Friday, 26 July 2013

Toronto Triathlon Festival-Age Group National Championships

Its funny how progress tends to come about.  Getting injured and not running for half a year is not typically viewed as a way to get faster, but oddly enough, I seemed to make it work for me.  This past weekend I competed in the Toronto Triathlon Festival.  I finished second overall and won the 20-24 age group, making me a national champion (feel free to address me as such).  I also managed to throw down a personal best time in the Olympic distance (1:55:48), and had a way better race than two weeks ago in Huronia.

Fantastic picture of the race site

I had been getting in some really good training in the weeks leading up to TTF, so I was feeling pretty optimistic heading into this race.  More than a couple people asked me before the start of the race if I had a certain time I was aiming for or any podium goals.  I pretty much just told them I was going to go fast and see what happens (so in other words, no).  Seems like it went pretty well...


I got a drive down to the race on Sunday morning from my coach Derek, who picked me up at the crack of dawn right at my front door (what a great coach)!  Once at the race site, I did a quick warm up on the bike, and also some stretch cords (since there was no official swim warmup).
It is also worth noting that TTF had some deluxe out-houses (flush capabilities, running water, ect..) which I took advantage of before the race (maybe this is where my entry fee went...)

A very scenic view of the swim course
The swim started less than a minute after I jumped in, and wow was the water cold.  Even after a few attempts to spread some warmth (you triathletes know what I'm talking about), I was still feeling like my lungs were constricted.

Right before the start (I am on the far right)

The gun went off, and I found my way to the front.  After a few hundred metres, I was still struggling to find my rhythm and I was really not enjoying myself.  The swim continued on, and things were going okay, until one of the members of my group decided to whack me in the head.  I took a quick glance over, and then realized it was Simon Whitfield, so I didn't get too upset.  When I got out of the water, I heard a big round of applause (am I really that good), but figured it must have been for Simon coming out right behind me (but not in front of me).  I was glad when the swim was over.

I knew I didn't have too much ground to make up on the bike, and quickly moved into first place within the first 5km.  There was a decent headwind heading out on the bike (mixed with some uphill), so I kept cadence high and just spun the legs.  I was accompanied by a couple motor bikes as I led the bike, one of which was taking pictures from the side (only better thing would have been a helecopter...).

Leading the bike (and looking sharp)
The second half of the bike course was downhill with a tailwind, so I decided to increase my pace and go fast (and man was I flying).  I was biking more conservatively than I did in the race two weeks ago (to avoid a crash on the run), but I still managed to have a pretty fast split (56 minutes) and was in the lead off the bike (not an optimistic lead though, because I saw Lionel pretty close behind) .

Coming into T2 in the lead
After a painfully slow 41.5 minute 10km in my last race, I knew this race I wanted to be going faster.  I was able to get into my rhythm early, and was feeling strong with good leg turnover.  I knew Lionel was coming, and sure enough after about 1-2 km, he went by (fast as usual).  The course was pretty flat, with only one real hill, and was mainly concrete and asphalt surface.  I was feeling good at the 5km mark, and got a chance to see if anyone was gaining on me (it was an out and back course).  From what I could see, no one was close (although I knew a few people would be running fast behind me).  Unlike in my last race, this race I opted to race without any technology (my trusty Timex), and just focused on how I felt.  I was still running strong with 1km to go, and I knew I was going to have a safe shot at second.

The home stretch
I finished second overall (I think this is becoming a trend) and had perhaps one of my best races ever.  I felt great, had no issues with my leg, and really enjoyed the race.  And now I get to call myself a national champ...just saying

First 4 across the line: Lionel, Andy, Keith, Paul

The Overall
Overall, I really enjoyed this race (although it was pretty expensive...and no prize for second overall...)!  I had a great group of supporters (see all my supporters under the tab at the top) come and cheer me on, which included my parents (who seemed a bit more interested in me getting them a free burger than me finishing second...), my brother Dan (who is my most medium supporter), my coach Derek, and my friend Raffi.  Also, my friends Chris and Brad from Yorku were also at the race doing the relay, and came over for a picture.

With the Parents,who are truly great supporters (and picture takers)


Simon Whitfield was also walking around at the awards, and he was totally down to earth and happy to take a picture with us.  He was definitely a super nice guy, and it was a pleasure to meet him.  

