Thursday, December 17, 2015

Winter training: an insight

Having now put in a solid three weeks of training, I figured it’s a good time to provide an update and insight into what the first part of my off-season training cycle looks like. Hopefully you can take some of these insights and apply these to your own training over the winter months.

Total Volume
With no races in the near future, volume has slowly begun to creep up.  The last three weeks I put in 18:30 hours, 19:15 hours, and 20:45 hours, and this week, I’m on tap to log just over 22 hours. There were a couple of missed workouts here and there due to unforeseen conflicts, but for the most part I’ve been putting in some consistent work. I’ve said it numerous times but it bears repeating: to see improvement you don’t need to do anything crazy, you just need to put in the work day-in and day-out. Repeat, rest and reap the rewards.

The Run
My running is building slowly but I’m remaining on the cautious side of the line for now. No need to tear my legs to shreds – yet! With a lingering quad injury from the fall, I don’t want to aggravate things by pounding too much pavement. Running is a high-impact sport and it can lead to injuries if you jump in too deep.

So my volume has been slowly increasing from just over two hours in the whole week to just over 4 hours for this week. With running I’ve found that I’m less likely to pick up an injury when I spread weekly volume over four or five days, as opposed to cramming the volume into a couple of longer runs. So, as an example, my ‘long run’ this winter season started at about an hour and has increased slowly to about 75 minutes. Slow steps. Big picture.

Intensity on the run has also been slowly increasing each week. The first week I started with 10x30 seconds, then moved to 10x45 seconds, then to 10x60 seconds. I’m running these, roughly, at a 5K to 10K pace. As things progress I’ll start to add more intervals and longer intervals at race specific intensities to make sure the body is ready to go for 21.1K.

For me the run is the discipline that my coach Rich and I are least worried about. Through a few years of experimenting, we know that I can get into good running shape pretty quickly on the back of a few weeks of hard running.

So the main focus during winter is to keep the feel for faster running (with some short intervals) and then get the volume in to allow me to race the 21.1K at the required high intensity. Expect to see me at a couple of 5K races throughout the winter and spring and I may even jump into an early half-marathon since I’ve never run a stand-alone half marathon. That could be an interesting race.

Some post run strides while the ground is still dry

The Swim
This fall, I’ve been blessed to swim with the University of Waterloo Warriors swim team. I’m able to get in the pool with the Warriors four days a week for about two hours a session. I did a similar program at Western in London, swimming with their swim team. I really benefit from being in the water with other swimmers training at a high level.  We tackle some drills – mainly during warm-ups or recoveries – but the big focus is on quality swimming.

If you want to improve your swim this winter try to commit to four days in the pool per week. You don’t need to do two hours per session, but the simple act of getting into the water will help with your feel of the water. Trust me – do this and you will see improvements.  

Having a coach on deck making stroke adjustments as you swim will also increase your rate of improvement. If you’re just getting in the water and doing 60 minutes of drills each session, you’ll get better at doing drills, but this won’t necessarily translate to faster swimming.

The Bike
The bike is the big focus for me over the winter. I know I need to make more gains on the bike in order to ride with the lead pack. At Challenge Knoxville I rode with the lead pack on the bike for about 10K before my chain fell off. And at the time I was averaging about 230 watts (as a comparison, at Muskoka and Welland last year I averaged 220 watts). While I was with that lead pack in Knoxville, all I cared about was staying there, holding on, and gaining some experience. So I’ve made it a goal for this winter to hold about 235 to 240 watts next season. I’m confident that this should allow me to ride comfortably in the lead group and still run well off the bike.

That’s the plan. The execution means I’m riding about ten hours each week, mainly on the trainer. I’ve managed to do some of my easier rides outside on the mountain bike or cross bike, but all of my intensity has been on the trainer. Plug in the numbers, watch the screen and go to work.

During a typical week, I’ll hit most zones and I’ll work on all aspects of cycling. I’m not just focused on quickly increasing my Vo2 max or threshold power – I want to see slow, sustainable increases right across the board in terms of cycling.

The typical time-crunched athlete who doesn’t have time to do those longer 3x20 minute intervals on the trainer will often benefit more in the winter from doing short, high-intensity intervals. You can save the longer ‘sweet spot’ intervals for the summer when you can ride longer.

To give you an insight into my approach, I’ve gone back over my training program from last week. I logged a two-hour easy to moderate effort on Monday, a ‘micro-burst’ workout on Wednesday (this was 22X15 seconds at max effort), a two hour ride with 4x10 minutes at 230 watts on Thursday followed by two hours of really easy spinning on Saturday, right after my long run. I finished the week on Sunday with a hard 90 minute spin class that I instruct in Waterloo Region, which included some zone four intervals.  

We’ve also included two days of strength training as I am probably the weakest person on the planet! I sometimes joke that my girlfriend, Ang, has bigger biceps than me!

My strength routine centres on 15 exercises. I’ll do 12 reps of each and then repeat it three times. Strength training is great if you have the time to commit, but if strength training is taking away from your time swimming, cycling, and running, then ease off the strength stuff. Focus on the three sports because after all, we compete in swim, bike, run events and not strength events.

If you’re caught for time and still want to include some strength stuff, try doing some sport specific resistance training such as swimming with a parachute, band, or towel; cycling with a low cadence; and trail running on a loop with lots of ups, downs, and twists to it.

Overall, no matter what you’re trying to improve during the winter season, it’s best to focus on one or two goals. It’s very difficult to see large jumps in all disciplines at the same time.  So find your focus. Stick to it. Do it well. And then, consistently maintain the other aspects of your training.  Come race season 2016, you’ll be stronger and faster than race season 2015.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Consistently Inconsistent

It has now been a bit over 2 months since the last race of the season, and it seems like full on training has snuck up on me rather quickly. I have always said the best way to improve is to consistently hit workouts day in and day out. This will get you probably 80% of the way and the last 20% comes from doing the "right workouts at the right time." I must admit that since my crash I have been anything but consistent.

