For all y'all out there racing, you keep doing you. We're loving you for it. For anyone on the sidelines, you're no less important. If you have an athlete who is weary and struggling, don't try to understand, just stand there and smash a cowbell in their face. They won't be struggling for much longer, I promise!
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I think that I honestly have learned more from my team that I ever could have hoped. These people train like athletes, because they are athletes. And I love seeing, day by day and week by week, their plans coming together.
My training has been sporadic as of late. And it's easy to get caught up in the "I'm not making progress". But what is the measure of that? And what is your timeline? Have I made progress from last week? No. Have I made progress from two years ago, oh man yes!
We've written before (at least I have) about how consistency, more than anything else, seems to be the factor that will lead to improvement in this endurance life of ours.
Some are fortunate, they jump in at find themselves near the top. I think the more common tale though is that first timers find themselves at the back (and I mean literally), they swallow their pride, and they commit to the long game.
This year I'm actually at a bit of a crossroads. For two years(ish) now I've had dates circled on the calendar. A "goal date" as it were. I had a dialed in training plan. I lived my life by a schedule (and I mean life, not just training life). I was regimented and consistent and accomplished everything I wanted to.
As the team gets settled into Cozumel, a quick post is required to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of two of our Unicorns. Sunday was an absolutely perfect day in Tempe, AZ and Trevor and Tammy crushed their respective races, both beating their expectations by wide margins and in the process accomplishing something that is truly incredible.
Triathloning is hard. Teammates make it easier....sometimes. Sometimes being until you share all of your exercise data, and you see that you're low mate on the totem pole not only in ability but in effort. When they're putting in 12+ hours a week and you struggle to manage 8. When they're crushing bike drills while you're stuffing your face with potato chips. When they're improving, and you're plateauing.
But don't let any of that get you down. Because all that "sometimes" is really only ego. Drop the ego, and just get on the trainer. Don't drag them down, let them lift you up.
I love my teammates. I couldn't choose better people to be on this journey with. And I literally couldn't have done this without them. While I shake my fist at them for being more awesome than me sometimes, I owe them everything for how awesome I am now.
Keep putting me to shame, gang. Because imma be nippin' at your heels before too long.
Anyone who has read my origin story knows that the Stanley Park Triathlon is basically my ground zero; it all started here, two years ago, on a whim and a prayer with a borrowed bike and a box of chocolate covered almonds.
This is my third year in this race. My two prior swims have, to say the least, caused me some anguish. Year one saw me first get stuck in a buoy, then make peace with my maker as I quasi-drown, then finally exit the water in haze of bleeding hands and vomit-inducing dizziness (all mine).
Year two saw me swim nearly double the official distance as I learned that rips are real, getting stuck in them really is like a treadmill in the water, and sleeves on wetsuits really suck.
Year three though, oh man I crushed year three. Not only did I swim the course distance (as measured by my Garmin) to within about 3 meters. But I did it in the fastest swim I've ever laid down in a route that not so loosely resembles a phallus and testies (affectionately known as the "cock 'n' balls swim") which I think is absolutely hilarious because, well, how is that not hilarious?! Not to mention my new sleeveless wetsuits. Seriously the best thing ever. EVER! I may just sleep in the thing from now on. Crushed it! Loved it. Never wearing sleeves again. Swam in the shape of a dick. Movin' on.
I pity my Ironman buddies who have never had to do a real transition. And by "real" I mean where you're responsible for all of your own stuff, and there's no one to take off your wetsuit or collect your bike or hand you your gear. Transitions are outrageous. I love them.
Years past T1 was total confusion.
This year? T1 was total confusion! But it was a damn fast confusion on account of my killer swim. My wetsuit slid right off, my helmet went on err....seamlessly, once I found the right bike that is (celebration fist pump). I was at the wrong bike which was a bit weird, but once I figured that out and picked up my wetsuit and ran to the correct bike and put on the right helmet I was away like a bat out of transition! My only struggle was trying to do up my darn race belt. My arms were gassed and trying to insert the buckle into the receiving end was just too much of a chinese finger puzzle for my post-swim brain to process right at that minute. I said "fuck it" (like actually out loud, it was awkward) and threw my belt to the ground. "It'll be there when I'm done my bike" I thought. It was. No worries.
