Posted by: pursuingsub17 | July 5, 2016

Closing the curtain on endurance races (for a little while)

I’ve mentioned in this blog before how difficult it’s been to train while trying to adjust to a new diet due to my recent celiac disease diagnosis. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m also going through a very hard time in my life mentally. If it was just a new life change regarding my diet, I would be my old self and say “I can get through this”. Unfortunately, there’s more going on than that. And it’s really hampered my ability to feel mentally focused and motivated to train. Physically, I’m in good shape – despite having to watch carefully what I eat. Mentally, not so much. And they say that endurance racing is part physical and many parts mental. Well, I just lost the second part this year.

I don’t really understand what’s going on with me or why it happened. I’m guessing it’s some type of depression. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe going gluten free has mental side effects??? Maybe after years of being the “fixer” and everyone’s cheerleader, I’m burned out. It’s time to look after myself but I can’t because everyone NEEDS me. I’m an introvert so I don’t unload on others (well, except poor Marc when I’m really losing it). I just don’t talk about it to anyone because that’s not my style. Introverts prefer to be alone when they need to decompress and definitely don’t like chit chat or drawing attention to themselves. It’s equally mentally exhausting.

Regardless, in the end, there’s just been too many mental stressors lately that’s taxed my ability to push forward with long training days. Work is WAY more hectic and I have a lot more responsibilities than I did in the past, back when I could train for even an Ironman – no problem. I have people in my life who are going through a really rough time too and, as extroverts, they tend to want to talk about it a lot…and lean on me a lot – and I am a sponge for people’s emotions. I also feel constant financial stress that sometimes gets so bad, I don’t give a rat’s furry butt and I spend, spend, spend, thinking my retirement plan will be to off myself before I retire so I won’t live in a tin shack and eat cat food at 70. I worry about where I’m going with my life (mid life crisis perhaps?).

It’s all been too much. I’m forgetting important appointments, forgetting to pay bills. Friendships have suddenly become in jeopardy because I make plans and then cancel because I don’t have the energy to go anywhere anymore. I definitely don’t feel excited about training for a big race, competing in one, or even cooking (which I used to love to do). All I want to do is sleep.

But I can’t sleep. I’m having nightmares and anxiety attacks at night so I lay awake, my head spinning and realizing yet again I have to cancel meeting someone for lunch or a social outing because I can’t stop my mind chatter. I feel like I’m going nuts. I told Marc I feel like I’m sitting on a tiny tree branch and rocks keep piling up in my arms and I can hear the branch creaking, knowing it will snap any minute.

Being an introvert, I’m finding I need more time to shut down and do things that are less stressful (I’ve recently took up miniature gardening and suddenly developed an interest in painting!). As much as it’s been therapeutic in the past to go for a long run or a bike ride, there has always been pre-planning and a little stress involved. Biking in particular, as much as I love it, always involved negative thoughts to control and conquer. Such as: “I’m going by myself for a ride for 3 hours – what if I get hit by a car? What if there’s a storm half way through my ride and I’m a long way from home? What if I get a flat and I can’t change it? What if a coyote or rabid dog starts chasing me?” Before, I could just say “shut up. You’ll be fine. Just get on that bike and go” and I would go and enjoy it. Now I don’t have that capacity anymore. Any long training days seems too overwhelming.

So what does this mean? Am I giving up on that dream to one day finish an Ironman? No. I’m sure that day will come…, when I’m semi retired! But it does mean I need to take a few years off from any long distance. I want to have fun doing it again.

I still have to contact Calgary 70.3 to tell them I’m dropping out. I doubt if I can get a second rollover for that one – pretty sure “I have to drop out because I’m losing my mind” isn’t really a good excuse! LOL. But I am still looking at a few sprint races to still stay in the game and actually have fun. So I’ll keep you posted as to my new races.

Oh! But I did organize my first team ever! It will be for the River Valley Ultra in Devon. My first race back in 2006 was a 5k trail race in Calgary so it’s fitting that the one race I’m looking forward to is a trail race at the end of race season ten years later J.

In the meantime, I’m going to focus on getting better mentally and still find time to stay physically healthy. It’s going to be a challenge. I have to quit feeling guilty for turning off when others lean on me too much or don’t respect my need for my own space and time. I think that was one of my demons I mentioned in my pages in this blog. Meditation has helped but I need more time for that. I may even seek out a retreat to recharge the batteries and get my mojo back.

So the curtain is coming to a close since I started this blog in 2009 – but it will reopen again my friends. And sometimes it might part a bit when inspiration hits to write again and let you know what I’ve been up to.

Take care – look after yourselves – and all the best for those of you still on the goal path to your dream race. It will happen! Just gotta get over the occasional road bumps and detours.

Peace out! 🙂

I’ve been really struggling with the whole “should I or shouldn’t I” question about Challenge Penticton. During the day or while training (whether the training feels successful or not), I feel I can commit. In the evenings before bed and mornings when I’m filled with anxiety and overwhelmed by the fact that I just can’t keep up with everything in my life, I really have doubts that this is “THE year” for a long course triathlon. For the first time ever, I’m afraid to spend a big wad of money for fear I can’t put the training time in dealing with a huge life change. That leads to…I’m not much of a triathlete then if I can’t do this.

I explained what happened to me in a previous blog. I have Celiac disease – diagnosed March 30th. Now the disease in itself isn’t what’s making me tired. It’s all the work involved. In the past I was able to fit in the long training days but I feel like I can’t now. I’m tired a lot – it’s very time consuming, as I explained in the past blog.

On top of that, I feel like I’m on the precipice of a big change in my life. Not just going gluten free but at 48, I think I’m going through a change, mentally and spiritually. Physically, not so much. Still the same weight and pretty healthy, just a few more wrinkles. I’m sure my boss and my mom would like to say it’s hormones but I don’t know. Maybe. But I did study psychology and I know people go through phases of change as they hit certain times in their life. Inner turmoil always happens to me leading up to that change and then it levels out. It’s like the economy or war or environmental changes:  Upheaval, followed by change and a leveling out.

