The Winter Transition

I wrote this article for www.triathlonmagazine.ca and thought it would be good for those athletes just starting to lace up their shoes again.  If you have any other questions/queries/requests please ask away at either my Facebook page www.facebook.com/racergirlmel or Tweet away at www.twitter.com/racergirlmel.  Now... time to get moving.  Let's be smart!

The Winter Transition

After the last race of the season, many athletes enjoy a training break.  For anywhere from four to eight weeks, athletes might incorporate complete rest with cross training or unstructured triathlon training.  It is a good idea to take a real break from the sport and allow your body to rest.  Some athletes avoid complete rest as they believe it will be very difficult to get back to their previous level of fitness, but this fear is unfounded.  Taking a break will result in some detraining but aerobic fitness declines slowly.  Underlying fatigue from the previous season is more likely to delay improvement than a break from training.  The number one priority after every season must be rest, particularly for athletes who race Ironman and can accumulate a lot of residual fatigue, low grade injury and general overload.  The minimum post season break should be four weeks and longer if there is injury to resolve.

 

After that time it is good to get back in action.  Here are five tips to have a strong start to your training build: 

1.     Start a functional strength program.  

Strength is key for durability in triathlon so starting your new triathlon program incorporating strength work will ensure you have adapted to the additional stimulus before you start to incorporate harder intensity training.  If you already do strength work, ease back into the sessions early on.  Everything should be lower volume and lower intensity to start.

2.     Start slow and easy with all sessions. 

Allow your body to readjust to the training schedule.  First slowly increase the volume and frequency of your aerobic training before adding any intensity and then increase back to full training volume mindfully. This should take at least four weeks.

3.     Incorporate a technical focus in the initial training phase. 

Many athletes continue to go back to technical fundamentals during all phases of training.  This is particularly important when you start back, as it is a good idea to address any technical weakness in your swimming, your run form and your pedal stroke while you are re-establishing habits.  This is also a good time to do any bike fitting, so that you have adequate time to adjust to any changes in your position before racing.

4.     Set your season goals and plan. 

It is very motivating to have goals set early in the year to ensure you have a “North Star” to guide you in day to day training.  This is also a good time to discuss your dreams and goals with friends and family so they understand your commitment to training and will support that commitment from the start.  It is amazing how quickly the weeks pass and suddenly you only have two key sessions left before a big race.  Every single training day counts so you should focus on each and every one accordingly.

5.     Start a journal and record your training. 

A daily recap of what you have done in training, how you felt and random observations on the day becomes not only a useful tool to measure improvement, it becomes a treasured history of your life.  Don’t miss the opportunity to write the story of your life in 2016.  It should start with the goals you have set and the very first session.

 

1.     Madsen, K.; Pedersen, P. K.; Djurhuus, M. S.; Klitgaard, N. A., Effects of detraining on endurance capacity and metabolic changes during prolonged exhaustive exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology 1993, (75), 1444-1451.

 

 

 

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2015 Ironman Arizona

My second attempt at the Ironman distance was at Ironman Arizona.  I had the privilege of having my ass handed to me by Meredith Kessler after I finished in 9:14, a time that might have been respectable 5 years ago but was in another time zone behind MBK’s 8:44 (the fastest Ironman performance of 2015-so amazing!).  It is good I was on the course with her that day.  It is invaluable to have that performance to shine a light on where I can improve.  Without comparing apples to apples, you never really know where you stack up.  I know exactly where I am at leaving that race and I would like to thank Meredith Kessler, Amanda Stevens and Julie Gajer, the women’s top three, for an amazing day at the races… it was so much fun and exciting to race with you.  Special shout out to Michelle Vesterby, with whom I spent a large chunk of the day in Arizona and congratulations to all of the finishers on that crazy day.  I think I attract freak weather systems.  I was 7th which in a race with so many fast girls is good but I'll be better.

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Thank you Sue Hutter for the incredible photos to document the weekend!

I have been to Phoenix MANY times… for mountain bike racing and now for triathlon related events.  Since I did the first Desert Classic Duathlon, Joel Clapick has offered me shelter from the desert elements.  Thank you so much Joel for being such an incredible host!  In addition, this trip would not have been nearly as successful without the efforts of the crew at Cyclologic.  Thank you so much everyone and in particular Claudia and Paraic for your contributions to my success as an athlete.  I appreciate you guys so much!

