Saturday, November 14, 2015

Kyla's Blog

I’ve been getting a lot more attention through our website than usual, likely because of Alex's triathlon adventures, and with it a lot of inquiries about my racing. Most people are surprised when I say that I stopped training a year and a half ago, and then without fail they ask when I’m going to race again. 
I’ve wanted to write about it before, but I didn’t want it to come across too emotionally. This week when Laurent Vidal passed away, I thought of how he had been such an influence in my life even though we’d never met. I admired how positive he was about having to stop racing despite his huge talent, and how he chose to remain such a massive and influential part of the ITU. I wanted to be like Laurent. I want to be like Laurent.
I would love to race again, but elite triathlon doesn’t work that way. It’s all or nothing. I was fortunate enough to put triathlon first for a very long time. I am no longer capable of getting to my peak fitness, and wouldn't be happy racing at a quarter of the fitness that I know I am capable of, even at a less competitive level. Getting to a quarter fitness is still a shit-ton of work! It’s early mornings, and late nights, and rainy cold Saturdays fit around an exhausting work week. I coach many age-groupers, and I know I don’t have the energy resources, or the drive, for that lifestyle. 
I never went to the Olympics obviously. I was never making a living out of ITU triathlon. I was never as single-minded as I should have been to be a great triathlete, since I have always had other passions. Still, getting over the sport that I had dedicated my entire life to (so far) was challenging! There were many steps involved in the 'getting-over-it' process.

Step 1:  Cowboy Up
Deciding to quit is easier said than done. I knew from the day that I re-triggered my Overtraining Syndrome in May 2014, that it was over. However for the first time, I wasn’t fighting for people to believe in me, I was fighting for people to let me go. I dragged it out. Big goals to just turn your back on.

Step 2: False Hope
In an effort to make “retiring” less real, I clung to the idea that I would get healthy, and then begin a gradual more realistic return to racing. I knew that I would never be capable of training at the same level as all the other ITU athletes again, but I also had acquired an understanding of my physiology that had previously been untapped.  Unlike most of the aerobic-beasts in ITU, I knew I didn’t need as much intensity in my training to be fast. I wanted more than anything to try a training approach revolving around technique and volume, with small episodes of perfectly timed intensity. I wanted to try training in a way where I was completely in control. I had only had one small period of training throughout my career where I felt like I was training to make myself faster, as opposed to training the way ITU athletes are expected to train. I wanted to find that zone again. 
Let's be real - I would have never been an Olympic gold medalist. I have seen the physiology required to be truly great at ITU, and I don’t have it. That said, I could have raced a hell-of–a lot faster than I ever did. I don’t have the aerobic engine that is typical of most triathletes, but when I’m healthy, I cover breaks that no one else can and recover quickly, I draft like a genius in the water, and I’m tough.  Big goals to just turn your back on.

Step 3: The Exercise Addiction
This part isn’t just specific to me!!! I’ve seen it in many training partners: serious anxiety around not exercising and being outside a least a couple times a day.  

How I got over it:
I actually found my happy by re-triggering the overtraining syndrome for a third (maybe 4th or 5th if you look far enough back) time. It was this past February. I wasn’t training anymore. I was still in step 3 (the addicted to exercise phase) a little bit. I was trying to get back into running for real, so I was doing little 30- 45 minute jogs. I was trying to learn to surf. I went on adventure rides, and I was doing super fun gym workouts a few times a week. I wasn’t pushing myself, I was just doing what made me happy. Then one morning I woke up and my Heart Rate Variability (which I had been tracking regularly) was really bad. I figured that I must be getting sick, so instead of going for a longer run, I decided to just go for a little jog. It felt terrible. I turned back up the hill to my house and instead of my heart rate increasing as it should when you run up a hill, it went down. Intrigued, I pushed a little harder. Full body pain. Like the last 100m of an 800m on the track. That was interesting… as that usually only happens when I have overtraining syndrome, but I wasn't even training anymore! 
 And then I was knocked out for months. Brain-fog. I couldn’t hold a conversation. I could barely stay awake until 7pm. Getting off the couch to make dinner or do the dishes would make me want to cry. After a few weeks of body aches and exhaustion like the flu (worse than mono by far, I know), and knowing that I had a good 4 to 6 months ahead of me (from previous episodes), I took advantage of no longer being in the testing pool, and self-prescribed some cortisol boosters. Immediate relief. Like a light switch going on in my brain. I could function again, although any exercise would set me back for a few days. Easy walks would still be exhausting. From experience, I knew that not doing anything physical was my only hope of functioning as a human, so I broke my exercise addiction once and for all. I didn’t drag it on like I had previously, when we thought that I should at least keep doing light training if I planned on making a comeback. I was way healthier doing absolutely nothing. It was also neat to feel the hormone aspect of my moods. I always knew that I was in a good place and happy overall , but if I did too much in a day it would throw off my hormones enough to make me quite depressed and brain-fogged. I knew that I wasn't really sad, and that it was just a function of my health, but it was still annoying to wait it out each time. I couldn't believe how stupid I was to have pushed through for as long as I did during my episode the summer before.
I finally came to terms with the fact that getting healthy was going to take a lot longer than I had planned. I let it go. I’m happy. But of course I’m still in the 4th step.

