Category Archives: Swimming

You’re Only Limit is You.

I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot these past few weeks. Sometimes we let the ghost of ourselves limit our future greatness. The images and ideas that we carry round with us talk to us when we push. They whisper in our ear reminding us that we can’t do something, that we’ve tried this and it didn’t work last time. How we dismally failed. That voice can sometimes be so loud we can’t hear anything else. But more often than not it is so quiet we barely register it but it’s there. The quiet whisper is the most dangerous, the most deadly because it speaks to our subconscious before we even realize it’s spoken but it’s just loud enough to make us stop. Maybe it stops you from signing up for that course or race you always wanted to try. Maybe it stops you from joining your friends on an amazing adventure. Maybe it stops you from walking through the gym door. Maybe it stops you from really digging deep during a workout. Maybe it stops you from getting out of bed. Whatever it is, it stops you from reaching your true potential because you’ve stopped before you’ve even realized you wanted to start.

That quiet nay sayer in your head is what holds you back before you even realize you wanted to try in the first place. It’s the one that makes you feel panicked when you are running your best run and about to squash your last record and all of a sudden you feel tired, you can’t breathe … and you stop. That’s the quiet voice whispering in your ear. You feel great coming to class and say today is the day you step up your weight but when you go to grab the weights you grab your standard weight. The whisper spoke. You’re friends or colleagues are talking about a race they are doing and say, “hey, you run don’t you? You should race with us.” Before you even realize it, you say “no, you’re not a runner you could never run a 5k.” But in reality you’ve been running 2x a week. Whisper. Maybe you signed up for a class but never made it. Whisper. You bought new running shoes that sit in your closet. Whisper.  You bought the dvd’s because at home you know you will be successful but you never play them. Whisper.

The quiet whisper talks to all of us. The people who silence the whisper decide the limits in their lives are the ones they set. The ones their current self chooses. They let the self doubts of yesteryear fall on deaf ears. The negative comments old teachers or classmates or coworkers may have said are silenced. They shout from the rooftops that today is the day! So remember you’re only limit is you. Tell every whisper that sneaks in that you are better, you are stronger. That anything it can say to you will not break you. It will not stop you. That today is your day.



I spent 3 years working to be in that moment and I wanted to stop. Everything in me wanted to stop, pushing through I found a new strength I never knew I possessed.

Day 5 and Race Day!!!


I did it! I still can’t believe it. Friday flew by in a whirlwind. We woke up at 6:00am and went straight to transition. Transition was open from 6-7:30am and if you were late you weren’t racing. Of course it was raining. My bike was soaked and there was no point towelling it off. Normally you set up a towel to wipe your feet on and if it’s raining you put your shoes in a plastic bag so they are dry when you run into transition. Because of the number of athletes in transition no towels and no plastic bags; which on the one hand made set up really easy and on the other everything was sopping wet.
I was out of transition by 7ish and heading for breakfast at this lovely little french bakery down the road of our hotel, when we saw several athletes sprinting for the transition area. We don’t know if they made the cut off. Some were only just entering the park at 7:30am. Could you imagine coming all this way, training for over a year and then told you can’t race. I felt so sorry for them as they rushed through the park.

After breakfast we headed back to cheer on the earlier waves and get a feel for the roads. It poured it down with rain the previous night and it was on and off all day. I wanted to see how much speed you could safely take into the corners. Just as I turned to say to Peter how fast and well riders were taking the corners a man from Brazil miscalculated the corner, lost his back wheel and slid on his hip through the corner. His chain slipped and it looked like he hurt his hip. He managed to get back on his bike and carry on. It was one of many crashes that day.

Before I knew it it was time to get my wetsuit on and head to the swim start carrels. For the first time ever, I felt a good excited – like a kid in a candy shop. I made sure to stick to the back of the group so that I was last in line and had the outside start position. My swim coach has drilled into mine and all his athlete’s heads to always start on the outside. You are told to enter the water and hold onto the pontoon, then … Bang! The gun goes and I’m off.

