Thursday, August 28, 2014

Final Build - Toronto Island Report

Last weekend I competed in the MSC Toronto Island sprint as my final tune up before Muskoka 70.3. Leading up to the race I put in a solid cycling block between St. George, Bracebridge, and Orangeville. I was feeling more confident in my bike and run, and I really wanted to see what I could do.

However, the Wednesday before the race I came down with a bug and spiked a nasty fever. Thursday I layer on the couch all day and just never felt quite right, Friday I tried taking something for relief but this led to a night on and off the toilet, and Saturday all I could do was chill in the hotel room. I really didn't want to race, but with the point series my choice were race Sunday, race Lakeside in between Muskoka and Barrelman, or give up on the bit of cash available for the MSC series. I told myself I would start the race and see how I feel, if I needed to drop out I would.

Sunday morning came and I didn't feel bad, but I didn't feel good either. I heard the bike course was narrow and could get hectic so Andrew Taylor, Cody, and I hit the course to scope it out. For some of the horror stories I have heard about this race I think MSC did an excellent job this year spreading the race out with larger time gaps between waves. I didn't do a run warmup because this is what was aggregating my stomach the most, instead I put on my 2XU wetsuit and went down to the swim start. The water was a balmy 13 degrees and the swim was shortened to 375m. With the water being so cold I wanted to get in early so it didn't shock the system. A lot of people make the mistake of not getting into the water until the race starts and when you hit the cold water it takes your breathe away. 

The race

Well even getting in early, I didn't feel ready to go when the gun went off. Usually, I can get out fast to avoid some of the thrashing, but with the strong field at the race I was right in the thick of things. After taking a couple bumps to the head, I needed to get to the outside, aggressively made a path to the inside of the buoy and got some clear water. On the back stretch Cody and Mikael pulled up beside me and I sat in until the finish. I haven't had many races this year with dolphin dives, and lost a bit of time on the exit. I was about 10s back of the group leaving transition.

Once on the bike I could see Mikael, Andrew, and Aaron up the road with Cody a bit further up on them. I knew I had to catch this group or they could possibly ride away from me so I put my head down and focused on catching that group. Cody rode away from everyone in his typical fashion, but I was able to catch the rest of the group by the 5k turnaround. The 5m draft box is really to small in my opinion, but I will take every advantage given to me so I sat in a bit to recover before launching my move. I went to the front of our group around 7k to see if I could get away, but when Mikael was still there I eased up a bit and let him take the lead back. At this point I was getting a little nervous it would come down a running race, and I wasn't sure how my stomach was going to react.

After a little bit of confusion in T2 Andrew, Mikael, and I hit the run hard all leaving transition within a couple of seconds of each other. I went to the front and told myself I was going to run as hard as I could and either blow up spectacularly (legs and stomach) or take 2nd place. I managed to hold on for 2nd and had the fastest run split. 

I was really happy with the way the race played out in the end despite stomach issues leading in. I'm still not feeling 100%, and I have a drs appointment on Friday. Hopefully everything will be figured out then, and I can get in at least a couple days of training before Muskoka to get a feel. I'm not to worried about loosing fitness in this time, and I am telling myself a little extra rest leading in is what I need.

A sigh of relief as I crossed the finish line without an "accident"

I kept the top of my wetsuit on as long as possible to warm up after the chilly swim

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Phase 2 (Crashes, Races, and Goal Changing)

In my last blog update I had just finished a big block of early season racing, and I was just starting prep work for the 2nd a race of the season at Steelhead 70.3. Not all things go as planned, and I had to pull out of Steelhead due to some set backs that I will talk about below, but here is what I have been up to.

As I alluded to I raced the Mine Over Matter - Canadian Cross Tri Championships at the beginning of July, and I was 4th behind some experienced guys (Sean Bechtel, Karsten Madsen, and JP Thibodeau). I was 3rd out of the water about 45s back of Sean and JP and just ahead of Karsten. Karsten passed me on the first climb while I fiddled with my shoes, and I raced the rest of the way in no mans land finishing 5 minutes back of those 3 and 7 minutes ahead of the next guy. As awesome as off road can be it can get lonely on the trails when you can't see more than a couple hundred meters ahead of you at a time. Besides a couple small errors on the first loop of the bike I thought I rode well, but same as road tris I lack the power to ride with the top end of the field. There is a plan to address this weakness and it is to ride a lot in the period leading up to my next A race.

The plan after Mine Over Matter was to put in a couple weeks of high volume training as I prepared for Steelhead 70.3. Unfortunately on one of those first rides a crashed while taking a corner to fast on my tri bike. Luckily for me nothing was seriously broken on the bike or my body, but instead of putting in a big block I was forced onto the sidelines while my body healed. I haven't learnt from watching others and through my own experiences that if something isn't right down time is sometimes the best decisions. When I crashed my hip got beat up pretty bad, and I was worried that if I tried to run while it was still sore I would compensate for it and injure something else that would keep me out longer. I took about a week of running and cycling, and with open wounds, I was off swimming for about 2 weeks. With the set back I decided to pullout of Steelhead and do Muskoka 70.3 instead.

