Sunday, September 27, 2015

Having a Barrel(man) of fun!

Last year, the Niagara Falls Barrelman was my A race. And despite some crazy winds, I had a blast doing it. There's just something amazing about running right by Niagara Falls - it's probably one of the nicest views you can have in a race.

That's why, when I was thinking of races to do this summer in preparation for Ironman Arizona, I decided that I should do Barrelman again. So very glad I did!

Race Prep

I admit, my race prep was decidedly lacking going into Barrelman. I had been insane with work in the week leading up to the race, so I really didn't give a whole lot of thought to the event until the day I had to leave. Thankfully I already had a room booked and 2 friends (Hector and Kim) to share it and the drive with - my friend Hector who was doing the Swim - Bike, while Kim was an expert Sherpa.

We got to Welland just in time to register and get to the race briefing - although we didn't have time to rack our bikes...which wasn't actually a bad thing given the weather was looking pretty iffy (we'd driven through some torrential rain on the way and it was incredibly windy still).

We saw tons of TTC friends - and managed to grab a picture with everyone who was at the race briefing.



After a stop for dinner, we headed to the hotel in Niagara Falls and got ou race bags sorted. Since Barrelman is a point-to-point race, you put your morning clothes in a bag which gets delivered to the finish line, pack your wetsuit into a bag in T1 (which also gets delivered to the end), and your T2 stuff in a bag which gets delivered to your bike right in T2. It was an incredibly easy and smooth process...and great practice for IMAZ where there are similar gear bags for each stage of the race, even though the transition area is in the same spot.

Race Morning

I have to love races that start late enough to grab a coffee and a bagel at Tim Hortons! After stopping for coffee, we headed to Welland. Getting out of the car, I realized what a beautiful day it was going to be. After the crazy weather of the day before - I couldn't have been happier.

I got my bike racked in transition and then went to get body marked (and bumped into my friend Nicole who surprised all my friends on Daily Mile by volunteering!). Also saw a few other Daily Milers throughout the day...Emma, Sam, Irina, Zindine....it was a party!

After getting all my stuff sorted, I managed to visit the washroom (a real one inside the Welland International Flatwater Centre) before heading down to the start to get my wetsuit on. Around this time I tried a new Maple Syrup/Ginger Gel from Endurance Tap which was absolutely delicious. That was my big score at the PwC Epic Tour the weekend before where I picked up a 6 pack to try out.

I got in the water with plenty of time to do a good warm-up - which was a nice change from half of the races I've done. I was in the first wave after the pros, so I was able to stake out my spot on the start line pretty easily.

The Swim

My wave included all the men 35 and under, plus all the women 55 and under - or something close to that. That made for a lot of people. But I'd much rather be on the defence than the offense when it comes to swimming, so I lined up against the rightmost buoy line (it was a clockwise rectangle swim in the canal), right at the front of the wave.

What I didn't know at the time was that I was in the absolute perfect spot to see the guidewires (yes, the rowing centre had guidewires in the water, which meant that I didn't need to look up and sight much at all).

The wave started and it was pretty much a crazy washing machine - my most crazy swim start ever (beating out Barrelman last year).  Here's a fantastic view from the race photographer (My Sports Shooter). And this is only 175 people. I kind of wonder what IMAZ would have been like with a 3,000 person mass start like I watched last year. But this year, they've moved to a rolling start...which, while less awesome to "see" will hopefully make for a bit less insanity in the water. You never know though!

For reference, I started far right toward the buoy...no idea which person I an though. I am probably one of the first few people on the farthest side since this was still right at the beginning.



I spent a good 100m in the middle of the race fighting with this girl who kept wanting me to get out of her way (I was swimming right over the guidewires)....but she wasn't quite fast enough to get ahead of me, so she kept trying to hit me instead (intentionally). I got a fist to my lip at one point, and then another one to my head which knocked my goggles off. Thankfully I didn't lose them, but I did have to stop (in the middle of a crowd) to put them back on.

But, as I said - I'd rather be on the defense, so despite being really, really annoyed by this girl's antics, I didn't let the incident bother me. I kept my line around the two far buoys and then got sandwiched again by a couple of guys (not at all intentionally) coming out of the turn to head back. Thankfully, I managed to get myself free and in front of them.

I had clear sailing for much of the race after that - which was nice.

Thinking about the race afterward, I have to say that one thing I was able to do really well during the swim was draft. I had people to swim near pretty for at least 3/4 of the race (oftentimes too near). Of course, I lost some of that time thanks to crazy girl, but it was still a good experience. Overall, I finished the swim a bit slower than last year, but still well within my goal time (between 35-38min). I was happy!


Swim time: 36:41 (6/21 AG)

T1

I had a pretty good T1...decided not to take a nap like I did last year (when my transition was 5min long). I still took my time to make sure I was organized, but overall, it was a lot quicker - 2:52.

A photographer actually caught me in T2, much to my surprise.


The bike

I left T1 riding along the recreational canal (you can just see the Welland International Flatwater Centre in the background) to the street. I might not be fast, but I looked it in my new Rudy Project helmet!


Out on the bike course, I realized that my technology jinx struck again because my watch wouldn't come out of swim mode, no matter how many times I pressed the mode and lap buttons. The thing was frozen...which meant all it would give me was total time. Seriously...I swear Garmin hates me. This is the second Barrelman in a row where I had watch-fail.

But, thanks to last year, I did have a backup plan. There were mile markers every 5k...and I knew 2min per km was 30km/h. So I was able to approximate my time at each of the mile markers to see if I was on track.

Opposite to last year, I got a light tailwind the first half of the course, which meant I averaged around 30km/h for the first hour or so. The second half of the course I got more of a headwind, but nothing like the craziness of last year. It's funny....afterwards I heard people complaining about the wind. Personally, it didn't bother me in the slightest. I just kept thinking how much nicer it was than last year!

