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.

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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.

Great Speed Swim Workout

With my upcoming race on Saturday morning, I decided to give my legs a break from the regular Thursday night pounding that hills with ERTC inflicted on them. Instead I went to our Tri club’s swim practise and was treated to a great workout by our coach Mike. It provided a good combination of pacing work, speed, and endurance all mixed into one package. I found this to be a lot of fun and am writing about this as much for the 10 people that might read this as for archiving this workout so I don’t forget.

The distance worked out to 2.2km and I finished it in around 90 minutes. I consider myself an “advanced beginner”.

Warm-up:

3x: 100m easy free style, 25m backstroke

+ 25m of back kick to get back to the start

Main Set 1(Hard Kick, Race Pace):

6x: 25m of kick at 40 seconds, 50m of freestyle on 1 minute, 30 seconds rest

Main Set 2(Race Pace – 10 seconds, Race Pace):

1x: 50m on 1:10, 50m on 1:00

1x: 100m on 2:20, 100m on 2:00

1x: 150m on 3:30, 150m on 3:00

Main Set 3(Active Recovery, Race Pace, AR, Above RP, AR, 2 x All Out):

100m on 2:30, 100m on 2:00, 100m on 3:00, 1oom on 1:50, 100m on 3:00, 50m on 50s, 50m on 50s

Cool Down:

100m easy free style

Notes:

-This workout uses speeds I am comfortable with where my race pace is approximately 2:00/100m. Based on that time you can adjust the workout to fit your own race pace speed.

-If you need more distance, tack it onto the 3rd Main Set

-On the 2nd and 3rd sets I worked on pacing myself so I arrived exactly at the allotted time which allowed me to practise pacing and also made for 2 sets of 600m of consecutive swimming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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.