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!!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Waterloo Classic 10K Road Race

This years race marks the 36th consecutive year of this race, but oddly enough, I've never done it before.   It's always smack dab in the middle of triathlon season, and I usually had other priorities other than running a fast 10K.

With my key race not until November, I finally though it would be a good idea to see what kind of speed I had in June, and the fact that I am now in the 40+ age group, there was an incentive to see if I could grab some cash that was up for grabs for the top 3 overall masters runners.

The day started very wet, with some heavy rain all the way into the race site at University stadium in Waterloo.   This race starts and finishes on the track, which is pretty cool.

Once I arrived, I got inside the stadium building and where race kit pick up was going on.   After a small issue with registration (I wasn't on the list) everything got sorted out and I got into my race gear.

I recently joined Sean Delanghe's Health and Performance team (officially anyway) so I spent some time chatting with Sean and other team members, before heading outside to do a bit of a warm-up.   Luckily by this point, the pouring rain had turned more into a light drizzle, so that was good.

Closer to 9am, I got myself situated near the front of the starting line.   The 5K and 3K were also starting at the same time, so it was pretty tight up front, and at 9am, the gun sounded and we were off.

We had to run about 50-75 meters before making a quick right out of the stadium, through the parking lot and onto Seagram drive.   This was a bit crazy, as the exit from the stadium was pretty tight, the ground was very uneven and there were potholes full of water everywhere.   I took this section carefully and managed to not trip over anyone's feet!

Once out on Seagram drive, I got into a quick but somewhat comfortable position just behind fellow H&P runner Dave Rutherford.   Just before the first K marker, we had to make another left onto University Ave., which again, need to be taken with a bit of care, as the roads were very wet.   We passed through the first kilometer maker in 3:38.

Not too long after, we made a right hand turn onto Westmount Rd. and started the first of two climbs on this stretch, as we had to come out to this road again for a partial second loop.   The pace slowed down a bit as we made the climb up to the 2K marker, but as I crested the hill and began the downhill section, things picked back up a bit, and I began running right behind a few other runners.

It was at this point, I should have been more observant to what was going on, as we were approaching the turn-around for the 5K.   I was still pretty close to some of the runners, and as we approached the 5K turn-around, the female runner I was behind slowed down and made the turn to head back and I almost ran right into her.   I should have stayed more to the right...oh well.

We lost a bunch of runners at the 5K turn-around point, and now, it was just back to Dave and myself and a few other just up the road ahead of us.  It was pretty spread out at this point in the 10K race, as we approached Columbia Street and had another hill to get over.

About halfway up the hill on Columbia, I passed a couple other guys, but at this point, there wasn't really anyone else that I figured I was going to catch up to.   The race was supposed to go right on Phillip, but with construction on the street, we ended up making a right onto the Laurel Trail, that connects back up with University Ave.

Shortly after getting back on University Ave., we passed the 5K marker, which I believe said about 18:35, so my unofficial goal of going sub 38 minutes was still well on track.

The wind seemed to pick up a bit more as we headed down University towards Westmount for the partial second loop.   Despite this section being pretty flat, and even potentially very slightly downhill, the pace did not pick up as much as I had hoped.   The 6th K went by in 3:50, and now had to climb the Westmount hill for the second time in the race.   The 7th K, which included going up and down the hill slowed down to a 3:57 pace, and it was here that I gave up 2 spots in the race and $25....more on that in a bit.

Two guys passed me I reached the top of the hill.   I tried staying with them for a bit, but for some reason, the legs just didn't have the pop required to hold their pace.   As approached the 10K turn-around, I started counting the runners coming back and I found myself in 12th place in the race as I made the turn just past the 7K marker and began the trek back to the stadium, following the exact same route we took when we left it.

The 8th K, had us once again climbing back up the Westmount hill (for a 3rd time) before enjoying the downhill and slight tailwind finish towards the stadium.   I saw lot's of familiar faces passing other 10K runners as they made their way to the turn-around point.

Once I made the turn back onto University, I could see one of the guys who passed me on the hill not too far up the road.  I doubted my ability to reel him in, but gave it my best shot anyway.

Eventually, I got back onto Seagram Dr, where I saw coach Sean and he pointed out that I was the H&P team in the 10K, which I pretty much already knew, as I'd passed all the leaders already.   Kilometer 9 was a bit faster in 3:51, but I was feeling tired at this point, and was really hoping for something faster.   The entrance to the stadium was just up the road, so I decided to see what I had left and push the pace.

The last 350 meters of the race was on the track, but unfortunately, there were still lots of 5K runners still finishing up, so instead of just gunning it around the inside lane to the finish line, I had to swing to the outside (and narrowly miss on a few occasions) other runners on the track.

As I rounded the final curve on the track, I heard the announcer call out 38 minutes, so I knew that goal wasn't happening.   Despite that, I pushed through right to the finish, coming in at 38:10 officially, with a chip time of 38:07 and still 12th overall.   Just over my 38 minute goal time.

Waterloo Classic 10K Road Race Garmin Data

Waterloo Classic 10K Road Race Results

Less than 30 seconds later, Dave Rutherford crossed the line as the 13th finisher.   Another H&P runner, Eric Vicujnik, crossed the line only 15 seconds after Dave.   Sean had also entered us in the corporate division, so that was a huge victory by us.   No other team even had a finisher under 38 minutes, and we had 3!!

By now, the rain had really started coming down again, and I was in line for some less than stellar post race food.   Eventually, I got back inside and actually had a hot shower and dressed prior to the awards ceremony, which took an awfully long time, given we had to go through both the 3K and 5K before the 10K.

Back to that $25.   I did end up finishing as the 3rd master, and 3rd in my AG at the same time.   That meant I got the $50 prize.   As it turns out, one of the guys that passed me was also in my AG.  He only finished 19 seconds ahead of me, but in the end, I'm not sure I had the legs on this day to even make that up.   Walking away with the 3rd master overall was still pretty rewarding.

Up next is the Syracuse 70.3 this coming weekend.   This will be a solid test to see where my longer endurance fitness sits.  It's calling for some smoking hot temps, so I'm sure I'm in for a real battle.