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:

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.

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.

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


Race Website: