Tag Archives: triathlon

How being a multisport athlete means you never have to say you can’t work out

You know how I came to be a triathlete? I was a runner who had to start cycling and swimming because of injuries; it was a natural progression. These days, yet again, I am very glad I’m a multi-sport athlete.

A week and a half ago I was hiking Mount Finlayson with a friend. It was a foggy, wet day (although not raining). The trail was slippery in places, but otherwise OK. I had vibram-soled day hikers on; the same ones that have taken me up this hike, and others, many times.

We stopped at the top for some water and a photo, and started to make our way down. Not far from the summit, I stepped down. My foot twisted in, my leg twisted out, and in a heartbeat I was down on the ground writhing in pain.

My friend helped me hobble slowly down the mountain; but I fell two or three more times; my knee just gave way. At one point it made an audible, sickening crack sound, which was not (thank goodness) accompanied by pain. My doctor says it was probably my knee cap sub-luxating (or something like that). My physiotherapist says I kept falling because after that initial trauma my muscles were tensed up and not working properly.

The next day I hobbled to a walk-in clinic with my now-swollen knee and got an order for X-rays, tensor bandage, crutches, and ibuprofen.

It became apparent to me that my training plans are now put on hold. I spent last week trying to hold off a funky black cloud of misery, weight gain, longing for my bike, and longing to be out running trails, and being unable to even do household chores properly (pro tip gleaned from Twitter: hook a bag onto a crutch to carry things in. Pack food up like a picnic for taking it to the dining room to eat).

My friends were fantastic. Crystal came over to clean my place. Another friend took me out for dinner. I had offers of meals and help that I was so grateful for .. And my friend Yukari sent me a sweet note. All very welcomed and which brightened my spirits immeasurably. I drove up to the Cobble Hill 10k race to help out and cheer from my crutches on the sidelines. It was a gorgeous day and I was inspired to not lose hope.

First good news came a few days later when I saw my own doc. “Have I lost my triathlon season?” I asked her.

“No, no, not yet. I think you should heal. No broken bones, no ACL tear, possible meniscus tear, but we’ll know more after a month of physiotherapy.” So, I made an appointment with my sometime torturer – er – physiotherapist – Matt.

More good news after that first physio visit. Matt thinks it’s not torn, that it was a painful sprain/stretched ligament, and it’s on its way to recovery as long as I do a few things right. I can start spinning on the bike indoors for 10-15 minutes at NO tension. I can swim with light kicking (no paddle board, kick drills or frog kick). I have gentle stretching and strengthening exercises to do for the next 4 weeks.

The other interesting thing Matt said was to hold on to my crutches: either walk correctly (meaning slowly) or use them – but AVOID LIMPING at all costs. If I walk with a limp I’ll be teaching my body bad habits that I’ll just have to un-teach once things progress.

So – there it is. Hope reigns. Things are looking up. I might not get the times I hoped for, but it looks like I will be able to do all the events I signed up for on 2014:

  • April 27: TC 10K
  • May 25: Subaru Shawnigan Lake Triathlon (Sprint)
  • June 15: Subaru Victoria Triathlon (As the swim leg of TriStars Scrambled Legs Relay team-Olympic)
  • June 29: Tri of Compassion (Sprint)
  • July 13: Cowichan Challenge Triathlon (“Challenge” distance)
  • August 4: Self Transcendence Triathlon (Olympic)
  • Later in August: Maybe Tour de Victoria 140K, but entry fee $$$ is spendy!
  • October (if all goes well) – Victoria Half Marathon

UPDATE May 25: I have edited this post to take out the name and photograph of the person with whom I was hiking, because reasons.

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.


Race reports and pondering being slow

Tri of Compassion June 30

  • Swim 500 metres – 11:41
  • Bike 19 km – 47:09
  • Run – 29:35
  • Total time: 1:28:25
On the bike course at the Tri of Compassion

On the bike course at the Tri of Compassion

The only thing that got me out of bed and to this triathlon was the idea of all the wonderful people who donated $1,700 to the Victoria Women’s Sexual Assault Centre on my behalf. I was tired and looking for a day with nothing to do. In the week before this race I had moved, and the week before that I had finished my first ever Olympic distance triathlon. Still, I showed up with my bike, sleep-deprived and somewhat discombobulted, realizing this was the first race I signed up for months ago when I decided on a triathlon comeback.

