Thursday, May 27, 2010

Happy Birthday!


That's right, my blog turns one today! And what a year it has been as I've shared my experiences of training and learning the ropes of elite-level triathlon.

We've shared the good times...


and the tough times...

And even times when my sarcastic sense of humour and arsehole opinions have (unintentionally) spurred public outrage and mass rioting. But through it all we've persevered and this blog has encapsulated my growth as an athlete and person. From no name age-grouper, to no name professional triathlete.

My goals last year were to win age group nationals and obtain my elite card (done and done), and this year's goals are even simpler: to make my ITU debut, and to come out alive.

It's been a fun year and this season promises to be even better than last. And I'll try not to break both my wrists (in two seperate bike crashes) this year. Thanks for reading, I'll work on coming up with happier and more worthwhile posts in the near future.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Poignant Reminder

60min recovery spin today, just out trying to find some half decent climbs around London. 5 minutes from home I was intentionally run off the road by an 18 wheeler, who promptly skidded his trailer through the gravel...just in case I was still upright.

Any cyclist in Ontario knows this is just part of the routine on training rides, and between reading the news and considering my own experience it seems to be getting worse. But this time it especially bugged me; not just because no less that five cyclists have been victims of vehicular homicide in the past two weeks in Canada.

Three years ago to the day I was having dinner with one of my best friends, who upon arriving home found that his mother had been struck and killed by a motorist on her bicycle. His tragedy was a shock to everyone, but especially hit home for me as I'm on my bike 12 hours a week, just trying to do something productive with my life, and have experienced countless examples of people who would rather risk murdering someone than add an extra six feet to their driving distance.

There is one single reason why cyclists are killed on the road. Drivers who are so stupid that their ignorance ends another person's life. Actually there is another reason: the provincial government is too busy with the largest tax increase in the history of Canada (despite being elected on the platform of no tax increases) to hear a bill that proposes a measly three-foot berth given to cyclists on the road.

It is probably those same unfathomably ignorant idiots who voted Liberal in the first place.

So today's angry ranting message is two-fold:
1. Dear drivers everywhere: contrary to popular belief, you do not own the road. Your ignorance kills, and by all accounts your idiocy is on the rise.
2. EVERYONE start giving a s**t about politics

Friday, May 21, 2010

Switching Gears

So I had my fun pretending to be a long course athlete for the past 4 months and traveling to an unforgettable race, now it's time to get serious. The last two weeks have been spent transitioning from base/strength training to prepping for the equally insane world of short course and my debut in elite racing.

As with most high-intensity training blocks, I felt superhuman for the first 10 days...until the residual fatigue sets in and all confidence is shattered. But after a few days of heavy legs and sluggish training I'm moving along well again. I was lucky enough to get a few workouts in with RTC Guelph (new name, same great squad) before they flew off to Ixtapa Mexico for Junior Patco/Cont. Cup. Good luck to everyone racing tomorrow!

In preparation for draft-legal racing I had a 400m swim time trial this week and learned two things: #1 I am getting faster, #2 I still suck. But I'm riding well and running is getting there too. Today's training was 2hr ride with 15k hard, then straight into 3km at 10k goal run pace, 10k easy. I negative split each km for a pretty effortless 9:48 3k...faster than my 10k pace but I'll take it!

Training alone for draft-legal racing can be quite tedious, but has forced me to develop a higher level of focus and accountability. And every new training block I start with Coach James forces me to rethink my idea of smart training and proper recovery. If triathlon incorporated recovery into competition I would be nationally carded. I've got my routine down to a science, it looks something like this:

1. Don't have a job
2. After every PM workout - stretch+core stability, ice bath, compression socks + Crocs recovery sandals, roll out the calves (some people spend money on TriggerPoint, "The Stick" and the like, I'm sure they work but due to step #1 I have no money, thus use a Nalgene bottle)
3. Eat a crapload of yummy food

There you have it, my recovery secrets. And so far its working well. Tomorrow is a well deserved day off after a solid week and my next race is Woodstock in two weeks.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Organic Money Grab

Going "green" seems to be the cool thing to do these days, regardless of the fact that the largest populations in the world have absolutely no practical legislative control on environmental issues, humans continue to contribute exponentially to Earth's natural carbon cycle, and no matter what your happy thoughts on the afterlife are the Sun is going to engulf our planet and wipe away any trace of us in about 1.5 billion years anyway.

So what's the moral of the story? Don't buy organic. It's been all the rage, particularly among the health-conscious population - including high performance athletes - for the past decade and created a market worth over $50 billion based on the promotion of a healthier and more natural product(1).

