Archive

Archive for June, 2015

Race Recap: Toronto Triathlon Festival 2015

June 22, 2015 Leave a comment
IMG_1620

On the summer solstice, the sun rises over the CN Tower in downtown Toronto. A perfect morning for a race

Yesterday was the 2015 Toronto Triathlon Festival, my 2nd time racing this Olympic distance event.  At the end of the day, as I was removing my bike from the transition area to head home, one of the volunteers stopped me to ask how my race went.  “Fantastic”.  It was the only answer I could give, and it’s still the only answer I have now.  A lengthier blog post with stories and pictures is much more interesting, so here it comes.  There were ups and downs, but at the end of it all, it was Fantastic.  I can’t wait to race again next year!

The alarm went off at 5:00am.  Those are the perks of having amazing cousins who live in a condo less than 2km from the race site and who are willing to put you up the night before (even when they’re not in town themselves).  Coffee, breakfast, and out the door by 5:30am, and in the transition area before 6:00am.  The weather had been forecasting 80% chance of thundershowers all day for the past week, even up until I went to bed the night before.  This morning the skies were blue, clear, and it was a perfect day.  Take that, weather network!!

Last year it was still dark when we left the house.  Perks of racing on the summer solstice!

Last year it was still dark when we left the house. Perks of racing on the summer solstice!

Transition set up and such wasn’t too eventful or interesting, so let’s cut right to the race!  My goal, as I wrote last week, was simply to improve on last year’s race (same distance, same course).  Here we go…

The Swim

Last year there was no opportunity for a warm up or water familiarization.  Your wave was called, you jumped in off the pier, and within a few minutes the horn went off and so did you.  This year they created a section to let people swim a few laps to the side before their wave started.  Huge win.  I jumped in the warm up section and my chest instantly clenched.  The water was 14C – so fucking cold.  I couldn’t put my face in for the first few strokes.  But it helped a lot.  When I jumped in again for the actual race I wasn’t nearly as cold.

graceful as ever...

graceful as ever…

The swim was good.  It felt effortless – which is to say, during the race, it felt lazy.  I was breathing well, my stroke was smooth, and had very few collisions with other swimmers.  I thought for sure I was swimming slow because it felt so easy.  I was relaxed, breathing well, and wasn’t even cold.  The course felt long, but I just kept pushing.  About 3/4 of the way through I realized I was pulling unequally hard with my right arm, and my right shoulder was about done.  I tried to start favoring my left arm instead, but it just didn’t have the same power, so I switched back.  It worked fine, but my right shoulder felt like trash when I was done.  All said though, I think, one of the better swims I’ve had.  My wife called out my splits when I got out of the water.  “Roughly 30 minutes” she said.  Amazing!  I was ahead of my goal pace.  What a great start!

2014 Swim: 34:29

2015 Swim: 31:19

IMG_1639IMG_1641IMG_1647

The Bike

The bike ride is an amazing route along the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway, up to Eglington Avenue, and then back.  It’s a very gradual uphill outbound, and the equivalent downhill return.  I expected the uphill to be a bit of a slow climb for me, and it was.  But not as slow as I expected.  I did better than I usually do using my gears to help the climb.  That was rewarding.  The downhill though is the story of the bike ride.  That was fast and smooth, I was able to get into my heaviest gear, lean into the aerobars, and CRANK.  It felt so good to go so fast.  I was in love.  Of course, I didn’t go that fast for that long, and not nearly as long as I went slowly uphill, but it was a lot of fun.

