Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

American Thanksgiving has been an important holiday in my family. To find out the reason why, read my dad's blog post here. Basically, from the age of 8 (when I lived in New York) we established an important tradition. When I was a kid, from this day until Christmas day, always felt like a special and magical time. Unfortunately, that feeling faded into adulthood. But, with the presence of my niece, Ms Maddy, and Adam's wonderful children, that spark of magic that I used to feel around this time of year has returned a little bit.

Sparked by that holiday spirit, I thought I would write a blog post about what I am thankful for:

1. The health of my family and friends
2. The fact that I have been running without pain for about 10 months
3. My niece, Maddy
4. My parents and my sisters who are my best friends and who I love so much
5. The fact that WattsUp is a growing and promising business, with the potential to transform people into healthier and fitter athletes. And I get to be part of that!
6. The fact that I chose to go back to school and become a RMT
7. McDonald's muffins and coffee
8. The new friends I have made in the triathlon world in Toronto
9. That I have such wonderful sponsors and supporters as a triathlete
10. That I get to coach such wonderful people with such promising potential
11. That I am a step-mom to 3 wonderful children
12. That Adam's parents have been so kind and welcoming and are now a part of my life
13. That I get to have cake any day that I want
14. That I live so close to High Park
15. People who are kind
16. My Mamma's cooking
17. My Papa's sense of humour
18. The fact that I couldn't have chosen a better partner to take this crazy life adventure with!

Happy Thanksgiving. Be sure to give thanks for the most important things in your life.

Monday, November 23, 2015

How WattsUp Cycling Works: The Beginner to the Elite Athlete can Benefit

I have been coached by WattsUp Cycling since 2009. I started at WattsUp for one main reason: to improve my bike fitness. In triathlons I was nearly the fastest swimmer and runner in my age group, but my bike splits were much slower in comparison. And I was used to being the slowest cyclist on group rides. This changed drastically once I started following the WattsUp program. The program got my cycling to the level where I could compete and podium as a Professional Triathlete. And I no longer get dropped on group rides!

You may be thinking, "how can a program suitable for a Pro triathlete be suitable for me?" Well, having experienced the program for 6 years, let me tell you:

1. Everyone who follows the program has their own Zones to train with. WattsUp uses the following zones:

The power numbers that correspond to your zones can be determined by a standard performance test. Either a Lactate Test and/or a Time Trial. Each individual has their own power numbers and heart rate range corresponding to each zone. Here are three Zone Card comparisons (showing power):

So, Samantha could be riding at a power of 135W, while Kirby could be riding at a power of 175W, and Ben would be at 215W, and they would all be in Zone 3.

As an athlete gets stronger, their power at each Zone goes up. The program measures your performance every 6-8 weeks with time trials and test sets. My 60MP (60 minute power, also known as lactate threshold) increased by 20% from starting the program to my peak fitness. My 20 minute time trial improved by 40W. I've seen beginner athletes improve their lactate threshold by over 30W in 4 months and show a similar improvement in their time trials. Having a program personalized to each person's physiology works!

2. Everyone trains according to their own natural cadence. Similar to having a set of individualized zones, each athlete has a defined cadence that they find most comfortable. This respects the fact that some athletes prefer lower cadences while others prefer higher cadences. Thus, the WattsUp workouts are individualized to one's preferred cadence.

3. Frequency by which you do the workouts. A major difference between the beginner and advanced cyclist/triathlete in the WattsUp Cycling program are the frequency with which they are doing the workouts. As a Pro triathlete, I do 2-3 Quality Rides, 1 Base ride and 1 Recovery Ride per week. I recover faster than a beginner would. The beginner will notice improvements in their riding with 1-2 rides per week (Quality or Base), an intermediate cyclist will notice improvements in their riding with 2-4 rides per week. So, the number of workouts you choose to do per week is personalized, based on your abilities.

4. Progression of the program is science-backed. It is a year long program, suitable to get you ready for outdoor riding come May. It works through a few major phases of training. A few of the phases of training athletes will go through:

Strength/Neuromuscular: This forms the backbone of your training. It develops the pathway your brain uses to communicate with your muscles and strengthens those muscles. This helps prevent injury and decreases the effort required to push a big gear. (Think about weight lifting at the gym and how lifting the same weight gets easier over time).

VO2max and Anaerobic Power: This is similar to High Intensity Training (HIT), done on the bike. Very basically, by doing work at the highest possible power you can hold, it makes the easier power feel a lot easier. (Think about how lifting a 5kg weight feels after lifting a 45kg weight).

