Chinook Half

For those of you who aren’t super familiar with this kind of thing the bulk of your training ends between 10 and 14 days prior to the race at which point your body can no longer reap the benefits of high intensity or high endurance training in time for the race. Two weeks prior to the race I simulated the race over the course of 2 days, a 40 minute lake swim followed up by 2.5 hours of cycling with some triathlon club friends (interpret this as “go hard or go home”). The next night I ran a 2:05 half marathon at consistent but not fast pace. Based on that I took a good guess at what I thought were reasonable goals for the race coming up in 2 weeks. I figured 40 minutes swim, 3:10 on the bike and hopefully be able to hold things together under 2 hours on the run. That would allow me to go under 6 hours which I thought would be an excellent first crack at that race distance. If things went well I imagined I might be able to bike 32 kph with no wind and maybe run as fast as I did last summer at this distance which was 1:55. That would put me closer to the 5 hours 30 min mark for a best-case scenario.

During the 2 weeks prior to your race just because you won’t directly benefit in terms of strength or fitness you’re not going to benefit by laying on your back and getting fat, but you’re also not supposed to go out and do hard strength workouts. This wasn’t exactly how things panned out—Intervarsity Christian Fellowship held a leadership-retreat slash canoeing-adventure the weekend prior. I took it relatively easy i.e. not trying to race down the river, but I did solo a canoe for more than 4 hours but that’s another story. I wasn’t feeling to sore when I arrived back in Edmonton, Derek and I ran 32 minutes at 4:45 pace and I felt great. I headed to the pool Tuesday after work and that was a completely different story. My shoulders were super tight and I was having a tough time getting any speed in my turnover. Perhaps super repetitive use of relatively unused muscles was a bad idea, who would have guessed? I called things quits after only swimming a kilometer somewhat frustrated and, to be honest, more than a bit worried. Wednesday we (tri club) made our traditional trip out to the lake to go swim, I took it relatively easy and because I could focus on breathing in choppy water my shoulders didn’t cry bloody murder, I ran 26 minutes on 4:20 pace out of the water and could tell that I was starting to get antsy, not having done more than a 2.5 hour workout in more than a week.

Chinook Half-Ironman

Race morning arrived soon enough: I claimed the 5th best spot in transition for my bike, made good friends with a bottle of SPF 45, and put in about 600 calories for breakfast before 6:00 am. The race started at 8:00 am sharp and was 2 laps of the lake. I got in behind some good feet from the start and was able to follow in their draft and keep my sighting to a minimum. My first lap was 1X:XX but all I could see on my watch at the time was the 1, so I knew I was on track for a good swim but had no idea that I was on track for a really good swim. I lost the good feet for the second lap and breathed in a bit of water so I was a bit slower for round 2 but still climbed out in 36:27. Needless to say, I was surprised and also pleased.

Chinook Half-Ironman

I passed more than a dozen people in transition and ran into a bit of trouble knocking a bottle out of a cage while leaping onto my bike. I was concentrating on getting my foot into the dangling shoe and it cost about 20 seconds.

Chinook Half-Ironman

I cruised out onto the course, passing 3 and being passed by 3 others in the first half hour. I started eating at the 25 minute mark and got 400 calories in within the first 70 minutes. The wind was calm and the sun was in and out. By the time I reached the first aid station I had passed about a half dozen more people, this is where the bike course gets hilly.

Chinook Half-Ironman

I was no longer gaining quickly on those ahead of me and put in 200 more calories by the time I made it to the turn around. I passed a pair of guys in my age group right before the turn around. You needed to cross a cattle grate twice right at the end and I lost the same bottle again here because the cage was slightly bent and wouldn’t hold it tightly. I was passed by those two people whom I quickly re-passed. I had a tough time staying focused between kms 50 and 60 but by the time I made it to the big hill and ate a powerbar I was refocused and kept myself relaxed and my cadence high. It was a good thing I got that under control because a head wind cropped up and I really needed to concentrate on keeping an aerodynamic body position. I reeled in about 5 more people on the last quarter of the bike, including the top two females. I didn’t put in quite as much fuel on the return as on the way out, finishing the bike with 1050 calories in me. I didn’t want to start the run full and because I had met my target of > 280 cals/hour I wasn’t super concerned. I was off the bike in 3:05:34.

