Great White North – 2012

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

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2012

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

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2012

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

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

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

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

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2012

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

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

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2012

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

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

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2012

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

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

Photo from gallery: Great White North - 2012

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

Thanks to Becky and Lenka for the photos.

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Oliver Half 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012

Bike at racecheck-in

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

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

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

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

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012
Finish

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

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

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



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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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Ironman Canada 2011

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

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

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

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

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

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


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

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

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

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


Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

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


Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

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

Trailhead at 1700m
Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

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

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

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

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

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

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

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

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

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

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

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

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

Curator Lake from midway up our ascent to The Notch.

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

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

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

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

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

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

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

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

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

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

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

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

Photo from gallery: Skyline 2011

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

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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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Spring Thaw 2011

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

Photo from gallery: Spring Thaw 2011

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

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

Photo from gallery: Spring Thaw 2011
Race Sim Powercurve

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

Photo from gallery: Spring Thaw 2011

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

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

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

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

T1 was fast. Helmet, racebelt, go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo from gallery: Spring Thaw 2011

Mens Sprint Podium – a UofA Triathlon Club clean sweep!

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

Thanks to Keegan for the photos!
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Race Weight

Race weight is what the scale shows me on race day.

Photo from gallery: Spring 2011
April 10, 2011
The first indication that I
should have been focusing
harder on recovery:
A failed long-run a few
days after I started to
be strict instead of smart
with diet choices

Trying to cut weight in the final three weeks before a marathon may help on paper but it doesn’t help in real life unless you can do so without getting sick on the run leading up to the race. I wanted to get light and fast, every pound lighter you are for race day is a pound you don’t have to carry along the course for three hours. Every pound you loose should amount to 2 seconds per mile or there-about. If you loose 4 pounds you could speed up by almost four minutes over a marathon. I had put in some hard work and wanted to get everything out of it. I was greedy and I wanted those extra minutes of free speed and I did what it said it took on paper to get them. Realistically I had shattered my own personal records for maximal training loads and I needed to recover 10% harder than I had ever recovered before, which meant I needed 101% of my regular food intake. Trying to eat 99% of my regular food intake was too hard on my body, it collapsed and failed under the training stress I had subjected it to. A PR 10 miler the weekend after a 17 mile detonation run (stats pictured) puts your body in the hurt box. I needed to give it everything it wanted if I wanted it to give me a fast race on May 1. Instead I kept asking for a little bit more every day, I asked it to cut fat while it was trying to recover. I wasn’t asking a lot, I cut three pounds in two weeks and then got sick. Three pounds is all? Yeah, I think those three pounds cost me the race. I went from lean to skinny over the course of about 18 days, you probably didn’t see me with my shirt off, but I did, 3 pounds out of 195 is a dramatic change. I watched it happen, I thought I was getting fast, instead I was punching my immune system in the face. Losing those three pounds of fat was roughly 20% of my fat reserves. That’s a dramatic change, even more dramatic than stringing together a PR 107km run week from a previous PR of 91km, that was only 17.5% larger and I knew that was risky.

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Coaching Update #5

Weekly Updates:

2011-03-21 to 2011-03-27

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 85 km 2:50:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 85.08 km 7:22:25 5:34 5:12 4:27 min per km
Swim 7350 m 2:55:00 2:26 2:23 2:20 min per 100 meters
Yoga 0 mi 0:50:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 13 hrs 57min One Day Off

2011-03-28 to 2011-04-03

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 90 km 3:00:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 85.41 km 7:04:32 6:00 4:58 4:04 min per km
Swim 7000 m 2:40:00 2:30 2:17 2:06 min per 100 meters
Yoga 0 mi 0:40:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 13 hrs 24min One Day Off

2011-04-04 to 2011-04-10

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 90 km 3:00:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 75.49 km 6:35:22 8:48 5:14 4:08 min per km
Swim 1500 m 0:25:00 1:40 1:40 1:40 min per 100 meters
Yoga 0 mi 0:50:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 10 hrs 50min One Day Off

