Friday, December 27, 2013

Gonna Be A Long Winter!

This year winter has come early - we even had significant snowfall before it was officially winter on December 21st! I have shovelled so much that I have developed some inflammation in my left shoulder. The snow just kept falling and I kept shovelling.

I'm cool (no pun intended) with the cold weather but it does make for some challenges. Running is challenging due to slippery footing and the cold affecting your mobility because it takes so damn long for muscles to warm up. You can have 2 layers plus wind proof jacket on yet remove them post-run and it looks like you have a sunburnt chest.

This pic was no joke recently with the ice storm that went through. We had power out for 6 hours, some around Toronto for several days. A lot of trees were affected with branches breaking off. We got through it though and the last couple of days have been almost balmy at -3C and sunny.

There are some benefits though - my garage keeps my beer cold!

Windchill is always a problem. Living close to Lake Ontario makes for a damp cold - the kind of cold that has no let up.

The rescue, however, is on the way. 2014 has the Winter Olympics and that always gets the heart jumping with national pride. Hopefully our Canadian team can repeat the success of 2010 - I'd love to see a repeat of the girls having a beer and cigar in celebration! Keep warm, my friends!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ahh Florida Again - Must Be Tough!!

Last week I went to the American Hospital Pharmacists Conference in Orlando. Many of my Ontario Pharmacists attend and I go there to entertain and get some face-to-face time with them - something I'm not able to get at home. Some of the fun events included a trip down the highway to Tampa for the Buccaneers vs Buffalo Bills game. It was a lot of fun and was a great place to people watch!

As you can see we were pretty high up. It was also HOT! It was unseasonably warm for this time of year. The entire trip it hovered around 88F - whoa always me! Other events included dinner at a Brazilian steak house, dinner in Downtown Disney.

On Tuesday I had nothing scheduled during the day so I drove to the Atlantic coast to Cocoa Beach for some sand and surf. I spent a couple hours there watching the surfers and playing in the waves. It was fun.

Cocoa Beach also had a huge Ron Jon Surf Shop so I picked Logan up some much-needed board shorts and beach shirts. I wish I lived in a place where I could surf - I'd be all over it!!

Finally, no avoiding it - it was back to reality and the cold and snow of Canada to hibernate for the next 4 months. The approach into Toronto was rough as the winter winds have picked up. Not the most comfortable experience but that's flying into Toronto is generally choppy. When's the next trip?!!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What An Off-Season!

It's been a month since Ironman Florida and I must say I`ve thoroughly enjoyed the downtime. I took the first two weeks to eat some bad food, overeat some bad food, have some beverages and pack on a few pounds. The third week saw Sara and I enjoying 5 days in the Mayan Riviera for my reward trip from work that is given to high performers in the company. This year there were 21 people awarded out of 1400 so I feel very fortunate, especially given Sara could come along.

We stayed at the Fairmont Mayakoba and everything was included. The property is spectacular! When we arrived on the Sunday there was a PGA tournament finishing up. We had to stop on the cart ride to our room as the pros were putting on the green near our room. I saw Mike Weir, Davis Love and a few others - pretty cool. One of the sponsors was BMW. The resort, being so extensive, had 24 golf carts to transport guests around plus BMW mountain bikes and Bmx bikes available for guests to use. That`s right I said BMW bikes - they were also full carbon! Above I`m clowning around on a Bmx bike - my first ride since Florida.

3 of the reward winners got an upgraded suite and I was one of them. Our suite was ridiculous!! Some of the features included: 2 x 50``TVs, 2 balconies, 2 glass showers including one outdoors, 1 jacuuzi tub, walk in closets, separate vanity area, etc. We were floored by the luxury.

The resort is built on a lagoon with mangroves. They were already setting up for Christmas.

Included in the trip were many excursions. One of them included an ATV tour with caves, cenotes, and snorkeling. It was awesome! There was NO speed limits on these bad boys and we went through mud, water, sand - very cool.

