Peak planning using training stress scores

This is more interesting than it sounds. At least to me. This week TrainingPeaks has added a feature where you can add in your planned TSS scores to estimate when you will be on form for your race. It works pretty simply. You just enter your estimated training stress score into your planned workouts, and it gives you a dotted line showing where you should be at that point.

These charts show from the beginning of the year to race day.

Here is for swim.

It appears that today I’ve actually hit a positive training stress balance (the yellow line), after having been under since almost the beginning of the year. I’m feeling fresh in the pool, and I’m less susceptible to injury. It will increase a bit until the race, where I should be right on form.

Here’s the bike:

The chart looks fairly similar, where I actually get to hit a very high stress balance for the race. You might see that the blue line goes down fairly far. This does mean that I’ll have lost some fitness, but I’ll be rested, which will more than make up for it.

The run is a bit shady.

Yesterday’s walk/run may have almost been a bit too much. My training stress balance will not be too far above zero for the race. Mostly because I’ll still be recovering from yesterday. It may have been too much too soon. Because of that, I’ve cut down a few hours during the peak weak. You’ll see that my fitness will barely drop though, which is great.

I’ll be playing around with my training schedules a bit more, to try and figure out the perfect way to peak for the race. Looking at how much my TSB score increased in swim with the past few days of rest, I may try to do something similar closer to the race. Hopefully I can get it right on. With the bike I’m not sure if I’m completely happy with what’s going on there. I may try to ride this huge increase in TSB another couple days.

Either way, this is looking to be a great tool to help get myself ready!

The 20-hour training week—last build before Ironman St. George

I’ve completely diluted the word “epic” this week. It’s not to say that my training this week hasn’t been epic, it’s just you can only say it so many times before it loses all its meaning. I mean Ironman training by definition is almost required to be epic. So I’ll just say that this has been a busy week. I have never trained this much before, and I’m finally feeling confident about the race.

Monday:
After Saturday’s epic long ride and Sunday’s three-hour walk, I was due for an hour-long recovery spin on the bike. I took the long way to the pool, and kept my heart rate really low. It was hard to get passed by cyclists, but I let them go.

On Sunday I had made some minor adjustments to my shoe inserts, so I wanted to have one quick hill climb to see if there was any lingering knee pain. It felt pretty good, and I made it to the pool with time to spare. It was hard to get myself warmed up, since I had missed a session last week, but once I did, it felt pretty good.

Totals:
Bike: 1:16 – 24.2 km
Swim: :45 – 2600 m

Tuesday:
Recovery “run” and tempo spin day. The run walk was pretty simple to get done at lunch. I mapped out a 5 km route that went by another bike shop. I came home with a couple chain pins and a 4 nm torque key. Super important stuff. One of the things I never realized about running was that you can actually see everything you’re walking by. I found a decent roti shop and had a kickass lunch! Sorry, no pics. I ate it too fast.

Tempo spin wasn’t exactly completely at tempo. I should have just done this on the trainer, since it would have been much easier to keep up a consistent heart rate. Instead I took my regular loop up the Humber River. I finished it in less than an hour (which was unexpected), so I took a couple laps around the block to finish it up. Not bad!

Totals:
Walk: :55 – 5.7 km
Bike: 1:00 – 27.1 km

Wednesday:
On Wednesdays I have my actual run scheduled. Only 20 minutes, but straight running. I try to run at a pretty decent pace too. I usually do about 3.5 km. Our group had beers scheduled for after swim, so I used that as an opportunity to run to the pool. This worked out perfectly—it’s all downhill.

This swim session I was able to cover more distance than usual for a Wednesday. To prep for St. George, coach Ayesha let me continue a 1-250 hard 1-50 tempo repeat set while the rest of the group worked on other things. The drinks were well deserved.

Totals:
Run: :18 – 3.5 km
Swim: :57 –  3000 m

Thursday:
I had scheduled only an hourlong hill ride, but I had to play with the scheduling a bit because of the long weekend with Friday off. Instead I cancelled the ride, and since I was going to be missing my long endurance swim on Friday morning, I came in with Ayesha’s other group that night.

The workout was similar to the one from the night before, but I was in pretty rough shape after Wednesday night’s beer, as well as the office’s Friday-rescheduled-to-Thursday-instead beer. I didn’t realize that I could have continued for another hour (or that I could have done water running), so I didn’t get too much done. Still, it was enough for the second night in a row.

Totals:
Swim: :45 – 2750 m

Friday:
Here’s a good case for using the word epic. Two laps of the Muskoka 70.3 bike course for 188 km total. It was a pretty brutal course the first time around. I felt crazy for going out for the second lap.

The day started off with an awesome bagel, with lox, light cream cheese, capers, lettuce and tomato. I also ate a plain bagel, and on the drive up sipped three scoops of Sustained Energy.

I took the advice of @stevefleck and actually drove close to the speed limit. I’ve never done this before. Like my recovery ride on Monday, it was hard to let people pass me. Once I got over it, it wasn’t actually all that bad. I avoided getting nabbed by four speed traps, I saved gas (all weekend I only used one tank for over 600 km), and I still got up there early enough to get a car wash.

Got the bike set up, and headed off for my first 94 km lap.

I’m trying out a sightly different nutrition strategy from last week here, since I had to pee way too often. At least in these conditions, one bottle of liquid per hour is probably twice as much as I need.

