Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ironman Arizona Race Report – November 17, 2013

Race Details:
3.8K Swim
180K Bike
42.2K Run

In a nutshell, this was a pretty good race, but far from a perfect race.   It started off a bit of a disaster when I was putting my bike together the day we arrived in Arizona.   A small piece of aluminum in the fork snapped, which meant I couldn't attach my aerobars and left me in a bit of a panic.   I quickly called some shops and actually found one that carried Argon 18's about 30 minutes away from the hotel.   I was travelling with Brian and Cynthia Scott from Waterloo, so that meant we all packed into our van with my bike and were off to see what could be done.

In the end, everything worked out great.   Argon was super awesome in having a warranty replacement fork overnight-ed to the shop in Scottsdale which arrived Friday morning.   The shop, Airpark Bikes, did a great job of getting the new fork on and I picked my bike up Friday night and put it together.

Saturday morning, the day of bike check-in, I did a short 20 minute ride to make sure everything was ok, which it was, so I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, the day before the race.

Dropping off the bike (with new fork) in transition
I was up at 4am race morning to get some food in me, which consisted of some oatmeal, coffee, half a bagel and a protein drink.   At 5:15 we all headed to the race site, which was already very busy prior to the 7am race start time.

I quickly got everything setup in transition and made my way to the very long port-o-potty lines.  Without any time to spare, I dropped my morning clothes bag off, finished up with my wetsuit and made my way to the lines waiting to jump in Tempe Town Lake.   There was a lot of talk about the water temperature, but after jumping in, I found it just fine.   The clarity of the water on the other hand was the exact opposite.   You could barely see your hand in front of your face in the water.

Near the start at Tempe Town Lake.   Notice the beautiful water color
I swam over to the start line and had only about 5-10 minutes before the start of the race.   As per instruction from my coach, I started over to right, about 10 or so meters away from the wall, pretty much right at the front.   At 7am sharp, the gun sounded, and a very long day had begun.

The start of the race had the usual full body contact sort of action, but this came as no surprise, given it was a mass swim start.   I was actually pleasantly surprised to find that it didn't last too long before I could actually get some open water and begin something that appeared like a normal swim stroke.   It was at this point that I thought I might have a shot at an hour swim time.

Not long after this though, the contact began to pick up again, and this time, it felt like I just couldn't get out of it.   I had to completely lift my head out of the water just to find people to try and draft off of, as it was impossible seeing anything underwater.   Just when it seemed like I would get on somebody's feet, I'd either lose the person, or someone else would come in and bump me off them.   This pretty much happened all the way out to the first turn buoy.

After making the left hand turn at the 2nd buoy, I immediately noticed how much easier it was to see, now that we were heading back and not looking into the rising sun, as we were doing on the way out.

Coming back, I again found it difficult to consistently stay on people's feet for various reasons, or maybe I just suck at drafting.   Either way, I was making ok time and feeling good, so I just kept on pushing.   Eventually we made it back to the bridges near the swim start and it was only a few hundred more meters to the exit.   I took a quick peak at my watch which already read just over an hour, so my sub 60 minute swim was out the window.   

I made the final left turn and swam fairly hard to the swim exit steps.   These steps were a bit tricky, as there was nothing to step up on, so you basically needed to drag yourself, with the help of volunteers up onto the steps.   I was a bit dazed from the swim and didn't even notice the two steps down at the top and almost went for a loop into the crowd.   I took a quick peak at the clock which read 1:05 something, so I was a bit disappointed.   I was really hoping to be closer to 1:02 or 1:03 at least.   Oh well, another day perhaps.  I I finished the swim in 42nd place in my AG and 312th overall in the race.

After a quick exit from my wetsuit via the wetsuit strippers, I worked my way to the change tent to get ready for the bike ride.   T1 wasn't lightening fast, but I felt like I wasn't wasting any time.   4:29 and I was on bike bike about to begin the fast 3 loop, mostly flat, highly congested bike ride.

The plan was to go out and hold about 230 watts on the bike, but at the beginning, everything felt easy and I had a hard time keeping the watts much below 250, despite telling myself I need to slow down a bit.   It just felt like the right pace and effort, so I carried on.

On the first lap, the only people I was passing were swimmers who had faster times than me obviously, but just aren't as strong on the bike.   I found that I rather quickly got into a good group with a bunch of other riders and tried to keep it legit at all times.   Of course, when people are passing each other and then easing off the pace at the front, there was a lot of moving around.  I seemed to think that the marshals were doing a good job of keeping things in check, as they were almost always around our group, and at times, I swear one rode right beside me for 5 minutes!

I made it to the turn-around point on lap 1 in about 53 minutes with an average power of approx. 260 watts, definitely ahead of plan, but things seemed to be going well.   After making the turn, we had a nice tailwind and downhill section and the speeds really picked up.   I was doing about 34.5kph average out to the first turn, but as soon as we turned, I was easily doing about 50kph+ for at least a few K until we got down out of the steeper part of the climb up to the turn.

