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Donna Phelan's Blog


Merry Christmas and a Happy 2011!

December 25th, 2010 by donnaphelan

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November in a Blur

November 26th, 2010 by donnaphelan

It’s been a month and half since Hawaii, and I’m puzzled about where the time went? Yesterday it was October, and now suddenly it’s the end of November. I can’t recall 6 weeks passing by? Maybe I fell asleep and hibernated? Or I’ve heard that time flies when you’re having fun, so maybe that’s what happened.

In either case, today is Thanksgiving Day in the US, and I woke up even more confused thinking that perhaps I had slept through the month of December as well. I grew up with Thanksgiving being a much smaller holiday in Canada, but in the US it appears to be the beginning of the Christmas season. This four day holiday marks the beginning of Christmas decorating, parties, shopping, eating and anything else associated with being joyous and merry. I guess I should just give in and enjoy the season since tomorrow I might wake up and it will be January.

Happy Thanksgiving and Thank You to my coach and team for all the great memories from the past year.

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Kona 2010

October 14th, 2010 by donnaphelan

It’s now 4 days since the IM World Championships in Kona, and I’m on a flight heading back to San Diego. This is the second time I have raced Kona (my first time was 2 years ago), and both times I have loved this race. The swim is in the ocean which gives a sinker like me some buoyancy, I can spend the whole bike in the aerobars time-trialing which is what I like best, and the weather is hot which I love.

The lead up for this race was a bit different than my training 2 years ago. Two months ago, leading into IM UK, I developed some tendonitis in my hip. Then by the end of August it had developed into a “stress injury” in my pelvis. I took the next 3 weeks off training, followed by 3 wks of easy running heading into Kona. The race would also be my first time swimming without a pull buoy in 6 wks….a nice little experiment to see what happens when you don’t kick for 6 wks.;-)

To sum up my race, out of 11 Ironmans to date, it was probably my best. Despite a not so great start in the water, I came out of the swim with the usual girls I have swum with in other races…’though I’ll give myself an F for running around looking for my transition bag and what can only be described as “grandma pace” in the transition tent.

For the first 90km of the bike there was a strong headwind and towards the turn-around there were stronger crosswinds than I remember from 2 years ago. At times, I was scared to stay in the aerobars, and prayed that I wouldn’t end up pedaling off across the sky. I felt stronger on the second half of the bike and passed 5 or 6 people, finishing with a bike split 15min faster than 2 years ago.

I wasn’t sure what to expect on the marathon since my run training hadn’t been what you’d call ideal. But surprisingly, I felt pretty good until about the last 10km of the run. With 5km left, Karen Smyers went past but I couldn’t stay with her. Then with 3km left, Kate Bevalaqua came by and we ran side by side up the last hill on the Queen K, down Palani, and along Kuakini. As we were about to turn on to Ali’i with 800m to go, I had memories of my previous sprint finishes at Wildflower and IM Brazil this year not being so successful. Ok, it’s now or never, I’m not making it a 200m “sprint” this time (I say “sprint” but this word is not usually part of my vocabulary). I came across the finish line ahead of Kate, and almost catching Karen, happy with a race that 6 wks ago I had doubts I would be starting.

At the finish line with Jay. I don't know who's more tired, me or him.

The last 3 days have passed in a bit of a whirlwind with the awards party Sunday evening, followed by 2 days of snorkeling, beaching, coffee drinking and sushi eating. A big Congrats to Xena for finishing 2nd and for strong finishes from the rest of the team – Amy, Erika, Tez and Hiro. Also a big Thank-You to Brett, Alex and all of our team sponsors. And a huge Thanks to my super doc who volunteered at the medical tent and settled my hip down with a cortisone shot Monday eve, and to my super PT who works at the ART tent in Kona every year. Thank you Dr.Miller (TK) and Gino for getting me to the start and finish line.

Genki sushi where you pay according to the color of the plate. It keeps coming an coming...

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My New Favorite Ride

September 27th, 2010 by donnaphelan

My long bike and my long run are my two favorite workouts of the week. I love heading out on my bike for a long ride, especially when the weather is hot and sunny. Two weeks ago I discovered a new bike loop which is actually a pretty famous long ride in San Diego called “The Henshaw Loop”. The marine layer near the coast a couple of weeks ago was thick like pea soup, and seeking the sun and hotter temps, I ventured inland a couple of Saturdays ago. I loved this ride so much that I had to go back again this Saturday, and I wasn’t disappointed – sunny and 110 degrees, great climbing and quiet roads. I’m actually a bit disappointed to be starting my taper for Hawaii soon, but I’ll be back to the Henshaw Loop again soon. Here are some pics from my Saturday ride….