Paul, Simon, Dan, Andy, Raffi

Finally, I want to note I am not coached by Nigel Gray of NRG (even though I wear his kit).  I got my suit with his logo on it as a gift (at a time when it didn't matter what I wore), and if it ain't broke....  I know it does create a conflict of interest, which is why I am shirtless for most of the pictures (its not to show off), and why I am getting a new kit (which is on its way).

So that's it for the 2013 Toronto Triathlon Festival.  Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed.  Next on the race lineup is this weekend at the Bala Triathlon (the much hyped retro race).  I have been growing out my moustache for about a month now (so much work, so few results...), and I have some really cool retro pieces of kit.  Stay tuned for a very interesting race report from Bala.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

MSC Huronia Olympic Race Report-2'nd Overall

The ontario triathlon season is already well underway for most local triathletes, but for me, it is just beginning.  Due to a severe stress fracture obtained last fall (that took me out of running for 6 months!!), I wanted to build my running back carefully and wait until mid season to start racing.  Run training has been going strong, and my coach Derek and I have been working very well together to get my running where it needs to be.  I had no real expectations heading into this race, and was mainly interested in getting some race experience and seeing how I was feeling.  Turns out I was feeling pretty good as I was able to pull off a second place finish.

Not bad for the first race of the season

I'm sure a few eyebrows were raised when people looked over the results and saw that the second place guy had run a 41 minute 10km (oh, this guys is SLOW...I guess he isn't really a runner).  Well, good thing we're not about those pessimistic attitudes here on this blog, so I'll go through my race and tell you how I though it went (glass half full approach).


Since I wasn't running much over the winter, I decided to invest my time into swim training.  Coach Brent and I have spent a lot of time at the pool, slowly but steadily improving my swimming.  After a few open water sessions in the weeks prior to the race, I was feeling pretty good with my swimming fitness.
The start of Saturdays race was one of the smoothest I have had, mainly because I decided to start to the far left of the start line.  Sighting the far buoy proved to be a bit of a challenge, but thanks to Devin Wittig (who unfortunately flatted 5km into the bike), I was able to find a nice landmark to key off of for the start.  Things quickly spread out, and I found myself mixing it up with two other Recharge with milk Development Team members Cody Beals and Angela Quick.  Things continued pretty normally in the swim until the last buoy, where Angela started to go a bit off course, which broke up our pack.  With some open water in front of me, I swam right to the beach and climbed out first!!....oh wait...Ben Sayles is a minute up?...never mind...second (so close to a swim bonus)!!  This was a great swim time for me compared to last year, and I was feeling pretty optimistic heading out on the bike.

Mixing it up on the swim (that is either Cody or I on the left- we have the same wetsuit)

After exiting from a decent T1 (1 minute down on Ben Sayles), there was a small but steep hill that needed to be conquered right off the bat.  I had practiced mounting my bike on this section prior to the race, so I got up the hill quickly and soon found my way into the aero position.  I quickly increased my pace on the bike, and was able to catch Ben before the 5km mark.  Now in the lead, I decided to put in a pretty solid effort on the hilly and windy course (I kind of wanted the bike points).  My biking is feeling even stronger than last year, so I was knew I must be putting time on my chasers.  Not much else was a pretty solitary ride...oh except when I almost hit a car as I was coming in to the finish...but that was about it.

I was the first into T2, and quickly set off running.  I set what I thought to be a decent pace, but when I saw a 3:48 for the first km, I knew it was going to be a long run.  I had seen 1:06 half marathoner Lionel Sanders coming into T2 maybe 2.5 minutes back of me, but everyone else was quite a ways back.  I continued to run steady, and was eventually passed by Lionel at about the 5km mark (and by passed I mean I was buffeted by his wake...not really, but he was going FAST).  The course was out and back, so at the turn around, I expected to see Cody or even Keith Marchant closing in on me, but to my surprise, there was still a large gap between us.  It finally dawned on me how fast I must have been going on the bike to get such a gap, and opposed to last years race (where I was passed by 2 people in the final km) I saw my possibility of a second place finish.  I just continued the pace I was running, and after a few head checks ("they must have caught up by now..."), I found myself crossing the line second overall.

Andy was HOT

Overall, I felt the race went pretty well.  Second place is certainly nothing to get upset about.  Although  I was aiming for around a 37-38 minute 10km, I can't get too upset with myself for running 41 minutes.  My run training has been really good, and in reality, even if I did achieve my ideal time, I would have just got caught closer to the finish line...   

