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. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Bridgewater Michelin Tire Trot 5km - 2018

A free race you say? Sure I'll sign up. I said that many months ago and finally that day arrived. The week leading up to it, I wasn't sure if I was going to "race" it, or just run it since many others in the BLT Runners were headed up that way. I mean, I had just finished a tough Duathlon the week before, hadn't really trained for a 5km and well, I was tired. But the few days before I decided sure, let's give it a go.

My goal was "simple." Let's aim to run a sub 18 minute 5km. Based on my results from earlier races this year, I had a sub 18 in me, but wasn't able to show case it. So this "moderate" terrain course was a good chance. And really with a switch to trail running, maybe the last great chance I had.

So a bunch of us met up for a carpool and headed down. Upon arrival, we signed in (super easy) and were delighted with the lovely weather. Or should I say, concerned about actual heat. It was 8:30 and the sun was high and bright.

Sarah and I did a course recon and were happy to see that much of it was going to be shaded, so that was a relief. It meant we could stand around in shorts prior to the race and not freeze.

Okay I guess I'll take the jacket off

A kids 1 km race was held before ours, and it was fun to watch close to 100 kids have a great run.

Then we were up. Run NS gave us some great opening remarks (there were a few issues with the course). Then just like that we were off.

The race starts with a sharp downhill for 200m, the a sharp 90 degree turn, so I knew I wanted to be out in front and not caught up in anything. And based on the course recon, I knew the first kilometer was a gradual decline.

Quickly we left the pavement and hit the crusher dust that made up 90% of the course. A quick glance back and I didn't immediately see anyone, but didn't want to take any risks as I know some people hold back. Then there I was, pushing hard to keep my pace up on the soft ground, occasionally enjoying the scenery, and just like that I was at the turn around.

As I turned to come back, I finally saw the next 2 guys. They seemed to be maybe 20-30 seconds behind me at that point. I am really bad at judging the turn around, so off I went trying not to be caught.

Now I had to go back on a narrow path with about 300 runners coming at me. I must say that most everyone was great at getting out of the way. A few waves and cheers, a few high fives as I pushed along. I appologize that I can't really focus much when racing on individuals, and I certainly can't do a lot of chatting back, so sorry if it looks like I am not paying attention to those cheering.

There were a few groups of runners that I actually had to run through the middle of, but luckily it all worked out. Welcome to out and back racing on a tight trail system.

By the time I hit the final kilometer, I knew that it was looking good for me as I couldn't see anyone behind me. My focus had to go back to not winning but getting a sub 18. So I had to kick up the effort. The soft ground and now consistent up grade were taking their toll. But soon, I popped out of the woods, back onto the pavement and to the finish. A hard kick up the last little incline and I crossed the line with the win and my goal. 17:56 officially. 

I credit the really short shorts with the win

So that was that. A manged to wait at the finish line for many other runners, cheering them home. And so many BLT Runners as well. A quick stop at the local Timmies for a post race coffee with the car pool and we were off to home. 

Now a few more multisport adventures and then it is trail season for the most part (MacPass Mile will likely still show up and maybe another MEC Race). 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Shearwater Navy Duathlon 2018 - Sorry no photos

So as I have done for many years now, I awoke on an early June morning to take part in the Navy Duathlon at Shearwater. The event has been going strong for awhile and combines what is usually the first Sprint Triathlon of the year (as they have a pool) and a Duathlon. Back when I started doing this we would have 20-30 people in the Duathlon, as everyone else was excited about being wet. In later years our numbers have slipped from that peak.

So this year I woke up and the wind was howling. It was June but the ambient temperature was a paltry 4 degrees and with the wind, I fear lower than that.

As I arrived at the race venue an hour before my start time (due to the pool swim it is wave starts) and was greeted by the news that the pool swim was  cancelled. The Race Director and TriNS Officials felt it was too great a risk to have athletes come outside wet from the swim, jump on a bike and probably end up getting hypothermia. So now everyone was in the Du! Competition! What likely would have been 8-10 people was now 104. We were still going to race in waves, so the results overall would have to wait until the end of the day though. 

So the start time came, we had a briefing, we almost blew away and or froze to death waiting to start the race (a few helmets blew away for sure in some of the gusts). Eventually we were off. As the event was 2.5 km run / 20 km Bike / 5 km run, I knew I needed to get off to a fast start to get ahead for the ride. I am a decent cyclist but by no means one of the faster guys out there. And on a hilly course with so many corners, I knew that I would need any lead I could get.

*the distances are the official ones, but each leg was slightly short, so I'll just give my paces / speed

I pushed out at the start and took off, hoping to come in first from the run. I like to do that. At only 2.5km, it was short and fast, I averaged a 3:30 pace and came in first (though officially 3rd as other heats had some faster people).  It was a hard but manageable pace on crusher dust.

I popped off my running shoes, grabbed my helmet and then tried to grab my bike. The wind had made it intertwined with the bike next to it. So after freeing that up, I ran to the mount line and popped on my bike. Not a super fast transition, but at 38 seconds it was okay for 10th place.

I took off on the bike, starting with a big climb to get to the course. Then I started out with a fast first section, which was a tail wind. Then a switch back to a head wind. The wind was brutal, at times you were soaring at crazy speeds (over 50km/hr on the flat) and at other times crawling along at 20 km/hr. Also the cross winds almost knocked me down a few times.

By the end of the ride I was really happy to only been passed by 3 people and held many other at bay. In fact the last person to pass me only did so right near the end, so I didn't drift too far from him. I hit the next transition having averaged about 30 km/hr (slower than previous years, but with good power output for me). I then proceeded to almost zoom through T2 (my shoe had blown away) and got out finally to start the final 5 km run.

I passed the 3rd place (in my heat) runner and then proceeded to turn up the heat on positions 1 and 2. Really though, they had a big lead and at only 5 (really less than 5) km I didn't have a huge chance at catching them.

Eventually with a few hundred meters to go, I had reeling Kevin B in but still cross the line 5 seconds behind him. It was a really good comeback, but he had made up too much time on that bike for me to mount a true challenge. I managed an average of a 3:50 pace for that run and crossed in what would become 7th place overall.

It was a tricky race, not know where you were relative to others, and dealing with the wind, the cold and sometimes the heat. Even the run was tricky in the cross winds. Still it was fun having such a large duathlon field. Hopefully we can get that more often in the future.

Thanks Navy, for hosting for another year.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Blue Nose Half Marathon 2018

So it is that time of year again where I post about my experiences with the BlueNose Half Marathon. It seem every year I opt for the Half distance at this race, though this year the 15km option certainly was tempting. Regardless, the half it was since this year boasted a new course that maybe could have been faster on paper?

The expo was fun, seeing Aerobics First as the main running shoe company was great. Seeing Eric Gillis in their booth and chatting with him about coaching and running was equally as fun.

Well, months of training, loads of hills, tempo runs that made me throw up, all the good stuff and finally race day came. And so did the rain. Lots of it and the temperature was around 10-14C depending on which weather app you use.  Okay, so that means that the race wasn't going to be as smooth as we hoped, but it was what it was.

I parked by my office and waited there after a little warm up run with Craig and Scott. We switched to race gear and with 15 minutes or so walked over to the start, watching the 10k runners head off.  Then as we started to get near the race start, we saw the crowd at the line and the announcer send them off. What!? We ran to get into the race, only to find out it was the 15km start. Whew, but ahhhh!

Soon though we were lined up and ready to run.

And we were off. My goal was to start out a little above goal race pace as were headed slightly down hill for quite a bit. I ended up going off at about a 3:30 pace, which was way to fast. Still, I just eased up a bit and by the time we hit the 4th kilometre I was on track and with a good group of runners. We tackled our first hill, I eased up a bit and then picked up my pace.

