It must have been the sea air!

So last week I was in Vancouver for our annual Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals Mortgage Conference.  Like a good little athlete I brought my running gear intent on making sure that I got out for a few runs while there.  Historically where the intent has always been great the execution has been lackluster at best.  My flight landed at about noon Vancouver time and I was at the Pan Pacific hotel by about 1:30pm.  The conference hadn’t started yet and my business partner had yet to arrive.  Perfect time to go for a run.  The sun was shining, it was 8 degrees out.  A far cry from the snow and minus 15 of Edmonton.  Time to take advantage. Fortunately I was able to garner an early check in and headed up to my room to change.  The excitement was building.  I grew up in Burnaby and before I moved to Alberta I spent 4 years in downtown Vancouver.  This run was going to be a bit of a homecoming.  Not to mention the fact that I have signed up for the Vancouver half marathon in May 2013.  I felt good.  I felt inspired.  Tomorrow was to be my first CAAMP board meeting, I was in Vancouver and I was going for a run on the seawall!!

I hit the front door and asked the bell man the quickest way down to the seawall.  He pointed me down Waterfront Street, said just down the stairs around the building and you are there.  So excited.  Head phones in, Runkeeper on, running playlist queued and off I go.  I find the stairs and bounce down like a gazelle feeling full of life and energy.  Runkeeper kicks in at the 1km mark to tell me my current pace is about 4:18m per KM.  Yikes, that’s a little fast, won’t be able to sustain that.  The waterfront is beautiful and I’m dodging and weaving the other pedestrians on the seawall.  Wow! What a great way to start the conference week!! Runkeeper chimes in at 2km and I’m still on about a 4:30 pace.  Hmmm….. I wonder if I can keep this up for 10?  I’m feeling pretty good but have not mentally committed to that pace for the entire run yet.  It is the end of November and I am on a run in my shorts and t-shirt overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  It just doesn’t get much better than this.  I’ve decided that I will do an out and back and likely run out about 5.5 to 6km so that I can finish my 10km without hitting the stairs on the way back.

At the 5km mark Runkeeper pipes up to say that I am still sitting at a 4:32 pace.  OK, now I am committed to making this 10km a new PB.  Last time I ran a 4:30 pace was when I was doing sprints for 500m at a time.  Now it looks like I could finish an entire 10km at that pace.  I am feeling fantastic.  No cramps, no stress in hips, knees or calves.  This could actually happen!! I push on and turn around about 5.6KM, although I wasn’t about to break stride trying to read the GPS.  Somehow, for me, heading back always seems a little easier than heading out and I usually end up with a negative split for my out and backs.  I hit 7km and am still on pace and feeling great although about this point there is a stupid seagull in my path that does not seem to be moving and of course waits until I am almost on top of him before he takes off.  Oh well, all part of the Seawall experience I guess.  I hit 9km still on pace and all I can think about is “I hope I don’t see someone I know who expects me to stop and say hi”.  Guess what?  I run into Gino Tieri from MCAP with about 750 meters left in my run.  Gino spots me, says “hey!”.  I am in the zone now.  I give him as polite a ‘point’ as I can and hi five him as I motor on by.  I’m sure he’ll understand ;0)

I finished my run with a Personal Best time of 45:37 with an average pace of 4:33.  My notes on my Runkeeper activity looked like this:

Holy Mother!! Yeah baby!!! #yvr #seawall Remember when 4:30 was a 500m sprint!! Pumped!!

I was so fired up!! Now, you have to understand… I am NOT a fast runner. Period.  My ‘need for speed’ so to speak stemmed from a conversation I had with a business coach May 22, 2012.  We got chatting and turns out his background is physical education.  He has coached elite athletes cycling.  I told him I wasn’t quite sure what I would focus on next, whether it would be distance running or perhaps I would just focus on the 10KM event and work on my time.  This was obviously before I even thought about Challenge Penticton.  So he looks at me and asks me how fast I run a 10KM and I proceeded to brush him off and said “aw, I’m not fast at all”.  He pushed on and asked again “What is your time for a 10km?”.  So I responded that I am usually around the 60 minute mark.  He replies with “Wow, that is slow”.  Nice!!  Thanks a ton. He carries on to say “Seriously a lean, fit guy like you should be down around the 42 minute mark”.  I said well, I don’t know about that but my goal for my next race is 57 minutes with a stretch goal of 55 minutes.

