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A swim bike run in golf town: Augusta 70.3

My first trip to the Southeast USA for a triathlon was fun.  One of my favourite things about being an athlete is the opportunity to travel and see new places.  I have never been to the “South” before and it was more or less as expected: hot, humid and hospitable….lots of churches and Trump signs too.

It wasn’t my prettiest finish but it got the job done!

I was also a “big girl” on the trip traveling for the first time without my crew (i.e. husband and 2 year old!)  which meant actually having to take care of my bike on my own and do all sorts of other stuff that my very capable and helpful husband does for me.   It is funny because as a runner I used to travel and race on my own all the time but managing triathlon is more challenging for a person like me (i.e. highly distra
ctible and not always detailed-oriented).  Needless to say, Graham reminded me about a thousand times to remember to pump my tires on race morning and to wear a race chip. Seriously though – there is sooooo much to remember!!!!

The most important thing to remember during race day; however, is to go hard, harder, and hardest through the swim, bike and run. Oh and to take in lots of fluids in the heat.  I actually saw an age group man, about 6 hours into the race when I was checking my bike out post race, who had fallen off his bike leading into T2. I asked him if he needed more water and he said he “wasn’t drinking water” only salt tablets in the heat.  I couldn’t believe he had even made it back to T2 in one piece (barely!) because at 95 degrees (35 celsius) and high humidity, water is a necessary. I am not sure that the run was going to be a good experience for him under severe hydration.
Anyways, a downstream swim suited me well – although a wetsuit, downstream swim is a dream come true! – and I was only a few minutes back of the big main back with the super-uber swimmers a bit further up the road.  The plus side of being a “developing” swimmer is that I have lots of targets on the bike course.  The bike course wound through a rural part of South Carolina which made me happy because I got to “collect” another state for my collection.  I managed to move from 20th spot into 4th position through the bike ride (yay!).   I am in

a much better position off the bike than a year ago when I basically didn’t see ANYONE from the start of the race until when I started to catch people half way through the run – ugh talk about a long time trial day!

Although I look forward to the running portion for the entire day leading up to it, sometimes I find the running …hard.  Like in Augusta, when my garmin reads 120 degrees on the pavement post race.  I KNOW everyone finds it hard so it is a matter of dealing with the environment as positively as possible. And dumping and drinking LOTS of water.

I started off well but faded through the second half of the run and wondered if I would make it. With 2 miles to go I could see Jeanni Seymour putting down some serious work and closing the gap. I tried my best to stay relaxed and to keep moving but my legs.were.dead.  When I still had a small but dwindling gap leading into the final half mile, I attempted a “sprint”. I though to myself of all my track days and how I couldn’t be outsprinted – that’s my trick.  There is nothing like attempting to run fast when you can hardly lift your legs. It was ugly.  Very very ugly. But I got the job done and crossed the line in 2nd place behind (way behind…) Helle Frederiksen and 17 seconds ahead of Jenni Seymour.  I was very proud of myself because sometimes fighting the brain in the heat (stop, just stop!) is the hardest part of the race.  And I always love finishing at the pointy end of the stick 🙂


Love sharing the podium with inspiring and fast women! Helle Frederiksen (Denmark), me (Canada), Jeanni Seymour (South Africa), Ruth Morrey Brennan (USA), Haley Chura (USA), Stephanie Roy (Canada).

Race Report: Oceanside



Loving my new aqua wetsuit from Aquasphere!
Loving my new aqua wetsuit from Aquasphere!

It’s hard to believe a year ago that I was only an arm-chair triathlete, and this year, I was competing among some of the best Pro Triathletes in the world at last weekend’s Oceanside 70.3 race (aka: California World Championships)!

I stepped on the line at Oceanside 70.3 with no real set “result-based” goals. I respected the field immensely, and felt grateful to toe the line with some of the world’s best. Of course, I am a dreamer, so I left many options open and did not limit myself from thinking big, but ultimately, I knew that my best performance would come from a well-executed race.

For the first time since I “turned pro” last July, I had company on the swim. I managed to hang on to the 3rd pack which was a much more positive feeling than previously when I was so far behind that I literally couldn’t see anyone else in the water. It is a good feeling getting to the bike rack with bikes still on the rack, and other women still putting on helmets and shoes! Seriously, at Challenge Penticton (5th) and Silverman (7th) I pretty much did not see another racer until the second half of the run…that’s a long long time trial! So…back to the swim…in addition to actually swimming more than 8 km / week this fall, I also made a couple key adjustments to the execution. Not to give away too many top training tips (from a 3rd pack swimmer!) but sighting does really help you to swim a shorter distance. And not going out as fast as possible and having a massive body shock when the lactate sets in is also a preferred strategy. I actually enjoyed the swim leg for the first time in my life.

I ran out of the water with a pack of gals. Coach Matt (@purplepatch fitness) had warned me it was a long run to transition and an opportunity to make up some time. So I sprinted by everyone, which was easier said than done because the path was very congested with people still waiting for their swim wave to start. Although I made it to my bike first out of my little pack, my non-ITU worthy transition put me back a bit again during the run out to the mount line. Nevertheless, I had people in my actual category with me…such a great feeling!

I jumped on the bike and was prepared to ride hard. I found the first 15 minutes to be way more technical and entertaining than I expected: 180 degree switchbacks down highway off-ramps, parking lot tours, and I think we even popped through an opening in the fence onto a bike path. I would not be able to re-create the beginning on the bike course if my life depended on it! I was fortunate that for the 1st hour of the bike race I had people to key off and reel in – it kept me focused and motivated to ride hard.

Once we entered Camp Pendleton, I was very much alone again and would not see another competitor until onto the run – of course I didn’t know this at the time. The bike course was much hillier, much more beautiful, and much more interesting than I had expected. It was a privilege to ride on the military base and to see the support from the personnel on course.

I had a bit of problem on one hill and it definitely bit me in the butt. I have had this experience previously and it is probably nutrition related but my vision started to blur and narrow a bit. I was able to maintain the same power (although I could not read my Garmin properly) and immediately pounded a few gels. Within a few minutes I felt re-freshed and re-focused. It was surprising to me because I had followed a similar nutrition plan to other races, but perhaps the difference was that I was riding much harder!

The last 20 miles of the bike ride were a bit lonely and hard. My legs and lungs were getting tired and I kept thinking of just getting back to transition. At this point in a triathlon it is hard to consider a hard long run yet to come! My bike ride was solid and showed good improvement relative to last year. I rode about 15 watts higher than my best race in 2015 and it is still early in the season, so those hard trainer sessions actually are beneficial. But I know there is much more still to come.



While I was hoping to run a sub 1:20 half marathon, my legs were pretty beat up by the run and I focused really hard on staying present and in the moment. Some good advice from a pre-race Purplepatch blog helped me to stay in the moment: never evaluate during the race. When my mind would start to wander towards thoughts that I should run faster etc, I just told my legs to do their best and I trusted my body to work hard. At about half way through the run, Graham yelled to me that I was about 1 min down from 9th and 2 minutes from 8th, and that gave me a lot of motivation to pick up the pace again. Fortunately, I was able to catch 9th, but unfortunately, Mary Beth Ellis held on to 8th although I chipped some more time back. I was pretty happy to see that finish line running down the Strand.

I finished the race pleased with the process and execution and optimistic that I have lots of room for improvement for the rest of the season. As it was Graham’s birthday, I had promised him I would do my best and have fun so that mission was completed! It was really fun to hang out on the beach afterwards with great friends, and to go to dinner with the Fleshman/Thomas and Savege/Rapp crew. Hats off to the great support crew of spouses who cheered us on and looked after our toddlers – the unsung heroes of race day!

Next up…St. George. Another little race without any hills or challenges!

Win, lose or draw: the team makes the team!
Win, lose or draw: the team makes the team!

VDOT clinic with Jack Daniels

I had the privilege of being part of a running nerd weekend in Toronto  last weekend as part of the Run SMART Project’s VDOT Coaching Certification Clinic. I wrote a blog on the experience which was posted directly to the Run SMART website.…and the text below…

I also made a new friend, Michelle, who wrote a great piece on her perspective and learning from the weekend.  Check out her awesome website at


I am sitting on the brand new addition to the WestJet fleet, Juliet, thinking about my great weekend in Toronto as part of The Run SMART Project’s VDOT Coaching Clinic & Certification with Dr. Jack Daniels. The new airplane, a 676, is irrelevant information to this article, but as a fan of aircrafts and running, I think it is cool to test-ride this new giant addition that will allow WestJet to offer direct flights from Calgary to Glasgow next year!

The weekend was cool for a number of reasons, but mostly because if you put 60 enthusiastic runners and coaches in a room for a day, the energy is invigorating and contagious. People gave up their weekends – and in many cases traveled significant distances – to come and learn from Jack and hear his stories, as well as connect with other coaches. Despite the collective knowledge in the room, everyone was keen to listen, because the stories, anecdotes, knowledge and experience that Jack shared with us is a dream come true for a bona fide runner nerd.

The group was an educated crowd, and I think for many people, the presentations filled in gaps or provided a bit more detail about theories that they already knew. It was interesting to hear how Jack researched and developed his extensive VDOT charts, which are the cornerstone of his coaching, as well as how he applies the VDOT paces to different workout structures. To many, it also reinforces that they are on the right track and more or less doing the “right” thing with their athletes, but perhaps a few tweaks are in order. Three of the big lessons I relearned that I will file away in the back of my head are:

  1. Do as little work as possible to get the results you need. As an endurance runner and triathlete, it is easy to get obsessed with mileage and workload. Jack reminded everyone of the law of diminishing returns and how it applies to training, as well as the fact that for someone just getting started in running, or returning from running, a little bit of running is significantly more than what was previously being done; and therefore more is not better.
  1. Long Runs don’t need to be crazy long. A 4-hour marathon runner should not be attempting to do long runs that are longer in duration (not distance) than an elite runner, especially because they are not as highly trained or economical. Time, rather than distance, should be the focus of long runs for slower runner and he recommends no more than 2.5 hour long runs for anyone. He reminded us that an ultra runner would never do a 100 km “long run” prior to the race but that they are still adequately prepared through other training.
  1. Don’t over-reach on Intervals. Especially on Vo2 max workouts, there is no point of trying to run Intervals faster than the equivalent paces for your fitness (as per the VDOT Calculator) as the point is to be doing the Intervals AT Vo2 max, not ABOVE Vo2 max, because theoretically you cannot run above your Vo2 max – that is the ceiling! I know there were many times that I attempted to exceed my fitness level in a workout and ended up “failing” the workout because I couldn’t maintain the initial pace and suffered through the workout. In the end, it is less beneficial to start too fast and finish too slowly because then you spend LESS time at your Vo2 max than if you paced yourself appropriately from the beginning!

For those of you who have already attended the VDOT Clinic and are reading this blog, I wonder, what three things did you take away from the weekend? Please share!

The course was well worth my time (disclosure: I also presented but I am being objective – promise!) – and for people who haven’t attended one please check back on the VDOT Clinic webpage for more info on future events!