SpeedI am, by all accounts, a putter. I putt around the house, I stroll with the dog, and I prefer baking to cooking because it’s more meditative. I think one of the reasons I love swimming so much is that it, too, is putting at its best: you just truck along, no one to talk to, counting your lengths (or not). It’s great.

So, imagine my surprise when I found my new love: sprinting.

It started with running. My coach needed a way to build up my running capacity (how long I can run without needing a nap) but long runs felt, and still feel, like a life sentence to me**. “Ugh” is the word that comes to mind, actually. So, he started sending over plans that included stretches of sprinting. I loved them.

Finally, there was a way I could break up the monotony of the never-ending long training run with intense, quick dashes. I just pulled out my timer, started the clock and booked it until the timer said I could stop. No pacing myself, no time to think about the pain, no worrying if my iPod had enough songs to get me through. Just running as fast as I could, with my arms pumping me forward, and my lungs straining for breath. Ugh turned into Aah.

A few months later, one of my swim coaches began incorporating sprints into our workouts. Even though it had been a fabulous addition to my running routine, I was more than a little concerned about swim sprinting. After all, it’s easy to pant while running; swimming offered a bigger challenge and, dramatically, a possible drowning scenario.

I generally just trust my swim coach and do whatever he asks me to try. This one, however, I was a little concerned about. He assured me that all was well. I wouldn’t drown. I would be able to take in enough oxygen.

I figured that he was probably lying but decided that I would try it anyway. And, hey, he was going to be the one hauling me out of the pool. If he was confident in his ability to get me out alive, who was I to deny him his opportunity?

So, he set the length and pace and I swam my little heart out. At first, it felt like those cartoons look — with the arms rotating so quickly they are just a circular blur — and I was pretty sure that my sprint looked to bystanders like that beach scene in Chariots of Fire. Slow. With great effort.

In truth, I was hitting all his paces. I didn’t know how but this was working out at least as well as the running sprints. I got a huge endorphin high from the effort and the results and started looking forward to my sprint sessions.

Of course, I tell you that I enjoy these sessions, but I don’t know that he would believe it. I still scrunch up my face at him at least once during the sprints in a “even Michael Phelps couldn’t hit that” kind of way. But, he does know best in these cases and, even though they feel tough, they’re always very do-able and I always feel like a rock star when I get out of the pool. By that, of course, I mean a rock star that has been drinking on stage and can’t walk straight. Seriously — walking after swim sprints is brutal.

Logically, you may be asking yourself, “So, Candrina, how are your bike sprints going?” Well, they’re not. I am just moving to a road bike now after spending the last year desperately trying to remember how to ride a bike at all (yah, that saying is a big fat lie). Perhaps I’ll tell you the hilarious (now) story of my first bike ride since childhood one day. But for now, the cold, hard fact of it is that road bikes are weird. They look weird and feel even weirder. It’s going to take me some time before I’m sprinting. But, once I get that all worked out, you’ll be the first to know.

** And this probably should have been my first clue that I am not a putter in all aspects of life. Sometimes, quick bursts are best. That’s actually how I work when I’m at peak performance and efficiency: quite quickly, bouncing around, hitting the endpoint and moving on to the next “to do.”

Maddie and I braved the jungles of Golden Ears park last week to go camping! It was Maddie’s first time and my first in a long time.

There we were, driving out to our adventure with a borrowed tent and sleeping bag, a cooler with exactly three items in it and, of course, a bone and cookies for madame. I couldn’t help thinking, as we drove along the long road from the park’s entrance to the campground, that this area looked exactly like Twilight. As I glanced to the side (we were solo on the road), I could see the woods vampires and werewolves supposedly ran through. The trees were evenly spaced and the fern underbrush was a brilliant green. It seemed movie-perfect.

Maddie decides to be the guard dog for our trip.

Maddie decides to be the guard dog for our trip.

Once at our designated spot — which I had painstakingly chosen online from maps, availability charts and a few photos of the areas — I attached Maddie to about 20 feet of her 50-foot leash for some super sniffing and got down to the business of setting up the tent. About 45 minutes, two tries, and some earnest praying that the tent pole not fly out of its sleeve and poke my eye out, we had a home! It was pretty cute too, complete with entrance foyer. Maddie decided to become the guard dog on duty.

After a delicious dinner of sandwiches, we took a stroll around the grounds. I could not believe some of the camping set ups — mini tent villages; dining rooms with table cloths, lights, stoves, and seat cushions; campers with tent annexes, presumably for the kids or for another entire family all together. Kids played board games. Teenagers ran through the forest trying to catch one another. Adults sat around laughing, chatting, and drinking beer.

I dreaded nightfall. There was a campfire ban and I hadn’t thought to bring a lamp. I only had my flashlight. But, when it became so dark that I couldn’t read anymore, Maddie and I stashed our equipment in the car and climbed into bed to read by flashlight. It turned out to be one of the most lovely times of the trip, to be honest.

