Monday, July 21, 2014

Race Report: Great White North Half Iron

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I am a little behind on my posting…I guess Ironman training will do that to you!  Back on July 6th I raced the Great White North Half Iron distance triathlon in Stony Plain, AB.  I wasn’t feeling that prepared for the race.  I had a great training camp in Penticton, but then training got derailed by our move into our new home.  To make up for lost time I rode 130 km on July 1st knowing that it would likely impact my race.

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I was also travelling without my favourite cheerleader.  Neil was on call that weekend so he had to stay behind in Calgary.  The trip wouldn’t be the same without him!  Luckily I had a ton of teammates racing Great White North so I didn’t feel too lonely.

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On Saturday afternoon I dropped my run gear bag off at T2...

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…then dropped my bike off at T1.

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There was an option to swim in the lake but it was getting late in the day for me.  I was more interested in doing my usual thing the night before Great White North…drive out to Edmonton and have dinner at Olive Garden.  It isn’t amazing food but I know it sits well in my stomach so I just go with it!  I got back to the hotel early and put on my race number tattoos (which promptly wanted to fall off) and called it a night.

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I was up early on Sunday morning, had a shower and ate my usual breakfast these days of oatmeal with cinnamon and dried fruit soaked overnight in milk.  I then packed up, headed out of the hotel and caught the shuttle from the finish line/T2 to the lake.  As soon as I got there it was time to get to business!

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I got my tires pumped up, set up my nutrition on the bike and hit up the porta potty lines.  Time flew by and all of a sudden I had to hurry up and get in my wetsuit or I was going to miss the swim warm up!

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Thank goodness for my friend Tara who had gotten up well before the crack of dawn to come cheer us on at the race today.  She calmed me down and helped me get in my wetsuit.  I had just enough time for a few strokes in the lake to check the seal on my goggles before it was time to get out.  Once we were ushered over to the timing mats and on to the beach I had a few minutes to find friends.

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There was no time to be nervous…it was time to race!

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Photo by Ken Anderson

Swim - 2000 m - 46:01

There were people everywhere which was a good thing because I couldn’t see the first buoy we were supposed to swim to.  It was just around a corner so I wound up just making sure I had people to my left and right rather than worrying about where the buoy was.  After I rounded the first buoy it felt like everyone disappeared.  I decided to put a bit more oomph in to my swim.  I don’t know if that translates in to me swimming much faster but I was trying!  Overall I was really happy with my swim.  It was a bit slower than last year’s, however last year’s course was definitely short!

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Photo by Ken Anderson

Bike - 90 km - 3:15:54 (including T1 and T2), estimated 3:12 without transitions

I tried to be really efficient in T1…wipe my feet off, put my socks on and put my swim gear in the provided plastic bag.  I pushed my bike out of transition and I could hear Coach Angie and Tara screaming and cheering me on!  You have to ride up a short, steep hill to get out of transition so I had made sure I had left my bike in a super easy gear.

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Photo by Ken Anderson

Once out on the road I wanted to focus on doing my own thing.  I’ve often gotten caught up in trying to pass people early on the bike.  Today I just made sure I was riding clean and I kept an eye on my power meter to make sure I wasn’t pushing too hard.  The wind was a bugger and at times it felt like I was barely moving.  My legs were not really feeling that awesome either.  I had conveniently forgotten about my 130 km ride just a few days earlier!  I made sure to taking in calories every 15 minutes, sipping on EFS and taking in EFS Liquid Shot.

Despite the wind and my somewhat lacklustre legs I felt like I was having a really good ride.  The ride is two times on an out and back and when I hit the first turnaround the wind was a bit more favourable.  There were also some nice downhills and I decided to take a few chances and pick up the pace here, being mindful of not pushing my watts too high.  This part was awesome…I could feel my wheels purring and I just felt so fast!

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Photo by Ken Anderson

Maybe the wind wasn’t quite as bad on the second lap of the bike or else I knew it would feel a lot better on the way back so I didn’t mind as much.  Regardless, the second lap felt better.  I was pretty pleased to come in around 3:12 on the bike, a good 7 minutes or so faster than last year on the same course.

