Bike Gear this Year!

Sponsors: Woodcock Cycle, Felt Bicycles, Rudy Project, Biknd

IMG_4375

When I started to write my blog post about gear, I quickly realized that the bike needed it’s own entry! Here is the inside on what bikes & gear I raced with this past season (click here for my post on swim/run gear):

Coming from aerial skiing where all you needed was skis & boots; diving into triathlon, I realized how much more gear there is and how many endless little decisions there are to make… What pedals do I need? What are the aerobars made of? Which hydration system will integrate well? SO FREAKIN’ OVERWHELMING! How do you balance cost with performance… trying to sift through endless reviews… each training buddy swears by the set-up that works for them. What do I really need? What is just hype?

This is where I need to endlessly thank Woodcock Cycle, right here in little ol’ Winnipeg, for always helping me out. Like I’ve said before, I just like to put my head down and do the work; Woodcock has been a great sponsor not only to educate me & make sure I’m set-up on the right gear to give me that extra edge but to then answer my million questions on how to do everything from use a CO2 cartridge to plug-in my di2 charger (and not even making me feel stupid for asking such silly questions)! Another reason to #shoplocal! Don’t expect anything too technical as I’d rather be out using the equipment then understanding how exactly it works but here’s what I liked/disliked with my gear this year.

Race Set-up

 


Bike: Felt IA10 – XS frame/Di2

I had wanted a FELT bike since I saw Mirinda Carfrae ride one in KONA and now to watch Daniela Ryf win on a FELT again this year, you know their bikes are top of the line! I started racing on this bike mid-season last year but after doing my whole build on it this winter, it really feels like my own now. This bike is fast! All of my training route personal records have been done on this bike as well as my PB 70.3 bike split. I’m kinda an outlier here but I have good hamstring flexibility and compared to my old bike this frame allows me to get lower, still be comfy and maintain my power numbers even in the aerobars. The only thing I feel this bike has working against it is that it’s pretty heavy but hey, for time trialling the aero dynamics more than make up for it! However, when chasing my husband up hill at the lake, it has me cursing the odd time! I’m planning on racing on this bike again next year, I like how it handles and I like knowing exactly where my bottle and nutrition are without looking so it would be hard to convince me to change. Just gotta spend the time on the trainer this winter and develop MORE POWER!

Wheels: HED Jet race wheels (6 front & 9 rear)

This is my 3rd season racing with these guys. I like ’em, especially when I first put them on after having training wheels on for a while, you feel so fast! I’m still building my confidence with the front one in particular in a crosswind but I have yet to opt NOT to race with them even in Galveston this year with the gusty winds off the Gulf.

Pedals: Garmin Vector2 power pedals

I’ve actually had quite a few people ask me about my power meter choice lately. I originally went with pedals based power because I wanted to be able to change them between my Felt TT and my road bike. The original Vector’s were a complete nightmare and I often had problems getting them to sync especially after travelling to a race. Eventually Garmin upgraded me to the Vector2 model and they have been great! The new pods are a much better design and through all my travels this year I didn’t have any problems with them syncing or calibrating. I do find they read about 10Watts higher than my Tacx Neo but it’s consistent so as long as I’m comparing relative workouts it’s no big deal. Maybe even a little confidence booster? 😛

Helmet: Rudy Project Wing57 with Optical Shield Smoke Lens

 

The Rudy Project Wing57 was my biggest gear upgrade this season. I have a small head (haha laugh now) and I really like how snug this one fits. In addition to being far more aerodynamic, I was surprised how much I liked my ears being covered… you know… if you don’t hear the wind, it’s not there right? I also raced once this year in really cold temperature and I liked that there is a piece that pops in to cover the front air vents, it definitely made a difference in keeping the heat in. That said I was worried in hot races it might be too hot to be so enclosed but I didn’t find it hot at all. I raced without the front vent cover in +30C weather and it was cool enough for me! Plus the visor makes you look bad ass and therefore feel bad ass which obviously will make you race like a bad ass 😉

Saddle: Specialized Power

Oh picking a saddle, still a love hate here… The power is much better than the saddle I had before but early in the season I had been getting a twinge in my left hip after long rides especially when I was spending majority of the ride in my aeros. I realized I was sitting crooked on my seat and when I consciously corrected that the hip pain was gone immediately. I also found it was chaffing a bit on the inside my leg when I spent a long time in the aeros. I didn’t want to change anything so close to the race season since it was still the most comfortable seat I’ve had thus far I just left it. Recently, Woodcock remeasured me with the saddle pressure mapping “thing-a-ma-jig” (see I told you, I just like to ride the damn bike, I don’t pretend to be an expert in bike fitting) and we discovered that I need a wider seat so that I would be better supported. I have been riding with it now for 3 weeks so far and it seems much better but my rides have been fairly short so time will tell as I get back into full volume.

Shoes: Giro Women’s Facet Tri

How I picked these:

1. They were the right size
2. They were pink

Easiest decision ever! When I had my bike fit, we added insoles that were more rigid and they are supposed to transfer the power better from my foot to the pedals but all I know if they feel comfortable so I’ll take their word on the rest!

