A Day At The Races

Saturday we woke up to a cool Michigan morning just a bit south of Grand Haven ready to ride the final stretch of our route into Grand Rapids. The day was to be a short 75kms with no elevation gain worth noting, a couple stops at CRC churches and the home of Tyler Buitenwerf. We were anticipating riding past 11 different CRC church buildings during the day. In addition to our contingent of 150 cyclists 130 others were joining us “officially” for the day and numerous others “unofficially”. Considering the fact that I met 3 of the bandit riders and- never figured out who was riding along as part of the “official” ride-along there could have been many more than 300 of us on the road. Leaving camp in the morning at around 8:05 we were of course taking up the tail end of the group and had approximately 300 people ahead of us to pass during the day. Riding with me were John Vanderveen, Brad Geerlinks, and Marc Vanotteren. This was a group of guys included all of the perpetual City-Line-Sprinters and we were excited to compete in what we’ve been calling the second biggest sprint race of the summer. The race into Grand Rapids, Jersey city being the other big one we were looking forward to. (The Canadian border sprint will happen on a Ferry and therefore doesn’t exactly count because we couldn’t race it).

The day started out with us riding along hovering just below 40kph keeping a running tally of how many people we had passed so we could gauge how many were on the road. We were all the way up to 126 riders within the first hour of riding and everyone had smiles from ear to ear. After rounding a bend we saw in the distance a town line sign for Lemont Michigan, a little race to scope out the strategies of the other guys we were riding with. It was a long gradual downhill followed by maybe 100 yards of flat to the finish. I was up front and could see John Vanderveen was perched just over my right shoulder. We were heading north and the sun was still low in the sky so I decided I’d try to lour him around me on the downhill hoping to make my move at the bottom of the hill. I looked left and watched his shadow and could see him move further to my right and come up alongside me. Exactly as I had hoped I felt confident I was positioned correctly as we neared the bottom of the hill. I quickly glanced down at my speedometer and noted we were traveling at 54 kph. I was going to need every gear I had if I was to get ready and stand to sprint this line against John who is geared faster than me. At this point my chain skipped and I lost tension in my chain and my pedals went for a whirl. If you’ve ever been walking up the stairs and expected there to be one more step before the top you’ve felt the same feeling. You try and place your foot somewhere and there’s nowhere for you to put it. My left foot made that attempt and landed nowhere, it came unclipped from my pedal and my bike veered sharply to the left. I wasn’t about to make any sharp corners as I was now moving faster than 54 kph so I continued in a straight line. I tucked in my arm and went for a slide down the road on my right shoulder and then on my back. I saw Marc ride by while sliding on down the road and began to scramble to my feet so I wouldn’t be hit by any one of the other riders coming behind me. Marc told me later I was on my feet before I had stopped moving. A quick couple steps and I was in the ditch and made my way to a patch of grass in the shade where I parked myself.

It was about here that the serious praying began and group at the side of the road in the ditch began to grow. John who had dislocated his shoulder numerous times before started to feel things and get the lay of the land. His initial reaction was that it was dislocated and asked if I could move it. I moved it up from by my side to above my head without much trouble and it just felt better there so that’s where I kept it. Soon enough Betsy, a nurse, rode up to the scene and did her version of the little diagnosis. Hers sounded like 50% dislocation and 50% broken collarbone and the prospect of the end of my tour loomed large. The other guys were all rather sobered by the situation and did what they could to help out and throw in a few words of encouragement. My new camera which had taken a grand total of one photograph was absolutely destroyed so Brad snapped a few photos of the wreckage on my behalf. Art Smit pulled up in one of our 10 passenger vans and my bike made its way in between the seats. Soon enough we were headed for the hospital Art driving and Betsy along as my hospital tour guide.

The hospital visit included a few Xrays which seemed to be “Let’s put this arm in the 4 most painful positions I can think of and then take photographs of it” and some rather suspenseful moments waiting to hear what the news would be regarding my prognosis. Betsy was great to have along and even though we never really did discuss the fact that my tour might very well be done her comments did help to bring peace to what was far from a peaceful situation. When the doctor eventually arrived back with the news the results were good, or great, or fantastic. I had no breaks in my shoulder and by his physical exam my shoulder was no longer dislocated and the X-ray did confirm that fact. He commented that I had done a number to my AC joint and he was going to call it a shoulder contusion. Later on a physiotherapist checked it out at camp and said that the AC joint was most likely separated. For all the non anatomy majors out there that is the bit of your body that holds your collar bone “down” and I would have to agree that mine is more likely described as “up”.