I now have greater appreciation for how different Ironman is from any other triathlon I have done and the amount there is to learn about the race.  The coles notes on the race at Ironman Arizona start with the first order of business-poor swim execution.  I started right where I needed to be (where the fast girls were) but had no idea what direction they were going to go.  I chose goggles that were far too dark for how dark the morning was and seconds after the start I had no idea where the pack had gone.  I spent the first 200m getting pushed under by a girl who was trying to swim on my hip so that combined with my directional issues meant I swam in no man’s land by the time we all settled in.  I swam faster than Whistler (where I also swam alone) but I expected to be a lot faster than that.  I gave myself a massive hole to dig out of right from the start.

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Fancy new Rudy Project helmet and glasses #boost #tralyx.

I had mint legs when I started riding.  I was holding back, holding back and holding back and the numbers I had thought would be awesome were so easy.  I had a pretty awesome even split for most of the race and a very low, controlled heart rate.  The problem is I was getting dropped.  While I was having a nice Sunday ride, MBK was tearing ass out in front of me, chomping massive time gaps into me every lap.  It was not until the 3rd lap that the bleeding stopped and I clawed back maybe a second or two.  The good news is I had great legs.  The bad news is I did not use them when I could so I was fighting for the podium at best. Coming off the bike only Amanda Stevens had a hope for the win other than MBK.

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I ended up riding myself to fourth place by the run and as a result of the comfy bike ride I left transition with fresh and bouncy legs.  Again, I spent the run holding back hoping to run a nice even or (hilarious) negative split.  I totally appreciated having Tara as my lead cyclist, thank you for your kind words!

I was watching my splits, slowing myself down, pacing correctly and pretty much staying even with the girls in front and behind me for the first 24 or 25 miles.  Thank you Heather, Wattie and Cliff for the excellent run cheering J.  Then BOOM!  My legs were done.  Out of nowhere while I was comfortably jogging that damn marathon my legs went into complete quad lock and I was done for.  WTF.  Instead of being relatively competitive in 4th I am running on stumps and positive splitting like a mofo and heading backwards.  7th was where my freefall through the field was mercifully cut off.  So frustrating pacing myself only to feel WORSE than my first marathon when I tore out of transition at 2:48 marathon pace.  OMG so frustrating. But eye-opening.

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So done.. but still smiling.

So I am not overly happy with the outcome of Arizona but I learned a lot and I tried my best.  The combination of execution and form just did not add up to the performance I was hoping for.  In truth, the Arizona course may not ever be up my alley because I think I would be more competitive with hills but that is only the start.  I will approach training for this differently next season.

So I invested a year learning about Ironman.  Most of the investment was in my run and as a result I think my cycling was not where it has been.  This showed in 70.3 in particular.  However, each year is a layer and I am happy to have that behind me and I am stoked to be healthy and motivated to try all over again.  I’m learning and until you have raced a couple of these Ironman monsters to know what you are actually trying to do, you just don’t know. 

As I put my rookie year on the Ironman circuit to bed, at an age that is only being pioneered as a valid age as a professional, I am excited about what I can do in my sophomore year on the circuit.  For those that share my age group in Ironman and have found Ironman recently, I think you need to expect, demand and pursue your best.  There are career defining performances ahead of me.  Appropriate training, disciplined recovery and resilience matter – age does not.  You can build a road to go wherever you want to go. 

Thank you to all of my amazing sponsors who are coming back with me for 2016 and to the new ones that I will announce in a future post.  For now, I need to thank those in my #YYJ inner circle. 

First and foremost, thank you to MC for being my voice of reason, my sounding board and for reminding me to "Keep it between the ditches." xoxo

Thank you to my amazing coach/sounding board and friend Kelly Guest of Livefit coaching for believing in me, not doubting for a second my potential even when I did, turning off the noise, and finding how to motivate and inspire me beyond how I have been in the past.  Thanks for getting me to where I can run a marathon - no small task!  Thank you to his amazing group of elite juniors for putting up with the Ironman chick in the lane as well, I look forward to rising with the level you guys set. 