To deal with the mess in my head and process not just the fact that I have this lifelong life changing disease but that there is some other personal growth that I’m experiencing, I’ve returned to the practice of meditation. This time, I am really trying to practice the real Buddhist approach to life and develop a deeper understanding of the faith – if that’s what you call it – maybe doctrine. I’m taking it much more seriously than I did in my 20s. I’m sure, just like a visit to a psychologist or a teenager trying acne medication for the first time, the shit comes to the surface first. I feel both clear headed and anxious at the same time. But it has helped open my mind and receive guidance from the most surprising sources on quite a few things…the “should I or shouldn’t I” question in particular.

When you still the mind, you open your awareness to the present and all the answers you need come forth. I have a guided meditation session I particularly like that teaches one to live life without conditions or expectations. The main goal of Buddhism is to understand that the ego is attached to the past and the future. Any fears, doubts or anxiety about future events is because the ego is afraid that things won’t turn out the way it wants. That’s how I’ve been feeling about this big race. What if I spend this money and can’t do the training? What if I do a half ass job and can’t finish the race – like I did in 2013? If I race and can’t finish, I fail. If I can’t train because right now life is getting in the way, then I fail. I fail being a triathlete. Back when I had the energy and thought I was healthy, I told everyone I was committed to this race. So if I can’t finish or can’t even sign up, I’m done. I’m done as a triathlete.

No – not so. What I learned from my meditations is that I shouldn’t put those expectations on myself. Who I am isn’t in the future – who I am is in the present. And who I am is and always will be a triathlete whether I do this race or not. So the answer is to just let things be and let things unfold naturally – because no matter what, the way the universe works, it will be the right thing for me. If I get the training in, and I will definitely try, I will register then. If I try but life changes prevent getting it all in, I will decide then if I have enough in to at least attempt to finish the race or would be better off being Marc’s sherpa this year. If I decide that I can do it and I am the last one crawling across the finish line, that doesn’t make me any less of who I am. Whatever the outcome, it isn’t because I’m a failure and don’t deserve the title “triathlete”. It’s just the simple fact that I couldn’t make long course happen this year so that I can find the much needed time to adjust to my new lifestyle and eating habits. Maybe this year, the universe wants me to focus on adapting to a big change in my life. But I don’t have to throw in the towel either. I just have to let it be. If this race is meant to be this year, then the means to get the training in will happen.

On an end note, today I received a notice that Jasper Blake posted a blog. Usually I wait until I get home from work but I read it on a break. I learned a lot from the post as it touched on a lot of what I’ve been going through in my indecision to register this year. Sill the mind and the answers will come to you. They say when the student is ready the teacher appears. Mr. Blake has helped me realize that I already am who I am striving to be. I’m a triathlete and if I accept that, the universe will put the wheels in motion. This just reinforces how important it is to turn off the mind chatter, live in the now and be receptive to the universe sending you the answers.

So a month ago I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I accepted it. It certainly explains a lot and to be honest it was a relief to know what was going on with me. I had been suffering for years but in the last two, it’s been really bad. That led to a test for colon cancer of all things last year and then “no cancer so we’re not sure what it is – probably IBS”. That was a previous doctor. Thankfully I had one that asked the right questions in February to find out what’s really wrong with me.

To give a quick explanation of the difference between Celiac and Gluten Allergies, Celiac an
autoimmune disease triggered by the allergic response to gluten (protein found in wheat, rye and barley). Where the body attacks and damages the small intestine. The villi (imagine grass) in the intestine is destroyed, putting the individual at risk of lacking nutrient absorption (imagine a flat, desolate dessert on Mars without plant life, unable to absorb nutrients). There is no cure or pill I can take – I simply can’t have anything with gluten for the rest of my life.

At first I thought – well, no more beer (Dear Heineken, please produce a gluten free beer that tastes just as yummy as your regular stuff!). I can handle gluten free food (really, the products now are much better than in the past – except bread. Still trying to find a good one). So I thought – business as usual. Just need to change my diet. So I didn’t think it would affect me much. However, after a month, I’m starting to see how much this is eating up a lot of time and there are other effects of going gluten free (supplements for fiber, vitamin B…list goes on and on).

Since my doc ordered me off gluten, grocery shopping, throwing out food items in my condo that have gluten (and that Marc doesn’t like eating anyway) and fervently checking ingredients in anything that goes into my mouth has become all consuming. I’ll be seeing a dietitian recommended by the gastroenterologist (sp??) but I haven’t heard from the clinic yet. So for now, I have to educate myself through research in addition to all this grocery shopping and food preparation for lunch and dinner; I clean constantly to watch out for cross contamination.

Anyway, my emotions are all over the board with this one. It’s life changing. One minute I’m joking – then I’m cranky, the next minute I’m overwhelmed and half the time I can’t think straight. I have “gluten ADD” because I stop whatever I’m doing to look up if a food I’m planning on eating or a vitamin I’m taking might have gluten. Then I forgot the task that I was doing before my thoughts were interrupted with “I wonder if (said item) is safe for me to eat?”.  Next thing I know, 2 hours have gone by while I search the internet because it keeps providing me links to other related topics.

What does this mean for training? This was a question one of my Twitter pals posted. To be honest, I thought this is the least bit problematic. I had to get rid of some of my Cliff bars (well, gave them to Marc) but most of the stuff I eat for training is pretty much gluten free. And I seem to have gravitated toward gluten free pre race meals anyway just through trial and error (ie – choosing rice over pasta made me feel less “bulky” race morning). I just realized through experimentation what worked for me and made me less uncomfortable on a long run or bike ride. All the more reason to make those yummy SkratchLabs’ gluten free rice cakes! And especially drinking their all natural sports drink mix.

What I hadn’t realized until lately is how little time I have for anything and I’m really wondering if I have TIME for training. It isn’t the diet. It’s the time consumed. Between a full time job, house chores, grocery shopping, meal planning, prepping and preparing and trying to fit in some social time, training for a big race might be out of the question. At least for this year until I get a handle on this…if ever.

