Bike riding is fun.  Sure, there are definitely some not so fun parts like when you’re going up a steep ass hill that never seems to end or when trying to maintain that tempo pace into a strong headwind but, hey, life is seldom an unbroken boulevard of green lights so what can you do?   You suck it up and get ‘er done.

But for the most part, riding is fun.

One of the cool perks of getting out and about on your bike is the ability to explore your neighborhood on a grander scale than you’d be able to while, say, running.   Not that you can’t explore while running but on a bike you can go further and if newly taken route should end up in a dead end, it’s not so aggravating in that you have to hike it all the way back again on foot.   This is my theory anyway as I’m sure others will wholeheartedly agree with me.

To this regard, I am also lucky in that I have a lot of room to roam and therefore, explore.  In my immediate area we have a plethora of battle grounds, historic forts, old barns and silos, century old (and even older) stone homes, and more country roads and fire lanes than you could shake a stick at.  Sometimes it’s a total bust or, worse yet, you find yourself cornered by dogs (click HERE), but other times you find something really neat that you never knew existed or something that makes you go “what the fuck?”  as was the case HERE.

Similarly, this was the same kind of scenario about a year or two ago when I came across this at the end of a dead end:

IMG_0351

Yeah.

It’s exactly what it looks like…a stupid big rock…suspended by wire…from a fence pole.

That’s weird, right?

Let me try to put it in better perspective for you on how incredibly stupid huge this thing is.

Here it is with my step daughter standing next to it:

IMG_0396

That’s pretty big, right?

And, believe me, this child is no midget so it sure ain’t no little casting stone.

Here it is again with a rubber duck:

IMG_0399

Don’t ask me why I happened to have a rubber duck.  I just did.

So, like I was telling you:  it’s fucking BIG!

It easily has to be a ton or more.

I remember the exact moment I first spotted it from the road as I whizzed past.  I was riding down to what would eventually turn into a dead end along Silver Bay Rd., here:

Big Rock

And I was all like:

giphy

So much so, that I had to circle back and check it out to make sure that what had initially registered in my head was actually true.

It was.

I must have then spent a good 15 minutes ogling at this monstrosity trying to make sense of it.  Questions immediately began to flood my brain at an incredible rate.  It was like my little lizard brain was trying to instantly run about a zillion mental computations about what on earth could have transpired to result in this huge ass rock to end up hanging precariously from a wooden fence pole in the middle of nowhere bit in each and every model I considered either the world or my brain blew up.

Anyway, just for shits n’ giggles, let me run a few of the more obvious queries I have about such a random curiosity.

  • WHY is it there?

I mean, seriously, why?

What possible purpose could this thing be serving?  Is it the remnant from some ancient Sherkston Stonehenge-like rock formation?  What is some kind of marker or milestone for pilgrims on their way to the local trailer park?

I just don’t get it.

Is it supporting something in particular?  But even then, that be a bit over kill, wouldn’t it?  Like getting the Hulk to open your pickle jar.

  •  WHO put it there?

Was it Heracles?  Aliens?

I inquired with the owner of the house whose property this thing rests when they were out cutting their lawn once and they told me that it was already there when they purchased their home years ago.  This gets me to wondering then, who in their right mind would ever want  to hang a rock from a fence post anyway?  Surely this is not the work of some fancy-pants Ritchie Rich type (of whom there are many in the area), whose name suggests they probably own a yacht, wears only cashmere sweaters and owns a Zurich-based truffle conglomerate.

No.

This is the handy work of a real dedicated working man for sure, which brings me to my last question:

  • HOW did they get it there?

Nobody – and I mean nobody – was ever going to simply lift huge ass thing up there by themselves, that’s for damn sure!  So, even if we did know what purpose it was supposed to serve, how on God’s green earth did they ever manage to get that fucking thing up there?  It’s not like it’s just come to be hanging there accidentally like some discarded orange rind.

Hells no!

Somebody wanted it there and made significant efforts to get it there.

So how in the fuck did they do that?

Did they use a tow motor, Bobcat, medieval lynch and pulley system, or was it achieved through some other lost method of moving around large ass rocks only know to prehistoric druids?

And when they got it up, how did they hold it there long enough so they could wrap enough wire around it to keep it suspended?  It completely baffles the mind.

In my mind this huge ass rock on Silver Bay Rd. is right up there with the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge as far as Wonders of the World go.

Perspective is a funny thing and I was reminded of that just this morning during my usual Wednesday morning swim workout.

