Friends, I have let you down! I have not been on my blog for a while and the only excuse I can think of is that my life was going by at 1000 miles an hour!
Many things have happened since my last post, many incredible things! Life is exciting!
I am waking up this morning back home, in St-Sauveur, Quebec, with many great memories and stories to tell. It feels like the calm after the storm here. It is snowing outside, and there is not a sound in the house. All of a sudden, I feel like I have woken from a dream.
Here is mom greating me with a smile after my long trip. NOTICE THE SNOW!
Luckily, I was writing bits and pieces of my adventure on the laptop so I have plenty of stories to post but I still need to get it all together! There are so many things to talk about! Here it goes!
Just like a dream!
It always feels magic when life brings you more than you had ever wished for. Five weeks of hard training have gone by and had I imagined a perfect training camp, I could never have imagined such a great experience as Maui and Kona with the Lifesport team. In January, little did I know, I would soon be doing such incredible things as pushing myself through the energy lab with an amazing team mate (Lisa), racing up the Haleakala volcano with Linsey the great or surfing crazy side winds at 50 km per hour zooming down the roads of Hawi on the Ironman course, screaming the fun out of my lungs. How many epic trainings can you fit into a single training camp? This camp holds the record. Trust me.
The training was the hardest I had ever done, but it was so...comfortable at the same time:
I couldn’t have imagined that I would ever come across aid stations and smiley coaches on a long run or ride, that I would have a coach follow in a car or stand on the side of a highway just to help me push and stay motivated, (here, I have an image of coach Paul standing on the highway, holding up our whiteboard of motivational words for us, and coach Dan, almost into the ditch, holding on to be able to snap pictures as we flew by). I never thought I would have someone yell encouragements to me at every single hill repeat in a set, as if it was the last stretch at the Olympics. Lance and Marc did it in Maui.
The moments shared with the team were unforgettable. How could I have imagined that I would actually finish a training, racing through Alii drive and share a smile well worth 2 hours of hard running, with a happy team mate. I would have thought it would be hard to have a tired group of people work together in an optimal way for such a long period of time, but I was wrong. The hard training and personal challenges we each came across only drove us closer and, as my friend and team mate Bree has recently said: In the end I felt my team was also a family. That is when you know you are at the right place at the right time.
I arrived in Kona at 9pm on march 22nd, heading down the Queen K for the first time, in the dark (kind of exciting! ). I managed to get to sleep at 11pm and at 5:45 the next morning, I was at the pool, reuniting with my coaches and friends from the first camp in Victoria. I missed, them and hadn’t seen them since January! I was so excited to see coaches, Paul, Dan and Bruce, my roommate Liana...and of course... BREE! All those smiles would be back into my life for 10 days of fun!
Home away from home
Picture a smiley little woman flying way above the speed limit on a yellow scooter with a huge smile on her face and a wiener dog on her lap. That’s Kay .Kay has since then become mama Kay. To earn this title she has done more for us than any traveling athlete would have ever expected a host to do.
Lianna and I received the royal treatment. In the house, the only rule was not to feed George human food. The rest was all good with her. Fortunately for us, Kay liked to cook and was quite talented. One night, she made an Island Special for us: she cooked some –ONO- a very good local fish. In Hawaiian, -ONO- also means good. That candle light girl’s meal on the balcony, my friends, was very ONO. Kay also insisted to be our chauffeur certain times and she insisted to help out, we later realized that she was doing this for us, on her lunch break! Yes, Kay was devoted and she was lots of fun.
The camp in Kona consisted of a week of very hard, Maui style, training
On the menu:
-The Swim with the dolphins open water on the Ironman course: That is the time we swam intervals on the Ironman course without even noticing the school of dolphins that followed us along the way!(Coach Paul only told us about the dolphins after the interval was over J)Awww.
-The Kaloko brick work out: Climb Kaloko from 1500ft to 6000ft in just 6.5 miles, with grades of up to 21 and we had to do it with the time trial bikes! Incredible experience my friends. Especially that when I got to the top, one of my dear friends had me believe I was not done yet, and I kept on going. Funny coaches didn’t say anything either...hmm. Once at the top, we flew down the hill as fast as we could and jumped into an interval workout. A hard one. OUCH.
-The Queen-K tare your heart and legs out, in the energy lab, long run of craziness with Lisa.(A progressive 2 hour run workout on the Ironman course that ended in a sprint!)
-The try not to get blown off your bike and scream like a crazy woman, windy ride on the Ironman course.
A fantastic day...
The highlight of the Kona camp was certainly the day of the Lavaman race!
We were going to do a race in the most beautiful setting imaginable and in a friendly lay back atmosphere. I loved it because it really felt like just a really fun training with my friends and there was very little pressure. Considering we were all very tired and just wanted to get the training in that day!
And off we were! The swim was an M shapped course, I loved how a man on a sea doo traced the course for us before the start in front of the chearing croud. It made it all so exciting and relaxed! I found a coral reef on which I was standing to get a good kick at the start, loved it!