Thanks to Clint Lien for letting me drop in to swim with some kids my own age.  Thank you to Marilyn and Danelle for setting an example for me of the potential women in their 40s have for run speed (a hell of a lot!).  Thank you to Trek Procity for supporting/heckling me - looks like there is more fun to be had at my expense ;).  Thank you to Jamie Grimes and Synergy Wellness for resurrecting my career when I was hurt and keeping me on track through the biggest challenge yet. Thanks to Brent McMahon, Meredith Kessler and the Wurteles for being amazingly supportive, knowledgeable friends who have helped me have as much success as I have in my first attempts at Ironman – you guys are the most incredible athletes and people and I am so lucky to know you. 

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Buddies! 

Thank you to all of the girls in Ironman who have reached out and supported me including but certainly not limited to Meredith, Heather, Sarah, Sara, Danielle M, Kelly, Beth, Magali, Mackenzie, Karen, Jenn, Tati, Breanne, Linsey, Michelle V, Amanda and the many others I don’t know well yet but can’t wait to get to know.  It is a band of sisters who share the same passion, dreams and goals and I love the comradery of the sport.  It is such an amazing way to get to know yourself and to know others.  I am so incredibly happy to have the opportunity to pursue this in my life.   Much love to you all.

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Great bunch of chicks.

Now I start some offseasoning on my mountain bike.  Looking forward to a weekend with my girls Buttons, Danelle, Jennie and Brandyland shredding the trails that started this whole adventure as a pro athlete: Hornby Island.  Life is good.

 

 

 

2015 IM 70.3 Los Cabos

I’ve never visited San Jose del Cabo so the idea of racing IM 70.3 Los Cabos event was appealing- if only to tick a travel box while doing my job as a pro athlete.  Many aspects of this race were questionable in the final leadup to an Ironman event (Would I get sick from the water/food? Do I even need a race at this point? Would the airline travel challenge my immune system?) but I decided to stick to my Ironman Arizona plan as we originally laid it out and went.  It seems to have been a good decision.  I was better than IM 70.3 Las Vegas, I had a great swim and I had a great time.  Plus I won a bit of money, got some great exposure for Trek Mexico at the presser and I now have a whale shark BFF.  All around good times and noodle salad.

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Pre race pomp and circumstance.

As far as the outcome, I ended up fourth behind Magali Tissyere, Carrie Lester and Ricarda Lisk.  It is no surprise Mags won as she was definitely the favorite coming in off her 4th place at the IM 70.3 Worlds and she was absolutely dominant.  Congrats Mags on finishing off your season absolutely flying J. Carrie had a very strong race taking second and Ricarda took third with the second fastest run, taking me out on the second lap on the run course and booting me from the podium (sad face for me but congrats Ricarda… you are amazing!)

My race started with essentially my career best swim.  I swam on the toes of the lead pack almost to the first buoy which made me wonder if those girls had food poisoning or motion sickness (note to self: it might have been better to be more positive to imagine you are just swimming fast).  Then Magali swam up on my left so we swam side by side around the first buoy but I decided to keep turning WAY too far and swam off course.  It took me to half way to the second buoy to chase back onto Ricarda’s feet.  After the second buoy I decided I wanted to head towards the lead again and went around Ricarda in time for Mags to then do a similar off course manouever at the last turn buoy so then I was leading second pack again.  I think this whole race report should be about this swim because it was the fantastic part of the day. There was some confusion as to whether we had to go around the last yellow buoy, which I did, which meant Ricarda and Mags had slightly faster swim times (I don’t think we had to… but no one knows) but that led us all into T1 about 45 seconds back from the leaders!  (this all despite the swim running VERY long.. not short!)

2015 IM 703 cabo swim

I like beach starts and salt water .... and my Blueseventy swim skin!

Out onto the bike I was fired up by my great swim but immediately disappointed in my legs.  They were so heavy and my cadence was labored and similar to Las Vegas I felt like I have no power.  I had the legs to do a tough training week last week but I am finding it is taking SO LONG for me to recover from my training blocks for IM Arizona.  I think I am coming in very flat for these races.  I did not ride like I can, period.  In addition, despite drinking three full bottles of Powerbar Perform with Saltstick tabs on the course and dumping water when I could on my head, I reached the 30km mark not adequately hydrated.  When it is as hot as Los Cabos I am certain now that I need at least TWO bottles PER HOUR. This hydration deficit did not play out well on the run.

