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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 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.

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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

The Next Phase

April 27, 2015 3 comments

DCuba15

I love vacation!  I spent last week in sunny Cuba with 14 great friends, weather almost 30°C warmer than it is here now at home, with a Rum Punch in my hand the whole week, and not a cloud in the sky.  That was the life for 8 days.  I did a pair of token 20 minute sessions in the gym at the resort, but we’re not fooling anyone here: I did absolutely zero training last week.  And I loved it!

This trip was on the calendar for months, and I always viewed it as a line in the sand (pun intended).  Up until now I’ve been going through the motions of winter off-season training: hour-long sessions on the spin bikes at the gym, morning treadmill runs watching whatever the gym televisions had to offer as distraction.  Winter base training, mostly done indoors, and sporadically adhering to my training schedule.

But Cuba has come and gone – amazing a trip as it was – and now it’s time to ramp this shit into gear.  Off-season training is over.  May rolls in at the end of this week, so I’m officially declaring it race season!  And I’m really excited.

So, only 4 days back from vacation I kicked off this morning with a 4:15am alarm clock and drove in to Guelph for my swim with The Guelph Marlins masters swimming program.  I’ve swam with them a few times over the past few weeks (again: sporadically), but it’s time to start making this a regular thing.  3,600m swims first thing in the morning are a great way to get the day started (and to make you want to eat all-the-things all day long).

My bike is packed in the car for my after work ride with the Grand River Cycling Club, another group I’ve just recently joined.  Like The Marlins, I’m hoping cycling with a group will help me stick to a schedule, and help me push my training by getting out there with much stronger riders.  Tonight’s planned ride is an “easy recovery” 43km – I guess “easy recovery” is a relative term, and seeing as this will be my second time out on the bike this year it might not be so easy.  That being said, looking back at my data from last year, I didn’t get to my second training ride for the year until… never (yep, excluding races and lots of bicycle commuting, I only went for one single training ride in all of 2014.  Yikes!!!  No wonder my cycling last year was rough!).  I don’t care if it currently feels like 5°C out there – I’m looking forward to this one!

I haven’t joined a running group this summer, and I don’t intend to.  I enjoy the solitude of running alone (or the occasional LSD run with my wife), and frankly scheduling a third group around 3 weekly swims and 3 weekly rides would be a nightmare!

I’m 13 days away from my first race of the year, a fun tune-up 10k run at The Sporting Life 10K.  I do this run annually with a cousin of mine, but it also serves as a gut-check reminder that race season is here and real!  My goal for this race is 59:59 – after last year’s 1:00:07 frustration, I want so badly to run my first ever sub 1hr 10K.  After that, I start to focus on the Toronto Triathlon Festival (Olympic Distance), only 9 weeks away.

It’s coming on fast and furious – summer is here (even if the weather doesn’t know it yet) and race season is right around the corner.  Time to start the next phase of my training.  Time to get to work!!

Swimming Like a Boss… err… Master

March 23, 2015 Leave a comment

openwaterswim

This morning I did a silly thing.  A wonderful amazing stupid silly thing.  I swam with a Master’s swim club.  I paid money to join a Master’s swim club.  I hauled my ass out of bed at 4:30 this morning to swim with a Master’s swim club.  I swam for 90 minutes with a Master’s swim club, and I kinda held my own.  Granted, I think my shoulders are about to fall off, and I want to eat All The Things, and the coach kept putting me on the rookie program (where everybody else was swimming a 5×100 on the 2:00, for example, I would do a 4×100 on the 2:30).  But all in all, I think I held my own.

I figure I swam about 3,050m this morning (I wasn’t really keeping count, just following the routine written on the white board and trying not to drown).  An amazing workout to start the day.  Can’t wait to do it again on Wednesday!

And now to go fall asleep at my desk…

Race Recap – Toronto Triathlon Festival

July 14, 2014 2 comments

TTF

I’m having a hard time writing this recap.  My thoughts are all over the place.  This race was many things – Intense, Exhilarating, and Wet.  Very wet.

