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

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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How long was the swim?

The recurring post-triathlon question:
How Long was the swim…
the Oliver Half 2012 edition

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012

We have to presume that the swim course is on-average the length that is advertised (2km). We also presume that the distribution of swimmers is equivalent from year to year. There is a confounding factor in that the prize money for this race has changed from year to year which may affect the depth of the elite field. Without professional triathletes being designated as such in the results it is impossible to correct for this factor. With this year’s result we can change our assumption from last year as we are adding data to the all-time list, where calculations showed that the 2011 swim was likely 2085 meters in length. This adjusts last year’s likely distance to 2052 meters in length. It shows a likely distance for the 2012 race of 2150 meters, impacting the swim time of the average competitor by 3 minutes and 12 seconds. Pro-rating my swim performance chops off 2 min 53 sec and has me swimming a 38:30 which is lousy but not embarrassingly so, considering swim training consisting of one 750 swim during a sprint-tri and one 15 minute training-swim the day before race day and nothing else during the prior 100 days.

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012
Click for full stats

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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
T1 + Bike + T2: 1st Overall
Run: 9th Overall

Thanks to Keegan for the photos!
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Coaching Update #4

The weekly updates:

2011-02-14 to 2011-02-20

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 90 km 2:45:00 30 32.73 40 kph
Run 18.31 km 1:56:10 7:39 6:21 5:08 min per km
Swim 2400 m 1:00:00 2:30 2:30 2:30 min per 100 meters
Telemark 145 km 14:00:00 10.23 10.36 10.5 kph
Yoga 0 mi 0:45:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 20 hrs 26min One Day Off

2011-02-21 to 2011-02-27

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 65 km 2:10:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 27.5 km 2:31:30 6:07 5:31 5:09 min per km
Swim 2800 m 1:05:00 2:19 2:19 2:19 min per 100 meters
Weights 0 mi 0:10:00 na na na no pace units
XC 12 km 1:20:00 9 9 9 kph
Yoga 0 mi 0:40:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 7 hrs 56min One Day Off

2011-02-28 to 2011-03-06

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 60 km 2:00:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 6.5 km 0:43:30 6:42 6:42 6:42 min per km
Swim 1750 m 0:30:00 1:43 1:43 1:43 min per 100 meters
XC 14 km 1:25:00 9.88 9.88 9.88 kph
Total Time 4 hrs 38min Four Days Off

2011-03-07 to 2011-03-13

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 96 km 3:12:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 50.96 km 4:30:07 5:36 5:18 5:00 min per km
Swim 6450 m 2:09:00 2:06 2:00 1:41 min per 100 meters
XC 10.22 km 0:48:40 12.6 12.6 12.6 kph
Total Time 10 hrs 39min One Day Off

2011-03-14 to 2011-03-20

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 90 km 3:00:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 85.9 km 7:28:26 5:31 5:13 4:34 min per km
Swim 5500 m 2:10:31 3:00 2:22 1:33 min per 100 meters
Yoga 0 mi 0:40:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 13 hrs 18min One Day Off

I had a bit of a washout for the first week of this period, it could have been good training but then I went Telemarking for two days. It was fun, but it killed three planned runs. Sure I logged lots of hours but Telemarking is pretty non-specific preparation for a marathon, at least it uses your legs I guess. That trip also hampered the next week because I should have been working on the revisions on my thesis demanded by the examining committee that weekend, but I went skiing instead. They needed to be done the next week and so I botched another opportunity to do some high quality consistent running in alright conditions. The next week I travelled to Calgary to attend the funeral of my Grandfather, and then started work. While that didn’t force me to take 4 days off, run once and really come off the rails with training, I don’t see that I necessarily should have done otherwise. Death is a motivation sucker, it always will be and that’s just how it’s going to be. I actually don’t really care that that week was a write-off, but I am frustrated that I started to slide in the two weeks previous. It’s a good thing Dave demanded that I come out and go skiing the following Sunday or I would have skipped out and taken another zero.

The next week back took some getting used to, I had slipped a fair amount in my consistency with everything and it really felt like I was trying to get a heavy locomotive rolling again. It seemed that the whole metabolism managed to slow itself down and needed some time for the pressure in the steam chambers to build up before I could roll out of the station. I did get moving by the end of the week but was frustrated by the fact that my well laid plans for preparation for this upcoming marathon had been all-but destroyed. Part of me wanted to give up, it was a large part. I asked Dave what I was supposed to do when I just didn’t care about a race anymore. It wasn’t like I was asking if it was OK to switch to the half-marathon, I was wondering about quitting all together. Maybe I’d go to Vancouver and just be a tourist for the weekend with that plane ticket I now wished I hadn’t bought, maybe bring a bike and write off the whole idea of running a marathon.