And the diet isn’t cheap. You slap the words “gluten free” on anything and it justifies doubling the price. On the upside, I don’t eat a lot of crap anymore (most instant foods have gluten in them). On the downside, it’s expensive and time consuming. At the end of the day, after buying my own cutting boards, cleaning cloths and utensils as well as the over priced gluten free food, there isn’t a lot left over for new gear or race fees.

I think what I need to do is find other Celiac athletes. Because right now I feel alone and I know others can make it work so I should be able to as well – just need to find out how they make the adjustments. I guess if I look on the bright side, running and triathlon has kept me relatively healthy and sane – I may just have to tone it down a little to fit it all in.

I won’t harp on this issue – it won’t become all-consuming in this blog because that isn’t what my blog is about. If I mention it, it’s because I’m learning how to adjust my life at 48 for this big change and hopefully any information I come across might help other up and coming triathletes make the adjustment as well if they suddenly discover they have Celiac or gluten allergies as well.

And in that…hopefully I won’t feel alone anymore if I can help fellow athletes just diagnosed with the same disease on their journey. Because, kids, that’s what this is all about!

Posted by: pursuingsub17 | March 22, 2016

Running alone on the road not taken

When I was a kid, my mom introduced me to the poetic world of Robert Frost. I was in a girls club (called Job’s Daughters – a young female offshoot of the Masons) and at the time I was elected Librarian, which entailed reading prose and poetry at every meeting.  Mom is a good writer, and has a strong appreciation for the classics. When I had no idea where to start looking for a good poem to recite, she told me to about one of her favorite Frost poems. It was called Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. I remember being able to picture the scene in my head, hearing a gentle wind through the trees and seeing the gentle snowfall. It reminded me of the woods our house backed onto and how much I loved cross country skiing by myself through the pine and poplar trees along the snowmobile trails. I decided this would be my first poem to read as the official Librarian that year – thought it was peaceful and a pretty cool poem to share at our meeting. If it touched any of the other girls present at the meeting in any way, I have no idea. I just know that the poem elicited a beautiful vision in my head.

What I hadn’t realized was what it meant to me on a deeper level. Over the years, I realized that this was my first insight into myself – my love of things peaceful, quiet and introverted vs. the loud, hectic buzz of an extroverted society.

Ironically, that same year, my high school English teacher assigned us a project; pick one of 5 poems, analyse what it meant to us personally, and write our own poem using the same title. Again, Robert Frost was able to voice what I couldn’t to others verbally. That poem was The Road Not Taken. To me, it meant choosing my own path without the influence of others – doing something against the grain, against the standard set by society, and not feeling my decision was wrong.

Life is like a poem – subjective. We are all different for different reasons with different needs and goals. The key is to understand yourself, accept that this is who you are, and seek out what best caters to your personality type as well as your spiritual and physical needs.

That’s why I think about these two poems whenever I’m out on a run or a bike ride on my own and wondering if maybe I would be better off to train 7 days a week with a group. Then I see a trail that I’ve never taken before, maybe one that the City just cut along the river valley, and I remember why I’m out here and what those poems meant to me. While I definitely get the need and the benefits to train in a group (especially for newbies who can gain so much from training with others), I know this isn’t always the case for me because my needs are different. Being an introvert, and a lover of all things quiet, I run, bike and swim to block out the noises around me and deal with the internal stress that drains me. I enjoy just heading out and discovering new trails and paths to take (always wary of dangers around me of course!). I heal and re-energize when I’m alone – and right now I need a lot of healing given my health worries. Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy being sociable and having two or three workouts a week with others. After all, we’re all creatures that need some level of social interaction. But I do need my alone time as well – and being on my own is my personal, spiritual and physical need.

I know my way isn’t for everyone – and maybe it isn’t for you. Again, it’s being able to gain personal insight that will guide you on what path is the best to take. There’s nothing wrong with a desire to be around others as a social outing, using the competition to push harder, needing the motivation of others to gain a personal best. But there’s also nothing wrong with those of us who sometimes prefer to get lost in the moment, escape stress, decompress, listen to our inner voice, experience that Zen moment when we crest a hill and see this amazing valley open up below us – full of bright green against blue skies and not a soul on the winding road road…except for the odd cow or horse in the field on the edge of the highway!  If you’re like me, you already know that sometimes it’s good to just be on your own once in a while, running the road not taken.

Posted by: pursuingsub17 | March 7, 2016

Get back up on that horse if it throws you off

We’ve had some wonderful weather in Edmonton. On Saturday I actually saw the Canada Geese flying over my condo, heading North. It was a great feeling. I’ve been itching to get on my bike again outside. I’ve been doing the spin classes with my cousin at the gym (who insists I join her – whatever – it’s free and I’m VERY broke right now) as well as the windtrainer at home. But there’s nothing like riding outside.

Sunday…it snowed. Oh well. But it did remind me how badly I want to be riding the bike again, especially after a 1 year hiatus. Well, sort of. I rode twice finally last October once my arm healed a bit but then Old Man Winter came. Still, although I missed being on pavement and smelling exhaust fumes and/or farmer’s fields, there’s that little twinge of always worrying about being out on the road alone. However, you can’t let this get to you – or you’ll never ride.

When I was 5 or 6, I was obsessed with horses. I watched a CBC TV show around that time called The Forest Rangers (all repeats because I think it was over by the time I was 5). I wanted to be a young forest ranger and ride a horse. My dream came true when my parents brought me to a small farm ranch in Manitoba where I could have my chance. The farmer let me choose which one and of course I had to ride “black beauty”. He put me on bareback and I hung onto the horse’s mane while he slowly paraded around the yard and I had a big smile on my face. As my parents chatted with the farmer, the horse noticed a door open to the corral. This was the exit to a short pathway to a pond. You can guess what happened next.

