Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Road to Hope Half Marathon - Nov 6, 2011 Race Report

I signed up for this race a little late, not knowing what my fall was going to be like.   After some decent training, I thought I was ready to make an attempt at a fast paced half marathon.   I've only done one other stand up half marathon race in the 8 years since we moved back from Bermuda, and that was the Run for the Grapes in St. Catherines.   That was a few years ago and I thought I had run a decent race finishing in about 1:28 or so.

I knew that the Road to Hope course is a net downhill, so I thought it was a perfect race to try and go after a NYC marathon qualifying spot.   To do that, I had to run under 1:23 for my AG.   That works out to about a 3:55/K pace, and although I'm totally comfortable doing that for a 10K, I've never attempted to run that fast for a full half marathon.  

Conditions on race day were more than ideal (for the most part), as we had a nice south wind and dry sunny skies.    Darryl Huras (also from New Hamburg) and I showed up at Confederation Park in Hamilton around 7am or so and quickly picked up our race kits and grabbed our gear bags before hopping on one of the many school buses that were there to shuttle the racers to the start line out at a high school up on the Niagara escarpment (key word UP!).

By the time Darryl and I arrived, there were already a lot of people in the school keeping warm and loose.   We quickly found an open space up stairs in one of the hallways to get into our running gear and pack up our bags for the bag check.   After dropping our bags off at the bag check, we headed out to the running track to do a few warm up laps and some stretching to loosen up.   Before we knew it, the marathon had started and in a few more minutes, so would the half.

While at the start line, I ran into Larry Bradley who was also running the half with the aid of his coach Tyler Lord pacing him to a planned sub 1:19 finish time.   That was well faster than I had really wanted to go, so although it would have been great to start off fast with them, I really wanted to do what I thought I could handle.

Shortly after 8:30am, the starting gun went off and the race was on!

I knew that we had a few kilometers before we were going to hit the downhill section of the race on the Red Hill Valley Parkway, but the beginning of the race also seemed pretty fast.   The wind was from the south and we were running west at this point, but it seemed to be at our backs.   There were also a few slight downhill grades, so I was pretty much cruising along, hardly working doing about 3:45 K's.   Darryl and I were both shooting to go sub 1:23, but right from the start, I pulled away, as he wasn't too comfortable going out at this pace (more on this later though!).   At about 3.5 or 4K, we made a couple right hand turns before making a left onto the on ramp to get on the parkway.   At this point, the pace really picked up.   The next several kilometers as we ran down the escarpment with the wind at our backs, I was easily doing sub 3:40 K's.  I think kilometer 5 to 6 was at a 3:28 pace!   I was running in a small group with two other guys, so I was just tucked in with them and was flying along.

When we went through the 10K marker, I wasn't really surprised that I was almost on my 10K PB time.   The fastest 10K I've ever run is 37:04, and I believe I passed the 10K marker in this race in 37:10.   I'm pretty sure that if I was only running the first 10K of this course, I could have done it in about 35 minutes!  Wow!

Just past the 10K marker, we got off the parkway and onto Barton street.   This is where the race started to get tougher.   We had to go uphill to get to Barton and then we were dealing with a cross wind.   It wasn't too long though before we got onto Woodward Ave., which is also part of the Around the Bay course.   Just before the 12K marker, there is a set of train tracks, and when I was only a few hundred meters from them, the lights started to go off and I thought what the fuck???   Anyway, the arms went down and sure enough, an Amtrak passenger train was crossing the road.  Luckily though, it was short and before long, the arms were going back up.   Perfect timing really, as the arms started to go up when I was only about 10m from the tracks.   I didn't have to slow down at all.

The course continued down Woodward before finally going under the QEW and getting on Beach Blvd. (again, same as the ATB course).   At this point, I was running closer to 3:50-4:00/K's on average, and this would continue until we turned right off of Beach Blvd and got on the Lakefront trail at about the 16K marker.   This is where things started going fairly quickly downhill.   We were now running east back to the finish line at Confederation Park and had to deal with a nasty southeast wind whenever there was an open area.

The fast pace that I started out at was quickly catching up with me and I found myself struggling to do 4:00-4:05 K's.   I'm sure that a few of the last K's in the race might have been over 4:10.   For some weird reason, my Garmin did not save this race, so I don't have the ability to look back and see what I was really doing in the last few K.   All I was really concerned about was getting to the finish line!!

So as I said earlier, I never saw Darryl once the race started, and I had no idea where he was.   I did look back a few times but never saw him, so I wasn't sure.  Well, with only 1K to go, he caught me, which was great (for him at least!).   I thought "Cool, we can finish together again like we did at ATB", but that was not to be.   He had more juice than me in the final stretch and I just couldn't keep up.   Finally, we passed the finish area and had to make a very short loop around before coming back to the finish line.   I was very happy to see that line, as I really didn't have much left to go any further.

In the end, I finished in 1:21:59, beating my goal time by just over a minute, which is awesome.   Darryl finished 12 seconds ahead of me, meaning that if we both wanted to, we could go to the NYC marathon in 2012.   Having Boston and NYC under my belt would seem sufficient from a marathoning perspective.


Here is some cool finish line video showing both Darryl and I finishing:

So overall, I was very happy with my time, but just a bit disappointed in how I couldn't manage to finish as strong as I would have liked.   Overall, I finished 34th out of 1,721 runners and 8th in my AG out of 87.   Unfortunately, in the last few K, I likely gave up 7 or 8 spots overall, and possibly even 5th place in my AG and maybe a podium??   Not sure really, but at least I kept pushing when I really didn't have much left.   I know that feeling will come in handy when the Ironman training kicks in again next year for Mont Tremblant.

This is the last race of the year, and now it's time to get organized for a solid off season.   Hopefully more swimming and I'd like to keep a good amount of base mileage going for running, but likely back off on some of the distance runs.

It's been a good year and I look forward to another one next year!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tour de Hans 100K Road Race

This was my first attempt at a pure cycling race.   There are many things that make this different than the cycling portion of a triathlon or duathlon, but mainly, it's the ability to draft off of other riders that makes it a lot more fun and exciting.

