Ironman Canada 2011

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

Ironman began with my arrival in Penticton about quarter past 5 in the morning. This was about 15 minutes ahead of last year and it made all the difference. I walked right through the lineup for body-marking, got myself marked. Got the tyres on my bike pumped and headed over to the toilets before it really started to get busy. I scoped out a few of the pros getting their bikes ready and chit chatted with a few people. I then realized I had a long day on my feet ahead of me and went into the change tent to claim a chair for the rest of the morning to wait. There were some hilarious things going on that you’ll only see at Ironman. Most cannot be shared without a parental advisory. I realized that this is the reason that WTC has a minimum age of 18 years for competition in their events.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

I was in my wetsuit by the time the pros went off at quarter to seven and made my way through the traffic jam and onto the beach with 5 minutes to go. I found my brother in the crowd shooting photos, not very difficult to find, he was the only one not wearing black neoprene. We had a little chat and I made my way to the front. I liked my choice of start positions last year and chose the same thing, second row, a little outside of center. I told myself that I had to go at the horn, no hesitation. Less people sang the national anthem this year than last when it felt like I was a part of a triathlete chorus line.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

Then after all the hype, and talk, and waiting, and speculation it was finally underway. The horn went and it was just time for business. I tried my best to put in a solid effort off the start line to get myself in amongst some slightly quicker swimmers but after perhaps 200m I had fallen off the back of the leading crew of triathletes who had lined up near me and was swimming in clean water. The solution was to move towards the buoy line gradually where things were thicker and I soon found myself in amongst some better drafting in the river of neoprene. Nothing really surprised me about the swim. It was a long ways, it was pretty rough at some points in time and there was some unbelievably terrible navigation going on around me. I kept my head in the game and focussed on good long strokes, and keeping the breathing controlled. Eventually it was over and I was on my way out, none the worse for wear, but at the same time happy that I was finished with the swimming.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011
Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

I had a fantastic transition, found some grass space to dump my gear bag and stuff the wetsuit. Helmet and sunglasses on and grabbed the shoes and ran barefoot to my bike. I got sunscreened by the volunteers and was through more than a minute faster than last year, very proud of myself. I don’t think doing it very much faster would be wise, starting with the shoes mounted to the bike isn’t permitted for the amateurs (with good reason) and running any faster would just spike the heart-rate.

As I headed out of town the passing began and while I was riding the aerobars it wasn’t possible to really work very hard at all because of the congestion. I reminded myself that I needed to have a very patient morning and treated this like some patience practice for the rest of the ride. I had also lost satellite reception on my GPS and it needed to re-acquire so it really felt like I just took the first 10 minutes to get going.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

Once through town I started into the nutrition by pounding my first bottle of Gatorade and just rolled along easy to McLean creek hill. I held back as much as I could on the ascent, being passed by about a dozen guys, but the watts were still much higher than I would have wanted them. I found the speeds high with the tailwind and refused to push it, kept the watts on the low end and did my best to keep it even, meaning being passed on all of the uphills and gradually riding away from people on all of the descents. Nothing much happened from there until Richter’s Pass, just some easy riding and a lot of eating and drinking.

I mean a lot of eating and drinking. The nutrition plan was as follows:

  • 2 bottles of Gatorade – 170 cal each
  • 800cal of shot blocks
  • 2 fruit bars – 240 cal
  • 2 clif bars – 260 cal each (Subsituted one for another bottle of perform and a banana at end of bike because it was hot and I didn’t feel like eating so only 260cal)
  • A bottle of Powerbar Perform beverage at each aid station. I took 8 bottles, and drank on average three quarters of each one for a total of ~1000 cal.
  • Bananas wherever possible, which was less often than I would have liked, usually they were cut in half and only one person was doing hand-ups. Ate a total of 2.5 for ~300 cal
  • I was targeting 550+ cal/hour. By my best estimate I got in 580-600cal/hour. I drank far more than I expected, not expecting to drink as much perform as I did, and didn’t really anticipate drinking much of any water except to follow food, I drank two full bottles of water, yet still only peed once on the bike course at around 120kms. The stomach felt fine the whole way.
Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

Richter’s pass with a headwind and a power-meter is a humbling experience. Last year I rode past everyone on the hill convincingly, this year I rode past no-one convincingly and was passed by dozens. I gave Fernanda Keller a huge cheer when I went past her. That was actually a high-point in the ride, she is a total legend and I think it’s great that she’s still racing pro despite being past her peak. I summited the pass eventually, a bit slower than last year, having averaged 320 watts, right about what I had hoped to do, and then set off down the other side, face tucked down against the aerobars in a zero watt tuck.

The infamous rollers are next and I found myself in with a pretty talented group of cyclists here. I was of course faster on the descents than the rest of them as I was probably 30 lbs heavier than the next biggest guy. All in all though, it wasn’t bad, it forced me to stay focussed but it also prevented me from working the uphills because I didn’t want to enter the draft zones of the guys ahead of me and be forced to pass them. I did go to the front off the top of the final rise just before we rolled out onto the flats in Cawston and put my head down, got aero into the headwind and went to work, sitting right on 275-280 watts to get away from the group. After about 10 minutes I hadn’t just formed a gap, I had dropped them like rocks and I couldn’t even see them. Onto the out and back I was now moving my way through the pro womens field. I realized as I rode towards special needs that I was now unequivocally “off the front” of the race and the only age group guys remaining ahead were very spread out. I think from 100kms through to the finish I only passed about a dozen men before reaching T2 in sixth place.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

Before T2 though I had to ascend Yellow Lake which went by very quickly, keeping the head low and working on preventing wattage spikes. I was soon at the Green Mountain Road and just kept it rolling up to Yellow Lake proper where I saw my cheer crew, heckled them a bit for wasting such a beautiful day watching a race instead of riding their bikes and then took off down the hill. No brakes this year was a significant improvement to the pouring rain and hail of last and I loved the descent which wasn’t even as fast as it could have been as I was dealing with a head-wind. When tucked down with my face to the aerobars I did get a few twinges in my upper quads letting me know that they’d been working. Nothing surprising, this happens all the time to me, but it was my first warning that the legs weren’t necessarily going to be happy for the rest of the day.

As I rolled into town I came upon Paul Tichelaar and as I crested the hill in town I shut it down and rolled easy into transition. If I would have known it was the difference of 5:00:22 and 4:59:59 I probably would have kept the watts up. Instead I took my feet out of my shoes and spun the legs out, waved a bit to the crowds. They were going ballistic, it was like I was in the top 10 overall or something ;)


Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011
Average Power = 270 Watts – Normalized Power 290 Watts – Intensity Factor = ~0.73 – Variability Index = 1.074
Click image to enlarge

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

I was handed the wrong bag in transition and when I ran into the change tent it was tied in a bit knot. I tore the whole thing open to dump the stuff out…. and out came a yellow towel. This isn’t my bag. I was on my way back to go get my real bag when someone came running, they apparently had figured out their mistake. I dumped the bag on the ground, socks, shoes, quick sunscreen spray on the shoulders, and a bottle of coke. Go. I had frozen two cans of coke with added salt in a bike bottle and left it in T2. This was to force me to take it easy on the first mile of the marathon and it worked well. It also got 300 calories into my system and got me rolling on the caffeine. I think this was an excellent strategy again and I split the first mile in 7:48. I had seen Paul run into transition as I was running out so I expected him to be catching me any second but it was taking him a while. It turned out he had stopped for a washroom break and when he caught me at about mile three I agreed to run with him.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

The pattern of the aid stations was starting to get underway, I tried to drink two cups of coke at each mile, replace my sponges with two new ones, and dump as much ice down my top as I could get my hands on. Normally that was about four cups. As I left the aid station there was always water and I tried to get a cup onto the top of my head as well. It was working well and despite running in 32 degree weather without a cloud in the sky and a tailwind I was managing to feel rather comfortable on the run. My HR was right around 155bpm and holding steady and so I continued along with Paul running about a 4:45 pace/km for the first 10 miles. I had been running 4:40 in most of my recent brick runs and holding to about a 4:50 pace as my default cruising pace during the past month so I felt that 4:45 while ambitious wasn’t unreasonable. My mind started racing for a little bit when I realized I was running in fifth place overall in the age-group race alongside a former Olympian and on track to beat my wildest dreams for an ironman finish time. I realized the danger of the situation, both physically and mentally and calmed myself down. I then decided I was not going to allow fear of the unknown slow me down before I needed to and because I was good on calories and core temperature and not feeling the least bit challenged by the pace I decided to continue. It was a risk I was going to have to take, and if I started running slower I had absolutely no guarantee it was going to mitigate the main risk I sensed I was taking, that being that my muscles were going to give up on me.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

I started to really loose the strength in my stride at about 10 miles, landing and toeing off was feeling OK but the middle section of my stride was really feeling weak. It wasn’t the greatest situation to be in at all but when it happened it wasn’t a huge surprise. It was the final six weeks of training playing themselves out again for me, many workouts had been limited more by strength than by aerobic capacity and so it was only logical that my racing would be limited in the same way.

I walked my first aid station here and then walked the biggest and steepest hill on the course. There was no point in running it if the muscles were already screaming. I got to the top and got back running but the pace was now slower as I was having the onset of mild cramping in most muscles between my waist at my knees. Things continued and I walked the rest of the aid stations on the way to the turnaround, my pace was blowing out but I wanted to keep pushing onward. Just before the turnaround there is a very steep section of descent and as I walked down there to spare the quads a bit of eccentric loading it just wasn’t enough reprieve, they let me know that they were basically done for the day. I rounded the corner at special needs, scooped myself some more frozen coke and water from my bag and walked briefly while I drank. I got myself back up to a run towards the base of the climb away from the turnaround but when I got there I realized that the charade of racing was over. I was going to be walking most of the way home and I could either start walking now voluntarily or be forced to start walking in another mile or two. If I waited ‘till I was forced to walk I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to walk all the way home at all and so made the decision to try and optimize the finish time from here on out by just walking as fast as I could.

It turns out that when I’m good on energy and in a relatively good mood like I was I can walk pretty quickly with my long legs. I was holding it well below an eight minute per kilometre pace and just got down to business.


Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

The rest of the walk home wasn’t comfortable at all for my legs. The heat wasn’t so bad though as we had a headwind on the return. I was getting myself access to ice and coke every mile and the view was as good as it could get, I mean I was just across the street from an Ironman playing out in the lives of 2800 people! I made the most of it and eventually I realized that if I kept pushing my walking pace I still had a hope of coming in below 11 hours. That kept me going pretty good and I was even able to pick up my HR slightly on the way to the finish. On lakeshore drive everyone was screaming at me to run in to the finish but I just kept the walking up, the run wasn’t about to happen now if it wasn’t going to happen for the past 12 miles and I knew better than to try.

