October Training Update, Cyclocross, Frank McNamara, and GWN

I haven’t written in a while so I thought I’d take a moment to think about what I’ve done in the last two months, what I am currently up to, and an update on a big step I’m hoping to make in Triathlon next year. Let’s start with the current stuff. There hasn’t been much to report lately as for the most part, it’s been back to training without much serious racing.

Cycling

So far I haven’t had too much of a chance to race cyclocross because I’ve been travelling 2 of the 3 weekends that there has been racing in Edmonton. There are 2 weekends of Edmonton racing left so I am hoping to do at least one more race this season more as experience gained for next year than anything. I’ve snuck a couple of long rides in here and there as well. Every time I get on my road bike I remember just how much I’ve missed it even when it means riding into nasty headwinds(grinning the whole way) like I had to deal with today. Cross is fun, but I freaking love hitting the open road.

I’ve been doing most of my riding indoors on the spin bike lately which works out to about 3 hours a week. Once racing season ends, the Tri-Club will begin our brick sessions, during which I hope to get at-least two extra hours a week of riding in as I don’t think riding only 3 hours a week is going to be enough to get where I want to be for next year. For now I’ve tried to cap my heart rate at 150 bpm to try and focus on building aerobic fitness. So far it’s seems to be working although with only an hour of riding I sometimes struggle to feel really tired/not pin it during a workout as an older me would approve of.

Running

Recently I’ve been running 3 times a week. Easy on Tuesday nights, super hard speed workout on Wednesdays, and then another slightly harder day on Fridays. For the wednesday workouts, I’ve been completing the Frank McNamara Wednesday night XC races. So far I’ve been really pleased with my results as I neglected my run for much of the Summer(long runs once a week) and did absolutely zero speed work. I consistently finish around 15th place when the fast runners come out which I am quite happy with.  I’ve definitely noticed that I’ve become really comfortable running at high heart rates when I need too, and I can hold a really high effort(180bpm+) for the entirety of those races. This has definitely translated into an increase in running fitness as well. When I was training for Hypo-half last year I remember for about 150bpm I could run around 5:00min/km whereas now for the same effort I am running 4:45min/km’s. As of right now I am doing about 2 hours a week of easy, medium distance runs, and about 25 minutes of absolute max effort work. Once bike season ends I plan on adding an additional long run day into the training regime on Saturdays and then another hour of brick runs on Sundays, and then continuing with speed work on Wednesdays as well. This should leave me with about 3 – 4 hours of easy running a week, 30 minutes or so of top end speed work, and then an hour or so of tempo work on Sundays during the brick workouts for a grand total of 4.5 – 5.5 hours a week of training.

Swimming

My swimming is coming along nicely as well. I’ve definitely noticed a cycle of gaining speed through increasing fitness, plateauing/almost injuring myself due to form issues, fixing my form, and as a result, pushing through to a new level of swimming speed. At the end of August I started to develop a pain in the collarbone area, which was caused due to my hand entry. First I was not reaching as far as I should have been before entering the water each stroke. As well I was entering thumb first, which causes a lot of rotation and un-needed stress on the shoulder joints. And finally I was also entering with my hand much less than at shoulder width. After entering my hand further forward, out away from my head, and with my thumb level, I’ve noticed an improved catch as well as my shoulder problems going away.

Finally, we completed a 400m TT on Thursday evening. I was happy to find that I swam approximately 7:40s. A decrease  of about 33 seconds from my last TT in May! Since I don’t have any real background in swimming I’ve been leaving my training regime in the hands of our coaches but feel approximately the 2.5 – 3 hours a week I have been doing is about ideal to increase fitness while avoiding injury.

Great White North:  I’ve made the plunge and signed up for Great White North.  It’s definitely going to be my “A” race triathlon for the next year and is located in a nice gap between other racing I will be doing. I’ve set a super ambitious goal for myself of completing it in sub 5 hours.