Hydration: Xlab Torpedo System 50+, Xlab Turbo Wing with Gorilla Cages

Holy! Gorilla cages are expensive! Can you believe I spent roughly $75.00 on a bottle cage? But seriously after having to turn around after every set of train tracks because I double ejected my bottles, I was desperate and they have lived up to their great reviews. I opted for the most compact version of a horizontal front bottle set-up, it stays in place way better than the profile design vertical bottle I used to use. All their stuff is certainly a pretty penny but I got my set-up dialled and not having to fight with my bottles is certainly one less thing to frustrate ya when in the middle of a race!

Data: Garmin910

I don’t use my 910 anywhere but on my bike now, I really would like a Garmin Edge but this one works so unless Santa surprises me I will use it again next year!

Travel bag: Biknd Helium

 

Okay this was probably the single thing this year that reduced my anxiety of travelling. After my seatstay was cracked in customs on the way to Kona last year, I reached out to Woodcock to see what bag they would recommend. Ohh MMM GEE! The Biknd Helium is like the Rolls-Royce of bike bags. Having four wheels, instead of just two on the back… ahhh so much easier to navigate airports!

On top of it being much easier to manuever, it’s much lighter than the Thule hard cover box I had; yet in comparison to some of the soft shell bags on the market, it is still super durable. The fork attaches right in to the base of the box. I just loosen my handle bars and fold them sideways (perk of having a small bike). All my extra bike related gear (shoes, hydration, helmet, etc) all fit around the frame. It even comes with a cover for the chain and crank set. Once everything is zipped up then you just inflate the bag with this nifty little pump it comes with. You end up with a fairly rigid bag but I could still keep light enough to make the 50lb weight limit! Even with 2 sets of wheels! FTW! Ya you read that right, it has room for TWO sets of wheels, so I can take my HED race wheels, as well as, my shallower training wheels incase it ends up being a super strong cross wind, etc… or just to breathe easy knowing I have a back up 😉

 

Advertisements

Swim & Run Gear this Year!

With off season being a time to reflect not just on training but also on gear for next year, I figured it was a good time to share my set-up for the 2017 season and what changes I’m planning on making next year. My motto has always been that if I have to choose between investing in training to make me faster (ex. coaching, pool space) or gear to make me faster (ex. more aerodynamic wheels), I always choose training. Luckily I’ve been able to partner with some awesome companies so I can continue to focus on training hard AND have the advantage of top performing gear and for this I’m extremely grateful! Here’s what gear I choose for the swim & run portions of triathlon, I will post my bike gear separately in the near future. Enjoy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Run Gear
Sponsors: Skechers Performance, Rudy Project

Race Shoes:  Skechers GoRun5
I started running in Skechers even before I joined the Skechers Performance team. Why? Because they are light AND cushy! I also like how flexible the back/heel is on them, in fact this is why I tried them in the first place. I don’t want something rigid pressing agains my achilles tendon, I prefer to rely on the stability & strength of my own foot/ankle. The quick pull tab is a nice perk for fast transitions as well.

Training Shoes: Skechers GoRun Strada & GoRun Ride 6
I had originally been doing all my long runs and easy runs in the GoRun Strada because I found I needed a bit more support, especially when I’m tired, in comparison to during workouts/races. Recently, however, I’ve been really liking the GoRun Ride 6. I’m finding they more similar to the GoRun5 but just slightly more cushioned & supportive for the longer training runs. So at the moment I have a pair of each in rotation!

Sunglasses: Rudy Project StratoflySX

After a crazy eye infection last year, my right eye is super sensitive to glare off the water and direct sunlight so I love the photocromic lenses because they grade the amount of light let through depending on the brightness. I don’t always run with sunnies but when it’s super bright these are a must! I also like how narrow the frame is. I won’t be changing from these anytime soon!

Nutrition: SPIBelt, Gu Gels & SaltSticks
My SpiBelt is getting pretty worn but I just love it. During training runs I stick my iPod in it and during races I load it with gels and salt tabs. As far as actual nutrition products go however, I’m not a super big fan of Gu’s, they are highly processed and although the caffeinated ones work well during races, I often feel the “gut rot” effect afterwards. This is something I plan on looking into more during the off season and either see if I can make something or find a product that is more natural. Woodcock Cycle recently brought in Huma gels and the one I tried tasted good and is much more natural so I might play around with those a bit more. SaltSticks seems to work well, I take one every 3-4 miles  during races and use as needed during hot training sessions. I still haven’t found a liquid nutrition formula that agrees with my stomach, this too is another off season project!

Watch: Garmin Forerunner 410 (UPGRADE: Garmin 735XT)
Ya I know! This guy is ancient! But why buy something new when what you have serves it’s purpose just fine… till it konked out on me in the middle of IM 70.3 Racine. So I just used my basic Timex in IM 70.3 Calgary and was forced to upgrade. I decided on a Garmin 735XT. I’m in love! It sync’s so easily to TrainingPeaks, love the optic HR monitor and it doesn’t look nearly as clunky on my wrist. I plan on racing with it next year so finally I will know my swim time getting out of the water instead of having to look at results later! Love, love, love and won’t be changing until it dies on me but will definitely ask for a pink strap for Christmas!

Swim Gear

Swim Skin – Huub SKN-1
This is my favourite swim skin thus far in my triathlon career. I like how it fits snug in the lower back therefore not carrying any extra water and I like the X-O skeleton compression feel. It’s locking zipper is nice too! I’ll definitely be racing in this one again next year, again if it ain’t broken don’t fix it, am I right?