Step 4: New Lifestyle
The last step is finding goals that will never amount to the all-consuming, borderline impossible goals that you dedicate your life to as an athlete. Clocking hours to make money is extremely unsatisfying in comparison. Not having enough time to both sleep and exercise (because of work) is super annoying. That said, I love being free to make my own choices. That was what broke me down the most in high performance sport. I have never lacked other interests or goals. I love that I can go climbing or surfing or adventuring as much as my financial situation allows. I want to study overtraining syndrome since the medical and scientific understanding is definitely lacking. There has been some sweet new research done on an inhibition of glycolysis that may potentially reduce the provision of adequate acetyl-CoA for the citric acid cycle  found in chronic fatigue patients (aka: blocked energy availability for exercise), as well as partial peripheral glucocorticoid receptor resistance in people with chronic stress (reduced fight or flight capability- aka: What you need to be able to do to exercise). I know there are a large number of factors that accumulate to create a rare situation like my own, but with that said, I can name at least half a dozen who have experienced career ending chronic fatigue. It would be cool if I could do this type of research in my masters degree, but if I can’t find a program to support this, I can work on it later down the road in my academic future.

In the mean-time, I am not personal training & coaching right now: I am changing peoples lives. And I’m healthy. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Awesomes vs. Less than Awesomes

I was super motivated to write this post about 2 months ago, but at the time I was forcing myself to prioritize school. Since then, a lot of awesome and some less-than-awesome developments have occurred, so my inner list of anecdotes have become overwhelming. I will try to share them as chronologically and briefly as possible.

Awesome: I started working as a coach with Mercury Rising Triathlon Club. Get this: MRT is based out of Victoria AND Calgary, so they are a perfect fit for me (My hometown is Calgary, and current home is Victoria).  I'm being mentored by the renowned coaches, Clint Lien and super triathlete Sara Gross, so I couldn't think of a better opportunity for getting started. This has been a really fun experience so far because I get to turn my focus away from myself and towards others' goals which is a huge relief. I am mainly doing online programming and subbing in at coached sessions in Victoria, so feel free to check out the MRT website if you are a currently an un-coached triathlete, who happens to be reading my blog, and are interested in joining a very fun and successful squad.

Awesome: End of February/beginning of March we went to Florida for a training camp with a couple of shake-out training races mixed in. 90% of triathlon Canada athletes seemed to be in Clermont, so it was pretty cool to get to join up for some massive Team-Canada swims and rides. Huge thanks to Tri-Quebec, Francis & Kyla R, for fitting us into houses with the Quebec athletes while we were there. It was a blast.

Elevate-Me oatmeals were lifesaving on the 6am flight & early morning race starts
Team Canada takes over the Clermont pool
Stoked to wear my Aqua Sphere suit for the first time in a while 
Not-so-Awesome: The races themselves were not so awesome. I ended up getting the flu the day before the Clermont PanAm cup race. I was awake all night with the shivers and body-aches of a wicked fever and stomach flu. I rolled out of bed in the morning thinking there was NO way I was going to race. I hadn't been able to eat much over the past 24 hours and was feeling very stomach crampy and exhausted. If it were world champs maybe... but with another race the following weekend, I didn't really see the point in putting myself through a public display of suffering.

In typical me-fashion, I didn't end up having the guts to drop out, so I mentally committed to just trying to have the best swim possible. focus on one thing at a time. I had the best start position of all time (right next to Sarah McClarty), so I had the opportunity to do something awesome. Awesome did not happen. My attempt at having a good attitude didn't last past my first few strokes when I realized how terrible my body felt. I spent the majority of the race wallowing in how absolutely horribly I was dying while steadily going backwards. I got to rest on the run because of a transition-box penalty, but it was only 10 seconds instead of the 15 you get in Olympic distance races. All in all, I was pretty disappointed in my failure to stay tough out there. A significant positive to this experience was that it reminded me that there is absolutely no-room for anything but a fierce and confident winning attitude in this type of racing. ITU racing is freaking fast.
Alex and I on the bike. Photo thanks to J5 Imaging
I went into the Sarasota PanAm cup, a week later, much more mentally prepared to race and much less pukey. I screwed up my start big-time though, and found myself on slow feet. It took me a little too long to notice when the two girls in front of me had been dropped from the Sarah-McClarty train, and a (seemingly) massive gap formed. I surged around them as quickly as I could, and spent the whole way back from the turn-buoy bridging that gap. I was really proud of my commitment because ever so gradually inching myself back up to the very quick front pack required a lot of self-belief and a significant amount of pain. I only latched on right as I came up to the swim exit. Unfortunately, I didn't have the fitness to maintain my effort and stay up with the leaders onto the bike and I soon found myself in the main chase pack. I then ran like a brick. I was certainly grateful to be back racing, but man was it an ego-destroyer! 
I knew very well that I didn't have any racing fitness going into these races coming off a gradual fall/winter, but I thought that maybe my old-self would make an appearance on race day. Sadly, no miracle occurred. That old-self is years gone. I've learnt to appreciate my health over the years, so after this race, I had to remind myself to be patient with my fitness as well. 

Awesome: The Florida camp seemed to finally trigger a huge fitness turn-around, and from then on I started seeing glimpses of being fast in swim, bike and run workouts. And I can officially say that this was my first winter of training since 2009 where I haven't had a serious winter-long injury.
Florida bosses
Not-so-Awesome: Despite no long-term injuries, my spring and winter have been far from consistent. Since consistency in training is my number 1 goal, this has been frustrating. After Florida, I realized that all the strength and mobility work on the planet couldn't help my biomechanics, and that I was going to have to start accommodating for my leg-length discrepancy after all (or else my coach would forever have to listen to my litany of left hip, knee and ankle jams, pains or strains (It's a 12mm difference by x-ray/scannogram, so it is on the line as a discrepancy that must be accommodated for)). Attempting to adapt to 3 bike fits over the past few months, and the corresponding lifts in my shoes, has resulted in what feels like a different mini-injury per week. And now, I am currently bogged down by a two-week long cold-turned killer-flu. Setbacks are always frustrating, but there is a great quote from a book by Dr. Saul L. Miller which describes how I have learnt to approach this sport if I am to be successful as a triathlete:

Much of the pressure we experience is in part a function of the way we feel about ourselves, and that we become more vulnerable to the limiting effects of pressure when we lack confidence and self-esteem. From this perspective, it is our fear, specifically our fear of not being okay, that pressures us into feeling stressed and avoiding failure. As we become more self-accepting and comfortable with who we are, we identify less with our goals and are less in need of having to achieve and succeed in order to feel better about ourselves. Less need means less pressure and often better results. That's not to say we shouldn't be motivated, set goals, and direct our behaviour - not at all! Simply, that it's healthier to work from preference rather than addiction (ie. I need this to happen in order to feel good about myself). - from Performing Under Pressure by Dr. Saul L. Miller (hopefully I won't get sued for that).