Plan:

40 minute swim(2min/100m)

5 minutes for T1

34km/h on the bike for 90km’s = 2hr 38 minutes

5 minutes for T2

Leaving me an 1hr 37 minutes to finish 21.1km of running. (~4:35min/km)

Ideally I’d like to get through transitions quicker, however I’ve left myself time here as I have no idea how long they are and would rather overshoot on how long it’d take than expect to fly through there. I don’t see T1 getting much quicker than this as I’ll be getting out of the water with a ton of people, have to strip off a wetsuit, and have to navigate a bunch of slower triathletes to get onto the bike course.

I think this is going to hurt a lot, but it is definitely achievable. Based on swim smooths css calculator, my threshold speed is exactly 2min/100m as of now, and I’ve still got 8 months to improve. I definitely feel like I can hold 34km/h on the bike, especially with how flat the course is, plus a big fitness boost from another 2 months of road racing under my belt. Finally, I plan on running sub 1hr 30min in a half-marathon by the end of April. Assuming I hold this fitness and run no faster than 1:29:59 and don’t make any gains in the 2 months following, I’d need to run at 92% of my running only goal which seems doable.

Edmonton Police Half

I am aiming to run a sub 1:30 at this race. It’s going to be semi-hilly, but I think it is doable with the next 6.5 months to prepare for it. I ran 1:37 in half a foot of snow last February, albeit on a fairly flat course, so I think I should be able to make this happen.

School of Cross + Hop N Hurl Race Cyclocross Race Report

I won’t go into crazy detail here about either of the two races I completed last weekend, however they were both a blast. As my first real Cyclocross style race other than Kettle Cross, I think things went quite well. I learned a ton about racing tactics, pacing, and bike handling in the weekend. I competed in School Of Cross on Saturday and Hop N Hurl on Sunday

Since I am still a Cat 5 Road Racer, I was placed into the most beginner category of Cyclocross racing, “Sport”. Despite shifting my focus back to running and having  not ridden either my road or cross bike at all in the past month, I still did quite well and felt stronger than many of my competitors in both races. My downfall was definitely being timid in the beginning of both races due to my lack of experience with steep descents, single track, and technical cornering. I plan on getting at least two more cross races in this season and plan on spending a lot more time on the cross bike before the start of next season to help get used to technical riding.

In hindsight, establishing a good starting position out of the opening sprint is super key, even more so than in Crit racing. If you aren’t in the top 10, you end up bottlenecked behingd 20 to 30 racers who are both slower and less proficient in the corners. I estimate that the leaders gain 2-3 seconds on you through every corner in the opening lap. I made the mistake in both races starting deep behind the leaders. I estimate about 30 back in both races. After things finally spread out, I managed to climb about 15 or so spots in both races. I definitely made a ton of ground up over the barriers and sand pits as most of the other riders don’t have the top end running speed that I am capable of. But in the end, you can only pass/catch so many people in 40 minutes when you’ve given the top 20 riders a minute head start in the first lap.

Next year I definitely intend on racing a full cross season with intentions of upgrading to “Expert” which is always easier said than done. I think I will have some added fitness as well as bike handling abilities. Right now I am back to building base for next year so I can start hard in March and hopefully cycle consistently all the way to November with a few small breaks in the middle.

I am quite happy with both races, I maintained a pretty high threshold for both races and felt like my legs were completely shot at the conclusion of both races meaning I was working hard enough. I would have finished in approximately 11th place in Hop N Hurl had I not kicked my chain off the little ring when I was hurling over the barricades. Oh well!

School of Cross CX:  17/44 Sport, +0:02:54

Hop N Hurl CX: 15 / 44 in Sport

Kettle Cross Race Report

Well, I woke up Football sore this morning after competing at the Kettle Cross race yesterday. As in I felt like I got ran over by a linebacker from my football days. I competed in the 74km Enduro or “Full Kettle” distance, and let me tell you, it was quite the test on a Cyclocross bike, the preferred steed of racers yesterday. The race consisted of two 37km laps.

