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

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.

Edmonton ITU 2012

Yesterday I completed my first Olympic Distance triathlon at the Edmonton ITU race. We were also blessed/cursed with the craziest heat I’ve experienced in the 2 years I’ve lived in Edmonton. Overall I was pretty happy with how I did. When I made predictions back in April I was actually pretty accurate in terms of guessing overall time. I was hoping to do 2:27:00 in total and ended up at 2:29:04. I think if the heat would have been a bit more reasonable at something less than 33 degrees with the Humidex, I could have beaten my goal time. That being said, I struggled a bit more than I should have on the run.

PL Bib Name Swim Rnk T1 Rnk Bike Rnk T2 Rnk Run Rnk Time Diff
7 215 Derek Dowling 0:31:41.8 (11) 0:02:21.8 (9) 1:06:44.4 (8) 0:01:19.9 (11) 0:46:56.5 (7) 2:29:04.6 +29:44.5

Swim 1.5km

Goal: 2:13/100m x 1500m = 33:15

Actual:   2:07/100m x 1500m = 31:41

As you can see from predicted time versus what I actually swam, I’ve put in a lot of speed work since April and have managed to drop my CSS(Critical Swim Speed) down from 2:13 to 2:07. Another important factor to consider is that this was my first open water swim and I did a fair amount of zig-zagging. So I suspect that my CSS is actually a lot closer to 2:00/100m.

Considering I couldn’t swim more than half a length in August of last year, I am super stoked on how far I have come. The next big step is to keep making good progress without injuring myself before Apple Triathlon in Kelowna, where hopefully, with a wetsuit, I’ll be able to crack 2:00/100m CSS.

The swim went well. With only about 40ish people in my heat, the start wasn’t nearly as crowded as some of the horror stories I’ve heard. Maybe if I was quick enough to stay in the pack, then things would have been a bit more interesting. I seeded myself at the back of the pack knowing I wouldn’t be able to keep up so rather than being swam over I could maybe do a bit of drafting and have a good first racing experience. After the gun went off, I sprinted hard and managed to stick with the pack for about 200m’s until they started to pull away and I geared down to what I figured race pace should feel like for 1500m. My sighting was actually pretty good. I didn’t end up to far off course at any point throughout the two laps however there were a couple of times where I did some small zig-zags. I tried bi-lateral breathing a couple of times but really didn’t start to feel comfortable doing it until about 1100m into the race. In the future I really need to work on this as it helps regulate my breathing and stops myself from putting to much strain on either of my arms and feels a lot more rhythmical and smooth than single side breathing. Another thing that I really noticed near the end of the race was that because I was trying to sight often, my head position was looking a lot more forward than I normally do in the pool. I believe this also caused my legs to drop a bit in the water making me less streamlined. Once I become comfortable and better at sighting, both of these problems will be alleviated. Having a wetsuit would also help, but I do not want to be reliant on that when it comes to being good in open-water swims. The start of the second lap was pretty demoralizing, I got out of the water to do the beach run and really couldn’t see any of the pack because they were so far ahead. From about 750m-1050m I was really feeling pretty rough. But then when I hit the final turn around bouys I really started to hammer knowing the quicker I finished, the quicker I could be done swimming. I wish I could grab some heart-rate data because it’d be interesting to figure out just how hard I’m working in the water. I realize its a bit of a shock going from completely non-weight bearing to sprinting into T1, but I’m guessing my HR was definitely over 170bpm.

Bike 40km 4 x Emily Murphy -> Sask Dr -> Down Groat Road -> Up Groat Road North -> Down Groat Road -> Turn Around in Hawrelak

Goal: 40km/35km/h =1:09:00

Actual: 1:06:44 = 35.96km/h

I won’t go into huge detail in the bike. I felt fairly strong as I’ve devoted most of my summer training up until now to Biking. I didn’t really know how hard to go and was a bit scared I’d blow up on the run if I really hammered. A warning sign for how much power I’m using comes when my glutes start to get sore on the bike. It happened in the Devon Crit race and it happened again yesterday. I was somewhat surprised to see that I still got beat by 2-4 minutes by the fast guys in my AG, but I think once I get my swim faster and more economical I will feel much better getting onto the bike as opposed to dizzy and gassed which will allow me to produce more competitive times. I also need to produce a more consistent effort. As I’ve seen from reports by Stefan and Josh, sitting at threshold wattage is much more valuable then going into the red zone on climbs and areas where you feel like you should be pushing hard. I did that a couple of times and worked harder than I should have on false flats which hurt me a bit on the climbs and in other areas. Overall I was quite happy with the bike.

