Thursday 27 July 2017

Toronto Triathlon Festival-3'rd OA

It's been a few days since I raced the Olympic triathlon at the Toronto Triathlon Festival (TTF).  This was only my second triathlon of 2017 due to the fact that I came down with infectious mononucleosis (aka mono) in late April, which has pretty much put a halt on any real training/racing.  I came into TTF hoping to complete the race, maybe squeak out a win, and get a feel for how my body was doing.  The race actually went pretty well, and although I didn't defend my overall title, I'm happy with a third place overall finish.

Still made it on the podium!

Quick side note here.  I asked a lot of other athletes for their advice on training/racing with mono, and got some good advice.  Here are four tips from my experience:

1: You can't train through it:  Cutting workouts short or partial training won't speed recovery...full rest is the only option

2: Play it really safe: If you try to return to training or racing too quickly, you could relapse and be back at square one (this can happen repeatedly if you aren't careful).

3: Even if you feel better, you aren't better: Mono is a looooooong recovery.

4: When training resumes: There are good days and bad days.  Don't push training on the good days and take the bad days off

The Race

So heading into TTF, I was training maybe half of what I normally do (after taking a couple months pretty well off), but I was generally feeling good.  I was slightly concerned about the run (mainly because I hadn't run 10km in training for months), but I figured I could get through the race and do reasonably well.

My race packing technique...throw everything on floor then put in bag

The water was warmer than usual, which was a nice change.  In regards to pace, I didn't swim all that fast, but I kept it steady, didn't overexert myself, and had a pretty smooth swim.  I exited the water with a few people in front of me that I could chase down on the bike.

I'm on the left somewhere

 The bike was where I wanted to put in most of my energy for the day.  Since I haven't been able to put in the training on the bike, I've been putting a lot of focus on improving my aerodynamics.  With all the aero changes I have made (including a few changes influenced by my trip to the STAC virtual wind tunnel), I figured I would be able to have a strong bike split.  I managed to hold a good pace through the whole bike leg, and got off hoping I had something left for the run.
This looks super aero all tucked in, but didn't test faster 

A higher head position is more comfortable and didn't show to be any less aero then a tucked head

Surprisingly, my legs felt pretty decent (relatively) heading out on the run.  I was able to hold a decent pace (maybe around 3:50 per km?) for most of the run, but things got really hard for the last 2km.
Starting out the run. I felt pretty good

 I don't know if I've ever had to push as hard as I did in those last 2km.  I've done Vo2 max, raced in dozens of triathlons, but that last was tough.  There was nothing left in the tank at the finish line.
I had to sit down after I crossed the finish line

I got a good sense of my fitness and health from the race, and it gave me some good direction for the rest of the year.  I'm possibly going to race the MSC Toronto Island sprint in a months time, and after toying with the idea for a bit, I'm definitely not going to be racing Barrelman (as an individual at least, but there may be plans for a relay team).  My health is returning though, so if things continue to go well, I'm hoping for a strong return to racing in 2018.

A big thanks to all who have supported me through this process.  A continued thanks to Skechers (those Gomeb Razors are fast!), eLoad, and Multisport Canada for your continued support.  Hopefully I can be back to full health and racing strong soon!

Pops and I grabbed a photo with Simon Whitfield after the race

Thursday 20 April 2017

Cycling Safety: Tech and Tips to Keep You Safe!

The weather is finally starting to improve enough for consistent outdoor cycling, and I'm sure many of you (like myself) are eager to get outside riding!  But unlike riding on the indoor trainer, outdoor cycling is accompanied by some risk, with the greatest risk coming from distracted drivers.

Distracted driving is an issue that now hits close to home for my family and I.  Last fall, my mom was seriously injured when a driver didn't feel like stopping at a red light before making a right hand turn.  The result was her being hit, then getting trapped under the car and dragged for 5-10 metres.  The incident left her with a broken nose, ribs, a seriously swollen face, and some serious road rash.
Fortunately, she has now more or less completely healed of her physical injuries, but like with all traumatic incidents, she is still left with the memory of being run over.