The predicted weather forecast leading up to the October 2nd race wasn't looking good.   Highs of 7, winds at 25-30 kph out of the north and a bit of rain/snow mix to keep it interesting.   Race morning arrived, and we had two out of the three conditions, but lucky for everyone, the rain/snow did not show up until after the event.

The host venue for the race was at Hubertushaus, just west of Mannheim, which is really only minutes away from my house in New Hamburg.   That meant I didn't have to get up super early for this event.   I arrived at about 7:30am and went inside to finish off the registration process and get my bib and timing chip.   After a bit of friendly conversation with fellow riders, including a duathlon friend from Mississauga, Larry Bradley, I went back to the van to put on my many layers of clothing, gloves and booties for the day.

Going into the race, I wasn't really too sure how it was going to pan out, but I was hoping to get in with some decent riders of similar ability to make the race fun, fast and exciting.   I know Larry has been doing some great riding lately, so I was hoping to hook up with him and his friend Richard Westwood.   They are both more seasoned riders than myself when it comes to road racing, as they both participated in the 100M Centurion race up in Collingwood a few weeks ago.   In addition, Scott Dickie and Don Andrews from Waterloo had shown up, so there were at least 5 of us who could tackle this race together (if we could only stick together, which is not nearly as easy as you may think it is....more on this shortly).   Here's a few pics from just before the start of the race.   Simon Whitfield was a celebrity guest rider doing the 50K race, so it was cool to meet and talk with him prior to the race.   The other pic is with a few other local athletes including Scott (2nd from left) and Don Andrews (middle).

At about 8:45, the race got under way (sort of anyway). The first 5K was into Mannheim where we did a loop to Trussler and then back towards the start line. Once we crossed the start line, the timers officially started, and the race was on. Lucky for me, I was already at the start, riding just behind Simon Whitfield.   Here's few pics as we approach the starting line after the 5K neutral start.  That's Simon, on the left at the front.  I'm in the 2nd row on the right.

As soon as we passed over the timing mats, the action kicked into high gear.   The stronger riders all began moving up to the front, and I was sort of stuck over to the right hand side of the road.   Everyone was moving to the front on the left, but I was boxed in and pretty much had to stay to the shoulder.   It pretty much remained like this all the way to Foundry street, just south of Baden where we had to turn right.    Most of us negotiated this no problem, but some of the people at the front decided to keep going straight on Bleams because that's where the police escort went.   Not sure why, but I knew we had to go up to Baden, and there were signs pointing us in that direction anyway, so I had no issues.   Those that went straight quickly realized they were heading in the wrong direction and did some aggressive short cuts across lawns/ditches to get back in the game.

The strong wind out of the north hit us immediately when we turned onto Foundry street, so I just tried to stay tucked in behind other riders to stay sheltered.   Once we got to Snyders road in Baden we had to negotiate the railway tracks.   Apparently, things like this are where the elite level riders like to make their move, which I was not aware of unfortunately.   Once over the tracks, there was a small incline to get out of Baden, and this is where the race quickly changed for me.   I was still caught in behind some riders when the front pack took off, and I could not hook up with them.   Before we even got out of Baden, I knew I was in trouble.  For the next 1.5K or so to Nafziger, I tried to catch up with the group, but just couldn't do it.   By the time we hit Nafziger and headed north towards Wellesley, the lead peloton of 20 or 25 riders were a few hundred meters up the road.   I got into my TT position on my bike, and tried to bridge the gap, but after 300m, I knew I wasn't making any headway with them, and I was putting out a tonne of effort.   I decided to just drop back at this point, and this is where I hooked up with the main group of guys that I would do most of the remaining race with.   In this group was Scott, Simon Whitfield, Richard Westwood and Bruce Martin, also from Waterloo.  

"Most" of us in the group worked pretty well together, pushing the pace through the nasty north wind all the way up to Wellesley, where we had to do a short trip into Lisbon before hooking up on Hutchison Road, just west of Wellesley.   Shortly after rounding the curves on Hutchison, the turn off for the 50K riders was there, and that is where we lost Simon from the group.   The rest of us carried on through the hills and wind up to Crosshill.

During the hard stretch from Wellesley to Linwood, the group remained together for the most part.   We might have lost a few off the back on some of the hills, but we were also picking up a few riders who fell off the main peloton.   Just west of Crosshill, we picked up Don Andrews, another triathlon friend of mine from Waterloo.   This was a good pickup, as Don was a good asset to the group and took his fair share of the workload up front.

After what seemed like a never ending struggle against the wind, we finally made it to Linwood and turned right onto Ament line and got the benefit of the northwest wind.  The pace picked up considerably at this point as a number of us took some solid pulls at the front.   A few kilometers east of Linwood, I went out front of the group and took a very solid pull for 5 minutes or so.   I got into my aero bars that I still had clipped onto my bike and just cranked it up.   It felt good to go fast after seemingly going so slow for the past hour into the wind.   Once I had enough, I eased back into the group and allowed a number of riders to go up front, and they all said something like "Strong pull" which made me feel good, as I was hoping to get some respect out of the "cycling" crowd.

A bit further up the road loomed the KOM time trial over the Hawkesville hill.   I was feeling OK, but I definitely didn't hammer it up the hill.   Of our group of guys, I was likely the 4th or 5th to get to the top and as we crested the hill, things changed.   A few guys fell off the back and 3 guys hammered it hard down the hill and around the curve.   At this point, I was somewhere in the middle, and I knew that if I eased up, the small group up front would leave me.   It was good that I noticed that when I did, so I put my head down and pushed really hard for a few K until I was back on the wheel of this smaller group, that still included Don Andrews.

As we made our way into Heidelberg, the pace had picked up again, as we had the benefit of a stronger tailwind.   We continued to pick up stragglers who had been dropped by the main pack, and this helped keep our group strong enough so that we could all take some turns up front.   One of the riders we hooked up with was Bruce Grant, also from Waterloo.   He would end up working with us right up to the end of the race.