Threshold and Tempo Training: This is where the program focuses on getting the athlete comfortable "where it hurts." By training at this level of discomfort, you become more tolerant of this effort (both physiologically and mentally).

Summer Training: The program at WattsUp is designed to compliment your outdoor riding in the summer. Every athlete will be training for something different, an Ironman or a Sprint triathlon or Centurion or a Criterium. In the summer, you will do most of your specific training outside. And the WattsUp program recognizes this, so the program touches on all aspects of training (Strength, Intensity, Threshold, etc.) to compliment your specific training.

5. Cycling is fun! Whether you are a beginner or advanced cyclist you are likely in the sport, because it is enjoyable for one reason or another. Whether it's the social aspect, the training aspect, the racing or the fact that it means you can eat more chocolate. The WattsUp Cycling program is a great way to experience the time you spend on the bike!

In summary, you can see how the program can cater to everyone from the beginner to the advanced athlete. And how WattsUp is where "people become athletes and athletes become champions".

Come try a complimentary first class, or see a sample workout of the HomeCycling version of the program!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Finding the right balance

I am well into my 3rd term of massage school. It's been awhile since my last blog, in part due to how busy I have been. School has proven much more challenging than I expected. And that's partly really great, because it goes to shows how much education and training is required to become a registered massage therapist. However, it also means that school has been all-consuming since September, and my stress is at an all time high! At school, if it's not a test or a practical exam, it's assessing and properly treating patients. I find I need to be constantly "on" at school. And the fact that my knowledge of any anatomy prior to starting school seems like it was almost none, has meant there has been a lot to learn! Now, don't get me wrong, as a coach I knew my major muscles and bones, but now I need to know the small muscles, ligaments, tendons, where muscles attach on the bone, fiber direction, nerves, arteries...(you get the point!). That's a lot to learn in just 5 months! Not to mention all the rest of it. My being in school does not seem too different than a high stress job. I am there over 40 hours a week, 3 nights each week until 8pm. Tests or exams are like important meetings and treating patients in clinic is very much like problem solving a difficult issue at work.

I spoke in a previous post about finding the right balance with work, training, family, friends and recovery. That you only have a certain amount of stress that you can handle before you get sick, injured, overworked of overtrained. As the work or school stress goes up, you end up having to reduce the time dedicated to other areas of your life. The most common areas the dedicated athlete will cut time to are: friends/social and recovery. This is even what I would tend to do, too. However, having a coach, and being a coach myself, I know that this WILL NOT lead to better training and performance. So, as a result of my increased workload, I decided to cut the training time instead and leave the time for recovery intact. I went from training 16-20 hours/week in the summer to training 8-12 hours now.

I have shifted my training to being more focused. The main theme of my training now is QUALITY OVER QUANTITY. What is interesting is that: (1) I am enjoying my training more, (2) I am more focused during the sessions, and (3) I feel that I am still getting stronger despite less hours of training.

So, what is my advice for the time-crunched athlete who still wants to improve?

Swim: Join a Master's swim club or get a coach. This will prevent you from just swimming aimlessly without really knowing what you are doing. A swim club or coached swim workout will help make sure you are swimming efficiently. It will ensure your swim workout has purpose. Lastly, it will help give you a little extra push to put your best effort forward.

Bike: Do interval training on your own bike. Whether outside or in, the shorter days mean that there just isn't as much time for a long ride. Block your training to make it more interesting: hills/strength training for a few weeks, VO2 max training for a few weeks, threshold training for a few weeks, repeat. This will help keep all systems sharp for spring/summer riding. There are lots of great indoor riding facilities all over the city. WattsUp Cycling offers a studio in the west end and a home cycling program specifically targeted towards the rider's physiology, and this is a great option. (And what I will be following this winter!)

Run: Lots of brick runs (15-30 minute run off the bike)! Increasing the frequency of your running versus the duration of your long run is a great way to improve and prevent injury. You are also warmed up from your bike ride, so you don't need to do as long of a warmup. Once you have a strong base, you can even add intensity into those brick runs. Joining a run group is also an excellent option. The Toronto Triathlon Club and Marathon Dynamics have a lot of great groups on varying days of the week to choose from.

Overall: As a general rule, in the off-season, include 1 swim session, 1 bike session, 1 run session every 3-5 days to maintain your fitness. Depending on the duration you may be OK with more (5 days) or less (3 days) time in between sessions. This rule can allow you to focus your off-season training on one sport if you want to improve one discipline, specifically. For example, if your goal is to get stronger on the bike, then bike more and just make sure you are getting 3-5 swims and runs in every 2 weeks.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Training like an age-group athlete, Racing like a pro!