Then I got roped into a long run that evening by Keegan and went along with it. I stand by the statement that I’ve been making quite a bit recently. “If you’re smart about who you choose to surround yourself with, peer pressure only does good things.” I tapped out a 1h49 half marathon and stayed strictly aerobic for the whole thing. Decked out in full tights and jacket, running in loose snow and doing some single-track trails… that’s a totally amazing time. It was at this point that I drew the analogy that I was the big locomotive that was taking a while to get going after a lousy three weeks of training. Hindsight helps. I figured that my best bet was to try and put together a good week of training, keep it mostly aerobic and then see where I was at before I made any drastic changes of plans.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

The last week of training went well. I didn’t roll over 20 hours or anything that would have seemed super impressive last year during the Ironman build, but I did run with good consistency and put together some pretty good runs, nothing junky. Everything had a purpose and I was happy about it. It wrapped up Saturday afternoon with a good long run of 30kms with a 5 mile section thrown in after 30kms where I was able to maintain a 7:22 pace in variable snow conditions. I got home feeling beat up, but happy. I think it’s a real positive sign to feel like the marathon training plan is back on track. Unfortunately it’s not really, there is a pretty significant hole in the middle of my buildup (as evidenced by the falling CTL [red] on the chart at right). I have modified the plan from here on out to account for this. I’m cutting the amount of running above aerobic threshold scheduled for this coming week in half. I’m also cutting out all of the VO2 focussed intervals that the Pfitzinger plan has scheduled in favour of strides and some running just slightly above marathon pace. I’m trying to be conservative with what I can ask my body to do without as extensive a base-buildup as I should have done. I’m then paring back the total volume anticipated by 10-15%, slicing it off of most of the runs with the exception of my long runs which need to stay at the higher durations as they are needed for focus on duration. The marathon on May 1 didn’t get 10-15% shorter.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

I’m posting the planned weekly schedule from here to the race [here]. It’s accurate for running, and if the weather co-operates I’ll be adding some aerobic cycling to the mix once the roads are clear. There’s not going to be stress on the muscles in my legs for that kind of stuff so I’ll sprinkle in what I have time for. For completeness sake I’ve included the PMCs for all three sports and my total at the left here as well, click on the mini-picture to expand.

Finally, I have one other stat to note… I swam a 15:31 for 1000 yards on Friday. I went out pretty conservative in the first half. I think that partly had to do with me not really wanting to suffer as much as I could have suffered for 15 minutes but also a bit of disillusionment with the purpose of doing this when Keegan had opened up with a 1:15 1000yds next to me and I was feeling super slow. I did turn it around in the second half which is nice and it made for a good workout even though it’s evidence that it wasn’t the best test of my actual 1000yd TT speed. Despite being a long ways off how well I was swimming last march at this time this is a huge improvement in my swimming since Christmas when I was struggling to come in with 50 second laps on only 100 and 200 yard intervals in a workout. I’m also happy to report that I’m actually tackling flip turns with some regularity. The immediacy of the Spring Thaw Triathlon, where successfully doing flip turns could amount to a full 0.5% improvement of my finish time has convinced me that it is worthwhile. Buying carbon aero widgets to do that would cost me between $1000 and $1500.

1000yd TT

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Four months of AWESOME!

The racing schedules for this summer have just been posted and it looks like everything stacks up almost perfectly for me!

When I say perfectly I mean that there is very little conflict of interest in where I intend to direct my attention each weekend for basically every weekend of the summer. It’s simple, choose what you love doing and then love doing it. I’m not signed up for everything listed here, or at least not yet!

  • May 1 – Vancouver Marathon
  • May 8 – Spring Thaw (Sprint) Triathlon
  • May 14-15 – Velocity Stage Race
  • May 21-22 – Bikes on Broadway Stage Race
  • May 28 – Crewing for Aaron at Blackfoot 100km
  • May 29 – Pigeon Lake Road Race
  • June 5 – Oliver (Half Ironman) Triathlon
  • June 11 – Half Moon Lake – Mission3 (SuperSprint) Triathlon
  • June 18-19 -Banff Bike Fest Stage Race
    • or June 18 – Chinook (Olympic or Half Ironman) Triathlon
  • June 25-26 – Devon Stage Race
  • July 1 – Canada Day Crit
  • July 10 – Edmonton ITU (Olympic) Triathlon
    • I think this will have slots for Worlds but they are in New Zealand in October 2012 so taking a slot is a rather outrageous proposition.
  • July 16-17 – Perhaps run the Skyline Trail with Aaron?
  • July 23-24 – Perhaps a backpacking weekend in Wilmore Wilderness?
    • Sylvan Lake (Half Ironman) Triathlon is on the 24th and is likely the spot that I’d need to race to qualify for the ITU Long Distance World Championships that are going to be held in Spain in 2012. Doing this is an attractive alternative to chasing a Kona slot in 2012 as this is a true world championship, not a corporate world championship.
  • July 29-30 – Tour de Bowness Stage Race
  • August 6-7 – Jason Lapierre Stage Race
  • August 14 – Bicisport Road Race
    • or August 14 – XTerra Canmore (Offroad) Triathlon – rumour is that this will have slots for Maui in 2012, so racing on the course the year before is an advantage if I want to try and qualify for worlds in 2012.
  • August 20 – Headwinds Provincial Road Race
  • August 27 – Recovery Weekend
  • September 1 – It’s September – time to start riding the ‘cross bike!