This is the first long 25 min climb, from San Diego County to Ramona.

Lots of spectators heading from Ramona to Santa Ysabel. I’ve never seen camels outside of a zoo before….definitely not while I was growing up in eastern Canada!

Stopping in Santa Ysabel at the famous Dudley’s Bakery. The map shows where we’re headed….almost at the half way point. I love this ride.

Heading around Lake Henshaw towards Palomar Mountain on the same loop 2 weeks ago. It was right around this point in the ride when I almost fell off my bike. A little dehydrated and dreaming of a nice cold dip in the lake, this strange creature jumped out in the middle of the road. I had visions of being attacked by a huge beak and eaten for dinner…..only to be told after my mild panic attack that it was “only” a wild turkey. Aside from this potential wild turkey attack, definitely my favorite long ride ever.

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The Beginning of the End of Summer

September 6th, 2010 by donnaphelan

This weekend is the long Labor (Labour in Canada) Day Weekend in North America. Although summer doesn’t officially end for another couple of weeks, this weekend unofficially marks the end of summer vacation. When I was a kid growing up in Canada, I dreaded the end of Labour Day which marked the beginning of the school year. Since moving to San Diego a few years ago, Labor Day has now become one of my favourite holidays of the year – tourists finally go back to wherever they came from, the beaches clear out, and I no longer fear having my head chopped off by a car door suddenly flying open in the bike lane.

But the thing I love most about this time of year is that summer’s not really over. It can stretch on into October. And if I hop on my bike and head inland, it can last for another couple of months….A long ride on a hot day and it doesn’t get much better than that. So I’ve put away my cold weather Swiss riding clothes that I brought home a couple of weeks ago and I’ve taken out my warm weather clothes again. Summer’s just begun…

*The “Cardiff Kook” about a mile from where I live. The locals dress it up for different occasions, making fun of his “not so sporty surfing style”. This weekend, he’s dressed up as Zorro with a hat and sword.

*The summer flowers are hanging on while the pumpkins are pushing for October to come. Be patient pumpkins, it’s not your time yet.

*Though fall is not too far off.

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Things I’ll Miss About Swiss

August 17th, 2010 by donnaphelan

Today I took the train from Leysin to Geneva where I’m staying overnight before my flight leaves in the morning to Belgium, then Philadelphia and on to San Diego.

It’s been a great couple of months training in Switzerland. I never realize how quickly the time at camp flies by but before you know it, it’s time to pack up and move on again. There are little reminders like the number of books growing in my pile (number 10 has just been put to rest and thank you Tez, Jodie and Fiona for the extra books!). And the past week of sleeping with my hot water bottle and extra blanket means it’s time to head to sunnier skies and warmer weather.

However, there are many things that I’ll miss in Swiss….

My favorite ride to Sion and back….the only 5hr ride I’ve ever done without a single traffic light. Of course, there’s always time for a coke/bakery stop somewhere along the way.

My favorite long Sunday run…..biking down the mountain to the UCI and doing my long run along the river in Aigle. Then a quick coke/bakery stop before climbing back up to Leysin.

The amazing view from the hiking trails above Leysin on my long “hike” days, ending with a coke/bakery stop before heading home.

My favorite aisle of my favorite grocery store, the Co-op. There’s always fresh bread every morning, hot off the shelf, and nothing tastes better than fresh bread after morning swim practice.

And on my run days around the village when I don’t have time for a coke/bakery stop, there’s never a shortage of drink stops.

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Ironman UK

August 4th, 2010 by donnaphelan

This past weekend I went to Bolton, England to race Ironman UK. Like with any race, I’ve come away from it learning a few important lessons.

The race started at 6am with a deep water start which meant that at 5:40am race officials were giving orders to get in the water and swim out to the start line. It was a cold lake swim and being out there for 20min beforehand was more of a cool down than a warm up. I came out of the water in 3rd place, stumbling a couple of times on the way to my bike, still a bit disoriented from the cold but within sight of 1st and 2nd place.