At this point, I was still working mostly with the same group and things were going well.   I let the power come down on the return trip to town where I averaged 42.5kph with an average power of 239.   I was really working a high cadence at this point, and I averaged a cadence of 97 for the return trip.

Just before getting back to town, we went through a bumpy section where my Profile Design Aero bottle (for the first time ever) popped right out of it's cage.   I had to slam on the brakes and make a quick U-turn to pick it up, as it held almost half my nutrition for the bike (it was a double Infinite solution).  
At this point, I lost the group I was working with, but I just kept my cool and started making my way through the other riders.   I reached the turn-around back at transition in just over 1 hour and 35 minutes for the 60K loop.   My average speed had popped up to 38kph and my power had dropped to 250 watts and things were feeling really good.

Only about 10 minutes into the second lap, I caught back up with the main group of guys (and some pro women) that I was working with previously.  Everything continued to go pretty smoothly, but as we started the climb up to the turn-around for the second time, we started catching other racers on their first lap.   This started making things a bit tricky and you had to really stay alert, as sometimes you would come up on racers doing only about half the speed we were doing.   They come up quick, and at least twice I almost ran into the back of somebody else going significantly slower than me.

The overall power on the second loop dropped to 233 watts, as I found myself stuck in a bunch of packs at times with no place to go.   It was quite frustrating when you make a good effort to get away, only to get swallowed up by others sitting right behind and not content to just stay there.   Once they pass however, I swear they would slow down and then I'd be sitting in the middle or back doing really low watts.

The second lap was just a bit slower in about 1hr and 36 minutes, and as we started the 3rd lap, the congestion on the course was crazy.   My power for the first 30 minutes of the third lap was only 220 watts, as I was in and out of packs and trying to navigate around the slower riders.   About halfway through the final lap, me and another guy seemed to break away from the pack and we were working well together.   As we made the climb up to the turn-around for the final time, I was trying very hard to keep my 7 or 8 meters behind him at all times.   Just then, a marshal pulls up and flashes me a red card for drafting.   I asked where this took place and she said at one point (likely when we were passing the slower riders) that I got into the draft zone of the guy I was behind, and then dropped back without making the pass.   I knew there was zero to gain by arguing with them, so I just shook my head and acknowledged the penalty.   At this point I was feeling a bit deflated, but I tried not to let it get me down.   

The next penalty tent was right at the turn-around point, where I quickly pulled in and started my 4 minute penalty.   I was in with another guy who just pulled in, so I used it to get some fluids and calories in for the ride back to town.

As soon as the 4 minutes was up, I got a nice push from one of the volunteers, and I was immediately hammering hard down the hill to get back into the game.   The ride back to town was a bit lonely, as I was totally not working with anyone else at this point, and was passing hundreds of other racers.

I eventually made it back to town and handed my bike off to another one of the great volunteers.

In the end, I rode 4:50:45 (including 4 minute drafting penalty) or 4:46 excluding the penalty.   This brought me home with an average speed of 37.5kph and an average power of 239 watts for the entire ride.   The plan for the ride was to ride about 230 watts, so I did end up going a bit harder, but in the end, I still felt good and didn't feel at all like I over-cooked things.   After the bike, I had moved up to 9th in my AG and 81st overall in the race.

2013 Ironman Arizona Garmin Bike Data

Once off the bike, I quickly grabbed my run stuff and made my way to the change tent.   In the tent, I got some more sunscreen applied, shoes on, grabbed my salt and visor and was off.   T2 took 1:30 which wasn't too bad.

I started the run feeling not too bad as we ran along concrete paths to the first turn-around point at McClintock Rd.   Similar to other Ironmans I have done, I didn't bother carrying anything other than salt.   I seem to get by fine with what I can pick up at aid stations.

After making my way past the transition zone again, I started thinking to myself that this run is feeling harder than I thought it should at this point.  I was not sure if it was the concrete paths slamming the quads or the effort on the bike.

I eventually made it to the Priest St. bridge where we crossed Tempe Town Lake for the second half of the run course.   It was just after crossing the bridge that I popped into an aid station for a washroom break.   Feeling much better after, I carried along and ran beside the lake to the second turn-around point on the run course.   Shortly after making the turn, I ran into coach Wolf (Wolfgang Guembel) who ran with me for a bit to see how I was doing.   I told him that I thought the run was feeling harder than I wish it did.   He told me to relax the shoulders and stay light on my feet whenever it felt hard and painful.   I pretty much had to think of this the rest of the run!!

Still more suffering!
Suffering big time here!

There is only a small hill on the run course along Curry Rd., and after getting through it, I hit an aid station and took in a bit of a banana which seemed to make me feel just a bit better.

I finally made it back to the transition zone in about 1hr 35 minutes, so despite not feeling great, I was still doing ok time wise.   

Starting the second loop, my legs were feeling noticeably more sore, and I started taking walking breaks through every aid station.  At about the 30K mark, I started taking more and more walking breaks for very short periods of time, like 10 seconds or so.   These breaks seemed to happen more and more in the last 10K when things started getting very very hard.   I was playing mental games by now and really having to push myself to keep running.   I'd go through periods where things felt ok and then a short bit later where things felt really bad and my hamstrings were going to lock up at almost any second.

