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Mush Mouse to Mighty Mouse ( Almost)

August 18th, 2010 by terezamacel

Last weekend I raced at Embrun, an ironman distance race in France. It was a bit of a last minute decision, as on Sunday night Brett emailed me with something along the lines of “ stop being a mush mouse, being a wimp in training, thinking too much, and go do Embrun next weekend. You can descent ok, so chances are you won’t ride off any cliffs, and it will be a nice, long sufferfest day for you, which you need.”

Mission Impossible- Embrunman

At first I was in denial that 6 days later I would be racing one of the hardest races possible. I figured maybe I would not be able to get an entry in time. Or maybe couldn’t find a rental car last minute, or maybe the earth would open up and swallow up my bike as a sign.

Then came fear as each day James would have another story about how hard the race is. It takes 2 hours longer than most other races, there is 5000 meters of climbing ( which did not mean much to mean before hand, but sure means a lot more after the race). The bike course includes a climb up Col D’Izard, which has been a climb in the Tour de France, until they apparently decided the descent was too dangerous. Just to give you an idea, when you first start climbing there are forests, grass, nice lush green views, as you go higher the trees turn to shrubs, the grass gets more sparse, the views much more arid, then eventually there is no grass, or trees, just dust, rocks, and grey views which make you think you are on the moon. The swim is in complete darkness, and the weather could be freezing, scorching hot or anything in between. Not only that but my knee had been a little dodgy for the past month, so might training had been less than stellar ( hence the mush mouse comment).

Foreshadowing of what is to come-Driving over the mountains on the way to the race.

A 5:50 am swim start for the women meant my alarm clock went off at 3:10 am and by 4:45 we were at the race site. The sun is not out yet at that time, so the swim start is in the pitch black- line up on the beach, look out into the dark, where there is apparently a lake ahead of you, and start running till you hit water. I hit a couple of photographers first as I was running into the water, since they did not jump out of the way of my super sprint fast ( not likely- I can’t even sprint for the bus) or maybe it was just because it was so dark, and we were all wearing black wetsuits. Once in the water we were supposed to follow the boat with the light. Well, there were a few boats, and a couple of them had lights, so I swam to the wrong one first, asked where I was supposed to go, and they told me to swim towards the other boat. Hmm, this is already a trickier race than most I thought. The rest of the swim was pretty surreal, I was just following a blinking orange light ahead of me, sometimes it was far ahead, sometimes close, sometimes almost beside me. Luckily by the second lap the sun started to come up, and the bouys became visible, as did the swim exit.

Transition was pretty smooth, and once on my bike I knew the day had truly begun. I was aware that immediately out of transition there was a 7 km climb. I started cycling, feeling ok, working hard up the hill, thinking “this is not so bad, I must be about half way up the hill now” I looked down and had only gone 2 km. Yikes, I realized just how long a day this was going to be, and how difficult the hills were going to get. I tried to focus on each hill or downhill as it came (there was very little flat riding in this race) and reminded myself to keep on track with my eating and drinking. It was a pretty lonely ride, a few of the pro men passed me ( they started 10 minutes after us), and about 2 or 3 amateurs, but otherwise it was just me and a lead motorbike a ways ahead of me. The Col D’Izard lived up to all the stories. It was long, it was hard, and it was cold at the top ( only about 3 degrees Celcius- while at the base it was easily in the low 20’s). I was amazed at all the spectators lining not only this hill, but most of the other hills on the course- and there were quite a few. Every once in a while as I passed some spectators someone would pat my butt and yell “allez, allez, courage!” Hmm, in the tour de France it seems they push the riders up the hill as they go by, where was the push for me?
I always thought I was not the best of big hill climbers, I am more of a time trial- rolling hills kind of girl. So I just figured I would pretend I am riding on a flat, which happens to be tilted up a bit. On my Cervelo P4, in my 3T aerobars, while it seems most everyone else was on their road bikes with aerobar clip-ons. I later found out people thought it was pretty unusual, and kept asking for the big screen tv in the transition area to show more of the crazy girl going up the mountain on a time trial bike, in her aerobars. Well, I must admit 6hr40 + is a whole lot longer to sit on a bike than the usual 5 hours it takes me. And there were far more hills, and switchbacks than I expected. I was happy to just survive the bike course and finally make it back to transition. I had no clue where the other girls were in relation to me, pretty much the only split I had was that I had a 10 minute lead at about 70 km. So I had no clue where everyone was after 185 km.