In the month after Barrelman I had one focus, getting my left leg back to being 100%. The week after the crash I was having some trouble standing for long periods of time and noticed a large lump on my quad. I decided I should head over to Dr. Lee, the sports med doctor at Waterloo Sports Medicine, because they never really did check my limbs at the hospital, they were more concerned about my head and internal organs. Dr. Lee said I probably tore a small part of the quad and that is what was causing the lump, essentially the lump was some of the muscle fibres that balled up when they tore. He recommended physio, massage, and that I could get back riding and swimming if they weren't causing any pain and then ease into running in a few weeks.

The bike seemed to come back the quickest, and I will admit I probably came back to quick. The two weeks back I put in 17 and 16.5 hours with about 12-14 hours of those being on the bike. Swimming was ok, but having limited range of motion in my leg made flip turns really difficult. Running took the longest to come back from and after some help from @physiodave (Dave Galloway) I was back running at about week 4. Everything sounds good and consistent right?

This is where I think I maybe jumped back into cycling to much. After just a handful of weeks of consistent training I managed to catch the cold that was going around. Ang got it early in the week and I tried doing everything to avoid it but sure enough by the end of the week I was done for. Just as I was starting to find my stroke in the pool and stride running I was out again for about 4 days.

Starting up training for the 2nd time was nearly as painful as after the crash. I always find swimming to be the most difficult to restart in. The stroke feels awful and my arms just spin in circles with no forward improvement. This is why I think it is important for all triathletes to try and get in the pool 3-4 times a week to keep a "feel" for the water so those first 10 minutes you can get straight to work instead of trying to find your feel. I'm sure jumping straight in with the UWaterloo varsity team in the middle of their first block of hard training didn't help, but I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to swim with them. Last year I really struggled to maintain a high level of swimming on my own, but doing 2 hour workouts 4 times a week with them is awesome.

I thought round 2 was going to be the final start up, and I could start getting in the miles to hopefully kick off the season at Panama 70.3 in January. However, my mtbing skills had another plan. About 3k from my house I have this awesome trail system called the Hydrocut, it is about 25k of trails with features that I would rank as beginner up to high intermediate type riders. I had been looking at this one feature all summer wanting to try it, but knowing the risk reward during the season was to high. The feature is a boulder that is to high for me too bunny hop onto but low enough that you can pop your front wheel up then throw your body forward to get the back up. I drummed up the courage and went for it. I got on top but had no momentum and nose dived off the side of the rock. Throwing me over the bars and landing on my back. Knock on wood, I think I have bones made of metal because once again luckily nothing was broken, but my ribs were bruised. The impact of running and the stretching and flipping of swimming was a no go. Another week off!

I am now on round three of starting up my training for the off season. So far things have been going well. I've now put in 2 weeks at about 20 hours of training, and I only see things going up from here. Since this post is getting a bit lengthy I'll save some of the nitty gritty training details for next week.

While training has been ramping up so has my coaching with Healthy Results. At the start of November I started doing a Sunday morning brick at Come Alive Fitness. We have had consistent numbers that I only expect to grow in the new year. Ang and I helped out in Brantford with their tri group at the Gretzky Centre by doing some stroke corrections and video of the swimmers. My personal coaching has also grown, but you haven't missed out yet I still have a few spots for the 2016 season. If you are interested in getting some help planning your season contact me asap. The Healthy Results winter defrost camps in Vegas are also filling up fast so if you or a friend are interested contact myself or Rich.

Over the Christmas Holidays I hope to get my new website launched. It is 99% of the way there just putting some finishing touches on things so keep your eyes open for that. I also started a Facebook page dedicated to my triathlon adventures. I'm going to try and regularly post updates as well as some of the better and more interesting things I come across. So if you haven't checked that out yet check it out Here.

I hope everyones off-season is going a bit better than mine.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Part 2 - Some Options For Better Ways To Define Pros

In continuation to Part 1 where I identified some problems in defining what a professional triathlete is I offer 3 options that would help better define professional triathletes, and could be used as a starting point to rebrand and grow professional triathlon.

Option 1 – Open Racing

In this scenario I would say there are similarities to running. Everyone lines up and starts at the same time or corrals based on projected finishing time and the first one across the line wins the prize. 

The cream rises to the top. No one really called a pro because a professional category doesn’t exist. How do I see this working at a world championship like Kona? They already award points to the pros at their races. If they extended these points to say the top 200 overall at a race then the top 100 throughout the year get to race in the prestigious first wave at the championship and everyone else can race in age group waves the way it currently is.

Option 2 – Category System

The second option to defining professionals is a category system similar to what you see in cycling. When you first enter the sport you race in the open category and you get to start in the last wave. If you come into the sport through being a top level swimmer, cyclist, or runner you can petition your national federation to allow you to enter the next category race. After placing near the front of your category in a few races you get bumped up to the next division, and similarly if you perform poorly you get downgraded at the end of the season. 

In this format once again there would be a points system that awards points based on finishing position in your category and the top people in their category qualify for world championships. Race directors would no longer have to give out awards to every age group so they could give out smaller participation awards to everyone, and the ultra competitive among us will rally to move up categories. At the smaller local races you would have waves with combined categories.

Option 3 – The Team

The third option I propose, and my personal favorite, is the team system. This system would be similar to most of the North American sports where people are part of a team. 