Run 10km

Goal: 4:10min/km x 10km = 41:40

Actual: 46:56 = 4:42min/km

The run was nothing but nasty. On the bike, its hard work, but doing 50km/h every 5 minutes really cools you down. On the run, no such luck doing only about 12km/h. I felt  good going into t2. I nailed my first ever flying dismount and was pretty stoked about that. My transition was okay, but I really should have put on socks. It would have been worth it not feeling all of the blisters that were developing at 5k’s into the run. I started the first kilometre pretty strong and was running close to 4min/km which would have been okay had it not been 33 degrees out. My swim also came back to haunt me again. When I really start working hard in the water, I have a tendency to start swallowing air. That mixed with how much water I had drank throughout the previous days and in the morning meant I was feeling super bloated and and really had to go to the bathroom. This got worse and worse as the run continued to which the point where this mixed with the heat was the limiting factor in my speed. I gradually got slower and slower until I hit about 4:45/km which I was able to hold. I was able to dig down and whipped out a pretty fast last km which I am guessing was around 4:00 minutes. I wasn’t really that happy with my run, but I learned a bunch in my first ever Olympic distance race. I think I drank a bit too much during the bike or atleast should have done more of the drinking earlier on in that portion. I drank almost 2 full bottles or 1.5L’s while I think I should have kept it closer to 1L. I believe this would have helped with the bloated feeling. Running more would also help, but I plan to address this come fall September.Believe it or not I have yet to uploaded my Strava results and will add those to the post as soon as I put them up. I finished ITU as the fastest of the slow people and qualified pretty much by default for the London Age Group National Championships for 2013. That being said I don’t plan on going to get my ass kicked by guys who have been doing this since they were 12. Maybe in a couple of years once I start getting stronger I’ll think about it. In the mean time I have two weeks “off” to give the engine a bit of the break. Still planning on riding twice a week, swimming twice a week, and running once the arch pain I developed yesterday goes down.

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.

Fast Trax 30km Trail Race Report

On this most recent Saturday morning I completed my first ever trail race. The 30k distance, which I competed in, was the smallest distance with the other choices being Ultra Races at 50km, 80km, and 100km distances. The 30k was more than enough considering I’ve only ever done one other half-marathon back in February and hadn’t really devoted a lot of distance work and time to preparing for this race which I signed up for on a whim back in March.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from myself in the race. I think the largest ran I’d done before this was back in February at about 23km and was at a really slow pace. The other factor was that I’d never completed a trail race before so running with a ton of elevation change was not something I was used too. I also hadn’t really devoted a whole lot of training for this race. Since the summer has started I’ve been consistently doing long runs on Monday nights of about 18-20km’s with lots of trails and maintaining an average pace of about 5:00min/km and then trying to do at least one other 10km run during the weeks at closer to my 10k race pace. For that reason I assumed that the max cut off for my day being a failure was running anything over 3 hours (6:00min/km pace) and set my top end goal for 2 hours and 30 minutes(5:00min/km).

The race was held at Gold Bar Park here in Edmonton and was a blast to run. It had rained earlier in the week but despite many close calls held off from raining for the last 2 days before the race making the trails soft but not at all muddy. Because some people were attempting to do a 100km’s, there was a mass start for all distances at 7am which was really damn early. It was a little bit intimidating with all of the hard core people dressed to the 9’s with their hard core trail runners, compression socks, camelbak’s and all of that other trail running gear. Soon enough the gun went off and we all went trudging along. The different distance packs all split up pretty quickly and before I knew it, Keegan, myself, and the eventual 30km winner had all moved to the front and were out leading the pack.

I hadn’t pre-run the course or even been to Gold Bar before so I held back a bit on the first lap until I got more of a feel for the course and the elevation. After about 6km’s two other runners started lessen the gap between me and themselves so I decided to take off from Keegan, who was going for 50km, and just run at a comfortable threshold pace. I specifically set my garmin to not show heart rate, set my laps to 10km and only showed average lap pace so as not to worry about pacing other than that I was not completely falling short of the speed I wanted over the course of the lap.

The first half of the course was extremely hilly, right off the bat we hit Esso hill which was a nasty, long steep beast which was okay the first two times through but really sucked the third time. From about kilometre 6 and on the course really flattened out and I was able to step on it. After the first lap my legs were feeling really good so I upped my pace a bit and was able to float around 4:41/km for the lap. By the time the third lap came around I was really starting to feel it. However there was $20 worth of beer on the line for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers so I had to push hard. By the 26th or so kilometre I was starting to feel pretty spent and went from pushing to be fast to pushing just so I could be done with running for the day. My pace gradually dropped from 4:45 down to 4:55 at which point I really focused on maintaining that speed. There were a couple of points where I got really light headed and shivery, and felt like I was starting to bonk but backed off just long enough that it would go away. At another point I developed chest pain that started on one side and worked its way across my body to cover the whole front and a bit of my back. I figured I was going to be that 1/1000 person who died from a heart attack in a race and that I should really push so that when it finally struck me it would be a swift and painless death. I survived that, the knee pain, small back spasms, and all of the other interesting ways that your body starts to scream at you once you get over about 20 kilometres and the finish line came soon enough. It felt so awesome to be done, finishing second in my distance and first in my age group.

Overall I was really happy with my performance, my pacing, and the race in general. Obviously more training would have helped but I went into this race more just to try the longer distance out in preparation for a marathon in the next year and as something different to try out. The only real critiques were that I should have maybe eaten another gel or 2 on the race as I only managed to get 1.5 down. And perhaps drinking more water would have helped. The aid station people missed me twice so I only ended up drinking 3 small cups throughout the race. That being said the Ultra distance is more of a self-serve aid station set up and I shouldn’t have really expected the volunteers to have water ready for me as I was going by.

Total Time: 2:25:03

Split 1 – 48:00

Split 2 – 47:17

Split 3 – 49:46

Strava: http://app.strava.com/runs/10958663

Race Website: http://ultra.fasttraxskishop.com/trail_info.php