Category Archives: Ironman

So you wanna do a triathlon? Five things I wish I knew when I started

Triathlon season is now in full force with lots of races and training ramping up for those racing.

It’s pretty common for runners to get the tri itch. It’s a new challenge, and one that suits our bodies that love to move and minds that love a challenge!

Although I’m not participating in any triathlons this season, I dove into them head first back in 2010 with my husband (Calgary 70.3 and Ironman Arizona).

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At the finish of our first triathlon

Here are some things I wish I knew beforehand.

  1. Triathlon is expensive. In running you need shoes and some sweat-wicking gear. In triathlon, you need equipment for two additional sports. For biking- think bike, helmet, and shoes. Add in some cycling clothing, gloves, and mechanical gear (spare tubes, pump, underseat bag). For swimming, all you really need is a swimsuit, goggles and cap. But unless you have somewhere to swim you need a membership to a pool or to pay drop in fees. Racing in open water? Maybe you’ll need to rent or buy a wetsuit.
    And this is the bare minimum. Yes, you can do it on a budget, but gear for three sports and entry fees add up.
  2. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Maybe you’ve been a runner for a while, love cycling, or swam in high school, but triathlon will definitely take you out of your comfort zone.
    Between practicing three sports, riding your bike on the side of the highway with semi trucks zipping by, and swimming in open water, you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Before our first open water swim!

Before our first open water swim!

  1. Ask questions. Starting something new can be intimidating. Don’t be afraid to ask questions whether it’s from friends who participate in multi-sport, a coach or club you want to try out, or fellow bloggers. I know I learned a lot from reading triathlon magazines and blogs. I wish I had reached out to people I knew who raced for advice or tips.
  2. It doesn’t have to be your whole world. It’s easy to get wrapped up in triathlon, after all you have three sports, strength training, and sleep to monopolize your time.
    Unless you have huge dreams like qualifying for Kona or representing your country in shorter distance races, you can do it all and still enjoy life outside of sport.
    The first year we did triathlon, we were pretty strict with training. By the second Ironman we really loosened up, taking a week-long holiday during peak week and only running short and mountain biking once. I ended up besting my previous time on a tougher course.
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Ironman Canada (Penticton) 2012

  1. You will fall in love with it. No matter what sport was your favourite, you’ll most likely fall in love with at least one of the others.
    Running is my first love, but now I dream of road biking the open highways and my trainer gets more use than my treadmill.

Although I’m happy to not have signed up for a tri this year, I will miss it! I still have a lot to learn about multisport. I still have a lot of room to grow, too.

I took this year off and quite honestly don’t know when my next triathlon season will be. However, I know when it comes, I’ll be hungry to train smarter and better my times.

I think I have a couple other ideas for ‘So you wanna do a triathlon’. If you are interested in getting your feet wet, let me know if you have any questions.

Triathletes- what do you wish you knew before you started?
Non-triathletes- do you ever get the itch to try it out?

2013 reflection (in photos)

I saw a year in photos on Amy’s blog and loved the idea. I promise this is the last recap of 2013!

Here are my monthly highlights from the year.

January

We spent this month hibernating at home and spending time with Harold before an extended vacation.

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My 29th birthday!

February

The highlight was definitely going back to Thailand, sightseeing, playing in the ocean, and taking a nice break from winter!

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Chaweng Beach

March

We finished our Asia trip with two weeks in China. We had a blast, but the true highlight was probably coming home to Harold!

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At the hutongs in Beijing

April

After five weeks in Asia with lots of food and not a ton of running, I had my work cut out for me to get ready for a June Ironman. I worked hard in April and rode countless miles on the trainer!

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May

We snuck away to the mountains in early May for our first camping trip of the season. It was good to be back!

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Patricia Lake

June

Ironman Coeur d’Alene pretty much dominated this month! Kelly got a huge personal best, and I bested my time by a whopping 55 seconds!

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On the run…

July

This was a busy month with lots of training, the Tour d’Alberta bike ride, and Kelly’s Dad’s 60th birthday party. However, the highlight was probably seeing family at my cousin’s wedding!

with my niece (and always in flats!)

with my niece (and always in flats!)

August

I had a great August, from an awesome Jasper camping trip to Whistler for the Ironman to an Okanagan holiday. Hands down the best part was having Kelly and Harold surprise me in Whistler. Despite my exhausted arms, I proudly carried Harold around after the race!

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September

This was another great month with the end of our BC holiday, trips to New Orleans and Vancouver, a camping trip to celebrate Kelly’s 30th birthday, and our fifth wedding anniversary.

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October

After a busy couple months, it was great to be home in October! We spent a lot of time on the trails.

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November

The highlight of November was a Jasper trip to cross-country and downhill ski. We love that town!

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December

We had a fantastic Canmore trip at the beginning of the month, but Christmas was definitely the highlight. We had a marvelous few days full of family, food, and fun, and we got spoiled rotten. With such busy lives, it’s great to slow down and catch up with family!

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This is just a snapshot of 2013! I have a lot to be thankful for: another year of health, a wonderful husband, a supportive family, a body that carries me through many adventures, the means to travel, the list goes on and on.

Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy, adventure-filled 2014!

Tell me a few highlights from your year! 

Throwback Thursday: our first Ironman

Although Ironman Arizona took place this past weekend, in 2010 it was held on November 21.

That just happened to be the day Kelly and I completed our first Ironman.

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Ironman Arizona 2010

We nervously signed up a year prior, sweated for thousands of miles together, reached new distance milestones, and encouraged each other along the way.

It was a day I will never forget.

The unforgettable swim

The swim is in the canal in Tempe and I’ll never forget the nerves before jumping into that cold, black water in the dark with the buzz of thousands of athletes all around.

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I also won’t forget looking up at the spectator-filled bridge and seeing our families, who had supported us on our journey and have continued to in the years since.

I remember treading water beside Kelly for 10 or 15 minutes, taking in the music and nervous chatter all around.

I’ll never forget the first open water beats I took to my head and calf at that first turn. (thanks to those I swim super wide in every race now!)

The unforgettable bike

Getting out of that water and onto my bike, I remember shivering but being so happy I survived. Seeing Kelly and my family on the various loops on the bike was incredible.

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I will never, ever forget the winds on the third loop of my bike that almost knocked me over, and the other athletes I stopped beside to wait out the gust.

The unforgettable run

I’ll always remember starting that run, in disbelief that the day was going so quickly.

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I still remember how great it was to see our families, hear their encouragement, and get updates on Kelly. Oh, I’ll also never forget the lady who snot-rocketed on me and then proceeded to laugh about it. (just so you know- that is never funny.)

I won’t forget walking through an aid station at mile 20 and hearing Kelly’s voice, walking with him for a few minutes, and stopping for a kiss before finishing our races.

The unforgettable finish line

I don’t think any finish line has ever matched the noise, bright lights, and fanfare. I’ll never forget running blindly to the finish and blocking everything out, including the infamous “Abby Kokolski you are an Ironman!” from Mike Reilly.

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I am SO thankful Kelly talked me in to signing up for an Ironman. It was something I was terrified to commit to and uncertain I would be able to finish. I have amazing memories from the past four years, both with Kelly and on my own. I have pushed my body further than I thought capable.

It’s a great lesson to not let fear stand in your way of going after your goals.

Click photo for credit

Click photo for credit

What memories stand out most in your mind from your first big race? 

Wednesday web links – Kona crazy, listening to your body & don’t forget the sunscreen!

KONA – Ironman World Championships
In the marathon world, it’s race month. In the triathlon world, it’s KONA time! Kona is Ironman’s iconic event and world championship where the best of the best come to win.

On her way to breaking the Ironman record at Arizona in 2010.

Chrissie Wellington on her way to breaking the Ironman record at Arizona in 2010.

Not only do I incessantly check the live blog and feed on race day, but I also love the excitement leading up to the big race from Twitter and Instagram feeds to various websites.

The Triathlete Magazine website has great coverage, videos, and photos. Bike fans will drool over the pro’s top of line bike set ups, while I love seeing their muscles work overtime on the run (check out day 11).

I highly recommend tuning in online on Saturday to see incredible athletes courageously competing under intense conditions and putting it all on the line.

Before you do, check out the 101 things you need to know before the 2013 World Championships.

Who are your top picks to win?

Listen to your body
I think athletes do a very good job of knowing their body and reading its cues when something feels off. I know I’m very in tune with my body and can tell when a niggle will lead to injury, when I’m getting sick, or when something is just off.

However, just because I’m in tune with my body doesn’t mean I listen to it. I’m trying to get better at this and these links are a great reminder.

I’m a bit late in the game to one of these stories, but just because it’s a bit outdated doesn’t mean it’s not a great lesson.