The horse bolted. I was screaming for my life. My mom (and she told me this years later) was chasing after the horse thinking she could grab the tail to get it to stop just like she did with their family dog. The horse was nearing the pond, stopped suddenly, and, as Newton’s First Law of Motion states, an object in motion stays in motion. I went flying off the horse, missing the pond, but doing a belly flop right on the hard ground, knocking the wind out of me.

Once I was able to breath, I began screaming and crying. The farmer told me I better get back up on the horse or I’ll never ride one again. “No!” I screamed. No way was I getting back up on that horse. To this day, I’ve never been on a horse since.

Flash forward to June 2015. I’m sitting propped up by a tree on the side of the road watching Marc put Sarah Lee in the back of our Nissan. My elbow popping in and out of its socket and me trying not to throw up. I immediately thought of that childhood memory of the horse and swore up and down that although I was physically damaged, I could not…and would not…let myself be emotionally, psychologically damaged by this accident.

In October, 2015, it was one of the last few fall Sundays where I still had the opportunity to ride outside – the elbow healing enough that I could hold myself up or be in the aero position. I had been riding my mountain bike on the bike paths – where I felt I was safe – but it was time to get back on the horse. I had decided to avoid the residential street that I had my accident on so my nerves wouldn’t be rattled. I started at a safe point, biking on fresh new pavement that eventually connected to my regular route. I had to do it. If I waited until this year, I probably wouldn’t be able to do it.

I managed a 2.5 hour ride before my arm started feeling weak. But I finished with a smile and most importantly, relief. Now here I am today, watching the geese return, waiting for the ice and snow to melt and the roads to be cleaned of debris and gravel from the winter months to get back up on that horse.

Keep trying friends. Don’t let the boogy man (or zombies or fresh water killer fish) stop you from getting that open water swim done again. Keep doing it. Keep practicing over and over to get over the anxiety. Fall off the bike? Get back on. Bonk on a run? Deal with it. Go out and do it again, only with a little more smarts. What ever you do, don’t stop trying – no matter what it is you want to do. Have faith in yourself. You have to get back on the horse or you’ll never ride again.



Posted by: pursuingsub17 | February 24, 2016

#PinkShirtDay and finding inner strength through sport

Today is Pink Shirt Day in Canada. The organization is a national campaign against bullying that started in Nova Scotia when a group of brave young highschool boys stood up for a classmate who had been bullied for wearing a pink shirt. You can read the story on the website – it’s inspirational – as well as the many other stories that have been posted on their page and Facebook.

This campaign is close to my heart, being a victim of bullying myself during my school years, particularly junior high. However, I have to say I was lucky. Back then, social media didn’t exist. I can’t even imagine how widespread hurt can damage a victim. It reaches out much further than the confines of school.

Still, bullying affected me in ways I never understood well into my adult years. Social anxiety, depression, anorexia, and ultimately negative coping habits were a big part of my life for two decades as an adult. I never thought for a moment that my behaviour might have been the result of years of enduring bullying as a kid. I just thought I was a lost soul who fell through the cracks. It may have also been why I continued to stay in a mentally abusive relationship for almost 20 years.

Thankfully, my story continues on as a happy one. I’m here to say that, although I do not at all condone bullying, I’m an example of someone who can survive and move beyond bullying. Close to a mid-point in my life, I walked away from a very dark place and also ended the poisonous relationship I was in. I met a great partner, Marc (also known as @ironinnovations on Twitter). I’ve also gained confidence and self acceptance through an amazing support network and getting involved in running and triathlon. These two sports really taught me to dig deep when I felt like I was ready to give up and rewarded me with an incredible sense of accomplishment when I know I did the best I could to get across that finish line, no matter what it took. Through triathlon (and running!!), I also bonded with a great group of healthy individuals across North America who believe in encouraging others.

My only regret is that I didn’t discover triathlon when I was younger. Where I grew up or maybe at the time I was an adolescent, the popularity of triathlon or running simply didn’t exist. And unfortunately, I wasn’t very good (or the popular choice) in team sports. Seeing what running has done for my cousin – who experienced the same kind of bullying as I did – has confirmed even more how important sport is to discover one’s inner strength. I think my goal over the next few years devote more time to promoting the sport to younger people in small town Canada J

So for #PinkShirtDay, to show my gratitude and help put an end to bullying, I’d like to #PinkItForward to both triathlon and all of my fellow athletes that I have met on my journey who helped me become the strong woman that I am today.

Now it’s your turn – Coast Capital Savings donates $1 each time the #pinkitforward hashtag is used up to $45,000 in order to support anti-bullying programs. Use it on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. For more information on how to use this hashtag and get involved, go to

Posted by: pursuingsub17 | February 17, 2016

Good night’s sleep just as critical as a good training session

I think we’ve all seen the Tylenol commercial – the one where the woman lay in bed, wide awake, at 3am, singing childhood tunes that are locked away in memory during the day or wondering why the word “abbreviation” is so long. She looks at the clock. It’s 3am. She looks at her husband. He’s fast asleep.

If there’s one thing that’s going to hamper my training this year, it’s my mind that won’t shut off at night. Sometimes it’s stress (worrying about money for instance), but many times, it’s nonsense. It starts off innocently; gradually waking from a dream and suddenly a song I listen to regularly on my iPod or a commercial jingle plays in a continuous loop while I wonder about a movie or a show I’ve seen. I decide maybe I’m wide awake because I need to go to the bathroom. So I go. I come back to bed and lay on my other side, thinking that maybe my sore shoulder is what’s keeping me up. I try and relax but I can hear my heartbeat. After some time goes by, my hip starts to feel stiff, so I roll over again, wondering if I slept at all in those few moments. Has only a few minutes passed or an hour? I then start doing the math, counting how many times I’ve flipped over. Usually I turn over every couple hours. Okay, then I’ve rolled over twice. So I must have had 4 hours of sleep. But remembering the first time I woke up I felt like I slept longer than that. So maybe I’ve had 5 or 6 hours??? That would mean I have 1-2 hours left before my alarm goes off. Good. I’ll just settle down and relax and sleep for another 2 hours. My mind starts churning again, thinking about something funny that happened on the weekend or something I have to remember to do this week. When was the last time I gave the dog her allergy pill? Was that last night or the night before? Did I pay the cable bill? Crap. That reminds me – my loan payment comes out tomorrow. Must remember to transfer money from my account to cover it. Oh yes, and I have to remember to top up my RRSPs with a loan before the end of the month. Did Marc do his taxes yet? I wonder if it’s going to snow tomorrow morning. I remember hearing something about snow. I have to get gas before I go to work. I’m pretty sure there’s only a quarter tank left. Well, never mind. I can think about that later. I still have 2 hours to sleep. That’s when my alarm goes off.