2015 Bike Cabo

Onto the run I felt hot.  It was like running on the surface of the sun.  The hurricane missed Los Cabos but having that storm pass by left the area SO HOT!  No shade, hot, no wind, it was the hottest day since I had arrived in the mid 90s and I suffered.  Everyone suffered but unfortunately I could not hold the pace I needed to hold off Ricarda.  I was, however, holding off the other girls behind me so I didn't melt completely.  My goal was a top 3 so no shame to be fourth behind those superstars in front of me and there were some very fast girls behind me as well- with Carly Johann taking fifth and a charging Amanda Stevens taking sixth.  I am not that impressed with my half Ironman ability in this block but I think my lack of specificity for half Ironman is hurting me at the moment  and I am struggling to find top gear for sure.  Hopefully this is the right recipe for a full Ironman because it is the one I am reading at the moment!  That being said, there is NO WAY I would have wanted to do a full Ironman that day. Congratulations to Michelle and Barrett on their Ironman debuts on such a crazy hot day! Congrats to both Jordan and her hubby Rich on their Ironman success!  You guys are amazing and so tough.

The great part of this race was how many people I got to know and to hang out with.   Thanks the the Edmontonians for welcoming me!   Thank you Magali for inventing the new rule that I benefitted from this weekend:  You beat me, you treat me!  Haha!  Classy and generous race winner J  Huge thanks for all of the great times with my fellow pros Patrick Evoe, Leon Griffin, James Hadley (fabulous race!!!), Brianna and Chris Baird, Amanda Stevens, Mags, Matt Lieto, Chris and Amy Bagg, Davide, and Tatiana Vertiz (my tour guide!!).  This group of athletes is so incredible.  I loved the post race banter and having a chance to gain some amazing insight from Patrick on Ironman and different kinds of training.  I wish him great success training under legend Julie Dibens.  I imagine Julie’s squad is going to be the next “super squad” everyone is clamoring to get into.

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Getting stoked to open water swim with whale sharks in La Paz - ready, set, go!

I also fell in love with this part of Mexico while I was there.  A lot of what I love about Maui is present in this part of the world and I can’t wait to return to explore some more.  The highlight was our open water swim with the whale sharks in La Paz, a ride on the PCH with Tati, swimming toward the arch with all the fishies in Cabo, dinner with the crew at Bar Estina and having my first Molcajete.  Amazing.

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I swam with this guy like the little fishies that chase after him.

 

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Good adventures with this crew!

Now I have to buckle down and focus on Ironman Arizona.  It is going to be an insane field I am sure so I better get ready to bring my best effort.

Thanks so much to my amazing sponsors and partners:  Trek Bikes, Shimano, Bontrager, Champion System, Blueseventy, Rudy Project North America, Powertap, Asics Canada, Frontrunners, Procity Trek Store Victoria, Synergy Wellness, USANA and Saltstick.   I am excited to finish off the season on a high note!  :)

 

 

 

2015 TRIBC Gala and IM 70.3 Silverman - Highs and Lows

My last trip took me from Vancouver, BC to Las Vegas, Nevada.  I hopped on friendly Westjet and my first stop was in Vancouver where I spoke at the TriBC Athlete Gala.  The gala is a fundraiser to support youth development in British Columbia so it was an amazing opportunity.  The event itself raised $10,000 for youth development and by speaking I was able to donate $500 to the Victoria chapter of Kidsport.  I was so happy to be presented the chance to do something for the youngsters that I train with so I flew out of Vancouver on a high.  It was a great night and thank you to all the folks that organized and attended.  I love nights where everyone dresses up, haha!  I have always been a bit of a magpie for cute outfits.  Thanks to Blueseventy, USANA and Champion System for helping me to donate to the silent auction that night!

