It’s been 2 weeks since my last training post (see part 1 and part 2 if you’d like to catch up) and wow – have things ever changed! The main theme for this recap is training during times when life stress is high, as it has been for me over the past couple of months during my move from Waterloo to Vancouver.
The Big A-Race
- 1.9km swim (1.18 mi)
- 90km bike (56 mi)
- 21.1km run (13.1 mi)
It didn’t make sense for me to do an Ontario race since I’m now living in Vancouver, and Challenge Penticton worked well timing-wise. There have been a few training setbacks which I’ll talk about in this post, so the later race date is one I’m much more comfortable with. I’ve heard amazing things about Challenge (and got to witness first-hand the amazing experience that the organization creates for athletes at Challenge Bahrain back in December), so I’m excited to make my first half iron-distance triathlon one of theirs.
Training Log: Being ok with not doing every workout
As far as my workouts go, my coach is still having me follow a periodized training plan based on heart rate with each build being 3 weeks long. (We build the volume and intensity over 3 weeks, then follow with a recovery week, then build again.) Depending on the week, volume has been between 11-12.5 hours, typically with my longest rides on Saturdays and longest runs on Sundays. Things are about to get a little bigger though – the training block I’m currently in will max out at a 13 hour week, and I’ll be starting to throw some races in to the mix soon too.
You may have already predicted this, the biggest challenge during the time that I was moving wasn’t so much about the workouts themselves (which are, for the most part, still very much done as progressions through my zone 1 heart rate with occasional intensity), but being able to find the time to do them. I’ve got zero problem with getting up really early in the morning, but there were days when I just didn’t have pool or bike access and had to just do what I could.
My coach is been wonderful about being flexible with my situation. We use Training Peaks to keep track of my training, which is a system that allows athletes and coaches to enter workouts, track progress, and give feedback. (You could also just use it to log your own training if you wanted to, similar to Strava.) He’d give me suggested workouts based on whether or not I’d have pool and gym access, but if I couldn’t do them I just logged whatever I could do (which sometimes was a ‘Sorry Coach, no can do today‘) and he was totally cool with that.
To be very honest, as someone who is very type-A in nature, the disruption in training was difficult to wrap my mind around and be ok with. I’m the kind of girl who WILL do the workout prescribed for her unless she’s physically not well enough to do so. But I’m learning a lot from my coach, and one of the things he kept reminding me of is that the best athletes (specifically the age groupers for whom competing in triathlon is a hobby, not a job) aren’t the ones that do every single workout prescribed for them. Rather, the best are the ones that can adapt when life gets in the way, and can bounce right back into training as best as they can, as soon as they can.
Keeping this gem of advice in mind has been so key, especially since my body has not only been physically stressed, but also psychologically stressed. I’ll talk more about my transition into my new west coast life (outside of training) in next week’s goal check-in, but for now, suffice it to say that I think I’ve finally come to appreciate the fact that psychological stress can be just as exhausting as stress imposed by training for a triathlon – or any other sport, for that matter. And that brings us nicely to the next major component of this adventure…
Nutrition Notes: Iron issues and maintaining a strong immune system
I thought that after the move was done and I’d found my new training locations, it’d be right back into super solid training sessions. This has been the case to an extent, but something else has been happening that didn’t become apparent until this past week. Those of you who have been reading for a long time know that it took a good year to find an iron supplement that has been truly effective in boosting my ferritin levels. (A the time of being diagnosed with anemia, my ferritin was less than 4 ng/mL – aka rock bottom.) The supplement I use is called EuroFer, and 3 weeks ago, I ran out.
I visited and called around to several pharmacies to see if any carried it. Back at home, the pharmacy at Sobeys was my go-to but there are no Sobeys locations in BC. I tried Save on Foods, Shoppers Drug Mart, London Drugs, and Wal Mart and sadly, none of them had it. Instead, a pharmacist recommended a different brand of iron – same form (ferrous fumarate) and same dosage, but in tablet form rather than capsules. Although skeptical, I bought it and figured it’d be worth a try.
I carried on with my settling in at work and at home, and completed two 12ish-hour triathlon training weeks. However, at work I constantly wanted to fall asleep throughout the day. I chalked this up to being new and still having to learn a bunch of new things in almost every project, and as far as my workouts went, just figured an earlier bedtime was in order.
This past week, things really took a turn for the worse. My digestion was terrible, I was tired, and I craved sugar (rare for me) in order to get a boost of energy to stay awake. I started feeling really hot in the early stages of my workouts, and when I looked down at my Polar V800, my heart rate would be up way faster than usual. I had to keep slowing down in order to stay in my prescribed heart rate zones, and even though my coach says to focus strictly on heart rate, not pace at this point, seeing those high numbers was not encouraging feedback.
I don’t know why it took so long to put all the signs and symptoms together because they were identical to what I experienced when first diagnosed, but on my Thursday morning easy run, I had that big eureka moment: iron had to be the reason for all of the problems.
While feeling relieved that I’d (hopefully) nailed down the culprit, I also had no idea where to get my usual supplement from since so many of the major pharmacies didn’t carry it. To my great surprise, Costco of all places offered to order some in for me on Thursday, and it arrived on Friday. Guys, I love finding new foodie things at Costco, but never in my life have I ever been so excited to go! I picked it up on Saturday and although the issues haven’t all resolved themselves yet, I’m feeling confident that I’ll be in a much better place by the end of this week. Phew! (For those who wondered, I’ve since learned that you can also buy Eurofer iron on Well.ca.)
Aside from the iron issues, the other big focus over the past 2 months has been using nutrition to help keep my immune system strong and stress levels in check. Pre-, during, and post-training nutrition is still a work in progress, but given my circumstances and knowing that stress can take a heavy toll on health, I knew that using clean, whole food-based nutrition to my advantage would be key in helping my body to recover properly.
Enter….. cold pressed juice!
Conveniently, I happened to receive an email from a London (Ontario) based juice company, Pulp and Press, asking if I’d like to try some of their cold pressed juices. Since my juicer was already packed away in the back of my car, ready to be shipped across the country, I happily accepted and used the juice strategically around workout times to either get a natural boost of energy, or replenish depleted vitamins and minerals afterwards. For example…
- Pre-Workout: The Green Glow – apple, fennel, pineapple, cucumber, kale, cilantro, ginger, lemon – a big infusion of vitamins and minerals from organic produce, plus cilantro to boost digestion and help to stimulate the nervous system (which is responsible for those feel-good endorphins)
- Post-Workout: The Red Monster – apple, beet, cucumber, avocado, lime – with vitamin A and C, iron and calcium, a great choice for cleansing the digestive system, washing out toxins, building a stronger immune system and reducing allergy symptoms.
- Post-Workout: The Beta Blaster – apple, carrot, beet, ginger, lemon – heaps of beta carotene for boosting the immune system, plus ginger to help reduce inflammation in the hard-working muscles
In addition to juices, I’ve been diligent about eating a very wide variety of fruits and veggies, consuming plenty of healthy fats (hellooooooo west coast salmon!) and incorporating foods like maca root powder (an adaptogen that helps to normalize cortisol, the stress hormone) into smoothies. Putting the symptoms experienced as a result of iron deficiency aside, this strategy seems to be working pretty well and I haven’t (knock on wood) yet been hit with any crazy colds or illnesses. Let’s hope it stays that way!
What’s coming up next?
In addition to some upcoming races which you’ll hear more about soon, I’ve signed up for a women’s cycling clinic during the month of May in order to develop some better bike handling skills. The weather has been great here in Vancouver lately and there are endless places to run and ride, so upcoming weekends will be filled with plenty of both. Of course, sleep and recovery are a huge part of making improvements and staying healthy, so I’m sure I’ll be constantly reminding myself to take some chill time too!
Ok, that’s more than enough from me. Now I’d love to hear from you…
- Has your race season begun already? Or is it about to? How are you feeling about it?
- Any Vancouver-area triathletes out there with some great cycling and running routes that I MUST check out? Let’s hear them!