2011-04-11 to 2011-04-17

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 128 km 4:20:00 24 29.54 30 kph
Run 50.71 km 3:58:41 6:07 4:42 4:01 min per km
Swim 1000 m 0:20:00 2:00 2:00 2:00 min per 100 meters
Yoga 0 mi 0:10:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 8 hrs 48min One Day Off

This was a big run training block. In fact it was huge. Together, these four weeks represent 25 hours spent running and 184 miles covered. They brought my run fitness from nothing special in early March after a few disrupted weeks of very poor training (no excuses, but also no regrets about that – details were in Update #4). I put together a series of workouts with great focus, good nutrition, and rather careful attention to not overdo anything. A big help to motivation was that everything had a purpose. I was clear on why I had added everything to my plate regarding training and so when I was out there running I knew what kind of training stimulus I was hoping to apply to my body. Sometimes it was simple, “another 40 minutes of forefoot running in the ecco biom shoes”, which I’m confident has been contributing to greater efficiency and much stronger lower legs. Other times workouts were race specific, training my ability to run marathon pace at the point in my long run where my stored glycogen was on the edge of being depleted. This knowledge of why I was doing things helped get me out the door. And getting out the door and training is an absolute prerequisite to getting to the start line and being ready to race.

The body has responded. In discussion with my coach after that inopportune gap in my training he encouraged me to not completely rule out the option of an aggressive return to training. If you listen to how you feel and are careful not to stretch yourself to the point of destruction, it’s possible not to start from square one. It wasn’t reckless advice, it was actually exactly the opposite. It was a reminder to be careful about both what I was asking myself to do and how I was responding to it on a daily basis, not just on a week-by-week time horizon. I jumped back into training, and my training stress balance (TSB) on the run went negative (green line at left). Last season when focused on progressing my running but also doing a lot of cycling and swimming I was able to handle with no problems a TSB of -2. I could handle without any extended recovery, dips to -3 during the early season, but later in the year found that I was limited by general fatigue from doing enough to reach those deep depths of TSB. So, I figured that -3 would be a good general target and that I’d see if I could handle dips to -4.

I’ve mentioned before that I like to use different units than the conventional TSS, if you want to compare, one of my units is 1 hour of aerobic activity per week, at mid to high zone 2, which amounts to around 50 TSS, and one hour at threshold amounts to two units, or 100 TSS.

That’s generally how things went, I maintained a stress balance with my running of a bit below -3 for a whole month and I’d stretch it past -4 with my key sessions of the week. There were a couple occasions where I just ignored the extra interval-section of my shorter runs, but I did strides frequently and never compromised on the plans around the long run sessions of the week. Overall, for this period of time, my weekly hours were nothing spectacularly high, in fact they trailed off a bit, as I chopped a bit of swimming out to make sure I could do the running. I was also running a bit faster as the weeks progressed during aerobic conditioning runs and so the total time it took to get the weekly mileage targets was reduced. As a whole, my net TSB was never more than -1 below my run TSB alone. That’s the benefit of doing a lot of aerobic development on the skis over the course of the winter. I was capable of training the run harder by shifting focus without having to add a whole bunch of focus. That strategy was a good one.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

The current chronic load at 6.4 hours/week is the same as a CTL of 46 TSS/day. I’ll try to taper my TSB to about 12-18 TSS/day which amounts to getting around 1.5-2.0 on my scale. That’s where I was when I ran well at Ironman, when I ran well at Great White North, and when I ran well at Chinook in 2011. It’s also the same runTSB from Calgary 70.3 in 2009 when I had a dismal performance, but I’ll attribute that to heat and over-reaching rather than poor prep. I can get into that range without much difficulty in the next two weeks, which is exactly what a taper should be:

Expected metrics for race-day:
CTL=6.0hrs and TSB=+2.0hrs
(CTL=43TSS/day and TSB=14TSS/day)

This week:
Photo from gallery: Spring 2011
Next Week:
Photo from gallery: Spring 2011

So, what are the markers of progression?