There I was, kicking ass and taking names while hammering out the 50m sprints and feeling pretty damn proud of myself.  Everything was turning over well and I was keeping a pretty decent consecutive pace (for me).

I felt sleek, streamlined, powerful, and fast.

In my head, I was all:

Swim1

Totally killing it.

Then about 45 minutes later, another familiar swimmer entered the pool; none other than our 2016 Canadian Olympic triathlon hopeful in Rio de Janeiro, Kyle Jones.  Let’s just say the dude can swim (as you might expect) and while doing so, he makes it all look so damn effortless.  It’s both incredible and inspiring to witness.

So, anyway, he hops in the lane beside me and begins doing his workout.  Suddenly, my 50m sprints didn’t seem quite so…speedy.

Nope.

Now I’m being lapped over and over and over and over…and, well, you get the idea.  In fact, the lane rope separating our lanes began bowing over into my lane due to the sheer force and velocity he was generating while moving through the water.  It was like he had an outboard motor strapped to his ass.

Instantly, I was all like:

Swim2

Crap.

By comparison, my 50m’s now felt like I was trying to move through hot tar.  I was still keeping my same pace but suddenly I wasn’t the speedy fish in the little pond anymore.

No, sir!

Of course, that’s to be expected I guess given Kyle’s athletic prowess, age and, shit, I’ll just say it, he’s a far superior swimmer.

It’s all good, of course.  It’s just funny how suddenly things can change mentally and the silly things that can trigger those positive thoughts into psychological sewage.  Usually, I participate in the morning lane swim with other swimmers who are likely double my age so, yeah, by comparison, I’m a freakin’ marlin.  Next to this guy, however, I’m a sea slug.

That’s perspective!

However, it definitely gives me something to work towards.

Either that, or I’m looking for an ass-mounted propulsion unit of some sort to power me through the water for future sprints.

EPiC Disappointment

Posted: April 13, 2016 in In Transition, The Plan
Tags: ,

I received a bit of a shock the other evening when I opened my email and there was a message from the organizers of the EPiC Dartmouth Triathlon.  Usually, by this point before a major event I start to receive information about the event such as reminders about starting times, transition set up, etc., and this typically makes the event suddenly begin to feel “real”.  So it was with a bit of excitement that I opened the email to see what they had to say.

Unfortunately, it was not one of these types of “exciting” emails.  Instead, it was a message indicating to participants that the event had been canceled.

Huh?

My expression was probably something like this:

article-0-192f265b000005dc-346_306x423

I just sat there dumbfounded.

FML.

Here’s the primary issue as stated in the email:

“Two large sections of our bike route, comprising in total 28 kilometres of race distance, will undergo major construction this year, leaving us unable to guarantee a safe and secure competitive environment for our July 2nd event. Over the last two months, the EPIC team has worked continually with City Staff, NS Dept of Highways, the HPD & RCMP to identify an alternate route we could use for our 2016 event. In the last few days we exhausted the last of those possibilities.”

Now, first, let me just say that I have no issue whatsoever with the event organizers at all for making this decision.  They made the call they felt was necessary after doing what appears to be their very best to remedy an unfortunate and untimely situation.  The organizers have graciously provided participants the option to either a) receive a full 100% refund, or b) transfer their registration to next year’s event at the locked in price for 2016.

The fact still remains though, that I have already put three months of hard effort into training for this particular event including my having hired a coach and, suddenly, it’s all off the table.  So, needless to say, this announcement has therefore left me feeling very disappointed and discouraged and, ultimately, trying to figure out the answer to the immediate question:

What next?

So what it really comes down to is that my options are twofold:

  1. Find another event
  2. Agree to transfer my registration to 2017

My first instinct was to try and recoup the training by finding another event to switch focus to.  The problem being is that I have made other commitments to continuing my involvement with the SunRype Tri-KiDs series of races which I am very fond of being a part of.  That means then that just about every weekend throughout the rest of the summer from July onward will be dedicated to helping them run their amazing series of kids triathlons and my word is my bond so canceling on them now is not an option.  So if I choose another Ironman event later in the summer it will inevitably mean having to train without the benefit of most weekends to accomplish my long runs and bikes…not to mention having to do all this peak training during the hottest part of the year which was also something I was trying to avoid.

Yeah…

1407225932091_wps_6_santa_monica_ca_august_04

…No!

So, how about other July Ironman event’s right?  And there are a few.  My issue with this, however, is that if I am going to fork out the big bucks to do a major event I want it to be something that I am really looking forward to; something that not only myself but my family can get excited about…together.

