Wednesday, July 27, 2016

2016 Xterra Parry Sound Offroad Triathlon Race Report

Race Date: July 23, 2016

Race Details: 
1.5K Swim
~ 25K Offroad Mountain Bike
~ 8.8K Trail Run

This was my second XTERRA race of the year.   I qualified for the XTERRA Worlds in Milton Mine over Matter, so the pressure was off for this race, and I just wanted to have some fun.   I sure did...or did I?   Not sure.

Steve Good and I went up on Friday, the day before the race and did a pre race swim, ride and run.   Pretty much just one loop easy of the entire course.   I immediately knew we were in for a real treat on race day.   Plus it was super hot and humid.

The race had a late start at 10:30am at Nine Mile Lake just north of Parry Sound.   It was a beautiful venue for swimming.   There were also two transition zones, as the lake was about 1.5K from the run course.   So after doing all the race morning check-ins, Steve and I grabbed our swim and bike gear and rode to the swim start and got setup and did a short warm-up swim.   There was a drone hovering above the swim course that captured these awesome pics...

At 10:30, the horn sounded and we were all off.   It was a mass swim start, as there weren't really that many participants.   I was using my new Nineteen Rogue wetsuit and it felt pretty nice as I tried to push hard to get ahead of the pack at the start.

Maybe 200m out, I grabbed a draft off a guy, but it just felt too slow, so I pulled out and went around, which was likely a good call, but this meant I swam the rest of the swim solo, cause I couldn't quite catch the feet ahead of me.

The swim was a double loop of 750m with a short beach run in between.   I came out of the first loop in 6th place and basically held that position through the second lap and into T1 finishing the swim in 24:45.

XTERRA Parry Sound Swim - Strava Link

The bike started with a 1.5K uphill ride along the beach access road back to the Georgian Nordic Ski club where T2 was and then immediately into a bunch of single track.   The single track sections were unique and a bit different than what I have experienced back home at say the Hydrocut.   Here is how the race director describes the bike course:

"bits of technical singletrack that wander over undulating ridges of exposed granite.  These sections are connected by flowing doubletrack, offering ample room for safe passing, as you sweep by lakes, marshes, and beaver dams…  There may be no massive leg-burning ascents, but there are still plenty of short and sweet climbs to keep you on your toes.  While nothing on the course is scary or dangerous, the technical sections will certainly reward the skilled riders.  And the unique exposed granite sections will put a smile on everyone’s face…"

They sure did put a smile on my face.   Actually, I found the course pretty cool, but at the same time, it was pretty bumpy, and it would have been better to have a full suspension mountain bike, instead of the hard tail that I have.

As I made my way through the course, I believe I passed two other athletes and got passed twice myself, so basically came off the bike in the same position that I started it in.

There were only a few memorable moments throughout the ride.   The first was when I didn't take a line well and had to unclip quickly before crashing, and another was when I was pedaling around a tight corner and my left crank hit a rock or root or something, and I literally crashed and burned.   Luckily, nothing was broken on either the bike or myself and I was able to get up quickly and get back in the race.   I think I only lost 20s or so there.

XTERRA Parry Sound Mountain Bike - Strava Link

Once back in T2 I was able to quickly rack my bike and get my shoes on and get out onto the crazy run course they had for us.   Only 500m or so into the run, we had to climb up "The Wall", which was a huge slab of granite with a rope to help us up, since it was pretty darn steep!   Check out the video link below...

The Wall

Overall, the run course was incredibly unique.   Here is how the race director describes it:

"In a tip of the hat to our adventure racing friends, we have created a run course that is challenging and memorable.  The majority of the course follows technical single track, twisting and turning through the forest, splashing through streams and along rocky ridges.  And while that may be tough enough for the average runner, there’s more: each lap of the course takes racers up The Wall – a massive 15m slab of sloping granite, complete with rope assists to aid those weary legs.  It’s an experience that none will soon forget…"

The course was 2 laps and it was epic.   On the first lap, I even lost my shoe in a boggy part of the course.   I use Xtenex laces in most of my racing shoes so I can easily get them on and off in transition.   Unfortunately that means they can easily come off when you plant your foot in a mucky bog!

