My overall goal was to come first in something. Anything. I just wanted to know what that feels like and see what I can do. I also wanted to complete my first standard distance triathlon.
I started the year with the Westshore Duathlon in April. 2km run, 20km bike, and a 5 km run. In 2016 this was my first duathlon and I came second! I think this sold me on triathlon and multisport. So obviously I was going to try and come back in 2017 to take first. Despite improving my time by 10 minutes I took second again. But I lost by a much smaller margin as well. First place was only two minutes ahead. Maybe I could have pushed a little harder on the last run? Maybe.
Next should have been the TC10K, but I was pretty sick so decided to sit it out. I could have run, but it would not have been a good time and I would have been sicker for longer. Sometimes you have to know when to say NO and preserve your health for the next challenge.
My next big race was the Langford Sprint Triathlon in July. A 500m swim, 23km bike, and a 5km run. This would be my second triathlon. Ever. So I was a little nervous. But I also knew that I had been doing some solid training since January. I was no longer worried about finishing the swim or completing the race as I was the first time. Now it was just how fast would I go and how do I stack up against everybody else? All in all it was a solid race and I came 3rd in my age group (30-34) and 10th male over all. I was pleased to say the least. Any day you wind up on a podium is a good day.
Next up was the Thetis Lake Swim (1500m). One of my swim instructors had recommended I do this years ago, so I was finally going to scratch it off my list. I also wanted to make sure I could do the distance in open water as a way to prepare for my first standard distance triathlon in August. I started off near the back of the pack. But I managed to draft behind someone going at a nice pace for the first half of the race (thank you!) and then I decided to make a move and try to push past at the first buoy. I was feeling good, I felt like I could go faster. And after that I was basically on my own except for a couple people who passed me doing a different distance. I finished in 32:19. Which was good enough for first place in my age group. I had done it! I came first in something. Except it didn’t even really dawn on my until a couple of days later. I think because it never even occurred to me that I might do well in a swim only event.
And now for my other big goal of 2017. The Elk Lake Standard Triathlon (insert ominous music). After the Thetis Swim I was confident I could do all the distances and I was looking forward to seeing what I could do. In January my goal had been to simply complete the race, but now I was starting to think maybe I should hope for a little more. It wound up being a non-wetsuit swim which would have freaked me out a couple years ago but now not such a big deal. Less time spent trying to peel that thing off before I get on the bike. The race was going well until the run. When my legs decided they were done working for the day. Basically my quads and hamstrings completely seized up and it felt like I was running on two wooden peg legs. I only stopped briefly to ostensibly throw out a gel pack and then I kept hobbling along as best I could. I was determined not to walk no matter how much it hurt. Eventually my muscles loosened up and I could pick the pace up. It wasn’t until kilometre 5 of the 10 that I started to feel like I was racing. And I managed to push the rest of the way around the lake for what was a strong but very painful finish. This was a strange situation. I had done better than I had hoped and estimated. But some how I was still disappointed in myself. I felt like I could have done much better. But for a first try at a new distance I learned a lot of lessons and it gave me some fire for training in the off season.
After my disastrous run at Elk Lake I am not feeling particularly confident in my running fitness. So Coach Sara and I decided to do a running focus for the next few months culminating in a half marathon.
In October was the GoodLife 8K. Another distance I had never done before. I would be happy with a time under 40 minutes. I surprise myself with a nice 35:31.
My season culminates with the Boundary Bay Half Marathon. I had been wanting to do this race for a while. I grew up in Tsawwassen and had walked this race course many times. It felt sort of like home field advantage. It is totally flat. The only downside is that it is in November and it is REALLY cold. It was 0 degrees when the race started. However it was a sunny day and it quickly warmed up. I wanted to best my previous half marathon time of 1:45:22. I pull it off with a chilly 1:42:58. I did learn that I need way more fuel than I think I do. More gels please! Maybe a pizza at the half way mark next time.
So that was 2017 in a nutshell. I’ll lay out 2018 real fast because this is a long post as it is.
Happy racing in 2018 everybody. It’s going to be a good year.
I like beer. I like running. This shouldn’t surprise anybody. Sometimes I even like to combine the two at a Keg Leg with some friends. kegleg.ca However as an athlete there are a few things to take into consideration. There are consequences to your fitness when you consume alcohol. This is not a post trying to convince you not to drink, but I want to give you the information and you can make your own decisions, and maybe be a little smarter about it.
I will straight up say that I got this information from the Coaching Association of Canada. Which I feel is a reputable source and worth sharing. You can find all the facts here. But these were my top five take aways.