So basically from the time my foot came unclipped everything went in the best possible direction it could have. There is no question that I had God looking out for me. The road was smooth and I slid a long ways rather than grinding to a halt. I also was fortunate to have been able to tuck myself in before sliding and did so in a more elegant way resulting in less road rash than any other sprawl on the pavement would have. My head never smacked into the ground but my helmet does suggest it would like to be replaced so I will do so as to not suffer any consequences at a later date. I had people with me who knew what to do and insurance to make treatment and a full diagnosis available. The doctor’s orders included no mandatory rest and he told me that if I could ride there from Seattle he figured I was able to attempt continuing on Monday. My front wheel ended up in the shape of a pringle and while my bar tape, seat and derailleur are scraped up they are not broken. I had access to a new front wheel which has replaced mine now and should treat me well for the rest of the summer. I also was notified lated that I was named the honorary winner of the sprint into Lemont. John Vanderveen did end up winning the big race into GR for those of you who are interested.

My arrival into camp was a bit overwhelming to say the least. I had just been sitting for a while in the van and just wanted to lay down in the shade and get some food. I had 4 complete discussions after opening the door before I could even get out of the vehicle. I then proceeded to do the awkward left handed handshake with all sorts of people who I would have loved meeting and talking with under almost any other circumstances. If you’re reading (and I know a few of you are) I apologize for lousy first go of things. I didn’t catch a single name in the whole process but did figure out that I had an hour before someone was coming to pick me up to shower in her house, to let me do my laundry and have a real bed for me to sleep in. I finally got on my back in the grass and put a few drugs in me and that’s where I stayed for the entire hour letting everyone who asked know that I was allowed to ride on Monday and would be making an attempt to do so. The conversation repeated itself all weekend long and I’ll have to admit I am a bit sheepish telling people that we were racing when I crashed.

My host for the weekend was Cobi Hofman, the wife of the pastor who way back more than 50 years ago baptized my Dad. She had been a part of the CRC that I was riding as a representative of during its very early years meaning even though I’d never met her before we did have an endless supply of topics for discussion. We did watch a bit of the Olympics, which I haven’t otherwise had an opportunity to do and I was fed well. I also had a good bed to sleep in for the weekend and got a ride to check out Neland Ave CRC on Sunday morning.

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Sweet Sweet Saturday

Saturday are great

  • We wake up and the kitchen staff always cooks us pancakes and bacon on Saturday mornings. They make sure we’re going to have a great day.
  • The kitchen staff often cooks too much bacon and by the time we’re allowed to have a second go round at it all of the early risers are already an hour down the road. Anyhow that means those of us still bumming around camp get to have a dozen pieces of bacon and put it on our sandwiches.
  • We don’t have to ride the next day so no-one complains about going a little faster on the road or having a few more sprint races along the way.

I left camp just as the rain for the morning was slowing down with Nick Ellens, Steph Webb and Katrina Miller. We rolled along clocking a good pace for the first 30 kms and the rain finished up. Nick and I contested three city line sprints within the first hour. Each one played out slightly differently but each was great here’s the inside scoop. Hopefully it’ll give you a little taste of why we love these little races, there’s alot of strategy involved:

