Banff Bike Fest

Photo from gallery: Racing 2012

Warm-up for the Banff-Ave criterium. Sulphur Mountain in the background.

Photo: Jon Wood

Banff Bike Fest was a frustrating weekend, it was fun and I learned a lot, but performance was poor and I made a number of mistakes. I rode a top 10 performance in the Thursday night hill-climb, coming in less than 10 seconds shy of the win. I got my absolute best out of myself on this climb but suffered tremendously as a result. I aches in my lungs for two days following, this included the road-race the next day and the morning of the TT. I made an error regarding my start-time for the TT which got the best of my mentally and I did not ride according to my ability as a result of loss of focus. The mistake was an amateur error and letting it affect my performance was another amateur error. Despite this I rode 45 seconds faster than the year prior. I felt that I raced quite well in the criterium despite getting stuck near the back early on. I kept calm and maintained position and did move up the field on a number of occasions when the opportunity presented itself. This was a big success in my eyes despite a poor ranking in the end and having no ability to make contributions on behalf of the team. Following the race, I recovered poorly, delaying re-fueling for too long, and not getting enough good quality rest. If I race again I will be staying in Banff, the price differential is not worth the opportunity cost to the race itself. The next morning I suffered fatigue and abnormally responding HR during the RR, I was in the mix during attacks and counter attacks on the first lap but couldn’t feed enough fuel to the muscles during the climbs to stay with the pack. This resulted in me being gapped by the peloton on two or three different spots on the circuit and being forced to chase back on. After being dropped for the fifth time it took all that I had in me to catch back on including the help of drafting a truck to gain some speed. By the time I got back on my peripheral vision was going grey and I decided I was a liability to the peloton to ride like that an on the next uphill I resigned myself to the fact that I didn’t have what it was going to take to ride with them. I did another lap and a half at that point to make sure that I got a result of +laps instead of DNF. I wasn’t sure if it would have any bearing on my eligibility to have my hill-climb count towards the Team-GC competition. In the end, our club placed third on the GC with all 7 of 7 having times count towards the final result, something we were quite proud of.

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Race Weight

Race weight is what the scale shows me on race day.

Photo from gallery: Spring 2011
April 10, 2011
The first indication that I
should have been focusing
harder on recovery:
A failed long-run a few
days after I started to
be strict instead of smart
with diet choices

Trying to cut weight in the final three weeks before a marathon may help on paper but it doesn’t help in real life unless you can do so without getting sick on the run leading up to the race. I wanted to get light and fast, every pound lighter you are for race day is a pound you don’t have to carry along the course for three hours. Every pound you loose should amount to 2 seconds per mile or there-about. If you loose 4 pounds you could speed up by almost four minutes over a marathon. I had put in some hard work and wanted to get everything out of it. I was greedy and I wanted those extra minutes of free speed and I did what it said it took on paper to get them. Realistically I had shattered my own personal records for maximal training loads and I needed to recover 10% harder than I had ever recovered before, which meant I needed 101% of my regular food intake. Trying to eat 99% of my regular food intake was too hard on my body, it collapsed and failed under the training stress I had subjected it to. A PR 10 miler the weekend after a 17 mile detonation run (stats pictured) puts your body in the hurt box. I needed to give it everything it wanted if I wanted it to give me a fast race on May 1. Instead I kept asking for a little bit more every day, I asked it to cut fat while it was trying to recover. I wasn’t asking a lot, I cut three pounds in two weeks and then got sick. Three pounds is all? Yeah, I think those three pounds cost me the race. I went from lean to skinny over the course of about 18 days, you probably didn’t see me with my shirt off, but I did, 3 pounds out of 195 is a dramatic change. I watched it happen, I thought I was getting fast, instead I was punching my immune system in the face. Losing those three pounds of fat was roughly 20% of my fat reserves. That’s a dramatic change, even more dramatic than stringing together a PR 107km run week from a previous PR of 91km, that was only 17.5% larger and I knew that was risky.

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Starvation workouts – looking back

Jesse Kropelnicki just had an article on Xtri about so called ‘Starvation workouts’, or workouts where you try and force your body to function with higher aerobic efficiency by not feeding it what it would most like to have (pure sugar) and thus the hope is that you would be training it to default into slightly more favorable substrate usage ratios the next time you workout. In short, teach your body to burn more fat as fuel source so it uses less of the more limited carbohydrate fuel source at any given intensity.

Here’s a copy of the article. I have no idea if it is copyrighted or whatever, I presume he writes it and distributes it for free so that it gets read and he gets the publicity. I’m posting it here… so it gets read… and I can vouch for the guy otherwise having a lot of very good and very interesting stuff to say (The stuff written about critical volume has played a foundational role in how I think about training). You can read his stuff on the QT2 website as well as occasionally on XTri… so there’s my publicity plug…

The main focus of Ironman training and racing is on the improvement of metabolic efficiency. Developing metabolic efficiency is nothing more than training the body to use aerobic energy systems at the highest paces/wattages possible. This is the least costly way to fuel the body during exercise. There is a great deal of debate around how best to develop this aerobic efficiency. I, as most, would argue that training at intensities right around aerobic threshold (AeT) is the most effective way to improve the body’s aerobic efficiency. But, a recent push makes the argument that dietary changes can impact these adaptations. To this end, it has been hypothesized that “starvation workouts” can help to promote efficiency. These are rides and/or runs where athletes essentially starve themselves, in an effort to force the body to use fat as its fuel source. For example, an athlete on a long aerobic ride of 3 to 4 hours would consume only water, throughout. In my opinion the research on this practice is very uncertain, and is accompanied by a great deal of potential detriments, none of which make it an acceptable risk. Some of these potential detriments include:

1) Starvation workouts can be extremely catabolic, as the body is forced to attack lean muscle mass in order to create carbohydrates for fuel. This process of neoglucogenesis is nightmarish for lower BMI athletes, who are already strength limited, and older athletes (females beyond the age of 45 and males older than 50), who by the nature of their age have difficulty maintaining lean muscle mass. This assault on the body disintegrates muscle mass, thus exacerbating an already problematic limiter. Furthermore, depriving the body of the fuel that it needs to train over long durations can set the stage for a compromised immune system, leading to missed training time due to illness.

2) I am a firm believer that athletes should avoid nutritionally limited workouts, at all costs. In essence, never ever bonk! Be it a typical training workout or race day, it should NEVER happen. Starvation workouts create an atmosphere primed for bonking. This means that your workout is likely to be limited by a lack of fuel, prior to the physical energy systems being appropriately trained or stressed. This is in direct conflict with the reason why we do all of this training, in the first place, and focus so much time and effort on effective recovery. The goal of any workout should be to promote an environment where the athlete can have better and better workouts, pushing previous limiters, thus increasing fitness. Too many sacrifices are made, on a day-to-day basis, aimed at improving our fitness and racing, to allow our efforts to be limited by that over which we have 100% control over.

3)At the Ironman distance, training the gut to be able to absorb the nutrients in their intended race fuel is part and parcel to effectively executing their race plan. This is especially so for those with high sweat rates. These athletes often experience races that are limited by nutrition, rather than a true display of their fitness. Starvation workouts do not provide the opportunity to train this very limiter….race nutrition! We end up seeing athletes who are forced to walk through a great deal of the marathon, because they have not trained their bodies to consume and process the calories that will be required to race effectively. Because each of our athletes is equipped with a personalized race fueling strategy, that is practiced every single day in training (I cannot begin to tell you how many Power Bars and Power Gels QT2ers consume throughout the year), QT2 continues to produce some of the fastest Ironman marathoners in the professional and age group ranks.

4) I often hear of athletes using these starvation workouts during the early season base phase of training, while simultaneously in the gym trying to build strength. The catabolic nature of these types of workouts mixes terribly with the anabolic atmosphere that should be created, through a well-developed weight-training program, to create a positive hormonal balance.

Ironman racing has a nice clean series of events, namely the swim, bike, and run, with overtones of race fueling throughout and within each. How well an athlete has fueled their race does not typically become apparent until the run. I have always believed that the best way to approach limiters, in triathlon, is to first deal with those that exist in series with one another. With this in mind, and knowing that an athlete’s inability to handle their race nutrition is what typically undermines their Ironman, I try to first focus on this limiter as it typically occurs earliest in the chain of events. It really does not do much good to focus on a limiter that occurs further down the line, since it may never have the opportunity to actually become a limiter on race day. An athlete’s metabolic efficiency, on the other hand, is typically a limiter that appears in parallel with most of his or her other limiters. The cases are rare that an athlete’s race will come to a screeching halt, due to poor metabolic efficiency. Therefore, not until we are 100% certain that an athlete does not have a nutritional limiter, should we begin to even consider any unorthodox ways of improving metabolic efficiency, that could even possibly undermine the athlete’s ability to consume and process appropriate race fuels.