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011 Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011
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Skyline 2011


Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Satellite map of the Skyline, we ran south to north, the typical direction for single-day traverses. It leaves the fire-road until the end, and provides a route with net elevation loss rather than net elevation gain.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Trailhead at 1700m
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

We were happy this first river crossing after half an hour and 4kms covered had a bridge, it was only another 20 minutes until our feet would get wet and then they stayed that way for the next 6 hours.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Once into the alpine we had some puddles and creeks to dodge. Travis was a pro at leaping for the first half of the day, crossing the river at Tekarra campground his skills had been greatly diminished.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

The long approach to Big Shovel pass kept us motivated with a clear destination and we made good time here on some very runnable terrain which was a treat.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

The valley between Little Shovel and Big Shovel passes was great. Low alpine, so little copses of trees all over the place.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Another bridge, we didn’t need it, our feet were already soaked.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Finally at Big Shovel Pass. 2h20 and 18km covered. Nearly 2300m high.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

We had left the low alpine for the bald tops of the mountains after setting out from Big Shovel but were definitely still gaining elevation. We’re headed up to “The Notch” (which is the left saddle on the far range) via Curator lake.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Enjoying a very runnable section of the trail here, not too much elevation change and less giant rocks.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Curator Lake from midway up our ascent to The Notch.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

The view north from the notch. Summitted at 3:15 after 22kms. Despite looking like a good trail this was tricky to run, quite soft and lots of side-hill. It really did a number to the waterlogged-prune-skin on the edges of my heels, trying to grip on an edge while still running, not the best situation.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Looking east down to the Maligne Lake Valley at around halfway through the day. Despite having done the vast majority of our climbing in the first half the second half wouldn’t be any quicker, in fact it was even a bit slower.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Looking back to the Notch from our highest point of the day, about 2510m

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

We begin our descent along the ridgetop towards Tekarra.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

More descending towards Tekarra. Lots of this was runnable but portions were very tricky with big rocks and footing became difficult. We walked portions when running tired started to get unsafe.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

We found a big rock.
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Mt Tekarra from the valley floor. More streams and puddles to re-soak the feet just in case they were starting to dry out. The trail was pretty runnable here so we made good time.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

Snapping some photos for the last time at the foot of Mt Tekarra. 5h15 and 32km. The run started to get really difficult for me on the next ascent back up onto the ridge and I forgot to take the camera out again anywhere. I was just focussed on covering ground, not stubbing my toes and starting to put down a fair bit of sugar. I had been eating whole food up until this point (sausage, scones, banana, water) but needed to dig into the sugar to keep going strong on the way into the finish. I ran the 5 mile fire-road in 50 minutes loosing about 800m of elevation including a final 4km faster than a 5min/km pace.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

47 km in 7h17 total time & 6h01 moving time.

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Canada Day Crit

Photo from gallery: Racing 2011

The Canada Day Criterium is a long standing tradition in Alberta Cycling. It takes place on a nice loop of road in the park behind the Alberta Legislature, with a hill, a couple relatively tight corners and a blazing fast descent on each lap. It’s the only points race of year… but I wasn’t really anticipating I’d be trying to accumulate any points. I was going to try and finish with the pack on my debut race in the new category. The elite guys were slotted to do 32 laps. There were points to be won on intermediate sprints on every 4th lap. 5,3,2,1 to the top 4 guys across the line each time, and double points at the finish.

It started out fast but reasonable, I was able to stick with the group, and when little gaps formed I was able to keep closing them down. It felt like I had it under control, realistically though, I didn’t I was doing too much work. In the end, those little gaps were the big problem of the day. At the corner just before the long descent I was always rolling in towards the end of the pack, but every time I tried to improve my position I would be pushed backwards within 10-15 seconds. I’d need to slow it down for this corner and then lean it way over to get around. I was really hesitant to pedal around the corner, I probably could as a few of the other guys were pedalling, but it was a matter of millimeters of clearance or I’d clip my pedal on the pavement. That was to be my downfall. It meant that I had to ramp up the power all the way down the hill to make up a fraction of a second to stick with the group. The guys in front of me just had to sit there and draft. I ended up working for half of the lap every lap. Everyone in the middle of the group was working for maybe 20 seconds on the hill and then just sitting in for the rest of the ride. Cory had advised me to just sit in and coast for as much of the lap as I could… the problem was that I couldn’t. I’ve got skills to learn.


Photo from gallery: Racing 2011

Photo from gallery: Racing 2011

Photo from gallery: Racing 2011

I lasted 16 laps, I had been dropped twice but had fought my way back on both times. The 16th lap was an intermediate sprint and when the group accelerated for the points at the line I got spit off the back and that was it for the day. I managed to do 6 more laps solo before I got lapped out. The win went to Aaron Schooler who spent more than half the race off the front with Jeff Barnes who came second.


Photo from gallery: Racing 2011

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Devon Grand Prix of Cycling

The Devon stage race was to be my final race in Category 3 if all things went well. I was 2 points shy of the upgrade to race with the big guns in Cat 1/2 and figured that I should be able to pick up a couple points over the course of the weekend to make that happen. Instead of being my last race amongst the fast-but-not crazy-fast it was to be my initiation to the big leagues as the top 3 categories were combined as a result of a small field. The race would play out over the course of 4 stages in one weekend and allocate 5 sets of points, for each race, and for the general classification on time.

Friday night things got underway with a 2km “technical” prologue time trial. It included 11 corners and no TT bars were permitted, although we were allowed to run a disc and so I set up the Aerocat with my TT wheelset. After warming up I promptly got cold standing around waiting the three minutes for the start, it was drizzly and about 14 degrees. I had arrived too late to pre-ride the course so I would be riding it blind. That’s a dumb mistake, but I was out for beers with some guys from work after a long week… so at least I had a good excuse to show up to the start late. Right? I launched out of the start, took the first corner 80 meters down the road at 38 kph and the next corner, another 130 meters up the road at 43 kph. It was then time for the drag race, a 600 m straightaway and I rolled it up to a max speed of 54 kph. The next corner was a turn onto a road with a boulevard down the middle and I thought we were turning into the inside lane, but just as I set up my corner I realized I needed to go far, it cost me a fair chunk of speed as I had to get upright to handle the bike through there. The trip back was a series of corners none more than 200m apart. Some were 90 degrees and some were a bit wider than 90 degrees but I wasn’t sure which ones were which because I hadn’t ridden it. I quit pedaling for each one to make sure I didn’t clip a pedal but it was unnecessary for most of them and each time I’d be frustrated for backing off the power. It was over before I realized it, done in a time of 2:51. Enough for 4th overall and 1st among the Cat 3s. 20 upgrade points!


Photo from gallery: Racing 2011 Photo from gallery: Racing 2011

Photo from gallery: Racing 2011

Saturday morning we had a TT. 16.4 kilometers long. I was hoping to do between 380 and 390 Watts and expected it would take around 23-24 minutes. I warmed up, lined up and then went hard. I caught my 1 minute man before 3 kilometers and was unsure if I’d catch my 2 minute man at all, it turns out that I wouldn’t. There was a little bit of a rise in the road at one point which took some thinking to make sure I was in an appropriate gear but otherwise it was very flat and very straightforward. I rolled home on the last stretch with a big fade in power and a bit of a tailwind. It was probably not my best paced TT of the year, but it’s better in a relatively short effort like this to get more energy out before the end than less. There’s no reward for finishing with anything in the tank. I wound up in second place to Jason Hargreaves from Cat 3, which wasn’t really a surprise, he’s a fast guy and so to be beaten was not unexpected, I thought I’d be closer than 20 seconds, but I only managed an average of 380 Watts, the bottom of my goal range, not 390. Second place was another 15 upgrade points.

Photo from gallery: Racing 2011 Photo from gallery: Racing 2011

Saturday afternoon I went for a bike ride with my parents who were visiting from Calgary, We did about 45 kms and I kept the effort low the whole way. We rode out to the Donut shop in Calmar which I like to go visit, unfortunately the donuts were all sold out and we got some other pastries and cookies before heading back to Devon, eating some dinner and getting ready for the crit.

The general classification for the weekend had Blaine, a team-mate in Cat2 in the lead and so the strategy for ERTC was going to try and keep the race together as much as possible for as long as possible. We wanted to shut down any attempts at breakaways quickly and come to the line as a bunch. Hopefully Jon Wood would be able to take the win and we anticipated that Nick would also score some bonus time, but our hope was that neither Colter nor Chris would be allowed to accumulate anything of substance. We were to do 40 laps of an 880 m square.

Photo from gallery: Racing 2011

I lined up near the front and even on the first neutral lap with a lead vehicle out front it was crazy fast. The first 8 laps were just plain fast. No-one let up at all and when someone on the front backed off at all someone would take over and keep driving the pace. There was tons of single-file and on occasion we would bunch up to be two wide. We were hitting 50kph each time we came down the finishing straight with a bit of a tailwind and a slight downhill right into the tightest corner. I found myself well towards the back and just working as hard as I could to stay on the group. So much for trying to position yourself well. I knew where I should be but I just couldn’t be there, every time I moved up towards the front third of the pack for a bit better positioning I would immediately find myself being passed and shunted off towards the tail of the group again. Eventually the full-gas pace shifted and there was a bit of respite for a lap every once in a while while no-one would be attacking on the front. The group bunched up quickly as soon as the pace dropped by the slightest and we’d find ourselves four or five guys wide going around the corners. One of these bunchings was responded to by the only attack that formed a break all race. Three guys went off the front and put in maybe 100m on the group. It was about halfway through the race and it was unlikely to be successful. At the same time you say something is unlikely to be a success it means that someone has to do the work to bring it back. I watched from the back of the pack where I was stuck as a few team-mates put in some effort to pull down the gap. I then decided that I’d better put in my share of work despite having so much trouble just hanging on at the back. So, I went on the tailwind section and drilled it up the outside, moved all the way from the back of the pack to first wheel and went through the tight corner. I had been working about as hard as I could work at the back so figured that once I went to the front I’d have to keep working as hard as I could work if I was going to pull in the break. I overestimated the amount of power that was appropriate to pull the peloton along and gapped the group instantaneously. By the time I looked back at the first corner I was already halfway across the gap to the breakaway. Oh shit, I thought to myself. I was supposed to be trying to keep the race together, not go off the front. I made a split second decision to try and bridge. It took just one lap and I was there with the leaders. The next time through I could hear coach Cory yelling from the sidelines not to work for the breakaway. I didn’t work, but I did pull through at a mellow pace once when I found myself on the front by accident. Back in the peloton second and third place on GC were getting nervous and they did a bunch of work at this point to pull back the breakaway. I think I lasted off the front for maybe 4 laps and just as we were going to be caught the bell went for an intermediate prime. I lasted long enough off the front to secure third in the intermediate sprint and then went back into the peloton. I didn’t let myself drift quite as far to the back at this point and had an easier time staying within range of the front. The lap-count was starting to run out and the whole race slowed down for a while. Everyone knew that it was going to be a bunch sprint and people tried to rest-up as much as they could. I knew that there would be some crazy fast stuff again before the finish and that Jon Wood now shouldn’t be the person covering all of the attacks if we wanted him to sprint for the win. I think all of the other ERTC guys from Cat 3 had been lapped out by this point so that left just Steve, Blaine and myself to do the work. With 3 laps to go someone made their bid for glory, I ramped it up and pulled hard along with a few other people, we had him back with just over a lap to go, I drifted back to maybe 10th place as we began our final lap and then saw Jon Wood and decided I’d follow him as he was probably a good navigator in a crazy situation like this one. I picked the same route that he did, wound it up with two corners to go, 50kph going into the final corner, and hit 55kph in the final sprint which Jon won for ERTC. I was good enough for 7th overall, first place amongst the Cat 3 boys. 20 more upgrade points.

Sunday morning the situation was the similar to the beginning of the criterium. Blaine was first on GC and I was 5th. Jon Wood was one second ahead of me after racking up 16 seconds of bonus time at the criterium to my one second. Nick Jendzjowsky had amassed enough seconds to get within one second of me on GC. The plan was to try and keep the race together for as long as possible. No-one from ERTC was supposed to work in a break unless they were the highest person on GC from that group. Cory wanted me to try and get in a breakaway if the opportunity presented itself and gave me a list of good people to try and go with. We knew that the race would likely blow to pieces on the final hill but hopefully we could get Blaine there without having had to work very hard yet and a few people with him to chase back the few guys who would inevitably be able to climb that hill faster than him.