Now I was pretty sure that I would spend a huge portion of this race alone, as is usually the case. The results seem to show people with in a minute of each other, but in reality, you never are near those people.

I tackled the dreaded park with ease this year as it was reverse and thus mostly downhill.  By the time I was back to road running, my pace was around the 3:49 mark.  Ultimately I would have loved to finish this race at or faster than my Moncton pace from last year, as with the course being long, I never got my official PB from that race. But it was super flat, perfect temp and dry unlike today. So I knew that anything 3:51 or below would still give me an official PB in the Half distance. So far so good.

Just as we were we approaching the 10km mark, I picked up a position and saw my 10km split as 38 minutes. Not bad, not my best at the Blue Nose, but perhaps holding back that little bit meant I would have something to tackle the big hills that were coming.

Now though, the wind that was there was gone as was the rain. With the tail wind pushing me along, the humidity in the air and thus the perceived temperature started to climb. I felt it very quickly and it did not feel good. Luckily I dressed light.

What was unapparent was just how much of an incline the flat streets along the water front were giving us. And from that gradual incline, we hit the hills of the North End. First Valour, then Devonshire in quick succession. At this point Lee from the Road Hammers passed me like I was standing still. Zoom. Yikes.

These hills average about  a 5% grade hitting over 7 in some spots. Ugh.  I was able to use my hill skill though, to catch the next runner and put some distance between the 2 of us. Lee was off in the distance though.

Some crazy twisty streets and soon I was on Isleville. Turns out it is a hill too, so much up on the second half with little rest.  I ran by Sarah and Jordan and this year had enough energy left to smile. Last year at 5km in, I was so sick I didn't even see them.

Then more twisty turn and a few bouts of head wind. Yikes, was this ever going to end. I won't lie, but my heart and breathing were totally fine, while my legs were just dying. Maybe the humidity? Definitely the hills. I knew I was quite hot.

Now at the 17km mark a guy ran up to me and we ran together for a bit. I have no idea where he came from, but obviously his legs were a lot fresher as he started to pull away. I looked at my pace as I tried to keep up and we were around 3:36, so I knew I had to ease up just a bit. Now my average pace was 3:50, and while I was happy with it, I certainly would have liked to gotten it lower.

 I knew that the rest of the race was mostly flat with a huge downhill before the finish. With 3 km to go, I managed to convince myself that if I could push the pace a little more that in only 12 minutes I would be done. So I did. Slowly I started to catch Eric, who had taken off with the leader at the start. Last year I caught him with less than 2 kilometres and while I knew he was fading, for me to push to catch him at this point, nope.

Finally the downhill, I did my best and pushed hard, legs feeling like they were done, turning the corner and knowing that I would be in a sea of 10 and 15 km runners. I was right. I started up the main finish line, but was overwhelmed by a sea of people, so I quickly took to the marathon chute (for marathon runners to skip the finish line for their second lap) before ducking at the last moment over the finish line.

Somehow in the last 4km I moved my average pace up from 3:50 to 3:48. Officially a PB and officially a 1:20 half marathon runner (1:20:21 officially). 

I had a great time training with this group, sometimes helping them, and sometimes learning from them. I must say the BLT Runners is really a good crew.

Some of us even placed in our Age Group:

Last year I won, this year I placed second.  Overall I was 8th in a tough field and on a really tough day on a tough course. Sounds like a lot of tough. Well it was the day, we ran it, and it tried to fight back.  I'm feeling it a bit in the legs, but did manage a trail run in Colorado to help loosen things up.

Anyway, back to Blue Nose. Thanks to the support of Aerobics First and the BLT Runners, and the extra push I got trying to stay ahead of Craig during our Parkland Loop runs.

Monday, May 7, 2018

MEC Race 2 - Citadel High, Bring on the Hills!

