Jasper Training Block – 2012

I leave for France in two weeks. The final training block consisted of a week of ~15 hours that was front-end loaded leaving me headed into the weekend well rested so I could string together three relatively big days. My hope was that I would get myself a bit metabolically fatigued by loading on some volume. The weather wasn’t warm enough to be conducive to very early morning riding and the sun set too soon to do any late evening riding so all of the days were of reasonable length and difficulty, nothing was extreme. All told, I managed 15 hours 40 minutes of riding over the course of three days with a total ascent of 6000 meters. That’s a very small taste of what I have coming at me when I get to France, but I managed this 3 day block with minimal discomfort. I did screw up the eating when battling a block-headwind for two hours which had me running on fumes for the final 3 hours of my Sunday ride… retrospectively that’s encouraging. I can still climb at sustained rates in excess of 800m/hour when my blood sugar is a total mess. I was also able to climb the final pitch (4 kms averaging 6%) of the Marmot Basin road 3 seconds faster (alone) at the end of the third day than I did (racing S.Mundy) on the first day of the weekend.

Ride stats follow:



Saturday: Maligne Lake + Marmot Hill climb


Sunday: Miette Hotspring + Pyramid Lake + Tram Station + Marmot Hill climb


Monday: Marmot Hill climb + Athabasca Falls + Marmot Hill climb

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ITT Provincial Championships – 2012

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2012
Second place on Elite Podium with
Brian Countryman and Stefan Schreiber.
Bruce Copeland (Master) beat all of us!
snapped by Stephen Paiano

Provincial Championships of the race of truth went down this past weekend. It was the flattest ITT course that has been raced for provincials in a number of years, much much flatter than ACME, and arguably flatter than when it was on the ring road in Calgary, and definitely flatter than the Canmore course. I don’t know the history long enough back before that to know which other courses have hosted provincials. We raced west from Graminia school near Devon with two 90 degree turned for about 19kms, pulled a 180 and returned him the same way. We had a light but consistent breeze from the south meaning we had a crosswind for the majority of the course. The road quality isn’t dangerous (i.e. potholes) but it is about as bumpy as a road gets where you can still call it paved. I had very sore hips following the race as a result of the pavement quality.

I hoped to average 360 watts which if well distributed should put me close to the win based on the field of guys who had signed up. I had been off the TT bike for the previous 3 weeks, which wasn’t what I had planned, but with work demanding some things of me on Tuesday nights which are my designated TT nights it was just how it was. In the end I managed 349 watts average with a normalized power of 352, indicating a variability of less than one percent! That doesn’t mean I executed perfectly though, I would say I made a fair number of mistakes.

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2012

Starting with the non-mistakes. I did recon the course the day before and was feeling familiar. I think I’ve ridden that road in excess of 10 times this season now so I knew how it all fit together. I loosened up with a walk first thing in the morning and ate a big but late breakfast timed for the start. I did my electrolyte loading protocol that I developed last year because it was supposed to be hot (it was, 30 degrees and sunny) and started my warmup at 45 minutes before the start. I warmed up a half hour including 5 minutes in the bottom of Z4 and then did another interval pushing towards the top of Z4 and lifting cadence which I’ve found is important to do so that my glutes loosen up and I can access good power around 125+ cadence. This is especially important for crit-racing warmup and probably less so for TT. I warmed up with an ice pack under my jersey to keep my core temperature from starting to rise prematurely and headed over to the start on time (never making that mistake again after the disaster in Banff).

If you look at my overall pacing from the above chart you can see a strong start, probably a bit too strong. I was relatively consistent though the first third dialed in to the 360 watt target, and showed a drop of nearly 10% between the halfway mark and the four fifths mark. That fade can be attributed a few things, a small overestimation of average power, rising core temperature, lack of practice in the back-half of long intervals and generally poor pain tolerance. The pain tolerance issue is partially driven by lack of specific practice this season. Most of my suffering in 2012 has been amongst other athletes, not on my own. This has been good for motivation during those training sessions but adversely affected my capability to motivate myself through the really intense moments of pain and the mental battle to stay attentive to the appropriate stimuli in this race. I was able to recruit a strong finish from myself… but it was actually probably too strong. I could have fared better through the second half overall if I could have started a mental push for the finishline from a bit further out. If I think of my best time-trials, the push for the finish started from between 2/3 and 3/4 of the way through the race, usually drawing mentally on the idea that I had an endurance card to play relative to most of my competition. I suppose if I ever did have that advantage I also had it in this race but I was preoccupied with pain management this time around. On Sunday I only had a finishing push from 88% of the way through to the finish, only half of the finishing kick that I’ve shown before.

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2012

The variability in speed over this course was minimal, the consistency of the course was sufficient that it would be very difficult to apply more power when moving slowly and less when moving quickly. The power distribution shown at right indicates that I wasn’t really able to execute any strategic power distribution at all. I think that’s mostly because it was pretty much impossible to do without more hills. Nothing was steep enough downhill to provide material rest so consequently there wasn’t really anywhere I could spend more power in exchange.

Upon closer examination of the power file there are three things that I saw happen. For each one I’m going to plot the power variability from what I should have been doing ‘on average’ at that point vs how much power I actually was doing. The ’should have’ is the white line from above, which already isn’t perfect but the factors affecting the overall pacing are generally separate from what I’m going to show here.

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2012

Setting out I did my best not to totally load up my legs from the start line and settled in quite well during the first 5kms. After negotiating the first two corners I was feeling into my groove and started to get a bit impatient because things were under control. This was where first mistake happened. I should have been content to sit at about 360 watts and wait for the pain to catch up with me, the race had barely begun. I should have noted that my heart-rate was already starting to get close to 180 bpm. Instead I just took note of my breathing which was totally controlled (as it should have been) and started to raise my game a little bit. Raising my game a little bit amounted to doing 800 meters at an average wattage 60 W higher than I should have been. Being worried that I wasn’t going hard enough I basically redlined for more than a minute. As a direct result of that stupidity I took my heart-rate across the 180bpm line, and loaded up my legs heavily with lactate. It took a subsequent kilometer averaging 40-50 watts below target to get that lactate to clear. I’m lucky that I’ve been working on lactate clearance because if I hadn’t that could have effectively been the end of my race. It wasn’t, but it put me firmly into discomfort a lot earlier along the way than I should have been. From that point to the turnaround I had to start employing all of the motivation that I could find to stay focused. Normally I don’t have to start into my reserve of pain-tolerance that until halfway.