After all, I’m not in this alone.

The EPiC Darmouth Triathlon (which is currently on my “Bucket List” of races, by the way) was going to give us  the opportunity to travel out to the east coast together and, as HRH  is particularly excited to do…eat cake by the ocean (click HERE).

And, seriously, who can’t get behind a plan like that?

So simply doing an Ironman for the sake of doing an Ironman is not really a favorable option for me either.  What I ultimately decided then was to accept the offer to transfer my registration to the 2017 event instead.  This gives me the benefit of another year focused on the right things to get even stronger and, hopefully, giving me a better shot at actually feeling like I can actually toe the line at this thing as a serious competitor and not just someone hoping to make it to the finishing line (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

So, yeah, I admit it:  I had the secret goal of being able to place well at this event. And looking at the finishing times from last year, it is definitely in my wheelhouse to do that.  My chances of this happening at any official “Ironman” branded race is pretty slim to none at this point.

I mean, some day, sure…but now?

Not likely.

The next big question is:

Then what?

And this took a bit more time to contemplate.  I just don’t want to nothing this summer as far as competition goes so the dilemma I’m having now is basically, if I wasn’t doing this Ironman, what would I have been doing instead?

The answer I kept coming back to was this:

Having fun!

Simple.

The truth of the matter is that I don’t think I’d necessarily be competing, like, at all.  No, it’s more likely I would be doing different altogether; something that still enabled me to be active and healthy and continue on with my training, while still offering me a unique challenge to overcome.  “Competition” doesn’t necessarily have to be part of that formula.

Now so I’m considering other goals to accomplish; goals that perhaps I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish had Ironman still been on my plate.  Among these things I’m now considering include a single day Summer Solstice “Double Century” bike ride on June 21st from Barrie, Ontario to St. Catharines and participate in some local open water swim events at the 5k and 10k distances.  These would keep me both on the bike and in the water while will later transfer nicely into next season’s Ironman training program.

I also plan to keep up with my running as well, specifically focused on perfecting this whole “cadence” thing.  I’d like to keep with the shorter more intense runs like my prescribed fartleks and progression workouts, but there is not real need to keep “going long”…well, not “stupid long” anyway.  The plan would be to keep this strong base I’ve established through these past three months so that I can launch myself headfirst back into the plan next February feeling strong, speedy and capable.

Basically, something like this:

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So that’s it I guess.

It’s on for 2017.

The other thing that helps me with this decision is that in 2017, it will be exactly five years since Ironman Wales and, being the obsessive-compulsive guy I secretly am, I like prime numbers.  Taking another swing at the cat exactly five years later seems almost…cathartic.

What can I say?

It just feels  right.

So, sports fans, I guess there isn’t much else to say aside from the fact that I’m still moving forward, I’m still working hard and, hopefully, there will still be lots more fun adventures to journal about in the near future even though they likely won’t be Ironman specific…

…well, for a few more months anyway.

So am I disappointed?

Sure…of course.

However, will I carry on and come out stronger on the other side?

Absolutely.

Two weekends ago I raced my first long distance event of the season, the Around the Bay 30k (click HERE  for this years results) in Hamilton, Ontario, except that I’ve been pretty quiet on the whole subject…until now.  In short, it was a complete debacle of epic proportions which has ultimately left me very disappointed and discouraged given all the hard work I’ve put into my run training over the past two months.

Seeing as how I finished over 20 minutes off my best time from two years ago (2:31:20), well, let’s just agree that it was a total shit show ending with me walk-slash-trotting at an abysmal pace for the final few kilometers.  In fact, as far as I’m concerned, this event should now be officially renamed the “Painful Shuffle Around the Bay 30k’.

But as the new coach keeps telling me, every failure comes with a new opportunity to learn and improve, meaning, now I’m stuck with the burning question that I’ve been dwelling on for the past two weeks:

What the fuck went so wrong?

The plan was not necessarily to go out and set a new personal best.  No, it was ideally just an ideal “training day” to get a sense how my over all run training has been faring, especially in regards to the whole quicker cadence thing (click HERE).  We agreed then that I should go out sparingly at a comfortable pace of 5:30min/km  for the first 5k, then begin to up my pace gradually over the next 15k or so, before unleashing the big dogs altogether and go for broke over the last 10k to the finish.

Easy enough, right?

Well, the first part of the plan went great and despite the adrenaline and rush of competition, I held myself back just as planned arriving at the 5k mark at almost the exactly anticipated time of 27:30, meaning that I was pretty much bang on my 5:30min/km pace perfectly.  At this point, I was experiencing no issues and was rather enjoying myself.  Well, aside from the fact that I way over dressed for the occasion and sweating like a complete bastard that is*.