But, if you absolutely insist upon incorporating starvation workouts into your training regimen, I recommend trying it no more than once a month, and not until you have full confidence in all aspects of your training, racing, and fueling. At this time, there simply has not been enough research performed, on the topic, for me to feel confident endorsing it to any of our athletes. As with anything else in life, whether or not to utilize starvation workouts is really a matter of risk versus reward. In my opinion, the possible benefits of these workouts simply do not outweigh the potential risks.

Jesse Kropelnicki is an elite/pro level triathlon coach who founded QT2 Systems, LLC; a leading provider of personal triathlon and run coaching, as well as TheCoreDiet.com a leading provider of sports nutrition. He is the triathlon coach of professional athletes Caitlin Snow, Dede Griesbauer, Ethan Brown, and Tim Snow among others; and nutrition/cardio advisor for professional UFC fighter Kenny Florian. His interests lie in coaching professional triathletes using quantitative training and nutrition protocols. You can track his other coaching comments/ideas via his blog at www.kropelnicki.com.

Jesse is definitely right, there’s not a whole ton of good scientific evidence that this strategy is net-beneficial. That said, it is something Steven Lord had me do during training in 2010. I tried to read up on it, and came to the same conclusion as Jesse, there’s not a whole ton of scientific PROOF that this is a great idea but intuitively it seems like one of the only ways to make the kinds of changes that you’d like to make in your body’s metabolic defaults. Lots of different exercise physiologists will tell you that you get an advantage at ironman by being a fat burner, but there aren’t a ton of people who will tell you how to do it. Alan Couzens profiled the technique he employed with one of his athletes a while ago in some of his writing. Now that I want to post a link to it I can’t find the exact article I’m thinking of. In any case, he had this guy modify his substrate consumption to increase fat, decrease carbs, and do a lot of work at aerobic threshold with a whole heck-ton of patience. I wish I could find the article, what he had the guy doing was low intensity stuff and not the kind of stuff that’s going to make you fast very quickly. It was however, going to make this kid fast in the long run because there were significant gains made to this athlete’s fat usage during exercise. The numbers were mind-blowing actually, this average guy was scoring somewhere near the 10calories/min from fat that people have calculated Mark Allen was able to do during his heydey in Kona (I presume that lots of the guys in the top 10 this year must be around that magic number as well).

I decided to listen to my coach.

Annette said that she was really proud of me a couple times this past year for listening to what he said. Her opinion was that lots of the other people she knew who had coaches often tried to be too smart and didn’t listen, and thus didn’t get the benefit of the protocol as it was designed. I can’t say I listened to Steven all year long about everything, and I did some complaining (thinly disguised as asking tough and frustrating questions) about some things. This was one of the things I think I complained about, but I did do what he was suggesting I do about modifying substrate usage.

This year I had already decided I was going to eat more fat than last when I had been on this idea of making my body into a carbohydrate furnace, ready to pour them in, rev a high HR, and make more watts at any cost. I wasn’t racing so long (less than 5 hours) that I felt there was a huge detriment to doing that. I knew that I could eat and digest at pretty high intensities so my game plan was to just pour fuel on the fire and not worry about running out. This worked, it wasn’t a really long term strategy I found, and I think the lack of fat in my diet was probably a bit unhealthy in other regards. My skin didn’t heal very quickly amongst a few other things that I noticed (along with some search-engine help) were probably an indication that this “burn as much fuel as you can and you’ll go faster” was probably a bit shortsighted. It made me fast at a cost that I identified as being probably not the best for myself. So, that wasn’t a change posed by Steven, but he did put a few other interesting ideas on the table.

Starting early on Steven began suggesting on my endurance focused rides that I cut the carbohydrates completely in the morning before the ride. Now it’s totally possible to load up and feel full without hardly any carbohydrates and I always did that, I never did pure starvation in the manner alluded to by Jesse’s article, however I was doing a form of starvation training. A typical breakfast would be between four and six fried eggs with cheese melted on top. A red pepper, a glass of milk, and a handful of cashews or pecans. I also pre-ran prior to some of those weekend bike rides during the spring to rack up a bonus 40 minutes. Those mornings I’d just eat some nuts or halva with water or milk before the short run, and then come home and make my big pre-ride omelette. Then I’d start riding and I definitely and noticeable wouldn’t have any blood sugar.

These long rides were not completed without eventually getting myself into the carbohydrates and eating sports nutrition (i.e. practicing the race plan) along the way. Generally I’d ride the first two hours on just water and perhaps a bit of sausage or some almonds. That was it though, I’d generally feel pretty slow (even though I wasn’t necessarily being slow) and was just a bit mentally dreary. Considering the fact that your brain won’t fuel itself off anything other than sugar the mentally dragging your ass along the road feeling was going to be par for the course. Then I’d eventually pick up the fuel, and finish off the ride allowing the body to run off of both ingested carbohydrate fuel and processed fat.

Did I observe the four points that Jesse makes? Yes. Did I suffer the consequences he outlines? Only once did I actually bonk and had to pay the consequences of taking this method to to far an extreme by missing out on planned training.

1 & 4 I no doubt experienced the catabolic effect of this kind of training as it prevented strength gains during this period of time. Whether or not it was the low-carb riding that did it or the incessant running I was doing while shooting for 7 runs per week frequency is an open question but I no doubt would say that I didn’t get any stronger during this period of training (Mid-April through Mid-July). I basically made zero gains in the gym with weights between early May and the end of July when I quit strength training. I wasn’t in a period of trying to build strength in the gym, but I would have expected that my leg strength would have improved by the amount of riding I was doing and I’d be able to see evidence of that in the gym. This was not the case, leg-holds on the leg-press sled probably got relatively more difficult as the summer went on even though I did the same set at 270lbs with each leg all the way through. Did I suffer a compromised immune system? No. I didn’t get sick at all, but I can’t rule out that the hormonal effects tied to getting so tired weren’t related to the hormonal effects brought on by operating occasionally with a blood sugar deficit. The worst blood sugar low did result once in a total bonk and came a week before a race which I proceeded to do fantastic at. In a round-about way this could have been something setting me up to get knocked into serious fatigue as a result of that race. I was at a low mentally with motivation and with energy levels the next two weeks.

2 The warning is that if you do this to your body you’re unable to push your physical limiters. OK, if we narrowly define fitness there’s a way to make this statement true. I likely didn’t make any gains with my functional threshold power over 2009 during this season, heaven forbid perhaps it got a bit worse. This is a problem with deciding that your functional threshold power is the best metric for measuring success. As a result of this training I was able to post an age-group fastest bike split and on the run, run within a couple percent of my open marathon time. These are measurements of fitness success both un-acheivable last season, and so I think it’s misleading to say that because you might not be gaining a certain type of fitness by doing these workouts that it means you’re not getting better. If it makes you faster for your target race then that’s the measure of success.

3A true starvation workout doesn’t allow you to practice ironman fueling but I’d suggest that the method I used which is what I guess I’d call hybrid-carbohydrate-starvation is actually an extremely ironman specific way to practice doing the fueling. Starting with a morning-prior-to-the-ride-carboload is going to lull you into a false sense of having your glycogen stores and blood sugar at a maximum before beginning the ride. It will reinforce the idea that your nutrition is not a fragile calculus because you’ve got the glycogen reserve buffer to work against. The ironman swim is going to use up a large chunk of your glycogen and you’re not going to be eating with the “bank in reserve” during the race, you’re eating with the glycogen bank on it’s way to being empty. This is exactly what happens if you start your morning with no carbs, the blood sugar stays down, and while you’ve got some glycogen in your muscles you don’t have a big stash of liver glycogen because your body has used it over the course of the night to keep chugging along.

So would I recommend it? Early in the season (especially at bike camp in early April) I needed to be consistently eating all the way through the ride to stay topped up. Later in the season, I could still eat (I mean, I ate a LOT at Ironman, so I clearly didn’t de-train this ability) but I didn’t feel the need to constantly be eating as the season progressed. I’ll take the desire to eat carbohydrates as a measure that my body was requiring more carbohydrates, it’s generally smart like that. I also felt a lot better during the pre-carbohydrate portions of those rides as the weeks progressed. They set me up with sufficient cycling base to do the hard-ironman specific intervals that the program required as the race grew closer. I could have done all those earlier season rides fully fueled and I would have shown up with a similar cycling base, I don’t know if it would have been any better, but I wouldn’t have changed my need to be constantly pouring sugar into my mouth. I probably would have trained harder during this base period and perhaps would have come into better fitness sooner but that’s then a measure of planning appropriately and not so much what you eat. I don’t have the financial resources available to do the testing to prove that I made big gains in my metabolic efficiency this past year but I am confident that I did. Sorry, no fancy graphs from me for this post. Just a good idea for early-season pre-ride breakfast:

EGGS

I’d definitely suggest that Jesse is casting this rather experimental kind of training in too negative a light. There are intelligent ways to do metabolic efficiency training and there are unintelligent ways of doing it. By suggesting that no-food starvation training is terrible without considering the middle-ground of beginning long rides in a carbohydrate depleted state I think he’s suggesting that this is something we’re hopelessly unable to improve. While I’m hesitant to really recommend what I did I do think that it’s definitely got merit. I’m quite open to there being a better way to develop this skill with our bodies than the method I used but I’m pretty confident that it is possible to do a better job of it than doing no job at all which is what Jesse is unfortunately suggesting.