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2012

Following the U-turn this plot basically show some incredible variability. I am not doing many prolonged surges above or below my target watts but it shows that I’m having a hard time getting it right. I’ll do a half dozen pedal strokes hard and almost immediately back off the throttle because it is killing my legs. The whole section is done with minimal shifting of the gears but this is a real section of muscle-protest and it’s clear from the profile that I’m incapable of calming myself down and just doing what it takes. Riding smart and distributing my power through this section would spare the legs from a lot more pain that’s going to develop soon (next plot) but I just wasn’t able to do it. The result is me not getting as much speed out of the power that I am putting into the road as I should have been because I couldn’t stay calm to do it. I distinctly remember feeling like things were on the edge of falling apart when I couldn’t sustain a feeling of ‘push’. I was lucky to have a 30 second power displayed on my Garmin, because it kept me in the game, confirming that I was doing alright and that I hadn’t blown apart yet which was consoling.

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2012

The final case study comes basically immediately before I start to make a final drive for the finishline. What I can see in the power profile here is a succession of spots where I lift my power output up and then gradually it fades off again. This is indicative of an argument between my head and my body, where I am consistently asking myself to pick it up a little bit and then fading back again. Unlike the previous plot, I’m no longer able to keep the average power up. I’m fading and getting mad or frustrated with my legs and starting to push them again briefly. These are little periods of pushing myself too hard and fading back relatively gradually. There’s quite a bit of acceleration and deceleration going on here. I’m shifting gears quite a bit to try and find a cadence where I can generate power but I’m not finding anything that I can manage to settle on, pretty much everything hurts at this point and the finishline still seems a long ways away.

Photo from gallery: Racing 2012
These things are hard to get!

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Jason LaPierre Race Evaluation

This past weekend was the Jason LaPierre stage race in Calgary. I skipped the hill climb because I needed to work on Friday and went down for the Saturday evening criterium and Sunday’s hilly road race.

I tried to go with a couple moves on Saturday night and did some attacking of my own but the pace was incredibly fast. In the end we averaged 49.5 kph! Rundle Mountain was doing their utmost to keep things together and Red-Truck didn’t care, I think they knew that Bailey (who was only a half second down on GC) wasn’t going to be able to gain time on Dave (winner of Friday’s hill-climb) because he’s small and Dave is a pretty strong all-rounder. Strong enough to mark him in a flat crit, that’s for sure. At about halfway I gave up interest in trying to get in a move and just sat in. HR was down around 140-150 which was a joke, but when you can pedal around 99% of the course it’s easy to not get dropped from a pack of 40 guys.

Photo from gallery: Racing 2012
Photo by Masa Higuchi

In the end I had found myself on Paul’s wheel and I thought he was going to be a good wheel for the finish. Instead I should have chosen to try and mark Sean Crooks (obviously!) but at the time I figured Paul was a better bet because I knew that other people wanted Sean’s wheel and no-one was going to try and get a lead-out from Paul. I couldn’t discuss with Paul and it turned out he didn’t have anything left because he has been drinking too much beer. Paul moved me up a bit but it was too little too late and when I went to sprint I was boxed in by Peter Toth. That’s embarassing, there’s no way I should have been behind him. No disprespect to Peter who is a very impressive racer, but his wheel is not where you want to be positioned if you’re sprinting for the top spots. In the end I was on the brakes before the finish line. I was feeling really good and should have tried to mix it up with the big guns for the sprint. I think my confidence to do that wasn’t there during the race but outside of the race I know that I should. This is something to improve next year. I can beat lots of those guys, based on my performance in the circuit race the previous weekend which was a stronger field. I shouldn’t be afraid to jockey for the best positions in the pack I deserve to be in the mix for the win because I can finish in the mix for the win.


Photo from gallery: Racing 2012
Photo by Masa Higuchi

Sunday’s race

Colter attacked on the start line and I had lined up at the back and couldn’t do anything about it. The move that went up the road was very strong, with Brian from Velocity, Ian Auld, Colter and Eric from Rundle. We could tell from early on that Rundle didn’t want to let that get too far away because they wanted a win and so I didn’t chase much. Paul was motivated to chase it and he did quite a bit of work with Ben from Exergy. I think they were just having a fun time chasing and not really thinking about the big picture. After about a third of the race we had been going incredibly fast and the break was turning itself inside out to stay away and Colter blew up. As soon as we saw him come back we knew that the break wasn’t as much of a threat because Red-Truck would chase. At the halfway point of the race it became clear that Red-Truck wasn’t going to chase nicely… they attacked hard on the big climb and basically bridged to the break with both of their remaining guys, 4 others went with them. I was caught in no-mans land, just missing that front group and waited for the next group because I couldn’t get back on alone. we formed a group of 3 which eventually turned to 8 and we were able to get back on. A bunch of guys got shelled here though and the peloton was much smaller for the second half of the race. With 1.5 laps to go another small break went but it included Rundle’s newest guy to Cat2. Based on their reluctance to let even Eric on a long leash early in the ride it was clear they’d rather have the end-game include Sean Crooks and Robin Clegg for the uphill finish. Also, Dave from Garneau was likely to chase or try and bridge because he had more than a thousand dollars riding on the weeklong GC. I just sat on and didn’t work here either.

In the end we caught that little break thanks to a lot of solid work by Dave with about 5 kms to go. Retrospectively I should have counter attacked just prior to the catch and tried to solo in. I was feeling better than when I had tried a similar move the week before however I hadn’t been successful at that race and didn’t really want to fail at the same thing twice in a row. That was my best chance at a win though so I should have taken it. In the end it came down to an uphill sprint and I was 6th I think across the line. The usual suspects were ahead of me, Robin Clegg, Mac Garvin, Bailey McKnight, Dave from Garneau, Sean Crooks, and I think Ben from Exergy got relegated for a yellow line violation which was hardly his own fault. He almost ditched his bike on the wrong side of the road! They still haven’t posted final times but I think I should be in the same time group as the winner. Behind me there was a gap if I’m not mistaken.