But I digress…

After the first 5k I increased my pace by focusing on my “quick feet” just I have been practicing and my pace accelerated to fluctuating anywhere between 5:10-5:20min/km, or thereabouts, depending on the terrain, wind, hot babe runner in tight-tights, etc..  It was still a slower pace than that of my PB pace two years ago, but if I could keep that pace going and then some for the remainder of the race that would put me on a pretty even keel to finishing around the same finishing time having covered more distance in the end…quicker.

“So far, so good”, I thought.

“Yay me!”, even.

Then around the 18k mark the fatigue began setting in, even a little more than you might expect.  Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that running 18k in and of itself is no small feat (well, for me anyway), but this was a different feeling.  My energy began to sap from my body rapidly and all at the exact moment when those stupid long-ass hills started up in earnest along the dreaded North Shore Blvd. portion of the race.  In fact, these hills are what the race is known for.

I knew I was in trouble.

From there is was vicious downward spiral where my quads began to feel like they were being torn apart, and I developed a hot spot in right foot making my keeping any decent pace comfortable.  I knew that my shoes were a bit long in the tooth going in but I figured that they had at least one more long run in them.

Apparently, I was wrong.

By the half marathon mark, I was in big trouble.  From there, well, let’s just say it was a complete and total dumpster fire.  Mentally I had checked out, physically I was broken.  It started by my walking through the aid stations in order to give the burning sensation in my right foot some temporary relief and then graduated to alternating sporadically between a walk and a painful limp for the final few kilometers to the finish.

Here’s the whole shit show broken down pace-wise:

ATB Data

Yeah.

Not pretty is it?

I didn’t even want to collect my race medal when it was all said and done and instead of allowing the volunteer to place it valiantly around my neck as is customary, I snatched it out of her hand and quickly stuffed it in my race bag along with the token post-race banana and package of flatbread.  You’d think that she had just handed me porn, or something.

Fuck that.

Anyway, back to the question (blown shoes aside) – what went wrong?

Piecing together the day, it all started off pretty much like it does on any other given race morning.  One bowl of whole oats with brown sugar upon wake up, a toasted bagel and cream cheese about an hour later with the usual cup of coffee, and then starting about an hour before the start of the event I started nursing my premixed bottle of E-Load performance drink.

What I didn’t do however, was much fueling after that.  Once the race started I just got into my rhythm and blew through the aid stations as I hate jockeying around with 2000 other runners for a glass of whatever, so I tend to just move over to the right (or left) and carry on my way unencumbered.  And this was great for the first 15-18k, no issues.  I think the only thing I had to eat was a single dried honey date around the 7k and, maybe, the 13k mark.  By the time I had reached the hills, I was running on empty.

This was later explained to me by the coach:

“When you run out of glucose and glycogen in the muscles, your body switches from using fatty acids as fuel…to catabolizing muscle tissue for fuel.”

What this means is that when your body runs out of other sources of fuel, it will start to use its own muscle tissue for energy.  Isn’t that sexy?  This likely explains the “tearing” feeling I felt in my quads right around the two hour mark.  Obviously, this is not a normal condition, and your body will only start to use muscle tissue for energy under extreme conditions, such as if you are very sick (I was getting over the plaque I had contracted while in San Antonio two weeks before), severely malnourished or not consuming enough calories over an extended period of time to support normal body functions.

Terrific.

You see, every cell in your body needs energy to perform normal body functions such as moving, breathing, maintaining your heartbeat and healing damaged tissue.  And over the course of runner 30 kilometers, there’s lots of damaged tissue going on.  Normally, carbohydrates from your diet supply the types of sugar your body uses as its main source of energy.  To get enough sugar from your diet to supply your body with the energy it needs, approximately half of your daily calories need to come from proteins, fats and carbohydrates.  I likely had enough of these stored carbs from my early morning feedings and the previous evening’s meal.

During digestion, your body will break down those carbohydrates into simple sugars that are then converted to glucose, or blood sugar.  That resulting glucose travels in your blood to every cell in your body, where it is used to manufacture energy.  If you consume more sugar than your body needs for immediate energy (and Lord knows I enjoy my treats), some of the excess is converted into glycogen, a type of sugar that is stored in your muscle tissue.  If your body needs glucose, and no sugar is coming in from your diet, glycogen is released from your muscles and broken down to supply enough glucose for energy to last about half a day.