Instead of:

0:00 – 1:00 – drink one bottle of Perform
1:00  eat a Gu gel
1:20 – 2:20 – drink one bottle of Perform
2:20 – eat a Gu gel
etc…

I changed this to:

1:00 eat a Gu (wash down with water)
2:00 eat a Gu (wash down with water)
3:00 eat a Gu (wash down with water)
…and drink as much Perform as you need to quench your thirst.

I still ended up drinking close to the same amount as I did last week for the first lap, so I still had to break a lot. It was much easier to remember to take a gel every hour on the hour though. This is what I will roll with for the race. I’ll probably be drinking more because of the heat, so there’s not much that will need to be adjusted.

After the first lap, I restocked with three new bottles and went right back out. The second lap was a bit slower than the first one (3:41 to 3:58—and yes, I realize that is very slow for a 70.3), but the real problem was boredom. It was still just as gorgeous as it was the first time around, but knowing how much further I still had to go made it pretty rough.

Still, I earned my recovery meal. Since I was a kid, I’ve always gone to the McD’s in Huntsville when I’m driving through. This time I ate the worst possible burger I could find. The third-pound angus burger with cheese and bacon, with fries and a real Sprite. No diet (although no caffeine either—the Gu’s were enough). No guilt.

To top the day off, once I got to my sister’s place, my nephew asked me if we could go for a bike ride. By this point, when we raced I was almost unable to keep up!

Totals:
Bike: 8:02 – 192 km

Saturday:
A well-deserved day off. No active recovery, no nothing. Just eating and driving.

Sunday:
This was my long “run” day. On Thursday at the pool, coach Kelvin asked if I’d like to join my sometimes-lanemate Donna for a little boot camp session on Sunday morning. Of course I couldn’t say no. I’ve never done a boot camp (other than when I was a kid in army cadets), but I figured it would be a blast. It was.

It took a little longer for me to get ready than I expected. While walking to our meetup point, I crunched numbers and realized that I wouldn’t be there in time. I figured I could shortcut by hopping on a subway, and everything would work out perfectly. What I didn’t realize was that subways don’t start running until late on Sundays. I looked around for a cab, then crunched a bit more. If I could maintain a 5:15 pace for the last 3 km, I would get there right on time.

I barely made it. It was a pretty decent warmup to say the least. Donna had brought all kinds of workout toys, and keeping with the Easter Sunday theme, she filled a bunch of plastic eggs with different workouts for us to choose from. They were all freaking hard. Squats, rows, skips, crunches. We got beat up. At first it felt like a a bit of a joke to be working ourselves so hard in a kid’s playground at first, but once we started sweating all that disappeared.

After the workout we recovered with coffees, smoothies, and I had a huge freaking date square. It’s healthy, it’s got granola on it, right?

This is when the real workout started. I had no set destination, I just went where I wanted to go. I walked by another bike shop (closed), down by the beach, then to the RC Harris filtration plant. When I got to the end I saw a hole in a fence, so I went through it. On the other side was secluded beach after secluded beach after secluded beach. I don’t even want to talk about it in case people read this and ruin it. You can still tell people go there from the footprints, but I didn’t see many people at all.

From here I just started running. It felt like while the rocks on the beach were slowing me down, it also made the landing much smoother. I could have run all day like that. For the next four kilometres I just kept running. There were sections where the beach would end, where long arms of huge rocks would go out into the lake to try to contain the erosion. You would either have to run over or around them. There were sections that had trails marked through muddy vegetation. There were sections with sand. It was really varied terrain.

It’s probably one of the quietest places I’ve been to in the city. I only saw four other people, with evidence of one more. There were two tents, one of which had someone camping (I think the other may have been a homeless person), two women walking their dogs, and one man who was running in the opposite direction of me along the rocks. There was almost no access to any of this area. You would have to descend some pretty big bluffs to get down there, unless you came in from either side.

On the section where I saw the older man running the opposite way, it was all huge rocks. There was a wall of them running down most of the distance. The top of them was almost completely flat, but there were some big gaps in between many of them. They were stable, but you had to be very quick on your feet to be able to navigate them properly. One misstep and your foot could slip between them, and you could seriously hurt yourself.

This is where I got a taste of my best runner’s high yet. Because of the varying sizes of the rocks, I wasn’t able to have a very consistent cadence. I couldn’t go completely straight either. Every step had to be calculated on the fly. My brain was flowing perfectly and anticipating every landing. It felt less like running and more like dancing. It was like my body was controlling the ground’s movements, as my partner. I was disappointed to make it to the end at the bluff.

It’s easy to forget about Scarborough Bluffs (since it’s in Scarborough and all). It’s also easy to allow your runner’s high to make you myopic enough to miss the fact that there is no path ahead of you, and go ahead anyway. Most of that may look hard enough to walk on, but it’s not quite so easy when the clay gets wet and you end up sliding down into the lake.

For the record, the lake feels like it might almost be ready to swim in.

I took a little Gu break, then waded a bit more in the water to get back to shore. Then I just kept running. I posted a couple excited tweets about the fact that I hit 21k already, then turned around for the rest of the long walk home.

There wasn’t a whole lot to report on for the rest of the walk. I found a couple cute neighbourhoods I didn’t know about. I nearly got hit by a golf ball. Then I finally made it to my final destination for a proper Greek-style gyro. My luck did run out by this place being too busy. I wasn’t about to wait in line smelling like five hours of sweat and lake water, so I went to the second-rate gyro shop across the street. It was only slightly disappointing.