Run - 21.1 km - 2:22:19

As I started on the run I knew I had nailed my nutrition on the bike so I should be well fuelled for the run.  I was a little concerned that my legs were less than peppy…but it was time to run a half marathon.  I carried three gels with me and I knew I needed to keep up with my fuelling to ensure my best possible day.  I also kept repeating the word patience over and over to myself.  I wanted to start slow so I’d leave enough gas in the tank for the end.

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Photo by Rose Serpico

My favourite thing about racing Great White North is the double out and back for the run course.  You spot all of your friends and it always makes my day!  My teammates were all awesome and I got a lot of encouragement from them.  The other thing I love about Great White North are all of the amazing and enthusiastic volunteers at the aid stations.  This year they were all really well stocked and I grabbed a cup of water and a cup of Coke each time I ran through.

The wind on the bike?  Completely gone for the run.  It was a hot one out there!  I was on point with my nutrition, taking my gels in when I needed them.  My stomach also felt awesome.  It was great to know that my bike nutrition and run nutrition were sitting well in my stomach.  My legs were really fading on the second lap of the run though.  When I caught up with Kelly I decided to take a couple of minutes to walk and chat with her.  She shooed me on my way and I needed to keep on running, albeit somewhat slowly now.  It was a tough slog to the finish and I will admit to feeling a bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to put together a stronger run.  I had hoped to be patient but I just wound up fading.  Now that I’ve had some time to reflect on the race I know that my day was dictated by that large bike ride I did just a few days prior.  It wasn’t ideal, but it was what I needed to do to be ready for Ironman Boulder.  Having a speedy race at Great White North was not my goal this year.

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Photo by Ken Anderson

Overall there was a lot to be proud of on this day.  I crossed the line at 6:24:13, a full 14 minutes faster than last year.  My swim was a little longer this year due to the course actually being 2000 m, but I made significant gains on the bike and run.  I nailed my nutrition plan and my stomach felt great.  I still wonder how I’m going to knock off 20 minutes to get close to my half Iron PR but that can be a mystery to solve in another year.  I feel like I have the right building blocks in place for Ironman Boulder in 12 days and that is what matters the most!

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Team Tri Life Ironman Training Camp in Penticton - Part II

Missed Part 1 of my Ironman training camp experience?  Here it is!

Saturday - recovery run, long swim, ride "the wall"

On Saturday we got together for a 30 - 40 min optional recovery run.  We were told to keep the pace super easy on the run and it was amazing how much better my body and mind felt afterwards.  I was now a little bit more ready to tackle the long swim at camp!  Time to shimmy in to my wetsuit.
At first the water felt cool but in a minute or two I didn't notice the temperature anymore.  I took my time on the swim and overall it went pretty well.  I've noticed that I feel a lot more comfortable swimming and in the water in general in my new Huub suit.  I don't feel restricted in the neck or shoulders and it has really improved how I feel about open water swimming these days!  I also tested out a pair of Vorgee goggles for the first time and really loved them.  No issues with fogging or leaking and they were really comfortable to wear!
We had just enough time to grab a quick breakfast after the swim, then it was time to get ready for our next workout.  It was a recovery bike ride on a route that Coach Angie fondly likes to call "the wall."  This was the one activity at camp I was most worried about.

Four years ago at camp at rode to the first hair pin turn and called it a day.  I remember it being really hot that day and being okay with putting my bike in the back of the truck and calling it a day.  Two years ago at camp I really wanted to make it up the wall.  It took many stops and starts going up that darn hill and there were a lot of tears.  I did make it to the top and I was really proud of my effort.  I still remember all of those emotional break downs on the way up though!

This year I was so worried about the climb.  I had expectations since I knew I had made the climb before.  Angie knew how nervous I was about it and she sent me off ahead of the rest of the group with a couple of other cyclists and a couple of strong climbers who could be there to provide encouragement or give us a push on our bikes if need be.

