Qualifiers, Provincials, and Some Single Sport Fun

Some of you may know that I recently re-launched my little pet project, Canadian Duathlon Central. Back when I first started that project I wasn’t doing anything except training and writing, so I was able to keep up both this site and DC. When I started working again alongside a bump in training, I had to consolidate. I started using this site as a place for duathlon commentary along with my race reports and such. I kept that up for awhile, but what I really enjoy doing is writing about the sport in Canada and not so much my exploits. I have SO MUCH FUN diving into reams of registration lists, race results and athlete profiles, and then writing about them. I feel like I contribute so much more to the sport doing that than just my own adventures, and it always felt a little cheap broadcasting those from a site with my name all over it.

So this is going to be my last big article on this site, for a little while at least. Most of my writing from now on will be over on Duathlon Central, including my own race reports. This site will continue on in its static form, and the archives will remain undisturbed. The tabs above will remain, but if you want to catch up with my writing please head over to Canadian Duathlon Central (linked above). So let’s dive into one last little (late) update!

I raced a lot in July in an attempt to simulate my 3 big goal races, which all fall within an 18 day stretch. I raced two duathlons, a 5k and my first “race of truth” (individual time trial) across 14 days. The big lesson I learned in this stretch of 14 days: short memories are good memories.

GREAT WHITE NORTH DUATHLON
I raced GWN with the primary goal of getting my qualification for Penticton 2017 out of the way. It was the first year GWN hosted a duathlon, and the atmosphere was pretty low-key at the start as the sold-out triathlon started 12km away at Hubbles Lake…a stark contrast to the festival-like finish line atmosphere. I started this race with a vague idea that some dude named Evan Bayer was going to be one to watch or something like that. Boy should I have listened closer.

GWN Run Start

I took the lead right away, perhaps a bit too hard, coming to the turnaround right at 17:45 with about a one minute lead. Coach Kevin was on the course, encouraging me and giving me time gaps, but the struggle started about 2.5km into that first run and continued to be a mental challenge the rest of the day. The gap stayed where it was on the way back to T1 as I slowed, and I headed out onto the single-loop, out-and-back 40km bike with an ~1:15 lead and a tailwind.

GWN T2

That lead lasted until about 19km into the ride, where I had the pleasure of having a freight train named Evan Bayer unceremoniously blow past me. I tried to stick with him and keep within ~20m of him, but alas my legs just would not respond as I pushed underwhelming power (~25W below target), lost sight of my benchmark and bled over 3 minutes in the last 20km of the bike. In hindsight, trying to stay with him may have done me in. The rolling hills and persistent headwind sapped my remaining energy, and the only good thing I can say about that 5k was that I ran just fast enough to hold onto 2nd. LESSONS LEARNED: Give your competition and the standard distance the respect it deserves; 10k/40k/5k is no joke, and neither is Evan Bayer.

GWN Run 2

COMFORTEC RED DEER DUATHLON
Like I said, short memories are good memories. I quickly put Great White North behind me and looked forward to Provincials at my favourite venue on my favourite course at the Comfortec Red Deer Duathlon, 6 days later. Honestly, it was already a perfect day just showing up a provincial championship at an event 100% focused on the duathlon.

Red Deer T2

It was largely a solo affair fuelled by desire. I started at the front and but due to the fatigue of racing 6 days prior I decided to fall right in behind the leading pair until about 1.2km, where I decided to push on. The result was a delightfully even and controlled 3:23/km pace for 5.1km and a 1:45 lead in T1. I screamed through transition and settled right into my cadence straight away. The bike course had changed slightly from a straight out and back to a course with two turnarounds, but that wouldn’t end up mattering much. I blitzed my bike course record of the past year, riding 28:54 for 20km (41.6km/h) and cruised the second run for my second career provincial title. The final tally was 56:06 with an 8:42 margin of victory, my fastest sprint duathlon ever and a mark that should keep me in the conversation come Nationals.

Red Deer Finish

MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT 5K
Like I said in the first section and reiterated in the last section…short memories are good memories. This was the flip side of that, the side where a tempered ego after a good race usually trumps an inflated one. Buoyed by my success in Red Deer, I was hell-bent on sticking with the front group as long as I could at this race. I mean…it’s only 5k right? I wanted to see if I could do it. Turns out…I couldn’t. Going out in 3:03/3:11 hurts when the 3rd kilometer goes up a hill. I went back and forth with a few guys fighting for minor places and ended up 9th place in 16:30. LESSON LEARNED: 5k’s hurt, especially when you go out in what would be close to an SB for 1000m with a bunch of dudes way faster than you.