Photo from gallery: Racing 2011

The wind was definitely a factor on race day. It was coming from the north-west meaning we started with a cross-headwind and we would finish with a long fast flat section of cross-tailwind. It also meant we’d have some opportunities to make the peloton hurt in the crosswind along the way. I found the start of the race to be very difficult positioning-wise. We were rolling mostly single or double-file down the yellow line, no-one wanting to work on the front. I kept getting pushed backwards through the field and would have to make an effort to move back up. It meant that I was never really near the front for more than a few seconds at a time and was poorly positioned to cover any attempts at breakaways. I had team-mates up near the front who were managing to do the job but I kept finding myself right at the back of the pack, never intending to be there. It mean that when a breakaway went that ERTC would have liked to have me in I wasn’t there. Rob went with the pack instead even though he was way down on GC. He took a free ride for the day on the breakaway train and didn’t have to work at all. He wouldn’t finish successfully with the leaders from that group and he wasn’t the best positioned on GC from the pack. It wasn’t a breakaway we should have been satisfied with but the leadership on the road from our team wasn’t giving instructions to chase it back while the gap was still small, that was our big mistake and it would cost us.

Through the southbound section of the course we descended the river valley and climbed out of it without having the pack explode. Then there was an explosion and the whole field shattered but eventually came back together. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get back on when it happened though and really had to go to my limits to stick with the pack. The accelerations and sections of coasting associated with that helped the breakaway gain time and the day’s winner, Jeff Barnes, bridged the gap to the break at this point. I was destroyed at this point and couldn’t go with any confidence that I’d even be able to get across the 90 second gap to the lead if I had someone to draft to get there, I was maxed out in the peloton. In retrospect I should have tried, both on behalf of myself, and on behalf of the team.

We then started rolling with a big tailwind and ERTC really started to contribute to the chase. At first it was mostly the other Cat 3 boys who were doing the work, Travis and Aaron. The problem was that we were just riding steady, not riding hard. The guys in the break were riding hard and with a tailwind they were adding to their lead. As we approached the turnaround into the headwind I went to the front and lifted the pace from steady to hard and started to reel things back slowly. We spun the 180 and headed back into the headwind, I stayed on the front for long periods of time working at between 160 and 165 bpm, go, go, go. I was taking splits on the break where we could see them and it started at about 2:15. By the time we were turning off of the headwind section into a period of sidewind I had brought down the gap with a few bits and pieces of help to 70 seconds. I was tired, but as we entered the sidewind section Jon Wood rallied me to try and gutter the peloton with Blaine in the draft at the front. We rolled a very serious pace for the next stretch. Much of it at or above my TT effort from the day before. What was left of our peloton was single-file right on the edge of the pavement, every single person trying to play a game of inches with how close they could ride to the side of the road without hitting the ditch to maximize their draft. Jon and I took turns on the front, 15 seconds at a time, drilling it and then drilling it again, and again, and again. It was, as Jon would later say, “What dreams are made of”.

Photo from gallery: Racing 2011

We descended the river valley on the way back with a bit more than a minute deficit to the break. Our team rode alongside Blaine on the ascent and held him in our draft as some of the smaller guys attacked the hill and started to put in time. We rolled over the top having lost about 100 m to the fastest climbers, there were no big guys in that group to really haul ass along the flats so I was pretty confident that properly motivated with 4 ERTCs ($200 of beer money is pretty good motivation I think!) that we’d be able to reel them back. There were a few stragglers in between which we soon scooped up as we turned right, the speeds were consistently in the mid to high 40s and often while I was pulling through I’d see 50kph on the speedo. Drag race! It’s really fun to be riding with a tailwind and a good group like that. Your bike just handles a bit differently and even though it’s taking a lot of effort to keep it going it feels a bit like you’re riding a bike with a motor. Go Go Go. Then suddenly we have to stop pushing. Blaine is dropping off the back and he’s struggling. I shout to the guys rolling hard at the front of the group to ease up. At 50kph they can’t hear me… I drop back to Blaine, let him catch the draft and escort him back up to the group. Just as we’re catching back on he looses my wheel. Jon and Steve have now dropped back and the rest of our group puts a gap on us. Jon starts pushing Blaine and I’m trying to sit tall and create as big a draft as possible. It’s an uphill battle, our GC contender is bonking hard and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. I get the go-ahead from Jon who’s acting like the brains on the road for our team to latch back on to the group we were with, don’t work are my only instructions. It takes me about 2 minutes at 50kph to latch back on and I sit there in the draft just rolling along, my HR comes down and I sit and wait. The wheel-truck pulls in between our group and my team-mates so I have no idea where they are. I just figure I’ve got to wait. I don’t really know what I’m waiting for but if anyone else from our team is going to catch back on it’s important that I’m not pushing the pace. Eventually Jon appears, he gives the go-ahead to start working again and we really ramp up the pace again and blast along the road on the run-in to the finish. We drop a couple guys in the final couple kilometers as the pace peaks. I’m second from our group across the finish line. First from Cat 3. 20 more upgrade points.

Photo from gallery: Racing 2011

I wind up in first place on the general classification for a further 20 points for a grand total of 95 upgrade points over the course of the weekend. That springs me up to 171 points total and I got the upgrade to Cat 2.

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Banff Bike Fest 2011

Banff Bike Fest is arguably Alberta’s most prestigious stage race of the year. It’s not necessarily a stage race that suits my strengths as there is a lot of climbing and I’ve got a lot of mass to move around but I was still very excited to race there, partly just due to the fact that it would be quite hard. The race was composed of 5 stages in the invitational mens race, and as a Cat 3 rider I’d have the opportunity to race 4 of them. I skipped the Thursday evening prologue because I couldn’t take two days off of work for this trip and so just raced Saturday (ITT (Individual Time Trial) in the morning, Criterium in the evening) and then again on Sunday morning (a short 78km hilly 6 lap circuit race).

Saturday morning we arrived early for the TT, and knowing that both myself and Travis had UCI illegal bikes we went an hour before the start to the commissaire to have them checked so we knew what we had to change and adjust before the start. We were both told that our bikes were barely legal. I was a bit puzzled, I was pretty certain that the seat setback was not 50 mm but the jig they had to measure the bike was the final ruling and so we went back to warm-up. I did 25 minutes on the rollers at about 220 watts, just enough to start to get sweating and then hopped off with 10 minutes to the race start, dried myself off and put on the skinsuit and rolled over to the start 3 minutes before my start. The rules are that you have to measure the bike immediately prior to the start, and so he popped it back up on the jig and now it was illegal. I reminded him that I had been there and hour before and it had been legal, now it was too late for him to make such claims, I picked up my bike off the jig and walked away. Travis had the same thing happen to him but he was sent off to go adjust his seat and thus missed his start by 15 seconds and also got his heart rate right up to maximum rushing around before he even started the race.

Photo from gallery: Racing 2011

The course starts with about 2km of false flat out of town and then dips under the highway. We had a tailwind through this section and I found myself going 50kph at about 380 Watts and was content with that. I caught my 30 second man just as we turned right onto the Minnewanka Loop road. The loop begins with a quick descent past cascade ponds and then a very steep climb up towards the turnoff for Johnson Lake. Masa was shooting photos from there and gave me a good scream and I went really hard up that climb. I passed my 1 minute and 90 second guys at the crest of that hill but I was really suffering, I had loaded up the muscles way too much and could hardly keep the legs turning. As we came through a pretty fast section in the trees near Two-Jack Lake I caught and passed my next guy, he could have been my 2 minute man or 2:30. I wasn’t really sure the order of the people as they could have been passing one another by this point.

Leaving the edge of Two-Jack Lake I knew the next rise was the final one before we rode across the dam at Lake Minnewanka and went really hard again but this time managed to hold it together enough to get back up to 50kph across the dam. I caught another person just as we left the edge of the dam and then the descent began where I passed one more person. It was terribly fast and winding but nowhere did I need to touch the brakes, plenty of it required me to stop pedaling through the corners to prevent clipping a pedal on the pavement. The descent was interrupted with short flat sections or little rises which I really spiked my power on to prevent myself from loosing speed on the downhill. I ran 53×12 most of the way, 53×11 wasn’t really necessary. I had been thinking that the descent would be a bit of a break before having to deal with the flat into the headwind once back under the highway. The huge power spikes required to keep the speed up meant that I wasn’t getting any of that anticipated rest on the descent, and I reached the dip under the highway with just about no energy left and a couple kilometers yet to go. The final stretch really put me over the edge. I was doing everything I could to keep my head out of the wind, my forehead was right down on my hands for a few sections and I was just watching the white line beneath me and peeking up to take a quick look for upcoming corners and cars. It was the deepest I had dug myself in on a bike all year, possibly ever. I was killing myself to try and keep up 400 Watts, and if you check the stats I was almost able to do it. I’ll do an in-detail analysis of the power-output from this TT in a few days when I find some time. Perhaps along with the Devon TT next weekend for comparison. Across the line I could barely breathe hard enough and once I had finally got that under control I started coughing quite hard. Only afterward did I realize that this had been done at relatively high altitude compared to Edmonton. It’s nothing crazy high, but when you’re pushing the limit on VO2 max the difference matters. In Edmonton we typically work with 93% of the oxygen at sea level but at Minnewanka we were working with only 84%, the difference is non-negligible.

Photo from gallery: Racing 2011
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The comissaires took forever to deliberate about how they were going to rule on illegal bikes. I hadn’t been the only person to ride an illegal bike, that’s for sure. I had also done everything in my power to comply by the rules. In the end they decided that they had screwed it up badly enough that they couldn’t enforce the rule fairly so it wasn’t applied at all. Lucky for me. I figured my chances of winning were about 25%, 50% chance that I was the fastest person there from Cat 3 and a coin toss on whether or not I’d be punished by the ruling on bike legality. I think this begs the question regarding UCI legality in the best of circumstances. Is it possible to apply these rules fairly in the best of times? I don’t think so. Why are the measurements fixed and not variable by rider size? In some regard I feel like I should have to put my seat even further back the the average person. 50 mm for me will cause crotch pain, but 50 mm for someone who is 5′2” is going to destroy them. I also think it’s a bit of a farce that you’re allowed to cheat a rule about using “a bike that looks like a regular bike” by putting on a saddle (an Adamo) that doesn’t at all look like a regular saddle.

Travis and I got some coffee and then tried to nap in the hotel room for a bit in the afternoon before suiting up again and warming up for the crit. A discussion with Cory before the race had me settled on the following plan. Try and line up with a good position at the start and ride near the front for a while and get a feel for the fastest line through the corners. When an opportunity presented itself I was going to be ready to go for it. I anticipated that someone would go hard from the start and indeed one of the Calgary Cycle guys (I think it was Craig Fraser?) leapt from the gun and had a gap on the peloton. The chase was hard and we ran through in mostly single file for the first 3 or so laps. At this point things slowed down for two laps and people started to look around and scope out who was where. The slowing at the front meant that the group started to bunch up a bit at the back and I was not interested in being in the peloton going two people wide around the corners. I saw an opportunity on the back straight and went hard down the inside past everyone, held my gap and went full gas for a full three loops. A Bow/Cyclemeisters rider sucked my wheel but I was interested in having him along as we had 20 laps to go and didn’t exactly want to do the whole thing myself. It took a lot of convincing to get him to finally take a turn on the front, and even then he was only interested in doing the two easy corners on each lap. Another 5 laps went by, each of us doing a half-lap, and then I convinced him to switch which half we were going to do, but I needed to pull for a whole lap to do it. Our gap had stretched out to about 8 seconds by this point and a few people had tried to come across the gap but they were ultimately unsuccessful and got reeled back by the peloton. We were starting to gain a bit of time on each lap again, and I believe we were up to 12 seconds when my tyre exploded. It was on the third corner, and just as I went to commit to get around the corner my rear tyre went with a loud bang. I overcompensated so hard from skidding out that I tipped over the other direction and landed on my right hand side and slid to a quick stop before I reached the fence. I leapt up and was out of the way long before the next group came through. I guess I could have tried to get a new wheel and get back in the race but I just wasn’t interested at all. As I would learn later, the cable had slipped in the derailleur and I wouldn’t have been able to shift anyways. There was some minor road rash but nothing bad, I have some on my forearm and my greatest worry is that I won’t be able to rest it on the aerobars for the TT workout on Tuesday. When that’s your greatest worry, it’s not really a worry at all.