On the wall you gain 150 m in less than 2 km (500 feet in ~1 mile).  You go around sharp hairpin turns.  On a regular day the wall may not be so scary but the day after a tough 150 km ride where your legs are completely pooched?  It is tough.
My friend Tara rode with me and she chatted with me and gave me tips about alternating sitting and standing.  Once I made it past the first hair pin turn where I had quit four years ago I knew I could make the rest of the climb without stopping.  It was hard, but I had faith!
The feeling of reaching the top and feeling strong the whole way up?  Priceless.

From there on out the rest of the ride was not easy as we had several more climbs to tackle.  It is certainly an interesting definition of the term "recovery" ride!  After we were done there was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.  I had made it past my most scary workout and only Sunday's long run stood between me and a successfully completed camp.  That made it a little easier to relax at our team dinner that night!  (Photo via my teammate Sarah Van Tine.)

Sunday - long run

My friends and I had to be out of our rental house by 10 am...right when we would be at the tail end of our long run...so we were up early to pack and load up our cars.  We were then off to run the Penticton Challenge marathon course from Skaha Lake to Okanagan Falls and back.  Shannon and I made plans to stick together and our friend Trevor ran with us for a bit too.

Shannon was keen to run 14:1 run/walk intervals but I've been training on 9:1 intervals these days.  As soon as we set off on our run I could feel the fatigue in my legs and I was really worried about those longer intervals.  Things went okay while we were running on the flats, but as soon as the hills started I got grumpy.  I wasn't sure I could keep those 14:1 intervals up.  I kept saying the words over and over in my head, telling Shannon to go on without me and that I needed to run my shorter intervals.  I just couldn't get the words out of my mouth.  All of a sudden we crested the biggest hill and were rewarded with a long, glorious downhill.  All thoughts of dropping back left my mind and I felt great.  Boy the brain is a funny thing.  It is a reminder that at Ironman you will have highs and you will have lows during your day.  Keep the faith on those lows that things will turn around!
When we hit about 2:15 of run time on our watch my legs were reminding me that 2:15 had been my longest run distance to date.  They were starting to feel achy and tired.  Luckily we were coming out of the hills at this point and our superstar SAG wagon driver Tara had supplies of nice, cold Coke.  That helped me push on through that wall of fatigue.  Soon after Shannon was starting to hurt.  I tried to tell her silly stories to help take her mind off of what was bugging her so I told her stories about puppies.  The good thing was it helped to distract me too and I finished off the long run feeling really strong.  I had hydrated well and taken all the gels I meant to.
And camp was done.  This year camp was a huge mental boost for me.  I pushed through hard workouts and I felt like I was smart in how I tackled them.  Completing almost 17 hours of training in a long weekend felt somewhat unbelievable.  It was just the boost I needed so I can push through the last block of training before Ironman Boulder!

Team Tri Life Ironman Training Camp in Penticton - Part I

It has taken me awhile to get my thoughts down on Team Tri Life's Ironman camp.  I almost debated not publishing it, but having a record of my thoughts and feelings through camp has really helped me before.  So on we go...

Back on June 19th I was out in Penticton for Team Tri Life's Ironman training camp!  With Ironman Canada on July 27th and Ironman Boulder on August 3rd this was perfect timing for all of us athletes prepping for our big races.  I'm not going to lie...I was quite nervous about camp.  This would be my third camp out in Penticton so I knew the routes we'd be riding and I had some demons out there that I was worried about...  I was also still fighting the same cold that plagued me at the Chinook Olympic Triathlon the weekend before!

I drove out to Kelowna on the Wednesday.  It was such a beautiful day to be driving through the Rocky Mountains.  I couldn't believe how stunning Rogers Pass looked!


Camp didn't start until Thursday afternoon so by driving out on Wednesday it gave me a chance to spend a bit of time with my parents.  The extra bit of downtime before camp was also really nice!