I was able to eat and drink very well on the bike...even if my nose would run disgustingly every time I drank from my camelbak. Thank goodness for bike gloves - and finally being able to take my hands off my handlebars so I could wipe my nose without any problems. But still: yuck!

Got to the mid-way mark and saw a photographer.


Kilometres 65-80 were the worst for me - not because I was feeling bad, but because the roads seemed to be a lot crappier than they were last year. I know I slowed down in that section, but I did my best. Thankfully the last 10km or so was back along the Niagara Parkway, leading into Niagara Falls....perfect way to end a bike ride, since I got up my speed again.

Was very surprised to see my friend (and Limitless Coaching Coach) Eric D'Arcy with about 8km left to go. Eric had a bunch of his athletes racing so came out to spectate. I admit, seeing him gave me an added burst of energy!

I wasn't really sure what my bike time was when I pulled into transition, but I knew it was decently under my goal time of 3:15-3:18. Although the course was 3km shorter this year, so I wasn't sure how that would factor in. Turns out I was just a touch faster than my top end goal speed (28-28.5km/h) for the bike - with an average of 28.73 km/h. I was thrilled! That's almost 2.25km/h faster than I did last year!

Also - it makes me think that maybe, just maybe I'll be able to break 3 hours one of these days (or years) for a half ironman bike. What a crazy thought!

Bike time: 3:05:52 (10/21 AG - top half! Woohooo!)

T2

T2 was set up very similarly to last year, with a ton of volunteers making it easy to find my bike. One fabulous woman chatted with me as I was switching into my run gear - and offered to pack up all my bike stuff in the bag for me. Thanks awesome volunteer! :)

All this meant I had a decent T2 - again, taking a couple of minutes off compared to last year (2:53).

The Run

The run is by far the best part of Barrelman. It's also why one of these years I want to do the Niagara Falls International Marathon or Half Marathon (not sure what the race distance is). It's just such a gorgeous city.

Just out of T2, I saw my friend Kim (saw a ton of people I knew over the course of the day - it was fantastic!). I managed to smile, although I was in the process of trying to beat my watch into submission with the hope I could get it to work for the run. Miraculously I did!

The route for the run was changed a bit this year...which seemed to both add more hills (which it didn't - but the course certainly felt hillier than last year)...and some stairs (a few going up and then an entire flight going down) which we had to do on both laps. I walked down the stairs both times because I have a propensity for tripping down stairs and didn't want to do that in a race.

Just like last year, I loved, loved, loved running by the falls. I was even very lucky that no cars were going by when I was running by the photographer - since he captured an incredible  picture!


I actually felt pretty good on the run - better than last year - but I was actually a tad slower much to my surprise. Still had good pacing though. I was about 2min slower on the second lap, but that's mostly because I was a bit slower on the hills and the stairs I think - and I stopped a bit more at aid stations and made sure to test some coke (since I wanted to see how my stomach would react if I drank it at IMAZ).

Overall, this run was fantastic - and the aid station folks all the way along were amazing!

Run time: 1:58:44 (8/21 AG)

The finish

When I turned into the finisher's chute, I could see the clock and it read 5:47:xx - I was absolutely over the moon. Running toward the finish, I was practically flying I felt so good. All I had been hoping for was to break 6 hours, but I broke it by a ton. Even the 3km shorter bike course didn't account for all 26min I shaved off my time from last year.


Final thoughts

Really big thanks to Multisport Canada for putting on such a fabulous race - and to the absolutely amazing crew of volunteers. You guys all went above and beyond my expectations. Thanks for a great day!

Also, as always, a big shout out to my Coach Mark Linseman. He's patience personified when it comes to my biking efforts - but it's thanks to him I'm getting better and better every single day when it comes to triathlon. You're awesome Coach!

Next stop? Ironman Arizona.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Spotlight on Hurdle Project Team Member: Pro Triathlete Jackson Laundry

Following up on my interview with Coach James Loaring about the LPC Hurdle Project…I wanted to showcase one of the talented Hurdle Project team members: Jackson Laundry.

2015 Hurdle Project Team. Photo Credit - Pixelate Image Professional Photography

Jackson is a rising force in the triathlon world, winning numerous races this summer across the province and the overall Multisport Canada Series. He’s got a great future ahead of him as a pro triathlete.

I actually conducted this interview early in the summer, but wanted to time it for after the introduction to the Hurdle Project. Alas, the summer went by way too quickly, so it's now it's a little bit of a retrospective interview. But it’s actually fascinating to see what Jackson’s goals were leading into the summer given how well he’s done since.

To find out more about Jackson and to follow his triathlon career, you can find him online at www.jacksonlaundry.com  and on twitter (@jacklaundry93).

Big thanks to Jackson for waiting so patiently for this interview to be posted – and for sharing such wonderful insights about his experience in triathlon and his participation in the Hurdle project. Can't wait to see what the future holds for this talented triathlete!

Now on with the interview!


Tell me a bit about your background - how did you get into triathlon

I got into the sport in 2004 (age 10) when I participated in the Belleville Kids of Steel Triathlon. In my age category I was last out of 64 in the swim portion! I was pretty disappointed at the time, but for the next 5 years or so I did the Picton Kids of Steel race each year, always without much training. Then in 2009 my dad and I “trained” (did about 4 weeks of training) for the Peterborough Sprint Triathlon. Ever since then I’ve slowly but surely increased my focus and seen improvements.
 
What's been your greatest accomplishment in triathlon and/or in life - so far?

My biggest accomplishment in triathlon has been winning 2 world age-group medals for the 2013 and 2014 sprint and Olympic distance triathlon championships.  After winning the bronze in Edmonton I felt I had accomplished everything I wanted to in the age-group division and was ready to move on to pro racing.

My greatest non-triathlon related accomplishment was graduating from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Kinetics with a Nutrition minor.  I am proud to say that I was able to balance full time schooling with training at a professional level.