About an hour after I’d shut off my light, a light rain started and continued throughout the rest of the trip. I love sleeping in a tent while it’s raining — the freshness in the air, the sound of the drops hitting the nylon roof, all while cuddled up in a warm bed roll. So wonderful.

Less wonderful, however, was rolling up that wet, soggy mass of tent and stuffing into my car trunk to get it home. I was hoping the rain would stop in time for the tent to dry out, but — alas — that was just a dream. Maddie stayed dry in the woods while I packed up. In the end, a very sleepy, dirty dog jumped into her car seat for the ride home. She slumped into her chair for a nap while I drove the 30 minutes home — where it had only rained for about 20 minutes. Gah!

Will I do it again? Definitely. Next time, though, I need to remember a ground tarp so Maddie has somewhere clean to lay and eat her bone (which picked up everything but money and boys) and I need a few more layers underneath my sleeping bag. I had a few layers of blanket but it wasn’t enough.

Here’s our camping photo journal. Yes, they’re all of Maddie — who else was there to take photos of?

Perspective is one of my favourite things to muse about. How do we know that our information is correct? That we’re making decisions based on complete and truthful information?

We don’t.

We only have the perspective that is available to us at that moment. Writer Chimamanda Adichie describes the danger of having a single line of perspective beautifully in this Ted Talk.

I felt very guilty for not getting this blog post written before the triathlon in August. I was worried that the topic would seem “not applicable” after the big event.

Actually, I’ve learned that it’s even more applicable now. Goals, I’ve come to appreciate, can be both frustrating and motivating, but are most useful when they usher something into your life you never knew you wanted or needed.

Back in June, just setting the goal of “finishing a triathlon” was terrifying. I knew it was the right thing, though, because underneath that blanket of “scary” was the thrill of adventure. I could hardly wait to get to the end — even though I really would have preferred to run the triathlon from the safety of my bed.

As you know, on Saturday, August 18, 2012 at about 9am, I completed my first triathlon. I was holding back tears as I swept through the finish shoot and the announcer called my name. It was quite a moment as I turned the corner and saw my training partners waiting for me. We had a big hug, took some pictures, and went to find some watermelon.

The Real Lesson About Goals

In that moment, I had achieved my goal. What I didn’t know then was that goals are just mini-ends to a much larger means.

I think that our society sees goals as the result of working towards something we covet — saving money to buy something, working towards a promotion, exercising to lose weight. The problem is that the result is fleeting. My triathlon is over, that thing you purchase could break or become obsolete, perhaps you decide on a career change, or you want the size 2 clothing more than your appetite does. Does that mean that goals are not useful? Absolutely not.

Goals are About Moving Forward

How did all of this come up? Well, I had worked for 10 weeks to be able to complete the triathlon. When it was over, I was surprised at how much it felt like a dream. Like I hadn’t been there at all. More importantly, I was left with a training schedule with no purpose.

With the help of my training partners and our coach, that quickly changed. We set new goals for the fall. Goals that built on the work we’d already done. Goals that were thousands of miles past where I ever expected myself to be.

Now, several months later and with several running events under my belt, I’m getting ready to race my second triathlon this weekend. I’m excited. I’m not expecting to come in first but I do plan to do my best, to push myself, and to have a lot of fun. I’m also pretty focused on the breakfast I get to have with my training partners and little niece afterwards, I’m not going to lie!

And Then…?

Well, exactly. And then we focus on our next goal. And review. And repeat.

This post was originally published on the Pebble Road Marketing blog but now calls this home.

I sit here writing this blog post — my first in two weeks — as a triathlete. Yes, it’s true. I completed my first triathlon just over a week ago.

It already feels like a distant memory, but one I’m so proud of. One of my friends commented a few days after the race, “Your energy is completely different. You’re holding yourself differently.”

Of course I am. I’m now a triathlete.

Did I finish in first place? Absolutely not. In fact, I was much, much closer to last than first. I did, however, complete each leg at the time I would normally take to do each distance separately. I cannot be upset at that. All three legs — swim, bike, and run — at or close to my personal best times. I’m pleased. My coach is pleased. My training partners performed at their best too. We all won.

Best of all, the actual triathlon experience is no longer a guess. I know what it’s like to do a water start, I know what transitions feel like, I know the rules of the triathlon — and, boy, are there a lot of them! I now know that I need to really hustle in the first transition, that I need (need) a road bike, and that my legs will, in fact, run just fine. I just need to push them to not stop and trust that they’ve got it covered.

What’s Next?

Well, exactly. I definitely don’t want to slide backward after the last almost three months of training. My partners and I sat down with our coach this week to discuss where we want to go. We all have slightly different ultimate goals, but we have agreed to stay as a training unit over the winter and work toward an Olympic-length triathlon next August. We have other smaller goals, of course, but the Olympic Tri will be the 2013 goal.

We’re all really excited by what the next few years will bring for us. How fun would it be to do the same triathlon the athletes just did for the Olympics in London? Or travel to other great locations? We’ll easily be able to complete 10k fun runs and hike some of the most famous trails in the world. All because we took on this challenge of a triathlon and completed it.