Two or three weekends out of the whole four months with conflicting interests is a pretty slim number. I’m happy to have a couple weeks in July without much potential distraction which I can either use for relaxation if I’m running on fumes or use for hard training to prep myself up for the upcoming stage racing. I’m really hoping to be able to bring my A-game to the criteriums in Calgary, the infamous Tour de Bowness “Bownesian Pavement” Crit and the soon to become infamous Jason Lapierre “Speedfest” crit that was run downtown last year, rumour is that it will be downtown again in 2011. That means big base in May and June and serious sharpening efforts in June and July. Lots of bike riding!

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Starvation workouts – looking back

Jesse Kropelnicki just had an article on Xtri about so called ‘Starvation workouts’, or workouts where you try and force your body to function with higher aerobic efficiency by not feeding it what it would most like to have (pure sugar) and thus the hope is that you would be training it to default into slightly more favorable substrate usage ratios the next time you workout. In short, teach your body to burn more fat as fuel source so it uses less of the more limited carbohydrate fuel source at any given intensity.

Here’s a copy of the article. I have no idea if it is copyrighted or whatever, I presume he writes it and distributes it for free so that it gets read and he gets the publicity. I’m posting it here… so it gets read… and I can vouch for the guy otherwise having a lot of very good and very interesting stuff to say (The stuff written about critical volume has played a foundational role in how I think about training). You can read his stuff on the QT2 website as well as occasionally on XTri… so there’s my publicity plug…

The main focus of Ironman training and racing is on the improvement of metabolic efficiency. Developing metabolic efficiency is nothing more than training the body to use aerobic energy systems at the highest paces/wattages possible. This is the least costly way to fuel the body during exercise. There is a great deal of debate around how best to develop this aerobic efficiency. I, as most, would argue that training at intensities right around aerobic threshold (AeT) is the most effective way to improve the body’s aerobic efficiency. But, a recent push makes the argument that dietary changes can impact these adaptations. To this end, it has been hypothesized that “starvation workouts” can help to promote efficiency. These are rides and/or runs where athletes essentially starve themselves, in an effort to force the body to use fat as its fuel source. For example, an athlete on a long aerobic ride of 3 to 4 hours would consume only water, throughout. In my opinion the research on this practice is very uncertain, and is accompanied by a great deal of potential detriments, none of which make it an acceptable risk. Some of these potential detriments include:

1) Starvation workouts can be extremely catabolic, as the body is forced to attack lean muscle mass in order to create carbohydrates for fuel. This process of neoglucogenesis is nightmarish for lower BMI athletes, who are already strength limited, and older athletes (females beyond the age of 45 and males older than 50), who by the nature of their age have difficulty maintaining lean muscle mass. This assault on the body disintegrates muscle mass, thus exacerbating an already problematic limiter. Furthermore, depriving the body of the fuel that it needs to train over long durations can set the stage for a compromised immune system, leading to missed training time due to illness.

2) I am a firm believer that athletes should avoid nutritionally limited workouts, at all costs. In essence, never ever bonk! Be it a typical training workout or race day, it should NEVER happen. Starvation workouts create an atmosphere primed for bonking. This means that your workout is likely to be limited by a lack of fuel, prior to the physical energy systems being appropriately trained or stressed. This is in direct conflict with the reason why we do all of this training, in the first place, and focus so much time and effort on effective recovery. The goal of any workout should be to promote an environment where the athlete can have better and better workouts, pushing previous limiters, thus increasing fitness. Too many sacrifices are made, on a day-to-day basis, aimed at improving our fitness and racing, to allow our efforts to be limited by that over which we have 100% control over.

