Training partners and snowy rides

On this morning’s ride I could feel snot flying from my nose, and as the snowflakes peppered my face with a fierceness that chilled my brain I just bore down and kept going, charging against the brutal wind, one pedal after the other. I knew my group mates were just ahead, and their presence, even as slowly disappearing dots ahead of me, prompted a voice inside my head that almost screamed to just keep going. We were on a three hour ride – the longest I’ve ever been on – and all of us were soaked, caked from head to toe in mud, and slowly losing feeling in our fingertips and toes. There were moments when my glasses were so fogged and splattered with mud that I couldn’t see more than two feet in front of me. The official start to spring was just a few days ago, but it still feels like the dead of winter. Life in Canada can be so cruel sometimes. In the back of my mind, I hoped for some hill climbs just to warm up, but almost two hours in, as I reached the bottom of the longest, steepest ascent I had ever seen, I cursed at myself.
Mid-way through my muscles were screaming at me to topple over the side of the road and succumb to defeat. I was visualizing myself literally just toppling over like a massive heap and never getting back up again. But as I looked ahead and saw my training partners bobbing along, I told myself to shut up and just kept going.
Once at the top, I wanted to jump up and down and proclaim my victory, but with all the veteran cyclists, who have no doubt climbed this hill, and others, many times before, I reached for my water bottle instead, and quietly reflected on my own personal milestone.
On the journey back, we endured a whipping wind, an assault of missile snowflakes and caking mud spray from the roaring passing vehicles. For my first group ride, it was one I will never forget.
Having training partners during these kinds of workouts are like a gift. If I woke up this morning for a solo ride and saw the snow and the wind, I probably would have curled right back up in bed. But when you conquer a training session with a group, you push yourself to do things you never thought you could do. You look at those around you and realize everyone is cold and muddy and wants nothing more than a hot bath, so instead of grumbling about it, you just keep going and you have fun doing it, even if you can’t feel your toes. 
Over the past few days, our group has endured some serious harshness from Mother Nature, which has tested our mental toughness, but we’ve done it together, pushing each other along, and I can’t thank them enough. During this journey, I have come to learn that coaches and training partners are the backbone to our triathlon journey and I feel so fortunate to have a group that, since day one, has pushed me to be stronger and better, even when the only thing on our minds is hot chocolate and a warm blanket.

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Puke-worthy workouts

Finding my physical limits face

I’m only two months into the core of my training for the season, and this isn’t the first time I’ve thought about the long road ahead and the long road behind me. I am often doing a lot of self-reflection. When you are set to tackle a race of this magnitude there will be long, challenging, and at times, insufferable training sessions, and when your physical limits are pushed, so will your mental limits. And there has been some experimenting with my thresholds. This week has been particularly gruelling. I don’t know how many more VO2 max intervals I can take. It’s been balls-to-the-wall, and I even had my first post workout puke. It was moments after my sweat pouring, heart pounding spin when I began to feel this hot, uncomfortable wave of nausea engulf me with a suffocating grasp. I was on the verge of folding into a heap on the floor. My legs were heavy slabs of lead and I was practically spitting with every breath. It was all I could do to crawl to bathroom where I proceeded to hurl out every ounce of water I had consumed over the past hour. This was the very definition of leaving it all out there. Most normal people would say that’s a sign of overdoing it, but I know my coach would say that’s a sign that you’re doing it just right.
Each of these workouts this week have tested my limits and I swear I’ve had the lifeguards watching me with one foot already in the water, body pains I’ve never had before, heart rates that can only be compared to the beginning stages of a heart attack, and guts churning to the point of expulsion. At this point, I don’t know whether I feel good or awful. Most days I think I’m just too tired to know.

Ice bath. Heartrate went from 88 to 107 upon submersion.

Ice bath. Heart rate went from 88 to 107 upon submersion.

I make it sound like torture, yet, what makes me want to come back for more painful, long, puke-worthy workouts are the successes along the way. Like, being able to swim 50 continuous metres in the pool and not drown or scare the lifeguards, finish a triathlon and not actually die, swim in the open water and discover it’s really not that scary, and run longer than 12 kilometres and not want to die. And, even the failures makes me want to come back for more, because they taunt me to get better. Like, the first time I forgot my feet were clipped in and I toppled my bike, the time I crashed my trainer into the coffee table, the time I had a flat tire and didn’t bring enough spares, the time I couldn’t swim more than 25 metres, the time it took me three months to get rid of shin splints, and the time I couldn’t run 5K without my lungs being on fire. So, yes, the road to Ironman is long, challenging and at times, insufferable, but it certainly isn’t impossible, completely torturous, or even unenjoyable. It’s been a journey of many triumphs, with a few bumps, and, so far, it has been one of the best rides of my life. 

Six more weeks of winter and frozen snot

For a triathlete training in Canada, the month of March elicits extraordinary feelings of excitement and glee. It brings us that much closer to race season, and takes us that much further away from the cold and the snow.
For the last month, I have been watching the weather forecast like an obsessive lunatic hitting refresh every half hour of the day, hoping for clear skies and warm temperatures. I have been ticking off the days of the calendar as we get closer to the spring months. And every day I dream of warm breezes, clear roads, and not wearing three base layers, toques, snot-covered mittens, and long johns. Even on days when that little snowy cloud icon stared back at me with it’s taunting evil eye, I would wholeheartedly deny that any white stuff would materialize. If I believed it, then most certainly I could defy Mother Nature. Yet, on this horrendously snot freezing kind of winter day, snow has been puking from the sky. Consequently, Mother Nature has been laughing at me as she blankets the city with mounds and mounds of impure, mud-stained ivory flakes of hate. In this moment, I have a deep resentment towards her; a strong loathing of bitterness that spills out of my lips in the form of angry profanity.
This is meant to be the time of year when I dream of a world where my snot doesn’t freeze, I don’t slip on patches of inconspicuous ice, or otherwise become trapped on my indoor bike trainer staring at the wall for hours at a time. March is the month where I am supposed to be giddy at the thought of once again teaming up with Red Lightning for a blazing ride along the winding roads. It’s supposed to feel like the can’t-sit-still excitement of Christmas eve, but warmer and sunnier. Instead I am left to mutter my disapproval as the salt and sand trucks roam the streets littering my playground with grit. One can only imagine that I am floored with the idea of trudging through the snow to my frozen car at 5:30am for my swim workout tomorrow. Maybe, if I’m lucky enough, it will snow through the night, and I can swim through the streets. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I can almost feel the sarcasm dripping from my lips.