Tag Archives: Saskatchewan

Tori Tour De Victoria Finish

Are injuries inevitable?

Here we are again, back on the elliptical trainer. Possible meniscus tear; I’ve been “rehabbing” for weeks now. This is a new injury; I don’t usually have problems with my knees, but there it is.

It started in August. My triathlon season was over prematurely when my stepfather died suddenly and I flew to be with my mother, right before my last scheduled race of the season: the Self-Transcendance.

Not wanting my season to be over, and needing to burn off stress, I ran while I was in Saskatchewan: country roads, small town streets, and the amazing Devonian Pathway system in Regina, my old stomping grounds. I thought I could salvage my race season by signing up for the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon in October.

Devonian Pathway in Wascana park.

Wascana Park near University of Regina

I was 12k into a gorgeous 15k run around Wascana Park when my knee suddenly started to hurt so much I hobbled 3k back to my car. I stayed off running for a couple of weeks, then tried unsuccessfuly to ease back in. I’ve been struggling with it ever since. That’s three months now!

I did an internet search of “Are triathlon injuries inevitable?” and got 13,800,000 hits. Make that running injuries and it’s 8,720,00 hits.

I take it the answer is yes.

For most people, injury is at some point inevitable. We go out too hard too fast, we pile on mileage instead of building up slowly, we ignore warning signs, we don’t cross-train and build up some core strength, we don’t stretch enough. I’m guilty on all counts.

Tori Tour De Victoria Finish

Finishing the Tour de Victoria 100k ride. The only time the sun came out that day.

In the midst of all this I hurt my back too. Anyone familiar with body mechanics could see these two were probably related. I was still trying to get in some running miles with a sore knee, and it was altering the way I ran, and my lower back paid for it. I managed to bike up Hurricane Ridge near Port Angeles, Washington with some friends in late August/early September; a gorgeous day, but I was in agony by the time I made it to the top. I completed the 100K event of the Ryder Hesjedal Tour de Victoria in September, in the pouring rain and wind, relatively pain-free under the care of my physiotherapist.

Since then I’ve been hard at work strengthening around my knee and core, and waiting to heal. However, I tried going hard swimming (because I couldn’t bike or run) and quickly added on mileage in the pool – then I strained my shoulder.

Injuries are only inevitable when you keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

Matt, my physiotherapist, shook his head at me when I reported the shoulder injury. This is what made me really buckle down and start listening to him:

“You masters athletes and weekend warriors,” he said. “You think you can go hard all year round, and this is what happens. You know elite athletes take a few weeks completely off – do *nothing* – after their season ends, don’t you?”

Since then I’ve been a good girl, doing as I’m told, backing off completely. I’ve been granted some sanity-saving bike rides as I recover. I’ve learned some lessons:

Tori jumping on the Kinsol Trestle GIF

Jumping for joy because Life!

Yes, injuries are inevitable, when you try to be a superhero or keep up with the fitter, younger people on your team, or have something to prove. When you really tune in to your own body and only gradually push your limits, reaching only just beyond your grasp at any one time, they don’t have to be inevitable. Training, especially for endurance sports, is a cumulative, long-term enterprise. You can’t cram for it, you have to put in consistent effort.

And with that, I’m off to the pool to do my exercises and swim a modest 800 metres or so. Soon I’ll be back to my old, joyous self.

Photo credits:

Wascana Park by Tori Klassen available for sharing under CC-BY-SA license.

Tour de Victoria and “jumping” gif by Patrick Fisher, used with permission.


A wide-eyed newbie triathlete in the open water

Tonight’s lake swim was an eye-opener. But first, let me catch you up.

I signed up for an Olympic distance triathlon

I started open-water swimming two weeks ago with wet suit on loan from my triathlon club until the one I ordered arrives.

How I arrived at the decision to start seriously training for an Olympic-distance triathlon stems from a Beginner Tri (pool swim) I did several weeks ago, which was such a great experience I’ve stepped up my training. I am generally humbled and tired these days!

I realized 2 things soon after I committed to the Subaru Victoria Triathlon June 16:

  • I needed to get into the open water – as soon and as often as possible.
  • I needed to do way more brick workouts (a bike ride followed by a run).

I started swimming in open water

Open water swimming is a whole different ball of wax than doing laps in the pool. Yeah sure, being able to swim 2,000 metres in under an hour helps — I would say it’s more like a prerequisite for getting into a wet suit and hitting open water.

Tori trying on her wetsuit at Connie's houseThe first time I took my loaner suit and got into the lake I was ready to swim 750 or 1,000 meters – a short, easy 20-25 minutes in the pool normally. Garth, a fellow Russ Hay’s Saturday rider, TriStars team member and Ironman finisher, graciously offered to accompany me to Thetis Lake on a nice spring Victoria evening. We squiggled ourselves into our neoprene casings (there’s really no other way to describe how to put on a wetsuit) and waded into the water.

