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Enduro-Cross is a different Kettle of Fish

I decided that I’d better go ahead and sign up for the first enduro-version of cyclocross in the province even though it really didn’t fit with plans for ‘resting and not doing anything stupid’ the week before flying to France to go ride bikes. The race was not a rest, and depending on how you look at it, it was pretty stupid. Luckily it was also very fun. If it had been raining, it would have been very stupid and very-much-more fun. If you want to support the growth of a sport you want you’d better attend the race when it happens even if it’s a bit inconvenient. That’s the same question I’ve been asking myself with the arrival of the Challenge Family in Penticton. If you want to support it then you should show up right?

Photo from gallery: Racing 2012

I had been out to Blackfoot to pre-ride the ‘Kettle-Cross’ course twice before race-day, one time having done some ‘race pace’ efforts with Robin interspersed with some really mellow sections. The next time out I rode largely steady with Terra and Aaron.F and was feeling quite familiar with the demands that the race would throw at us. There were demands, but they were not overwhelming. It would be a test to see who could stay focused and motivated all day in-spite of an expected level of moderate discomfort in wrists and lower back. Riding with a group would prove to be a huge advantage in terms of not wasting time, and it would be challenging for me to be in an easy-enough gear for much of the race. I have bad habits with cyclocross, and instinctively I try to turn the cranks too hard. I expected that I could be in contention for racing with a lead-pack if the race played out that way. I had no intentions of setting pace until the turnaround halfway through the second lap, if I could be with a few competitors at that point I would make a move on the fastest and smoothest part of the course and go for the finishline from about 30 minutes out.

My race started out pretty much as I expected. A lead pack formed with 7 people. I was there. There were interruptions caused by crashing but I evaded them and had made the lead bunch, a feat I was quite proud of as all the rest of the dudes in that group race elite (and I do not!). We hit the fenceline, a relatively open section of the course, and I was working hard but I was still in contact and was confident that I could remain in contact. The grass had been freshly cut here, and by freshly I mean “it smells like freshly cut grass”. The freshly cut grass amassed in my rear brakes and started to drag. I tried to flick it out but it wasn’t coming out. At this point I had to either get off my bike and lose contact with the lead group or keep pedalling and hope that the clump of grass would come dislodged. It didn’t and eventually my heart-rate had reached 192 bpm, with me trying to keep up while riding with the brakes on. Essentially that was the end of my racing. I had to get off the bike to clear it out, but even after I was remounted and rolling again I was suffering from a visit deep into the red-zone.

I rode with a couple chase packs for a while but a few minutes of absolute maximum effort had messed up my back and my blood sugar. Retrospectively, I should have dislodged the brakes earlier, or been sponsored by Norco and riding a disc-equipped Threshold, or been luckier. I would have chosen either of the last two options if they were presented. I had sorted myself out a little bit by the time I was on the Lost-Lake-Trail headed towards the end of the first lap, but at that point I crashed and crashed hard. I was railing a corner and came across another cyclist stopped on the trail, totally surprised to see him I instinctively grabbed the brakes and hit the ground. Luckily, the ground was mostly mud and quite soft to land in, unluckily, the mud also contained a big root which got me right in the ribs. It took a bit to get going again but having no other option but to ride my bike out of the woods, I didn’t have a lot of choice about what to do. I was on-track for 3 hours at the turn-around but took a break to stretch my back and get a water bottle before venturing out for another lap at the advice of Corey “let’s just get some training in”. I was about 10 minutes out of contention at this point and took it easy through the next bumpy section, chatting with a few friends and generally trying to give my body a bit of a break from the abuse I had already dealt it while still making forward progress. As I neared the end of what Strava terms the ‘Hilly Section’ I decided I had better still make a race out of it.

I started lifting the effort at around this point and made my dash for the finish from around the 40 minutes to go mark. I didn’t ‘max effort’ the return trip because I had reminded myself not to do anything else stupid, but did put down a consistent solid effort on return. It would have been about this spot that I would have decided to go if I had been ‘racing’ so I guess it was good practice for next year. Now you all know my strategy so I should be easy to beat. I’ll do a lot of things the same next year, both a camelback and bottle for fluids and gummies loose in a pocket for food. Hopefully I don’t crash into a mud puddle as that leads to a significant degradation in the flavour of said gummies.

Saturday I fly out for the French adventure. Total ride distance is 1953 km with 43060 m of elevation gain. The equivalent of riding from Edmonton to Moab Utah with 153 repeats up and down the switchbacks at Mount Norquay.

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Cyclocross Season

Well, things are a bit different these days with the working life and all. Less time to while away with detailed race reports from the weekend’s exploits every Monday at lunch. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been racing, I definitely have been. I did five forest orienteering events this September after getting into it in the river valley parks over the course of the summer on Wednesday evenings. I also participated in the whole Frank McNamara Wednesday Night Cross Country series of races again this fall amongst some other running races. I’ll recap the fall running season once it’s finally over in another two weeks. On top of that was a pretty enjoyable cyclocross season, the highlight being the amazing weather we had for all of it. It took a while to get the body moving again following Ironman at the end of August but I slowly came around and was able to put together a few good races, and a few good parts of a few more. The cyclocross season really lacked specificity in training, I didn’t work on technical skills at all, I kept up an acceptable level of basic mileage on the bike by commuting to and from work, and going for some very enjoyable century rides out amongst the fall colours. I did some intervals on the stationary bike while coaching but didn’t really do anything I could call ‘training for cross’ beyond maybe 3 or 4 rides in addition to the races in the past couple months.