I’m so luck to have a pair of very close cousins, who happen to have condos in the same building, right in downtown Toronto.  Amazing to be able to visit great people, and have crash space a 20 minute walk away from the start line.  Being so close meant I got to sleep in until 4:30 yesterday morning (I’m not kidding).  I was surprisingly awake at that hour.  My wife was not.  What a trooper she was getting up with me to come cheer me on (and take blog pics)!!

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Isn’t everyone out with their bike at 4:30am?

In transition before daybreak - the life of a triathlete

In transition before daybreak – the life of a triathlete

The forecast called for rain.  But it was dry when I woke up.  I was really happy – and celebrated way too soon.  The rain came.  Oh boy did it ever.  It rained rather heavily in the hour leading up to the race, while I was pacing around transition and waiting for the swim start.  The swim start was even delayed by about 10 minutes due to weather.

Rain!  The blue band across the top is my wife's umbrella.  She tried to stay dry.  It didn't work.  What a trooper!

Rain! The blue band across the top is my wife’s umbrella. She tried to stay dry. It didn’t work. What a trooper!

Once the race started, though, the weather was an afterthought.  This was my 8th triathlon, and the first time I wasn’t in the first swim wave.  It was kinda fun getting to watch the elite’s go off before me (and not have to start my swim with them).  8 minutes later it was my turn.

The Swim – 1,500m – 34:29

That's me, in the green cap and black wetsuit

That’s me, in the green cap and black wetsuit

The swim was a deep water start.  They had a floating pontoon perpendicular to the brake wall.  There was no warm up swim permitted (I’m not really sure why).  About 1 minute before our wave start, we all walked out and jumped into the water.  And swore.  A lot.  Holy shit that water was cold.  Really cold.  They announced the temperature as 17°C – they must have been lying.  I don’t believe ice baths are that cold.  It was really cold.  Pretty soon all the swearing subsided as we started to realize this wasn’t actually funny – it was really cold and uncomfortable.  And then the horn went off – no warm up, frozen muscles, and almost 100 men aged 25-35 tightly packed tightly against the starting pontoon.

They call the start of a triathlon swim ‘the washing machine’.  I’ve understood the term, but never truly experienced it.  Now I have.  It refers to the froth of water at the start of an open water swim, when a bunch of swimmers are tightly packed and competing for the same space.  Yep – that’s what happened.  I got kicked, and punched, and clawed (seriously triathletes: please clip your fingernails!!!).  Somewhere near the first buoy I remember having a thought – between the cold, and the collisions, if I was any less comfortable in the water than I am (and I consider myself a very confident swimmer), I might have been in trouble in that swim.  Sure enough, my wife would tell me later she was amazed at the number of swimmers who were pulled out of the water and DNF.  Even as late as the last buoy I took a heavy kick to my right shoulder and was worried I was actually hurt.  What a mess that swim was.

I’m not happy with a 34:29 swim – but it was a middle of the pack swim for my age group, and given the conditions, it could have been a lot worse.  The race goes on!

The Bike – 40km – 1:23:18

Heading out on the bike.  The road is a wet slippery mess!

Heading out on the bike. The road is a wet slippery mess!

For as bad as the swim was, the bike went great!  The bike course was amazing – riding along the expressways of downtown Toronto.  It was a generally uphill on the way out, and downhill on the way back, with a bit of a headwind on the return.  The biggest challenge was the wet roads, and the puddles of standing water that needed to be dodged.  But credit to the race organizers – they had volunteers out along the whole course, and had a volunteer or a marking pylon at every standing puddle.  They were all over it.  They did a great job!!

Not much to tell about the bike ride – I put my head down and rode hard.  I kept comparing it to my last Olympic distance race, only 3 weeks prior, where the bike ride went so poorly.  This time, my back and my glutes didn’t give out on me.  I was riding just as hard, if not harder through the final quarter of the ride as I did in the first quarter.  I wasn’t wearing a pace watch, but my gut told me this ride went well.  And I was right.  Nearly 12 minutes faster than the same distance 3 weeks ago, and 8 minutes faster than my Olympic distance bike split personal best.  Hot damn!!  My wife gave me my time as I was running back into transition – what a motivator that was!!!

The Run – 10km – 1:14:17

500m to go...