I had the shortest line to the first buoy and I usually swim straight but I underestimated how aggressive the other swimmers would be in the water. It shouldn’t have been a problem if they swam a straight line but I think they were sighting one of the inflatable banners over the run section so they kept heading for shore. Or in other words they kept swimming into me and pushing me towards shore as I kept trying to swim for the first buoy. In the past this would have led to a full panic attack but this time I didn’t break stroke and just kept realigning myself. I had my best swim yet.

Swimming parallel to shore I could see Peter. So I decided to wave.

Swimming parallel to shore I could see Peter. So I decided to wave.

By the time I was out of the water and at the end of the pontoon I had my wetsuit stripped to just below my waste. Another nod to my swim coach who made us do drills stripping our wetsuits while running out of the water. It was a 250m run up to transition and then another 50m or so in transition to get to your bike with another 100 m out followed by 25m to the mount/dismount line. My time shows 4:17 which is unusually long even though it was my fastest transition ever. Very calm and well executed. The extra distances ate up time but it was the same for all the athletes.

The bike was 3 loops of Hyde Park. It’s a technical course with corners and fast sections but it was especially tricky with wet roads and rain. As you left transition to head out to the bike course officials were urging you to be cautious as many athletes had already crashed. During the run you saw many torn and tattered tri-suits from sliding across the road. Even still I had a blast! I loved this course. With each loop I gained more confidence. By the last loop I was taking the corners at full speed. I averaged 32km/h on the course. The results are skewed because the course actually measured over 23k, which we were notified of during the briefing. This makes our times and speed look slow because 20k is used to calculate speed not the 23k of the actual course. I didn’t want to get off the course I was having so much fun. You can see in Peter’s pictures the rain and the water flying off me. I was more soaked from the ride than the swim.

I did the fancy dismount and headed back into transition. Again it was a long run in to even the playing field. I had no idea where I stood in the race but I new I wasn’t last out of the water and that I passed people on the bike. I hit the run course feeling good but by the end the run was a struggle. I gave it everything I had. My first lap was under a 5 min pace and the second was just over. The last lap was a mental battle but I won. I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:31. When you factor in the longer than usual transitions and the longer bike course I had a personal best! I finished 69 out 97 of the best female athletes in the world in my age group.

It was my best race and I had the time of my life. Now that I know what to expect and what I need to do I want to go to Chicago in 2015!


Ps. A friend gave me a Canadian flag and I carried it with me for the entire race. My own good luck charm.

Day 3 in London

Meeting the President of the Triathlon Ontario

Meeting the President of the Triathlon Ontario

Today was the busiest day yet and the official opening to the games. My day started with conquering the water. I joined the team for a swim in the Lido, a sectioned off part of the serpentine. I’ve been putting this off because all the athletes are complaining about the water temperature. It turns out it’s normal lake temperature. Lake Ontario is significantly colder. Now the outside air temperature is a different story. It’s cold when you get out, cold enough that during our race briefing we were informed we can wear long sleeves under our tri-suit or wear our team jacket while on the course.

My swim felt great! The water is exactly the same as home, right down to the murkiness. It’s a perfect working temperature. About 100m in and your wetsuit is nice and warm and you can get to work without overheating. I started feeling so comfortable I started doing timed 100m sets and I was bang on pace and feeling strong – not winded. By the time I climbed out of the water I felt ready to tackle the race and shook off my insecurities. I feel ready to race this Friday and ready to own the swim.

Afterwards, Peter and I went back to grab our bikes. I had a crash course on urban cycling. You get to split lanes in England, not that I did, but you do move faster on bike than foot or car ironically. We also did laps in Hyde Park. I drafted the Netherlands Junior Team for one loop … :o) The coolest part of this whole experience is meeting all the athletes from around the world who all have this passion for triathlon. We added more countries to our collage. I now have Japan, Hong Kong, Grenada, Chile, Hungary and Russia. I met the Russian silver medalists for the Junior Aquathon. She had the biggest smile! You can see her medal in the picture.