First, I got my chronic training stress from running higher than it has ever been in my life. That’s the red line above, it’s not ahead of last June by much, only a half percentage, but it’s ahead none the less. That stat is a tough one to move, and it’s not a random fluctuation that I’m at last season’s run fitness. I’ll go back to the beginning of this post: 184 miles in four weeks – that’s why I’m back in ready-to-race fitness.

Secondly and more in depth: Back in mid-February I had my VO2max tested as a part of a research study and found I scored 61.2 L/kg/min. That was alright, I thought it was pretty good for early season actually. That same week I tested my MAF fitness with a 5km TT at 160 bpm which I botched up a bit and ran it with an average HR of 164. In any case, the tested pace of 4:28/km resulted in an estimate of my VO2score of 61.29 on the run. (The formulae for calculating these scores is from Alan Couzens of Endurance corner and the details are here: http://rkp.me/VO2score) That nicely matched the recorded actual VO2max and so I’m working directly with an unmodified formulation of the measurements. This weekend at the St Albert 10 Miler, I averaged a HR of 167 and thus scored a VO2score of 66.3 which indicates I’ve made a fitness improvement of a bit more than 8% over the course of the past two months. That’s indicative of real progress!

One of the things that I think is a bit hokey about trying to measure these things quantitatively is that if you train with a lot of specificity for your testing protocol, then your performance at the testing protocol is going to be skewed in favour of showing that you are better than you might be in reality. There are studies out there that show that your performance in power output over a 1 hour max effort is a good guide for what your performance could be over an ultra-distance triathlon. There’s also studies that show you can estimate your 1 hour max effort quite well by doing only a 20 minute max effort and then adjusting the result slightly. Well, if you start training specifically to perform well at the 20min TT, you might improve your result, but by doing so you are probably also reducing the effectiveness of the estimation that it is for your performance at the much longer race. If you can improve 11% at your 20min speed, 8% of that could be attributed to fitness, and 3% could be attributed to the skill of performing the 20 min test. Only the 8% is going to translate to other measures of athletic capability, your skill for 20min TTing is good if your race is a 20min test.

I made the long explanation as a round-about way of saying. I was doing everything in training that I know how to do that will get me specificity at the marathon test (which is the race). Meaning that when on the weekend I measure that I think I’m in 8% better shape at the moment based on a few numbers, maybe I have also got 3% of marathon skills improvement that doesn’t show up in the fitness testing protocol because I wasn’t practicing to be tested at anything other than the marathon. We’ll see how this works out. I can’t say that I know what my marathon readiness was like in February because I couldn’t test it, and so I can’t tell you after the race in two weeks if I was 7% better or 10 % better, or even 25% better. I do think there’s something to that though. We watched Ryan Hall run a crazy fast marathon in Boston yesterday, but a few weeks ago he wasn’t ready to put together a fast half marathon. Why’s that? He’s got the fitness plus the skills for marathoning. He might have more skills than anyone on the planet, because he coached himself to do it. He attributed it to being strong, and in the post race interview I heard someone asking if he was going to get fast at some short distance stuff so he could be faster in the marathon. His response was a round-about way of saying “no”, maybe he’ll do some faster stuff because he’s interested in seeing how fast he can run 5000m on the track, but to be fast at the marathon he said he needed to be strong. That was encouraging. I wasn’t “fast enough” to be “fast” at the 10 miler this past weekend, that was my limiter on the flats and on the descents. But I was definitely strong enough to keep going, I have power in my legs even when they’re tired. I think that means I’m even more ready for a marathon than I am for 10 miles, that’s my 3%.

In two weeks we will see!

