July 17, 2015

Recovery 2.0

I've posted before about recovery, but in this last week before my biggest race of the season I'm trying to take it to the next level. There's not much more to be gained in the fitness department at this point, except by allowing my body to absorb as much accumulated fatigue as possible. Maybe I'm grasping at straws a bit, but I can use all the help I can get. So here are a few of the things I've been up to lately to try to squeeze every drop of benefit from the training and racing I've been able to do.

You thought golf attire was dorky? I've upped the ante with this mini-golf get-up, post-Tremblant 5150. Behold, the compression calf sleeves. Really, is there anything more alluring than legwear that says "I could have picked up some compression stockings at Rexall, but then I'd look like an old person and besides these cost 3 times as much so must be better"?

Tiger Woods, eat your heart out

Let's talk next about the trigger point foam roller. We've had a turbulent, on-again off-again relationship. Since my piriformis injury last month, we've become cautiously re-acquainted. To add a little spice to the relationship, I've introduced a 3rd partner... the tennis ball. As recommended by my physio, the humble tennis ball -- when rolled beneath your glutes with the weight of your body on it -- can become a device of both torture and relief. (Sidenote... I think when blogging about tennis balls starts to sound steamy, it means I need to get out more. Maybe put on a dress or something. But I digress.)

Tennis ball absent, missing in action since I last saw my youngest kid playing with it

Moving on to the Epsom salt bath... I've heard all kinds of great things about this longstanding remedy to muscle soreness. I've had people ask me how it works. I usually manage an answer like "It draws the stuff that makes your muscles sore, out of your muscles." I really need to knock the rust off my undergrad biology so I can sound a little more convincing. I added about 10 drops of lavender essential oil to a cup of salts, and gave it a shot the other evening. Verdict? I think I felt a little better afterward... and really, having a warm bath doesn't suck. So I'll call it a win.

4 kg of Epsom salt. If all else fails, I can do curls with it.

By far the coolest (literally and figuratively) thing I've tried for recovery is the Cryo-Cabin. If it sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie -- well, that's what it looks like too. Complete with nitrogen vapour rising out of it like Han Solo's carbonite prison. Are you kidding me? Who would pass that up! Apart from claustrophobics. Or people who don't like getting cold. Behold, the Enclosure of Doom:

"I love you!"... "I know."

Yes, I'm naked in there. And yep, you read that temperature gauge right... -145 degrees. You step in, wearing a couple of pairs of socks -- presumably so your feet don't freeze solid to the platform and necessitate an awkward call to the fire department. The technician adjusts the platform height so you're roughly up to your neck in the tank, with your head sticking out. You're asked to keep your hands out of the tank, as "they get cold pretty fast" -- I didn't argue, figuring this was an appropriate occasion to just do what I was told. The tank uses liquid nitrogen to cool the chamber, shooting frequent jets of vapour at you over the course of the 2.5-minute treatment. One of the techs asked me to turn 90 degrees every 15 seconds, so my body didn't get blasted in the same spot the whole time. I felt kind of like a rotisserie chicken... if the purpose was to freeze the chicken rather than cook it. I felt my skin get very cold, then really stopped feeling much of anything. When it was time to get out, I was a little hesitant to touch my skin, recalling demonstrations where someone gleefully shattered all manner of objects after they emerged from a nitrogen bath. In actuality, I'd say the sensation was pretty close to that feeling you get on your legs when it's -30, you've been skating on the Canal with a good north wind ripping through, and you neglected to wear long underwear. Except in that case, you're on the hook for way longer than 2.5 minutes since you need to be there at least as long as it takes to get your kids a Beavertail. When I emerged, people excitedly asked how I felt. Well, for the first few minutes I didn't really feel anything due to the numbness... which was an improvement over the slight achy-ness I went in with. Once feeling returned, I'd say I still felt pretty good for about 20 minutes before some of the soreness crept back. And getting thrown in a freezer on a hot day did feel invigorating. Would I do it again? Well, this was a one-time free trial at the grand opening event. I can't really see paying $40 a pop for 2.5 minutes of super-chilled nudity. Neat to try it, though.

Another key element of recovery is sleep, and general rest. I read somewhere that for optimal recovery, if you're standing, sit. If you're sitting, lie down. If you're lying down, get some sleep. What?? Yeah!! All this talk about being too sedentary and the perils of sitting around all day... ha! I'm sure there are dissenting studies -- like those I choose to ignore that say red wine isn't really good for you -- but I'm going to go with the idea that putting my feet up and binging on Netflix makes me a better athlete. 

July 12, 2015

Race Report -- Sydenham Triathlon, Super Sprint

July 12, 2015 
200m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
Breakfast: Sbucks bagel and cream cheese, tall 1% chai, water, some of my Skratch bottle

Finish time: 1:13:36 (1/23 OA, 1/4 AG, 1/30 men and women)

Wooooooooooyeahhh!!! Today, I had my first OA win -- and also came in ahead of all the men, which was a nice bonus. I've been close before, but I was really pleased to finally pull it off.

Smiles and swag (and sweat... lots of sweat)

I decided against driving down to Sydenham (near Kingston, about 1.75 hrs from Ottawa) the day before. My car's been giving me issues, so I figured I'd throw the extra $100 at that rather than at a Motel 6. Besides, my event didn't start till 10:00, so as long as I made it there before kit pickup closed at 8:30, it was all good. I'd get up at 6:00, throw on my suit, top up my tires, hit Starbucks for drive through breakfast, and be on my way before 6:30. Except that's not exactly what happened... let me start by saying:

Never touch your bike before you've burned off the early-morning stupids.

I discovered that the fastest way to empty your tires of every last drop of air within 1.5 seconds is to push the schrader end of your pump against the presta valve on your tube. Now you know -- in case you ever want to do that.