500m to go…

There’s not much to say here.  I’m a shitty runner.  I have been since I started, and I still am.  I find it amusing that my run time split of 1:14:17 is 16 seconds slower than my run split 3 weeks ago.  Apparently I’m a very consistently shitty runner 🙂

Unlike last time, there was no back pain to slow me down.  There was no pain at all.  My heart rate was out of control, right from the start though.  I took a lot of walk breaks trying to control my heart rate, but every time I started running again it skyrocketed.  I tried to settle into a run/walk routine to manage this.  I’m not sure how well it worked.  I stopped at each aid station – drank the Gatorade and dumped the water on my head.  By about half way through the run the sugar from the Gatorade was playing havoc with my GI system, so I switched to water only.  I’m not sure if it made a difference.  It wasn’t a glamorous run, but it was consistent, and wasn’t worse than my previous Olympic distance run splits.  I didn’t give back the time I earned on the bike, so I’m happy with that!

The Finish – 3:17:40.93

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My biggest fan!

God that felt good – a personal best by 6 minutes!  Yeah Buddy!!!  My wife and cousin were there to meet me at the finish line.  So awesome having a cheering squad!!  And around my neck: a finisher’s medal.  Believe it or not, this is my 8th triathlon, and that’s my first finisher’s medal.  I guess they’re not as common as in running races.  It means a lot to me to finally have a triathlon finisher’s medal.  Very excited about that!

By the end of the run my GI havoc was reaching near critical levels.  There were burgers and free beer in the finishing area, and I turned them both down (I know!  Weird, right?!)  I took 3 bites of a banana – that was all I could handle.  It was a couple hours before that settled down.

The race was designed with the finish line being about 800 meters away from the transition zone, so my cheering squad and I had to walk back to pick up my bike & gear after.  And wouldn’t you know – the skies opened up again.  It POURED!  Easily one of the top 10 heaviest rains I’ve ever been in.  Ever.  My wife and cousin had their umbrellas – not that it made any difference – but me, I just let the rain fall on me.  I could hardly see.  I felt bad for the racers still on course (the sprint distance race had just started).  It was pouring rain.  I collected my bag from the bag check area – it was sitting in an inch deep puddle.  I went back to get my bike and transition gear – which was also sitting in an inch deep puddle.  Oh well – lay it all out to dry in the basement when I get home.  I’m not planning on any training rides or runs for the next few days!

It’s now the day after.  I’m working from home today – it’s easier to get up out of my chair and pace, and stretch, when I’m not in the office.  My quads are still buzzing a bit, but I really feel the fatigue in my traps, my neck, and all down my back.  Even my arms have a subtle dull ache, and there’s a really good scratch on one arm from another swimmer.  Tylenol and I are good friends today.  And I’m eating EVERYTHING in the fridge!!

I ache, but I’m really happy.  I set my sights on this as my ‘A’ race, and I feel like it all came together.  Smashing 12 minutes off my bike split from last race felt amazing, and not giving anything up on the run as a result felt pretty good too.  I even survived the frigid washing machine!  God I love this sport!!!

With my ‘A’ race in the books, the rest of the summer is all about fun and relaxing.  In 2 weeks I’m racing in the Niagara Try-A-Tri race with a couple highschool buddies.  I’m really looking forward to that.  Otherwise the rest of the summer is about swimming, biking, and running when I want to.  I won’t start thinking about next race season for several months still – for now, I’m just going to enjoy this one!

– D

 

Month in Review

June 30, 2014 1 comment

badtri

Looking Back, June 2014:

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MIR 1406

(“Sport” is a combination of softball, volleyball, or any other team sport I may get myself talked into.  Not “training” per se, but part of the general contribution to how tired I feel in any given week/month)

I was hoping for a bit of momentum after a strong end to May, but that didn’t turn out as such.  There were a few rainy days (and many days threatening to be raining) that altered my training plans – and a race on June 21st led to a bit of a taper the week before (and a bit of recovery/laziness the week after).  But, if I’m being honest, it was a bit of a let down month.

I find posting the images above (and thus, looking at them) to be really helpful.  What good is data if you’re not reviewing it and learning from it, amiright?  One thing jumps out at me above all else in the pictures above – there was zero time spent on strength training in June.  Zero.  Whoops.  I certainly need to fix that in July.

