most of these can be preceded by “Be…” or “Don’t be…”  Often they’ll be strung together to form a full sentence, i.e. “You look kind of pinchy & too precise today, be open, neutral, natural, and relaxed.”  Of course the context relates to whatever we are working on, and is accompanied by a demonstration or physical manipulation. 

If you’ve been coached by me this fall, I think you’ll smile as you read this, as you have probably heard a lot of this recently. 













































Spring is in the Air!

Spring is in the air, time to come out and Play!!

I love March!  For me, March represents the ‘new year’ more so than September, or even January.  March marks the transition from indoor workouts to outdoor, as well as the beginning of a brand new race season.  I’m super excited for MANY awesome things that I get to be a part of this spring, from the first session of the North Okanagan Youth Triathlon Team, to a bunch of cool clinics that I’m hosting, as well as weekly workouts that I get to coach for both local triathlon clubs, AND on top of all of that, I get to race my favorite distances & races, for my last time in the 30-34 age group, on a brand new Trek Speed Concept from Sun Country Cycle!!  This is my race calendar for 2014, what are you signed up for?

  • BCMSA (Masters Swimming) Provincials – Kelowna April 25-26 
  • Wine Capital of Canada Triathlon – Olympic Distance – Oliver May 31 
  • KalRATS Sprint Triathlon **20th Anniversary** – Vernon June 22 
  • Peach Classic Triathlon – Olympic Distance – Penticton July 20
  • Apple Triathlon – Olympic Distance – Kelowna August 17

Come Join In!

Regardless of whether you train under the guidance of a coach, or on your own, sometimes it is nice to meet up with others for a group workout.  Some of the benefits of training in a group include: learning from the experience of those around you, sharing your experiences, pushing yourself to keep up, camaraderie, and practicing skills and techniques you might not on your own.

With clinics and group workouts for ALL ages and abilities this spring, there truly is something for everyone, so come give it a try.  In date order, here are some of the group workouts I will be coaching this year, so come out and play!!­­­

Endurance Health and Fitness

  • March 20Advanced  Indoor Cycling Workout – 6-7:15pm, at Paradigm Studio

Appropriate for anyone who has been spinning throughout the Off Season, and is looking for one more Indoor Thursday session to keep that fitness up while we await the street sweepers. 

  • March 27Beginner Indoor Cycling Workout – 6:00-7:15pm, at Paradigm Studio

Appropriate for new cyclists, or those who have not been spinning regularly over the off season.  This workout will get you ready for the road.

More Info at:, contact Mel Spooner to reserve a spot. Must bring your own trainer, limited space, $10 for EHF members, $12 non-members.  Must be TriBC member.  I will also be coaching a Tuesday morning open water swim workout for EHF in the summer, so keep an eye on the website for those as well! 

North Okanagan Youth Triathlon Team

Open House. Spring Session Starts Apr 24!


April 3rd, 4:00-5:00pm

Come meet us, ask questions,

and see what we are all about!

At: Paradigm Naturopathic Medicine

#100 – 2802 30th Street 

Now accepting registrations for spring session at:


April 5Club Rides begin.  First club ride is usually 60-90min, starting from Performing Arts Centre Parking Lot at 8am, heading out towards Lavington.   Free

April 10 Thursday Night Coached Bike Workout – Every Thursday at 6pm, meet at Kin Beach.  Workout includes warm up, drill/skill component, then either hill or time trial focus.  ($40 for a 10x pass, $5 drop in).

KalRATS have a great team of coaches, in addition to these workouts, the club also offers a track (run) workout, mountain bike workout, and will add swim workouts later in the spring/summer.  Info at  Must be a TriBC member to join.

Sun Country Cycle

Ladies Clinics – not sure about joining a group?  Then this is definitely the group for you!  Casual, fun, social ride, and learn a few things along the way.  Contact Sun Country Cycle, or me, to sign up.

scc ride clinics

Laura Medcalf Coaching

I’ve already had a few swimmers ask me about some open water skill coaching, while it’s too early to get in the lake, it’s not too early to plan for it!  Email me to reserve a spot.

open water clinics 14

Get Fit this Fall

To our local athletes in Hawaii, a big congratulations on your achievement in getting there, and best wishes for a phenomenal race day!  For others, the season is behind us, and the off season is well underway.  What a great time to forget about super specific race/event goals, and enjoy the variety of activities the area has to offer: mountain biking, trail running,  hiking.  It’s a great time of year to be active and enjoy sport simply to enjoy movement, spend time with friends, work on something that gets neglected (or isn’t appropriate) during high volume training, or try something new.