You've already had a great start to this racing season with the overall win at Multisport Canada's Woodstock Triathlon. What are your big goals for 2015 (and beyond?)

This season I have 2 main goals, the first is to race well in some pro non drafting races (The New York City Triathlon and the Des Moines Triathlon). The second goal is to race well in draft legal races, which will give me a good chance for Quest for Gold funding. The races are is Magog, Ottawa, and Punta Guilarte. I guess I just mainly want to perform well in the “big” races with a competitive pro field.

How did you get involved in LPC and the Hurdle Project?

I have been a member of team LPC since well before the Hurdle Project was officially launched, so I was able to become part of it as it developed from the ground up. I earned my spot on the squad presumably by being dedicated to high performance, and by having pretty good success since joining team LPC.

How is being involved in the Hurdle Project helping you work toward and achieve your goals?

The Hurdle Project is immensely helpful in my triathlon career. It helps by covering a lot of training and racing costs, and providing very affordable but highly specific coaching. James Loaring puts a lot of time and effort into the Hurdle Project and gives the most effective coaching possible to the HP athletes.

You have some excellent fellow Hurdle Project Squad members. Do you find being part of a group makes a difference?

Being part of a group helps me mainly by making training more fun, which provides a lot more motivation to get the work done. We have a wide range of ability levels within our team, but James is able to modify workouts so everyone has a similar training plan, and can choose to do many workouts with team mates. There are also weekly workouts, like brick workouts, that all LPC athletes are welcome to attend.

Looking at the bigger picture, why do programs like the Hurdle Project matter for the sport of triathlon?

Support programs for athletes are very important for the development of elite athletes. The costs of triathlon (and other sports) can get very high, and athletes who want to improve need to train a lot. These are conflicting realities, because more training means less time to work, which makes it hard to pay for the sport. Support programs are necessary for making the sport more affordable, which will help developing athletes reach their goals.

Is there anything you'd like to say about being involved in the Hurdle Project that I wouldn't think to ask?

The Hurdle Project is a great way for a business to advertise for their company. If you visit the Hurdle Project Sponsorship Levels page on www.loaringpersonalcoaching.com you can see that there are many advertising opportunities that can be taken advantage of by any company that wants to support the program.
 
How can people follow your triathlon journey?

The best way to follow my triathlon endeavors is by visiting my blog/website at www.jacksonlaundry.com or following me on twitter (@jacklaundry93).
 
Wasaga Beach Triathlon (2015)
 
 
Big thanks again to Jackson for taking time out of his busy triathlon season to talk to me about his experiences with the Hurdle Project! Thanks Jackson!
 


Monday, September 14, 2015

Spotlight on the LPC Hurdle Project with Coach James Loaring

Over the past few months, I’ve been fascinated by a project the team at Loaring Personal Coaching (LPC) has been working on to help support developing and elite triathletes. I think the thing that I’ve been amazed by most is the true generosity of most of these young and incredibly talented triathletes. The ones I’ve met are positive, supportive and good role models for how I view the triathlon community.

Given the Hurdle Project is a new initiative this year, I asked Coach James Loaring if I could interview him regarding the project. I’ve also conducted a complementary interview with Jackson Laundry – one of the Hurdle Project team members and a very talented young athlete. Look for Jackson’s interview to be featured in my next blog!

So without further ado…my interview with Coach James Loaring!

2015 Hurdle Project Team. Photo Credit - Pixelate Image Professional Photography
 
Where did the idea for the Hurdle Project come from?

Funding and support opportunities are scarce for developing and elite triathletes and runners.  Providing good coaching is critical, but if it is not affordable then the athlete might eventually have to quit the sport years before they harvest their potential. Providing service/product/financial support is necessary to help keep their dream alive, to provide more long-term sustainability so that the athlete can continue to chase their athletic goals.

We (Coach Mark Linseman and I) are motivated to help develop a team of passionate and hard-working individuals. By creating a team, all individuals benefit and feed off of each other in a positive way.

It seems like LPC has always made an effort to give back to the community and to the sport. How does the Hurdle Project fit in with this mindset?

Since 1999, LPC/Loaring “grass-roots” events have raised over $200 000 for various charities. Since 2014, LPC events help to fund-raise for the Hurdle Project, with the vision that we are investing into “proactive healthcare” by directly supporting hard-working and talented athletes, and indirectly inspiring many more (of all ages and abilities) to lead a healthy and active lifestyle.

Our next LPC event is the WestMONSTERrun on Halloween in Guelph. Proceeds at this family-friendly community 5k costume run and kids MONSTER dash will go to the Hurdle Project.

How do you choose the athletes on the Hurdle Project squad? Can elites and/or future elites apply to become part of the project?

Hurdle Project athletes must fulfill one of the following minimum prerequisites:

·         Elite: current elite/pro triathlete or runner status in Canada or other country (any age)

·         Future Elite: under 24 years of age with the goal of competing in triathlon or running at the elite level

·         Ambassador: Under 30 years of age, working or studying part-time or full-time, and a member of teamLPC for at least one year.

If they fit one of the above criteria, the potential Hurdle Project athlete can apply by submitting this questionnaire:


When we receive an inquiry and/or questionnaire, we begin the process of determining if the athlete would be a good fit for the Hurdle Project. A positive team environment and culture is very important to us. We will not choose a potential applicant if we get the sense that they might often demonstrate a negative mind-set during group training. Our goal is to help develop athletes who tend to be mostly positive, supportive teammates, role models, community leaders, are relentlessly passionate, and feed off of a hard-working team culture.

What makes the Hurdle Project unique from other high performance training groups?

Provincial and National high performance groups often must focus the specificity of training and development for Draft-Legal racing, because funding for these groups are given to develop athletes toward events that are a part of the Olympic Program. The Hurdle Project is diversified and comprises athletes that are training for all different triathlon and running formats, from Junior Draft-Legal racing to Elite ITU racing, from non-drafting Sprint and Standard Distances to Ironman, from 800m on the track to the Marathon.