After my usual SL3 compression sock wrestling match in transition, I was out on the run course, feeling less than sparky. The race started a new rule where there would be no disposable cups at the aid stations, you were supposed to carry your own plastic cup, at each aid station fill it up, and then continue on reusing it for the rest of the race. It is a great idea to cut down on the waste in races, but this method still has a few wrinkles it needs to work out. Especially since it was completely new to everyone, and nobody was certain how it would work. But luckily enough I bought a waist pack bottle holder the night before the race, to have my own way of carrying fluid, and it came in very handy. I struggled the first 6-10 km of the run, but eventually found a bit of a rhythm. Like the bike the run has very little flat, which is what makes it challenging. I started to feel much better at the beginning of the second lap, only to step into a sewer grate and kind of jam my ankle and knee. It is the silly stuff that can get you in a long race. My knee seized up, and I had to do the one legged, hop, skip, jog walk shuffle for about 8 km till there was a bit of a flat again and I could run again without too much pain. It seems pretty easy writing about it now, but at the time I was not sure I would even make it to the finish line. Fortunately off the bike I had over 20 minute lead, and the run course was providing challenges for the other women as well, so I was able to get to the line first. A very, very excited, and tired, and sore “ mush mouse”. I figure if I could get through this course I am on my way to “mighty” rather than “mush”.

Not quite, but maybe one day.

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Nap time

August 5th, 2010 by terezamacel

Often people ask how I fill all my extra time while training. I am not sure how, but there is some sort of time-space distortion that happens at training camp. During a bad workout each minute can feel like 300 seconds instead of 60, and 2 hours between workouts can fly by, with barely enough time to watch some quality television like MTV’s Next. I cannot even describe the kind of trash tv, or brain junk food, I am watching here. At least I have a tv, but there are only 2 channels that sometimes have English, hence my new found channel MTV, with shows like Next- where a person has the chance to go on mini dates with 5 people, who sit on a bus waiting for their turn, until the previous person gets Next-ed. You must see it for yourself to really appreciate it.
YouTube Preview Image

In the Batcave they apparently have a magic remote control and TV, that has an English button- so the option to watch either the French or German version of a show, or English. Wow.
I have set up a little relaxation zone in my place, complete with pillow from home, where I work the brain cells while watching trash tv, or reading, but never nap. Napping is discouraged at camp, I can’t go into details because then I would have to erase your memory of what I reveal, but napping used to be one of my favorite pass times.

There is no napping in Ironman, but there is napping on the way to an Ironman, as James shows us.

There is no napping in Ironman, but there is napping on the way to an Ironman, as James shows us.

I did have some very strict napping rules, which Chris still apparently does not understand. But if you follow these rules it does make napping much more enjoyable and efficient.

1. No napping under the normal blankets. This will confuse you, and you will wake up unsure if it is the next day, or simply the same day. It would also mean you have to remake the bed. You are allowed a napping blanket. I actually took up crocheting a while back, and my favorite thing to make is blankets. I have only made a few, and they take quite a while to crochet. So Chris figures if a normal yearly salary is $40 000 lets say, and I make 2 blankets a year, that is $20 000 per blanket. Of course there was a year where I really outdid myself and made about 4, which really brought their value down.

2. Length of nap must be 20 minutes, or 1.5 hours. No 45 minute naps. Not sure if there was any validity to it, but I read somewhere that there are sleep cycles, which last different lengths of time, and if you wake up middway through certain cycles you are much more groggy and less productive rather than rested. I pretty much use this as an excuse to nap for 1.5 hours. Long enough to feel good, but short enough that I still sleep well at night.

3. Ideal nap time is between 12 and 3, no napping after 3:30 , you will not sleep well at night.

4. No napping on the couch- but this only applies to Chris, when he snores in the living room and takes up the whole couch. I actually do nap on the couch sometimes- but don’t tell him that.

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Challenge Roth

July 23rd, 2010 by terezamacel

I have been a bit unsure what to say in my race report, because truthfully I am still not sure how I feel about my race. So it has taken me even longer than usual to put my thoughts into words.
Roth is one of those races I have heard amazing things about for years. And perhaps just like a movie you hear rave reviews about for far too long, I had certain pre-conceived ideas about the course, and about how my race could turn out. I was picturing smooth roads that basically were conveyor belts and did all the work for you. I imagined spectators whose cheering would feel like the wind at your back throughout the run. And dreamed about a swim course that flows as quickly as the beer in the beergardens, carrying everyone along without having to fight for every stroke and breath in the water. Well, although Roth may be a faster course, with an uplifting atmosphere, it still is an ironman, and hence a long, painful day.
Trying to work the "pain face" into a smiley face