Chinook Half-Ironman

T2 was very quick and I passed two or three people there, I was instantly passed by one guy on the run, I ran the first 2 kms alone and was really concentrating hard to keep my turnover high, descending the hill into the park I could certainly tell that I had pushed hard on the second half of the bike and took a couple E-load salt tablets right away. A guy named Kevin slowly caught me from behind and I decided I would try and stay with him to see what kind of pace he planned on running. We cruised through the 5 km mark in 23 minutes. I said I thought I should have been closer to 25 and he agreed that he was a bit eager as well. We slowed gradually to an 8 minute mile pace and we stuck together at that pace for quite a long time. I took 200 calories of gel on top of the gatorade.

Chinook Half-Ironman

Kevin got away coming up hear break hill from the valley but I caught him at the top. We continued through the majority of the second lap together but coming up with 3 kms to the finish I walked an aid station trying to get in two full cups of gatorade, Kevin didn’t and put in a gap. I kept pace with Kevin (maintaining 8 min miles) for 1 more km but it was really starting to hurt and I couldn’t quite catch him. With 2 kms to go I couldn’t keep the 8 min/mile pace and Kevin started to pick things up. I slowly fell away, I took caffeine at the last aid station and walked the steepest portion of Heart-Break-Hill. I managed to run all the way to the finish but was having a terrible time doing so. With about 200 meters to the finish the lead female caught me and ran right past, you don’t need to give me a hard time about being beat by a girl because my mom already did. I couldn’t do anything other than try to keep moving at that point but finished the run in 1:45:54. Almost 10 minutes faster than my half-marathon personal best (without going for a bike ride).

Chinook Half-Ironman

Overall my time was 5:27:54, more than 2 minutes faster than my “best case scenario”. My last 2 kms took about 12 minutes, obviously falling back a bit from my pace earlier in the race, I guess those 2 minutes faster in the first 5 kms came back to get me at the end. Anyhow, all that turned out to be good enough for third place in my age group. So I’ve got a cool soapstone trophy and a big bronze medal (because this was the provincial championship).

Chinook Half-Ironman

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2.5 Hours of speed work

Following a 41 minute open water swim (in and around 2.0 kms) I headed out on the roads surrounding cooking lake for a little bit of speed work with Lucas from Tri club, a couple hard sets and a pretty solid east-south-easterly wind made for a good hard workout. I’ll admit we threw in a 15 km easy section in the middle but I ended with approx a 32-33 kph average speed. Map of the excursion.

Tri Gear
Bike on the roof

I tried out my pearl-izumi racing top for the first time and it felt pretty good, gels stay in the pocket and it’s nice and tight (aero!). It leaves a little gap between the top of my shorts and the bottom of the back of my jersey, sunscreen would have been a good idea for that little patch, ’nuff said. I’ve decided upon nutrition for the race; powerbar and 4 gels, and gatorade, if there are any bananas on course I may take 1/2. I have to see if there are gels at aid stations on the run, if not I will run with one, taking it before the hill out of fish creek park (km 8 or so).

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Negative split 85km

I made my way out to Devon this evening which amounted to an 85 km round trip. Plenty of wind, luckily the bulk of it was predominantly a sidewind but that still makes you concentrate. I was 1 hour and 29 minutes on the way out, and then tweaked the height of my seat amounting to about 2 minutes. I then made it to the door 12 seconds under 3 hours taking a slightly longer ride home (2 km more). Click Here to see the route.

I didn’t take nearly as many calories as I plan to be taking during the race in 2 weeks, 80 calories in my gatorade, 110 calories in a gel and 220 calories in a powerbar. That amounts to just over 130 calories per hour (for those of you who are uuber lazy), about half of what I plan to be consuming in the race. The difference being that I departed directly after a big pasta meal and that I wasn’t climbing out of the water dehydrated and hungry. This weekend I’ve got a swim/bike brick planned with some Tri Club peeps, and I’ll be giving my “250-280 calories per hour plan” a trial run. I’ve done a bike ride trying 800 cals in 2 hours… I felt no gastrointestinal stress but I didn’t run more than half an hour following that. The plan at the moment is 4 gels, 2 bottles gatorade and the “something solid” that I’m undecided on, whatever works this weekend is what I choose.