I really wanted to run at least as well as I did in Tremblant last year, but with 10K to go, I pretty much knew that wasn't going to happen.  I finally got to 37K and had only 5K to go and about 30 minutes to run under 3:30 for the run.   I knew I started the run right around the 6 hour mark, so all time under 3:30 was time under 9:30 overall, which was my main goal for the race.

I kept pushing but with about 2K to go, a guy in my AG passed me.  I managed to run with him for about 45 seconds until I just couldn't hold him any longer.   To this point, I'm not sure if it was my brain or my legs that let him go, but I'm sure it was a combination of both.

I finally made it to Ash Street, for the final 500m or so to the finish line.  It's funny how well you can run knowing the finish line is in sight, but when it's 10K way, it really gets you.   

The crowds were not huge at this point in the race, but there were pretty good, and I soaked up all their energy for a final push to the line, where I was able to finish in 9hrs 24min and 49 seconds.    My final run time was 3:22:37, but it seemed so much longer than that!

2013 Ironman Arizona Garmin Run Data

Incredibly happy to be done!

Finishing only a few seconds behind me was Chris Pickering of London, Ontario.   My father in law also managed to capture my finish on video as seen here..

So unfortunately after getting passed in the last 2K, I was bumped from 6th to 7th place in my AG out of 435 and 65th overall in the race out of approx. 2,800 starters.

After making my way to the massage tent, I talked to the guy who passed me, and he told me that the guy who got first in our AG already had a Kona spot, so assuming 6 spots in our AG, his would roll to me, which made all the pain after the race seem worth it after all.

After a little bit of food, I got changed, hooked up with Brian who unfortunately could not finish the race and then we went back to the finish line and watched Cynthia roll in at just over 13 hours.

The next day, we went down to the race site for the Kona roll-down process and it was then that I found out that there were 6 guaranteed Kona spots in our AG and the winner had indeed already taken his spot at IM Lake Tahoe back in September, so I was good to go!!   Mike Reilly kicked off the roll-down process by calling my name first, and I was right there to snag the spot.  After me, there were only two other Kona spots in the entire race.

So overall, I was really happy with my time and picking up a Kona spot, but on the other hand, I was a bit upset in getting passed in the final 2K and also getting the drafting penalty.   Without either, I would have grabbed a guaranteed Kona spot and would have finished in about 9:20 or so.   A podium spot was still about 2 minutes quicker, so it would not have made a difference there.

The good news is I now have all year to try and put together a much better race in Kona compared to what I did there in 2012.   Now I'm just really enjoying the downtime and unstructured training until sometime in the New Year!! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

2013 Vegas 70.3 World Championship Race Report

Race Date - September 8, 2013

Race Details:
1.9K Swim
91K Bike
21.1K Run

This race, despite it being a championship event, was really just one step in my journey towards Ironman Arizona in November.   I went into the race feeling pretty well and for the most part rested and ready to go.

Race morning presented something nobody was really expecting....RAIN.   Looking back at the 4-5 days we were there, Las Vegas got as much rain as they had year to date.   That being said, there was still plenty of hot, dry weather that made the other activities around race weekend enjoyable.

In T1 and ready to roll
T1 was not in an ideal spot for all the rain that was falling that morning.   It was sort of at the bottom of a small hill that surrounded it, and the rain made for a very messy and muddy transition zone.   As seen in the picture below, the entire transition zone is surrounded by mud.

T1 Surrounded by mud

Race organizers for some reason decided to close transition a full 30 minutes before the pros went off, so this meant I had to be out of transition an hour before my start time of 7:28.   This meant a lot of standing around in the rain watching the pros and various age groupers start their races.

Eventually, 7:28 am came around and my wave got into the water and made our way over to the starting line.   After a bit of treading water, the horn sounded and the race was on!

The water was very dirty and I found it very difficult to find people to swim with, during the chaos of the start.   I wish I could say I felt great and found a great rhythm and some feet to get around the course on, but I would be lying.   It wasn't a struggle, but I also didn't feel like I was going very fast.   Being a non wetsuit swim didn't help things either.

I came out of the water in 34:40 which put me in about 90th position in my age group out of 239 other athletes.   Obviously not great, but is the worlds, and the swim is my weakest discipline.   The run to transition was fairly long and it was very slippery/muddy, so I had to take my time a bit.   T1 took 4 minutes as it was also a pretty long run out of transition before we were able to get on our bikes.

Starting the ride, the rain was still coming down pretty steady.   It was very difficult to even see through my sunglasses, so I had to push them up until they cleared up a bit.   Without the speed of the open road, they were pretty fogged up.

The first several kilometers of the bike were basically around the resort area of Lake Las Vegas and then uphill to the main highway.   I tried to keep the power in check, as it would have been easy to blow the entire race by killing this part of the ride.   Everything went according to plan, except for the fact I lost my salt somewhere near the start, which sucked, but in the end, didn't cause any issues.

Once on the main highway, the rain continued to come down, but at least I could see through my sunglasses, which was completely necessary, due to all the spray coming off the bikes in front.

