Season Planning Seminar

The Invitation:

First thing back after Christmas (well at least close to first thing) is a good time to lay some plans for the next season. This is partly because everyone is highly motivated at this time of year and full of the ‘New Years Resolutions’ vibe. This week, we’d like to have a club seminar/workshop on self-coaching and season planning. The seminar to start will be informative, but informal, and I’m going to try and address some basics about training for triathlon and explain some of the associated jargon used to discuss this kind of stuff. I’ll also give an idea of how you can design and monitor progress with a training plan. We’ll finish off by each sketching out a plan for ourselves for the season ahead (2013!). Hopefully when you leave you’ll have an idea of what kinds of training lies between here and a successful event or events in the coming year, but also some self-coaching skills to monitor and adapt that plan along the way.

If you’ve attended the club seminar on this topic in years past I hope I can make the evening of value to you. While the actual training plan template I’m going to stick with is based on Joe Friel’s TTB which is the template we’ve used in years past, the seminar won’t be just walking through that process.


Room ED-177,

Tuesday Jan 15

8:30-10:00 pm

There should be enough time to shower and get over there by then. The club will be buying some Pizza for attendees. If you cannot figure out how to make it there by 8pm… then you really need to work on your transitions before race season.

Homework Part 1:

Homework is optional but recommended.

Please come to the seminar this Tuesday evening with some idea of what you’d like to do in the sport of triathlon (or swimming, biking or running as standalone sports) in 2013. If you’re hoping to sign up for your first ever race now isn’t a bad time to decide which one you might like to try. If you’ve been racing for years and have so many favourite races that they conflict with eachother on your calendar then now isn’t a bad time to start choosing. The race calendar in Alberta doesn’t change much from year to year, if you have a look at these websites you can probably get a pretty good idea of what your options may be for racing in 2013.

FYI:The club’s training plan is loosely based around an end of May race and/or an early July race. Examples would be Coronation Triathlon or Oliver Half Ironman, and then Edmonton ITU [out of date website at the moment] or Great White North. Registration for Great White North is still open but there are less than 100 spots left if you are interested in that.

Homework Part 2:

I have attached four documents. They are stolen directly from Joe Friel’s book about season planning for Triathlon.

  1. A survey of your basic abilities in Swim&Bike&Run. Hopefully this will help you identify what you need to work on in training.
  2. A good survey of your mental strength in sport. I have done this survey at the end of my season for 4 years running and learn something about myself each year. It is worth 5 minutes of your time, maybe not right now, but sometime when you need help procrastinating.
  3. A worksheet that can help you identify quantify what is most likely limiting your athletic success if #1 didn’t give you a good enough idea.
  4. A page that can help you outline the steps in training between now and success in 2012 by stating some goals and identifying what it will require of you. If you do take the time to fill it out, it will help you make a commitment to what you want to do. Putting things in writing can be an important step in the process.

Doing these surveys ahead of time is optional, but will likely be very beneficial.


Training methodologies are sometimes a bit like a religion. When you involve part of your life (i.e. all the training you do) with the way of thinking laid out by a certain school of thought (i.e. some group of exercise physiologists suffering from a severe case of groupthink) then you can become pretty defensive about the way you understand things to be. I’ll be among the first to admit that the way I understand and think about training is influenced by the people I have learned from, but I made an effort to do a good job in choosing teachers who knew their stuff. So, what I’ll cover is a very popular and very successful training methodology, it is not the only philosophy that exists. While I’m in the process of giving disclaimers, I’d better add another one: Triathlon is a fantastic sport but it’s a bad religion. We do this stuff for fun, think about that when you’re planning and setting goals for 2013.

Resources for the Season Planning Seminar

Also worth referencing for an “idea” but no more than idea… is Friel’s hours breakdown. As I will stress in the seminar. Appropriate load is the load that creates a training response that can be absorbed by your body, not by what some chat suggests. This is merely an idea of some typical patterns.

The presentation slides are attached here.

The Friel ATP chart is attached here.

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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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Power Analysis – Oliver Half

The above shows my performance statistics from Oliver Half in 2011 and 2012. 2012 is green because it is the faster of the two rides, and red is the slower of the two rides. The average power in 2012 was lower, so to fairly compare the pacing strategies I am displaying a graded power (mean matched dataset) instead of the raw values. I had computer trouble in 2011 for the first kilometer and am consequently only displaying a subset of the full ride of 93 kms (starting from a bit past the first mile marker onwards). Discussion of the contributing factors to faster speed on less watts are detailed in my 2012 Race Report. In summary, a lighter bike (almost 700g down) and a collection of improved aerodynamic factors made that possible. This post details the strategy, which is as we will see, a major contributor.