So while I really felt his 42 minute suggestion was out to lunch, it really got me thinking; “Have I been limiting myself with my belief that I am a 60 minute 10KM guy?”.  So on May 24, 2012 I went out for a run and decided to challenge the notion that I was a 60 minute 10km guy.  Guess what?  I ran a 54:10!! You can see it here on runkeeper. Holy smokes!  I guess I better reassess my time goals for a race.  I just beat my stretch goal in a training run.  That run for me was a real eye opener and really spoke volumes to the fact that so many times our own false beliefs limit what we accomplish.  So the moral of this story is:

Constantly challenge what you believe is possible and I can guarantee you will surprise yourself!

I can’t swim!! How am I gonna do a triathlon

One of the first things I recognized I would need to do to reach my goal of completing an iron distance race was to improve (OK maybe ‘learn to’ would be more accurate) swim.  I was referred to a local fitness trainer/triathlon coach whom I contacted in September.  His suggestion was to sign up for some group sessions for any of the three disciplines. After hanging up the phone I immediately went to his web site to see what kind of group sessions he had coming up. They had a group swim class scheduled once a week starting at the end of September. Perfect! The cost was reasonable and a group class was a perfect opportunity to meet others in the sport. I signed up online and eagerly awaited September 26.

At the first session I was pleased to see it was a small group. I believe there were five in total.  It also became very evident that I was by far the least experienced and was very far behind the others. Fortunately there were two coaches Craig and Laura. Craig was gracious enough to spend a fair bit of time with me watching my stroke mechanics (or lack thereof) and made many suggestions for improvements. Craig Introduced me to some of their philosophy on tri specific swim coaching, as well as some of the tools I would use in the pool as I worked my way to becoming a swimmer.  The first tools was a pull buoy. A pull buoy is a small flotation device you put between your knees to assist you with buoyancy of your legs. It is designed to take your legs out of the mix in your swim training. This allows you to focus on your arm technique and isolate your shoulder muscles.  The second tool we use are ‘paddles’.  These are hand paddles that effictively add resistance to your arm stroke.  This has the effect of adding strength conditioning to the specific shoulder muscles used for swimming.  Think of it as a swim specific weight training.

I have to admit I was a little nervous when I first started training for the 300 m in my try-a-tri. Back in July I couldn’t swim 50 m without switching to breaststroke or flipping over onto my back. I obviously completed the 300m required for that race and I was able to do it entirely using a freestyle stroke. Now we are adding tools to my workout?! Oiy!

So for the first four or five weeks Craig had me adjusting my mechanics almost every length. It was like adjusting your golf swing.  There are so many parts and you have to remember to do them all.  Craig used the analogy of the
karate kid.. “wax on, wax off”. You just need to keep repeating the movements over and over and over until it becomes natural and you don’t have to consciously think of them anymore.  As we progressed I made sure I added a least one or two additional swim days a week to my routine so I could practice what I had learned with Craig.  The great thing about starting from “I can’t swim!”, is that you see results quickly! improvement from week to week was vast and it was very encouraging.

My favorite lesson was the first one Where Craig did not give me any tips on stroke mechanics and simply let me focus on the workout that he had provided. Yay!  I’m getting there! It’s so nice to see all the work starting to pay off. Over the x number of weeks in that group session we’ve added speed specific training, endurance and strength training, and a number of different drills. The 3.8 KM swim is what had me the most concerned with the August Challenge Penticton race. I’m happy to report that I’m now to a point where I’m doing total distances in my swim workouts of between 2.2 km and 2.7 km.  I’m able to complete these in between an hour and an hour ten minutes. This is a huge huge stretch from where I was just five short months ago when I could barely swim 50 m without some form of break.

it’s absolutely amazing to see the progress.  It just goes to show that with the right plan, careful execution, and a little discipline you can you do just about anything. Now don’t get me wrong.  I recognizes there is still a long way to go however I am definitely feeling like this is very achievable.  In fact, the swim will likely be the least challenging leg of the race.

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