Monday, September 3, 2018

Crooked Trees Duathlon, Keppoch - 2018

Sometimes a little gem appears and you just can't say no. Thus was the case of the last minute Triathlon Nova Scotia Off Road Duathlon at Keppoch Mountain. This race didn't exist until a hole in the schedule appeared and a great group took it as an opportunity to jump in with something new and unique to the area. 

Keppoch has become a bit of a local draw in Nova Scotia for Mountain Bikers, with great flowing trails up and down the mountain and some crazy gnarly steep descents. So adding an off road duathlon was, logistically, not a problem. 

I was entry number 1. I am by no means a mountain biker, but I am a duathlete and this new challenge fit perfect with my trail running program I have been focused on this year. At the very least, I'd get a great workout for the day.

I drove up the morning of with Sarah and Heather, both taking in the (maybe the smart choice) Sprint Distance Du, while I signed up for the Standard Distance. We arrived and the casual atmosphere was really nice.  

So, I don't even own a mountain bike, but my good buddy Sheldon at Sportwheels, hooked me up with a loaner. This Norco was older stock and is used as a loaner at the shop, but he tuned it up nicely and the shifting and brakes worked perfectly. And based on my test ride, it had just enough easy gearing to make it up the steepest climbs. 

As this was the first year for this race and it was kind of last minute, the crowd was small, but that doesn't mean there wasn't some tough competition. Certainly there were a load of people who were awesome on a mountain bike. A race briefing before the race showed us just what the course was going to be like and what trail riding etiquette was in case we came across other riders.  

Race organizers decided to start us back from the trail entrance for the first run in order to spread the field out a bit rather than have a crowd of us try to enter the woods all at once. Soon we were off and Peter, Daniel and I lead the way for the Standard Distance race. 

The trail was wonderful. Up and downs, twists and turns.  Daniel fell less than a kilometer in, but jumped back up quickly. Soon  he and I took off from Peter before the main climb of the first run. This run went from the base to the top of the hill, covering over 150m in less than 1.5 km. It was tough but we made it up and then Daniel took over with some very fast downhill running. I didn't stray too far though.

A brief foray on an access road lead us back into the woods and some really fast, downhill.  So fast that we both missed a portion of the course and went a different way. Apparently not the only ones to do so, though Peter managed to actually run the correct way. That made us come into Transition slightly behind Peter, having run an extra 0.5 km. 

As i opted to bike in my trail shoes, I had a blazing fast T1 and was first out on the bike though. But within 1 km I was passed by Peter and Daniel as they put some strong effort into getting into the single track first. Still I made decent time, banking on being able to do 30 minute laps (this was a double lap course in my race). 

I'm not going to say this was easy. It was tough. Most of the trail up was quite smooth, with some super steep switchbacks. But i made it to the top and began the descent. Unfortunately I dropped my chain a few times on some super rough patches. Realistically that made me lose maybe 2 minutes  or less. But it did mean that I took the second lap a little less vigorous.  At least I think that was why I took it easier. It was also likely because the first lap was tough. 

By the time I reached the top of the climb the second time, my body was really feeling things. My back was tight, my arms were weak, and my quads were destroyed. Still, all I had to do was go down!

And down I went, on a tight switch back, I was so tired that I grabbed too hard on the brakes and fell off the bike.  Luckily I was going slowly and the damage was just a scraped knee and shin. I was back up and riding quickly, but overall it looks like my second lap was minutes slower than the first. I was also passed near the end by Tim C. who was flying down with supreme control. 

Luckily for me, Tim C. only passed me near the end of the ride down and I caught back up to him in transition 2. I was back into running form quickly and headed back to the toughest hill around. This run was shorter than the first but basically included all the hardest parts of the first run. I made it to the top of the climb, grabbed some water (darn it was hot), and headed for the downhill single track. Happily this time the race director had fixed the issue with people going off course, so I ran the correct way, popping out and crossing the finish line in 3rd place.

Daniel had blazed to the win off of a strong mountain bike, Peter coming second a few minutes ahead of me, and I was totally wiped out but oh so happy.  I had hoped to beat 2 hours but eventually came in officially at 2:02. The dropped chains and fall didn't help, so I think I was physically there for my goal, which is great. 

This was one of the toughest events I have ever raced. It was a whole body beating, I dare say tougher than the marathon I raced a few years ago, and tougher than any triathlon of a similar distance I have done.   

It was great to see Heather and Sarah do really well, both winning their races (the one Sprint race became a sort of Sprint and Sprint Plus race due to the various paths chosen). We drove back to Halifax, but not before stopping for a yummy burrito at my favorite stop in Truro, Habeneros. 