3)At the Ironman distance, training the gut to be able to absorb the nutrients in their intended race fuel is part and parcel to effectively executing their race plan. This is especially so for those with high sweat rates. These athletes often experience races that are limited by nutrition, rather than a true display of their fitness. Starvation workouts do not provide the opportunity to train this very limiter….race nutrition! We end up seeing athletes who are forced to walk through a great deal of the marathon, because they have not trained their bodies to consume and process the calories that will be required to race effectively. Because each of our athletes is equipped with a personalized race fueling strategy, that is practiced every single day in training (I cannot begin to tell you how many Power Bars and Power Gels QT2ers consume throughout the year), QT2 continues to produce some of the fastest Ironman marathoners in the professional and age group ranks.

4) I often hear of athletes using these starvation workouts during the early season base phase of training, while simultaneously in the gym trying to build strength. The catabolic nature of these types of workouts mixes terribly with the anabolic atmosphere that should be created, through a well-developed weight-training program, to create a positive hormonal balance.

Ironman racing has a nice clean series of events, namely the swim, bike, and run, with overtones of race fueling throughout and within each. How well an athlete has fueled their race does not typically become apparent until the run. I have always believed that the best way to approach limiters, in triathlon, is to first deal with those that exist in series with one another. With this in mind, and knowing that an athlete’s inability to handle their race nutrition is what typically undermines their Ironman, I try to first focus on this limiter as it typically occurs earliest in the chain of events. It really does not do much good to focus on a limiter that occurs further down the line, since it may never have the opportunity to actually become a limiter on race day. An athlete’s metabolic efficiency, on the other hand, is typically a limiter that appears in parallel with most of his or her other limiters. The cases are rare that an athlete’s race will come to a screeching halt, due to poor metabolic efficiency. Therefore, not until we are 100% certain that an athlete does not have a nutritional limiter, should we begin to even consider any unorthodox ways of improving metabolic efficiency, that could even possibly undermine the athlete’s ability to consume and process appropriate race fuels.

But, if you absolutely insist upon incorporating starvation workouts into your training regimen, I recommend trying it no more than once a month, and not until you have full confidence in all aspects of your training, racing, and fueling. At this time, there simply has not been enough research performed, on the topic, for me to feel confident endorsing it to any of our athletes. As with anything else in life, whether or not to utilize starvation workouts is really a matter of risk versus reward. In my opinion, the possible benefits of these workouts simply do not outweigh the potential risks.

Jesse Kropelnicki is an elite/pro level triathlon coach who founded QT2 Systems, LLC; a leading provider of personal triathlon and run coaching, as well as a leading provider of sports nutrition. He is the triathlon coach of professional athletes Caitlin Snow, Dede Griesbauer, Ethan Brown, and Tim Snow among others; and nutrition/cardio advisor for professional UFC fighter Kenny Florian. His interests lie in coaching professional triathletes using quantitative training and nutrition protocols. You can track his other coaching comments/ideas via his blog at

Jesse is definitely right, there’s not a whole ton of good scientific evidence that this strategy is net-beneficial. That said, it is something Steven Lord had me do during training in 2010. I tried to read up on it, and came to the same conclusion as Jesse, there’s not a whole ton of scientific PROOF that this is a great idea but intuitively it seems like one of the only ways to make the kinds of changes that you’d like to make in your body’s metabolic defaults. Lots of different exercise physiologists will tell you that you get an advantage at ironman by being a fat burner, but there aren’t a ton of people who will tell you how to do it. Alan Couzens profiled the technique he employed with one of his athletes a while ago in some of his writing. Now that I want to post a link to it I can’t find the exact article I’m thinking of. In any case, he had this guy modify his substrate consumption to increase fat, decrease carbs, and do a lot of work at aerobic threshold with a whole heck-ton of patience. I wish I could find the article, what he had the guy doing was low intensity stuff and not the kind of stuff that’s going to make you fast very quickly. It was however, going to make this kid fast in the long run because there were significant gains made to this athlete’s fat usage during exercise. The numbers were mind-blowing actually, this average guy was scoring somewhere near the 10calories/min from fat that people have calculated Mark Allen was able to do during his heydey in Kona (I presume that lots of the guys in the top 10 this year must be around that magic number as well).

I decided to listen to my coach.

Annette said that she was really proud of me a couple times this past year for listening to what he said. Her opinion was that lots of the other people she knew who had coaches often tried to be too smart and didn’t listen, and thus didn’t get the benefit of the protocol as it was designed. I can’t say I listened to Steven all year long about everything, and I did some complaining (thinly disguised as asking tough and frustrating questions) about some things. This was one of the things I think I complained about, but I did do what he was suggesting I do about modifying substrate usage.