Sometimes I’m lucky and this doesn’t happen – but there are times that I’ll go 4 days with only 3 hours of sleep per night. And while I LOVE shows like the Walking Dead, I certainly don’t like feeling like a zombie at work. I can usually make it through work but it is one hell of a time trying to convince myself to hit the gym or go for a run after work when I can’t even stay awake at my desk. By 4:00, I’m texting my cousin and my husband that I can’t make it to the gym today. I told my co-worker today I won’t be joining her run group tomorrow – I won’t have the energy.

I’m thankful if I only have one bad night – I can usually bounce back the next day. But if it’s a week of insomnia, like this week seems to be turning into, I have to skip the training. Some people might slug it out. I can’t. And if it is a full week of getting a grand total of 10 hours, I’ve blown a week of training and when the weekend comes, I can’t get out of bed early enough to make it to any morning spin class.

Last year I read an article in Running magazine that if in doubt, sleep is just as important as getting training workouts in. If you have a bad night, you’re better off skipping the early morning training session and get some sleep.

Now here I sit at my computer at work, with eyes that feel like they are about to slip out of their sockets, I remember a blog I wrote about shift workers and what they need to do to ensure they are getting enough sleep. I should re-read it. It would seem I have completely forgotten the tips from that blog on how to get a good night’s sleep.

So if you’re in the same boat as me (and I’m sure a lot of us are – especially as we get older and have to deal with more stress), try these tips (adapted from the “Fatigue” fact sheet found on the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety):

  1. Determine your personal sleep needs and try to keep that as a regular habit. We’re all different. Some of us only need 6 hours, while others need 8 to 9 and that can change over the years. There are many factors that influence our sleep requirements.
  2. Do not overindulge in food and exercise only a few hours before bed time. Try not to schedule intense workouts late in the evening or you will have a restless sleep. If you need to refuel before bed, try a light snack or protein shake (do not scarf down a burger and fries right before jumping into bed).
  3. Leave any stressful activities for the daytime. Going to bed after looking at your bank account while determining if you can afford another race fee might cause nightmares!
  4. Try not to watch TV, check your phone or look at your tablet within 30 minutes of bed time. It’s been proven that the light emitted from these LED screens messes with your melatonin levels (the hormone that tells you when it’s time to sleep).
  5. Limit coffee, alcohol and other stimulants before bed.
  6. Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary! Keep it strictly for sleeping (not doing homework, texting, work projects or scheduling your workouts) and keep it cool, dark and quiet. I wear ear plugs and I cover up all sources of light. It works for Dracula – it will work for you!

Of course my disclaimer is….do as I say, not as I do. Because as much as I already know these things, putting them in place and making them a habit is another thing.  Swimming, biking and running 3 times a week became a much easier habit then looking after my sleep habits. But the best thing to do is keep reminding myself that sleep health is just as important as being fit.

Now…off to make my ONE cup of morning java! Early to bed tonight. Tomorrow is a new day.

One thing about my personality is that I always do research before I completely believe that someone’s advice is the gospel truth, regardless of who they are. Might be the “Jungian” in me (Carl Jung encouraged his students to challenge his and others’ theories in a continuous search for the truth). After all, if we always believed what people told us, we would still think the earth was flat.

That being said, I encourage anyone reading my blogs to do the same. I’ve said this before, what I blog about is strictly what I’ve discovered and what works for me, and is my opinion based on experience and personal research. It’s meant as a guideline.

So – where am I going with this? Well, lately I’ve heard comments regarding hydration that make me scratch my head. There’s a misconception out there that one does not need any hydration during exercise. I’m wondering if this is one of those typical human cognitive errors. Someone hears the valid statement, “you should not take on too much water when running a marathon”, therefore a person interprets that as “hydrating is bad for you. Don’t drink it when doing endurance sports”. You know – when one is told to do something in moderation, it is human to take that as meaning either all or none.

Here are two such statements that I’ve heard recently:

  1. “I never hydrate during a marathon – you don’t really need to.” This was a statement made by a running store salesperson to a personal acquaintance when this individual was enquiring about a hydration pack to use while training for her first marathon.
  2. This one is scary – I actually heard an experienced coach out of the US state, “There is no scientific evidence to prove that you need hydration during training or a race.”

Interesting. And really, as I’ve said before, everyone is different. Perhaps the salesperson and experienced coach have years of experience and have adjusted their hydration needs. Maybe their body mass or sweat ratio affects their needs. Or they are simply human camels (like my cousin). However, they were speaking to individuals who were training for their first endurance sport.

I can’t say I’m an expert on the subject but I do know that personally, I sweat. I sweat a lot. I lose A LOT of fluids and uber amounts of salt, electrolytes, whatever. I would probably die if I didn’t at least start out super hydrated or kept my hydration consistent during a training run…or race. Again, everyone has different needs. You need to find out yours – preferably not the hard way.

Back to my thoughts on doing your own research to get all the information before deciding on a truth…I wrote a blog for the company I work for (health and safety) in 2009 when I was training for my second marathon and first triathlon. I had found some reputable websites that gave the facts on hydration. I wrote it for the industrial worker in mind but it applies to anyone staying active in the outdoors (including cold weather – where you don’t realize how much fluids you are losing due to the cold). I’ve provided the link below. In addition to explaining why humans need water, it provides a source where you can determine your hydration requirements.