Overall, the bike course was really fun.   There was really nothing about it that was flat, but instead, had many super fast and intense downhills and many long grinding uphills.   None of the hills were very steep, but many were long.

I basically got into a good group with a few guys and worked the different parts of the course.   I found that I was strongest on the "flatter" sections and downhills, and would lose some time on the uphills.   Not sure if this was because I was just doing a good job of not over extending myself on the climbs or because the other guys were just stronger in the hills.

At about the 70K point of the bike, the rain basically stopped and the sun started coming out.   

Once we got back into Henderson (T2 is not where T1 was) there was a super fast section where I was able to get the cadence up and freshen up my legs.   Unfortunately, the last 10K of the bike course has some substantial climbing, so that took a bit of snap out of the legs just before starting the run.

I finished the bike, which was 56.6 miles (91.3K), due to logistics in 2:34:25 and moved up to 46th in my age group.

Vegas WC Garmin Bike Data

After handing off my bike to one of the great volunteers, I made my way through the sea of red transition bags and eventually found mine and went into the change tent to get ready for the run.  T2 took 1:56, which again wasn't super fast, but I made sure not to make any mistakes or forget anything.

The run course was much like the bike course.   There was barely a flat section to be found.   You immediately start running down a slight downhill to the first turn-around at approximately the 2K mark.   Then you turn around and run back and past transition to another turn around point a few K past the transition/finish line area.   It's basically a little over 3K to the second turn around, which is pretty much all gradually uphill.   Then it's almost 2K back to the transition zone to start the next lap.

The run consisted of 3 laps of this course.   I felt pretty good through the first lap, getting in all my nutrition and salt as required.   On the first lap, I actually passed Leanda Cave, the female pro who won this race last year.   She wasn't having a great day, so this isn't saying much.

Overall, I felt like I ran a pretty steady race.   I tried pushing the pace a bit more on the downhills to try and make up for some of the time I was losing on the uphill sections.

By the time I reached the third lap, I was starting to get pretty tired, but continued to push to the top of the last turn around knowing I had a nice downhill finish.   After reaching the top, I was able to find another gear for the last kilometer and a half to the finish line.   During this section, I started passing a lot of runners (many of them still on their first or second lap) as I was easily doing under a sub 4 minute kilometer pace.

Eventually I hit the finish with a final run time of 1:33:12, which was pretty good given all the hills and the heat and humidity that had shown up for the run.

Vegas WC Garmin Run Data

After the run, I had moved up a bit more to finish in 36th overall in my age group and 301st overall in the race out of over 2000 participants.   Finishing 36th put me in the top 15% in my age group, which isn't bad, given these are the best 70.3 athletes in the world on that day.

So overall, I was happy with my result and look forward to my preparation towards my A race this year, Ironman Arizona on November 17th.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

EndurRun Stage 3 - Bechtal Park 30K Trail Race

Normally a summer Ironman would keep me from doing a race like this, but with my A race not until November, I have taken the time to get involved in a few events I normally would otherwise pass up.

When asked if I would be part of the Health & Performance Men's team to go after the overall win in this years EndurRun Event I jumped on board.   With my focus primarily on the "longer" stuff for Ironman training, I was asked to do the 30K trail race, which was on Tuesday, August 13th.

This 30K race consisted of 6 laps around the trail network at Bechtal Park in Waterloo.   I arrived about an hour or so before the start of the race, which was plenty of time.   The EndurRun event is pretty unique, so there aren't too many people who actually show up and race these stages, so you get a real small time feel.    Even though it is a small event, Lloyd Schmidt and his crew still did a great job of getting everything setup and the trails well laid out.

Just before 8am, Lloyd did his customary roll call for all participants and the race kicked off right at 8am as planned.

For the first kilometer of the race, I pretty much just sat in with the lead group of the Ultra runners (the crazy guys and gals racing the entire event - all stages) to get a feel for what their pace would be like.

As we hit the easiest part of the course, the paved road coming into the park, I slowly pulled away from these guys and was comfortably sitting in second place.   The lead runner, was a fellow relay participant, who I didn't know at the time, but is a very talented runner, Derek Lantz.   He's a 1:13 half marathoner and a very good triathlete, who just this year won the overall title at the Peterborough Half Ironman.   I was very surprised to see how quickly he was pulling away from us.

I knew our team only had a 14 second overall lead in the standings over his team, but I couldn't attempt to match his speed without completely blowing up myself, so I just stuck to what I felt was the right pace for me.

The race was constantly rolling with hills over a combination of pavement, grass, wood chips, dirt and gravel trails, so it was difficult to get into a consistent "fast" rhythm.   That being said, the terrain was constantly changing, so I felt it forced me to be constantly using different muscle groups, which actually made me feel better overall.

The first lap went by in 21:48 (although I think each lap was slightly long at about 5.1K) and I was feeling generally ok with my pacing.   As I got back to the paved section I could see that the lead runner was waaaaay up the road already, so my hopes that he was just going to fade after the fast start were dissipating quickly.