ERTC ShuTT UP LEGS STRATHCONA TT
Luckily, I didn’t have long to dwell on this one, because Kevin decided that our senior group’s session on Sunday (the 5k was Saturday) would be a 25km time trial in Strathcona County. The local cycling club took a gamble in adding a citizens/single-event license category and our club took full advantage of that, turning out 10+ athletes and filling out the citizens category. I took it way too seriously (per usual), rolling out my trainer for warm-up, pulling out all the stops with my equipment set-up, and hunting down my minute man like a trained assassin. I didn’t end up catching him, but I DID manage to pace the citizen’s category in 35:51 (42.2km/h).

SUMMARY
I chose to look at this block as one, rather than looking at the races in isolation. I trained hard coming into the block, had two great races and two not-so-great ones, and got some valuable experience with back to back racing. Overall, I am happy with the effort put out over the 14 days and am optimistic about having better success later in the season. What have I been doing since then? You’ll have to wait until this week to find out :). As I publish this I am on my way to Penticton for the standard distance National Championships. The race is Wednesday, stay tuned to Duathlon Central for the recap! That’s all for now, thanks so much for reading!

Great White North & Gravenhurst Weekend Recap

What an exciting last month or so of the duathlon season! I want to start with the first two National Race Series events before getting to the rest. Lots to cover, so let’s get to it! You can check the results of each race by clicking on the bold heading:

GREAT WHITE NORTH DUATHLON (STANDARD DISTANCE)
This race was important not only because it was the first race of Triathlon Canada’s National Qualifying Race Series for the duathlon in Penticton next year (Triple Threat in Winnipeg notwithstanding…we’ll get to that later), but it is also where some important markers were set for the rest of the country in 2016. 2 new contenders each emerged as the winners of the men’s and women’s races, setting fastest times in Canada for the standard distance this year, and also faster than any other athletes in the country have recorded in 2016. Let’s start with the women; Melissa Paauwe simply rode away with this one. She came in 16 seconds behind the fastest runner (Dana Hansen, 41:36 to 41:52) then wiped it all out in transition and rode 5 minutes into her competition. Hansen brought back a minute by running a strong 20:11 last 5k, but the damage was done. For reference, 1:06:08 is fast, and would be the 6th fastest split OVERALL in the race. 2:11:33 has not been touched by a female duathlete on Canadian soil.

Melissa Paauwe

Melissa Paauwe, finishing up a stellar 2:11! Photo credit Ken Anderson Photography

The men’s race was a similar story, though the gaps are a tad bigger and the race was in doubt a tad longer. Luckily for you, I got a front row seat for this one by virtue of being the one wiped out. I ran off the front right away, and steadily opened a gap of ~1:00 by the 5k turnaround. But then…the gap stayed where it was (36:36 to 37:40) and was steadily wiped out over the first 20k of the bike with a fast tailwind. The hunter? Evan Bayer, who apparently is a pretty handy time trialist. He rode 58:00 to the finish, which is no joke on a fair GWN course with a steady wind from the south. Bayer then followed that up with a very solid 18:18 5k to cruise over the line in 1:56:05. This time has only been beaten once on Canadian soil so far this year. By Bayer. The next week. Myself (2:01:27) and reigning National bronze medallist Moritz Haager (2:02:00) made up the rest of the podium.

Evan Bayer

Evan Bayer, off hunting gold medals. Photo credit Ken Anderson Photography

GRAVENHURST DU-THE-DOUBLE CHALLENGE (SPRINT AND STANDARD)
Let’s start with the standard distance, shall we? Since it is the National Race Series Qualifier after all. There were 4 quite compelling races on this weekend, as Triathlon Ontario and Multisport Canada delivered on all the hype this race received. Elite masters runner Charles Bedley was the protagonist on the first run, taking it out in 34:16 on a tough hilly course. However, laying in wait was another strong runner (Sean Delanghe, 35:06), this one with a little better cycling pedigree. He took over the lead early on in the bike, only to give it up to a hard-charging Matt Straatman later on. Delanghe didn’t panic, and put in a race second best 17:28 5k run to come from behind for the win in a strong 1:59:05. Straatman just missed the 2:00 barrier in 2nd, while Andrew McLeod once again showed up at his best, using a race best 1:03:00 bike to claim 3rd. Bedley ran 16:54 to consolidate 6th.

