Friday, September 27, 2013

Because Pictures Are Less Boring

 Well, its off season. And so far it has been successful, if success is measured by not getting really fat and not going stir crazy. I had been planning on a bit of a run focus through the fall but I have to wait for a few minor things to heal up before putting in big run mileage. So for now I'm busy planning the crap out of next season, and reflecting on a fun and full 2013 season. Lots of fun adventures and new looked something like this:

 Tour of Bronte - 60k road race, half gravel roads. I have never suffered like that on a bike before. Average power for first 30min was around 330W, and about 5 watts below my FTP for 90 minutes of racing. Managed to get myself in good position for the sprint (and a cool photo), but as always, I was impatient and went too early. Still won my entry fee back!
Run for Retina 10k. Unfortunately sub-13 minutes was not my official time
MSC Woodstock, first tri in about 10 months. Great swim, good bike, bad cramp on the run.

I needed a confidence boost on my run before Mont Tremblant 70.3, so I raced Guelph Lake 8 days out. Probably my best all around race all summer!
What an experience Mont Tremblant was...venue, race organization, and my race. Another good swim, one of my best rides ever (except for the flat!), and a baby step forward on the run.
Smile has progressed to pain face....
And now sleepy time face. Finishing time there is not correct :)
Another interesting experience, my first off-road tri! I was so proud to race on my newly built custom Niner Air9. Survived the bike in insane conditions and ran well to claim a National AG win.
Two weeks later, this time Olympic distance Nationals. This is about where my race got better.
I had an ok swim, poor bike, and was ready to pack it in mentally. Then I got some great support in T2 and got my act together and ran well.
K-Town Long Course steed's glamour shot
Managed a good swim despite a rough start
Out of T1 in good position, but I never found my biking legs.
Finished strong, but more importantly I learned how to suffer through a tough day in a long course race. Good lesson heading into my big race for the season.

Muskoka 70.3. My biggest victory with this race was how well I trained leading up to it. Had fun on race day and got my spot for Worlds next year.
Looks like I've made the transition to long course...visor on, gels in race belt, running slow.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Thank You

I wanted to start off my post with that because there were so many people who helped me get through Muskoka. Like Coach James for pushing me right to the edge in my training and nailing my prep and taper…my mom for occasionally fronting the cost of this ridiculously expensive sport…my amazing girlfriend Amanda for being the best spectator on course…and to everyone who gave me a message, comment or “like” on facebook, email and twitter leading up to and throughout my race. I didn’t even know I had that many friends!

I decided to race Muskoka just a few days after finishing the Mont Tremblant 70.3. While I didn’t quite have a “perfect” day in Tremblant I was undeniably hooked on the feeling of making baby steps towards learning and improving myself over the 70.3 distance. I wanted to be in control of my bike effort over the whole 90k, NOT GET A FLAT TIRE, pace my run well to avoid quad cramps, and most importantly try to grab one of the earliest qualifying spots for 2014 World Championships…which are in Mont Tremblant. I dedicated the rest of my summer to accomplishing these things.

But first things first, the day before my race Amanda and I went up to Wasaga Beach for one of the final Multisport Canada races of the season. On the morning of her race the weather really couldn’t have been much crappier, but she sucked it up and showed some serious focus and determination to post a well deserved run PB and another overall podium and AG win. Not to mention her dad who also dominated is AG once again. As soon as awards ended we were off to Hunstville for day #2 of a crazy weekend to end a long and busy season. I was lucky enough (or just diligent enough in my planning) to get a last minute room at the host hotel so race morning was pretty easy…taking the elevator down to transition.

Of course a 70.3 wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of race morning panic…and for me it was realizing that I didn’t pick up my timing chip at registration the day before. But I managed to track it down in the morning without too much difficulty. The hardest part of my pre-race was deciding on my bundle-up plan for the bike – it was nice and sunny but below 10 degrees getting out of the water. I decided on socks and toe warmers, and throwing on a dry bike jersey over my tri kit, with gloves and arm warmers in the back pockets in case it was really cold on the fast descents. Quick warmup and I was feeling really good.