It's got to be fun man.

Awesome: Kirsten and Sarah-Anne's racing at WTS Auckland and Cape Town!!! Ooohhhh Mannnnnnn! Sarah's race in Auckland was probably the most inspirational thing I've ever seen. Did you see when Joanna did the most epic bridge up to front pack on the bike OF ALL TIME?? No one could stay on her wheel (ok one girl did, but I forget who that was). Jo finally latched on after over a lap and a half (I think) of hero-biking, and Sarah, without even realizing that another Canadian had just caught on, moved to the front of the pack and proceeded to shatter it. Half the front pack gone just like that. It was the most epic women's bike I've ever seen. And then Sarah ignored the fact that she had been walk-running all winter and lead the whole run up until the final surge & sprint.
 Lessons: Never deny yourself an opportunity just because you're not 100% ready. Believe in yourself (she knew she could run fast anyways because she runs track). And finally, ride your bike a lot. 

Awesome: Alex and I are being supported by CEP this year, which has been a huge help in training and recovery. We are also on team Tri-It again this year, and will be able to share discounts to their awesome online store in the near future, so I will keep you updated on that.
showin off my socks

Spring on the Island
Awesome: Alex and I went over to see Anthony of Level 10 Fitness at the gorgeous Fortius Center in Burnaby a couple of days ago. It was great. Anthony is awesome. My six pack is definitely coming along. 
Sunny day for our trip to Vancouver
An older picture of us and Anthony at Level 10. Pic courtesy of the Vancouver Sun
If you have gotten this far into the blog, then clearly you are a trooper. If you are also from Victoria then you are a perfect fit for our NTC training weekend that happens next week (May 10th &11th). We don't have any money to travel to races this year, but we do have an overabundance of training and racing knowledge to share, so we'd love it if you came out! Registration and details are here.   

Thanks for reading! 
- KC

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's a Big Exciting World Out There

Off season 2013:

This fall/winter has been about re-learning how to cross-bike (next step mountain biking so we can venture off the green runs! Or just get better at cross-biking I suppose), trail running (!!!), and wondering how it is possible to lose swim fitness so quickly. I've also been wrapping up my last somewhat-real semester of my Kinesiology degree! oh AND becoming indestructible! We were able to go to North Vancouver to work with the one & only Anthony at Level 10 Fitness. While we were there Alex and I met up with the great team at Elevate Me (because proper nutrition is one of the foundation stones of becoming indestructible). It's been a good fall. Winter? It has to be winter by now. This dark by 4:30pm is killing me.

Ellen XC biking in North Van
When you are finishing high school and deciding what to do next, you don't think too much about what happens after that. I am rapidly reaching the after-that. It's complicated.

So far, in my almost 24 years of existence, the accomplishments that I am the most proud of are the ones that took a MUCH longer amount of time, and a greater amount of effort, than I ever imagined they would.

Example A: getting my drivers license when I was 17. I never thought that would be something difficult to accomplish. Everybody gets their drivers license. But a combination of low driving confidence in a decently big city, the world’s most horrible driving instructor, HATING being judged, and a natural anti-talent for driving, made it very hard. I don’t even have many memories from that period of my life, but the in-class driver’s education sessions stand out by how absolutely miserably boring they were (interspersed with moments of terror as we watched the old New Zealand anti-drunk driving ads). I took the driving test twice because I failed the parallel park. I was under the impression I had to do it in one go rather than being allowed to do the ee-eer-eee-er-eee-er type park that everybody actually does. Automatic fail. Anyways, the point of my story is: getting my drivers license was a BIG accomplishment for me. (I won’t even say that I'm a good driver now, because everyone will just make fun of me if I do...but no really, I'm not that bad).

I am now feeling this way about my undergraduate degree.

Example B: I never thought twice about not getting a University degree, I just dove in without really contemplating what I was getting myself into. Now I know. You have to take 40+ classes to get a degree! 40. 40 classes! More if they change the degree requirements all the time without telling you so you take the wrong classes. Plus all the labs, extra-curricular experiences, and those stupid sports activities (like dance which resulted in a stress fracture) that kinesiology students no longer even need to take these days (yes, it has taken me long enough to do my degree that I can use the words 'these days')! Who knew it would feel so long when you spread it out! The path of least harm was always my approach; try to minimize the damage to both my academic and athletic careers, but it is HARD! So, it turns out I will be very proud to finish school.

I only have one class left before I graduate, and it feels like the future is all of a sudden in my face. Like out of nowhere. I am VERY excited to completely dedicate myself to triathlon! But again, I underestimated how terrifying this would be.

Getting to where I am now has been the result of massive parental and Triathlon Canada support. Thus far, I have been incredibly lucky, and managed to avoid the amateur athlete, 'how do I train for my sport without ending up asking for handouts on the street' crisis. Unlike what everybody seems to think, receiving funding for our sport is a huge accomplishment. Also, unlike what people tend to think, most of us aren’t fully supported by sponsors. The fall back plan of taking out a student loan is now out the window... How does someone just out of university fund themselves to travel the world (with a bike box) when we’re supposed to just be worrying about how to make rent & buy food!!!? 

