I created a new website that makes my on-line presence easier, more accessible and interactive.
Thanks for continuing to follow my journey!
I created a new website that makes my on-line presence easier, more accessible and interactive.
Thanks for continuing to follow my journey!
Enjoying the run down the finishing chute in first is an awesome experience. It is hard to sum up all the emotions that flood your consciousness when you take each of those final steps to the winners tape. It is the joy of putting together a great race built on hard and smart training. It is knowing how many people who love and support you are celebrating the victory too. Mostly though it is the power of belief in oneself and perseverance when you have had to overcome so many challenges.
I was super excited about this race. My friends from Ottawa came down to be sherpas, it was on the east coast in the fall and it was a race that suited me – rolling. On all fronts I was not disappointed. Jamie and Ryan were in constant competition with who was the better sherpa – who could direct the route better, who fetched ice cream to go with the apple pie, who took gear bags at the start or who offered cloths off their backs so I could stay warm. Who wouldn’t love these guys? Ryan (Solefit) gently reminded me of the early days when I went to visit him for running advice and orthodics (which I am still wearing!) when I asked what racing flats were. Yes I was THAT green.
While doing my warm-up on Saturday I swear that I saw the film location for Dirty Dancing – a favorite adolescent movie of mine (Nobody puts Jamie – I mean Baby – in a corner). The fall colours were amazing and the air had that smoky crispness to it. I’ll admit it made me want to curl up with a good book, pumpkin latte and eat apple pie. Although apple pie was the secret weapon of the weekend there was no curling up!
This is a very logistically challenging half ironman. Two transitions and a finishing line/expo. The swim is in a glass like “pond”, the water a mere 64F(i.e., cold). The shape of the swim course was interesting leaving the leads to navigate the best line from buoy to buoy. The women started with the guys which was brilliant for me. I hoped to get in with the front pack but sadly by the time I sorted through the guys, I had slipped back. I ended up leading the chase pack. No drafting in this one.
The bike started with a 4 mile descent. It included a 9% grade down and although cold was super fun. The Shiv is a seriously solid machine that handles really well so there was no braking as I tucked my head down with my jaw almost sitting on my elbow pads to get more aero. The course mellows out and it is actually hard to really sense whether you are on false flats or descents at times. It rolls gently throughout but is kept interesting with sharp get-out-of-the-saddle ascents,tuck in descents and twisty turns through park lands. The roads in some parts were a little bumpy (actually washed out too) but again the carbon frame just seemed to absorb those and I kept rolling along happily. Coming to T2 I had no idea where I was in the race. I knew I was ahead but did not have a sense of how much. Apparently 8-9 minutes. I never for a moment took it easy which is likely why I got the course record.
The run I thought was supposed to be easy and relatively flat. As I ran up long hills and pounded down others I kept thinking that it was going to be the last. It was supposed to flatten out. It never did. The volunteers were awesome – some in pink tutus and a huge guy in a bright florescent pink wig. My focus was to keep a steady pace until the turn-around when I would finally see where I was at in the race. I did not see the first girl for 3-4ish minutes (i.e., 7-8 minute lead). I figured that this was a pretty good cushion but did not back off too much. I didn’t press hard either because there was no need to dig a deeper hole . I have another race in two weeks and want to get back to training. In those last miles when I actually thought walking would be nice, athletes just starting their run cheered me in yelling ‘first woman’. There was no way that I couldn’t smile and finish strong. This race was unlike any other win. I could savor each of those final steps. The great thing is that I look forward to the first ones back out in training. My job. Best job in the world.
1 Specialized fuelselage water bottle (water in a bike)
1 GU recovery drink sports drink
4 Gels (peanut butter, mint chocolate and espresso love)
3 Island Nector Roctane gels in flask on run, water every station.
My amazing Shiv of course.
Wheels: Tubular 404 and 808
Tire psi: 100 (perfect for the road conditions)
What I wore:
Thanks to Ryan Cain’s suggestion (learnt from Jordan Rapp) -put a polyethylene sheet down my Nike top which broke the wind and kept me a bit warmer. So SMART!