Swim: 29:36 (1:29/100m)

I took the swim start out a little more conservatively than I usually do (I tend to champ the start) as I didn’t want to go anaerobic in the first 30 seconds of a 4-5 hour race. There was a bit of rough housing in the first 200m but I managed to keep my effort controlled and build throughout the course. I could tell my stroke was there and I was feeling good, and thanking Coach James in my head for getting me to the start line feeling strong and fresh. Despite a bit of crappy navigation on the back stretch trying to get around the swarms of scissor kickers from the earlier waves, the swim seemed to fly by and I was done before I knew it. I ended up swimming almost exactly the same as Tremblant and Kingston this year, but at a much more controlled effort and I couldn’t wait to get up the insanely long hill to get on my bike.

Bike: 2:41 (35.1 km/h)

I couldn’t help but laugh at myself with how long my transition took, taking off my wetsuit and putting on a full wardrobe of clothing before getting on with it. But I’m glad that I was prepared for the cold weather and had a specific plan when I got to my bike, it made my ride infinitely more comfortable. And somehow my T1 time was still much faster than most.

It was a great feeling to get on my bike and actually have to back off my power, compared to my last couple races in which I’ve really struggled to get my legs going. Although my 2:41 bike split doesn’t seem to be anything impressive I was really happy with every aspect of my ride. I rode technically very well, passing a ton of people on the descents and safely getting through sections where there were a lot of crashes. But most importantly I maintained my power targets on the uphills AND downhills. I’m really amazed at how much a power meter helps on a tough course like that, it made the course actually feel much flatter. I can’t even count the number of athletes who I would pass on a flat section, then see them grind back past me on an uphill, just for me to drop them again at the top and never see them again. All I could think was “you just added a minute to your run time right there.”

I was careful not to overgear the hills and keep my power below 300W on the way up, knowing that the real race starts about 10k into the run. I was comfortable in the aero position, even on all but the steepest climbs and judging simply by the speed at which I was passing everyone I knew I was riding well.  Through the first 60k I was starting to wonder what all the fuss was about this bike was beautiful, I was in complete control and having a blast. Then I turned a corner at 62k and found all the hills.

The last 30k of the course was definitely the hardest section and I struggled at times to stay focused, but for the most part I managed to hold it together without digging too deep. Through the last 10k I purposely brought my power down a bit…I was paranoid about feeling ok getting off the bike. And I managed to successfully pee myself while riding. This may seem ridiculous but when you’re on the run course and your body is looking for every excuse to stop running just for a second, having to pee does not help the mental battle.

I got off the bike feeling better than I ever have in a 70.3, despite the extra 4km of riding and 1000m of climbing. My goal was to average 240-245W and I was at 242 (3.41W/Kg)…a little more conservative than my ride in Mont Tremblant but my goal was a strong run so I executed my ride exactly how I wanted to. More importantly…NO FLAT TIRE!!!! That was the main goal of my ride, and I accomplished it J

Run: 1:32:59 (4:24/km)

Heading into T2 I wasn’t exactly sure my placing in my age group but I only saw one or two bikes on my rack in transition. As I got onto the run course I bottled up some motivation from friends cheering, and saw James who told me to stay relaxed and try to pick it up on the way back. My goal was to run 1:30 and it took me a few conscious efforts to slow down to that pace, which on the flats felt ridiculously easy.

At about 5k in the lead bike came the opposite direction past me. From a distance I thought to myself, “that guy doesn’t look like Raelert.” And the closer we got to each other, I realized it was in fact my old LPC Florida Camp sparring partner (he always won) Lionel Sanders, leading the race at 16k!  And not just leading, he had over a mile on Andreas Raelert. Holy shit! I know how hard that guy works and I was thrilled for him that he was going to get the win. I yelled some encouragement but had to relax myself after seeing him and tried to refocus.