Garth said the fact that I grew up as a frequent (if not regular) lake-goer would probably help. I’m not that squeamish about aquatic flora and fauna, and I expect the water to be cooler than a pool (I get too warm in pools actually). My grandparents had a cabin at Cochin when I was a little girl. My parents took us to Lake Deifenbaker a few times, and I went to church camps and guiding camps at various places in Saskatchewan over the years. Once, on a memorable trip to the Okanagan to visit family, I tried waterskiing on the lake.

However – actually swimming for some distance in a lake was something I had never done.

That first swim I couldn’t catch my breath. I was disoriented with no lane markers, the unexpected buoyancy (thank goodness for that, I’ve never bee a floater!), murky water and chilly temperatures.

I would take two or three swim strokes and have to stop, gasping and spitting water. I couldn’t understand why I was so freaked out. We managed to get halfway to “the cliffs” – a couple of hundred metres – before I wanted to come back. Garth patiently offered tips and suggestions, and guided me back to shore. I was frustrated with my lack of performance.

Mostly – I felt so small in all that water. I was literally out of my depth! Thetis isn’t even a very big lake, it’s just a little recreational park with this nice swimming hole where there are no motorboats or jetskis.

Swimming is a little like climbing, but different

It reminded me of my second every multipitch climb on Yamnuska mountain, the one and only time I freaked out and got scared because that big ole mountain didn’t really care that I was clinging to it for warmth it could not provide.

Rock climbing is solving immediate external problems: how do I reach that hold, will my foot slip off this, will I need a bigger nut to hold me if I fall, make sure to tie that knot correctly or you’re dead. It’s easy to put aside your fear and concentrate on the task at hand.

Besides that, with climbing, the views are fantastic. Generally you can see where you are and admire the vistas at every point – and the act of climbing gets you out of your head and focused on the task at hand.

Swimming is different though. The sky above, the unknown depths below, the moving shoreline, the volumes of water that you cannot breathe in, the constant course correction because I seem to veer horribly to the left all the time. With swimming, like running, you’re only inside your head as you take each repetitive stroke (or stride). It’s an entirely different mental ballgame. The problem solving is all internal – reaching deep inside yourself for the will to keep moving, to keep up the rhythm, to relax and breathe easy.

My second open water swim – a breakthrough

A few days later, on a Sunday, Garth and I once again set out for a swim, this time at Shawnigan Lake. We arrived just as a regatta was finishing up (good timing as all the boats were out of the lake by then) and once again squiggled into our suits and waded in.

Once again, same freak-out on my part, compounded by the fact there were motorboats and they seemed to be going right through the buoyed-off area you would think was off-limits to boats.

After a few minutes of flailing around out to the buoys and back, I needed to get to shore, so we came back in. I sat, dejected, on shore and said “Maybe I won’t be ready for an Olympic triathlon in 5 weeks after all.”

“You will be, don’t worry,” said Garth. “Do you want to go get something to eat?”

I looked at the water, the buoys, the weeds, the clouds, the boats. I felt the neoprene around my legs and torso, my goggles in my hands, the cap still on my head. I imagined the excitement at the start of the triathlon – the ordered chaos of the transition area, the music, the announcer saying my name as I crossed the finish line.

“No, I think I want to go in again,” I said.

“Ok, out to that buoy, then across to that one, then back in to shore, no stopping this time,” said Garth. “You ready?”

Something just clicked inside me. Yes, I was ready. I got into the water and started swimming as soon as it was up to my knees. With Garth behind me, I went wide around the first buoy and started out for the second, then picked up speed as soon as I rounded that one. On Garth’s advice, I didn’t stop until my hand touched bottom. I rose out of the water, jumping up and down on shore yelling “I did it! I did it!”

It was only about 500 metres all told that day. A few days later at Thetis we swam to “the cliffs” and back – about 900 – without stopping. I’m getting this, I thought. I got this.

Tonight’s swim – a sober reminder

Then tonight – 1,500 metres at Thetis – a whole bunch of Tristars athletes swimming around the island in the middle, sticking fairly close to the outside shoreline.

Open water swim race at Thetis Lake

Swimming at Thetis (no there weren’t that many of us in the water tonight!)

All was fine at first – the sun hitting the water giving yellow and green stripes underwater. It was beautiful. After “the cliff” I kept going into the channel between the shore and the island – into shadows where suddenly I couldn’t see in the water at all and it got a little colder. I had never been this way before and I was well behind the experienced swimmers out front and several dozen metres ahead of Isabelle and Jay behind me (Jay was also swimming 1,500 outdoors for the first time). I noticed a branch sticking out of the water and stayed right – realizing again I’m always pulling to the left if I’m not extremely careful. I was a bit tired.

I waited for Isabelle (an experienced triathlete) and looked to her for guidance. “You just go around the Island through this ‘channel’ here and then it’s straight back to shore,” she said. “There are lots of weeds and some fish here, and you can’t see bottom. Some people get a little freaked but it doesn’t last long.”