Few high performance groups are able to simultaneously provide all three of what we consider to be long-term key success factors: quality affordable high performance coaching, a positive team environment/culture, service/product/financial support to help make “chasing the dream” economically feasible and sustainable. We strive to achieve “coaching, culture, support” excellence.

 What is your long term vision for the Hurdle Project?

To hurdle from “good” to “great”. We aim to continuously evolve our systems so that the big three key success factors “coaching, culture, support” gradually progress from good to great. We have a lot of work to accomplish for us to achieve our long-term goals, and then build upon these goals toward bigger ones. 

I know you have several organizations sponsoring the Hurdle Project. Are you looking for additional sponsors?

We most definitely are looking to build long-term relationships with more companies who share our vision, and who would receive a good return on their investment.

We are fortunate to have many supporters, and hope to partner with several more over the next few months. We have developed a sponsorship level page that helps to articulate how we can benefit a potential sponsor: www.loaringpersonalcoaching.com/lpc-hurdle-project-sponsorship-levels.html

In 2015, our main sponsors have been Dundas Speed Shop, Powerwave Energy Solutions, Pixelate Image Professional Photography, Gulliver’s Lake Carefree RV Resort, and Electrocom Canada Inc.

What are the biggest highlights from Hurdle Project Athletes so far this year?"

There have been many individual achievements that we have celebrated as a team that have included numerous overall wins at triathlon and run events across Ontario. But I am most proud when the athletes are very supportive of each other while they commit themselves to the process of consistently training well over a long period of time.

Are there any other interesting facts about the Hurdle Project you would like mentioned? 

The name “Hurdle” is a tribute to Johnny Wilfrid Loaring, my Grandfather, an Olympian Hurdler, Hall of Famer, and War Hero. JWL is symbolized in the LPC and Loaring Physiotherapy logos, which both feature a hurdler overcoming obstacles throughout the journey of achieving his/her personal goals.

The Hurdle Project Team currently comprises 13 athletes, who are all wonderful individuals both on and off the field of play.
 
Hurdle Project Team having fun. Photo Credit - Pixelate Image Professional Photography

A big thanks to Coach James for sharing his insights and vision for the Hurdle Project! No doubt there are great things to come from the Hurdle Project! For more information, visit the Hurdle Project Team page.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Toronto Island Swim Race

What, another race report? Why don't you post about your Pan Am Games experience?

Don't worry - that one is coming. But it will be another epic report - so in the meantime, I thought I'd throw this little report up.

The Toronto Island Swim Race - 3.8km

The Toronto Island Swim Race is a fantastic little race on Toronto Island (You would never have guessed that, right?). It's the only open water swim race I've done outside of a triathlon - but it's really well organized and local. Perfect if you want to see what you can do at either the sprint, Olympic or Ironman swim distances (750m, 1500m or 3800m).

Last year, I did the race on my birthday (August 17th) as my longest swim ever. I finished in 1:24 (although my watch says 1:22 - so I don't think they took off the two minutes between Wave 1 and Wave 2).

This year, I signed up for the race so I could have a 3.8km swim in open water before Ironman Arizona in November. I knew a bunch of friends would be doing it as well, so I figured why not.

Goals

My only real goal was to see what I could do - and still feel good when I got out of the water. Last year, I felt exhausted at the end. I was also quite dizzy and had to sit down for a while before I could actually move around. This time, I needed to feel like I could tackle a bike ride right after...which meant I had to keep a steady pace pretty much the whole time and not push too hard.

Training

For some unknown reason, swimming is my best triathlon sport (at least when it comes to my placing in my age group). Maybe that's because I learned how to swim when I was in high school and university and, while I was a mediocre swimmer back then, I learned the right technique. Now that I'm more fit (and weigh less), I'm pretty decent - at least compared to triathletes in my age group.

All that said, because swimming is my strongest discipline, I don't really do a lot of swim training. This year, it's mostly been twice a week - with sessions focused on technique over speed. Coach Mark has really been working to get me to use my arms more and to use my legs more to keep my form right than anything else. It's been a slow lesson - but I'm working on it. I've also been doing a lot to make sure my stroke is even and when I enter the water and pull, I push straight back and don't zig-zag my hands/arms (that evil "S" stroke taught to me as a kid tries to sneak back into my stroke every now and again).

Given the lack of emphasis on swimming - I really had no idea how I'd do going into this race. But I've had some excellent results at various shorter races this year (my speed is still creeping up - thanks to the bike training I expect), so I figured I could at least beat my time from last year.

Race

I was in the first wave this year (so no worries about weird timing) - and more accustomed to open water, so I started right at the front, if a bit right of the main pack. I started off quite strong, although went out of my way not to take the first hundred meters too strongly. 3.8km is a long way after all.

The course was 3 loops...but the buoys weren't in a straight line (at least it didn't feel that way to me)...they were in more of a rounded course which made it a bit hard for me to figure out the right line to swim. I did better than last year (when I swam over 4km), but I still swam way too wide at times.

For the first lap, I was neck and neck with a few other swimmers. I got a little bit of a draft here or there but kept on drifting apart...so mostly I just kept them in sight as much as I could. One guy kept getting ahead of me ( he was swimming a way better line than I was)...but I would slowly catch up...and then draft a bit....then lose him again. This pretty much happened for the entire race. I know it was the same guy because he had a sleeveless wetsuit with yellow stripes on.

I swam a better line on the second lap. On the third lap, the waves were getting quite rough. On the way back from the turn buoy, I was trying to time my sighting for the top of the rolling waves and had some success. But mostly I was just trying to swim in the right direction and not drink too much of Lake Ontario. This is where sleeveless wetsuit guy lost me for good. He seemed to swim right along the buoys and I kept being pushed too far afield by the waves and needing to cut back.