On the positive side though, I stepped on a scale this weekend for the first time in a long time: 228.6lbs.  That’s the first time I’ve been < 230lbs since… highschool?  maybe?  possibly very early highschool, even!  That’s a pretty damn awesome feeling!!

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Looking Forward:

July is a bit of an odd duck.  My “A” race of the year is two weeks away, on Sunday July 13th.  And I’m debating adding in a Try-a-tri at the end of July that wasn’t in my original race calendar, but a bunch of highschool buddies are trying it out, and if I’m gonna drive down to cheer them on, I might as well suit up as well, right?  For all my Sprint and Olympic distance races, I’ve never actually tried a Try-a-tri.  I don’t take it lightly at all – it’s a whole different beast: a max effort sprint rather than an endurance effort race.  I think it could be fun to give it a shot!

My month then really breaks down into 4 distinct weeks, with very different goals:

  • Week 1 (this week): I’ve got some work to do!  I want to get 1-2 strength sessions in, and particularly work my lower back, traps, and glutes.  If Guelph Lake taught me anything a few weeks ago, it’s that I’m a lot weaker there than I should be.  Continue cycling to work, a long ride and long run this weekend, and a few shorter runs/rides this week would be good.  And it would be nice to get in the pool once or twice too.  Shit – that’s a really busy week…
  • Week 2: Taper week leading up to TTF.  1-2 mid week runs/rides, and a pool session or two.  Start to back it off by Wednesday or Thursday.  Better to be a bit under trained and rested than well trained and exhausted going into a race, IMO.
  • Week 3: Waddle week.  If Guelph Lake taught me anything else, it’s that I’m going to hurt for a few days after the race.  Lots of stretching, walking, and active recovery.  Hopefully by mid-late week I’ll be ready for some light running
  • Week 4: Shit, it’s race week again already, huh?  I may not get as much of a taper in leading up to my try-a-tri (and hoping I don’t need as much of a taper).  Try to squeeze a few speed work sessions in, especially early in the week.  But really, this 2nd race is for fun – I’ll do what I can, and won’t worry about what I can’t.

5 Things I Think I Think:

  1. I’ve noticed that my training, and my blogging, tend to follow similar patters.  When I blog 1-2 times per week, I train regularly.  When I’m absent online, my training often suffers.  It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing: I don’t know which drives the other.  When I blog, I think about training.  When I think about training, I am more inspired to get out and do it.  When I get out and train, I have more experiences to blog about.  I don’t know if this means anything or not… funny coincidence, perhaps…
  2. I’m starting to question some of the goals I set out for myself for my “A” race, now only 2 weeks away, when I wrote them back in March.  I’m still learning how to set reasonable expectations for myself as far as racing and training are concerned.  I think this may warrant a full post on it’s own (which, hey, maybe the prospect of another post will help me get through this training week!)
  3. Sports Geek: The CFL season kicked off this past Thursday.  I think I should be a lot more excited, but I’m not.  The funny thing about sports in summer – I just want to get outside, go sit on a beach, or a patio, or ride my bike.  I don’t want to follow yet another sports league starting up right now!  The CFL is a great league, with a great product, but the timing of their season is all wrong.  I’ll start to care in September, when the season is half over, and I can figure out which bandwagon to jump onto.  I just can’t bring myself to be interested in it at this time of year.
  4. Beer Geek: Got to try a growler of Pale Ale this weekend from Royal City Brewing, who’ve been open in Guelph ON for less than a month now.  My first impression – it was a pale ale from a new brewery that was still getting settled.  But the more I had over the weekend, the more I really enjoyed it.  Really happy to see another new local craft brewery getting off the ground.  Exciting times right now!
  5. I think having a stat holiday on a Tuesday is weird.  I’m all for celebrating Canada Day on July 1st each year – birthdays should be celebrated on their proper day – but the stat holiday (the day off work) should be flexed to a Friday or a Monday.  It’s odd being at work on a Monday, knowing tomorrow is a day off.  Oh well, happy pre-Canada Day everyone!

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Does a Try-a-Tri need a taper period before the race?  What do you think?

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!

GLI2014BikeProfile

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 😦

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