Goals for the intermediate and far-away future, Marathon, Ironman, Comrades Marathon

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been the kind of guy who likes to plan things out. It may date back to my parents teaching me to save and be careful with my money. When I was young and spoiled(similar to this instant), I quickly outgrew the types of gifts one could receive in a single birthday or Christmas go-round. I’ve always been a Lamborghini man on a Volkswagen budget. Because of this, I quickly realized  that with some patience and a little short term sacrifice you can achieve some really cool things. When you are willing to take a step back and look at where you are headed from a long term standpoint, planning for the future becomes extremely exciting and gives you the drive you need to complete your goals whether it be to save money, travel, or do something few other people could ever imagine.

It’s easy to say that you’re being foolish or getting to far ahead of yourself when you set your goals high and for the distance future, but isn’t that the point? Sure, some short term, achievable goals are important to reaching those crazy goals, but why not set the bar really high?

In sports and training, I’ve always been an endurance guy. Early on, I don’t know why but I was always intrigued and motivated in going long distances, albeit, in proportions I considered achievable during my limited encounter with endurance sports during high school. At track meets, I quickly realized that while I was quicker than most, I could never win a 100m or 200m race. 800m, 1500m, 3000m, and Cross-Country on the other hand were my bread and butter. Sure, winning was easier because not many people were crazy enough to consider doing the longer distances, but maybe it was the seeming crazy part that I liked.

I’ve thought a lot lately about why I have taken to triathlon in the way that I did and if I I’m after it for the right reasons. Sure there is bragging rights about finishing a Marathon, an Ironman, or some other long distance event, but for me I don’t think that’s it. I’ve always been competitive and that plays a large part of it coming from a high-level sporting background. But I think taking to it in the way that I have can be broken down further, the best I can do to explain it comes down to one thing, learning about yourself.

In a 100m sprint, the race is over in about 11 seconds, which doesn’t leave you a whole lot of time to think. You are competing with the other 7 or 8 lanes around you and they provide all the encouragement you need to go fast. The hurt doesn’t really come until after the race. In an endurance event, be it racing or training, you have no choice but to think. Thinking about how much you hurt, thinking about how much easier quitting would be, and thinking about the competition between your legs and brain. Some how within those thoughts, there is also the time to parse through life. There are very few moments throughout the day, week, month, or even year when you devote time to truly consider who you are, think about what you’ve accomplished and done up to that point in time, and really find out what you are made of. In a race, or when training gets tough, and you dig deep for that motivation to continue, you conjure up a happy moment, think about something that makes you want to push harder, or visualize a goal, and really find out what drives you and you truly discover what is important to you. When you’re logging the long training hours by yourself, or are in the pool, it also gives you a rare opportunity to think about your decisions, relationships, the past, the future and all of that other stuff humanly stuff that we take for granted. For me, that is why I am intrigued by and addicted to endurance. The post-exercise endorphins help too.

Any ways, moving away from the philosophical stuff and back onto course, today I read a really amazing article on the Runner’s World website about the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. Over 12 000 people enter the 90km race every year and many don’t succeed in finishing within it’s 12 hour strict completion limit.  The race also takes place over Africa’s 5 biggest peaks: Cowies, Fields, Bothas, Inchanga, and Polly Shortts. Comrades’ is considered the world’s largest(in terms of competitors) and oldest ultramarathon race and has many interesting traditions surround it. Someday, pending I don’t completely blow up my body and I am still driven to race, I’d like to complete Comrades. I really hope to travel the world as I get older and think visiting both Africa and completing a race of this magnitude would both be amazing moments and memories. Here’s the race profile, you can see just how nasty the race really is with a half-marathon from 20-40km’s with a gradual climb and then all of the other “little” peaks and valleys.

 

This year I have plans to run a 30km race which is coming up in just a few weeks, and then another half-marathon later in September. I am really looking forward to both races, the former being the longest run of my life and first trail race, and the latter, a chance to try and break the 1hr 30min benchmark in a Half-Marathon. I have no immediate plans for moving up to tackle a full marathon and instead want to focus on building a solid base of endurance and injury resistance when it comes to running. As a intermediate distance goal I’d like to complete an Ironman by the end of 2015 but that is entirely dependent on my progress at the 70.3 distance after 2 years of racing them which is my plan for 2013/14 Tri seasons.

