Drayton Valley Tri

Power Data from Drayton Valley Sprint Tri:

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2012

  • Mean Watts: 297 (=3.4 Watts/Kg – unimpressive)
  • Normalized Watts: 311
  • VI: 1.047 – very proud, kept aggression in check!
  • Fourth Place: Swim Split
  • First Place: Bike Split
  • Third Place: Run Split
  • Second Place: Overall

Fun Race. I may add more comments later. For now I’m just posting my stats. In summary, HR was through the roof out of the pool. I killed the second half of the bike with the headwind. Very well paced bike leg considering the race-situation. Ran short on mojo in the second half of the run. Probably due to riding 190+kms the day before. That was by choice, I’m not unhappy that I did that, but it did have an effect on how I raced on Sunday.

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2012

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2012

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Velocity ITT – 2012

Power Data from Velocity ITT:

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Done!

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

Photo from gallery: Winter 2011

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

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Cyclocross Season

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

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

I learned a few things this season at ‘cross:

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