Onto the bike and I knew I would have to work hard to build a buffer against some of the stronger runners. Unfortunately, I spent the first half of the bike kicking myself for not wearing warmer clothes. The thought even entered my mind to stop and ask a spectator for a tshirt or jacket. Because of the cold/rain I made sure to keep eating every 15min and by 60km I moved into 2nd place. Another 60km went by and I was still wishing I had a parka and feeling the strange urge to stop and have a 5 course meal. The last 60km of the bike provided a bit of entertainment as we had the extra challenge thrown in of double lane traffic – sheep, double decker buses and Sunday drivers on their way for tea and crumpets. Unfortunately, due to the extra bodies on the road, I missed one of my turns in the last 30k and with it went another 5 or 6 minutes.

I came off the bike still in 2nd place, but with only a minute lead on 3rd. The first 2 miles of the run were a hilly cross country course through a forest of mud and puddles before we started the main out/back/out of the marathon. At this point, I was feeling a little low on fuel but concentrated on just moving one foot in front of the other. At about 30km, I had slipped into 4th place, and a huge fight, actually an outright war, was going on between my head and my quads. I knew that the pain in my quads could never compare to the pain of my brain giving up before my body did so I pulled myself together and came across the finish line in 4th place, still within 8% of the winner’s time to finish in the money.

So, the lessons learned at this race? Dress up warm when it’s cold, and always pay attention to the bike course and less to the distractions of sheep and double decker buses. A big congrats also to Bella and Stephen for both finishing 2nd and to Brandon for his 5th place finish.


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Random Acts of Craziness

July 11th, 2010 by donnaphelan

A couple of days ago I had an email from a girl who used to be on my swim team when I was a kid. She recently started doing triathlons and I get an email from her from time to time asking about training, racing, which tri bike to buy, etc. This week, her question was along the lines of feeling tired and grumpy….the thought of going training is a bit of a mental struggle…is this normal?….do pro’s feel like this?

I remember a wise doc a few years back telling me the story of Rob Decastella answering a reporter’s question “Are you tired?”. His answer…”I get up in the morning tired and go to bed very, very tired. 50 weeks of the year. But it’s a price I gladly pay because 2 wks of the year I am the best in the world. And I am lucky because there are a lot of athletes as good as me out there who are not prepared to pay that price so I beat them every time in those two weeks.”

For me, peculiar things start to happen when I’m in the middle of training camp, when I’m perhaps not my usual most alert self. This past week was no exception. At the beginning of the week, I was riding down the mountain, waiting to pass through the tunnel about half way down. Pretty soon I was at the bottom with no recollection of having gone through the tunnel. I don’t suppose they moved it? There’s no way I could have gone through it. Then on Wednesday I was out riding and was convinced it was Saturday. And what did I do yesterday? Then a couple of nights ago, I had a dream about the cat who hangs around outside my apartment building. In my dream, this cat’s name was Kitzen. I think perhaps I was thinking about going to the kitchen for my middle of the night snack? Sometimes the brain fatigue is worse than the body fatigue.;-)


So the answer to my friend’s question? Yes, being tired from training is pretty normal. And may be accompanied by random acts of craziness.

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Summer in Swiss

June 28th, 2010 by donnaphelan

It feels like I just arrived yesterday, but I’ve been at Swiss camp for just about 2 weeks now. This is my third summer here, and it has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world and one of the greatest places to train. The riding through the mountains is unlike anywhere else – amazing climbs, quiet roads, few traffic lights, and the cars (for the most part) are bicycle friendly. It’s a quiet area with few distractions which always makes a great training location. Oh, and did I mention the bakeries and the great coffee?

There hasn’t been much news the last couple of weeks as we’re all just busy putting our heads down and getting ready for the races we have coming up. More to come in my next blog, but for now I’ll just leave you with a few pictures of this beautiful little place in the clouds…




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Here Today Gone Tomorrow

June 13th, 2010 by donnaphelan

Since Ironman Brazil, I’ve spent the last 10 days in San Diego, and I leave tomorrow for training camp in Switzerland. The last 10 days have been a whirlwind – recovering from the race and travel, getting back into a training routine, and digging out my cold weather clothes for training in the Swiss Alps.

Two of the things I enjoy most about San Diego are my “second home”, the pool, about 2 kms from where I live. And in the rare instances when I’m not training, I really enjoy the good coffee around here (much bigger cups than in Brazil).



But after 10 days of training on my own, I’m getting fidgety, and I’m ready to head back to camp. I packed my bags today, and had a couple of stow-aways trying to hitch a ride to Switzerland. They do this every time I travel. But once I told them about the big cows in Leysin, they reconsidered.


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