I have had quite sore muscles recently. I think I can do a lot of damage to them during workouts & races because my cardio is very good at the moment. I am also spending a lot of time at my desk not moving which doesn’t help with mobility and flexibility and generally feeling limber and relaxed through the hips. I am doing no hard work between now and ITT provincials, just some sub-threshold steady efforts. I want to feel strong on Sunday and really hope that I can crack the top 10 this year, I missed out last year by 30 seconds. I am previewing the course on Wednesday. I might also go preview again on Saturday in advance on Sunday’s race, the extra familiarity with the road and maybe even a TT helmet training ride should help a bit. 30 seconds is one percent. Hopefully I can draw on all of the little bits and get them to add up this weekend.

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Golden Triangle in a day

Photo from gallery: Golden Triangle - 2012

I set out from Castle Junction at 7:53 am and headed south west over Vermillion Pass. It was socked in and had rained heavily the night before. We were in no great rush to get going because we knew that the weather would be improving throughout the day. By the time I reached the top of the pass it had stopped drizzling and started raining and then decided to go back to drizzle. I wasn’t getting soaked, but I was getting wet. By the time I reached the bottom of the pass on the BC side of the continental divide it had warmed up significantly, partially due to the loss of elevation again.

Photo from gallery: Golden Triangle - 2012

The ride towards Radium from here follows the Kootenay river and is generally a very gradual downhill except for a few rises where the road splits from the river temporarily. I made alright time but was dealing with a slight headwind and my body was chilly and wet roads are never very fast. I was also doing my utmost not to push the pace early in such a big day. Long sections were done between 32 and 34 kph on the flats, I wasn’t making the kind of progress I had expected when I had planned on having a group of riders. I resigned myself to the fact that this day could not be rushed, especially in the first half and so I drew my attention to other things.

Photo from gallery: Golden Triangle - 2012

I really enjoyed the climb up towards Sinclair Pass. I found a rhythm early and made good progress upwards and easily managed to keep myself completely aerobically controlled (sub Half ironman effort) on an 8 percent grade seated with only a 25 ring in the back. That encouraged me that with a 15% improvement in gearing for France I am going to be just fine. Of course I’m going to have to bail out to standing on the steepest pitches, but that’s kind-of the point, no?

Photo from gallery: Golden Triangle - 2012

I let it rip on the descent to Radium. It’s quite the road and I’d like to ride up it at some point as it would be an interesting climb (or a few times). The pitches change quite often because it’s just built into the canyon, not graded like a superhighway. Very interesting to ride. We got coffees and pie as a first break and I got off the bike to sit down for a bit of a break. After I got going again the headwind that had been fighting me started to co-operate and I rode north out of Radium very quickly indeed. The road quality deteriorates here and I was very glad that I was running 25mm tyres. We held off for lunch for another hour and then took another break. It wasn’t great planning because it was in too close proximity to the coffee stop in Radium to be useful. None the less I stopped and ate and took off my leg warmers and applied sunscreen as the clouds had largely disappeared. By the time I was riding again it had heated up and I was starting to sweat a bit. That’s good because I was very rapidly approaching the hundred mile mark. It would be embarrassing to do a century ride without sweating!

Photo from gallery: Golden Triangle - 2012

The final 15 kms or so into Golden had fresh pavement but I was getting a bit weary. I hadn’t been drinking as much as I should have and I was pretty sure that I was short on salt. Some beef jerky, electrolyte tablets and some chocolate milk helped with that situation. I also changed into new shorts, fresh socks, and a fresh cap. I think I ate my eighth banana and third peach at that point as well, I had almost exclusively stayed on ‘real food’ up until the 210 km point and was quite proud of that fact although I did decide to start drinking some calories in the form of ice-tea or gatorade as well.

Photo from gallery: Golden Triangle - 2012

The climb out of Golden is a bit dubious but the road wasn’t that busy, I wouldn’t want to do it on a Summer Sunday afternoon/evening when Calgary is making it’s weekly migration back from the shushwap and Okanagan. I stuck to the white line, the shoulder was full of debris and the traffic wasn’t so bad that the cars couldn’t get around me. By the time I crossed the bridge I had largely forgot the fact that this piece of road was notoriously unsafe which must have meant it wasn’t so bad. The rest of the climb to 10 mile bridge and beyond was just fine, there’s a huge shoulder available.

Photo from gallery: Golden Triangle - 2012

Cresting the top of that climb I was in good spirits and pressed onward towards Field. Some false flat sections in here really screwed with my head and I found myself going too slow or too fast more than once. Upon arrival in field I was starting to have to focus pretty hard to keep riding with appropriate effort. The Kicking-Horse climb went by quite nicely after I had given my body a bit of a dose of food in Field until I got a flat on my front wheel. I wasn’t pleased and was a bit clumsy while changing it and could have done it much much faster. Eventually it was fixed and I was on my way. I opted to ride the old highway between O’hara and Lake Louise which was fun but slow-going. The pavement is getting pretty broken up and with a tired body it seemed like I was taking an unfair beating. Eventually though I popped out near the Chateau and got to enjoy a whipping fast descent to the townsite.

Photo from gallery: Golden Triangle - 2012

One last stop to re-fill bottles at the start of the parkway and I was off with 25 kms left to cover. At this point Dad said ‘You’re going to do it’ but I still wasn’t so sure. 25 kms is quite a long ways, especially when you’ve already done 295! I pumped a lot of food into my body on those closing kilometers but I was also working pretty hard. I noticed that I had to average a speed of 33.5 kph if I wanted to finish with an average moving speed above 30 kph and so I pushed myself a bit. I did make good progress here although I started to notice a lot of wildlife in the woods around me. I saw deer, coyotes, owls, moose, families of ducks, bears, elk, basically everything that it’s possible to see I saw. The problem was that upon closer inspection everything turned out to just be tree trunks or stumps or rocks. It wasn’t totally crazy hallucinations or anything but it was a bit unsettling. I had my wits about me enough to realize what was going on and my balance was fine so I just kept cruising. Rolling in to the parking lot at Castle I thought I came up 14 seconds short of attaining a 30 kph average speed. That was until I downloaded the data and saw that I had done 320.3 kms, not just 320. That means I did go fast enough in the closing stages!