Japan Junior Team Coaches

Japan Junior Team Coaches

ChileHong KongHungaryGrenadaRussia

I had race registration today. Fastest and most organized of any race I have ever attended. And I met more athletes while scoping out new gear. Afterwards we headed out for dinner. The restaurants around the hotel are fantastic. We have had Italian, Indian, Spanish and French cuisine. We will be so spoiled by the time we go home.

The day finished off with the race briefing at the Canada House in Trafalgar Square and then Opening Ceremonies. I wish I could tell you about Opening Ceremonies but my foot was killing me and I decided to head back to the hotel to rest it. This mush walking is talking a toll, big time. I’m hoping to do next to nothing tomorrow and rest my foot. I need my massage therapist and bucket of ice – both of which are hard to come by. We don’t have a fridge in the room so there is no where to store ice packs. That will be tomorrows adventure. The only thing I have tomorrow is a team photo and I rack my bike for Friday’s race. There is room for 4000 athletes in the transition area. I have never seen a transition this huge! I have a picture of what it looks like now and I will try to get one with all the bikes in it. It’s crazy how many athletes are here but the Canada jackets stand out the best. ;o)

A Lesson in Humility

i swim hd_w
I raced the inaugural IronGirl race in Grimsby, Ontario this past weekend. It was my first women’s only race and it was much harder than I expected. I hate to say it but I went into the race with a certain amount of arrogance that I am ashamed of and behaved even worse after the race. My husband warned me not to underestimate the women who would be racing and he was right.

Although the race is a great, friendly race for all women to compete in (and I strongly suggest every women try the race at least once) it is also an opportunity for high performing women to compete in a no holds bar race. There are no men to swim through or ride through to get clear space. The race course is theirs for the taking. And it was empowering to see so many strong women at one race. Most of the races I attend through the various race series available in Ontario there are anywhere from 125-200 or so women and usually anywhere from 25-50 women in my age group. At IronGirl there were over 500 women racing and 92 in my age group. The top women in each age group were serious women, all looking forward to owning the course.

My aim had been to podium but that didn’t happen. I still had my best race to date. If you are following my blog posts you know that the swim is my physical and mental achilles heel in the race. I have been painstakingly working on my swim with my coach Mat Reid with the goal of holding onto the feet of the lead pack by the time I get to World’s – which is in 4 1/2 short weeks. Yesterday not only did I hold on but I was 5th out of the water. 5th!!!! Out of 92 women. I remember getting out the water hearing my husband scream: “You are at the top! At the top baby!” I shook off the swim and headed for transition. I took too much time in transition and let two women slip past me.

I hit the bike course and started hunting. My bike leg was consistent but not nearly as fast as the Toronto Triathlon Festival. I averaged 31.6 km/h according to sportstats and here is where my bad behaviour starts. My garmin had me clocked in at 32km/h and although it is only .4km/h difference it somehow makes me feel better. And either way it doesn’t change where I place in the race but I still stomped my feet and had a full-blown temper-tantrum over the difference when really I was mad at myself. I was at the 7.5k mark when the race leaders passed me. It was so exciting to see women as the leaders and they were only 5k ahead of me. I’ve never been that close before!

As I entered the dismount area I jumped off my bike. I even did the fancy one footed dismount. Again I took too long in transition, feeling tired. Every time I had a chance to slow down I wanted to stop. Not throw in the towel but maybe have a nice little nap or rest before I moved onto the next section of the race. I forced my feet into my running shoes and headed out onto the run course. This is where I really started to beat myself up -the run. Ever since I injured my foot in May I have struggled to get my run back.