This was the beach where we snorkeled - lots of beautiful coral, fish, even a resident moray eel. There was cool spot in the water with an entrance to a cenote. A cenote has amazing clear and clean water, mostly fresh but sometimes with some salt water mixed in. The cenotes make up an massive underground river system in the area. The entrance at this beach was indicated by the constant bubbling of fresh water on the surface. As you went near the water was cold and looking in there was a perfect circular entrance to the cave.

Here`s our group exploring a cave complete with bats, stalactites and stalactmites.

We all had our own ATVs but Sara and I got a pic together before we got dirty.

Swimming in a cenote. There was an entrance underwater to a cave but it was too dark to explore. The water is the clearest I`ve ever swam in.

Back to the resort for some R n R. We were `fun``busy the entire time but we tried to relax at the beach as much as possible with margaritas and mojitos of course.

The food was amazing! We ordered lunch on the beach. Check out the massive shrimp (no, I`m not in the picture!)

Our lunch setup.

Our last night the company sent us out on a boat ride throughout the lagoon system to a private dinner on the beach.

It was beautiful. Nothing like chillin on a warm night with the ocean breeze.

They had live music for us. My company has a mascot-like beaver hat that has been taken to many places, the Mayan being no exception. Here I am `sitting in` with the singer with the beaver hat on - what a dork!

From there they whisked us off to Playa Del Carmen for a pub crawl. The first stop was a bar-restaurant that was built into a massive cave. It was amazing. We were blessed in the Mayan way and a traditional Mayan dance was performed. It was incredibly humid in there.

Sara and I in the restaurant under the stalactites.

From there it was to the aqua bar. For some reason I didn`t take pics of the pools but there were 2 that were 2 feet deep that you could stand in while having a few beverages - which we did. They also had lots of lounge areas to chill - I took advantage! Following this we strolled Playa Del Carmen and ended our night a rocker bar (now we`re talkin!).

Our final morning we did room service and had it on the balcony.

One last chill on the beach. Looks like rain but it was in the distance over Cozumel. Some last minute body surfing was in order. We had pre-packed the night before to maximize beach time before returning to winter at home.

Goodbye heat, sand and salt water - hope to see you soon! Now the fun of winter that end I am focusing on run consistency with getting 5-6 runs per week of at least 30 minutes. I did this in 2011 and had a great season of racing. No speed at this point - just getting the body used to running lots. Time to bundle up and get out there!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ironman Florida 2013

The days leading to race day were pretty chill. We spent time on the beach enjoying the sunshine and warm temperatures. Logan was happy to have Gran and Gramps around and not be in the truck anymore.

We spent most mornings and late afternoons on the balcony. The view of the water and the sound of the waves was relaxing - perfect for IM prep.

We got a short swim in on Wednesday. Nothing like trying out the new wetsuit for the first time a few days before the race. All was well with the wetsuit although "Coach" was not happy we were behind schedule!

This beach is awesome.

I rode on the Tuesday so I passed on the ride Wednesday. Sara and Peter got out for an hour to loosen up the legs.

Afternoon saw more beach time. John (Beast) and Sheila along with Peter's bro-in-law and sister Dave and Jill (who arrived from Victoria via New Orleans). I cannot tell you how many dork pics I have doing the hang loose sign!!

Beast on the beach.

Wednesday night I was treated to a pre-race massage. Sara is a Registered Massage Therapist so I do take advantage of it on occasion. I was a little scared though since she was wearing her "Fit and Vicious" shirt - I did not want any elbows in my back. She did a great job and I was happy to work out the kinks from the long drive.

Thursday we rode down to the expo to sit in on the athletes meeting. It was only a couple of miles down the road. Nice melon - take me to your leader!

Ahh - finally race morning! Here's Peter and I about to head to transition at 5:30am ready to tackle the epic event. This was the last shot we got before the start as it was impossible to find each other in the massive crowd.