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Ironman Nutrition

Michael Lovato posted his nutrition plan from Ironman Hawaii on the First Endurance Blog yesterday and I of course read it… and then I thought about it an awful lot in the past day. Of course, he’s got an agreement with a specific company to use their products during training and racing so there’s some impartiality lacking, but that’s besides the point. The details of a plan are given and it’s not a bogus plan, it’s real and accurate and the guy executed it and it sounds reasonable. Unfortunately there’s not as much of that on the internet as you might imagine. There’s people posting all over the internet what their strategies are for triathlon nutrition but there is no way that they’re accurate. There’s also just as many garbage plans posted to the web out there as there are good plans posted to the web. Lovato has a good one and there is a LOT of really good information in it. I’d recommend reading it.

While Lovato doesn’t explicitly state he’s trying to create certain hormonal condition for racing in addition to getting the fueling right I think the plan he gives does just that. I’ve been thinking about tricking your body’s insulin response quite a bit recently and some of the related things that go with hormones during both exercise and recovery. Joe Friel had an excellent article on his website today about RER & fuel sources during exercise. In it he provides a reference to a study I’d recently read the abstract of about pre-exercise fuel. I still can’t get the full text of it and the abstract doesn’t allude to the answer but I believe the authors likely would assume the source of the variation seen has something to do with the insulin response caused by the glucose versus the fructose. Also worth linking for the interested reader is an article about exercising under depleted carbohydrate conditions (this is a valid way to train your body to run at a lower RER despite what people may think) and another article establishing that consuming carbohydrates during exercise raises RER. Us as athletes can’t somehow select an RER during exercise, our body decides upon it based on our exertion… but because the relationship between RERs and exertion do sometimes change, it’s something that we probably can modify if we want to, in theory it can be trained.

An aside for the real geeks: The electrical engineer slash physicist in me wants to learn the dirac-response to all of the different things I could put in my body as though I function as a neatly organized linear system. Then I could make a “Nutritional Born Approximation” of my body and the protocol I’m following and have a pretty good idea of what’s going on with the macronutrient levels in my blood/liver/muscles during exercise. Clearly it doesn’t work like that and I think a lot of people then dismiss the question as “the body is more complicated than you think”. I agree, the body is more complicated than I’d like it to be in this regard but I refuse to believe that it is too complicated for me to study and learn. How do we learn to make any improvements to sports nutrition at all? I am far exceeding progress compared to where I could be based purely on trial and error so obviously some of the system is at least quasi understandable. The obvious question to ask then is what makes the system nonlinear. That’s the starting point to make a guess at how to best approximate a nonlinear system and as best as I can tell the answer is hormone levels. Insulin is the obvious one as well as the ones involves in regulating free fatty acids, and the more I reflect on the past couple seasons epinephrine has likely got to have something to do with substrate consumption. Paul Tichelaar mentioned while we were riding together at one point this summer that he thinks very very few coaches really understand hormones and that getting a grip on that would really help us out as athletes. I thought a bit about it at the time but I couldn’t see the course of action to learn to be better about it, now I’m starting to see it and I’d like to pursue it. If only I had more time.

Now that I’ve written a half page of ramble I’ll finally get to the point I was going to try and make. I had a great nutrition plan at Ironman. I practiced during training with it and I executed it very precisely on race day. Energy levels and gastric distress did not play a role whatsoever in my race which is exactly the role that you’d like them to play. So if you didn’t get the clue already I’d recommend reading Michael Lovato’s nutrition plan and if you’re so inclined feel free to continue reading and have a look at mine.

  • Friday is the day of my last workout (Sunday = Raceday). Total duration set to be close to my previously established duration of glycogen supply when my body is operating at Ironman pace. For me this is 1 hour 40 minutes and I did about the equivalent of a sprint triathlon with a 50% too-long bike leg. The workout is long enough that I’m going to generally drain out my muscles but I’m not going to drain then dry. Immediately following this workout I hit myself hard with good recovery food. Approximately 3:1 carbs:protein. Consume a whole protein source. I ate fruit, rice, sausage and nuts. I ate until I was full… and then ate a big lunch 30 minutes later. This marked the end of excessive eating. I needed to make sure the body would be reloaded but not stuffed.
  • Night before – Ate a bunch of stuff that I enjoy eating, not trying to stuff myself. I ate a bunch of Quinoa and half a pork tenderloin. If I wasn’t sharing with Dad I would have probably eaten the whole pork tenderloin though!
  • Breakfast – 4 fried eggs, 4 small pieces of bread, some olive oil on top to make things slimey, and a full tub of yogurt. I also had a few pieces of cheese as well as a banana and a kiwi fruit. Emphasis is on not being hungry and lasting from 4:30am when I ate the meal until 8am when I would be on my bike and beginning to eat in earnest once again. There’s no big sources of fiber here, and there’s a relatively high fat and protein content in this meal compared to what is often recommended for pre-exercise. Carbohydrates are there but the emphasis is on stuff that has low to medium glycemic load, I guess the fruit doesn’t really fit the bill. The idea is to get the digestive system running, and running above a minimal idle, not just to put the key into the ignition. Minimal insulin response to this meal and in that sense similar to Lovato.
  • Race Morning – brought water along but didn’t drink more than 500 mls. Banana at 30 minutes until the start. This will be hitting my bloodstream and leaving the stomach as the race begins. Note Lovato’s tip: don’t go into that long swim with a slightly dipping blood sugar. I wouldn’t go into any swim with a dipping blood sugar and that’s often the reason I’m the guy standing on the pool deck at triathlon club workouts while we wait for the group ahead of us to finish and I’m munching on something. Low blood sugar is a recipe for poor focus and low motivation and personally that’s a recipe for disaster during a swim.
  • During the bike – Targetting 2500 calories in the first 4.5 hours on the bike leaving me a full half hour for the descent off of Richter without any pressure to keep consuming. It is un-aero and inefficient to eat when you could be doing more than 60 kph. I also want to give my stomach a chance to empty out so I hit the run with my body loaded up with energy and fuel but without a brimming stomach.

    With me:

    • 2×24oz bottles of Gatorade = 350 calories
    • 2 tube shot bloks = 400 calories, (one before Richter, one before yellow lake)
    • 4 gels 4×110 = 440 calories
    • 4 clif bars = 960 calories

    Need to get en-route:

    • 5 bananas = 600 calories (try at every aid station if there’s time, there isn’t always if I’m trying to get two bottles)
    • 2 bottles of Gatorade = 350 calories
    • Drink Water the rest of the way. (Leave every aid station with more than half a bottle of water)

    Add up all the calories except for the gels and throw away 4x(1/4) full bottles of gatorade and you wind up at 2500 calories.

    The plan was not to eat any of the gels unless I felt like I needed to get more simple sugar flowing into my body in which case they could replace a clif bar or bananas if I couldn’t get them from the aid stations. I preferred to stick to a slightly more complex carbohydrate than powergel. Admittedly I could just choose to eat hammer-gels or carbo-pro or mix up a stiff bottle of perpetuem or something like that and achieve the same ratios and style of calories but I want to be able to happily get through this race without feeling hungry which I discovered can happen if I’m fully fueled but I’ve not been eating much real food. The end result is that I wanted to chew on something to tell the body I was eating and selected to eat clif-bars. They taste good, they chew a lot prettier than a powerbar, and they are at a pretty optimal level of carbohydrate complexity for the intensity I planned to race at. They’re not as low in fiber as all the other options I mentioned earlier but they’re not “high” like any oat based granola bar. That said, I am drinking gatorade as my primary source of electrolytes on the bike and am getting some pretty simple sugar from there as well as from the 2 tubes of shot bloks which I consumed at the base of each climb, with the intention of riding at a higher exertion on the climbs than on the flats and making sure that I was only asking my digestive system to to relatively easier work while I was asking my legs and lungs to be doing relatively harder work.