As I left T2 my cheering squad was waiting for me. I could hear them cheering as I approached and continued to hear them as I hit the road. Later my daughter would tell me I looked tired and she thought yelling extra loud would help. God bless her. I owed her a big thank you and explanation later about Mummy’s poor sportsmanlike behaviour. So yeah, I was tired when I hit the run course but I started to settle into a good pace by the 1.5k mark. I was running a 5:15 pace which is my best pace since injuring my foot. It told me the intervals are paying off and my pace is starting to improve. Then I hit the trail section of the course and I lost my rhythm. I struggled to get my legs to turn over. By the time I exited the wooded trail my pace was right off and I had a km to go. On the run three more women in my age group passed me. One of them in the last 300 meters.

Within 15 minutes or so of finishing the results were being posted. This is when I started behaving badly. I really thought I had done well, which I had, just not as well as I had hoped. When I saw that I finished 9th I started complaining about the discrepancies between my garmin and the results. Very loudly. That I should have placed higher, never acknowledging the women above me and the excellent race they ran. I went into this race thinking I was fantastic and would sweep the field. That I was Team Canada and look out. Well I was served a well needed lesson in humility.

The truth is as I later had to explain to my daughter, I have been training so hard and ran my best best race to date yesterday and it wasn’t good enough. I hated that! I hated that even though I have been training so hard and so consistently I still couldn’t make it to the podium. That I was frustrated but that doesn’t excuse my behaviour. The women who finished above me ran a great race and instead of complaining I should have congratulated them. There are no guarantees in life and even though I worked hard and I ran my best race I didn’t win and I didn’t podium and that’s life. I should be proud of the fact that I came out with the leaders not behind them. I was in contention the entire race. I finished 45th out of 500+ racers. I finished in the top 8%!!! These are all huge successes. All of which I told my daughter. I told her that success isn’t always measured by where you finish or a grade but by your own personal achievement.

For three years I have been diligently working with my swim coach so that one day I could be on the coattails of the leaders in the swim. Yesterday I became one of the leaders. That success is unmeasurable!

Toronto Triathlon Festival – It’s all about the Expo

Crossing the finish line
On July 21st I raced the sprint course at the Toronto Triathlon Festival, also host to the National Championships for Age Groupers, Para-triathletes and the Elite Juniors Under 23 as well as 10 spots were available for next year’s team competing at the 2014 Grand Finale World Championships in Edmonton. It is the biggest race I have ever participated in! Athletes traveled from across the country to compete. I have never seen so many Team Canada race kits at one venue before – which helped ease my nerves as it’s the first time I raced in my team kit. The transition was massive! With the bikes racked, the racks seemed to go on forever.

Transition Zone

TTF is organized a little differently than other races I have attended. There is a mandatory race briefing and it is the day before. Biggest waste of time ever! And every athlete who came out of the briefing was grumbling about it. Unless you have never raced before there was no point in sitting through the briefing. The only key information were changes to the course from the previous year which are highlighted on the on-line course maps and that the ITU drafting rule of 12m on the race course would be enforced which can be shared via email. For athletes travelling from within the Golden Horseshoe or further it meant 2 hours of driving, an extra $20 in parking for a 12 minute pointless meeting followed by a forced walk through of the Expo. So in other words, you were forced to attend (anyone who did not attend would not be permitted to race and would not be refunded their race fee) a pointless meeting to guarantee “x” many athletes walked through the Expo to see all the vendors. You actually had to walk past each and every vendor to get the second part of your race kit. Unlike other races your parking on race day is not included with your race entry. If you choose to race this event next year add $40 to the race fee to cover the parking for the briefing and on race day.

The wave set up is a little different to other races. All the men are grouped first and all the women last. To keep the waves divided by gender the wave 30-44 for both genders were oversized by 40%. Normally it’s not really a big deal and I have swam in much larger waves but in this case the swim course is around the docks at Ontario place. It’s a very narrow, zig zag location so the swimmers in those waves were literally being squeezed together making it difficult to move forward never mind pass. When you factor the panic a lot of swimmers were experiencing from the unusually cold water it was like trying to swim through pea soup. The buoys were difficult to sight once you cleared the west channel with the sun being directly in your line of sight and obscured by boats and the congested swimmers. Most importantly there was nowhere to warm up in the water, which considering the temperature of the water that day would have been a huge benefit. Actually, I should say the women were unable to warm up. There was enough of a gap between the olympic distance and the sprint that the men and the Elite Juniors Under 23 were able to warm up but not the women. The women’s waves didn’t start until half an hour after the first gun for the sprint. So the men were primed and ready. The women, it felt like were an after thought without the clear advantages the men experienced that day. For a national event, championship and team qualifier the discrepancies between gender are unacceptable. When the race organizers were questioned about the discrepancies they could not or would not provide an answer. They need to address these issues moving forward as most women were extremely frustrated. Had this not been chosen as a championship race or qualifier the number of entrants would have been significantly less. Changes need to be made going forward if this race wants to have the success and stamina of other races in Ontario like Gravenhurst and Guelph Lake.

So what did I like? The bike course is amazing! You feel like you are flying. It was 1.5km short based on my Garmin 510 but it was fast and fun. There was more officials on the course ensuring everyone raced a fair, individual race. The transition was well organized and close to the swim exit, giving a more accurate swim result. The transition was easy to navigate except for when the organizers shut down the centre aisle while out on the bike course screwing with your navigation off the bike. The transition and course were lined with country flags stressing the significance of the race. The run course had plenty of drink stations, it was easy to see where you were in the race. The km markers were difficult to see. Maybe making them brighter, larger or more in your direct line of sight? You knew where you were based on the drink stations. The finish line was a party! Every racer received a finishers medal and recovery food/drink was right there when you crossed the line. And for my family, there was a lot to do which my husband was grateful for. At the end of the day when you packed up your transition you had to have your wristband with your race number matched to your bike before you left. It was a nice detail that I think should be instituted at all races.

The police, firefighters, Maple leaf mascots and more were at the Kid Zone

The police, firefighters, Maple leaf mascots and more were at the Kid Zone

This race has the potential to be a great race but they need to make some significant changes going forward.
*The waves need to be more evenly distributed and stay small in order to navigate the harbour.
*Everyone needs to be provided with a satisfactory warm up.
*Ditch the mandatory briefing and the obvious walk through of the expo; if the briefing is necessary then provide free parking and omit the expo walk through. Let athletes make up their own minds if they want to visit the expo.
*Figure out the parking scenario. There should be a discount or parking should be free. The race is fee is higher than most sprint races to begin with and those races include entry into the park and parking for athletes.

If this hadn’t been the national championships I wouldn’t have signed up for the race. And it won’t always host the championships …

Celebrating my finish with my family. My Aunt came down to cheer me on. I could hear the extra voice. Thank you!

Celebrating my finish with my family. My Aunt came down to cheer me on. I could hear the extra voice. Thank you!

Binbrook Triathlon Race Review

Amy cycling

Today has been an exceptional day for me and not because I broke records and killed the course. Quite the opposite. I did have my best race today and I also forgot my timing chip. Total rookie mistake and I made it but it really doesn’t matter. Today was an exceptional day because I finally overcame my anxiety in the water. I have written many times about my struggles with the open water swim in triathlon. I have also been using this site to help work through my triggers and discover coping strategies. It’s been cathartic for me to write about my fears and how to overcome them. It also helped me describe what I am going through to my swim coach, Mat Reid, so that we can work together to not only make me stronger, faster but confident in the water.

And it finally all fell into place today. I was able to get a warm up swim in before the start. I worked through my favourite drills and became acclimatized to the water. It was a brisk 64F or 17C. Definitely a wetsuit swim. After my warm up I stayed in the water and chatted with a few athletes I know from the Y. We didn’t talk about the race or the people. I didn’t even know how many people were on the beach. We were so busy talking about our training and past races that we were all surprised when the gun went off. There was no time to think, never mind be nervous. I just started swimming. Even though I was on the outside of the pack I was still pushed around, kicked in the face and pulled. All of which would usually cause me to panic and give up. But this time I didn’t! I just kept swimming and settled into my stroke. With the water being so cold I wasn’t able to use my usual 3 stroke breath and had to stick to 2 stroke. Before I knew it I was at the first buoy and I felt strong. On the leg back I was able to pick up my speed and swim stronger. I had a clear line to the beach and just zeroed in on the exit sign. I didn’t feel any of the fatigue I usually have climbing out of the water and I even had a smile for my cheering squad (husband and the kids).

I used my coaches trick for getting my wetsuit off quickly and it worked like a charm. My transition was poor. I have to say, if there is an element that needs work it is my transition. I have new shoes – that I love, but I need to take the time and practise slipping them on and off with wet feet.

The bike portion of the race went well and thanks to my Garmin 510 (courtesy of Rock and Road Cycle) I have all my data saved. I averaged 31.5 km/h over the 30k course. It’s a great speed for me and even better when you factor in I have been laid up on crutches for the past 3 weeks letting my foot heal. When I got home I was able to plug my Garmin into the computer and get a better look at my ride. I couldn’t be more pleased! I averaged 30.5 on the first half of the course (15km) and on the second half I averaged 33.4 km/h!!!!! I still can’t believe I pulled that speed off. It also proves my husband right. I’ll never live that one down. It’s all in my head. I have the potential to be so much faster if I would just turn my head off. The numbers prove it. I can do it so I have to do it. Starting this week with my training. All this data helps me focus my training sessions to help improve from these results and to remind me of what I can truly do.

It really is all just a head game isn’t?

Childhood Memories

My mum and I

It’s funny the things that linger from childhood that whether you know it or not shape who you are. Seven has been a significant number for me since I was seven years old. The day after my seventh birthday my mum went to the hospital for surgery to remove the breast cancer that had been silently growing for years. She held off the surgery so that she could celebrate my birthday.

My brother and I visited Mum once while she was in the hospital. I remember being in the hall outside her room and I know I saw her but I don’t remember seeing my mum. What I do remember is a summer with my Granny. Trips to the swimming pool and the local ice cream shop, “Kid’s,” where my Granny would treat us to sinful delights. She made what was a very unusual summer normal. She surrounded my brother and I with love and routine. Everything we needed and I love her even more for it.
My Granny

The thing is I never thought my mum’s cancer had a huge impact on my childhood. When I think of that summer I remember my Granny’s visit not my mum’s sickness. But I realize that isn’t true. Now that my eldest is seven she is always asking: did you do this at 7 mum? did you go here or there at 7? did that happen to you when you were 7? Honestly, I don’t know because I have blended all my memories from when I was 5-8 into one year – seven. So even though I didn’t really understand what was happening at the time or how sick my mum was, I internalized it by connecting all my memories to that one year.

It’s not just my daughter’s questions that have brought back these memories, it’s being sick now for 7 weeks. I’ve already written about having a cold. Turned out it’s an antibiotic resistant chest and sinus infection. Not a big deal; a nuisance – yes. For a my daughter it turns out it’s been a big deal. She was 3 when our lives turned upside down. Granted I was not nearly as sick as my mother was but for a short time in our lives we lived a very scary, uncertain life where I was meeting with neurosurgeons trying to figure out if I needed brain surgery to remove the tumor on my pituitary gland. We had no answers why I was in such crippling pain, why I was struggling with my short-term memory or why I was so tired all the time.

I spent so much time lying in bed or on the couch unable to play, cranky and miserable. I still feel like I failed my daughter and son as a mother during that year; but nonetheless, I didn’t think she would remember any of it. She was 3, what could she remember. It turns out, a lot. She doesn’t remember or know the details. But she remembers me being in bed, being tired and being in pain. She remembers a sense of insecurity and fear. Fear of losing me. I had no idea.

While I’ve been complaining about being tired, headaches, sinus pain and frustrated with being unable to breathe properly she was worrying, watching me, waiting to see if I was going to get really sick. So when I came home and told my husband I was having some breathing tests done at the hospital to figure out why I am still struggling with my breath control while working out she started seriously worrying. She finally asked me while I was tucking her into bed if I was going to die. For me the question came out of no where with no context until she started telling me why. I felt horrible.