Photo from gallery: Golden Triangle - 2012

We discussed whether or not I ever needed to do a longer ride than that. I don’t think I do. The nice thing about doing 300 kms last time was that it was only a small increase to get to the 200 mile mark. Now the next logical milestone is 400 kms but that’s an awful long ways from 320, probably 3 hours more. In any case, I don’t think I need to do anything longer. Maybe someday I’ll want to but for now this seemed to be far enough. It was far enough that you get your body into a steady-state of aerobic lipolysis and consumed fuel use. There is zero sense that you have any glycogen to ’spare’ at this point. Sure you’ve got it, and you can draw on it if you want to, but if you do you’re basically going to be done in short order if you start to rely on glycolysis from any ’stores’. I feel like I spent at least 5 hours in that state last Saturday. At all points from about 6 hours onwards I would estimate that I was within a 20 minute effort of a complete bonk if I lifted my effort to threshold. I don’t really see how doing more than 5 hours of riding at that ‘edge’ proves anything to me physiologically, I am sufficiently trained in this regard that I can go for however long I want and because I wanted to do 320 kms that’s how far I went. Future milestones would largely be regulated by my motivation to ride further, I’m almost certain my body could do 350 or 400 and very likely 500, my body is prepared to do it if I tell it to. At 210kms with 110kms left I was very aware that this was a pretty crazy endeavor. While I know that I am quite capable of functioning alright in a sleep deprived state I do know that I recover from doing that to myself very slowly and strongly prefer not to do it. Riding further than 320 kms in one shot by any appreciable amount would require that I start to encounter the sleep deprivation barrier and I don’t really care to do that at all. I quite like the idea of a challenge where you get to sleep but you stack big days back to back to back… maybe I’ll try one in September!

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Great White North – 2012

The day started with fried eggs and a liter of yogurt. Many great days in the past four or five years have begun that way. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. With my blood sugar controlled and some fat and protein in my stomach I made my way out to the lake for the start of the race. After pumping up my tyres and talking with everyone I wanted to talk to I still had an hour to kill. I sat myself down amongst all the commotion and relaxed prior to the start. Eventually when I couldn’t see any other athletes who weren’t wearing their wetsuits I finally decided I should put mine on. We then proceeded to make our way to the beach and stood around for another 15 minutes waiting for the horn to send us off on our way. I had got myself pretty cold by this point with the lightly falling rain and bare-feet on the sand, and was a bit concerned but reminded myself that the water was plenty warm and I’d be fine once I got going.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2012

I started in the front row despite knowing I’d swim at least 10 minutes slower than the fastest swimmers that day. There were 800 people lined up and only 400 meters to the first turn and I didn’t want to be stuck in the melee that would inevitably result. I swam the fastest 400 meters I have swum so far in 2012 to start the race, and turned ahead of the vast majority of the commotion. I then proceeded to try and spend the next 1600 meters catching the drafts of the dozens and dozens of people who were passing me in the water. It sounds like a totally stupid strategy, but retrospectively I think I would probably do it again. It made for a very comfortable swim, and I never felt strained. I also wound up swimming quite quickly thanks in part to the fact that I was always in a good position to get a draft (i.e. amongst swimmers who are faster than me).

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2012

Upon exiting the water I saw 36 minutes on the clock and was very pleased. I was a bit of a zombie in transition, being quite dizzy, but I was soon on my bike and not feeling so bad at all. I lost my bottle of gatorade within 25 meters of transition when crossing a speedbump and navigating traffic that was employing typical age-group triathlon bike-handling skills. It was raining and only 10kms of downhill tailwind to the first aid station so I just pedaled on.

I did the first downhill tailwind section of the ride pretty much as you would expect me to: fast! I rolled an average speed of 49.6 kph to the turn southbound. I was in love with life at this point, riding a bike very fast is pretty much my favourite thing in the world to do. Turning south I started to pick off a number of friends and team-mates many of whom looked calm and relaxed and enjoying their days so far. Turning west into the headwind I started to focus on head-position to maximize my aerodynamics through what would be a key portion of the course. I had settled my heart-rate quite nicely after the swim and was ready to start cranking some watts. My legs were feeling good and I was on-target as far as I was concerned, the field was beginning to thin out quite significantly at this point and the people I was passing I was no longer ripping past.

Then I heard a hissing in the rain and thought that my brake pads had started rubbing on the rim in the rain. I don’t know why, but when I reached down to try and adjust my front caliper my rear rim hit the road and I went a bit squirrelly, the hissing was gone because all of the air had drained from my tyre. I was very calm about the whole situation, knowing that my hopes of earning a fastest-bike-split-of-the-day-cheque had now gone out the window. There was nothing I could do now, but dose my blood-stream with too much adrenaline. Before I had stopped I already had the lid off of my tube of sealant and was going to try and be moving within 2 minutes.

The sealant didn’t go in for whatever reason. Maybe because the whole thing was soaking wet, maybe because the sealant was a couple years old, maybe because it couldn’t go ‘around-the-corner’ of the cutout in my disc, or maybe just due to operator error. I had to do a full tyre change, Cam had now pulled up in the support vehicle and jumped out to help. I thought I was going to get a spare wheel from him but evidently he’d already given his spares away for the day because the wet roads were causing a ruckus for debris getting stuck to tyres. I had the new tyre out and it took some elbow grease and thumb strength to get the old tyre off before I could pop the new one on. Soon enough I was off down the road, but was going to be a pretty big chicken regarding cornering on the spare. The wet conditions meant I had almost no confidence that the glue would make a quick bond.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2012

Leaving the scene of the crime I had a low heart rate and was absolutely killing it for a while. This was a big problem, my lower back started to hurt and I had also got myself pretty chilled during the 9 minutes spent at the side of the road. I had totally forgot what I was doing, namely riding a bike in a triathlon, and was trying to catch back on to the peloton in a road-race. It was a terrible strategy and when I realized what I was doing I was pretty mad at myself and then got really un-focused on the task at hand.

I had begun to then pass all of my friends and team-mates for a second time as I went through the river valley. Did I mention that I was scared for my life going down the hills in the rain on a poorly glued tyre? I was scared shitless and wasted a lot of free speed in the process. Coming out of the river valley the second time I started to regroup a bit from the thrashing I had given myself immediately after the flat and set out for the final 30kms or so back to town. I did an alright job through this section of pacing myself with a lot more restraint knowing that I had already done some significant damage.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2012

Entering transition I was feeling pretty disenchanted with the whole idea of running 21 kms. It was a good thing that it wasn’t until after the race that I realized how little running I had done in the lead-up to the race. I had some sort of mental block or something because I had imagined that I had done pretty much the same lead-in to this half-iron run as I had done during my lead in to the Oliver half-iron run. I hadn’t. In fact, during the four weeks prior to this race I’d only run once, and only for 18 minutes.