The helmet my mom was wearing saved her life, but regrettably, a helmet isn't much good at helping prevent crashes.  This year, I'm stepping up my safety game with some cool, proactive safety gear, and doing my best to be visible on the road.  Here are the three main things/pieces of technology that I am trying this year:    

Daytime Running Lights

We all more or less know we need to have lights on when riding at dusk or at night, but what about during the day?  A strong front and rear light blinking during a daytime ride will alert a car to your presence far before they reach you.  This gives them plenty of time to prepare themselves to safely pass you.  If they are distracted (phone, passengers, etc), the light will ideally be bright enough to catch their attention and get them to re-focus on driving/passing you safely.

A daytime light however needs to be much brighter than your 30 lumen nighttime blinker.  A car won't see that light (the 30 lumen light) until they are +-100m away from you, which is probably less than 5 seconds until they pass.  
The daytime rear light I am running is 200 lumens, and will be visible from over 1km on a bright sunny day.  This is to say, a car will see this light before they see you, your bike, or your high visibility jersey, giving them plenty of time to prepare for a safe pass.

My rear light: Dinotte Quad Red.  Its expensive, but the best you can get.  The video below is a short clip of this light on my bike.
A cheaper, but still good option: Lupine Rotlicht.

My front light: Dinotte Quad Amber.  Same price as the Quad Red, so its pricy (you can buy them in a bundle for a slight discount).  The Amber colour has much better visibility for DAYTIME riding than a regular white light, so it is worth investing in one.
The minimum lumen for your REAR light should be no less than 100 lumen.  Anything less, and the light won't really serve much purpose during the day. lights are cheap for a reason!
The front/rear Dinotte lights

Livetrack/Incident Detection

This is a feature you likely already have, but don't know about.  All of the new Garmin devices offer what they call livetrack, which is essentially just tracking. The livetrack works by linking your Garmin device up with your phone and relaying your position via satellites.  This allows family or friends (who are back at home) to view your ride or check where you are (very useful if you are out longer than usual or they do not know what route you took).  You will need to have data on your phone for this to work (something I didn't know about), but it uses only around 1mb of data per hour of riding, so it won't strain your data plan.

This is just an example off Google, but it is something similar to what viewers at home will see

The incident detection is a feature that is unique to the Garmin 820 Edge (which is the unit I recently purchased).  This feature works via accelerometers built into the unit, which after detecting a crash will send out an automatic emergency message through your phone (again, phone and Garmin must be connected, and data on).  The Garmin will text or email three preselected contacts with a message saying you have had a crash, and will also send them your location.
Hopefully this is a feature I don't actually have to use, but if worse comes to worst, it is a very valuable feature (which is not available on any other Garmin bike computers at this time).  

High Visibility Clothing

The final thing I am doing this year to be safer on the road is to wear high visibility clothing while riding.  This includes riding in florescent yellow jerseys, or at the very least, brightly coloured jerseys that will stand out on the road.  There are a lot of options here for what will work, but some of my favourite items are my Castelli Gabba jersey (in bright yellow), my pink Gillet, and my bright blue Bianchi jersey.  The idea here is just to avoid wearing darker colours (especially in spring fall when you need to wear a jacket, most of which are dark colours).

Castelli Gabba in yellow.  Great for standing out on overcast days  

Like I noted above, a car won't see your brightly coloured jersey from a far distance, but they will see your light, making the light in my opinion, the better of the two.  The jersey is definitely a nice final touch of extra visibility on the road, but without a light, offers limited safety value.

Final Thoughts

After testing out this gear for the past month or so of spring riding, I can confidently say I am feeling much safer on the road.  Cars definitely seem to be taking notice of me and affording me plenty of space when they pass (and often times slowing down to pass as well).  The livetrack feature of my Garmin also has been very reassuring to my family back home (especially when I got caught out in last weeks thunderstorm).  All in all, these are some great pieces of tech that I would highly recommend as you get back to cycling on the roads.  Safe riding!


Thursday 6 April 2017

Ironman Texas 70.3 (Galveston)

I flew out to Galveston this past weekend for a start to my 2017 triathlon season.  I finished last year with a tough race in Cozumel 70.3, so I was hoping that this year I would start out with a strong showing in the half distance.  Unfortunately, this race didn't go much better, and I ended up dropping out at about 14/15 km into the run.