Wetsuit – Huub Atana
This suit has been good to me but not great. I liked the idea of the 3:3 neoprene, being a kick dominate swimmer this should put me in better alignment in the water. It definitely lived up to everything the reviews said, it’s super comfy to put on and very flexible but after spending two years in it I’m not sure I liked that! I think I actually preferred something a little be more snug through the legs and body (obviously I still want lots of movement in the shoulder). Maybe because it’s thinner, I also always found it colder then other suits I’ve had; and ask coach Pat, the easiest way to see grumpy Nicole is to let me get cold! I’ve just ordered a new suit, the propel by 2XU to try out next year.

Goggles – MP XCEED Smoke lens or Clear lens (depending on sun)
No rocket science here, basically they fit my face, stay on and do a decent job of not getting too foggy. I’ve jumped around with a few different brand/types of goggles but at the moment I swim with these in the pool all year round too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dirty Double – IM 70.3 Racine & Calgary

748A3812 (1)

Ironman 70.3 Calgary Photo Credit Austin Grisham

I know I know, almost 6 weeks after finishing my last race I’m finally getting around to this. I was finding it incredibly hard to write a post when I was so unsatisfied with my performances. Don’t get me wrong there was some good in both Racine and Calgary but as far as delivering a performance to the fitness level I was showing in training, they were both far from stellar. I also feel the need to follow this up by saying, the unsatisfied feeling has nothing to do with where I placed and everything to do with knowing I hadn’t raced to my potential.

To continue this year of firsts, this was the first time I raced only one week apart, Ironman 70.3 Racine followed by Calgary. Some of the other girls informed me this was referred to as the “Dirty Double”. It’s a great way to use the same build and taper and get two races out of it.

Ironman 70.3 Racine – 8th – 4:01 *no swim

Another pro race… more experience… best placing to date… all-in-all much worth the 13 hour drive down to Racine, WI.

My hubby and I arrived in Racine on Friday mid-day and it was sure nice not having to worry about rebuilding my bike, let me tell ya! We then went down to check out the water… it was freakin’ cold… The lifeguard said the temp readings had been between 49-52F that day. I put my wetsuit on, waded in to about waist height and dove in… I’m surprised my heart didn’t stop! I had brain freeze almost immediately! I took 3 strokes back towards shore and called it a day. I think that is the record for world’s shortest swim workout! All I could think was “I don’t know how I’m going to swim in this, but it ain’t gonna be today!”

When we went to check-in at the expo, I asked the staff how much the water temp could change in the next 48hrs and apparently Lake Michigan can flux a good 10 degrees. Which would still be bloody cold but anything over 53F we would have a swim (shortened to 750m if the temp was between 53-56F) so Jeremy & I went searching for a neoprene swim cap. Life saver! I tested it out the next day and that made a world of a difference.

Race morning I was pretty excited… and nervous… mostly because I had to line-up in the pro section… that still makes me super nervous. As soon as I stepped out of the car, I could tell the wind had picked up and was from the North so I was pretty confident the swim would be shortened. As Jeremy unloaded my bike, I went to look down at the water and I didn’t see any buoys… that’s not a good sign 2 hours before the race. Sure enough as we got close enough to transition I could hear the announcer stating the swim was cancelled and it would be a time trial bike start.

Between not being seeded and having a last name that starts with a “W” I was the last girl to start, each of us being spaced out by 30sec. I passed one girl almost immediately and then didn’t see a single rider out on the road till about mile 30 where I passed a couple girls. I still cannot believe how lonely out there it is compared to racing with the amateurs.

Nicole Walker Felt Bicycles

Waiting for the time trial start

We had the best ever homestay family! They drove Jeremy around and I got to see them cheering many times which was so motivating. I was super pumped coming off my bike because I had a new highest NP of 184W AND I felt like I had kept some in the tank.

… but then I started to run. Oh boy did I feel flat. I just had nothing, I didn’t really feel particularly tired but it was like my body just said “no you can’t run faster then 7:30pace today”. I tried to settle in and stay focused but about half way through my legs started cramping which has never happened to me before and the second half of the race was another death march. I managed to hang on to 8th place which was my best finish to date so can’t complain about that.

Ironman 70.3 Calgary – 7th place – 4:24:00

748A3870i (1)

Finish chute Photo: Austin Grisham

Between driving home from Wisconsin and driving out to Calgary, other then one good swim workout mid-week and a few pick-ups on the bike and run, the focus was rest, rest, rest.

The lead up to the race was fairly uneventful. I was surprised the day before with how good my legs felt during my light spin considering and I was please also to see the slight elevation change didn’t seem to effect me too badly while out running either. Coach Pat was with me and we both were doing an incredibly good job of trying to convince me that I wasn’t as tired as I truly knew I was.

Race morning came with beautiful weather, yet honestly I can’t say I was looking forward to racing (tell tail sign of the hole I was in cuz I loooovvvveee racing!). I remember just feeling like I wanted to puke at the start line, almost in fear of knowing the pain that was to follow the gun going off. I got out really strong on the swim but with it being such a small pro field I didn’t have many options of girls to work with. I was dropped from the main group about 400m in and from then on I just kept focused on good rotation and a strong pull. The swim course was short by 100m so the time doesn’t mean much but I swam 1:33/100m which is the best pace I’ve ever swam. I have mixed feeling about my swim, on one hand I’m so pleased that all the swim training I put in has given me some gains but on the other hand, I realistically need to be swimming closer to 1:25/100m on a course like that which is still a ways to go.

For as much as I felt like a rockstar on my bike last week, this week I felt totally flat. Clearly I left my bike legs in Wisconsin! My NP was 155W… ya almost 30W less than last week. I just couldn’t push any more power and I was frustrated, this is the first time I ever thought to myself that after the bike I might not even run, just cut my loses…

I came in to T2 and was still in a terrible mindset. I knew Coach Pat was out somewhere on the run course so I decided to start running and I thought when I saw him I was just going to stop right then and there… but this time when I started running, I felt surprisingly good. I settled into a good rhythm and pick off a few girls. I ran very well and even handled the 1/2 mi hill that topped out at 14% grade in the last third of the race well for the 5th fastest run split of the day.

Looking back…

Now that I’ve had a chance to look back at the training the last month leading into these races, all the fatigue signs were there, whether or not I had wanted to admit it. My perceived effort was through the roof on run workouts that used to seem manageable. It took a ton of will power to get through some of my key brick workouts and I was lacking my usual endless motivation to train. My morning heart rate was sitting 4-5bpm higher then usual and I had a pretty epic bonk on one training ride which was the longest 40k home of my life! I did my best to hang on through these last two races but a good break was most definitely needed in August! I did lots of social rides, enjoyed time with family and friends at the cabin and took quite of fews days off of training all together.

So to draw conclusion to the season, I got way more experience and met tons of amazing triathletes from around the globe. Initially Coach Pat and I had toyed with racing a few more times this fall but we’ve decided it would be best to wait till spring. I plan to write a post about this decision and my fall plans but the short of it is, this season has made me realize that I need to make another significant jump in fitness to really be satisfied with my performance next year. By taking a break now, I will A) be able to be completely rejuvenated and B) not have to break the training cycle to taper, travel and race which will hopefully set me up for a strong spring!

Cheers to cooler running weather!!

Swimming with the Manitoba Marlins

So it’s been a bit longer than usual since my last post but hey I’m going to blame it on the amount of training I’ve been doing! Other than completing two local Olympic distance training races, ever since the WPS half my training has been very swim focused. I had some big improvements swimming with Coach Pat the last two years but if I really want to be able to “play with the big girls”, I know I need to commit some real time to it. Coach Pat & I reached out to the Manitoba Marlins swim club and in May I started swimming under head coach, Dave Guthrie. What better way to learn how to swim properly then immerse myself in an elite swim program! I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to swim alongside their National group and so began a schedule of 6 sessions over 5 days per week. Yes, you read that right, Monday thru Friday with a double on Wednesday bringing me to a total of 10-11 hours of swimming per week… and I wasn’t even swimming their full schedule!!

The first few weeks were rough with an incredibly steep learning curve, especially since they are an IM based program (all four strokes) and I’ve only ever figured out freestyle. These swimmers are amazing, many of them are leaving on swim scholarships next year so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I couldn’t even make their warm-up pace times, never mind the main sets! It was quite humbling and quite motivating. Many nights after evening practice I’d come home, plop down on the couch and be too tired to even eat and sometimes too tired to even make it to bed before falling asleep.

It was just such different training than I was used to, some weeks were volume based or aerobic development where I was hitting over 30,000m a week. By swim standards, I was informed this was nothing, but it was triple my average weekly swim volume in the past two years! Probably the hardest weeks for me were the ones with the lactate sets, that’s certainly a different type of hurt then I’m unaccustomed to! Other practices were pace based with a constant repeat time with either Coach Dave or a teammate timing each lap. It’s impossible for a competitive-natured person like myself not push when you’re being timed! Oh the power of the stop watch… Although, it was sometimes hard to drag my butt to the pool after a 2-3hr brick earlier in the day, I always found the practices fun (yes, clearly triathlon is the sport for me when I consider busting my ass and often in desperate need of more oxygen fun).

Many times, Coach Dave would have to stop me for what he called a “rookie break” to explain the basics of a stroke and I’m sure had to hold back many laughs when I’d ask for clarification on “what do you mean by the top of the stroke?” type questions.  The team was awesome to me and thankfully my lane-mates were always willing to explain what all the jargon written on the workout board meant. I found there was always so much to think about when swimming in comparison to biking or running… keep my head neutral, reach my right arm further and don’t let it cross over, breathe to both sides… oh and kick… from my hips… without bending my knees. If that wasn’t enough to keep track of, there was listening for what your time was when you got to the wall and calculating when you were suppose to leave the wall again. Often I’d leave the wall at the wrong time and sometimes even doing the wrong stroke, I’m sure I looked like a complete idiot, especially to these teens who had grown up swimming and this was all second nature.

By the beginning of June, I had dug myself a pretty good hole. After all, I was still biking 4 days per week, running 40-45 miles and trying to still sneak in the bare minimum strength and Pilates work to not get injured while my body was still adapting to increased volume in the pool. At the pool, we started to repeat some of the workouts we’d done in the first weeks I’d been there and I felt like I was getting slower. Somedays I would actually be 5 sec per 100m slower which was incredibly frustrating. It made me really start to understand that swim progression was not nearly as linear as biking and running.

