Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ingonish Tri - 2013

Well it had to happen I guess, I couldn't stay away from the swim forever. As much as I love doing duathlons, it is kind of fun to occasionally do a triathlon as well. So I packed up the dogs with my wife and off to Ingonish we went.

Now this year I wasn't really well trained up on swimming. I had started to make some real progress early in the winter, but then my real focus switched to running again and my swimming went into status mode. Still I managed to get a few open water swims in the weeks prior to the race to make sure I was ready.

Race day saw the water temp quite nice in the lake at Ingonish beach. Likely 18 or 19 C. Perfect for a wetsuit swim. It was surprisingly windy though, for the morning, which lead to a really choppy surface.

I knew my swim would be decent but slow and I really decided to take my time getting in and then building up to my race tempo, rather then what I did the previous year where I went out fast and then over cooked myself.

I quickly found my grove and had what was for me, a comfortable and good swim. It certainly didn't show up in my overall time, though when looking at the overall stats for everyone, the swims were slightly slower than last year. So either the chop made a difference, or the course was slightly longer. Either way I came out of the water in 24th overall with a time of 16:22. Yup not fast but hey, I had fun.

Off to T1 with a long 500m run on crusher dust. Luckily one's feet are slightly numb so it doesn't feel so bad.

A quick change out of my wetsuit and onto the bike I went. Now the ride is listed officially as 20km, it is 23km. I started to pass people fairly quickly until about 6 km in when I came upon Mark Campbell stranded on the side of the road. He yelled for an allen key and I couldn't let him stay stranded any longer so I stopped. I knew I wasn't going to win and I might as well help a friend. Sadly my allen keys were not the right ones for him. So quickly back onto the bike I went, losing maybe 20 seconds. Well worth it for my ability to sleep well at night.

The ride is rollers until you hit a huge downhill where I hit 63km/hr and ran out of gears. Then a quick turn at the bottom and onto a climb. By this point I had passed my way from 24th to 8th overall and rolled into T2 having set the 5th fastest bike split of the day (31.4km/hr officially, 35 km/hr on my computer).

As I set out on the run, my hip started to hurt again (I am so glad to have a rest period coming up to get this injury rested up), but I just let my feet find their rhythm and do what they trained to do.

I quickly found 7th place and passed him bringing myself up to 7th overall (though truthfully I had no idea of my placing at this point). Also my Garmin decided to not work, thanks Garmin. So it was all gut feeling now. So I pushed as much as I thought I needed to to stay ahead of 8th place.

I ended up running by the leaders as they were headed back from the turn around point, but I was close to 1/2 a kilometer behind and my hip and legs were not feeling it this day. A quick splash of water to drink and I was headed to the finish line.

I picked up a bit of steam in the last 400 meters and had a good strong finish.

In the end I managed a 6th fastest run in 21 minutes, which included T2 and was probably my fastest run ever at Ingonish. I had hoped for more, but today wasn't that kind of day. I wish the Garmin worked so I could tell my stand alone run but oh well.

Not my best sprint triathlon ever, but the results were decent with a 7th place overall and 1st in my Age group for an overall time of 1:21:18.

And as I said, now is the time for resting, though that doesn't mean not training. Just a hold on races for the next while to get back to full health.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Greenwood Duathlon 2013 - FTW Part Deux

Another weekend another race. Races are fun, but they certainly do tire one out. This week I headed to the Valley and in particular, Greenwood, Nova Scotia. This was another event with multiple race choices, though only the one duathlon. The vast majority of people traveling this distance seemed to enter the sprint triathlon or the Try a Tri event. And for the first time we saw a separate category for para-triathlon. So that was really cool. Needless to say I entered the duathlon.

While the field was small, the competition never is. After not racing him last weekend, Alan M was back to toe the start line with, and I knew he would be my main competition. I say that as I have raced this event for 4 year (?) now and he has beaten me every time. Last year I was sort of close but still no where near fast enough to keep up.