I finished the first lap with no changes in position, but starting the second lap, I was about 60 seconds down on 5th place.   I caught this athlete at the wall and carried on through the tricky course, being cautious to not lose my shoe again or twist an ankle for that matter.

I ended up passing the athlete that was in 4th place about half way through the second lap, so that put me into 4th overall, where I would finish, when crossing the finish line in 2:36:47 with a final run time of 45:32, the second fastest on the day behind Rich Pady, the race winner.

XTERRA Parry Sound Trail Run - Strava Link

2016 XTERRA Parry Sound Full Distance Triathlon Results

So even though I finished 4th overall, the 3 guys that finished ahead of me (including Steve who finished 3rd overall) were also in my 40-49 AG, so that meant I got nothing other than the satisfaction of another decent XTERRA race.

I have no other XTERRA races planned this year other than the XTERRA World Championship in Maui, Hawaii.    Between now and then though, I will be doing the Kingston LC Tri, Wasaga Beach Olympic and the Barrelman Half Iron race in Niagara Falls again.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

2016 Muskoka 70.3 Triathlon Race Report

Race Date: July 10, 2016

Race Details: 
1.9K Swim
94K Bike
21.1K Run

I haven't done this race since 2011, having done it 4 years in a row up until that point.   Each time I have done the race, I have bested my previous time and I was really hoping to do that again in 2016, despite being 5 years older and in a new age group!

I went up to Huntsville the day before the race, picking up a buddy in Barrie and heading directly to Deerhurst for a little pre-race open water swim and short run.   It was raining pretty steady the day before, so we skipped the bike and just did the registration, bike drop and headed to the hotel to chill before going for dinner later in the afternoon.

Race morning brought clear skies and a nice temperature.   Once in transition and with everything setup, I headed down to the swim start with Steve Good for our 7:10 start in the 3rd wave.   By the time we got ready and dropped our morning clothes bag off, we only had about 5 minutes to get in the water and over to the start line.

At 7:10 the horn sounded and we were off.   We headed directly into the sun, so it was pretty hard to sight in the first 10 minutes until we made the first right turn.    There was a bit of chaos, as there usually is for me, since I'm just not fast enough to get away from it all, but overall, it wasn't too bad.

On the back half of the swim, I found myself off to the left of everyone else, despite constantly swimming to the last turn buoy.   Not sure if I had the better line or if I was off course.   Either way, I had lots of clean water and just kept moving forward.   I eventually made it to exit stairs and when I stood up I saw high 30 minutes, which wasn't too bad.   My official swim time was 31:03, good for 10th overall in my 40-44 AG and a new PB at Muskoka.

Muskoka 70.3 Swim

I used the wetsuit strippers to get the wetsuit off quickly and then made the long uphill run to transition.   I quickly got my helmet on and was off on the hilly 94K bike around Lake of Bays.

I immediately starting passing lot's and lot's of people.   The plan was to hold around 260 watts throughout the entire ride.   As usual, I started off a little hot as I was in pursuit of those ahead, but I didn't feel like I was pushing beyond my limit.   I hit the lap button around every 45 minutes to track my average power and heart rate during the ride.   The first 45 minutes came in at 269 watts.

The next 45 minutes, as I got settled in, I rode 258 watts.   It was in this section that I eventually caught up with my buddies Carlos and Steve.   By this time, Steve had taken over the lead AG lead, so when I passed him, I was the new 40-44 AG leader.   Steve had been riding with a guy for a while, and when I passed him, that guy hopped in with me and together we basically finished the ride together.   I don't want to call him out for outright drafting, but I'm pretty sure if I hadn't come along, he would have been much further back when I finished.  I kept an eye on him throughout the last half of the race to make sure he wasn't sucking my wheel.   I'd say that he spent 75% of the time behind me in that last half of the ride.   We chatted a few times and he seemed like a nice dude from Australia (but later through Strava analysis, it turns out he was from NYC), so I didn't let it bother me much.   It was just good to have company for the last half.

When we turned in Baysville, I had an average speed of 37.3 kph, but I knew that was going to drop, as we hit the hills and a bit of a headwind back to Deerhurst.   In this 3rd 45 minute section, my average power dropped to 241 watts.   I purposefully decided to take the last bit easier with a high cadence to hopefully save the legs for the run.   

We eventually made our way back to Deerhurst, and my average speed for the ride dropped to 36.2 and an average power of 255 watts and normalized power of 266 watts.   The variability index of 1.043 was a little higher than what I would normally do, but with all the hills, it's pretty hard to keep it consistent for the entire ride.

I held onto first place in my AG through until the end of the ride which came in at 2:36:05, a new PB.

Muskoka 70.3 Bike

Once into T2, I pulled a stupid move and couldn't find my spot right away, as I was walking around with my bike.   Total brain fart, as I was only one section from the end of the aisle.   I eventually found it and started getting my socks and shoes on, but noticed that the headband I was going to wear (Lionel Sanders style) was nowhere to be found.   I moved a few things around, but couldn't find it.   More time lost.   Overall, I bet I wasted 30-40 seconds in T2...really dumb!!

Eventually I just grabbed my sunglasses and headed out for the run.

Once out, there was a small group of guys up ahead and I started making ground on them.    At the 2K mark, a guy went absolutely flying by me and sure enough, #41 was written on his calf.    There goes the AG win today!   I didn't recognize him, but I found out after that he won the Toronto Goodlife marathon this spring in like 2:35, so I didn't feel too bad later on.

I eventually caught up to the pack of 3 guys and we ran together for a large chunk of the race.   One fell of the pace around 8K but myself and two others stayed together all the way through town to the turnaround and back to Hwy 60.

At this point, the fatigue and effort of the day was starting to catch up with me.   The two guys (who by the way were in younger age groups, so I knew I had at least a 5 minute lead on them) started to pull away a bit and with 3K left, I'd say they had about a 100m lead on me.

The down and back up section at Cookson Bay was by far the hardest part of the race.   The downhill hurt the quads and the uphill was, well just torture.   I kept the feet moving, except for 3 seconds through the aid station to grab some pepsi, and eventually made it to the top.   A short bit more and it would be a nice downhill for a few minutes back to Deerhurst.

Once back at the resort, there was one more climb and then a flat/downhill run around transition to the finish line.   Just before entering the chute around transition, a guy in the crowd said there was someone coming up from behind and he was maybe 100 yards back.   That seemed like a lot at the time, but as I kept going around transition, people kept telling me that someone is coming up fast.   There was no way I could risk an AG spot at this point (even though I didn't know if he was actually in my AG or not), so as soon as I made the final turn down the finishing chute, I cranked it up and hit the fastest pace of the entire run by a long shot.

In the end, I did cross the line before this guy, but only by 3 seconds, and sure enough, he was in my AG, so wow!!!   that was close!!    I ended up holding onto my 2nd place in the 40-44 AG and in the end, finished 11th overall in the race (note - this was an AG only race with no pro field).   My final run time was 1:32:39, and you guessed it, another PB here at Muskoka (although this was the first time doing this new run course, which was likely a bit easier).

Muskoka 70.3 Run

My final finishing time was 1:44:52, which was an overall race PB by almost 10 minutes.

2016 Muskoka 70.3 Results

There turned out to be 5 spots awarded to my AG for the 2017 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and I decided to take the spot.   I've never been, so figured it would be cool to check it out.

So overall, pretty happy how this race turned out.   Next up is Xterra Parry Sound on July 23rd, so it's time to get back on the MTB to get ready.

Friday, July 8, 2016

2016 Mine over Matter Xterra Off road Triathlon Race Report

Race Date: June 25, 2016

Race Details: 
1000m Swim
21K Off road Mountain Bike
9.2K Trail Run

This was my first time dipping my toes into off road triathlon, and I must say, I was pretty excited.   This race was also a direct qualifier for the Xterra World Championship in Maui, Hawaii.   I'm not going to lie, I already had plans to go.   Hopefully racing, but if not, I'd planned on cheering on my buddy Steve Good who was pretty much going to make it no matter what.  

