Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ingonish Olympic Triathlon 2014 - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (Toe)

So this past weekend was the Ingonish Triathlon, held in lovely Cape Breton. I have been going to this Triathlon for 4 years now and it has always been fun. this year I decided that I would step up a distance and go for my first Olympic length tri, which is listed as 1.5km/40km/10km. In this case the bike ride is actually 43 km due to finding a reasonable spot for the turn around. So a slightly longer ride over very hilly terrain? Sounds great!

Anyway, this year I did a lot more swimming in the pool to get ready for this event, though I knew my swim was still going to be slow. I really need to get in the pool even more and in the lakes when possible and try to get this swimming thing under control. Still this was going to be mostly for fun, to learn pacing and experience the longer distance, with a greater push towards next years racing.

So the lake was cold in Ingonish. Yup cold. Here we are the end of June and this year it was 17C (maybe) and the air temperature race morning was 10C (maybe). Brrr. And I don't do cold water well.

With setup complete and the race brief given, we were allowed a small prerace swim warmup. I got in the water and tried to get warm, but it wasn't working. Still, I knew I just had to stick to the plan of taking my time at the start of the race and getting into a groove.

As the race started, we all began the wade out to deeper water (in this lake that is actually quite a walk). As I started to try and swim, I instantly had my breath taken away when my face hit the water. I knew I had to get moving to build up some heat, so I resorted to the breast stroke for a bit, occasionally putting my face in the water. Eventually by the first buoy, I got a hold of my breathing, got comfortable and was capable of doing the front crawl. Unfortunately, the main group was quite far ahead of me, so at this point it was a solo effort.

Really, once I got into a rhythm, it wasn't too bad. My swim is slow to begin with, but the wetsuit helped me a bit and things were going fine.

This swim course is a two loop course, so you come back to the start and go around the first buoy. As the water is very shallow, you generally stand up and run around, and as I did, my foot went into a rut in the sand and I tripped. My feet were crazy numb though, so it just felt like I scraped it or something. Carry on I said.

Eventually I got out of the water quite near the back of the field in 34th place, all alone pretty much and saw the clock read 35 minutes. Sigh. I think most of that was the incredibly slow start, so in that case I guess the part I actually swam wasn't too bad. I just need to figure out how to warm up quicker at the start or something.

Off to the bike, which for this race includes a 300m run on a gravel path. Luckily my feet were very numb. Unfortunately my hands were also very numb, so getting into my cycling gear was tricky. I did and passed a few people in transition and off I went (just imagine a nice bike picture here).

All along the bike ride I did my best to keep my heart rate under control. I wanted to keep things in the low 140`s on average. On shorter sprint distance rides, it isn`t hard to ride a little aggressively, as the 20km distance is much easier to recover from for the run. But this distance meant I needed to be smart.

I started to pass a lot of riders on the way out and after the turn around passed a few more. I had tried to take count of where I might be, but alas, I was so far back that I lost count. As well, my feet were still incredibly numb. I was hoping I might get feeling back in them prior to the run, but that didn`t seem to be happening.

On the way back I was starting to intermingle with the Sprint distance triathlon cyclists, so any attempt on my part to keep track of my position had gone. Also my bike computer momentarily stopped working, though I knew the course well enough to know where I was.

As I came into the dismount line, I was just catching another rider, so I had to sit up a bit. That wasn't bad as it gave my legs that little rest they needed to come back to life for the run. Officially I am listed as having done the ride in 1:20:30 at 31.3kph, though this included the long run from the swim, and my fumbly switch to bike gear. My computer listed the ride as closer to 33kph and a ride of about 1:17. Ideally I wanted to keep the ride around 1:15 but I was also quite sure I didn't want to over extend myself, and there were a few moments were I had to slow due to road conditions. So ultimately I am not too unhappy with the result. It was the 10th fastest bike of the day.

My dismount went well, my T2 went well, and I was off running.

I immediately passed a couple of runners and settled into a pace. My aim was a sub 40 minute run. Again though, this course is not designed for PBs anywhere. The 10km run course is a 2 loop affair, with a series of quick steep ups and downs and next to no flats. So it is hard to get a decent groove going. Still I knew I could make up a little more time on people as we all run the same course.

The weather was starting to heat up a bit and it was getting quite warm. And after lap one, I finally started to feel my feet. My left foot felt really bad though in the toes and I thought, hmmm, what did I do during that swim? After another short bit, my foot just down right hurt. Momentum though carried me on.

With 2 km to go I had another couple of people to pass and they had slowed quite a bit. I picked up my pace in this downhill section as good as I could and passed them. Hitting the final few hundred meters I gave it my all and ran hard to the end.