Sean Delanghe

Sean Delanghe, taking the Ontario provincial standard distance title! Photo credit Zoomphoto.ca

The women’s race was a little less back and forth, but still compelling. It was a two horse race at the front, as Jessica Kuepfer used a slightly faster first run (40:55 to 41:03) to lead into T1 before defending Du-the-Double champion Jasmin Aggarwal stamped her claim on the race with a 1:13:11 bike. The second runs were pretty much a wash (20:01 for Jasmin to 20:09 for Jessica), and the win went to Jasmin Aggarwal in 2:15:47. Naomi Lynne Wolfson stormed through the bike to momentarily take 3rd on the back of a race-best 1:12:37, but couldn’t hold off Leslie McArthur’s stronger running legs as the latter took 3rd at the finish line.

Jasmin Aggarwal

Jasmin Aggarwal, defending her Ontario standard distance title just one week after racing hard at TTF! Photo credit Zoomphoto.ca

Back the next day on the tough Muskoka roads was Jasmin Aggarwal to once again contest the double. She was not originally entered due to an injury she has been struggling with, but decided to take a shot regardless. The decision paid off as she led wire-to-wire, recording race-best splits across all three legs to take a 4 minute win in 1:09:01. Karen Ugarte Bravo put in a strong bike ride to hold off 3rd place Kathryn Sherwood by the slimmest of margins (7.1 seconds) and 4th place Lindsay Miller by 21 seconds. Wow!

Karen Ugarte Bravo

Karen Ugarte Bravo, on her way to a silver medal in the sprint. Photo credit Zoomphoto.ca

The men’s race was hotly contested once again, as Matt Straatman was out to avenge his tight 2nd place finish of the day before. He kept the leaders close (again led by Charles Bedley in 16:55 with Delanghe 12 seconds adrift in 17:07) before unleashing a fantastic bike split (31:19 on this rolling course) to take a big enough lead to hold off a hard-charging Delanghe to take a 12 second win. The times (59:28 to 59:40) were truly exceptional to anyone who knows the Gravenhurst course. Defending Du-the-Double champ Brian Moore didn’t come into the weekend 100% and struggled on Saturday, but salvaged the weekend with a steady performance to round out the podium on Sunday.

Matt Straatman

Matt Straatman, on the hunt for that elusive provincial title. Photo credit Zoomphoto.ca

Now this post is getting a little bit long, so I will leave the highlights from the rest of Canada to a separate post tomorrow. Instead of full recaps, I’m just going to highlight some very notable performances from the other events with an eye on drawing your attention to some potential major contenders for future Triathlon Canada Series duathlon events later in the year. Our next one is none other than Standard Distance Nationals in Penticton, with 10 spots per AG available for the World Multisport Festival in 2017 (also in Penticton). If you are interested, the full list of results since Triple Threat in June are in my previous post!

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

Triathlon Ontario “Du the Double” Provincial Championship Challenge 2016

Well, the first big month of the Canadian duathlon season has come and gone, and I can say objectively that it has been a good one. The Coupe du Quebec is absolutely smoking this year, and intriguing new contenders and huge races have popped up from the world of bike racing in B.C. and Alberta. Here’s a quick run-down of some of the races this past month (a longer update to come after this weekend):

2016 Belwood Podium

MSC Belwood Overall Podium (Photo Credit ZoomPhoto.ca)

I would say that Ontario better look out after some of these results, but many in the Great Lakes province have had their eyes firmly fixed all year on the Multisport Canada Gravenhurst race weekend. It is the Triathlon Ontario championships for both sprint and standard distances, and also hosts TO’s popular Du-the-Double Challenge. While only being a provincial championship, the duathlon community has embraced it as an annual event to look forward to, and it is typically one of the best-attended events in the country. As this moment there are 71 athletes registered in the standard and 65 in the sprint, with several more still deciding on their race distance and will likely register in the coming days. So what are my thoughts? (I will stick with just the standard for now).