Since then, while coaching my cousin last year, I found a few other decent websites that can help you formulate a reasonable opinion about hydration. One of them is the University of Arizona Athletics Sweat Rate and Fluid Replacement Calculations with Recovery Plans. I got my cousin to use it. I use it. I encourage others to use it.

The other is a very good article discussing pre-hydration, and dehydration correlating with a decrease in performance as well as the dangers of hyponatremia. It’s a well-rounded Position Stand that outlines that basically summarizes that everyone’s hydration needs are different depending on factors such as (but not limited to) body type, gender and the environment. It is an online publication by the American College of Sports Medicine’s official journal, Medicine & Science in Sports Exercise, titled “Exercise and Fluid Replacement”.

 I’m sure there is a lot of information out there on the ever controversial subject of hydration needs during exercise. Just make sure that what you are reading is from a reputable site (and not necessarily a blog like mine!). Draw your own conclusions. Test your needs and realize that when someone offers friendly advice, that it is always good to do your homework as well!

For entertainment and an easy read on hydration, check out the blog I wrote for our company back in ’09. I think since then I’ve become even more educated on the subject but I know I still have a lot to learn! #triathlon #ElementAMB


Posted by: pursuingsub17 | February 2, 2016

Year of the Monkey – Tear it down, rebuild and back to basics

Okay, my New Years’ Resolution was to get back at this blog again. I’ve been ignoring it. The last few years have been heavy with personal issues that wore me out. I had a good race year in 2014 but 2015 was so-so and with work being super busy, I just didn’t find the time or passion to write. On top of that I had started feeling burnout from training. It got to a point where I did minimal training because I just didn’t care. Somewhere along the line I had lost the whole idea of my pursuit So…let’s start again and see where it takes me.

I found out that as of February 8th, it is the Year of the Monkey. I was born in 1968 – also the Year of the Monkey. So I am taking this as a sign (no pun intended) that this will be a year of bringing it all back to the beginning and aim for great personal accomplishments.

Last year in general

To summarize, the end of 2014 and most of 2015 was riddled with a lot of let downs. I was tested for some frightening health scares that I don’t want to elaborate on but it was scary and enough to drain me for months.

2015 was also the start of the slumping Canadian economy, and subsequently, Marc lost his job in the new housing industry. So money was really tight for quite a few months and we wound up in more debt to cover bills and expenses. I broke my elbow in an early season biking accident and had to cancel all my triathlon races for 2015. The season ended with attempting a 3rd marathon but having to walk it out because my old IT band injury in both legs returned. Then, from about August until now, I have been suffering from some kind of digestive health issue. I’m having lab tests done next week for Celiac disease – but my doctor is pretty sure it’s just all the stress I’ve gone through. Might even have something to do with my decline in training (where my digestive system is usually optimum! Ha ha – to quote a certain doggie food commercial).

But there were positives too so no sense in focusing completely on the negatives. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and all that.

I took my triathlon adult community coaching course in May with the intent to start helping others who were interested in the sport. Over the next several months, I gave a lot of advice and direction to a co-worker who used to be a runner but became very interested in triathlon. I also coached my cousin so that she could run her first marathon. It was a great feeling to see both of these individuals accomplish what they set out to do – to finish their first ever race in both triathlon and marathon running.

Marc bounced back too. He has a great new job and he’s really kicked up the workouts and training. It’s great to see him back at it and his enthusiasm and dedication is wearing off on me!

Oh, and with my broken elbow, I couldn’t swim or bike but the upside is that it allowed me to: 1.  Focus on running – something that had trailed off in the last 2 years when I focused more on the bike and, 2.  Realize that I REALLY missed triathlon. I missed being on my bike and swimming. I missed the art of the transition and testing out different nutritional strategies. So what I thought was a negative turned out to be a positive.

Running more definitely paid off. I got a PR in the 10k Night Race (1:01) and placed 1st in my division at the Veterans Day Heroes’ 5k in Palm Springs, CA. I also got a PR in my 5km on that day – just over 28 minutes!

So what is in store for me for the Year of the Monkey?

Well, January was riddled with anger and depression but after reading my old blog entries, I realized I need to pull up my socks and dive back into the sport that got me through some really rough times in the past and chase away my demons.

Helping and supporting others last year to accomplish their goals was just as rewarding as racing. It gave me so much personal satisfaction that I want to dedicate 2016 to not only improving my time and reducing risk of injury, but continue to help others reach their goals. I plan on doing more self-directed research and education as well as take courses to make sure I’m promoting best practices, while still understanding that what works for me, doesn’t necessarily work for others – it’s just a guideline. I at least want to share what I learned about “me” in the process and encourage anyone else interested in amateur sports to do the same. It’s a learning process – triathlon (or running a 5k or biking a fundraiser) opens the door to yourself to discover who you are – find out what makes up “you” and what your own needs are.

It’s going to be busy, training and trying to get the word out where I can (social media, volunteering, supporting newcomers to the sport). Right now, I’m in the process of joining Element’s Ambassador Program – dedicated to helping both promote the sport as well as good sportsmanship!

Really – that’s what this blog was originally supposed to be about. That is, sharing my story in the hopes that others can join me on the path to becoming better. So it’s time to get back to basics.

As for races, I’ve chosen two key triathlons: Calgary 70.3 (who I am eternally grateful for allowing me to rollover my 2015 fee to 2016 due to my injury) and Challenge Penticton. This year, Challenge Pen is a new distance and a precursor to the 2017 ITU World Long Course Triathlon. It’s longer than a half iron but a wee bit shorter that a full iron distance. So my goal is to finish this distance in 9.5 hours (you have 12 hours to finish). It’s going to be very exciting for Penticton, Canada and North America and I’m going to be thrilled to participate.

