athletes · competition · fitness · Guest Post · race report · racing · running

Grapes of Wrath – What did I do?!? (Guest Post)

Sunday was the Grapes of Wrath Niagara 2018 5K mud and obstacle run raising funds for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Wheels of Hope. I have posted before on my participation in the Merchant Ale House run club (here and here). We go out every Sunday morning and have been signing up for cool races. One Sunday the group talked about it as I was busy with someone and then when I came back they said: “Christine, we are doing this!” “Ok,” I said, “I will sign up!” And so I did, without realizing what I was getting into.

This may have been the toughest thing I ever did. We were a team of 8, 3 men and 5 women, of various ages and abilities. The point of the event is not to win but to “finish together.” Honestly, I do not know how I could have finished by myself. The first serious obstacle required hanging from a rope, quite a few feet up in the air, and crossing a certain distance (don’t ask, I don’t know, all I know is it was long) pulling yourself with your arms and legs to cross. I think I may have gone halfway only before I fell in the hay below. But I gave it my all to get as far as I could.

Giving it your all: that is what this run required and I tried my best to give it. Some obstacles were just plain fun (water slide landing in a pool of mud) and climbing over wood structures. Others, were unpleasant: crawling through mud under a tarp or crossing a pool of icy water with blocks of ice floating in it! The toughest one by far was the last: climb and cross a wall helping yourself with a rope, cross a massive puddle of mud and jump over 3 logs while holding for dear life on a rope (it felt like sinking in quick sand) and then climb the last mud hill. You can see us in the background climbing the mud hill in the picture below. The other two pictures are in the “before and after” spirit.

I barely made it up that mud hill. I slid two thirds of the way and held on to the rope and was trying to pry myself up under the cheers of my team and thought “this is it, can’t do it. I can’t!” But then I did. I managed to crawl with friends cheering and then grabbing me and pulling me up. I cried from exhaustion.

I was pulled, pushed, lifted, both physically and mentally through this run with friends. What an adventure. To say we were dirty is an understatement, as you can tell from the pictures. After two showers and a bath I still felt like I smelled of manure. We were all exhausted but proud and happy we did it and finished together!

Now I am told we are doing this again! I will have to work on my upper body strength for next year to help myself and others. I read about Tracy’s chin-ups and pull-ups the other day. Guess what I will be starting to do this week?

boats · competition · racing · sailing

Sam tries something new: Snipe Racing

Today was a day for something new. Sarah, Jeff, and I raced in the Palm D’or Snipe Regatta. It’s a local event hosted by the Guelph Community Boating Club. It was Jeff’s first time in a Snipe. He usually races Lasers.

Sarah hadn’t sailed a dinghy since high school. Most of my sailing experience has been on big boats. So this was definitely in the “something new” category.

What’s a Snipe? Wikipedia says it’s a 15.5 foot two person dinghy. The class has been around since 1931. There are fleets around the world.

The community club in Guelph is super beginner friendly and very welcoming. There are club boats you can race so you don’t even have to have your own Snipe to start. Also, there are lots of women around. The boats are pretty stable and beginner friendly. A wide range of ages race Snipes. But they are also fast, tactical, and while not the most performance oriented boat, they’re fun to race.

Here’s some footage from the women’s world championships a few years ago. They’re young women. Luckily there’s also a master class.

More Snipe fun:

If they’re two person boats, how’d the three of us race? The original plan had been for Jeff to skipper all the races and Sarah and I would take turns crewing. We’d swap crew at lunch. You can’t really do that but since it was unlikely we’d place in the regatta (newbies plus club boat) no one was going to object. Instead though Sarah got to crew on one of the go fast boats when someone didn’t show. I crewed for Jeff which felt a bit like old times.

What’s the fitness angle? There’s a lot of physical work in the boat. The most obvious is hiking. To keep the boat from heeling over too much when it’s windy you put your ankles in hiking straps and try to get a lot of your body weight out over the water off the high side of the boat. My abs are sore after three races.

More importantly, I suppose, my knees aren’t sore! Victory

More later, but here’s some photos from our day.

competition · fitness · race report · running

Bettina’s sunny 10k race report

Last weekend, I ran a 10k race. It was only my third ever ‘proper’ race, so these things are still sort of new and exciting to me. A key difference was also that I ran this race with a group of colleagues. To be fair, I started my first 10k running with a friend, but I knew he was going to be way faster than me so I wasn’t surprised when he took off after the first kilometre and the rest was very much a ‘me-vs-the-road’ thing. Last week’s race definitely felt like we were doing it as a group.