The race started to go south midway through the bike.  I'm not sure exactly when it hit, but somewhere in the 2'nd half of 90km I could feel my "sitting area" getting quite uncomfortable.  I was able to keep pedalling, but as my discomfort worsened, my power began to drop and the suffering began.

I got off the bike feeling pretty beat up, and I didn't feel good for any of the run.  I ran the first loop (of 3 loops), walk/ran the second loop, and after starting the third loop (at a slow walk pace), I decided I had had enough.  I was able to get a ride back to the finish area to hand in my chip and end my day.

Most people tend to view dropping out as giving up or being weak.  Typically, I would be inclined to agree.  Last year I had three races where I was suffering hard and reduced to walking, but refused to quit and pushed through to the finish anyway.
In this case however, I believe dropping out was the right decision.  I was looking at another hour of walking just to finish, I already felt terrible, and the conditions were harsh.  It's also only April, and I decided it was not worth injuring myself just to finish...there is a lot of season still left.  

Racing like this isn't really all that fun.  I'm not really all that interested in putting myself through more half iron races just to hope I have a good race.  I think the rest of the season will be spent doing some shorter distances where I am already comfortable, and preparing myself to better race at 70.3 distances.  If I'm feeling good about my training and ability to race over 90km on the bike (and run off it), then another half could be on the radar for the fall (possibly Barrelman).

For now, it's time to heal up, recover, let the hair grow back on my legs, and plan out some training for the next few months.  Ontario racing will be here soon!

This place was cool

I chill bike to the beach the day before the race
The race venue
A bit of the swim/run course
My shoes getting some fresh air after the race

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Cozumel 70.3

I usually write my race reports the day or two following the race, but this one is about a week overdue.  I was down in Cozumel Mexico racing the 70.3 (on October 2), and I'm just feeling now about ready to write a bit on it.  Racing at the half iron distance is quite tiring, and add on hot racing conditions and multiple flights, and it leaves you pretty fatigued!  The race report starts in the next are at the end (for those of you who like to skip the writing stuff).

I headed into Cozumel looking for a strong race in the 70.3 distance.  My year has been filled with difficult 70.3 performances, and I have yet to have a smooth, solid race.  Unfortunately, this race also went a bit sideways on the run.  I was reduced to walking through nearly all the aid stations and slow jogging in between them.  I'm figuring it had something to do with the extreme heat on the run, which was apparently over 40C.

I did have solid swim and bike performances.  I made a lot of adjustments and changes heading into this race to avoid problems I had earlier in the year (such as issues with flats or back pain on the bike).  I raced somewhat conservatively through the first two disciplines and thought I had left enough in the tank to have a solid run.  That turned out not to be the case, as I felt pretty much flat the entire run.  I did manage to make it to the finish though!

It leaves me in a bit of a frustrating situation.  Three 70.3 races this year, and not one of them was really any good.  As an athlete, you do all of your training to perform well in target races.  Repeated poor performances definitely leave you questioning the effort you have put in and wondering why or if you should keep going at it.  These are definitely legitimate questions to ask, but I don't find myself being particularly negative in my thought process...more practical I suppose.

I guess what I'm waiting for (or what any athlete is really waiting for) is one solid race in the 70.3 race where I race to my potential and hit a time I know I can.  A breakthrough race if you will.

Chop wood carry water seems to be the tagline for this.  What do you do pre-breakthrough race: chop wood carry water (aka: do work).  What do you do post-breakthrough race: chop wood carry water.  Regardless of the outcome of the race, the process remains the same.  Commit to the process, and the results will just didn't turn out to be this year.

I wouldn't have been able to race in Mexico without the help of so many people who contributed to my fundraising effort.  All in all, I was able to raise enough to cover pretty much all of my expenses.  This took a lot of pressure/stress off of me going down to this race, and I really would not have made it there without everyones help!  Thank you all!  I raced my absolute best to the just didn't end up being that fast :P

I was contemplating heading down to Los Cabos Mexico for another 70.3 race, but after Cozumel, I've decided to finish my season. A big thank you to everyone who supported me though the year!  This includes my sponsors (Mettle Multisport, Skechers Performance, Multisport Canada, eLoad Nutrition, and Fitt First) and my family and many friends (whose support was invaluable).