I’m hoping to add a third sprint distance triathlon as a practice race, aim to run a sub 60 minute 10k race. I’m also considering a team entry for an ultra-race in September – the River’s Edge Ultra in Devon, AB. Haven’t seen updates yet on the website but we do have a team of 2 so far (one of them is the friend of ours that I had previously mentioned).

So stay tuned all you Monkeys, Dragons, Tigers, Rabbits, Dogs, and the rest. 2016 is going to be full of great stories for all of us!

Posted by: pursuingsub17 | November 18, 2014

Ironman Calgary 70.3 Race Report – Long Overdue!

I wrote this some time ago – but life has been topsy-turvy for me. I’ll save all my life’s events for a different blog. In the meantime, I wanted to get this blog posted. Calgary 70.3 2014 was by far the best race I’ve had since I started the sport. There were many hurdles I finally managed to crawl over; I finally got over the perpetual plateau and am climbing up higher. They say every race is about learning something. It took me 4 attempts but I finally had many “aha” moments. In February of 2014, I felt it was time to take a year off…this race changed things. Ready? Here it is…a lengthy one but I had lots to say! It’s in point form so hopefully easier to read :).

  1. Something learned from past races – I will always show up at least 2 days before a race of this caliber if it’s out-of-town. I’m more relaxed and not rushed. The plan was also to take a week off in Kimberley as my recovery time out in the mountains. I thought – if I didn’t do well in the race, who cares? I was looking forward to having time off and not being on a training schedule. I honestly didn’t think I trained much but going over my recorded workouts after, I guess I did. Always trust your training kids.
  2. After checking in to our hotel and a late dinner, we slept like the dead. The next day, I picked up my race kit late morning and headed to Auburn Bay for bike check and a swim. Testing the water for a good 15 minutes completely calmed my nerves. The water was a perfect temperature, clean, and I glided through the water like a hot knife in butter!
  3. Dinner was bbq chicken and mashed potatoes and we ate early – I also drank 2 pints of soda water. Back at the room, we relaxed at the hot tub and went to bed around 9:30pm.
  4. I had a bit of a restless sleep with a grand total of 6 hours but that’s still better than prior years.
  5. By the time I got my Betty Designs tri suit on, slapped on the sunscreen and packed, I was a bit wound up. We also took a bit too long to pack up everything, check out and get over to Auburn Bay. Lesson #1 – get up earlier.
  6. Battle of the Breakfast – the plan was to eat my mom’s puffed wheat cake, drink my CarboPro/SkratchLabs drink mix and eat the banana I pilfered from the free hotel breakfast the day before. Big mistake – I hate bananas – but I try eating them because like everyone else, I heard they are good for an athlete with its potassium benefits and all that. But this particular banana was badly bruised. The first few bites were okay. Then I saw a brown spot the size of a toonie. I shut my eyes and bit into it and immediately gagged and convulsed so badly I just about hit my forehead on the dashboard. Marc was smirking but kept his eyes on the road. I said, “oh no – not again” (see Challenge Penticton Race Report) and burst out laughing. Marc later described it as me looking like Willem Dafoe getting shot in the back in Platoon with my arms flung up in the air and violently jerking my whole body forward in the car – banana in hand and squished all over my clenched fist. Well, that broke the ice – and I decided just to munch on my mom’s puff wheat cake instead. That went down fine with the sports drink mix. Lesson #2 – don’t eat something you don’t like for breakfast on race morning!
  7. Communal Tire Pump – Got to Auburn Bay an hour before the race start. Located my bike, pumped my back tire, and immediately had triathletes beg for my tire pump. I spent about 20 minutes chasing down my pump from two fellow athletes who promised to bring it back but didn’t. Hmmph.
  8. Marc shouted at me from the fence. I brought the rest of my gear over to him and he scolded me, “never – ever let someone borrow your pump again. Fill up your tires, pack it in your bag and get the hell out of transition before anyone asks”. Easier said then done.
  9. Now I had 30 mins after I tossed everything to Marc and headed for the porta potties. I knew I could get my wetsuit on in about 5 minutes so I figured I had time but the bathroom line up was terrible. Calgary 70.3 never has enough porta potties. Then they announced that transition was going to close at 6:45. Stupid me – I should have accounted for that. So I now only had 15 minutes! After an eternity it was my turn. After doing my business, I snuck through the opening in the fence, technically out of transition. I managed to get my wetsuit over my hips but then having developed a broad swimmer’s chest and back this year, I was struggling with the zipper. Lo and behold a nice police officer offered to help. Perfect.  I wish I got his name. He saved me from another fit of anxiety. Lesson 3 – show up more than 1 hour before race start for a half Ironman.
  10. Swimming like Dolphins. After waving at Marc and giving him the thumbs up, I boldly marched into the crowd of athletes. On the beach, I finally decided to myself further ahead into the pack. Good choice. I struggled at first to get a good position as we started swimming like a horde of piranhas in a feeding frenzy but at 500 meters I found a great pack to swim with. We were like dolphins, all working together, rotating to draft off each other. Another first for me – no fighting panic and not once did I use the breast stroke. Victory #1: This was my “first” for any triathlon – I had finally conquered the swim. 0:39:00 – a 6 minute PR for the Hamster.
  11. I utilized the wetsuit strippers, found my bike and ran out of transition in about 5 minutes – slow, yes, but another first for me – Victory #2. Marc was right there taking pictures as I came out with my bike and a big smile on my face.
  12. I headed out on the bike with a pack of other women and onto highway 21 feeling great – not winded at all. My plan was to eat my 3 chocolate/peanut/coconut rice cakes (thanks to SkratchLabs’ Feed Zone cookbook for those) – planning on one every 40 minutes – and sip at my light drink mix from my aero bottle every 10 minutes with the intent to drink my Carbo Pro/SkratchLabs mix in the last half hour of the bike (to reduce bulk on the run but still have calories). I’ve become obsessed with the nutrition aspect of triathlon as of late so pardon my digression on nutrition.
  13. The other plan was to mentally repeat something I learned from fellow blogger, Treadmill Confessional (thanks my friend!)“Stay in your box”. People were passing me for the first 10km. I kept looking down at my speedometer and it said 27km per hour. I told myself NOT to go over that until the last half no matter how many people passed me – stay in my box.