STANDARD DISTANCE – WOMEN
Historically one of the toughest standard distance races in the country, the first 10k run course in Gravenhurst chews people up and spits them out. In the words of Darren Cooney last year, “I kept thinking is this the big hill everyone talks about? Is this one? Or is it this one?”. By the time you hit the bike in the rolling Muskoka hills, your legs are often thrashed. With this race representing the only qualifier for Worlds in Penticton in Ontario, for the standard distance at least, those two spots per AG are sure to be hotly contested. Jasmin Aggarwal is back to grab the title that eluded her last year where she finished 2nd in the standard distance race in Bracebridge (and won the sprint) on her way to the Du the Double prize. She is hot off excellent performances at the ITU World Duathlon Championships in Aviles, Spain (3rd in F20-24) and at the Toronto Triathlon Festival (in the triathlon). Competition for Jasmin will come from Julie Reiter, Worlds team member Tara McAninch McLaren and Renee Hartford, while some intriguing wild cards may make the racing even more interesting on Saturday. Jessica Kuepfer has some VERY strong run times to her name but is bouncing back from IM Muskoka 70.3 last weekend, and Carol Bedley has a relatively recent sub-3:00 marathon to her name. And might we have a Tammy Purdy (defending champion) sighting? If so, that will turn the race on its head. My money is still on Jasmin Aggarwal to take over the top of the podium this year. Of course this is the women’s race, so 4 completely off the radar athletes will show up and completely upset the dynamic.

2015 Bracebridge Podium

The podium from Bracebridge in 2015, featuring several 2016 contenders!

STANDARD DISTANCE – MEN
This seems to be the race that everyone is keyed up for, and for good reason. Ever since I raced in Ontario, the provincial championships have been a major focus for the men’s duathlon field. Last year, youngster Brian Moore doubled back from the sprint to win the standard distance as well, taking home the Du the Double prize. He will attempt the double again, as will last year’s runner-up Matt Straatman. The race will likely be missing last year’s bronze medallist Larry Bradley, who may opt for only the sprint, but may very well gain the talent that knocked Larry off the top of the podium in Welland (Sean Delanghe). Also of note is Charles Bedley entered in the Double; Charles is a hell of a runner (30:43 10k/2:16 marathon in his past) who has been cropping up on the Ontario duathlon scene regularly the past several years, so this is in no way new to him. When Charles is on the start line, he usually shows up ready to win. On a course with as tough a run as Gravenhurst I predict that really strong runners to have an edge on this day, and I would say these four are the most accomplished runners in the field. That’s not to say that Gravenhurst regular (and National 6th-placer) Andrew McLeod, long course specialist Daryl Flacks, and Garvin Moses (who is en feugo right now) won’t have something to say about that. Unfortunately, Jeremy Carter has been forced to pull out of the race due to injury. Other athletes to keep an eye on include Steve Beasley (who WON M60-64 at Worlds this year), Spencer Summerfield (accomplished MSC duathlete making his standard distance debut at this race), Mark Cullen (Boston Qualifier venturing into multisport this year), Mike Park and Kevin Gallagher (teammates who always present a fun battle to watch). Special shoutout to Bob Wild representing M75+ in yet another provincial championship! Now the hard part: (1) Brian Moore (2) Matt Straatman (3) Sean Delanghe (if he shows, Bedley if not). It’s hard to bet against Moore after last year, even if he hasn’t raced much at all as far as I can tell.

Brian Moore

Brian Moore at Bracebridge in 2015

Matt Straatman

Matt Straatman at Bracebridge in 2015

I am going to leave it at this for now, because I’m sure many of you are ready to stop reading. If I can find a bit of time this weekend, I will try to put together a sprint race preview. At the very least, I will edit this one to include a Du the Double preview. Time is at a bit of a premium right now, and I race twice again this weekend…

BLOG UPDATE
If you are waiting for the race reports from Great White North (where I got my butt kicked by Evan Bayer and finished 2nd in a subpar time) and Alberta Provincials at the Comfortec Red Deer Duathlon (where I did everything good I can think of an won another provincial title), you’ll have to wait. This is by design! My big races this year happen in a span of 18 days from August 24 to September 10. This is a pretty WTS-style stretch of racing that I have never really put my body through, so I took the opportunity to simulate it in July when several races that I had my eye on happened to fall in a 14 day stretch. I raced GWN on July 3, Red Deer on July 9, and will race what is essentially a two-day duathlon on July 16/17 when I do the Alberta Road 5k Championships on Saturday and a 25km ITT on Sunday, and I want to evaluate them as a group rather than in isolation. So stay tuned :).