So I'm a little late getting this blog post up, but I finally have a little time to sit down and compose while I am travelling to a conference.

MEC Race 2 was a couple of weekends ago now, and while I was originally not planning on racing it, ultimately I did. So it is now 2 for 2 in the series I didn't plan on racing except for 1 race later on in the year.

The race does fall at a good time, as I like a 5K Spring race to break up the boredom of training and give the legs a real test (no matter what you do, a tempo run is never a race).

As is usually the case, this race has "fun" weather. Being a top of rather large hill,it is usually a windy affair and cold. This year, for a change, it was actually warm. Of course it was also raining. Can't win them all I guess. Racing in the rain is fine, standing around and waiting kind of sucks. I wore my Salomon rain suit, which is stunning and light enough that I could do my warmup run while wearing it.

Sadly, the Fort this year was mostly off limits to racers. We usually race the Ditch (dry moat), stairs, ramparts and around guns (canons). Construction limited us to starting and finishing inside the Fort and mostly doing a road race. Oh but the hills, this is a hilly affair! 2 loops of hills for the 5K racers, 4 loops for the 10k racers. I did the 5K.

So I warmed up with a single loop and close to 3km. I opted to run in my training shoes (some new Brooks Launch) as I felt my racing flats were not grippy enough for the tight wet corners I would be tackling. While heavier, they gave me a little more confidence.

The 10k racers went off 5 minutes before us but soon we were on the start line. Bam (yup, they use a rifle to send us on our way) and we were running. I really tried to hold back at the start and fell into abut 5th or 6th place. Our group took off, away from the rest fairly quickly.  As we approached the first of the big downhills, I had worked into 4th place and was feeling the effort. We were not heading out slow.

Even with a 5 minute headstart we soon were running through the back end of the 10K race. It wasn't too bad, but there were a few dicey moments.  As we started up the big hill on the far side of the course, I found myself in 3rd. I pushed hard up this hill in an effort to hold my place. Really I was running harder than I could sustain for the whole race, but we had formed a decent gap in the process. Ultimately I looked after the race and found our first kilometer was done at a 3:18 pace. Ouch.

Here I am finishing up lap 1. My lead over 4th had grown.

As lap 2 started my grasp n second had fallen away. Fourth place was a decent bit behind me, but knowing it was Drew didn't leave me feeling safe at all. He is fast. So I had to keep pushing hard. 

The rest of the ace was dodging people, pushing too hard up hills, and knowing that the race as 5.5 km and not 5, so making sure I could actually finish it. 

As I finished lap 2 and headed to the finish line, I did feel slightly safe. My watch beeped, telling em that 5km had just been hit, so fir the first time I looked down. By the time I looked it was at 18:20, so wow, that was faster that I had thought. 

I finished strong, with a time of 20:05 and an average pace of 3:39. That third was a had effort and I was pretty happy considering the hills.  Here is my heart rate graph:

The red line shows how the heart rate just hit a peak, then climbed from there.

Next up, Bluenose. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Moose Run 2018

A little catch up to with a little Moose Run recap for 2018.

After a trip to Australia, the morning of this year's Moose Run was a bit of a shock. A -8C temperature and a bitter wind. Yikes. Regardless I had made a promise to help Pat Bradley with a marathon paced training run on his way to Boston.

I opted to dress for the cold, knowing that even though there would be times with loads of warmth, there were also going to be periods of nasty cold.

A few other BLT Runners were on hand as well:

Some of us were running this as a fun run, others as training runs for marathons. The Moose Run is a great tune up for Spring marathons.

The time to start came upon us and off we went. The start is slightly downhill, so we were above Pat's pace but the effort was low so that was okay. Ideally we wanted to keep a fairly even effort. 

As is usually the case, the pack quickly thins out in the front of the run and by 5-6 km in things are pretty well set. A few people will pass you and you will pass a few that went out a bit hard, but not a lot of change.