The first/last quarter of the ride along the Gardiner Expressway and through the CNE grounds are relatively flat.  On the return I started to fatigue.  In hindsight, I should have taken some calories in during the bike beyond just my sports drink.  My lower back was tired.  My shoulder, still barking from the swim, was now straining in the aerobars.  My hamstrings were starting to bark.  I tried to adjust my pedal stroke to keep focusing on a full circle effort and using all the muscles in my legs, but the adjustment was too late.  As beautiful as the first 3/4 of the ride went, the last 1/4 was a grind.  I didn’t lose much power or speed, but I beat myself up in the process.  And I was about to pay the price…

2014 Bike: 1:23:18

2015 Bike: 1:23:47

IMG_1653IMG_1643IMG_1657

The Run

Remember that part on the bike where I should have taken in calories?  Remember those back and hamstring pains?  Yep – as soon as I started out on the run I remembered them too.  I had two gels in my jersey pockets for the run, one of which must have fallen out during the bike ride.  The other was consumed within the first kilometer.  In my run training I was used to running on sore quads – the pains in my back and hamstrings were a new distraction and I did a poor job of shutting them out.  My run was embarrassing if not a little funny.  I had so little left in the tank at this point.  The run course was perfectly flat, with a nice breeze coming off the waterfront.  It didn’t matter.  At best I was running a 2:1 run/walk ratio and pushing through a real mental grind.  In those first few kilometers I talked myself out of DNF’ing.  By about the midpoint my back and hamstrings stopped barking.  I was back to the usual running aches that I was used to, and I started to string some longer running stretches together.  But it was still slow and with a lot of walk breaks.  And over the course of the run, the sun got higher in the sky and it got noticeably warmer.  It was a tough run.  I beat myself up too much in the swim and the bike and didn’t leave enough in the tank.  Whoops.

2014 Run: 1:14:17 (yuck)

2015 Run: 1:17:04 (double yuck, but honestly not as bad as I had feared)

IMG_1661IMG_1663IMG_1666

Overall, including transitions?

2014: 3:17:40

2015: 3:17:57

[sigh]  I didn’t quite make my goal of improving on last year’s results.  It’s amazing how, over a 3hr+ race, 17 seconds makes all the difference.  That being said, I had a great swim, and a great bike, and I know I gave everything I had to give on the run.  So I’m happy with it.  Maybe I should have taken in some calories on the bike?  Or maybe I should have just tied my damn shoes a bit faster?  Whatever – it was a great race!

Though, a bit of a beef with the final results.  Look at the picture above:  I’m crossing the line pretty damn close to 3:20:57, and I know my swim wave started 4 minutes after the first wave.  So my time should be the clock less 4 minutes, right? Math?  Maybe the wave started late?  Who  knows.  But I saw the time when I was coming through the finish chute and thought for sure I had – just barley – best last year’s time.  Rats.

Amazing day.  Amazing race.  I missed a PB time by a mere 17 seconds.  I feel really good about it.  And as much as my body aches today (and boy does it ever) I’m happy with my race.  Now to take a few days to recover and start to think about what’s next.

All photos credit to my amazingly supportive wife, who not only got up at the shit crack of stupid to stand around in a park for 3+ hours while I raced, but she actually had fun, cheered me the whole way, and managed to get some great pics with nothing more than an old iPhone4.  I love you so much sweetie.  Your support means everything to me!!!

IMG_1673

Race Preview: Toronto Triathlon Festival

June 19, 2015 5 comments

TTFLogo

I’m actually really nervous about this race.  I shouldn’t be, but I am.

Someone asked me the other day how many triathlons I have done?  This will be my tenth.  5 Sprint distance races, 3 Olympic distance races, and 1 Try-a-Tri, and now this one.  Ten races in what is now my 5th summer in the sport (which is really cool, and should probably be a separate post in it’s own right).  In fact, I even did this race last year – I loved it, and I did really well at it too!

Why am I so nervous?  I think because I feel underprepared.  A funny thing happens somewhere around your 5th summer racing/your 10th race – you start to care about more than ‘just finishing’.  As my wife said to me a few weeks ago, there’s no doubt I could walk onto an Olympic distance race course tomorrow and finish.  It might be ugly, but I would finish.  And that used to be enough.  Somewhere along the way I started wanting more.