This year I had already decided I was going to eat more fat than last when I had been on this idea of making my body into a carbohydrate furnace, ready to pour them in, rev a high HR, and make more watts at any cost. I wasn’t racing so long (less than 5 hours) that I felt there was a huge detriment to doing that. I knew that I could eat and digest at pretty high intensities so my game plan was to just pour fuel on the fire and not worry about running out. This worked, it wasn’t a really long term strategy I found, and I think the lack of fat in my diet was probably a bit unhealthy in other regards. My skin didn’t heal very quickly amongst a few other things that I noticed (along with some search-engine help) were probably an indication that this “burn as much fuel as you can and you’ll go faster” was probably a bit shortsighted. It made me fast at a cost that I identified as being probably not the best for myself. So, that wasn’t a change posed by Steven, but he did put a few other interesting ideas on the table.

Starting early on Steven began suggesting on my endurance focused rides that I cut the carbohydrates completely in the morning before the ride. Now it’s totally possible to load up and feel full without hardly any carbohydrates and I always did that, I never did pure starvation in the manner alluded to by Jesse’s article, however I was doing a form of starvation training. A typical breakfast would be between four and six fried eggs with cheese melted on top. A red pepper, a glass of milk, and a handful of cashews or pecans. I also pre-ran prior to some of those weekend bike rides during the spring to rack up a bonus 40 minutes. Those mornings I’d just eat some nuts or halva with water or milk before the short run, and then come home and make my big pre-ride omelette. Then I’d start riding and I definitely and noticeable wouldn’t have any blood sugar.

These long rides were not completed without eventually getting myself into the carbohydrates and eating sports nutrition (i.e. practicing the race plan) along the way. Generally I’d ride the first two hours on just water and perhaps a bit of sausage or some almonds. That was it though, I’d generally feel pretty slow (even though I wasn’t necessarily being slow) and was just a bit mentally dreary. Considering the fact that your brain won’t fuel itself off anything other than sugar the mentally dragging your ass along the road feeling was going to be par for the course. Then I’d eventually pick up the fuel, and finish off the ride allowing the body to run off of both ingested carbohydrate fuel and processed fat.

Did I observe the four points that Jesse makes? Yes. Did I suffer the consequences he outlines? Only once did I actually bonk and had to pay the consequences of taking this method to to far an extreme by missing out on planned training.

1 & 4 I no doubt experienced the catabolic effect of this kind of training as it prevented strength gains during this period of time. Whether or not it was the low-carb riding that did it or the incessant running I was doing while shooting for 7 runs per week frequency is an open question but I no doubt would say that I didn’t get any stronger during this period of training (Mid-April through Mid-July). I basically made zero gains in the gym with weights between early May and the end of July when I quit strength training. I wasn’t in a period of trying to build strength in the gym, but I would have expected that my leg strength would have improved by the amount of riding I was doing and I’d be able to see evidence of that in the gym. This was not the case, leg-holds on the leg-press sled probably got relatively more difficult as the summer went on even though I did the same set at 270lbs with each leg all the way through. Did I suffer a compromised immune system? No. I didn’t get sick at all, but I can’t rule out that the hormonal effects tied to getting so tired weren’t related to the hormonal effects brought on by operating occasionally with a blood sugar deficit. The worst blood sugar low did result once in a total bonk and came a week before a race which I proceeded to do fantastic at. In a round-about way this could have been something setting me up to get knocked into serious fatigue as a result of that race. I was at a low mentally with motivation and with energy levels the next two weeks.

2 The warning is that if you do this to your body you’re unable to push your physical limiters. OK, if we narrowly define fitness there’s a way to make this statement true. I likely didn’t make any gains with my functional threshold power over 2009 during this season, heaven forbid perhaps it got a bit worse. This is a problem with deciding that your functional threshold power is the best metric for measuring success. As a result of this training I was able to post an age-group fastest bike split and on the run, run within a couple percent of my open marathon time. These are measurements of fitness success both un-acheivable last season, and so I think it’s misleading to say that because you might not be gaining a certain type of fitness by doing these workouts that it means you’re not getting better. If it makes you faster for your target race then that’s the measure of success.

3A true starvation workout doesn’t allow you to practice ironman fueling but I’d suggest that the method I used which is what I guess I’d call hybrid-carbohydrate-starvation is actually an extremely ironman specific way to practice doing the fueling. Starting with a morning-prior-to-the-ride-carboload is going to lull you into a false sense of having your glycogen stores and blood sugar at a maximum before beginning the ride. It will reinforce the idea that your nutrition is not a fragile calculus because you’ve got the glycogen reserve buffer to work against. The ironman swim is going to use up a large chunk of your glycogen and you’re not going to be eating with the “bank in reserve” during the race, you’re eating with the glycogen bank on it’s way to being empty. This is exactly what happens if you start your morning with no carbs, the blood sugar stays down, and while you’ve got some glycogen in your muscles you don’t have a big stash of liver glycogen because your body has used it over the course of the night to keep chugging along.

