Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Season Wrap Up

I like to do this every season, for myself as much as anyone, as a look back at the past season and reflect on all of the ups and downs of the year. Sure it was a short tri season, and my upcoming trip to NZ for ITU World Champs (as loyal spectator and team mechanic) means no fall run races, but 2012 was still quite the journey. Here are a few photos from this season:
Good Friday Road Race: After taking on a full-time job (saying goodbye to living the dream) and my own training programming through the fall and winter, I had no idea what to expect when it came time to test my fitness leading up to Ironman 70.3 St. Croix. Turns out I had some legs on the bike! Despite the sub-zero temperature (while I was acclimating to 40+ degree weather) I controlled much of the race and took 3rd.

Ironman 70.3 St. Croix: What a difference from last time I raced St. Croix when I melted in the 50 degree humidity. Cold and rainy, and I flatted out on the debris-covered bike course. At least I get to say that I raced beside Lance (literally...he was bib # 7)

Leamington Tomatoman: Some proof of all the laps I put in over the winter. Second onto the bike at AG Provincials and lead for about 12k of the bike.

This is about where my strong racing ended in Leamington. A foot injury held me back on the run...not that I was going to catch Lionel Sanders anyway, who ran 15:30.

Welland Half Iron: I pushed my luck a little on the bike in my first crack at truly racing the distance. My swim-bike was about 2:52.

Man I was smashed at the finish, but I finished! 4:28. I can't wait to nail that run next time and take some serious time off.
I really wish there was some photo evidence from Huronia looking all bloody and tough...oh well. Instead here is a photo of Amanda kicking some ass in Gravenhurst! She has already racked up two overall wins this year and will be racing AG Worlds later this year. Look forward to some picture posts from that event!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I Can't Think of a Title

Perhaps hitting my head knocked some sense into me, or maybe I've just had some time to think...since I don't have much else to do.

First off I want to thank everyone for the support I have recieved throughout what has been a difficult and, for the most part, disappointing summer. And yes, at some points I chose to ignore the support when athletes and coaches were telling me what I finally heard from the doctors after a month of procrastination.

If something could possibly go wrong to prematurely end a race, hold me back from my potential, or mess up a race schedule, it has happened to me this year. I'm not one to dwell on the negatives or look for excuses, but those around me know that everything that has happened this summer has been out of my control. Not that there isn't anything to take from all of the experiences.

I really thought this season was going to be a huge stepping stone in my career as an athlete. Through the winter and spring I trained harder and with more focus than ever, and my road and running races definitely showed that. I hopped in a road race in the middle of a 400km week of riding and found the podium, then got some more hardware and prize money at my first ever half marathon, then ran a 16:59 5k in base training (and had a 4-hour indoor brick session immediately after). Not to mention setting numerous PB's in the pool. I had the most incredible trip down to St Croix for my A-race with Amanda, where I flatted out. Then there was personal tragedy. I raced well in Leamington but could not help but be disappointed when leg craps and a foot injury held me back on the run. Then things started to turn around with the Welland Half - not the race of my life, but a proud moment and plenty of room to improve. Then, for the first time in my life I crashed out of a race...and here I am.

When I think of my successes in this sport I don't have much trouble generating a list; partially because not having much of an athletic background I am proud of where I have taken myself, but mostly because that list is not very long. And I don't mean that to be overly self-critical. But if I were to think of my proudest accomplishments in my career as a triathlete it would look something like this:

1. 2007, my first year in the sport and having no idea what to expect let alone how to train, I set two goals for myself. Do a half ironman and qualify for Age Group Worlds. I did both.

2. 2009 I was offered the opportunity to train with the Provincial Triathlon Center for the summer. I quit my job, moved to Guelph and had my best season of training, capped off by winning AG Nationals and getting my elite card.

3. 2012 my one and only highlight from the year, I finally broke my streak of bad luck at the half ironman distance and finished one, breaking 4:30

Throwing aside all expectations and pressure that comes with (mostly self-induced) the "status" of professional triathlete, those three experiences are what I draw upon most when searching for motivation or direction. After a season like I have had, I can't help but look back and try to figure out where to go from here. My contrast to that list above would be my season goals and expectations from the last three years:

2010 - I pissed vinegar in my first year with my pro card, and despite my motivation I posted a DNF in both of my two A-races that year. My best results were a couple local podiums and a 9th place 2:04 at the Montreal Esprit Olympic.

2011 - DNS at my A-race in an inconsistent year but at least managed to race to my potential a few times and picked up two small wins.

2012 - My goals were to finish in the top-15 at 70.3 St. Croix and win the Multisport Canada series prize money. I flatted in St. Croix, and you know the rest of the story.

There are definitely some positives I have taken from my short season this year. First off is my swimming. I have never been a swimmer and it has always been my weakness in this sport. It took me two years to realize that a sub-20 1500m wasn't "just going to happen", and I have worked my ass off in the pool for the last 10 months. The result was 3 open water PB's and very consistent swim splits at all my races - all between 1:27-1:29 over all distances. Sure there is a lot of room to improve, but I am damn proud of that. And I'm looking forward to putting more km's in over the fall and winter.