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The next day I carried on to Las Vegas for the Silverman 70.3.  The spoils of that weekend went to Lauren Goss, my Trek teammate with super swimmer Heather Lendway taking second and super biker Nikki Butterfield in third.  I was somewhere in the mix of the race but fading rather than building.  It was a very tough day and finishing was all I could accomplish with my effort.  I fought hard but this was a rare race where my bike legs failed me… I stayed in the mix on my Trek Speed Concept but my Powertap Joule let me know after the race that I was riding at watts lower than what I raced at Ironman Canada (I race by effort not watts during the race-then look afterward).  It wasn’t even close to my normal pace.  I went out on the run thinking that maybe I just had a rough bike day but the run was even worse immediately.  I saddled up for a tough run because I hate DNFing more than anything and I knew there was nothing wrong with me… I just couldn’t go fast.  I made the most of cheering for the girls around me in the race and enjoying some of the fun banter from my fellow competitors on the day.  I had a conversation about my awesome Rudy Project glasses on the course which was fun!  Lots of people had amazing days and equally as many had below expectation days.  No point panicking about one crap day and it is much better to just be a bit overcooked than injured or sick.

I stubbornly maintain that the race course at Ironman 70.3 Silverman is well suited to my ability.  A hard, windy bike course is always right up my alley and the run being more about strength than absolute speed is usually good.  I have to guess that having completed a four week block of Ironman training in the last five weeks leading up to this race for Arizona I thought that the trailing volume would really set me up for a good day on a course known to challenge strength more than speed.  Coming in I was showing signs of significant fatigue at the end of that block, which was a bit more ambitious than my Whistler training, and it is clear that I was pretty tired.  I couldn’t even get close to half Ironman race pace.

 

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Ironman (and I mean full Ironman training) is overload and extreme training where you just push through fatigue for weeks on end.  Looking at my plan now in hindsight, and comparing it to what the more experienced Ironman girls do, it looks like it was super poor planning to come to this race while I was in the middle of building to the race in Arizona.  I completely underestimated how much time I needed to come back to life and training in the  extreme heat in the days leading up delayed that recovery further because I was worse than when I left Canada.  Frankly, I was in no shape to race that field.  Lesson learned.  

Even if I am a “mature” pro this is trial and error for me.  Luckily there is still a lot of time before Arizona and I am already forgetting this race happened and moving on.  I am guessing that Cabo will go a lot better if I just rest a bit.

I did get a chance to chat with some parents who were racing and cheer for their kids at the Ironkids event.  This is such a great idea and it is great to share the fun of racing with such young kids. 

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I will remember my fun week with my host family John and Laura Mercer.  These guys are gearing up for their Ironman in Kentucky and I am not surprised at how much they know about Ironman and how hard they work to get there.  John is a bio-mechanist at UNLV so it has been great chatting with him about training and some of the studies they are conducting.  One of his colleagues Tedd Girouard took me out riding on Tuesday on the course which was fun.  Tedd had a fabulous race and is off to Australia next year..way to go Tedd!  It was very interesting to get their perspective on the sport.  John has been doing triathlon since the 1980s so I wasn’t sure there was much I could offer in terms of advice but we did have some good chats looking at the sport from a variety of perspectives.

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Laura's collection of hummingbird nests!

Having trained in Vegas for over a week  I see why Angela likes riding there.  There is a lot of open space, big hills and long flat road.  The problem is it is baking in ridiculous heat most of the time and that killed me.  Who knew they would have a heat wave in September and hit an all time high for the end of the month?  Not a problem if you want to be good in the heat like she is.  I had some new life experiences, like finding a scorpion in the dark with a black light (they glow bright green!) which was neat. 

So lots of good times in Henderson with the rescue animal menagerie and loads of intelligent conversation with my amazing half Canadian/half New Yorker family.  They even cheered for the Seahawks with me.  #KEEPERS.  This was one of my best trips to Las Vegas even if I am going home with just a tan and some extra heat acclimation.

Thanks very much to my sponsors who allow me to go out there and push my limits and also help to give back to the community at large:  Blueseventy, Champion System, Rudy Project North America, USANA, Trek Bikes, Shimano, Bontrager, Powertap, Asics Canada, Frontrunners, and Synergy Wellness.  It isn't going to be long before I get another chance at a race so I will be reassessing the plan to make sure I am at my best for Arizona.  

