IronMan Cozumel

I just got back from Mexico yesterday evening. Racing in Cozumel was quite the experience! I was very moved by all the supportive messages from my family and friends. I carried them with me in my heart on race day.

Cozumel is a great destination race! The race course is a tough one but the sunshine filled vacation can’t be beat. I’ll be back to do this race-cation again. This year, rough ocean conditions caused a last minute change to the swim course. The modified 3.1km swim kept us closer to shore for safety. I worked hard on the swim, kicked some coral and got stung by jellyfish. It was an adventure and I loved every minute. Cozumel-2013-bike

This bike course is stunningly beautiful. I rode hard and was happy with my ride. Boy, oh boy, the wind was something else! The bike profile might look pancake flat but the windy side of the island was as hard as any hill around here. On the third lap, I died a bit on the bike. I think I need to take another look at my race nutrition plan.

The race course is 3 loops on the bike, and 3 loops on the run which makes it great for spectators. It’s also great for racers – I got a boost every time I saw my support crew. On the run, there was crazy heat, monsoon rains, and flooded streets. At one point, I served myself some pepsi at an abandoned aid station only to have two kids heads pop out from underneath the table where they were hiding from the crazy rain! The adventure continued all the way to the finish line.

My finish time was a new best. I didn’t give up and I learned lots about racing.

Looking back and looking forward

Completing Challenge Penticton brings this current phase of my season to an end.  With back to school tomorrow, this seems like perfect time to reflect on my summer of training.  For me, this season has been about opening doors to what didn’t seem possible. I first came across this idea of opening doors to the adjacent possible in Steven Johnson’s book, ‘Where Good Ideas Come From.” His idea that innovation happens when a steady accumulation of smaller doors keep opening to create a space where ideas mix appeals to me. My training this year seems to have created this kind of space. Some might call it a breakout year. But really it’s been a set of steps. They haven’t all been easy. In fact, I think that’s why it’s worked. I have a whole new definition of hard. I’ve had some of the epic fails that are necessary for moving forward. The most memorable of which was a hill repeat workout that had me scared of falling off my bike and then spinning home defeated. But I got back out there. My coach Stephanie took me back out the next week and believed in me and I started to believe too. I conquered that hill. As I know well from interacting my students, a key step of learning can often involve taking a step backward first (Perrault, 2011). It’s like an a little dance.

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My season isn’t over, in fact, in some ways it’s just starting. [cue the Mexican mariachi music]

I feel lucky to have coaches that believe in me. Thanks, Bjoern, for putting together training plans that open doors. Cozumel, here I come, with a whole new idea of what is possible.

Challenge Penticton

An early start (3:45am wake up) translated to an easy calm vibe in transition. I put my bottles on the bike and in my run bag and then sat on a bench relaxing. Before we knew it, Erin and I heard the last call for age group athletes. Shoot!  How did that happen?  We put our wetsuits on really fast, waved to our family, and then watched the pros start.


I did a short warmup swim and then got myself in the front line behind 7-8 fast looking guys lined up right along the bouy line.  The start siren went. No one heard it.  We all stood still.  I thought I heard something, so I turned around to see the starter waving at us to go from the beach.  So I said, “Go guys, go!”  After a bit more confusion, the front guys started swimming so the rest of us started swimming.  There was fair amount of chop.  I swam the first quarter on my own… and then decided that was stupid so swam over to swim behind the only guy that was near.  As we approached the turn around, there were a few small groups.  For the second half of the way back, I decided that the group I was with was too slow… so I moved up a group.

I exited the water and Tiffany and Cat helped me get out of my wetsuit.  Tracy handed me my bike gear and the volunteers helped me get my shoes on. It was great to see friendly faces in transition. Thanks for volunteering! Continue reading

Mental Skills “Toolkit”

Last week at swim practice, we had Shaunna Taylor, sports psychologist with Triathlon Canada come talk with us about our mental skills “toolkit”. She gave a short talk full of practical tips, stories from her experiences working with Olympic athletes, and worksheets for us to take home.

It was awesome.

For example, she presented an idea about using a personal highlight reel as a visualization tool during a race. Since her talk, I have been purposeful about collecting and writing down highlights from good training days this week to use in racing.

I am armed and ready … cue the music!

Talent vs Hard Work

Does it take talent to be good at triathlon?  Or, does it take everyone exactly the same amount of time to become an expert?  The prevailing myth in our culture is that the sportswomen, scientists, and writers that we admire are born with gifts. They were born with a natural ability to kick a soccer ball, had minds that understood chemistry, or could just write beautiful prose. But, current research shows this is not true. Every one of us has the potential to become a PRO. 

I went to a talk today about how to help students learn to think more like experts and the speaker reminded me of research results indicating that innate talent is not linked to performance.  Instead, it’s all about deliberate practice (i.e. the kind of practice that a good coach or teacher guides you through).  And, it takes everyone approximately the same amount of time to become an expert at anything. In the end, if you want to improve at something it’s all about hard work, the attitude you adopt while training… and seeking out feedback from experts.

This article by Colvin entitled, “What it takes to be great” sums up these findings well:

Populaire Ride and Mexico

The pacific populaire ride today was good. For the first hour, I was riding with the 2nd group out on the road. Then, I got a flat which meant I lost the group. I did most of the rest of the ride by myself which was a good challenge and I put in a good effort.


Last year, I had two flats so I guess only one this year is an improvement. I was annoyed but the flat tire was also a nice excuse to go at my own pace. My ride time was 3:35, my garmin tells me that it took me 10min to change my flat. Perhaps it’s a good thing that I rode solo, my friend was involved in a crash and broke his collarbone.  Shoot, get well soon, Tim!  There will be no biking for me next weekend because we’re going to Mexico! I’ll be doing my swim workouts from here:


Higgs Theory and Clear Thinking

Recently, I’ve been talking with my class about the Higgs Boson particle and recent discoveries at CERN. It’s fascinating stuff and my students are particularly intrigued by discoveries that are predicted by theory (that Higgs thought up in the 60’s). It’s an example that shows that contrary to what it seems in science textbooks there so much that we still have to discover or really don’t understand at all.

What do bosons and training for triathlons have in common? Not much really. (Other than the fact that these bosons help explain what makes up matter so they really have everything to do with everything) I was just thinking to myself how training hard clears my head giving me capacity for clear thinking. I wonder what’s behind that – probably some ancient survival response. I do know that if I find myself thinking about particle physics during a hard swim set or while pulling at the front of the pack on the bike, I’m likely not working hard enough.