  • Can of coke in bike special needs… only plan to stop for it if I’m having a rough time, otherwise I want to conserve the caffeine boost until the run.
  • On my aerobars I had a list of landmarks and relative locations of aid stations as well as a guide to how many calories I needed to put in by certain landmarks to stay on track nutrition-wise. I also noted where I would be when each hour of the ride rolled over to the next if I was keeping pace for a 5 hour 5 minute bike split.
  • Leaving T2 – I had a disposable bottle filled with two cans of cola and extra electrolytes added (3xEload caps) which had been frozen overnight and wrapped in tin foil to keep it slushy/frozen in my T2 bag until I arrived. I took this in my hand as I left and used it as a reason to help me do the first mile slow enough otherwise I would likely totally overdo it. It also got the caffeine flowing in my system which is just what I wanted as I find it gives me a good boost. I had a second bottle of the magic mix stashed in the special needs bag along with all sorts of random crap thinking that I wanted to cover all the bases of what I might be craving. I wasn’t craving much when I got there so I didn’t take much other than a fruit leather (50 cals). A special note for people doing Ironman Canada, you should have something to drink in there as there is no aid station at special needs but the stations are spaced out along the way as though you are due for one when you get there.
  • Aid Stations – Gels at every third aid station with water (8 gels). Drink coke/gatorade at each of the other aid stations when possible. Don’t drink more than 500ml at any one aid station as it will make my stomach slosh. Always try to have one gel in my pocket. Stash ice into top at each aid station. Once through the aid station redistribute the ice how I’d like, into arm coolers and neck. Never leave without arm-coolers being wet. The game plan was to switch to water instead of coke and gatorade if I’m feeling like my belly is full. In the final 10 mile I was full up on energy and dealing with cramping in my legs as I ran. By this point I was largely just going through the motions and taking tiny sips at the aid stations rather than drinking anything of substance or consuming much fuel. The game had changed by that point, I had no doubt about my ability to finish strong energy-wise and by the time I hit the south end of town I was in good enough shape mentally and nutritionally to lax up the plan fuel wise and put the focus on the main task which was pain management with the cramps and just keeping on trucking. I took no gels during the last 10 kms and stuck with the coke/gatorade instead.

Post race I ate some pizza but not a lot. Drank some of this and that but didn’t really do that good of a job loading up my body with all sorts of good food. I was hungry but didn’t have much appetite to actually do the eating as I’d spent the whole day eating. Oh well, I ate some chips, drank my first beer in four months, and went to bed. Nothing fancy.

On a related note I wanted to mention that I am really happy to have a guy like Chris McCormack as world champion in our sport. I’ve had differing opinions of the guy over the course of the past few years with lots of the different spins that the media tries to put on this guy. Over the past season though I’ve paid better attention to what he’s doing and what media he’s putting out and how he’s contributing to triathlon. I’ll admit the swaying of opinion could be swayed a bit by the fact that I’m now consuming more “Chris McCormack sanctioned” media and him and his sponsors have had the opportunity to polish it up a bit, take the edge off the sharp bits that might stab you, and at the same time highlight the highlights. Sure, that might have something to do with it but we can also look at the facts.

Chris probably partied hard and reveled in his win as he alluded to in his victory speech… but a week later he was in California spending a week on a big bike tour with the CAF. Where’s Mirinda Carfrae following her victory on the womens’ side? partying in Vegas. I’ll make no illusion that I wanted Macca to beat Chris Lieto, the guy I’m totally rooting for to win Kona before he retires, or even Craig Alexander who is a consummate professional and great role model in his own right, but really I am mighty mighty happy to have Macca take the crown.



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Making myself tired

I booked a week off work at the lab last week with the sole purpose of giving myself an opportunity to give my body a massive aerobic overload while at the same time removing all of the rest of life’s stress to give myself the best chance of absorbing as much of the training effect from all the exercise as possible. I located myself at Crimson Lake near Rocky Mountain House for the week as it afforded a few important things:

  • No internet connection
  • A lake that would be warm enough to swim in with a wetsuit at any time of day or night without getting swimmers itch
  • Good roads for cycling with some real hills when compared to the ‘fake hills’ around Edmonton
  • Trails to run that would be easy on my feet and knees compared to running on asphalt
  • No need to drive for hours on end to get there and back

I planned to station myself at the lake from Sunday afternoon through ’till Friday evening and basically do five things… swim, bike, run, eat and sleep. It worked pretty good. I led into it with one of the toughest rides of the year so far, an overdistance ride with Stefan at approximately race effort on Saturday followed by a brick run. Sunday morning I snuck in another easy 3.5 hours ride and then headed to the lake where I rode again and ran for an hour. Monday I logged an hour in the lake, four and half on the bike including quite a bit of IMeffort intensity, and a brick run. Tuesday kicked off with another hour in the lake, six on the bike and an hour transition run. Wednesday I took easy in the lake with a half hour splash, then ran a challenging 3×10km workout aiming to run race-pace for the final 10kms and see how it felt. I had been pretty scared of doing this workout while tired during my rides and runs on Monday and Tuesday and had gotten nice and nervous about it while I anticipated it and while I ran the first two 10km loops getting ready to unleash “IMpace” at the end of it. In the end it felt great and so did the 2hours aboard the bike afterwards to loosen up the running muscles. I had crossed halfway mentally in the week and had a couple tough rides left before I’d have to tackle another IMpace run on Friday. Thursday was to be a big day, I logged an hour of IMeffort swimming, hopped aboard the bike quickly and logged an hour of IMeffort riding and then continued on to net 190kms on the day including a little race against an impending thunderstorm placing another hour of IMeffort in at the end between 4.5 and 5.5 hours as though I were finishing off my ride into Penticton in four weeks time. I finished the day off off with an easy half hour jog after supper to make sure I hit all three sports in the day. Friday started out in the lake for an hour and then I netted four and a half pretty hilly hours on the bike with the last two at IMeffort where I racked up a total of 74.8kms when riding my rather tired body down the road. My heart rate wouldn’t come up like it should, an indicator that I had successfully tired myself out, but the speed was still good so I kept at it and hyped myself up on cola to keep trucking along. When I hit the transition run I sucked back some more coke for another caffeine boost and ran 12.4 kms in 60 minutes, a goal IM effort brick to wrap up the week. Pheuff, it’s tiring just typing it!

The effect of all these shenanigans was that I reached the highest Acute Training Load I’ve ever done in my life (50 units). I also got my 7day volume up to 45.5 hours at one point (shy of my 51.5 hour record). I also got my 7day bike distance over 1000kms which is a good confidence booster as well, I managed to ride my rear tyre all the way down through the rubber to the bare casing while I was at it. Somewhere along the way, I’m not certain exactly where, I acquired the confidence that I’m getting ready to race in Penticton and I think that’s really the main point of this blog post. I’ve got another couple weeks of working hard but I feel like I’m ready for them and then things are starting to back off as I taper for race-day.

Here are some cool graphs – the first is a meteoric rise in training stress (purple-acute, red-chronic) indicating I will race in Penticton in the best racing shape of my entire life (green-race readiness):

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

Thursday’s ride: (T=(0->1hour and 4.5->5.5hours at IMeffort)

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

Friday’s confidence boosting 1 hour brick run at IMpace after 2 hours IMeffort on bike:

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

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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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Kickstart to the NewYear

I was tempted to just post some photos and let them tell the story, but that made me feel like I was shortchanging such a fantastic trip, so I’ll have to tell the stories as well.

The first is the mid-night arrival of part of our skiing crew. My cell phone rang a few minutes before 4 am and I was up out of bed to let in a Lesley and Pat who had spent the night driving Highway 2 in less than ideal conditions to accommodate a late night flight into Edmonton International. I was excited to get out of the house and go right then instead of heading back to bed, but sleep definitely was on the menu for the wearied travelers. Waking up at what would normally be a very lazy hour the next morning we loaded up and set out for the trailhead after a dose of caffeine and a few bites of breakfast. I can’t speak from personal experience but it seemed like enough sleep was had during those short hours by my skiing comrades to recharge adequately for a day in the mountains. Either that, or there was significant horsepower being absorbed by osmosis from the beautiful surroundings that we were skiing through. Considering the number of disclaimers placed that they had few skills and little prior experience they were quick on the uptake. Pat started out as a rather shaky kneed skier but gathered his wits about him quite quickly. Luckily though, I was the one carrying a dozen eggs.

Photo from gallery: Backcountry Skiing 2009-2010
Photo from gallery: Backcountry Skiing 2009-2010

We made good time along the trail, not because we were traveling exceedingly fast but mostly just due to the fact that we weren’t taking very long of breaks. That and a little bit of not wanting to be going “too slow” while leading the group meant that whoever was up front was huffing along and then the others didn’t want to let them get out of our sights. Then whomever else took over felt the need to keep up the pace, the problematic pattern perpetuated itself and subsequently some solid skiing ensued. We’d made a good choice with the waxes and no-one struggled much which was a huge bonus for the morale. Additionally we were left some encouragement in the snowbanks along the way by our friends who were up the trail by a few hours.

Photo from gallery: Backcountry Skiing 2009-2010
Photo from gallery: Backcountry Skiing 2009-2010

Our arrival at the cabin was earlier than anticipated and we had nearly caught the other 7 members of our group who were just taking off their boots when we pulled up. It was about this time that we unloaded food onto the table from our respective bags and realized the magnitude of the task at hand. It was going to be quite a feat to even eat half of the food we’d brought in.

Photo from gallery: BlackBetty Photostream

The menu for the trip wasn’t meager pickings for (at least) seven reasons.