The run out of T1 must have been at least a kilometre (jk, like 300m). I actually made a comment to the crowd about it. And it's hard to run on cement with bike shoes. Like ice dancing in Poland kind of hard. One misstep on the mount (story of my life) that was quickly corrected for and I was off.
And boy was I off... So! Off!
I had one goal for the bike. I wanted to average over 30kph. A tall order, but my buddy Rob had done the same route in a race with an average over 40kph, and I'm cooler than Rob, so I figured 30 was attainable. I set my watch to display speed and I put the hammer down.
To save you the suspense, I didn't make it. Lol. But that's okay. Last year when I did this race I remember watching a spectator going for a casual ride pass me on the seawall on his beach cruiser as I was on the road in my full "aero" tuck. Not this year, this year I passed a lot of people. Like, a lot a lot. And you'll never believe what happened.
I PASSED PEOPLE GOING UP A HILL!
Right?! I couldn't believe it. But I like rocked by people going up a hill. And you know how much I hate hills! I was actually smiling while I did it. Well smiling and spitting, but mostly smiling.
Crushed aero the whole rest of the way, bombed down the decent, did my second lap, gassed a bit but passed more people than I was passed by, into transition and I was feeling like fire!
Damn bike shoes on cement, nearly ate shit. Haha. But I totally saved it like a ninja. Kept running and into the corrals and.....there was (at least it felt like) no one there?! I was so confused. Usually when I come to T2 there are so many bikes that it looks like the race hasn't started yet. But here? Almost no bike! I actually thought I had skipped a lap or something. So weird.
But no time to think about that.
Racked the bike, which was super easy because there were no other bikes (I've written before about how I ride basically the mini-van of triathlon bikes. It's so huge it doesn't fit under the rack, which has caused issues in the past). Bike shoes off. Helmet off. Slap on my runners with my new non-tie elastic shoelaces (helloooo 1993!) and bam! Had to think about which way to exit because there was no one to follow! A quick witted volunteer gave me a point in the right direction and I was off.
Butt-running don't fail me now. This race was all on feel, and I wasn't holding back. Legs felt heavy, as they should, but loosened up quick. Got my customary run-toots out of the way early (thank God). I was passed almost right away by a super jacked dude. I did think for a minute "awe man, here we go again" but he was clearly probably on performance enhancing drugs probably so no concern there (I could be ripped on steroids....). Then a super fast lady passed me. "Double awe man" and for a moment at least I was preparing for the onslaught of runners to charge by (I felt like I was running really slow). But really that was about it. Not a lot of other people passed. At one part on the run I was totally alone and had to ask to make sure I was still on track.
The run course goes up and over Stanley Park, and the "up" part really seems to take out a lot of people. I made some solid passes, hit the turn around, really started to hammer my way back and was astounded by the sheer number of runners behind me. But not in front of me! What a change, suckers (more run-toots...).
Turn-on-the-jets time. I mean for me that's kind of like flooring it in a yellow school bus equipped with a Mazda miata engine (long and thin....and yellow) but still, my little miata motor was a-screaming as fast as it could go!
Rounded the corner to the finish in what felt like no time, crossed the line, got my celebratory banana and was SO DAMN STOKED! For the first time, ever, I actually felt like a triathlete; emphasis on athlete instead of on the tri. So how good was I? Let's go to the tale of the tape:
This year vs. last year. I made a chart 'cause I'm handy like that:
Stanley Park Triathlon 2015
Stanley Park Triathlon 2016
That's right! 20 minute faster over a sprint distance folks. I'm elated. That's like nearly an entire episode of the Big Bang Theory faster. That's so much faster!
Goals and How I Did
- Goal one. Don't swim crazy off course and get stuck in a buoy and cut your hands. CHECK (bonus points for the cock 'n' balls swim route)
- Goal two. Average 30kph on the bike. FAIL. Averaged just over 28kph, but I feel good about that. I will have more by race day in Arizona.