I hit the finish line at 2:37:47. Dang, not the 2:30 I had hoped for, but with that disaster of a swim, I guess it wasn't all bad. I did check my Garmin though and it was 40:50 for the final hilly 10km run. Not the sub 40 I wanted but a decent run regardless, and the 6th fastest of the day for an average pace of 4:05. It looks like I took about 40 seconds to do my second transition, which is not too bad either for this course.

Following the run, I went back to my bike and finally took off my shoes. Blood was covering my right foot. I had sliced open my toe during that swim. Ouch. It was also black with a bruise and at first I wondered if I broke it. But it didn't seem like it after I cleaned it up. Still, ouch.

So while everything didn't go as planned, I took home some valuable experience racing longer. My pacing was decent on the bike, allowing for me to have a great run (minus the foot issue). Basing my pacing on heart rate turned out to be a valuable experience, so a big thanks to Coach Jeff at Kinesic Sport Lab. I also know I need more work on not only the swim itself, but dealing with cold water.

I ended up 3rd in my age group, which is funny as I always end up 3rd in my age group in Ingonish. I also got to get away to a great area of the world for the weekend and do some nice hiking as well.

Monday, June 16, 2014

2014 Greenwood Duathlon: Win #2 for the Year

So another weekend, another Duathlon. This time it was the Airforce Du in Greenwood, NS. This event is 3K / 20K / 5K in length. It is also flat and fast and one of the few events where I wish I didn't have my compact crankset on my bike. Oh well, you ride what you bring.

The day prior to the event I woke up with a horrible head cold and spent the day in a zombie like state. I was not impressed. I then followed that up with a relatively sleepless night, yay. But I got up, had the car packed and was on the road at 7:15am.

I couldn't fathom making coffee in the morning, so I drank a vile of Red Bull on the ride down as my caffeine replacement. Mmmm, sort of. It was cold and wet and my taste buds didn't really work, so hey. Also on the ride down we would go through periodic bouts of rain and fog. So far so good!

I arrived, checked in and set up. The it was on to race briefing with the knowledgeable Andrew presiding.

While the du crowd was bigger than last year, it is still on the smaller side. That's too bad as it is such a fun event. That doesn't mean you don't give it all you got though. And regardless of my sort of cold, I was going to push for some speed today.

A slight alteration of the course for us in the du meant we started over on the other side of transition. Not a big deal, and actually shaved a couple of corners off the course without changing the distance. So that was nice.

I started with a pace that was a bit too fast, but that old adrenaline really does make you feel pretty good at the start of a race. By 1/2 a km in I slowed the pace down a little, but still passed the 1km mark in 3:24, weee. By the end of the first 3km run I had slowed things down to an average pace of 3:34 min/km for a 10:40 time and was in first place.

 The ground was still a bit damp at this point and the air humid

The twisty turny into T1 bit

So into T1 and to the bike. The beauty of the duathlon of course is that you just pop off your shoes, put on your helmet, grab your bike and go.

Off to the mount line and on to the bike course we go!

No change from previous years, the bike course at Greenwood is flat. A slight dip on the back section exists but it is nothing to write home about. You do three loops before finishing for a roughly 20km course. This year there was  great tail wind on the way out. Speeds were easily topping 40km/hr on the flat and for once I really wished I had bigger gears to work with. I maxed out the speed on the bike. Coming back the headwind and slight uphill equaled about 5 km/hr less in speed but still it was good.

I managed to not only stay in the lead, but my lead grew a little and by the end of the bike I had a 2 minute lead on Alan in second place. I managed the fastest bike ride for the duathlon in 34:03 for an average of 35.2 km/hr which included T2, so that made me pretty happy.

Off the bike, to the rack and on with my sneakers for the final run. The run through transition was a bit wet so I got to start the second run in wet feet, blah.

My pace start out quite nicely at sub 4 min/km. After the little dip in the run course I slowed a bit for a few minutes but found the oomph to pick it back up. Then sometime after the 1 km mark, a stone got lodged in my shoe in the tread and made a horrible tap shoe click for the rest of my 5 km run. Yes, I could have stopped to remove it but it wasn't causing pain, and I am really bad at judging distances, so Alan didn't look all that far behind to me.

The second run is much more ziggy and zaggy, cutting through little neighbourhoods and side streets. That makes it hard to see where your competitors are. Also there are other races going on at the same time, so you come across people that you don't really know. At one point I had a small child on an electric dirt bike driving in front of me. He was just fast enough to stay ahead, but I was afraid he might crash, the way he was driving. He didn't, though I think he may have knocked over some of the cones that lined the route.

By the time I hit the last kilometer, I was pretty sure I had the win, but I kept the speed up, aiming for a sub 20 minute final run.  I hit the finish line at 19:30 for second run pace of 3:65 min/km and a final time of 1:04:42.

It was great to win this event for the second year in a row. Chris puts on a  good show, and it isn't easy to organize an event with so many people starting and finishing at the same time. It was also good to win a nice bottle of rum from Ironworks.