Scouring the plethora of information on diet and healthy eating available online from professional and high-performance athletes, including some of the most recognizable names in our sport, the trend towards buying strictly organic produce appears to be on the rise. While no one will directly attribute eating organic to better performance, the idea is that the "cleaner, healthier" option contributes to overall health, thus beginning the process of "healthy-->consistency-->performance."(2)

Nutritionists will often convince athletes that organic is the better choice for an elite-level competitor, despite the fact that organic foods are up to 40% more expensive than conventional produce, and many elite triathletes live on extremely tight budgets (3). The argument goes that "diet is no place to skimp."

The fact is organic produce has absolutely no health benefits in comparison to conventional food. The conclusive 2008 study by the London School of Hygeine found no quantitative benefit in spending more money for allegedly cleaner food, through a review of over 160 scientific papers on the matter (4). There has been no scientific study to conclusively demonstrate that organic produce has beneficial effects on the consumer's health.

That is not to say there is no benefit whatsoever to choosing organic produce. Stanford University found in 2006 that organic farms produce less waste and greenhouse emissions in comparison to conventional "factory farm" operations (5). Others will argue on a subjective basis that organic food tastes better. Unfortunately these marginal arguments are outweighed by the fact that organic produce yeilds approximately 20% less food per acre than traditional farming, and in a world that is quickly moving towards population crisis and climate change threatens the future of agriculture in lower latitudes...that's not a good thing.

In conclusion, my message to fellow triathletes: Leave organic to the hippies and those food connoisseurs who are wealthy enough afford organic and will gain a false sense of saving the Earth by doing so. No matter what you do, 99.1% of the Canadian food market (6) will continue to use "harmful" pesticides and destroy the environment to allow you to eat your 6000 calories per day without going bankrupt.

My advice? Certainly be conscious of what you eat, but don't waste your time and money on organic because popular opinion tells you it's the healthy choice. Choose wholesome (ie. whole grain) foods in their natural state (as opposed to processed) when possible, and tailor your caloric needs to your daily workout and recovery needs. Every athlete's dietary needs are different, but no one needs to waste their money on organic produce.

And if you want to feel good about yourself, buy locally from the guy in a straw hat on the highway. Chances are it will be cheaper and "cleaner" than the supermarket, and you can do your part to support the local economy.




Sources:

1. Daly, Jessica. Study: Organic food not more nutritional. http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/08/19/organic.cooking.pv/index.html Aug 21, 2008.
2. stolen from the decidedly expert coaching philosophy of Craig Taylor
3. Winter, CK and SF Davis, Organic Foods, Journal of Food Science 71(9) pp117–124. 2006.
4. Hirschler, Ben. Organic food is no healthier, study finds. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE56S3ZJ20090729 July 29, 2009
5. Fletcher, Anthony. Study supports benefits of organic food. http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Study-supports-benefits-of-organic-food Mar 6, 2007
6. Macey, Anne. "Retail Sales of Certified Organic Food Products in Canada in 2006". Organic Agriculture Center of Canada. 2007

Monday, May 10, 2010

"I had a job before this..."



Compression socks, ice packs, nap time, smoothies...what's missing? Awesome Canadian music for recovery purposes of course! Without a doubt the most awesome music I've posted.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Back to Work

Between tapering for St. Croix and a few easy days this week I haven't done any heavy training in almost two weeks now. Next week is the start of my training block leading up to my first ITU race at Coteau-du-Lac. I've been anxious to get started with it since about 5 minutes after my last 4-hour brick prior to St. Croix.

I had been hesitant to race Coteau given that its fairly early in the season and I'm unsure if my fitness will be where I want it for my ITU debut. But I've adopted the attitude that the race will be a trial by fire in preparation for national and continental championships later in the year. I have no expectations besides getting on the start line and giving it hell for two hours.

Despite not getting the result I was hoping for in my first attempt at a 70.3, the training leading up to the race went very well and I feel that I have a solid base to build on for the rest of the season. I signed up for it not because I wanted to do well, but because I knew it would be the hardest race I've ever done. I'm going into the next phase of training mentally stronger, more motivated, and with a need to redeem myself by training harder than ever.

Training alone has its drawbacks, but it has also given me focus and a more positive attitude on "the process". The pace clock at the UWO pool has become my best friend, and I'm relying on feedback from random drivers pulling up beside me during my hard intervals to yell "Dude you're doin' 49!!". But I'm far from the ideal training environment here, and I hope to move to Guelph full time this fall in hopes of having a better chance at realizing my potential in the sport.