My personal philosophy when it comes to racing is not only to complete a race, but to be at least semi-competitive as well. That means not just pushing to finish, but pushing myself to finish faster. While it is unreasonable to hope for a podium finish in every race or even most of the races I will ever compete in, I at the very least want to be the slowest of the fastest competitors. If I cannot achieve this at least with the shorter distance endurance events I am thinking about entering, more training is necessary before I race them and will have to put that race or distance off.

As a precursor to Ironman I’d like to tackle a Marathon in the year leading up to it. So if all goes well I will start training for one in 2014 at the end of race season to help prepare myself mentally for the massive swim, bike, run in the year following. In the mean time I plan on throwing in at least one baby-ultra into my yearly race schedule as they are an interesting change of pace from my normal training and at least one half-marathon during the times when cycling and Tri season are over/haven’t began.

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Coronation Triathlon

Well, today I officially became a triathlete. I also found out that you can do all of the brick’s, mini-tri’s and training you want, but nothing compares to the overall hurt that you experience in a real triathlon.

The swim was about what I expected it to be. I actually did a pretty good job of predicting my overall time and got seeded with a group of people who were all pretty close in terms of speed. Our lane had no real issues with passing or turning. One really annoying feature of Peter Hemming way pool that I discovered really quickly is that it lacks the little lip around the edge of the pool. While this really has no affect on you if you can flip turn, I cannot and it made grabbing onto the wall really tricky to do my side turns. There were probably about 4 or 5 really terrible turns that I had probably cost me a couple of seconds and some wasted effort.

The swim itself wasn’t bad, I felt I paced myself pretty well and made sure that I didn’t blow up. I did get the light headed feeling that I get when I really push my distance at high pace. It’s almost like a strong head ache, but I’ve had this before so I didn’t panic. I got out of the pool after swimming my 1000m and felt horrendously bad. This being the second time I’d swam 1000m in my life after doing 100m repeats and 400m time trials for most of my most recent training it was definitely a bit of a shock. I think it was more that I hadn’t really experience the feeling of swimming hard, or that long, then pulling myself out of the pool and sprinting for T1.

My transition was surprisingly fast. I got out of the pool about half a length behind the other 2 faster guys in my lane who said they had some major race experience and beat them onto the bike course. While I didn’t practise my transitions before hand, I really spent some time and thought about what I was going to do and laid my gear out pretty well. The toughest thing to simulate is the feeling of having shaky arms from the swim and feeling like you are going to pass out/vomit. Also, getting my tri-top on was another funny scene to watch. It’s tough to do when you are soaking wet.

The bike course was fairly tough. On the slight down hill heading towards the river, there was about a 20km/h headwind which really kills some of your momentum. There was one spot where the shelter was really good and the course got a bit steeper so I really pushed hard to get up near 47km/h ish. It was surprising how many people were not taking race lines, people were pretty much everywhere but on the fastest path through the course. This worked out really well for me as I didn’t have to deal with getting around people who were in the race line. The uphill was tough to gauge. It was in that awkward spot between a hill climb and a gradual slope so you really had to work hard to find the right effort/gear to climb fast but not waste energy. Also, it felt pretty sweet pacing people with race wheels and aero bikes and aero helmets on my entry level road biking Cannondale.

Other than the feeling of T1, the run was the hardest part and definitely hurt a lot as to be expected. I was familiar with the rubbery feeling that accompanies changing from the bike to run was from all of the brick sessions I’d done. But for some reason I had gotten really tight on the front-outside of my leg between my knee and my ankle. I have felt the feeling before when running on a sloped highway so maybe the strange elevations and angles of the roads and paths caused it. It really felt like the limiting factor in my run. I was going about as fast as possible without it exploding in pain. That being said I was still around ~165bpm average on the heart rate and was still going fairly fast. The only flat part of the course was the last 1.5km.  I started feeling a bit stronger and the pain in my leg either went down or adrenalin kicked in and I was able to lay down some sub 4min/km for the last little bit. I sprinted it in to finish the race off, I think people thought I was dogging it and then picked it up at the end when really my last 1km was a sprint in comparison to most of the people I passed.