I pre-road the course once so I kind of new what I was getting myself into. While not super technical, there were at least a couple of sections where if you weren’t being careful, you could do some major damage. As well, there was only really two major climbs however the course was littered with little rollers which really takes a toll on the body, especially when there are rocks, roots, mud, and other things working to kill your momentum. Even on the smoothest parts of the trail, you get thrown around pretty well. This also makes eating very challenging. All things, I well cover below.

Any ways, Fiera Race Team, the awesome people who organized this fine race, were super worried about not having enough competitors to make the race go(~75). Well on race day, we had a mass start across all 3 of the race distances comprising about 175 cyclists which was pretty crazy, and awesome to see riders from all over Alberta and Saskatchewan come out for the first race of its kind! Fortunately the 1st kilometer was neutral under a pace bike which helped spread the pack out a bit without letting things get too crazy.

After the gun went off I didn’t try anything too silly. I knew it was going to be a long race and I didn’t really want to do anything that could jeopardize finishing such as crashing out  in the first lap, or absolutely burying myself to make up one or two bike positions early in the race when it didn’t really matter. I went out a bit hard with the early race excitement, maintaining a heart rate of  about 175 for the first 15 kilometres, and then 170bpm for the entirety of the first lap. This showed as my first split was approximately 1hr 31mins for the first lap. Throughout the first lap I focused on two things. First, I tried to avoid going anaerobic as much as possible. As soon as I felt a lot of lactate building I tried to back off. I also really focused on carrying momentum as well as I could, that meant really spinning out on down hills so that my momentum would carry me as much as possible over the little hills that would follow them. This worked well as I spared having to throw down high wattage on the hills climbs and avoided heart rate spikes. Moreover, maintaining a bit more consistency in effort allowed me to save energy on the hills when it would get bunched up, and then pass other riders who’d lost all of their momentum going up the hills.

By the time I finished the 1st lap, I was starting to hurt pretty good. My back, arms, and ass were all super sore and I hadn’t consumed any calories which was a massive mistake. I could either sit down and save my legs, or stand up and save my back. I chose saving the back as it was affecting me the most. I brought a ton of food with me but with how bumpy the course was, it was almost impossible to eat on the move. Next year I plan on doing a couple of things differently. First, I will really load up on food before the race so that I can coast for as long as possible. Secondly, I will load my hydration pack up with juice of some kind instead of just water so that every time I drink I get some much needed fuel. I am also going to look into bringing foods that I can throw in my jersey pockets that won’t melt such as Swedish Berries(thanks Josh!). Any who, by about 5km into the second lap I was bonking pretty good. I finally stopped at around 7km and pounded a power gel and a chocolate bar. I did the same at 12km, and then stopped at the aid station for oranges and cookies at 21km. By about 25km’s in I hit my second wind from restoring my blood sugar level and was able to ride hard again. I caught and dropped a couple of people which was a good confidence boost as well.

At about 29km in, I came across the mud trench that I successfully traversed in the first lap. This time I hit it doing about 35km/h and tried to hop it. I cleared it no problem, but landed not totally balanced and in a bit of a slick spot. Needless to say my bike slid out and I smacked the ground pretty hard. Once I came to a stop I noticed that my sun glasses exploded and were now garbage. I got up, and first did a once over of the bike to make sure the shifters and breaks still worked, then ran a quick diagnostic on the body which was also fine (indeed the correct order of importance when racing). I will admit that this got my adrenaline going again which helped hide some of the other muscle fatigue and back pain for the rest of the race. The last 8km’s were pretty uneventful, I rode tempo as best I could without the legs totally seizing up and finished with a time of 3hr 26 minutes and an average heart rate of 164bpm including the 5 minutes or so of stopped time I took. Strava: http://app.strava.com/rides/21468116.

