Lakeside Sprint Triathlon – Race Report

I spent many months wondering when I would get to experience the joy of training and the thrill of racing again. It has been slow progress after being side-lined for the first half of this year, but I have been fortunate not to have any significant setbacks along the way. Last weekend I went for a bike/run brick, both at a quick (relative term) pace. I ended up with some discomfort in my right knee (the good one, go figure). It was tender and sore to walk up and down the stairs, but thankfully a couple days of rest/ice/foam rolling/Voltaren did the trick. I was still very paranoid and, as a result, only ran during race week. I wasn’t sure if it was the bike/run combo that aggravated it, the pace, growing pains or just a fluke, but I just hoped it wouldn’t flare up during or after the race (spoiler alert: it didn’t).

IMG_0668Saturday morning ended up being cold and rainy, one of those days where you don’t even want to leave the house… let alone race… let alone complete a triathlon! That being said, I was still more excited than anything. Nothing was going to get me down! Our friends U and P were kind enough to drive us to the site, about 2 hours away which gave me plenty of time to mull over wardrobe decisions. We arrived just before the rush, and I was able to pick up my race kit, timing chip and get body-marked with only short line-ups. I stayed bundled up in my winter coat, warm pants, fuzzy socks and rubber boots to stay somewhat warm and dry as I set up transition. My awesome support crew kindly schlepped my bags around for me and made sure I had everything I needed.

IMG_0669I laid my shoes, socks, gloves and jacket under the towel in the hopes that they would remain somewhat dry before I needed them. We hid out in the car for a bit longer before heading to the beach. I wet-suited up with help from my crew, but wasn’t ready to shed my fleece and boots yet!

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I hoped that stretcher wasn’t an omen!

Eventually I had to remove the extra layers and get into the water. It wasn’t as hard as I expected to get in, because it actually felt comfortable compared to the air. I hadn’t left myself much time for a warm-up swim, so I just swam out 10 strokes or so, took care of some last minute business (ahem), and swam back in to line up with my wave of all women <35.

There was the usual jostling and jockeying before the first buoy, but after a few scratches to the arms and kicks in the face I was able to find some room and settle in. The few open water swims I have completed recently have not felt great, so I was surprised at how good I felt once I got going. I was calm, breathing was okay and I seemed to be swimming reasonably straight. Before I knew it, I was climbing out on the beach. A sprint swim goes by so fast!

750m – 15:01 (10/24 AG)

I felt warm and didn’t bother with my socks and gloves, but I did throw on my wind-breaker. It felt like it took forever fumbling with my things, but based on the results I was faster than I thought.

T1: 1:24 (4/24 AG)

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Off onto the rolling bike course I went! It had finally stopped raining, so we just had wet roads to contend with and not rain drops pelting our faces. I was warming up quickly from the effort, thankfully, after a few moments of “Holy crap, I’m soaked through every layer and it’s freezing and brrrrrr!” The only part that stayed cold were my feet, which ended up numb throughout despite some toe-wiggling whenever I thought of it.

I was lacking oomph on the uphills and tried to make the most of the flats and downhill sections. All in all, I think I held my own out there on my hybrid – I even managed to pass a couple of people (of course a lot more were passing me). Several times someone would pass me only to settle in right in front of me going slower than I was. I know this happens to everyone, but it seems to happen a lot when I’m on my hybrid. I think people assume they must be going faster than me and pass, only to tuck in and slow down again.

Anyway! It was great to see Irina (who started in a later wave) catching up to me after the turn-around and she later passed me near transition. She seemed to be having a great race on her post-IM legs! Zoom, zoom!

IMG_0687Heading toward the dismount line, I got stuck behind this woman who started fumbling with her bike shoes as soon as the pylons started (pictured above) and continued wobbling around in front of me all the way in. It seemed like she was going to stop abruptly and/or fall over at any moment. Kind of frustrating, but what can you do? I think it would have been faster for her to just leave her shoes on. Okay enough ranting, I promise I was having fun! :)

20K – 45:21 (14/24 AG)

I had a super quick transition to the run since I didn’t have to switch shoes. Just racked my bike, tossed the helmet and grabbed a headband.