I think it was actually Macca that did the true countdown, I have no memory of hearing the announcer say –GO!- To the water it was then. Did I say I was relaxed and happy before the swim...that is BEFORE the HEATHERNATOR found my feet. Little did I know, THE HEATHERNATOR, was exploring the field of underwater combat strategies in that race and I was going to be the unfortunate swimmer that she would experiment on. I struggled and gasped, swallowing sea water at every stroke and I couldn’t help but be impressed of how my training buddy was tough in the head. She is small but she is tough. I want to be tougher, now I’m starting to see how. Thank you master Heathernator.
Thanks to Bree’s feet and a green race cap ahead (some kind of sea creature Justin substitute), we had a decent swim and headed out of the water. I had a great bike, I was motivated by the thought that I was on the Ironman bike road and by the thought that I had placed myself a carrot on that one. I told Kay that I would be the first one through her aid station at the bike turn around. AND I WAS! I yelled so hard when I saw her and grabbed her water bottle she handed so perfectly to me!
I’m on my way. I was having so much fun as I pushed through the lead of the race, I remember going through a tunnel where a volunteer yelled: -slow down here, make sure you slow down. I looked at him and yelled! –Hey! ARE YOU KIDDING! I’VE BEEN WORKING TOO HARD TO SLOW DOWN NOW! -And we had a laugh!
I gained confidence on that bike ride, I stayed strong, pushed more than I would have ever before and arrived into transition in first place. Unfortunately, smart (and a bit mean) coach Lance had told me to only run the first 2,5km of the race, but I sure had a good time and a good bike split.
After Lavaman, THERE WAS MORE! First there was the lying in the sand eating burgers, so happy and relaxed that I didn’t care that I was still in my race suit and getting sand up my suit.
We then assisted to the crowning of our Lifesport champions of the day and then, we were off to the LAGOON ESCAPADE.
Lianna and I booked a hotel for the night of the lavaman. It was the hotel where the rest of the lava camp would take place later during the week. It was a special place. Kind of like a mini Disney world. There was everything there! To go to your room you could either choose to go by boat in a mini canal or to take a mini rail. The funny thing about it, is that you can walk the distance...and it was much faster. Trust me! Lianna and I were late at a meeting one day because our boat was too slow!
Oh yes....So the reason we booked the hotel is because our crew was going to put the cherry on the sundae that night. After all that action and a quick trip to the Hotel, we would head to the JOURNEY CONCERT! It took place right beside our hotel. That evening was magic! What a day to remember!! THANK YOU!!
The final stretch
Week six of the trip was all about getting to my first race of the season and trying out my new found fitness on a race course. I flew from Hawaii over night and it was a long trip! I would leave at 9pm Hawaiian time and arrive in New Orleans at 4:30pm local time. No need to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night!
Upon my arrival, I just knew one thing! I had to find a church and a pastor named Neale! I finally made it to the charming little church that was to be my home away from home just to find my six foot tall pastor host waiting for me with a smile. He kindly helped me to my room on the second floor. I was to stay at the- Inn at Bethelehem-the one that was to become my favourite room at god’s hotel. That church had everything to make us triathletes happy: Huge kitchen, showers, computer room, TV room, you name it. It was the perfect place to stay. And the fun began that night!
Here is Neale! Neale definitely has god on his side! He is not just your average pastor. He finished third in his division on sunday and in a very impressive time! WAY TO GO NEALE!
He's a very active guy, and he had plans for the night! (OUF, I was tired, but I did want to meet everyone, so I went for it!). We were invited to a diner party where I got to meet his friends, all involved in the race organization , participating as volunteers or competing in the event. I also got to meet the other athletes with whom I would share the homstay: Lauren, Chriss and Ben aswell as another Pro, Brian,from Ireland.
Lesson one of race one: THE MAGALI TISSEYRE FIELD STUDY.
Does prolonged sleep deprivation affect performance in a significant way? (You will like the answer to this one).
On the three days leading up to the race, there was one thing bothering me. Only one thing that made me nervous and that will never make me nervous again! That was getting some sleep in. I just couldn’t sleep! And the more I thought of it, the harder it was...sounds familiar?
Everything was fine, I had a comfortable bed, some fun friends, I was happy to be in another adventure, I couldn’t worry about my fitness with the huge camp I had done!. But It just didn’t seem to be getting in more than 4-5 hours of sleep a night. That scared me. I couldn’t sleep before midnight or one o’clock (probably because I was still at Hawaian time) and I woke up really early feeling tired but unable to sleep!
There was only one thing to do: Fight it! (the thing not to do)
I explored different strategies during the three nights leading up to the race: I started with the usual one: I think the key is to stop thinking! So I start imagining really strange things to voluntarily get all mixed up: Say..... a pink cow standing on a marshmellow,and let my imagination pick it up from there. That always work sfor me. But not this time. This time, I had to try a new strategy. After the lying in bed in the dark with your eyes wide open strategy took my patience, I tried the get up and play on the computer strategy and it did not do me any good! When I started reading articles about sleep deprivation and performance, I knew it was time to shut that evil computer and head back to my room.