Post-crash shifter set-up. Was a bit sketchy finishing like that.
Overall I was pretty happy with my day. It was my first ever Cyclocross style race so I didn’t have super high expectations. I came in under 3hr 3omins which was what I considered my acceptable cut off. Next year I totally plan on doing this race again except with a goal time of under 3:15.

As a side note, I feel like I have reached the upper limit for my cycling legs this year after putting over 5000km of riding in this year between commuting, road, and cross and haven’t road very consistently since the Kelowna Apple with school starting and my switch over to run training. I plan to do the upcoming cross races, but am not going to train very extensively for them other than fitting in a mid week ride every once and a while to maintain my bike handling skills.

Winter 2012 Training Plans and Goals for 2013

With Tour de Bowness and the Kelowna Apple Triathlon behind me, my Road Racing and Triathlon seasons have come to an end. I made it through the season in relatively one piece. I had to deal with a bit of an arch injury after Fast Trax 30km, left some skin on the Crit course at TdB, and have picked up a slight cough that I haven’t been able to shake since Edmonton ITU but other than that feel pretty good right now.

With the temperature starting to drop, only Cyclocross season remains. I have really mixed feelings about CX right now. It seems like it is going to be absolute blast, but I’ve crashed fairly hard on every CX ride I’ve been on to this point, so if I can end that trend I’ll be much more thrilled about the sport. So far I have 3 races in mind, the Kettle Cross Enduro, School of Cross, and Hop N’ Hurl. I plan on really only tapering for the first race as it will be quite a long solo effort. After the last cross race of the season, and when the snow hits the ground for good, I plan on taking a hard rest week to give the body a bit of a chance to recover.

Below I’ve attempted to outline my basic goals for next year’s race season.

Running

As of the first week in September I will be back to training with the Triathlon club full time as I am required to coach Tuesday and Friday evenings and will being participating in our club’s swims on Mondays and Thursdays. One of the big goals I have for next year is to complete the Grizzly Ultra Marathon in October 2013. The race consists of  a 50km trail run with 1 691m of elevation gain(OUCH!). I’ve talked with Jack from Fast Trax, who is the head coach of a pretty hardcore Ultra running club in Edmonton, and he’s built me a modified training plan based on what his racers normally do. I made it clear that I only have time to run at maximum four times per week, and not the 7-9 that his crazy athletes do. For now he has me on a Half-Marathon speed program which I intend to begin with the first week in September. My long term goal is to be able to go sub 1:29 at Edmonton Police Half-Marathon which means being able to run below 4:13min/km for the duration of the race. After completing this race in April, I will rest up and begin increasing the duration of my base and long runs towards the longer distances I need in order to do the Grizzly.

The training plan looks something like this:

Tuesday – Base Run < 60 minutes

Wednesday – Intervals or Tempo Run

Friday – Base Run < 60 minutes

Saturday or Sunday – Long Slow Run or Intervals

Since I really neglected my run near the latter half of the summer, averaging about 12km/week, I plan on getting my distance back up to around 25km/week and then will increase the volume slowly through September and October as biking season ends and my legs are more likely to survive  the 40+km/week the plan calls for.

Triathlon

I am not completely sure what my plans are for Triathlon next year. I am considering the move to longer course racing. I think I have the ability to race a Half-Ironman in a reasonable time. I am considering racing either Calgary 70.3 or Great White North however I cannot afford to do both. I am also considering the possibility of doing the Kelowna Apple again. I have a score to settle with that race. I feel with consistent off-season swimming, biking, and the run plan I intend to do, I will be fairly strong coming in to next year.

In terms of swimming, I’d like to crack the 30 minute barrier for the 1500m open swim. My best time this year was 31:40 at Edmonton ITU without a wetsuit. This takes a combination of sighting and fitness, which I think should be well within reach next year by swimming twice a week regularly through the Winter. This also means getting my race pace under 2:00min/100m. Without consistent summer training I believe I have gotten it down to somewhere around 2:05min/100m. Blazing fast, I know.