Finish

Despite the challenges of the last lap, I felt pretty good as I came to the end of the swim and turned in to the finish. I got out of the water expecting my time to be pretty slow given the rougher conditions compared to last year.

Instead - my watch read 1:15:28! Wow! Talk about a massive personal best compared to last year. And it only took me a few seconds to get my  balance. I actually felt good. Exactly the way I wanted to feel.


Shortly after finishing, I found out that sleeveless wetsuit guy was someone I knew from the Toronto Triathlon Club. So funny. Thanks for letting me use you as a guide-post Scott!

My finish time was good for 4/20 women (wetsuit category) - although 3rd was 7 minutes ahead of me - so I have a long way to go before I could actually "compete" in one of these races.

Big congrats to all the people I know from the Toronto Triathlon Club who made it out to the swim and did awesome! Got to love doing fun events with great people!

Photo credit...stranger using my camera
Finishing thoughts

In terms of lessons learned - it was good to get experience 'racing' in choppy water. I found it a bit hard to sight at times before I figured out how to time my sighting for the top of the rolling waves (a process somewhat hit or miss - but I did okay).

I also learned a lot about how much waves can affect where you're going and got better at correcting my line as I went. I ended up swimming too far outside the buoys several times - but always seemed to get back to where I wanted to be after a bit of work. I could definitely swim a better line next time though!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Doing a Double: Guelph Lake 1 and TTF

It seems like I am always playing catch up when it comes to writing race reports and giving updates on what's happening in my life. But that's just because I have so much happening - so I can't really complain!

But I didn't want to miss providing a quick report on my first two triathlons of 2015: Guelph Lake 1 (Olympic) and Toronto Triathlon Festival (Olympic) - which both happened on the same weekend in June.

Two Races in a Weekend? Why?

I originally asked my coach if it was okay if I did these two races back to back because I wanted to know what it was like to race tired. I assumed I'd feel exhausted during TTF - but figured it would be good training for Ironman Arizona in November. After all, a 17 hour race is incredibly long time and no doubt I'll be exhausted at times. While 2 Olympic races are much shorter than an Ironman...I figured the day between them would give my legs time to get stiff so I'd be more tired than I might be if I did the distances all at once.

You'll see how that worked in a moment.

Pre-race: Welland Half-Iron

Aside...this is a bonus since I didn't want to write a separate report!

The weekend before Guelph and TTF, I did the Welland Half Iron swim-bike (Thanks to my friend David for the ride!). I actually had a lovely day and even topped up the run with 7km of running to cheer on my friends doing the full race. The weather was spectacular - and I had a great swim and a great (for me) bike. It started to rain on the bike - but only in the last 15-20 minutes. Good practice racing in the rain though.

I had a solid swim in Welland - my first real open water swim of the year if you don't count my swim at the LPC Florida Triathlon Camp. I finished the 2k in 36:26 (pace 1:49/100m). Given I didn't really have anyone to draft off of, I thought this was pretty good. Only ~30 seconds slower than Barrelman last year where I got to draft a fair bit.

Photo credit: Barry Richards I believe.

My goal was to push the bike as hard as I could since I didn't have to run. Despite some rain in the last 10km or so, I still managed a great for me bike (3:07:09 for 90km or 28.85km/h). That's 2.5km/h faster than Barrelman last year - although Barrelman was incredibly windy, so not sure how equivalent they were. Next to wind, the bit of rain was much easier to handle! The picture was from a pretty busy section of road, so you can see how focused I was. I hate having cars near me.

Photo credit: My Sports Shooter/Multisport Canada

I finished the Swim/Bike in 3:47:45 (including T1) - which is considerably faster than I did the swim/bike portion of Barrelman. I cut 20min off my bike time...although Barrelman was slightly longer, so it was more like 15-16min. Still - for me, that was amazing. If I could have done a half marathon in under 2 hours, I would have finished under 6 hours. Alas, that wasn't the day to find out what I could do a half iron in, since my race was done there. Oh how I wanted to see what I could do though!

I finished the Swim/Bike 19/34 overall, 9/21 women, and 3/4 in my Age Group. But I wasn't too concerned about that - I was just happy with my big (for me) improvement on the bike!

After finishing the race, I still had a short run on my plan...so I used it to go out and cheer on other people. It was pouring rain for most of the run, so I think the cheers were appreciated. The funniest part was being mistaken time and again for a racer. Nope, I was just taking it easy. :)

Of course, Barry Richards caught me on camera...I was trying to jump up in the air to make it fun. Alas, not quite timed right.

 

Photo credit: Barry Richards

Overall, I had a fabulous time in Welland. It was also great to be able to see some great friends finish -including my friend Carole who did her first Half Iron (and is also doing IMAZ), and my friend Linda-Kay (whose husband Barry got many of the pics)...who is incredibly speedy (and also doing IMAZ).

Photo credit: Barry Richards

Race 1: Guelph Lake 1

After Welland, I was expecting a lot out of Guelph Lake 1. I felt I was doing much better on the bike, and had even been to Guelph Lake a couple of times as part of 2 teamLPC training days. But you never know what you're going to get come race day.

I got a ride to Guelph with my friend Peter from the Toronto Triathlon Club (Thanks Peter!). Alas, since we had to leave so early to get to Guelph - I didn't have time to get a coffee (or more honestly, Timmies wasn't open and I didn't think to go to McDs). But I didn't think much of it. We got to Guelph in good time to get our race kits and set up in transition. Saw tons of people from teamLPC - which was awesome.

Swim

I had a solid swim. 27:11 for 1500m (~1:48/100m). The course was straightforward and very well marked making it pretty easy to follow. The run up the hill from the swim exit was the hardest part!

Photo credit...whoever took the race photos.