Thursday - shakeout ride and open water swim in Skaha Lake

I met up with the team at 5:00 for our first workout - an easy shakeout ride from Skaha along the old Ironman Canada/Challenge Penticton course, up McLean Creek Road and back.  The pace was easy along the flats but when I started climbing the steep hill up McLean Creek Road I was not feeling my best.  The cough that had been sitting my chest made the effort feel really hard.  On the way back to the lake I could not stop coughing.  I had a chat with Angie and we agreed that getting in the water to practice some open water swimming skills may not be the best idea.  I headed back to start getting my stuff ready for tomorrow...the long ride!

Friday - ride the Challenge Penticton bike course, brick run, yoga

Friday it was time to tackle a few demons and revisit the old Ironman Canada bike course.  When I raced Ironman Canada back in 2012 all I remember is suffering from stomach problems and wasting a bunch of time in the porta-potties.  I also wasn't the most diligent with my training that year so I was hoping I would see and feel some improvement riding the course again at camp.

To date my longest ride had been 127 km so I figured aiming for 150 - 160 km would be a good idea.  I knew I just needed to keep on top of my nutrition and the jump in riding time would be doable.

A big bonus for me on Friday was that my dad had agreed to help out our team and offer car support for us on our long ride.  It was so nice to have him out there!  He had to get up super early but he always had a smile on his face and was ready to help all of the riders out there.  It also gave me a nice mental boost knowing my dad was just up ahead.

I really love the ride from Penticton down to Osoyoos.  The majority of the route is quite flat and you have vineyards and fruit orchards all around you.  I kept an eye on my power through here and kept my effort really low knowing I would need to save my legs for later in the course.  The ride through to the base of Richter just flew by.  All of a sudden it was time to start the climb to Richter, which is about a good 10K of climbing.  I just did my own thing, pedalling up and marvelling at the beautiful view of the vineyards below me as I climbed.  Richter conquered!
The descent from Richter was really fun as there wasn't much traffic.  It was over before I knew it though and then it was time to tackle the rollers!  This can be a tough part of the course as it feels like you don't have a lot of momentum and I've also ridden through here with a wicked head wind that made that feeling even worse.  I try to count them every time I ride through them and I've counted 7...9...10... depending on the day.  Today once I reached 7 I stopped counting!  Once we finished through the rollers and started on the flat road towards Cawston, Keremeos and the out and back the weather started to turn on us.  The wind picked up and there were some nasty clouds heading our way.  The headwind was awful.  I just got down in to aero and pedalled but I was getting uncomfortable after awhile and had a hard time eating through this stretch.  Needless to say when I spotted the support cars ahead at the turn off for the out and back I was not so happy!  It was time to put my arm warmers back on, eat some food and try to get going.  After fighting the wind the ladies I was riding with and I all felt like we weren't that keen on riding very much of the out and back.  When big, fat rain drops started to fall on us we figured we had best make our way up to Yellow Lake right away.

The rain was off and on as we started our climb up Yellow Lake.  I knew that there were numbers painted on the shoulder of the road, counting off in 0.5 km increments until you reach 17 km and the top of Yellow Lake.  It feels slow going until you have about 4.5 km left as it just a really gradual climb.  I just focused on passing those kilometer markers by.  My legs actually felt pretty good on my climb to Yellow Lake so I knew I had paced my ride really well.
Yay, we conquered the climb to Yellow Lake!  The descent from Yellow Lake was a bit of white knuckler thanks to the wet roads.  I have never been so happy to hit the bottom of the hill before!  The fun was far from over as we made our way down in to Penticton with some really wicked cross winds.  I was pretty happy to make it back to the car.
Again, big thanks to my dad for volunteering a big chunk of his day on Friday and supporting our team.  His help made the day go smoothly for everyone out there and he was so supportive of everyone.  All of Team Tri Life really appreciated his help!
To round out the day there was a super painful brick run, then I attempted to appease my tired and tight muscles with a round of triathlete specific yoga.