To summarize: my life plan is slightly daunting.

Scary thoughts aside, I've been lucky to experience how the best athletes in the world train, and I’m ready to commit to that full-time! How cool is that? 

I am currently just believing that it will all work out. Thinking happy thoughts! The athletes who say they always KNEW they would win gold at the Olympics, and then did because of their belief in themselves, were prodigies from day 1. They also had an unfortunate case of hubris which, luckily, worked out very well for them. For the rest of us, sport teaches us HOW to believe in ourselves.

For example: I was doing my first ever lead-climb this one time…. 

My sister, Alex, & her boyfriend, Austin, had been climbing for the past month so they were pretty strong. There is an initial total-sucking stage with climbing that (I believe) affects everyone when they climb for the first time in a long time. It could be that I just only climb once a year. My sister sent me up what she thought was an easy enough first-ever lead climb. Lead climbing involves clipping in the rope as you go up, so every 6 or 7 feet or so, you clip into a bolt. When you fall you will ideally only fall as far as your last clip. If you are 5ft above your last clip, you will fall 10 feet down. Well this particular climb had crappy crumbly-mossy rock, with a dangerous line over many jutty-outy bits. The bolts were spaced out very far apart in my opinion, and I am convinced that it was a harder climb than it was graded. I guess I might have just been rusty. Somewhere, three-quarters of the way up, I came to the crux of the climb, and could not make the next move. I felt very high up. My forearms and fingers and calves were cramping from trying to stay plastered onto the wall by a very tenuous hold (yup- good word right there, I know). I felt very far above the last clip, and there was a ledge I would likely hit on the way down if I were to fall. I didn’t have any experience with lead climb falling, so I was freaking out. I didn’t actually think I would hit the ground if I fell, but that wasn’t what I was focused on. I was just irrationally terrified of falling. I was shaking uncontrollably while barely clinging onto the wall type-terrified.

Not actual site of this particular anecdote
 I’m not even a thrill-seeking type person! I don’t ever want to jump out of a plane, or bungy-jump, or go off of a high diving board! I climb because I love being in the forest. I like the challenge, and the community; the same reasons I do triathlon.

Neither is this one
At that moment I was NOT enjoying myself. Unfortunately, you can’t give up when it would mean falling 12+ feet and probably hitting a jutty-out rock on the way down, so the only option was to keep going up. In this case, that meant risking it and lunging for a seemingly non-existent next move with only the barest of grips to launch off of. I guess I made it in the end, because I didn’t fall. By the time I got back to the ground (an eternity later) I was SO relieved to have done it, and VERY grumpy at my sister for putting me through that. Why couldn’t I have started with an actual easy wall! I’m not saying that everybody has to go through a similar forced self-belief experience, but I do think that we will never overcome our fears if we can simply avoid them in the first place. 

In conclusion, getting your drivers licence is hard, getting a University degree is hard, climbing is scary, and I’m going to try to make it as a triathlete for a couple years. I’ll keep you updated on how that goes. 


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My 2013 Race Report

Cozumel Pre-Race Report: 

In a last minute decision 12ish weeks ago, I changed my mind about staying home for the summer. I wasn't ready to do any European racing at the time. I wasn't even ready to integrate all that much with the athletes over in Spain, but I had a feeling that if I wanted to race this year I was going to have to take some risks to make big things happen. Libby and the coaches supported me to go to Vitoria, Spain despite everything, and off I went. Upon arriving, Kyla Rollinson agreed to take me on and coach me alongside Jaime Turner's group. We both agreed that racing in the fall would be the goal, but that we wouldn't rush the progression to make it happen. If I was capable of finishing a triathlon by the fall, I would get myself in the action and prove to myself that I was still a triathlete for 2014. But no panic training.

Building up in Vitoria was a huge shock to the system, but definitely a game changer. By a combination of on-site treatment & personalized programming, I was finally turning into a full time athlete. I came home at the end of August convincing myself that I still had plenty of time to get in race shape, but time sure flies when there isn't enough of it.
Bike fit in Vancouver with Noa Deutsch & Sea to Sky ride

The two weeks after stepping off the plane rushed by in a flurry of trying to keep my knees happy since my in-flight sleeping contortions seemed to have thrown everything out of whack. Treatment, recovery, fitness maintenance, and strength & mobility were the priority. Rollering & yoga hours probably > training hours.

Long Ride back on the Island with Emma! 
 Training back on the Island was lovely, but soon enough the pools in town shut down for their regular fall maintenance. My remaining teammates who weren't already on their yearly-break (or booking another knee surgery like poor Alex) flew off to London, and soon it was just the Hoopster and I trying to meet up for chilly open water swims wherever our training schedules matched up. School started up again and everyone was getting excited about pumpkin spice lattes, and cross-country running, and I was just trying to pretend it wasn't happening. C'mon guys racing season is just starting!!! IT'S STILL SUMMER HERE!! no panic training...

Chilly Morning at Thetis Lake
 Luckily, I only had to get through a couple weeks of juggling classes and OYO training, plus a minor back-to-school cold, and what I felt was an unseasonably rainy/chilly September, before I packed up and shipped myself off to Montreal for a week of training with coach Kyla before Cozumel World Cup.

This was a very good idea.

You see, I had taken one look at the Cozumel start list and was in a bit of a panic. I ever so briefly considered switching races to the Continental Cup in Puerto Rico, but no, that was an Olympic distance race, and I had already decided that a sprint in the heat was what that the body was ready to handle. The plan was to set me up for 2014, not cause any setbacks. It had to be Cozumel. As Kyla told me, "Those are the girls you need to be comfortable racing anyways, might as well start now!"