Bike Racing

I plan on hitting bike racing hard next year starting with Velocity Stage Race, Pidgin Lake Road Race, Devon Bikefest, Banff Bikefest or Rundle Mountain Stage Race, and then finally Superweek in Calgary if I’m not frazzled from all of the other racing I’ve done to that point. Ideally I hope to upgrade into Category 4 next year. Another Fall/Winter of hard work on the spin bikes plus hitting bike season earlier should enable me to score the remaining 20 points I need to make the jump fairly early in the season.

Fall/Winter Training Schedule

Monday – Core 1 hour, Swim 1.5 hours

Tuesday – Run 1 hour, Bike 1 hour

Wednesday – Run 1 hour

Thursday – Core 1 hour, Swim 1.5 hours

Friday – Run 1 hour, Bike 1 Hour

Saturday – 2-3 hours of biking/running or Off

Sunday – 2-3 hours of biking/running

Total: 12 – 16 Hours

Or, subtracting for about 30 missed workouts due to resting, holidays, school, social life I should log somewhere between 325 – 475 hours of training during the school year. Since the beginning of April I’ve logged 185 hours not including swimming which I suspect would push the total to somewhere in the neighbourhood of 225 hours. That also includes some pretty hard race tapers, and a 2 week dead zone where I did virtually nothing in July after Edmonton ITU.

Kelowna Apple Triathlon Race Report

Well I’ve just gotten home from 11 hours of driving Kelowna to Edmonton and felt compelled to right up the last triathlon race report of the summer. Early in the race season, I decided that for this year’s destination race, I’d do the Kelowna Apple Tri. Many people that I’ve spoken with have said the race was excellent and this year was no exception. The race was well organized, started on time, was clearly marked, had tons of cheering fans, and had great post-race support in the form of food, and cold showers.

The race director’s performance was great, however mine was not so hot. I made a bunch of critical mistakes during and before the race, which cost me quite heavily in terms of performance and showed accordingly with my splits and finishing time. That being said, I definitely learned a lot from the race, and finished feeling I worked my ass off. Another note, I’ve decided that Triathlon is an absolutely brutal sport if you push yourself. I’ve now done bike and run races that were approximately equal in total time spent racing this weekend. Those races hurt, but not nearly as bad as this one or Edmonton ITU.

Overall : 171 /431

AG: 9/27 in M2024

Total Time: 2:41:20

T1:  121st 1:49, T2: 192st  1:35

Swim: 326th 36:33, 2:27/100m

Bike: 119th 1:11:43 33.5km/h

Run: 49:42 4:59min/km

The Swim

After dropping a significant amount of money on my Xterra wetsuit, both of the open water swims I completed this year were deemed non-wetsuit swims due to the water temperature being over 23 degrees in both races. In hindsight, I am quite glad that I was unable to wear my wetsuit at Edmonton ITU as it was a good confidence booster for this race where there was no putting my feet down if things went south in the middle of the Okanagan Lake. As another side note, it was amazing swimming in that lake with how spectacularly clear the water was. I’ve never swam in a lake before, so it was very cool to see how long the sea-weeds were and all of the fish darting in and out of them in the middle of the race.

Any ways, I seeded myself in the middle of the pack with the most direct line to the first buoy. I stuck with the pack for the first 100 metres or so and then settled into my own pace as I knew they’d shortly be long gone and I’d be dead in the water if I tried to hold their pace. The swim consisted of two 750m laps around 4 large bouys in a diamond shape. The first lap was quite easy to sight as I just looked for where the group was swimming and followed them only worrying about locating the buoys on every third or fourth sight. I completed my first lap in the usual fashion, I felt terrible for the first 200 metres, started to relax from 200-400m, and then got into a strong rhythm after that. I found a couple of people who were about my speed and completed the last leg of the first lap with them. At about that time, the super quick swimmers from F20-24 caught me so I had another group of people to sight off of. Running on the beach and then jumping back in the water is always disorienting, but I got through that a lot more gracefully then at Edmonton ITU.