The team would pay each athlete a base salary, and then bonuses and prize money would be for the individual or a percentage goes back to the team. Therefore each athlete is making money and meets the dictionary definition of professional.

Then to race in the pro wave of a race you must be a registered member of a professional team. With the team system there would be different levels of teams similar to other sports where they have either feeder teams and major team (similar to the minor leagues and major leagues of most team sports) or you have regional, continental, and world teams like in cycling. 

The framework for the team model is in place with a few teams such as Bahrain 13 and the Uplace-BMC team, but more large-scale sponsors would need to be brought into the sport to support this model. In short course racing there are a few teams that race in the French GP Series and I think a Belgian series as well, but it was difficult to find much information on how these teams and leagues function. There are many small training squads in triathlon currently, but I don’t know of very many of them that market themselves as a package to sponsors. It seems like it is still on the individual athletes to find their own sponsors. 

The framework is there for the racing as well ITU has three different levels of racing and WTC has races designated as P-500 up to P-8000. This could easily be changed so only World Cup teams (could be a mixture of ITU and long course athletes) are only allowed to race in the higher ranked races and the continental and regional teams get to race in the lower ranked races and the top tier races in their area (similar to the Giro allowing continental Italian teams or the Tour allowing more French teams in).

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Do Pros Matter?

Do Pro Triathletes Really Matter? (Part 1)

With many races cutting their prize purses, of late, and others becoming ‘age-group only’, the debate around ‘Do pros really matter?’ has blossomed. 

It’s a valid conversation, for sure, and an important one, but before the true value of a professional triathlete can be measured, the term itself ‘professional triathlete’, must first be defined. Currently there is no true definition of what a pro is as each national federation has their own standards for obtaining a pro license.

On Friday morning, published an engaging piece by Kelly O’Mara. (You can read it at O’Mara’s piece basically asked the question: should the top age group competitors be forced to turn pro? 

The question gained a lot of traction on social media. It got me thinking, too, and after lots of back and forth with Triathlon Squad coach Paulo Sousa, I felt I should add my opinion to the debate and what’s more, I’d need more than 140 characters to do so!

So what follows is one pros opinion on the problem that currently exists with simply defining a ‘professional triathlete’ (and later on, my solution to this problem). 

What is a pro triathlete?

A clear definition of a ‘professional triathlete’ can only help bring added value to the sport, for professionals, elites, and age groupers alike. Because right now, there’s just too much ambiguity around this term.

Is a pro triathlete somebody who makes money racing? Is it an athlete that has completed a set distance in a set time? Or is it simply somebody who owns a piece of paper that says ‘Pro Licence’ on it?

I even went and checked the dictionary, and according to Webster’s, a professional is an individual who earns their living from a specified activity.

Anyway, for the purposes of this piece, I want to use my experience with becoming a professional to show some of the flaws that exist when it comes to making this definition.

How I Became a Pro Triathlete - Take 1: 

About five years ago I decided I wanted to become a pro. I’d won my age group at the national championships, I’d won some local races, and I’d found myself on the podium at some larger races. At the end of the season I decided to apply for my elite license (which confusingly is used interchangeably with a pro license). 

So I submitted my resume with all my race results, and just like that, I was granted my elite license. Bingo! Did that make me a professional? At the time I thought so, but turns out it didn’t. 

To be totally honest, I’m not really sure what this card does (maybe someone from Triathlon Ontario will read this and clarify?) because I’ve known athletes who have this card to race one weekend as a “pro” and the next as an “age grouper”. So it doesn’t really make sense. In fact, it’s pretty confusing. 

How I Became a Pro Triathlete - Take 2:

At this point I had my elite license. I was happy. I was good to go. I signed up for my first pro race, Rev3 Knoxville. 

A few weeks leading into the race I’m looking around online and I come across the Triathlon Canada International Competition Card (ICC). Hmmm, I say. I wonder what’s this? 

I dig around some more and suddenly discover that THIS is actually what you need to race as a professional (I’m still not sure if this discovery was 100 per cent correct. Nobody has ever clearly defined this to me.) 

So, in a panic, I quickly apply for this newly uncovered card. Now, there are a few different ways to qualify for an ICC. You can send in a resume (this is what I did). You can go under a certain time for a Half Ironman (4:20 for men and 4:45 for women) or a Full Ironman (10:00 for men and 10:45 for women). Or, you can place in a certain position at world championships. 

Luckily I was granted my ICC card based on my resume, and I was good to go. Again. Was I professional triathlete at this point? I’m not sure.

The problem is, some athletes with an ICC card will still race age group at bigger races and to me, this is where the flaw in defining ‘What is a professional triathlete’ really begins. It’s the source of a problem that flows for quite some distance.

Before Knoxville, I thought some more about my own status. According to Triathlon Canada and Triathlon Ontario I was a professional triathlete. According to the dictionary I was not. 

Pro or not, I got destroyed in that first race. I finished behind some age groupers and behind some of the pro women. That trend continued for a few years, until 2014, when I began to mix things up in the pro field. 

Should I have been granted a professional license when I first applied? Probably not. At the time, I'd have preferred to race at the back of the pro field, gaining some experience, rather than race towards the front of the age group race, but looking at it now, in the cold light of day and with a few years of racing as a pro under my belt, I feel I decreased the value of other pros in those races.

Racing at the back of the pro field, I was one of those guys that others, sponsors included, looked at and asked: is the pro triathlete valuable? 

Stay tuned for Part 2: My suggestion for a solution - the category system or open racing.

Monday, September 21, 2015


So how do I start this blog post. . .