Water stops were fun as the water was freezing cold, but a nice respite when it came. 

While the section of hills at around the 4-5km mark are tough going out, it is really the stretch from about 8km to the turn around that is the first real challenge. It is a constant climb and this year was into the wind. The extra time we had gained at the start was good to have, though we held our pace well.

After the turn around the wind was at our back, we were headed down and life was good. I kept checking in with Pat and he was feeling good. But still, we held the effort a little bit back to not push it. The goal was clear, to test a marathon running effort. 

The next challenge was the series of hills heading back from about 17 km to 22 km. this included some short but crazy walls. We backed it right down when needed know that the amount of time lost here was not going to be important.  

Finally the home stretch, slight up hill to the finish. I kept Pat's spirits up and he was doing really well. I just wanted a nice even effort heading to the finish. This was after all only a portion of the marathon distance.

With 1 km to go, i told Pat to tuck in and let me finish the pacing duties. I picked up the pace a little at this point to show him how changing speed can actually feel better by recruiting different muscle groups. We ran a little faster then did a great fast 100m to finish it off. 1:48 was the time with a 4:23 avg pace. A little faster than marathon pace but within the window.

Great job Pat! And a great job to Marg who soloed through this tough course with her marathon paced run, as well as the other BLT Runners Craig, Heather, Tom and Stacey!

Chili and coffee to finish and all was good. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Salomon Speedcross Vario 2 GTX

So I came across a sale on this new shoe (well year old shoe?) called the Salomon Speedcross Vario 2 GTX, and it seemed like a shoe I needed to buy and try.

To start, the GTX in the name is Gortex, so it is a Winter/wet weather style shoe. You can certainly feel this when trying it on, as it is more plush than my other Salomon shoes.

The laces are regular old school, tie these yourself type laces as opposed to Salomon's quick lace system. At first I was a little sad, but then, it was really easy to tie them, as all my other shoes have laces. The placing of the laces allows for a good snug fit, essential on a trail shoe.

The lugs are big, and I was afraid it would be a shoe more suited to soft ground. Ultimately this turned out to be false, and they were equally at home on the soft stuff as on the hard rock. 

The fit? Standard Salomon fit, though with the caveat that they are plush (as I mentioned) so may feel a little more snug. Salomon tends to fit tight in the arch, and offer a little more room for toes up front. These shoes are no different. One thing I did notice is that the insole makes for a lot of this tightness in the arch area, and when removed, they open up quite a bit. Finding a thin more neutral insole would certainly make this shoe better suited to bigger, wider feet.

Now it is certainly bright. I happen to love it. If you like dark, bland shoes, then sorry.
I started my trial run with a good bowl of oatmeal, as this was going to be a longer run.

Then off to the woods. The temperature was a balmy -6C, but the woods offered good shelter from the wind. The sun was shining as well, so I wore a thinner top, but still put some good thin wool socks on.

The trail I chose had good climbing, lots of sharp turns, roots, rocks, ice, puddles, soft ground and hard granite expanses, basically all the good things to test a shoe.

It was my long run day and I know that in an easy 5km run, most shoes feel good to me. So I opted to push over the hour mark. 

The Vario 2 GTX offered great grip, continued to feel nice for the whole run and even felt good when I could open up my stride on the rails to trails section at the end, pushing a low 4min/km pace.  

At the 9km mark I stepped in a puddle that went over the ankle of the shoe, which meant water got in. Up to that point my feet were perfectly warm (not too hot) and dry. Now wet I wondered if I would have to call things a day. But ultimately I kept running til my total got to 15.5km and at the end, my foot was fairly dry and happy. That Gortex is wonderful stuff. 

I guess by this point you can tell that I like this shoe. Not as racy feeling as my Salomon S/Lab SGs, not as plush as my Sense pro Max, but for this time of year, an awesome shoe that was far more responsive and peppy than I was going to give it credit for. When i first put them on I thought, hmm, kind of heavy, but any doubt of their effectiveness went away before the first kilometer was over.