Jenny Fletcher, pro triathlete and model, faced a life-threatening setback earlier this year when doctor’s found her lungs filled with blood clots. Read her account of it here and remember… listen to your body!

Another piece of evidence to listen to your body…Aussie triathlete and blogger, Lucy (Pipe Down Piper), just wrote about her experience while lying in a hospital bed in a cardiac ward.

Are you good at listening to your body?

Practice sun safety
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or in a cave (and never leave) you know the dangers of spending prolonged periods of time in the sun.

If you’re an endurance athlete, it’s unavoidable. Of course you can wear sunscreen, put on a hat, and buy UV clothing. But, it’s not always convenient and it doesn’t necessarily protect you for an extended amount of time.

Leanda Cave, last year’s 70.3 and Ironman world champ, was diagnosed with skin cancer in February. She’s taken measures to better protect herself including waking up earlier to workout before the sun comes up and using indoor facilities when possible.

How do you practice sun safety when working out in the sun?
After getting a baaaad burn at Ironman Coeur d’Alene I was a lot more careful this summer, wearing lots of SPF and even running in a UV shirt.

Ironman Canada Whistler 2013 recap

I’m going to write this all in one post, so it’s a long one!

The days leading up to Ironman Canada were busy: 16 hours of solo driving split over two days, walking around Whistler, hanging out with family, and of course all the Pre-Ironman activities.

Practice swim in the beautiful Alta Lake

Practice swim in the beautiful Alta Lake

Meeting triathlon legend Simon Whitfield!

Meeting triathlon legend Simon Whitfield!

I was extremely nervous. I think more so than any race I’ve done in a while. My sister-in-law was racing and we had quite a few spectators including my parents, in-laws, and sister-in-law’s in-laws.

But, Kelly wasn’t racing and wasn’t in Whistler either as I was meeting him and Harold a couple days after the race. It was definitely different as he is generally really calming for me!

Race morning

I was up at 3:30 after a few hours of sleep and stuck with my morning ritual of breakfast in the room.

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I was a lot more relaxed in the morning and was really looking forward to the day ahead! I went into it having no idea what to expect but knowing it would most likely be my last tri for a while so to enjoy the day.

I met my parents and sister-in-law at 4:20 to walk to T2 where they had buses to take athletes to the swim start.

We were greeted like royalty by the body markers who started cheering as we approached. Again, the volunteers were incredible all day long.

We got body marked, checked on our T2 bags, and hopped on a bus. Once we got to Alta Lake, I put my bottles with water and Nuun on my bike, added my bento full of fuel, and pumped my tires.

I had to put on my wetsuit fairly early for warmth. Soon enough, all our spectators arrived so we chilled out chatting with them.

The start came quickly. The lake looked majestic with a mist over it and the mountains as a backdrop.

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We got in early for a warm up then decided to stay in the lake since it was a deep-water start. Looking back towards shore was such a cool sight with thousands of athletes and spectators.

The swim

Alicia and I wished each other luck and then we were off!

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I always swim wide. I got punched twice in the head right at the beginning so moved even wider. After that, I had a lot of space for the entire swim. I popped my head up a couple times to look around and take it in. I know way more men than women participate in Ironman events, but I was shocked at how many green caps there were versus pink.

Once I turned the last buoy I was so grateful to be getting out of the lake knowing one discipline was finished! My Garmin showed 4.3 km, so 500m longer! I know I swam wide, but I didn’t think that wide!

3.8 km/2.4 mile swim – 1:19:51 

T1 – 6:36
I got out of the water, found my transition bag, and went into the tent. Thankfully a kind volunteer was there to help my put on my sports bra and arm warmers (hardest things to put on when wet)!

I unracked my bike, walked it up the long ramp, saw our spectators, and hopped on for a 180km ride!

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Easy to spot in my bright orange Hawaiian jersey!

The Bike

The course basically two out and backs- Callaghan Road and Pemberton- with spectacular views, lots of ups and downs, and one flat stretch.

I’m not a strong cyclist and hills, and even more so descents, are not my forte. But I really liked the course! The constant elevation changes kept me on my toes and didn’t allow for boredom.

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There were lots of fans on the ride out from the swim and along the roads in the main part of Whistler. About 20km in, I heard Kelly cheer for me. I was in complete disbelief to see Kelly and Harold on the side of the road, pumping music and ready for a day of spectating!