After 37 km I figured I deserved to take the subway home for the last 5k. I was in no shape to start walking again.

Totals:
Run/walk: 5:07 – 37 km

Totals for the week:
Swim: 2:28 – 8350 m
Bike: 10:18 – 243 km
Run: 6:35 – 48 km
Other: 0:39

Combined: 20 hours, zero minutes.

I went over with what I had planned, but I needed that. I feel like I’m actually ready for this race. Next week is recovery, which I will be taking full advantage of. Then there are only two weeks of tapering! Three weeks to St. George!

I’m pretty stoked.

On the fly hydration mods

Thanks to an improper rear bottle mount installation, my bike ended up throwing up a bolt and nearly dropping my entire water bottle mount with it. I tried looking for a replacement part, but the actual pin that was missing wasn’t available separately. I would have to spend $50 on an entire new assembly. I could have just done that, or upgraded to a more aerodynamic setup, but I really just wanted to fix it. So I went to Home Depot and picked up a nut and bolt. Simple.

 

Unfortunately it was ugly as hell, especially from the other side.

So I tried a more elegant solution, which required trimming down a bolt with a dremel (which nearly cost me an eye—remember kids—always use protection). Now I keep a spare pair of swim goggles in my dremel box.

Almost looks like when I bought it. Unfortunately I used one too many rubber washers. I really wanted it to be quiet, but it wasn’t able to hold enough torque. Not to mention it was basically being tightened against carbon fibre, which you definitely don’t want to torque down on. So during its maiden voyage a railway crossing took one of the bolts with it.

When the railway takes your bike part, take part of the railway for your bike. I took a piece of wood, filed it down on the crossing, and stuck it in the hole. It actually held the rest of the way home.

For the record, when stopped at a railroad crossing, don’t lean your bike on the actual crossing, underneath the arm. A train came by, and it nearly came down right on top of the bike. Not cool.

After that ride, I made a trip back to Home Depot for some red Loctite. It’s held together really well since then. I just hope I’ll be able to remove it when the time comes. I’m glad I went out of the way to actually fix this myself. I only spent two hours of my time, a cut on my eyelid, three trips to Home Depot, and $30 in random nuts, bolts, washers, and Loctite. Totally worth it.

My Training Q1 report (aka: the reason I decided to sign up for Ironman St. George)

Signing up for Ironman St. George wasn’t as impulsive of a decision as it may have seemed. Granted, the only times I mentioned it was during a half-drunk post-swim get together, and in a post-run endorphin rush (my first run since my half ironman in September).

My last monthly training report was back in September, which wasn’t all that encouraging. My fitness was tapering down without anything to train for, and I was unsure about the status of my injury. After that I gained another six pounds. When the new year hit, I focussed on increasing my fitness and starting over again. It worked much better than I expected.

Weight:

January 1: 162
March 31: 145

These seventeen pounds made all the difference in all three sports. Even my swim improved. My swim positioning was better, my bike climbing ability skyrocketed, and I was actually able to run. I was aiming to hit 150 pounds, but somehow I was on such a roll I accidentally dropped another five.

It’s actually been hard to maintain 145. Not because my body is trying to gain all the weight back, but because I’m having trouble eating as much food as I need! I haven’t been eating much garbage, so the actual volume of healthy foods is so high that I actually get bored of eating. Compounding that is all the training I’ve been doing. It’s a nice problem to have for a change!

Swim:

Here’s my performance management chart from TrainingPeaks. If you haven’t read one before, the blue line represents the chronic training load. Basically the longer and harder you work, the higher it goes. It gives you an idea of how fit you should be. The pink line is also training load, but short-term. The yellow line represents how tired your body is. The lower it goes, the more susceptible you are to injury and overtraining. Ideally it would be close to zero. Anyway…

It’s been a steady climb, especially since I’ve started swimming three times a week. Mondays and Wednesdays are with Ayesha, and Fridays I’ve been working on my endurance sets. I usually do 1000m sets, ranging from 3500 – 5000 m total. I’ve only broken two benchmarks from last year though, but they were beat very well. I had a 1:28 100m and a 41:28 2000m. I’m still in shock about my 100m time.

Bike:

This is the reason I signed up for St. George. If you see that spike in the middle of March, I had just finished a 160k ride, part of it with someone who had signed up for the race. The next day I did another 60k with an Ironman Mont Tremblant competitor. I was feeling pretty good on the Monday, and looked over the numbers. I would probably be in good enough shape for the swim and bike, and the cost was surprisingly low.

I’ve been feeling really good on the bike. On top of it, the race has my name in it. So why not? On the right of the chart you can even see Saturday’s 180k training ride to close out the quarter.

Run/walk:

Well, it’s improving, right? I was feeling great when I first ran that 5k. So two days later I did it again, and ended up injuring my achillies. I really didn’t think I woudl be able to do much, but it’s been getting easier and easier with the lighter weight. I changed my shoes back to the ones I used in Syracuse, and that also helped.

The last couple weeks, I started with walk training. That has been working out surprisingly well. Last week I did two hours for 14k, then last Sunday I managed a 21.1k walk, where I hit up a few bike shops.

I’m feeling pretty confident that I will be able to walk the entire marathon now. 21.1 was hard, but doable.

Totals:

My volume has really been ramping up. Considering I had a relatively slow start this year, I’m pretty happy with how well my body has taken to it.