Unfortunately I'm stuck in the unenviable position in the sport where I'm not yet at the level to attain funding, but the need for part-time work is cutting into my opportunity to train and recover to my fullest potential. The biggest lesson I've learned from St. Croix is a level of perspective and patience I lacked previously (frustrating more than one coach along the way). Success in this sport doesn't just happen, and if I want to make a living as a professional triathlete (thus achieving my life goal of never having a real job) its going to take years of consistent day-to-day hard work before I see a paycheque. But I'm not in this because its easy.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

You Can't See It...



but that's me behind Tim O'Donnell, lying on a stretcher with an ice towel on my face. My legacy from St. Croix! As seen on T-Racer's blog. Man those guys are tough, I have so much respect for them and everyone else who finished the race in those conditions.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tough Day at the Office

Well I guess there's a first for everything. St. Croix 70.3 didn't go as planned.

Race week on the island is unbelievable, and it makes the event something special. The race is a huge event on an otherwise very relaxed island, and having 500+ international athletes in town is a great excuse to party. I managed to relax and stay out of the sun for the most part, but I had time to have dinner with Crowie, Terenzo, and Tyler Butterfield, and met a few other world class pros around town throughout the week.

According to both athletes and those living on the island, this past week has been the hottest it has ever been here. Believe it or not St. Croix occasionally gets trade winds from the Sahara desert, and I've been lucky enough to experience them all week. Humidity has gone over 110 (close to 50 celsius) every day I've been here, and the only reprieve is brutally strong winds.

Race morning went according to plan, up at 4am and over to transition to set up. Felt great in my warmup and I was ready for a big day. I ended up swimming alone for the entire 2k, and despite feeling strong I had a pretty embarrassing swim time. Maybe because it was my first ocean swim and got thrown around a bit...maybe because I don't know how to swim. Who knows?

I hopped on my bike and tried to put the swim out of my head, while also trying to get the salt out of my mouth (mints taped to the top tube = awesome idea) and the blood back into my legs. I wasn't feeling great but got into a decent rhythm through the first 20k, then got to the rollercoaster section. Leading up to "The Beast" there is about 10km of overall down grade along the coast with some amazing, beautiful, and very technical descents along with a few quick uphills. The Beast is definitely a tough climb and its where the heat first hits you, but I survived...at about 9km/h.

The descent from the beast is a fun one too, until you hit the insane headwinds that you have to deal with for the next 40km. I rode well up to 70k where there is a series of tough climbs to the finish, and that's where things get serious (including a 2k climb @ 10% at km 86). I backed off a little over the last 20k and came into transition with a 2:41 bike split feeling reasonably fresh.

I felt decent going onto the run, trying to block out how stupidly hot it is. The run course is very hilly and happens to be almost completely out of the wind, so you get the full brunt of the heat on the black tar road. I backed off my goal pace, thinking that if I felt ok later I would push the second lap. But the wonderful thing of long course racing...you're always dealt the unexpected.

At 5k I started throwing up everything I tried to drink. I tried to push through it but I couldn't keep anything down and by 8k I knew I was getting in trouble if I couldn't get any liquid in me. I'm sure it looked interesting as my back cramped up every time I bent over to throw up. My run became "get to aid station, grab ice and water, drink, throw up, get to next aid station." By the end of the first lap I had enough of it and called it a day for my first DNF ever!

I decided that it wasn't worth reaggrivating my back problems or getting into some serious dehydration trouble just to finish another 10k of hobbling along at 5min k's holding my back every time I threw up. I'll leave it up to debate whether I went too hard early, if I wasn't prepared for such a tough race, or if it was as simple as my body not agreeing with me today. Whatever it was, I wasn't about to sacrifice any training with a big season of racing ahead.

I headed straight for medical, where I refused to take an IV (needles are the enemy) and saw that Crowie had dropped out too...which made me feel a little better. Over half the pro women's field dropped out as well and it was unanimous that this was the hardest year in recent memory, on the hardest 70.3 course in the world. To put things in perspective, the fastest run time today was 1:20, Terenzo was nearly 20 minutes slower here than last week in Texas, and Tyler Butterfield ran a minute per mile slower than last week.

Some final thoughts:
I finally realized that at my age, long course racing is really quite stupid. I signed up for this race for some fun motivation to get through base training alone in London, and my training and tough experience here has definitely made me stronger. But I need many more years of fitness before making another worthwhile attempt at being competitive in a 70.3. I guess I learned the hard way that short course is my focus for a long time to come. I've got my first ITU race in 7 weeks, its time to get down to business and get fast.

Despite the forgettable result, I want to thank everyone who supported me leading up to this race. And in particular a big thanks to my homestays Bill and Mal, who made it an awesome week in paradise, even though things didn't go to plan today. Back home tomorrow and back to training later this week.