Bike

The bike in Guelph is sllllloooooooooowwwww. Between the speed bumps going into and out of the park, some slow roads, and hills...I just never felt like I got going. But I had a lot of fun anyways as you can see from my picture. I finished the 40km in 1:25:49 (which at 27.96km/h was slower pace wise than at the much flatter Welland)

Photo credit: Race photographer
Run

The run is where I noticed my lack of speed in spades. I've run this course before and I'd run on parts of it in the weeks leading up to the race. But on race day, my legs didn't have much in them. I felt like I was overheating much of the race - and my legs just didn't want to go. But oh well, sometimes that happens! Doesn't mean I didn't have energy to smile. :)

Photo credit: Race photographer

Finish

I finished the race in 2:51:04, which was slower than I expected - but still pretty good. I finished 8/17 in my Age Group, 50/127 women, and 210/380 overall.

Got to see a ton of friends from teamLPC at the finish, including Coach James and Coach Alex - which was awesome. Wish I could get out to Guelph more often! Everyone is so supportive!

Photo Credit: Coach James Loaring
 
Toronto Triathlon Festival
 
I initially signed up for Guelph because I figured TTF would end up becoming a Duathon due to the frigid water temperatures of Lake Ontario. But, in the run up to the race, the lake temperatures were actually very reasonable, so I signed up for TTF at the last minute because I love the race and love the fact it is in Toronto so I didn't need to hitch a ride with anyone to be able to attend.
 
I picked up my race kit on Friday (which made for some funny conversations all weekend since I had the TTF bracelet on in Guelph).
 
Pre-race coffee
 
Because of the timing of the race, I got a cab to take me down to Ontario Place on race morning at stupid o'clock. We took a very scenic route down in order to find a Tim Hortons that was open because I had learned my lesson the day before about not having coffee before a race. Thankfully, I found a Timmies open at Harbourfront - giving me exactly what I needed to start my day off right.
 
Swim
 

I got a good warm-up in before the race (This was the first time TTF offered a warm-up area. It was great!). At the start of my wave, I was in the zone. I was crushing it. Had a perfect sight off the buoy and thought my pace was fantastic.

And then I got to the buoy only to be told by a kayaker that I was supposed to have swum to a buoy over to my right. I look over...and there's a big giant buoy about 100m to my right. No idea how I could have missed it...but I did.

D'oh. Never done that before.

But, I laughed and just turned and swam over to the buoy and back...I didn't let the mishap throw me off - I just picked up my pace as much as I could thinking that I needed to make up some time. Grr. I exited the water very happy to be finished and feeling embarrassed. My swim time actually wasn't terrible considering....28:14 (~1:53/100m pace).

Aside: I love this picture! It makes me laugh.

 Photo credit: Race photographer
 Bike

I  got on my bike thinking I could only get better. Thankfully, I was right.  I had a fantastic bike for me...finishing in 1:21:06 (29.6km/h) which was the best I'd ever done on this course.
Photo credit: Race photographer
Run

I had no idea how the run was going to go, so I paced very carefully early on. Turns out I ended up having a much better run than the day before. Who knew! I even had the energy left to pass someone right at the finish line! My run time was 51:15, which wasn't fast - but much better than the day before!
 
Photo credit: Race photographer

Finish

Much to my amazement, I finished TTF in 2:45:19 - 5 minutes faster than Guelph Lake 1 the day before! It was also a course PR by 4 minutes.

Had a ton of friends at the race, including lots of teamLPC folks and Toronto Triathlon Club folks. I admit that knowing so many people just makes racing even more fun! Big thanks also to all the TTC people who volunteered!

 Photo credit: Toronto Triathlon Club
Photo credit: Loaring Personal Coaching

Lessons learned from back to back races

So, after two races in a weekend - what did I learn? Not what I was expecting to but still a lot.
  1. Coffee is key.
  2. I race better when I've had a coffee than when I haven't had a coffee.
  3. Don't skip the coffee!
  4. Coffee is more important than breakfast - although that is important too.
  5. Even at stupid o'clock don't forget to have a coffee!
Wonder if I can put thermoses of coffee in my IMAZ special needs bags?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Race Report: Mississauga Half Marathon

Note: I started writing this after the race...and then forgot to finish it. Oops! So here it is - only 6 weeks late!

This winter was an interesting one. I'd hoped to really work on my run speed in addition to my bike power, but a calf sprain in January (let's be honest...more likely the sprain happened in December since I spent a good month thinking the calf pain would go away on its own)  meant I spent a good part of the winter running easy while my calf recovered.

Yes, I was very glad I was able to run at all. For example, I didn't have to give up my long runs - just keep them relatively easy. Coach Mark was extremely level headed about the whole thing. He kept saying I wouldn't lose speed if I took it easy for a few weeks - not that I really believed him. After a set-back, he suggested sticking to easy runs entirely until I went away to the LPC Triathlon Camp in Florida. That turned out to be a wise move. I had a great time at camp and came back able to finally pick up where I had left off.

Of course then I ended up getting sick...and had a few terrible long runs. It wasn't until the week before the race that I had a good long run with well-executed pace work. The fact the run was only 13km was my big worry. I just wasn't sure I had it in me to run a strong race. But at least I had the chance to.

Goal

Given my lack of consistent and focused race prep, I  had no idea what the Mississauga Half Marathon was going to bring. Earlier in the year, I said I wanted to break 1:45, but I gave up that thought early on and only made the goal to get a personal best (PB). My best half marathon time was 1:47 and change during the full Mississauga Marathon last year, so I figured beating that time would be doable if nothing went wrong.

Pre-race

I went out to Port Credit the day before the race to get my race kit. It was very easy to catch the Go Train out there as the Port Credit Memorial Arena is only a couple of blocks from the station. From there it was a direct bus up to the race hotel (Novotel Mississauga) right by Square One Mall. As someone who doesn't drive - this was essential for making the race accessible - and I loved it. So easy!

The race hotel is only a few blocks from the race start - so I highly recommend it for anyone coming from out of town. I admit I got a better price direct on the hotel website (pre-paid) than if I'd booked through the race.

Race morning

One benefit of the race hotel is that they had coffee and breakfast items available for purchase very early in the morning...alas, not at 5am when I went down to find it. But it was there at 5:30 (I'd just mis-read the opening time). I was happy to get a coffee and a couple of pieces of toast with butter for breakfast.

I wasn't as wired as I was last year for the full marathon...so I took my time making it to the race start, getting there around 6:30am so I could meet up with some friends from Daily Mile. So neat to be able to catch up with folks I don't see very often.

I admit I was very happy it wasn't as cold before the start as last year. The conditions were actually very pleasant for a race. I think it might have gotten warm for the full marathoners - but for the half, the weather was pretty good.

Got to the starting corral with 10 minutes to spare (plenty for a race start). They don't split the corral into seeded groups, so I had to wend my way around a bunch of eager runners to get closer to the front. In hindsight, I could've started even closer to the front, but the fact I was a little farther back probably kept me from going out too hard. Given I wasn't sure what I was capable of that day - I was okay with not going out too fast. I should try and do that more often, to be honest!

The race

I was feeling decent at the start, but not fabulous. I didn't have the same snap I had in my legs compared to last year. But the weather was nice and the wind was mild, so I figured I'd have a nice run no matter what.

Started off at a good pace and managed to keep that pace in line for the first 8km. When I reached the first hill, I remembered that I hadn't done any hill work all winter (would have been way too much force on my calves) - but luckily I remembered the advice Coach Mark has given me before...maintain effort on the hills, not speed. So that's what I tried to do. I think I did pretty well at it.

I held a very good pace into 18km (Around the time we hit the waterfront)...but around 19km I felt a wave of tiredness. The problem with this is the waterfront is where all the technical parts of the course are. It's about 3-4km of annoying twists and turns; this slowed me down a lot. When I'm tired, I just don't manage tangents at all well - and I tend to slow way more on turns than I would otherwise. I also got caught in a few clouds of no-see-em's (i.e. gnats) - which were gross and led to significant coughing. Yucky!

But I pushed and pushed and pushed, just trying to hold on. I knew I was going to be very close to 1:45 - and I kept that focus all the way through the last few km.

I thought I had it...but as 21.1km on my watch passed, I wasn't quite at the finish line....I was close...closer...and then, there.

I finished in 1:45:27 - way beyond what I thought I was capable of on the day. I was over the moon. Even better, Garmin actually had me hitting 21.1km in 1:44:39 (I apparently ran 200m too far on my way to the finish-line). This made me unreasonably happy. It doesn't count officially...but it is still proof I had it in me. Of course, the satellites could have been off 200m - but I'll take the confidence booster anyways.

Official race stats

  • Time: 1:45:27
  • Age Group (Women 30-39) Ranking: 23/298
  • Women Ranking: 58/1090
  • Overall Ranking: 281/2067

  • Final thoughts and lessons learned
    • This race took a lot more mental work than most of the races I've done previously. It was a struggle to maintain the pace - and at times I figured I should just dial it back and take it easy...but I didn't. I just kept thinking about how awesome I was (my motto is "Be Awesome Today") just being out there doing it...and I kept pushing, right to the finish.
    • You really can gain speed on the run by working on your bike. I did almost no speed work heading into Mississauga - but Coach Mark had me really pushing my bike skills. I'm sure that power translated. I'd never have hit 1:45 (and change) otherwise.
    • If you have a minor injury and it doesn't go away - get checked out sooner, rather than later. I wasted a month or two figuring my calf injury (which was minor for most of 6 weeks before it became worse) would go away on it's own. It didn't.
    • Coach Mark is awesome for putting up with me!

    Friday, March 13, 2015

    LPC Triathlon Camp - Day 6: Lots and Lots o'miles

    Today seemed to be a weird repeat of last year, just with more miles. But hey, all miles are good miles when your goal race is an Ironman, right?

    In the morning, we had the opportunity to run the stunning Orange Grove Trail...which is a 10 mile loop near Lake Louisa State Park (just beyond it actually as we found out). It's beautiful red dirt road which is pretty easy to run on.

    See, here's a picture of a bit of the trail.


    I actually love this trail, and find this run to be the best of the week.

    Given I haven't been doing any hard running the past month, Coach Mark said to run the 19k fairly easy to moderate today (a loop and a bit of the trail)...making sure to have fun, while adding some steady effort in if I felt good and my calf didn't bother me.

    I haven't actually downloaded my watch yet - but I ended up running with Beth, one of the other campers for most of 5-15km. This was great because she pushed me harder than I probably would've pushed myself, especially on such a warm morning. At the same time, I enjoyed the run immensely because I wasn't worried much about pace and the scenery was great.

    On the last km, Beth finished strong...but I had another 3km to go, so I held back a bit. I crossed the one loop finish, and then turned around and ran a 1.5km out and back to finish my 19km workout.

    At the end, Beth, Lindsay and I were thrilled to have had a great run. Honestly, it is mornings like this when you feel happy to be alive.


    Really happy with how the run went, especially given yesterday's double-Sugarloaf day. Also, my calf didn't bug me at all...yea!

    Watched a few others finish their workouts and cheered the last two guys in (one who ran an entire double loop since he's training for Boston).

    We grabbed a Starbucks on the way home - and then had a very quick meal before we had to head out for our bike ride.

    Oh, the bike ride. It was interesting to say the least...and definitely felt like a repeat of last year.

    You see, last year, the coaches managed to get me (and the folks I was with) lost in both directions on the way to the Allen's Challenge (a fun event that involves watching people try and devour 11 scoops of ice cream and 6 toppings within 15 minutes). If you look at last year's post, you'll see I rode 75km instead of 60km thanks to our lack of directional ability.