  • The season debuted at The School of Cross and I got destroyed. More accurately I destroyed myself. Off the start line I pulled the wheel out of my dropouts by putting down too many watts [not kidding, it happened!] and got dropped on the race to the first corner. After readjusting my wheel I caught the tail end of the peloton by the time they left the road at which point everything was single-file and there was already a breakaway forming. My prospects of having a “good race” were bleak. I worked my way up a bit, passed most of the guys who are old enough to be my Dad. Then the crashing began and I started to get passed by most of the guys who are old enough to be my Dad. It is definitely my responsibility to show up for the race with race appropriate equipment. It turns out that a bald 34cc that I’ve been commuting on for two years is not race appropriate equipment for very dry and dusty grass. It was like my tires were lubricated. A few crashes got inside my head and I got pretty hesitant… and pretty slow. Good thing the lap was long, I didn’t get lapped out, but did need to get Keegan to hand-up a bottle of gatorade of which I drank every last drop… with only a half lap to go. I was in a world of hurt at the finish and it took three cans of coke and laying in the shade for 30 minutes to feel a bit better. The season was only going to get better from here!
  • Photo from gallery: Cyclocross 2011
  • Cyclocross continued the very next weekend in Calgary with the Dark Knight event. I had purchased appropriate tyres and tightened my quick release, nothing could go wrong. The race started with a long paved climb and because of the size of the field (60 guys) I really wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to get caught up behind everyone and have to expend a ton of effort passing people on this tight and technical course with limited visibility. Did I mention that the sun had set an hour before my start time? I was third or fourth up the climb and immediately following the lung-busting effort the course turned onto a section of the downhill MTB track at Paskapoo. I managed to show that I’m better suited to skinny tires and straight lines by dropping my chain, getting it stuck in my spokes and crashing off the side of the third downhill corner at my first sight of “technical difficulty” encountered in 2011. By the time I got my shit together I was in last place. Being familiar with this situation I was determined not to blow myself up like I had by going as hard as I could and causing subsequent crashes due to reckless cornering. I caught back on to the tail end of the pack pretty quickly and slowly made my way forward through the group. The crowds were riotous in their support (well, the music was loud and a few people knew my name, so I got myself pretty motivated somehow). I spent basically the entire race catching and passing people, I also had some rather conservative pacing imposed on me by the fact that I got stuck in slow traffic a lot for the first few laps. In the end I was basically the last person on the course to not get lapped out. About half of the field got lapped out, so despite rolling across the finish line in nearly last place I actually did pretty well for myself considering the situation with a mid-pack finish, limiting my crashing to only one instance.
  • Photo from gallery: Cyclocross 2011
  • The morning after Dark Knight we headed back to Paskapoo for the Cross for Kids race. I was determined to get off to a good fast start for once, this time I really overdid it and after going off for a good fast start I made the mistake of staying at too-quick a pace for a couple laps before settling in to a reasonable and sustainable effort. The course was tricky but I had a fair amount of time to pre-ride and there was actually a lot of the course that I was able to ride relatively smoothly if I had my wits about me. After my fast start and subsequent detonation I was passed by a fair number of guys who all deserved to pass me, there was no question in my mind that they were faster, but after maybe 3 short laps of moving backwards through the field I found myself amongst the guys who I should have been racing from the beginning. Then the race became really really fun, three or four of us were in close contention and places swapped regularly and each person pushed the pace where they felt they had an advantage to do so. I don’t know if it was residual fatigue from this being the third race of the weekend for me or perhaps I just didn’t bring my suitcase of courage, but I couldn’t hammer the uphills as hard as the guys who I was racing with. Instead of trying to do what I was finding very difficult I decided I would be wiser to attack on the long downhill and try to gain a gap there instead. I put in my big attack and was starting to put time into them with only one and a half laps to go when I clipped my handlebars on a stake when trying to go too fast around a tight corner and lauched myself off my bike. After calling for help and getting someone to extract me from the wreckage I decided I didn’t really have a good reason to quit, and I climbed back aboard my bike and rode it in for the last half of the lap. The crash took enough time to get me lapped out by the leaders so I finished an inglorious +1.
  • Photo from gallery: Cyclocross 2011
  • Thanksgiving weekend served up some spectacular weather and I took advantage of the sunshine with 170kms on Sunday at a pretty good pace with some great company. Sunday was to be Red Cross, the next cross race, and I did a bunch of things right, I got in a decent pre-ride. I actually got nice and warmed up before my race instead of warming up way too early and then getting cold and damp before starting (the weather is the main contributor to that good decision making). I also pounded a can of coke immediately before the start to ensure I had some good blood sugar on my side, it wasn’t guaranteed with the long ride the day before. I missed my clip-in on the first try off the start and got stuck mid-pack for the first lap of the race. By the time that I had freed myself from the clutches of the traffic jam there was already a breakaway off the front of the race of about 5 guys and the pack was splintering all the way through the field. I slowly worked my way up from my position from one person to the next, I typically paused briefly behind each person I caught long enough to feel like I had got my effort under control before attacking and trying to close down the next gap. It probably could have been paced a bit more evenly, but as people started to fatigue, my lack of max-efforts in the first 15 minutes gave me a huge advantage over the rest of the guys who I was riding amongst. I eventually broke away with a lap and a half remaining from Jan Plavec and the guy who rides for Slime. I dropped the hammer and went for a max effort to try and get across the gap to Tanner Broadbent from ERTC. It was going to take a heroic effort, but for the first time in the season I felt like I might have a heroic effort in me. That last lap had me sprinting out of every corner and rolling huge gears on the flats, I probably closed a full 15 seconds on Tanner in the last 5 minutes and caught him just as we crested the final hill with a long drag race to the finish. He immediately attacked hoping to prevent me from getting any draft on the run in to the finish. It sort-of worked, I couldn’t close the gap enough to really get “into” the draft but he didn’t put time on me. Into the last corner I caught his wheel as we hit the brakes and I picked my sprinting gear exactly right. I turned myself absolutely inside out in the final 80m to the line and with a pretty fantastic bike throw, took him at the line by less than a half a wheel. It felt like I won the world championship. In fact I was sixth in the expert category, but I didn’t really care, it was a big victory for me.
  • Buoyed by my success I headed to Red-Deer the following weekend for Riverbend Cross and hoped that with a bit better start I could maybe get a race with good execution start to finish. I lined up aggressively and tried my best to stick with the guys who I had finished amongst the previous weekend in Edmonton for the first few laps. It was too tall an order. After about 3 laps I was hurting, not breathing well, and feeling dead in the legs. It was a pretty flat course with a fair number of long straight sections. Everyone before the race was commenting on how this was a course that suited me well, it wasn’t. At the beginning and the end of all of the long straight sections was a corner, and 95% of the corners on this course were well more than 90o bends. I didn’t have the cornering prowess to take them at the same speeds as the guys around me, and so I had to accelerate harder out of the corners than them, and lug all 200+ pound of me along. Me and this course were not match-made for eachother despite what people had said. I still thought though, that I should be able to hang with those guys, and so put myself over the edge early in the race trying to do so. By lap 4 I had done too much damage and in a moment of poor judgement caused by blurring vision and the taste of blood in my mouth I drove off the course into the woods. Unfortunately the crashing had only just begun and two laps later I crashed off the side of a hill when I missed a mount and fell smack-dab in the middle of a lane of oncoming traffic. No-one hit me, but the same can’t be said for my bike. Standing up, I didn’t have a ton of reasons to quit so got on the bike and kept riding. The subsequent crashes weren’t so bad, just minor bike handling errors leading to me tipping over, you know, the usual. I wasn’t quite last place once it was all over with, there was still the really old dude behind me.
  • Photo from gallery: Cyclocross 2011
  • The next weekend was provincial championships at Lions Den Cross in Devon. This is a fun course and it’s one I have some pretty good memories from. There are some fun bits and pieces and the climbing and descending is limited to once per lap. Being under 30 meant I had to race at the elite level to contest provincials which meant racing against all of the really really fast guys. It was a challenge I was ready for, I did my best to pre-ride well and get warmed up well. I also decided that my strategy was going to be to go hard off the start and get in a good position and then try to settle into my best pace possible right away instead of trying to stick with anyone. There was no guarantee there would be anyone to stick with anyways, and if I wanted a real time instead of just getting lapped out, I needed to pace myself to a max effort for an hour instead of an explosion and dawdling in for the second half. I lined up next to Peter Knight who had declared he was going for the hole shot, and I got myself to corner #2 on his wheel, ahead of everyone else, including many-time-defending provincial champ Aaron Schooler. I got heckled a bit by him, telling me not to crash him out, but I just joked back that I had a hard time hearing him because I was so far ahead. Within 400m I had backed off the pace of the leaders and was settling in to my own effort. It wasn’t very hard to let the fast guys get away for that first lap and a bit, I was up amongst guys I cheer for all season long, I wasn’t going to finish anywhere near them and I knew it. It was a good strategy I think and I settled in for a good solid effort. I was really having a great race despite the fact that I was battling to stay off the podium of last-place-ers. As the race came to a close I got some good cheers when I rolled up to a barrier pretending I was going to bunny-hop it and then a big round of Boooooo!!! when I hopped off and dismounted instead. The next time around I decided that I’d better not let my fans down and attempted the bunnyhop. I had attempted this three times during warmup. Twice were barely on the side of “success” and one was an absolute catastrophic failure. My fatigued brain figured that my chances were alright, it was too fatigued to take into account that it should be calculating my chances of bunnyhopping while fatigued. Well, I hit the deck hard, the bike went flying and I lost some more skin. My fans loved it. The end of the race was pretty good, I nearly closed the gap on a young Juventus guy, it turned out he had a lot in the tank to sprint with despite his fade on the final couple lap. In the end I stayed well ahead of Aaron who defended his title as provincial champ and so I would definitely chalk this race up as a success as well. Good way to finish off the season for sure!