This would be a reverse sort of deal with the short run first and the long run last for a 3km/20km/5km event. Much like the Navy duathlon this one is also held on a military base, and is almost dead flat. That means fast. And that meant I had to push those runs as best as I could to give myself any sort of advantage.

From the start horn I took off into the lead, just like the week before at Cyclesmith's Duathlon. I had only 3km to build a lead to stay in front of Alan on the bike. As he is usually much faster on the bike than I am I knew it would be a situation much like the week before where my lead disappeared and needed to be brought back on the final run. Also at this point I was feeling pretty good, but during the week I had tweaked my hip a little and was unsure how it might hold out on that second run.

I ran as fast as I could comfortably, at one point looking down to see a 3:10 min/km pace on my Garmin. Okay, that was a little ambitious. I eventually settled into a more manageable but fast pace and finished the first 3km run in 10:22 for an average pace of 3:28 min/km. That was significantly faster than my previous PB 5km pace and I would like to see how that might be able to hold up either later this year or early next season.

So after the first leg I was up on Alan by 32 seconds. Not quite the lead I had the week before, but enough to have a solid / clean bike mount and head off. And I did.

The roadway we use is quite flat save for a sloping downhill section / uphill return. We do 3 loops and there is almost always a cross breeze. The road has a few bumps and pot holes, but nothing to worry too much about. I put my head down and rode. From the Navy race I knew that I could ride at a similar speed to Alan  on this type of course, so I figured if I could hold onto my 30ish second lead for at least 2 laps, then I should be able to stay right with him leading into the run. But he never did get the chance to pass me.

In the end I managed to have the fastest bike split of the day with a time of 33:32 over 20km for an avg speed of 35.8 km/hr. Alan was just slightly behind me at 35.7 km/hr, though I will concede that he was held up by a racer doing the sprint triathlon. As much as I liked the result, it does suck when anyone gets held up, especially when that person was not riding "correctly" shall we say.

Anyway, I came into T2 and executed a beautiful (if I do say so myself) flying dismount. No lost shoe, no stubbed toe, no stumbling, just a smooth fluid motion. To the rack, a shoe change and I was gone, still in the lead.

Now I know that right now I have been running a bit faster than Alan, but I was wondering still about my hip. So far so good, so I decided to not waste any time. This year was great as I experienced absolutely no cramping as I had always had before, due to my "over running" myself. That felt so nice. By about 1.5 kms in I saw Alan back in the distance a bit, but now I felt a twinge in the hip. I slowed slightly but soldiered on. The hip came back to me and all was okay again, but the heat was really starting to come down now. Luckily the water stop came at the right point for a quick cup of icy cold water on the head. That felt so nice.

This run course is so lonely. You run and wonder if the world has left you behind. It seems no one exists. Anyway, you finally reemerge back into civilization and breathe a sigh of relief that you didn't in fact take a crazy turn somewhere. One little dip in the road, then the home stretch. Usually by this point I am pushing with all I have left, trying to eek out any extra time to close the gap to the leader, but for now I was still the leader. And for the few hundred meters I could see behind me, I was alone. I kept a solid pace but didn't go gung ho and crossed the finish line first. For the second time in 2 weeks I won a duathlon. Hooray! It was certainly hard. I ran the final 5k m in 19:34, and frankly I think I had more in me to give.

All that early season heart rate zone training with Jeff Zahavich has really paid off. And the bike felt so good finally after having Sheldon at Sportwheels help me redesign how the front end went together. It is like all that potential is finally be given the opportunity to come out.

No more duathlons until the Fall now, but one more race before I take a break. This weekend coming up is my first triathlon of the season in Ingonish. Always a fun race, even with that swimming stuff added, ha ha.

Oh and a big thanks to Chris for putting on the race and for the awesome 1st place prize of locally distilled Apple Vodka from IronWorks in Lunenburg. Mmmmm.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Cyclesmith Duathlon 2013 - FTW!