Sunday morning was the circuit race and we were all lined up and ready by 6:50 for a 7:00am start on wet roads with cloudy skies but the rain wasn’t actually falling. All of ERTC got lined up near the front and was positioned well so I felt the liberty to drill it a bit down the long flat approach to the first hill. Our team-mates would be well positioned by default from the beginning of the race and it would be a good opportunity to make some people near the back of the pack work harder than they wanted to to get up the first hill with the group. I did a lot of pulling on the front with some help from Tim, Travis, Greg, Brett, Neil… a lot of ERTC! We were able to stretch the pack out but unfortunately 50kph wasn’t fast enough on the big fat flat road to thin things out into single-file while everyone was still fresh. We didn’t exactly fly up the first hill but I came over the top about 12th wheel. I was happy with that positioning and the pace dropped, people were a bit gassed already I think. Either that or still in the process of waking up. Stefan then launched an attack and I went with, about 4 of us went for a while, it wasn’t enough to put in any time but we had formed a good gap and it needed to be closed down. The peloton needed to work to do it, not bad. By this point I was really starting to feel a bit worse for wear as a result of the crash the evening before. My hip, which had sustained minor road rash wasn’t feeling too good, one of the supporting muscles that goes around the outside in the glutes was under some duress. I debated pulling the plug and quitting, but then we got to the next couple climbs and descents and I was having quite a bit of fun riding in the rain and so I soldiered on.

Photo from gallery: Racing 2011
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to see stats

Our first lap was fast and as it slowed down a bit Stefan went up the road with one other person. The gap went out quickly at first but rather abruptly it stopped growing and looked like about 30 seconds. It would hover between 30 second and a minute for the next 4 laps. It rained on and off, sometimes hard and sometimes not. We had a few people jump off the front of the peloton and go across the gap to the break which grew to six at its largest. On the penultimate lap I gapped the field on the final climb and descended the hill as fast as I could go off the front. I had put in some time and when coming through town I was joined by one Rundle-Mountain guy and Cory Dickinson from United. We agreed to give it a shot and took a few pulls each as we began the last lap before being caught by the peloton. I immediately went back to about 12th wheel and sat there biding my time. The last ascent saw the breakaway break apart into a few pairs. I stayed within myself on the final climb, positioned myself well and stayed out of the wind until Tunnel Mountain Campground. At this point I decided that it was time to go. The lead pair from the breakway still had about 15 seconds on the peloton. I attacked up the right and had a gap right away. I quickly leapt across the gap to Stefan and one other who had been in the break with him. I took a little pause here in the draft as a few other people had come across. I let someone else make the next surge to go across and followed a wheel for the next bit up over the second-to-last rise. It was now time to go full out all the way to the finish. The road through here was fast and curvy and the peloton began to shatter. I went as hard as I could over the top of the hill and got it in the big ring and turned the pedals as hard as I could. The final descent was definitely my fastest of the day. Coming into town I had two people on my wheel, the lead pair from the breakaway still had a gap on us by about 5 seconds as we flew along the road. I was positioned second wheel for the sprint and when the third wheel came around from the right I went from the left. In the end the guy starting from two lengths back took third at the line and I wound up third out of our trio (5th overall). I’m not unhappy about the result. If I wasn’t able to make that lead group I wouldn’t have been able to have the chance to sprint for third place. I’ve never made the lead group like that in a race before, and I’ve never won a sprint, so I’ve got to just take this stuff one thing at a time. I made the lead group this time, maybe next time I can make the lead group and have enough left in the tank to take away a few positions in the sprint as well. Good thing I only have to wait until next weekend for the next race.

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Oliver Half Iron+++*

Raceday arrived at 4:25 which harkens back to Ironman, the only other race I’ve done that started at 7:00am. We weren’t the first to transition by any means but we did get there early enough to pump tyres and get in the line for toilets before the bulk of the other athletes. Travis and I suited up and made the 800m or so walk down to the beach from the transition area. It’s definitely a longer transition than I’ve had to do before but figured it could be used to my advantage if I was smart about it… but that would be getting ahead of myself.

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2011

All of the men below age 44 went off at 7 sharp and I lined up slightly to the inside of the bulk of the pack on the first row. I’m not really a first row swimmer in terms of speed but I felt like I was a first row swimmer in terms of confidence if there was some argy-bargy going on and wanted to try it out. The people who were going to swim really fast were all jockeying for a position in the mosh-pit right in the middle of the group. I think it was about 400m to the first buoy and I set out hard, two stroke breathing full tilt to the first buoy and while I watched a lead pack form off on my left I was right near the beginning of the second group. Our group squeezed a bit near the first buoy as the people out on the edges are inevitably drawn in and I caught a few good drafts. From here on around the rest of the 2km loop I really drifted backwards through the pack. Partly due to the hard start meaning I was almost guaranteed to fade but also because of some missing swim fitness as I’ve not sonsistently been in the pool for the past 3 weeks. I couldn’t find great drafts behind people swimming in straight lines but kept swimming. Almost all of it I kept to two stroke breathing as the sunrise was really blinding if I looked to the east, and I was going too hard to restrict myself to four-stroke breathing.

I exited the water in 36:51 for 2kms which amounts to 1:51 per 100m if the course was accurate. Travis was right behind me and he basically swam the same pace as me at the Spring Thaw last month (1:36/100m) and so I’ve got a bit of evidence that the swim may have been a bit long. We could have also just been slow.

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2011

Transition was an 800m run with a wetsuit and I adopted a strategy I’d seen on the WTC broadcast from IMNZ where you put the legs of your suit up over your shoulders and run with it on like a backpack. It worked good. The switch from swim to bike is pretty difficult on your body as the blood needs to be redistributed to your legs. A slow jog early meant I let a few spots go by but I got myself under control before picking up my jogging pace and when I got off the painful barefoot pavement run I was able to open it up and run harder across the grass. Taking it easy at the beginning of the long transition meant that I got my HR down a long ways before I was even aboard the bike which meant I was ready to go with some real power once I got aboard. Not having a bib number to wear on the bike meant I just had to grab my helmet and go. I nailed the flying mount and was en-route. All told I passed 35 of the 112 people who swam faster than me in transition. I also passed 5 on the start line who had come to a stop there to clip in and get going. Fast transition skills were worth passing 40 people, and I half jog-walked the first 100m to let my HR settle. I’m going to keep exploiting this advantage of mine with fast transitions until people start practicing this stuff.

The bike in Oliver is two and a “half” laps of a 40km loop and amounts to 93 kms (the half isn’t really 50% but geographically this is a sensible way to describe it). My estimates for race wattage was that I could do between 290 and 300 at a HR of between 150 and 155 bpm. My hopes in the previous weeks was that I might get a chance to try to totally drill the bike and go for broke and then see how the run went. I decided in the days before the race when the forecast was for heat that that wasn’t a good strategy to employ in adverse conditions, if I want to do that experiment I should do it under appropriate circumstances and this was no-such circumstances. I could learn a lot more by successfully deciding to manage a race in the heat than I could by going nuts on the bike and then melting on the run. The plan should be to try for optimal execution (meaning run my best) in tough conditions rather than to try and do a bit of an experiment by riding really hard. The plan was to try and average about 290 for the first lap and to try and pick it up by 10 watts or so, on average, for the second lap. I’ll post more statistics and analysis of the pacing strategy employed once I download and process the recorded file but for now I’ll say that for the first half lap I did 298 Watts, the second I did 299 Watts, the third I did 302 Watts and then I did 318 for the fourth and fifth “half” laps, I forgot to split them apart with the button.

I guess it goes without saying when you swim 36+ minutes on the swim and are a good cyclist that you spend most of the first half of the course passing people. I definitely did that. I caught another cyclist around 15kms into the race who had been just up the road from me for a while and we traded positions a few times. I’d go faster up the hills and he would really push on the descents, I could see that he was running a powertap and could tell he was rather blindly trying to do even watts across the full duration of the course. I felt like it was silly on a rolling course like this to try and maintain watts once I was over 50kph and so he’d go by me on the downhills pedalling hard while I soft pedaled (soft pedalling for me is still 200+ watts when I’m in race-mode but it was a big drop from the 330-340 I did most of the rest of the time) and then I’d pass him on the ascents. The trades went back and forth for about 30kms and he always rode legally behind me when he was back there, a great competitor and he came and found me after the race as well to have a brief chat. When I would get passed I’d drop back and typically took in some food or drink while I waited for the gap to stretch out to 12+ meters to ride legally myself. It worked well enough, I got in a fair amount of nutrition in this section as a result of him coming past on probably half a dozen occasions – bonus. After we rode through town again I had noticed my HR was only high 140’s and that I could really pick it up and be stronger in the second half of the ride. I put in a few solid sections here and the average watts started to rise. I often found myself doing high 300s on the uphills but my HR was never drifting above 155 so I kept pushing. It was a good feeling as I was now in sparse territory, starting to lap the very back of the pack athletes and not always able to see the next person up the road who was on the lead lap. I kept the gas on though and really felt rewarded when I could spot another fast athlete up the road and then slowly reel them in. I maintained solid efforts on the uphills and pedalled easy when above 50kph.

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2011

My nutrition strategy was to eat 800 calories of shot-bloks on the bike and drink Gatorade for 400 calories minimum, switching to water if I felt like my stomach was running on the edge of success with that amount of sugar. The stomach felt fine which indicated my pace on the bike wasn’t an overestimate and that was confirmed by my HR being at the low end of my goal spectrum. In the end I got in about 600 calories of Gatorade and didn’t need to drink much water, it meant I was going to go into the run well fuelled and could focus on drinking for thirst and hydration rather than having to try and slam gels down my throat which in 29 degree heat wouldn’t be terribly palatable.

I hopped off the bike in 7th position overall, having passed 66 people on the bike course. The bike course is 93kms long and I averaged 39.8kph over it. I had hoped for 40 or a bit more, but after riding it I realized that the course was tougher than I had imagined and with a few spots on each lap where you needed to scrub speed for navigation it’s not really fair to compare it to GWN where I didn’t touch the brakes for the entire 90kms with the exception of the U-turn turnaround. There is hardly a flat section, some really fast areas and also lots of gentle climbing at 1% or 2% grade. The kind of stuff that’ll waste lots of time or cause a lot of stress if you’re not paying very good attention. Travis watched a combination of speed and grade on his EDGE500 to stay alert which was pretty intelligent, I wish I’d thought about that strategy last year before the powermeter, I just tried to check in on my watts on occasion.