Official Splits(with transitions)

1:40:29 Derek DOWLING Edmonton 7/26   M2029 231 
Swim: 113th   21:56 
Bike 36th   47:28 32.9km/h (includes t1 and t2)        
Run: 22nd   31:06  3:54min/km

Takeaways

-Need to do some more distance work in the swim

-Once my tri bike shoes come, I need to practise the flying mount. Running down pavement in carbon soled shoes is both expensive and looks really dumb.

-There is definitely value to taping gels to the top tube of your bike, it’s hard to get at them from the side pockets of my vest

-Power Gel’s taste about 100x better than GU’s

-Need to get out of the shoes on the bike quicker, could have had a train wreck when I came flying up to the dismount line and wasted time

-Need to drink more on the bike, felt pretty dehydrated going into the run

-Need to run more, I’ve been neglecting it

-Need to brick off of road rides more, it’s a lot different than bricking off a spin bike

Also, based on my Garmin which is pretty accurate, the course was short by about 1.9km on the bike and about 0.7km on the run. The difference between 7th place and an age group podium finish was about the difference between my swim time and the average of our age group.

Latest Swim TT

So today I did another 400m swim TT. My 100m splits were approximately:

1:49,1:44,1:39,1:30

For a grand total of 6:42. This absolutely demolishes my last PB in a 25m which was right around 8:32. Great to see the swim work continue to pay off. The big take away from both of my most recent swim TT’s is pacing. Instead of coming out in the first 100m like a bat out of hell, start fast but relaxed and gradually crank up the intensity as you near your goal. Ideally it would be best to swim the whole thing equally at threshold, but I still need to practise something like that before I try it in a race.

Peak Week and Other Race Plans

Spring has sprung, school is out for the summer, and I have been training like crazy. Since my schedule has stabilized I have been moving towards approximately 12-14 hours a week of training with a schedule of:

Mon: Long Run

Tuesday: Morning Swim, Night 4x5km bike tt’s

Wednesday: Open, but normally a recovery ride

Thursday: Hill Night on the Bike

Friday: Morning Run Intervals, Night open

Saturday: Medium Distance Ride(~100km)

Sunday: Long Ride (120+km)

Coronation is fast approaching and I am starting to feel like I’m getting into race form. My legs are constantly sore, a bit fatigued, and it will be nice to take a couple of days to rest them up. Today in the pool I did both a 400m TT and a 200m TT. These are both great for pushing race pace and are made up a great workout to peak off of. The catch was I decided to use the Wetronome to determine the approximate pacing I would use.

In the last TT’s I completed, I swam a 8:28 400m, and a 4:02 200m. This worked out to a Critical Swim Speed of 2:13/100m. Since then I have continued to work on technique and have spent a lot of time doing 50m and 100m repeats well above the 2:13/100m pace. While it was hard to see improvement as I was doing these sets, in both time trials I felt much more comfortable pushing the pace and was able to hold an elevated perceived effort for much longer than I normally could. After examining the splits from my last 400m TT, it was quite obvious that I was really inconsistent and came out and swam my first 50m in 52 seconds, whereas my second last 50m was 1:09, not ideal for distance swimming. This time Stefan, who’s been acting as a swim coach for me, decided to put me on a 1:02/100m pace. In combination with this consistency and intervals, I was able to swim an 8:11 – 400m and a 3:58 – 200m which are both PB’s. On top of this I have dropped my CSS time by 5 seconds to 2:06/100m meaning I should be able to hold this pace on race day for great distances without faltering. It turns out that my last test results were on April 17th, so I managed to make this much of an improvement in a month which is awesome.

My goal is to swim 1000m in under 21:00 at Coronation. It will be fast, but I think achievable if I am careful about pacing.

In other news, I have been attempting to get my Summer race plans all sorted out. This is the tentative updated version:

May 27th – Coronation (Sort of Olympic Distance)

June 16th – Fast Trax 30k Ultra (Trail Run)

June 23-24 – Devon Grand Prix (Bike Race)

July 7th, Edmonton ITU (Olympic Tri)

August 3-6th, Tour de Bowness (Bike Race)

August 18th – Kelowna Apple Triathlon (Olympic Tri)

September 23rd  – St Albert Fall Challenge (Half-Marathon) (Optional)

After this point, I hope to throw in a couple of Cyclocross races as well. It’s going to be a busy but fun summer of all kinds of racing I think! Hopefully I survive.