I believed that I belonged in that race, but it was coming up so fast! Since I was mostly training on my own back home, I couldn't find any objective evidence to prove to myself that I would survive in a World Cup race. I need a new power meter, so I didn't have power to tell me if my bike fitness was improving. I loved swimming in the lake, and was super grateful to my aquasphere suit for keeping me warm and oh so floaty, but I didn't really know if I was swimming fast or not. And because I was doing my running on trails through the trees, my Garmin files were usually all over the place ( issues related to my technological abilities may also have been a factor). I was about to head to the hottest WC of the year, with heat being my biggest weakness, against a field of athletes coming off their London fitness, and I didn't feel even remotely race ready. So it all came down to the Montreal pre-race week. Maybe just one week of panic training?
Polar Bear's Club in Montreal

Atwater Market in Montreal
Visiting Kyla & Javier and their gang of athletes saved my life. Firstly, it was gorgeous Summer weather there. Thank goodness! Being back in triathlon mode allowed me to rally up some confidence while I put school to the side for a while (well as much as possible. I did end up doing a timed quiz on my phone in the dark in the passenger seat of car, which did NOT go overly well, but otherwise I don't feel too far behind). The minimal pool swimming in Victoria hadn't been the best for my speed, so we spent the week sharpening that up. I did my last big run workout before the race, on flat ground for the first time, and really surprised myself with my times. Javier worked his butt off to teach me how to corner on the bike. Kyla & Javier went out of their way to get me to massages and physio and the awesomest Spa ever, so I could cook myself in a steam room in a last ditch attempt at heat training. One day, Kyla even got a local bike shop to put a power tap on my bike for a workout to get an idea of where I was at. "You're going to be ok on the bike," she told me afterwards. I didn't totally believe her, but was glad she thought so. Finally, a couple of the big names started to drop off the startlist. It was still going to be a fast swim though, so I was feeling the pressure to not screw it up since I had been consistently swimming this year. My recent workouts hadn't been anything spectacular though, so it looked like I was going to have to just believe in myself.

Heading down to Cozumel, I set aside most of my anxieties and decided to have fun. I couldn't control how I compared to the field, I just had to focus on racing, enjoying it, and if I got absolutely owned then I would know that I had work to do for next year. Worst case scenario (other than death) I got a trip to Mehico and a break from school out of the deal!

Condo Pool & View
From that point on, I was actually pretty calm! Every time I stepped out from the safety of air-conditioned condo into the steam-room that was Cozumel, I thought oh crap, but otherwise, I'd mostly gotten over being a chronic head-case. A small voice in my head was wondering why I was doing this to myself, but I mostly suppressed it and was pretty stoked to be in Mexico. My Dad came down to watch me race which was really great since I never get to see him! Craig and his gang helped me get settled, and then the day before the race, coach Kyla flew in to Cozumel. We did a final tune up in the pool, and for the first time in a long time, I felt pretty good in the water.

Daddio on the Patio

Cozumel Race Report: 

Race morning- Sauna air. Weather network was saying 'feels like' 42 or something crazy like that. Which is indeed what it felt like. The 27 degree water was crystal clear but treacherously brought up core temp despite feeling cool when you first dove in.

We were marshalled up, and way at the back of the procession, I stood wrapped in my frozen towels with an eload slushy, looking very much like I needed to throw up. The girls lined up perfectly from right to left, so I followed along and took my spot on the far left knowing I'd somehow have to get right. And we were off! I let the other girls do the sprinting and cruised along with them feeling pretty good about myself. I then looked up and saw that everyone to the right had already made significant ground on us. No wonder it had felt cruisy. I didn't bother wasting energy on worrying about it, and broke free of the limbs and bodies now pushing me under and pulling me back to surge up to the very large pack ahead. Right into the middle of the washing machine. It was chaos as always, but I didn't stress, and powered my way through as best I could. We were almost at the 475m buoy when I saw the break to front pack form. This was it! I brought on the legs and covered the empty water to latch onto the back going around the buoys. The last 100 meters I could see that front pack was really more of a line, so staying as relaxed as possible, I made sure to secure my position by gradually leap-frogging my way up the pack. I think I came out of the water in sixth or so, but felt great running up the ramp, and into transition I realized I was running next to Lucy Hall! What!?! That hadn't even been too hard!
I then proceeded to throw my cap and goggles clear over my box, and had to do an awkward dance around my bike while putting on my helmet to get my gear in the box. I made up for it with a sweet mount, and I think I exited the roundabout after transition in third or so. As our small pack formed, I realized that my best case scenario was actually happening. We just needed to stay away from chase pack. That lasted all of a lap and a half. I think most of the pack put in a good effort, but we didn't stand a chance with Spirig and co coming up from behind.

 As our pack doubled in size, I continued to stay pretty close to the front. Retrospectively, this wasn't the greatest idea, but I was focused on my pre-race bike-goal of rocking the corners. Which I did! Thank you Javier!! I was so good on one turn that I only realized I'd dropped everyone when I had taken the longest pull ever and NO ONE would pull through. So I was pretty proud of myself because I had been really nervous about my technical skills. As each lap progressed, I realized more and more that I belonged in this race. I did start to get the cold-shivers which is never a good sign when you're racing in a sauna, and regretted having frozen my water bottle so well, but all in all I felt strong and in control.

Then T2 happened which was the disaster of a lifetime. Without going into too much detail, I came into T2 relatively close to the front of the pack, and left WAY after Joanna, who was WAY behind everyone else. Bad news. The goal was to negative split the run, but heading out into the furnace feeling like a total brick, well behind everyone else, was a little hard on the ego. Soon I had caught up and passed two of the other girls who weren't enjoying the conditions very much either. After the half-way point, I felt like I was actually starting to run like I knew I could, and made up big ground on the next two girls ahead of me. Unfortunately with a km or so to go, I went into the soon-to-be-a-denatured-protein zone, and realized that if I wanted to finish the race, I was going to have to back it off or risk passing out 200 meters from the finish as I've done many times before. I settled down, and for a bit I wasn't sure if it would be enough, but luckily I came out of the danger zone and was able to cross the line without letting my form go, I had to let those two girls duke it out without me though.

