Thursday, June 21, 2012

2012 Greenwood Duathlon

Another week, another race. Being a duathlete around these parts tends to mean a whole bunch of early season races, then bag-o, nothing. Oh well, at least I can lay off the training a bit as every week is a recovery week, ha ha.

So off to Greenwood in the Valley this week. This meant getting up and leaving the house shortly after 6 am for a close to 2 hour drive. Ugh. I must like doing these things.

Anyway, I arrived on site, and saw the mad scrambling to get everything about the courses (there were different races happening) set up. This is an active military base, so it isn't like they can get things setup too early. Also the race director had to deal with a lack of one timing mat, which meant the duathletes would have to do some fancy footwork to get over to the swimmers mat for T1. Anyway, after a little delay it was all worked out and we got ready to go.

Sadly the distance to the race, the fact that a major Marathon (or marathalon - inside joke) and its supporting races was happening on the same day, and the fact that most people would rather get wet and not experience the pain of 2 all out sprint runs, meant that the numbers for the Duathlon were to be low. Only 8 people signed up and due to an injury only 7 people raced. Still I knew I had some tough competition and I had to fight to retain my spot as the top 30-39 year old at this race for the past 4 years. That would mean I would have to beat Ed Parker, who beat me at the first race in Shearwater a couple of weeks back. And this race course would be oh so similar.

So we lined up, the horn blew and we were off.

The first run was going to be 3 km. I lead for the first 2km of it before Alan Miner finally pulled slightly ahead of me. But I stuck with him close enough that we ended up with the same time going across the first timing mat. 10:49 for a pace of 3:37. That was fast for me and as I would later find out pushed Alan as well. This also gave me a 1 minute lead on Ed going into T1, a cushion that I knew I would need.

So into T1, and a quick change out of my shoes, and hat and into my helmet and bike shoes, then off I went. It was a quick and nice T1 which I was happy with. Luckily there were not a lot of people around to get in the way.
Then off to the bike course. This was pretty much the same as last years course, though with an altered finish, which I really liked more than previous years.

Alan was a bit ahead of me at this point, and while I had thought to take it easy for the first bit of the ride, I saw him fumble slightly with his pedals, so off I took. I caught him and passed him and like a great guy he obeys the rules dropped back and then built up the speed he needed to pass me. And according to Alan, my speed was just high enough that he had to push a ton to make that pass happen.

The ride was uneventful, I tucked in 10 meters behind Alan and stuck there right outside of the draft zone and pushed as fast as I could go. As this was a 3 lap course, I could also keep tabs on Ed, and I managed to keep the gap about the same for the entire ride.

It was only the last 0.5 km or so that Alan pulled away a little bit. I knew that I had pushed quite hard so I let  up a little at that point to give my legs a bit of a breather to help avoid cramping on the run.

It was also at this point that I decided to give the flying dismount another try. So I slipped out of my shoes right near the end, slowed enough and popped off the bike right before the dismount line. This time my shoes stayed on the bike, hooray, and I ran into T2 with Alan in sight. My final stats were a time of 42:22 for 20 for an average speed of 34.9 km/hr including transition time. Oh and a military cop later told me he had my top speed pegged at 55 km/hr. Nice for a flat course (there was a slight tail wind and a slight decline).

By now the heat of the day was kicking in. The bike ride hadn't been too tough as a bit of cloud had come through. I only had 5 km left to go, so it was time to suck it up.

I ran out of T2 and onto the run course and low and behold, Alan was just up ahead in the distance. Alan is generally a much faster runner than I am, though this season I have certainly made strides in my top speed over shorter distances.  Still I didn't need to kill myself now in an attempt to catch him, not with Ed right behind me.

So instead I paced off of Alan and my Garmin to keep things going. I dared not glance back for fear of pushing myself harder. And as it was 1 km into the run I started to get a wicked cramp in my diaphragm.

The 5 km course to finish was similar to the 3 km course to start but included ducking into some side streets to make up the distance. This made it hard to see anyone else. So I had no idea where Ed was in relation to me, until I was at about the 2.5 km mark and we ran by each other. I was maybe 05 km ahead of him at this point. Enough that I knew if I maintained my speed I would likely keep my spot, but not enough that if I gave into my cramp and had to walk a bit.

Alan was slowly getting a little further ahead of me up the road, and I knew that pipe dream was over. Still I gutted through it, wishing I had a little drink, and closed in on the finish line. At this point 2nd place was all but mine so I dared a glance at my overall time in this leg. I was maybe 0.5 km to the finish and oh so close to 20 minutes. So I pushed it. I really wanted to break a 20 minute second 5 km.

