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Fun with Spreadsheets

October 29, 2013 3 comments

spreadsheet

It just so happens that I like spreadsheets.  A lot.

So when I decided it was time to step back and look at 2013’s results with a bit of a bird’s eye view, it meant I got to have fun with spreadsheets 🙂

Actually, what kicked this exercise into full gear was a conversation with my wife – as I was telling her I was having trouble finding direction in this sport.  At a quick glance, it’s easy to look back at 2013 and see a lot of last place (or near last place) age group finishes.  But with a deeper look, there are some positives to take away, and some information to focus on going forward.

Are you excited?  I’m excited!!!  Let’s take a look.

2013ResultsRank

First, I wanted to get a summary of how my season went compared to the M30-34 age group I raced in.  We all know I didn’t win many races.  As the purple line depicts, I was a bottom 20% of the pack finisher across the board (though I only came in last once, at Lakeside).  But I’m happy (relatively speaking) with how my swim did this year.  I even managed to be front half of the pack out of the water in one race.  I’d like to get to the point where I’m front half of the pack out of the water in all my races, but for now at least my swim is respectable.

I think the picture this paints here more than anything is the direct parallel between my run results (two thumbs down to those) and my overall results.  And just how much I got my butt kicked on the run this year.  If I want to do better, I need to run better.  Period.  I know what my focus this winter needs to be!

It also shows that I have better results against the field in shorter duration races.  I have the burst speed to race competitively, but not the stamina to keep it up.   But, I suspect, the longer distance races also draw more experienced race fields overall, whereas shorter distances may draw more recreational, novice, and bucket list athletes.  Not really sure what to do with that, but it’s an interesting thought exercise.

The biggest surprise in this picture?  Must be my bike split from Cincinnati.  Had I had to guess (before seeing these results), my gut instinct was that Toronto Island was my best bike race.  And sure enough, Toronto Island was my better time over the 20km distance.  But compared to the field, I did better in Cincinnati.  Again, not really sure what to make of that… but… interesting at least.

2013ResultsTop5

Okay – so here’s a possibly pointless exercise.  If my goal was to finish in the top 5 of my age group (which, sure, I’d love that), how much faster would I have to be in each discipline?  Or, rather, how much faster than me was the 5th place finisher in each of my races?  Because the distances are all different, the results here are in seconds/100m for the swim, in seconds/km for the bike, and in mm:ss/km for the run.

Ultimately, I think it tells the same thing as the first graph.  That the improvement needed in my swim is less than is needed in the bike (and that my run is just crap!!)

And, much like the first graph, I see two (potentially) interesting trends:

  • The difference between my time and the 5th place time is more extreme in the longer durations on the bike.  At Binbrook (30km) and Lakeside (40km) I was not able to keep up, where as I was closer at Cincinnati (20km) and Toronto Island (20km).  I need to work on my bike endurance!!
  • In all 3 distances, I was closest to 5th place at Cincinnati.  What’s unique about Cincinnati?  Well, it’s the only race of the 4 above that isn’t run by Multisport Canada.  I’m starting to wonder if there is a difference in the skill level of the field

2013ResultsTop15

A potentially more useful version of the graph above: instead, lets look at what it would take for me to improve to place in the top 15 of my age group (or top 8 in the case of Lakeside, as there were only 9 of us in my age group at that race).  Top 15 may be a much more realistic goal for 2014 than top 5.

There isn’t much surprise here – similar patterns, just less distance between my own result and the 15th place finisher.  In fact, in 3 of the 4 races, I actually swam a faster split than the 15th place finisher (and even had one faster bike split).  Excluding for Cincinnati, I’m pretty consistently 20 seconds/km off a competitive pace (which, isn’t a negligible amount – that’s 10 minutes to shave off a 20km race… yikes).  But I’m a solid 2:00 – 2:30/km off the pace on my run.  That’s going to be the trickier one to make up.

Okay, so what did we learn from this?