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This is Spartacus.  He helped me try to get the most out of my day by sitting on my butt for more of it :)

2015 Challenge Penticton – A Canadian Classic is Reborn

The 2015 edition of Challenge Penticton was both a great success and a fresh start for this iconic race.  It appears that during the last three years the event has been trying to find a new identity moving forward and this year the race started to realize its new potential.  It was announced that in the future Challenge Penticton will be one distance, 3km/120km/30km and will become a qualifier for the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championship.  I applaud this new direction and I commend both Michael Brown and Kevin Cutjar for having great expertise, insight and ability in creating this new direction.  Challenge racing is amazing:  the pre-race dinner, the family atmosphere, the party at the finish line and the community involvement makes these events special. I also loved what is uniquely Penticton:  the iconic race course, the stunning scenery, the amazing volunteers (many who come out every year) and the new stadium finish line.  It was my first time experiencing long course racing in Penticton and I appreciate so much the wonderful people I met on this trip!

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I did lead the race from 20km and set the fastest bike split. 

Unfortunately, my race was not all that I had hoped for as it was marred by a penalty due to a pro male while I was leading the race and ended with DNF.  The woman at the top on race day were no strangers to the podium and put on a great display of strength.  I am so pleased for Jen Spieldenner, Carrie Lester and Heather Lendway for earning the top paychecks on the day.  Special mention goes to Canadian superstar runner Malindi Elmore for earning the top Canadian woman’s position with her superlative running ability.  The men’s race was a who’s who of amazing Canadian talent with Brent McMahon winning the race, Trevor Wurtele taking second and Jeff Symonds taking fourth after a flat.  Chapeau boys!  What a super field of professionals with 45 of us in total making the trip to Penticton.

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The great panel assembled at Challenge Penticton with Kevin (Race Director), Zibi (Challenge CEO),  Ellie, Laura, Chris, myself, Brent, Trevor, Miki, Jeff, Kate and Carrie.

My weekend staying with Alan Kidd and his wife Gwyneth was so great.  Alan is very knowledgeable about triathlon so sharing stories about the race was fantastic.  Okanagan Lake was beautiful for swimming in my fabulous Blue Seventy wetsuit and the rolling hills were fun to take my Trek Speed Concept out for a gallop on that beautiful bike course that I enjoyed pouring some effort into.  Yves and Anne from Asics Canada were on hand  sharing the Asics love and I will enjoy trying out the new 33-M shoe on the trails. 

Any fears of fire related air quality were fortunately resolved by a timely shift to rainy, cooler weather and the day was beautiful.  I did have some problems getting to Penticton because of the fires as my plane on Friday flew all the way to Penticton before turning and flying back to Vancouver without landing.  I was told no flights would land so along with three other women I hopped in a rental car to Kelowna to make it that day.  Nothing like some quick organization amongst four motivated women to fix a problem.  Thank you to Genevieve, Kirsten and Gwen!!

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My drive companions :)

A broken toe on Thursday (random slip and smash into the couch), a botched flight on Friday and a penalty on Sunday means I have weathered this storm and it is time for things to come right again for the next race.  Cheering on the full distance racers on the run course and at the finish line at midnight was a highlight.  It was a great experience and it renewed my admiration for the Challenge style event.  These events are top quality with all of the character of a grass roots event.  This will certainly not be my last Challenge.

Thanks very much to Kevin and Mike for inviting me to the Challenge Penticton race.  It was great to see the Challenge St Andrews organizers Tressa and Scott there with the family to cheer Scott to the finish line as well.  Thank you to all of the amazing women pros who came to Canada to make this event so impressive with such a large field.  Thank you to my friends and family for coming to cheer!  Thanks Trek, Bontrager, Shimano, Blueseventy, Rudy Project NA, Champion System, Asics Canada, Frontrunners Victoria, Powertap, USANA and Powerbar.  I did ride another fastest bike split so I am recovering well from Ironman Canada and I look forward to another day at the races at 70.3 Silverman!

More Articles...

  1. 2015 Ironman Canada
  2. Pursue Your Potential - Should You Go Pro?
  3. Monitoring Recovery

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