I went back to the gym yesterday, am excited to attend a core/stretch class once a week, and will head to the pool to swim today because I love to swim, and for the first time in a long time, without the number 3.8 in my head.  My active something new this year will be skate skiing, and I’m starting from scratch, only having been on a pair of classic skis once in the past 20 years.  We have skipped the downhill passes this time around, it was the kids idea, they are super excited to give skate skiing a full season try.  I will have to work hard to keep up with the 3 boys who are all very strong skaters on the ice.

On that note, here are a few fun fall events/programs to keep you busy:

Vernon Masters Swim Club – starts today! 

Coach Laura Tues/Thurs 8:15-9:15pm

Coach Mel Wed/Fri 6:30-7:30am or 7:30-8:30am, Sun 8-9:30am or 9:30-11am (no turkey day swim).  I’ll be filling in this week while Mel supports her athletes in Kona.

Skip the line at the front desk and register here:  (Put a note in the ‘additional comments’ section to add your pool pass).

Off Season Cycling – Intro this week, Full program starts Oct 15 (Tues) & Oct 17 (Thurs).

This time of year it’s fun, social, good music, and don’t worry, it’ll be a workout too.  Again, skip the line at the front desk and register here:  Never been to an off season cycling class?  No worries!  Intro session this week, Oct 10, 5:30pm register thru above link, or at Rec Centre main office.  The intro session will cover – setting up the bike on the trainer, different working positions, a little bit of shifting techniques, and I’ll go over what to expect in a regular class.  Everything you need to know, and a chance to try it out before committing to the regular 10 week session.

Tuesdays – Coach Denise @ Harwood School – must bring own trainer

Thursdays – Coach Laura @ PV Gym 5:30-6:45pm.

NEW! After cycling strength/flexibility/core/stretch class.  All the stuff we know we should do on a regular basis, now available when you are already dressed to workout and same location. 7-8pm with Sue Cairns. It’s called Shape your Buddha and you get a discount on the class if you’re registered in cycling.  It’s good stuff.  Register thru Rec Centre.

And Finally!  Kal Park Cross Country Run – 9.5k or 2.5k Fun Trail Run Oct 27th.

For the second year in a row, I am volunteer race director for the Kal RATS for this one.  Scenic & challenging course, exactly what a cross country run should be.  This race is sanctioned by BC Athletics and is in the Interior Running Association XC Series.  Course is well marked, and costumes are encouraged.


Save the day and plan to race the 9.5k, try out the 2.5k, or volunteer. Contact me at lauramedcalf (@) to volunteer.

That’s all for now, see you out there!



IMC Whistler 2013 Race Story

IMC Whistler Race Report

Aug 25th 2013, 3.8k Swim, 180k Bike, 42.2k Run.


So… 2013 wasn’t supposed to be an Ironman year for me.

‘The Plan’ was to gain some good fitness, learn a few things about IM distance,  prove a few things to myself in 2012, then return to short course and dominate the (local) age group rankings for sprint/Olympic distance for my last two years in this easier age group.  But… plans change J.

Being part of ‘the last IM Penticton’,  was a really weird feeling with a really sad/strange vibe in town.  Subsequently, being involved in the ‘Bring IM to Vernon’ project then had me pretty pumped up and excited about the distance, and Ironman in general, so when they announced the new home of IMC in Whistler, I signed up without thinking twice.  Cool!  New venue, new course, no expectations, Fun!  Also, I will admit, even though a long shot, the double Kona spots up for grabs were a selling point for me for sure. I felt guilty at first for not supporting Penticton and heading back to race there, but the 2012 event was seriously a downer, so on to new, fresh, bright and shiny.  Talked a few others into joining me (or… Did they talk me into it??… Wait… Whose idea was this anyway!?!). Rented a house with the CRanBlairies (Craig/Randy/Blair) and families, awesome!  Group road trip it is.  Don’t forget the beer.

