With Ironman Canada now less than eight weeks out it's safe to say that I'm in the heart of my build. Part of me was hesitant to interrupt the regular training routine to throw in a race, but on the flip side Ironman training is so consuming that I wanted to take full advantage of the rare opportunity to mix things up and throw down a hard effort at a local race.
I had two primary goals for Milton:
1. Get a perfect tune-up in my legs for Syracuse 70.3 on a similarly challenging course
2. Practice the mindset that I will bring to both Syracuse and Whistler this year - to ignore any external distractions and be completely tuned into my own effort and executing my best race, regardless of the outcome.
It also served as my first real test for my swim fitness and my shoulder coming off a rotator cuff tear. I spent most of my winter going to the pool twice a week for a 30 minute drill swim, and although at times it felt like a hopeless pursuit to maintain the possibility of being able to swim this year, Coach James reassured me that there was still time to get fit and all the core-focused drills would help me when I could actually swim freestyle again.
After months of frustration I got a different approach to my rehab from the one and only Joe Putos - the founder of the K-Town Tri, as well as a very experienced physiotherapist. In a crazy coincidence I have shared a lab with him at Western for the last year, and I guess eventually he got tired of me complaining about my shoulder and offered to treat me. With Joe's help things finally started to turn around in April and I was swimming pain-free for the first time in over six months.
I had only gotten 4-5 weeks of twice per week masters swims in before Milton and each one has been an absolute sufferfest, but I've surprised myself with how things have been coming back. I had absolutely no expectations for the swim in Milton but with Syracuse coming up in two weeks I had to at least make sure that I could get through a 750m swim without
After a nice drive down with Amanda's dad Kevin (aka legend of the 60-64 category) and a cold and rainy warmup with some of my Hurdle Project bros, we got things underway.
I lined up near the far end of the swim start since I didn't want to go too crazy at the start...basically I just wanted to swim a solid tempo and feel in control of my stroke throughout. At the gun I found Andrew Taylor's feet (who I had an epic battle with at the Mississauga 10k last year, and is also a very strong swimmer), and after quickly settling into a good pace I found myself in a large pack at the first turn.
All those hours of head-lead roll paid off as I had it drilled into my brain to keep my core on and stay efficient as I hung onto the group. It was probably the first time I've found myself in a decent sized group and take advantage of a good draft - I have often struggled in the past to draft efficiently with more of a pool swimmer's stroke. Based on my time gap to some of the strong elite swimmers I likely had one of my best swims in recent years. Mission accomplished!
(photo cred. James Loaring) thanks for the wheels Kevin!
Getting onto the bike with a pack of mostly juniors made for an interesting first 5k of the bike. I quickly rode through half a dozen athletes with a few trying to hang onto my wheel, then at the start of the Sixth Line climb they all went hammering past me as I held a steady output. But by the top of the climb I had re-passed the group and settled into a solid effort.
After that the bike was pretty uneventful as I went by a couple more guys and was passed by one strong rider. I was a little more cautious than usual on the corners and the descent down Sixth Line with some much bigger races coming up, but fortunately it wasn't too sketchy as the rain eased off just before the start of the race. I was feeling a little sluggish at times but I ended up riding fairly well finishing off at 280W NP.
The run course was one of the most challenging short course runs I have done and also one of my favourites. Having done a lot of my hard runs on the hills and trails around Western's campus I was right in my element with the hills and mud :) I focused on keeping a fast turnover on the rolling terrain and with three turn-arounds on the course I was motivated to try to bring time back on the athletes ahead.
Between 4-5k I could tell that I was inching closer to one athlete up ahead but I was running out of real estate to catch him. So I knew that I could either cruise in and maintain my place, or give it everything and see how close I could get. Ultimately I came up just short but I was able to finish very satisfied with my effort and with one of my best runs ever, averaging 3:32/km over the challenging course. But not before my Hurdle Project pals captured this epic pain face.
(vid cred. Bryan Cole)
I ended up in 7th, 1st AG and the 3rd best run split. I knew that my training has been going well the last couple months but it was a pleasant surprise to have good legs for a sprint race to kick off the season. I exceeded all of my goals for the race and I am really looking forward to Syracuse for a much bigger battle on one of the hardest 70.3 courses on the circuit. Thanks for the read and stay tuned for more updates!