I had specifically picked this race because it was a flat course. I do very, very poorly on hills and it’s something I want to work on. So if anyone has any tips on how to improve running uphill, send them my way. I really need them. I also had a goal: I wanted to do it in under 60 minutes.

StLeonRot10k
Bettina post-race, complete with post-race hair.

The day of the race was a beautiful sunny Sunday and threatened to actually get quite hot. That thing about the hottest spring in the history of weather recording? Definitely true for this part of the world. It felt more like July than early May. Luckily the race was in the morning and substantial parts of it were in the shade. Still, when the 5k water station came around I was very grateful.

I started off sticking to a colleague with whom I’d run in the past and whom I knew to be more or less at the same pace as myself. Well… it turned out that apparently she’d been getting in a bit more training than me  and  set off faster than anticipated. Nevertheless, I tried to hang on to her as long as I could, because if anything, I’m competitive. But about three kilometres into the race I knew I had to let it, and my colleague, go.

But given that I was doing well for speed, I decided to try and stay at roughly a 5:30km/h pace, which is still faster than I normally run. At this point, I wanted to see if I could do it. And I almost could! In the end, I averaged 5:34, which is really good for me and I was very pleased with my final time of 56:46. I would have been even more pleased had I been able to do it in 55. So that’s my goal for next time.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable race in a small town with a very community feel, organised by the local sports club. The atmosphere was really relaxed, and while some of our team mentioned that it would have been nice to have more people cheering us on along the course, I actually didn’t mind the calmness of our run through fields and forest.

I’m not going to lie, parts of it were a struggle. It was quite hot out in the fields, so that was a factor. Also, when I had to acknowledge that my colleague was actually too fast for me, while a few months ago she was definitely slower, I couldn’t help but feel a bit frustrated with myself. But I’m trying to push past that and focus on the fact that I ran an awesome time by my own standard. All in all, I had a great time. We went for a nice lunch with some of the team members afterwards and it was a lot of fun. I hope we run again soon!

competition · fit at mid-life · giveaway

And the winners are…

The following people won advance copies of our book Fit at Midlife: A Feminist Fitness Journey.

Janet Wojcik, Twitter

Rebecca Sky, Facebook

Denise Bonin, Instagram

They’re winging their way to you now!

Enjoy!

athletes · competition · fitness · inclusiveness · running · training · triathalon

By the way, fat people also aren’t lying about exercise either

Earlier this week, I talked about the lack of credibility given to fat people when it comes to what we eat. You can tell people, if you’re me, that you’re a non drinking, non fast food eating, vegetarian but people don’t really believe you.

But it’s also true that no one believes what we do when it comes to activity either.

This week Ragen Chastain appeared in People Magazine as the heaviest woman to ever complete a marathon. She’s actually completed two because the first time she didn’t know it would put her in the Guinness book of records and she didn’t notify them.

She’s not alone as a larger endurance athlete. See my post (Updated) Plus sized endurance athletes, we exist!

What gets me about Ragen is not what she’s done, though that’s remarkable at any size, it’s the lengths people will go to deny it. Tracy blogged about it here, When “pathetic” loses its irony. It’s a post about a Facebook group she was in that allowed a lot of Ragen trolling, bashing, and skepicism to go unchecked.

You can follow Ragen’s journey to Ironman here at her blog IronFat.

The Ragen haters have their own blog IronFacts, which is a debunking blog which supposedly tells the truth about Ragen and details her lies. It was last updated in May 2017. Since presumably People magazine has its own fact checkers maybe that’s shut them up. I don’t know. I find the whole thing puzzling.

Like, why would you even doubt that she’s telling the truth?

There are medals, race finishing photos, pictures of completion times. She’s never claimed to run the whole thing. Instead Ragen like lots of amateur athletes runs and walks her marathons. That’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

To me it can only be explained by a kind of prejudice against larger bodies, that those of us who have them can’t be trusted and shouldn’t be believed. We set out to lie and to cheat people. I’m not sure why people believe this but they seem to.

What do you think? Do you also find out puzzling?

The sun setting over Mo’orea, an island in French Polynesia
competition · fitness

Exercising Under Neoliberalism (Guest Post)

Trott at Drumstick Dash, Broad Ripple, IN
Photograph of author smiling in a blue winter running hat and green official race shirt at start of a Drumstick Dash race on American Thanksgiving November 2017. Blue plastic arch indicating the starting line is in the background. People are milling about in front of arch.