  1. Carrying good food makes it easier to rationalize why you have a heavy pack. If it’s full of stuff you only marginally want to eat it could lead to complaining. If it’s all gourmet, there is less opportunity to bemoan sore shoulders and an aching back.
  2. No-one has ever developed scurvy in two days but we certainly didn’t want to risk it. Better bring some fresh vegetables for our omellettes to ensure we don’t develop anything like that. We were bringing along a med-student but not a real doctor to diagnose and treat big problems like scurvy, better to rather play it safe than sorry!
  3. Pat needed to be fed, and everyone knows that he can really pack it away when he decides to.
  4. Olives, figs and wine were good enough for all those Roman emperors so they’re good enough for us too. And if Marcus Aurelius would have known to have stuffed his olives with Camembert I’m sure he would have been all over that too.
  5. I’d heard concerns about Oatmeal being too boring, so the obvious solution would be to bring it up a notch with cranberries and orange zest.
  6. Good chocolate keeps the ladies happy – fact!
  7. This was New Years and we were supposed to be celebrating!

Our stay was two nights and our intermediary day was spent on a day-excursion from the hut up towards Assiniboine Pass. The attempt would end at 2:30 when we had to make the prudent choice to turn around instead of pushing onwards to see what we may or may not be able to see from the pass proper. The day ski had us enjoying a fine balance of gently falling snowflakes and sufficient visibility to enjoy the surrounding vistas. If it had been any more clear, the beauty and vastness of the entire valley at once could have been too overwhelming for us; and like I said, we only had a med-student along and not a doctor to perform a potentially necessary resuscitation. There was also a moose spotted along the trail, it had a beard but was definitely still female.

Photo from gallery: Backcountry Skiing 2009-2010
Photo from gallery: Backcountry Skiing 2009-2010

Following our excursion we cooked up some fine tomato lentil curry on rice with a side of garlic butter mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner. After giving our stomachs a lengthy 4 minutes to digest the meal we pulled out the figs, olives, chocolate, crackers & Camembert, cookies and pistachios and got into the port. There was a short debate as to which time zone we planned to celebrate new years in. A long and tiring day of skiing by some parties had them voting to even celebrate on a half hour increment representative of Newfoundland. The suggestion was quickly overruled and Dave set an emergency alarm in case we all somehow managed to fall asleep before midnight, to wake us up at ten to twelve. A few games of speed scrabble ensued, amazingly everyone was able to win a round, some Garden Beans were grown, traded and harvested. There were some stories recounted and then, sooner than anyone would have guessed, there was an alarm going off and the countdown had begun towards the beginning of 2010.

Photo from gallery: BlackBetty Photostream

The masses bundled up in multi-coloured down jackets, fleece pants, mitts, toquies and hut booties and then headed outdoors to ring in the New Year from the boundless serenity of the creekbed instead of the cramped quarters of the cabin. Predictably some hilarity ensued, and upon return to the cabin we headed out to kick off the new year with a short ski through the night under a full moon.

Photo from gallery: BlackBetty Photostream
Photo from gallery: BlackBetty Photostream

The next morning we were treated to a few patches of blue sky, an excellent breakfast of cheese and chive eggs on english muffins with cranberry orange oatmeal, and we were off. Once rolling we were rather quiet as a group. I’m not certain on the reasons why. Perhaps people were exhausted from a few long days in the outdoors without much sleep, maybe they were mad about someone absentmindedly dripping paraffin on the red bean crop, perchance they were concentrating too hard on not falling over to have a conversation, or possibly they were just sick of being with one another. My guess is that is was none of these: we were too captivated by the beams of sunshine coming down through the forest, too busy relishing the glimpses of mountaintops peaking through the gaps amongst the trees, and finding ourselves entranced by the swishing sound of our skis along the tracks pressed into the snow. It was a contented silence. In the week since, that’s one bit of the trip that I’ve been consistently revisting in my mind. The closest thing to contented silence I’ve had since being back in the city was scrubbing the kitchen floor with my head in front of a dishwasher that was loud enough to drown out the rest of the sounds in the house. Obviously it’s almost time to get out of town again!

Photo from gallery: Backcountry Skiing 2009-2010

The ski out was fantastically exciting and we made good time down much of the descent towards the cars. The mile-long-hill was almost as much fun on the way up as it was on the way down two days earlier and soon enough we were standing in the parking lot making comments about not really wanting to be done yet.

Photo from gallery: BlackBetty Photostream

By day 3 the shaky kneed Pat was still a rather shaky kneed skier but he was a heck of a lot more confident and quick as evidenced by the following video footage of the weekend. (Lesley’s out front in Pink, Pat’s just in front of me). Clip 1 is from the tail end of Day 2 and Clip 2 is from early on Day 3.

My full gallery of my backcountry trips over the Christmas break is here and Dave’s Flickr set of the trip is here.

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H1N1 – What to expect

If you’re going to catch this pandemic influenza strain you might be interested to know what you’re getting yourself into before-hand. I wouldn’t recommend catching it, but if you do decide that you’re going to get sick and are wondering what it’s going to be like and how long it’s going to take before you’re healthy then take a read.

Day 1:I wake up with an irritated throat. I think that it’s probably due to the fact that our house smells like liquor after my room-mates had a big birthday party here last night and there are in excess of one hundred empty bottles on the dining room table evaporating a disgusting concoction of booze-smells into the air. I have no other indication that I’m not feeling well until about 11am when I start to feel achy in my lower back and am feeling kind-of chilly. I presume being cold is due to having every window in the house open to let the booze-smell out and the aching muscles due to a hard-fought race the day before. I head off to the race today and decide to line up and give it a shot even though I’m not feeling 100%. I feel strong off the start and ride very well for the first lap, I’m sticking with the lead group, but about 10 minutes in I feel like I’m breathing pretty hard considering my actual effort level. My pace doesn’t fall off until the third lap when I feel like I can’t breathe in deep enough to keep racing. I back it off to a JRA pace but I am not catching my breath. I decide I need to stop or I’m going to be in serious trouble, riding off the trail into the woods is the image playing itself out in my head. I know I’m going to get lapped out of the race anyways, not finishing vs not getting a time seems irrelevant at the moment. Once I stop completely it hardly takes any time and I can breathe again, I change and spectate the rest of the race with a down jacket on and feeling rather comfortable. I think I might be catching a cold so pick up some COLD-FX and DayQuil on the way home, I dose up on DayQuil and feel just fine for the rest of the day.

Day 2: I wake up feeling rather miserable and chug back some more DayQuil, pop some Ibuprofen, some Cold-FX, a couple Vitamin-C tablets, a multi-vitamin and some B-12 (this is not for the cold – I’ll write about this eventually). I’m pretty shivery and my face is hot, that gets a lazy student diagnosis as a fever even though I have no thermometer. I don’t feel like eating much – so I don’t. My achy lower back now includes knees, piriformis, triceps, pectorals and a mild headache. Those are all of the muscles or joints I’ve stressed during the last week of workouts… I’m not terribly surprised that the parts of my body with tissue rebuilding are going to be hot-spots for influenza aches. I feel a lot better within about half an hour of my vitamin binge but still deem myself diagnosed when that irritated throat from yesterday morning starts to become a cough. Diagnostic criteria are as follows:

  • Aute onset of new cough or change in existing cough, plus one or more of the following:
  • fever (> 38C on arrival or by history)
  • sore throat
  • joint pain
  • muscle aches
  • severe exhaustion

By 4 pm I’m ready for bed, that finishes my tally for racking up all of the criteria for having H1N1 (while not necessarily severe exhaustion it is certainly exhaustion) and being satisfied with a fantastic diagnosis I go to sleep. Total caloric intake for the day is below a thousand calories. I don’t think I’ve done that in a decade! I wake up at 10pm and stay awake for an hour before getting some NyQuil in me and heading back off to sleep.

Day 3:I strategically wake up at 7am to down my morning dose of DayQuil, Ibuprofen, Cold-FX and Vitamin-C before heading back to sleep for an hour. I wake up after the effects of the drugs are in full swing and I feel pretty good. My voice has deteriorated to the point that I occasionally sound like a braking train (Example soundtrack). The aches are a tad less but my nose has started to run a bit more and I can tell I’m totally dehydrated. I have been sweating like crazy and the hoodie I slept in is kind-of damp. I last until 6pm and then take a snooze for a couple hours. I set an alarm to wake up again to re-dose on NyQuil for some drug induced ZZZzzzz’s which should guarantee me to sleep through the night. Total calories is less than 600 – new record – and half of that is from a slice of chocolate cake – totally nutritious.

Day 4:I do the early wakeup to get drugs in my system before having to get out of bed, unfortunately I’m probably starting to get over this flu as I’m not so totally tired that I can immediately fall back asleep for the next hour. So be it, and I resign to laying and shivering in my somewhat damp clothes. I do what every serious triathlete does when lying around in bed in the morning, I take my pulse, and then I do what every engineer-triathlete does, do it five times to try and get a measure of the accuracy. The results are not to my pleasing: 75-80 bpm, resting with legs slightly elevated. That’s about 40 bpm higher than it should be – definitely still sick. The aches have left my legs but my back is quite sore today. Total calories for the day are around 1000 as I noticed that my pants are really loose and that I’m rapidly loosing weight, I need to get some food in regardless of my desire to do so.