Over the next several kilometers, the raced weaved past Paradise Lake, into Bamberg, south to Gerber road and then we made the left turn onto Sandhills road, which would give us a solid tailwind for the next 15-20K all the way to New Dundee.   As we turned onto Sandhills I told the group we needed to take advantage of the tailwind and I immediately went to the front to hammer out a few K at a solid pace.   I dropped back after a bit and let some of the other guys lead out, and it appeared that everyone did a good amount of effort up front.

By the time we got down to New Dundee, my average speed had gotten up to 35kph, which was decent enough for the difficult conditions on the day.   However, we still had a very tough 5K left to get back to the finish line.   For the most part, this was uphill and again into a pretty strong headwind.   The pace very quickly slowed down and it seemed like nobody was wanting to work hard up front.   For 2 or 3 K, I simply did what the group did and stayed with them.   With about 3 or so K to the finish line, I ended up back out front, pulling the group along up a hill and into the wind.   We weren't going too fast, but this was definitely making me tired.   I knew I was in a terrible spot for the sprint finish to the line which was coming once we got back to Bleams road.   Since age group awards mean nothing in cycling races, I didn't get to bothered by the fact that I pretty much knew I was going to get dropped by the guys sitting in behind me when the time comes to sprint.   As expected, when we got to Bleams and with only 500 meters or so to the finish line, 4 of the 6 guys we were riding with blew past me.  I put in what I could, but the legs were heavy and I just pedaled my way to the finish line, happy that I had put my first road cycling race into the books.  

At the finish line, I chatted with Larry Bradley for a while as he had finished 5 or so minutes ahead of our group.   He had a great day, and was waiting to see where Richard and the rest of his cycling team ended up.

Eventually, I got all my gear off and the bike put away and headed inside for some tasty post race refreshments and food.   The venue was serving up classic Oktoberfest wiener schnitzel, sausages and cold beer.   What better to fill your belly after a hard race!!    I chatted with Larry, Richard and a few other local athletes I know before eventually heading home.   As I was leaving, the rain was pouring down, so we really dodged a bullet with the weather.   The cold and wind was one thing, but throw in some rain, and that would have been miserable!

Overall, I was happy how the race went, being my rookie road race performance.   I finished the timed 95K in 2:46:35 which resulted in an average speed of 34.5kph (yes, we lost .5kph in the last 5K of the race) and 267 average watts.   This time put me 29th overall out of 184 racers (and since we finished as a group, I was really only 6 seconds out of 25th).   I was 4th out of 20 in my age group as well.

Here's the garmin race info.

I look forward to participating in the race again next year, and hope to add the Collingwood Centurion 100M race to my calendar as that is a significantly bigger road race as well.

As we get more into the fall, I want to do the Hamilton Road to Hope half marathon in early November, where I would like to try and go sub 1:23 and qualify for the NYC marathon.

Over the winter, I will continue to work on my cycling and try to have a solid base by spring.   I am making the inaugural Ironman Mont Tremblant my A race next summer, and if all goes well, will go after a Kona slot.   Lots of work to do for sure to get that!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Muskoka 70.3 – September 11, 2011 Race Report

Race Details:

Swim - 2K
Bike - 94K
Run - 21.1K

I've done this race every year since it started in 2008 and have learned something new every time and also improved my race time each year.   This year was again no different, and I was hoping to improve upon my time of 4:56:26 from 2010.   I thought I could do this by improving each area a little bit, based on the training and racing I've done this year.

I headed up to the beautiful Deerhurst resort in Huntsville, Ontario very early Saturday morning with Scott Dickie from Waterloo.   The trip up was pretty uneventful other than the 40 minute delay for a truck fire on Hwy 400

We arrived at Deerhurst around 10am, and since our room wasn't ready, we decided to park and head down to the swim start for a practice swim.   The weather was awesome this weekend (sun and warm temperatures) and the water temperature felt great.   Scott and I swam out to the first turn buoy and came back for an approx 800-900m swim.   After our swim, we headed out for a short bike ride to make sure everything was working ok.   When we got back, our room was ready and we unpacked the van.  

The rest of the day included getting registered, attending the expo, checking in our bikes and heading to the grocery stored for some dinner.   We were staying in a 4 bed condo unit at Deerhurst that had a kitchen, so we could just eat in the room.   Scott and I were staying with two other guys from the Waterloo Team Energi triathlon club (where Scott is a member).   In addition to the 4 of us, a few other Team Energi guys came over for dinner.   There was plenty of healthy carbo loading food to go around, and other than Scott almost burning the condo down and a seagull attempting to steal our food, dinner went great and I was FULL!

It was getting late, and around 10pm, we all decided to shut it down and get ready for bed.   I slept pretty well that night and 4:45am the next day, we were up.   I once again had my typical oatmeal, banana/peanut butter wrap and some coffee to get the day going.  

Shortly after 6am or so, we all headed over to the transition zone to get our gear and bikes ready.   After setting up and going for a quick run to loosen up, I was pretty much ready to head down to the swim start.

Once again, it was a long walk to the swim start from the transition zone, but we had plenty of time, so it was relaxing.   I was in the 5th wave going off at 8:25 or so.   After getting a nice warm up swim and the wetsuit adjusted, it was time to head to the starting line.   It didn't seem very busy at the start and before long, the gun went off, and the race was on!

I went out comfortably from the start, and didn't experience very much contact which was good.   I actually found some feet to get on relatively early, so I just followed them to the first buoy feeling very good and relaxed.   After we made our first right turn, we already started running into some of the slower swimmers from earlier waves, but it was also starting to spread out.   I continued to go in and out of drafts while still feeling comfortable and relaxed.   I thought I had a good pace going, so I didn't bother trying to push it much more.   About halfway through the swim course, I saw I was swimming beside Patti Warr who is a friend from Baden.   That somewhat surprised me, as I am usually ahead of her, so she was either having a great swim, or mine wasn't as good as I thought it was.   Knowing this, I decided to pick it up a bit, and eventually made it over to the swim exit.   After getting out, I checked my time and was surprised to be at about 34 and a half minutes.  I figure it must have been a 2K swim, because I can usually do 1.9K in the pool in 32 minutes or so.   I left my crocs by the swim exit, so I quickly slipped them on and started the long uphill run to transition.   Once I got to my bike, I struggled a bit to get my wetsuit off my feet, but eventually I got all my bike stuff on and was on my way to the bike start.   T1 took 3:46, which is a bit slower than prior years, but my AG rack was also further away from the transition entrances this year.