T2 was OK, but I had forgotten to turn on my garmin during the final portion of the bike ride so I didn’t have satellite reception from the beginning of the run. I started out with a little internal debate with myself about how I was going to run as fast as I could over the full course in the heat. I decided that monitoring heart-rate was probably the most appropriate feedback combined of course with how I was feeling. Using feedback from pace was going to be misleading because it was hot and it was going to take more bloodflow than normal to the skin to keep me cool. I also hadn’t done any realistic testing of what sort of run pace I could expect in the previous few weeks to base those estimates from. By the time I was a mile into the run I had dialled in my HR to a goal of 160 bpm and was maintaining it with controlled breathing. I anticipated that as the temperature kept rising and I accumulated fatigue that this would result in a fade in pace but still figured that would be the fastest way to the finish under these conditions. If you’re suffering heat stress and that’s the cause of your slowing I don’t think you can really escape that by going easier at the beginning. Anticipating a bit of pace-fade would also help me stay focussed and strong when the time came and I needed to deal with the mental consequences of seeing that you’re slowing down and can’t do much about it.

There were quite a few aid stations on the run and I did my best to get in a cup of calorie containing beverage (Coke when I could get it, or Gatorade) and then put a cup of water down my shirt and a sponge of water onto the top of my head. I was passed by a few people but when they came past me they were really really flying and I didn’t even consider latching on. Two of them went on to run 1:23:XX in hot conditions which is really fast considering the course was around 22.05kms long (by my calculations from the GPS). I kept up the running and tried not to think too much about anything other than keeping track of the kilometres and monitoring my heart rate and temperature regulation. At around 160bpm I did the first 5kms in 20:20 for about a 4:04 pace. I came through 10kms in 41:46, for an average pace of 4:17 for the second quarter. Onto the second lap of the run course I was going pretty good, I was focussed and was still running in a top 10 position. I started feeding myself some positive vibes at this point which is a bit early in the race, still at least 40 minutes to go. Normally I don’t need to start thinking positive halfway through the run, I don’t know why, perhaps I don’t normally think I have 40 minutes of pep-talk to give to myself.

I rolled through 15 kms in 63:22 for a 4:19 average pace for the split. Fading but still going, still ahead of the arbitrary 4:20 pace I figured was probably realistic based on my condition. I was happy and at the far turnaround on the second lap I realized I was gaining on someone ahead of me. He was a younger guy, and pretty skinny. I knew that if it came down to a footrace with a mile left I didn’t really have a chance purely due to turnover. If I wanted to reel back that slot I had to do it now, and put in a gap and then try and hold it to the finish. I was pretty hurting, my pace was fading due to the heat, and my right foot had gone a bit numb for a while. I was now running in water logged shoes because of how much water I had been pouring on myself. If I had instinctively decided that I had no chance to catch him I would have finished and been satisfied but somehow I had the desire to go for it, to roll the dice and risk a total detonation with the hope of trying to earn another place on that ladder. I went hard, the 160 bpm guideline was now thrown out the window and I was going between 166 and 170 bpm. I hit 20 kms at 84:36 for a 5 km split pace of 4:15/km. Things were going in a different direction, and it wasn’t because the clouds had come out or the temperature had started to drop, I was digging a big hole and climbing right in. I had made the pass with about 3.5 kms to go and immediately gone hard to create a gap, my fastest 500m split in there was a 2:02/500m done at a blazing 4:04 pace while I was opening the gap! I kept myself focussed on the task at hand which was to run as fast as I could to the finish line and not play any more games.

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2011

The final 2.05km (these splits were all according to my measurement, not the course indicators) I wrapped up going totally crazy and speeding up on each 500m portion bringing me to a 1:32:53, and a final pace the last section averaging 4:03/km and doing the final 500 under 4 minute pace. I was breathing as hard as I could breathe which is an interesting thing to be doing after 4.5 hours of exercise, I’ve never done that in a HIM before, it feels a lot different than breathing as hard as you can in a 15-20 minute XC run race. It’s really satisfying to be pushing yourself that hard late in the race but along with that comes a huge amount of pain. My HR peaked at 187bpm. Crossing the finish line was fantastic and I had totally raced as hard as I could. I had a bit of a stumble and loss of balance when one of the volunteers threw a towel on me so they took me to medical to keep an eye on me. It took about 5 minutes for my HR to come down to 100 after the finish, normally something that happens in between 40 and 80 seconds in normal conditions. My blood pressure was 138/53 for those of you who are interested. After recovering in medical for a while they let me go just in time to grab a couple bottles of Gatorade before getting to cheer Travis across the finish line. Travis was frustrated by his race coming in slower than last year, but the heat definitely was a factor and his decision to try and run according to pace early on the run made for a hard fade later in the race and a situation that felt rather out of his control. Hopefully there are tidbits of information to glean from this day to make Ironman at the end of the summer a more successful experience than it otherwise would have been. Lesley was the next of our contingent to cross the line, having also had a tough run in the heat. Describing the experience as “using my legs to prevent me from falling through the pavement rather than running”, shows the kind of grit it took to get through “the hardest race of [her] life”. Claire finished her first half iron distance triathlon and was able to run the whole run course after a tendon problem in her foot for the past number of weeks that has prevented any run training. There’s been discussion of the acquisition of a wetsuit instead of future rentals, so perhaps she’ll be on the start line a few more times in the next number of years, we’ll certainly be interested in having her there!

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2011

Other things worth mentioning: The race was announced by Steve King (pictured). He announces at Great White North and also at Ironman Canada and I think he really makes a special day out of it for a lot of people. As I was running out onto the course he had a whole list of information about me, most of which I didn’t provide and he listed off most of my recent palmares. Also, I won a slot for Ironman Canada based on this performance. I was 2nd amongst under 29 men and the winner disappeared before awards and thus wasn’t there to claim the slot for Ironman either.

*

this was a Half Iron+++ because according to my estimates and measurements, the swim, the bike, and the run were all longer than the standard distance. This is not a complaint, this is an observation. I don’t think anyone was trying to mislead anyone about it, the course is well documented and I don’t think anyone cares to do the little bit extra or not, but it highlights the importance of making adjustments when comparing courses. The long T1, the long bike and the long run account for relatively sizeable amounts of time. If I make the adjustments for the run distance, this amounts to a 1:28:53 half marathon. I’ve already discussed the speed on the bike so there’s no reason to pro-rate it.

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Pigeon Lake 2011

This was my third time lining up to race at Pigeon Lake. I’ve raced here before in 2009 [link] and in 2010 [link]. Both were fun days and big successes. I guess today’s big success was that it was probably my most run race on the course, but my success in terms of performance was pretty lacking. Aaron pulled through for the team today in Cat3 and did snag a podium spot but it was pretty much in no part due to my contributions. The group riding today was really safe and I also found people to be very respectful in their behaviour, it was a great day to be out on the road. I didn’t have to consider the risks of drafting anyone at any time, everyone was predictable and very well mannered, if you rode today and somehow you’re reading this, Thank you. To jump back in a pack the first time after the criterium on Monday where a crash sent someone to the hospital in pretty rough shape it was really great to have a positive experience, a negative one would have really dampened the love of this game.

Photo from gallery: Pigeon Lake RR - 2011

We were treated to great weather again and the Cat3 race was set for 111kms made up of four loops of the main piece of the course plus the ride out there from the staging area and then a ride back to the uphill finish. ERTC was represented by myself, Travis, Tim and Aaron. We rolled out and Calgary cycle kept the pace rolling over for the first little bit to get everyone warmed up. I took up patrol of the front of the pack on behalf of our team first and the others tucked themselves in at the back. Our strategy was to try and go with early attacks rather than simply cover them. The idea being that we wanted to try and encourage people to race rather than just shut things down. It worked alright and I threw in a few digs to try and create little gaps in the peloton when the opportunities arose however everyone was still fresh and nothing was really going to get away. After our first ascent of the big hill I was surprised to see myself still well towards the front of the pack and there were gaps everywhere. I leapt across to Tim who was in a break with two guys from Calgary Cycle and three more joined us including Stefan. There was a bit of a pause before people wanted to commit to the group. I think that pause is probably what kills tons and tons of the potentially exciting ways that a race can play out. The same thing likely doesn’t happen in Cat1/2 because there’s a slightly more aggressive all or nothing mentality there. But, because of the hill, the initial pause didn’t kill this one. Stefan started with the shouting of motivation and encouragement and pretty quick we had the pair of Calgary Cycle guys onboard as well as myself and Tim and Stefan. Five of seven were committed and I really demonstrated my commitment for doing a huge pull on the front on the downhill in my 53×11. 53×12 actually wasn’t a tall enough gear and I thought I was spun out for a moment before I decided I’d better check just in case to see if I had one more gear. Luckily I’ve gotten in the habit of buying cassettes with an 11 tooth and was actually happy it got put to good use today.

Photo from gallery: Pigeon Lake RR - 2011

There were three more people who bridged up to us just as we were starting to get going as it was pretty clear that a group this strong and of this size had the potential to do some damage to the peloton. I don’t really know what happened, but some people either lost interest in the break or lost the ability to keep pushing, as pretty quickly I was taking every second or every third pull through to the front. Sadly that split never worked out, it was probably one of our best chances. We eased up through the uphill headwind section and everyone got to grab some food and drink from their pockets. Just past the feed zone after we’d turned the corner, I heard some guy chatting about his dog to someone else. I wasn’t very happy about that, we’re here to race bikes I thought and decided to launch a missile. I jumped from about 12th wheel back and by the time I had hit the front of the pack I was doing 60kph. I put in a solid 1 minute of effort hoping that someone was going to come with, I paused briefly about 100m up the road giving everyone an opportunity to come across the gap but no-one even tried. I was a bit frustrated and was about to sit up and drift back. I thought to myself a bit and then decided that if I want to have a bike race then it’s important to commit to it and mean it when I go off the front. I did, and put in a solid 5 minutes going full tilt to build up a gap, I was well out of sight pretty quickly but as soon as that happened I decided I needed to start to pace this as a TT to the finish rather than just trying to put time into the pack. If I explode I just have to limp in to the finish and if I get caught then I’ll also get dropped unless I’m riding sustainably. So, I backed it off at which point things started to come down a bit but then I started to hold my gap, and it was soon pretty clear that the pack was just leaving me out to roast as they quit gaining time. I checked at the top of the hill and decided I should try and be caught before we turned into the headwind and began the next gradual ascent. If I still had a gap there I’d be wasting a ton of extra energy. Indeed, I timed it to be caught just as we rounded the corner. The pace sagged to 20kph and I threw in another attack just to make a statement, I’d rather race than not race. That attack was pulled right back but things were still pretty much shut down and I drifted to the back to eat and drink while Travis took up patrol near the front.

Photo from gallery: Pigeon Lake RR - 2011 Photo from gallery: Pigeon Lake RR - 2011
Photo from gallery: Pigeon Lake RR - 2011 Photo from gallery: Pigeon Lake RR - 2011

The easy spin was great for getting some food down but it wasn’t much of a race for a while. Travis attacked into the headwind just before the corner and no-one went with him. Again. People eventually chased him back after the feed and Tim launched a great attack just as he was caught. That got people a bit nervous (I think, or excited, both are OK) and the pace started to climb and climb. I saw Travis going backwards and knew that he was going to hurt if the pace kept ramping up, there were two short power climbs just ahead. The pace was high and it was also pretty uneven, tons of gaps forming and being crossed, I was very quickly into a world of hurt and struggled hard to maintain at least a reasonable position within the pack in case big splits began to form. Every light on the dashboard was blinking orange, but I kept going, you`re not out until you`re out I said to myself. Masa launched an attack on one climb that really got me scared, it was in a great spot and was definitely selective as the guys who could go with were already at the front because of the prior hill. I was worried we were going to miss this opportunity as a team as it had the potential to be a good one, but luckily Tim was ahead even though I had lost track of him and he made the group. I think it was someone from Calgary Cycle who pulled that one back and I was lucky enough to get a draft. The pace stayed high but was a bit less jumpy for a stretch. Somewhere in here Travis got shelled out the back. I didn’t realize until about 10kms later that he was gone, it was taking about everything I had to maintain my own situation let alone think strategically or keep tabs on other people.