Word is they are planning an off road triathlon next year as well as the duathlon. Colour me interested. But maybe I'll try and get on that mountain a little earlier, just to get my upper body acclimated a but. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Another Weekend of Fun and Training Aug 18-19

Another summer weekend has come and gone. The weather wasn't the greatest for doing a lot of summering, but it wasn't bad for running. The clouds in the morning made for a cooler feel. 

I got up bright and early to try and beat the rain on Saturday. With a big day of training, I try to keep breakfast simple but "sturdy." As I wasn't racing coffee was first thing on the menu and the Aeropress was the way to go with some lovely beans from Costa Rica (thanks Java Blend). With that went a nice sized bowl of oats, with a little brown sugar and some butter.

I have been focusing on 2 hour long runs as I get ready for my Fall trail race. So far this has been 2 hour trail runs, which means somewhere around 18-22 km of running. But this day I decided to go and check out the first Leg of the Rum Runners Relay. I will be racing this one in about a month or so. In my mind it was a 12 km distance, so I thought, run from home and then run the Leg. Anyway, it was more like 13.5 km, so by the time I got home, I got my 2 hour run in, but also 27.5 km. That was my longest run in awhile, but it did feel good. So training is going well. 

Here I am at the halfway point of my run, also know as the beginning of the race. I look so happy.

25 km later and I made a joke about arriving first. I'm also a little more tired by this point with another 2.5 km to get to home. 

That was it for Saturday. But then Sunday, I took out too great athletes, Lindsay and Mark, to coach them through a trial triathlon. Both are racing next weekend in their first race and this helped them get the feel and understanding of what was going on. We did the full thing as well. Nice 800m swim to get started, then to the bike for 25 km, and finally a 5 km run to end the day. Then we chatted a bit about race prep as well. They will do great. We didn't push too hard as this was a trial run, and also my legs were still a bit heavy. 

Looking forward to see how my legs feel this week and to getting back on the trail. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Chase the Pace 1 Miler 2018

This past weekend I took part in the Chase the Pace 1 Miler. The goal of this event is to have pacers run the track at a set pace, while people try to get a PB. I signed up hoping to finally break 5 minutes (though really this would only be my 4th attempt in 3 years to actually try to do so).

I had hoped there would be a 5 minute pacer, but the closest pone to my goal was 4:50. That is quite a bit faster than I figured I could sustain. So the question was, do I follow that faster pace, drift off near the closing laps and hope to hang in, or go out easier and see if i could make up the time by the end.

I'll be honest, I usually have some sort of a plan, but come the time for race day I was totally without one. Track running for a PB is not my strength and so I was totally out of my element.

One thing I did know though, was to make sure and get a good warm up run in. I did so with Luke. He was going to be chasing his goal of a 6 minute mile (which he got).

Well, it came up to race time, and I got my race shoes on and headed out. Many of the runners had spikes on. I think this probably threw me a little as spikes do help you run faster, and now I wasn't quite sure what sort of speed people would be running.

So having psyched myself out, I basically dropped to the back of my pack and tucked in. For the first 100m or so, we were all together, but soon enough the lead group started to pull away. That left four of us running together with me at the rear. By the end of the first lap we were down on our goal time by 6 seconds. So not a great start.

By halfway through the second lap a small gap formed between our pack. I made the choice to surge past the next runner, then bridge up. The three of us then met the next lap down even more time on the goal. 

As the final corner of the third lap approached, I realized that I wasn't going to make that sub 5 minute mile. But I also knew I could salvage a good finish, with a strong final lap and at least beat the guys I was running with (wink). 

So I laid down a fast lap. I pushed hard and surged even harder coming to the finish. I put a pretty big gap between myself and the three guys behind me. I think my final time may have been 5:08? 

What I learned was that track running and road running are way different. Doing loops makes it tricky to really know your pace. Ideally I would have had a pacer at the pace I was hoping to achieve. I didn't, so it was kind of best effort.  Also, I should have trusted my legs and pushed harder earlier on, my timid start to the run let me down.

Many great runs were had by others though and I still have some speed in my legs, so it isn't like it was a bad day. The Mile will go away now, and maybe next year we can try again. But onto other challenges now.

Thanks for the warmup running Luke, and the great race Bryan. 


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

MacPass Mile 2018 and the Rest of the Weekend

Wow, August already? This hot summer has been trying as far as training goes. I guess in this instance, it is a good thing that my main goal is a Fall trail race where overall speed isn't as important as getting some good time on feet and some hills in. 