Once I was on my bike, I slipped into my shoes, and started to hammer down the road.   The general trend for the first 30K is uphill, so I knew the watts were going to be a bit higher than normal.   After 15-20 minutes of biking though, the average watts were close to 290, so I knew it was time to back it off a bit.   The excitement of getting on the bike and hammering past other racers, especially those in my age group, was pushing me a bit harder than I should be going, as I knew I had at least 2.5 hours of biking ahead of me.

There was a stretch of road on South Portage that was all tar and chip.   It was much like biking down a gravel road, which definitely slowed the pace down.   I didn't once go in my aerobars down this stretch, but still managed to pass a tonne of people.   Once we got off this stretch and up to Hwy 60/35, I decided to put my head down and just crank it up!   Unfortunately this year, there seemed to be a bit of headwind coming out of the south, and the stretch of road going south is a lot more open than when we turn back north from Baysville.   This meant that we had to fight the headwind, but when we turned, we were protected from the wind by the trees, etc. so did not get much benefit from tailwind.  Oh well, everyone was in the same boat, so deal with it I thought.

Just before the first bottle exchange in Dorset, I finished my aerodrink and put my only bottle I was carrying (double concentrate of Infinite) into my aerodrink and then I grabbed a bottle of water.   Along the way, I was taking in a salt tab about every 30 minutes or so.  I wasn't sweating at all really, but wanted to make sure the sodium levels were good, because this course can cause cramping, simply because of all the hills if you are pushing hard.

By the time I hit the second aid station, things had really spread out.   I could see a few other racers up the road, but by 60K in, I had already made my way past most of the slower riders, and those that remained on the course at this point were a bit harder to catch.   At least this year there were people around me still because of starting in the 5th wave.   Last year, when I started in the 2nd or 3rd wave, after the Baysville bottle exchange, I swear I spent about 30 minutes biking completely solo.

So throughout the last 30K or so, I just tried to keep a steady effort and pick off any riders up the road one by one.   I was really hoping to end up with a 35.5kph average this year (up from my 35kph average in the prior year) and with only 10K or so to go, I thought this would happen, as I was at 35.5kph.   However, once we turned back onto North Portage road, I was quickly reminded of the nasty set of hills that we had to deal with.   There were times that I thought I could get off my bike and run up them faster, but I just carried on, happy that there were a few spectators out there cheering us on right near the top of the hills.   Eventually, I reached the top of the last hill, and it was pretty much downhill back to Deerhurst.   I pushed hard through this final stretch, but by the time I got to the dismount line, the bike computer read 35.3kph and 2:39:32.   Oh well, not quite 35.5, but at least I was 2 minutes faster than last year and an average wattage output of 268!  Pretty sweet!

2011 Muskoka 70.3 Bike - Garmin Data

Once off the bike, I quickly made my way back to my transition spot, grabbed all my run gear and made my way out onto the run course.   T2 was decent enough in only 1:06, 3 seconds better than last year despite having a worse spot in transition.   This year, I decided not to carry a fuel belt, and just take what was on course.   The only thing I used was my salt stick dispenser.

I could tell right away that the run this year was going to be harder than any other year.   We started off right into a headwind and the sun/temperature was already pretty warm.   At this point, I really had no idea where I stood within my AG.   Not too long into the run, I did pass someone in my AG, so that was good.  

The little stretch of road on Cookson Bay Cres. was tough, as we descend down a steep little hill that hits the quads hard, run along a short flat stretch before coming back up the hill, which again, taxes the already tired legs.   Once back up on Hwy 60 though, I started to get into a rhythm and focus on good leg turnover, forefoot striking and leaning forward.   A few guys passed me on this stretch, which I would later pass back in the final few K of the race!   By the time I reached Hwy 3, just north of Huntsville, my legs were feeling plenty tired.   This is also one of the toughest parts of the course, as there is a pretty good hill at the 8K mark.  

With the sun beating down, I just took quick short steps and made it about half way up before I took a very short walking break to stretch things out.   I was running just behind a guy at this point, and he never really got much ahead of me.   By the time we got to the top of the hill, I was back with him and decided to just run with him, as I hoped that would keep me motivated to keep moving along.   We both finally made the right hand turn that takes us down to the 10K point and the turn-around point.   At this point, I was actually feeling a lot better, which is good, as we had a few K of downhill running to enjoy before getting on the nasty trail section through the woods.

By this point, I also saw Claudia Johnston (from my IM Austria group) just up ahead.  I continued too run with this other guy (sorry, can't remember your name) as we eventually caught up to Claudia at the start of the Fairy Vista trail.   I took my time going through the aid station at the top of the hill behind the water treatment facility.   All three of us that were running together seemed to take our time through here, so I didn't lose any ground to anyone.

As we continued along the trail and into the wooded area, I eventually pulled away from both Claudia and the other racer I was with.   At one point, I passed someone who was being attended to by race organizers and volunteers, and then I passed paramedics heading out to help him.   Obviously, something serious was going on, but there were lots of people helping him out, so I just kept going.   It's never good to see anything like that!!

I eventually got off the trail and back onto Grandview Dr. and eventually Hwy 60 again.   Only a few K to go, but I still had that tough Cookson Bay Cres downhill/uphill to deal with.   I must say, the uphill was tough, but I eventually got to the top and it was pretty much a nice downhill back to Deerhurst.   This is where I ended up passing the couple of runners who blew past me earlier on the run.   Last year I walked a bit of the uphill back to Deerhurst, but this year I was determined to finish strong and I pushed up the hill and rocked my way around the transition zone to the finish line.   I really wasn't sure what my time was, but I was able to hold a 4:30 pace that brought me home with a 1:34:42 run and a 4:53:21 overall finish time.   The run was almost 2 minutes better than last year, which was good.