Whistler was AMAZING.  I signed up for WTC, hyped up excitement, challenging course, mass start, competitive field, and that is EXACTLY what I got! (side note: WTC is the company that owns the brand Ironman, but this is the first Ironman Canada that the WTC has operated, previous IMC was operated by a third party contractor… or something like that.  Anyway, my first WTC race).

From the Ironman backpacks to a bike course on a closed provincial highway, and village streets lined with spectators, to the massive hunk of a finishers medal around my neck, I feel completely satisfied that I got the full Ironman experience.  My race result on the other hand… not as satisfied, but not unhappy either.

I really trained this year, I hired a phenomenal coach (huge thank you to Mel Spooner, Endurance Health & Fitness), did the work, I was fit (little bit overweight, but super fit in terms of endurance), and very strong.  I was also mentally prepared to do the work, but also going in feeling light.  I felt lighter this year in terms of pressure, expectations, worry, and mostly fear.  I had a healthy respect for the task at hand, but was not fearful (like last year).

My goal on a perfect day is a sub 11hr finish.  Which is high, and a full hour faster than my previous best. I know that on the right day, if the stars align, that my mind and body are capable of that result.  But, I also know that anything can happen, and I didn’t really know the course that well, nor did anyone else.  I went in with a firm plan to enjoy my day, keep it ‘light’, and execute a good nutrition plan, while riding patiently.

So the race:

Swim – Mass deep water start 2200 athletes = awesome!  Started front and centre, which worked last year, I had clean water.  Not this year!  Had to fight for space for the first 2 buoys for sure, but that’s to be expected, and part of the fun.  Ok, done that, bucket list item ticked off, now they can roll in the rolling starts.  The rest of the swim was calm, clean, and I was able to settle into a good groove and do my thing.  Smiled most of the way.  I have this part of the race nailed in terms of how much effort I’m willing to put out for the time I want to achieve.  Not willing to kick, the 3-5min I would get aren’t worth the effort, so, 1:02 it is. Passed a pro (who had a 10min head start), that was really cool.  25th woman, 5th in AG out of water.

Through T1, no troubles, easy to spot a yellow bike.

Bike – this is where it fell apart for me.  Right from the start.  Mounted my bike on the hill out of Rainbow park and felt heavy. Tired/sore/heavy legs.  Uh oh.  What the hell?  I thought ok, it’ll pass, just keep it light, sit up, get to the highway and then settle in, it’ll pass.  It’s about 3k from Rainbow Park to hwy 99.  And it’s a climb, so I hadn’t intended to settle in until the highway anyway.  No biggie.
Ok highway 99 plan is spin the legs, have a gel, smile for cameras, find a rhythm, be mindful of the climb ahead and don’t worry about being passed, it’s going to happen, allow it, race my own day.

I should mention here, because it’s a substantial thing for me, that being a good swimmer is a hard thing on the bike, so I had prepared myself with the idea that being passed is ok, and it didn’t mean that my day was going poorly.  I knew logically that even if I had the ride of my life, (6hrs on this course), I would still get passed by hundreds, so I had to accept and let it be.
Turned out to be a good plan but executed in a detrimentally excessive way.  Kept thinking ‘patience’/’pace’/’my own race’.

I ended up riding that way for the entire 180k.  I rode all the hills in my easiest gear, in the back of my mind remembering the heavy legs I started with, but also purposely riding conscious of the long climb ahead.  Perhaps even riding fearful of the climb ahead?  I rode in my comfort zone, I was not tough, I did not ‘race’ the bike.  I am slightly disappointed with that for various reasons, still processing the why’s of that portion.