I learned a few things this season at ‘cross:

  1. If you want technical prowess, you have to earn it with practice.
  2. Whatever I might think I’m doing to get better and bike handling doesn’t count as practice.
  3. Cyclocross is very hard to do when you’ve got some ego, or even an idea of who you’d like to try and beat.
  4. I had better never buy carbon wheels for cyclocross, they probably won’t last one warmup lap.
  5. It is way easier to blow yourself up cyclocross racing when you have been working on 5min power, than when you have been working on aerobic endurance
  6. Despite being easier to blow yourself up doing shorter harder efforts in training, it does make you faster.
  7. It’s very important to downshift into corners, or I destroy my back.
  8. I should probably buy some new shoes, mine are 6 years old and the velcro comes undone at very inopportune times.
  9. If I don’t get any better at cross I don’t think it will diminish the fun.
  10. I’m really happy I don’t have to race as an ‘elite’ all season.
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Four months of AWESOME!

The racing schedules for this summer have just been posted and it looks like everything stacks up almost perfectly for me!

When I say perfectly I mean that there is very little conflict of interest in where I intend to direct my attention each weekend for basically every weekend of the summer. It’s simple, choose what you love doing and then love doing it. I’m not signed up for everything listed here, or at least not yet!

  • May 1 – Vancouver Marathon
  • May 8 – Spring Thaw (Sprint) Triathlon
  • May 14-15 – Velocity Stage Race
  • May 21-22 – Bikes on Broadway Stage Race
  • May 28 – Crewing for Aaron at Blackfoot 100km
  • May 29 – Pigeon Lake Road Race
  • June 5 – Oliver (Half Ironman) Triathlon
  • June 11 – Half Moon Lake – Mission3 (SuperSprint) Triathlon
  • June 18-19 -Banff Bike Fest Stage Race
    • or June 18 – Chinook (Olympic or Half Ironman) Triathlon
  • June 25-26 – Devon Stage Race
  • July 1 – Canada Day Crit
  • July 10 – Edmonton ITU (Olympic) Triathlon
    • I think this will have slots for Worlds but they are in New Zealand in October 2012 so taking a slot is a rather outrageous proposition.
  • July 16-17 – Perhaps run the Skyline Trail with Aaron?
  • July 23-24 – Perhaps a backpacking weekend in Wilmore Wilderness?
    • Sylvan Lake (Half Ironman) Triathlon is on the 24th and is likely the spot that I’d need to race to qualify for the ITU Long Distance World Championships that are going to be held in Spain in 2012. Doing this is an attractive alternative to chasing a Kona slot in 2012 as this is a true world championship, not a corporate world championship.
  • July 29-30 – Tour de Bowness Stage Race
  • August 6-7 – Jason Lapierre Stage Race
  • August 14 – Bicisport Road Race
    • or August 14 – XTerra Canmore (Offroad) Triathlon – rumour is that this will have slots for Maui in 2012, so racing on the course the year before is an advantage if I want to try and qualify for worlds in 2012.
  • August 20 – Headwinds Provincial Road Race
  • August 27 – Recovery Weekend
  • September 1 – It’s September – time to start riding the ‘cross bike!

Two or three weekends out of the whole four months with conflicting interests is a pretty slim number. I’m happy to have a couple weeks in July without much potential distraction which I can either use for relaxation if I’m running on fumes or use for hard training to prep myself up for the upcoming stage racing. I’m really hoping to be able to bring my A-game to the criteriums in Calgary, the infamous Tour de Bowness “Bownesian Pavement” Crit and the soon to become infamous Jason Lapierre “Speedfest” crit that was run downtown last year, rumour is that it will be downtown again in 2011. That means big base in May and June and serious sharpening efforts in June and July. Lots of bike riding!

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Diary of a self-coached athlete

The past couple weeks of training have been relatively successful. Successful in the sense that I am once again able to be completing workouts. Success has not been marked by extraordinary speed or fitness. That is most-certainly not there, Taking 5 weeks off of everything due to my trouble with the Achilles has been a bit of a rough go of things. Finding routine again though has been good and I’ve had a lot of joy in just getting back into the roll of things.

As I’m not pursuing Ironman in the imminent future, discussion with my coach has resulted in a situation where I’m the one planning all of my own workouts. Steven Lord will still be on-board for occasional discussions and feedback when I solicit it but for 2011 the thinking and planning is once again all mine. I’ll be posting a blog entry similar to this one (without this preamble in future) as an update of my progress in the previous 4 weeks and charting the plan for the next four weeks.

I’ll start with two weekly summaries of the previous two weeks. The focus has been on recovery and getting back into training safely and gradually. It meant that during the first week I only logged 10kms of running over 3 different runs. The second week I logged almost 33kms over the course of 6 running sessions. This was meant to be slightly higher as I had opted to allow myself to try and run up to 70 minutes duration on Saturday on my first run outside. I opted to be prudent and trimmed this run short as I could feel that my legs were getting quite fatigued and I logged only 9.5kms in 52 minutes.


2010-11-15 to 2010-11-21

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 90 km 3:00:00 30 30 30 kph
Hike 3 km 0:30:00 6 6 6 kph
Run 10.14 km 0:54:00 5:20 5:20 5:20 min per km
Swim 1500 m 0:40:00 2:40 2:40 2:40 min per 100 meters
Weights 0 mi 0:30:00 na na na no pace units
Yoga 0 mi 0:40:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 6 hrs 14min

2010-11-22 to 2010-11-28

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 90 km 3:00:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 32.75 km 2:55:00 6:15 5:21 4:45 min per km
Swim 3500 m 1:26:33 3:00 2:28 1:39 min per 100 meters
Weights 0 mi 1:05:00 na na na no pace units
Yoga 0 mi 0:40:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 9 hrs 6min

During this period of time I’ve also done a few things worth noting here on the blog. I signed up to ski the 55km Birkebeiner with a 5.5kg pack like I did back in 2009. This was a very difficult challenge that last time I did it but overall it was a good time. You can read all about that adventure in the world of suffering [here]. To be completely honest, right now I’m in pretty poor shape skiing-wise, certainly no better than the last time I did it. So I’ll be putting in a bit more of a concerted effort in that regard as the race approaches to ensure that I’m not going to be knocking myself out by doing this, I still don’t think it will be easy (nor should it be easy, that’s the point. Borrowing from the theme of a recent post I’ll refer you to Rule #10). I’ve got some company along for the ride on this endeavor as at least Jan and Dave have also signed up for the ultra-long version and I’m sure Stefan, Emily and many others will be joining us for the faster versions of the race in mid-February.