The faster sections of the course are the parts where there was a tailwind in 2012 where there were negligible wind conditions in 2011. (km 13.5-24.5 & 52.5-63.5 were faster due to tailwind) There are basically no slower sections with the exception of an early portion where I was suffering the effects of poor swim-training. There are also many situations where my several-second power peaks in 2011 were higher than in 2012 with no net result of improved 30 second power (the smoothed line doesn’t indicate a net power expenditure increase by spiking the power up). The interpretation is that when I briefly push hard I need to briefly rest, but I can get more power out by staying steady. These occur throughout the files, a couple examples are: km 20-21, 27-29, 33-34, 57-58, 69-70, 72-73, 88-89. Every time this happens it is probably worth a second or two advantage, and my files are littered with them. That’s not to say there were no situations where the reverse happened (worse pacing in 2012) see km 58-59, 61-62, 81-82. These all occurred towards the end of the race where I was starting to push the pace a little bit. The conservative riding early on was strategically superior to the racing mentality that occurred later in the race. The opposite occurred in 2011 when I was in the midst of other closely paced riders early on and was riding solo off the front in the second half. By swimming slower I began the ride just blowing past other riders and caught similarly paced athletes in the closing stages, the pacing outcome reflects this.

So, to try and investigate with some summarized statistics, was my power more distributed or less distributed in 2012 than 2011?

Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2011 Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012
Photo from gallery: Oliver Half Iron 2012

These plots compare my speed (x axis) with my power output (y axis). Top left is 2011, and is compared with 2012 on the right and on the bottom. I displayed the 2012 image twice to help draw correlations both vertically and horizontally.

Stats for the rides are as follows:

2011 2012
Time: 2h20m14s 2h17m41s
Rank: 5th 2nd
Avg Power: 315 298
Norm Power: 298 286
Variability: 5.7% 4.2%

The answer to the question “was my power more distributed or less distributed?” is that my power is less distributed. I was more careful with where I spent my watts in 2012 and didn’t deviate widely from my average power… on average. This shows in the variability of the ride. The variability index is down by a one and a half percent. That’s a lot if you ask me compared against the kind of range I see across all the rides I would do in a season (Rides vary from around 3 percent to 15-20 percent). If I hadn’t been sick I wouldn’t have had the cautious attitude, I think that helped me out in this regard. The cautious attitude is one that stops the body from hammering and ramping up huge power spikes.

If we look closely at the comparison of the two density plots you can see that with this visualization my power actually appears to be more distributed. The density cloud in 2012 is narrower and more stretched out than in 2011. This means that with respect to my speed, I made a more conscious effort to work hard when moving slowly and to back off slightly when moving quickly. I have very few data points in 2012 where I was soft-pedaling when I wasn’t going quickly, nor do I have many datapoints where I was drilling it when already at high speeds. In this regard my power is very distributed according to what was going on during the race, it is strategically distributed. The impressive thing is that I was able to strategically distribute power more effectively in 2012 but still reign in my overall power distribution (variability %). This to me shows that I am developing a strong maturity in pacing, that I am capable of executing the ride with a strategic advantage over my previous self. This is encouraging to say the least!

Moving forward I believe that I can still improve my power variability overall. Being sick and cautious really helped me out during this race, but I wouldn’t want to race sick all the time. I should be able to calm myself and focus into the same mental space when racing. If I am confident that the patient and conservative race strategy is superior then I have good reason to execute it. This is very difficult to do in practice, it’s difficult to actually race with a body full of testosterone, adrenaline and other stress hormones, and restrain yourself from feeding off of them and punching the power way up. At basically any point in time during that ride my body is capable of being at four times the power output of where I’m currently riding within just 5-10 seconds. I have evidence of this capability from sprint training where I routinely hit 1200+ watts a dozen times over the course of a ride. When I want to go fast it requires a lot of restraint to not start cranking huge power right now!

Allow me to do some inaccurate math here, consider these numbers as largely qualitative. Keeping the power variability within 4% on a ride that averages 300 watts is really asking my body to keep the power variability within 1% of my demonstrated 1200 watt capacity. Improving on that (to, say 3.5%) is asking myself for an improvement that’s only a small fraction of one percent, a fractional improvement of only a couple thousandths over where I’m at right now! I shouldn’t be surprised, that’s what it’s like at the top, the differences are minute: I missed the fastest bike split by only 14 seconds this year!

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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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Drayton Valley Tri

Power Data from Drayton Valley Sprint Tri:

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2012

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

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

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2012

Photo from gallery: Power Data 2012

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Ironman Canada 2011

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

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

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

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

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

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

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

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

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

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

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011

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

Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011 Photo from gallery: Ironman Canada 2011
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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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My first power curve

Photo from gallery: Spring 2011

I finally generated a power curve…

The workout was a warmup to get the legs going and then 20min at ~250 Watts, then a set of 3×10min at 345 Watts on 5 minutes rest, and then another 20 min at ~250 Watts before a short cool-down.

Many more of these will follow on the blog. I’m currently writing code like it’s going out of style to automate all of this stuff with Octave. I debated spending a bit of money on Training-Peaks to do all of this for me, but realized I wanted to do it myself. It’s more satisfying to run programs that you wrote yourself. And when you’ve got an MSc in Electrical Engineering and your success was largely based on your skills of data processing then it’s obvious that I’m going to wind up feeling limited by the functionality of their data processing engines. I’d rather do my own graphs as I have been doing lately. I think doing this will be quite instructive, and I’ll comment in future about things that I discover along the way.

There were no maximal exertions in this workout, I did the 345 Watts for 10 minutes three times, so all that it really shows is that my FTP is bigger than 320 Watts. I already knew that.

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