I’ve put in the work.  I joined a Master’s swimming group – granted I’ve been out less than 10 times since I’ve joined, but that’s still a lot more (and better) swimming than I’ve trained in the past.  And I’ve also joined a cycling group, which has really pushed me on the bike.  Today is the 19th of June – less than half way though the calendar year, and with all of summer still ahead of me – and I’ve already swam more than I did either of the past two whole years.  I’ve biked 60% as much so far as in all of 2013 and 40% as much as 2014 (when I was bike-commuting to work).  I’ve even run already almost 60% as much as I did last year.  That’s a whole lot of numbers-mumbo-jumbo to say: I’ve put the work in.

15Yearly1

2013 vs 2014 vs 2015 (to date) full year training volumes

But my last few training sessions have all been rough.  Both of my runs this past week – both <8kms – have been absolute slugs.  My legs hurt, my heart rate was elevated, and I just felt off.  My ride this past week, and in fact all of my rides so far this spring, while I’ve been putting in the work have felt tough and the split times have been slow.  My bike feels like it’s 20lbs (that’s a lot for a road bike), and even the easy gears feel like a lot of work.  And while I’ve put a lot of quality work into my swim, it’s been over 3 weeks since I last got into the pool.  The quantity of work is there, but the quality feels gross.  I don’t feel like I’m peaking for race day – I feel like I’m about to stumble over the start line.  Which isn’t to say I don’t think I can finish, but I’m nervous about doing well.

But I know this course, and it suits me well.  It’s flat and fast.  I’m a power cyclist (strong legs, can pump a heavy gear for a long time, not good at all on hill climbs), and a confident swimmer.  And I’ve done this race before, and loved it.  This all gives me confidence.  Last year I finished this same course in 3:17:40.93, which is currently my Olympic distance Personal Best.  I think I can beat that!

So, if you happen to be awake at 6:54am on Sunday morning, when my swim wave goes off, send a cheer my way.  Or, ya know, go back to bed!

easier faster

Fun With Numbers: Bike vs. Run

June 5, 2015 2 comments

BikeRunimg via http://www.clarksd.com/potato/walk.htm)

Happy Friday everyone!

Ok, we all know I’m a crappy runner.  I’m slow as mud.  My heart rate skyrockets and I’m sweating like crazy after two steps.  It’s nuts!  And I’ve always thought the solution to fixing this is more running.  But maybe it’s actually more cycling?

According to this article from ironman.com, for triathletes, weekly running effort (in distance) should not be more than approximately 20% of weekly cycling effort.  Further, the difference between your open run pace, and your run pace off the bike should be no more than 12% for Ironman distances, or 6% for 70.3 distances (which, I’m going to extrapolate down to 3% for Olympic distances, though it really doesn’t matter).  If the difference is greater, the reason for the slow run could be caused by a lack of bike durability as much as a need to improve pure open run ability.

How would this apply to me?  Looking at my own race history, my last 5 open 10k runs have averaged 64.5 minutes to complete.  The 3 Olympic triathlons I’ve completed, the 10k run component has taken me, on average 76 minutes to complete.  That’s a ~10% increase, suggesting I’m spending a disproportionately low amount of training on the bike.

Have I been?  In 2014 I logged 1,590kms of cycling and 469.14kms of running.  Running = 30% of cycling distance.  So far in 2015 I’ve logged 705.89kms on the bike, and 241.04kms of running.  Running = 34% of cycling distance.  Since May 1st I’ve logged 201.73kms on the bike, and 80.06kms of running.  Running = 40% of cycling distance.   Yep, my running is well more than 20% of my cycling, and it’s going in the wrong direction.

What does it mean?  Who the hell knows.  It’s an interesting thought exercise, at least.  And assuming you take the logic of this article as fact (which, it’s Friday, so sure) I need to get my ass on the bike a lot more.  Apparently that will help with my tri run?  Seems as good as anything to try – it can’t hurt, and it sure beats the idea of more running volume as the solution.

Do you cycle to improve your run?  What other tricks to you use?

At A Crossroads (or May 2015 Month in Review)

June 1, 2015 Leave a comment

badtri

As I write this, I’m 20 days away from my first race of the season – the Olympic Distance at the Toronto Triathlon Festival.  And I’m feeling really torn (and a fair bit tired) – like I’m at a crossroads of sorts.  Like at some point soon I need to decide what I want out of triathlon, or perhaps more accurately, what I want to put into triathlon (and what I’m willing to accept out of it, consequently).