I’m hoping to use XC skiing as a way to improve my aerobic fitness with relatively low impact demands, because doing that on the bike requires too much wall-staring while sitting on a turbo. The fitness has been dropped significantly during my time away with zero physical activity. This was no surprise, but because I want to be careful how I rebuild I’m going to use this form of low impact cross training to beef it up before I expect to be running 50 miles per week. This isn’t an abnormal strategy for me. The following picture is an interesting plot of how the three sports of swim/bike/run (green/blue/red) respectively have helped to total up to 100% of my fitness (y-axis) over the past few years (x-axis). It’s obvious from this chart that each winter there’s a significant amount of cross training that occurs to keep me from going crazy, and then as the cross-training fitness fades away the specificity of the other fitnesses for triathlon rises. The black vertical bar indicates the present time. Remember here that this has erased the information of my overall fitness by normalizing to 100%. You can see that I’ll be developing about 1/3 of my fitness outside of the sports of triathlon before really pouring focus into the run in a way that I never have before (red band gets THICK!). For interest sake I slapped in a bunch of big but totally achievable bike weeks following the marathon to show what would happen if I really focus on the bike during May, by early June I’m likely able to be a pretty focused cyclist again, but it will take almost a month to do it. Patience, patience, patience.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

I’ve also elected to use a Pfitzinger style training plan for my running in the lead-up to the marathon on May 1 (I’ve elected to race the BMO Vancouver Marathon) and so have back-calculated all the dates and plugged in the running sessions along the way with relatively reasonable hypotheses for the training duration and intensity of each. For my first marathon I followed a plan more closely based on the FURMAN FIRST strategy, but based on watching my response to training in the past year I am quite sure that I will respond better to a program with a different style. The Pfitzinger plan is composed of four mesocycles (parts) with different focus along the way and I’ve elected (at least right now – I may change my mind) to try and do the final three stages as close to the plan’s guide as is possible. I have however opted to use a slightly prolonged version of the endurance building phase that is based more closely to what has proven successful during the past year of my running than is set out by the running plan. I’m also very interested in continuing to track my MAF Heart Rate during training to monitor it’s progress as I believe this metric is an extremely important indicator of potential success at long course triathlon. I’ll be tracking this very specifically during the endurance building phases of preparation and then tracking it perhaps a bit less directly when I have to get into the later phases of the Pfitzinger plan. There is a lot of marathon pace running that will occur and if I select run courses intelligently I’ll be able to find myself some periods of good testing along the way during that training. It means training for the sake of testing in the endurance mesocycle and testing for the sake of training in the final three mesocycles. It means I won’t be doing the MAF tests in as controlled an environment and for a full 5 miles as I did this past year. My observation in retrospect is that, even if you try and be controlled, your data is going to be perturbed by all sorts of factors. I’m better off to be more frequently recording data regarding my MAF pace than to be relying on occasional testing metrics. I hope I have recorded my season-worst MAF result of 5:18/km or 8:32/mile during my first (rather short but I believe accurate) test last week since the running has been underway. It’s a far cry from the 4:04 or so I got to at my season’s best pace, but it leaves a lot of room for improvement which in some sense is satisfying. It proves that I am a human being, in discussion with swim coach Matt, this is actually a really healthy thing to learn when your fitness doesn’t immediately matter.

All in all the running program if completed as planned will result in me hitting a running fitness metric approximately 40% greater than I have ever achieved in my life before. I can do that without getting anywhere near the levels of training stress that I endured this past season (because I’m doing it with single-sport focus) so while I sounds like I’m really planning to stretch myself, I am pretty confident that I can do this while maintaining a lot better life-balance than some periods of 2010. My run-training stresses should not exceed what I have done in the past and my overall training stress balance will be significantly easier than this past year. The chart seen here indicates the plan if I am successful in hitting every workout along the way, and because the chronic load (red) is somewhat cumulative in nature, I know that due to the times I come up short in training and have to skip things that this is a best case scenario.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts
click image for larger

Planned training for the next four weeks has been laid out: [in this .pdf file] if you’re interested in looking at it. Rather simply, I’m slowly building a long run on Saturdays, and the first of the runs came up short this past week so it might be the case that this plan is a bit ambitious, I reserve the right to lay off a bit with that progression and not make it up to 20kms before Christmas. Although, if I keep hitting frequency in a similar way to that which I have in the past two weeks (10 runs in 15 days) I think comfortably getting that long run out to 20kms is not going to be an issue. All my running is subject to a strict MAF cap with the exception of the Tuesday night club run where I am free to run as I feel. Cycling is twice weekly along with swimming, and I am hitting the gym twice weekly to work with light weights at 20 repetitions, two or three sets depending on the movement and emphasizing a full range of motion with preference for multi-joint and free weights. This is going well, and is designed to allow me to hit a few weeks of high strength focus in early January prior to the running volume starting to take off. Whether or not these strength gains can be maintained through much of the running focus is questionable but doing this feels like an appropriate response to establish confident and balanced muscles following a period of limping and being lazy.

The performance management chart metrics calculated for this period of time are as follows:

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

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Cyclocross Provincials 2010

Big ups to Mr. Dave Roberts for making the Masters A race so exciting to watch! I’ll admit that I probably would be thanking Devin if I raced for Deadgoat for making the Masters A race so exciting to watch… but I don’t race for Deadgoat so the congratulations are strictly for Dave. Ha! John Clarke hung in there like a tough nut and made his bid for the win which was exciting to see. Dave and Devin would have been pretty frustrated if he did indeed get them at the finish but he was too fried. There was also exciting racing going on throughout the field as a group of 5 guys (plus or minus depending on when you count) including Jan Plavec representing Fiera dueled it out for places 7-12. It was clear that they were all racing to their potential and many of them looked to be dieing a thousand deaths, so who cares if they weren’t going for the win, it was great to watch! A bit further back Joe and Darren from Fiera dueled head to head for much of the race, both challenging one another in just the latest match of a few head-to-heads over the past couple weeks. This time it was Darren out on top. The Master B guys raced at the same time and Mark Rumsey of Hardcore took the win. He likely would have been head to head with the lead trio in the Master A group if he didn’t start a minute back with the more seasoned racers. His finish time doesn’t reflect that but we should also consider that he did need to work his way through the vast majority of the younger category over the course of the race. Overall Master A&B was the race of the day to watch!

The women’s race was great as well but unfortunately we watched Katy fly off the front solo and not have Pepper Harlton there to defend her title and give her a run for the money. The race of the day was Bridget Linder vs. Marg Fedyna, for second, who went head to head for another edition of the season-long battle. A crash in the closing section of the final lap gave Bridget the opportunity to go past and hold on for the win. It wasn’t exactly how we wanted to see the race play out but I suppose it’s part of the game when you’re racing on the edge. If you go over the edge you make mistakes. A slip at the dismount into the sand cost Marg the second step on the podium (Who was racing up TWO categories among the elite women!).

The Elite race was also entertaining as we watched Aaron Schooler blow the doors off the competition. It’s nice to know that the guy is a class act, we discussed it on race day and if we had to watch races against someone who was that good all the time and they had a different demeanor we’re not sure how much we would appreciate the talent. Then there was the late charge by Mack Carson trying to tear the last podium spot away from Matt Krahn… which was indeed super exciting. Matt did hold on which is great to see. He has made huge progress since last season.

The two photos are hijacked from Bill Quinney’s Flickr page which has more great snaps of the other races of the day

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Recovery is over

Recovery is over. I’m training hard enough as of this week to make my quads sore which should be a sign that I’m no longer holding anything back. In case there was any uncertainty, for me that’s a good thing. Some pretty tough intervals on Monday, a 750m swim TT with fins on Tuesday morning, a cyclocross race on Tuesday evening and a cross country running race on Wednesday evening. My legs are shelled and I’m loving it! I think I can tell I’ve lost some fitness over the last 6 weeks since I was last “training hard” with 3 weeks of taper and three weeks of recovery. I have no lingering fatigue from Ironman at this stage though. That doesn’t mean I can’t tell I spent the summer training for it, I certainly can. I’m not fast, that’s how I can tell. I spent all summer getting “long” instead of getting “fast” and so it’s taking me some serious time to dig up what fast is like. I am surprisingly capable of driving my HR way up and holding it there. That’s not a problem. I though I might just not be able to sustain a mega-high heart rate for a long duration but I’ve run the last two cross country races at an average HR over 180 bpm which for me is high! I also netted a new HRmax for the season last night at 197bpm. Still quite a ways short of what I think I could probably do if I was trying to test for it directly but that’s high nonetheless. The things that I’m really not good at include creating huge accelerations on the bike back-to-back-to-back. Pretty quickly I find myself unable to drop the hammer when I’m trying to launch myself out of a corner and am just pedaling along without any gusto with the high effort and high heart rate. I also am miserable at running down hills. This is actually really sad for me because I thought I used to be good at this, better than average at least. In no uncertain terms though – I am not good at this right now. I can’t spin the legs over as quickly as I need to be able to do to run down any hill with serious speed and momentum. Hopefully I can make amends on this in the next few weeks though as I’m going to throw away a lot of time at Winterstart in Banff if I can’t launch myself down that hill full tilt in November.

I should also point out that this great movie was made of the Ironman race in Penticton last month and I star in it around the 2:45 point. Take a look:

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Input vs. Output

While I like to say that my triathlon racing strategy is “Swim, Fly, Run”, in reality it’s quite a bit more complicated, it’s terribly hard to output “fly” quality cycling at a moment’s notice, especially when you’re out there in variable weather conditions on variable road surfaces and most importantly on varied terrain. Unless you’ve got the dough to throw around for a power-measuring widget for your bike you’re stuck measuring an unreliable output: speed. The alternative to measuring output is to measure input, and I think that learning the difference between the two took quite a while for me to really learn. It might actually be the case that I only when started to track outputs (pace) vs. inputs (effort) in the pool, where things are very standardized, that I got to really learn the difference between inputs and outputs on the bike.