Ok I’ll admit I was a little nervous this morning preparing for my ride with Melissa and Jared Hauschildt. Melissa is arguably the strongest cyclist in our sport and she LOVES really long hills. Jared, Melissa’s husband, is also awesome on the hills because he is of the elite running pedigree, qualify for Kona on your first Ironman 10hrs of training or less type talent. In other words they kick my ass going up! So off we go on a 100km ascent from Boulder (5430ft) through Estes Park (7522ft) and up Trail Ridge Road. This road is the highest continuous paved highway in North America, travelling through the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park. We turned around just past the highest point (12,183 ft) but not until we stuffed ourselves with goodness from the Alpine Cafe and Tourist Center.
All in all it was the most spectacular ride I have ever done. The sun was shining on us. The leaves were turning yellow. Everywhere we turned the views were breathtaking (or maybe that was the altitude). There were moments of uggh like when I passed a horse stable and considered that it may be better if I climbed to the top on a horse instead. There were moments of “thank-goodness for GU” like when I pulled out the Espresso Love with 2xcaffeine – brilliant boost. My own little bliss balls were genius for the long hall. Mostly though I was thankful for Jared and Melissa who were willing to wait at times for me, who kept me going up and up and were truly the inspiration for the day.
How you arrive at the finish line depends on how you get to the start line. After my crash I had to practice patience while my body healed. I had to overcome the frustration of starting my run volume again for the third time this season 20 minutes at a time. I had to keep telling myself that everything would be ok, hold on, the process is rich, your time will come, keep believing. On the start line I was healthy, itching to race, prepared and happy. Crossing the finishing line I had a huge smile on my face, saw my friends beaming faces and knew that, although not the World Championships in Vegas, there was no place I would rather be.
You know in the movie Love Actually where the first scene is of people coming into the reception hall of an airport and people are jumping up, running and embracing their loved one? Well my reception was like that. My friend Carrie from my University days was there with a huge smile, running and happy to see me even though it was WAY past our bed time (11:30pm). I had arrived home to my best friends. Muskoka 70.3 doubled as a well over due not your typical “girls weekend”.
The Race from Two Perspectives: My Friends and Mine
All you get to see of a race like this is the start, transitions and the finish so you have to have a plan. The start line was packed with people trying to see their loved ones. Little hard to know who is who – they all look the same with wetsuits, different coloured caps and funny goggles. With a little pushing and maneuvering we made it to the best viewing spot. We waved, took pictures were nervous and excited!
With the exception of veering a little to left of the course at one section my swim was awesome. I actually had a thought before the race that my swim was really not where it should be. I have been doing a lot of open water ‘look at the pretty mountains as the sun comes up’ workouts because I simply love it. What I potentially lacked was the killer workouts where I hang onto the wall gasping for air. We started with the guys which I like as it seems they are more interested in forward movement than girls. There are arms swinging and kicking but they lack the desire to maul, push, hold onto, or grab peoples feet. I also knew there had to be one that I could draft. My swim start to finish was beautiful rhythm drafting from the mid-point to the end.
When we saw Tenille come out of the water it was a quick cheer then a full out sprint up the very long hill to transition. It was brutal and our quads were burning but adrenaline got us up. Just in time we saw her run and jump on her bike with a smile on her face. From there, after a deep breath, we had 2.5 hours to go back to the hotel, run, shower and get back to transition for the bike to run…
The bike was cold, beautiful, hard and interesting. The first 45 minutes you are on back country roads that are anything but flat. You go through gorgeous deciduous forest, along the lake and in and out of small towns where people are cheering loudly and the fire truck signals the siren when you pass. Then it is onto a main road where speed and rhythm is the name of the game. The sun was finally warming things up so I could stop wondering if my hands were going to fall off. Rachel Joyce (Britain) and Michelle Vesterby (Denmark) along with two guys caught me half way through and from then on it was the five of us. I found that there was a lot of potential too close for my comfort riding (i.e., drafting) happening as the speed was inconsistent. It was like in a crit race where in the back of the pack it is like an elastic band -speed up and slow down. It was annoying and so, although not the smartest thing likely in terms of energy conservation, I led most of the way. At least then I knew I was within my own power abilities and not worried about others drafting. If it was happening I did not know. (It ended up that a guy did get a penalty.)
It was awesome seeing Tenille onto the run. She and Rachel were within seconds of each other. It all was rather fast. Once that happened we decided we were very hungry. We went to the Deerhurst patio restaurant, sat in the sun overlooking the lake and thought, Tenille should be here. She was running though…
One of the biggest changes for me since starting to coach myself is that I know that I am prepared for the distance from an aerobic strength perspective. Even though I have not been able to put in more than 8 miles running since my crash and am VERY conservative with speed work given my history of injury, I have lots of time on my feet and hiking is my secret training weapon. So although it was a very tough run course I was ticking off kilometers. I also thought (wrongly) that the road back was net decline. The path we took that paralleled the highway was turny, up and down and all around. It felt like it would never end. Then as a grand finale “this is how Muskoka rolls” there was one last hill to transition and the finishing chute. When I finally saw transition I don’t think I ever ran so fast with the crowd and my friends cheering loudly. It was so awesome.
We all wanted to be at different places at the finish. One just at the start to transition, one at mid-finish chute and one at the finish line. Watching the people was inspirational, awesome and so much fun. It was also exhausting and nerve wracking. A brilliant day.
Holli is going to do her first sprint triathlon next spring, Carrie is going to try swimming for her run cross-training in the winter and Carolyn is going to stick with sports with small and medium sized balls (Baseball and Volleyball).I can’t thank my friends enough for making this weekend so brilliant. I am so very lucky to share what I love with people who love me. The best part of it is that I get to keep going! The season has only just begun!
People that really know me know I have a thing for trees. Something about their life giving, strength and resilience is admirable and inspiring. The arbutus tree is my favorite but lately I have fallen in love with the fruit trees in the orchard-like neighborhood here in Boulder. For the past month while walking to and from my favorite hiking trail (Mt. Sanitas) I have been watching each apple, plum and peach tree grow. Every day the fruit grows plumper and the colour vibrates more. I always give a little poke to see if the fruit is ready to fall into my hand. Today was the day – perfection.
It is not always about the training. Sometimes it is just about the juice dripping sweetness of a freshly picked peach.
It is a funny thing experience. When something challenging happens to us we say there must be something that we are to learn from it. This is likely the root of the expression older the wiser. Yesterday I read another expression that is sticking with me.
“Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens.”
I thought this was brilliant as I am back on my feet after the crash. I am running, dreaming of the next thing, excited about all that is ahead. The crash confused me as I got stuck on the why and what am I supposed to learn? Perhaps it does not matter why or what but how I took it on and where I am going to go because of it. I have a tendency to really investigate myself when an obstacle occurs or am presented with a challenge. I think I am going to put a lot more energy into investigating and understanding when all is going right because as the expression goes – experience is what you do with what happens. This is in all that happens. Have joy, share joy. I have a lot to spread around.
With the triathlon event at the Olympics over triathlon federations around the world will be doing some introspection. Triathlon Canada will be among them. Canada’s 4 times Olympian, gold and silver medalist Simon Whitfield spoke out against Triathlon Canada in support of Paula Findlay and her tear soaked finish at the games. He called for accountability from Patrick Kelly, Triathlon Canada’s former coach, Debbie Muir, Own The Podium’s high-performance adviser, and Dr. David Smith, a Calgary physiologist for Paula’s poor Olympic preparation and performance.
The question is who is accountable when an athlete is unable to perform to their potential at the biggest and most prestigious race of their life. Of course there is no easy answer but perhaps the answer lays somewhere between two other questions: 1) How does the national federation develop, support and retain athletes so they are able to perform on the start line; and 2) How does the athlete learn to be the best they can be without breaking down?