I'll likely keep the rest of this month relatively unstructured before regrouping and coming up with a plan for 2017.  Thank you all for following along, and we'll wait and see what next year holds!

The swim start (and my beard stroking contemplative look)

My dad and I pre-race swimming.  He was head of my support crew in Cozumel

Setting up transition before the sun came up

Hurting on the run

Post race tired

My dad getting some scenic sunset/beach shots

Some rooftop posing with my bike

Two amigos exploring Dallas on the way home...we found a giant eye

Monday 12 September 2016

Georgina Sprint Triathlon (Turned Duathlon)

You show up to a race thinking you are fully prepared for whatever the day might throw at you.  Then, as if on cue, a situation arises you are completely unprepared for.

This has happened to me a few times this season.  I showed up to a big race with a brand new top of the line wetsuit only to find out I couldn't use it.  I could use a swim skin, but I didn't have one.
I have also had to deal with flatting my tubular disc wheel and finding I was unprepared to fix it.

I took steps to learn from those situations and come into my next races better prepared (i.e. buying a swim skin and having some flat fixing solutions ready to go).

Then I show up to Georgina to race a local event with Multisport Canada, and find out that because of strong winds, I can't use my disc wheel....and I didn't bring a spare.

Racing is all about preparing for situations like this, but it is also about how you react in situations like this.  This weekend, I wouldn't be racing if someone didn't lend me a wheel.  I was unprepared, and the only thing left was how I reacted.  I had to come to terms pretty quickly that I would likely not be racing, and that I had to be ok with that.

The day was saved by a complete stranger (to me) named Mike.  Mike showed up with a high end road bike wheel 10 minutes before the race started and he let me borrow it.  Race or no race, I would have been ok with either, but I was/am so appreciative Mike's generosity to allow me to race.  Thanks Mike!

The Race

So a bit about the race.  It was a duathlon (5km run, 20km bike, 2.5km run) because of strong winds that would have made swimming quite unsafe.  Multisport Canada is always great at adapting to the conditions and still offering people an option on race day, so big thanks to them for putting on a great event!   Alex and Adam were the only other elites in the race, so it was pretty much between the three of us for the win.  The pace started out quite fast on the first run (2:56 for the first km), and stayed pretty high.  Alex came in sub 16 for the first 5 km (with Adam behind him by a bit) and I was about 45-60 seconds back of the lead.

I biked well with Mike's wheel and caught both Alex/Adam at the dismount line.  I beat them both out of transition (the easy on tab of the Skechers go run 4's helped with that speed), but I fell back on the final run to third.  That second run is never a fun one.

Podium finishers!  In my Mettle Multisport shirt
Prior to the race, I had challenged my brother and Dad (who were also racing) to try and beat me.  I had to finish the whole race by the time they finished the first two legs of the race.  They both raced well, but did not end up beating me.  Now we just need to get my Mom to race too....

Whats Up Next??

There are a couple more races I have planned for my 2016 season, and they are big ones!  I'm going to be travelling to Cozumel Mexico for an October 2 race (70.3), and to Los Cabos Mexico for an October 30'th race (also 70.3).

These is my first real go at international racing, and I am looking for your support!  I have started a GoFundMe campaign to help me raise the money for registration, flights, and accommodation.  There is a link at the top of my blog, and also a link here with more details:

I am already 1/4 of the way to my goal and any support you could give would be very appreciated!

A huge thank you to those who have already supported me in this campaign, and to those who have supported me through the season!

Sunday 28 August 2016

When you're off, and when you're "off"

My favourite races are the ones where I raced my best on the day and performed to what I know is my best.  Unfortunately in the past week, I've had two races that were far off this mark.  One was last Sunday in New Hampshire where I raced the Timberman 70.3, and the other was this Saturday at a local Olympic distance race in Wasaga beach.  Both were underwhelming performances, but in different respects.