I just focused on my race, and I was quite surprised how quickly each lap seemed to tick on by.  I think this actually made the time go quicker, as I could always focus on the different sections of the course which I knew were never really that far away.

By the third lap, I began taking a gel as we crossed through the finish line section, and would run with it until we got to the entrance into the wooded trail section.   I would then grab some water and put it down and repeat for the next 3 laps.

I would say by the end of the second or start of the third lap I actually started lapping other runners, which I was surprised would happen so quickly.

I'd say I started feeling a bit of fatigue mid way through the 4th lap, but nothing that was causing any issues.

Face starting to tell the tale here
Sean Delanghe (head coach of H&P) and Dave Rutherford (who is running the marathon for our team on the last day) were both around for the entire event and were giving out lot's of encouragement throughout each lap, and before I knew it, I was running through the finish line area and Dave started ringing a bell to signify the last lap.   

I tried picking up the pace a bit knowing I was almost done, but looking back, it was only a moderate increase and I crossed the line for the last time in just under 2 hours and13 minutes, but as I said earlier, each lap was just a bit long I believe, so my Garmin showed 30.52K.

I managed to hold on to my second place result, but finished an incredible 14 minutes back of the winner Derek Lantz, who knocked our relay team way out of the lead.   This was disappointing, but in reality, there was nothing I could do about it.   If I really tapered hard for this race and gave it 110%, I might have been able to go a few minutes faster, but nothing that would have been able to keep us in the lead in the overall standings.

The good news was that I put a bunch of time into the other relay teams, which pretty much locked up 2nd place for us at least.   Overall, I felt I had a good race and was happy to have participated in such a great event.   The post race food was some of the best I have ever seen at a race....ever!!!   The small family feel at the event really made this event stand out and kudos's to Lloyd and his family for putting on a great race.

As of writing this, Stage 6 is in the books and coach Sean had a great race in the 10K coming in just under 37 minutes.   Unfortunately, the first place relay team keeps putting time into us, so we are 99% sure of getting 2nd place overall this year in the relay division, which is still pretty decent.   It has been a really fun event to be part of, and depending how things go next year, I look forward to doing it again.

Monday, July 22, 2013

2013 Belwood Triathlon Race Report

Race Date - July 20, 2013

Race Details:
750m Swim
30K Bike
7.5K Run

I like the Belwood venue.   I did it 3 times when it was a Subaru race, but starting this year, Multisport Canada took it over.   The venue and the courses were nearly identical to what it was in the past, except this year it was a shorter swim (750m vs. 1K) and longer run (7.5K vs 7K).

I arrived race morning a little bit late, but still with plenty of time to get things sorted out.   After parking, I got my bike in transition, registration and kit pickup taken care of, bike setup and a short run to the washroom, which would work as my warm up.   

With only 15 minutes to the start, I got into my wetsuit (decided to go sleeveless, as the water was pretty warm given all the hot days we've been having).   Once down at the lake, I warmed up for a few minutes and made my way to the starting line for the 8:30am start.

I decided I'd go pretty hard off the start for the swim to try and get out of any trouble and then try to find some feet.   This worked well, and I had no issues.   I then was able to get onto some feet, that I more or less followed to the first turn buoy, where we had to go left.   Once making the turn, there was a little bit of chop hitting is from the side, and I found myself off and on the guy's feet in front of me.   

After hitting the second turn buoy, we had the benefit of a slight tailwind (yes tailwinds help in swimming too) and I pushed the pace back to shore.   For the most part, I ended up swimming this part solo, but I did come together with another guy that I swam beside for a bit to the swim exit.   When I stood up, my watch said 11:50 or so.   I was really hoping for about 11:30 to come out of the water, but overall, not too bad.   My official swim time was 12:52 including the run up to transition.   This was good for 9th best in the race.

Exiting the swim
I didn't really know what position as I was in until I heard Steve Fleck start calling us out as we were coming into T1.   As I entered transition, I think I was in 5th overall, so a pretty good swim in fact.   I managed to get out quickly and move into 4th place overall starting the bike.

Starting the 30K bike
I saw the 3rd place athlete up the road about 500m or so, so I set out after him.   My target power for the ride was between 275-285 watts, which was pretty much what I was doing as we made our way to the first right hand turn at the 4th line.   Once on this road, we enjoyed a nice tailwind and average speeds of around 42-44kph.   I pushed the pace and eventually passed the guy in front of me to move into 3rd place overall.

A little further down the road, we had to turn onto Wellington Rd. 22 and complete an out and back section.   At this point, we were into some rolling hills and a cross wind.   As I approached the turn around, I saw the first place guy (Alexander Hinton) was way ahead of everyone, but I was only a minute or less behind 2nd place, which turned out to be a female, Leanna Lee, who had a great swim and was riding very well.

I ended up catching her on the hill just past the 4th line.   At this point, I was in 2nd overall in the race with absolutely nobody left to chase down.   Alex was so far ahead I couldn't even see him.

From this point forward, I just focused on my own race and watched my power levels closely.   We eventually made a left hand turn onto Wellington Rd. 26 and right into a decent headwind and some steady uphill sections.