15MayWeekly

Let’s look back at the month of May.  My training in May was a tail of two triathletes.  The first week (and a half) and the last week were really strong, focused training weeks.  I had a decent balance and volume of training in all 3 sports.  I had some high intensity days and some recovery days.  Everything felt like it clicked.  The middle two weeks were the opposite – I dragged myself out for a little bit of running, but that was it.  I was lazy, disinterested, and found all kinds of excuses not to get in the pool or touch the bike.  I got tired, and a little burnt out.  I backed off.  I spent my time on other hobbies instead.

Last week was a great week.  This morning I feel exhausted.  I missed my swim this morning and rationalized my way out of biking this evening.  I’m backing off again.  I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

14May15MayMonthly

Looking back over the past year I think helps paint the picture.  Disregarding the ‘sports’ minutes (baseball/volleyball/curling, etc, which I stopped tracking around the new year), May of 2014 was a (relatively) giant month for me for training, if not a little bit imbalanced.  As we got into the summer – into the core of race season (and also the core of patio season) – my training really tapered off.  It became real easy to hear the excuses not to train: how much time it took, how tired I felt, how many other fun things there were to do over the summer.  In fact, you have to go back to May of last year to find the last time I did as much training as I did in May of this year, and that’s even with those two lazy weeks.

Which brings me back to my original crossroads question: what do I want out of triathlon?  On one hand, I’m really damn proud of the work I put in this past month.  It’s the most I’ve ran or swam in over a year.  And not only have the volumes gone up, but having joined a swimming group and a cycling group, the intensity has gone up too.  I feel stronger than I have in a LONG time.

On the other hand, I feel more tired than I have in a long time.  And I feel a little bit more disinterested than I have in a long time (which I think correlates inversely with the approach of patio season, and the plethora of other fun summer things I could be doing with my training time).  To keep up this training means making choices – and at some point I have to decide where this falls on my personal priority list.  Right now, I feel like my mind changes back and forth each week.

I read a great blog post a few weeks back called It’s All About That Bass: How The Triathlon Industry Gets It Wrong (go read it now, I’ll wait…).  It’s a fantastic article that discusses a lot of points on motivation in the triathlon age-group industry and how it could be better approached by marketing.  A fantastic read, which I really enjoyed, and hardly relates to what I’m discussing here today other than it makes one really key distinction:

The sport is growing from an increasing number of new athletes who are more average, heavier, less athletic but still inspired to participate– if not necessarily compete.

This has really stuck with me since reading this piece:  Am I in this sport to participate, or to compete?  What do I want to get out of triathlon?  What do I want to put into it?

History tells me I can back off my training – I can enjoy all the patios and beaches and summer fun that I’d like, do the occasional Weekend Warrior training, and still participate in triathlon races.  That’s what I did last year, and truthfully every summer in the past.  I can be that average, heavier, less athletic but still inspired to participate athlete.  I can finish, grab my finisher’s medal, sweaty selfie, and post race pint, and be on my way.  I can do that without feeling so tired, so burnt out, all summer long.  I can choose that balance.  And that’s not a bad thing – even doing that much would make me a much healthier and fitter self than I was before I got into the sport, and would still let me enjoy the fun of race day.

But what if I want to compete?  What if I want to push myself?  What if I want to try to race faster, or race longer distances?  What if this summer I want to tell my family and friends that I need to pass on the Saturday night patio, because I have an early morning ride the next morning?  What if I want to make this a priority?  But even so, to what end?  I’m never going to be a pro.  I’m realistically never really going to “compete” (other than competing against myself).  Is that worth the trade off?  Maybe…

I’m at a crossroads, and I don’t know which way I’m leaning.  I know that I’m really proud of the work I did this month.  And I know that I’m really tired.  And I don’t know what to do with that.

%d bloggers like this: