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Race Recap: Toronto Triathlon Festival 2015

June 22, 2015 Leave a comment
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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

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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

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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)

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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!!!

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Race Recap: Sporting Life 10K (2015)

May 11, 2015 1 comment

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I suppose a Race Recap is in order (as apparently that’s a thing that I do).  Yesterday I ran the Sporting Life 10K in Toronto with my wife, my cousin, and a few other friends of ours.  This is the 3rd year in a row my cousin and I have run this race together.  It’s become a really nice tradition.  And, as this is now my 3rd race recap of this same race, there’s not a lot new to be said.

1:08:41.2

Meh.  I had fun!

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My personal best 10k time came on this same course last year at 1:00:07.  I was really hoping for my first sub 1 hour time, but it wasn’t meant to be.  The list of excuses includes:

  • It was fucking hot!  17°C at 8:30am
  • It was fucking humid!  All week I’d been complaining about the forecasted 80% chance of thunderstorms that never came.  I got the dry run that I wanted, but all that humidity just bogged me down
  • I was undertrained.  Last year I did a much better job of base run training in the winter.  This year I didn’t.  And I’ve done about a half dozen outdoor runs so far in 2015, all of them at Long Slow Distance pace
  • I had dinner out at a pub, with a beer (or more), each of the two evenings leading up to the race

It’s not that I want to belittle the results – but I’m behind on my training, and I can’t fix that overnight.  And I also can’t control the weather.  So I don’t want to dwell on what was for me a disappointing finish time.  But I did have fun, and got to spend time with great people.  Win.

6 weeks to TTF.  Keep to the training plan, keep putting in the work, and keep having fun.  And maybe lay off the pub food a bit…

Race Recap: Guelph Lake Olympic Triathlon

June 22, 2014 7 comments

SubaruI’m moving around pretty gingerly this morning – trying not to move very much at all, to be honest.  So while I’m sitting at my laptop anyway, might as well write up a post race recap, right?  right!

Yesterday I “raced” in the Subaru Guelph Lake I Olympic Triathlon.  This is a relatively large race around these parts, and highly talked about in the race community.  Plus, it’s in the town I grew up in, so it’s long been on my bucket list.  Yesterday I got to cross it off.

Race morning flowed pretty smoothly.  I was up at 5:00 for an 8:00 race gun, at a site 40 minutes drive from my home.  Not too bad.  It was raining outside when I woke up (sigh), but had stopped by the time I got into my car.  I was really impressed with the race area.  Registration flowed very quickly, and I had lots of time to set up in transition.  I ran into some friends of mine who were also racing, which was really nice.  Otherwise I would have had a lot of time to kill, nervously, by myself!

The swim was a lovely out-and-back across Guelph Lake.  The sky was blue, the water was warm and still, and it was wetsuit optional.  Perfect!!  My swim felt very sluggish, in large part because I was having difficulty sighting when breathing to the right.  So I quickly abandoned bilateral breathing, leading to an increasingly imbalanced arm pull.  While breathing to the left the whole swim, my right arm ended up doing most of the work, and started to slow down.  Plus, at the far point of the swim we got pretty close to the shore on the other side of the lake, and I may have gotten a bit distracted by the lovely trees and rocks and blue sky above.  Whoops.  That being said, I swam in 29:38 (1:59/100m), which is a personal best swim time over that distance, so I’m pretty happy with it.

As an aside, I struggle comparing my swim times between races, as there’s a big variable at the end – the swim run-up.  Inevitably, when getting out of the water, you need to run a certain distance from the water’s edge to wherever the transition area is set up.  This can be anywhere from 10m away to several hundred meters away.  Yesterday’s race was the later, and up a steep hill.  Fine.  Somewhere along this path they need to put the chip mats that you step on to record the end of your swim time.  Why do they always put these mats right up at transition, meaning this long run is included in your swim time??  Why can’t they put the mats right when you get out of the water, and include this “run time” as part of T1?  I’m sure that run up the hill took me at least 3 minutes, meaning my “swim” was much better than recorded.  Oh well – one of my little pet peeves I guess.  Carrying on…