So it was Natal Day Weekend in Halifax and that meant it was time for some racing. This year I opted to do the MacPass Mile again, a 1 mile race across the MacDonald Bridge. This is a tough mile as it starts on a downhill, then a steep uphill and finally an equally steep downhill to false flat finish. This race separates into A Women's Race, then a Men's Race, followed by a Girl's and finally Boy's race.  

The heat was gone from the proceeding days and like last year, the rain came. A good steady rain as well. At least it was cool! My main goal is time and not placing, and due to the hilliness of this mile, and the slippery nature of the surface, I didn't want to kill myself, so I didn't try to specifically place well.  

Here we are all lined up, slightly wet, but with a good warmup in our legs (Craig, Jordan and I had a great little warmup run with some strides)

The idea is to head out strong to be able to choose your line and avoid painted road surfaces. But you also have to be careful on the downhill start not to blow out of hamstring or go so hard you trip.

I took the steep climb reasonably easy, saving myself for the downhill. By the top of the hill I think I was in about 8th or 9th place. As I crested the top, I had plenty in the tank and started to pick up the pace. By the mid point of the race I found myself in 4th. 

Now it was all about mental power and holding form. You have to not over stride coming down or the pounding will just drain you before the line. 

I pulled away from 5th place but in no way could catch 3rd. Check out that gap!

As I approached the line, the clock was nearing 5 minutes. I pushed a little extra, but just didn't make the mark, finishing in 5:03. Still that was better than 5:07 from last year and it hurt less. Not bad, considering I haven't done much out right speed work this summer. That was good enough for a 3:08 pace, 4th place overall and 2nd place in my Age Group.

It was also great seeing so many BLT Runners hit PBs as well. Many smiles were shining in the rain.

The new tradition is to gather as many people as possible and head over to the Montreal Bagel place for a treat and chat. This year I opted for the BLT Bagel. Mmmmm.

That fuel was then put to good use as Craig and I headed out to do some hill repeats. No, not those, run up hills fast and stroll down kind. Instead I found a 2 km hill with a 3.7% average grade and we ran up that and then down at an easy pace. My goal was 2 hours of running on hills and this provided that. Craig had to leave after 3 and really only got to run in the blazing hot sun that had come out. My next 3 were done in pouring rain. It was nice having some company for the first bit. 

26 km in total and 2 hours later I was at the Bike and Bean to meet my wife (she did some hills as well). I could literally ring out my clothes. 

I'm not a huge beer drinker, but after close to 30 km of running I figured I could have one. This hit the spot, Nine Locks. 

The next day was a rest day, so into the woods for some hiking we went. Dang it was hot.

So a pretty decent weekend of fun and running and hiking. Oh, and a few moments of feet up and relaxing as well. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

How Was Your Weekend?

So the weather was downright nasty on the weekend. Humid, rain, cloudy, warm. That means retreat to indoors and come back stronger later right? Nah.

On Saturday my friend Sheldon (from Sportwheels) and I organized the second annual Sportwheels 65km Sportive Trail Ride. A nice safe way for riders to get a long ride in that has support along the way and a BBQ at the end. For many riders it is a great way to kick off training for the longer century rides that come in August and September. In total I rode 75km (some added support) on the St Margaret's Bay Trail, had some great chats and met some new people.

Then Sunday it was time to hit the trails to get training for my October Trail Race. I stayed close to home using the Bluff Trail system to get a 15km run in. I learned a few things about shoes on that day, which is why we train. It was also a wonderful day to just get out of the daily grind and into nature.

As I sit and drink coffee in my air conditioned office, I do think, dang, it would be great to get outside. 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Aylesford Lake Triathlon 2018

This post is a little behind as the triathlon was last weekend, but I had hoped to get a few more pictures before I wrote it up. Alas...

Well anyway, I love this Triathlon and this year it was almost cancelled, until 2 great guys stepped up and made it happen. Thanks Jeff and Andrew.  This year I opted to go back and retry the Standard Distance (1.5/40/10) that I had done well at 2 years ago. I don't do a lot of triathlons each year but thought if I was going to do this one, it would be hard.

I arrived and was happy to see that I was presented with the #1 race bib as the official leader of the points series. I also received a special gold swim cap which only the points leader can wear. I'll take these moments when I can.

The lake was really nice and calm, the sky cloudy and the wind low. Perfect conditions. While I am not a strong swimmer, I was feeling comfortable going into this race.

Check out that cap!

Soon the race was off. We ran into the water, or in my case, traveled at an easy pace to get comfortable.  I hit the water and had no issues with panic and just started swimming. Now I did swim fairly wide to the side to start, wanting to ease myself in and soon I had a good rhythm going. two years ago, I was a little faster in the water, but as a non swimmer, it is hard to maintain that without a lot of work. I reached the half way point about 2/3rds of the way back in the field.