I must say, that after this race, I think I felt as tired/exhausted as I did after doing Ironman Austria.   The hills on both the bike and run really took a toll, and my left knee was feeling a bit sore.   After getting my medal, I sat over in the recovery tent and put a bag of ice on my knee and refueled with some Powerbar Perform and water.    Eventually, I made my way out and ran into Scott, who finished a few minutes before I did.   We both made our way inside to grab some food and hopefully get a massage, only to find out there was no massage this year...MAJOR disappointment for sure!!   In addition, the food was pretty crappy as well.   As we headed out to go back to the condo, results were posted, and I finished 4th in my AG (a bit more on this later).

Scott and I eventually made our way back to the condo and we both had an ice bath and hot shower which felt great on the sore legs/knee.   Eventually, Joel and Jason got back and we all headed back to Deerhurst for the awards and World Championship roll downs.   As I said earlier, I got 4th, but as it turns out, the guy who was in 3rd in my AG had a slow swim/bike and a crazy fast run (like 38 minutes for 21.1K, so something was messed up).   Later, he was reported as a DNF, but during the rewards, this still wasn't sorted, so I ended up having to take the 4th place plaque.   I've contacted Trisport though, and I think I should be able to get the 3rd place one, which will go great along side my 5th and 4th that I already have.

Scott ended up 6th in his AG! but ended up getting (and taking!) a World Championship spot for Vegas in 2012.   I also got a spot, but decided for various reasons that I wasn't going to take it this year.

Overall, the race was another success and I was happy to improve upon my time once again and cap off another successful triathlon season with a good race.

Up next for me is the 100K Tour De Hans bike race in the Kitchener Waterloo area.   In addition, I might try to get in a 10K road race and perhaps a half marathon.   I'd like to see if I can meet the NYC marathon qualifying time of 1:23 for the half marathon.   Now that could be quite the challenge!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Belwood Triathlon – July 24, 2011 Race Report

Race Details:

Swim -1K
Bike - 30K
Run - 7K

This was the third time I've done this race.   Previously, I've come in 3rd and 2nd in my age group, so I only had one finishing spot on my mind.....top of the podium!   Depending on who shows up, I thought I'd have a chance.  I can name 3 or 4 guys who will beat me every time, but if they're not there, I thought my chances were good.

I was heading to the race site with a friend from New Hamburg (Darryl Huras) that also signed up.   We were a bit late getting there and found ourselves in a bit of a lineup to get into the conservation area.   After finally getting in and parked, we grabbed our gear and bikes and made our way to transition.   We were both in the M35-39 age group, but the rack was nearly full (which goes to show how late we were).   The overflow rack still had some spots, so we decided to just drop our bikes there, which turned out better for us anyway (better spots closer to the end of the rack).   Once our bikes and gear were in transition, we went through the registration process and then back to the transition zone.   By this time, it was pretty much 8am, and the race was at 8:30, so there was clearly no time to warm up.

Once I got all the gear properly laid out and my wetsuit on, it was already about 8:15 or 8:20, so I headed to the swim start to get a quick practice swim in and do a final wetsuit adjustment.   I likely only got about a 75 or 100m warm up swim in before I had to get back to the line for the start.   It had been pretty warm for the last week, so the water temp was pretty high.   They were still allowing wetsuits, but many people decided not to bother.   I wore my new sleeveless XTerra wetsuit that I got last fall.   Even being sleeveless, I felt pretty hot by the time the swim was over.

At 8:30, the horn blasted and since I was in the first wave, I was off.   I decided to try and go out pretty hard for the first few hundred meters, but that still didn't get me out of the thick of things.   As normal, there was some grabbing and pulling going on, but I just kept on pluggin away.   Normally, I drift a bit to the right, but today, I felt like I was drifting left.   I started about 10-15m to the right of the buoy line, but about half way out, I had made my way all the way over to the buoy's.   Oh well, at least I was still on course.   Along the way, I tried to grab some feet whenever I could.   People seemed to be swimming all over the place, so I think I was in and out of drafts for most of the way.   Finally, we made it back to shore and the swim exit, and my garmin showed 16:02.   That works out to about a 1:36/100m pace, so I was happy with that.   Once out of the water, there was a decent run up a hill to transition.   When I crossed the mat, it was 17:05 and I was already 1 second faster than last year and 38th overall in the swim.   Good stuff!

I quickly made my way to my bike, got my wetsuit off, helmet and shades on and was off.   T1 took 1 minute, which is slightly longer than last year, so I lost some time.   I really need to do these transitions faster!!

Once out on the bike, I quickly got into my shoes and up to speed.   The first 10K are pretty flat and fast.   There was a bit of a cross/tailwind and the speeds were approaching 40kph+ and I was making my way through a number of racers.   After the first out and back section, we had to deal with some hills and headwinds.   At this point, I was likely in about 10th place overall and the field had started to spread out, such that I found myself biking all alone.   I tried to work with another guy to try and bridge the gap to a small group just up the road, but eventually, he just fell off the pace and I was by myself.   Once we got back on Wellington Rd. 18, it was a slight downhill and nice tailwind back to transition where I was averaging about 43kph.   I arrived back in transition from the bike with a split of 46:14, good for 7th overall with an average speed of 38.9kph.   Interestingly, this is where I improved the most over last year, as I did the bike course about a minute and half faster this year.   I quickly racked my bike, got my shoes and visor on and was out of there in 42 seconds.