Day 5:Waking up early to drug myself into an acceptable state to get out of bed has become routine. I repeat the method again, it seems to work. Today the fever is gone but I still occasionally find myself with the chills. I feel like I’ve developed more of a head-cold than a full body flu as I’m rather blocked up in my sinuses. Basically no appetite but eat regardless. I weigh in at 11 pounds less than I did last Friday today, that’s weight loss that rivals what those chumps are doing on “The Biggest Loser”. Not good news – bad enough news that I’m not even going to bother trying to race at Provincials in a week, I’m too wrecked from this to recover back to race-shape within a week and I know it. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I could go for an easy swim on the weekend.

Day 6:I wake-up and deem myself no longer sick. I’m a far cry from healthy, but I wouldn’t even call this a bad cold any-more, just a cough and runny nose, I’m like a walking talking model of health with a few ribs showing. Oh, and the fact that it was 1pm before I realized I should eat something. I’ve still not been hungry yet since this started although last night after my weigh-scale nightmare I cooked up a serious meal and ate lots of it. No sensation of hunger when I started eating or sensation of satiation when I finished. Hopefully that aspect of normality returns or I fear I’ll keep rapidly cutting weight.

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Making a fast bike faster

The accumulated intelligence of the triathlon community has not come to very good conclusions regarding where on your bike is the most aerodynamic place to carry your water bottles. This is no secret and if you read enough articles from enough varied sources and try to determine where the smartest people tell you to carry your water bottles you will wind up rather frustrated. It doesn’t seem that people have even decided upon the optimal number of water bottles to carry during a race of a certain distance. The jury is out and it’s not likely to be getting back to us before this season is up so it’s time to listen to the logic behind the arguments that are made and then deduce what you believe to be a somewhat intelligent decision based on those theories.

Bikes of all shapes and sizes come equipped to carry at least one bottle in a frame mounted cage inside the front triangle. The lone exception to this rule (Cervelo P4) is similarly equipped. Studies have shown that carrying a bottle inside the frame of your bicycle is not detrimental to the aerodynamics of the bike. In low virtual wind angle situations it has been seen to improve aerodynamics by aiding in laminar flow over the front half of the bike. Basically research shows that it doesn’t make sense not to carry a bottle here. Trek has tried to tell us that this situation can be improved by carrying an aerodynamic bottle… and they would prefer if we select the Bontrager speed bottle. The research hasn’t been done independently but it does make intuitive sense based on what the triathlon world has come to learn about the general properties of cylindrical shapes. Specialized came out with their own response to the Bontrager speed bottle, namely the specialize virtue aero bottle which is meant especially for mounting to a specialized transition frame to create the faring effect (legally here because it serves an extra purpose) of the bottle integrated into the Cervelo P4. For ~$50 odd dollars you can upgrade the aerodynamics of your bike to include one of these aero bottles. Unfortunately it will also mean that you have to decide not to jettison that bottle during the race unless you’re happy to throw $15-$20 overboard. For an Olympic distance race this might make sense, when consuming anything more than 750ml is unlikely and there aren’t going to be aid stations along the way… but for a long course triathlon the logic fails. The aero bottle doesn’t make sense because they can’t be replaced en-route at the aid stations.


Then the question must be answered…. how many bottles to carry? The longest distance between aid stations that I’ve ever heard of in a long course race is 30 km (two aid stations en-route), meaning that most athletes will not be riding for much more than an hour between stations. They do come even more frequently on occasion, as close as every 20 minutes in some races, perhaps enabling you to go bottle free if you are brave enough to drink at the command of the race course (an unwise plan if you ask me). As the 45-60 minute durations are more common between aid stations, and because for myself this is the situation for both of my races this year, that is what I was designing my plans around. Drinking the 700ml gatorade bottle every 45-60 minutes is pretty close to as much fluid as is consumed during a long course race in what I would consider normal temperatures and going with one bottle is perhaps an acceptable plan. Most athletes want to consume a sports drink but do not want to be bound by that drink for all of their hydration. Chasing a strawberry and banana flavoured gel with orange Gatorade can be a bit of a shock to the mouth and ultimately the stomach. Water is better for chasing down solid or semi-solid food than sports drink. It doesn’t lead to peaks in the sugar concentration in the stomach which can hamper digestion and absorption of the precious carbohydrates that you have so dutifully put down the throat. In my experience and personal preference having water along with the gatorade is a wise choice to keep from having the sharp variations in stomach sugar concentration. Water should go down with the gels or shot-bloks, it feels better with good reason.

So, two bottles are necessary. But where does the second one go? If you’ve got two frame racks, then that’s potentially your answer. If you don’t there are two other options. The first option is to put a bottle behind your seat. The behind the seat solutions are typically pairs of bottles which is more than is necessary. The debate was between one and two bottles, not between one and three. That extra spot doesn’t need to carry liquid, and it shouldn’t. That’s potentially another 2 lbs that you’re going to carry for the duration of the race. To shave two pounds of weight off of your bike would almost certainly cost in excess of a thousand dollars of upgrades, carrying the third bottle is an expensive mistake. A single bottle cage can be zip tied to the seat rails and centered behind the seat… that’s the cheap option and has been used by many a professional in the sport. The dual bottle cages can be used with one bottle and one of the sides can be used to carry the spare tyre and CO2 cartridges, another plan used my many a professional in the sport. The debate over which kind of behind the seat bottle carrier is most aerodynamic is still a debate. The logic at the moment seems to be that lower is better than higher. Maintaining laminar flow of the air flowing down over your back is very important to the aerodynamics of positioning and keeping the bottles (cylinders = bad) out of this important area is, well, important.

The final remaining option is to put the other water in front. This has one distinct advantage over the other bottle placement plans. If you put a bottle up on your handlebars you wind up looking at it quite a bit, this inevitably means that you are reminded to drink more often than if you tuck it behind your bum. While a well disciplined athlete ideally doesn’t need the reminder, every less than perfect athlete does benefit from simple things like reminders. “Bottle In Front” can mean different things. The most common is to make use of the product that screams “triathlon bike” like no other, the profile design aerodrink system. Basically this is an open topped bottle with a straw up to head height that sits between the aerobars. There is a net or a sponge placed in the neck to prevent sloshing and splashing of the water but easy refilling on the go as a full bottle can quite easily be tipped into the container. The system seems to work although there are many people who like to complain about the bracket mechanism that is meant to hold it in place. Most people I know end up using zip-ties to hold the thing in there… which means it gets washed infrequently… but doesn’t come loose when you’re screaming down a hill at 75 kph. The up-front hydration system can also mean mounting a speed bottle vertically in between the aerobars and fitting it with a straw to drink from like a profile design aerodrink. This was seen on a pro bike at the world championships last year and causes a bit of a stir, it’s a smart idea to improve the aerodynamics of the aerodrink system which despite the name doesn’t seem to be overly aerodynamic. The speed bottle up front plan is a good idea except that it still requires filling like the aerodrink system. What if there was a way to carry bottles, real bottles, up front with decent aerodynamics?

Steve Larsen figured this one out and while I’m not sure if it’s been wind-tunnel tested, it does past my logical wind-tunnel tests. The issue with sticking a bottle somewhere on your bike is that it is cylindrical and inherently un-aerodynamic. Laying the bottle on it’s side makes the bottle look the least cylindrical possible. Placing the bottle onto the bike like this is potentially acceptable, and when it’s places between my forearms in my theoretical wind-tunnel it remains largely out of the wind. I have a habit of folding my fingers into one another while riding in the aero position. Photos here & here of the TT position, and there’s a bottle hiding in there in both images. This may not be as aerodynamic as is possible with my hands separated and gripping the aerobars but I find it keeps my shoulders relaxed which is important. If I hold on to the aerobars with any grip I am shifting my balance to be governed by the hands, whereas if I govern my balance through the armrests at my elbows my fore-aft balance is improved on the bike, my shoulders are relaxed and the end result of the relaxation is that my legs are free to operate independently of my torso which means big watts. I mention this to describe the reason that I am making a windshield for my aerobars with my hands. My forearms are spaced only slightly wider than a Gatorade bottle and as a result filling this space with a bottle is actually likely an aerodynamic improvement as the bottle likely behaves like a faring, filling in this gap. Keeping a bottle there can be done by a variety of means including just laying it on it’s side and hoping it balances between the aerobars. This doesn’t work very well for bumps but with the inclusion of a modified bottle cage, the bottle can actually be held in place securely.