See the smiles on our faces in the photo above? They’re still plastered there and have no plans of leaving!

Note: I had to take a bit of time off blogging about the triathlon to actually race in it, but will have a few more posts coming up in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

This post was originally published on the Pebble Road Marketing blog but now calls this home.

When I started this journey, my only commitments were to workout 5-7 days per week, depending on that week’s training schedule, and to not diet. After all, if I was exercising over an hour a day, I was not going to stress over food.

This strategy worked for the first six weeks or so. I never felt bad about eating cake, my body was responding beautifully to the exercise — barring a few Advil-dependent nights — and I made almost every training session. Don’t get me wrong, I would have followed this strategy indefinitely. I loved it; my body, apparently less so. I began craving vegetables and orange juice. Yep, you heard me. My body was taking over, demanding more of me and the deal I had made myself only a few weeks before.

Sleep also became elusive. I’ve always been a fall-into-bed-for-9-solid-hours girl and now I was waking up in the night. Bored. Days where I hadn’t trained were worse.

I was also having trouble with my knees. They weren’t injured, just sore. After a longer-than-normal after run stretch one day, I realized that my knees no longer hurt. After some experimenting, I figured out that my knees hurt because my hips were tight. Great, something else to deal with…

Mindful Refueling is Key

This is when I really started looking at the importance of refueling. In triathlon terms, this means nutrition, sleep, recovery days, and — for me — yoga.

I still refuse to diet but I do try to get food into my mouth every 2 hours and have started keeping fruit and vegetables ready to go. Why every two hours? Timing became more important as training progressed. I didn’t like eating within a few hours of exercise but was ravenous afterwards, which was around 9:30 at night. If I didn’t eat, I wouldn’t sleep. I now know that eating within half an hour of finishing training is integral to jump starting recovery and so I’m careful to have something afterwards. It’s really helped — I’m not nearly as sore the next morning and have fewer “please don’t make me train today” days.

Sleep is still not perfect, but I’m having more good nights. I think as I get better at timing my nutrition, this will continue to improve.

As for my knees, I have discovered that a once a week yoga class seems to be the ticket. I don’t always get to class on Sunday — especially if I have a long bike ride that day — but knowing that there is a solution is very helpful. On weeks where I know I won’t make the class or that my knees start getting sore again, I do some of the yoga hip stretches on my own. They’ve made a huge difference.

This post was originally published on the Pebble Road Marketing blog but now calls this home.

I’m still surprised, eight weeks into it, that I’m training for a triathlon. It will be a short one, but — nonetheless, a triathlon. I have never thought of myself as athletic, my least favourite place in the world is the gym, and I think running is only something that’s done to survive.

Well, the gym is still somewhere I only go under extreme duress (running tracks are now on that list too), but I’ve learned over the last two months that running is only as bad as you decide it is and that athleticism is a frame of mind. Am I ready for the Olympics? Absolutely not. I do, however, believe that my body will respond to what I ask of it and, for that, I am grateful.

Barriers are Man Made

I was recently reading an article in The Walrus, The Race Against Time, that looks at how runner’s perceptions of what they can and cannot accomplish dictate how they perform. Change their perception and change the outcome.

I was most interested in article author Alex Hutchinson’s anecdote of his own quest to break the 4 minute mile (or roughly 1500m in his case.) In his third year of university, he consistently hit the wall of 4:02 — ironically, also John Landy’s barrier (the man who tried six times to break 4 minutes, declared it impossible, and then broke it just seven weeks after Roger Bannister first accomplished it back in 1954.) It was at a meet in Quebec where a francophone timer was calling out splits in English for him. As it turns out, the timer took a few seconds to translate and then say the time, enough of a lag for Hutchinson to believe he was running faster than he really was without extra effort. Deciding that he was feeling good enough to really push the last few laps, Hutchinson finished his mile in 3:52, 10 seconds faster than his best time.

Once he’d broken 4 minutes, Hutchinson’s next two races were finished in 3:49 and 3:44, the latter actually qualifying him for a spot on the Olympic team. In just three runs, he had gone from consistently, repeatedly hitting a barrier to qualifying to compete with the world’s best athletes.

Barriers are Just Beliefs

I think the reason this anecdote rings so true for me is because I have been very committed to my belief that I was not athletic. The first week, while I lived on Advil and wondered why the heck I had agreed to this, I still held tight to it. It wasn’t until the third week when I realized with horror that I was antsy while finishing up my work for the day, waiting to get into the pool. I was excited to be out there pushing myself. I was already seeing my endurance improve, my reliance on pain relievers reduce to almost nil, and — blessedly — my clothes already fitting more loosely. I also loved telling people that I was “training.”

Today, I sit here looking forward to my bike training session this evening. My training partners and I did our first triathlon time trial last week and we all finished the distances. Four weeks away from the race, we already had the confidence that we could more than complete the triathlon. Suddenly, our goal changed from mere completion to getting decent times. We now train with performance in mind.

This post was originally published on the Pebble Road Marketing blog but now calls this home.