A “dodgy knee” as Stephen would say, had made the two and a half weeks heading into this race a bit more of a challenge than usual. I have been very fortunate that the past 2 years I have had no injury setbacks. After spending the first 3 years of my triathlon life unable to run, more often than able to run, I am still grateful for each week, month and year that I can do any workout I wish without having to manage an injury. So when a few weeks ago I had to start cutting workouts short, and then changing and substituting workouts altogether because of a pain in the knee, it became a pain in my butt very quickly. This then became a pain in the head as I started to think far too much about the upcoming race, and just how likely it would be that I could or could not finish it without my knee calling it quits.
Well, we all know it has a happy ending, as I did finish in Roth, and managed to run my way up a spot to a third place. But I still have some mixed feelings about the race. The swim was ok, but my time was definitely a couple of minutes off how I am training, due to lack of aggression in the first 10 minutes. During the bike I lost the plot for quite a while, my mind and drive wandering a bit too much. And the run, well, crazily enough was the most solid part of my race, partly thanks to the wise words of Doc who appeared on the side lines of the run course with this gem ” If your leg falls off, don’t worry, I will pick it up, cause you are not dropping out of this race”.
I am very happy I had a chance to race at Roth, and finish, and run up to a podium spot. And when I think about the kind of ironman race I could put together a couple of years ago, versus the kind of race I can tough out now I am very happy to see that I am moving in the right direction.

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When Pigs fly

July 9th, 2010 by terezamacel

The other day as I was leaving the pool I had to double check that the sky was not full of pigs that had sprouted wings suddenly and started flying. But no pigs, just the usual paragliders, which seems crazy enough to me. On most sunny days you can see the colourful parachutes as they swoop down from the mountain top, and land in the field just at the edge of the village. I am always impressed by their ability to steer, and find the perfect landing place, I am pretty sure I would be landing on somebody’s roof, or tangled in a tree.
paragliders_takeoff

But back to those flying pigs. Well, that saying …. when pigs fly….. has happened. When I started training with this crazy team it seemed all we did was swim with paddles in the pool. And the paddles, pull bouy and I were not friends. Every time we had to pull rather than swim I ended up at the back of the lane, missing pace times, getting lapped, cursing my lack of pulling ability. Why pull when you can swim, it is so much easier and faster I thought. I could not believe that I would ever choose pull over swimming, or be remotely as fast at it as when I swim. Well, the other day, part way through a swim workout I was having a rough day, just hanging on for dear life to make the pace times, and not succeeding. “Put on paddles and pull it” said the boss on deck, and miracle of miracles, I did not go slower, it was not more painful, it was not a punishment. I was actually happy to slap around with my paddles and pull buoy. Maybe a miracle, or maybe a year of swimming with paddles, and never saying never. But if a pig flies by I will know why.
flying-pigs

Thanks to wikipedia in case some of you are not familiar with that saying
A flying pig is an adynaton, that is a figure of speech in the form of hyperbole taken to such extreme lengths as to suggest a complete impossibility. Thus the popular saying that something will happen “when pigs fly” or “when pigs have wings” means that the thing is an impossibility.

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Things I learned ( or relearned) this week

July 1st, 2010 by terezamacel

zw0q3580

1) A cell phone with no credit is useless when trying to call someone.

2) Watching team mates crash is not as fun as watching Wipe-Out on TV

3) It can rain even while sunny, with not a cloud in the sky. I found out a few times, always while biking it seems.

4) Getting caught in the rain on your bike does not count as cleaning the bike. Actually, it just makes the bike even dirtier.

5) Learning to spell your name in French is actually useful.

6) Going shopping while hungry might not be good, but going shopping while tired is even worse. Stood in front of the butter for 5 minutes, before I realized I needed bananas instead. Bought a bunch of other stuff, still forgot the bananas.

7) Walking up stairs is hard, very hard. I don’t think I will be signing up for the CN tower stair climb anytime soon.

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Where are the windmills, tulips and wooden shoes?

June 22nd, 2010 by terezamacel

A train, plane and automobile travel day and I found myself in Holland this past weekend. I have never been there before, and a 3 km swim, 110 km bike and 30 km run seemed as good a reason as any to visit. It is funny, I often have an image of what a place might look like before I go, and it was the same in this case. When I arrived in the village of Stein, just across the river from Belgium it looked different than I imagined. But then again it always does.

The river where the swim was- Holland on one side, Belgium on the other.

The river where the swim was- Holland on one side, Belgium on the other.