So when I failed to “stoke the fire”, per se, by replenishing those stores of glucose I had in my body before the race started by providing it with more regular quick burning stores of simple carbohydrates, my body more or less reverted to eating its own muscle tissue in an effort to get the necessary glycogen to keep me going.

So, yeah, great!

My body was basically cannibalizing itself for the last 10k.

Amazeballs.

So, what’s the learning opportunity?

EAT YOU STUPID BASTARD!

So going forward this is my new mission to figure out a proper fueling strategy for both before and  during my long workouts, especially now that I’m heading into my long bike training period as well.  During these training runs (and bikes, for that matter) I will need to begin experimenting more with what I am taking into my body, as well as how often, in order to be able to sustain the required energy level.

My issue with that though, is that I don’t necessarily want to spend the equivalent of the Gross National Product of a small underdeveloped country on gels and sporting supplements to do so.

But the dried honey dates just aren’t cutting it anymore.

Now, given that I “go long” at least twice a week (long, being over two hours), that’s a lot of expensive sporting gels.  Of course, I would definitely prefer real (cheaper) food.  But not only does that “real food” have to be the right type of quick burning fuel, but it also has to be easily portable to boot.  After all, to my knowledge, there is no catering service for long distance athletes that will agree to set up an elaborate fueling buffet station ever 5k or so along my predetermined workout route…is there?

Yeah.

Doubtful!

So let the learning commence…

*This is a long standing tradition I have with this event in my never being able – for whatever reason – to figure out how to dress appropriately for the occasion.

Now, before I go any further with this post, when I refer to “naked training”, I am not referring to some weird and perverted nudist variety of swimming, biking and running in ones birthday suit.  And Lord knows that when it comes to this  body, that would certainly be a grizzly sight.  No, what I’m really referring to is the working out without  the benefit of a technological gadget with which to keep track of your workout.

I know, I know: “Say it isn’t so, Terry!”

But, yes, some crazy bastards actually think this is a good thing but I’ll get to that shortly.

It all happened innocently enough.  I was napping downstairs in front of the boob tube when the wifey decided she’s going to install some shelves in the kitchen so – as is prone to happen during impromptu DYI sessions – out comes the hammer and before you know it, my nap is interrupted by a total cacophony of banging and hammering.

So it’s so long nap time, hello pool!

However, in my haste to get the sweet fuck out of there, I forgot my beloved Garmin Swim.  In fact, I was half way to the pool when I glanced down at my wrist and realized it was bare.

Fuck!

Now, I have to be honest here, I had a good mind to pull a u-ey right then and there in the middle of Highway 3 and high tail it home in order to fetch it, but then the other side of my brain chimed in and said, “fuck it, it’s not important”, so I just continued on.

How bad could it be?

Well, it sucked.

I felt totally naked – hence the title.

See?

I said I’d get around to explaining it.

Anyway, some will try to rationalize that science will say that there’s actual value in flying solo sometimes without your gadgets and instead, learning to sense your intensity and training capacity.  These purists will claim that these gadgets disconnect them from the special moments that are often hidden during exercise.

Umm, “hidden moments”?

Hidden moments, like that magic moment where I get distracted during one of my runs, maybe the tops of some trees I was passing where blowing majestically in the breeze, whatever, and I ended up traipsing through a huge pile of dog shit in the middle of the road?  Yeah.  Magical.   Or how about that special moment where I tried to pee on the bike (click HERE) and ended up pissing all over myself.  In these cases, let’s just say that I prefer being “connected”.  The implication here is that by unplugging you are working out more for the “joy” of working out than for any other intended purpose.  And while I will confess to enjoying working out, I don’t think I necessarily workout for the joy alone.  Besides, if there is any joy to be found I’d like to revel in it afterwards by reviews the stats.

Others will suggest that training with the bare minimum of equipment liberates them, physically and emotionally, and frees them up for even better performance.

But, umm, how would they really know?  I mean, you can brag about how awesome a workout was but without the data to back it up, it’s just a grossly exaggerated tale of awesomeness.  The kind of story that fishermen will tell one another one too many cocktails.

And as far as being “free for a better performance” is concerned, well, I know that when I have me some kick ass tunes blaring in my ears I’m focused 100% on my performance.  In fact, I don’t notice anything else but my performance.  Hell, I have an entire blog dedicated to it (click HERE).  So if there’s some backing data to also verify that performance as provided through my Garmin 910XT, well, all the better if you ask me.