Photo from gallery: Pigeon Lake RR - 2011

Inevitably things slowed down again just in time for the headwind climb and everyone got to eat and drink again with about 30kms left to race. It was not really a good situation for ERTC at this point, no-one really had a great uphill sprint but were all pretty good on the fitness front. Almost everyone was still with the pack, even though it had been hard it hadn`t quite been hard enough to inflict damage to the numbers, just to the quality of the legs. It was in our best interest to try and keep making the race hard and so we did our best at it. There was a Bow-Cycle rider who had snuck off up the road twice now and was maintaining a pretty sizeable gap. I pitched in my efforts to tow him back by keeping the pace high, instead of trying to just do the locomotive thing I did my best to surge in response to any slowing of the peloton. I wasn’t able to open very many big gaps doing this but I always was able to create something which forced people to do a bit of work to close down. I think by this point most of the snap had disappeared out of the legs of the peloton and so those gaps weren’t really propagating through the pack and forcing everyone to work, they were being pretty evenly shut down. It meant that we were able to make some people work hard but certainly not everyone. As we climbed and then turned south again Tim and I threw in a few 1-2 punches and formed a few more gaps. I felt like here we were probably pretty successful in inflicting a bit of damage because the tailwind and the general uphill weren’t contributing as significantly to the drafting effect.

On the run-in to the final climb of the big hill I went in at about 3rd wheel but was last over the crest. I had pretty much spent everything by this point on creating a race and creating excitement. I didn’t have much for the finish but knew that we’d likely get a chance to rest up on our final visit to the headwind. I was right, but unfortunately a rest for me means a rest for everyone else.

Photo from gallery: Pigeon Lake RR - 2011 Photo from gallery: Pigeon Lake RR - 2011

I stuck in with the pack until we had crested the final incline about 4km out from the finish. I knew I didn’t really have anything left to sprint with, especially uphill, and so I tried to make my final bid for glory at this point, launched an attack, opened up a gap and drilled it as hard as I could. As hard as I could lasted for maybe 20 pedal strokes and I was done. Oh well, I though to myself, I gave this race everything today. I was pretty much resigned to only pulling up on my pedals by this point as my quads started to feel the onset of cramping. Cruising in from there to the finish was interesting, I moved through a few gaps, tried to watch as much as I could about navigating a sprint, trying to learn about what to do if I had been here with legs to do anything with, but really I didn’t have much of anything left to even use to pretend to attack the final rise into the finish and just stuck in with the pack to be given the same time as the leaders.

Photo from gallery: Pigeon Lake RR - 2011 Photo from gallery: Pigeon Lake RR - 2011

Successful day? Not really, but fun? yeah! I’m looking forward to doing some more in a few weeks. I’m noticing already that I’m getting more and more snap in my legs when I try and put in a surge than I’ve ever had before. Unfortunately that “best ever” snappy acceleration is still pretty sub-par when compared against the guys I’m racing with. I`m not mad at all about how it played out. If it were to have been easy all day and I tried to go with 10kms left then everyone else would have been fresh and probably could have pulled me back. If I had stayed fresh right until the finish I still would have lost on the sprint in to the finish. ERTC`s best strategy was to try and make the race difficult and fast, we did that, and we were rewarded by Aaron`s great performance up the hill at the end. No regrets – only lessons.

Photos thanks to Keegan Brooks
who also passed up bottles for us
the day after running 50kms.

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Power Data from Bikes on Broadway

I got in my final long run prior to the Oliver Half Ironman today. Just a bit over two hours with Travis. We were very good about keeping the pace down and I found us some good hills along the way, we mostly kept to dirt and gravel so the impact shouldn’t be too much to recover from. Actually I doubt I’ll even notice tomorrow. That’s a good sign I guess.

I parked myself in front of the computer and did some programming to extract a bit of information from my quarq files from the weekend in Saskatoon. Below are the two plots I constructed. The first is the power profile of the race and I also included the elevation profile of the route so that you can see I was putting in the surges late in the game while going up those little rises. I included three levels of smoothing which I think is quite instructive. You can notice early on in the ride that when the power goes up that all of the lines trend in the same direction. What that says to me is that I was really doling out the power with purpose early in the ride as it wasn’t fluctuating randomly. When the power is high it’s because I’m choosing to expend energy and when it dips I’m choosing to pull back a bit. Later on in the ride you see that the most sensitive power profile line gets a bit jittery. That’s indicative to me that when I was really starting to hurt I was having a hard time keeping the power consistent even though it was still pretty good, we’ll talk about the fade in a second. I think what’s happening is that because you’re accumulating such a high quantity of metabolism byproducts including the hydrogen ions from Lactic acid that your muscles are really trying to quit at every opportunity. It takes repeated reminders to pull yourself back from all sorts of tiny dips in power and get going again. Just 10 more pedal strokes later your body is trying to quit again and your power has dropped off. This is quite interesting. The consistent application of power is going to be the fastest and probably the least stressful on your body, but that’s not what the body naturally is going to do. It’s important therefore to really focus on smoothness and consistency when the wheels are starting to come off the wagon. This is something I’ll be thinking about during Tuesday Time Trials, it’s a skill that I think I can refine a bit more. Also worth noting is that I was hammering up the little rises late in the race and then suffering in between. Whether or not it’s the surges on the rise or the accumulation of the work over the whole race that causes it is something I’ll need to gather more data on before I can be sure. I believe it’s a combination, and I believe the power output on the hills is worthwhile, but I need to study the balance a bit better to learn what’s a worthwhile surge and what’s detrimental.

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2011

The second thing to look at is the power curve for the race. In a completely flat TT with no wind you’d go the fastest with a small spike in power at the beginning to get you up to speed and then completely equal power distribution. This would result in a power curve that has a pretty significant shelf in it that has a severe drop off at whichever power you maintained on average for the race. It will drop off at the duration of the race, so in my case just a bit past the 10 minute line on the graph. How far the plateau remains flat without beginning to rise as you approach shorter durations is a measure of how well you were able to avoid power spikes during the race. In a bit of a lumpy TT such as the one in Saskatoon there is going to be a bit of a rise because pacing those hills efficiently does require a surge in power output. My power profile is below and I split it into a first half power curve (in black) and a second half power curve (in blue). The total duration power curve is also shown in red.

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2011

[Thick lines are AP, thin lines are NP]

The big thing that stands out is the difference in power curves from the first and second half of the race. You can see that the black line merges with the red line pretty much for the entire duration. What this means is that I set all of those power-bests in the first half of the race and then faded off in the second half. For reference the numbers for the different portions of the race are as follows:

First half: 431 Average power – 486 Normalized power

Second half: 376 Average power – 415 Normalized power

Entire race: 402 Average power – 452 Normalized power

This means that I faded HARD. I faded off by about 14 percent in the second half. Of course it’s way better to fade than to have a ton left in the tank as you cross the finish line, but to go out as hard as I did in the first half does make you pay the price. I can’t say for sure how much faster I could have gone if I’d paced it a bit better. A few quick calculations say that I perhaps had another 10 seconds of potential over the course with the same fitness, this is presuming that what limited my performance was 100% physiological, but we know that that’s not true. I maybe had another 10 seconds of physiology and another 10 seconds on top of that of mental game I could have played and asked a bit more of myself. So yeah, I’m saying 11 minutes flat if I just gather skills and no fitness. I am also not at my physiological apex, I can get better there too!

I think one of the contributors to the fade could be that I passed all of the people that I could see on the road at about halfway. My 2 minute man was well out of my sights and so I did loose a bit of perspective on whether or not I was really going faster than other people. This is a rookie mistake, and during the race I don’t remember ever thinking about whether or not I was gaining on the people ahead of me (i.e. I wasn’t being a rookie in case that was ambiguous) until I passed them… but I must have been doing it a bit. That means I really have no idea if loosing that sense of speed affected me or not. In future during TTs that are significantly longer (i.e. 30 or 40km) I think I need to reprogram my EDGE to show me a 500m average power and a previous 500m average power. That would give me an idea how my power is trending. In shorter stuff I think the best plan is to really just go about as hard as you can go and listen to whether or not your body is trying to shut itself down. This is something to practice. The numerical feedback is interesting and good for analysis but during such an intense effort I currently find that it’s tricky to take it in and use it in the decision making process. If I glance down and see a 3 second average power of 420 watts blink at me should I be backing off? Well, probably not, that’s only 5% out and something like hitting a pothole and shifting in the saddle or shifting a gear is going to make differences like that. The kind of think I need to ensure is that I’m not recording any big dips in power below about 330 watts (in this case, the numbers would vary based on duration) and really trying to avoid spikes beyond 450 unless I’m going to put in a sustained surge at higher powers. Really it’s important that your power application is uniform enough that you’re not having detrimental consequences on your speed, meaning dropoffs where you loose a kph or two, and on the opposite end, not loading up the legs beyond the sustainable level unless there is a significant time reward for doing so.

I need more practice watching power data during intense efforts and then analysing the results afterward if it’s going to speed me up. There are things to learn from here for sure.

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Bikes on Broadway

I chose to give myself at least 24 hours before I posted a race report from the stage race on the long weekend. I spent a lot of the weekend being really frustrated by my situation, and while I know it’s inevitable that that sentiment is going to come across in my description of the weekend I’m starting to feel like it was a good learning experience. I’m not good at being frustrated, hopefully I can get better.

Photo from gallery: Spring 2011

Saturday evening we had an 8.2km TT along the South Saskatchewan River. It was generally flat but had a few little dips and rises along the way that did require that you had to shift gears. Total gain of 27 meters but only a net gain of 7. It required a bit of strategy regarding how you were going to distribute your power but really it was a plain and simple drag race.

I wasn’t running my absolute fastest TT setup, as I used a cosmic carbone front wheel with my disc instead of taking a tri-spoke. We were loaded to the brim in Aaron Falkenberg’s Jeep so that saved some space. Other than that it was good to finally be decked out for a TT in proper TT apparel. I’ve done 2 years of racing and never had a club skinsuit until this spring (not for my lack of interest!) and it really makes a difference. When you’re at speed it really really feels smooth, which is how it should feel when you’re going fast, it shouldn’t feel super fast with all sorts of stuff flapping in the breeze. I had TT’d my fastest 5km TT at this past week’s Tuesday workout with 392 watts and figured that a goal of sustaining 400 watts would be appropriate once I was in a good headspace and focused on really bringing out my best effort. Indeed I was able to get 400 Watts and am pretty happy with that. I did 1022 watts off the start and needed to take about 10 seconds after the first 40 seconds at about 300 watts to recover from the start. Probably a bit eager, but it did get me up to speed, and the average speed didn’t drop while gathering that recovery so it probably didn’t cost me. I caught and passed my 30 second man at about halfway and subsequently passed my 1 minute man and my 90 second man within only a short span of time. Aaron was my 2 minute man and he was well out of sight. I did have a couple power dips in the second half where I was really starting to hurt and things dropped down a bit. All in all, I paced alright with a bit of a fade but could still do in excess of 650 watts on the final rise to the finish. Afterwards I watched the clock tick by for a while as more people came though and it looked to me like they were arriving ahead of the 30 second intervals that they would need to be behind me if I were to have won. Once the result got posted my highly inaccurate estimation of time gaps was proven incorrect and I won by 13 seconds, that’s almost a full 2%, which in this game is a pretty nice margin, I didn’t expect it.