This weekend was the 2nd annual Barrelman triathlon. Like Muskoka 70.3 it was on my list for 2 reasons, 1 great venue and great atmosphere and the other reason REDEMPTION. After creeping the field the week going into the race I had a feeling there could be between 3 and 5 guys coming off the bike really close and doing battle on the run. I had a feeling I was going to be the fastest swimmer in the pro field, and I wanted to make the other guys have to work right from the gun chasing me. So far things were going according to plan. I was up about 45s exiting the water, and after a little mishap not being able to find the bag for my wetsuit I was onto the bike. With the unusual wind we had Sunday we were going to have a slight tailwind pushing us for the first 20k before doing a square down to the lake and then a slight headwind the way to Niagara Falls. With the thought of the headwind for nearly 50k I didn't want to push to hard in the first 20. So I relaxed on the bike, and let the power numbers come to me instead of pushing to get them up. Things were working out I felt comfortable, and I was only 1w below my target. At about 35k though my race and season came to a very abrupt halt.

Every now and then I hear stories online about people riding off the road or hitting gigantic objects, and I always thought they had to be idiots, blind, or both. Now it has happened to me though, and I think I will have to reassess my stance on the issue. At about 35km we were supposed to make a left hand turn at a t intersection. For some reason my brain didn't send the message to my body to turn, and I went splat right into the front wheel of the police cruiser that was parked at the intersection to direct traffic.

I have now had about 24 hours to think about what happened, and try to figure out how it happened. To be honest I'm still not really sure. I saw the corner, I heard the lead moto sound his sirens to let the officer at the corner know racers were coming, but for some reason I still thought it was better to try and take the short cut through the field instead of making the corner. I've suffered this similar lack of brain function after hard workouts when it seems like the brain just does not receive enough oxygen as everything is going to your muscles. My parents who come to most of my races often comment on the number of dumb things triathletes do that go against all common sense (I guess at the accident scene an age grouper who was in a constant stream of athletes decided to turn right instead of left, these things just don't make sense).

The good news is that I am still all in one piece just a little heartbroken that I couldn't finish this wonderful season the way I wanted to. I cannot say the same about my bike though. Upon impact the steer tube came right through the head tube. Surprisingly though the rest of the bike is in good shape for hitting a car at about 45kph, flying 10 feet in the air into a traffic sign, and then falling to the ground. My front wheel some how stayed in one piece, but I want to find somewhere to check it just to make sure it doesn't have a crack that I can't see. And my disc was actually borrowed by one of the competitors who got a flat at the same corner (I knew him and trusted him to get it back to me and he did). He was able to ride it to one of the top ag spots so at least my misfortune helped someone else. So I must say both Zipp (the disc) and Easton (front wheel) make excellent wheels, and Felt bikes are pretty strong to only suffer one noticeable crack after that.

This is my new chopper

This morning I am struggling to walk because I think when I hit the car both my quads hit the fender. I have a huge bruise on the left leg and the right one is a bit smaller. It feels like I have the worst charlie horse of my life. I can't complain though because I think looking back I am pretty lucky it didn't end up worse. A guardian angel somewhere was looking out for me. I planned on taking a week or two off after Barrelman so I will be able to handle laying on the couch and drinking beer a little better now since moving is a struggle anyway.

Thanks to John and the rest of the MultiSport crew. The Odyssey medical crew was superb and made sure I was ok before the ambulance arrived to take me to the hospital, and Colin was super helpful making sure I was well taken care of. I look forward to seeing everyone at the end of the year banquet and next summer for another great season.

It is now time for me to think about what I want to do next year. I think I had some great breakthroughs this year and things are trending in the right direction. I would love to travel to some more of the big races in the US to really put things to the test, but I will always keep a few of the MSC races in my calendar because that is where you go to see family.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Wasaga Olympic

For the fifth time this season Ang and I were at another one of MultiSport Canada's excellent races. This time we were in the beach town of Wasaga Beach, ON for their olympic distance race. Every year as the season starts to wind down I find myself starring at the point standings and doing some math on what I need to do to move up in the series standings. This season Jack Laundry and I have been battling it out in the series, but we have only faced off head-to-head once. He beat me in Woodstock when he absolutely left me in the dust on the bike portion, but with his short course specialty we haven't squared off in any of the longer series events. Once again I knew this race was going to come down to the bike.

Race morning in Wasaga started a little later than normal with the blessing of a 10:30 am start time, but Ang's mom was racing the try-a-tri so we arrived plenty early to cheer her on and get set up for the race. It was quite shocking this year that it wasn't raining and the wind, while present, wasn't at hurricane type speeds. Moving the race up from September to August paid off for the MSC crew. The swim at Wasaga beach takes place in Georgian Bay, and any time the swim is in a larger body of water there is always a risk of waves, and we definitely experienced some chop. Because we don't see this often in Ontario I am always worried the officials will cancel the swim, and it wasn't until the 10 second to go warning that I was 100% sure we would swim.