So, to me, these fitness hippies are just assuming the whole “if a tree falls in the forest” philosophy of training, except in my case today it’s “if I’m doing laps in the pool and I have no Garmin to track them, did they really happen?”  Anyway, the whole point I guess is that they rationalize the whole concept of naked training that it is somehow “healthier” to every once and a while leave the technology at home and simply go work out for, hell, shits n’ giggles I guess.

And to these technological naysayers I say:

Now, I admit, I’m not necessarily a complete gadget freak nor am I huge lover of technology.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that these devices are able to do what they do solely based on some sort of witchcraft voodoo or other, but that doesn’t mean I also haven’t learned to love the technology that I do have.

That’s right!

I like my gadgets and I am complete data whore and I don’t care who knows it.  Let’s just say that I like to see the end results at the end of my workout to validate all my blood, sweat and tears.  How far did I go?  How fast did I go?  What was my average pace?  How many calories did I burn?  These are important fucking questions.  Oh, and hey, nothing will give me a boner quicker than a good post-workout bar graph, let me tell you.

C’mon, look at this:

Data1

That shit is legit!

Now look at this:

Data2

Doesn’t have quite the same allure does it?

Fuck no!

Totally awesome-light.

So call me a hypocrite, I couldn’t give a shit.  But while your judgement hangs over me like the Eye of Sauron, what else is there really to say?

I missed my Garmin Swim today.

Deal with it.

The Coach

Posted: March 20, 2016 in Lifestyle
Tags: ,

967036_519246998132966_1405095889_oLast week I enjoyed my first outdoor bike ride of 2016.  It was rather fitting and bittersweet in that I also got to share this same ride with the Coach, otherwise known in non-Internet blogging circles as Saskia.  You see, in a few days, Saskia will be embarking on a new and exciting adventure by moving to New Zealand to pursue other professional opportunities.  And while I am genuinely thrilled for her, it’s not without a bit of selfishness that I also admit that I am also a bit disappointed to see my friend and mentor go.

So at the risk of getting all sappy and opening myself up to being mercilessly teased for being a big softie at tomorrow’s TryForce going away party, I’m going to outline just how important a role she has played in my life.

In truth, Saskia has been pretty much present for this entire triathlon crazy train I embarked on over eight years ago.  So, basically, she has been there to witness the whole transformation from fat, single, pot-smoking, triathlete wannabe with absolutely zero skill to a semi-fat, family-orientated, non-pot smoking triathlete wannabe with marginal to mediocre skill.  And believe me, that’s a huge transformation.

I first met Saskia in the pool at the St. Catharines YMCA for the then TryForce Master’s Swim. I liked her immediately because her bed head was even worse than mine.  She swam in the fast lane at the far side of the pool and I remember thinking: “Jesus, she’s like a dolphin”.  At the time I could barely paddle from end to the other without drowning so I was pretty much in awe.  It wasn’t until the next year when she coaxed me into the Fast Lane “for company” when a few other regular Fast Lane swimmers failed to show one morning.  I was terrified and a whole lot intimidated.  I could barely keep up after 50m or so and I’m sure I got lapped about a dozen times by the time the workout was over.  I was absolutely spent.  However, I was also encouraged and motivated to work on those damn drills Coach Roberto kept preaching about so that, eventually, maybe I could manage to ride in her wake for a couple hundred meters or so – if I was lucky.  I’m sure she thought nothing of it but I was enamored for sure.

Later in the Spring I participated in my first triathlon in Milton, Ontario, a sprint distance event.  Again, I barely survived.  I do, however, remember her trotting past me at some point during the run like I wasn’t even moving (and there was a very good chance that I wasn’t).  She chirped something positive or encouraging as she went past.  I don’t rightly remember what it was as my heart was beating inside my eardrums at the time and I was trying to not – you know – die.

Again, I was in awe.

We spent more time that summer riding together with the TryForce group on Sunday mornings and I got to know her a little better over the inevitable coffees that followed the ride as I peppered her with endless questions about triathlon, her experiences with the Ironman and, well, whatever else it was that popped into my mind.  During these group rides I tried to ride up alongside her as often as I could to try and glean as much as I could.   Towards the end of the summer she mentioned she was in fact training for a half Ironman competition and was looking for a partner for her longer rides and would I be interested.

Wait, what?

Me?

Keep in mind that by this point I had probably never rode more than 30-40 kilometers at a time and I still tracked my workouts by the kitty cat calendar on the kitchen wall.  I was flattered though and so I agreed, albeit with a certain amount of trepidation. So suddenly I was doubling my biking mileage and truly learning to love the bike.