Alright, finally got a chance to sit down and write this blog post. Last weekend was the great and awesome Cyclesmith Duathlon, an event I have been doing for 5 years now. I have always loved this course, but for the first time in my 5 years the course had changed. Also for the first time there were 2 different race options for adults. The standard 5km/35km/6km race had been changed to an Olympic distance duathlon with a 10km/35km/5km distance and a Sprint Duathlon had been added with a distance of 5km/20km/2.5km. So now I had a choice of races.

I thought long and hard and decided on racing the Sprint. I have put next to no special bike training in this year, relying on my commute to work and the occasional trainer ride to keep my fitness from going away, as this year has been all about running. For this reason I knew that a 35km bike ride would take alot out of me, and as my big focus this year is a marathon, the recovery from a hard 15km of running would also really set back my training. The Sprint would be hard, but the recovery would be much easier. It would also fit in with all the other Duathlons I have raced this year.

Luckily I had a few tough competitors opt for this distance (thought he majority went to the Oly). I knew this would be no cake walk with Kevin B lined up beside me to start.

It was a nice cold, windy, and foggy morning and I could wait to actually get running. We started the race as a mass start on a crusher dust rail to trail. And we were off.

A 5km run start offers little chance to mess up. And I knew how fast Kevin would be on the bike. I needed a lead to make this work. So I didn't hang around and pushed the pace hard. I reached the turn around in 9:19 and headed to the start line. I was at this point in first place and hit the 5km mark at 18:37. My official time is actually 17:37, but the course was bit short.

The run out of T1 was a long one, with the Officials not wanting people to mount their bikes until we hit the pavement due to the poor nature of the gravel road we were on. So I opted to run in my bike shoes, like the days of old. I ran to the line with a 1 minute lead over Kevin in second place and took off.

Being a short race I allowed myself only enough time to catch my breath on the bike before I started pushing as hard as I could. I needed to stay in front of Kevin for as long as possible as I knew the short second run would not offer much chance to over take a person.  By the turn around at about 10km  I still had not been passed. This was a good sign. But as I was starting back I finally saw Kevin and he was closing down.

I pushed even harder at this point. The course was constant rolling hills, so it wasn't always easy to get a great rhythm going. Finally with 5km to go in the ride, Kevin got by me. so that was the 1 minute from the run gone and I had to minimize the next bit of loss. After dropping back out of the draft zone, I managed to keep Kevin in sight for the rest of the ride. I managed the ride in around 38 minutes including both transitions.

As I approached T2 I had to decide whether or not to dismount and run in bike shoes (again it was a long run) or to just do a flying dismount and go barefoot over the gravel. I knew I needed the extra seconds that running barefoot would give me, so at the last second I decided on the flying dismount and ran into T2.

I was quite happy to see that as I was approaching my bike rack space, Kevin had only just started the run course. I racked my bike (once the officials moved, ha ha), did a quite wipe of my feet to get any rocks off and slipped on my shoes. Off I went for a quick 2.5km. 

I could just see Kevin in the distance and pushed my pace. I caught him in about 500 meters or so and surged past. There was no time for playing any games. If he had anything left he would have to jump on my tail and stick to me. After another couple of 100 meters I broke free from him and then never lost the lead again. There was still no time for taking it easy. Again this was only 2.5km so push push push.

I crossed the finish line first in a time of 1:06:11 with a final run pace of 3:58 min/km. Yes, I won. Well there you go, finally. And all it took was a near PB 5km run to start and giving it everything I had on the bike that day. I took home some great gift cards for my prize and thanks to my wife I have something even greater, wonderful photos of the day.

Next up is the Greenwood Duathlon this weekend. I missed my duel with Alan this past week, so I will be happy to race against him again. A huge congrats as well to the duathletes who competed in the Olympic distance. There was some crazy fast people in that race.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Navy Duathlon 2013

So here are in June and I just finished my second Duathlon of the year, the venerable Navy Duathlon (and Triathlon) held in Shearwater, NS. I have done this race for many years now and still love coming back, even though it changes just a little each year, so it is hard to compare versus previous results.

As has often been the case these past few years, the Duathlons that are teamed up with triathlons draw fewer competitors than stand alone events. So sadly there were only 15 of us at the start line. I guess the allure of the triathlon is just too great and while I certainly do like a good tri, the option to add an extra run is always far more interesting to me. But luckily we had some good competitors still in this small field.