Now I can no longer say that my last race was Beijing 2011, and I finally feel like I might be able to make a 2014 comeback after all. All in all, I really did surprise myself with how I felt like I belonged in that race. I realize it wasn't a WTS by any means, and my run wasn't very indicative of my actual running abilities, but I was thrilled none-the-less. I was happy to have managed the heat fairly well given my past relationship with hot races. Although, I hope that with a little more time & fitness I would have been able to run more to my potential even with the heat and humidity. I didn't have any expectations in terms of my result, so to be top 15 felt like a very good starting point to my racing season. And ending point too :).

Now I'm done for the season!!! Coach Carolyn Murray is back from her maternity leave, so I'm excited to be back to working with her and the squad here in Victoria heading into 2014. I can't thank Kyla Rollinson enough for adopting me this summer, and all the miracles she worked to get me healthy and to that startline. And for coming to the race! To my other coaches this summer: Alan and the Island Swim Program, and Jaime Turner when I was in Spain- Thank you!

Two Kylas
Super High Performance Director, Libby, who has been the one all along to remind us to back ourselves- Thank you so much. Thanks to the people who hold me together: Physios Marilyn Adams, Sue Lott, and Paul Macintyre, Chiro Brandon Cali, Dr. Levins & Dr. Keeler, and massage therapist Kim Ward! 
And last but not least my sponsors: Aquasphere, because that swim was all due to having awesome goggles, and the wonderful gang at Tri-It in Calgary for always believing in me no matter what crazy things seem to be going on.

Onto 2014!!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mountaineering 101

ITU World Championships wrapped up, which kind of signifies the end of another season. Or it would if EVERYONE wasn't doing late season races!

I've run into a number of triathlon-land people recently, who have asked how I've been, or commented on the fact that they haven't seen me in a while. I tell them that I'm doing great! Then they look at me strangely because I haven't been on a startlist in the last 2 years. This year was supposed to be my build-back year. In some ways it was more like the year that has yet to get off the ground... but I think it still might.

Through a strange set of circumstances I trained under 3 very different but great coaches, and got to work with a whackload of other amazing ones. That is a lot of knowledge and perspective in one year. In July & August, I was able to join some of the national and national development team athletes in Spain with Jaime Turner's Wollongong Wizards (I don't know why they call themselves that, but I assume it has something to do with the fact that both words start with W). It was a somewhat risky decision since I wasn't fully healthy, and was debating with myself whether the money wouldn't be better spent on racing next year. However, it felt a little bit like a make-or-break moment, so I gave it a shot. I'm very happy that I went. I was coached by the one and only Kyla Rollinson, and was held together by magical Marilyn Adams. I did 6 weeks straight of swimming and running and biking! It felt like the best training camp ever. Partially because I was able to re-see what it takes to be the best in the World, and partially because I was running and biking. The Canadian crew are my favourite training group, and dem Aussies weren't so bad either once they accepted our friendly-puppy canadian ways ;).

Meanwhile, another of my Aunts (my third), and my bestest cousin were and are winning their fights with cancer. My parents lost their home and most of what they've worked towards throughout their lives in the Alberta floods, but are getting closer and closer to finishing clean-up and settling into their rental condo. My little bro just got chosen to be Macbeth in Macbeth (after being Frankenstein in Frankenstein, and the one man in a one man play last year). I'm very proud of all of them.

I also watched our three U23 women all come top 5 at World Champs like I knew they could, and I followed along with all the individual battles in the triathlon blogosphere.

Vitoria- Gastiez

Sports highs-and-lows are just life's highs-and-lows smushed into the span of an athletic career. There are the peaks of achieving one's goals and, for a time, being invincible. Then there are the valleys of minor setbacks, of not achieving goals, politics, team selection, the devastation of having one's first minor injury, or of hugely under-representing your hard-work and potential when it matters. Then there is missing out on your first important race due to injury/illness, or the career halting setbacks that forces an athlete to really rethink their identity and adapt in some way. Helen & Paula's blogs struck a chord with me because I can see myself in their different stages of dealing with a longterm injury. They're the best of the best and I'm just me, but I'm sure there's a universal human parabola-like theory for dealing with disappointment (even if I haven't read enough psych textbooks to know of it yet). 

From what I've observed, professional athletes (the real deal professional athletes) are goal oriented. For the most part they work for the future, because nobody who is focused on the now would put themselves into that dark place day after day and still love their lives. Single-minded. The world is theirs for the taking if they work hard enough at it.

The body not fulfilling what the mind believes it should be able to is a betrayal to ones-self. Body-Mind sabotage. Athletes have a hard time wrapping their heads around their mortality just as much as teenage boys do.

A goal oriented approach to life is integral to the 'urgency' needed to make it in the big league, but it can also keep an athlete fixated on a utopian future vision... for better or worse...

Remember, life isn't fair. 

"I can do anything if I work hard enough. Except that I am broken. I need to be fixed so that I can work harder than everyone else."

I am not a psychologist, but happy people don't see themselves as needing to be fixed. When your identity is dependent on your body (and its limitations), I suppose this can make acceptance of the self (and consequently happiness) challenging. 

Taking ownership of the injury/setback with the belief that you can fix yourself can give an athlete that sense of goal-oriented self-belief that is paramount to their functioning. Jesse gives a great lowdown on how to deal with injury! Until it doesn't work. 