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St. Albert 10 Miler Race Results 2011

Pat, Erin and I represented the UofA Triathlon Club at the St. Albert 10 miler this morning. Becky was along as a cheering squad, and remarked that I did a better job of Pat than smiling on course, I’ll let her come cheer for us any day. That’s more encouraging than the typical “Wow Josh, you really looked like shit out there” that is typical of some other support crews (I love you too!). Pat was wearing his Fiera gear and no Tri-club gear, I didn’t have any Fiera gear that was weather appropriate, nor did I have and Triathlon Club gear that was weather appropriate. I don’t think Erin has any notion of trying to wear a certain outfit to intimidate the competition, she’ll learn eventually.

The race starts out fast with a nice little downhill to get the leg turnover high and the speed up. I tried to start slow, and I failed, splitting my first mile in about 6:07. That’s a recipe not to negative split your race when your best case scenario is 20 seconds slower per mile. I’d now need to negative split the rest of the race by 20 seconds just to even split the race. These are the kinds of calculations I do in my head when I’m trying to slow myself down. It worked, and I got back down to the 4:10/km pace that I knew was safe and allowed myself to come back “under control” I had turned off the display on HR on my watch because I didn’t want to see it, but retrospectively I had climbed to 170 and this was just pulling it back below there by a small margin. I then started to feel really good, and started to slowly pick up the pace.

Photo from gallery: Spring 2011

I gradually sped up all the way to the top of the hill and then remembered Pat’s advice, don’t go too hard on that downhill or you’ll really struggle on the uphill at mile 7. I kept the effort in check down that hill but the pace was still high. I cruised past the 10 km mark at 40:06 which was a nice treat, I picked up a 10km PR en-route. Problem is I’ve never run a standalone 10km race so my 10km PR is pretty weak. I won’t complain though. I thought for a bit that if the race really goes pear shaped in the final 6kms, do I tell people that I got a PR at 10km or do I keep it a secret that I did some bad pacing along the way.

Negotiations inside my head ended as I encountered the long gradual uphill at 7 miles. I reminded myself that it was probably going to really feel bad somewhere near the top but that I just had to get through it because it would inevitably feel better again between there and the finish. It was a good strategy and kept me from checking the GPS unit for my pace along the way. From there I was surprised by a couple rolly hills where I though things would be relatively flat. The HR was now way up and I was in “hold it together mode”, but I was holding a constant gap to the next guy up the road. He had passed me on the previous downhill so with a downhill finish I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to reel in the 10 seconds he had on me but maintaining the gap was good motivation. Turning north I knew it was less than 8 minutes to go, then into the last mile and it was all downhill. I ran about as fast as my legs could go on the downhill at this point, which isn’t very fast as I haven’t done a whole ton of speed-work. That’s alright though, I was still picking up the pace and was happy about how things had progressed. Corner through to the finish line and could see the clock, I’d be under 65 minutes for sure. Good news.

Photo from gallery: Spring 2011

I may have been more than 10 minutes behind the winner, but I was still first to the massage table. Free massages are a great thing, got the right calf worked on a little bit as it had felt pretty knarly on Tuesday. It felt fine during the race though and it feels fine now. No worries.

Final result: 64:41. That’s a 10 second positive split, which means after my lightning first mile I managed to negative split “the rest of the race” which is good news. Vancouver starts flat, which is a bonus, hopefully I’m no faster than about 7 minutes for the first mile in two weeks. Based on my performance for my 10km split, the reigel formula predicts a marathon time of 3h04m28s and the cameron formula predicts a marathon time of 3h07m52m. Based on my 10mile time, the reigel formula predicts a marathon time of 2h59m43s and the cameron formula predicts a marathon time of 3h03m31s. Those are very encouraging results, considering I will be tapering for the marathon and was not heavily tapered for this race, granted it was a light week.

Full results are here


This profile is why I was surprised to find the south (second) loop to be more rolling than the north (first). Maybe it wasn’t in so bad in reality but it felt awfully up and down as I was nearing an hour of ~threshold HR.

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

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