My girlfriends and I grabbed dinner at Theo's Restaurant in Penticton that night.  They served up some delicious Greek food!  We then wandered over to the beach for an ice cream cone...the perfect way to cap off the day!
Next up...the last half of camp!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Off Topic: Moving and Our New Home

The weekend after the Chinook Triathlon I was in Penticton for an absolutely amazing Ironman training camp.  I haven't had time to put my thoughts on the weekend into words because as soon as I got home Neil and I were knee deep in moving boxes, packing paper and bubble wrap.  Thank goodness for my parents who have hung on to moving boxes that date as far back as 1993 because I was able to pick up a whole bunch on my way home from camp!
The process of buying and selling our home was definitely not without stress.  I think when you are dealing with that large of a life changing decision (and that much money) there is bound to be some stress though.  We found our new home before we sold ours which made for some really sleepless nights as I tossed and turned, hoping that our old home would sell quickly.  Then it felt like our 60 days of waiting to take possession dragged on.
On Saturday the big day was finally here and we were moving in to our new house!  Overall things went really smoothly and we were really happy with our movers.  They moved really efficiently and were really courteous.  If you are looking to move within Calgary or Red Deer let me know as I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them.  The only hiccup we had was that our one year old couch couldn't make it downstairs into the basement (where we plan on setting up our TV/entertainment space).
Um, so if you are in Calgary and have been looking for a Crate and Barrel, Axis II Apartment Sofa...let me know!

Yesterday Neil and I were driving over to our old home to pick up a few last items and to thoroughly clean the place out.  As we turned off into the neighborhood one last time Neil told me that he wouldn't miss the old place at all.  At first I was a bit taken aback by it.  What do you mean you won't miss it?  As I thought about it I realized that I wouldn't really miss the old place either.  It was the perfect home for a single girl with her two dogs, Finlay and Maggie.
This was the home that saw a relationship, a break up, a reconciliation and it was the place where Neil proposed.
It was also Peat's first home with us!  (And for those of you who wonder about Finlay, he's 13.5 and has settled in to the retirement life very well with my mom and dad in the Okanagan.)
But like many relationships our time in this house had run its course.  It was always more "my house" instead of "our house" because I had bought it well before Neil was in the picture.  It was a little far from downtown, wasn't quite large enough for the both of us, and it wasn't ideally set up for spinning or having a workout space.
Now in time for our third wedding anniversary it is time to create "our home" together.  I'm beyond excited to have our space that we'll settle in to.  It has a yard for Peat and is close to the pathways with all kinds of new and exciting smells for him.  It has a kitchen that Neil is excited to cook in with a gas range!  I have the perfect space in the basement for setting my bike up on the trainer and one day putting a treadmill in for when it is just too cold and icy out to run. 
Here is to making memories in our new home!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Race Report: Chinook Olympic Triathlon

Last weekend I wrote a post about how tired I was…  Well, I guess everything caught up with me and I got sick!  It completely knocked me out and I wasn’t sure if racing the Chinook Olympic Triathlon would be a good idea or not.  Ironman training camp in Penticton is next weekend and I want to be healthy for it!  When I woke up yesterday morning I was not feeling 100% but I decided to go ahead and race anyway.

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Transition opened at 7 am so Neil and I left home early so we could be there in time for transition to open.  We had an hour to get set up in transition before it would close.  Our race didn’t start until 9:15 but we had to clear out of transition to let the half Iron distance racers through.

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With being sick this week I didn’t have a chance to make it down to the lake for an open water swim.  My first lake swim of the year would be on race day.  That made me a little nervous!  I will say the best happy accident was when my old wetsuit ripped last year.  I love my new Huub Axena suit so I felt confident that I’d be comfortable in my suit at least.

I got body marked, hit the bathrooms, and once the half Iron distance racers were off I started to get into my suit.

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Team Tri Life picture time!

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With about 20 minutes before race time I got in the water.  It was so cold!!  It was a little tough to put my face in the water initially, but after swimming around for a bit it got easier.  With a few minutes before go time we made our way to the beach for some last minute announcements and tips.

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We sang the national anthem and then we were off!