I stayed with a wonderful host family, only about 400 meters from the race finish. The race also started at 8:30 am, which was a treat, since often longer races start at 7 am. It almost didn’t feel like a race, but a sleep in.

The main goal for this race was to go and work hard, and get racing. Overall, as often is the case there were things that went well, and things that I could improve on, nothing surprising there. The swim was fine, perhaps not my best tactical swim, but got done. The bike was pretty unique. Four laps of about 27 km each, with more than 31 turns each lap. And I am talking about sharp corners, through narrow roads in the village. I thought I was riding ok, until another girl flew by me and proceeded to show me that I was riding like a granny, rather than like a speed racer.

A lot of the bike course was in the village.

A lot of the bike course was in the village.

I guess Magnus McAvoy ( yes the bike has a longer name this time) prefers the longer straighter stretches of road.

One of the few chances to go in a straight line on the bike.

One of the few chances to go in a straight line on the bike.

But each lap I was faster, taking better lines and carrying better speed through each turn. The run had almost as many turns as the bike, and was all through the village, which made the time fly by. It was a very close race, as 4 of us were all within a few minutes, and all under the previous course record. Second place was all I could muster up on this day, but know that the experience made me stronger and wiser for the next race.

How's this for a bike? Notice the aerobars!!!

How's this for a bike? Notice the aerobars!!!

The only disappointment was that I did not get a pair of wooden shoes, nor ride by any windmills or fields of tulips. But perhaps it just means I will have to return to Holland in the future.

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Morning routine

June 11th, 2010 by terezamacel

I am happy to be back in Leysin, and feeling settled in after my first week here. Last year I stayed further up the hill, so each morning my walk to the pool was downhill, and a nice tired walk afterwards uphill. This year I am staying at a different apartment, and it is the reverse. An uphill walk in the morning, and then roll down the hill after swimming to get some breakfast. It is actually a nice way to start the day, a bit of a walk, to wake up, and get the creaky joints moving. Much nicer than jumping in a car, and heading onto a highway like back home.
So this is my little walk to the pool

Just outside my door, will it be a clear day or foggy day?

Just outside my door, will it be a clear day or foggy day?

It never looks uphill in a photo, but it sure feels it as I walk.

It never looks uphill in a photo, but it sure feels it as I walk.

This is the dangerous part of the walk. A very delicious smell tries to distract my from my mission, as I walk past the bakery. Bread here is amazing.

Hmmmm, bakery.

Hmmmm, bakery.

Here I check my progress on the church clock.

Here I check my progress on the church clock.


The sports complex. Even then the hills don't end.

The sports complex. Even then the hills don't end.

Finally, the pool. And then the warm-up ends, and the swimming begins. Of course I am still trying to get used to the fresh, crisp mountain air. And although everyone tells me we are barely at altitude I still feel like an asphyxiating guppy. But give me a week or two and I hope to be in shark mode.

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Ironman Brazil

June 3rd, 2010 by terezamacel

This past weekend I raced IM Brazil in Florianopolis. I had always heard that it was a very well organized race, and a good course. And I had raced in Brazil a few years ago, loving it, so was keen to go back and race there again. Initially I was hoping to race it last year, but it did not work out, so I was happy to get a start this year.
Unfortunately I must admit that I did not get to look around much and enjoy Floripa. I arrived late Wednesday, did a couple of short workouts Thursday, race briefing and drug testing Friday and rest of course. Saturday was some more short training, checking in the bike and gear and then off to bed nice and early.
Sunday morning was grey, but warm, and the day would turn out overcast, with light of rain during part of the run, pretty good for racing. The beach start was a bit messy, as all 1600 athletes lined up on the beach, and then for 10 minutes we were corralled and pushed back, and back further up the beach until we were where the race organizers wished for us to be. It was like being in a mosh pit, at a very early morning rock concert. The swim course only had 4 bouys over the 3.8 km swim, and with a few waves it was not always easy to know where to head. I had a poor swim start, missed the main men’s group, and ended up swimming solo for most of it, coming out of the water 2 minutes down on Dede G, last year’s champion.
On the bike I found it a bit windy, and exposed, but afterwards everyone kept saying how fast a day it was. I closed the gap to Dede within 50 km, and we spent the rest of the ride riding similar tempo. She is a very similar athlete to me, strong swim/biker, who tries to build a lead heading into the run, and then limits the damage. So I think it was interesting for both of us to be racing someone with the same tactics.
My bike to run transition was a bit slow, and I lost about 40 seconds to the leader, which stretched out to about a minute by 10 km. I kept reminding myself to settle in, not push too hard too soon, and just find my own rhythm. The run course had a series of 3 pretty tough hills between 8 and 10 km, and the same hills 14-16 km in. I am not usually a fan of hills, but after some good hill training earlier this year I was pleasantly surprised that both the up and downhills were not as intimidating as they used to be. I caught Dede on the hills coming back, and tried to run the next couple of kilometers stronger, to put in a bit of a gap. I got about a minute and a half, which I held for the next 10 km, and eventually it stretched out to almost 7 minutes. Although about 5 km from the finish I figured I had a great chance to win I did not really believe it fully until I saw the finish line.