  14. Bike course Beauty. I have to say the new route was just as pretty as 2010. The scenery took my breath away – making me forget I was in a race. Still not convinced I trained enough on the bike, I was just going to enjoy the ride and the amazing view of the mountains each time I crested a hill.
  15. Speaking of hills, they were tough – but I had done the same grade and distance a few times out in Sylvan Lake so I knew I could do it. I utilized Jens Voight’s mantra “shut up legs” as well as my mind tricks to distract myself from the effort. The last hill I started belting out the “Chicken fat” song – which made a guy behind me start laughing. But it worked.
  16. People passed me on the way up the hills but I stayed in my box – and because I had become so good at the descent this year (Victory #3), I smoked past them on the way down.
  17. For hydration, I was bang on with what I had packed on the bike. I only needed one bottle of water at an aid station – grabbed it like a pro and squished the contents into my aero bottle. I still had two bottles of sports drink in the back two cages and water to dump on my hot head in a bottle below. At 50 km I looked at my watch and realized my time was 2:15. Not good. Oh well – I was enjoying the ride and the race – and that’s what counts. I was surrounded by great people doing the same thing as me and all of us enjoying it for what it was – living in the moment and feeling alive.
  18. What was in that rice cake?? At approximately 55 km, there was a right turn and I knew the climbs were over back into Calgary. I munched on my last rice cake and felt like I was going faster. Looking down again at the speedometer, I was doing 30 to 35 km and I thought – well – I can leave the box now I think. I’ve done 30 km/hr on an Olympic distance bike portion and this was pretty much what I had left to finish. Piece of cake. My legs felt like I just started my ride rather than pedaling for a prior 50 km up and down hills. I took off like a bullet and never felt gassed. I started picking people off one by one who had passed me earlier and wondered why they were slowing down. I thought maybe there was a secret climb ahead.
  19. Peace out, Brother. Out of the woods and onto the wide open highway, about 10 Harley riders were approaching in the other direction when I got the biker wave/salute from the lead biker. I was so stunned that instead of returning the upside down peace sign, I gave him a nod with a big smile. I felt like a rock star! My legs were moving like crazy and I felt no pain or effort.  I could hear Phil Liggett’s voice in my head “And the Hamster is pulling away from the pack! She’s widening the gap!!” LOL. I was an invincible Viking!
  20. I played tag with two others along the open stretch and booked it into town. I recognized the entrance to the park and I was exhilarated. That truly was my best bike ever in a race. Another PR for the Hamster – 3:25 – and an amazing bike split – maybe there were a few extra chocolate chips in that last rice cake. Victory #4.
  21. Coming out of T2, there was Marc. He jogged alongside of me for a few meters, completely beside himself over my bike split times.
  22. Must remember to top up the tank. The run. For the first 17 km, I felt strong and kept a good pace – with the plan of doing 10 and 1s and eating a gel every half hour. I also had Coke and water at the aid stations. I grabbed the wet sponges and ice and stuffed them under my hat, in my tank top and shorts, chatting with other triathletes as I caught up to them and they to me. Then I hit that dreaded hill with 4 km left of the run. At the top, Marc said I was looking good but at that point I could feel I was overheating and I felt nauseous. I had one more gel left to eat at the last water station. Looking at my watch, I should finish the run in 2:25.
  23. This is your brain without glucose – I..I pickle…where am I? Is that a polka dot elephant? I saw the 18km flag – 3 km left – when I bonked. I wanted to barf. At the last aid station, all I wanted was water, spitting out the warm flat Coke. I then convinced myself I had run fast enough that I could still walk and finish the run in a decent time. I had forgotten my 2013 race when I vowed I wouldn’t allow myself to walk more than 10 minutes ever again. But, at that point, my friends, your brain is mush and you don’t remember anything anymore – including the gel you were supposed to have that might have actually saved you.
  24. I kept focusing on the back of a woman who was walking ahead of me when she broke out into a run. Oh no you don’t. She walked so I walked. Now she’s running. Now I have to run. The finish was just 500 meters ahead but I was delirious. Someone shouted the typical “almost there!” and I responded “I’m going to throw up!” Someone else shouted “nice shoes” and I said “whaaa?” Not sure what that was about unless I was hallucinating but I pushed (plodded) onward.
  25. There’s no walking (or crying) in Rock Star Alley. No. I was not going to be caught walking in the chute. I had wanted to high-five people and do a little dance but having squishy brain, I completely forgot. All I wanted was to grab that damn banner that said “Ironman Calgary 70.3 Finish” and hoist it over my head. Which I did. Then I got my medal and saw Marc. He asked what happened. I looked at my watch– it took me 35 minutes to finish 4km. I was about 10 minutes slow off my estimated time….exactly how long I took walking before the finish. I had done it again. Lesson #4 – no matter how fast I think I ran, this does not justify walking more than a minute.
  26. But – that was the only thing I felt I did wrong in the race. Everything else was perfect. I realized how important it is to stick to the plan, remember the plan – the plan I went over many times from placing myself better in the swim to “staying in my box” on the bike. Nutrition was great. Hydration was great. Wore sunscreen and the pre-race swim helped calm nerves. I had a steady pace on the run – it was only the last 4km where I hit the wall so that wasn’t bad. It was a great day and I had accomplished a lot. I did get another PR – 6:49.
  27. Next year I will aim for 6:30. Yes – I said next year. I finally cracked all my weaknesses. I conquered all the things that were holding me back before. I no longer will be a wallflower at the swim start. I finally get what works for me for nutrition on the bike, how to pace myself, and kicked my fear of the descent (no breaks mom!). Now I just need to improve my speed and power. So why on earth would I take a year off? That’s just silly.
  28. Oh, and during my downtime in Kimberley, I decided I finally earned that Ironman tattoo.

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