I have done a lot of reading on stress and recovery. In summary, I have read that you can only manage a certain amount stress. Typically your age, gender, fitness level, general health, and genetics (among other things) dictate just how much stress you can handle. This includes both physical and psychological stress. So, when psychological stress is high (for example: handling a big project at work, being in a tough academic program at school, dealing with an emotional situation) it means that you just can't handle a large amount of physical stress (high training volume or intensity). If you are constantly exceeding your, let's call it "stress threshold," you will eventually break down. If you are an athlete, this means you could be at risk of over-training and chronic fatigue. Keep in mind what I said earlier: that stress is both training stress AND non-training stress. So, if you are spending your off days overloading yourself with other chores, work, social outings this is NOT recovery. In summary:


The aforementioned is the reason that I knew my training and competing as a triathlete would be compromised when I decided to go back to school. Other commitments, managing kid schedules and coaching were pretty time consuming already, but adding school to the mix would be a whole new challenge. The timing was actually good though, since I had to back off the training anyway to properly recover from my surgery. However, come July, when my knee was feeling good, I was pretty anxious to ramp up the training. I told Adam I could still fit in 20-30 hours of training and school pretty easily. As usual he reminded me that I was being over ambitious. As a coach myself, I knew he was right. Sure enough, once school started, I realized that getting in 15 hours of training with enough energy would be my max. And this didn't mean I just had to cut out my recovery sessions, it meant that I would have to cut some of my intensity sessions too.

Specifically, the most obvious effects of the stress associated with going back to school were:

1. Recovery from tough sessions was longer.
2. My ability to push myself was diminished.
3. Training was often the second most important thing on my mind.

However, I still managed a fairly successful triathlon season training like a "full-time working age group triathlete." So, how did I do it?

A weekday in the life of a student triathlete:

5am: Wake-up, coffee
5:30 - 7am: Workout #1 (Bike or Swim)
7 - 9am: Breakfast, prep time for school, sometimes kids, commuting
9am - 12pm: Class
12pm - 1:00pm: Run at lunch or study
1pm - 5pm (or 7pm): Class/commuting
5pm (or 7pm) to 9pm: Make dinner, sometimes kids' lunches, eat, clean, study
9 - 10pm: Relax. Stretch. Self-massage. Very important!

Obviously that didn't leave much time for social interaction during the week. Luckily, I am OK to save that for the weekends. Anyway, of the above, what I feel was the most important and KEY for those people with a busy work schedule:

1. Workout in the morning. This prevents things from coming up later in the day that might prevent a workout (and the stress associated with worrying about when to fit in the workout). This also leaves you re-charged. If I had a morning off I felt sluggish and less motivated for the rest of the day.

2. Workout at lunch if possible. This really helped to break up the day. I found it broke up the sitting around and left me more energized for my afternoons. It was also an escape from learning and working, which helped me de-stress.

3. Leave 1 hour or more of downtime before bed. If I went right from study mode or go-go-go mode into bed then my night of sleep was very restless. And I really do feel that this helped to diminish the overall stress that I would have otherwise experienced throughout the day. So, watch TV, read, self massage, stretch, cuddle...or whatever helps you relax.

Keep in mind that, if you are a night person, my schedule will NOT work for you. However, if you have a similar schedule then I hope that these tips help you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Season Recap and Lakeside Tri: Now I feel ready for anything :)

And just like that the 2015 triathlon season is over! I feel like I blinked and it was all done. I don't think that it could have gone much better. 5 races, 5 wins, no knee pain! :)

Lakeside had been in my race calendar for awhile. I wanted to complete an Olympic Distance race this season. I wanted to know that I could finish a longer distance triathlon. More specifically, complete the 10km run at race pace with no pain. When I accidentally left my lucky Kask helmet in Guelph the weekend before and knew that I would have to race without it, I almost changed my mind. When I learned that it wasn't going to be competitive (the Pro race was in Georgina), I almost changed my mind. When I learned the weather was going to be a frigid 10C with 30kph winds, I almost changed my mind. When I knew I would have to miss part of celebrating my sister's birthday, I almost changed my mind. When I got sick on Monday last week and was still sick on Saturday, I almost changed my mind. Adam often tells me that, too often, I try to "fit a square peg in a round hole." I admit, that trying to fit this race in was me doing just that. However, I chose to ignore that fact this time. I raced, I suffered, but I'm happy I did it!