"I will never be healthy enough. Maybe I should throw in the towel now." Or in my case: "I haven't even proven that I AM even good at this yet."

Anxiety over life direction. Utopian future unravelling... 

 Identity CRISIS!!! 

At this point the athlete might get healthy and fast again, and the problem will be solved. They might find their identity elsewhere, develop a new niche/community separate from sport, and realize that they can in fact be happy as themselves, not just as 'so and so, the ridiculously fit professional triathlete'. Or maybe, they will let go of the goal oriented approach long enough to find acceptance in how they are now, not just how they want to be. Isn't this the solution to all of our problems? If there is a fourth  alternative to total train derailment, I am not sure what it would be, but maybe I should consult those sports psych textbooks... 

Here's what I've learnt about life from this year (Terrible cliche I know). You enter this world with the cards you've been dealt. You can't change that. Just about everything after that initial hand is down to choices.  Every once and awhile bad luck will strike and everything you've worked towards can be destroyed in a second. And then you have to figure out how to move forward. Good choices often lead to more good choices (as coach K says!). 

And when it comes down to it... if the hand you've been dealt involves being a triathlete, for any length of time, then you've been given a pretty damn good hand! 

Since I spent this year only partially training, and this season not racing again, I guess it is apparent that I didn't just magically become healthy. Shucks. Since I'm writing this blog, I guess I didn't throw in the towel either. It's a triathlon blog after all! My option 3 has been about being grateful. I have learnt so much from all of my triathlon experiences, and I know my whole future will be shaped by how much I've taken from it. I don't think acceptance is the same thing as complacence, it is just finding that balance between living in the now & for the future. This was my last year as a U23, but I don't wish that I were Ellen or Joanna or Amelie, who kicked butt at U23 Worlds this year, because that's their story. How they've played their cards. And they did a mighty fine job. So proud of them *sniff!  

If everything continues to go well I might go get my butt kicked in a later season race in preparation for 2014 (Why didn't everyone go on their break after London like they were supposed to!). My goal is to get on a start line. And live. Who knows, good luck can happen too!

Path to Success by Kyla Coates

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop & look around once in awhile, you could miss it. - Ferris Beuler

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Kyla Coates' 1st race report since Beijing 2011

I won a triathlon today!!!
Alright... it was a relay.
And I just did the swim.
And I think the results are wrong.

...The splits look a little dodgy... Otherwise I'd have full faith in my team's ability to beat the power team of Brent McMahon on the bike & Lucy Smith on the run!

It was a very impulsive decision on my part yesterday. I was just visiting with the Aquasphere & ProCity tents at the Shawnigan Lake pre-race expo when the Lifesport crew asked if Alex or I could swim for a team lacking a swimmer. I was all excited to be at a race site, and apparently that shut off my brain, because I jumped on it. I would have felt really bad if a team couldn't do their race simply because they didn't have someone who would swim 1.9k for them!

Afterwards I remembered that I was signed up to volunteer at the Oak Bay half marathon the next morning, and that my arms were so trashed from our big swim volume week that I'd had to use spinny arms to make it through practices, and that I'd had this spasm in back/neck while blow-drying my hair so I couldn't really turn my head, and that Sundays are my only sleep in and off-swimming day of the week, and that I'd have to get up in the 5s!!!!!

So for a bit, I felt like the stupidest person I know.

Luckily Austin took over my position to help out at the half-marathon! I feel super bad about that. He couldn't breath with my volunteer T-shirt on. Coach Alan gave me a pep talk on getting up in the 5's, so I felt better about that too... and to be honest it was too early for me to feel tired. I give thanks every day for not having to train super early anymore, and I have huge respect for those that do it. I couldn't! I also give thanks every day for not being a competitive swimmer, but that is another story.

It was super great to be back 'racing' again, so maybe I'm not the stupidest person I know. The swim itself went well enough. I didn't really have any oomph, so I just cruised along with Tenille Hoogland. We would take completely different lines, and get really far apart on the straights, but we always seemed to hit the turns at the same time, so eventually I just tucked in behind her.  I told myself "All you are doing is the swim. Tenille's doing the whole half-ironman! Try harder!" However I never seemed to get going much faster, despite the increased efforts. Tenille is legit though, so I didn't mind that she was the one towing me around the lake. It was really fun! It was fun swimming with Tenille and getting a big gap on all the boys. Going to get a coffee while everyone else continued on with the bike and run really wasn't so bad either.

These local races really bring back the joy of the sport for me. My favourite people are all the hot-shots who come out without fancy gear or much training, but have so much fun! You know they'll own the not being able to walk the next day part too.

I like that. Sometimes you get so caught up in the desperation of fighting for your goals and overcoming challenges that you just have to take a chill pill and stop taking yourself so seriously before you give yourself overtraining syndrome! Oh wait... I've done that.
 See, I do learn from my mistakes :).

Even though I've been trying to take myself less seriously, I've had a few low periods this year. Usually because of sleep deprivation. When March rolled around again and I felt like I was in the same boat as last year, I felt pretty sorry for myself. School was really holding me back in my progression. I made some bad judgements, had some more setbacks, and I wasn't sure if my body just wanted me to give up already.

It's the same dilemma when something is going wrong in a workout. When you are over-tired or sick, and a part of your brain is telling you it would be better to stop while a part of your brain is telling you to not be a quitter, and you just end up suffering in no-man's land while your brain's argument wages on. One-hundred percent of the reasons why I've cried in a workout have been because of feeling sorry for myself for having ended up in this pain-filled dilemma. Pretty close to 100% of those times I've settled with HTFUing and sucked it up. That is partially why I hit rock bottom last year.
Like Ryder Hesjedal tweeted, "It's better to smart and soft than stupid."
Anyways, this time around I realized that being continually unsure of whether I will ever be healthy enough to do this was just making me sad. So I finished my school, and have been dedicated to doing everything I can to make the most of this transitional 'become indestructible' year. It's really hard work. There are a million little details that I can use to make myself faster. So so so many details.