Naïvety was my friend, and I set out and jogged alright for the first kilometer, one of my better brick transitions in recent years. Then my lower back started to tense up and my calves started to really ache and groan. The lower back was directly related to my stupidity on the bike, and the calves were directly related to my lack of running. I was actually having a pretty fun time at this point. A large part of this was due to the fact that I had tons of energy and that the only things that were limiting me were muscles. I wasn’t very happy with things but I feel like I had an alright mood which was a vast improvement on where I’d been on the bike when I was being an idiot. It’s a lot easier to be in a good mood when you’ve got sufficient glucose to feed your brain. I jogged along for a while, mostly keeping it moving faster than 5 min kms. I was stopping to walk briefly at the aid stations to try and give my legs a bit of a break. I then found that I was drinking too much coke when I did this and eventually quit walking the aid stations because I specifically needed *less* aid.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2012

I stopped for a few seconds and stretched some muscles when I passed some buddies cheering on the run course. I also wanted to unload the CO2 cartridge that I was carrying. I waited up long enough to let Travis catch me and then we ran along together for a little bit. I couldn’t get my heart rate up at all, I couldn’t get the muscle recruitment to warrant it, and so I was fully capable of chit-chatting as we jogged along. Annett passed us here despite not moving like her regular self, and later Kris who was running well, showing off some serious leg speed and focus. As we saw the leaders coming back I felt inspired to do some crazy cheering because the rain was keeping most of the spectators away. It was down-right exciting to watch Stefan come by, I was almost 100% sure that he would catch Kyle Marcotte based on their proximity and how the two of them looked.

I was slowly making progress along the course and wasn’t being passed by too many more people. There are some longish straightaways just before the turnaround which seem like things are spread out but it actually goes by incredibly quickly if you just focus on the running. As I left the turnaround I ditched my sunglasses with Ben and had a little bit of a headwind which cooled me down a little bit which was nice. The humidity was at 100% and running with a tailwind meant that sweating wasn’t really working as effectively as it should have been so despite it being around 15 degrees, I was getting hot. The tension also released in my lower back and I was able to pick up my knees a little bit. I started to lift my pace and set my sights on maintaining the gap to the people ahead of me instead of fading further. As I progressed along the course my hips and lower back opened up a bit more and I finally was capable of running. Once I could finally start accessing the muscles my heart-rate was able to come up and I ran quite nicely indeed. I started picking off the fading triathletes ahead of me and passed between fifteen and twenty during the closing half hour of the race. When I finally could run I made good time, my calves were killing me before I started running hard and my hamstrings really started to complain when I lifted the pace but I was pleased to average 162bpm for the closing stretch at 4:17 per kilometer pace. I was quite pleased with this outcome and pleased that when I finally did have an opportunity to get a race out of myself I didn’t just jog it in to the finish, but rather laid it on the line and went for it.

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2012

The flat tyre cost me 9 minutes and 30 seconds when it should have cost me two. That’s mistake number one. Mistake number two was getting distracted by the flat tyre and making all kinds of pacing errors which proceeded to cost me relatively significant amounts of time on the bike, but more importantly the surging locked me up for the run. I don’t know how likely it is that I could have managed the 4:17 pace for the whole half marathon even if I had paced the bike properly, I would have been limited by my lack of running and my calves and hammies would have protested louder and louder eventually. Also, I wouldn’t have been able to access the ‘redemption’ motivation that I had to finish strong. ‘Redemption’ motivation may have been replaced by ‘competitive’ motivation if I was still in the hunt for a fast race, who knows, I didn’t have any of that on the run, that’s for sure. I didn’t have a PR in me at all by any stretch of the imagination (sub 4:14), but I would have easily been inside 4:25 without my mishaps, and possibly close to the 4:20 barrier. The 4:20 barrier is not just notable because it’s 4:20, or because Tim Clark’s race number was 420, but because it’s the threshold for qualifying to race as a professional. Eight guys did it this past weekend.

Thanks to Becky and Lenka for the photos.

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Power Analysis – Oliver Half





The above shows my performance statistics from Oliver Half in 2011 and 2012. 2012 is green because it is the faster of the two rides, and red is the slower of the two rides. The average power in 2012 was lower, so to fairly compare the pacing strategies I am displaying a graded power (mean matched dataset) instead of the raw values. I had computer trouble in 2011 for the first kilometer and am consequently only displaying a subset of the full ride of 93 kms (starting from a bit past the first mile marker onwards). Discussion of the contributing factors to faster speed on less watts are detailed in my 2012 Race Report. In summary, a lighter bike (almost 700g down) and a collection of improved aerodynamic factors made that possible. This post details the strategy, which is as we will see, a major contributor.

The faster sections of the course are the parts where there was a tailwind in 2012 where there were negligible wind conditions in 2011. (km 13.5-24.5 & 52.5-63.5 were faster due to tailwind) There are basically no slower sections with the exception of an early portion where I was suffering the effects of poor swim-training. There are also many situations where my several-second power peaks in 2011 were higher than in 2012 with no net result of improved 30 second power (the smoothed line doesn’t indicate a net power expenditure increase by spiking the power up). The interpretation is that when I briefly push hard I need to briefly rest, but I can get more power out by staying steady. These occur throughout the files, a couple examples are: km 20-21, 27-29, 33-34, 57-58, 69-70, 72-73, 88-89. Every time this happens it is probably worth a second or two advantage, and my files are littered with them. That’s not to say there were no situations where the reverse happened (worse pacing in 2012) see km 58-59, 61-62, 81-82. These all occurred towards the end of the race where I was starting to push the pace a little bit. The conservative riding early on was strategically superior to the racing mentality that occurred later in the race. The opposite occurred in 2011 when I was in the midst of other closely paced riders early on and was riding solo off the front in the second half. By swimming slower I began the ride just blowing past other riders and caught similarly paced athletes in the closing stages, the pacing outcome reflects this.