We really have no idea how much we affect and impact our kids and this was one big slap in the face for me. Not only to think about what and how I say things around the kids but to also realize how events leave lasting imprints that will forever shape how they interpret their world.

I reassured her that mummy is fine and that she just has a cold. That mummy can breathe, she just wants to improve how she breathes when she is running and swimming. I swore I would always be honest and up front with her and that she doesn’t have to worry about mummy but I know that last one isn’t true. She will always worry about me, the same way I worry about my mum. It’s imprinted in us to worry. I will do my best to not give her a reason to worry. And most of all, sick or not it will never stop me from living my life and achieving my dreams. My illness 4 years ago transformed by life, making me a better, stronger person and hopefully a better mother.

This week we were both in the pool at the same time. I was half way through my swim set when she came in with her camp group and her face lit up when she realized that she would be swimming next to me in the leisure pool. I finished a 300m set, breathing pretty hard to see her little face two feet away. She was smiling and then scowling. She asked if I was resting enough and taking it easy. I smiled at her and reassured her that I was feeling strong and that I was already getting my breath back. I let her coach me for the rest of swim. She watched the clock, cheered me on and kept an eye on me. She would swim along with me as far as she could go and wait for me to swim back, trying to race me back to the wall. We both had a blast!

I learned two lessons this week. Never underestimate the impact I have on my kids, no matter how small. They will remember. Maybe not the exact event, but the emotion, the feeling will stay. Secondly, to show my kids that life isn’t about sitting on the sidelines. No matter how long or short life is, you seize it with all your might. There is no room for what ifs and maybes.

How do I learn to let go?

Anxiety can be a motivating factor or a debilitating one. For me its debilitating. Today I was swimming 200m timed sets with Mat Reid, my swim coach, working on improving my endurance. I’ve been learning how to flip turn and I was supposed to be flipping at the end of each lap but by the end of the second set I was feeling anxious and I was struggling with my swim. We decided to cut out the flip turn and poof, suddenly I’m swimming faster, stronger and more confident. I reduced my time by 20 seconds between my 2nd and 3rd set. I actually continued to get stronger with each set, having by best time in the 5th set.

The panic I was starting to feel with each lap is the same panic I feel during a race in open water. I’ve struggled since that first race when I was 5 months pregnant with youngest swimming in open water. Granted swimming in open water is daunting for most triathletes. There are no little black lines to follow along the bottom of the lake, the water is murky, it can be wavy, there are weeds, it’s freezing and you are swimming with 100-1000 of your closest friends. For most that anxiety gives them that extra adrenaline rush that they need to get through the swim. When the gun goes off I run into the water, dive in and start to swim to only pop my head up around 50-100m in a 750m swim feeling like I can’t breathe, can’t settle my heart rate and can’t calm my thoughts. Notice all the can’ts.

The worst time was during the provincial championships this year. That morning there had been a massive thunderstorm roll through. It delayed the race and compressed the waves. The water was churned up and choppy. Plus we were boxed in by a ferry and a break wall. I was wound before I even got in the water. When the gun sounded I started to swim but I didn’t even make it 25m before I was popping my head up and hyper ventilating. I could hear Peter screaming “YOU ARE FINE!” I’d try to put my head back in the water but two strokes later I was up again saying I could’t breathe which is ironic because I could breathe enough to talk. Somehow I managed to get to the first buoy. The leaders in the second wave had passed me and I was just trying to survive by this point. I was begging with myself to just start swimming. To just put my face in the water. That I can’t give up. I was terrified of disappointing everyone who believed in me, had sacrificed for me and most importantly I was terrified of realizing every insecurity I was secretly trying to ignore. You know, that little voice in the deep recess of your head smirking at you with that I told you so look.