The strange algorithms of Facebook brought Sam B’s post from several years ago–“Am I really lapping people on the couch?”–to my feed last week.  People like to talk about their athletic efforts and workout regimes in terms of how they are doing better than other people.  At the yoga studio where I practice they regularly say at the end of class, “You did more in the last hour than most people will do this entire day.”  This sentiment  suggests that I did something worthwhile because it was better than what other people are doing.

But I hesitate to just blame my fellow athletes for thinking about our physical efforts in this way.  This way of thinking is exercising under neoliberalism.  If liberalism underwrites capitalism through the idea that individuals bear responsibility for their position in the world and private property requires the protection of the government, resistance to liberalism came from workers organizing for their rights against the ownership class.  Neoliberalism demands that workers be considered as individuals, not as a collective with shared interests.  If labor opposed capital under liberalism by arguing that labor is the source of wealth production, under neoliberalism workers themselves are viewed as human capital, and as human capital, of being responsible for their own precarious situation that being workers puts them in.  As human capital, the workers bear their own risks.  Under liberalism, workers could demand that working conditions be improved to protect them because they argued that their well-being was necessary for wealth production.  Under neoliberalism, workers are made responsible for the conditions.

Consider for example what happens when taxi drivers become Uber drivers.  As taxi drivers, they could be on the same side with one another against the owners, collectively resisting for the sake of better pay, better conditions, health care coverage.  As Uber drivers, they appear more independent as owners but as owners all the risk falls to them. They are compelled to compete with one another rather than to collectively support one another for their joint success.

The competition of human capital is not to be more productive, as much as it is to show that they are worthy investments.  Precarious workers who should recognize that they have a collective interest are pit against one another in the drive to accumulate more assets that make them appear to be a better investment than their fellow equally precarious workers.  It’s difficult to see whether anyone is doing anything anymore for its own sake given how everything seems like it can become translated into an asset that makes one a better investment.  A pedagogy workshop I attended several years ago suggested that people could be encouraged to engage in various projects if we could promise them an online badge that could accompany their social media presence to identify them as someone who had done that project.  This is education under neoliberalism: doing more work without compensation just to show up as having invested in oneself and so being worth investing in.

This brings me back to the way we talk about working out and the way we are motivated to work out.  I like to talk about working out on social media—on a cold day, I’m proud of myself for running outside.  I find new forms of exercise interesting to my body. It makes me think of Spinoza saying, “We do not yet know what a body can do.”  That’s what I think when I’m in the middle of a Bikram yoga class in a 105ºF room at 40% humidity.  My friends are known to mock my regular mention of my running—“beepboopbeep.” I do talk about it a lot.  And I am competitive.  I think of it as competing with myself: to get out there on a cold day, to stay in the hot room for the whole class.  I literally cried in the last half mile of the Indianapolis’ Women’s Half Marathon a couple years ago when I realized I was going to beat my target pace.  I cried.

Under neoliberalism, we are motivated to direct the competitiveness to others.  Once we concede that we are human capital it is hard to escape this drive to accrue assets to ourselves and to show ourselves to be managing them well.  This is why the competition language works.  When I hear at yoga that I should leave the studio and be the best that I can be (alongside the contradictory assertion, “Whatever you are is always enough”), I recognize that these injunctions to be my best work because I occupy an insecure position as human capital (and even though my position is pretty secure, neoliberalism constantly drives to produce insecurity out of apparently secured positions).  The slow runner claims she is lapping the person on the couch because she needs to show that she is investing in herself better than someone else is.  Human capital’s affirmations are always negations of competitors.  Under neoliberalism, the exercising subject is human capital pit against other exercising subjects.

For this reason, I hesitate to blame the slow runner who is happy to lap the person on the couch.  I don’t want her to find her running worthwhile only because she is beating someone.  I want her to be fine with running slowly.  I want her to enjoy the running if she enjoys it and not to run if she is only doing so because she needs to show she is better human capital.  I understand the bind she is in.  And more, I don’t think she is the cause of the anxiety of the person on the couch. Both of them find themselves pit against one another in the drive to be a better investment.  The break from neoliberal human capital requires a general refusal to try to show up as a better investment and collective support and resistance against systems and policies that make us each worthy only by comparison.