This is a lot to consider. Clearly alcohol is not helping us in our fitness and training. But I would not go so far as to say you should never drink again. But maybe keep these points in mind next time you’re out for dinner or out with friends. One rule I’ve developed for myself is that if I’m going to have a drink the same day as training (particularly a long or hard training session) I need to have a good meal and a nap or rest first. That way I have contributed to my recovery before I start negating any of the training effect. The other rule I’ve heard of and like is the two drink rule. If you’re going out and want to be social in a situation with alcohol, you limit yourself to two drinks. That way you get to participate and not feel like you’re missing out, but you aren’t going to wind up regretting it the next day.
The month of January I went dry. After my trip to Mexico in December it felt like a good time. Oooh the tequila… and the bad dancing. It turns out I DON’T know how to do the Macarena, but that didn't stop me from trying. I went dry in January to see if I would notice a difference. And I have to tell you that I did. I felt more rested and ready to train again after every session. I also picked up two VO2 Max points (according to Garmin). That being said I have enjoyed a beverage or two in February. And March.
I have cut back my alcohol consumption overall though. If I’m putting in all this effort to train and improve myself, I should give my body the best chance to recover and take advantage of that training. Of course there will be times when I will have more than two drinks. Special occasions like weddings or maybe a trip to Seattle to see the Blue Jays (anybody?). But these hopefully will be few and far between and definitely not any where around a race or important event.
So it’s the beginning of March and I’m writing my New Year’s post. And I look at my blog and see that the last time I posted something was New Years… last year. So my first resolution is to write more blogs!
2017 was a good year for me, I accomplished a lot. I got some new Personal Training clients, all of whom were lovely people to work with. I successfully switched my main sport to Triathlon. And very importantly I finished my math course with 91% (unthinkable to me a few years ago, thanks for the help Nathan). And with this new grade I was accepted into the Bachelor of Athletic Therapy program at Camosun. Technically, I’m on the wait list. 2-3 years they say. So the question is what will I do with those 2-3 years?
Number 1 is to keep working and save as much money as I can to pay for that tuition!
Number 2 is to do everything I did last year, but do it bigger and better. I want more personal training clients, I want faster race times, bigger distances, more BLOG posts and more success. I guess the only thing I don’t want more of is math courses.
Maybe you can help me with some of this. If you’ve been thinking about get a personal trainer, I’m your guy. Let’s work together. Let’s grab a coffee, tell me your goals and we will make a plan!
New Year, New You
As the New Year starts, you’re probably toying with the idea of a resolution. Losing weight, eating healthier, exercising more — these are all excellent options, and I support anyone trying to change their life in a positive way.
But rather than a vague resolution, like “I want to lose weight,” try setting a specific goal and back it up with a plan. Knowing where you want to end up and how you get there makes all the difference.
Here are some tips to help you set a fitness goal and make a plan to achieve it.
So you want to lose weight. How much weight? By what date? How are you going to do it?
If you have benchmarks in place and a plan to back it up, all you have to do is execute.
Start with the big dream. Say you want to lose 15 lbs by the time you go on your vacation to Mexico in April. That gives you roughly enough time to lose one pound per week, which is a healthy amount to lose (no crash diets here).
Execute Your Plan
The best way to lose weight is, you guessed it, a healthy diet and exercise.
How many times per week are you willing to exercise to lose one pound per week? Three to four? Great! Schedule those workouts into your calendar right now. Once they become a habit, you will crave it.
On to eating. What are some foods with “empty calories” you could cut out of your diet? For example, try cutting out sugary drinks, you may not miss them after a week or two.
If you try to change everything at once, you’re bound to fail. Start cutting back and making incremental change, and you’ll see results.
Next, what are you going to add in to your diet? Start with a couple glasses of water in the morning, you’re dehydrated after all that sleeping. Add in vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats (avocado, olive oil) and complex carbohydrates (brown rice, whole grain products)
And really, don’t forget the occasional treat; you’re only human.
Once you have your health and fitness goals set, and your plan is in place, you have the power to accomplish it. If you need help building a plan, setting goals or someone to be accountable to, please get in touch with a fitness professional to help you crush those 2017 goals.
Back to school
Over the past two years I’ve been taking courses, writing tests and studying all with one goal in mind: become a BCRPA certified Personal Trainer. Today, I’m proud to say that I have achieved my goal. And I am proud to say that I am offering my services in Victoria.
As part of maintaining this certification, I must continue to pursue education in the field, with a certain number of credits every year. This is great, because I love learning new and helpful things, and it means that I can offer my clients even more.
Part of becoming a Personal Trainer is to first gain a designation as a Weight Training Instructor. To this end, I’ve decided to further my knowledge of strength training. I’m dedicating myself to learning the Olympic lifts so that I can teach them properly and safely to my clients and offer a higher level of training.