So would I recommend it? Early in the season (especially at bike camp in early April) I needed to be consistently eating all the way through the ride to stay topped up. Later in the season, I could still eat (I mean, I ate a LOT at Ironman, so I clearly didn’t de-train this ability) but I didn’t feel the need to constantly be eating as the season progressed. I’ll take the desire to eat carbohydrates as a measure that my body was requiring more carbohydrates, it’s generally smart like that. I also felt a lot better during the pre-carbohydrate portions of those rides as the weeks progressed. They set me up with sufficient cycling base to do the hard-ironman specific intervals that the program required as the race grew closer. I could have done all those earlier season rides fully fueled and I would have shown up with a similar cycling base, I don’t know if it would have been any better, but I wouldn’t have changed my need to be constantly pouring sugar into my mouth. I probably would have trained harder during this base period and perhaps would have come into better fitness sooner but that’s then a measure of planning appropriately and not so much what you eat. I don’t have the financial resources available to do the testing to prove that I made big gains in my metabolic efficiency this past year but I am confident that I did. Sorry, no fancy graphs from me for this post. Just a good idea for early-season pre-ride breakfast:


I’d definitely suggest that Jesse is casting this rather experimental kind of training in too negative a light. There are intelligent ways to do metabolic efficiency training and there are unintelligent ways of doing it. By suggesting that no-food starvation training is terrible without considering the middle-ground of beginning long rides in a carbohydrate depleted state I think he’s suggesting that this is something we’re hopelessly unable to improve. While I’m hesitant to really recommend what I did I do think that it’s definitely got merit. I’m quite open to there being a better way to develop this skill with our bodies than the method I used but I’m pretty confident that it is possible to do a better job of it than doing no job at all which is what Jesse is unfortunately suggesting.

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Long Term Goals

I’ve spent a fair bit of time thinking about where things are headed in 2011 and beyond with the fitness game, I’m currently under the assumption that I continue playing it. I still love it, and I’ve enjoyed making a progression through things, but Ironman was a bit of a destination and so future things needed to be sketched from scratch.

I was having all sorts of scenarios play out in my head about this and that and it was hard to sort anything out. Then I decided I needed to sit back and write down a few goals. The Ironman had been on the horizon for a long time before I got really serious about it, it was a multi-season goal, and now it’s multi-season goals that once again are making up the majority of the thoughts rolling around inside my head.

This entry is in two parts: Long Term Goals and a sequel outlining my Specific Athletic Goals for 2011.

Long term:

  • Reclaim balance in my life with sport. I have been trying too hard and it is mentally exhausting. I spent a year with the mental attitude of “pull out all the stops” and I can’t handle doing that anymore. I can create as many good habits as I need to and I can drop all the bad habits that I need to but I can’t live with the attitude that I need to do things that I don’t want to do. The backlash from this is unhealthy. This is also making too many things a point of stress in my life. If I’m going to train like this again I need to make the training stress the only source of stress in my life, because I can’t let myself re-do that period of time, it wasn’t healthy.
  • I need to reclaim a rest day each week with NO training. No easy training days and pretending that they’re rest except for during specific prep for the season’s A race between 8 & 3 weeks out. I’m undecided if this rule applies to a consistent block of running or not. I would like to think that it does apply. If I’m doing a MAF development challenge then I need to plan to double up once a week. I executed my first aerobic development challenge with 6 days a week of running, it found me more than 6 minutes of half marathon PR. The seventh day of training is the less value than the seventh set of workouts. If I need the seventh day worth of workouts then I can fit them into 6 days. In my mind this is quite clearly and if.
  • Make it to Kona
    • 1 hour swim (1:25/100yds)
    • 4:50 bike. (23.2 mph or 37.3 kph) – I think this is approximately 54 minute 40km TT shape i.e. FTP yields 44.4kph in fair conditions.
      • Analytical Cycling says that this is an FTP of approximately 334Watts.
      • I have absolutely no idea where I’m at.
    • 3:15 – 3:20 run (4:45/km or 7:40/mile)
    • transitions
    • contingency time

What it takes? The first two long-term goals are going to require dedication and aren’t always going to be easy, but they’re probably more important than #3. The breakdown of Part 3 goes as follows – to get the Kona slot I think I need to:

  • Treat Ironman as a race with finite duration rather than infinite duration. Unlimited endurance is unnecessary and seeking it drained me too much. Not being tired at the end of Ironman but only being sore is not the fastest way to do this sport.
  • Get my MAF run pace down to 3:50-3:52/km. This will come with consistency, but it might not come within a year. My best recorded MAF test result was at 4:02 this summer, it was a single data-point though and I think I really only achieved a MAF pace of 4:05-4:07.
  • Run a significantly faster marathon than I need to run for Ironman. Goal = 7 min miles = 3h4min
  • Get my threshold swim speed down to 1:22/100yds (10 seconds faster than what I can do now)
  • I am probably good enough to ride this fast if I decided that this was how fast I needed to ride. I could do it, but with not much confidence that I’d be running my best afterward.
  • I need to adopt a bit more of a balanced cycling program so I can strategically race the bike leg. This means I need to improve the short duration end of the power-curve. This is not to be done at the expense of totally giving up the favorable fat burning bias I’ve developed so successfully in 2010.
  • I now want to use a power meter.

In all honesty I don’t think I’ll be ready to race at this level next year. I can get there in the long term but I’m not yet ready to do it next year. Making this realization answered my questions regarding racing Ironman Cozumel in 2011. That time line is too aggressive. I can’t ever be sure I’ll qualify the next time I try Ironman, but I don’t see that it’s worth making all of the sacrifices to try it until I at least think I have a chance. The time/effort/stress cost of it is too high to rush it.

Quarq cinquo FSA SL-K

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Specific Athletic Goals for 2011

This entry is in two parts: Long Term Goals and a sequel outlining my Specific Athletic Goals for 2011.


  • Figure out how I am going to fit more swimming into my new life as a working person. I need to find my love of swimming again.
  • No swimming with the purpose of building fitness, only swimming with the purpose of being a better swimmer.


  • Twice I need to put a 6 week focus on MAF running and aim for high frequency. Learn what this does to MAF pace.
  • Run a fast marathon.
    • I feel like 7 minute miles is a rough estimate for the prerequisite I’ve estimated for Kona qualification. This will be a rough target for the year however race-day target pace will be based on evidence in training and not what I want to do.

I’m unsure of what the “minimum” is when I’ve got the MAF focus. Perhaps 30 minutes for 3 weeks immediately into 40 minutes for 3 weeks. Or 7.5kms for 3 weeks into 10kms for 3 weeks Those seem challenging yet appropriate. Keep track of MAF pace throughout this kind of training as well as through less focused training. I don’t believe I have graduated from MAF training on the run yet.

Otherwise I hope to execute a balanced run program. Be a balanced runner. 1x weekly endurance focused run, 1x intervals session with focus on 400m-1000m VO2max intervals with perfect form, 1x progression run or general tempo run designed for experience at marathon pace. During specific prep phases include a hills run where I run fast on ups and on downs (to eccentrically load the muscles and develop leg strength) plus additional easy runs (to get miles).


  • Learn to really race bikes.
  • Switch clubs so I have people to train on the road with and race as much as I possibly can. This means that this is the focus for May-August.


  • Don’t miss out on an entire season to gain some experience racing. That would be silly, so I need to race, and 70.3 seems like the appropriate distance.

An Aside:I am no longer convinced that I tapered ideally for the bike for Ironman. When I rode my best bike splits relative to my fitness (Chinook 2009 and GWN 2010) I had not been as bike-rested as I was for Ironman and Calgary 70.3. This makes me think I should probably try to design a slightly different protocol. For example I rode a pretty serious ride two days out from GWN, long stretches above IMeffort. I think the reason is this: I have such a hard time getting actually sore from cycling using the kind of protocol I used this past year that I can work on fitness so well on the bike that as soon as I stop riding I start to loose it. There’s minimal rest required with the method of training I employed this past year. If I were training with a balanced program and loading up on muscular fatigue then perhaps I’d need to taper but if I’m not training hard, just riding a lot then I don’t need to taper from it. We’ll see next year as I intend to train with more intensity on the bike, I may well find that I need to taper on the bike to perform well.

I should be able to learn quite a bit about cycling and cycle tapering by racing bikes and doing a half Ironman without a bike taper. I may squeeze in a few short course races as well depending on how they fit in alongside bike racing. I think they’d help maintain and develop skills in mentally focusing at max steady state effort instead of cycling which will be far more strategic next year. Some power and HR data from Olympic distance racing would probably be valuable in planning future training. If I decide to do it it would have to fit into a schedule with a few specific prep run-workouts and about 3 days of unloaded training so I could actually perform well. Weekends quickly get busy in the summer, so I don’t know exactly how this will fit, the ATA schedule is not confirmed anyhow.