The second thing I have learned this year, in terms of my motivation is that 1. I am in fact capable of racing a half, and 2. it is by far my favourite distance to race, but more importantly train for. I would ride 700km a week if I could. But I also realized that I don't need a pro card or an expensive destination event to have a passion for training and feel the sense of accomplishment from finishing.n My short-term goals and plans for next season are much simpler than they have been over the last couple years. I have nothing to prove to anyone because I have pro beside my name on the results. In fact I don't even care if I'm racing elite; I probably put more hours in at work than the average age group athlete and I make one fifth as much as the average Ironman athlete.

So my goal in training is to pick races that are motivating and lend to what my body and mind thrive on (ie. long distance), and my goals in racing are to do the ones I like and where I can measure my success by personal gains rather than results. My long terms goals have not changed, and regardless of my focus I still want to break that 20-minute 1500, be first off the bike, or run a 33 minute 10k. But the kind of goals I have are the kind that might take ten years to achieve, and I'm sick of racing myself into the ground every year. So you may not see me on a Rev3 or ITU start line next year, but you can expect me to race like hell at the ones I am at. I still have some decompressing to do, and it will still be a while before I can get on track for next season, but I already have a pretty good idea of what I want the year to look like. The most important part being training hard and racing fast.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


I'm going to give this one away right at the beginning...this will be my last race report. Not ever, just this season. But more on that later.

Last weekend, after a month of battling inconsistency in training, and seven weeks after finishing my last race, I finally FINALLY got the chance to toe the line again. It was back to beautiful Muskoka for Multisport Canada's Bracebridge event. After watching this one last summer I had been excited all year for this venue. Its a very unique event with a time trial swim winding around the bends of the Muskoka River, then a tough bike course and fast run.

I have never done a time trial start but I was looking forward focusing completely on my own race, especially with it being my first one back and knowing full well it wouldn't be easy. Usually the pros are given the lowest start numbers, and not that I need or deserve special treatment, but it was a bit of a surprise when my registration wasn't found and I was given #290. So I would be starting behind the old ladies and would race through everyone, being sent off 5 seconds at a time.

By the time the leaders were getting out of the water I was just starting my swim warmup. But it was actually nice to take all the pressure off and make the race a 2 hour time trial without worrying about anyone else. And it was also nice to know that Amanda was starting 150 places ahead and based on the time gaps I knew I would go by her at some point.

So I had a nice relaxing start to the race, not having to sprint the first 200. As I worked my way down river then back up I got to see all of the swim strokes of the Balance Point athletes I have come to recognize, thanks to Coach Gabbi having us always swimming loops (ie. through each other) in open water workouts.

I got out with what felt like a good swim, and turns was! 21:54, I think my best open water 1500. And I passed over 100 people in the water. My plan on the bike was to push but not too hard so I had some legs left to run 10k. I continued to work my way through the field, not having any idea how I was doing relative to the leaders who were 30 minutes up the road. Having worked on my position throughout the summer I was really comfortable on the bike but I could tell I didn't have the same power as I'm used to. I like nothing more in training than banking big miles on the bike, and I definitely could feel the lack of miles in my legs. But it was a big motivator to see the bright pink Rudy Project helmet of Amanda up the road, and I tried to give her a few words of encouragement as I rode by (and almost got taken out by a car in the process). I continued to ride smart but ended up with a pretty rough bike split, probably about 5 minutes slower than I would have wanted.

I got off the bike feeling fresh and my legs actually felt pretty good as I went off for my first Olympic run in over a year (it seems to be a distance I neglect a bit). I wanted to start conservative and build to a 36-ish min run. Nothing crazy but I would have been happy with that given the summer I have had. So I locked in at 3:40 pace and the first 5k flew by. As I made the turn back I started to pick it up and surprisingly I had no problem doing so. And then the wheels fell off. At 7k my quads started to cramp up and it would not go away. I tried to loosen up while running (which according to witness accounts looked pretty ridiculous) until I had no choice but to stop and stretch it out. I got going again pretty quickly but that was all the fitness I had to give. I stumbled back in with a slow run but thrilled to actually cross a finish line!

And then it got even worse.

Prior to the race, series director John Salt (a good friend and the best series director in the world) made me promise him that I would see a specialist about my concussion before entering another one of his races. He gave me a name for a good doctor and I begrudginly finally saw a professional about this. Turns out that I am still experiencing post-concussive symptoms, which have gotten worse since racing. Despite trying to be cautious I did not take it seriously enough the first time around and now I'm really paying for it...but I'm going to really do it right this time. No training until further notice. Absolutely no racing any time soon. I shouldn't even be looking at a computer screen for this long...