A bike course report from this race would not be complete without mention of the drafting on Pemberton Meadows Road.  I get to see a lot of the bike course (because I start at the front and finish middle of pack), and I did not see one drafting card handed out, which is unusual, because I start the bike with the front of the pack Age Groupers, and often see lots of people getting carded.  I was not the only one who noticed that the officials weren’t calling anything.  Pemberton Meadows Road was a free for all!  Pelotons of anywhere between 20-40 riders were the norm, with blatant drafting, wheel sucking, and team work happening on what is supposed to be a time trial, no drafting course.  I won’t lie, and I will admit, that at one point I questioned whether hoping on one of the many trains that passed me was the right option, and the way to race on this particular course, on this particular day.  I quickly came to my (moral) senses, and made a conscious choice to pull my own weight, and haul my slow sorry ass all by myself back to T2 no matter how long it took me.  I also remember thinking, “well if this is what i have to do to go to Kona, then i don’t wanna go, and I’m NEVER racing WTC again!”  I was trying to be proud of my decision, but that’s hard to do when you are still getting passed (now by the 10s of hundreds), and grumpy, and hot, and slow, and tired, and….  tried to pick it up a few times from my steady/comfy 28 kph to 30, but it felt kinda hard, so then I didn’t.  (Side note: there were lots of people who were not drafting, and earned their podium/Kona places or finishers medal, and I don’t mean to imply that all WTC races are full of cheaters, or that all those who qualified were drafting, these are simply recollections of my glycogen depleted state.  Turns out this was one of the first time event glitches, they were short about a dozen motorbike volunteers, and I am hopeful these issues will be resolved for next year.  Also, the officials must have had a change in directive, because the penalty tents near the end of the course were full.  Rumour also has it that officials were encouraged to give warnings only because it was a first year event.  Something about wanting athletes to be happy and wanting to return, and if the course is too hard, or the times are too slow, they won’t.  Rumours.)

Took my own sweet time back up to Whistler, ate lots of treats and enjoyed the scenery.  Besides, it’s 35k uphill, and then I’m going to run a marathon, treats it is!  Bike 6:44.  Really?!?  Yup, 6:44.

Alright the run, yayyyyy to run!  Into T2 at 8hrs, alright I thought, I can still pull this together for at least a sub 12, PB day.  Just run.

And Run I did.  For the first 30k at least.  Felt awesome, quick feet, light, happy, cool, caffeinated, yippee I’m running!  Ran a mile with the 4th place woman as she was on her 2nd lap, but I decided it was in my best interest to let her go, saw a bear, saw Spiderman (great race Grant!), ran up hills, ran down hills, saw the big posters I made for the cranblairies, saw Hella/Kees/Angie/Warren – yayyy friendly faces! Then did it all again for loop 2.  On the last 10k my legs started to tighten up, started to hurt, but it didn’t matter, because I was going to be an Ironman!  On my birthday!  And the body marking volunteer said I looked like Chrissy Wellington!
Run – 4:17, a PB by 18min.

Good for 12:10 race time, not a PB, but fairly close.  Good enough for 15th in AG, moving on up the ranks.

So without regret or disappointment, but with learning and improving as the goal, I will spend some time working through the following questions:
-why did my legs feel heavy/sore at the start of the bike (will review taper and pre-race activities).
– how can I learn to take some more risks on the bike like I am willing to do in the swim/run
-was I truly mentally prepared, or had I talked myself out of a good bike split before I even started?
– how can I keep my run pace up while getting the nutrition I need (running really well but slowing/stopping a lot at aid stations.

– how do I find an internal focus on the bike, so that I can avoid distractions that are beyond my control?  How can I train to be focused for 6hrs. (or 7 as the case may be)


So, at the end of the day, while I wanted to be faster, and know that my body is capable of being faster, I put it into perspective and think of all that I have accomplished over the past year:
– loved my kids and hubby Shayne and made a happy home (even if its not clean)
-race directed a XC running race for the first time,
-tried to bring IM to Vernon
-helped make a KOS race happen
– successfully grew my business
-held down 2 ‘real jobs’
-learned to pivot turn a SUP
-was a full season of ‘hockey mom’
-was a full season of ‘swim club mom’
-and was a 12:10 Ironman.

I’ll take it for now.  But I’ll be back Whistler.

Thanks for reading my random thoughts.

February Feel

Swimming well is all about feel.  Feel for the water.  You have probably heard many swim coaches say it, it is so cliché, but it really is true.  Do you know what it means?  And, more importantly, do you know what ‘feel’ feels like?

For me, swimming well feels like I’m riding on top of a wave.   It feels like I’m in control of the water.  When I swim well, I feel cool water moving past my underarms at just the perfect speed.  I feel like I’m holding the water, and it is holding me.  It does not always feel easy or effortless, but for me, it does feel crisp and clean.  My movements are purposeful, but not forced, relaxed, but not careless.

‘Feel for the water’ is often described as the ability to ‘catch’ the water.   Some swimmers and coaches might refer to ‘feel’ as performing the catch & pull properly:  getting a high elbow, fingertips pointing to bottom, and pressing on the water in the right direction.  I agree with that, because if you have a good catch you are more likely to move through the water faster, but I think good feel for the water is also so much more than that.

Good feel for the water does include finding proper catch and pull mechanics, but also includes knowing how much pressure (strength) to use in those positions, to propel your body through the water.   There is a fine balance between too much strength in your pull, and not enough.   If you apply too much, or not enough pressure in the catch, you end up slipping and spinning your arms right through that water.  Good feel means finding the right amount of strength to anchor your hand in the water, and move your body forward.  It includes knowing what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like when you have that figured out.

To help develop feel for the water:

1)      Experiment:  During warm up, drill sets, and cool down, play with various ways of swimming through the water.  Try some of these fun activities:

  • Swim along the bottom.
  • Try swimming backwards (feet first).
  • Scull in as many different ways as you can.
  • Dolphin kick big, dolphin kick little.
  • Swim head up.
  • Play with corkscrew (one backstroke pull / one freestyle pull).
  • Practice handstands in the water, learn to flip turn.

Why?  Because learning to move your body through the water in various ways will teach you how to work with the principles of swimming such as: buoyancy, pressure, drag, lift.  Get comfortable in the water in as many ways as you can, and you’ll learn how the properties of water can work with you.  You’ll also develop a feel for what works, and what doesn’t, and learning to feel what doesn’t work, is just as important as learning to feel what does.

2)      Find a distance and speed that you think you can swim well, and by well, I mean strong, smooth, good technique.  It might be 50 to 100m at a time, or maybe right now it’s early season for you, and it is 25m at a time.  If you are a newer swimmer, it might just be the first 4 – 6 strokes off the wall, while you have momentum from the streamlined push off.

  • Swim your chosen distance 8 – 10 times, with enough rest in between that you start every repeat fresh, but not so much that you cool off between reps.  10-30 seconds should be enough.
  • Effort should feel fairly easy for the first 1 to 3 repeats, and you will end up working at a moderate effort for the rest.  If it feels really hard, and you are out of breath, it’s not right, and you need to take a step back and work on technique, or at a shorter distance.

3)      Use your senses, while you swim the above described set.  Not all at the same time, pick one!

  • Pay attention to what you see when you swim.  Do you see feet of the swimmer ahead, the black line at the bottom, or something in between?  Do you see above and below the water at the same time when you breathe, or the ceiling?  Do you make a habit of looking for the pace clock? Can you see any parts of your arms during the pull phase at any time, what parts, when?  Do you see bubbles, where are they coming from?
  • Pay attention to what your swimming sounds like.  Can you hear bubbles?  Can you hear your kick thumping, or your entry slapping, or slipping?  Does your swim rhythm have a soundtrack?
  • And of course, pay attention to what you feel.  Do you feel air, or water, on the back of your head? Top of your head?  Can you feel your heels at the surface?  Do you feel water moving past your body, where, how fast is it going?  Do you feel tall, relaxed, strong?

You don’t have to think about ALL of that, in fact, it’s better if you don’t.  That’s way too much!  What I want you to take away from this, is to turn on your senses while you know you are swimming at your best, and pay attention to one or two things that you feel/see/hear.  It’s all about collecting information while you are swimming well, and remembering those cues while you train to swim longer distances.

Hop in the pool a few times a week and swim.  Figure out what your swim is supposed to feel like.  Remind yourself frequently what it feels like to move through the water, to hold the water, and to let the water hold you.   There is no better month to frequently feel the water than February, see you at the pool!

Need Swim Equipment?

Swimmers of all levels should have their own pull buoy.  All intermediate to advanced swimmers should have their own paddles.  If you are a runner or cyclist learning to swim, flippers can also be very helpful.

*note, paddles should be used under the supervision of a coach.  If you experience swimming related shoulder injury, you need to fix your stroke before using paddles.*

Need equipment now? Click here:

Swim Equipment

Next Group Order for Vernon Coached Athletes: March 1st.