Just when I was going to give in to the smirk a different voice started to filter through. It was the voice of my friend Jen who keeps me company in the pool and during open water swims. She lovingly swims over, under and around me to help with my anxiety. I could hear her to tell me: “breathe every first and third stroke.” I held onto her voice until I dragged myself out of the water. When I got to the bike rack there was only 5 bikes left on the rack and one of them was mine. All the 30-39 women were out of the water and I had a lot of work to do. But instead of throwing in the towel I rode my bike with absolute determination. Every person in front of me was just another target to hunt down. I gained my advantage back on that bike course, and ended up coming in third.

How I did that was by not giving up when I was having a full blown panic attack. But what I realized in the pool today is that although I overcame my anxiety that day, it hasn’t gone away and I need to conquer my fear for good.

Mat and I started talking about how I feel when I do a flip turn. How is it similar to when I’m swimming in open water? Why am I slowing in anticipation of the turn? I know I feel short of breath, like I can’t breathe. I think part of it is that instinctual need to breathe and I believe I’m not skilled enough to do the turn and get enough air in time. In other words, I don’t believe in myself. The other part is the control, perfectionist, all around annoying part of me that needs to get it right. I put pressure on myself to get it right the first time while telling myself I can’t do it. In a race scenario I build myself into a ball of anxiety.

Mat said I need to let go of the emotion. What I heard is: I need to let go of the baggage. But how? And I really need to figure it out because I see the same need to be perfect and in control in my daughter. I watched her break down into tears practicing her spelling words this week. I asked her why she was crying and she said “I just wanted to get it right. All of it!” She broke my heart and I didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t until I was walking away from the pool today that I realized her and I are two peas in a pod for better and worse. I need to learn to let go so that I can be a better role model to my daughter, to teach her how to relax and let go.

Functional Strength

I’m a mum, a wife, a triathlete and a personal trainer at the YMCA. I don’t usually talk about being a personal trainer. I work on a very part time basis at the YMCA, especially during race season. To be honest, I’m extremely lucky to have such a compassionate and enthusiastic employer. The YMCA has completely supported my dream of going to England to compete while balancing my family life. It is an organization that stands behind their mission statement 100% and I find it so rewarding to give back by training people, showing each person their true potential. Plus, I just started teaching a core class on a weekly basis and a bootcamp class when a sub is needed. I love it! I get to put my triathlon spin on these classes. Giving people a chance to rethink their existing workout routines and try something new by doing more body weight activities.

The exercises I love to teach and use in my own strength training programs are full body exercises that use your own body weight as resistance. My absolute favourite is plank because it strengthens your core from the inside out, starting with the transverse muscles and ending with your rectus abdominis (your 6 pack).

Once you can hold plank for 30 seconds at a time you can start adding in any number of variations that target every part of your body.  When you hold plank your body should look like a flat board. To do this you want to relax your shoulders, pull your pelvic floor up by doing a kegel, pull your belly button in towards your spine and engage your glutes (your bum). You should be evenly distributing your weight so as the time ticks by try to push your heels to the ground. It lengthens your body and helps distribute the weight.

Once you have plank down the next version you need to learn is side plank. You start in plank position and rotate yourself to the side. Your feet can either be stacked on top of each other or resting side by side making a straight line. Again, your body is as straight as a board not allowing your hips to dip towards the floor. Your arms will form a straight line, keeping your shoulder blades squeezed together so that you don’t slump forward. This targets your internal and external obliques.

Now you are ready for my video demonstrating a plank to side plank variation. This combo helps build on your rotation in your swim stroke. The more you can cut through the water the faster you will swim. A strong rotation enables you to extend your reach, lengthening your body and improve your ability to slice through the water. This has been my achilles heel for several years but working with a series of plank variations starting with this one I have been able to steadily improve my rotation and pull in my stroke. My focus on functional strength training has been the key to improving my swim times in the pool. Over the next few weeks I will post a new video demonstrating some of my favourite plank variations. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Plank/ Side Plank Variation