- Goal three. Run sub 5:30 kilometres for the duration of the run. CHECK. Ran 5:05s. My fastest average pace in a race ever!
- Goal four. Crush it. CHECK This race I totally crushed.
And there you have it kids. The moral of the story is with a year's worth of hard work you too can swim in the shape of a penis, bike past some people going up a hill and run slightly faster than average all while adorning a one piece skin tight suit with a giant unicorn on the back.
"Speed Feeder". Haha, that's seriously what the race is called. I have no idea what that even means. But that's okay. THIS RACE WAS GREAT!
This was Race 5 of the 7 races that MEC offered in the Vancouver area for a grand total of $84. That's EIGHTY FOUR BUCKS for those of you who dislike digits. And not for one race but for all 7. What a bargain! Basically everyone should sign up for this race series. Here's the link: MEC Race Series It's expired now, on account of 5 of the 7 races having happened already, but they'll have a new one for 2017 probably. So google that.
Anyways what is this a coupon website? No, it's an Endurance Sports Amazing Feats and Glory type website. So less bargains and more race reporting.
Race 5 was the same route as Race 1 held waaaaay back in February. How far back? Like we didn't-even-have-a-blog-that-far-back-yet back. That's far back.
Race 1 was good. It was cold and wet, just how I like it. Race 5? Not as cold, or wet, but still in that "I'm fly for a white guy" preferred temperature range. So I was happy, and not too hot, and just enough wet.
I was also happy because, by all accounts, every metric that my Garmin recorded for Race 5 had improved over Race 1. I was less bouncy, more efficient, more balanced, and better paced. I attribute a lot of that to my butt-running revamp, and to general conditioning, and to some race experience. For example you'll notice from my splits that I ran 90m less in this Race 5 than Race 1. I attribute that to "course management" which is a fancy way of saying why run on the outside of a corner when you can run on the inside of a corner. I also attribute it to sh*t Garmin GPS. But I digress.
Unfortunately my Garmin did not record my HR data this go around (that's a lie, it did, but it say my HR was 248, and then dropped to 80 which it did not do...), despite me wearing that dreadful monitor, so I can't compare my fitness from February using that metric. But if I go on the highly subjective measure of "feel", well this race "felt" a lot better. So that's a Bingo!
Now for the digression. Garmin products suck. Suffice to say I think all of Team Unicorn Sparkle Adventure agrees that Garmin is total sh*t, but they've somehow cornered the market so we'll just keep eating it. It's too bad. I hope someone figures out a better solution one day. I'd say it'd be me, but I don't really care all that much. If I was a serious Triathlete though I would definitely have some sort of blog writing about my triathlon exploits that had a section dedicated to Garmin shaming....
Now this race was a "race" but I didn't prepare for it like a race, more like a Sunday run. So the night before which was M. Ashley M's and the magnificent Ryan's very happy birthday party had me indulging in libations that were perhaps not straight out of the No Meat Athlete's preferred marathon training program; aka I ate falafel and drank beer.
That was great for the party.
That was not great for kilometre 3 of the race. Where you can see my lap time mysteriously drop to sub-standard pace. I'll let you in on a secret, I didn't stop for ~1:30 to tie my shoe..... Although what I did do rhymes with shoe.... (ps. 1:30 should get its own award).
Anyways, other things about this race:
- Butt-running rules. I had been really concerned about my pace these last few runs given that my butt-run easy runs have been considerably off the old pace I would set at the same heart rate. At my faster "race" pace, however, my suffering was about the same as it would have been running my old way, but my body felt significantly better. I was faster, and had more to give if I needed it, and way more left in the tank at the finish. So that means more long, slow, steady butt-running miles at pedestrian like paces for me! Boring yes, but they're working, and that's great.
- MEC Race Series rules. Apparently they're doing triathlons now. That should be amazing(ly inexpensive).
- Stanley Park bathrooms do not rule.
- Totally weird discount Asian massages after races rule (but that's another story).
So there you go. Another 10k done, feeling strong, lookin' pro while going slow. What more could I ask for?