Just as I was getting to a really quiet section of the course around 6k some of the mental demons were starting to creep in. Lucky for me, I have the best spectator ever. Who else but Amanda and her Balance Point cheering squad drove out to the middle of nowhere on the course to give me a big mental boost heading out to the turnaround!! I assumed that she was somewhere near transition and I had blocked out her cheering trying to stay focused, so it was a pretty awesome surprise. She told me that I was 6th in my age group and was looking strong. I thought I was a little higher up but it was good reassurance that I was still within the top-7 to get a qualifying spot in my age group.

Only a few hundred meters later I passed an athlete in my age group (the one and only athlete who passed me on the bike course) who was now walking. Top-5, that’s a little better. I drew some strength knowing that I was moving up. The section from 6k to 10k (and back from 11-15k) was likely the hardest part of the run, but I got through it ok and unlike in Tremblant when it seemed like I was running FOREVER to get to the turnaround, it seemed to come relatively quickly. I was a few seconds ahead of my goal pace, but I was still feeling pretty good and brought my pace down to 4:00/km for the next few k’s. Back through the steepest climbs, my quads were just on the edge of cramping up, but actually loosened up on the downhills and I was still right around my goal pace.

Around 15k I saw another athlete ahead who was in my age group, but just as I came up behind him I started to get light headed and dizzy. I still had one of my three gels left, but it was close to 2km until the next aid station where I could get water to wash it down. I was desperate for some sugar but the thought of another (8th) double latte gel was too much to handle without water. I rested for a few seconds before picking it up to pass the athlete but my pace dropped to 4:30s as I worked through my roughest patch of the race. Since I chose not to bank any time in the first half of the run I knew my run goal was starting to slip. When I got to the next aid station they were only serving athletes on the other side of the course, but my frustration actually got me back in gear a bit. I know that if and when I learn to stay focused through this section of a half marathon my run times will improve even more.

I managed to finally get to the next aid station where I took everything they were offering, and almost immediately I felt better and got my pace back up. Just as I got over one of the final hills James was out on the course and assured me that I had a spot locked up…he also gave some more coaching advice, probably something like “RUN FASTER” but all my brain heard was “its still really far to the finish line!” I dragged my ass over the last hill at 20k and enjoyed the finish much more than I have in my previous half irons. I ended up missing my run goal by 2 minutes, but I can’t be disappointed with that over such a tough course...and still 2 minutes faster than my run in Tremblant. I know my potential is there to run really well over this distance and it will slowly come through with more experience.

It didn’t really occur to me until after just how tough this course is…its not like there are any individual insane climbs like in St. Croix or the Rev3 Quassy run course, not even anything as difficult as the 70-80k section of the Mont Tremblant bike course. But it’s a relentless course that gradually gets harder and harder throughout the race. But I knew that I didn’t sign up for an easy one, and I couldn’t be happier with my execution. My pacing was a little smarter, my nutrition was a little better, and my rough patches are getting shorter and less rough every time I do a half. I know that I still have a lot more potential to get my times faster as I get more strength and experience with the distance, but for now I’m just fine with baby steps each time.

I ended up 4th out of 105 people in a very competitive age group, and locked up my spot for Worlds next year. Its great to have a full year to dedicate towards one race, and I’ll continue chipping away at this distance until then. But for now this feels like a good time to end the season…on a good note with lots of motivation rather than racing until I’m completely burned out, as I usually do.

Once again I want to thank everyone who helped me through this one, it was one of my most memorable races for the support, the course and my effort.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

More Race Reports!