I opted to design this modified bottle holder based on the Specialized Rib-Cage Pro Road. I didn’t go for the carbon version because I wanted to be able to cut it to fit. I cut the portion of the cage that is meant to grip the neck of the bottle off. This prevents sliding the bottle in and out to a large degree but not holding it in place. If I keep the angle of the cage with respect to the aerobars correct I can still add two more points of friction between the bottle and the aerobars. The neck-piece was un-necessary so it was removed. I also found that this cage design gripped the bottle equally firmly when the bottle was fully placed in to the point where it was approximately 1.5 inches from the bottom of the bottle cage. Because I wanted to keep the center of gravity of the bottle as far to the rear of the aerobars as possible and didn’t need that extra 1.5 inches of sliding room I decided to shorten the length of the cage as well. This meant that I was going to use the stem of my handlebar as the point at which the bottle “stopped” when fully inserted. The bottom corner of the cage was removed leaving the upper ribs to reach over the handlebar and brush up nicely against the armrests of my aerobars (Vision TT bar) allowing me to zip-tie these to the armrests to hold the cage in place vertically. I ran a zip tie through the upper mounting hole of the cage and around the bolt in my stem to keep it held back butted up against the stem horizontally. It took a few iterations of cutting the cage shorter to get it to fit like I wanted. I didn’t want to cut off too much too soon because there’s no way to put it back once it’s cut.


The result is what I consider to be the most functionally flexible and likely close to the most aerodynamic way to carry the second bottle on a TT bike. I am also partial to it because it is extremely simple to remove and drink from without stopping from pedaling and there is no need to break from the aero-position to remove or replace a bottle from behind the seat.

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Chinook 119.1

One of the highlights of the post race dinner was the Race Director admitting that he named his race the Chinook 119.1 mostly to make fun of the World Triathlon Corporation. You have to be pretty brave to name the entire event that you plan something that you think is a joke. He has to hope that people either understand his sense of humour or is thick skinned enough to not care that people think it’s a silly name who don’t understand the jab at the world’s leading long course triathlon corporation.

Chinook Half

I mention that because I think it gives a good idea of what kind of people run the race… they are there to put on a very high quality event and have a fun time doing so. That’s what it’s all about to them and it really sets the tone for a fun day for the rest of the athletes, myself included. Today was one of my funnest days of racing ever. I don’t think I’ve really had a race day that in general I didn’t find fun but pretty much all of today was a good time except for a tiny stretch of the run course… but I’ll get there soon enough.

I like to start out my race reports with a brief description of the taper. My last blog entry included a description of my final days of high volume. From there on out I dropped back primarily the training volume but kept the intensity up. I realized that there was a possibility that during my taper for the Yakima River Valley Marathon that my intensity actually went up during the taper instead of maintaining it as that was a full 20 day taper. My training stress wouldn’t actually be dropping off very much if I cut volume and boosted intensity and the recovery wouldn’t occur. I did my best not to ramp up the intensity too much… okay onto the description. Wednesday I did my typical interval session on the bike and then brick run of about a half hour. Thursday I went hard in the pool and Friday I did an easy 50 minute open water swim with some friends from the club. Saturday I did a sustained ~threshold on the bike for 30 minutes into a brick run of 50 minutes. I did this during the heat of the day and did the ride on my rollers on the patio in the backyard in 32 weather with no wind or breeze. I wanted to prove to myself that I could function in the heat to give myself some confidence if it turned out to be hot on race day. I didn’t fall apart in the heat nor did I thrive but felt okay about racing in hot weather if that turned out to be the situation. Sunday was off except for some pretty crazy dancing at a wedding reception. Monday I did an abridged version of my pre-swim run and then swam for an hour. I did my last run on Tuesday composed of 10 short hill repeats which I capped at about my running threshold effort. Wednesday I was coaching the bike workout and did a rolling hill simulation to get my mind in game for the rolling hills of the chinook half course and skipped my brick run. Thursday I took it silly easy in the pool and Friday was also off. I tried to make sure I didn’t go anaerobic anywhere during my last week and was successful with that although I did push the intensity up close to threhold in all three sports’ final workout not including the lazy swim on Thursday. I got to Friday evening feeling physically alright, no muscles were still tired from training but I wasn’t feeling super fresh and charged up like I have been during some tapers (I have other times cut even more volume than this)

On to race day. I didn’t try to do breakfast a full two hours before the race because my stomach would be growling so finished my meal at 6:30 for an 8:00 am start and ate a banana while setting up transition. This was my first time decking out the new bike for a long course race so had the spare tubular and CO2 behind the seat, gatorade on my new cage on the aerobars a la Steve Larsen and a couple gels and 2 packages of shot blocks behind the steer tube. It took a long time to prep everything compared to any other horsing around training or other little races, kind of a surprise. I don’t want to imagine sorting out special needs bags and all that jazz for IM on top of this.

I was a bit rushed with putting on the wetsuit (decided to put in on at the 5 minute warning for the start!) but because I am fast at that compared to some of the others from Triathlon club *cough* Lesley & Becky *cough* I got it done in time and joined the masses on the sand. I didn’t really warm up so to speak but loosened up my shoulders. My first 200 yards swimming is always my easiest and fastest so why not include that in the race right?

Chinook Half
Chinook Half

We got to the countdown and soon enough we were off, I looked around for some feet that were kicking well to follow but the first pair I got on weren’t going in a very straight line so I left them and ended up going alone most of the way to the first buoy which is weird because this is the portion of the race where the pack is at it’s thickest. I picked up some feet as we turned directly into the sun after 400m and was happy to follow them as I couldn’t really see anything sighting anyways. He seemed to be going straight so I trusted him. I know it was a guy because he wasn’t kicking… most guys don’t kick in triathlon swimming that I know of anyways. I still felt like it was a bit of a drafting feeling but going around the next buoy I lost him. Sighting was alright again and I finished the first km solo. Out of the water my watch said 17:40 which was pretty good, on track for approximately the goal time of 35 minutes. If I got some good feet to follow I might still make it… but I couldn’t find the feet once back into the water after the on-beach turnaround.

Chinook Half
Chinook Half

Off I went alone again, someone picked up my feet at the buoy. I could tell because he was climbing up my calves all the way to hitting me in the backs of the knees. I pulled away with my arms and gave him a warning splash with my feet, I think he took the hint and left me alone. I tried to keep it steady and smooth as I was heading back into the sunrise and probably didn’t do it as straight as I could have but got there eventually. The final stretch to the finish seemed to go by really quickly and off I went up the beach. I wasn’t particularly speedy through transition and did an odd hopping along strategy down the carpet along the side of the row so I didn’t have to run on the pavement but did have to jump over all of the shoes splayed out on the carpet. Helmet on, race belt on, go! I’m sure I passed a dozen people through transition which is great and put me in a good mood for the start of the bike. I did mount with the shoes on the pedals which included a bit of a weave but there was a whole road to use and I’m convinced this is faster as long as you don’t screw it up. People say the only reason to do it is because the pros do it, I say the pros do it because it’s faster and I haven’t screwed it up yet.

Chinook Half

I got going on the road and was up to 40 kph before I really realized it, I hit my highest average speed after about a kilometer, 44 kph! The gradual downhill probably helped but soon enough we merged onto Highway 22X and the quick bit was over and the hard work began. I could tell the story as I experienced it or as actually happened here. I had my aero helmet on and because it howls in my ears in any wind condition I wasn’t convinced that we had much of a headwind, the grass wasn’t moving all that much when I looked in the ditch. In reality we had a pretty serious headwind on the way out which starts out basically with a 20 km slightly rolling climb heading west. The kind that makes you wonder if you’re working hard enough or not when the average speed is falling. After that the hills are more distinct you’re either riding along mostly flat or going up or going down. Less of this gradual stuff which in my opinion is harder to do. I can ride along at a bit more than 20 miles per hour on the gradual climbs which is fast enough to warrant staying on the aerobars for the climb… but it’s tempting to stand up and hammer. I’m getting to the end of the gradual climb and the drafting police motorbike comes up beside me and pulls in ahead to watch the group of three riders who are up ahead of me. I watch them trade positions a bit as I slowly gain on them. Climbing our first steep hill I catch them and just as we’re cresting the hill I decide to make my move and push past them. I try to move by with enough speed that they don’t start pacing off of me which is obviously what they’re doing which has aroused the suspicions of the drafting police.

Chinook Half

I roll through the place where the first aid station is supposed to be but there is nothing there other than a car with a few people sitting in it. I wonder what is going on and quickly decide that with my extra water bottle and the gatorade that I’m not quite done yet I can make it to the turnaround no problem just hoping that there is indeed an aid station there. Dad comes past in the car and I’m starting to realize that there is a truck driving half on the shoulder half on the road just a ways ahead of me. Dad stops in a driveway to take a picture and I ask “what’s this truck doing?”. The aero helmet prevents hearing an answer but I eventually figure it out. This is the lead vehicle. I’m leading the race!