The bike felt great again and once again this years training work with Jeff Z at Kinesic Sport Lab has been great. Last year I found the speed, this year I have also found the smarts when it comes to racing and training together. Now I am much better at not pushing the training when the conditions just aren't right and it is keeping me overall much healthier.

Next event, Ingonish and an Olympic Tri, my first one.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Duathlon #3 for 2014 - Win #1: Navy Trident Duathlon

Well from the title of this blog post you can see that I won this last duathlon. So I guess we can end the post there. Well, lets continue on a bit anyway and live through the glorious moments of my win (lol).

The navy Trident Duathlon is held at the same time and place as the Navy Trident Triathlon, at Shearwater in Halifax, a navy airfield. The race is a Sprint distance of 5km/20km/3km (ish). The runs take place on a mostly flat trail which is 90% crusher dust and the bike ride is held on the runway of the airport.

23 competitors lined up for this event and I had been toying with the front end of this field for a long time. Last year I came in second, in what was a break through year for me. This year I was attempting the win.

With a few new faces, we started with our regular race brief (don't draft, go there not there etc...). Andrew did his usual bang up job.

The weather was also quite nice for a change. Sun, sun, sun. A novelty for an early morning race in Shearwater. A cool breeze also meant that the heat was kept at bay. Wow, it couldn't get much better.

Other than a few faces, I wasn't too sure about a few of my competitors. But this was a Sprint race, so that meant go hard, then pick up the pace. Anything less than your fastest wasn't going to win. I also knew that I had to get a good lead to start this thing as running has become my strong suit in these races, and though my bike isn't bad, it is an area I can do a little more work in.

We lined up, and pretty quickly, we were off. I tore off a a pretty quick pace, knowing that I would have to slow down to something a little more sustainable for the rest of the 5km. But I also knew I needed a lead and I could hear some heavy breathing right behind me.

I guess from this photo it was Gregory who was on my tail nice a close. I held my quick pace for as long as I could comfortably breath and slowly things around me fell silent. I crossed the first kilometer in 3:26. So yeah, pretty quick for me. Eventually I settled into a nice 3:42 min/km pace. The course, while seemingly flat, is actually a gradual hill all the way out and a nice decline back. That is quite nice as you get a speed boost coming into T1. I finished the run in 19:32 for the fastest time, though the course was long at 5.26km. So I would have clocked an 18:30 5km with a decent bit of energy left. Nice. At this point I had a good 1 minute lead over Alan in second place.

Then quickly out of my shoes, into my helmet and grab the bike. Off to the mount line and onto the bike course!

A 1 minute lead wouldn't last long with fast cyclists behind me. The first bit of the course is the hill (a steep one) followed by a twisty section to get to the runway. I got through all of that and went to town. Head down, legs pushing I was staying at around 35 km/hr in this section. By the end of the first lap I could see that Gregory had over taken Alan on the bike and was really pushing hard. I still had a nice lead though and knew that i just had to stay ahead for as long as possible.

Finally by the end of lap 2 Gregory had caught up to me. Luckily I managed to still maintain a decent gap to him and didn't fall off as much as I had thought I would. I think he had made extra time up on my on the twisty section, more so than the runway, as when we left to head back to transition, he pulled a much larger gap out.

As I approached the downhill section, I pet off a little anyway to rest my legs. I pulled out of my shoes earlier than normal, pedaled softly as I hit 60km/hr  and glided toward the dismount line. I slowed down a bit, then popped off the bike and ran it to the rack. My time and speed (including T1) was 37:19 for 32.2 km/hr avg.

At this point Gregory had already started the run and was off. That 2 minute gap it turns out I had to him had disappeared. He did a great job on the bike. But on went my running shoes and I was off.

With only 3 km to go, there was no time for a rest. Instead I pushed through the tired and caught up with the leader and with less than half a kilometer retook the lead. No time to rest yet either though as you never know what kind of finishing kick people have. I needed a decent gap to feel safe. So I pushed.

By now I realized how uncomfortable my shoes were without socks as I had never worn them without before. Ouch. Later I would see the blisters and tears in my feet.

I rounded the turn around sign and headed for home. I had a good lead now and just tried to keep my breathing as calm as possible. While not as fast as the first run pace wise, the second run felt good and fast nonetheless. As I approached the final few hundred meters I looked back and saw I was free. I cross the finish line in 1:11:14 for the win. My final run done in 14:25 which included T2 This run was about 0.53 km long and I ran a pace of 3:55 for a run time of 13:49 without T2. That was a solid pace and would have given me the sub 12 min 3 km that I wanted.

So a win for me, hooray! I am back in the thick of things again. Next up will be the Greenwood Duathlon in a couple of weeks.

Thanks again to Jeff Z at Kinesic Sport Lab  for giving me the engine to make these lungs and legs work so well, and the the gang at Sportwheels for keeping my bike working smoothly.