T1 went pretty smoothly.  I didn’t suffer from the dizziness post-swim that I normally have to fight off, which was nice.  Although, when exiting T1, a race official pulled me aside and told me I couldn’t start the bike without tightening the strap on my helmet.  I’ve used this same helmet, with the strap in the same spot for every race.  I pulled aside, took off my helmet (dropped my sunglasses) and tried to adjust the strap.  The darn thing wouldn’t budge.  I managed to yank it maybe a cm – probably less – when she said that was fine and I could go on.  It probably only amounted to a minute delay, but was kind of annoying.  Oh well – she’s trying to do her job and keep us safe.  Can’t fault her for that, I guess.  The chip timing company this race used didn’t report on T1 or T2 times, so I can’t tell you how long I was in transition.  You’ll just have to use your imagination.

The bike was where things really unraveled for me.  There is a bike course elevation profile on the company’s website, which I looked at before.  I knew there would be an overall decent elevation climb in the out direction (and a nice overall elevation decent in the return direction), but I didn’t notice all the little – and quite steep climbs – both ways.  They really did me in.  I was trying to stay aero in my new aero bars – by about 15km I started to develop a significant pain in my left lower back.  It may have been in part due to the imbalance in my swim stroke?  Shortly after I had to abandon the aero bars completely.  By about 25km my glutes were toast!  I had to keep talking myself into staying in my saddle.  I haven’t ever had either of these problems – not in training, or any previous race.  I finished the last 10km of the bike ride absolutely grimacing and trying to talk myself into still doing the run portion, and not just DNF’ing.  I was in a lot of pain.  In the end, my bike was 1:34:49 (25.3km/hr).  Yuck.  That’s the slowest official bike pace I’ve ever posted in any race.  I obviously have some work to do here!

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T2 went smoothly.  Nothing to report.  And since I don’t know what my T2 time split was, we’ll just move on…

I have mixed opinions on the run.  It was tough, and slow – in large part because my lower back and glutes were both shot from the outset.  Every little climb on the run and my back started barking.  And there were hills.  Lots of them.  There was no elevation map for the run on the website – I was not prepared for the amount of steep rolling hills on the run.  I don’t think there was a flat stretch longer than 10 meters at any point on that run course – everything was an incline or decline.  And my back hurt the whole way.

The run was really interesting though – the first half of the out-and-back course was through the conservation area’s campground, which was reasonably booked up.  Which means there were people lining the course, watching, for most of this stretch.  But they weren’t cheering.  They were curious – some of them outright heckling at the spandex clad runners running past their campsites at 10:00am.  Many of them were irritated, trying to drive their cars in and out of their site, or walk to the washrooms or water pumps, and having so many runners in their way.  I love running past cheering spectators.  This was very different.

The run course then left the camping area and went into some back fields on the conservation area’s property.  We moved from primarily paved roads to primarily dirt trails through fields.  Still just as hilly, but not a tree in sight.  This was the first time I realized that I hadn’t put any sunscreen on.  It was hot.  By this point I was reduced to running 2:1 run/walk intervals, and walking up most of the steep hills.  Between the heat, my back, and by this point a significant fueling deficit, I was just trying to keep moving.  It wasn’t pretty.  But for me, the run is never pretty.  Still, I’d like to get to a point where I can reliably run the run, instead of suffering through it.  More work to do.  That being said, I finished the run in 1:14:01 (7:25/km) – not nearly the pace I can hold on a straight 10k run, but better than the run on my previous Olympic distance tri (1:18:19).  In other words, not nearly as bad as it felt!

Overall, I raced in 3:23:48.4 – 27/30 in my age group, and an Olympic tri Personal Best by about 1 minute.  I would have liked a better time, but to drop my time (even if only by 1 minute) on a course that was much hillier in both the bike and run, and much hotter as well isn’t a bad thing at all!  I’m making progress.

With this race now in the rear view mirror, I’m 3 weeks away from my ‘A’ race of the season, the Toronto Triathlon Festival Olympic Tri.  I’m not sure how much I can accomplish in three weeks to learn from yesterday’s race, and improve.  I need to keep putting the work in on the bike and the run – particularly my long distance workouts in both.  In the off season, I need to do a lot of work on strengthening my back side – traps, lower back, glutes, and hamstrings.  But I know the TTF course better than this one – particularly the run – and it’s quite flat and familiar.  I won’t be surprised by hills this time, and the race starts an hour earlier, so I might not have to deal with the heat as much!  And who knows – I might even remember to put on sunscreen (you should see the sunburn today – it’s pretty epic).  I’m hoping for a great race at TTF, and a Personal Best!

Do you put sunscreen on for races?  Do you put it on before the swim, or quickly in T1?

PS – my apologies for the lack of pictures in this post.  I was flying solo at this one – my wife was on call and so had to stay home.  Thus, no pictures 😦

Race Recap: Sporting Life 10K (or The Seven Second Conundrum)

May 11, 2014 Leave a comment

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Post race selfies!  So great.  And since the picture already spoiled it: I finished, and got a finisher’s medal.  It’s shaped like a canoe paddle.  How cool is that?!

Anyway, let’s start at the beginning…

This morning, my cousin and I did our 2nd annual running of the Sporting Life 10k in Toronto.  It was a great morning!  This race has become something of a tradition for us – it’s about racing our best, but it’s also a chance for us to visit and catch up.  This is a race weekend I really look forward to.

We knew the race started at 8:00am, and that our wave (based on expected finish time) would head out at 8:20.  I crashed at my cousin’s place in downtown TO last night, and we walked out to flag a cab to the start line at 7:30.  On any other day, walking out onto King St in Toronto, there’s a cab driving by every 30 seconds or so.  Getting a cab is taken for granted.  This morning, apparently not so.  We would discover that – with 28,000 runners all trying to take taxis across town to the starting line of this point-to-point race – there was a scarcity of cabs in the city.  10 minutes later, we were seriously starting to worry about even making it to the start of the race.  Phone calls to various taxi companies were going unanswered.  Then – miraculously – a taxi dropped off a fare right outside my cousin’s condo building.  Convenient!  We made it to the start line around 8:15.  Just barely in time for our wave to start (and well after the elite runners were off).

The starting line went much smoother than it did last year.  We set off with our wave this time (as opposed to last year, when runners were sort of ignoring their waves and heading out when they chose – and thus so did we).  Thousands of runners heading out together – it took us several minutes after the race gun to shuffle across the start line.  But once we got across, the race felt great.  I felt energetic – light – fast.  I felt good.  My cousin and I were zig-zagging through runners from our wave.  We were racing!  It was so much fun!  We were off at a blistering pace (a bit of foreshadowing, for you veteran running race-ers out there…)

My cousin and I stayed together until somewhere around the 4km mark.  I wasn’t sure at the time if I got ahead of her, or if she got ahead of me.  At that point, I was on my own.

The rest of the run was pretty uneventful.  I ran the whole race, which I was quite proud of (apart from a 5 second walk break at one of the water stations – let’s face it, running through a water station ends up as more of a face wash than a drink).  But the run felt long.  Boring almost.  And then I noticed how quiet it was.  Not that there weren’t thousands of other runners running all around me, or spectators lining the route cheering – which was awesome!!  But the bands were missing!  Last year there were live musicians on stages at every kilometer marker.  This year, nothing.  I was so disappointed!  Live music lining the course was one of my favorite parts of the run last year.  Note to new race director: bring that back next year!!  Getting rid of the live music was a mistake!

By the 9km sign I was fully engaged in a mental battle with myself – willing myself to keep pushing hard through the finish.  I was running out of gas, but I knew I had started out strong and had a shot at a Personal Best time.  I only had 1km to go.  So I kept arguing with myself to push through the end.

I crossed the finish line at 9:25:xx (clock time).  Dammit.  Clock time.  I know our wave started at 8:20, but by the time the thousands of runners had advanced through the starting chute, I didn’t notice what time I went across.  Did it take us 5 minutes?  3 minutes?  8 minutes?  I was done, but I had no idea what my chip time was.  Note to self: start wearing a running watch while racing!

It was several hours later before we were able to look our chip times up online.  I ran a personal best time after all: 1:00:07.3

1 hour and 7.3 seconds!!!

On one hand, I just ran a personal best time – 2:30 faster than I had ever run a 10k before.  That’s so awesome!

On the other hand, I missed out on a sub one hour run by 7.3 seconds!  7.3 SECONDS!!!

If I had just run 1 second per km faster over the race, I could have made it (or, more realistically, if I had paced myself a hair better and not run out of gas at the end I could have made it).  Note to self: start wearing a running watch while racing!

It’s now a few hours later.  I’ve left Toronto and come back home.  I’ve wrestled with this conundrum for a few hours.  And I’ve decided I’m really happy with my run.  The elusive 1 hour mark is still out there.  I haven’t conquered that mountain yet.  But I went into this trained and ready, and hoped for a personal best time.  And I got one.  And yet, in spite of a personal best time, I’m now more motivated than ever to get back to training and put the work in to get faster!

First race of the year is in the books.  Now it feels like the race season is underway!  What a great day!

~DO’G

Race Recap – Santa Pur-SUIT

December 9, 2013 1 comment

IMG_0403I’m a day or so late getting this post up… after weeks of studying for a course that my work was putting me through, and writing my exam last week, this weekend was all about quality time with my wife.  But now that I have a few minutes (that’s what lunch breaks are for, right?  right!)…

Saturday morning was the 2013 Santa Pur-SUIT 5k run race in support of the local YMCA.  What a great event – great cause to run for, and who can beat hundreds of santas running through the streets of Waterloo?!?

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This race was all about fun and community.  Did I run a PB time?  No.  Did I expect to?  No.  Considering a) I hadn’t trained, or done any form of exercise more vigorous than walking-around-the-office-at-work in over 2 weeks, and b) I was wearing an ill-fitting felt Santa suit, I’m reasonably happy with my 32:29 time.  It was great to see the local YMCA – where I do all my indoor training – be the benefactor of such a great event.  It was great to get my wife dressed up in a Santa Suit and to go for a run with her (even if she did peel away after 1km and finish a full 5 minutes ahead of me 😉

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So that’s it.  My 2013 season is finally finished.  11 races in the books this year:

  • 4 Triathlons (2x Sprint, 1x 750/30/7.5 hybrid, 1x Olympic), including 1 out-of-country race!
  • 1 OW 1.5km Swim Race
  • 1 Road 73km Bike Race
  • 5 Running Races (1x 5km, 2x 10km, 1x 21.1km, and 1x 30km)

For my first “full racing season” (a.k.a. more than 1 race in a calendar year), that was a TON of fun… and way too many races.  As much as I love race day – the start line, the crowd, the music, the atmosphere – my bank account can’t sustain that many races again in 2014, nor can my personal schedule, to be honest.  And really, I think it did me a bit of a disservice racing so often – it was a crazy mix of events and I wasn’t able to get into a training routine focused on long term improvement.  I’m looking forward to 2014, though it will probably include fewer and more strategically selected races.

I’m sure I’ll give some further thought in a future post about my 2014 season (not like there’s a lot else to post about in the winter)… for now, I’m going to enjoy a December filled with no racing, no studying, a loosely scheduled training plan, lots of time with my wife, and lots of food and drink with family and friends!  Let the Holiday Season begin.  Ho Ho Ho!!! (see what I did there?! 😉 )

What’s in YOUR race kit?

December 6, 2013 1 comment

Who’s got one thumb up and is ready to race tomorrow?

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This guy!!

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!!

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