After racing the local Triple Threat Triathlon on stuffed legs, I had a few recovery days and then things started to really come around. I finally started to feel smoother in the water and actually could feel I was making some changes based on the corrections I had been getting. I was even able to make some of the warm-up times without fins or only using little zoomers. I started to get a bit more speed and my 100m time came down from 1:22.3 to 1:17.5 over the two months. That’s almost 5 whole seconds… by no means fast but I’ll take it! I also starting being able to actually focus on doing the workouts well and didn’t feel so scattered between sets. I was definitely outside of my comfort zone at least once a practice in some way or another but I can’t believe how much overall comfort and ability to stay relaxed in the water has improved. It’s also totally worth noting that I can now dive start without losing my goggles and can successfully flip turn with without my snorkel filling with water 😛 Does that qualify me as a swimmer?!?

In preparation for Ironman 70.3 Racine next weekend, the past few weeks I’ve done almost all my swims in open water and have been focused on applying the corrections I was working on in the pool, where wearing a wetsuit, sighting, and water conditions are all additional elements. Has the effort in the pool paid off? Some days I think so… other days I’m not sure… I know that I have more speed but I’m not sure I’ve spent enough time yet in open water to see the speed transfer over a longer distance. Coach Dave says I’d need to commit to 24 weeks straight to really see some gains and I’m planning on doing just that after this triathlon season wraps up!

Thanks to the whole Marlins gang for making me feel part of the team!! Maybe one day you’ll make a real swimmer out of me!!!

Manitoba Marlins Nicole Walker

My Marlin teammates out watching the local St. Malo Olympic Distance Triathlon. Thanks gang!

 

Race Recap: WPS Half-marathon – 1:21

DSC01564

Just settling in at mile one

New PB – 1:21:54 – 1st Overall Female

The decision to throw in a half-marathon was to serve a few different purposes. First of all, I haven’t be running well off the bike this year, yet I’ve been laying down some of my best TM workouts of my life so I wanted to chance to really see where my run fitness was as. Second of all, since I won’t be doing any more half-Ironman’s till July I thought it would be good to practice to get into the racing mindset and remember how to dig!

Other than the Manitoba Marathon, this is the biggest spring race in the province. I DSC01574always find it fun to be part of the race morning buzz regardless of the event. After dragging a bike, bike gear and swim gear around for the last many races I’ve been to, it was quite different to show up only a hour before the race with only a small backpack! I got in a short warm-up with my hubby, Jeremy & his brother who were also running. I had convinced Jeremy to run with me as a “easy tempo” run for him so he had a bib this morning too!

I love local races! It’s nice to sleep in your own bed, you know the course because you run most of it on Sunday long runs and see so many familiar faces along the side of the road including both of our parents. I also like lining up at the start line and everyone knows everyone; it’s fun!! I lined up just behind my brother-in law (who won the men’s side) and we got moving.

So many people take-off so hard cuz they are so excited at the beginning of a race, even still I find it hard not to get carried away, Jeremy told me to cool it and I knew by a mile in I would pass most of them back anyways. My plan was to get after it earlier in the race since sometimes I hold back too much at the beginning. It was into a decent headwind for the first 3-4 miles and I think this took more out of me then I anticipated because I had to slow the pace 5-10sec/mi to keep it comfortable even when we had the wind at our back.

Once the starting-gun frenzy had settled, it was a pretty sparse front end of the race (I was 5th overall including the men) but I had fun running with Jeremy even though I couldn’t say a word to him because I was working so hard. He on the other hand, I think had the most fun he’s ever had during a race, my pace is such a comfortable pace for him that he was able to look around and even to run across the road to give a little kid a hi-five! The last 3 miles really hurt and didn’t help that they were into the wind with a small uphill just before the finishing shoot. I knew my pace had faltered from were I started but I also knew I was still on pace for a personally best so I tried to push it right to the line to make sure I got under 1:22 (because we all know how much it sucks to be a few second over any given minute). I average 6:15/mi and you can never complain about a personal best!

Jeremy and I crossed the line together (but no, definitely not holding hands, I was working far to hard for that). The funniest moment of the day to me was as I’m bent over gasping, to catch my breath, while a volunteer was simultaneously trying to give me my finisher medal, Jeremy give me a quick pat on the back, instructs me to collect his medal for him and takes off to extend his “tempo” run an additional 4 miles. Ah what a guy!

This year was an extra special year for the WPS half-marathon as all the funds raised were donated to Cancer Care in memory of Joanne Schiewe, who was a member of both the running and triathlon community here in Manitoba. Her partner, Jared, is a good training buddy of mine and it was great to see all the community support out there today for Jo!

Shout outs: to Jared for running an awesome time of 1:35, to my cousin Paige who broke 1:40 (yay girl) and to all my many clients/friends I saw along the course, that was mighty kind of you all to come out to cheer!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Race Recap: Ironman 70.3 Texas

14th in 4:38:11

Pre-race
Very little to report here which means a smooth travel day, bike went together easy again, and got in good rides & runs the two days leading in to the race. I was in a better headspace then I was in Campeche probably because I wasn’t sick and also because I now had the first race out of the way. My only complaint was you weren’t allowed to swim on the swim course at all prior to the race which was taking place in the waterway between Galveston Island and the mainland so your only choice was to swim on the gulf side in the days leading up to the race. It was incredibly windy all week so I was only able to get in the water once before the race because the surf was up.

Race Morning
The overall goal for this race was to race the swim and bike harder then usual to try to be more “in” the race. Weather was predicting thundershowers but luckily the weatherman was wrong! It was however, super windy and humid even at 5:00AM when I got to transition…which by the way was wayyyyy too early! Since I didn’t have to rack my bike the day before (this is a perk I could get used to), I had done most of my pre-bike checks and nutrition set-up the night before.

The Swim – 33:30
So the water temperature was 74 degrees so I kept hearing announcements that it would be a wetsuit legal swim, however, at the pro meeting the day before they had said it would be a non-wetsuit swim. The reason I was confused was that the pros have a different wetsuit cut-off (72F vs 76F) that I didn’t realize. Anyways… now I know…cough rookie…

To start you walked about 400m and then out onto the dock. They let us in the water about 5 minutes before the men went off but I waited a few more minutes because I was worried I would be cold. I was happy that it was a deep water start as I was more familiar with this. The goal for this race was to swim hard to first 5-6min to try to find some faster feet if I could. I did much better being more aggressive starting and settled in to a group with about 4-5 other girls. By half way through I could feel the pace slow so I went to the front of the group to try to limit the damage the best I could. I felt like I swam smooth and strong but man, swimming is frustrating, for all the work I put in since the fall, I’m still not where I want to be!

The Bike – 2:28:41
When I got to my bike in T1, the wind had blown my visor off my helmet. I took a quick look around on the ground but it was nowhere to be seen so I took off without it…
Mount went smooth phew… I’m always nervous about that at the beginning of the outdoor season. I saw my mom cheering on the side and yelled that I didn’t have a visor… she thought I said they didn’t have water. She was very confused because I had two bottles on my bike… we had good laugh later.

Anyways, the bike course was pancake flat and pretty much a straight out and back along the seawall. I got through the first few turns and then two girls came blowing by me. I tried to go with them but I was more than 30 watts over race effort and had to let them go. The crosswind was super strong and relentless which meant constantly controlling your bike. I literally spent probably 2:20 of the 2:28 minutes in my aero bars and the next day my inner thighs and upper back were talking to me from that and the wind for sure! I was so happy to see at the half way point I was less then 6mi behind the lead, this was a huge improvement from Campeche… I was able to pass a few girls around the half way point and my average power was 8 watts higher then any half I’d done last year so I was pleased with my bike split.

DSC01238

The Run – 1:33:05
I got off the bike and right away knew my legs were pretty fried. Guess I went a bit too hard on the bike. I kept thinking okay my legs will come around here any minute but nope, I was going to suffer through the run. By this point in the day with the humidex it was 37 degrees Celsius but at least it was overcast. There also were a bu-gillion turns on this course including a total of 9 U-turns, coming from lots of indoor running, this further shot my legs. I was able to clip off a few more girls and one girl went flying by me. In the end, I was pleased but not totally satisfied to cross the line in 4:38.

DSC01309

Age-grouper to pro – Lessons learned
Just a little note on some of the changes I’ve noticed as I’ve made the jump this year. Last year I would often look at the pros and compare my times and thinking okay I would fit in ___ place. I think I was quite naive about the difference there is between racing pro vs amateur. First of all, I didn’t realized how much you are really on your own out there. On the swim I didn’t realize what a help it was to be in these huge swim packs or starting a few waves back where the water is already moving in the direction you’re going! Also, I think I would get a fair bit of unintentional draft on the bike as you work your way through previous waves and/or are being constantly passed by male age groupers from later waves. Especially in the Ironman brand races where there are often 2000+ athlete out on the course it was often hard to leave the required 6 bike lengths; whereas now you are really out there on your own. When you have low points in the race you can’t feed off the energy of passing previous waves or being passed by other age-groupers, you really just have to put your head down and work.

IMG_6835

Enjoying a”recovery” ride with Mom & checking out Galveston

Going forward
I’ve had this whole week as recovery after two back-to-back races plus being sick in there. I’m looking forward to meeting up with coach Pat next week, taking a step back and evaluating what direction we want to go next. It’s been great getting some experience under my belt but it’s definitely shone light on where I need to improve. As my typically reaction goes I have many ideas of how to improve so good thing I hire a coach or else I would bite off more than I can chew right away!!!

 

 

Race Recap: Ironman 70.3 Campeche

IMG_6640I’m writing this on the long bus and plane ride home. All and all it was a good experience in Campeche, Mexico. Despite my stomach causing havoc and not having a great race, I’m surprised how much I’ve enjoyed the whole experience of travelling outside of my comfort zone to a foreign race.

Pre-race 
I travelled down here with a training buddy of mine, Taren. It took a total of 17hrs to get here with a flight to Cancun and then a 7hr bus ride to Campeche. Unfortunately from about 20min in I spent the entire flight willing myself not to vomit. I was so nauseous that even two gravols didn’t knock me out. I tried to convince myself it was motion sickness (even through I’ve never had that on a plane before). As you can imagine the bus ride was rough feeling like that and only eating small amounts. When we got to Campeche around midnight we then had to figure out how to get our bikes in a cab which were all the size of smartcars with drivers who only spoke Spanish… that was another adventure… Two cab rides later and luckily running into some triathletes who were able to translate we made it to our AirBnb. Of course this whole day was documented for Taren’s vlog, here’s the travel day if anyone is interested: Triathlon Taren Travel Day Vlog

Not able to sleep in, I got up and built my bike with no issues for the first time ever. The new Biknd Helium bag certainly made this whole process easier (except for spending about a hour looking for my skewers which were attaching my bike to my bag doh!!!!). At this point, I told myself, it’s okay I still have two full days to recover from whatever stomach thing was going on (which I was still working incredible hard to convince myself was motion sickness).