So, to try and investigate with some summarized statistics, was my power more distributed or less distributed in 2012 than 2011?

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2011 Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012
Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012

These plots compare my speed (x axis) with my power output (y axis). Top left is 2011, and is compared with 2012 on the right and on the bottom. I displayed the 2012 image twice to help draw correlations both vertically and horizontally.

Stats for the rides are as follows:

2011 2012
Time: 2h20m14s 2h17m41s
Rank: 5th 2nd
Avg Power: 315 298
Norm Power: 298 286
Variability: 5.7% 4.2%

The answer to the question “was my power more distributed or less distributed?” is that my power is less distributed. I was more careful with where I spent my watts in 2012 and didn’t deviate widely from my average power… on average. This shows in the variability of the ride. The variability index is down by a one and a half percent. That’s a lot if you ask me compared against the kind of range I see across all the rides I would do in a season (Rides vary from around 3 percent to 15-20 percent). If I hadn’t been sick I wouldn’t have had the cautious attitude, I think that helped me out in this regard. The cautious attitude is one that stops the body from hammering and ramping up huge power spikes.

If we look closely at the comparison of the two density plots you can see that with this visualization my power actually appears to be more distributed. The density cloud in 2012 is narrower and more stretched out than in 2011. This means that with respect to my speed, I made a more conscious effort to work hard when moving slowly and to back off slightly when moving quickly. I have very few data points in 2012 where I was soft-pedaling when I wasn’t going quickly, nor do I have many datapoints where I was drilling it when already at high speeds. In this regard my power is very distributed according to what was going on during the race, it is strategically distributed. The impressive thing is that I was able to strategically distribute power more effectively in 2012 but still reign in my overall power distribution (variability %). This to me shows that I am developing a strong maturity in pacing, that I am capable of executing the ride with a strategic advantage over my previous self. This is encouraging to say the least!

Moving forward I believe that I can still improve my power variability overall. Being sick and cautious really helped me out during this race, but I wouldn’t want to race sick all the time. I should be able to calm myself and focus into the same mental space when racing. If I am confident that the patient and conservative race strategy is superior then I have good reason to execute it. This is very difficult to do in practice, it’s difficult to actually race with a body full of testosterone, adrenaline and other stress hormones, and restrain yourself from feeding off of them and punching the power way up. At basically any point in time during that ride my body is capable of being at four times the power output of where I’m currently riding within just 5-10 seconds. I have evidence of this capability from sprint training where I routinely hit 1200+ watts a dozen times over the course of a ride. When I want to go fast it requires a lot of restraint to not start cranking huge power right now!

Allow me to do some inaccurate math here, consider these numbers as largely qualitative. Keeping the power variability within 4% on a ride that averages 300 watts is really asking my body to keep the power variability within 1% of my demonstrated 1200 watt capacity. Improving on that (to, say 3.5%) is asking myself for an improvement that’s only a small fraction of one percent, a fractional improvement of only a couple thousandths over where I’m at right now! I shouldn’t be surprised, that’s what it’s like at the top, the differences are minute: I missed the fastest bike split by only 14 seconds this year!

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Oliver Half 2012

I raced the Oliver half this past weekend. Preparation was essentially negligible with regards to triathlon in the prior three months. I have placed a focus on racing bikes and my limited training time has been focused on reaching the next level in road-racing rather than doing anything to prepare for racing a long course triathlon. I have to my advantage the fact that both sports are relatively endurance focused and I did run relatively consistently through the past winter. Swim training in the 100 days prior to the race included one 750 m swim during a sprint triathlon, and one early-morning open-water swim the morning prior to the race. Run preparation was on and off, but mostly off, it included a 10 mile run with Travis on the Monday prior where I felt like things were manageable between the 4:30/km pace and 4:40/km pace. I was racing with one data-point for HR and pace and hoping that extrapolations from there would be somewhat accurate.

I found myself feeling slightly sick on Friday as the day progressed, and relatively sick on Saturday. Sunday was worse again and my resting HR the morning of the race was 8 bpm higher than it should’ve been. I didn’t feel incapable of racing, and because I had used valuable vacation days to make the trip and incurred all kinds of expenses like gas and the condo, I never really questioned at least starting. Monday, post-race was my sickest day and I am now recovering slowly. Recover was delayed by too much time on Anarchist pass in the rain, or too many wineries, or both.

Race day arrived, and after the requisite preparations I lined up ready as I was going to be on the beach. I was pretty calm about the whole thing, I was confident in my ability to perform alright once I got out of the lake and decided on an all-day strategy that should get me to the finish line as quickly as possible. Swim only moderately hard to conserve energy, two stroke breathing the whole way to stay comfortable and not risk getting out of breath. Ride a solid but conservative bike split that would enable me to recover from the swim, eat well and prepare nutritionally for the run, and then run as close to an even-split half marathon as possible, starting steady and seeing what I had in reserve during the closing stages of the race. I didn’t expect to find much left in the tank.

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012
Swim Start
Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012
Swim Exit

The swim was relatively uneventful, I felt like I was overheating at the first turn and threw my swim cap onto a nearby kayak and continued on without a swim-cap. That was much better and I felt comfortable but tired during the closing stages. I pulled out of the water to hear Steve King announcing that the lead female had just exited the water. I estimated her to have likely swim 29 minutes, meaning I would have swum around 36 minutes. I believed things to be going quite well except for that I was tired. I wasn’t really sure how much traffic surrounded me, and fortunately I had no idea how far back through the field I was as that would have been demotivating. I opted to not run past anyone in transition and just go with the flow and try to get my heart-rate to settle. This wasn’t a fast strategy, it was a survival strategy.

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012
Dave's Photo
Photo by: David Roberts

Jumping aboard the bike I had a target power target of around 300 watts. I knew that because I was sick I needed to watch heart-rate as well as power and be willing to adjust on the fly, after a half lap I had to switch my target effort to what I realized was actually going to correlate to around 150 bpm and backed off my target to hopefully average between 280 and 290, realizing that I’d either fade hard due to illness or more likely (because I was being optimistic), build through the last hour on the bike. I got all sorts of conflicting feedback, some of it inevitably due to illness, and some due to poor swim fitness, as well as some due to the hair-raising experiences that inevitably occur when one has to pass nearly two hundred competitors while aboard the bike. I almost quit after a half lap, and then almost quit again after one and a half laps. I was a bit concerned about causing a severe chest infection if I really dug deep and got the lungs burning. Instead I just held back and kept going, I wasn’t really working very hard and so I figured I’d just keep cruising along.