Timberman was a big race for me, but unfortunately, it marked my first DNF of the year (2'nd ever).  I flatted at 65km in, and with it being tubular (and a disc), I had no options on hand to fix it.  The result was sitting at the side of the road for two hours waiting to be picked up by tech support.  It wasn't really all that enjoyable (compounded by the fact there was no food/water available to me), and made for quite a long, and draining day.   

Wasaga was a week after Timberman, and although I didn't really feel like racing, I figured I would just go and give it what I had.  The swim was issue free, but mid bike, I was starting to feel more fatigued than usual.  I made it to the run in first position, but after running the first km 30 seconds slower than usual, I pretty much fell apart and suffered through the rest of the race.  I walked a lot of sections, stopped at most aid stations, and mustered together a 50min 10km.  I dropped to 13'th.

You never know what racing is going to deal you, and when it deals you an unfortunate outcome, the only thing you can really control is your response to the situation.  I was "off" in both races, but the response required to deal with Timberman and Wasaga are completely different.

My race was off in Timberman.  This was not due to much anything else apart from a mechanical issue.  Something small (aka a staple) messed up my race, and there was nothing I could do about it.  My race prep and my emergency preparedness were not up to spec, and as I result, my entire race was off.

My race was off in Wasaga.  This "off" had nothing to do with mechanical issues or chance staples in the middle of the road.  I felt certifiably awful on the run, which is highly uncharacteristic and makes me quite suspicious of deeper issues.  I pretty much went straight to a walk in clinic after getting home from the race.

Bad races will happen.  Off days will happen.  When you have one, you always have to take it in stride, but sometimes that stride means buying new tires, and other times it means going to the doctor.  I'm convinced that issue free race is out there...seemingly, there are more than a few off ones on the road to get there.

Monday 1 August 2016

Kingston Long Course Triathlon: 2'nd OA 2:50:19

The Kingston triathlon is a long running, pretty much historical, race on the Ontario triathlon circuit.  I raced the long course for my first time last year, but unfortunately the day ended with a DQ.  Myself and Jordan Monnink (who were sitting 1'st and 2'nd at the time) missed a turn on the bike course on the way back into town, (cutting the course), which resulted in a DQ for both of us.  The infamous missed turn was relatively unclear compared to other course markings, causing some frustration from both Jordan and I.  You can read more about my thoughts after last years DQ here.

I traveled to the race this year with fellow pro Mikael Staer Nathan.  His girlfriend joined us, graciously driving us both ways, and his mom and dog (pancake) also came to cheer us on.
Pancake likes bananas

Race Summary 

The field was quite competitive on the mens side, with fellow pros Jordan, Mikael, and Alex VanderLinden mixing it up at this years race (along with a few other local fast guys).  We all started the swim together, and kept together for about the first half.  The pack blew apart when the women's race favourite Angela Quick made an attack at the turnaround.  I didn't end up making the break, and was left to swim solo for the rest (which ended up being pretty good, because the lead pack went off course).  Angela beat us all out of the water.
I started the bike a bit down from Jordan and Alex, but ahead of Mikael.  I caught Alex maybe 15km into the bike (he ended up pulling out of the race) but never caught Jordan.  I came off the bike in 2'nd, and was feeling good even after dropping a full bottle of eLoad.  Heading into the run, I was about 1.5 minutes down from Jordan, and 1.5 minute ahead on Mikael.  
I ran well in my Skechers Go Run4's for the whole 15km (albeit no socks, so there was some blood post race).  My pace stayed strong and consistent, and although I couldn't catch Jordan, I held off a hard chasing Mikael to claim second.  
Jordan would have won last year (with me a likely second), so it was nice to see that play out this year (and count).

The overall finishers


Jordan and I both made the correct turn this year and finished 1/2.  Multisport Canada did a standup job of making sure this corner was better marked this year.  Instead of a single/small obscure sign (with no volunteers) marking the turn like last year, this year there were 3 big signs, a row of pylons, and two volunteers at the corner.  Much appreciated!

Thanks to all who were cheering from back home and for all the cheers/support from Mettle Multisport.  By the way, Mettle Multisport is hosting a transition clinic in a couple here for more details!  Up next is Timberman 70.3 down in New Hampshire.