Top 5 Men and Women Overall (Like my shirt?)

Now its time to re-group and get ready for the National Championships at the Toronto Triathlon Festival.  Looks like it is shaping up to be a really good race (for that price I would hope so), and after my showing in Huronia, I am feeling good and ready to put down a solid time (ideally a better run split).  

Thanks to my great coaches for all their help in getting me to this point, I wouldn't be where I am without them.  A thanks also goes out to Nineteen Wetsuits, who helped me out with the purchase of my super fancy Frequency.  Finally a big thanks to John Salt and the whole Multi Sport team, who, like usual, put on a fantastic event.  
I should probably also note that although I was wearing an NRG jersey, I do not get any coaching from them whatsoever.  It is the only one I currently have, which should hopefully change in the near future.   

Thursday, 4 July 2013

DIY's every triathlete should consider - Part 1: DIY bike work stand

Why buy it when you can make it?  In the world of super expensive triathlon gear, sometimes it is best to split from the pack, and make something yourself (especially when you're like me and don't like to give people your money).  Below, I will share with you the first of FIVE of my favourite DIY projects (patents pending...imaginary ones though) that can easily match similar store bought goods, and help you do triathlon on the cheap.  Just a quick word of caution (not the dangerous kind, but more the preparing you for failure kind), not all DIY projects turn out the way you intended, and you may not always find success with your creations (like my two aero bottle setups that broke mid-ride).  Hopefully these simple DIY will be as successful for you as they have been for me.

DIY bike work stand

If you're the kind of person who seriously considers any DIY options, then you will most likely also be the kind of person that does your own bike repairs (even if they are a bit on the hack side).  Although some repairs can be done with the bike leaning against a wall, it is usually a good idea to have the bike off the ground and supported so you can work on it easier.  However, as I found in my search for a good stand, most options will run you $150-$300 bucks (far too much for me to consider reasonable), and many involve clamping to hold the bike steady (do you really want to clamp that carbon frame....?).  My DIY work stand is a very reasonable option, that can be constructed for around $30, and involves no clamping at all.

Materials needed
-1 x 3/4" plywood sheet (3'x3'): if you pay money for this....
-1 x 4' tubing (1"thick): main support structure
-1 x 2' tubing (3/4" thick): beam on which the bike rests
-1 x 1"-3/4" elbow: to make the 90 degree angle and transition to the thinner tubing.
-1 x 1" compatible base mount: How you attach the main support to the plywood base
- Also a few other odds and ends that are optional, but recommended

Instructions (Real DIY'ers can skip this section)

Step 1: Attach the threaded mounting piece to the base of the stand.  I used some bolts I found in the basement to attach this piece, as screws are just not strong enough (they will end up screwing you in the long run...okay no more bad puns).  The heads of the bolts are on the bottom of the base and countersunk to lay flush.  I decided to add in another small wood piece here for reinforcement (also to allow me to use longer bolts).  Again if you pay for this piece of wood...

Just ignore the wheels, they don't really work how I had hoped 

Step 2: Now assemble the main tube with the shorter tube using the 90 degree elbow to complete the main part of the stand (if you can't do this step without issues, I suggest you reconsider this project).  Also note the pieces of foam I have attached to the tubing.  This will help to cushion where your bike will rest and will probably save you some grief (I found it on the side of the road, so don't pay for this either).

Assembled top portion

 Step 3: Now to put the whole thing together, just screw in the already assembled top piece to the base mount.  I would highly recommend greasing this junction, as, like a wetsuit stuck to skin without body glide, it can become very difficult to separate the two after a while.

Yes it really is quite simple

Final notes:  Now hang your bike on the horizontal tube by the seat (like in transition), and enjoy your new stand.  I have used this stand for repairing all of my bikes, from my commuter bike to Franchesca.  I have never had problems with the bike falling off or moving around on me (the front wheel usually rests on the ground to help stabilize), and apart from some rust, this stand is still going strong.  To store the stand, simple disassemble the tubing from the plywood base and lean against a wall (it tends to take up very little space).  As with all DIY's however, there will be some critics (namely my dirt jumping, bike shop mechanic brother who always tells me how hack this stand is).  Funny though how his bike always seem to up there for some repair...

Hey, I though you said you didn't like my stand

Stay tuned for 4 more DIY instalments coming soon