Ben, my roomie, said I could try natural plant extracts but I didn’t want to try anything new before the race. At 3 a.m on night 2 before the race, feeling very lonely among my snoring roomies, I felt like shaking Ben out of bed and beg him for those plant extracts. Why had I refused such a magical remedy!! Ben! Wake up! Give me that magic elixir! I imagined the plant extract sitting on the shelf beside his bed, the idea tortured me! So funny.
The next day, we went for swim practice with Ben and Chriss, I think the exercise helped me with the sleep issue!
The strategy that finaly really saved me was the passive strategy, the simple COACH TALK! I let Lance know about my problem the day before the race. Lance was so reassuring. To him, 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night was not at all dramatic, everything was fine, I had to stop worrying. Some athlete had done great races on very little sleep (I’m lucky I have such an experienced coach!). As simple as it might seem. I WAS RELIEVED and forced myself to wipe the idea out of my mind! I slept a bit better the night before the race, the only thing making it harder to sleep now was that I was soooexcited to be racing tomorrow!!!!!!! But I had to wake up at 4 a.m to be to transition in time so I can’t say I slept alot either!
When he saw I was nervous, Lance instructed me to JUST HAVE FUN AT THE RACE. And that is definitely what I felt in the morning of the triathlon! Heading out to transition with Lauren, my roomie, I was soooo excited! I felt I was going out to the disco, I could see the party at the distance, they had those huge projectors shooting rays of light to the sky, it really did look like a party seen. I even saw my long lost friends from Quebec in the transition. Linsey was also there! I was so happy to see her! It was going to be Maui all over again (o.k without the drafting!). Come on Linsey! Let’s just tear our heart and legs out again! YEEEHHAA! It should be fun cowgirl!
As we lined up waiting for the gun, I thought of the new season ahead of me and how I wanted to make it memorable. O.k girl! I took a last look at Heather and Linsey, remembering the times in training when we said to each other: This one is for New Orleans! The clock is ticking. No time for emotions and dreams anymore. Put your head down, it’s time to PUSH REAL HARD!
And we were off on the swim course!
As I swam through the first part of the course, I was alone! Packs had formed along the boys or near the shore and I was concentrating on taking the fastest straight line. Not a good strategy, sometimes it’s better to stick with a pack I guess. They ended up catching me and I stayed with them for the remainder of the swim. Out of the water. I notice Lisa Bentley and Kate major were the other misterious swim caps I had with me. I kind of like getting out of the water with a pack. Last year, it was always the no man’s land swim! I stay positive though my legs are really burning as I run out of the water. As I grab my bike, I suddenly feel like throwing up. I tried not to get worried. That was just one of those moments of uncertainty that come and go during a race. Getting out of transition, onto my bike, I am worried again, my legs keep on burning! Two girls pass me very fast and everyone seems to be getting away. Should I wait for my legs to come back? I see coach Lance up ahead! He yells to go for it and to get a visual on the girls ahead, that will help me go faster. I turn on the engine and pray. Turns out the legs came back anyway and I started passing people. When Catriona Morrisson passed me, I let her and then kept my eyes on her at a distance, promising myself I would not use the visual on her.
First bike to run transition of the year. I came into it in 5th place, I was kind of excited, my running had been going well and my training partner Lisa had posted an amazing run the day before at Oceanside 70.3. Maybe I could run up to top three??
Catriona started getting away very fast (she ran all the way to second place, not surprising!). I stayed positive, and started looking ahead. There is Lance again! He looks happy, I’ll use the positive energy. He gives me some technical reminders, it was hot and humid out there and I had to be careful and hydrate. At the first turnaround, I can see the leaders, I encourage myself. They are not so far away! Great!
Turns out the legs never really came around on that run. It got better but not so great. I lost the fifth place when Nina Kraft passed me. I tried to hold on but there was no way. The hardest part of the run was the last 3 mile stretch before the finish line. It seemed to last forever. I had to focus on takng it step by step and stop trying to see the end of the street. I heard a good trick was to count palm trees on the side of the road, no palm trees here, sorry. Before I knew it, I was going to turn right and head through the croud lined up on the final stretch through the French quarter. If there is one thing I live for, it is that final moment of the race, where the emotions are high, everyone is happy, you get to smile and see the finish line get bigger and bigger. You finally get to live the moment you have imagined so many times. And savour that moment. That was what I did. Lance was there again, telling me that it was now my moment to enjoy! High five Lance, I can’t thank you enough for everything (my coach lost his voice during that race). What a short but powerful moment shared with him. And I crossed the finish line, in 6th place and in the money. I was a happy girl! Aaron crowned me with my mardi gras beads. Let the good times roll!
I also had a great moment hugging my Linsey at the finish line! What a great end to a beautiful story. GOOD WORK. It’s just the beginning. When do I race again?
No need to say (and maybe better not to say), how fun it was to party that night on Bourbon street. Mechanical bull riding and all. For this part, it is better not to get into the details. ;)
Thank you to Clarke Rodgers of www.sportzfoto.com for the wonderful pictures he took on race day!