I woke up early on Sunday morning, got all my gear packed, said goodbye to Adam, got my McDonald's coffee and muffin, and drove to Lakeside. I would be alone at this race, with no sherpa and no friends/family watching. Not because they didn't want to be there, but busy schedules kept them away. I wasn't too bothered by this as I knew they would be following my results. What was more bothersome was the pouring rain I encountered during the drive, the wind and the cold temperatures. Luckily, the rain didn't follow me to the race site, but it got colder and windier as I got closer to my destination. Even though the race was a late start (10am) it didn't look to be warming up much. So, I sucked it up and tried to get excited about the race. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?

SWIM: Water temp 19C, Air temp 10C (with wind making it feel like 7C). The water temperature wasn't too cold actually. However, even with a good swim warmup, the few minutes standing around in the waist deep water waiting for the swim start was long enough to get me chilled again. I started the swim as fast as I could, but with no circulation in my arms and legs it was very difficult to go fast. I did have my own space of water though and there was no being kicked or swum over. Always nice to start a race like that. Eventually I warmed up and I swam very comfortably to a 21:46. I think this put me about 3rd out of the water.

BIKE: I spent a lot of time in transition getting on a Craft base layer and Outwet Vest. This was an excellent decision. I was completely comfortable on the bike and not chilled at all. However, I think the time spent being chilled to the bone (between warmup and the start of the race ) had taken its toll. I was flat on the bike. Anything near threshold was incredibly painful. So, I stopped looking at my power meter and started looking up the road. I made it a mission to not lose sight of the triathletes up ahead. The crazy wind gusts almost knocked me off my bike a few times and it rained at various points, but other than that the course was great. I loved the rolling hills (totally my strength!) and the smooth roads. Before I knew it I was back in transition. I clocked a time of 1:08 for the bike - with an average speed close to 36kph. Not so bad for the conditions!

RUN: This was the only part of the course that I didn't like. Normally, I love running in colder windy weather. But this course was on a loose gravel when I tried to push off the rocks moved under my feet and I just couldn't get a good grip underfoot. I tried to run on the more firmly packed areas, but that wasn't always possible. I was a bit worried about how the uneven terrain would effect my unstable knee, but my wide Altra running shoes ensured that my feet were able to spread out on impact with the ground and keep me stable. Near the end of the race it was hard to stay motivated, but I knew I was quite far ahead of the next female and I was passing a lot of the guys ahead of me, so that kept me strong. I was hoping to run a bit closer to 40 minutes, but I'll take a time of 41:12. Overall, I finished first female (4th overall) in a time of 2:13:56.

Clearly from the photos you can tell I was tired. My eyes are closed in all of them! Hopefully, not the bike photo :) So, despite having to race while sick, tired and battling harsh conditions I am happy I did it. I made the square peg fit in the round hole, like I have done many times before. It wasn't ideal, but I have so much more confidence after having successfully raced an Olympic distance tri. I'm looking forward to finishing school in June next year and being able to train a lot more next summer :) My plans for 2016 involve some local racing on the MultiSport circuit, some late season half-ironmans (I hear great things about Barrelman) and a winter Ironman (or 2?). But for now, I have two weeks of off season! Where's my pinot grigio? :)

A special thank you goes out to:

- All my readers for their support and for following me in my triathlon endeavours.
- The volunteers, officials and race organizers (especially on that cold day)
- Kim Lumsdon, my swim coach
- Adam and the kids for being my inspiration and for letting me use the car on Sunday!
- Spectators and fellow racers for being there to cheer me on
- My classmate, Gary, for the pre-race massage
- My sponsors: High Rock Capital Management, WattsUp Cycling, The Urban Athlete, Altra Running Shoes, Fitt1st Bike Fitting

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Guelph Lake 2 Race Report

This past weekend I raced in the Subaru Series Guelph Lake 2 Triathlon. This race was the very first triathlon that I was first female across the finish line (back in 2008). This made it very special for me. I had a few goals: get a personal best in the swim, to hold an average power of 200W for the bike (about 4W/kg) and run under 28 minutes. Well, I was one for three of those (I PB'd the swim!). Nonetheless, it was still a great day! I finished first female overall and Adam took the title in the Swim-Bike.

Now, this blog will take on a different format than previous ones...rather than give a detailed analysis on the day I have decided to try something a little different.

1. The following is a list of a few take-aways from the race, in the form of a little Q and A (corny, yes, I know!).

Q: What went wrong?
A: Getting kicked in the swim in the left hip really hard during the initial 100m of the swim.