Swim - 1st out 21:50

The waves felt much larger than what the picture suggests

With the waves coming at us for the first 730ish meters my plan was to swim that section basically as hard as I could. It is much harder to draft off someone when the water is choppy so I knew if I wanted  to get out first and secure some bonus series points I had to open the gap early. Andrew Bolton and I started on the left of the start line while Ang and Jack started on the right. Warming up I figured out I could take 3 or 4 dolphin dives before the water was at a depth where swimming is faster than diving then about 10 strokes before hitting a sandbar. At the sandbar I would have decide if I wanted to do a few more dolphin dives or just keep the head down and keep swimming. When the horn went I was off, and I wasn't waiting to see what anyone else was doing. I jumped as far as I could got my arms streamlined to crash through the first wave as efficiently as possible. As my fingers made contact with the sand I pulled as hard as I could, got me feet firmly planted below me and once again jumped as far as I could. After one more dolphin dive I hit the water swimming. My first breath was to the left, and I could see, thanks to my Vorgee goggles, Andrew had already dropped back a bit, my second breath to the right to see where everyone else was. Sometimes it is difficult to judge exactly where you were, but I thought I had a lead so I skipped the dolphin dives at the sandbar and just focused on trying to get through the waves as best I could. My swim stroke is generally a bit more kick heavy then most triathletes, and over time I have developed a bit of a "gallop" to my stroke. I'm not sure if this is the most efficient of styles, but on this day it worked well and I was first to the turn buoy. On the way back in I just focused on keeping my hips as high as possible with my feet near the surface trying to surf the waves back in which was made easier by my Nineteen wetsuit. Breathing to the right  I could also see when the some of the bigger waves were coming in so I would pull harder for a couple of strokes to try and catch the waves. The last 200m or so I eased off on the kicking knowing my legs would be needed during the bike. About 100m from shore I hit the shallower waters again and tried to run a bit, but I found it more tiring than swimming so I dove back in and swam basically right up to the shore. I was rewarded with about a 30s lead on Ang and about 80s on Andrew and Jack.

The Bike - 3rd 59:15

Great photos heading in and out on the bike by the My Sports Shooter team

From racing Andrew a few times already this year, and seeing some of Jack's other race results I knew the bike was going to be where the race would decided. I talked to Rich the day before as I was driving up and we agreed that no matter what happened when I was caught on the bike I had to give it everything I had to try and go with Jack. We have both always run similar so anything more than a handful of seconds would be tough to make up on the run. Sure enough in true Wasaga Beach fashion we had some strong winds and a bit of rain, but my Smith sunglasses kept my vision clear and eyes protected. There is really only one hill on the Wasaga course at about 15k, and I was really hoping to make it up this hill before I was caught. Sure enough though I was caught right at the base you make a right hand turn directly into the start of the climb. I'm not sure if the guys behind me were able to carry more speed into the hill or if they were just that much stronger, but I gave everything I had but to no avail. I was out of the saddle mashing the pedals and saw my power was about 470w (up until this point I was averaging about 230w). I was well over 300w for the rest of the climb, and tried to close the gap when the road levelled off a bit, but I just wasn't strong enough. When my legs gave up I spent what felt like several minutes riding at about 200w trying to get things going again but the gap kept growing. I think at the next turn the gap had increased to about 30s, but my legs were starting to come back around and the caffeine in my custom Infinit sports drink started to kick in. By about 30k when we made the turn to head back towards town I measured the gap to about 20s (I looked at my clock when they made the turn and then again when I made the turn), and it gave me some motivation that I might be able to get back on. When we made that final turn though it was right into the headwind, and almost instantly my power and pace dropped. I ended up arriving to t2 about a minute down.

The Run - 2nd 34:33

Heading out on the run. Another great shot by the My Sports Shooter team

Getting onto the run being about a minute down I knew it was going to be tough to close the gap, but I was going to try my best to do it. I caught Andrew on the first little uphill as he had to take a walk break, I guess he slipped on a wetsuit in t2 and landed on his hip pretty hard making it difficult to run.   On the first of 2 5k loops I could every now and then catch a glimpse of Jack off in the distance, but it turns out I wasn't actually making up much time at all. I thought I was keeping the gap pretty similar, but it turns out he might have actually been pulling away a little bit. On the second lap as we started to mix in with racers on their first lap I couldn't see him at all, and as the saying goes "out of sight out of mind." I think this messed with my head a little bit because my pace started to drop off a bit during that second lap. Good news is that I felt a lot better than I did a Bracebridge, but I think I have now run 34ish both times I have done the full 10k here, and I've run 34:xx way to many times in tris.
Good looking guy with a good looking moustache

Next up will be a few weeks to focus on Barrelman before I decide what the rest of season will hold or if I will just pack it in and start focusing on 2016.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bracebridge Olympic

Been a little slow to get this blog up, but training is in full swing for Barrelman (you can still register if you are interested in racing this awesome race from Welland to Niagara Falls. Anyway back to Bracebridge. Bracebridge is a great venue with a time trial start. The pros and elite age groupers started 15s apart and the other age groups started 5s apart. I'm not a huge fan of tt starts because I like racing head to head against my competition, but it was a good opportunity just to race fast from the gun.

I was number 1 and first to leave the dock. I wanted to get out fairly strong so no one could swim up to my feet. Mikael started 2nd, Kristen 3rd, and Sean 4th. Heading down the river I just focus on keep a nice long stroke and keep the hips up. There isn't a huge current in that river, but you can still take advantage of it. On the way back I focused on trying to keep the turn over a bit higher. I exited the water first, but Sean had made up about 45s on me. Team Nineteen hammered that swim.

I had a good transition and got into my rhythm pretty fast trying to hold off Sean. I knew that if he could catch me that I would be 1 minute down, and it is easier to hold onto someone then it is to catch them. I was waiting for Sean to catch me, but at the turnaround I actually had gained a little bit of time on both him and Mikael. The 2nd have was fairly uneventful, and I just focused on holding numbers.

The run I just focused on getting it done. We haven't been doing a lot of 10k pace work, and I could tell in my legs. I felt good, but I just couldn't pick up the pace. All in all I did what I had to do and got the win.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

K-Town Long Course

Well if Muskoka was the "perfect" race K-Town Long Course was the opposite. Someone can go ahead and tweet this to @triexcuses because I have a pretty long list of things here. I don't like making excuses for why I wasn't at the front of the race, but I think people can learn from some of the mistakes I made.