But I'm so lucky right now to have the support that allows me to focus 100% on my training within the recovery matrix (as Alan says)! I know in the future this is going to be a lot more challenging. Especially financially. But for right now, I'm just so stoked to be swimming & biking aaannnd running! ( and I feel healthy enough to not need to knock on wood while saying that :). I'm excited man! Hope and support are the two best motivators.

Our Jedi leader Libby and our coaches have been so supportive and have encouraged me to break the 5+ months of injury/year cycle that I've been on for the last 4 years once and for all! So I will be training most of the summer, and by the later season races I'll be ready to rock & roll.

Congrats to all the racers out there!! Hope you had fun! Way to get out and make the world a happier &  healthier place.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Coming Back

Food Stop on Today's Ride. West Coast Best Coast!!
To wrap up 2012: I got IT band bursitis in my second week back to training in October 2011, and had it fixed by a wonderful surgeon, Dr. Nelson, at the end of October 2012. In the middle of that time frame, I thought I was healed (tricky cortisone injection), so I took 2nd semester off of school! Unfortunately I spent January bumming around on the beach, no closer to being able to race or graduate instead. Bummer (not the beach part.. that was pretty nice). In retrospect, it's easy to ask why I didn't call it quits earlier, but at the time there was always that hope/delusion that things would get better, so I kept swimming and tried every treatment on the planet, and was set on racing in Auckland. "I don't need to be fit," I kept telling myself, "I just need to be able to bike and run again!"

March rolled around, and I wound up with some kind of adrenal burnout/chronic fatigue, whatever you want to call it. After the ridiculous over-reaching/passing-out all over the place that occurred throughout 2011, it was probably a long time coming. At the worst points, I would end up on the couch for a few days, too tired to move if I exercised. Soon enough I wasn't swimming, or biking, or running... or meeting the daily requirements for physical activity. Again, why I couldn't come to grips with giving up on the season is hard to understand. You've got to be a little crazy to be in this sport. By summertime, I finally came to the realization that racing was not going to happen for me, but it was tough because it turns out I have no friends outside of triathlon, so I was having a rough go of making the most of the time off.

Gradually, I started doing more fun things with my fellow partner in crime, KS, and I took some summer classes to get my purpose in life back. Lo and behold I actually made friends there too (I don't generally make friends in school, because I only make appearances for the classes themselves in conjunction with not talking when tired)! I found people to go climbing with, and I enjoyed myself after all. Yay!

This fall was great as well. About 3-4 weeks post surgery, I was back in the pool again, and by six weeks I was ever so gradually getting back on the bike and doing a wee bit of jogging. I really enjoyed school because I finally had friends, and I was only in the upper level Kinesiology courses that are actually interesting. I started coming up with grand plans to get my masters over the next couple years. 

When you take that amount of time off, most people will tell you that you'll come back better than ever, that you'll be more motivated, have greater perspective, more fuel for the fire, etc. It's hard to say if this will be true for me or not. It was so hard to give up on triathlon for a year that it was a huge relief when I finally got over that hill and came to terms with it. They don't tell you that you then have to get back over that hill again from the other side. So January was really tough! My first month of full time training and school since fall 2010 was a huge shock to the system. I had planned to take it easier this semester, but it doesn't matter how easy the progression; training + school is hard. Also, I had promised to take a slack semester, but then I went ahead and took 3 lab courses out of my 4 classes, so my time spent at school has been more than ever. I therefore spent the last month in a combo of panic-denial. I was terrified of re-burning out, and was completely overwhelmed by the lack of hours in the day. I don't sleep when stressed, so I was running on 4-6 hours a night which finally cumulated in a minor tearful mental breakdown last Tuesday night on the floor in my closet.

And then I was better.

I realized that I do want to give this another shot, and that I can do it. The next couple months are going to be a lot less cruisy than the previous semester was, but that's just the way it goes. I still can't picture myself winning races and kicking butt and being awesome right now, but I am enjoying the process. I don't know if I have more fuel for the fire or not, but I am very excited for the season. And being healthy is always a work in progress. I mean, I really wish I was wearing full body-hot/cold compression right now! I am a lot smarter though. And I'm really really enjoying training. Not just that fleeting enjoyment of being able to run again after some time off, but enjoying all parts of training. I like the easy swims that never-end, even when I have endless homework still to do. And when my legs are so smashed that I can't stand going up hills cause they're cramping like crazy, and I'm totally getting popped off the back and still have 3 hours of riding to go, I think that's kinda funny too. So maybe 'coming back stronger than ever' is really just having enough outside perspective to know what it is that you are doing. I realized that most kids enjoy life by hanging out with friends, doing activities they like, benefiting society, and having breaks between classes that don't involve fitting in another workout, but I can set that aside a while longer. Swimming and biking and running are pretty awesome things to do. Besides, having fun depends a lot on who you're with- and we've got a pretty great team here in Canada. 

Thanks to Tri-Can this year for still believing in me. And Sharleen & Carolyn for putting up with my training logs over the past few weeks (EVERYTHING IS BAD!!!).  Super happy that January is over, that school looks more maneagable now, that Ellen and Alex and I made it to our chem exam on time coming straight from bike week workout #2 (Ellen: "so, 20k TT... what pace are we talking here?", CM: "all out". Ellen: "ALL OUT!?!?!" Carolyn: "it's a TT!!".) , and that my head is now on straight. Although doing school + training ever again is questionable..

Adaptation phase 1(mental): complete. Now onto Adaptation phase 2 (physical). 
Dude my quads are pulse/cramping just sitting here!