Tuesday, June 24, 2014

LPC Domination Triathlon (formerly known as Guelph Lake)

This past weekend was Ontario Club Championships at the Guelph Lake Tri Weekend. Despite it being practically a home-town race and one of the biggest events in Canada, somehow I had never done the Olympic-distance race at Guelph Lake. I've done the sprint many times, including one of my best results last year, but the one time I raced the Olympic in 2010 I pulled out on the run with an injury. Its a good honest course and always brings lots of strong competition, so I was looking forward to getting the monkey off my back, putting in a big effort and doing my part to help Team LPC with some championship points.

Coming off a solid race last weekend including a PB bike split I had some confidence that my fitness is going in the right direction but I was still a bit nervous not knowing what to expect from the course and a deep field. But there was an awesome contingent of LPCers at the race, with lots competing and plenty more coming out to support. Weather was perfect, warm-up was good and I lined up together with four other LPCers.

Swim: 24:03
My focus for the race was to be patient and build throughout each segment, and try not to get overly excited off the start with the strong competition. I had nice clean water off the start and slotted behind Mark and Chris knowing they would likely swim around 21 minutes. I held on to them for a while, then started to go backwards from 500m to the far turn on the course until I finally found find a bit of a rhythm on the way back into shore and brought back a bit of time and distance on the small group (pretty much all LPCers) ahead of me.

I was really looking forward to getting on the bike and seeing if I could ride myself to the front of the race, unfortunately my legs had other plans. When I got out of the water my hamstring cramped badly and would not let up as I ran, then hobbled, then walked up the long hill to transition. So I did the only thing I could, I sat on my bum and watched a stream of athletes run past while I took my wetsuit off and tried to stretch it out. Fellow LPCer Garrick Loewen aka my little brother (who won the sprint event!) ran down to see if I was ok, likely thinking that I had been bitten by a shark.

(photo cred. Ken Whitlock & BPT)

Eventually it loosened up enough for me to stand up and slowly make my way up to T1 and get on with my race. The good news was that I later found out, not counting my little picnic stop, my 1500m swim time would have been right around 22-flat, which is a solid swim for me and my best of the season so far.

Bike: 1:02:15
It would have been really easy for my to give up at that point with the race well up the road and not being sure how my legs would hold up on the bike. And Ryan from a few years ago probably would have. But I put it out of my mind and changed my focus to putting down a good bike split and going from there. After all it was Club Championships and I wanted to contribute some points to LPC.

Luckily I felt ok getting on my bike and settled into a good rhythm. My plan was to focus on not burying myself on the early hills and really work the flatter middle 30k of the course. My power wasn't as good as in Welland last weekend with my hamstring a little twitchy but I was still making progress and picking off athletes. I managed to move up quite a bit with a relatively good bike split, not my full potential but some reassurance that my bike fitness is continuing to improve with my big races still many weeks out.

Run: 38:23
I had the run in the back of my mind through the whole bike wondering if my legs were going to cooperate with me. But I settled into a good rhythm right away. I really wanted to take down my Olympic-distance run PB which would mean aiming for sub-37. I really liked the run course with a mix of terrain and surfaces that seemed to make it go by faster.

I was right on pace through the first 5k (18:22) and it felt manageable to hold. I had made my way into the top-5 on the road and I could just barely see Coach Mark up ahead around 7-8k. I decided to take a bit of a risk and pick it up knowing that I'd have to put in about 15sec per km to catch him. And then everything cramped up again. My last km was at Ironman shuffle pace just trying to hold it together without getting re-passed with my quads, hamstring and diaphragm cramping up. I was a little too optimistic with my pacing, but I'm not going to take down any PBs without taking a risk now and then. I ended up in 6th with Mike Hay just nipping me in a later wave.

So it may not have been the smoothest race I've ever had, but I met my goals of a strong Olympic-distance race/effort and helping out the team with some points. And I can't finish this without sending special congrats to Jack Laundry and Garrick for picking up the overall wins this weekend. LPC ended up going 1,3,4,5,6 for the men and 2nd for women in the Olympic, and had equal domination in the sprint. I haven't yet heard if we've officially won the club championship based on participation and age group placing, but there was no question that LPC is the dominant club in Ontario these days and its a lot of fun to be a part of it.

Obviously the biggest question I had coming out of the race was where those cramps came from, and how I can avoid that happening again. I'm confident that it wasn't nutrition related, but I've identified a few potential causes that I'm addressing moving forward with my training and prep leading into my higher priority races. All things considered it was another successful race in my season-long prep for 70.3 Worlds. My fitness is good and still going in the right direction, and I've got plenty of time to work out the kinks. For now I'm back to some more hard training with a few weeks before my next race.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

MSC Welland: 2 for 1 Race Reports!

A month after opening my season at Rev3 Knoxville I couldn't wait to get my Ontario racing season rolling. I had planned on starting out with Multisport Canada's Binbrook race the week prior, but with Amanda racing the Welland Half I decided to hold off for one more week and make it a weekend getaway to this flat and fast event.

I couldn't have been happier with my race in Knoxville to start my season, and after recovering well from the race I put in a few good weeks of training in preparation for some shorter and faster races through the middle part of my season. I had posted some solid bike workouts and I was looking forward to seeing what I could do in Welland, which is just about the flattest bike course out there.

Swim: 11:10 (1:30/100m)
The sprint event in Welland is a time trial start, something I've done once before in Bracebridge a few years ago. Some people love the TT start, I guess I'm pretty impartial as it means racing through a steady stream of athletes through the first half of the race.

The one advantage of a TT start is not having to start as fast as a mass start race, but I kind of threw that out the window right away and took it out hard...I guess out of habit. The 750m went by really quickly and while it wasn't my best swim I felt better than in Knoxville and I'm alright with my time. I think I have to accept that if I'm focusing on long course racing without the luxury of training full-time, I can't expect to be PB'ing every swim and still see steady gains on my bike and run fitness. Regardless, I had a not-bad swim and was set up well to push the bike.

Bike: 44:16 (40.7km/h)
After a quick T1 I was steadily moving past athletes who started ahead of me, and by 4-5k into the bike I had settled into a good rhythm and knew I was riding pretty well. We were heading into a pretty good headwind on the way out but I managed to keep my average speed at 39km/h at the 15k turnaround. At that point there were only 4-5 athletes ahead of me despite starting in 57th position.

Once I made the turnaround I was pushing my biggest gear most of the way back and felt strong with my average speed slowly creeping up. Its been a long time since I've felt that good on the bike in a race and I was riding with a lot of confidence. I had a lot of fun on the bike course but unfortunately I got stuck behind cars on the way out of, and back into town. After getting my average speed close to 41km/h near the end of the bike I got stuck behind a couple cars and had to come to a complete stop as they made their way through a stop sign, not wanting to risk going around them and getting DQ'd.

It was really tough to keep my frustration in check given how well I was riding but I knew that nothing positive would come from dwelling on it. Its a reality of local races with open roads. Fortunately my little slow down didn't affect the end result at all, but I was agonizingly close to grabbing the top bike split from pro Wolfgang Guembel. But if that's the only minor complaint I have with my race, I guess it went pretty well! I ended up with my fastest bike split ever, a nice confidence boost moving forward.

Run: 28:47 (3:51/km)
I was 4th onto the run course and by that time the race was totally spread out with the varying start times. I felt pretty good despite pushing the bike but I had no idea what my position was relative to the three athletes ahead of me who had all started quite a bit earlier.

Not much happened on the run besides a good amount of suffering, and I ended up in 3rd with the 3rd best run split (behind the two who beat me). I felt pretty good and I'm confident that I ran faster than my half ironman pace, and after spinning over the run course the next day it looks like the course was 300-400m long. Regardless it was a fun race and I was really happy with the result and how I felt throughout. I'm looking forward to continuing to build on my fitness and see what I can do for the rest of the season!

Race Report #2!

After finishing my race it was time to change roles and become support crew/gear sherpa for Amanda's race the following morning. Having experienced a whole lot of ups, downs, blowups and gear malfunctions in my long course racing, I tried to give her some words of advice and encouragement, but the great thing about long course is that ultimately the only way to get to that finish line is to go through all of that yourself and find the mental strength to come out the other side. I know that Amanda is not one to write up race reports but having seen her put so much time and effort into her preparation for this race, I feel like talking about it on her behalf!

So after some nerves (mostly mine!) the gun went off in her race and off she went, along with a few LPC teammates! I managed to catch her swim start and - unique to Welland's course - again about 1500m in thanks to the swim course going under a bridge before turning around and finishing. Her plan was to stay relaxed and swim comfortably and she nailed it. I barely managed to see her get on her bike after a fast transition and away she went for a fast 90k.

I had expected her to ride around 2:40 (a conservative effort for her), so when 2:45 rolled around and I still didn't see her I started to think that something happened out there. Turns out she took a page from my book and flatted around 37k. Luckily for her, our friend Jason was racing in the swim-bike event and he just happened to be only a couple minutes behind her at that point and helped her fix it. I know far too well how much it SUCKS to flat in a big race and I know that she was really bummed because without the flat she was right on her target wattage and well under her target time. I did my best to give her a quick pep talk on a short out-and-back at the start of the run and told her to forget about it and take the run 1km at a time.

Unfortunately her bad luck wasn't done, and around 7k of running right on goal pace she tripped on some loose gravel on the run course and took a big spill and had to tough out an extra long 22km run course! But through all of that adversity she made it through and got to the finish in a very respectable time despite everything. I know that she was disappointed with how everything unfolded, and for good reason considering everything that went wrong, but I'm confident that she will take a ton away from this race and she's going to be strong for the rest of this season! We've both bottled up lots of motivation to tackle this race again next year and take some serious time off our previous results there.