T2: 0:44 (2/24 AG)

My legs felt very tired but the bigger concern was that my feet were like blocks of ice. I clomped along hoping I wouldn’t mis-step until I gradually started feeling my toes one by one. Once feeling returned, I quickly realized that bare feet with my orthotics had not been a good idea. It wasn’t comfortable at all with water sloshing around in there, and I thought my heels were going to pop out the back. Lesson learned! In the future I can probably afford to go with my lighter shoes on a short distance, but I didn’t want to take any chances just yet.

The route was along a (hard-packed) dirt road so it became pretty messy out there and we were all covered in muck. There were a few gradual climbs which were a struggle since I have no fitness for hills right now. I felt like I was shuffling at times, but promised myself “no walking!” It was great to see Irina as well as her hubby out on the course again – my favourite thing about the out-and-back routes.

I admittedly had a couple of low moments of feeling out of shape, but quickly shook it off remembering how lucky and happy I was to be able to do this at all. Especially when I realized that both knees felt just fine! (I decided to tape up both knees in case my right knee was just getting jealous of all the attention that my left one had been getting, hehe.) I lived it up for the final kilometre and clocked my fastest split at 5:14. Bring on the finish line – it had been too long!

IMG_06935K – 28:19 (13/24 AG)

 Overall: 1:30:46, 13/24 AG

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Clicked “Register”

It’s been over a month now and I’m happy to report that things are coming along runningly. I graduated to my first 5K on July 4th and have gradually phased out the walk intervals since then. There was something about that first continuous 5K run that made me feel like, “Yeah, this is really happening.”

Sweaty SelfiesI stuck with 5K 3x for a couple of weeks before deciding that it was time to build… slowly. I started by adding a 4th run (and thus my first back-to-back), keeping it short at 3K. Last weekend I also started increasing my distance with a 6K “long” run. There’s only one way to go from here!

I had a gait assessment done by my physiotherapist and got some good feedback along with additional exercises to work on problem areas. The biggest thing I am working on now is increasing my cadence. I’ve always had a longer stride (160 steps per minute, when it should be closer to 180) but didn’t pay much attention to it since I wasn’t having any issues. Shortening my stride/increasing my cadence should help reduce forces through the knee on landing, so I have been running with a metronome app at 170 bpm for now (160 to 180 would be too much of a sudden increase). I started using it for only a few minutes at a time, and have gradually built up to the entire run. Yup, listening to “beep beep beep beep beep beep” in my ear the whole time. It is finally starting to feel less forced, although it is far from natural at this point.

photoI’ve been so lucky to have friends willing eager to run with me again, despite my slower pace. I’ve been getting back into the habit of meeting the 5am crew, even though I don’t necessarily need to be up that early for the shorter distance. I have missed it so much – even the 4:30 wake-ups. My good friend P has also been meeting me for a run at lunch once a week. It’s so good to be back!

photo 23Hubs has been running with me, too, and we have even been able to take both pups out to run for the very first time as a family of four. Mark tried to run with Marlowe a few times previously, but she wanted none of it. He’s too fast and she likes to dawdle! I decided to try bringing her with me when I was only going out for very short and slow run/walks to ease her into it, and it seems to have worked. 5K is about all she will tolerate right now and she still tends to drag behind, but we are getting there.

photo 21Aaaand with all of that being said, my most recent exciting news is that I just clicked “Register” for the very first time this year. I will be tackling Lakeside Sprint Triathlon on September 13th. I have never been so excited to see a confirmation email in my inbox. (Except maybe this one…)

RegisteredI decided not to target a 5K or 10K in case it led me to overdo it on the running build; I am treading very carefully because I do not want to risk a set-back. This way I can focus more on cross-training with cycling and swimming and approach the run without any goals except to finish pain-free. And I’ve already gotten started…

tri trainLet the fun begin!

Our first CSA experience

This summer hubs and I decided to sign up for our very first CSA with Round the Bend Farm. This is our third week and I have been thrilled so far.

photoHeading to the farm on Saturday morning (adorable nephew in tow) has become a highlight of our weekends. We walk the grounds, visit the animals, browse the market, often picking up some fresh turkey products as well.

IMG_9035We leave with our basket over-flowing with fresh farm produce – and we have been told there will be more and more to take home as the season progresses!

IMG_9036IMG_9271IMG_9376The quantity and selection of vegetables (plus some fruit) has been even better than I hoped. It is honestly a challenge for hubs and I to get through our haul (which is the half-size share) every week. But I am always up for this kind of challenge! :)

The best part is being “forced” into creativity in the kitchen. For a long time I have been stuck in a rut of buying the same veggies every week from the grocery store. With the CSA, I get all kinds of selection that I probably would not have picked myself. Bonus that I know it’s all fresh and locally grown. I had never purchased some of these foods myself (radish, swiss chard and rhubarb, for example) or even heard of them in some cases (kohlrabi or rapini). It’s opened up my eyes taste buds to a whole new world of nutritious, tasty foods and different ways of eating them.

Side note: am I the only one who didn’t know lettuce will stay crisp and fresh for a week or more when stored in a container with damp towels? Life-changing.

I’ll leave you with a sampling of just how much I have been enjoying the goods…

quinoa with asparagus, lemon and feta

quinoa with asparagus, lemon and feta

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giant mixed salad – shredded beets and carrots are a new fave salad accessory

farm turkey burger with raw carrots + cukes and steamed beet greens with garlic

farm turkey burger with raw carrots + cukes and steamed beet greens with garlic

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very-veggie pasta salad flavoured simply with olive oil, salt and feta

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swiss chard with tomatoes, chickpeas and lemon

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ginger-sesame stirfry (sauce from Minimalist Baker) with green beans, carrots and kohlrabi

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scrambled eggs with green onions over quinoa & asparagus

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strawberry salad with shredded beets & carrots plus grilled chicken topped with greek yogurt ranch sauce from Why Food Works

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egg salad lettuce wraps made with greek yogurt ranch in place of mayo + chopped carrots and onions

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more strawberries, shredded carrots, shredded beets and goat cheese

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chicken with greek yogurt ranch, asparagus, sweet potato and beet greens + beets with tomato and lemon

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Summer Quinoa Salad inspired by How Sweet Eats

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more strawberry/goat cheese/chicken salad with delish homemade strawberry poppy seed dressing from Creme de la Crumb

(Although I don’t always mention it, there are green onions/scallions lurking in almost every dish. I have yet to use up the entire bunch in a week despite my efforts.)

I’m so glad we decided to try this out and definitely plan to continue our subscription for years to come.

Have you ever tried a CSA? How was your experience?

Off and running

After my last post, I thankfully only added 4 more days to my “still counting” tally. Now, instead of counting days since my last run, I am counting runs since my way-too-long hiatus. And I couldn’t have been happier to finally switch my Garmin to “Run” mode.

10462767_10154317395400454_1023125116817154155_nThat being said, I was terrified on my first test run (June 8th) and probably would have held off much longer without a lot of urging from my physio. In fact, I didn’t even snap this picture until my second run, since I was so worried my knee would hurt and that I would somehow jinx myself by being too optimistic. (The runner’s brain – it works in mysterious ways!)

There is a fine line between being cautious/smart and being overly paranoid, and I needed the push.¬† I needed the reassurance that if my knee bothered me, it would be okay. It would not mean that the progress we had made was meaningless and, if anything, it could help us fine-tune my treatment. We had come to a point where the best way to proceed was to try a run and see how it felt. I’ve never had a long-term injury before – in the past, it has been a few days or a couple of weeks at the most, in which case I was itching to run prematurely and needed to be reminded to be patient. This time, the injury became so imbedded in my brain that it has become just as much a mental obstacle as a physical one. My hero physio described it breaking the injury (mental) barrier and it was time to try.

I started with 2.5K of 1&1 intervals (1 minute run, 1 minute walk) that morning, which went by too quickly but also seemed to take forever. I wanted to just keep running, but at the same time I was so hyper-alert and paranoid that part of me wanted to finish the planned run just to breathe a sigh of relief and say: “I did it! And it was okay!”

And I did just that!

photo 2My knee held up and continued to feel fine as the day went on, and I have had 6 more runs since. I’ve since progressed to 5&1 run:walk intervals and plan to maintain it for a couple more weeks. I’m on a conservative 4-week plan building up to 5K. Assuming there are no setbacks along the way, I will start phasing out the walk intervals once I get there.

I’m keeping my knee taped up for all runs right now, since it encourages correct alignment/tracking of the patella, reducing stress on the knee. Apparently it can also help with improving activation of the VMO muscle, which my physio identified as a possible cause of the issue. See: McConnell Patella Taping Method.

photo 1I also have a roster of PT exercises, which has continued to grow. The current routine includes: weighted abductor side leg lifts, weighted adductor side leg lifts, clams with resistance band, bridges with resistance band, monster walks with RB, squats, wall sits, VMO dips and some balance work that is hard to describe. I would stand on my head and sing a show tune is somebody told me it would help!