Travis's Bike
The lazy-man carrying solution for
a spare tubular and CO2 cartridges.

I have spent a lot more time riding and racing with my powermeter since racing Oliver last year at this time and was able to use it to strategically allocate effort a bit more effectively than last year. I am also riding a lighter and more aerodynamic bike due to a number of adjustments I made to gear and position. I eliminated the aerodynamic penalty of carrying a spare by storing it in an added sliced-open aero-bottle as a P4-esque fairing to the bottom of the downtube. I am also running no stack height between my aerobar pads and base-bar. I am also running 3T brakes instead of the outrageous stock vision brakes that came with all the old Cervelos. I made some adjustments to cable-routing which greatly reduced the effective frontal area of the head-tube. I also switched to “CeeGee” pads which materially absorb vibration rather than diffuse it. They allow me to comfortably rest a larger fraction of my torso weight through my shoulders to the bars which relaxes the upper body on narrower elbows and longer extensions. This allows me to lower my torso further without biomechanical penalty of inducing lower back stress or engaging upper-body musculature to support my torso. This is in contrast to my old position on the TT bike which was as low as I could go with that aerobar configuration. This position may also have been improved by adopting a slightly greater anterior pelvis tilt with an adamo saddle rather than a fizik arione. The pelvis thin is a guess not a measurement. I made those alterations at the same time, in concert they are an improvement and I cannot distinguish one isolated source. I am also more practiced riding this year with an improved head position, settled on through roll-down testing. This is a simple test that is worth perhaps a watt or three when averaged across the whole bike course. It’s one of the things that people should be learning from Fabian, DZ and Wiggins. Where you carry your head matters, even if it’s just for a couple seconds at a time.


Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012

Bike at racecheck-in

All together I was able to cover the course 153 seconds faster than last year while expending less energy: 284 Watts [avg] vs 298 Watts [avg], while being in better shape meant it was an even easier bike ride. (training data suggests that 310 Watts [avg] would have been realistically achievable with good health). All of these improvements were of marginal financial expense; notably, I am still riding my P2 frame and second hand aluminum braking surface tubular tri-spoke and disc (circa 2006). Independent industry data doesn’t even suggest that if I were to buy a super-nine and firecrest 808 I would have made these gains. I saved almost 2% of my time and conserved more than 4% of my power output (Quarq is accurate to 1.5% and was re-calibrated prior to both races). Some of the aformentioned position and gear adjustment was saving me time but strategically superior time-trialing was worth a fair portion of the improvement, which is significant. Strategic riding is not something I see many people working on as hard as they could (or should). I don’t even think I’m that good at it yet (clearly I’ve gotten a lot better though).

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012
Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012
Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012
Goofing around

A detailed power comparison including a number of case-studies on pacing decisions will inevitably follow on this blog… stay tuned.

On the bike I consumed: 1 bottle of powerade (~170 cal), 600 calories of shot blocks. ~120 calories of banana (2 halves), ~3.5 bottles of Gatorade (600 cal), and about a liter of water. I drank a fair amount and did pee once on the run. That put me at ~1500 calories which was more than I needed by a reasonable margin, but I was concerned about caloric expenditure during the swim being abnormally high. This concern was relieved when after the first 5 cups of coke on the run, I was feeling fueled and confident I’d make the finish without any risk of energy deficit. At that point I switched to alternating just a gulp of water or coke instead of drinking. Running with only marginal caloric consumption is a proven strategy for myself, it allows me to in theory run a higher HR on the run which is strategically beneficial. Those higher HRs weren’t accessed in Oliver due to illness and preparation that was lacking. Generally though, it felt like the right decision.

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012
Finish

I started the run at around 4:25 pace and faded off close to 4:50 as I began the second lap but was able to recover focus and really pushed myself through the final 4 kms. That led me to a 1:39:00 run. I did the calculations last year regarding course measurement and the correction factor for grading this to an accurate half-marathon. My graded-time based on pace is 1:34:44. Sub 1:35 is more than acceptable in my opinion considering run fitness and illness. Sure it’s 5 minutes off of where I should be and 10 minutes off of where I’d like to be but I need to be realistic about my life-situation at the moment. HR and pace on the run correlated more or less in line with what I had expected and that indicates I would just benefit from a bit of run frequency in the next month rather than any at-pace or above-pace work. Doing this will not require huge muscular-stress so I think it’s something I can try and commit to in the coming couple weeks as prep for GWN.

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012
Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012
Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012
Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012
Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012

Unsurprisingly the rest of the crew we travelled down with had pretty fantastic days on the course. Lesley exited the water in fourth and was riding in third overall until she was eventually passed by Kris who went on to win the women’s race by running 10 minutes out of the leader off the bike. Bridget surprised all, including herself, by escaping knee pain and was able to run the whole thing, something she was debating even attempting only days prior to the start. Travis tapered long and hard for this race, thanks to various business trips, but got around the course in fine form, more than redeeming the disaster in the furnace that occurred last year in the blazing hot conditions.



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Velocity ITT – 2012

Power Data from Velocity ITT:

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2012

  • Mean Watts: 349 (=4.01 Watts/Kg – nothing impressive)
  • Normalized Watts: 382
  • VI: 1.095
  • Sixth Place: Cat 1/2

For a relatively flat course (33m ascent and descent in 9.4kms) I had too variable of a power output compared with ideal. I probably should have had a variability somewhere around 5-6% with the start and 3 corners, not up near 10% where I did. I did execute well on two other strategic metrics (shown below). I had my highest power outputs when speeds were lower. I also did a good job focusing on shifting to keep my cadence centered right in the range where I am most powerful. I had an exceptional amount (>88%) of my time spent between 88 rpm and 100 rpm. It was also centered right on the 92-94 cadence range, which for me is the sweet spot. It’s drifted up a couple rpm in the past couple years, but this is consistently where I am at my best. I pedaled my best on Saturday, and I would conclude I was getting some very efficient power transfer. That indicates to me that I am comfortable on the TT bike and comfortable enough to access some good power even though I haven’t logged too many miles on it yet this season.