Garmin Bike Split Data

At this point, I was just behind an athlete (James Corcoran) who I battled with at last years race pretty much the entire way.   I only slightly outran him last year, so I thought I might be able to catch him.   As we started off, we stayed consistently close (I was about 100m behind him).   After a few K though, he started to pull away.   I kept running along at a decent pace, just under 4 minute K's.    The run had two out and back turn-arounds, so after the first turn-around, I noticed I was in 8th place overall and running pretty much by myself.   There wasn't even anyone in front of me to go after, and the nearest person behind me was about 25 seconds back, so my goal was to stay in 8th and not let anyone pass me.   After the second out and back, I noticed I was gaining on the racer in 7th, but there just wasn't enough time to catch him.   I still held a decent lead over they guy behind me, so I just maintained a good pace all the way back to the finish line which I crossed in 1:31:58.   My run split was 26:59, good for a 3:52/K pace and an improvement of 13 seconds over last year!   My total time this year was about a minute and a half faster than last year, which was all due to the faster bike split.   The one thing that might have helped this along was the fact that last year, I rode my Zipp 808 rear, but this year I had my disc?....or possibly, I might be more fit from all of the IM training.   Likely a little bit of both!

Garmin Run Split Data

So after the race, I waited around for Darryl who finished about 9 minutes later (Interestingly, our swim and bike splits were nearly identical, but my bike is a lot stronger, which shows that if you want to do well in triathlon, you pretty much need to be strong in all three disciplines!).   We both got a massage before getting something to eat and grabbing our gear.   Once the results were listed, I checked to confirm my 8th place overall and hopefully first AG win in a Subaru series.   Lucky for me, I did keep 8th and did win my AG, so it was a solid day!

Up next for me will likely be the Muskoka 70.3 up in Huntsville for the 4th year in a row.   I hope to get a few solid training weekends in throughout August so that I can shoot for another podium spot up there, to hopefully cap off another successful triathlon season!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ironman Austria – July 3, 2011 Race Report

Race Details:

Swim – 3.8K
Bike – 180K
Run – 42.2K

I signed up for this race a year ago when I got an email from Personal Best saying they were taking a group of about 70 to Austria. I had heard a friend of mine from Baden, Patti Warr was going, so after a bit of wavering, I decided to sign up and take a slot. This would be my first Ironman, so I thought I’d make the first one a memorable one, and go as part of a group to Austria to partake in it. As it turns out, it was a great decision.

Leading up to the race, I was feeling pretty decent. I did at least 3 180K rides, and I definitely was doing more running (at least 5x week) since the Boston marathon.  I wasn’t doing too much distance running, as the longest run I did post Boston was a 30K.  I had done a number of 25K runs though.  I figured training and doing Boston gave me a good running base, so I didn’t want to push the run distances and times for fear of potential injury. In the end, I think this was a good decision.

On Tuesday, June 28th, Deanna and I drove to the Toronto airport to catch our 8pm flight to Munich, Germany, where we would then catch a flight direct to Klagenfurt, Austria.  I’m not a great sleeper on planes, so I didn’t get much sleep on the red eye flight to Europe. When we landed, it was approximately 9am local time.  After a short layover, we got on our flight to Klagenfurt and arrived around 1pm.  For the first two nights in Austria, we stayed at a hotel in downtown Klagenfurt called the City Hotel zum Domplatz.  It was small, but provided us with everything we needed, including breakfast in the mornings.

After arriving, we made our way over to a small town just outside of Klagenfurt called Krumpendorf.  This is where our bikes were delivered to.  We took the bus over there which was simple enough.  After getting my bike assembled, I rode it back to the hotel and Deanna took a lot of my gear that we stuffed in the bike box when we shipped the bike.

Over the next few days, we did a number of easy workouts to stay loose and keep fresh for the race on Sunday.  I did two swims down at the lake (around 2-2.5K each) with other members of the Personal Best “Team Canada” group. In addition, I did a ride with Sean Bechtal, who was along to act as one of the coaches for the group, Claudia Johnston and a few other members of the group.  We likely rode the first 15K or so of the bike course before turning around and coming back.  I knew right away this was going to be a fast and very exciting bike course.  The roads over there were so smooth and fast. Much better than most of the roads here in Ontario.

Pictures while driving the bike course

Team Canada Group

On the Thursday night, all of the Team Canada participants and family members met for a group dinner at a restaurant called Gastof Krall.  It was a good time and there were a couple of guests that Barrie Shepley had arranged for us.  The first was Kate Allen, a former Olympic gold medalist in triathlon and former podium finisher at Ironman Austria.  The other guest was another excellent triathlete named Marko Albert. He was a former ITU racer, but has done a number of 70.3 races.  He was participating in this year’s Ironman, which was his first as well.  He sat right across the table from me and we chatted a lot.  As it turns out, Marko would end up getting 3rd overall in the race this year and was actually the first athlete out of the water.  He had an incredible first Ironman race!

On Friday morning, we checked out of the City Hotel zum Domplatz, and checked into a seasonal hotel that was just opening called the All You Need Hotel. This place serves as a student residence for Klagenfurt University during the school year and converts to a hotel over the summer. It was conveniently only a few hundred meters from the transition zone, so it worked well for race morning.

On the Friday night, Deanna and I, as well as most of the Team Canada group attended the race organized pasta dinner.  It was ok, but nothing special.

On Saturday morning, I did one last short ride on my bike and a short run to make sure everything was working ok and that I was staying loose.  Everything felt good and at 10am, we all attended the English version of the race meeting.  Nothing surprising came of this, and after the meeting, I was certainly very excited to get the race going.  A short while after the race meeting, I took my bike and my transition bags to the transition zone to be checked in.

The race machine

After this, Deanna and I headed back to a restaurant just outside of the hotel to grab some dinner before turning in early for the night.  Due to the time change, I still hadn’t really gotten into a good sleeping routine yet, so I was hoping I was tired enough to get at least a decent night sleep before the race. I believe we were in bed by 9pm, and lucky for me, I don’t think it took long before I fell asleep. I actually don’t believe I even woke up much that night, and before I knew it, it was 4am race morning when I decided to get up.