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

My Annual Canadian Duathlon Primer

It seems like every year I am saying that (whatever year it happens to be) is set to be a HUGE year for duathlon in Canada. So I love my sport…sue me. However, I do think we have some pretty wicked momentum going for duathlon in this country over the past several years. I started racing duathlons at what was apparently a low point for the sport in Canada. Elite nationals was a thing of the past, several high profile duathlon-only events were on their way out, and the Ironman bug had everyone convinced that the only real multisport was that one where you have to splash around in a lake or a pool before you get to do the fun part.

However, I am pretty excited about this little bit of an upward trend we have going on right now. We have a pretty vibrant community linked by social media that is starting to creep out nationally. Nationals was a pretty big deal last year, and new athletes are starting to think of duathlon as something more than just a multisport event that you try a time or two when the water is too cold or they are not quite ready to swim in open water yet. It’s been a pleasure to watch genuine new duathletes get integrated into our community and start loving this sport as I do. I love it!

So I want to kick off this new focus of my site by highlighting some of the fantastic events that are coming up for duathletes in 2016. 2012 was pretty bad because there was not a national championship for duathletes. In 2013, we got that back and it went pretty well as part of the Esprit Triathlon weekend in Montreal! 2014 started off great with a prime venue for Nationals at the Toronto Triathlon Festival, but with the accompanying sprint distance race being about as far south as it can get (Belle River) and only a week before, the fields were pretty watered down. Things looked up in 2015, as Esprit once again hosted an excellent Nationals and Triathlon Ontario stepped up with the fantastic Du the Double Challenge in Bracebridge that got quite a bit of hype.

It all set the stage for a pretty awesome announcement for the country: Penticton, BC was named the host of the World Duathlon Championships in 2017 (as part of the World Multisport Championships Festival), and that the organizers were tasked with hosting a Canadian Multisport Championships Festival in Penticton during 2016 as a test event for Worlds. How awesome is that?!?! That set off a chain of events that I’m pretty excited about, highlighted by the fact that with Challenge Penticton being the highlight of these two festivals the eyes of the world are going to be on Canada…and duathletes are going to be right in the middle of it. But let’s see what we have in store for us this year…

WORLD DUATHLON CHAMPIONSHIPS IN AVILES, SPAIN

The first thing in store for us this year has already happened! I know, what’s wrong with me to be so far behind the times! Don’t worry, I’ve just been busy training hard. But seriously, 2016 was another year for an early Worlds. A decent sized Canadian contingent headed to Aviles in the beautiful Asturias to take on the world! Adding some flair to the event was the debut of age group draft legal racing at Worlds, which seemed to go over well despite some overwhelming displays of team tactics and a moderately technical course. One important takeaway: draft legal for AG sprint racing is here to stay, and if you plan on continuing to target the sprint race at Worlds then you need to do what you can to get yourself the skills to be successful! While I would love to run through all of the performances, click the link here for that while I limit myself to just the AG medallists in this space:

  • Jasmin Aggarwal (3rd, F20-24 Standard)
  • Lynda Gingras (3rd, F35-39 Standard)
  • Steve Beasley (1st, M60-64 Standard)
  • Dave Field (2nd, M60-64 Standard)
  • Sharryn Oleskiw (1st, F70-74 Standard)
  • Diane Eller (1st, F70-74 Sprint)

And seriously, a huge shoutout to all those names I see in the Worlds results year in and year out, the ageless ones. Mitch Davidson, Janis Milliken, Jane Armstrong, Ian Ross, Bruce Butcher, Lynda Lemon, Steve Beasley, Dave Field (1-2 in M60-64, like what?!), I could go on. You guys are awesome…if I end up like you guys, loving this sport like you do, I’m going to be one happy camper.

GREAT WHITE NORTH AND CHALLENGE PENTICTON STEP UP

I went to a town hall meeting with Michael Brown, the RD of the Great White North and Challenge Penticton long course triathlons. Apparently, they had been approached with this radical idea to bid for the first ITU World Multisport Festival in Penticton for 2017. They got the go-ahead from Triathlon Canada as long as they hosted a test event this year that would serve as Nationals for all four sports. The highlight of the festival will most definitely be Challenge Penticton, which doubles as the long course Canadian championship, but with the duathlon on Wednesday there will be an opportunity for the LC triathletes to try their hands at the duathlon. As an added bonus, their other event (Great White North) was awarded 5 qualifying spots per AG to put on a standard distance duathlon at the July event, allowing duathletes another opportunity to compete alongside the best in the world at a premier event for a chance to represent their country at the 2017 World Multisport Festival. I am currently registered for this race, where I will toe the line with last year’s National bronze medallist Moritz Haager, as well as pro triathlete Jon Bird.