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2012 Photo from gallery: Power Data 2012
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Birkebeiner 2012

While this story is not going to be anywhere near the entertainment value of my 2009 Birkebeiner Race Report I think I should still describe it… although a bit more briefly.

The morning started 30 minutes later than normal because organizers wanted to give it a bit of extra time to warm up. This was definitely appreciated. Still though, it was a green-wax morning, and I added two layers of V30 on top of the six layers of VR40 I had applied the night before (over a relatively thick KR20 binder). I had done as best a job with LF6 glide wax that I could but the scraping/brush job was still a bit hack because I still haven’t built a ski-form. That half hour delay made the difference in clothing choices for me and I got away with one less than I probably would have worn if we’d started at 9am. I almost certainly would have had to stop and take that extra one off as temperatures reached ~-5oC by the finish. Luckily the difference between start and finish was only to remove my outer mitts and to partly unzip my windbreaker and jacket.

At the advice of my ski coach Emily, I lined up just in front of the 4 hour mark. That meant I was 8th row back. I had also been instructed that due to my fitness and skill level it was basically impossible for me to go too hard at the start. The positioning benefits of a max-effort start were going to be worth it and I could always recover later… when I would be in front of all kinds of slower people and not have to deal with passing them later. I started absolutely as hard as I could when the horn sounded, and was seeded in what I felt like was an appropriate spot. I dealt with just a bit of congestion at the third time the number of lanes reduced and we had to merge but otherwise was able to go full tilt all the way across the lake. I went through the first couple kilometers at sub-3:30/km pace and then I lost a pole. The velcro came undone and because of my enthusiastic polling I pulled my hand right out of the loop. Luckily by the time I had slowed and stepped out of the track someone behind me had picked it up and I didn’t need to shuffle-step backwards through the traffic to go pick it up. It took a bit of time to get the strap re-threaded and I got passed by a few people but I got going again without too much delay. I guess that was what Emily was referring to when she said “You can always recover later”.

I kept the gas going full-tilt until soon after station 1. I believed at this point that I was working really really hard and I should probably try and start to be strategic and get behind a few other skiers for some drafting. This allowed me to back off my effort level temporarily from really really hard to just really hard. After a bit, drafting either suddenly became incredibly easy or the two guys I was following decided to give up. I passed them and pushed on to try and catch the guy in the red jacket. He was about 150 m ahead of us and it took me about 5 kms to catch him. Good motivation to push hard. Somewhere in there I rolled past the 10 km mark and found myself on-pace for a 3:37. I then proceeded to draft him for a kilometer or two before getting dropped on a big uphill. I had just ticked past the first hour at that point and decided I needed to try and get in a few more calories as the first couple aid stations had proved minimally successful, just a cup of gatorade at each. I let myself fall behind a ways and got a gel in. I also decided I would coast the remaining stations and get three cups of gatorade and either a piece of banana or a fig newton at each. It was a smart decision in retrospect and if I’d waited much longer I would have been in trouble getting enough energy down my throat. Things progressed and I went through 20kms on pace for a 3:35 finish.

Just before the Winter station I was passed by the leaders of the 31km race… and witnessed one of them go up a hill in three steps. The same one took me more than 10 steps. The interaction with the leaders of the 31km race was short as we split off to head down to Islet Lake on the long route. I spent another 5kms trying to reel in the guy in the blue jacket who was about 100 m ahead of me when we turned onto Lost Lake. Rolled through the 30km mark on pace for a 3:40 finish. I caught him just as we were approaching the Islet Lake station and was then passed by another pair. I tried to keep up with them in a moment of inspiration but they were flying and even skiing as third person in the train I was outclassed. This meant I skied solo back to Elk-Push having dropped the blue jacket man while trying to pursue the other two guys.

I was passed by teammate Tanner Broadbent like I was standing still on the big hill out of Elk-Push (who was skiing 55 km “Lite”) and was thoroughly humbled as I was starting to get sloppy with my weight transfer and was loosing good kick as a result of fatigue. Wax was good though and I spent the better part of the next long rolling section to Wanisan focussed on good technique. It was a good way to get through this challenging section quickly and I passed a number of people here including Jan Plavec who I didn’t even recognize as I went past.

I rolled through the 40 km mark on pace for a 3:43 finish time and got done the marathon a few seconds over the 2:50 mark. If only I could figure out how to run that fast! The long double-polling sections begin right around Wanisan and I struggled to keep myself motivated to keep double polling even though I knew it was the fastest technique for the terrain. The kilometers kept rolling past and I was really needing to start the self-motivation to keep the effort level rising in an attempt to maintain pace. I dug out a caffinated latte flavour gel with 10 kms to go and it tasted super amazing. I can’t handle them at all on the bike, the flavour doesn’t work for me in the summer, but skiing it was just what I needed. I was starting to pass lots of people at this point, almost all of them not going anywhere quickly and no-one able to keep up. I caught and passed the red-jacket guy here who I’d absolutely killed myself to keep up with from kms 10-15 and was pretty proud of myself. I slid past the 50km sign still on pace for a 3:43 finish and just kept telling myself to hold it together for another 20 minutes.

I think I passed another 5 guys in the closing 5 kms and got to the 1 km to go sign just as I got the first twinges in my hamstrings. My technique was starting to fail even when I was focussed on it and I was very glad that this thing was almost over. With about 200 meters to go I got a crazy cramp in my right thumb and laughed at myself on the last glide in to the finish with a bit of a gimpy polling technique.

Done!

Third in my AG and tenth overall in the with-pack division. About 35 minutes faster than last year!

Photo from gallery: Winter 2011

Shout outs to: Keegan for his first Birkebeiner ever, Laura for her first time through with a pack, Danika for starting classic skiing a few weeks ago and managing to get on her AG podium. Emily for an incredible fourth place and Aaron for a fantastic third. Tanner, Jason, Greg and Paul from ERTC. Also to some intrepid 31 km skiers (which we decided would be considered a crazy-far distance to go and race if the 55 km race didn’t exist) Lenka (Fast!) Paul (Fast!), Claire, and Brent and Lianne who won’t make the mistake of arriving late to the start grid ever again. Also Corey, for an incredible performance in the 60+ AG! I’m going to learn how to ski from that man and I’ll be back for Birkie 2013!

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Cyclocross Season

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

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

I learned a few things this season at ‘cross:

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