Swim: 27.94 hours – 88.8 km
Bike: 74.9 hours – 1685 km
Run/walk: 6.3 hours – 47.6 km
Strength: 4.12 hours

Wow, 1685 km on the bike! For reference, last year I did 1999 km total. My highest-mileage year was 2009 with 2348 km. I will beat that total by May!

Total time

Weekly training volume.

When I finshed Syracuse last year I was tired, but I’m pretty sure I could have done another go round the course. Now I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been. It only makes sense to take advantage of that. This is going to be awesome.

When do you know you’ve reached your racing weight?

“The trick is to keep losing weight until your friends and family ask you if you’ve been sick. then you know you’re within 10 pounds. If they start whispering to each other, wondering if you’ve got cancer or aids, you’re within 5. When they actually do an intervention, you’re at race weight.” – Slowman

Recently I hit my final goal weight, almost seven years to the day from when I started. It was a much longer process than it needed to be, but aren’t most things in life that are worth it?

Since then, I’ve just been getting faster and faster climbing hills on the bike, and much faster when I’m actually able to run. I haven’t been doing any run training (averaging maybe 2 km per week), but my pace has jumped dramatically.

There’s this one hill near me that I’ve used a few times for hill training. It’s more of a run hill than a cycling hill. Last night I did four laps of it. I’m trying to become more comfortable descending while in the aero position, and I’m going to have a lot of climbing ahead of me this spring.

When I climbed this hill in 2010 as a part of a training loop, I did it in 2:28 at an average heart rate of 148. Last night I did the exact same climb in 1:43. That’s about a 40% improvement.

My run pace has improved a similarly. There’s a short run loop near me that’s just over 2 km. In 2010, my pace on this loop was in the 5:30 per km range with a high 170s average heart rate. Last year just before the half Ironman, I managed to do it at 4:45 at 166. Last night: 4:30 at 159. This is with no training at all!

Last night was the best feeling run I’ve ever had. When I started off my strides were short, my turnover rate was high, and I was still able to breathe through my nose for the first bit. Then I experimented with a longer stride. It was all behind me: I was still minimizing my impact with a mid-foot strike, but feeling my glutes engage. My form felt better than ever.

I actually felt bad running this fast down Yonge Street. There were people jumping out of my way. Before they would give me encouraging looks like “you can do it, buddy,” but this time they were like “get off the sidewalk, asshat!”

I’ve been reading Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. Summarized in one sentence the book says “lose weight until you stop going faster.” It goes on to give examples of how and why to eat healthier, and how to realize you’ve reached your goal.

My problem is right now these gains haven’t stopped. I’ve reached (and then surpassed) my goal weight, and I keep getting faster. This is despite training with a significant calorie deficit. It’s starting to show in my face, and while it may be normal for professional endurance athletes to have cheekbones, I’ve never seen them on me before.

The problem is mainly aesthetic though. My body is telling me that it likes this. My injury doesn’t feel like as much of a factor, and I’m actually able to stand for longer periods of time without my flat feet killing me. As great as it feels, I don’t want to look sick.

When do you know you’ve reached your racing weight?

Ironman Syracuse 70.3 race report: Swan Lake – The Triathlon

Syracuse wasn’t exactly my first choice for my A race this year. Just before I realized that my injury was going to put a damper on this season I had already registered for Muskoka 70.3, which was one week before the race in Syracuse. After I knew I wouldn’t be able to run, I figured I’d still do the swim and bike.

When I thought I wouldn’t be able to do the bike I figured I’d just swim. But then when cycling became a possibility again, I planned on doing the race and maybe walking the run, depending on how I felt. Unfortunately a few weeks before the event I found out I had to go away for work.

Around this time I found out that Marlene, E, and L would be doing Syracuse, which is just a week after. Since I could just extend my training one week (which made up for the week I took off), the timing couldn’t have worked out any better.

You know how they say not to try anything new the day of a race? Usually they’re referring to new clothing, nutrition, shoes etc. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be using something as stupid as a new, unfitted bike. Meet Dana 5.

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The week of the race I debated long and hard about bringing her down to Syracuse. I figured if I could get it relatively close in fit to my road bike, and if I could swap my short road bike crank over, then there shouldn’t be any problems, right?

I found the adapter for the crank, swapped it over, did some measurements, and everything seemed to be relatively close. The only thing was that the front of the seat was positioned a few centimetres ahead of the bottom bracket instead of a few centimeters behind it. If you don’t understand what that means, it’s basically that my position would be much further forward. Definitely not an exact match to my road bike. Since I had already swapped the crank over, I didn’t really feel like doing it again. Plus I had another couple days to tweak it.

For the play-by-play notes on the events leading up to the race, check out Marlene’s weekly training review.

For this event we were required to check in our bikes the day before. We got to the event location and E, L and I went out for a quick test of our bikes and bodies to double check that we were up for the task, while T and mini-Es waited. My bike was having some shifting issues, and my knee was not very happy at all. There was some pain under my patella, which I later found out is indicative of a seat that’s too high.

Back in the parking lot, I started making some adjustments. I couldn’t get my derailleur to get into the largest cog, which would make climbing the big hills pretty hard. I got it fairly close, but it was still unable to shift up. L suggested I get the mechanics to have a look at it in the transition area.

At the same time I made some adjustments to the seat positioning. I pushed it back closer toward where my road bike position would be. T was there to suggest that I lower my seat—there was too much extension in my knees. This is also where she basically told me that I was crazy for not taking enough nutrition on my rides. I’m glad I listened to her—between her and L that made the difference between me finishing and not.