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Swim - 1500 m - 33:58

The swim felt aggressive to me.  There were people all around most of the time.  I was getting scratched, kicked and I even got clocked in the jaw!  My goggles fogged up really quickly and I was having troubles sighting.  I wound up having to stop and tread water to give them a wipe, then they were clear all the rest of the swim!  I felt like I was swimming pretty lazily, but I surprised myself when I got out of the water a couple minutes faster than when I raced back in 2010!

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T1 - 3:16

I was able to get my arms out of my suit quickly and found a free wetsuit stripper.  She had my suit off in a jiffy and I was up and running off to my bike. DSCN0117 

It was sunny out when I got out of the water.  I had left a ton of options in transition for warm clothes to put on the bike as I had expected it to be cool and possibly rainy.  I could hear a spectator telling someone next to me in T1 that folks were dressing pretty lightly heading out on the bike.  Between her and the sun I left all those extra clothes behind and just got ready to ride my bike.

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Bike - 40 km - 1:20:59

I had read my race report from when I last raced the Chinook Olympic back in 2010.  That year I had biked the course in just over 1:14 and I felt like I had over biked that day.  The course is an out and back and I knew the out would be uphill and possibly into the wind.  I kept an eye on my power and biked conservatively, letting a ton of people pass me.  I wanted to stick with my plan and not get caught up in keeping up with people.

I saw some terrible race etiquette on the bike course.  The majority of the participants didn’t give the usual “on your left” when passing.  I saw big draft packs and I noticed that some racers weren’t making an attempt to drop back after being passed.  I even saw someone pass on the left!  I passed one lady who had her front wheel right beside the rear wheel of the woman in front of her.  They were chatting away and as I passed I commented that they were drafting and I could hear them laughing as I rode away.  In my opinion this is a race and we should all be making an attempt to follow the rules and ride clean.  This is not a training ride.  Okay…off my soap box now!

On the way back I took advantage of the net downhill and pedalled a little harder.  I also made sure drink my EFS on schedule and top up with a bit of EFS Liquid Shot.  As I got closer to T2 I could tell that all those fluids were making their way through my system and I really had to go to the bathroom.  I decided to try and see if I could pee on the bike…and success!!  Free pee time!

T2 - 1:30

Bike racked, running shoes on.  Enough said.

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Run - 10K - 1:02:19

On the bike I could feel that the cold air was bugging my chest in combination with being sick.  Despite drinking a bunch on the bike I was feeling parched.  Oh well, time to run!  I could tell that my conservative bike had paid off and my run was actually feeling good.  Well, my feet were numb from the cold, but otherwise my legs were feeling pretty good!  I knew that I left T2 right at the 2 hour mark so if I wanted to come in under 3 hours I’d have to run a speedy 10K.  I was actually able to hit the halfway mark just under 30 minutes.  I was stopping to walk the water stops and get my fluids in because I was still feeling really parched.  After the half way point the heaviness in my chest was getting worse and I didn’t have the desire to push hard to get that sub 60 10K.  I took a few more walk breaks.

I was also playing a bit of cat and mouse with my twitter friend Carla on the last few km of the run.  She passed me with just a few turns left to the finish and encouraged me to keep running because we were almost there!  Alright, time to suck it up and run to the finish!  Thank you for pulling me to the finish Carla!!

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I crossed the line in 3:02:03.  I was just over 2 minutes off my time in 2010 so I was really happy about that!  Not too shabby for not feeling my best today.

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All in all I’m really glad I raced today.  It felt good to work out some nerves on the first triathlon of the season.  I felt like I finally learned something about biking conservatively to save my legs for the run and I had a really great swim!  I also love the energy at triathlons.  I had so many friends there…teammates, twitter and instagram friends and a coworker.  I even had a lady recognize me, tell me she reads my blog and that I inspired her to race her first triathlon that day.  How amazing!!!

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I feel so lucky to have such amazing friends in this sport.  Thank you everyone for making triathlon so fun!

And my hat is off to the great volunteers and race organizers.  They did a great job and were always smiling and cheering us on.  As part of our race swag we got a bike jersey as well!

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Next up…Ironman training camp in Penticton next weekend!!