It was a gorgeous day at the Esquimalt Recreation Centre. I checked the heat I was in for the pool swim: heat 2 lane 2. Had I really put down 15 minutes as my estimated swim time? I must have signed up before I timed myself, because I’m faster than that. That means, in a pool swim, getting stuck behind slower swimmers. It didn’t matter in the end as there were only three people to a lane, and another swimmer had also overestimated his swim time. It was a blessing in fact, because I avoided running in the heat of the day.

The bike course was three loops around Esquimalt (my new neighbourhood, incidentally) that took us near the naval base and along the main road. There was one crucial intersection without any traffic control where, on my first loop, I encountered a truck that was unaware there was a race going on. Luckily it wasn’t even a near-miss. Still, I was cautious over my next two loops of the course. I felt tired. there were no hills to speak of, but I felt every rise. Oh well, I just enjoyed the gorgeous sunshine.

As usual, I thought I was incredibly slow getting off the bike for the run, but my pace tells me otherwise. I didn’t even bother wearing a watch, so I was surprised to have a sub-30 minute 5k run. I was surprised to finish that race in under an hour and a half!

All in all, a great day. And thank you so much to all my donors – I came in fourth in fundraising! I felt great about that.


Cowichan Challenge Triathlon July 14

Two weeks after the Tri of Compassion I woke up at 4:45 am, picked up team mate Crystal, and drove to North Cowichan for the Cowichan Challenge Tri. There is a sprint distance, and a “Main Event” distance which is somewhat less than an Olympic distance. Here are my results:Me and Crystal at Cowichan Tri

  • Swim 1000 m – 26:36
  • T1 – 3:24 (I forgot to take my timing chip off before trying to get my wet suit off. Dammit!)
  • Bike 34 km – 1:14:12 (Avg speed 27.5 km/h W00T!)
  • T2 – 1:53
  • Run 9 km – 1:01:58 (Pace 6:54 min/km)
  • Total time – 2:48:01
  • Age group place – 9/10

It was tough to get motivated to get to the start line of this race. If Crystal hadn’t called to ask me to car pool I may have just stayed home. I am feeling tired and unmotivated to work out, and the only reason I drag myself out to workouts these days is because I’m part of a team.

At T1 thinking "This is the worst transition EVER" because my timing chip got stuck in my wetsuit.

At T1 thinking “This is the worst transition EVER” because my timing chip got stuck in my wetsuit.

Nevertheless, once I was on the course, I enjoyed being out there. Fuller Lake was like glass, a pretty little lake with clear water on a warm, sunny day. The bike course has fantastic waterfront views and some rolling hills (erm – more than I expected..). The run is on a forest trail just challenging enough for someone who’s already been racing for nearly two hours.

Not only that, but seeing my teammates place on their age groups (Crystal was first!) is really inspiring. Being on the TriStars team and part of the community means triathlon is about more than racing, it’s about have a sense of belonging and purpose.

This was my fifth race this year. With that, and moving, and other personal stressors, it’s not surprising I’m feeling a little burned out.

On my second run loop (loop courses are cruel, by the way. Just cruel.) I promised myself I would feel more rested and ready for my next race in three weeks, the Self-Transcendance Olympic distance. I also promised myself a new bike jersey if I finished the course, and new bike shoes once I complete the next race.

The other thing that’s discouraging to me is my back-of-the-pack finishes. In the triathlon world, I’m incredibly slow, and yet I myself have a competitive streak. I fear my aspirations do not match my talent. When I was running, I was able to climb to mid-pack status because of focused training and “reverse attrition:” so many people started running over the years, that finishing times got a lot slower while I got a little faster. Not as many people do triathlons, and many people stick to sprint distance (the equivalent of a 10k race).

My team! (some of them anyway)

My team! (some of them anyway)

Maybe I will never be a triathlon mid-packer. Maybe I will always come in slow, or maybe I will get faster with focused training. Maybe I will let go of my competitiveness and just enjoy the training, the comraderie, the sunny race days cheering on my team.