I managed to finally get out of the water in 29:43 and in 15th place.  I will admit I had a slower time with my wetsuit this year and that was likely also showing up in my overall time as I didn't rush the transition zone.  When I did get in, I was able to breeze through in 42 seconds for the second faster T1 of the day.

Then to the bike! 

I got a rhythm going quickly and started to catch up with people. This course is rolling hills with a few good climbs. I knew I didn't have a lot of hope catching all the top guys, but I did want to make sure I finished as close as possible to the leader, as this is how points are awarded. 

Sadly I have no pictures, but coming into the end of the bike ride I had worked my way up to 8th place with an average speed of 34.1 km/hr. I blew through T2 in 40 seconds and was off on the run.

The run starts up hill, a steep up hill and on bike legs that feels horrible. Still, I knew that with a little effort I could catch at least a couple more people. About 2 km into the run, I caught up with Craig and could see Paul. I pushed hard and by the end of the first 5K I had closed the gap down to Paul. Finally, at about 6-7 km into the run I passed for 6th and pushed hard again.

Ideally I had hoped to go under 2:20, but I ended up crossing the line at 2:23, 6th overall, 1st Age Group. My swim had been much slower than the top guys, in some cases 7 minutes slower. That is hard to make up. So I am happy I made up as many places as I did. The run was a little long, and I completed it is 41:45, 3rd fastest of the day. 

Overall, quite happy. I had a couple of really ugly training weeks leading up to this race, and while I felt good that day, I think it took a little of my mental game away. Also, heck, recovery from the races I have done in May and June has been rough. Still, I had fun.

This is a great event, I was privileged to be the wearer of the golden cap and can't wait for the next event.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Baddeck Duathlon 2018

Now in its third year, the Baddeck Duathlon is a great event and one I have no issue with driving a distance for. What used to be the weekend of my favourite triathlon is easily one of my new favourite races. 

The weather this year was great, crazy considering how bad the weather in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton in general has been so far this Spring/Summer. Sunny with a few clouds, a light breeze and mid teens temps. Perfect.

This event also has a later start time, so the morning is super relaxed. Eventually though, we all have to meet in the big circle to get our race briefing.

Then it is off to race start, where apparently we have to wait for someone (no names, ha ha). Now as much as I would love to win this event, it is great to see a strong top 10 group of people show up and for there to be a great race. It means I have to push myself, and that is part of what we like doing, right?

Soon we were off. Run 1 is a 5km route on a gravel road with the start being a 1 kilometer climb, before a small dip happens and then the climb continues. It certainly is a hard run, but a hard run is better for me (I guess?). I quickly took second place and watched as first zoomed away. Wow, Tyler was fast. The best part of the run? Possibly when an emu ran up to a fence and screamed at me.  Or possibly when I got to the turn around, still in second, and knew that the big downhill was coming.

I pushed fairly hard on the downhill to make up some time, but in no way could catch first.  Still I came in to T1 in second with a time of 18:04. I was happy with that.

A quick 32 second transition and I was off on the bike for the 22km route around Big Baddeck.

I'm not bad on the bike, but I am certainly not as good as the top guys. So it always comes as a surprise when I get to catch and pass someone. Within a few kilometers I was in first. That was short lived though as within a few more kilometers, Allan passed me for position. Then by 10 kilometers in I was passed by Daniel and Colin to fall back to fourth.

Now I knew that my run, even on a short course could be enough to hold my position "if" I could stay as close as possible to the next few guys I knew would be coming along.  So I pushed and pushed hard. Soo, I looked down and saw I was coming into the finish, still in fourth. This was good news. I popped off my bike, ran through T2, switched to running gear and was off. Combined time was 40:38 and I was still in fourth.

Catching third seemed unlikely, but I knew that the 2.5km second run (same course) meant I couldn't let up.  Also you just never know.

500m in I realized how hard I pushed the bike, as my calf started to cramp, something that hasn't happened to me in years. It was at this point that I was worried I may have to walk and therefore lose my position. The cramp seemed to subside and off I went. The turn around came quickly and soon I was running down hill again.

I pushed it and managed to maintain my spot, zooming through the finish line with a second run time of 10:14. I had clawed some time back from second and third place, but not nearly enough. Still year 2 and I finished in 4th again, though this time 1 minute faster on the same course with similar conditions.  I was pretty happy. 

My overall time was 1:09:30.

Thanks to the organizers for hosting again and the locals for always being welcoming.