Its still sinking in that its August and my season is over, and I can't even "take it easy" and hook up with the roadies for the rest of the summer. But part of me knew all along that something has been off this whole time, and its comforting to know that it wasn't just a complete loss of motivation to continue with this sport. As I have said before, a concussion is not like any other injury where you can develop a prognosis or train through it. And it doesn't matter that mine was relatively minor. The symptoms I'm experiencing - headache, dizzyness, and feeling totally spaced out all the time - will simply not go away if I don't take it seriously right now.

So its time for a little couch surfing (not too much TV though) and taking the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and after some decompressing, planning out a fun, long and motivating season next year. I already have some ideas but I'm not going to throw anything out there until I have some real time to take it all in and do it right. I'm tired of losing motivation half way through the summer, half assing race schedules and throwing in events when I'm bored. I want to continue improving and moving up, and continue on my direction in this sport.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Recent Thoughts

I promise I have some updates, but first I want to share something with you:

“The men’s side is a little more bleak to be honest with you”

"There's only going to be one Simon Whitfield ever for the sport of triathlon in this country and we have him "

If you didn't know already, us Canadians had a rough go in the triathlon events in London. It started with Kathy Tremblay crashing out and Paula's sub-par race that became a national catastrophe. It's a really touchy subject so I don't want to get too involved, but here are my brief thoughts. I do not know if Paula was still injured, how her rehab was going, or what was going on with her coaches. I do know that Simon Whitfield, who was admittedly far more personally involved in her result that I, dealt with the situation very poorly by immediately turning to Twitter to place the blame - regardless of how Paula's recovery went. Then TriCan embarrassed themselves in front of the world by calling out Paula as a "terrible patient" in her recovery process.

I also know that Paula forgot to put her helmet on in T1. Like the rest of Canada I felt awful for her as she was crying crossing the finish line. But she was not prepared to race. Whether it was physical or mental, and whatever the underlying reasons may be, she simply did not have the fitness or the mental resolve to get herself together after she missed lead pack. I know how hard it is to know you are racing for 20th place in a draft-legal race, and unfortunately she has never had that feeling before until the Olympics, and she couldn't handle it.

And man, it was tough to see Simon crash. There's no question he is one of my role models in the sport, and to see someone you look up to so much look as stunned as I would watching my bike bounce down the road...knowing exactly what's going through is mind: "there goes my Olympics." That hurts. And then everyone has forgotten that Brent and Kyle were racing too, but were on the wrong end of the split and ran like hell for 25th and 27th place finishes.

But more importantly than all of that, I am sick to my stomach reading Alan Trivett's media comments following both of their races. As the president of Triathlon Canada and essentially Canada's spokesperson for Canadian triathlon at the Olympics, I am insulted that he would put something like that out there. No, I am not on the radar screen for national team talent scouting and I'm not even racing ITU. Hell, I can barely even finish a race this year. But as a Canadian elite athlete it bothers me that they would rather make excuses for their utter lack of talent identification since Simon won in Sydney 12 years ago, than tell us what they are going to do about it. It took this "crisis" for them to realize how focused they have been on one or two athletes, and their response is "you're welcome for Simon, but don't get your hopes up any time soon." How about looking at all the young kids in this country who have been inspired by such a champion? Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Now that I have said enough to possibly be denied my International Competition Card next season...I'll tell you how things have been going for me!

I have been really bad with updating this thing so far this summer. I think part of it has been from my lack of racing and struggle to find consistency in training before trying to consistenly post about my training. But it has been a few weeks since my last post and over a month since my last race so I figured it was time to say something.

The past month has been a struggle in just about every way. I was forced to miss racing in Gravenhurst and essentially let go of any thoughts on winning prize money this year, and since then I have had to do a lot of soul searching to regain any motivation to train or race again this year. I was back to training pretty soon after my spill, but probably a little too soon. Huronia was only two weeks after the Welland half, a race that I put a ton of stock in physically and emotionally. I planned on jumping in Huronia just for the hell of it to try and pick up some series points. Then I desperately wanted to feel good enough to race the next weekend. After that I tried desperately to get "fast" after a few months of gearing up for long course.

That leads to about two weeks ago, when I found myself with absolutely no motivation to get my ass off the couch and train. And when I did force myself out the door, my body would give out 20 minutes into a workout. I was pretty close to packing it in for the season, buying a mountain bike and not looking at pavement for a few months.

Fortunately with some good coaches and support from athletes I took the better part of a week off training and hit the reset button on my attitude. And finally, after a month of contemplation and scattered workouts (and some really good sessions) I am racing this weekend!


Sure it hasn't been the greatest block of training, then again it hasn't been the greatest year of results thus far. But I'm not letting myself fall into the trap of only racing when I think I'm fast enough. Maybe I won't have the best race of my life...but maybe I will. And I'm racing next weekend too. My hip still hasn't healed and the swelling on my elbow still doesn't feel very good on my aerobar pads. But racing is fun, and I do triathlons because they are fun. So I will actually update more than once this month and let everyone know how things are going as I get back on the horse (White Stallion is P3's name actually) and find some more positives in this season. Talk soon!