It wasn’t until lap two that disaster struck. I made my way to the first buoy in good time, but with the glare of the sun, the jacked up heart rate, and lack of oxygen to the brain, totally missed sighting the farthest out 2nd buoy, and headed straight for the third. After realizing that no one was following me, I looked to my right and noticed that they were all swimming away from me. I think I was about 100m of course at this point, so by the time I turned, and got back on course I figure that mistake cost me about an extra 200m in swim time plus fatigue.  Other than feeling like a moron, I finished the swim uneventfully. I rolled into T1 and there was absolutely no one around.

Recap- I think if I wouldn’t have swam off course to a 36:33, I would have swam a time similar to that of Edmonton ITU(0:31:41.8). I could have also stayed tighter to some of the buoys, but it was difficult to see them at times staring straight into the sun in a big lake. I also should have swam a bit more regularly after ITU, as I only went to the pool about 8 times in about 6 weeks.

The Bike

The bike leg my most successful of the three events in the race, however I made two serious errors in preparation for the race. Firstly, I forgot my aero-bars in Edmonton. I think this cost me at least 1-2km/h as a result of being uncomfortable in the drops for an hour, using slightly different muscles, and by making it difficult to relieve the bloating I get from swimming at race pace. That being said I still managed to do 33.5km/h which I am okay with but not extremely happy about. I also know I would have benefited greatly from going out to more of the Tuesday night ERTC time trials. I haven’t been out to one since June, however it’s been a battle to balance work, training, sleeping, and getting adequate recovery after weekend races, which has resulted in my lack of attendance on Tuesday nights. Finally, my bike computer died as soon as I hopped onto my bike so I had no way of knowing how fast I was riding. Although it’s not the best metric of effort, it is useful to know approximately how fast you were going on previous laps to make sure that you aren’t backing off from a lack of focus.

The Run

The run was super disheartening. I suffered the same bloating as at Edmonton ITU only twice as worse. I ate less the night before, however I think the cause was a combination of swallowing air/water during the swim, and being stuck in the drops for the whole bike. My stomach expanded to the point where it hurt to run anything faster than a 5:30min/km pace and I was forced to walk a couple of times. I tried to fart/cough as much as possible, but I couldn’t relieve myself. I even ran to an outhouse and tried to remove whatever my body was willing to part with, but that didn’t really help either. Finally around 4km, a girl from UBC caught me and was running about 5:20s and not wanting to get chicked by a UBC girl, I was able to use her as a pacer. I ran with her for about 2 kilometers and slowly picked up steam as my body attempted to relieve pressure. I could hear her dying in front of me as I pushed her on and decided to drop her. With about 3k left I began to feel like I should have at the start of the run and was able to crank up the pace to near 4:10min/km and held that until the final sprint.

Take-Aways

-I need to work hard at swimming during the off-season. Getting faster and more comfortable in the water will have me gasping for air less, which will make me more relaxed during the swim, and will allow me to actually race the run leg of the race.  Not to mention, will help me shave upwards of 2-3 minutes off my race times.

-I need to attend more of the Tuesday night TT’s. I think I undervalued this workout this year, and will try to attend as much as possible next year. I think having the increased cycling base will also allow me to bounce back from weekend races quicker next year allowing my legs to be more capable of completing this demanding workout.

-I need to average more than 10 kilometres a week of running, and I need to do speed workouts. I neglected running and partially swimming this summer to ride as often as possible. There were many Wednesdays and Fridays where should have been spent with runs.

-I need to not be an idiot and forget my aero-bars in Edmonton.