As usual, I stuck to my normal oatmeal, whole wheat wrap with peanut butter and a banana for breakfast.  The hotel opened the dining room early at 4:30am, so I was able to grab a bit of coffee as well.  After eating, I headed down to the transition zone which was only a few minutes away.  I got all my bottles and food ready on the bike and pumped up my tires.  It was actually pretty chilly race morning with low’s around 8 or 9 Celsius.  The sun was coming up though, so it wasn’t going to take long to warm up thankfully. After getting everything ready in transition, I headed back to the hotel to chill out a bit.  A little while later, I grabbed my wetsuit and post race bag and made my way to the swim start.  After dropping off my dry clothes bag, I headed to the water to get my wetsuit on and get in a quick practice swim.

I thought for sure there would have been way more people trying to get a quick warm-up swim in, but it wasn’t too busy. After a quick warm-up, I made my way to the starting line. The Austria swim start is pretty generous. All athletes start between three large piers that had about 60-70 meters in between each one. Since we had to make a slight turn to the left halfway out, I decided to start on the right hand side. I was told that if you think you could go 1:10 or less, that you should start near the front. My goal was somewhere around 1:03-1:05, so I took my chances up front.

Just moments before 7am, they told athletes to start moving into the water to the starting line. I think I heard them say something like 30 seconds to the start, so we all started swimming out to the line.  I was thinking we had to stop in the water and wait for the cannon, but what actually happened was that the race started as soon as we got to the starting rope. I scrambled to get both my Timex watch and also my Forerunner 310 GPS watch started as we crossed past the starting line.

I must say, I remember thinking to myself that the first few hundred meters weren’t too bad. I was able to just swim, and was able to get on some feet right away. This would soon change though, because when we got about 500m out and near the first slight turn to the left, it jammed up pretty good. It was like we hit a wall and couldn’t move forward much. However, everyone from behind just kept coming. There were people climbing over top of me, and I think this might have been the worst experience I’ve ever had in a race.  At least I was expecting something like this, so I didn’t panic too much.  It didn’t last long, and we were able to get going again fairly quickly.  The first real turn on the course wasn’t for about 1500m, so I was able to get on some feet and draft pretty well.  Once we hit the first turn buoy, things seemed to jam up again.  Like last time though, I was able to get out of it fairly quickly, and again, find some feet to get on.  The second turn buoy was about 200m past the first, and after rounding this one, we were headed back to the canal.  What is interesting about the IM Austria swim is that the last 800 or 900m are up a canal not more than 8 or 10m wide.  As we headed back towards land, things seemed to be going well.  I did a fair bit of drafting and didn’t seem to be working very hard at all.  I thought we were going along at a decent pace, but when you’re drafting, you don’t really know.  You just sort of hope you are following somebody that is a bit faster than yourself.

The swim up the canal

Once we reached the canal, the final 900m or so seemed to go by very quickly. This might be one of only a few races around the world where you can get some serious motivation from the crowd during the swim, as they lined the banks of the canal on both sides.  Finally, we reached the Linder Hotel and the swim exit.  Once out of the water, I took a quick look at my watch.  It was just over 1hour and 4 minutes. This was right on my goal time, but honestly, the way the swim felt, I thought maybe I’d be closer to an hour.  Later, looking at the results, I would come out of the water 500th overall (out of about 2600 starters or so) and 80th in my AG (out of about 375 or so).  Not amazing, but decent enough and I was happy.

Swim Exit Video

Swim Pics

Run to T1

We had a decently long run back to transition.  I’d say it was about 400-500 meters or so.  At least it gave us enough time to easily get our wetsuits off, as there were no wetsuit strippers at the race.  Once in transition, I took my time and went to the washroom and quickly put on my cycling gear (which included putting on bike shorts).  I don’t normally do this, but I also wanted to make sure I was as comfortable as possible for the 180K ride.  I felt like I didn’t “doddle” around in T1, but my time seemed pretty slow.  I eventually got on my bike and started the ride, feeling very good.

The bike portion was a closed to traffic, two loop 90K course.  I had driven it with some other athlete’s in our group a few days prior to the race, so I knew what to expect.  In addition, a bunch of us rode the first 15K or so of the course before turning around and coming back.  As a result, I knew that it was going to be an amazing ride with tonnes of great scenery, smooth roads and some challenging hills with fast long descents.  I closely watched my heart rate and power and tried to keep the power below 240 (on average) for the whole ride. It was almost impossible to not go above 300 on some of the hills, but as long as I quickly settled back into a comfortable range on the way back down, I was not going to get concerned. I found myself in and out of groups on the first loop. There was some definite pack riding going on, but I wouldn’t say there was any clear cheating.  Guys would just get jammed up a bit on the hills and everyone would move around until it would open up on some of the descents or “flat” stretches. Most of my rides this spring were solo, so it was so much fun to get out there and ride 180K with lots of other fast guys.  With incredible mountains and lakes all around, the time just flew by.

My nutrition plan was pretty simple and one I’ve followed in training. I started with a normal concentrate Infinite in my aero drink bottle and I had 2 double concentrate bottles in my rear hydration system.  This was the equivalent of 5 bottles for the ride.  I supplemented the double concentrate bottles with water from the course and took a few bananas and gels throughout the ride as well.  In addition, I likely took about 8 or 9 saltstick capsules.

I’d say there were 3 significant climbs on each loop. They were definitely challenging enough, but the crowd support and music blasting made them much easier to deal with.  As you reached the top of two of the climbs, the road narrowed due to all the fans, and it was like doing the Tour de France.  It was incredible.  What made this course fast were the descents after the climbs.  Instead of picking up crazy speeds on hard downhills, they were long and gradual.  My Garmin 500 is setup to record every 5K split that I do.  On each loop, I had at least one split where I did 5K in 6:14. That works out to about 48kph.  I completed the first loop in about 2:24 I believe.