Triathlon Canada: Performance based funding and the Development model
The National team selection process of Canada is often envied among athletes and coaches because it is clear. To make the team you have to perform at World Cups. To get to World Cups you make a run standard, make a swim standard, race an ITU event in the past year and you qualify. There is no bike standard. Overall performance at ITU Continental events are not considered if you do not have the standards.
One potential breakdown in this system is the funding model. Sport Canada funding is tied to podium finishes. Federations compete for scarce resources and become the have and have not sports. No podium = no money. This means that funding for a sport can become dependent on performances of single athletes (e.g., Simon Whitfield and Paula Findlay) in smaller sport events. While the Canadian junior development program I believe is on the right track, the federation still pushes juniors up too fast and maintains emphasis among elite on potential podium finishes rather than experience, skill and fitness development and the athletes themselves. One may question then whether it is possible to have an athlete-centred model and have funding tied to podiums. Performance is only ever the outcome of the process. If podiums is the most important measure this will more often than not supersede smart athlete-based decisions and potential for out of the box thinking and experience* .
Leading up to London 2012, there were many races in 2010 and 2011 where Canada had no one on the ITU World Cup start line. National team members were constantly injured and other elites were not given opportunities despite strong results. In frustration with the federation some women changed citizenship (e.g., Alicia Kaye) racing for another country and others decided to “go long”. The talent was there but not the support. Without other athletes meeting standards to race, points not being earned for Olympic spots the emphasis and pressure remained on the chosen few. Canada had no one else. Paula did hold the weight of Triathlon Canada on the women’s side. It crushed her.
In development of an elite triathlete overall fitness is king. One can swim fast, run fast but not be able to deliver on a result. Doing three sports and the speed work required for Olympic distance racing takes an enormous fitness and strength base to stay injury free. Base is developed over years not one season. Performance can be found in one season but if not adequate time has been spent in strength and base work, the athlete will only last that one season. On the Canadian women side the past two Olympics have witnessed issues with this.**
Most elite athletes, myself included, start with the premise that they will do whatever it takes. I began with the goal to make London 2012 and after suffering injury after injury had to give it over. I remember constantly pushing through pain thinking this is what it takes. The niggles in my feet, pain in my hip, tightness in my hamstring became normal until they stopped me entirely. By that time it was often too late. I always came back with more fight and determination that my body will not let me down. The problem is that I was letting my body down. Ronnie Schildknecht, 7 time Ironman Champion finally got through to me when he said, Tenille you will never be the best athlete you can be if the plan is more important to you than listening to the plan your body has. Zane, my previous coach, believed this too but my goals, beliefs of what I had to do constantly got in the way. I kept pushing and pushing. Time changed this and maybe repeating the same mistake over and over and being tired of the same result.
I only know Paula as an acquaintance. I don’t know her training or how she approaches triathlon. I have a feeling it is with a tremendous amount of focus, determination and fight. She perhaps felt an incredible sense of urgency to get back after her injury, pushing harder than an “easy effort”. Constantly testing, hoping, and wishing to be where she was in 2011 when she led the world in the sport.
Did she get in her own way? Only she can determine this but if history is correct, most athletes have to go through tremendous learning to be the best in the world. It never is a straight path. You just hope that the people that are there guiding you aren’t basing their job, the whole sport program, their own success to make it straight. It simply won’t work.
* While I argue that podiums should not be the emphasis for funding I understand that it is an important measure. My question is to what cost does this come. Check out my blog from May 26, 2011.
**Lauren Campbell was ranked 7th in the World in 2006. The following years she struggled with injury leading up to the 2008 Olympics and crashed at the games. Kirsten Sweetland won the Junior World Championships in 2006, podiumed at a World Cup in 2007 and was pushed to perform at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She did not make it to that start line and has been managing injuries since. Paula Findlay after dominating 2011 with numerous wins she has been injured throughout 2012.