Wow the summer is flying by way too fast! As most triathletes do, I define my summer by the number of races I do, the destinations I've gone to, and the quality of my performances. So by those standards so far this summer has been pretty spectacular race wins, no exotic destinations, but I've been really happy with my performances and seen some good improvements, and still been to some cool events with good company.
After my "fun" block of training after Tremblant leading into XC Nationals, it was time to get some speed in my legs. So here's a brief recap on that. In the past I have really struggled and/or burned myself out trying to flip the switch from lots of endurance and tempo to speed. I love the former, and generally dread the latter. But this year I've benefitted from training smarter and having another year of fitness so the transition was much easier.
The first race in my "speed" block was Age Group Nationals in Toronto
I had a good start with mostly clean water but just missed the main pack of contenders in the first 400m, either from lack of focus or swim speed. I spent the next 400 chasing like hell to catch them and at one point got within a couple seconds before it spread out again. So I settled into my own pace and eventually lost about 45 seconds to the group. Fortunately my "bad" swims are significantly better than they used to be so I was still ok with a 22:50 swim on quite a stupid swim course. Not my best 1500, but I'll take it.
I kind of picked up on the bike where I left off in the swim. Leaders up the road, trying like hell to make up some ground but my legs said no. Looking at my power data later it was significantly lower than I had hoped for and was disappointed that I have the potential to ride much faster than I did. But during the ride I decided to stop looking at my power and focus on staying aero and smooth and just get the bike done as quickly as possible.
(photo courtesy of Mario Rozansky)
Getting off the bike I hadn't yet made up my mind as to whether I was going to forget about the swim and bike and focus on the fact that I was still on pace for a great overall time...or mope and give up mentally. Lucky for me I was inundated with support and people yelling my name as I came through T2. The support was amazing and it inspired me to champ T2, and once on the run course I didn't have much choice but to keep up that pace.
Surprisingly my legs responded on the run and I settled into a decent rhythm through the first 3k. When I caught sight of the first athlete ahead of me I picked it up and started to feel strong at 5k. I drew some strength from the pass and set my sight on the next one, and worked my way through a number of runners. I kind of knew that I was having a good run and did not want the opportunity to slip away.

(photo: Theirry Guertin/his lovely wife and personal photographer Corinne)
Despite not having my best swim or bike, and despite just missing my 10k run split PB by a few seconds, I set a new Olympic distance PB and felt great all the way through the run. The support on course was amazing and teamLPC won the club challenge with our team's overall performances and picked up some good prize money! Not to mention Amanda also had a great race with a crazy fast bike split and took a podium spot at Nationals...strong chicka :)
Next up was K-Town Long Course two weeks later. I did K-Town in 2009 as a spur of the moment decision to keep my race motivation high while I was training with PTC Guelph that summer. I think every year since I've talked about doing the race again, and somehow 4 years have passed since. It really is a gem of a race with a ton of history (this year was the 30th anniversary!) and its always insanely competitive.
With the calibre of athletes on the start line I had no intention of trying to get in a lead pack or hanging onto anyone's feet, I just wanted to swim my own swim especially knowing that the 2km out and back course can be very choppy and disorienting.
Unfortunately I kind of threw that plan out the window right away with the first turn buoy less than 100m in. I wanted to get out of the congestion around the first turn but probably burned one too many matches. I spent the rest of the "out" section just trying to recover and settle into a smooth stroke.
I started the negative thought train of "why did I start so hard...why isn't this easier...when the hell is the turn around". But I gave myself a mental kick in the ass and found my swim form on my way back in. I remembered how long and awful this swim felt last time I did it and focused on getting through it better this time, even though the water was pretty rough again.
I got out of the water with a big group including a few pros, right on 30 minutes (and 5 minutes faster than last time!!) which I'm really happy with given the conditions and mental battle. Its pretty rare that I get GOOD surprises with my swim times...usually when I have to work really hard to get through a swim my time goes out the window. So I'll take it!


Onto the bike I kind of knew that I probably worked harder than I should have in the swim. But more on that later.

Through the first few k on the bike I was having similar trouble as in Toronto trying to get my power up early. Its not a great way to start a bike, especially a longer distance race, to be trying to force the numbers so early. I eventually managed to find some power but once again I don't think I really rode to my potential, especially given the numbers I am putting up in training. But Coach James and I have a plan to sort all that out before the next one. I also think part of long course racing is not only gaining experience with the distance but learning to translate training numbers into racing speed with all the variables over longer distances. My focus turned to just getting through the ride feeling ok, and I accomplished that finishing the (slightly shortened) bike with good endurance.

I was really excited to get on the run and see what I could do, but I was probably a little overconfident with my pacing strategy. I tried to keep things in check but starting out faster than my 10k pace may have been a little rich. I hit a serious wall at 4k and on came the negativity again "I trained too hard this week...I don't want to do anymore races this summer...I'm going to run over 60mins and I will hate myself forever." I was really close to walking up one hill until I convinced myself to try to hold it together. The turnaround at 7.5k came faster than I thought (partially because my stupid Garmin 10 told my I hadn't hit 6k yet) and when I made the turn I cleared my head and just picked up my feet.

When I took some time checks at the km marks I saw that I still had a chance to get under 1hr if I held it together, and sure enough I started to feel better heading back. At about 11k the long course run passed the short course run turnaround and I drew some motivation from passing people, even if they were near the back of a completely different race. I kept telling myself that the finish will come faster than I think so don't save anything up. And I was right! My best part of the race was my last 3km, and my official run time was 59:59...WOOHOO...although that also included T2 :) I was actually about 30sec slower than my last time here, likely because I paced much more conservatively last time, or I didn't realize until now how well I must have run then!

 (this is exactly how glamorous a long course finish is)
Overall it was not my best race ever, or fastest split time of any distance. But once again I'm happy with the result. When I decided to sign up for Muskoka 70.3, this race went from a high priority race to a really solid training event. Without even knowing or thinking about it during the race, I got exactly what I needed out of it. I took some risks with pacing which I will learn from and certainly won't be as reckless over the 70.3 distance, and when s**t hit the fan I won all of my mental battles and had a good swim and run...and a not bad bike. I know what needs work in the next 4 weeks and I'm excited to give Muskoka a go - the first time I have done two 70.3s in one year.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mine Over Matter XC Tri

I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t sure about getting my blog rolling again after so long away from writing…even after writing my last race report for Mont Tremblant. But I like racing too much to stay away from writing about my experiences.

Last weekend I decided to race the Mine Over Matter off-road tri in Milton, which happened to be named the first ever Canadian National Championships for the discipline. I had been planning it as part of my race schedule all year as a bit if a mid-season mental break from the grind after spending so much time on the roads for Mont Tremblant. So the timing worked well, not to mention I don’t have a rear wheel for my tri bike anyway!

So I spent the two weeks after Tremblant hitting the trails trying to prep for a completely different style of racing. Training went fairly well given that it was still a bit of a recovery period, and I tried to soak in as much technical practice and leg strength as possible in less than 10 days of prep. I even went to preview the Milton course a week early with fellow London athletes Alex Vanderlinden and his coach Cliff Warden-Rogers. It was invaluable to see the trail and find our lines, and good practice to ride with some guys that know how to thrown around a mountain bike.

My swim got off to a bit of a rough start as I tried to mix in with the 6-7 pro men there and promptly got one side of my goggles knocked off and swallowed some water. Guess I was due for it as I’ve had very clean starts so far this year. Despite only racing two weeks ago I felt sluggish and struggled to focus. But I got my goggles fixed then I relaxed on some feet for the first 500m before finding my stroke and picking off swimmers through the last 500. Not my best swim but no need to stress!

(photo courtesy of Alex & Ben Vanderlinden)

I had mentally prepared myself for the inevitable power spikes and red lining similar to a draft-legal bike, and I know that I have good high-end power to cope. And I felt fairly confident that I could get through the bike without dying. But I quickly learned that there is a HUGE difference between riding a mountain bike, staying upright and hitting my lines etc. and actually racing a mountain bike, pushing its limits and maintaining a good average speed. Not to mention that we had previewed the course on perfectly dry and fast conditions, and race morning brought rain and ridiculously muddy and slick trails. I guess I wouldn't want it any other way for an off-road race, but it pushed the advantage to the mountain bikers (vs. posers such as myself).

The course was two loops with only one or two slightly technical sections and a tough climb on each lap. After clearing the first technical part on the first lap I caught a bit of wet grass on a wide open stretch of singletrack and went down pretty hard. Guess I wanted to get my money’s worth for my first off-road tri. But that’s part of mountain biking so I was immediately back on my bike but was stuck behind a couple riders that stopped me on a couple sections before I got past.

I find that (being an XC noob) its very easy once you make one mistake, to get way too uptight and over-brake everything and make even more mistakes. But I managed to get through the only tricky descent much faster and smoother than on our training ride and got some confidence back. After finishing the last lap I was really starting to wonder what the hell I had gotten myself into but I did my best just to not make any mistakes and stay on my bike…I figured its always slower to crash than ride a little more conservative.
I managed to get through the bike, losing a bunch of time to the leaders and those who know how to ride XC. But only took the one spill and rode pretty well through the technical sections. And considering I’ve never owned a mountain bike until earlier this year, and until very recently I’d spend more time walking my bike through the trail than riding it, I was thrilled to still be somewhat in the race.

I felt good getting onto the run as I had a hard time actually riding hard enough on the bike to get tired, but I kept it conservative leaving T2 as I had a feeling we would be doing some climbing. The first km was mainly uphill and as soon as we got into the trail section I picked it up. As much as I felt completely out of my element on the bike, I was totally comfortable on the run given how much trail running I do in training. I had no problem taking on the aggressive sections. But there were some sections that I was kicking myself for being so unprepared and too cheap to buy good trail shoes. I know that I could be a good trail runner but learned the hard way that just like anything else, you need the right equipment.

After about 6km of awesome trails (and an amazingly well marked course) we were back onto gravel and I tried to pick it up again. I knew that I had good fitness coming off Tremblant and it felt good to have some more to give through the last 2km. I passed about 8-10 people (some relays) on the run and crossed the finish line in 9th and first in my age group.

(photo courtesy of Alex & Ben Vanderlinden)

Overall I was once again really happy with my effort on the day. Despite my super-concentrated ~10 days of prep, I was handed a good ass kicking on the bike and it was humbling to have my weaknesses exposed and have to suck it up and get through it anyway. I loved the run and can see that as my strength if I decide to give off-road another go. My goal was to win my age group (national title!) and I accomplished that. But for now I’m excited to get back to the “easy” stuff on the road and see what kind of strength I have developed from all the hills on the trail.

Next up is one of the biggest races of the year in Canada, another National Champs at the Toronto Triathlon Festival. For me it will serve as a fast and hard prep race leading into the K-Town Long Course Tri, but it will be great to race through downtown TO in a crazy competitive event. I’m not sure what to expect there with the level of competition and given that I don’t remember the last time I’ve gone through a full summer with everything (mostly) going to plan. But I’m going on good fitness and focus…so it would be nice to break the 2 hour barrier (my best Olympic is 2:03 a few yrs ago) or get on another Nationals podium.

(my poor baby got dirty!!!)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Race Reports....Soooo 2009

Ok so I’ve taken some flack over the past few months from those who have been waiting for me to update this for more than half a year. And I may get some more for dragging this thing out again. Partially its been because I’ve had little time to put some thoughts together (and when I do its rarely more than 140 characters…hence my twitter feed @lifein53x11), but also because I have matured as an athlete, gained a lot of focus and in turn and have not felt the need to put my voice out there in a while. I’ve just been quietly putting in the work and have enjoyed doing so. 
But now that tri season is in full swing I’ve thought about putting some race reports together. I must admit it’s a bit flattering to have people ask me to write something and look forward to hearing my experiences…but I’ll try not to let my head swell too much. 
So now to the reason why I started writing again! This past weekend was my first big event of the season, the Mont Tremblant 70.3. The spring and early season leading up to the race had gone very well. I did a few road races as I have the past couple years and jumped into a 10k as well, and while there were no spectacular results, they served their purpose as great tune-ups after missing the better half of last year’s race season with post-concussion symptoms. 
But the main highlight of the spring was simply that everything was going to plan. Despite being very busy with work I managed to stay consistent with training through the winter and spring. No crazy weeks (besides LPC Florida Camp), just putting in the time and getting the work done every day. 
Leading into Tremblant my prep went very well and I was really looking forward to giving the 70.3 distance another crack after finally finding some modest success (ie. finishing) in Welland last summer. I learned from Welland that I really had to get comfortable in the aero position for 2+ hours, as well as pay more attention to nutrition and pacing on the run. 
My final prep was doing the Guelph Lake Sprint Tri two weeks ago. I had not done the race since the summer I lived in Guelph and trained full time with the PTC (now RTC Guelph) so I was a bit nervous that I would not have the same top end speed. But I went into the race with a good mindset, and after starting in the second wave I raced through the field and finished 3rd overall, 4th across the finish line despite the later start. Even more satisfying, I knocked 4 minutes off my last time on the course :) 
(been working on that aero position - looks pretty ballin' to me)
It was exactly the confidence boost I needed to have a race go smoothly and feel strong throughout. Not to mention the experience of racing through earlier waves of athletes, as I was starting in the LAST of 14 waves (2500 athletes) in Tremblant. Amanda and I made the trip to MT on Friday and settled in with a bunch of athletes from the Balance Point Tri Club, most of whom were racing on various relay teams (Amanda was doing the swim-bike). The area was beautiful, and despite the almost painful level of Ironman and WTC rhetoric and imagery around the village, I have to say it was the best organized and run venue I have ever done. 
Race morning came at 4:30am on Sunday, since even though my start time wasn’t until 8:05 we had to finish our transition setup and body marking by 6:20. So rather than spend time standing around in the chaos and adrenaline of the start line I hung out in the hotel lobby of the Westin where Coach James was staying. We met up for a quick pep talk and once again I was in a great mindset heading to the start line – calm but excited to start the journey and begin the suffering! 
I eventually made my way down to the start and caught the pro men exiting the water on the way. Then I met back up with Amanda and the BPT crew just before the start. Quick warmup, do my best Gangnam Style rendition, then game time. Having come from some elite racing I carefully chose my starting position (oddly where no one else was) and knew that I would have to take it out hard to find some clear water…at least until I ran into the next wave. I couldn’t help but smile with the excitement of getting such a cool race underway, and have Amanda and friends starting with me in the same wave. 
Luckily the countdown was in English and French so once the gun (and fireworks) went off I started strong and was out front quickly. I cut into the inside of the buoys to avoid traffic and quickly settled into my rhythm. After about 200m a couple other fast swimmers in my wave went by but rather than change my pace I kept my effort to where I wanted it to get out of the swim fresh. 
I ran into the first person floating on their back from the previous wave after about 300m, but really only had to fight the congestion on the far stretch (of about 500m) of the course, then once around the second turn I went to the outside and settled back into my stroke. There was definitely some chaos with the number of swimmers (and some crazy scissor kickers) but I focused on what I could – getting back to shore fast. At about 1500m I got a bad calf cramp so from there on I just focused on my pull and roll, and as the shore got closer my stroke felt better and better. When I stood up both my legs cramped for a few seconds, but they loosened up quickly once on land. 
(approximately 10km into the run up from the water)
There was a ridiculously long run from the water to T1 – at least 7-800m so I stopped quickly to strip the wetsuit and get running. With all the support and spectators I had to hold myself back from champing the run up, but still managed to pass probably 50 people. Quick T1 and onto the bike. 
I went back to training and racing with a power meter this year and it was very helpful starting the bike. With all the adrenaline of getting on the bike and passing literally hundreds of people I really had to watch my wattage going up the first long climb. But my legs felt good and I averaged over 42km/h to the first timing point. Once we got on the highway for the long out and back section I settled into a strong rhythm and was flying through the field...I was pretty confident I was well off the front of the rest of my age group.
At about 15k I crested one of the early hills and just as I started going down the other side I felt my back wheel drag a little. Before I could even think about it my wheel locked up at about 60km/h and I was immediately skating on my rim. I thought I was going down for sure, and likely yelled some profanities while trying to get my rear end under control and use my front brake to slow me down. Somehow I managed to get to a stop on the other side of the road and try to figure out what the hell just happened. I still don’t know exactly how it happened, but from what I can tell I flatted and the tube got stuck in my frame and locked up the wheel. My tire was shredded and my rim was ground about half way down the brake track. 
Luckily this all happened at an aid station on the other side of the road, so I collected myself and had some help right away. I knew that my wheel was toast and thought that my race was done. I had a moment of being very upset that my race was going so well and I was once again sidelined with a mechanical. But I relaxed and asked if they could radio for a spare wheel (like I said, incredibly well run event and there were neutral support vehicles with spare wheels). I was pretty sure that my wheel would not hold a tire even if they had one, so my only chance to continue was if I got a wheel. In the mean time I stretched and waited to see if Amanda would go flying by, as she wouldn't be far behind me out of the water. 
After not too long a motorcycle came up the hill and I flagged him down and got a new rear wheel. I did my best not to think about the time lost or how it could potentially affect my race, and just focused on riding again and do what I could given the circumstances. I was just happy to be there and have the chance to get on with my race. It was motivating to have so many people on the course and I changed my focus to riding through as many as I could. I rode well through 35k to the first turnaround and watched for Amanda’s bright pink helmet as she went by…she wasn’t too far behind. I rode very well on the way back from the turnaround and found a really strong rhythm that I maintained up to 60k back where the highway section started. After that was a short out and back through a small town then the course went back past the village at about 70k. I was starting to feel a bit of fatigue but much better than I did at that point in the race in Welland last year. 
From 70-80k is the hardest part of the course with a series of climbs going out before turning around and riding the roller coaster back down to the village. I survived the climbs out despite a bit of cramping but had time to shake out my legs on the way back down before getting off the bike. My official bike split was 2:34, but my Garmin moving time over the 90k was about 2:25. Although I felt quite good on the bike despite about 9 minutes on the side of the road, that was likely a little too aggressive on a tough course. But I my legs were ok jumping off the bike and I was excited to start running. 
Back through transition and before I even got out of the chute to the run course I was passing dozens of people, weaving around and (gently) elbowing my way through crowds of runners. I had some quad cramps early but having learned from last time I didn’t get too worried and started at a fairly conservative pace. Once I got through the first 5k (the toughest section) it was onto the long out and back on rail trail. While I certainly wasn’t feeling fresh at this point I was still passing dozens of people every km and settled into my goal pace of roughly 4:15/km. I continued to get a little faster up to the turnaround and told myself that every step was now one step closer to the finish. My goal was to run 1:30 and at 11k I figured I had about a 2 minute "buffer" of slowing down from my current pace to make that time. 
I hit my first really rough patch just before 15k. Both my quads cramped hard and it was very painful to lift my legs. But I forced myself to keep running no matter how much the pace dropped and told myself that it would pass. At this point the one and only person passed me, another athlete in my age group who I had previously passed and helped undo his rear zipper. I did my best to HTFU and stay with him, and managed to bring my pace back up and run with him. We exchanged leads and encouragement for about 2k before I lost touch and really hit the wall. After 17k I was taking everything the aid stations were offering and begged my legs to move faster to get it over with sooner. Unfortunately it was back onto the hills and I suffered like hell to continue what vaguely resembled a running stride. I took some motivation from seeing LPC and BPT athletes and knew that once I hit 20k the spectators would help get me to the finish. 
(showing the war face)
The last km had a brutal hill and annoying little 100m out and back before finally turning into the pedestrian village and running through an incredible crowd down to the finish. It was an amazing experience and completely worth the suffering to have so many people cheering, music playing and tons of athletes finishing. I gave out some high 5’s before crossing the line in 4:41. My loose goals for the race were to do 4:30 and run 1:30, but given the circumstances of the day I couldn’t help but be happy with my result. My fitness is much better than last year and I learn more about the distance and myself as an athlete every time I finish a half. Now I want to do MORE!!!
 Lots more fun racing to come this summer, but no guarantees of more race reports :)