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.