WTS EDMONTON ADDS A DUATHLON, AND IT’S NATIONALS

One of the unfortunate things about the Challenge Penticton Canadian Championship Festival is the lack of a sprint duathlon. This is not for a lack of trying! The reality is that with the ITU’s new mandate for draft legal sprint distance races, Triathlon Canada has followed suit and required all qualifiers for sprint distance races to be draft legal as well. While this isn’t really a huge deal for triathlons (which will probably draw a large field), it really is for duathlon. Draft legal races are hugely expensive to put on due to the requirement for closed roads. Without the near-guarantee of a huge field, draft legal duathlons are hard to justify. Luckily, there is a huge event in Edmonton on Labour Day weekend that already has closed roads and a fantastic course for draft legal racing. After the logistics fell through for a draft legal sprint duathlon in Penticton, WTS Edmonton stepped up to host the National Championships. With both championships in the East last year, it will be very interesting to see how many from the East will come test out some truly spectacular racing in the West (ie. y’all should come race me). The standard distance duathlon will also have 3 qualifying spots per AG for Penticton.

THE ESPRIT TRIATHLON ORGANIZERS ARE AWESOME…AGAIN

Despite not getting a repeat shot at hosting the Canadian championships in 2016 after a fantastic event in 2015, the organizers of the Esprit Triathlon proved once again that they are willing to do what it takes for duathletes. The 2016 event will most likely serve as the de facto Eastern Canadian Championships this year. As much as I hope that the West “will rise again”, the bulk of the duathlon community is in the East. More specifically, in Quebec. The standard distance Esprit duathlon will once again serve as part of the Canadian Multisport Qualifying Series, with 5 qualifying spots per AG once again. The real exciting part is the move of the sprint duathlon to a draft legal format, creating a second qualifier for the sprint du in Penticton. If you haven’t raced the Esprit event…you should. The bike course is on the F1 circuit, and the ~4.5km lap is perfectly suited for a draft legal race. It’s not overly technical, with only one real hairpin, and the pavement quality is fantastic (obviously). This year’s event is on September 10/11, and I will be in attendance for the draft legal sprint duathlon to close out my season.

TRIATHLON ONTARIO AND MULTISPORT CANADA TEAM UP AGAIN

I feel safe in saying that last year’s Ontario Provincial Du the Double Challenge at Multisport Canada’s Bracebridge weekend was a great success. I mean, I could hear the amount of buzz around the event all the way in Edmonton! Registrations for both events were up by huge percentages, and by all reports it was an exceptional organizational job (as usual) by Multisport Canada. As a result of that success Triathlon Ontario will do it again in 2016, this time at Multisport Canada’s Gravenhurst weekend. The events are flipped, with the more difficult event scheduled for Saturday, but it won’t make the weekend any less difficult. The sprint distance race will not be a qualfier for Worlds (as it is not draft legal), but the standard distance race will be the 4th qualifying event on the calendar with 2 spots per AG. There will be three spots per AG at the race and with it being on the Saturday this year, there will be plenty of opportunity for AGers to punch their ticket to Penticton on fresh legs before tackling the sprint race the next day *hint hint*. Seriously, this is a great event to support and though racing twice in two days is certainly no joke, we’re all duathletes and that means we’re tough as hell by definition!

AN INTERESTING DEVELOPMENT AT IRONMAN 70.3 MUSKOKA

As a final note to wrap up this piece, I’d like to highlight an interesting development that cropped up on the Ironman 70.3 Muskoka website: the 2016 event will feature a 5k/94k/21.1k duathlon. Though this is not the first long course duathlon in this country, it is the first in a little while that has a run to start (ie. not a bike/run). Sorry, Belle River is the first, with Muskoka to follow. The point is, they are a rare breed. Do I believe that an announcement for this event coming so late is going to lead to a flood of registrations? Nope. Do I foresee this race going off with 12-22 people on the start line? Yup. Do I hope they realize this fact and run the race so that we can get some good reviews down and increase registration five-fold or ten-fold in 2017? I definitely do. Muskoka is a tough and rewarding course, and I think it will make an amazing long course duathlon. In 2017. When people have the time to plan for it and train for it.