I felt like I controlled my efforts through this section of the course and we eventually got back onto Wellington Rd. 18, which was flat and took us right back to the race site.   I took advantage of this section and just put my head down and got some nice speed with some higher cadence efforts to get ready for the run.   

When I got back to the race site, I stopped my garmin at 46:38, which had the course slightly long at 30.43K.   I managed to hold 39.2kph for the ride with an average power of 282 watts, so a pretty good ride as it turns out.

I had a decent second transition and was out quickly starting the final run.    To start, we have to run on a gravel section as we crossed the Shand Dam, and we were right into that headwind again.

Starting the 7.5K run
I felt OK starting the run, but knew some of the guys behind were solid runners, so there was work to be done for sure.   It was also a bit hot and my first kilometer as we did a short out and back section was only at 4:06.   My plan was to run 4:00/K's or slightly less, so I knew I had to pick it up a bit.

After making the turn around, I could see the 3rd and 4th place guys coming up fast.   Once back on the main trail, Devin Wittig flew right passed me, and I knew I had no chance of staying with him.   He was running about 3:30K's, so it didn't take long for him to move out of sight.   That put me back to 3rd with Adrian Lawson not far behind.   I knew he was a good runner also and could tell that he had made up some time out to the first out and back section.

I got into a decent rhythm as we made our way out to the furthest turn around point.   The course was pretty flat, so it was easy to just keep a consistent effort.   My 2nd, 3rd and 4th K's were all pretty close in time at 3:59, 4:00 and 3:58.   As I made my way around the last turn, I was able to see where I was at, and noticed Adrian hadn't gained as much ground as I thought he might have.   I still had him by about 30-40 seconds as we headed all the way back to the finish line.

Finishing up the run across the Shand Dam
My 5th and 6th kilometers were in 4:02 and 3:59, and I knew at this point I had to push the pace a bit, as a few shoulder checks allowed me to see that Adrian was gaining.   With only 1.5K left, I pretty much just gave it everything I had.   The 7th kilometer went by in 3:51 as we had to make our way along the gravel trail to the finish line.

With the finish line in sight, I was going pretty deep and ran the final half K in 1:47 (a 3:49) pace, which felt much harder than that.   

I ended up finishing the run in 29:42 and holding onto my 3rd place overall finish with a time of 1:31:31.   This I believe is the first time I have ever finished on the podium in a race overall, so that was exciting!   I did end up winning my age group by about 13 minutes, and was the first overall age group athlete (non elite anyway).

Crossing the finish line in 3rd place overall
If the race was any longer, Adrian would have caught me for sure, as he only ended up 10 seconds back in 4th overall.

I'll be the first one to admit that it was a pretty depleted field, as a lot of the faster guys who normally race in this series were at the Toronto Triathlon Festival races which were happening the next day.   Regardless, I did have a solid race and met (slightly exceeded) my own race expectations.

2013 Belwood Triathlon Overall Podium Finishers
So after finishing the race and chatting with a bunch of other racers, I took a bit of a dip in the lake before the awards ceremony and heading home.   Not a bad day overall.   Next up is the 3rd leg of the EndurRun as part of the Health and Performance relay team.   A 30K trail run at Bechtal Park in Waterloo.   That one's going to be interesting!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Syracuse 70.3 Race Report

Race Date - June 23, 2013

Race Details:
1.9K Swim
90K Bike
21.1K Run

The main reason I wanted to do this race, was because it would be new.   I like the idea of trying new things, and the timing worked well, given I was hoping to qualify for the Vegas 70.3 World Championships in September.

I drove down to Syracuse with Brian Scott and his wife Cynthia on Friday morning and arrived at the race site mid afternoon.   We all checked in and got our race kits, and then checked out the swim start and transition area.   The one thing about this race is that everything is really spread out.   It all takes place in the Jamesville Beach County Park with the swim in the Jamesville Reservoir.   From where we parked, it was likely over a kilometer to the swim start area.   This meant a lot of walking over the next few days.

The beach and swim start area
After checking out the expo, etc. we got in the van and headed to the hotel to check in.   The race site is literally out in the country, so most out of town athletes all had to stay in Syracuse, approximately 15 minutes away.

That night, the three of us just ate in our rooms.   Cynthia made a bunch of awesome food (rice, pasta salad, chicken, potato salad) and they invited me to eat with them, which was great.   Good carbo loading food at a great price.   After dinner, we headed out to check out a few things, but it was a relatively early evening and I sat in my NormaTec boots for a bit before getting to bed around 10.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at the hotel before heading back to the race site to do a bit of training and to check in our bikes.   Before going to the race site though, we drove the early part of the bike course where the majority of the hills were.   It was definitely going to be a slow start to this race, as the first 19K or so is basically all uphill.    We took a short-cut back to the race site and followed the last 20K or so of the bike course.   This section on the other hand was slightly downhill and pretty fast.

Once back at the race site, we did a short training ride on our bikes.   I rode the entire run course, which we had to do twice.   I'm not sure that was a great idea, as the hills in the last two kilometers of this course are a bit ridiculous    There were two very significant climbs, that we essentially had to do twice, since there were two loops on the run course.