The race took place at the quarry at Kelso Conservation area in Milton at the top of the escarpment.   The swim was in the beautiful quarry, the bike on the Kelso mountain bike trails and then the run was also on the same mountain bike trails with a finish around the quarry.

I arrived pretty early and got all setup and chatted with various folks until it was go time.   

It was hot and dry leading up to the race (and has been ever since) so there was some concern the swim would be a non wetsuit, but in the end, they took the temperature at just the right spot and we were allowed to wear our suits.   

The male pros went first, then the female pros, then all AG men at 8:01.   My plan was to go out hard from the start to try and find feet and get clear of the chaos at the beginning of the swim start.   I was surprised that at 200m in, I was still stuck in a decent size group of swimmers, and I had lost contact with the feet I was hoping to stay on (Steve's).   Anyway, I kept swimming hard and eventually made my way back to the swim exit in around 15:25.   Aside from not getting the draft and pull around the course I was hoping for, the swim went ok.   

I tried to quickly get through transition, but I must say it was a bit different than a normal tri.  I put socks on for the bike and then put my MTB shoes on in T1 and ran with my bike to the mount line.

Once on the bike though, I started making my way through other athletes and this is quite a bit different than a normal tri where passing people is easy and fun.   In mountain biking, you can't just pass anywhere.   You need to find the right location and opportunity and hit it hard.   

The bike course was one short lap on the trails before coming back to transition and heading out for another longer loop.   

The ride went pretty well without many issues except I did have to stop and unclip a few times in some of the trickier sections, primarily the Rough Trade section.   I pre rode this section a week or so earlier with Steve and was ready to hit the good lines and rip through it, but when people in front of you stop and unclip, you're basically forced to do the same or crash!!

Once through this section, it was a bit easier to make passes and I continued to move through the field.   Once back to transition and starting the second longer lap, it was much more spread out.  I occasionally came across other athletes and was able to pass most when the time was right.   I felt pretty good throughout and felt like I had a good groove going on.  

I eventually made my way back to transition where I just passed my buddy Brandon Habermehl before heading in.   

Xterra Mine over Matter MTB Ride - Strava Link

T2 was a bit more like a normal tri, so this went pretty well.   Brandon and I left it together, but right away, he started to slowly pull away.

The race was pretty spread out at this point, as we made our way around the run course, which was basically similar to the first loop of the mountain bike ride (except the last 3K around the quarry).

All went well and I was feeling pretty good, pushing a decent pace.   As I exited the forest area and into the blazing sun and double track trail around the quarry, I noticed one athlete up ahead.   Eventually I caught up to him and yup, he was in my AG.   The good thing about this is that I knew he was in my AG, but he didn't know I was in his.   I found a spot where I felt like I could just drop the hammer for a bit and put in a good surge past him.   He immediately noticed that I was also in his AG and picked up the pace for sure and ran with me.   I just kept pushing pretty hard and eventually dropped him with a few K to go.   

In the end, this was a good thing, as there was no guarantee a 3rd the 40-44 AG was going to get a Maui spot.   Steve was still up ahead so I knew I had to fight to hold this spot.   I didn't know until I finished that I actually finished 2nd in the 40-44 AG and 3rd overall amateur behind Steve who took first and Brandon, who took second overall amateur but first in 35-39.

Xterra Mine over Matter Trail Run - Strava Link

I ended up finishing in 1:54:58 10th overall and 3rd amateur as mentioned.

Xterra Mine over Matter Sportstats Results

Finishing second behind Steve basically assured me of my Xterra Maui spot, as we were in the largest AG so I knew we were going to get another spot allocated to us.

Brandon Habermehl, Steve Good and myself  (top 3 amateurs 2016 Xterra Mine over Matter)

So overall, I was super happy how the race went, and that I got my Maui spot to race in October.  I am also doing the Parry Sound Xterra race with Steve, but with the spot locked up, I can go into this one relaxed and just have some fun.

2016 Xterra World Championship Bound!