Adriel M. Trott is an associate professor of philosophy at Wabash College.  She specializes in ancient and continental philosophy and feminist theory.  She lives in Indianapolis, IN and is trying to only work out when she feels like it.

competition · cycling · fitness · Guest Post · race report

Race Report for ITU Age Group Worlds Standard Distance Duathlon (Guest Post)

by Cathy

Race Report for:               ITU Worlds Standard Distance Duathlon, Penticton, BC

Distance:                             10.0 km – 40.5 km – 5.1 km

Date:                                     Monday, August 21, 2017

Weather:                            ~20-25C, full sun with moderate NE winds

Description of Course:  asphalt streets and interlocking bricks run, mostly flat with some false flat up and back down (Run 1 = 4 loops, Run2 = 2 loops, bike mostly flat, head/side wind out and tail/side wind back (2 x 20km out & back)

Actual Time:                      2:50:40

Goal Times: Low Mid High
Sub 2:45 2:47 Sub 3:00

 

Personal Best Times: Lifetime Recent This Race Last Year
2:38 Esprit 2013 This is my only standard distance du this year 2:58 but run and bike courses were a bit different

 

Category Place
Women 50-54 25/29 finishers
All Women 154/220
Overall 467/603

 

Goal Pace: Actual: Overall Placing Heart Rate:
Run 1: 55:00 (5:30/km) 55:02 (5:30/km)

 

25th 168
T1 1:45 Not ranked
Bike:  sub 1:20:00

(+30 km/h)

 1:20:48 (29.7 km/h for 40k per Sportstats, = 30.2 km/h for 40.5k) 24th 148

 

T2 2:59 Not ranked
Run 2: < 30:00

(sub 6:00/km)

30:06 (6:01/km) 25th 159

 

Description of Race:

I had done this race course for Nationals last year, so I was very familiar with it.  The only differences were that they changed the run course to take out the big Vancouver Ave hill, to make an almost flat course, the bike course was a bit longer, the transition area was a bit further away and the transitions themselves were a bit longer.  With better fitness than last year, I expected to cut a fair amount of time off of my 2016 result of 2:58.  2016 was my return to racing after a lot of personal issues in 2014 and 2015 (my concussion, cancer death of very close friend, menopause, weight gain, plantar fasciitis) affected my training and resulted in next to no racing.

My training this year was affected by the illness and death of my mother in the winter/spring, followed by a viral infection that knocked me out for almost two weeks in July.  I had intended to lose at least 20 pounds since my 2016 race, and I had lost 10 pounds by mid-March but stress-eating caused me to gain that all back by May.  Once my training increased again after that, I found it very difficult to lose weight, and decided to just maintain my food intake to fuel my workouts, and deal with weight loss after Worlds.

Lead-up to race – We arrived four days prior to the race, which was enough to get settled and complete all the tasks required at a World Championship race, such as the Parade of Nations, run and ride course familiarization and team meeting, not to mention socializing.   With this being my third Worlds, I knew what was involved in the lead up and I was determined to minimize the changes to my normal routine.

I was able to do my assigned workouts for these days although not exactly as planned, due to various factors.   No excuses, but it’s not as easy to head out the door in an unfamiliar place, as it is at home.  I felt good during the workouts since my quads were finally rested and my ongoing tight calves were no longer tight.   What a relief.  It made me wonder if that calf tightness might be related to my desk/chair position at work, and being away from work resolved it.  Will have to look into that further once I’m back to work.

We stayed at a motel on the Penticton lakeshore strip and made most of our own meals to avoid sitting in crowded restaurants waiting for food, and having to worry about not getting the type and quality of food I wanted.  I slept in every morning until I woke up naturally so I was getting 8-10 hours of sleep every night.

Race Day:

Warm-up – about 15 minutes of easy jogging on and off.  All good, no hamstring or calf tightness.  Nutrition good, bathroom good.    I did my sighting of the Run In/ Bike Out/Bike In/Bike Out, which was a bit of a serpentine path.

Run 1 –  We (Women 40+) started in a corral, about the fourth wave to go.  I felt happy and calm at the start…. It had been a long journey back to being at Worlds, with my last one being Ottawa in 2013.

I always view the first 10k of a standard distance duathlon as something to be gotten through, so that I can get onto the bike.   It always seems to go on forever and you have to push hard, but not quite as hard as a standalone 10k.   This day, it went fairly well.   There was a long stretch on each of four 2.5k loops that was a false flat uphill but this was followed by coming back down it, so I don’t think I lost too much time due to this.  By the second loop, I could see that I was pretty far back in the pack, but this was not unexpected so I did not get too discouraged by this.  I kept on at a steady pace, trying to keep my pace below 5:30/km.  When I finished, my Garmin said 5:25.  Sportstats says 5:30, which was my goal, so close enough.

Bike – I had my bike shoes on my bike already (new strategy for me this season) and had a fairly good mount.  Not a full flying mount, but I got my left foot in, got rolling, swung my right leg over and I was off.  Much better than running to the mount line in my cycling shoes as I used to do.