After the ride, we checked in our bikes and headed to the beach for a practice swim.   The water temp was very good, but there were quite a few weeds in the reservoir that we had to deal with.   They weren't freaky or anything to swim through, just kind of annoying, as they would get caught on your goggles while you swam through them.

This is what I looked like after my practice swim
After a short swim, we headed back to the hotel where we once again just ate in our rooms and chilled out for a bit.  I eventually headed back to my room and got all my gear ready for an early checkout, sat in my boots again and headed to bed around 10, after watching the Hawks beat the Bruins in game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

I had the alarm set for 4:30, but I didn't even need it.  I quickly had some breakfast and coffee, a shower and gathered up all my stuff as we were checking out.   We were on the road to the race shortly after 5:15 am for the 7am race start.

There was a decent lineup into the park, but it was moving relatively quickly.   Eventually we got parked and made our long walk to transition to get our stuff set up and ready to roll.   Everything went smoothly and I made my way down to the beach to watch the pros head off at 7am.   I was in the 10th wave, meaning I had to wait until 7:40 to start.   Around 7:15 I got into my wetsuit and did a short practice swim before heading to the starting line for my wave.

At 7:40, the gun sounded for the first wave of two for the M40-44 group and I was off!   I put in a good effort to the first buoy, and this worked out well, as I had very little contact and a good amount of open water ahead of me.

I spent a bit of time swimming beside another swimmer to gauge the effort.  I thought that if I swam relatively moderate/hard and this guy was still with me, then I'd slide back and try to draft off of him to save some energy.   As we started to catch up to swimmers in earlier waves, I did just that and spent a good amount of time just taking it easy behind this other swimmer.

I did this until about the 20 minute mark of the swim, out near the last turn around back to the beach, where I decided to pull out and just do my own thing and try to pick up a bit of time.   I really felt like I had a good swim, so when I reached the beach again to get out and saw 32 minutes plus, I thought for sure the swim had to be a bit long.  I certainly thought I'd be closer to 30 minutes or less for 1.9K.

After coming out of the water, I quickly got my wetsuit down to my hips and took advantage of the wetsuit strippers to do the rest.   It worked out well, and I was quickly out of my suit and on my way to transition.   I ended up coming out of the water 10th in my AG out of 207 athletes in 32:58 to the mat well past the water, which is pretty darn good, although I wasn't aware of that at the time.

T1 was pretty efficient without any issues and I was out in 2:37 and on my way on the bike.   The first 3K of the ride was fast, as we had a tailwind and slightly downhill section to find our legs.   We headed north to Jamesville before turning right and getting right into the first of MANY uphills over the next 45 minutes or so.

My nutrition on the bike was pretty standard.   Start with a normal concentrate up front in my aerodrink with a double concentrate bottle on my frame that I would empty in just before the first aid station on the bike, where I would start taking water.

My plan on the bike was to hold an average power of about 250, but it was a smoking hot and humid day, with a forecasted humidex in the high 40's.  This meant that going too hard on the bike could easily crush dreams later on in the race (I'm thinking Kona in 2012!!!).   Therefore, somewhere between 240-250 average power on the bike was the plan.

As I mentioned, the first 19K was pretty much all uphill and into a headwind, so I really had to keep things in check.  By the time we reached the highest point in the race at about the 18.5K mark, my avg. speed was only about 28kph and my avg. power was close to 260.   Shortly after this point, we hit some speedy downhills, and the power began to come down a bit.  A little while after the first aid station, I think we hit the hour mark on the bike, and I hit my lap button with an average power of approximately 255, so right on target given the hills.

Just past the 30K point on the bike, we had a wicked fast downhill/uphill.   I basically went from hitting a top speed of 82.7kph on the bike to about 10kph in the span of about 30 seconds.   It was incredible!

From this point forward, there weren't many more significant elevation changes, as we made our way around the beautiful countryside outside of Syracuse.   The course snaked through a few small communities and state forest parks before we finally got out of the headwinds that we were dealing with for most of the first 60km of the bike course when we turned right in Truxton.

By this time, the race had spread out quite a bit and passing people came at less frequent intervals.   I think throughout the entire bike portion of the race, I might have gotten passed by 2 or 3 people in total, but likely passed about 800 other racers which was cool.

The second hour of the bike had the power come down a bit.   Not really because I was fading, but because I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to fall apart on the run.   The effort seemed moderate anyway, so pushing bigger watts on such a hot day didn't seem to make much sense.   I believe the power in the second hour of the bike race was 245 watts with an average speed of 35.6kph.

Just passed the 2 hour mark and 70K point of the race, we hit some very speedy and technical downhills on Clark Hollow Road.   This road had recently been chip sealed, and there appeared to be some loose gravel on the sides, so I made sure to keep near the middle of the road.

Once back on Apulia Rd which takes us to the race site, the speed picked up again.   This was a very nice and smooth road, which gave our legs a bit of a chance to do some quick spinning prior to starting the run.