So, I took a few deep breaths and tried to swim easy. It was indeed freaky with the abundance of tall weeds reaching almost up to the surface – my tired brain imagined them reaching for me like in a Harry Potter movie. I just swam right through it though, and left Isabelle and Jay behind as I rounded the island and could see the building that houses the changerooms in the distance. I was almost there.

Stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke. Spot. Oh god am I not any closer? And why do I keep going to the left? Change course. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Spot. Gah! Stay right dammit – and why isn’t that shore getting any closer? Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Spot. Ok, it looks like that building’s getting bigger. Stay right will ya? Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. God I’m getting tired. and hungry. Stroke. Stroke. Spot. SHIT! to the left again! What the hell? Stay right. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Spot. OK I’m definitely getting there. Even a few other swimmers still hanging around waiting for us. But WHY AM I STILL BEARING LEFT? YEESH!

When I finally got to shore, I was too dizzy and nauseous to be triumphant. I couldn’t wait to get my wetsuit off and peeled it away from me while still in the water, rinsed it out, grabbed my stuff and went to the changerooms so I could puke up lake water in private. I didn’t end up puking, so I guzzled fresh water and ate a protein bar while changing into dry clothes. I was too tired to socialize and said goodbye to my team mates as soon as I got changed. On the way home the food started kicking in and I was feeling better.

Now I’m realizing – I have to do that same 1,500 metres (it took me 39 minutes) – then get on a bike and ride 45 kms (2 hours) then run for 10 kms (an hour) to complete my triathlon.

Oh cripes.

I can do this.


Photo by MS Society South Vancouver Island used under CC license. 


Searching for peace with the Christmas season

Don’t even talk to me about Christmas decorations, Christmas music and Christmas parties before Novemer 25th. I’ve been feeling blows to the head by the holiday behemoth since before Remembrance Day and I’m already tired of it.

It’s expensive, it’s fraught with expectations, how-tos, obligatory receptions, parties, gift-giving, specialized appetizers, too much booze and fake cheeriness.

Bah humbug.

No really – it is a great big commercial free-for-all, the one time of the year when our self-control (in spending and eating) and discipline (in getting exercise and taking care of our inner selves) is challenged. Big time.

I know some people just love Christmas (er – the holidays…) and I say good for them. I’ll gladly attend at least some of their parties and have a good time. I’m grateful for their hospitality and the fellowship it affords. I’m not averse to connecting with loved ones and having fun.

However, for me this is the most stressful time of year. I take consolation in the fact that I’m not alone (but contrary to popular belief, there is no spike in suicides this time of year).

I’m worried I am expected to return the hospitality and I just don’t work that way. For me, as a single gal prone to depression, the holidays are a minefield I must navigate. As a person who’s got three children, one grandchild, too much debt and one income, it’s difficult and exhausting to live up to the seasonal expectations.

In previous years I had an automatic Christmas fund savings plan set up at work, but then I changed jobs in March. Had I only read this article in July – “just a little bit of forethought right now can save you a ton of time, effort, cost, and heartache this December,” and worked through this holiday tracking sheet. I pride myself on being organized – but unfortunately I wasn’t that prescient this year

It’s not just the expense, it’s the stress of not living up to the big happy family myth. I stopped visiting my parental units at holiday time years ago – why deal with family drama when it’s cheaper and easier to get together at a less stressful time of year?

In fact, there is a picture somewhere in my mother’s possession of a 12-year-old Tori on Christmas morning curled up in my new beanbag chair with a new book, completely oblivious to everything else going on around me.

Truthfully, I’d rather just hole up somewhere by myself, read a book by a fireplace, pump Pinkham’s Christmas Cantata through my iTunes to my heart’s content for a couple of weeks until it all blows over.

So I’m of two minds about going back home to Saskatchewan for the holidays this year. the best part: I get to see my grandson! Besides, the timing seems convenient – it’s the time of year when work slows down, school is out and nearly everyone takes off anyway.

On the other hand – I’m anxious about it. I’ll travel on the busiest airline day of the year, navigate Regina streets in the middle of winter, compete with a large “coodle” of Grandmas and Grandpas surrounding little Oliver that includes two ex-husbands. Yes two – they’re both, along with their Significant Others, very involved in my children’s lives, and then there’s my daughter’s husband’s family. It’s a good thing for my daughter and grandchild and we all get along great. But still – there’s a reason I’m not married to these men anymore, right?

That’s a a lot going on for someone who would rather curl up with a book and enjoy the quiet in the midst of chaos. Maybe I will get that Kindle for Christmas after all … and whatever happened to that beanbag chair?

Sometime between now and Dec 23, I’ll have to reach some kind of detente with Christmas, at least for this year.

“Terrified” Christmas photo by Rumpleteaser; “Christmas Story” leg lamp photo by Kevin Dooley, both licensed under Creative Commons.