Chinook Half

I come bombing down the big hill with the truck just ahead of me, I get quite a bit of dust in my face and have to spit some dirt out. Here I come to a roadside pullout and there is a Budget rental truck in the ditch. There’s a guy with gatorade, great. I have my own personal aid station and he passes me a bottle as I have just finished my first. Off I go, wondering what exactly is going on until I am almost at the turnaround. The Budget rental truck passes me again within a kilometer of the turnaround and I watch as they leap out and the same guy who handed me the gatorade 15 kms back hands me another. Quite deluxe service! He also nicely tucks a banana in my back pocket for me and I make the turn and head back. It’s a bit downhill but only barely, it’s here that I realize how hard of a headwind we’ve been battling on the way out because I’m quite quickly cruising along at 55 along the flats. The gap to second place is longer than I would have guessed but I feel like I’m sticking to my race strategy so I don’t get too concerned about going to hard. I was to try and take it easy on the way out and give myself the liberty to pick it up a few notches for the ride back into town on the condition that a) my nutrition was on schedule (need to get in 1200 calories by the end of the bike) and b) that I was able to do so without compromising any aerodynamic position later on. (not allowed to get an achy back by pushing too hard). My nutrition was ahead of schedule by 100 calories already so I really cruised here, trying to capitalize on the tailwind as much as possible. I don’t want to go too fast that the Budget rental truck doesn’t catch up to me again to set up the course aid stations ahead of me as we drive but I’m lucky that I have the big hill to climb which takes a while and the truck does get ahead. Unfortunately I do the next three kilometers coming down from the hill and onto the flats at 65-70 kph and the truck never gets out of sight. He pulls off the road and as they’re setting up the table I come through. They have a gatorade to hand to me and I take it and keep cruising. The foil cap under the cap hadn’t been removed so as I cruise along at 60kph I’m undoing the screw top and peeling the foil off with my teeth and screwing it back on so I can get a drink. I’m having a really fun time now and get it in my head that I’m chasing this truck. Faris Al-Sultan in an interview after Kona a few years ago commented about chasing the video helicopter all the way to Hawi, I had my own little version here except this was a truck.

Chinook Half

The long course merges here with traffic from the Olympic distance triathlon and I think I entered their field about 4/5 of the way back through the pack. That meant that absolutely no-one else was doing more than 50 kph and so I was hauling along and passing loads of people which became a bit nerve wracking at times because one person going 36 kph down the hill passing someone going 35.9 kph down the hill quite rapidly forces me to go 3 people wide down the shoulder. This is back on the long gradual descent into the city that I had described and at no point does my speed drop below 45 kph here. The police are doing an excellent job with traffic and I’m very rapidly into the community again and heading for T2. I finish the bike in 2:31 and change which is pretty good, about the fastest I anticipated I could go, 10 minutes faster than I though I would go, and fast enough by about a minute to set a new bike course record. I’m also 100 calories over my 1200 calorie goal which I’m happy with.

Chinook Half

My T2 isn’t super fast but I try to limit the time as much as possible because I know it’s counted as part of my bike leg time. I’m wearing socks which is never a fast choice but for a half marathon it’s a necessary choice for me. I’m off for the run. The first 200m go splendidly and I’m happy and thinking that this will go well. Then I very rapidly start to feel cramps coming on in my quads (Vastus Medalis for those of you who are interested – that’s an aero-position cycling specific muscle also if you are interested in that too). I’m wondering if this is going to mean a very painful run or a very painful walk, I’m actually kind of hoping to negotiate with the muscle for a third alternative of a pain free walk versus a painful run. Hopefully things can correct themselves I think. I get out my e-load and take 4 little pills, that’s half the batch. If it’s going to help it will take a while I tell myself, motivation to keep running for the time being. I try to focus on my breathing instead of my legs. I’m actually breathing corresponding to an appropriate effort and that’s encouraging even though I feel like I’m going super slow. I remind myself of the race plan, I’ve allotted the entire first 5 kilometers to focus on getting my running legs together. This isn’t what I had anticipated meaning by that statement but that’s what it means now. I’ve done a pretty good job of distracting myself for the first 10 minutes until I head down the hill into the park and the muscles start to feel like they’re going to leave the verge of cramping and enter the realms of serious cramping up. Okay, I tell myself, this isn’t 5 kilometers yet it’ll come around before 5 kms is done and I do pause for a 5 second stretch of my right hamstring (actually it’s higher up, maybe bicep femoris?). I get some gatorade in me and keep going. Kilometer marker three is arrived at just under 15 minutes and I’m actually pretty surprised. I have to pee and this is the only washroom on the course except for maybe being able to find one back in transition so I take the opportunity. The little standing still break actually does me some good and by the time I’m back out on the path I’m feeling better. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to cramp up in a ball and start crawling. I don’t worry about selecting an appropriate pace until the 5 km marker, I’m just running as I feel comfortable to do so. Kilometer 5 comes at 23 minutes and I’m obviously starting to move efficiently at last.

Chinook Half

The gameplan is to try and take it easy for the second half of this first loop, open it up on the first half of the second loop and then try to hold on as well as I can for the last 5 kilometers. I do back off the pace a bit at the 5 km marker but all is well and I try to run as smoothly and evenly as possible, the sudden movements are more likely to cause trouble than the steady and repeatable ones.

I’m off to the out and back stretch here and will get my first look at what my gap is like back to second place. I hit the turnaround and awaken the people who are sitting there to check my name off the list. “Wow, I guess our job starts now” is the sentiment of their statement even though those aren’t quite the right words. I’m congratulated and off on my way back. I keep watching for white numbers (red numbers are the Olympic distance athletes) and none seem to be arriving. I’m just about to complete the 1 km out and back section when Kyle comes by (I would learn his name later). He’s surprised to see how far off I am and I’m even more surprised to see how far ahead I am, this is weird. It’s hard to gauge the speed of someone going the other direction but I’m not convinced he’s going to catch me but I’m also not convinced that he won’t. I don’t really have any way of knowing anything about the gap so just keep trucking. Up the heartbreak hill and I don’t want to try any stunts so grab my water and gatorade at the bottom and walk up the steep pitch. Once on the gradual pitch I start running again, it feels pretty good and I head on back to transition to start lap 2. Transition is supposed to be an aid station but no-one expects whoever is in first place so there is nothing there for me. I don’t even really know where to look for water so I just keep going.

Chinook Half

I am wary of the cramping coming back when I go through the same section of path (not because it’s bad path, it’s just because it’s been 50 minutes since my last dose of electrolytes) and I decide to take three more caplets. Off I go down into the park and I realize that it’s starting to heat up, it’s actually hot, certainly not the 19 degrees that was forecast. I slow down at the next aid station and pick up gatorade and water from the table so that none gets spilled. I need to get as much in me as I can. The last bit of water gets poured inside the front of my tri-top which can now evaporate kind of like a second skin to sweat from. The chill helps and it’s about here I realize that this is where I’m supposed to be speeding up. The missing water had me distracted but now I’m in the shade for 2 kms and I pick it up a few notches. I do at least 3 kms at around a 4:20 pace which for me is at the end of feeling like I’m running fast. It’s a good feeling and the cramps in the muscles have decided to depart for good. I get a cheer from Dad and head off to do the out and back, getting a chance to see my split back to the next guy again, is he gaining or fading, is there a new guy hunting me down or not?

It seems like the kilometer goes by pretty quickly to the turnaround and I get two volunteers to cycle with me in to the finish from here. It takes quite a while to see Kyle again who is indeed still in second place. He’s about 100 meters further up the path than last time so maybe 200 meters gained… but I’ve got more than a kilometer on him and am feeling alright. Gatorade and water at the last aid station and I’m walking up the steep section of the hill. No last minute cramping allowed. Off I go up to the finish, it’s fun to have some people along the way cheering and the announcer gets peoples attention. When you’re the winner people actually pay attention to the announcer and turn around and watch. It’s kinda weird, that never happened for 19th place.

Chinook Half

I’m pretty happy to stop running and I don’t fall over which is some sort of success. I just want to lay down right away but there’s nowhere to lay so I have to keep walking which is probably good for me. My total time was 4:46:11 which is pretty good. The bike course and swim course are longer than the official half ironman distance so based on the paces completed today my comparable time for other half ironman races would be 33:58 / 2:21:17 / 1:38:59 = 4:34:14. That’s reasonably quick considering the relative difficulty of this bike course to some of the other ones out there like GWN or the Calgary 70.3 race I’ll be doing in August. Hopefully I’ll be able to ride close to 2:20 which I guess I showed today isn’t completely outrageous and then if my training progresses in direction I’m going to try to bend it I could run closer to 1:34:XX (ie sub 1:35). Who knows about the swim, 1700 people might be a washing machine that I don’t deal well with or maybe it’ll just be far easier to stay on people’s feet and I’ll wind up swimming a bit faster. I’ll hopefully also figure out this cramping stuff and not deal with it in a race again. I haven’t had it in training to the same degree so maybe it’ll be tough to figure out in detail, who knows exactly, giving this a trial run was the purpose of racing prior to tbe big show in August.

Oh, and the stat streak that I’m proud to continue. No one who has ever swam slower than me has finished ahead of me in any triathlon to date.

Complete Gallery of the day thanks to Reuben Krabbe is available here

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