The mechanic got my bike shifting better (not perfect, but close enough), and he also fixed my brake from rubbing. I hadn’t realized how bad it was until it was up on the stand.

I was actually more nervous about this race than I expected. I knew I could quit the run/walk anytime, but with the new bike I didn’t know if I would end up hurting myself worse. Those were a lot of changes to make the day before the race. Same with nutrition. I’ve never had a lot just before and during a race. The night before the race I had some really good Chicago style pizza (not really great Chicago style pizza from Chicago, but close enough), followed by some surprisingly good Greek and Middle-Eastern food for dinner. As a part of my fully-balanced nutrition plan, I didn’t skip the beer with lunch or the wine with dinner either.

The morning of the race (at the ungodly early hour of 4:00 am) we were greeted to this breakfast table in E’s room.

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I’ve tried to avoid eating as much as possible since my bad nutrition experience on the bike in Gravenhurst and the severe cramping the week later in Muskoka. Considering those were shorter distances (with much higher exertion levels), I figured there was no harm in listening to everyone else and actually giving eating another shot. It was a pretty good bagel too. From there I started yamming gels, blocks, sport drinks, and anything else I could get my hands on.

We arrived at the race site around dark o’clock,

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walked down toward transition,

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and got body marked.

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It was ridiculously chilly for a race morning. After setting up transition I walked to the swim entry barefoot through the wet. By the time we got to the start I was so cold that even my wetsuit wasn’t enough to warm me up. I actually had to wear a sweater on top. Did I mention it was cold? There was no way I was going to get in the water for a warm up, despite what E was saying about the water being warmer than the air—I didn’t want to have to get out of it!

The mist/fog coming off the water made for some great photo opportunities as athletes were warming up.

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Here I am trying to keep warm with the characteristic Garmin bump in the back of my head. Totally hydrodynamic!

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After watiting for the first handful of waves to head out (including L’s wave, which was five minutes before mine), our group entered the water to wait for the start.

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The swim started off really well. For the first 700m or so I was about mid-pack—maybe in the top third. There wasn’t too much contact, and I held my own reasonably well. There were a lot of feet to draft off of, and everyone seemed reasonably matched up.

Once we hit the first turn, we were swimming right into the sun. It was completely blinding—I was completely unable to navigate. I tried to keep the other swimmers beside me and just hoped that they would go straight.

By the halfway marker I was pushing a solid 1:52 pace, which I would have been pretty happy with. Right at that point I ended up crashing into another swimmer. I looked up at the kayak and asked if the buoy beside us was the turnaround buoy. When the kayaker said no, the swimmer I hit yelled out “George!” I had actually run into L. Before the race we joked that I’d look for her on the course and swim with her, but I didn’t think we’d actually see each other.

Since I knew I wasn’t going to be running anyway, I didn’t mind slowing down a bit to make sure she had a good second half of her swim. The next 500m were slightly awkward, but by the last 500 we had settled into a good rhythm. L was off to my right and back, right in the V of my slipstream. I kept an eye on her and tried to keep the distance equal by unilaterally breathing, and she looked up to spot regularly too.

I think the slower pace worked to my advantage. My heart rate was much lower, and the walk to T1 was fun. It was nice to see L so excited at finishing her longest swim, and our cheering section was great to have. Super awesome swim.

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Final swim time: 2000m – 44:27
2:18 /100m – 60/80 in age group

Swim

I opted for a wetsuit stripper—I’m not sure if it worked out all that well for me. My wetsuit got stuck on my wrists, and then again on my compression sleeves. Next time I should probably be a bit more generous with the vaseline.

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T1 was done at a very leisurely pace. Since I was on a new bike that I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to manage a flying mount, I stuck around so L could watch. If I was going to dummy myself I at least wanted an audience!

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My flying mount wasn’t that bad either. I didn’t know if I’d be able to get over the water bottles on the rear mount, but I did! Getting my feet in the shoes was a big fail, although I wasn’t too stressed out about it.

T1 time: 6:20

The ride couldn’t have worked out better. My gears were still a little improperly adjusted from the day before, but they held together well enough. It was unfortunate that there wasn’t a friction shifting switch on them, but I still managed to get them stuck in between clicks when I had to.

The hills weren’t as bad as I had expected. They were fairly steep, but I had no difficulty climbing them. Even by the highest point on the ride, 21k in, I was still averaging 21.7 km/h. Not bad considering the 400m of climbing. This was one of the more brutal climbs.

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The first aid station worked well, and I picked up a Powerade without incident. Unfortunately there was still the foil in the top, so when I went to squirt in into my mouth nothing came out. I twisted it with my mouth, thinking that it was just closed, then it squirted all over me.

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At the second aid station I screwed up pretty badly. I underestimated my speed coming in, and when I tried grabbing the drink I smacked it out of the poor girl’s hand. I felt so bad and tried to slow down for the next one, but the same thing happened. I could see the look in the volunteer’s eye when I came up, but it was too late. I think I might have screwed up the guy behind me somehow because when I turned around to apologize to everyone there was a cyclist who said “it’s okay, I’ll live.” Brutal. I finally slowed down enough to get a water, but I spent the next few kilometers kicking myself over it.

There was a valley where I got some serious speed going down. I had one arm in aero and the other on the front brake. I had to brake because of someone who was over on the left side of the lane. I was in the left, trying to find space to go around him, when someone else came up beside/behind me. He didn’t say anything, I had no idea he was there. I moved out of the way and braked, then someone came flying behind HIM. He really yelled at the rider who was blocking.