If this shoe fits and you want a winter option, then it is certainly a great value. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Race 2 Already? Tri-The-Oval 6 Winter Triathlon 2018

February in Halifax means one thing, Tri-the-Oval. And this was year six. More on that later.

Traditionally this also means that horrific weather is on the way, and some brave souls hit the Halifax Commons to prove they are tough and crazy. But what's that? This year the weather was going to be good?

Race morning and we hit a lull between crazy super col the day before and a snow/rain combo to come later that evening. Instead of braving the elements, we showed up to a nice -2C, low wind and dry sidewalks. While there was a hope for a snow shoe this year instead of a run, we weren't tht lcky, and the Commons was a little bare.

So this race is a 5km Skate, 6km Mountain Bike Ride, 4.5km run done in the middle of Halifax. And it is quaintly referred to as the best race that everyone forgets to enter.

We showed up and MC was back (after a year off with good reason) to lead our intrepid group.

 The race briefing was important as the course evolves every year based on conditions. This year the skate was the same (of course), the bike was a combo of paved paths (with some icy bits) and a trek over some bumpy frozen ground (including a hill), and the run was on the sidewalks around the exterior. This was probably the fastest course we have had yet.

  The athletes began to gather at the start line for the skate. James gave us the briefing and soon we were on our way. The ice was perfect. Smooth, low wind, just great. I quickly moved into second to hang with Adam, last year's winner. He is a pretty fast skater and biker, so I knew I had to hang as close as possible to be able to get within striking distance for the run. I stuck with him, but by lap 7 or so I had drifted back a bit.

Ron zoomed through at this point, using his cross country ski powers to show us a thing or two. Eventually I heard my name called for final lap and was relieved. Adam and Ron were mere seconds ahead of me, and I joined them in Transition 1.

A quick switch to  my sneakers (I chose my Salomon trail shoes with low lugs for this day) and I went for my bike. We had to run the bike down a little ramp before the mount line. I had to keep pushing the pace even here though to keep the gap to Adam as small as possible. 

Alas, as I started the ride, Adam pulled out. His hip let him down and that really sucks. I really wanted to crush his dreams on the run and I think my bike was going to be enough to keep up.

As it was, I still had to catch Ron. Within the end of the first lap I managed to sneak by him and pushed the pace. The bike was fun, zooming around the Commons, avoiding ice, tight corners, the "hill". My little Norco loaner that Sportwheels prepped for me was great. Nimble and fast. This course was all about bursts of speed and handling. 

Soon my name was called again, and my 6 laps were done. I zoomed toward Transition 2. 

A quick dismount, bike rack, helmet removal and I was off, though I just about missed the entrance to the run. 

I had a decent lead by this time, and I know that I was probably the fastest runner there, so I could have done a reasonable effort, but this was a race, and darn I wanted to win it with best effort.

Lap 1 of 3 was done at a 3:44 pace, and I felt good. This was probably the best I have felt running off the bike in a long time, and I hope that translates to good things come this summer. 

In the end I managed a 3:51min/km pace for the course. I certainly slowed on that last lap, but this would have translated to a low 19 min 5K time off the bike, and that was nice to see.

At the finish line I was greeted with Java Blend Coffee and great cookies made by Scott, the man that came from behind to claim second with a great run of his own. This as my first win in 6 years of trying, and while the field was small, I was really happy to have accomplished this. Size of field does not diminish effort.

Part of me dreads this race coming up in the middle of winter, but then I remember that this keeps winter interesting and that every single year,  I have a blast (and cookies). So bring it.

Oh and thanks Ron, for keeping up with me for 6 years as the only other fool to head out and hit the ice (well one year it was an ice water mix). This year we won beer! And thanks organizers for keeping this going.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

MEC Winter Classic 2018 - Race and Pace

So I got up today with a plan to go for a long run, and watch a 5K race in the park. I had hoped to do some work with my friends during their warm ups before the race as well.