Really, not much that we didn’t already know…

  • I’m a terrible runner
  • I’m not quite as bad at the other two disciplines
  • My swim is mid-pack competitive (Yay!!!)
  • I’m a lot closer to a top 15 finish then a top 5 finish
  • I like spreadsheets way too much

Next up is to figure out what I’m going to do with this information.  Which is good, because this post is long enough as it is.  I’ve got a few ideas, but feel free to send any suggestions my way.

 

Destination: Niagara Falls

October 26, 2013 2 comments

BandDTomorrow morning my wife is running her third half-marathon.  That’s right folks – this time I get to be the cheerleader, not the racer!!

My wife comes out to all of my races.  She’s my rock.  She gives up her weekends, wakes up at the shit-crack-of-early, takes lots of pictures (and drinks lots of coffee).  She cheers for me, and supports me.  And this weekend it’s my turn to cheer for her!  I’m really excited about it!

The race is going to be amazing.  The host city so far is a bit of a let down though.  We’re staying in a Ramada hotel (where apparently “smoke free” rooms are just a suggestion – Strike 1), and had dinner at a TGI Fridays (where overpriced frozen burgers and soggy flavourless quesadillas are on the menu – Strike 2).  To top it off – it’s freezing cold and pouring rain.  Not that that’s the city’s fault, but really the best things to do in this city are all outdoors.  So instead, it’s hotel room cable TV for us.

But that’s not the point (phew!  Thank goodness for editing my posts).  The point is, she’s going to have an amazing race tomorrow morning, rain or shine.  And I can’t wait to cheer her on!!

Thank You Simon Whitfield

October 23, 2013 Leave a comment

SimonWhitfieldFinish

Per a press release, Simon Whitfield announced today his retirement from international sports competition.

I remember watching Simon Whitfield win the Gold Medal in the inaugural Triathlon event at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.  I remember this – it wouldn’t be until 11 years later that I would race my own first triathlon – but I remember this.  It was on the other side of the world – I don’t know what I was doing awake at that time.  But I remember this.

I remember how excited I was.  I remember being really proud of our fellow Canadian crossing the finish line.  I remember being very intrigued by this awesome sport.

My own first race may not have been until 2011, but I have email records of talking to friends about “wouldn’t it be cool to do a triathlon” that date back to 2006.  And those early thoughts came to be because of the exposure and inspiration from Simon’s race.

I remember this summer learning about the Toronto Triathlon Festival, and regretting that I couldn’t race it.  Sadly, it conflicted with another race already penned into my schedule.  I remember reading that Simon would be racing – amongst the list of other pros – and thinking “wouldn’t it be great if I could toe the line with Simon Whitfield”.  Wouldn’t it be great to get beat by Simon Whitfield!

Thank you Simon.  For representing Canada so fantastically on the international stage.  And for introducing me and inspiring me to give this great sport a try.  All the best to you in your future endeavors.  You’ll always be a winner to me!

SimonWhitfieldGold

 

Not a Morning Person

October 23, 2013 3 comments

ride alarm

I don’t think I’m sharing anything new here… I’m not a morning person.  At all.

I think it’s my single biggest challenge as an Age Group Triathlete.  I hate getting out of bed.  It’s cold, it’s dark, and my bed is warm and comfortable.  Why would anyone want to get out of bed – especially early!  If I could sleep in every day I would…

Sadly, as a 9-5 working adult – let alone a triathlete – that’s not an option (I have no idea how I’m going to cope some day if/when I ever have kids!!)

The age group training community tends towards early morning training.  I used to fight against this – “Why do I need to get up early?” I would always ask myself… I could train at lunch!  I could train after work!  I could train in the evening!  I have so many options available to me that don’t require me to get out of bed early.

They don’t work.

The community, like most communities, has figured out the best way to do it.  Get up and train.  It’s amazing how many planned daytime/evening training sessions just don’t happen – for one reason or another, something gets in the way.  Even with the best of intentions, every time I tell myself “I’ll do it tonight instead”, it doesn’t happen.