In the end I came in with a 20:33 on my Garmin and a 20:55 official time (including transition). I was happy with that for sure.

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My final time was 1:06:06, just a minute slower than Alan, and a minute faster than Ed. Alan was quite kind to congratulate me and let me know how much I had improved over the years. That was almost better than the finish frankly.

So this weekend is Ingonish and an actual Triathlon. Swimming should be fun this year and I am more ready than I was last year at this point. I have had a few open water swims, and even one with a group. I am still a slow inefficient swimmer, but I do look forward to it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Platelet Donation and the Athlete

The latest race report will have to wait for a few days (I am hoping to see some other photos), while I write up this little report.

Now this isn't all scientific, just one athlete's n=1 type deal when it comes to donating blood and race / training performance.

So last week I was called by Canada Blood Services. I am in their system as I have donated a few times in the past. Apparently they matched my platelets as a dead on match to a person in Newfoundland undergoing some sort of treatment. Now what this treatment exactly is I don't know. I guess it doesn't really matter one way or the other.

Now I will admit that I have been a little selfish with my blood lately. I used to donate a lot more a few years back. But with all of the training I do and with there always seeming to be a race popping up, and I just couldn't find the time to go. And truthfully I didn't want it to hurt my performance. I guess it is extra bad as with B+ blood, I am actually one of the rarer blood types and therefore in demand.

I suppose it was easy to justify also, as my last few donations didn't go as well as the ones before. I would get pale, require extra attention and not be able to leave the clinic for awhile afterwards. I am not entirely sure why all of a sudden I would get faint after many successful donations, but it surely did not inspire me to go back.

So here I was called the Monday before my next race and asked to come in ASAP. As I said, I couldn't really say no and luckily being in demand isn't a bad thing as they made room to fit my schedule. So I got in on the Wednesday that week, leaving myself a few days to "come back."

The last time I donated I was asked if platelets might be something I would be willing to donate in the future. I said sure. So I was tested and told, sorry you are too low to donate. Now, not dangerously low, just lower than they like (under 200,000 per μl of blood or not 200 as they tell us in the chair). But being an exact match, they lower the limitations as long as you are over 150,000, as I was.
A picture of platelets from Wikipedia
So with all of this weighing on my mind (low count, race coming up, probably going to get faint, sore arm, etc....) I headed into the clinic. I was weighed, measured, asked questions and then setup in a recliner. 

I felt a little silly as the nurses had to spend all sorts of extra time with me. My low count meant I would be sitting in the chair for a longer time (turns out 1.5 hours). Also my pressure being low meant I had to squeeze a little ball the whole time (again 1.5 hours) or the machine would start beeping. This also meant constantly adjusting my needle (fun). And of course I did feel faint. So I had a little juice box, a cold compress and the chair even more reclined than normal.  And to add insult to injury, the anti coagulant they pump into you to keep things flowing is chilled, so the longer you are int he chair the colder you get, and I got very cold, so I needed a warm blanket.

I finally got all the platelets I could out, then hung around for a bit to recover before heading home. I survived and as the life span of donated platelets is a mere 5 days I will be needed to come in every 2 weeks at this point, at least as long as the person in Newfoundland is undergoing the mystery treatment.

But all of this comes back to, "how did this affect your athletic performance, Ian?" Well I have to say, it didn't hurt it one bit.  Platelets are regenerated very quickly, and frankly should be back up to snuff in less than a day. By the next day I was doing an easy 6K run, the day after 1600m in Chocolate Lake (while at a slow pace for me it was still a workout), and then an easy 5K run Saturday. All this and I raced to second place on Sunday at the Duathlon in Greenwood. And I raced hard. One of the MPs on the base even clocked me going 55 km/hr on a very slight downhill section on my bike.

So to all of you thinking you might be able to help out, platelets and plasma are the way to go in season. A few hours of your time during the week and the worst side affect (and this seems to be the case from the many websites I have read)  is a bit of a sore arm for the day. Both allow you to recover the missing portions of your blood in less than a day and can be donated every 2 weeks.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cyclesmith Duathlon 2012

Okay, so another Sunday another race. This weekend we were out at Lawrencetown Beach for the 26th annual Cyclesmith Duathlon.

Now this is a beast as far as local duathlons go. By far the longest with a 5km run then 35km bike and finally a 6km run. The first run is hilly to start, the ride is full of quick but often steep little hills and the final run is dead flat.

I always want to do well at any race, but this one even more so. Usually some of the fastest racers around come out for this race, as there is no triathlon associated with it and it is so close to town. Therefore a good result means that much more. And this sort of course seems to suit me well, my prior results  not withstanding.