“[number] xxx, ON YOUR LEFT!!!!”

He moved pretty quickly, and I get why he did it. That’s a huge safety issue. I was traveling at 69 km/h at the time and that guy was going faster than me. He was probably in aero and had no access to his brakes. I would not want to try to get out of aero going at that speed!

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The last part of the race was downhill and fast. In one downhill section there was another rider who was in the middle of the lane. This time I yelled—polite yet firmly “on the LEFT!” and he moved out of the way for me to fly through.

I ended up getting passed by him again while I was making an unscheduled tree break. This was the second time I had tree’d on the ride, but the first time I actually stopped to get off the bike to do it. When you’ve got a speed demon like E chasing you down you’ve got to make some sacrifices.

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Overall it was the fastest bike which was longer 50k that I’ve done. My effort level was relatively low—my heart rate was only averaging 150. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Final bike time: 90 km – 3:03:22
29.49 km/h – 48/80 in age group

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When I came into T2 I immediately spotted T in her bright pink top, where she, MJ, mini-Es were cheering loudly. T seemed surprised, I think because I was only expecting to average 27 km/h, and we were expecting E to pass me near the end of the ride.

This was another leisurely transition. For the first time I didn’t take my shoes off—I just clipped out. I still got off the bike moving, but I took my time to get it to the rack. I took in more nutrition, threw my shoes on, and started on my long walk.

T2 time: 3:31

This was a long, long walk. The support of everyone working and everyone cheering was awesome. It was hard to force myself to keep walking. When Marlene caught up to me during her leg of E and her relay (their wave started long after mine), I tried to keep up with her a bit to see how she was holding up. That didn’t last long. Even though it looked effortless to her, I couldn’t keep up.

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Thanks to the extra liquid nutrition (I didn’t hold back at all at the aid stations), I had to visit every port-a-potty along the way. They were spaced about a mile apart, which was absolutely perfect timing for me.

On my second lap I started to run a little bit here and there. Someone in my age group passed me, and I did what I could to try to keep up with him a bit. I was lagging behind him until I saw L, who was still on her first lap. I went back to walking, and we caught up on how our races were going. She had gotten a flat 15 km from the end of the bike section, which by that point had killed any chance of being able to finish before the time cutoff. On top of it her knee was giving her problems, so she decided to call it a race. She stayed behind at the last aid station to get a ride to the finish, then I ran the last 2 km to the end of the race.

I was super stoked to come back to the finishing chute where Marlene, T, MJ, E and mini-Es there cheering and taking photos!

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That carpet is pretty supple looking, eh? In the rulebook it states that “no form of locomotion other than running, walking or crawling is allowed.” I suppose if one were to crawl that carpet would be a much nicer surface to do it on. I’m not sure if they were planning on people tripping on it.

The result was by far my most graceful finishing photo ever. I call it Swan Lake – The Triathlon.

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“Run” time: 21.1 km – 3:24:20
9:41 min/km – 76/80 in age group

Run
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And that’s how I became a “lower-case i” ironman.

Here’s the elevation profile and heartrate/cadence data from the whole race (you can ignore the elevation changes in the swim of course).

Elevation

Check out Marlene’s full race report. Here are Marlene and E after their race. Thanks to both of you for letting me use your pictures from the event.

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AWESOME!

Guelph Lake II race report

Because of my foot, this year I’ve only been able to do relays, swim/bikes, or just DNFing full triathlons. I’ve had some great races, but it’s been frustrating and anti-climactic to get to the end of a race and just hand in or give away my timing chip. I finish my race, then hang around for everyone else to finish.

Two weeks before the Guelph Lake II try-a-tri, I successfully did a couple trial runs which didn’t even hurt my injury. There was a lot of pain in other places, but I was able to run 2k without the telltale pain that I was making my injury worse. I had to go for it so I could finally finish a race this year.

The morning of the race I tried to find time to pick up a non-fat latte to alternate between drinking it and my three scoops of Perpetuem, but I forgot my race belt, and had to turn back home. Then I left again, and realized I forgot my bike shoes.

For the third race in a row this made things pretty tight for getting registered in time. Considering the 1:30 start, I thought I’d have more than enough time to watch a bit of the sprint. That didn’t happen.

After registering, setting up transition, and warming up, I strapped my video camera to my head and hung around for the start of the race. I was in the third wave, and I was feeling super confident about rocking the swim. I was fully expecting to come out of the water in the top three, maybe even higher. Once the horn blew I ran like mad.

I got in a few dolphin dives, and sprinted for the first 50m or so. I was leading the race until I realized that there was no way I could keep up that pace for 400m. I also didn’t know if I was going the right way, since there was a kayak in front of me with people hanging off it. I hesitated, then two guys passed me. One of them hit me in the face. The rest of the swim was pretty long.

Here’s the hit to the face.

I still ended up getting out of the water in fourth place. I had an amazing T1, passed three guys, and started the ride in first place in my age group!

This wasn’t a bad bike, but it wasn’t particularly good either. I managed to hold on to the lead up until the turnaround, when the leader caught me and passed. I tried to hold on to him as long as I could, but my heart rate was soaring. Every time I checked it was in the mid- to high-180 range. I tried to let off a bit to give myself some time to recover, but I was feeling too inspired to let go. I kept pushing. 