I think this small set back actually put me ahead in the long run. Prior to the crash I had been feeling rather flat in races. I was putting out good numbers in training, but I could not get into a good rhythm during a race. This was especially noticeable in my run, where I felt like I could never find my stride and leg turnover. Since the crash I have had a lot more pep in my step, and I didn't loose much, if any fitness, during the little bit of down time.

Since the crash I have raced 2 weekends in a row at the Multisport Canada races in Bala Falls and Kingston. Bala Falls is a nice quite race up in the Muskoka region, and Kingston is the exact opposite in the middle of the city.

Going into Bala, I had been back training on the bike and run for about a week and a half and feeling good, but swimming was BRUTAL. I did 3 swims leading up to the race and worried the lifeguards would have to save me in each one. Come race morning though I knew I needed to lead the swim for the bonus points in the MSC series. I told Ang before the race to get on my feet quick because I was taking the swim out hard to try and prevent people from getting on my feet, and things went exactly as planned. Ang and I started on the far left of the swim while all the top guys started on the right side. I had clear water all the way, and knew I had to get as much time on Lionel as possible if I wanted any chance at glory. I exited the water first, ripped off my wetsuit, and off on the bike I was. There was a little bit of rain the morning of the race, and this definitely played with my head a little bit on the bike. Last thing I wanted to do was crash again. Lionel passed me early like a bolt of lightning, and there was a group not far behind chasing. The second half of the bike I just focused on holding off this group, and I came into transition second but they were right on my heels. The run was rather uneventful. I felt better on the run, but still wasn't quite feeling like I was last year on the run. I came into 2nd well behind Lionel, but I was excited for my best placing of the year and leading the race out of the water was awesome. I have to thank 2XU for an awesome wetsuit and Vorgee for great goggles that allowed me to see where I was going the entire swim.

The next week after Bala I headed up to Kingston for the 31st running of the K-town tri. I did this race in 2011, and I was excited to go back. MultiSport Canada was organizing this race for the first time, and I really liked how they left a lot of the K-town tradition in place while still putting some of their own flare into the race. There aren't to many races in Ontario that take place in an urban setting, and there is no better feeling than running down one of the main streets in Kingston with a lot of people from the community out cheering you on. Once again points were on my mind for this race, and I knew it would require a strong swim and run, with my best bike to date. I had the same strategy as Bala, I started on the outside and got out fast. Just before the first buoy someone was just ahead of me so I settled onto his feet and waited for my chance to make a move. After getting gapped a little in the third quarter I fought back and exited the dock even with the leader, and the race for the mat was on. I made it out of transition first claiming the first bonus and the bike bonus on my mind. I put my head down and took some risk (going across the metal bridge in my aero bars), and had a good first half. Things fell a part a little in the second half, and coming into transition Nick was just behind me. I really wanted to make this run hurt, and I went out with that on my mind. I tried to block everything out and just focus on pushing hard. I didn't start to enjoy things until I got across the line with my first win of the season.

I have to thank my parents and Ang's parents for all the driving to races and allowing me to stay at their houses. Since MultiSport Zone closed I have been staying at Ang's house or my parents house most of the time. It has been nice to have Ang as a training partner.

In other news some of you might have noticed me talking about Vorgee a lot on here, Facebook, and Twitter. I am happy to welcome Vorgee on board as a new sponsor. They have really been making a push in the Canadian triathlon market sponsoring some of the top local talent. I started using their Missile goggle around Christmas and fell in love with. This was the first goggle that really fit me well offering 5 nose pieces (maybe more), and after numerous hours in the pool the anti fog seemed to last forever. The only reason I have had to get new pairs is because I wanted some clear lenses and mirrored ones so I could have some for every occasion, and I am looking forward to trying some of their other products. If you are looking to get a pair Du, Tri Run has them at the MSC races, team aquatics is carrying them as well as some other tri and swim shops in Ontario.

Next up for me will be the Toronto Island tri, followed by Muskoka 70.3, Barrelman, and I am looking into an October or November 70.3 to end the season. I am leaning towards Challenge Ranch Cordova because I really like what the Challenge family offers to triathletes, and Ang really enjoyed St. Andrews.

Here are a couple pictures to the races from this phase. Just a warning Bala was a retro race and some photos are pg13 rated as well as the last picture is my hip from the bike crash.

Leading the swim at Bala Falls

Rockin' the retro Mankini

First off the bike at K-town

K-town Podium

A little road rash