Then a spare race bib popped up and the opportunity to pace a fellow racer came up. Not my plan originally, but hey, what could it hurt.

Another warm up and soon I was on the start line, the new day's plan was to help pace Lindsay (and anyone else) to a sub 20 min 5k, and then we were off.

Now this day was a huge change from a couple of weeks ago. Back then this race was postponed due to extreme cold. Today it was 5C and overcast. Warm enough that we ran in singlets (and I wish I had changed to shorts but there wasn't really enough time for that. That made the course interesting. The ice was gone (for the most part), but replaced with puddles and soft muddy ground. Not ideal conditions for speed, especially when taking into account the very hilly terrain.

So maybe this wasn't the ideal 5km course for a PB, but that shouldn't stop us from trying. 

My goal was simple, try and even the pace out and particularly slow it down at the start. Also I had to take into account the hilly nature of the course and while not pushing my runner too hard.

So the race started well. I held the pace back to 4 min/km. Then we picked it up a little before a big hill, which I knew would slow us down. I wasn't too worried about loosing speed in the beginning as the second half is fast. By kilometer 2 we had slipped to a 4:08 average pace but the course flattened and we were back at speed again. Then one more steep hill and our average pace stayed the same.

Then the downhills began. The trick here isn't to try and crush the downhills, but to use them to gain some time. And that we did, and by kilometer 4 we were at 3:59 for an average pace and Lindsay was hanging tough.

The final kilometer is kind of rolling and with the muddy ground, it was important to not lose focus. So I kept up the chatter to help focus us on our goal. Finally the time came. We were 400m to the finish with a small uphill. Another runner had stuck with us, and I wanted to make sure we pushed Lindsay through for a high placing finish. So we picked up the pace slightly. I pushed us over the hill and sent Lindsay on her way. She finished in 19:28 (chip time) and 1st female. I ended up 1 second behind and 3rd overall.

Soon Craig came in just behind us for a sub 20 min 5km to start the year, also awesome. A lot of other BLT Runners came pushing through as well, and it was great to see them all.

So maybe it wasn't the plan, but heck, it was a fun Sunday run (we followed it up with an easy 11 km in the park to end the morning).

This year is looking good.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 By the Numbers

Well every year I like to throw out my numbers from the various sports I have taken part in. Sometimes those numbers go up, sometimes down, all depending on whether or not I focus on a specific sport or maybe get a small injury. 2017 saw some great distances achieved in running and I think, a lot of that was down to staying quite injury free for the year.

I don't tend to set specific distance goals but it is nice to see how things stacked up compared to other years.

2016 saw me injured a couple of times, though managed I some decent results. 1865 km from 2016 turned into 2342 km for 2017. No significant injuries that stopped me from running was the key. And that consistency saw me achieve some PBs in the Half Marathon distance. Now firmly in the 1:20 Half world, I think 2017 was a success.

Last year I thought I did fairly well on the bike at 4809 km. That included the fact that I commuted less by bike than ever before due to local construction issues. This year I beat that by a fair margin at 5739 km. I commuted more often by bike as I started a new job. I didn't go on any epic rides this year though except for a couple of 65 km rides. Maybe 2018 brings back some bigger distances rides?

A broken local pool meant that my swimming took a huge "dive" this year. A mere 28.450 km versus 103 km from 2016. Um, I guess that's why my one triathlon this year didn't go as planned.

Overall a good year. As I mentioned, decent running results, but then again, a focus on running will do that. I also started coaching a few runners as well, and in that found some great success. Hopefully those runners now understand that a good solid plan and consistency is what one needs to gain ground. 

And as always I like to mention my Movember Race. Over $4000 raised and donated to the Movember charity is one of the numbers I am most happy with.

Goals for 2018? Not really. This year I am just going to see where the journey takes me.

Welcome 2018!