A pizza restaurant, just around the corner from our hotel

A pizza restaurant, just around the corner from our hotel

I think I got a little bit lucky, since my name- Tereza, is also a Brazilian name. It was written on my race number, and a lot of the spectators cheering may have thought I was from Brazil, and cheered extra loud when I came by. I have never done a race where I heard my name so often, and pronounced so similarly. I definitely made the nine hour race fly by much faster, so I have to thank all those spectators who stuck around, even in the rain.
I didn’t get too much rest post race, as I was soon back on a plane back to Toronto, and tomorrow I fly out to Switzerland. Collecting those airmiles, and catching up on my movie watching.

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Keeping track

May 17th, 2010 by terezamacel

The travel season has begun. I flew to Toronto from Thailand, pretty smoothly. Just like my race distance has increased from a couple hour events to all day long races, so has my travelling it seems. I used to think 3 or 4 hour flights were long, and an 8 hour flight was crazy. Now I have a plan for those 10 and 11 hour flights- break it down into smaller pieces. Read during take off, watch a movie,go for a walk, have a snack, go for a walk. watch a movie till I get sleepy, sleep, go for a walk, read some more, another snack, and eventually the plane will arrive at its destination. And it helps that when I am travelling from a training camp it is the most rest I will get in months.

Can't remember what airport this was, but pretty cool.

Can't remember what airport this was, but pretty cool.


I spent less than 36 hours at home before heading out to St Croix for a half ironman. I had been to the island before, and knew the heat camp in Krabi would be perfect prep for this race. It is a challening, fun course, and it helps that it has some of the best homestays of any race I have ever been to. I arrived in St Croix Thursday, and by the next day came down with some kind of stomach bug. I think I slept two days straight, and my amazing homestays the Rowleys,’ were incredibly kind and patient. They must have been wondering if I would manage to stay awake long enough to make it through race day.

Race morning I had my usual queasy stomach. I was hoping it was due to the usual pre race nerves, but after the gun went off, a few hundered meters into the swim I realized it was not nerves, just a very unhappy stomach. By half way I was throwing up, not even able to think about going fast, just trying to move forward and make it to shore, and looking for a kayak to get into to. Of course then I started to consider just how sick I would feel bopping up and down on the ocean waves in a kayak, and abandoned that idea. I now have a whole new respect for those that really dread the swim, it was the longest, most nauseating half hour of my swim career. Yikes. That was the end of my race day, with a queasy stomach, unable to keep anything down the half ironman just did not seem very realistic.

At the base of the most famous part of the course- the hill called "The Beast"

Back on the plane to Toronto, and then later that week Chris and I started our road trip to North Carolina. A vacation for Chris, and hopefully some nice training for me. We did have to drive through a bit of a snow/rain storm- welcome to spring on the east coast.

It's not just Texas where everything is bigger than life. One of the things I did actually notice during my ride the other day.

It's not just Texas where everything is bigger than life. One of the things I did actually notice during my ride the other day.


Luckily enough the weather has been getting better and better since then, sunny enough for new tan lines from my bike ride. So a bit of training here, till we drive back to Toronto, and I tackle another flight- this time to Brazil. I hope I find a good book to read for that flight.

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Canada eh?

April 23rd, 2010 by terezamacel

Well, Bek’s blog inspired me to give you guys a little peak at a pretty funny Canadian song, not quite as classic as the Aussie one, but if you listen to the lyrics it’s pretty funny.
YouTube Preview Image

In a few short days I head back to Toronto, and am looking forward to a few things, like being cold. Crazy but true, the idea of having to put on a sweatshirt seems pretty appealing about now. The other day at 8 am my computer said it was 31 degrees Celcius, and by 3 pm it was 44 degrees. So a little bit of a chill in the air is going to be a very refreshing experience. Then again that novelty will wear off very quickly I am sure. That’s why I will stick around for only a day and a half, and then fly to St Croix to test out the “sold out legs” at the half ironman there.

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