No more fighting.  If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

This week I’ve started setting my alarm at 5:45am.  I suspect in time that may get shifted earlier still, but that’s enough of a change to the system for now.  That leaves me about 45-60 minutes of time at the gym in the morning before catching the bus to work.  For now, that’s a reasonable compromise.  It’s a stark change from the 7:30am alarm I had become accustomed to over the summer.

How has it been waking up at 5:45?

worn out

I’m making it work…  Surprisingly (or perhaps not), it’s having very little impact on my ability to stay awake at work during the day.  In fact, the morning training is giving me lots of energy, especially in the morning.  Where I notice it the most is at night.  Bed time comes EARLY now.  This old man is starting to fade by 9:00pm most nights.  And to reduce wasted time in the mornings (no need to set the alarm any earlier than necessary) I’m focusing on packing my gym bag, work bag, and lunch at night – which eats into an already shortened evening.  The result is a lot more to do in a lot less time in the evenings.

But, from a training perspective, it’s great!  It’s paying huge dividends, even just a half-week into the new routine.  I’m hitting my training sessions reliably and with a dedicated block of time, not squeezing them in when I can.  I feel more focused – like I can plan my work better instead of being happy with whatever work I can do.  It feels more like training (a rewarding activity) instead of working out (a burdensome activity), if that makes sense.

I’m not going to claim that I like waking up early – I don’t think I ever will.  But I’ve seen the light of early morning training.  An off season of a better training routine can only help me next year… so long as I keep getting out of bed!

Stop the Couch-fest!!

October 9, 2013 Leave a comment

GetOffTheCouch

It’s been nearly a month now since my race season ended.  It’s been a really sluggish month.  What started out as great R&R time quickly turned into laziness.  Time spent on the couch, watching TV, eating crap.  And I quickly discovered something about myself: I’m not in my 20s anymore.

Seriously – that’s not as dumb a statement as it sounds.  My body can’t take laying on the couch for hours days anymore.  My body can’t eat cafeteria crap and drink beer like it did back in my University days anymore.  My mind still remembers these things as being fun and relaxing, and rewarding.  The mind can stay young, but the body still grows up.  And I have to take care of it differently now than I did a decade ago.

And that’s really why I got into Triathlon in the first place.  Because I sure as shit didn’t get into it to win races!  I got into it as a motivator to get my life in shape – get my body in shape.  To be a healthier me for myself, my wife, and my family and friends.

Last week my wife and I bought gym memberships at the local YMCA.  One of the first things I did on my first trip to the gym was to step on the scale.  I haven’t stepped on a scale in months.  234.5 lbs.  Holy shit.  I haven’t seen a number that low since high school (probably early high school at that)!  It’s easy for me to trumpet about improved running, biking, or swimming times – because I have gotten faster over this past year.  But that’s the number that sticks with me.  That’s the number that I choose to define my race season.  I know weight isn’t the end-all metric of a person’s health, but it’s a metric.  It’s an easy metric.  And it’s improved.

But it won’t continue to improve if I don’t continue to work.  The post race season couch-fest has got to stop.  It’s time to get back to work.  And sometimes it takes a number like this to remind me how far I’ve come, and to keep working.

I’ve added one last race to my 2013 schedule – I’m going to be running the Hamilton Road2Hope 10K with my cousin (and possibly my wife, and a few friends of ours) in a couple of weeks.  On one hand, after the magnitude of some of the races I’ve done this summer, it’s easy to say “oh, it’s just a 10K run”.  On the other hand, it’s so much more to me than that.  It’s symbolic of everything I’ve worked for, and why I do this:

  • It’s the second year we’ve run this race together (that makes it a tradition, doesn’t it?)
  • It’s a run with family and friends, and a chance to share this activity with them
  • It’s a race where cheering each other across the finish line is just as important as the PB time we’re running for

What better reason is there to get off the couch than that!!!

 

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