It’s not 100% and I still have some work to do, but we are making good progress and HALLELUJAH HAVE I MENTIONED I CAN RUN AGAIN?! It’s going to be a long road, but for now I am so grateful every time I get to lace up my running shoes.

In the mean time, my running group has started up again for the summer session and I tagged along on my bike for their first workout. It’s important for someone to have a camera handy during the dynamic warm-up. :)

photoOf course I wish I was running with them, but it’s much less painful being on the sidelines now that I have some hope, a plan and even a few miles under my belt.

Thank you so much for all the support over the past several months. Hopefully we will be on our way to another comeback in the near future. Stay tuned!

138 days and still counting

It’s time for a long overdue update. I didn’t mean to disappear for so long, but have not been able to bring myself to admit that yes, I am still injured.

At last count, it had been 26 days without running thanks to my pesky patellofemoral pain syndrome. I have since gone from counting days to weeks to months. My last run, except for one very short test run on an anti-gravity treadmill, was January 16th. I’ve been benched through nearly two whole seasons, staring longingly out the window at runners wearing decreasing amounts of clothing as the weeks go by. I remember trying to look on the bright side and telling myself that I picked a good winter to be injured, certain that I would be running again by spring. And yet, here we are…

I have done everything I can think of (or that anyone has suggested) to beat this thing: countless sessions with 3 physiotherapists, a chiropractor, 2 osteopaths, an acupuncturist (next up, podiatrist); a fistful of supplements recommended for joint/cartilage issues; an x-ray, an ultrasound and an MRI; 3 separate sports doctors to discuss and review the results. Each and every practitioner has agreed on the diagnosis of PFPS and yet each one remains stumped that it is just not getting better, despite extensive treatments and rest. I have a roster of PT exercises which I have done diligently at times and neglected at other times (thank you Miss Zippy for this reminder – I needed it).

PTOver the past few months I have gone through all levels of optimism and discouragement. There are days where I have been very positive, reminding myself that this too will pass and confident that I can come back stronger than ever, eventually. Other days I have been so depressed that nothing could motivate me beyond a bowl of popcorn on the couch. Hubs has done his best to drag me out of the trenches when I’ve been feeling really down and out, and promised me that it will get better “soon” (even if I don’t believe him anymore since he’s been saying that since January). I’m grateful to my running friends who have checked in on me frequently, kept me in the loop and offered so much support. I’m especially grateful to friends like Kelly who have gone the extra mile in encouraging me to get to the pool, the gym or out on my bike (and kept me company doing so).

bikeI’ve stayed connected to my running group family as much as possible – providing aid stations on their long runs, tagging along on a couple of runs on my bike, cheering them on at races. On one hand it feels good to stay connected and feel in the loop, but it’s also extremely difficult to see everyone out there doing what I love so much while I am stuck on the sidelines.

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Our gang at the Toronto Marathon – spot me in the M&M suit

Thankfully, there is a dose of positive news after all of that doom and gloom. I saw a different physio (at my usual clinic) last week and she had a couple of new ideas, trying a few different things. In particular, she suggested that my VMO (vastus medialis oblique) may not be activating properly, causing an imbalance and preventing the kneecap from tracking correctly. She hooked me up with electrical stimulator directly on that muscle (and cranked it – yowzas!) while I did short intervals of squatting. What a a bizarre sensation. She also did some suction in and around the knee, and tried a new tape job.

photoAfter five months of absolutely no relief or improvement, my knee felt amazing the next day. And the next day. And the day after that. Something that she did actually helped. I was in such disbelief and so paranoid that I would “jinx” it, I didn’t even admit to anyone that it was feeling better until 24 hours later. It is clearly still not 100% and has regressed slightly over the last couple of days, but hopefully this means I am finally on my way to long-term improvement and relief. After five months of absolutely no relief or improvement despite everything I have tried, there is a glimmer of hope and maybe even a light at the end of this tunnel. I will see my new knight in shining armour again on Thursday, and we’ll go from there.

Thanks so much to everyone who has continued to check in on me through this ordeal. I hope to have another more positive update soon.