Onto loop #2, things continued to go pretty well.  I actually found myself biking all alone for a period of time, which was definitely not as good.  Time seems to go along much faster when you can get in with a group of guys and work together (non drafting still of course!).  The hills on the second loop weren’t much harder to get up and over compared to the first loop, so I took that as a good sign.  I continued on getting my nutrition and simply enjoying the day.  It really did seem to go by fast.  The last 20 or 25K back into town after the last big Rupertiberg climb were awesome. It seemed like we kept going down and down.  It was nice for the last 5K to be flat so that we could spin our legs to get ready for the run.  I finished the ride in 4:54:57.  I believe the course might have been a few K short, but hey, still a decent ride where I averaged 35.7kph with an average HR of 142 and an average power output of 234 watts.   I finished 223rd overall on the ride which moved me up to 48th in my AG.

Ironman Austria Bike Split Garmin Data

Bike Pics

Into T2, I quickly racked my bike, took a port o potty break and grabbed my run bag. I changed out of my bike shorts and into my tri shorts and was off for the final leg of the journey. 

Like the bike course, the run course was also a two loop 21K course as well, that took athletes out to a small town outside of Klagenfurt called Krumpendorf, which was across the lake from where we swam earlier. From there, we come back past the tents and finish line in Ironman city, and traveled into the heart of Klagenfurt and around the Dragon/Lindwurm monument before coming back to Ironman city along the same trails, just to repeat the same thing all over again.

The run course is 99% flat, as there were only a few small hills as we made our way out of Klagenfurt city centre.  In addition, a good part of the run course was shaded as we ran along the tree lined canal into the city and through the Europapark.  Most of the course was lined with spectators and cheering fans which was totally awesome and motivating!

I felt pretty good for the first 10K averaging about a 4:35/K pace. I didn’t carry any nutrition with me on the run other than some saltstick capsules.  I decided I would use what was on the course, alternating between cola and water.  In addition, I likely took in about 5 or 6 gels and 6 saltstick capsules throughout the run.  The aid stations were plentiful, so getting nutrition and cold sponges were not a problem.  The sponges were great.  I’d stuff them down my back and shirt and wring them out on my head quite often.  It wasn’t scorching hot, but when the sun was out, it was definitely warm.  At least it didn’t seem too humid.

After making my way into the city and around the Lindwurm for the first time, I had a bit of cramping in my hamstrings as we climbed one of the few hills on the course.  I stopped and stretched out my hamstrings which seemed to help and then carried on.  I don’t recall too much muscle cramping from that point on.  I finally made it back to Ironman city where the finish line was, completing my first loop and feeling not too bad.  The pace continued to slow down a little bit, as I averaged 4:41 for the first 21K.  It was at about this time that I started to get some cramping in my lower stomach and intestines. It wasn’t a show stopper, but it was making me feel uncomfortable.  The last half I started taking a few walking breaks whenever I felt a bit too uncomfortable.  They were never for a very long time, but just enough to give my legs and muscles a break/stretch.  Running the whole marathon was never my goal, I simply wanted to get through the marathon as best I could, and if that meant I had to stretch or walk for a short period of time, then so be it.

From 25K on, it was just a matter of survival and getting to the finish line. The last 15K the pace slowed down a lot to about a 5:18/K as I took quite a few breaks.  Eventually though, I saw Barrie Shepley and some of the coaching staff with about 2K left.  At this point, I knew it was almost over.  There were tonnes of crowd support in the final few K, and then I finally got to the finishing chute.  Firstly, you had to run along the lake for a few hundred meters before turning left for the final 50 meters in front of the bleachers and down the blue carpet to the finish line.  Unfortunately for me, I saw that I was still under 9:30 and I thought that I might have a shot at going under this. I ran really hard through these final 50 meters to try and go sub 9:30 rather than soaking it all in (looking back, that was just dumb!) I don’t even recall them saying my name and saying I was an Ironman! In the end, I came across the finish line right as the clock hit 9:30, and I was super excited.  So much so, I think the next 10 minutes were just a blur!  My official run finish time was 3:21:17, but similar to the bike course, I do believe the run course was a bit short. Possibly up to a full K.   After finishing the run, I had moved up to finish 199th overall (out of close to 2,800) and 41st in my AG (out of close to 400).

Ironman Austria Run Split Garmin Data

Run Pics

Overall, I was VERY pleased with my effort and how things went during the race.  Not knowing the course very well and how I would do in my first Ironman, I was targeting a finish time of about 10 hours.  So to beat that by a full half an hour feels very good.

After the finish, I made my way to the Ironman dome tent, where I grabbed my dry clothes bag, took a quick shower, had a very nice massage and then grabbed some food.  On my way out, I ran into Deanna and we hung out for a bit at the finish line before walking back to the transition zone to get my bike and head back to the hotel to get cleaned up.  After grabbing some dinner at the hotel, we walked back to the finish line area and watched more finishers come in.  The atmosphere at the finish line was amazing, and we hung around for a few hours.  At about the 15 hour mark, we decided to head back to the hotel. It would have been amazing to stick around till the end, but we were both pretty tired.  Lying in bed at midnight (unable to sleep still), I heard all of the fireworks go off at the finish line. It sounded loud, and I am sure it was insane.  As it turns out, the last finisher in the race was a Canadian, Susan Cole as part of our group. I was told she was personally given her medal by Marino Vanhoenacker, the winner of the race.
As for me, it will be nice to not have to worry about putting in the long training days on the weekend for at least a little while.  I have signed up for Ironman Mont Tremblant in Quebec in August 2012.  I will be doing the Muskoka 70.3 again this September, so I’ll start to get back into the training groove shortly, but I won’t need to put in the same amount of hours as I did for Austria.

Some other interesting stories/finishes that came out of our “Team Canada” group in Austria were:

• Ex NHL player Scott Thornton who was part of our Team Canada group finished the race in 11:38:22, and in the process now holds the record as the fastest Ironman by an NHL alumni by besting Pat Lafontaine’s old record of 11:54:05;

• Patti Warr, a friend of mine from Baden got 2nd overall in her AG (45-49);

• Claudia Johnston from Ontario got 3rd overall in her AG (35-39);

• Robert Knuckey from Ontario got 2nd overall in his AG (60-64);

• Hans Porten and Sue Akenhead both owned the top of the podium in the 55-59 AG