The Du started with a 5km run. At the start my plan was to shadow Shawn A. as his runs have generally been very fast and if I could hang on with him, then that would be great. At the first Du of the year I managed to catch up with him near the end of the run and come in only seconds behind him. After an extremely fast start, the 2 of us started to pull away from the other runners. After about the 1 km mark I found that I was settling into a good rhythm, but by 2km I felt like things were slowing down. We had gone from a 3:30 min/km pace to a 4 min pace. That wasn't gong to be enough for me, as I knew I needed a decent lead from the run to stay ahead of Alan M on the bike and have a shot at actually beating him (I wasn't convinced at all of beating Shawn overall). So at the turn around I decided to pull ahead of Shawn and if he wanted to jump on my heels that would be cool. I picked up the pace and headed for T1.

And for the first time ever I finished the first run of a duathlon legitimately in the lead. Sure I have technically had a few first place runs to start, but this was the real deal. I finished 8 seconds clear of Shawn and a whopping 49 seconds ahead of Alan. And I while I was surely pushing hard, I wasn't dead at all. Still I took a few extra seconds in T1 to calmly get my bike stuff together and head out and allow my heart rate to drop just a touch. Then on to the 20km bike ride.

I had a clean mount and peddled off, adjusting my shoes easily before the big hill to start the ride. I was just about to hit the main part of the ride, about 1 km in by the time Shawn passed me on the bike. I had frankly expected him to pass me sooner, so I was still feeling good. I then proceeded to give it my all. Now while this is generally a flattish course, being a runway and all, the speeds are never usually that high. This is due to the huge hill to start, very technical first /last section and then the fairly strong winds in one direction of the runway. Still I pushed quite hard and could feel some aches in my legs as I did so.

This kind of race allows you to see your competitors and how they are fairing compared to you as it is a series of laps. And I could see Shawn slowly pulling ahead after each lap. But I was watching Alan and also Donald, 2 really strong guys on the bike and hoping I had enough to stay just ahead of them as I knew my second run could be strong. And by the end? Well apparently what I had in me that day was enough as I managed to grab the second fastest bike split of the day, sadly my once upon a time lead was now a 1 min 19 second deficit. But I grabbed my running shoes and headed for the second run, a 3km showdown was about to start.

I knew this was  short run, I knew I had a decent lead over second place, and I knew first was way ahead. So of course I didn't take it easy. Heck no, this is a race and I went for it. I pushed hard, knowing my legs were aching from the ride but hoping momentum and muscle memory would carry me through.

Shawn passed me on his way back from the turn around before it was even in my sights. I knew I wasn't going to actually catch him, but I wanted second bad this day and I knew I had the fitness to push through this. So I made the turn around and took off for home. The heat of the day was starting and I gave one last hurrah and hit the finish line. Second place was mine (first in my Age Group). And I had clawed that 1:19 deficit back to a 1:02. Making up 17 second in 3 km was very impressive in my mind, allowing me to claim the 2 fastest runs of the day and really just increasing my confidence in the training method that I had adopted from Jeff Zahavich this winter. His heart rate zone training is just excellent.

My Garmin had issues with the length of the race course so the officials times aren't exactly accurate, which is fine since they are based on an exact distance and don't take into account T1 or T2. Ultimately my runs were all at a sub 4 min/km pace. My overall time was 1:08:32 and for the first time ever I managed to beat Alan M. So for this year we are 1 for 1 with our next head to head at Greenwood, a very similar race course. I am really excited for that race.

A huge thanks to Sportwheels' super mechanic Sheldon Mcquillan for helping me redesign my Devinci's cockpit. I wanted to get more aero and we redid the stem and aerobars. I think it worked, at least I didn't seem to get slower and felt good for the ride.

My next race though, is this weekend. The ever exciting Cyclesmith Duathlon near Lawrencetown Beach. This years format is slightly different, offering 2 distances to race and I will be racing the shorter one. But more on that later.