My previous best result was last year with a 20th place (though I also had a 20th place the year before with a slower overall time). So I was aiming for something better this year.
With the temperatures in the low teens, an overcast sky, and little wind, it was a perfect day for a race. As usual we lined up on the road, right behind a nice piece of tape and awaited our command to go.
And we were off. I had hoped to start off this race as I did the last Cyclesmith Duathlon, with a personal best 5K time. For some reason I can set a fast time here even with a big hill. But I also had to temper my run so as not to burn myself out (which I usually do). Thank you Garmin for the help here.

I quickly glanced down and slowed my pace a bit trying to start out with around a 4min/km pace. I figured if I held that over the hilly part I could pick things up a bit for the flat finish to this leg. Well I was slightly ahead of target but feeling good so I went with it. As I hit the timing mat to enter the transition zone I glanced down to hit my lap button on the Garmin and saw the number 19. Later on I would see that I had accomplished a 19:05 start to the race. Wow, I am closing in a sub 18 minute 5K. Something to look forward to later on in the summer.
I was in 6th place at this point and knew some fast cyclists were behind me. So I quickly changed shoes, donned my helmet and off I went.

I passed one cyclist fairly early on in the ride. I was then passed by a few myself. One was Kevin Besner. I had hoped to keep ahead of him but he is a faster cyclist than m and a 5K run just wasn't enough a of a lead this time around. Still I managed to keep him and another cyclist just in front of me for most of the second half of the ride.

Perhaps I would be slightly faster on a proper triathlon bike, but we all have sacrifices to make and buying a new bike just is't in the cards for me, and neither are fancy race wheels. And truthfully my little Devinci road bike is setup pretty well for short distance aero riding, so most of the blame lies squarely in my legs.

It is always nice to see only a few bikes in the transition zone when you come back. I didn't count them but I knew I must be around 10th place or so by this point. I had already let up a bit on the bike coming back, relaxing my legs over the last kilometer. A few more seconds on the bike could lead to a lot less seconds on the run, and I almost always cramp up to start this second run after all those little hills.

My time for the 35K on the bike (including my T1 time) was 1:02:01 or 32.9 km/hr. That is pretty close to previous years times, and I was feeling pretty good.

A quick change and I was off down the board walk and onto the flat trail bed path.

I could just see Kevin Besner in the distance so I knew I had to keep my pace moderately high. The guy in front of me was pulling away a little each minute and I didn't want to burn myself out going after him. But I could see myself inching closer to Kevin.

Being a 6K run and on tired legs I opted to try and maintain my half marathon pace of 4:20's per km, at least for the first 3K. But by the turn around I was right on Kevin's tail and surged forward and passed him. Now I just needed to hold on for 3 kms.

At this point I had to pick things up again and tried to keep an even 4 min/km pace. After a kilometer or so I must have fallen asleep a bit when I looked down at my pace and picked things up again, maintaining that 4 min pace  for most of the rest of the run until right before the end.

With 500 meters to go I dared a look behind and I was free and clear, so now it was all about getting the best time I could.
The closer I got to the finish line, the more excited I was to see the clock. With a little extra effort I was able to squeeze in under 1:49 with a finish time of 1:48:26 and a final run time for the 6K (including T2 time) of 27:21.  This was good enough for 10th place overall. And I was very happy.
While I did not win a coveted draw prize this year (or frankly any year, or frankly ever), I did take home a lovely gift card which will buy me some exiting bike tubes.

We also learned that Paul Shaw will be looking to pass along hosting duties of this race for next year. Hopefully someone steps in and picks this up as this is a great race. Thanks for all the hard work Paul.
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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Quick Open Water Swim Update

With the up coming Ingonish Triathlon fast approaching, it is certainly time to get some open water swims in. I have previously gotten into the local lakes twice before yesterday, though to be realistic, it was more about surviving the cold temps and general open water anxiety than really getting in a solid work out.

Well yesterday was sunny, and warm out. So I headed to Chocolate Lake for a real open water session.

It was obviously not a great traditional beach/swimming day when I got there, as I was the only person willing to enter the water. I think the water temp was probably 14-15C or so. Chilly getting in, for sure, but doable. I also had a wetsuit (sleeveless) and neoprene swim cap, so that made all the difference.

I picked a course that was about 150 meters or so in one direction. My first swim across was really a warm up and attempt to get breathing and nerves under control. Accomplished. From that point on I could actually workout and did a total of 3 trips back and forth for 900 meters.

As I am working on sprint triathlons at the moment, 900 meters was enough of a hard set for me for the day. I also didn't want to tweak my shoulder again before this weekends duathlon (last week was a bit painful).