I was expecting my ride to be a fair bit faster than last year, as I am fitter, the course was the same and the forecast was for very low winds (last year 1:23:38, 28.7 km/h).  I was a bit disappointed to only be 3 minutes faster in the results but given a couple of mitigating factors, I’m satisfied.

  • The wind was definitely stronger than last year, which slowed us down on the out portion of the double out & back course, but it didn’t feel like we got a pure tailwind on the way back. My speed was only about 3-4 km/h faster on the south bound course versus north bound.
  • Last year, we rode in the far right and far left lanes. This meant that the traffic was still flowing in the two inner lanes (and was halted at the turn around). This made for some scary moments when transport trucks passed us, but we were all amazed by the slip stream effect we got from them. It was almost like we were pulled along when they passed.  That was definitely missing this year as they had us ride in the two lakeside lanes while the traffic was in the two mountainside lanes.   It made for a much safer race course, but we all agreed that we lost a bit of speed that way.
  • The course this year was about 0.5 km longer, with a dogleg near transition that required a real slow down.

My power number was a bit lower than we had hoped for but my average HR # was good as a measure of effort.  As I finished the bike, my Garmin said 30.4 km/h.  I was very pleased to be over 30 km/h, but Sportstats has me at 29.7 km/h, I think because they divided by 40km and the course was at least 40.5km.  Either way, I am still satisfied as this is the first 40km effort I was able to do this season due to scheduling conflicts.  I had feared that I would falter at 30km and end up with a 90 minute split.

Run 2 –  this run was 2 loops of the run course, so I knew what to expect.   I was aiming to go sub 6:00/km overall.  I started out very slowly at closer to 6:30 but pressed on and eventually got my average speed down to about 5:55/km.  I was able to hold this until about the 3.5km mark, when I really started to slow down.   I tried my best to keep my speed up but the final uphill did me in, and I finished up with a 6:05/km average per my Garmin, although Sportstats had me at 6:01.  I’ll take it!

Finish – I crossed the line and immediately felt very faint, which is pretty normal for me with my low blood pressure.  Dan and my friends were at the fence and saw this and got me hooked up with a fellow Canadian finisher to hold onto me and guide me through the line.  Once I got some food into me, I came back to life quickly.

We got a very nice medal at the finish line and further on, we got a duathlon finisher scarf which was a nice touch.  The finisher area opened up into the spectator area and I was able to meet up with Dan.

At this point, things got a little weird as the solar eclipse was at its maximum.  The sun clouded over, the temperature dropped quickly by 5-10 degrees at the same time my body was cooling off, and people were stumbling around with eclipse glasses and boxes over their heads.  It was a bit surreal!

Final Thoughts:

When I describe Duathlon Worlds to someone who hasn’t done it, I say, it’s like being the smart kid in your high school, then going to university and realizing that everyone else there is as smart or smarter than you, and it can be pretty intimidating.  This time around, I knew I would be closer to the back of the pack than I was in Ottawa 2013.  I purposely didn’t say, “I don’t want to be last,” because you don’t have any control over who else shows up, and really, what’s wrong with being last at this level of competition???

Leading up to the race, I was getting really sick of training and really tired of thinking about the race.  I felt like I didn’t want to put myself through this very long lead up again.  I also felt like, I just wanted to prove to myself that I could get myself fit enough to participate at this level again, and then maybe put this level of competing behind me.  I purposely had not attended any qualifying events for 2018 Worlds.

However, a day or two after the race, I had decided that I wanted to at least consider qualifying for Worlds 2018 which will be in Odense, Denmark ….. but that’s a story for another day!

Gratitude:

A big thanks to my family for supporting me emotionally and physically and for tolerating the bikes in the kitchen!

Thanks to my coach Mike Coughlin, of Discomfort Zone Performance Coaching, especially for that phone call in the final week.

Thanks to my training partners, especially the two Mikes.

Thanks to my technology guy, Spencer.

Thanks to my nutrition coach Michelle Goldrick for steering me in the right direction.

Thanks to Tracy my trainer, Dr. Tina my chiro and Andy my physio for fixing my broken body last year.

Thanks to the Girls Who Bike, 20 Minute Daily Groove, London Centennial Wheelers, Cycles London, Runners Choice and Nordic Cat CX peeps.

Thanks to all my friends, both athletic and not, who have pushed, prodded and propped me up, when I lost the faith so many times in the past year.  It was so very much appreciated.

 

Cathy is a 54 year-old duathlete based in London, Ontario. When she’s not running and cycling, she’s a sole practitioner CPA and the co-manager of a family unit, aka a wife, and mom of two young adults. She is very excited to be entering a new age group next year!