-I have done some research into gas relief products and might try something like Gas-X next year. Obviously it’s a short term solution and I’ll have to test its side-effects out before I attempt to use it in a racing environment, but even if it provides partial relief, it’ll have been worth it.

Devon Grand Prix 2012

This weekend was my first attempt at Road Racing. At the start of this year I told myself I wouldn’t race because it was too dangerous and I didn’t think I would be strong enough to be competitive. After I was rooked into going out to a Spring Series race I quickly changed my mind. Since the spring race I’ve come quite far. I’ve averaged about 250km/week of riding and have spent a bunch of time doing intervals and hill climbs which have had a large impact on my speed, power, and endurance.

This weekend was the Devon Grand Prix which consisted of two independent races. The first was the United Cycle Downtown Criterium Provincials in the afternoon on Saturday. The second was the Juventus Gennesee Hills Road Race on Sunday morning.

The crit race was a nerve racking experience. Unlike a road race where there is a considerable distance to travel, the crit consisted of 15 laps of about 900m. This meant that the race would last for about 20 minutes making very little room for error in terms of positioning and pacing. The cornering was intense at high speeds, but I felt comfortable and strong making tough turns in the big group and never once felt really scared about crashing. My starting spot was another story, from the get go I allowed a bunch of other riders to line up in front of me, making it very difficult to move to the front of the group. After the one parade lap, the pace car pealed away and we were off. I felt strong in the corners but was at the very back of the 35 man group. My legs felt good for the first couple laps and  I really worked hard to move myself to the front so that I was in a better position for the sprints that happened every 5 laps. I eventually made it into the top 10 as of about the 6th lap. By this point the lead pack had begun to breakaway from the main group. The guys, lead by Keegan, were really hammering and I was trying my hardest to hang on for dear life. At this point a gap of about 50m split the two packs apart. I was beginning to fade from the relentless speed and not getting on people’s wheels properly and was dropped from the lead group. I tried to fight my way back on but wasted a lot of energy in no man’s land between the two packs where I was also fighting unnecessary wind resistance. This went on for about a lap before the chase pack caught me. By this point I had went well over my red-line in terms of power output and heart rate and was really crashing hard. The weather was beautiful at 25 degrees, arguably the hottest day of riding this year. This mixed with the new black ERTC team kit I was wearing, and my insanely high heart rate left me feeling really terrible with well over 7 laps to go. I slowly was dropped from even the chase pack as I had nothing left in my legs. That, mixed with a lack of air, getting the shivers from over exertion, plus riding solo made for a rough last couple laps where I worked hard to catch and pass the other riders who had blown up early.

I came around the corner of the final lap with a Juventus guy who had been latched onto my rear wheel post getting dropped. He pulled out to sprint past me, I tried following, but the Juventus rider who crashed earlier was walking his bike across the line and neglected to look to see the last riders coming around the corner. I had to pull out at the last second to avoid putting the oblivious rider into his second crash of the day although he would have deserved it. I found out that Keegan scored enough points for 3rd overall and avoided a mechanical which was really exciting.

The take-a-ways from that race are to establish a good starting position as quick as possible, and then sit in for as long as possible while minimizing the amount of actual work you do until it becomes absolutely necessary. I also realized that once I got dropped off the front pack I should have allowed myself to join the chase pack that was working hard to bridge the gap and use them to my advantage. I was really shocked by my Garmin data and realized just how hard I had been pushing early in the race.

On Sunday I had completely different results during the road race. The race was to consist of about 72km of total riding with two massive climbs in the very middle of the ride. While my ability to produce massive power for a short time such as in the crit is not quite where it needs to be yet, I have developed quite a solid base of cycling endurance from all of the 130+ km rides I’ve done. The hill repeat nights I’ve done this year with ERTC has also made me into a decent climber, at least for Cat 5. In total ERTC fielded 5 riders for the Cat 5 race. Kyle, our strongest cat 5 rider is also a strong climber. Our game plan for the race was to stay out of trouble on the way out to the Gennesee Power Coulee, move to the front  of the pack on the first hill, and then really attack hard on the way back on the second climb shortly after. We guessed we’d need about 6-10 people to make the break away work. Assuming that I didn’t repeat the previous days performance, that was about all we hoped for and didn’t really have a plan after that.