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I was in complete shock and then completely overwhelmed. I cried for literally 3km before I forced myself to get a grip.

My smile was enormous knowing I’d see them again soon!

The ride was definitely tough, but I would say on par with the old IM Canada course in Penticton and IM Coeur d’Alene. I think the main difference is the placement of hills. There was a long stretch of them the last 30 km, so your legs were pretty fatigued at that point and even more tired heading on to the run.

I didn’t put on my aero bars for this race, and my back wasn’t sore at all and my neck was much less sore. I don’t know if there is a correlation but I was happy to not be too sore.

One thing was worrying me…I didn’t pee once. Normally I stop at least a couple times.

180km/112 mile bike – 6:53:38

T2 – 6:26

A volunteer took my bike, another took my T2 bag and followed me into the tent. I changed socks, shorts, shirts, swapped cycling shoes for runners and helmet for a visor and finally hit a porta potty. Then I got lubed up from head to toe making sure they paid extra attention to my back!

I ran out with an ear-to-ear smile knowing unless disaster struck, I would cross that finish line!

The Run

I quickly settled into a rhythm.

I loved the run course! It was two loops on softly rolling trail and on a path around a beautiful mountain lake.

Although I loved the course, the miles seemed to tick by slowly at the beginning. My body was beat but I just took it stride by stride. A lot of spectators commented I was looking strong, which was nice to hear since I felt so weak!

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I stuck to my walk through aid stations method to get in enough fuel. But this race I really took my time in the aid stations! At one I was stopped eating chips at a table. It must have been a while, as a volunteer joked about getting me some dip! At a couple others I stopped to fish out my salt tabs and take them while chatting with volunteers.

On my way back towards my second loop, Kelly, Harold, and my brother-in-law were cheering in the trails. It was the first time I actually got to talk to them! I stopped for some hugs and chatter. Of course seeing Kelly was amazing, but seeing Harold in the middle of a race was such a boost! It’s not allowed but they ran with me for a couple minutes so we could talk.

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I told Kelly how much pain I was in and that my ankles felt like they were breaking. He told me to tough it out. The sooner it’s over, the sooner the pain is over.

I ran through town again and saw our cheering squad. On the way back out, I knew it was going to be a struggle. I tried to just enjoy the lovely, soft, shaded trail and focus on the next aid station.

I hit the porta potty again and knew it would be tough to get moving! I sat there for a couple minutes rallying myself. (You know I was desperate to sit in a stinky porta-potty for a bit!)

Suddenly with 6km/4 miles left, I felt incredible…talk about runner’s high! I fed off the fans, charged up the hills, and smiled.

We took a turn, ran through Olympic Village then hit the home stretch. I heard strangers cheering, saw Kelly with my Dad and Harold, then saw my Mom and in-laws.

42.2km/26.2 mile run – 3:48:13

I crossed the finish line in 12:14:44.

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I was ecstatic! I got my medal, hat, t-shirt, and finishers photo then got out of there to find my family! It was so awesome to have everyone there, especially Kelly and Harold. I could not stop smiling.

We stood around talking and I felt great. It was a huge difference compared to how I felt after Coeur d’Alene. (The next morning, I was shocked at how decent I felt. My Achilles tendon area was really sore and my knees were a bit achy but that was it!)

I went back and showered before coming back to cheer Alicia through the finish line of her first Ironman! I am so proud of her accomplishment.

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I was getting pretty hungry so Kelly, Harold and I picked up a greasy pizza and I went to town on it. Harold was wiped from a day with lots of noise and people and Kelly and I were both exhausted, too, so we didn’t go back for the final finishers.

I was SO happy and more than surprised with my time. It was my slowest Ironman and swim to date, but I am truly proud of myself. It was a mental battle to get to that start line and I battled throughout the run.

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The Ironman is a beast and one I always look back on with pride. This year has been a great ride!

What was your favourite race, run, or bike of the summer?

Ironman Canada 2013 finisher!

Just wanted to pop in and let you know Ironman Canada Whistler was awesome!

I ended up finishing in 12:14:44 with a 1:19:51 swim, 6:53:38 bike, and 3:48:13 run.

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It hurt….bad at times. It was also a stunning course with challenging climbs on the bike.

My sister-in-law rocked her first Ironman, finishing under 14 hours!

I’ll post a full recap once I’m home from a week off the grid (in the mountains) with my boys!