Athletes at the race start. The setup was a self-seeding system with the fastest swimmers corralled closest to the swim buoy line and moving to slowest swimmers further right down the beach, With the waves at the start and the direction they were coming in I got boxed in at the start as slower swimmers were pushed left into groups of faster swimmers. No big deal but it took about 300m to get free of the group and find some open water. In the future I would start at the front further right so I can get open water right away - mind you I'm sure everyone else will ignore the self-seeding and do the same next year. The waves provided a bit of a challenge but they were fun!

More wave action. Towards the end of the first swim lap I was absolutely crushed by a wave. My fault for not paying attention - I did a complete somersault under water as a result. I weathered it, had a laugh at myself, and kept going.

Support team - "Coach/Therapist" Sara - my better half.

Gramps aka Paparazzi. Gran was back at the condo with Logan. She reported she could see the top end of the swim loop from the balcony - very cool.

Great surf fun!

Ironman Florida had the best crowd support of all the races I've done so far. The volunteers, as usual, were outstanding.

Not sure what kind of statement this dude was trying to make unless he's from outer space. Pretty bold fashion choice.

There I am finishing the swim (in white). My arms don't really look that big but welcome to the gun show!!

Heading out of transition. I was definitely interested to see how my body would react to racing a flat course with trying to maintain constant power output and staying in an aero position for such a long period.

Quit relaxing on the job! A tribute to Macca Ironman Legend.

Gran representing the Great White North at the halfway point.

I haven't mentioned drafting yet. As you can see from this pic Sara took there was plenty of it. I am proud to have rode honourably - I stayed away from the crap. I had many packs blow by me but I did not want to race that way. I could have but I'm glad I didn't.

Feeling good at 60 miles - where's my pack?! Haha. The rest of the ride went well. I followed my schedule of hydration and nutrition yet I was getting sick of the gels as the day went on. We also had a nice tailwind coming home - my average for the last segment was 22mph. Once back in transition it was noticeably hot with the midday sun out in full force with zero cloud cover.

Peter was first out on the run with a stellar 1:04 swim and 4:57 bike - he was going for it! Peter would have a tough time during the run - his quote "I'm dying a slow death" was the exchange we had during the run. He gutted it out and clocked a 10:57! Well done Peter!

Rob was also racing well with a 1:13 swim and a monster 4:52 bike! Rob's goal was sub-11 and that's exactly what he did coming in at 10:58.59. Congrats Rob!

Here comes Ironbubba! I felt good coming out of transition. My body felt like I had a 4 hour marathon in it which was my goal. My legs did not feel sluggish so I was pretty pumped at this point.

Waving to the folks around mile 3.

The Prince of Bahrain with his police escort.

I ran steady until about mile 14. This is when my stomach went into revolt. Physically I felt fine but the nausea was too much - it was either walk or throw up. I'm not into overextending myself to the point of throwing up so I started walking. It's really been a frustrating year with my stomach. I have had stomach problems for most of 2013 - lots of stomach ache and reflux. I've had to watch what I eat yet haven't totally figured out what works for me yet. I had the same issue in Lake Placid but this one came later in the race but felt worse - like I said very frustrating because physically I had more in the tank. I had completed 6 Ironmans prior to this year with ZERO GI issues. In 2011 I went 11:09 at Lake Placid with using whatever the race provided for nutrition. I was in better shape back then too. I believe having last season off to remove a benign tumour high up in my right groin, getting older, plus the stomach issues hampered my preparation for the year. It's getting there but I've obviously got some work to do which I will look after during the winter.

I walked from mile 15 to mile 21. I attempted to get going several time but the nausea started immediately - I was also starting to stiffen up. I sipped water and chewed on ice initially and as the sun went down took advantage of the chicken broth that was offered. After about 6 cups of broth over 3 aid stations I started to feel better. I tried once more to start running slowly and I felt ok. I continued to run and lift my pace slightly and all was still well. I would walk through the aid stations and get more broth in me but I was running.

I saw Sara and Logan at mile 24 - it was a nice emotional lift. I was proud of Logan for coming out. With Asperger's he is very sensitive to noise and large crowds - it's very overwhelming for him - he did great! I think he was most concerned about me getting sweat on him - haha.