My pace was slow but pretty much where I assumed it would be based on my pool swims. I am a 2:00min per 100 meter swimmer at the moment, but hopefully with some more work I can get that speed up, without killing myself.

My other main goal with this workout was to get my sighting worked out. After a few misadventures I think I got it down. If I sight after every 4 breaths, I can keep a pretty tight line.

A few more open water sessions and I think I will be on track to beating last years time in the Ingonish swim.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

2012 Navy Duathlon - Let's Go

Okay so the start of the Duathlon season has now come and gone. Navy was this past weekend, and this is always a great race to start the season. For one, it is close to home (though I still need to get up at 5:30am, yuck) and two it a very straight forward course (well with laps, but you can always win).

 For this year things changed a little bit. The run course was (as usual) the same for both the first and second run. But this year it was extended to 5km each rather than the 3.5km or 3 of the past events. I liked this as my run has definitely become much stronger over the years. Also the run was a single out and back and not laps (that is nice as counting hard), along a flat crusher dust trail.

 The bike course was slightly altered, but only in the approach to the runway portion (the bulk) of the course. I think it was better and lacked the extra bumps of last year. 

The start was slightly delayed, but that happens. Anyway, by 7:30 we were lined up and ready to go.
And we were off. Now this year I had pre-planned my run. I was going to use the power of my buddy Garmin to hold a steady pace. Being 5K I knew that I would have the tenancy to start off a bit fast and then run out of steam near the end. So instead I held back, knowing that 20 minute 5K would be about right for me.

Well at the halfway point I was in a solid 3rd position and quite happy with it. I know that Alan and Shawn are faster than me so no need to blow up now. I was holding a 4 minute per km average pace and right on target.  By the time I hit T1 my Garmin said 20:18 for 5.08 kms. So yeah.

Transition went well, and I crossed the mount line to begin the hill climb to the runway, where 3 laps of wind awaited.

The hill to start is always a fun thing after your legs are all rubbery from the run
I held 3rd place until just reaching the runway at which point I was passed into the headwind. And what a headwind. Nice and strong. But that also meant a great tailwind. I held my effort fairly steady and was eventually passed by 2 others, but I held them just in my sight and relaxed. I figured at this point if I gave it my all I would just end up with a bad second run.

The start of the downhill to the run. Yippee! 
So it was the start of the big downhill that ended at the dismount line where I decided to actually go forward with my plan for a flying dismount. Now nothing too crazy, just a rolling step off was the plan. And why not go for it at this point I thought. So I slipped my feet out of my shoes and began to pedal hard (that sounds weird doesn`t it). As I approached the line I stepped onto one pedal, slowed slightly and stepped off. And low and behold it worked. I ran past the dismount line and didn`t fall on my butt.

Alas, my shoe did become unclipped from my pedal and and I ended up having to go back for it. So time saved was nil. Oh well, it was fun anyway.

I got to my racking spot in T2 to get my running shoes on and ditch the bike but someone had decided to put all their stuff there. So I quickly crammed my bike in as well as I could, dug around for my running shoes, and finally managed to get off for the second run with a slow T2 time. This probably also affected my overall second run time as it would include this fumbling around. Anyway, I manged to bike the course in 40 minutes according to my leg chip at an average speed of 30 km/h or 31 km/h according to my Garmin. With the top speed of the day being 33.8 in the duathlon, you can guess that the wind played a role here as the the 180 degree turns twice a lap.

After the debacle of the second transition, I was off. Ed Parker had been hanging around me for most of the race so far. I had nipped him on the first run, and he finally passed me on the bike on the final lap. He was a bit up the trail from me, so I decided to pick up my pace and attempt to bridge the gap.

In doing so I passed another duathlete (and a few triathletes as well, but they were in another race of course). I finally caught and passed Ed by the 1.5 km mark and kept running. I managed to hold a fairly steady pace and was hoping to hang in for another 20 minute 5K. usually for me the second run is a few minutes slower.

By the turn around I was still in 4th place overall, but with 1 km to go or so Ed picked up his pace a bit more and surged past me. I seriously contemplated seeing if I had anything left, but my legs were not willing to answer that call. I picked it up a bit hoping that maybe Ed would falter, but alas it was not to be and I crossed the line in 5th place overall, 3rd in my age group and with a time of 1:21:54. So more endurance training is in my future to get that second run even stronger I see.

My official second run time includes my second transition, and is listed as 21:34 for the 3rd fastest (again!). My Garmin has me running 5.06km this time in a time of 20:56 for  an average pace of 4:09 km/min. Not a sub 20 minute 5K but a time I am happy with.

Now on to Cyclesmith and the hardest Du we do. Hopefully my legs still work.

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