We checked in and went swimming in this gorgeous 50m outdoor pool that was free to the public! I’m mean seriously how cool is that!  We checked out the run course on our bikes and called it a night.

Saturday, I was so nauseous that I was still hardly eating, this time I told myself it was nerves for the pro meeting. Looking back I can’t believe I actually thought that I felt that bad because of nerves! Never in any of my sports have “nerves” made my stomach upset. Talking to Jeremy later he confessed he had this same stomach bug all week (he was out of town for work) and hadn’t told me because he didn’t want to worry me.

I still did my pre-race swim & run and then we biked to transition to check our bike gear which was about 15k away. I was able to eat a good dinner and was feeling quite a bit better in the afternoon. So I continued to stay optimistic that I would be able to salvage a good race.

IMG_6673

Taren & I racking our bikes in T1

Race morning
Got up at 3:45 and we walked over to T2 where we were loaded up and were bused over to the start. Again I spent the entire ride telling Taren to talk about anything that would distract me from the flip flops in my stomach (which yes I still was convincing myself was nerves).

Pumped my tires, loaded my bike with nutrition and tried a second attempt at eating some sort of breakfast which at this point I settled for a handful of pretzels. I met a few of the other girls. They were all super nice and encouraging. I did a short swim warm-up and then stood are in the corral shivering as the men went off.

The swim
Rough conditions, probably the biggest chop I’d ever swam in. Oh and the start was sooo fast! I was dropped from the group before the first buoy (200m).  All in all I was very pleased with how I swam despite the slow time. I stayed relaxed in the waves & stayed with one other girl pretty much the whole swim. Clearly I still need a ton of work on my swim so I’m not DFL out of the water but based on where I’m at, I executed well. 

The Bike
After climbing this steep little kicker of a hill out of transition, I settled into my aero bars and was feeling pretty good. I was holding just slightly over my goal Watts and stayed pretty positive as I was worked my way towards the first turn around. By the 2nd turn around I could tell I was losing time to the girls a few spots ahead of me, this was a bit discouraging but I was still super happy with my power so I kept pushing on.

The first 50k of the bike I hardly ate, it’s not that I didn’t try it’s just that even the thought of eating anything made me feel sick to my stomach. Knowing my body needed fuel I forced myself to eat a pack of CliffBlocks which all just came back up about 10k later. I spent 10-20min biking really easy after that trying to let my stomach settle and get some water in me. Considering that whole escapade, I actually didn’t feel too bad and got back into my race pace and into transition.

The Run
It would have been so easy to just throw in the towel here. Knowing I was wayyy back from any other girl and feeling light headed (probably lack of calories) but told myself to start out on the run and see how I felt. Well, my legs felt fine but anytime I tried to pick up the pace to resembling any sort of race-like effort my stomach would start churning. So by mile 2 I figured I will just keep it controlled and at least finish. I ran about the pace I’ve been doing my long runs all winter and it was very weird to be coming into the last few miles without my legs screaming at me.

Post Race
To sum it all up I’m very pleased that despite having a stomach bug (which I finally accepted) that I still finished. It would have been very easy to have stopped after the bike and said today isn’t my day but I hate quitting! So this time the challenge was in managing my body to get it across the finish line. I’m not upset with my result or placing as I know this year will be a learning curve. I am frustrated however that I wasn’t able to execute a personally strong race. I just literally felt awful, like awfully sick to my stomach and I’m upset I didn’t get to perform up to my fitness level wherever that would have placed me. So more salty pretzels, water and ginger chews for me and hopefully I’ll sleep the whole plane ride home.

IMG_6693

What happens when you go from Winnipeg to Mexico…

Pilates

nicole-walker-reformer-pilates

Footwork on the reformer at Pilates Manitoba

I find myself back here, as I did as a competitive gymnast and then skier, walking the line between health & performance. I want my body to stay strong, vibrant and PAIN FREE for life, I don’t want  bad kneeschronic back pain or sore shoulders as a “side-effect” of competing in the sport I love. Although I’m not that old, my body has been full-on training since I was eight in gymnastics and has taken a beating so I feel like I need to always treat it with respect. This includes trying to eat right, getting good quality sleep, strength training and another love in my life, Pilates.

Back when I was rehabbing my knee from ACL reconstruction surgery from a ski crash, a physio of mine had suggested Pilates in addition to the strength and conditioning program I was following. It helped to identify some faulty movement patterns and shone light on some of my areas of weakness. From what I learned at Pilates, I saw gains in my weight lifting and had less pain as I was returning to sport, so it wasn’t long before I was hooked!

nicole-walker-pilatesNow I’m definitely not saying that Pilates “cured” me or that I don’t need to doing any other strength program (for sports anyways), I simply found the principles it taught me and mind-body connections I made have helped beyond the Pilates studio. So much so that I actually have made a career out of teaching it. Can you be a Pilates nerd?

Pilates is a school of thought, focusing on the alignment of your entire body performing any movement so it doesn’t necessarily have to be what you may traditionally call a Pilates exercise. Some days I tailor the workout toward strength with lots of core exercises. After long days hunched over on my bike, I tend to chose more range of motion exercises, especially for my upper back and chest. Other days I use it to check in with my pelvis alignment or knee tracking and when I can I jump in a class to get some feedback from another instructor at Pilates Manitoba.

I usually do a Pilates session 3-4 times per week when my training volume is low and as it ramps up, like now, I drop it down to 1-2x/wk. When I’m really tired or racing lots these session might only be 20 min or so but I always feel better if I keep up with them!

At the beginning I definitely used Pilates purely for the physical benefits but Pilates has become a bit of my “zen” so to speak. If I don’t want to think anymore for the day, I do Pilates because you have to focus so much on what you’re doing and feeling that your mind can’t wander. Best part is no matter how injured or sore I’ve ever been I’ve always been able to do some sort of Pilates workout!!

I hope I’ll still be doing Pilates when I’m 90!

“Turning Pro”

So what is next? I can finally answer this question myself.

I’ve booked my plane ticket and registered for Ironman 70.3 Campeche in Mexico so that makes it official, I’m starting my season March 19 (provided I can stay healthy and injury-free until then… just a second I got to go knock on wood)!! It will also be my first race starting in the pro field. GULP!

This makes me both excited and nervous. I welcome this challenge although it scares the s*** out of me! Just the thought of lining up next to these talented, accomplished, crazy fast girls makes me weak in the knees. I think I’m going to avoid looking at the start list so I don’t freak myself out more by reading names of girls I follow online and look up to (like I mean, is it weird if I ask for autographs at the pre-race meeting?).

For me, this decision was based on the desire to improve and challenge myself against faster competitors. Getting my ICC card or “turning pro” just allows me to race in the pro/elite category, it doesn’t magically make me better! It also does not come with any sort of salary as you see in mainstream sports but does make me eligible to receive prize money (if I get fast enough).

Training wise, I’m back with Coach Pat for another season of torturous fun! I got in one solid block before the holidays and now I’m part way through the first of three, 3-week blocks leading up to Campeche. I plan to do a post about training specifics shortly, at this point its just about putting in the work. I’m excited to see how much I can improve by the end of this season. I know one thing is certain, this year is going to be full of learning experiences and probably a few butt-kickings! Thanks for following along!

For sponsorship inquires please e-mail: nicolewalkertri@gmail.com

 

 

 

Off Season

1. What am I doing next? 2. What have I been up to in the off season?

These are the two questions I seem to be asked daily. The second one is easier to answer, I’ve been doing all the things I don’t have time when I’m training… had a few dinner parties, went to a few Winnipeg Jets games, went dancing with friends and finished decorating our sunroom. I even stayed up past 9:00PM a few times!… I know BANANAS!!!

Training wise, it’s now 2 months post Kona and I just want to have at ‘er. Thankfully that is why I hired coach Pat in the first place, to remind me I’m not superwoman (even though I would like to be) and that I need to still be careful after such a big year. So here’s a brief look at what training (or lack there of) has looked like in the past few months.

Week 1&2
The initial two weeks post-race I spent galavanting around Kauai, Hawaii with my hubby & family so I did no running, biking or swimming at all. Lots of hiking, walking around, sight-seeing with a side of beach time!

Week 3&4

nicole-walker

Home time!

In weeks 3 & 4, I did lots of Pilates, rode my road bike a few times with friends and I think I finally got around to rebuilding my tri bike…by the end of the month. I couldn’t believe how tired I still was, I guess just coming down both physically and mentally after such a big event and amazing trip. You throw in a bit of travel and time change and it took a lot out of me! I found I needed close to 9 hours of sleep a night and I was quite glad not to have to jump back into any crazy training.

Week 5&6

By week 5 I was just itching to get going and it was hard not to do too much. I got back in the pool 4x/wk and brought back up the run frequency. It felt silly only running 2-3 miles at a time! Of course, the wheels started turning for next year and all the improvements I want to make. It was fun to be back with the swim squad and at Woodcock for indoor group rides on Sunday morning again. I also picked up my new Tacx Neo trainer which had me pretty excited! Needless to say it was really hard to hold back and ease back in training and despite Pat’s best effort to rain me in by the next week I was flat-out sick.

nicole-walker-pilates-manitobawoodcock-cycle-nicole-walker

Week 7 – SICK!!!

Yep. Managed to pick up a wicked chest cold so aside from working and downing tea, I did nothing training wise. I managed to keep up with the 30 day Pilates challenge I was doing but lets just say our PVR has a lot more space on it after this week! The positive was the fact that if I had to get a cold, it probably was the best time it could have happened.

Week 8&9 – Time to start layering back in the volume!

We are doing a bit of a swim focus right now so I have been in the pool 5-6 days per week. The jump in frequency and some more focused attention to form already seems to be paying off. I swam a 400m time trial last week in 5:46 which is 15sec faster than last year’s PB. Not crazy fast by swim standards but for not having grown up swimming competitively, it’s very encouraging!

nicole-walker-swimming

The other area of focus right now has been strength training and injury prevention work. I have been lifting 3x/wk (feeling like a weakling after what I could do in my ski days) as well as doing Pilates daily. Focusing on function movements and lots of core work, some shoulder work to help balance out all the swimming and getting some of my ROM back.

I’ve only been riding 1-2x per week and running around 30 mi/wk, all mostly unstructured with a few pick-ups mixed in. This week more rides and longer runs are starting to be layered back in but still nothing substantial until after Christmas.

In response to what is going on for next year… check back soon!