  1. Long gradual uphill to the finish – The sign was obviously placed and Nick and I discussed whether or not we’d be sprinting today. After we agreed yes I pulled out from the back of the paceline and went to the front leaving him 3 people deep so I could keep an eye on him. He decided to go for it about 150 yards out and I have no trouble catching his draft as he moves by. We accelerate to ~55 kph and I have to debate whether to jumpt one or two more gear to go for the pass. I luckily choose to gear up double with 30 yards to go and win by a wheel length (finish speed 64 kph).
  2. Long downhill with a kink uphill to the finish – Nick has been first in the paceline and we crest the hill and see the sign. He opts to back off the pace and tries to let me pass. I refuse and pull up next to him instead watchin if he’ll put on the brakes as an indication for me to go for it. Nick knows this trick and just coasts next to me as he selects his gear. The finish line is getting painfully close and he begins to accellerate and tries to box me in. I cut across to the other side through his draft at the bottom of the hill and pass him to the other side. It’s mano-a-mano to the finish and I was probably better rested as I had been drafting him. It’s only a half wheel length but our finish speed was still 55 kph.
  3. Blind finish over crest of the hill – I’m leading the paceline this time and we see the 1 mile marker, I note the mileage of the finish for my odometer and assume that Nick has done the same. 400 yards from the finish he begins to query me where the next water stop is and I’m sure he’s trying to plan a sneak attack. With one eye over my should I check my cue sheet as he moves out of the paceline alongside me but seems to still be pretending he isn’t going to race. With 200 yards to go I decide to just go for it and sprint over the crest of the hill, three in a row! Whether or not his strategy was planned or not is still an open question because he left Steph and I in town when we stopped for water (Katrina had dropped back by this time) and he didn’t need anymore.

The rain had stopped by the time we got aboard the local bike path that I understand is built on an old railway bed. It’s called the “Military Ridge Trail” or something similarly nondescript but it was really really beautiful. A tree lined path that we followed for about 13 kms through trees overhanging the curvy route thrugh the forest… anyhow, I’m lousy at decribing this so I’ll just post photos and a video instead:

I don’t know if you can understand the video but we’re discussing that the rain was probably a good thing as it meant we were not subject to a massive dustbowl riding down that trail.

The trail spit us out onto a weaving road through rolling hills surrounded by bits of forest and crops… again super beautiful. This road spit us out into the town of Mt Horeb which was, of course, super beautiful as well. We pulled over at a little sidewalk bistro flying a dutch flag where a dozen other SeatoSea cyclists were stopped. Someone ahead of us had stopped in for coffee and the owner decided that all of those cyclists needed a few treats. Muffins, cookies and banana bred were on the house and we sat curbside with a bunch of cups of fantastic coffee and shouted “free goodies” to the rest of the seatosea-ers who were riding by.

From there on in to town we were riding the coffee buzz and hummed along some more spectacularly paved roads into Madison and caught a bit of familiarity with the local bike scene in Madison. This city loves bikes and is proud of it, the riders we talked to all spoke highly of the cycling community here and are proud of how cycler friendly the layout of the city is.

Prior to our arrival in camp cyclists gathered at a local park and proceeded to ride in to the church together. Again… descriptions are lousy compared to videos so here’s the footage:

Our reception at the church was great. There were women here willing to cut hair, there were those tubs that bubble and shake that you put your feet in (I’m sure they’ve got a name, I just don’t know it) and people were getting massages. I did the foot thing while waiting for my turn in the haircut chair, I don’t think it did much for my feet but the haircut is a good improvement, no curly mess above my ears.

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Spring Thaw – The 2008 Edition

Race morning arrived when the clock ticked over to Sunday morning from Saturday the 3rd of May. I was still 75 kms out of Edmonton and heading home for a race that was to start in only 8 hours. A wedding the evening before in Calgary posed a bit of an issue with leaving myself the option to try and get 8 hours of sleep. I decided that I would resign myself to that as pre-race sleeps are never that good anyways.

After arriving at the house I unpacked, repacked race gear, mixed up gatorade, swapped my leather brooks saddle for my tri-styke neoprene seat, swapped the race wheels onto the bike and checked all the gears. I then discovered that my bed’s mattress had been stolen by one of my room-mates who decided that it was a good upgrade while I was out of town. So, at around 2:15 am I crawled into a sleeping bag on my pullout couch and set my alarm to go off in just over three and a half hours.

Bam! it was suddenly quarter to six, I chowed down on breakfast, pumped my tyres, and was out the door. I claimed what I considered to be one of the top 5 spots in transition, set things up and went off to get marked. In contrast to previous years I opted to skip out on trying to be warm and resigned myself to a cold bike ride. I set out only my triathlon club jersey and helmet. I had neoprene gloves attached to my handlebars with elastic bands and shoes pre-clipped, only 3 things to do in transition, that’s the minimum requirement for a pool swim: cover the torso, put on a number belt, and clip the helmet. I can go one better for open water races: remove wetsuit, put on helmet. I’ve been frustrated in previous years by clothing that sticks to wet skin, sand on my feet, toques, sunglasses etc. etc. efficiency was the order of the day and I was prepared to suffer the consequences as I reaped the benefits. I cannot shave any more seconds off in transition, I’m confident about that.

I was registered when I arrived but wasn’t on the start list, so I got to re-state my expected swim time. I pared it down from 17:30 to “16:00 or 16:30″ with the desire to get pushed in my lane, I felt ready to go hard in the pool even though my total swimming for 2008 to date had been 2900 metres.

I had been convinced by tri-club members to start the swim with a backflip off the start block because the club’s past president was supposed to be counting laps in my lane, unfortunately an impromptu lane swap resulted in some rather intimidating women counting my laps, I was scared they’d make me swim extra so I gently entered the water and got to work.

Upon exiting I had passed everyone in the lane once and doubled up on one girl, I turned out to set a sprint-swim PR of 14:25 (60th out of 145 places).

Transition was quick and I was out on the road, there didn’t seem to be any quick cyclists around (you only pass the slow ones, it’s not really a surprise but always a disappointment) and I was out onto the 4 lap course. I have had success making race “plans” in my head regarding motivation and focus for the course. It started out last summer with the half-ironman on the run: I broke the 21 kms into 4 pieces with different labels, “get your running legs” followed by “hold back” (A reminder that I’ve still got a long race ahead) then “let’s go” and finally “hold on” (don’t waste the success thus far).

I decided (while driving in the dark the night before) that it wouldn’t hurt to try a similar strategy for both the bike and run portions. The race plan was therefore “pay attention” (get cadence up, start drinking, note locations of potholes), “focus on efficiency” (don’t drop the hammer quite yet), “remember this is a race – go!”, “Cycling is awesome” (reminder to not waste any seconds on the bike leg which is my strongpoint) followed on the run by two sections “it’s only 5 kms” (there isn’t time to get used to the brick feeling, you’ve just got to start running) and finally “leave everything on the course”.

I suppose there’s not much to say about the 4 laps of the bike ride and the out and back run other than I kept to the game plan and was well under the 38 minute split I was expecting (including 2 transitions) at 37:12 on the bike. The run split hurt a ton and I wasn’t very fast but I did my best to put in a solid effort resulting in a 22 minute split for 5 kms.

The grand total time was 1:13:36, I was more than pleased with that, having shaved time off of last years race, amazingly in the swim and swim-bike transition.

So, how does a hard 75 minutes of effort play into the Sea-to-Sea preparation?? 75 minutes of work isn’t going to get me over the Cascades on Day #2 in Washington State. Basically it’s fun, and marked the middle-end-ish of a tough week of work. In theory it would have wrapped up the first periodization of the spring. Of course, things work better on paper or in your head, it was obviously modified a ton. Half Marathon Sunday, road ride Monday, hill run Wednesday (bonus: swims on Tuesday & Wednesday). I nailed a rather hard 75 kms bike on Thursday, and ran 10 kms medium pace on Friday. Monday following the race I fit in a very windy 50 km ride immediately followed by 6 kms hilly run. 10 kms run on Tuesday to finish that off, the moving average for weekly volume passed 10 hours for the first time this season (12.5 hours max)!

I’ll be keeping intensity down for a short break (conveniently aligning with the snowfall today) and then will begin period 2. The focus is on volume with the idea of packing the hours in, hopefully pushing volume beyond 15 hrs/week consistently, I don’t really know if I want to consistently eclipse 20 hours; when I did last summer I wasn’t useful for much else other than cooking and eating. I’ve got a long weekend in southern BC planned followed immediately with a week of training with triathlon club members in Edmonton while spending days in the research lab and then potentially a day in the mountains.

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Half Marathon Success

On Sunday April 27th I ran the Calgary Police Half Marathon as an “I wonder how I’ll fare” kind of race. Last week I wrote about why I ended up with an entry slot in this race that sold out within a few hours of it opening. The route starts at Mount Royal College and proceeds to do a lap of the Glenmore reservoir before heading back to the college. It’s not flat but it’s also not particularly hill either. The one big hill that you could hear plenty of people discussing on race morning was less than 90 seconds long and was strewn with people cheering so it didn’t pose such a challenge.

Having received ~16 inches of snow in Edmonton the previous weekend and having three final exams and a massive paper to write before getting back to Calgary my grand total race-week mileage was zero. So, things weren’t exactly according to plan but I felt pretty good on race morning and the weather was great. I was in tights, long sleeve tech shirt, windbreaker, beanie and running mitts. I was lucky to have Dad coming along with a vehicle to cheer at different spots along the course. I was able to loose the beanie and mitts at 7kms and the windbreaker at around 10 miles. I kept probably a perfect temperature for the whole race which is something I certainly cannot say for any other half marathon race I’ve ever run. The Moose is Loose Half Marathon in Edmonton always tends to be above 30 degrees by the time I’m done.

histogram of finish times

So the grand total time was 1:42:17, which is significantly better than the 1:50:00 I was hoping to aim for. I also set a 10k PR of 47:17, but that is mostly because I’ve never run a 10k race, the only ones being triathlon 10k-run-splits that are typically not 10 kms. (Chaparral was 9 kms and summerside is around 10.5). I was poorly seeded (no one’s fault but my own) and got jammed in with a pack that ran the first mile in 8:55, well off my final average pace of 7:48 per mile.

Photos from on course
Photos from on course
Photos from on course
Photos from on course

My observations from the race are that I’ve been riding fixed gear A TON in the past bunch of months. Leg strength was never an issue and I cruised past loads of people on all of the uphill stretches while saying to myself “take it easy on the hills”. I also managed to really ache in the hip flexors already with 3 kms to go. I suppose I’ve been tending to ride lazy and doing more pushing than pulling on pedals in recent months… Something to remember in the next weeks of preparation for SeatoSea.

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Tuffest Three

I raced the UofA Tuffest Three race with Campus Rec this morning. It’s a run-bike-run relay in Hawrelak park. I was on a co-ed team and we won the whole thing, beat the guys only teams! My portion was the bike, 23 kms (approx) and consisted of 10 laps of Hawrelak park. My splits were as follows:

  1. 3:59.65
  2. 3:50.10
  3. 3:53.70
  4. 3:51.90
  5. 3:53.10
  6. 3:53.75
  7. 3:50.40
  8. 3:52.00
  9. 3:51.10
  10. 3:39.45
  • Total Time: 38:35.2

That’s 35.8 kph. I was just over a minute behind first place of all the cyclists. The dude was pretty crazy who beat me though, he came with a trainer and rode for 30 minutes in the parking lot to get warmed up. That’s probably a correct amount of warming up to do but it was a bit odd for a low key event like this one. I honestly don’t think that I could have gone any faster. When I decided to give it everything I had on the last lap and was only 10 seconds faster that lap than all the rest… I think it’s an indication that I had dialed in exactly how quickly I could go. Average heart rate for the trip was 191, that’s about 90% of my reserve, pushing 95% MHR. Anyhow, well into the anaerobic zone.

Tuffest Three
Tuffest Three

Before shot (in red), and after (in championship green T-Shirts)

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Change of plans at Summerside…

I decided to do a last minute registration to race at Summerside in the olympic distance triathlon… I figured that with a solid 215 km bike ride and my lsd run still comfortable somewhere around 2.5 hours I was in good enough shape to register and race purely for fun. My goals were:

  1. Give the swim my best shot but stay aerobic
  2. Cycle at approx anaerobic threshold minus 3-5 beats, perceieved exertion steady-plus-plus. I was aiming for above a 36 kph split, considering that the roads are brutal.
  3. See how I would manage on the run, not particularily interested in aiming at the 43-45 minute range that I think I was capable of but making the bike split count and having a tough run. I hoped I would be challenged to keep it under 50 mins if I had the chance.
  4. Have an enjoyable time at all costs, I love triathlon and that is the point.

ready to race

I had a good swim… it was really cold and I opted not to warm up in the water because I didn’t want to stand around and get cold arms (sleeveless wetsuit) waiting to go. I crawled out of the pond after just less than 33 minutes which was pretty good considering the only swimming I had done that month was a little splash the wednesday before (even colder!). I got into transition and fumbled getting the arm warmers on due to a combination of cold hands and wet arms (well duh!) I was out on the bike and ready to get to work.

I averaged 37 kph through the first half (out and 2 laps. I was stoked and had really picked up a huge portion of the mens olympic field. I passed at least 28 guys, which in retrospect means that I had moved up to nearly 5th place.

Then things fell apart, summerside is a brutal course and there was construction and deep gravel on the road. Volunteers had swept gravel from the corners to give a bare patch to ride across. The corners (luckily only 4 on each lap) were a big bunching up spot for riders and I ended up going into one following someone around. I paid attention to just matching their line instead of getting through the gravel and I ended up in the gravel bank. My front wheel went out from below me and I landed on my side. Bleeding from the hands and knee I tried to get going again but I had bent my front derailleur. I stopped, caught my breath and decided that I would take it off the bike instead of trying to fix it, I only needed the big ring anyways. That worked alright and after 15 minutes of fiddling to make the bike ridable I got out of the ditch and headed “home” to T2. I had bottle cages hanging out of my bike shorts (littering is a DQ so I was careful) and looked an interesting sight, there was no flying dismount, I came to a complete stop and steped cautiously off of my bike.

After paying a visit to the paramedics to scoop the gravel out of my knee I headed out on the run and met up with my friend Jill who was doing a sprint distance race. I ran her 5 kms first and got her in to the finish in just over 28 minutes and then I headed out for my last 5 kms. I was aiming for a 21 minute run which would certainly be a stretch but I figured I should make it a challenge. I got my 2.5 km split correct and was starting to experience cramping in my left (bleeding) side. I didn’t feel like I slowed down but obviously did as I finished in 21:30, still inside 50 minutes for the run but outside 3 hours for the whole shebang.

run with jill

All in all it was still a fun time and the most important goal was still realized. We had a great pasta lunch, I stopped bleeding and the sun came out; things turned out great!

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Moose is Loose

The run went well this morning. Most of it is in the trees through the river valley on footpaths which is nice because it keeps you cool and gravel is alot easier on the knees than plain pavement on concrete. Whenever you get out on a bridge to cross the river though it was extremely hot, no shade and you get the reflection off of the water which seemed to make it worse. Briefly the route follows:

  • Hawrelak Park, start at the shelter.
  • Run clockwise around the park all the way to the north end
  • Follow the “upper” path till you get till groat bridge and turn 180o.
  • Run back to the hawrelak bridge on the “lower” path.
  • Cross to zoo side and run (up the hill) to Quesnel bridge.
  • Follow whitemud creek trails up to rainbow valley campground.
  • Turn around and follow back down whitemud creek, cross quesnel and go through Beuna Vista.
  • Re-enter Hawrelak and run counterclockwise along edge back to the shelter.

I had calculated what time I needed to be at when I got to certain spots along the run if I hoped to finish in 100 minutes which was my goal. I started off well and was on track for the first half of the race (50 minutes) but there was a hill followed by a bridge and it was sweltering and I fell behind my “agenda” by about 45 seconds. I made up a minute as we ran through the trees in whitemud ravine but then needed to climb back over the bridge through the sun, I again fell behind my pace by about a minute. Then through the last bit I was able to latch on to a girl who was still running quite smoothly. I passed the 1 km to go needing do pull off about a 4:20 km to make it in time but speeding up wasn’t about to happen very easily. I did my best to hit a 4:20 km but had nothing left for a sprint to the finish and managed to finish in 100 minutes and 6 seconds (1:40:06) so I would consider it a big success, that is a personal record for me and considering the hot conditions it’s a time I am really quite proud of.

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Chinook Half

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

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

Chinook Half-Ironman

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

Chinook Half-Ironman

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

Chinook Half-Ironman

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

Chinook Half-Ironman

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

Chinook Half-Ironman

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

Chinook Half-Ironman

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

Chinook Half-Ironman

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

Chinook Half-Ironman

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UofA Spring Thaw Triathlon

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

in transition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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