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During one of my heart rate checks I ended up dropping my Garmin. I hadn’t mounted it to the bike, so when I reached to grab it out of my pocket it just flew out. Looking back at the video it looks like I only lost 30 seconds and one place. But in a try-a-tri 30 seconds is a hell of a lot of time. 

Coming around the final turn I got cocky and jumped a speed bump. I dropped my chain. I spent about a minute trying to finesse it back on. I debated coasting the rest of the way in, but I managed to get it back on with barely enough time to take my feet out of my shoes. I lost another place there.

I came into T2 in fourth place, but I completely rocked it. I had an amazing flying dismount, had no problems finding my rack space, pulling off my helmet and throwing on my shoes. I left T2 in third place. I still felt pretty good. My heart rate was still super high, and for me on the run it only gets higher.

I tried running the entire distance, but I wasn’t able to keep it up. I walked up the first hill, and the rest of the time was spent walk/running. 

I still had a few great games of leapfrog. I was running more or less the same pace as the guy who ended up in seventh place. He had passed me a couple times, but about 700m or so from the finish I went for it. I passed him and a swack of other people and finished up really strong. I could hear someone yelling “don’t let him catch you!” 

He didn’t catch me. If you listen closely you can actually hear it in the video.

My heart rate during the final sprint was topped out at 200 bpm. It has never been that high, even when I tried a max HR test a few years ago. I’m almost surprised I lived through it.

All in all it was a great race, and I not only am I glad I actually managed to finish the race, but I’m ecstatic that I ended up in 6th place—even if it was just a try-a-tri. I learned a lot about how important pacing is (even in a race this distance), the importance of transitions, and what mental errors to try and avoid. It actually played a big role in how successful I ended up being two weeks later at the Syracuse Half-Ironman.

3.8 km L.O.S.T. Race report: last weekend’s time got smoked

Melanie Price’s completion of her 42 km Lake Ontario crossing yesterday morning in Coronation Park must have been fresh on my mind, because that’s where I drove to first this morning. It was about ten minutes out from the race start, so I got to pass the exit point of our swim. The 4 km felt like a really long drive. By the time I got there, conditions were absolutely perfect. You couldn’t have asked for a better morning for the start of the fourth annual L.O.S.T. Race.

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Registration was quick, got a water bottle, and…

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…numbers on the hands. I got a power of two!

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Rob Kent with the pre-race meeting.

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This time I actually remembered the Vaseline and applied it generously to my shoulders and jawline.

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I managed to snag a photo with Melanie Price. She looked so fresh I would have no idea she just spent over 18 hours swimming yesterday. YESTERDAY! She’s my new hero.

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The race its self was great for me. Since the last two weekends I’ve been going sans-wetsuit, I figured it wouldn’t be much of a challenge to put it on for this. I was going to debate whether I’d enter the naked class or not on the way down, but since I forgot my wetsuit anyway that decision was made for me. I’m glad it worked out that way.

The start was pretty relaxed. No pushing and shoving, and there were no restrictions on drafting. I didn’t find many people to draft behind, but when I did it was a welcome relief. I set the auto-lap timer on my GPS for 500m this time, which is probably the ideal distance for me. Since I swim near 2:00, that makes it very simple when the beep goes off. If I’m right on 10 minutes I’m right on pace. It worked perfectly.

I started off fairly easily, and tried a few different things out. This time I kicked MUCH more. It felt right, and I could feel my feet wanting to come out of the water. It might not have helped much with propulsion, but I was much flatter. I credit the one swim I had during the week. Last Wednesday I made it in to an early-morning session with Ayesha, and it helped me find my form again. At the beginning of the session I was struggling to push 2:00, and by the end I was doing solid 1:50s. Still slower than the 1:42s I was hitting at my peak earlier this year, but for one hour that’s a great improvement.

Sighting was a little tough, but checking out the GPS track it looks like I was actually really straight!

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My 500m splits worked out really well. Every time the lap timer went off it looked like I was getting faster and faster. I lost a bit of time by stopping to check my watch, but it was well worth the help it provided with pacing. I think we had a bit of a current helping us. It felt much faster than usual. My splits broke down like this:

1: 9:57 (1:59 per 100)
2: 9:52 (1:58)
3: 9:57 (1:59)
4: 9:28 (1:53)
5: 9:27 (1:53)
6: 9:16 (1:51)
7: 9:04 (1:48)
8: 5:15 (1:45 (over 300m))

For the last 700 m I was experimenting with a totally different breathing pattern that I picked up by watching someone as she was completing the 10k race last week. She was taking two breaths on the same side, then took three strokes and took two breaths on the other side. Every second or third sequence of three strokes she would sight. When I watched her she looked very mechanical and structured, so it appealed to me. It worked awesomely for me. I was in need of more air because of all the extra kicking I was doing, and that definitely supplied it. It was a bit harder to maintain a straight line, but I think with a bit more practice it might be a good strategy for me. Considering my last splits I think it’s something worth exploring!

My final (official) time of 1:12:25 may be slightly misleading though. Aside from the perceived current pushing us ahead, I think my sighting was a little too good. I may have cut the course slightly short, by swimming directly to the pier instead of following the shoreline. There were a few times one of the kayaks was nudging me over toward the shore. I definitely stayed inside where she was pointing, but… When I overlapped my GPS track with a straight line in Google Earth, it showed that the actual distance I covered was 3.7 km. Not a huge difference, but I technically still haven’t completed a full Ironman distance swim.