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With silver bells and cockle shells

My garden is done with the planting for the year, the interesting part is over and now it’s just watering it before I leave for school and pulling weeds and eating. Not all that bad if you ask me. Two afternoons and two evenings and I went from a hay field to a decent (I wouldn’t say beautiful) little veggie patch.


I’ve got enough lettuce to reach my salad quota for the year, likely more beets than I’ve eaten in my entire life. Enough zucchini to make a dozen chocolate cakes and still eat it every day for supper for a month. And probably so much swiss chard to make me hate swiss chard enough to never plant it again. Why, you ask? Well those seed packages come in discrete quanta and I’m not going to pay money for anything I’m not going to plant. That would just be silly right?

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UofA Spring Thaw Triathlon

The season has officially begun… and I’m super pleased with how things went. This morning at quarter to six I was up and at it eating and drinking (about 940 kCal) and out the door to make it to transition just as it opened, I drank another 100 kCal while booting around the race site. I got what I considered the very best spot on the lot.

in transition

It wasn’t the first spot taken, because people always want to run less distance with their bike shoes, but I was planning to mount with the shoes clipped in (see the picture) and I generally don’t have any trouble running with my bike. I went for the closest spot to the bike finish and run start.

I quoted a time of 14:30 for the swim, I figured best to underestimate by a few seconds (I was confident that I could swim sub 15) so that I would be stretched my people in my lane. It turned out that we had an old slow dude in our lane and a really fast teenager. So, a bunch of passing needed to happen and I jumped from the pool in a time of about 15:10. Including time to the mat (~100m with walk on deck): 15:38. (place 52/116)

T1 went alot smoother than last year when I got my race number stuck to my back because it was paper and I was wet… go figure. It was bound to be chilly racing at just a bit past nine in the morning. I opted to go for a cycling jersey with sleeves, admittedly not the most aero top I own but that’s okay. I wore arm warmers (which are tough to put on, I did most adjusting on the bike) and a skull-toque. The race number was on a belt.

I opted to go with shoes in the clips and fixed the left shoe (mount side) to the quick release with a small elastic which would break as soon as I started pedaling. I did a flying mount and had my feet in without much trouble. I was pretty impressed that it still worked with freezing cold and wet feet, I hadn’t practiced like that for comfort related reasons.

The bike course is 4.5 5 km laps, amounting to 21.6 km. I started out with a good spin to get loosened up but after about 400m I dropped the hammer. I maintained aero the whole time except for a 200m stretch that was classified as a “no passing zone” because of all the potholes and all the weaving that everyone was up to to stay out of them. I got caught behind a mountain bike twice in the section so I sat upright and got a good drink and stretched the legs a bit while waiting to get through it (automatic DQ if you pass, they did enforce it, poor guy).

The course includes a deadly hill (well 4 deadly hills I guess), Last year I was out of the saddle from the bottom and was quick but had a tough time on the top half where it kinks up and gets steeped just before you reach the summit. I elected to stay seated until the kink, at which point I geared up and sprinted out the really steep section. That’s how the pros did it in the ITU race last summer and it works well, your heart rate jumps anaerobic, but you reach the crux of the hill with speed and I think that makes a big difference. (Probably wouldn’t select this strategy for my 1/2 IM but it works for short races where “AET” doesn’t spell “DEAD”.

I was out of my shoes with a bit more than 100 meters to go and rode into T2, flying dismount and run with my bike. I was very impressed with my speed through T2. Time for T1 & Bike & T2: 39:57 (place 15/116).

The run course was flat and I thoroughly surprised myself with a blistering run considering I’ve been off my left foot for most of the last 2 months after Neil helped me destroy it. I started out with a 4:30 pace as I knew I needed to get my legs and wasn’t sure how the foot would feel going out. I stuck to that pace for less than a km and picked it up. I felt tight in my hip flexors (not enough aero riding yet this season, so they got tight on the bike is my guess) for the first 3 km and after a drink halfway I felt amazing and put a smile on my face. I hammered out the last 2 km and managed to feel destroyed at the finish line, which was one of the goals for the day. Time for the run: 20:18 (place 20/116).

Overall my time was 1:15:52. I placed 21/116 overall and 7/21 in my age group.