The swim was rather uneventful for 1900m. The last 100m though was a 3 way sprint between who I believe was Marc Prud'Homme and Larry Hasson with Ang right behind. All I was thinking about was the bonus points for leading the swim because it is looking like it will be close race between myself and Jack Laundry for the series. I think I managed to touch the dock first, but the timing mat isn't the dock. My terrible upper body strength let me down, and I rolled onto to the dock something like a beached whale. There is my first excuse, but from now on at swim the end of swim practices I will jump onto deck instead of being so exhausted I have to use the ladder.

Excuse number 2 - When taking my wetsuit off my chip came off with it. In 99% of my races I will put a safety pin through the chip to make sure it stays on. I was lazy this morning and decided not to and it cost me. Lesson 2 don't be lazy with race set up, it doesn't matter how important a race is.

The plan for the bike was to go out a bit harder than half-ironman (him) pace then ease into him pace during the second half. The first 20k of the bike was going really well. My normalized power was about 230w which is about 10w over him pace and right where I wanted to be, leading the race. Excuse 3 - However, at about the 20k mark I hear a whistling sound, and the first thought that came into my head was that I had a tack or nail stuck in one of my tires. I slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road checked my front tire, didn't see anything and it felt normal. Felt the back tire it felt normal gave it a spin to see if anything was sticking in it, and that is when I saw the sticker that covers the valve hole in my disc came off and got stuck in my brakes. This once again goes back to just being a little bit carefree and not paying attention to small details when setting my bike up. Looking back at it I have used that sticker for all the races this year, and should have just replaced it. Looking at my Strava file it looks like I was on the side of the road for just over a minute and during that time Andrew and Jordan flew by. The next 5k I put the hammer down riding about 240w trying to catch back up. I think I managed to close the gap down a little bit, but just after making the turn around my legs went POP! If you missed it that was excuse number 4 and the lesson here is that if something happens during a race don't panic and stick to the plan. The power steadily dropped over the last 20k of the race, and Marc caught me at about 40k.

My last mistake. Running out of transition I was carrying my number, hat, a gel, and my watch as I was still panicking and trying to catch up. During my panic I dropped my watch and had to stop and go back for it. Once again panicking doesn't make anything better relax and do what is in your control.

Leaving transition I was a little bit surprised to hear I was 4:30 minutes down from the leaders as I was expecting maybe 2-3. At this point I thought about just tossing in the towel and saving up for next weeks battle in Bracebridge, but I told myself I need to get a longer run in anyway and my as well do it on a supported course. At the turn around I was about 2 min behind Andrew, and thought I had a chance to catch him. Jordan's lead stayed pretty steady so I knew I wasn't going to catch him. With about 2k to go Andrew's green tri suit stood out amongst the short course racers heading back in, and I found an extra gear. About 200m from the finish I came up on Andrew's shoulder just as he was receiving the news that him and Jordan missed part of the course and were being dq'd. I guess the missed the sign for a small triangle section that added on maybe 1k I'll make excuse number 6 for them that the sign wasn't very big, but you should also have a rough idea of the course route. I'm sure MSC will have some much larger signs next year as they do a wonderful job at their races and do a great job listening to feedback to make the races even better, no one is perfect. In the end I got the win, but you never want to win because someone got dq'd hopefully I can race these guys again soon and none of us make mistakes and we will all be in for a great battle.

Kingston is one of my favourites races in Ontario with its urban setting. I find it really motivating to races when there is a ton of people around cheering throughout the entire course. I want to thank all my sponsors. Vorgee for their amazing swim equipment, Nineteen for a speedy wetsuit, Infinit for simplifying my nutrition, CicloWerks for keeping my bike running smoothly, Smith Optics for keeping my eyes safe, MultiSport Canada for allowing me to race on a pro triathletes budget, and Franklin Terrazzo for their support.

Here is an interview Ang and I did with Roger from Triathlon Magazine Canada. Always great chatting with him after a hard day of work

Monday, July 6, 2015

Muskoka 70.3

Someone pinch me I think I'm dreaming . . .

Sunday I competed at the Muskoka Ironman 70.3 in Huntsville, ON which many of you know was a redemption race from last year where I crossed the finish line absolutely broken and disheartened. I was hoping last year this race would be my big breakout.

The week going into the race was your typical taper. I felt good in my swim and bike workouts, but my legs felt like lead bricks. Even race morning I was a little worried about how I was going to run. The night before when talking to Rich he assured me this was a good sign, but I think he just wanted to give me confidence going into the race. Race morning came quickly with a 3:45am alarm to allow plenty of time for breakfast (rice cakes with pb, banana, and honey along with a bottle of Infinit custom) to settle. Sitting in the hotel room waiting to leave I was getting a bit antsy so we left for Deerhurst a bit earlier than planned, but I find setting up transition calms the mind and removes any nerves I might have.

Swim - 4th out of the water (26:37)
This was one of the first times I didn't scout every name on the start list, but I knew there were a few I recognized as strong swimmer especially fellow Nineteen Wetsuits team member Antoine and Brazillian Igor. I tried getting onto their feet but before I knew it the gap had opened. I thought only 2 or 3 had gotten away so this left me leading the chase pack. Going around the first turn buoy I did a quick backstroke turn to see where the field was behind me and make the decision on if I should keep pulling the pack or save a little energy in the last 2/3rd of the swim. I noticed there was a little bit of a gap so I just kept pushing myself trying to limit losses to the group ahead. I came out of the water 4th about 3 min behind the leaders and about 10s ahead of a small group just behind me. The first climb from the water to T1 is probably one of the hardest, but I told myself to relax and not spike the heart rate to much. The race wasn't going to be won or lost on that climb. After slipping out of my Nineteen Rogue I was off on the bike.