I still do and I reflect back on those rides all the time.

It was during those rides in between gasps for breath she expressed her confidence that I too could complete a long-distance triathlon if I so desired.  I wasn’t so sure, of course, but if she  thought I could, well, then maybe…just maybe.  Anyway, as a result a plan was hatched to make the big jump from short distance triathlons to the Ironman distance; I figure I was delirious with exhaustion at the time.

But here’s the key part: she agreed to help  me.

At the time, she was aspiring to become certified as a Canadian Triathlon coach and was in the market for a willing victim guinea pig with which to train.  I likely never thought it would ever happen but I agreed regardless.  Over the course of a few more rides we planned out a three year plan leading up to the big event…unbelievable as it still seemed.

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Completing the plan – even while traveling on business in the Philippines.

During that following winter, she invited me to start running with her on the weekends with another friend Kerr (yes, that’s his name) to train for the Around the Bay 30k race in March. Up to that point, my runs equated to running around the block until I felt like puking.  Now, here I was trudging distances I had never before imaged, nor cared to imagine, up and down the endless inclines of Pelham and Fonthill with two very capable runners.  I like to think they were just humoring me by letting me tag along and “keep up”, but they were likely just making sure I didn’t get too far behind so that I would get lost.  Eventually, over many long, cold hours of pavement pounding I could just about keep up…barely.  Hell, she even coaxed me into running 10k in an elephant suit (click HERE).  But the most amazing thing happened somewhere along the way: I actually turned into something resembling that of a runner.

We also started swimming together on weekends and, again, over time I started to be able to keep up.  Low and behold, I started believing that this whole Ironman thing might actually be possible.

And so it went for the next three years.  Every month I received my monthly training plan and every week I checked off and completed the assigned workouts either on my own or, quite regularly with Saskia herself.  Whether on business or otherwise, I followed the plan.  Each year I found myself getting faster, stronger, and more confident.  Through osmosis, I even started to pick up the basics of training and training plans, although I’ve never been quite so successful or confident at doing it myself.  Even in the years since those official training plans, I still often find myself asking: “what would Saskia do?”    Through it all though, I had found myself not just a Coach and a regular training partner…but a friend.

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Was it something I said?

Over the next three years I finished 5 Half-Ironman competitions (the Cancun 70.3 being among them) with my times  getting exponentially better and better, ultimately, accomplishing my intended end goal being Ironman Wales itself, which I like to think, went very well…”Well” meaning that I didn’t die.  Her husband Nelson even showed me how to tear down, pack up and reassemble my bike into her bike box to get to these events (click HERE).

Understand that NONE  of this would have been possible without Saskia.

None.  Of.  It.

And although we may not swim, bike and run as dutifully together as we used and she isn’t officially “coaching” me anymore, she is still my close friend.  Her daughter and HRH  have become close friends and she (and family) even served as witnesses at my wedding this past May.  I should also add in here that she got up early and ran long that morning while I slept in.

So while I wish her well on his new journey, I will miss laughing, gossiping, and chewing over life in general with her.  I know we will stay in touch regularly through the magic of the Interweb, of course, but it won’t be same as being out riding together as we did this past weekend.  So, yeah, I’m a bit sad.

The truth of the matter is (although she will likely not accept any credit for it) that, largely thanks to her, I’ve not only evolved as a triathlete…but as a person.  And while it might be some time before we ride, swim or run together again, one thing is for certain, Ironman New Zealand just took a huge leap to the top of my bucket list.

As I alluded to in a previous post, my run workouts have become a bit, well, “intense” (click HERE).  Seldom do I ever have anything resembling an “easy run” in my training plan anymore.  No.  Those days are long gone.  Now everything has a specific purpose; either build strength or improve pacing.  And now the new Coach has gone and thrown another monkey wrench into the machine: “cadence”, or the number of strides I take per minute.

Yay.

While I’ve always heard about the benefits and importance of cadence from other “runners”, I’ve never really given it much thought or consideration.  Now when I first started swimming I didn’t see the importance of drills, or “watts” when I first started spinning either.  But eventually I did come to understand the importance these training tools provide and I have since incorporated them into my daily workouts religiously…but “running cadence”, well, not so much.  What can I say?

I can be a bit slow on the uptake.

And truth be told, when I was first told via email to “focus on my cadence” over, say “pace”, this was the first thing that came to my mind:

 –

Needless to say I wasn’t impressed.

Imagine me doing that through the back roads of Ridgeway in my stretchy tights.

Yeah.