I ended up biking just under 2:32 according to my garmin, with an average speed of 35.3kph and an average power of 245 watts and a normalized power of 253 watts.  This gave me a variability index of 1.03, which is under the suggested 1.05 as per Joel Friel.   Good stuff!

Syracuse 70.3 Garmin Bike File

So since I held back a bit on the bike and tried to keep a pretty consistent pace, I was hoping to have some fresh legs and feel good on the run.   Unfortunately, after exiting T2 in 1:17 and getting on the road, the heat and humidity hit you like a brick.   At least riding, you generated your own airflow.   Running, not so much.   It was really hot!

After exiting the park area, we had a short little climb on Apulia Rd before heading downhill to the flatter section of the course for a mile or so before heading into what I called the "Syracuse 70.3 version of the Energy Lab".   It was a short downhill into a valley that had dark pavement and little to no wind.   The sun and heat was just cooking down there and so a very special thank you and appreciation needs to go out to all of the volunteers working the aid station in this section.

After rounding a curve, we were greeted to a rather large hill at the 3.5K marker of the run.   It wasn't killer steep, but it was long, like several hundred meters long.   It was at this point that I started my first of many walk/run strategies.  Walk a bit, run a bit to the top.   A bit more running than walking, but my mental part of the race was starting to fall apart a bit.   There were two guys in my AG that I think had passed me on the run to this point, and the fact that we had to do this course 2x for the full 21K, did not have me in good spirits.

I eventually got to the top of the first hill where we faced a "flattish" section for 800m or so, before facing another rather large and annoying hill.   This time it was steeper, but not quite as long.   Again, the walk/run strategy was employed and I was not feeling good at this point.   Just past the top of the hill was the turn around point, which meant we had a series of downhill running ahead of us, as we retraced our steps all the way back to the race site.   Here's an idea of what the elevation profile was like for the run.

Syracuse 70.3 Run Course Elevation - It's pretty obvious where the hills were here.
The downhills unfortunately were just steep enough that they really put a good hurt on the quads as we ran down them.   Eventually I made it back through the "Energy Lab" and onto Apulia and I actually thought I was feeling better as I noticed I was reeling in one of the guys that passed me earlier on.  By the time we got back to transition, I was right beside this athlete and I made the pass on one of the gravel trails leading out of the park to the road, where we would repeat everything we just did one more time.

So although I was totally cooking out there, I managed to run steady all the way back into the valley sauna to the base of the first hill.   Again, like last time, I did a walk/run strategy on the hills, which were packed now with lot's of racers, most of them doing their first lap.   Only one guy passed me through this section, and was only a few hundred yards up the road when we finally hit the turn around point for the second and thankfully last time.

It was now time to hammer as best I could down the hills.   Luckily there was a guy with a water hose spraying runners, but this meant we were really wet (technically I was soaked from head to foot well before this) and running downhills had me sliding all around in my shoes.   With the wet roads, I had to be very careful not to actually wipe out.

I used up the last of my salt in the aid station before getting back on Apulia Rd, but at this point  there was only about 2.5 or 3K left in the race.   I saw up ahead the runner who passed me earlier and I was determined to see if I could catch him before we got back to the park.   With some steady running, I managed to come up beside him and pass him on the last climb up to the park.

As I reached the top, I turned on the gas for what was mostly a downhill/flat stretch to the finish.   It was still tricky negotiating the bumpy park grass and gravel trails, but I finally reached the finishing chute and took a quick look back to see if anyone was trying to make a last second surge past me.   Luckily, nobody was, as I'm not sure I had anything to respond to if they did.

I crossed the finish line with a finishing time of 4:50:42 with a final run split of 1:41:24 and immediately tried to find some shade to cool down and hang out for a bit.


After chatting with some other athletes, including Tommy Ferris from Hamilton, Ontario and owner of Ignition Fitness, I was able to get some food in me and find some preliminary results from an athlete checking online.   

Syracuse 70.3 Garmin Run File

2013 Syracuse 70.3 Race Results

As it stood, I was 5th in my AG and 49th overall in the race.   I can't say I was that excited with the result, despite the fact that I got on the podium and managed to qualify for the 70.3 World Championships (which I took).   I know this seems silly, but I was really hoping for a faster time and better results across all three disciplines.   This race was far from Mont Tremblant 70.3 last year both in terms of course difficulty and race day weather, so I have to keep that in mind.   I think I raced pretty smart on the swim and bike by taking it relatively easy.   I saw my fair share of athletes needing serious medical attention after the race.

A few hours after finishing, a huge thunderstorm blew through which forced organizers to actually stop the race and pull those still remaining off the course.   

There was also no award ceremony or roll down process (they would email athletes after the race offering roll down slots) because of all the chaos from the storm.

This also got everything very wet and sloppy, which caused an already disastrous parking situation to be that much worse.   People were stuck in the parking lot for hours before they could get out, and when they finally did, there was a huge lineup of cars heading back to Syracuse.

This was the view leaving the park and trying to get back to Syracuse
The last stop on this journey made everything worth it.   Brian, Cynthia and myself headed to the Dinosaur BBQ for dinner before making the long haul back to Ontario.  I highly recommend the Tres Hombres!!   Awesome!!