    While I joked about last year's directional challenges being the coaches' wanting me to do extra mileage...I kind of have to wonder about the truth of it when almost the exact same thing happened today. Except the route was longer this year, so it made the extra mileage even more challenging. Instead of the 35km easy that we were supposed enjoy on the ride to Allen's...our small group of 5 ended up going a good 50km to get to Allen's.

    But, hey - we managed to find the ice cream spot after stopping several random people on the street and then at a fire station. Of course, thanks to our 15km delay...we got there after everyone else had taken a break and after one of the campers destroyed the Allen's Challenge record (held by Coach  Mark) by something like 3 minutes. In truth, It looked like they were all just waiting around for us to arrive so they could leave.

    I admit, I was disappointed. Watching that ridiculous challenge has been a highlight of camp the last two years. And being so late meant I didn't even get any ice cream.

    Admittedly, part of that was the fact I decided to ride home (at that point, I figured I might as well go for the extra mileage) while the other 3 campers I was with opted to get a ride home from Allen's. I don't actually know if they got ice cream, but I hope they did. Meanwhile, I managed to down half a Dr. Pepper before I had to turn around and ride home.

    Aside: I honestly don't recommend riding 90k in the heat on 1 gel and half a Dr. Pepper (after running 19k in the morning)..but I am proof it can be done. Thankfully I had plenty of water in my Camelbak and had brought an extra bike bottle full of water - so hydration wasn't an issue. Phew.

    Thankfully, we got home without any detours. I admit that I rode around the resort's entry round-about 7 or 8 times so my watch would tick over to 90km. Because, well, now I've done a full 180km of riding in 2 days....along with my 19km run today and my 3k swim yesterday. That's actually not too far off an Ironman (another 22.2km of running and 800m swimming)...although it was spread out over a lot longer than the 17 hours I'll have next November. Figure it's a pretty darned good accidental simulation though. Right?

    And really, if you're going to have extra miles - today was a perfect day for them. It was sunny and warm, but not as scorching hot as yesterday. Really, other than a bit of wind, it was a great day for a ride.

    Got home in time to take a quick shower and then head out with my house to the camp dinner at the ESPN Club in Walt Disney World. I admit, I was pretty tired by then...but it was a fun evening spent with fantastic people.

     
    Tomorrow I head home (or technically to Detroit since I head home from Windsor on Sunday). Sometime over the next few days I will write a recap post....but I'm already looking forward to another great week at CampLPC come 2016. Who's with me?

    Thursday, March 12, 2015

    LPC Triathlon Camp - Day 5: Climbing Sugarloaf...twice.

    I admit, I am almost too tired to write this blog entry. It's only my history of managing to get my recap out the same day that's getting me to put my thoughts into words for all of you. 3 years of triathlon camp and counting...I didn't want to disappoint anyone.

    Day 5 started with a swim at the awesome 350 meter lazy river at Orange Lake Resort.

     
    Okay, this picture was technically after the swim, but you can see one part of the spectacular pool. The workout was great...2 laps of warm-up, then 2 of drafting practice, then 3 laps of descending laps, a lap hard, and then a lap of cool down. Which is apparently 9 laps. I think? Or am I adding that incorrectly? I honestly can't add right now. But if it was 9 laps, that's over 3k of swimming - which is kind of amazing.
     
    Overall, the swim was really good. My descending reps would have been descending except I got kicked in the face - but that's triathlon for you.  It just made my hard lap all the much better.
     
    After the swim, we had some very important hot tub time, not to mention Starbucks Coffee time. Priorities, right? I needed to caffeinate before the big afternoon ride after all!
     
     
    What a nice looking bunch, right?
     
    We came home and ate a ton of food before heading out to the starting point of our hardest ride of the week - the Sugarloaf Mountain climb. Here are people getting ready for the start.
     
     
    The interesting thing about today's ride is that Coach Mark wanted me to climb Sugarloaf 2 times. The past two years, I've just been happy to make it up once - but this time, the goal was two reps. The question of course was how to get the two reps. Personally, I was a bit nervous about going down Sugarloaf...so when some friends opted for the 90km ride with a 20km loop around to climb Sugarloaf again, I figured that would be a good option.
     
    I did not really think about how hard doing 2 loops of 20km of hills would be. I'm not that smart. But hey, I made it up once....see, here is the proof.
     
     
    I even got a picture of myself...only on the first go though...I was too tired to think about getting one the second time!
     
     
    Shortly after our smaller 90km group started off for the second loop, my chain fell off. So they all were way ahead of me, while I stopped to fix my chain (with Coach Nissim's very timely help). I caught up with the 72km group (heading back to the starting point - an Irish Pub - for a beer while the rest of us rode more) only to find out the 90km group was way ahead. On Coach James encouragement, I went as hard as I could to catch up.
     
    I don't think I've gone that hard ever, but I did catch up (because they - eventually - stopped to wait for me at a corner...phew). After that, I was feeling pretty toasted, but I still managed to make it up Sugarloaf on the second loop. See, here we are...a small but might group.
     
     
    Aside: what you don't know is that there were groups that did 125 and 160km...so we weren't as crazy as some.
     
    After the second climb, it was a leisurely (cough) 30km or so to the Irish Pub, where we completed our journey for the day. I admit, when I was done, I was thoroughly glad I signed up for a FLAT Ironman race. I couldn't imagine riding another 90km like that one.
     
    Of course, Coach Mark was quick to mention it was early in the season and I would never ride that hard in an Ironman or I'd be walking the run...so that made me feel better.
     
    The Irish Pub included a very well earned beer.
     
     
    Special thanks to both Coach Mark and Coach James who made the day incredibly memorable. Their constant support, encouragement and daring really made me push harder than I might have otherwise.
     
     
    I think climbing Sugarloaf twice will end up being my biggest accomplishment of the camp - although tomorrow's 86km bike after a 19km run could be a close call. But that ride should be pretty easy....relatively!