When you were a kid do remember the joy of seeing who could jump off the tallest stuff? I remember this playground at my elementary school. There was this tower and we would all take turns to see who had the guts to jump off the high point. You would land in the rocks and basically run around to the ladder and do it again. No big thing. If you're over say, 22, when was the last time you tried to jump off something? Did it hurt? I bet it hurt, a lot. Somewhere along the way, adults forget how to jump.
I don't recall every being able to run all that well, even as a kid. But I know that somewhere along the way my butt forgot how to run. Yours probably has too.
A few weeks back I wrote this post about posture, focusing on hips in particular. Turns out that was only the beginning of my butt-ventures. Having returned to my chiropractor over and over and over with the same ailment (freakishly tight calves), he finally said to me "I can treat the symptoms, but you're going to have to deal with the root ('n' toot 'n') issue". The issue was my lazy butt.
I had a hankering that I'd been suffering from this affliction for some time. My run pace is oddly slow, and I don't "look" like a runner when I run. My bike is weak and I had nearly no kick in swimming for a long long time. All of those are core related, and glutes are a huge core contributor.
So I started reading. I guess the butt-fliction of lazy cheeks plagues many a runner, beginner and experienced alike.
My chiro sent me to a sports physio who basically confirmed what I thought. My body didn't know how to run. Because my glutes were lazy my knees would collapse inward on impact. That collapse would lengthen my calves and force them to do the forward pushing. Effectively, my toes were gripping and pulling me along the pavement. Calf pain ensued because that's not what calves are for. They're for looking good in high heels (I think).
So I've been fixing it. How? I clench my butt. Basically everywhere I go. I call it "walking with my ass". I basically stroll through the mall looking like I'm in desperate need of a bathroom, but can't hustle too fast (we all know that feeling). I also have all these little elastic band thingies that pull here and yank there. Primarily doing lateral side to sides with my knees being pulled inwards, and also learning how to move my leg forward and backwards using my butt and hamstrings, and not rotating my hips (which I though was the right way to do things, turns out it's not).
Sound complicated? It is a little bit. But you know what? It's working!
My first butt-run I only went for 4k. I focused solely on engaging my glutes, left cheek and right independently (my right is lazier than my left, which is saying something because my left is basically like a 14 year old adolescent on a Saturday morning). I even ran with my hands on my ass just to make sure they were firing. I looked like I was perving on myself (van full of candy anyone?).
Using this new butt technique, I was able to consistently accelerate to about a 4:20km pace without any appreciable suffering in doing so. Now that's not fast, but that's very fast for me. With my calf technique that same pace would have every muscle in my body straining to keep me there. Using my ass, I could hold that pace for some time with only my heart rate eventually feeling the effects. I was amazed.
My next butt-run was several days later where I went for a "long run". Hoping for 16km, I only managed about 12km. My heart rate was absolutely through the roof by the end and my pace was slowing to the point were I actually could not run (had to walk), but my ass was fully engaged the entire time. It was fantastic, if you're in to that sort of thing (which you should be).
I finished that run and came home, expecting the customary calf pain and necessary 40 minutes of rolling and pressure point relief that I would usually endure. Only this time it wasn't necessary! My calves didn't feel like they'd done any work at all! I stretched them just the same, but I didn't labour in agony like I usually did.
The next morning, I could barely sit down. It was a very satisfying hurt. That was my first run ever where the next day my butt hurt. In this rare instance, "pain in the ass" was a great thing.
I've now finished butt-run number three. A 10k last night in HR zone 2. Again, I struggled to keep my HR down towards the end. Mostly because new movements mean my cardio system reacts with a "we don't like this, better freak out" kind of mentality. But I had the ability to generate speed that I never could before, over distances that would leave me very laboured in past efforts, and I was running much more relaxed then I usually do.
As I sit here the day after, flexing my ass, I feel no appreciably strain in my calves. Whereas before they would be lit up like something that is "lit" to these kids these days (probably a pokemon of some sort), today I'm sitting pretty on a sore but engaged bum.
So if you, like me, are trying to find improvements where none seem possible, take a page out of the candy van man's book and grab a handful of ass, I bet that gets you movin' in all the right ways.