This was a super fun event with a huge turnout. For the final results and a full writeup, check out the latest post on the L.O.S.T site. I’m going to join them as soon as I can, they really seem like a great bunch of people to swim with. Two of the people I spoke to often come from Barrie and Ottawa to swim with these guys. I need to HTFU with the drive—it’s really only a half hour from downtown. Even Wilcox and Musselman Lake take that long.

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After the race I got a ride back to the car from Steve, who I had just met on the way to pick up our bags. He was at the event last week and entered the 10k race. He wasn’t able to finish it before the thunder (he was only 1000m from the finish), but I learned a lot about some of the swims he’s been doing this year, and what he has planned in the future. He’s been doing a lot of swimming in the NYC area, and this year he’s going to swim from New Jersey to Manhattan. Awesome. He went from not being able to swim not so long ago to this.

Before this chat I was thinking about only entering the 5k swim in Welland next year. Now I’m thinking 10k might not be out of reach at all. Today I felt like I could have gone forever. Maybe I actually can! With 10k open water swim being in the Olympics it’s actually quite an approachable distance. Almost like the swimming equivalent of a marathon.

Welland MSO Open Water Swim race report

After yesterday’s epic 101k loop of the Muskoka half-iron course I felt like I could use a day to recover. So I packed my speedos and headed down to Welland for the Under the Four Bridges MSO Open Water Provincial Championship race. Well at least I got to sleep in a bit, since it was an 11:30 start.

Because last week’s outer ear infection hasn’t completely cleared up yet, I brought an ear plug for the right side. On the drive down I tried a test fit, but I couldn’t make a seal. Heating it up on the windshield heater vent worked surprisingly well—not unlike what I imagine a hot ear waxing might feel like.

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I got there just in time for the start of the 10k race.

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Someone was actually crazy enough to attempt the entire race doing butterfly.

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I picked up my race package, and packaged my other package into my butter speedo. It’s getting close to retirement for this one. I do feel slightly awkward around little kids. The hot pink swim cap didn’t help either (second pink cap in a row)!

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We boarded the bus for the pre-race meeting, then were driven to the start 3km out. I was surprised to hear that there is no drafting or contact allowed.

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The entrance into the canal.

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As I was setting my auto lap settings on my GPS, I overheard someone asking if a stroke timer would be allowed in the race. It clicks or beeps every 1.3 seconds so that the swimmer could keep steady. The official radio’d the question in and it was okay’d. I asked him if GPSes would be allowed, and he “doubted” it. 

I’m sure I could have made an argument that it’s not really an aid during the race, particularly if I hadn’t set the auto lap. But there’s really no harm in just swimming for the sake of swimming. Someone involved with the event said the third bridge we went under was about 1 km away from the finish, so I’d just pull a split off that. Watches were still allowed, so why not?

My race was pretty good. A little slow, but good. I wasn’t there to sprint, I just wanted to finish relatively strongly. I passed a few people in the beginning and then for the next hour I was all alone. I passed time by switching from my usual bilateral breathing to a different count (I’m not sure what it’s called, but it’s three strokes breathing every second stroke, then five strokes without breathing). It was fun to play around a bit and see how my body would respond. I played around with head positioning, twisting my mouth. It was just relaxed and fun. 

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Under the second bridge I made a mental note that I was around 34 minutes, and I hit the third bridge at exactly 40 minutes. If the third bridge was 1k from the finish that would have meant that I was on track for a 1 hour finish (at 2:00/100m). I used that info to calculate the approximate distance I was from the finish, so at 52 minutes I knew that I was exactly 400m away. It looked a little bit further, but I picked up my pace anyway. 

When I finshed the race I checked my watch and saw that I finished in 1:09. Where did the extra nine minutes come from? A quick gmap-pedometer revealed that the bridge was actually 1.2 k from the finish. That sprint that I thought was 400m from the finish was actually more like 700m. It makes sense why I ran out of steam earlier than I would have liked.

Here you can see the marks on the front of my shoulders from my stubble rubbing it. I forgot to bring vaseline to prevent that. What you probably can’t see in this picture is the irritation from the level #1 armpit trim. Mental note for next time—that’s too short!

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I was still a little disappointed with a finish of 2:20/100m. I know I’ve never done that distance before, and I’m really happy about that, but I was hoping to get under 2:00. That’s a big difference. Last weekend I was swimming at 2:00 naked, so I should have been able to keep in that range. So I’m really not sure why. Plus without the GPS track I can’t see how bad my navigation was (although it was a very easy course to sight, being right in the canal). At least it’s a good prep for next weekend’s 3.8k L.O.S.T. race.

About ten minutes after I finished my swim there were reports of thunder on the other end. They ended up pulling everyone in, then the wind picked up and it started pouring. If you can’t tell, hot pink was the theme for the day. Here I am hanging out with Ken, who was first place in my class and the overall winner of the 3k race.

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I think about half the 10k racers finished, but none of the 5k swimmers were able to before being pulled. Standing in front of me in the last picture was a woman who was pulled from the 10k when she was only 500m from the finish. 

Here’s Ken accepting his award…

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…and me in second place with my medal!

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This is where I leave out the fact that there were only two competitors in my class, which really is too bad. The distances might be a little longer than most triathlons, but it’s a really nice, laid back event. There’s no pushing and shoving at the start (in fact contact is not allowed at all), the course is well marked, the water is warm, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to go home with hardware (if you care for it). I’ll definitely be coming back next year.