The race started pretty calm until after the first corner at which point the guys working hard at the front began to open up the throttle. We had a strong tailwind on the way out and were doing over 40km/h a lot of the time. As it was Cat 5, there were a lot of strange accelerations where a gap would open up by about 10m in the middle of the peleton but then the guys driving the pace would back off and the groups would rejoin.  I realized after this had occurred for the 3rd time not to waste energy working hard to get onto the front group as it was just a useless waste of energy. I gradually moved into the top 10 or so riders nestling in behind Kyle so that I knew I had a non-sketchy wheel to follow. We were just far enough back so that we wouldn’t have to do any pulling and close enough that we could break out to chase down any attacks that may have occurred. Fortunately no serious attacks were mounted before the hills as I guess everyone else had the same plan as attacking on the hills.

We hit the first down hill and were flying, doing well over 60km/h. Things flattened out and then the 1km+ climb started. The strong climbers were all near the front and as opposed to waiting until the second hill, started to fly up the first hill. Not wanting to get dropped I stomped on it, cruising past other riders who weren’t climbing nearly hard enough to keep up. A group of about 15 people out of 40 made it up the hill quickly enough to separate from the lead pack. As soon as we crested the hill, our Cat 5 turn around came.  I had just enough time to get my heart rate settled down enough not to blow up and we were descending again. One thing I’ve learned is that I descend quickly. I don’t know what it is, maybe my heavy aluminium bike or being slightly heavier than most riders, but I have an ability to descend fast. On the downhill, I pulled out around the pack and settled into a an aero position and began pulling away from the front of the group. I didn’t really have plans to go off the front, but thought maybe I could make the other fast guys do some extra work to catch up to me on the decline, wasting energy for the climb. This also allowed us to separate ourselves from the chase pack that was developing as a result behind us. The hill climb was nasty, I’ve never climbed that hard before for that long. I was red-lining again and barely made it over the hill but I figured everyone else was hurting just as bad and managed to hold on.

We managed to form an echelon among the lead group and held the chase pack off for the whole race. By the end there were a couple of guys skipping pulls who looked like they were hurting bad so we tried to up the pace so that we could ruin them for the sprint. Kyle and I talked about what to do with about 7km left in the race. If their hadn’t been such a strong wind I was considering trying to ride off the front as I felt like I had better long term power than in the sprint. I decided not to risk blowing up before the finish line and ruining my chance of finishing high. The 500m mark came quickly and the group took off really far from the line. A group of about 4 people took  off and I managed to get around the guys who were maxed out to catch them. I made the mistake of not getting onto their wheels and spent about 300m in the unnecessary head wind. Kyle managed to pull away, easily pulling off to take first place in the sprint, along with another Juventus rider. I passed the other two guys who were on their tails, but with about 30m left another Juventus rider who had been drafting me pulled out and grabbed third place by about a wheel.

I was stoked on life, getting 4th place was much better than I expected, and Kyle taking 1st was awesome. We executed the game plan perfectly and everything went about as good as I could have possibly dreamed for my first race. The only thing I would have done differently would be to have moved a bit closer to the front of the break-away for the start of the sprint and then getting on a wheel until about 150m before I pull out to make my move.

Here’s the Garmin data for the race: http://app.strava.com/rides/11641433. I was really happy with being able to keep my heart rate for that long. I feel like my HR thresholds have been moving up because I have been feeling really good at higher heart rates that used to ruin me a lot quicker. I also managed to get my HR up to a new personal best of 193 on the final sprint which is the highest I’ve ever seen it on the bike.

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.