Season plans:

As soon as the Achilles allows – get in the pool. Start knocking down 10km weeks. Figure out how to make it fit. Figure out how to stay focused. Figure out how to love it again. If I start hating it I need to change something to make it work again. Think about swimming primary goal for swimming is getting to the pool with motivation. This needs to continue throughout the year.

Cycling through the winter.

Indoor training 2 or 3 sessions per week. Ride as much as I want to, no pressure to “get workouts in” until May.

Running until Christmas – just get back into it

starting in January:

  • 3 weeks balanced program
  • 1 week reduced balanced program
  • 6 weeks MAF focus
  • 1 week reduced balanced program
  • 3 weeks push balanced program
  • 3 weeks taper to Marathon including 10mile race.

MAF tests bi-weekly throughout

Run focus finishes with Vancouver Marathon on May 1

May – train like a maniac on the bike, long easy miles transition into balanced intensity high mileage.

Running stays balanced and easy recovery from Marathon, no rush to get run fit again keeps the pressure down.

Early June – Oliver Half Ironman

Minimal taper on bike to see how that works, I need to log the TT time though to make sure I’m ready to put out power in that position as not doing so was a recipe for disaster at Chinook 2010 on the bike leg. I’d mostly rely on residual run fitness from marathon prep, 5 weeks later is late enough to race again but it’s not really enough time to put in a good training block after the marathon. My 2009 marathon showed me that it will take a while to get my run legs back. No pressure on race day, set my sights high and just race. Love the sport and have fun. I’m not trying to benchmark or gauge progression or test a strategy, I’m just racing. It will probably be a season highlight.

June-July-August. Race bikes whenever possible. Go backpacking a couple times. Perhaps fit in a bike-tour with trailer for a few days. Minimal structured training except to fit in specific prep to race well at Bowness Stage Race, Road Provincial Championships and LaPierre Stage Race in August. If I’m feeling interested, race a late summer olympic distance triathlon. Help out friends training for IMCanada by accompanying them on their long rides when possible.

Run three times/week bi-weekly long run.

Cyclocross continues in the fall as entertainment and I don’t worry about my bike fitness. I let it fade and try to reap the rewards with some racing. This probably means I should move my long run to midweek in the fall so I can do a bit more horsing around on the ‘cross bike on the weekends.

Running – Begin focus again in September 2011

  • 6 weeks MAF focus with weekly cross country race.
  • 1 week reduced balanced program
  • 3 weeks push balanced program
  • 3 weeks taper to Marathon.

Marathon in Nevada on November 20. Choose either a fast one or a really challenging hilly one depending on how the spring marathon goes. Both options exist on the same weekend, I can of course wait until after the spring marathon to decide which one I’d rather do, if I choose hills the training will of course have to reflect this choice.

Mesquite Marathon

Spring Marathon – in the city.

Vancouver Marathon

Fall Marathon – in the desert.

Sneak Peak at Ironman Attempt #2 – 2012

Take a break until Christmas and then begin structured training in January 2012 for Ironman. At which point I’ll almost certainly be a better runner. Hopefully I’ll be a more confident runner. I’ll almost certainly be a better cyclist. I’ll have a season of training with a power-meter and will have a pretty good idea about training with it in the lead-up to IM. Listening to Gordo talk about this and seeing how many people raced Kona with them has me almost convinced that there is cause and effect. It can’t be just the fact that people think they need then when they’re so widespread at the top level yet still not cheap.

Options include: Cozumel in November (AZ is similar time but I’d rather go to Mexico if I choose a late-season race), Coeur d’Alene in June, St George in April, or potentially Ironman Canada or Wisconsin at the end of the summer or potentially Brazil in late May. Brazil and Cozumel would be the faster races. We’ll presume that Cozumel will be just as competitive as everything else by that point in time. I can’t see how anything can stay stay non-competitive with people wanting to get to Kona, the first year has got to be a fluke.

I don’t know if it’s an advantage or disadvantage for me to choose a tough race or a faster and easier race. My instinct is that I shouldn’t choose a tough run course (StG is a bad idea). Choosing a hard bike course like Wisconsin seems like the strategic option, but all those rolling hills could thrash me just as much as anyone else, there isn’t really a safe bet. Wisconsin also qualifies for an entire year later which is kinda cool. I also might have the opportunity to run Boston the following spring if this marathon game is successful. If I qualified I think I’d like to do it, it would be really fun, that puts the earliest I would be ready to try Ironman well into August because I presume I’d be training to run well in Boston. I think Wisconsin becomes the preference although the financial cost of that doing that one is pretty high, it probably needs to be weighed pros/cons against Ironman Canada in more detail, but I’ve got almost a year before I’d have to sign up. Unfortunately I need to decide on which race to do before I can hear first-hand stories about Cozumel from Stefan.

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