Photo from gallery: Spring 2011

Sunday was a RoadRace that amounted to about 100kms once you tack on the neutral rollout. It was quite a ways out of Saskatoon so that we could have some hills to do battle on. Unfortunately if you go an hour of Saskatoon you’re in the absolute middle of nowhere and so we were racing laps on a dead-straight out and back, not the most enthralling scenery, and the lack of corners meant that the general flow of riders was identical for the entire race, no corners to string things out. The pavement was pretty good and the sun was out, so it was OK. I was riding my new cosmic carbones and something wasn’t correct with the free-hub or the cassette. I think I can fix it by simply adding a second spacer behind the cassette (Mavic seems to be spaced ever so slightly differently than the other stuff I have. I had a similar search for a required thicker thin spacer on my cosmic elite wheelset two years ago. It’s frustrating that I didn’t get this sorted out before the race. I had test driven those wheels quite a bit. I’d put more than 3 hours on them myself and Dave rode them for a couple hours plus the spring thaw. Now on race-day there’s a problem that arises.

The start to the roadrace was pretty mellow, big tailwind, we had a little surge a ways out from a hill and I figured I should turn the screws on people for a while and so ramped things up and rode hard all the way onto the bottom slope of the hill. As I had hoped a few skinny guys would then think this was a good opportunity to attack on the big hill and they did. It meant that the guys at the back of the pack really had to hammer to latch on again at the top and I got to climb the hill just steady as I had started first wheel. It all came back together as I think everyone knew it would but some people needed to strike a match to make it happen. I chalked that one up as a point for me.

Returning with the headwind we had some people going off the front and a couple groups did get a ways up the road but I think they knew it was still a long ways to go and weren’t really trying, there were enough people who didn’t want to see them succeed that once they got beyond the maybe 200m mark we’d have a short bout of co-operation and the breakaway would come back. It was inevitably the case that the same people always did the work to bring them back but it was distributed so manageable. We had a pair of the Manitoba espoir kids pull a dangerous stunt when they had a team-mate up the road and we were beginning to get some co-operation happening. They squirted up the shoulder and pulled out in front of everyone and then laid on the brakes. The idea was that if they could slow down the pack their buddy could gain some more advantage up the road. It was pretty much the stupidest tactic in the book, and it caused people to start crashing into eachother. A mass-pileup was only reverted by the quick reflexes of some good riders, and there was some serious yelling going on. As one of the guys who had this ‘bright idea’ was dropping back through the pack I smacked him on the hip to get his attention and gave him an earful about proper behaviour. As we continued to race I was thanked by a bunch of the other guys for saying what needed to be said. The thanks wasn’t universal as apparently there was a complaint about the incident. I was assessed an arbitrary 20 second penalty as a result of it, how they came up with 20 seconds? who knows, it was intentionally enough to get me out of sitting first place. I’ve discussed it with a bunch of other riders since then, would I do the same thing again? Well I’d definitely do the yelling. I’d actually probably even make the yelling more extensive, get across the whole message, and add some footnotes to my speech as well. I’d probably yell at the offender and then I’d make my way around the peloton and make it clear to all of their team-mates that the behaviour of their team was putting the rest of the group’s safety in jeaopardy. Retrospectively I might not make contact, although how one form of contact is different than another is pretty arbitrary, people are always pushing one another around on the hip to make their presence known in the peloton. It makes it a safer place to ride.

No-one can win a bike-race until they’re at the finishline. Until you’re at the line there needs to be a huge measure of respect for the other riders in the pack. My wellbeing and ability to get home safely the next day relies not only on my ability to handle the bike but the trust that needs to exist between me and the other riders who are on the road in front of me. After that incident all of the mutual trust in the peloton went out the window and the rest of the race wasn’t really, in my opinion, a safe place to ride. I moved up closer to the front, figured it was worth a bit more effort, and stayed out of danger.

After about 30kms it felt like perhaps the cassette was getting loose as a result of the missing spacer. It was making more of a rattling sound and I had a couple of mis-shifts. I didn’t want to risk damaging the new wheels, or the derailleur, or the bike-frame, or myself if I crashed out as a result of something going bad so I decided to stop at the next turn-around because I knew the wheelcar would be readily available in that situation and make the swap. I made the swap really quickly and was back on my bike in perhaps 25 seconds, but then the chain had dropped and it took a bit of jimmying to get it back on. Once back rolling I saw that Aaron had dropped off the peloton to help me get back on. I think it would have been good to work together if it had only been those 25 seconds but because of the dropped chain it took longer than it should have and I timed my first gap up to the peloton to be 57 seconds. That’s a lot. I sort-of wished that Aaron had stayed in with the pack, because now there was no guarantee that we’d be able to get back on at all. I caught Aaron and took a draft behind him but when I pulled around he must have really been going hard, because he popped off the back. A split second decision – I had to keep going – unfortunately I could go faster alone. Aaron knew this was the right decision, if I couldn’t get back on we’d end up riding together into the finish anyways, but at least this way I was going to give it a shot.

I averaged 44.08 kph on a generally net uphill length of the course with a bit of a tailwind and caught the peloton just as they were turning into the headwind. It was about everything I had. I got back on and was greeted by Mark, said he was glad I was back. I got some gel in me and drank up most of my gatorade. It took maybe 5 minutes of riding last wheel in the peloton to get recovered but after that I was alright. The attacks kept going off the front instigated by Manitoba/Wookcock who made up a little less than half of the peloton. No-one really wanted to, or could, or knew how to, (or some combination of all three) co-operate in the peloton. I think they were all scared that someone would pull another stupid stunt on the front and this time someone would actually hit the pavement. I worked relatively hard on the last long stretch into the headwind covering little attacks but no-one really tried hard enough to make something stick.

We turned with a tailwind for the last half-lap of the course and a couple guys went up the road, a cycledelia dude and Bill from Roadworks. It wasn’t really going to last and we all knew it so I was riding on the front. There was another fake attack to try and get some people to make an acceleration but it ended quickly and things stacked up again quickly. I had my hand out again to prevent the rider in front of my from coming across my line and then felt a wheel in-between my foot and the chainstay of my bike. No-wheel belongs there and things turned out poorly. A couple guys hit the deck, one of whom hopped up and got back on, the other got some road-rash and a DNF but as I understand it was alright.

We finished up in a bunch-sprint, just like we all knew was pretty inevitable. I took fifth, although at the time I figured I was probably 7th or 8th. The guy who won the 15 second bonus for first place also had crossed the center line so he got a 1 minute penalty as a result and was knocked well down the GC. I was now ranked second 7 seconds back.

Monday we awoke to wet patches on the road, very cool temperatures and drizzle. I was alright with cooler temperatures but I hoped that the road would be dried up in time for our race. Aaron and I went and rode a half-hour warm up and got to the start line ready to go… only to find that the race was running well behind schedule because they had needed to tow a few parked cars off the course before they could start the first race. So, we parked ourselves in Subway and tried to keep warm which was relatively successful. The wind was blowing, it was misting rather than raining, and the temperature was about 5 or 6 degrees C. The ladies finished up and our race start finally came, off the start one of the guys from the big team went hard. I expected it, but I didn’t expect everyone else to soft-pedal the first 100m. I arrived at the first corner in second place, first of the chasers and figured I could throw in a few laps of the chase to get going, it would at least let me do the corners at race pace without someone ahead of me for the first while. After the first lap Mark went by on the back straight obviously intending to try and bridge and crashed out in the third corner. It was just an indication of things to come. The first corner was wide and although being a bit dusty it wasn’t slick with rain because of a huge tree. The second corner had fair pavement but was a wide-road to narrow-road corner. The same thing following a stretch of good pavement with a tailwind at corner three (wide to narrow) but this one had a big lump in the pavement right on the race-line. Corner four was pretty wide but it was riddled with potholes and patched pavement. Bad news especially when wet.

I was making time back on the solo-break by just riding tempo and no-one seemed to want to come around me. When they did, they did a contribution of one or two corners and then indicated that someone else should take over. I was safer on the front and so went back up there and figured if I pulled in the break solo without using much energy then I could really go hard once he was caught and try to solo away for the win. My plan had been to go off the front in the first third of the race, now it looked like I was resigning to the last third. With someone up the road who I could see wasn’t doing the corners as fast as I could, I didn’t really want to bridge up. I’d rather just catch first, and then go solo, or have either Daniel from Lifesport or Mark MacDonald come with me. Both of them seemed to be riding well. A couple laps after Mark went down and had got back on I was again leading the chase through corner three and there was a huge crash behind me. I was cutting across right next to the bad pothole but if you were a little sloppy with your line it would have been easy to hit. Bill from Roadworks had gone down along with 4 other people according to reports. Aaron was one of them as well. That was the lap that I caught the break, and I was alone, I knew other people were getting on so I let up a bit and the gap formed again slightly. The next lap there were about 6 guys who all got back on after taking a freebie. I don’t know if they all hit the deck of if they just claimed to take the free lap because they were ‘involved’, either way, we had lapped out a huge portion of the field or they had crashed and pulled out, it was down to something like 8 people remaining. I believe there was also a crash on corner 4 at some point but I don’t really know when it happened, or who it happened to. As we rode it became apparent that the big pileup in corner 3 had involved a pretty serious injury for Bill because he was being attended to by the medics but they weren’t going to remove him from the road. They did take him to the hospital on a spine-board as a precautionary measure but the reports later that afternoon were that he is OK, I haven’t had an update since. I was leading the big group and began to indicate as we approached that corner that we needed to slow down. The race kind-of fizzled out from there. We did some racing on the other three corners but it wasn’t really possible to agree on the same amount of “neutral” when we went around corner three. The remaining riders all agreed to stop and tell the commissaire that we couldn’t keep racing until the course was clear. So we pulled up and the proposal given was to vote on whether or not to cancel the rest of the stage. Of the remaining six, five voted to call it quits, I eventually added my vote to make it unanimous. Frustrating. I had ridden 20 minutes of tempo and didn’t get the opportunity to go for the win.

So, I take away some experience from racing the crit, it was a good exercise in reassessing a strategy on the fly. I also got in a good workout at the road-race because of my huge effort to get back on. I also learned why it’s important to have team-mates, especially when you’re leading the general classification, it takes a ton of work to shut down tiny little attacks. I probably would have tried to solo away from the pack in the second half of the race instead of sticking in the group if I hadn’t needed to catch back on after the wheel change. That cost me energy, but not unimportantly it cost me all of my drinks. I also learned that we’ve got it really really good in the Alberta racing scene. I know that sometimes we say that the commissaires are too picky. Well, in spite of the fact that I got an arguable penalty they could stand to be a bit pickier out in Saskatoon. Stuff like racing with random jerseys & not representing which club you’re a part of, and showing up without your race numbers to the start of the race. That stuff doesn’t fly in Alberta and I think we can be grateful for it. We also have volunteers who drive the wheel cars out here who can help you draft back onto the peloton after a mechanical, driving a car to safely draft is a skill and I’m glad that we have people with that skill in our cycling community! We also have the massive benefit of having pretty big fields to race against. The lack of group riding skills in the peloton this weekend is partly to blame on the individuals and their coaches for not having learned or taught them… but it’s partly not their fault. Unless you race regularly in a pack of 30, 40 or even 50 or 60 riders (like we’ll have this weekend at Pigeon) it’s basically impossible to learn good etiquette and safe behaviour in the peloton. If your experience in racing is small groups you really lack the understanding of how a pack that is way larger moves down the road. It’s a lot different.