Q: How did you deal with this?
A: At first I panicked and thought "OMG, my race is over, this hurts so much!" Then, I practiced my "thought stopping" that I learned in psychology class and only let myself think positive thoughts, like "oh, my arms feel good today" and "that swimmer is not too far up ahead, I can catch him." Before I knew it I was running up the big hill to transition and the hip pain was a distant memory.

Q: When you found yourself slipping below your goal race power on the bike, and your legs started hurting, how did you continue to push yourself?
A: I hit LAP on my bike computer and focused on keeping my power at goal effort for as long as I could. A fresh start always helps :) I kept my goal power for almost the rest of the race (just until the super bumpy last few km of the course, when my focus then became staying upright).

Q: How did I stay cool on the super-hot run?
A: When at an aid station I dumped water on my head (first), drank water (second), dumped another water on my head (third). Keeping your body cool with water/ice is the most effective method.

Q: Is there anything you would do differently?
A: Try to run just 10 seconds faster so that I could have broken 28 minutes!

2. A little comparison on my times in Guelph 2 over the years to give you a snap-shot of my fitness (note: 2008 it was a slightly different course)

Swim - 12:31 (2008), 12:19 (2011), 11:41 (2015)
Bike - 53:29 (2008), 49:56 (2011), 50:21 (2015)
Run - 28:14 (2008), 27:49 (2011), 28:09 (2015)
Final - 1:34:14 (2008), 1:32:22 (2011), 1:32:36 (2015)

2008-I raced almost all the races in the Subaru Tri Series beforehand. I was in school/working (30-40hrs/week).
2011-I quit my full time job in May of that year and was training full time all summer.
2015-Knee surgery in February and no runs longer than 14km in 6 months. In school/working all summer long (40-45hrs/week).

I will leave it to you to draw conclusions about my fitness, but I am proud that my reduced training volume this summer hasn't effected my fitness over the short distance :) Look for a blog upcoming about how I've balanced, school, work, training and family.

3. Thanks to FinisherPix, I can re-cap the race for you in pictures:

Into T1

Adam in T1

Taking a corner on the bike

Adam looking strong

Out on the run thinking "this is harder than I remember"

Close up of my hurting face

Breaking the tape!


A special thank you goes out to:

- The volunteers, officials and race organizers
- Kim Lumsdon, my swim coach
- Adam, you are the reason I never stop pushing
- Spectators and fellow racers for being there to cheer me on
- My sponsors: High Rock Capital Management, WattsUp Cycling, The Urban Athlete, Altra Running Shoes, Fitt1st Bike Fitting

Monday, September 7, 2015

Dedicated to Papa

Today is my Papa's birthday. I owe so much to this amazing individual So, I decided that I would dedicate this blog post to him. Behind every athlete, and every person for that matter, are the people who influenced them. My Papa is probably one of the most influential people in my life.

From a very early age he had me enrolled in sports programs. Papa firmly believed that athletics is good for developing the skills that would be useful throughout life. He was an avid hockey and football player, himself. He played top level hockey and varsity football at Western University. Undoubtedly, he used some of the skills he developed as an athlete when he went on to become quite successful working in the finance industry. First, as a bond trader and now as a co-owner of his own company, High Rock Capital Management. Without that introduction to sports at an early age (and the early development of discipline and the experience of hard work yielding rewards) I wouldn't have achieved what I have and be who I am.

Papa pushed me to achieve perfection. I remember receiving a graded book report in 5th grade marked "B+" and Papa told me to go to my teacher and ask that teacher what I needed to do to get an "A+". I did just that and learned what I had to do and did it. From then on, I didn't get less than an A on anything, test or assignment, that I completed the rest of the year. If I got less than 100%, Papa's classic line was "what happened to the missing %?" Although he was being sarcastic, I took it literally and did everything I could to get that perfect grade. New schools, new sports, new anything, was always overwhelming at first. I wouldn't do too well off the bat, but Papa's words stuck with me "figure out what you need to do to do better" and I did. Even when a subject at school didn't come naturally to me (history class!) or a task was challenging, I worked hard at it and I got better! The same was true with triathlon.

Papa is my biggest fan. He drove to and from the cottage on Wednesdays and Saturdays for soccer practice and games when I was 10, he (and Mamma) drove me to early morning swim practices twice or more a week for 5 years, watched almost every swim meet, soccer game, cross country race that I was at during school. Since I started doing triathlon he has been at every major race. He has dedicated time, money and love towards what I am doing in this sport. He was behind me when I quit my full-time job. His support keeps me going when I feel like giving up.

Papa, I wish you a very Happy Birthday! Love, Moke