Bike - 7th into t2 (2:30:05)
Onto the bike a trio of myself, Jordan Monnink, and Nicholas Chase soon got to work chasing down the guys ahead. The improvement of my bike fitness has allowed me to stay with the guys I typical come out of the water with, but I don't have the power to make a move and get away. I spent most of the day at sitting 2nd or 3rd wheel stressing about staying the legal distance as we had an official motorcycle beside us quite a bit of the ride, and with the saw tooth profile the gap was constantly growing and shrinking. I was trying to keep the power as steady as possible on that course knowing what happened last year, but every uphill there would be a surge. I would fall back a little bit then fight my way back on during the descent. I had to take a couple risks early on a couple descents where I got dropped on the climb before. In the last 15k it seemed like the surges the other guys were putting out got even bigger, and I made the decision at that point just to let them go and cruise in knowing that any gap made in the last 15k of the bike could be made up on the run. Most 70.3 the bike would be around 2:15, and I can use just my two custom bottles of infinit nutrition and a gel, but with the extra 15 minutes on the bike I added an extra gel and grabbed one bottle of water from the 2nd aid station.

Run - 2nd! (1:16:34)
Coming off the bike it was a quick transition and onto the run. I was in 7th starting the run and only handful of seconds behind 5th and 6th. I was telling myself one thing and it turned into the theme of the run, "Be Patient!" As I mentioned earlier the thought of last year was in my head, and I did not want to blow up in the 2nd half like I did last year. I took it particularly easy on the first couple of steep downhills before you get onto the highway. Just as we dropped down into the neighbourhood (~2km) I moved into 5th, and at the time I thought that was as far up as I would go. As anyone who has done the course knows, this course can crumble you. People out watching told me I was looking the best out of anyone except Lionel, and I thought I could make out someone way down the highway. By the first turn around I had just caught Igor, Kyle was about 3 min up, and Ian about 90s. This was the first time I thought I had a chance to run my way into 2nd, but it was also the first time I felt a little twinge in my quad. From that point on I started grabbing more gatorade from the aid stations instead of just pepsi and water. I caught Ian just before the 2nd turn around and Kyle not long after that. Once I moved into 2nd I started to get excited, but still told myself there was a long way to go. Anything could happen in that last 7k. It wasn't until the last kilometre I knew I was safe and I embraced the moment. I knew I was capable of a run of this calibre I just needed things to come together. 2 years ago at Challenge Florida I ran 1:17:xx, but last year every race something happened before the race (crashes or illness) or during the race (over biking and cramping). I think the improved bike fitness has allowed me to run closer to my potential this year. Each race this season I have run a bit better. I am looking to forward to following up this result with many more this season. Finish 2nd to Lionel made this feel like just another local race.

I was talking to someone the day before the race and they asked me what it was like to race Lionel, but having raced him for probably the last 5 years in tri and were probably at some of the same high school track and cross country meets. When he is in the field it is almost a calming sense of any race being like a local race.

Killing time pre race with my number 1 fan

Toughest climb in the race is going from the water to transition. My Nineteen isn't only good for swimming

Coming into T2

Start of the run

Finish chute

I've been finishing 2nd to Lionel for many year. 


Friday, July 3, 2015

Mine Over Matter - sprint finish number 2

Figured I should write a quick race recap from Mine Over Matter before Muskoka gets here and I'm two races behind.

Mine Over Matter is one of my favourite races I do, and I have done it the last 3 years. I find the mountain biking to be great cross training the compliments road tri and especially road tri at the professional level very well. One thing with mountain biking (or maybe I'm doing it wrong) is that is seems like things are either full gas or backing off for a technical section or corner.

After Welland took an easier week to recover from racing back to back weekends, but Rich wanted to get in one more solid week of training before Muskoka as it the big A race for the first part of the season. So the training load going into Mine Over Matter was a bit higher than typical races. I managed to get out to Milton a few times before the race to pre-ride the course. The first time had some race efforts chasing Rich Pady and Sean Bechtel, but there were a couple sections I wanted to ride again. I went back up on the Wednesday before and did an easier ride to really focus on some of the technical parts and try a couple of different lines through them. Pre riding the course multiple times for an off-road race is essential. If you are going in blind all I will say is good luck. Each year things get a little more technical, but each year I have enjoyed the race more. Riding cleanly through a new section is a great feeling.

The other thing I love about off-road racing is that things seem much more laid back. You don't have that nervous tension throughout the transition area, and it leads to a very low stress race.

Going into the race Karsten Madsen and Sean were the pre-race favourites, but I wanted to make things  a bit more competitive than past years.

3rd out of the water. Fast in the Nineteen Rogue and Vorgee goggles.

Heather Pady on her way out on the bike
Karsten hammering out the bike on the way to victory

Rich coming into transition

Heather cruising to her 3rd national championship

Aero is everything even on the bike. New Smith Overtake helmet

Rich trying to close the gap on me

Swim - 3rd out of the water
The plan was just to get on to the feet of either Sean or Karsten and stay there for as long as possible. After a bit of confusion at the start, due to someone ringing a cowbell and some people thinking that was the horn to start, I was a bit slow to get going. The first ~400m to the turn buoy I felt like I was swimming strong, but I felt like I was all over the place with no rhythm. Once we made the turn I lost the feet and swam solo the rest of the 1000m.

T1 - 3rd onto the bike
Usually my transitions are super smooth, but I just haven't figured out the best way to do it on the MTB. My shoes have boa dials and no heel loop so I tried doing a flying mount and putting them on at the beginning of the bike. I couldn't get my foot in and eventually gave up stopping, pulling my shoes off with my hands, and putting them on on the side of the road.

Bike - 7th off the bike????
I think this was the cleanest year on the bike I have had. In the past I would get fooled by an obstacle and have to unclip but I rode everything clean so that was a big positive. It took Rich the first lap to catch me and then we exchanged leads a few times before he attacked me climbing the ski hill. I think I rode well overall but took it a bit slower on a couple parts as finishing in one piece the weekend before Muskoka was the number one priority of the race.

T2 - 7th out
All smooth on the t2 front

Run - 3rd across the line
When I was coming out of transition I thought I was in 4th and could just see Rich leaving transition as I came in so I had my first target to chase down. However, just out of transition I passed an unknown runner and then about 100 meters later RTC coach, Craig Taylor, told me I was in 7th and it took me off guard for a second (turns out a few people made wrong turns on the bike). Hearing the news didn't change much of the race as I was in chase mode anyway. I passed Rich at about 4k when we entered the only real technical section on the run course. About 3 steps after making the pass I rolled my ankle on a root and went crashing to the ground. I really expected if I was going to hurt myself it was going to be on the bike, but here I laid on the ground  with my ankle screaming and a few scrapes. The adrenaline kicked in, and I popped up quickly and started running again. It was short lived as I felt like I couldn't put any weight on that foot. I started walking/hobbling a bit trying to fight back thoughts that I messed things up for Muskoka. When things go poorly time slows down, and it felt like I walked hobbled for 5 minutes but it was probably more like 90 seconds before I started to try and run again. I took thing really easy especially on the descents because I wasn't sure if I could handle it, but as I kept running things started to feel better. I could feel my legs slowly picking it up and when I was able to see another guy that passed me when I was hobbling the switch in my brain flipped and the chase was back on.

The finish 
One of the best/worst parts about the Mine Over Matter course is that you basically come back to transition just to run about another ~1800m around the quarry.  I could just see Rich up ahead, and I thought there was a small chance I could catch him. 3 years ago when I first did this race I was running neck and neck for 3rd when I got dropped in this last section so I wasn't going to loose here again. With about 400m to go I caught Rich and was in for my second sprint finish of the season. I thought I had passed him with enough authority he wouldn't come with me but as we approached the finish line everyone was getting really noisy. I didn't even have to look over my shoulder to know Rich was coming fast. I found another gear and was able to hold off coach for a small 0.5s margin of victory.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Welland Half

At the beginning of the season Rich and I had picked out Welland as one of the local races to focus on this season. I had 3 goals going into this weekend 1 go after Cody's record, 2 if I fell short of that I really wanted to go sub 4, and the last one was to get the win. Especially after coming second last weekend I REALLY wanted a win. However, things got flipped on their head about mid-week.

Wednesday morning Ang woke up with some pain in her stomach, but we didn't think about it to much. The pain intensified all day and that night around 12:30 we decide to go to the ER. We left the ER around 5:30 in the morning with orders to return at 8 for an ultrasound because they thought it might have been gallstones. The ultrasound didn't show anything so they shot her up with some drugs and sent her home. The pain wasn't gone for long and before you know it we were back at the ER to figure out what was going on once and for all. A CT scan revealed that her appendix was inflamed and before we knew it she was in surgery. All of that was a whirlwind of 48 hours of going back and forth to the hospital. Not the ideal taper before a race, but sometimes life comes first.

Saturday was the first time I was able to workout so I got in a quick bike and run with a couple of race pace intervals. I was pretty close to throwing in the towel and skipping the race. My bike felt like i was pedalling through slop, and my calves started getting tight running just 60s at race pace, but after much debate and Ang pushing me I decided to suck it up and race.

The Race
Driving to the race I was texting with Rich, and we kind of decided to scrap goals 1 and 2 and just focussing on getting the win. If I just focussed on that the times would come if they were meant to. My dad and Ang's mom got a bunch of pictures so I'm just going to use those to describe the rest of the day.
Swim start - there were only 6 people in the elite age group/pro wave and we started a minute ahead of the 39 and unders

It was pretty overcast and chance of rain so I went with clear Vorgee Missiles to compliment my Nineteen Rogue

I came out of the water 3rd. After trying to make a couple moves and shake Andrew I decided I should just conserve some energy and moved to Andrew's feet. Some guys from the wave behind us caught us at about 1500m and we moved onto their feet for a fast last 500m.

The ride was pretty uneventful. I pulled away for about 60k, but Andrew reeled me back in around 65-70k. I sat in for about 10k before making my final push for the finish. Once again with the cloudy skies I swapped out the lenses on my Smith PivLocks for clear lenses just in case it started to rain again.

Heading out on the run. 1st 10k were pretty solid before it started to fall apart. I've been getting a tingling left foot in the last 2 halves so I think I will try to loosen my shoes a bit next time. Hopefully that will be one less thing on my brain.

I kept checking my watch as I knew the 4hr mark was close. I could hear Steve Fleck counting down, and I tried to pick it up for one last kick. We thought I broke 4, but later found out the clock started with the age group wave 1 minute behind me. I just missed sub 4 going 4:00:40.

Breaking the tape

Celebrating what we thought was a sub4 performance 

The cheering squad. Mom, Dad, and Ang

Once again Multisport Canada put on an excellent race, and it is always fun racing with so many friends. There are always things you want to do better, and I think I have the ability to go sub 4. My swim was 90s slower than last year, my bike power was a bit lower than Knoxville, and I think I lost some mental focus on the run when it seemed the win was locked up. My next chance to really break the 4 hour barrier will be at Barrelman, but before that I will be racing Muskoka.

Thanks for reading. I will try to update things a bit more tomorrow with power numbers etc, but I wanted to get something posted before calling it a night.