So, to introduce, I’ll start by sticking with the input/output comparison in the pool. I’ve learned pretty well how hard I can go for a 25m sprint, a 50m sprint, a 100m sprint, a 200m sprint, a 400m swim, a 750m swim, a 2000m swim and a 4000m swim. The keen observer here will note that along the way I switched from sprint to swim, that’s a mental input. Do I think I’m sprinting or do I think I’m swimming? I also have a pretty good idea of how fast I can go for each one of these efforts… read the other blog posts on swimming if you’re keen to find that out. The result in swimming is that the inputs are tied to the outputs. In basically all circumstances with a few exceptions, really choppy water, really cold water, wearing a wetsuit, etc. I know what effort-input it takes to result in what kind of pace-output.

In cycling the effort levels are generally not tied to the outputs via much of any calculation. For example. I did a 20km TT two weeks ago during training at an average HR of 154bpm (input) and netted an average speed of 40.94 kph (output). The next weekend I did a 40kmTT, and for the sake of comparison, I’ll just compare the halves, also each 20km efforts. I averaged a HR of 173bpm (input) and only netted myself 31.76 kph (output). In the second half. I netted myself 46.01kph (output) for 169bpm (input) during the second half. Now, there’s a few things to note here:

  1. The wind was headwind for the first half and tailwind for the second half, lending to the obvious discrepancy between speeds. The input was similar on both halves of the ride but the output was very different.
  2. The net result of the 40kmTT was a 171 bpm average giving me only ~37.6 kph. Does that seem right? Well, maybe the hills make me work harder and the wind makes me go slower. But really? an extra 15bpm of input and I get a massive 4kph slash in output? Something is wrong… it’s called riding with a flat tyre. Once again, inputs are not tied to outputs.
  3. Both of these inputs come in the thick of training. The resulting output is less than it would be if I were to apply the same input when freshened up. Arguably this is a modification of input levels between heavy training and fresh racing, I’ll accept that, but when the indicators of effort are generally perceived with the exception of heart-rate (which is only an indicative variable), then you’re best to work with the shifting perceptions as your inputs.

All this being said, the point isn’t really so much that I could have been a lot faster in the 40kmTT as it is that how fast you go in a 40kmTT is unfortunately pretty arbitrary. The inputs and outputs in cycling are kinda bunk, but that’s OK so long as you don’t use outputs all the time to train and race. If we go back to the “Swim, Fly, Run” strategy for triathlon, there’s still a matter of how hard you’re flying, and that should be something that’s dependent on distance and the demands of the race. So here’s my breakdown, perhaps you find the markers to be similar, perhaps you find them to be different:

  • Racing cyclocross I often could average 176-178 bpm for a 40-55 minute race. Cyclocross is a rather full-body version of cycling with lots of punchy-climbs out of the saddle and run ups off the bike etc. Doing that kind of HR on the bike when just using legs is more like a 5-10 minute best effort. If I can average above 170bpm while on a bike, I’m likely climbing out of the saddle at a HARD pace or really killing myself on the bike in an interval set, or drilling myself into oblivion in a TT. I usually can get it to spike up to there on almost any given day if I decide I really need to. I basically never can get it above 185bpm, although when doing VO2 testing I have managed to break 200bpm each time I’m on the bike, and have two people yelling in each ear not to quit yet.
  • The following are Triathlon specific intensity zones. What’s appropriate for road racing is generally what it takes to do what you want to do with the peloton. You don’t get to decide, and as such I don’t need to describe.
  • I treat Olympic effort as, mouth open breathing hard, need mental reminders more than every minute to keep the pace up. I also feel like I can taste it when I’m going hard enough. Perhaps this is psychosomatic, it might also be that once the blood lactate level gets up your taste and smell receptors do indeed start to pick up on it. It could also be that you’re breathing out a high concentration of CO2 and somehow you pick that up. In any case, I do use that taste marker as well. When TTing at that kind of effort it’s all upper leg limited strength it seems, and glutes, if I really go hard towards the end of the hour I can get a bit tight in my lower back. Calves always feel like they’re getting a free ride when going this hard. Observed HRs are 160-165bpm.
  • Half Ironman effort is basically where I’m at if I decide to go hard but don’t feed myself those mental reminders every 30seconds to keep pushing the pace. It’s a focused effort, I like to mentally focus on trying to ride as though I’m trying to maintain momentum at this pace. Keep the hard pressure on the pedals so there are no lapses in putting out the good power but I don’t need to be trying to incessantly accelerate. Last summer during my HIM races I made a point of taking note of how I felt at halfway, if I was on schedule with nutrition I gave myself permission to work a bit harder on the second half so long as I didn’t get a sore back. HIM effort for me is an eating threshold: meaning I can put stuff down my esophagus and it gets digested, or at least it definitely doesn’t come back up. I could maybe eat stuff when going at Oly effort if chewing it didn’t disrupt my breathing ability. When at the training camp in Penticton this spring I was often heckled for getting to the top of a climb and starting to peel a banana or open a bar to eat before we went down the other side. They thought I was showing off that I wasn’t going hard, I was just generally hungry. Some people will put their eating threshold down at a lower effort level than this, but this is where mine is. Just like the taste marker I use for Olympic type effort, the eating threshold is a personal preference of mine for Half Ironman effort. It works well for me so I use it. Observed HRs are usually around 150, capped at 155. (20kmTT average HR was 154bpm, came after 90kms into the ride. the output here – although I just told you not to use it – of ~41kph is an approximate Half IM bike pace, and being at the top end of the spectrum it would be a fast one!)
  • Ironman effort. This seems like a full balanced leg effort, upper and lower legs, little to no strain through my lower back. Try to stay relaxed in my oblique abs and disconnect the upper body from the lower body to stay calm. I’d characterize the effort level as what I could chat with someone with one sentence at a time. Not a full discussion. Can close my mouth and breath through my nose if I’m chewing for a while without getting out of breath. Maintaining enough mental focus to keep the pressure on the pedals at all times but devoting mental attention to peripheral details like staying relaxed through my shoulders and upper arms, keeping my head in an aerodynamic position (I basically never ride with my aero helmet on but I often pretend like I am so that when I do put it on it doesn’t go sideways into the wind.) HR 135-140. I can’t climb a hill out of the saddle at this HR. It’s impossible unless I get a triple chainring. If I’m going up a considerable hill the HR comes up, guaranteed into mid 140’s. The physicist in me says it’s OK to work a bit harder on the uphills than on the flats. The extra effort is more favorably being translated into moving me forward faster rather than pushing air harder, so the return on investment is favorable.
  • Long ride average HRs wind up around 115-130bpm. 130bpm only if I’m by myself and not sucking a draft at all. Minimum HRs while riding my bike (should probably call it sitting on my bike and turning pedals… hardly call it riding) is 100bpm. I’ve scored a couple rides below 100bpm this year already, they’re not useless, they’re enjoyable, and when the primary goal is to have fun I find it ridiculous to say that I shouldn’t do them.

There’s 5 inputs here, and that’s enough for triathlon in my opinion. There are a couple more input levels necessary to race well at cyclocross and race well in road racing, both of them are on the top end, they’re needed to train for the start in ‘cross, mashing gears to climb the barely climbable, running the sandpit, and for periods of the road race where a selection is being made. None of these things happen in a traditional non drafting on the road triathlon, and aren’t so necessary to distinguish, not that they don’t happen during training, for example on group rides, but they are used sparingly.

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6 Months Until the Hop’n'Hurl

Important news folks! We’ve now crested the peak! Cyclocross season 2009 has been moving further and further into the past and now Cyclocross season 2010 is advancing closer and closer in the future. Today marks 6 months until Hardcore’s Hop’n'Hurl Race in 2010, it’s time to start getting excited! In case that bit of news wasn’t enough alone to light the fires of inspiration, I’ll add a few photos to the mix.

Photo from gallery: Cyclocross Highlights 2009
Photo from gallery: Cyclocross Highlights 2009
Photo from gallery: Cyclocross Highlights 2009
Photo from gallery: Cyclocross Highlights 2009
Photo from gallery: Cyclocross Highlights 2009

I think I need to get outside on some grass and practice my footwork for the flying mount. RIGHT. NOW.

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Devon Dairy Queen Double Dipper

My third race in the Expert category went down this morning. Fun times – challenging course with the conditions we had which were slick clay and mud that really caked on the wheels. I was riding tyres that were the shape of my fork and my seat stays for much of the race, nicely moulded that way as the mud was scraped into that shape. I felt like the course was going to be not the kind of course I would find it easy to pass on. really quick accelerations would be required, so I opted to go to the front off the start and make people pass me. I rode about 3/4 of a lap in the lead before some guys went to the front and really started pushing the pace. The whole race sped up at that point and by the time we were two laps in (of seven) I wa running about 6th place which was where I probably belonged.

In front of me were 3 guys who have all upgraded from the sport category this year already, there is no secret, the novice field had been pretty tough competition earlier this year. The truth is though that the cream has also been skimmed off the top of the Expert field over the course of the past 6 weeks with a bunch of upgrades. In any case, I felt like I was placed well and rode the next 4.5 laps in that position really fighting to stay there, even though I was quite a ways off the lead I still felt like I was battling it out which was totally fun. The mud caking was tough for me but it got worse for the women who raced next as we chewed up the course and mooshed all of the leaves that were nicely initially shielding our shoes from the mud into the mud. In any case the womens race was a mud-fest. The Elite men who raced afterwards however had far more favorable conditions as the course started to dry out, by the end of their hour the course was really improved. OK, back to my race, in the end we pulled in Tommy (Juventus) because he had to disconnect his front brake due to mud an couldn’t go as fast anymore. We nearly caught another Calgary cycle guy who we were rapidly gaining on (400m more would have done it) who had a stick and mud jammed in his cassette and was restricted to his easiest two gears. I wound up fifth. Not bad at all!

The elite men were great fun to watch – footage follows:

In the end it would have been nice to see the fast guys struggle with the worst conditions of the day instead of the best. It’s amazing what a difference of just one hour can make. A few more photos follow – Derek raced sport, Lesley, Bridget and Karen raced with the Women and Jon, Andre, Dave, Mike, Mark and Peter all raced with the Elites. I was the lone Hardcorian amongst the Experts. Quite a fantastic showing by the club today!

Photo from gallery: Cyclocross 2009
Photo from gallery: Cyclocross 2009
Photo from gallery: Cyclocross 2009
Photo from gallery: Cyclocross 2009
Photo from gallery: Cyclocross 2009

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