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Spring Thaw 2011

I’d raced the Spring Thaw Triathlon at the University of Alberta 4 times before and been the Race Director once. I’ve improved every single time I took on the course, and 2011 was my best effort here both in terms of physical preparation as well as strategic and mental preparation. I did few things wrong on race-day and made a bunch of good decisions that helped with my result. I’m really really happy with my execution of the race, and even though it wasn’t perfect, it was about as close as I think I could get to doing so. So, the fact that I won is great, but it took everything I had to do it. I may be showing a chink in my armour by writing about it now and publishing it on the internet for all my competition to read (because I have no doubt that Dave will be reading this each night before he goes to bed to take me down next time we go head to head!)… but so be it. I was very close to perfect execution at the Great White North Triathlon in 2010 as well, that day panned out also very well and I thought a lot about that day while detailing my plans for this race.

Photo from gallery: Spring Thaw 2011

The Spring Thaw is a 750m pool swim in a 25m pool, heats go with 4 or 5 people per lane, this is followed by a 20km very challenging bike course with some sections of poor pavement, 4 ascents of Emily Murphy Hill which tops out at 9.7% grade (and takes about 1 minute to climb full gas), and has you navigate more corners during those 20kms than the average sprint triathlon, the run that follows is pretty straightforward and includes no hills but has a few sections of false flat. It’s an out and back where you should be able to see your competition once at halfway. This was altered on race morning due to a breakdown in communication and an underslept race-director adding an additional small out and back section meaning you’d see all your competition once and your closest competition three times.

My good decisions began when I decided to call up Campus recreation and revise my projected swim time. I had quoted 12:30 when I registered which was an accurate projection of how fast I should have swum to pace the race correctly. I then heard via the grapevine that there were some ex-varsity swimmers registering for the race which would mean that the final heat in the pool would be filling up. I wanted to race head to head against the competition and not start in an earlier and slower seeded heat, so I revised my projected swim time to be inside 12 minutes, and quoted 11:50. I theoretically could swim 11:50 and so it wasn’t technically a lie, on the other hand I shouldn’t swim 11:50 if I had hope of riding and running well. That decision mattered, because when the heats were published it was only people who had projected to swim less than 12 minutes who got into the last heat. Everyone at 12min and more was in an earlier heat and therefore wouldn’t be racing head to head, it’s not that they couldn’t win, but it would be impossible to ‘race’ other heats.

Photo from gallery: Spring Thaw 2011
Race Sim Powercurve

My next set of good decisions began with a focused race week. After a very disappointing finale to my marathon buildup this spring [I wrote about that here] I decided that I needed a redemption performance ASAP. If I had raced well at the marathon this triathlon was going to be fun, I’d race my best but I wasn’t going to go out of my way to sharpen up for it. Instead of training through it, I felt like I needed to show myself that I was capable of good execution and strong mental racing skills. So race-week workouts were done with this in mind, meaning I didn’t go and ride 500kms, I didn’t skip all the swims to be outside in the first nice weather of the year, and I didn’t try to push my run volume back up above 30 miles per week in preparation for the Oliver Half Ironman. I swam long the previous Saturday, swam Monday and ran short, ran and swam Tuesday, did a race-effort 15min (powercurves at right) with some transition practice on the bike to ingrain the pacing strategy for the big hill in my mind and muscles, and then ran and swam Thursday with a rest-up on Friday. While nothing impressive, that’s more swim frequency than I’ve done since before Ironman, I was committed to getting the feeling of being a swimmer back in my arms. I was successful with that.

Photo from gallery: Spring Thaw 2011

Photo from gallery: Spring Thaw 2011
Ready to Rock
Photo from gallery: Spring Thaw 2011

Race morning I had one goal in mind which was to stay calm. This was all I focused on at GWN2010 on race morning and it really helped. I arrived early to get a good spot in Transition, kept the headphones on to keep distractions at bay (which was more a sign to other people that I didn’t want their distraction than for the music) and once things were set up I tried to stay away from big groups of stressed out triathletes. I parked myself in the stands at the pool and tried to be calm. When I heard that the run-course had been changed on a whim on race-morning I was pretty frustrated, as I had personally invested about 3 hours in accurately measuring a run course for the race to be exactly 5.00kms and there was no reason for it to be changed on race-day. Instead of trying to fix it I just watched the giro broadcast online with Travis. I was pretty sure I could run 5.8kms at the same pace as I could run 5.0kms so it didn’t really matter.

No warm-up swim. This might not always be the best idea but for now, I think this is my best strategy. Getting into the pool and swimming around to get warmed up just gets me thinking too much about doing this and doing that. If I just start swimming and focus on getting the pace to match the kind of breathing rate I want I find that I can manage better than if I am thinking about stroke mechanics. A warm-up swim is just going to get me thinking about stroke mechanics, so I sat on deck while 100% of the other athletes in the final heat (who had all quoted swim times faster than me!) were doing their warmup swims. I visualized T1 instead and did some shoulder circles and kept my HR down. Exactly like GWN, I just waited on the sidelines until I had to go and get ready, when I did jump in the pool I was calm and ready.

The swim is my weak-leg in Triathlon and so I really wanted to cut my losses. I needed to swim my best in this race if I wanted to be in with a shot at running near the front of the race on the run. I had swum with 2 of the 3 other guys in my lane frequently this past winter and I knew they were strong, I also knew they were going to go HARD off the start. So, if I wanted to catch their drafts I also needed to go hard off the start. I did. It took Travis a full 100m to catch Rob’s draft after the 5 second staggered start. It took me another lap to catch on to Travis which was like bridging about 8 seconds up to Rob considering I was still 2 bodies back. By the time we were at 200m Rob had really detonated and let Travis and I past and he tacked on to the draft train at the back. Brian, who was leading our lane went even harder out of the start and we missed catching his feet for the swim. I followed Travis for 150 more meters and recovered as best as I could from our crazy fast start at which point Travis was starting to fade and I gave his feet a tap and he moved over. I made sure that he and Rob were going to catch on to my feet for the draft for the rest of the swim and went hard for the final 400m to finish it up. They’d helped with the fast start and so I felt like I should contribute back by making sure they’d have a draft to finish off well. I maintained breathing every stroke for the final 400 which means I’m going hard. I maintained the gap to Brian up at the front of the lane until 650m and then even pulled it in a bit on the last 100 such that in the end I actually outsplit him as well. It was about as fast a 750m as I think I’m capable of and I hopped out for a 12:01 time. That’s equivalent to 1:28 per 100yds, which I’d be hard pressed to pull off in a set of 100s in the pool during practice! There were 25 people in the last swim heat and I swam the 22nd fastest swim of the day with one person from the second fastest heat swimming faster than me, that meant I was the 5th last person out of the pool… so my significant planned underestimate of my time to try and get me into the final heat of the day was not a strategy that I employed all by myself, there were other people out of their league as well!

T1 was fast. Helmet, racebelt, go!

Photo from gallery: Spring Thaw 2011 Photo from gallery: Spring Thaw 2011

I saw Dave in T1 and was on the bike ahead of him. I caught a couple people right away, I caught a group of the varsity swimmers pretty quickly and I caught Mike Downey on my ascent of Emily Murphy hill the first time. Retrospectively I think he was in the lead of the race at that point. I’m not sure if he realized that. After that I had a few people to pass here and there but for the most part I didn’t have to lap much of the field while on the bike so traffic was never crazy.

Photo from gallery: Spring Thaw 2011
Photo from gallery: Spring Thaw 2011
Race Powercurve

That description of the bike leg is purely from the outside. On the inside I was hurting. If I were to have swum that hard for a 750m TT in swim practice I would have crawled out of the pool and lay on my back on the deck for at least 10 minutes. I might have eventually recruited the energy to flop back into the pool and do a couple laps to cool down to prevent my body from seizing up into one big cramp but I wouldn’t have been able to do any more of a workout. Instead of laying on the pool deck I transitioned into the bike leg. Needless to say I was a bit lacking on power. The power curve way up above is from the little pre-race workout I did on Wednesday on the course. I had an Average power of 358Watts & a Normalized power of 445Watts for 16 minutes or so. It felt controlled and reasonable for race-day. Instead my race-day performance was 311Watts Average power and 399Watts Normalized power. About a 10-13% slump from where it should have been depending on how you look at it. It was partly that I couldn’t bike as hard as I thought I should have, but partly I made a decision that I needed to be able to run. It was a wise decision and I’m proud of myself for deciding not to bury the hatchet before T2. I rode strong, strategically used my effort where I needed to, and did my best to arrive into T2 in less debt than I had arrived in T1. I still netted the fastest T1+Bike+T2 split of the day. It was also a course record, it was strategically suboptimal and I was OK with that. Exactly like Great White North, strategically slower than my best, and arriving at T2 ready for a footrace.

I wanted to be able to run with the freedom to choose my pace based on what felt right and so elected to go without a watch, I didn’t want feedback I wanted to run fast.

Photo from gallery: Spring Thaw 2011 Photo from gallery: Spring Thaw 2011

Leaving T2 I felt good for 400m and felt rough for about 800. The first out and back came at this point and I saw Dave behind me, I had no watch and didn’t bother to try and figure out any split. I knew that if he was going to catch me it couldn’t be until the second half of the run. I lost a fair amount of time through that rocky section but focused on my footstrike and my breathing for another kilometer and my legs started to improve. I then turned into the headwind and I really picked up my focus. I am good at running into a headwind. Whether or not anyone can quantify that… hmm… I don’t know. I always mentally decide that it’s advantageous to be running with a headwind when you’re a heavy guy as it can’t blow me around as much. In any case, I felt good for a fast kilometer into the wind. Then the turnaroud. I got to see Dave again, he had gained on me but not by much, if he was going to catch me it would be less than a kilometer from the finish. I was now running with the tailwind and felt good. I think I’m also a good tailwind runner, I’m like a sail. I guess I should always race on windy days, I’m mentally strong in those conditions. Things ticked by and I realized I was within 10 minutes of the finish. I can do anything for 10 minutes I told myself. Just like GWN I had paced the run so that I felt amazing with about 1/3 of the run leg remaining and then really let loose. Then with a kilometer to go I told myself it was only a kilometer. I can do anything for a kilometer, I hadn’t checked over my shoulder all race and if Dave suddenly appeared he wouldn’t have had a chance to pass me. I was ready to go for the finish at a moments notice, I had my running legs now. I refused to check back and see where he was, if he saw me look he’d have hope and I wasn’t going to give it to him. The final little out and back and I could finally have a look. He wasn’t nearly as close as I thought. Just run I told myself and so I did. There were a few cheers as I came around the side of the building and I was feeling awesome. The lap on the track at the end was really great and it felt totally fantastic to wrap it up like that. Every race should end with a lap on a track, it’s a great feeling. Lets take some notes from Paris-Roubaix and the Olympic Marathon.

Photo from gallery: Spring Thaw 2011

Mens Sprint Podium – a UofA Triathlon Club clean sweep!

Swim: 22nd Overall
12:01
1:36/100m
T1 + Bike + T2: 1st Overall
32:16
37.2kph
Run: 9th Overall
23:43
4:05/km
1:08:00

Thanks to Keegan for the photos!
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