Finally the finish! I continued to run well to the finish - my final few miles were all sub-9 minutes. I even passed the last Bahrainian dude in the finish chute! I was glad to be done but also learned that my body, at age 47, needs more balance nutritionally to prevent the stomach issues. Fitness wise I was good - case in point = I shouldn't have been able to run well after walking that long. Once my body got what it needed (chicken broth/sodium? must be) I was good to go. I will sort this out!!
Of course I couldn't find anyone I knew in the sea of people at the finish so I collected my things and rode carefully back to the condo. Eventually everyone figured out I headed back and we all reconvened back home.

Of course playing some Wii is what every athlete does post race, right?! Logan wanted his Daddy's attention. We played a little Wii with the legs up and some pizza. I was tired but felt good - my stomach since pounding back the broth felt good.

Canadian class! Gramps with wine and pizza.

Gran chillaxing after a busy day.

Another huge part of coming to do Ironman Florida was paying tribute to a great man and friend, Don Olson. This was Don's favourite race and place. He sadly passed away this year from a courageous battle with cancer. Want to know how tough this Dude was? He completed the race last year in 16:44!! The man dug incredibly deep to get it done despite feeling weak from treatment and not being able to do much training as a result. He absolutely loved this race. I thought of him during the race - the thought of the effort for Don to complete last year's race was inspiring. 
Don's lovely wife Linda arranged to go out into the Gulf and line up with the Sunset Inn where the group always stayed for the race. Once anchored, some beautiful speeches by Linda and Don's son (very inspiring!!) were followed by everyone spreading some of Don's ashes into the Gulf. A touching tribute.

While it was sad to be reminded of Don's passing, we did have some lighter moments that made Don the great man he was.

Linda was a rock. This ceremony was actually supposed to take place on the Friday before the race but the weather wouldn't cooperate. It did seem fitting to have the day we had. The water was calm and the sun was shining.

As Don's tradition would go post race, it was champagne, donuts and cookies for all!! Here are this year's race crew about to open the champagne. We sprayed some into the Gulf and had some treats Don-style! From left to right: Kevin and Dave V - they raced with the goal of mirroring Don's time of 16:44 from last year as a tribute. They didn't get it to a tee but crossed the line in 16:29. Next came Craig with a 11:12 clocking. Dave W had a massive race - he came 4th in the 55-59 AG with a 11:02.44!! Next to me is the Beast and finally Dennis who came in around 16 hrs.

My Dad captured this pic of the boat we were on from our condo balcony - very cool.

Here's Craig in recovery mode. Nothing like a post race snooze after some beverages!

Peter, along with Jill and Dave, having some recovery libations.

 Of course Logan had me dig a large hole on the beach for my recovery!! It was not without some beer though.

 I think someone missed me!

 Gran and Gramps have this recovery thing down pat. In fact, it seems like they "recover" daily!

 This never gets old...

 Mom and son.

 My support crew.

 Sara has supported me through this crazy stuff - I'm grateful to have her! 16 years together and counting. She loved her time down here so much she gave the green light to return  in 2014! So I will do the double again in 2014 - Ironman Lake Placid and Ironman Florida.

Things to address this winter:

1) My GI system!! I'm getting better but it needs further attention
2) A different nutrition strategy. I think I will be best served following a liquid-based strategy. I can no longer do the gel thing. I also need more sodium.
3) Back in 2011 I ran 5-6 times per week for most of the winter. The base was great but I believe the frequency was more impactful.
4) I'm getting lighter. I was still heavy for this race at 157lbs. I would normally race around 150-152. I was 165 for Lake Placid. Aside from a little off season weight gain I should be right for 2014.
5) More quality focus next year. I did less volume but more quality in 2011 and it worked. With the prescribed workouts and input from Team MaccaX I should be a lot better.

I'm actually excited about the offseason as I think this is where success in 2014 will come from. With that said I'm not looking to be a "January Champion". I will build gradually and be smart about it. Not that the season is finally over - anyone up for a beer!!