No problem, still got out of the house in time to keep to the schedule. Except when I got to Starbucks, it turned out they didn't open till 6:30. So I kind of did that hovering by the door thing, watching the baristas move around inside till they opened the doors. OK, still recoverable. Munching my bagel, I hit the highway with a little extra getup-and-go -- and proceeded to miss the exit to highway 7. Really? Anyway, I did eventually make it to Sydenham, find the venue, get my race kit, rack my bike, and settle in.

Bright start to a hot day in Sydenham
It didn't take long for the sun to get uncomfortably hot. I'm currently sitting here at 7:30 pm, and the humidex is still at 37. It was stinking hot out today. There, that's out of the way. I was the first super sprinter in the water to warm up, mainly because the lake was so beautifully cool. This is the first race I've ever done without a wetsuit -- yes, even the 200m swims. Don't judge... I love me some free buoyancy, alright? There were dozens of small fish cruising around, and when I stopped in the shallows and stood still they started to gather around my legs. Some looked intrigued by my shiny blue nail polish. Before a feeding frenzy could ensue, I meandered over to the start line.

Swim split + T1: 7:46

You'd think that 200m would be a piece of cake, given that yesterday I swam 3k. However, despite positioning myself well at the line and feeling good during my short warmup bursts, I was soon getting passed and feeling thrashy instead of strong and smooth. This is not new for me, but it's frustrating that while I can swim at a leisurely pace for ages, things go to hell as soon as I pick up the pace. On the plus side, I don't have to flip over on my back anymore to keep breathing.

Mercifully, the swim was over quickly and I started running as soon as my feet found land. I passed a number of folks on the run to transition. Unfortunately, at least 3 of them passed me back when a lens popped out of my sunglasses and I had to pause to get it back in. This was not the day to be biking and running with no shades. With everything finally sorted, I headed out on the bike in 5th place.

Bike split: 39:41

Personal best on the bike! I finally broke a 30km/h average speed, which I'm really happy about. Though the course was open to traffic, vehicles were mostly very respectful and gave a safe amount of space. I took the lead near the end of the outbound leg -- which I wasn't sure of at the time, as I didn't know how many people had beat me out of transition. The turnaround was slightly confusing, as I had interpreted from the course map that it went all the way to Perth Rd. so I had the flashing light at the intersection in my sights as I initially blew by the actual turnaround. Heading home, I tucked down small on the downhills to try to ease off the legs without giving up too much speed. I kept pushing to the end of the course, knowing I would need some breathing room to hold off faster runners.

Run split + T2: 26:09

I hustled through transition, cramming half a waffle into my mouth and chasing it with a couple of gulps of Skratch. I don't carry anything on the bike for the 20k distance, and I normally don't take in any food for this race distance. But with the heat, and the fact that my two previous days had contained a 2 hr ride and 3k swim respectively, I didn't want to push my luck. The run course along the Cataraqui trail would have been lovely, had it not been for the oppressive heat. I kept reminding myself that everyone was running in the same conditions. I passed a bunch of people, but until I reached the turnaround I still wasn't sure of my position. Honestly, I didn't fully trust it even then, as there's always the possibility someone's wearing the wrong colour bib. I got passed only once, by a woman in the Oly group. That sounds pretty good on paper, but I felt pretty wretched and would have preferred to be doing something other than running at that point. Everybody on the course, and even after the finish, looked like I felt. With a seemingly endless 500m to go, I glanced over my shoulder to see if there was any sign of someone catching up. There wasn't. I kept going as best I could all the way across the finish line. I wanted to run the best time I could, but also frankly... the sooner I got there the sooner I could stop.

Somebody get Todd a snowcone, stat!
Accepting my award from Christine and one of the awesome volunteers

Celebratory dinner, even got most of my body marking washed off first

July 11, 2015

Race report -- Bring on the Bay

July 11, 2015
3k swim
1:14:39 (38/56 AG)

Beautiful morning for a swim
Another first crossed off the list! This was my first time tackling the Bring on the Bay open water swim, spanning 3 km between Nepean Sailing Club and Britannia Yacht Club. A day after a 2+ hr bike ride, and a day before racing at Sydenham, my main goal was to get in a solid long swim training session and have a good time. I seeded myself around 70 minutes, which scored me a nifty green swim cap and a comfortable spot in the rolling start off the dinghy dock. As soon as we hit the channel leaving the harbour, it became immediately apparent that it might be a better day for sailing than for swimming. Most attempts to sight ahead ended in getting slapped in the face with a wave. Trying to breathe to the left on the northward leg yielded a similar result. 

Thankfully, the choppy water conditions were more than made up for by a) my wetsuit enabling me to bob like a cork, b) large sailboats anchored every 100m that were pretty hard to miss, and c) 650 other people heading the same direction. You figure most of them probably know where they're going. There was also a fellow on a stand-up paddleboard corralling us into a pretty narrow lane on the outbound leg. 

Once we turned eastward it was easier going, and a straight shot to the ladders at BYC. Because of the rough water, it was tricky to draft without making contact. Consequently, I ended up swimming more of the course solo than I intended. I felt good throughout though, and while I kicked it up a notch over a few short stretches, I kept most of the effort at a steady simmer to keep something in reserve for my tri race tomorrow.

The most fun of the morning was post-race breakfast at Cora's with a gaggle of folks from the OTC. Yeah, food! Only triathletes would discuss the best remedy for ingested river water over a big plate of eggs and toast. If you're interested, yogurt, probiotics, and Coca-Cola were at the top of the list. Hey, if it takes rust off a nail, I'm sure those bacteria don't stand a chance, right?

Post-event breakfast with OTCers

...where shenanigans inevitably ensue

Goofy and slightly waterlogged