Anything I’d change? I did everything right based on my conditioning as far as I can tell. I need to practice aero because it’s rough on the body to ask 40 minutes of hard effort in that body position when you’ve been riding the rollers without much concern for good aerodynamics. It’s only going to be more important to practice this for longer distances this season. Unfortunately besides moving somewhere it’s impossible to get much practice before a race that comes this early in the season. I might be best off if I decide to go with arm warmers to just get them on my wrists while I’m still wet and then bike till my arms are dry and then pull them up. This doesn’t really get you warm very quickly but it would have prevented me from having damp arms all race. I don’t know which is the better decision though.

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Caffeine and Triathlon…

Here’s the question as I’ve most recently seen it posed: “I’m interested in hearing thoughts about benefits/detriments of caffeine on a triathlete. I know for a fact that peter Reid would abstain for a month before Kona to maximize the effect that day. Normann Stadler ate like 17 2Xcaffine Powergel’s at IM world championships in 2006.”

Here’s the summary of my reading on the topic.

Caffiene creates positive feedback in a fat metabolism cycle. caffeine can essentially increase your blood fat levels if you surprise your body with it. (If you remember high school biology there are 2 kinds of feedback, positive feedback and negative feedback Homeostasis (body regulation functions) is generally a setup of a whole slew of negative feedback.)

If your body always has caffiene in it you aren’t going to see any effect because your body always operates in this zone. Don’t think that you can lose fat tissue by doing this, your body’s negative feedback systems will get ahold of your blood fatty acid levels and this effect is negated.

Therefore use of caffeine can have a real plus on race day for an endurance event. Your glycogen stores will last longer because your body will be able to metabolize a higher proportion of fat. The average 15-17 hour IM athlete ends their day in this region because they put such a tax on their body but for them their glycogen needs to get really depleted before this happens.

So, should you try hyping yourself up on caffeine on race day? Yes and No. If you haven’t done it in training please don’t be a dumbass and try something new when it comes time to perform at your best. (If you haven’t already heard that advice a million times you should do some reading) The other things to keep in mind are:

  • caffeine *IS* a diuretic, this means you’re going to lose more fluids in your pee. you might think twice about how much time you can gain by biking a bit faster but taking 10 washroom break (there are ways around this apparently, they’re just never shown on the NBC Kona broadcast)
  • Caffeine does give you a mental buzz. getting a mental buzz puts you at a higher risk for a mental crash. It doesn’t mean you’re going to completely drain yourself by getting up on a buzz, but it does mean you need to know that it’s a buzz and keep eating/drinking while you’re on it. You won’t come off the buzz as hard if you’re keeping yourself well nourished/hydrated, but it’s harder to remember to do so when you feel good.
  • Caffeine increases cellular Calcium ion levels, this in turn leads to increased interstitial Potassium ion levels, (this means potassium moves out of cells into the juice between them) For your skeletal muscle and nerves this means that the contraction (or firing of the nerve) is going to be slightly retarded.

What do you make of these other effects on your body? well do a bit of thinking and decide for yourself. My opinion on the the ion concentration stuff is as follows:

This might be a good thing if you want your muscle to pull really really hard (once) but generally this isn’t a great idea for a triathlete. If your muscle fiber is going to pull harder or longer on each rep it’s going to get tired faster. As we all know a slow twitch muscle fiber has been built during training to work at low-med intensity for (insert big number here) repetitions. If you’re a triathlete who is training smart this is the kind of muscle you’ve got.

Whether or not this effect of caffeine is going to hurt your probably depends on whether or not you’re going to let it. If you’re well trained and well disciplined to cycle at a certain cadence or run with a certain turnover this isn’t going to be of much detriment to you (in fact the increased fatty acid levels will be net benefit) If you’re not disciplined while racing you may feel like pushing a higher gear and loving the speed. This can pretty quickly increase your power output, but you’re not helping yourself out here. Your muscles are going to get tired faster than they should.

If you’re going to be really smart on this topic you might think about using sports legs to counteract this effect of the caffeine and reap the benefits of caffeine while not incurring this effect but I doubt it’ll work as nicely as you theoretically might think it would. I doubt anyone is going to ever try this in a study because it’s just to dang complicated.

So the natural thing to ask I guess is whether or not I do it? Yes, I have done so and plan on doing so again this coming season.

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Triglycerides: 1.1 mM/L

Total Cholesterol: 3.36 mM/L

Fasting Glucose: 4.55 mM/L

HDL: 1.12 mM/L

LDL: 2.01 mM/L

VLDL: 0.5 mM/L

TD/HDL: 3.3

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