This week, I am taking an NCCP course (National Coaching Certification Program) for Road Running Instructors. This will allow me to offer road running clinics, for example, for the very popular TC10K in Victoria. Watch out in January for a running clinic!
My new long-term goal is to go back to school. In the next couple of years, I will be starting the Bachelor of Athletic and Exercise Therapy program at Camosun College. At the end of this four-year program, I will be an Athletic Therapist as well as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. Currently, this designation is about the highest level of education and training I can aspire to. I want to be able to help people through an entire process, from injury diagnosis and treatment all the way through to getting them back to their previous prowess and beyond. There is one minor hurdle in the way to this goal however: there are admission requirements, and my grade for Math 11 does not meet them.
I barely passed Math 11 the first time (C-); this time around I will kick its butt. In high school, I would have told you that I was just not good at math and that it is not “my thing.” This time I don’t accept that, and I will succeed. I have been taking math courses online in my spare time and so far things are going really well. Many of the tests and assignments I’ve written are in the 90% neighbourhood. Full credit to my brother Nathan, the math genius, who has been helping me a lot.
The truth is, I first looked into going back to school for this program two years ago. But even then my hang-ups about math kept me from doing it. I can’t do it, I told myself. Well, I’m telling myself something different today. I can do it. I will do it. If I had started two years ago, I’d be further along now. But it’s never too late to start. So what else don’t I think I can do? What else am I holding back on? What will I kick myself for in two years for not starting now?
And how about you? What are you going to stand up and do today?
Sink or Swim — My first triathlon
Firsts are always exciting. Like a first blog post. And sometimes scary. In the case of my first triathlon June 2015, it was both.
This had been a dream of mine for a few years. How many I'm not really sure, because for a few years I did nothing about it, other than dream. I remember seeing the brochure at a local rec centre for the Subaru Western Triathlon Series. Races in Victoria, Vancouver, Shawnigan Lake, Banff and Saskatoon. How cool was that? Not just a race, but a series. I think I had only the vaguest idea of what triathlon even was, but I wanted to do it. It would be a first, it would be an accomplishment. Something to be proud of. One minor detail: I couldn't swim.
Oh sure I'd taken lessons as a kid and got my starfish and salamander badges etc. I could get around in the pool and basically keep myself from drowning (for a while, anyway). But that was about it. Forget about putting my face in the water, bilateral breathing or having good "technique." So as I said, all I did was dream for the time being. But I tucked that image of the brochure, and the feeling of excitement that came with it, away in my subconscious for a while.
Until one day I decided to do something about that dream. By this time I had already caught the running bug and I had spent many afternoons riding my bike on the Galloping Goose and Lochside Trails. So what the heck? Why not sign up for some swimming lessons? And for those of you wondering, YES, they have lessons for adults. For me swimming is mostly about conquering fear. There are a lot things to distract you while you're swimming, if you let them. Little thoughts that creep into your mind. Like swimming into things, getting kicked in the head, kicking someone else in the head, wondering what exactly is in this lake because something just brushed against my leg. And behind all these unwanted thoughts is that lurking fear of sucking in a lung full of water and going under. It's very unlikely, but it could happen. The three biggest things I've learned about open water swimming are
1. Get the wetsuit! Totally worth the money. NO way you're going under with that sucker on. It also decreases drag, helps buoyancy, and, if you're like me, helps keep your legs up.
2. Relax. If you're uptight, fighting for each breath, and worrying the whole time, things will only get worse if you're tense. Practice pushing aside those fears.
3. Learn to love it. I'm a runner who does triathlon. Not a swimmer who runs. So though it's my least favourite part of the race, it's a big personal challenge and through all the hours at the pool and lake I'm... starting to like it. (Don't tell the other runners.)
So in 2015 (after recovering from a surgery), I signed up for my first sprint triathlon (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run). Not only did I want to prove that I had recovered from my surgery, but that I could conquer new things and keep pushing my limits. I knew if I could get through the swim I could easily handle the other distances. At the time I signed up for the race I could not swim 750m. But being committed to the race now was a big motivator. All of a sudden I was at the pool three to four times a week and open-water swimming once a week. Challenge yourself. Sign up for something you can't do (yet), or don't think you can do (you can). You will surprise yourself.
In the end, I swam my 750m in just a little over 19 minutes (I never said I was good at it) and finished my first triathlon a few days after my 30th birthday. And now that I've done that? This year I'm aiming for a standard distance triathlon (1500m swim, 40km bike, and 10km run). 2017? Goal = Half Ironman. Fear? What fear?
Stephen Woollard is a personal trainer and triathlete in Victoria, British Columbia.