I’d likely be burned at the stake as a witch.

However, being the dutiful foot soldier I am, I decided to give this “cadence” thing a chance.  First, however, I wanted to investigate it a little more in depth to discover what exactly the whole point and perhaps what the ultimate payoff will be come Ironman time.

What I’m really trying to say here is “hey, what’s in for me?”

What I’ve come to understand is that our bodies love rhythms.  And I’m not talking about your crunchy reggae beats but the natural rhythms of life itself.  We thrive on them.  Our heartbeats, breath rate, and need for rest are all based on rhythms that occur naturally in the body.  When our body has a natural rhythm to follow, it doesn’t have to work as hard. It just knows what to do and goes about the business of getting it done.

Okay, so “easier” you say?

I’m listening.

It turns out that most runners run upright with a long stride, causing them to land on their heels with their feet out in front of their bodies.  I happen to run like a retarded orangutan on stilts.  This tends to overwork the legs, as they have to pull themselves forward with each step.  Heel striking also causes huge impact to ankles, shins, knees and hips, and is a primary cause of running injuries. And Lord knows I’ve had my fair share of those the past few years.  However, when we run with a quicker cadence, our stride becomes shorter, making it easier for our feet to land underneath us, which then reduces heel striking, saves our knees, and helps prevent other injuries.

So, it minimizes injury too?

Go on.

Furthermore, most runners will spend too long in the “support stance,” or landing phase of their stride.  During that time, our leg muscles are engaged and supporting our body weight which, in my case, is a lot; fast bastard I am.  When you have a quick foot turnover, you’re supporting your weight for less time.  You actually expend less energy and become more efficient – two benefits that are especially important during those long training runs and on race day.

So I’m even less fatigued?

Fuck, yeah!

WINNING!

So how does one improve their cadence then?

Personally, I imagine running on hot coals.  This means that my stride is typically a bit shorter but my “turn over” rate is much higher.  After all, I don’t want to get burned on those imaginary coals.  You could also think of it this way, your forward momentum really only happens when you’re not on the ground but are actually in the air – get this – moving through space.  Wrap your brain melon around that!  You’ll just have to believe me here but there are, like, tons of scientific studies on the ‘ol Interweb thingee that you can reference.  Not that I really understood any of it but that’s the basic premise.  So the longer my foot is on the ground, the less I’m technically moving forward through space.  So, rather than think about actually planting my foot I concentrate on keeping it off the ground and therefore moving my fat ass through space.

This is basically my new focus now for all my runs and for the past few weeks, I’ve been trying it on all  my training runs; fartlek, long or otherwise.  I was initially curious what my actual cadence was so I learned that I can calculate my run cadence fairly easily by counting every step taken by my right  foot for 30 steps.  I then needed to divide this time into 3600.  The first time I tried this, about two week s ago, 30 steps with my right foot took me 22 seconds. So, 3600 ÷ 22 = …… Blue?  Cantaloupe?

Fucked if I know.

I failed math.

But when I got home I tapped it out on a calculator and learned that I take approximately 163 steps per minute, or the equivalent of a three-legged sloth doing the Watusi.

Good for me.

What I can tell you for sure beyond a shadow of a doubt is that it sucked…at first.

But stuck with it I did.

After a few workouts, I was able to increase my cadence to about 180 quite consistently; 180 being the recommended cadence for truly minimizing my risk of injury.  Now, I can’t maintain this for long periods, yet, but during these 2 and 4 minute intervals my Garmin data does verify that I am running at a must faster that I initially thought possible. Eventually, after approximately 6-7 workouts, I’m actually finding it a bit easier and spot-checking a few times during each of my workouts confirms that I am indeed running at an elevated pace – dare I say it – easier.

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The other noticeable difference is that ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning don’t seem quite so beat up after my runs and that  is definitely a good thing.

On my weekend long runs I am now focusing on increasing my cadence every 20 minutes so that I am, in fact, increasing my pace over time and distance and therefore becoming more adept at running more efficiently and effectively; basically finishing strong instead of dragging my ass across the finish line broken and battered which is usually the case.

And, this, is how I want to finish my Ironman.  I don’t want to simply survive the marathon as I did before (click HERE  or a little recap) – I want to rock  it.  The Ironman run is definitely my “limiter”, as it with most people I suppose.  Well, fat bastards like me anyway.  However, this time around I want to bend this thing over my knee and slap it’s ass.  So if that means getting more comfortable with and capable of maintaining a strong run form by working on this fast cadence thing, then so be it.

It’s on.