I would include another highlight reel of some results from certain races in the past month, but I’m already at 1800 words and the Welland World Championships are this weekend. So I will save it and some previews of big July races for another day, presumably sometime next week.

So until next time…keep Du’ing it!

A Road Trip to Penticton and a Recap of Some Duathlon Racing Across Canada

My major focus in the early season, and indeed my first major test of fitness, was to be a return trip to Penticton, BC. While the structure of the weekend is definitely unusual and likely sub-optimal, racing the perennially super-fast Bare Bones Duathlon on Saturday followed by the Blossom 10 Miler on Sunday morning represented a challenge that I really wanted to undertake. Click on the race names for the results page, and read on for some recaps!

BARE BONES DUATHLON
My primary focus for this weekend in Penticton was a return to the Bare Bones Duathlon, organized by the Penticton Triathlon Club. This was my favourite race last year, next to the Comfortec Red Deer Duathlon (which incidentally, has been named as the Alberta Provincial Championships for 2016), and the grassroots, no frills atmosphere is the perfect place to lay it all out there and just worry about racing. The course keeps you honest, with flat but technical and exposed 5km (2 lap) runs sandwiched around a tough out-and-back 33km bike that travels along an exposed lakeside road then takes in two long and steady climbs (and the corresponding descents). It is as much a test of personal strength as it is a race.

Leading the way

Leading out the first run, with 2nd place hot on my heels

I came into the race knowing that the major competition would be two-time defending champion Nathan Champness, and that the race in previous years had had one of the deepest and most competitive fields in the country. Nathan had won last year in a course record of a shade over 1:27, while I had finished 5th in 1:31:04. The first run went out as fast as it did last year, but this year I was able to take control (or so I would lead myself to believe) of the race halfway through the first lap. Despite that I was not able to shake Nathan throughout the first run, and though I was able to split 16:11 for the first 5k I had only about 10-15 seconds on him heading onto the bikes.
Heading in from the bikes

2 minutes down coming off the bike it 2 too many

I was able to ride strong, though issues with my Garmin had me riding blind and a little more sporadically than I would have liked. The long downhills allowed for some recovery after riding the hills harder than I would have liked, and I still was able to ride 51:55 for the 33km (37.8km/h and 4 minutes faster than last year). Nathan had passed me 4km into the bike, and had a 2 minute lead on me by T2, so I just focused on running strong and consistent enough to solidify my 2nd place finish. My final time was 1:26:43, inside the course record from last year but well-beaten into 2nd place. Nathan Champness was just too strong on this day…kudos my friend!

BLOSSOM 10 MILER
Though my legs were TRASHED following Bare Bones I was able to get in some decent recovery Saturday evening, doing some rolling and then kicking my feet up in preparation for my longest test of the season. The Blossom 10 Miler was more of a “might as well do it since I am here” race, but I am glad I did it. The race is point to point, starting in the middle of a rural road 1 mile north of Naramata and heading along some picturesque lakeside roads (complete with an absolutely stunning view) and then onto the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. The last mile turns into Penticton, heading along Lakeshore Drive and finishing at the SS Sicamous. The course is almost entirely downhill save for some rollers in the first mile, and the strong wind from the north from the day before continued, giving us a solid tailwind for almost the entire race.

Chillin

Double races in one weekend is hard


Like Saturday, Jeremy Hopwood went straight to the front of the race and I followed him to a small gap on the rest of the field straight off the bat. I was able to get a gap on him on one of the downhills, and from there I used the twists and turns of the course to inject some pace and increase my gap once out of sight. In time, he faded out of contention while eventual podium finishers Hector Carlos and Josh Heinrich made their way up. I kept running strong trying to maintain my pace (~3:38/km) before trying to drop the hammer at the exit of the KVR Trail. In the last mile I had some hopes that I could dip under the 58:00 mark, but I ran out of gas in the last 500m (about 2 mile later than I expected to) to finish in 58:11 for the overall win. It was a solid effort at another fantastic local grassroots event. I will most definitely be back next year!
Got the win!

…but managed to get the win on day 2!


A WORD ABOUT SOME DUATHLONS FROM ACROSS CANADA
Keeping with the new theme of this site, I’d like to recap some of the great duathlon action from around the country. With the World Championships for age groupers being in Aviles, Spain in early June this year, many duathletes are coming out of the woodwork this spring further along with their fitness than in previous years. Lets dive into a few:

UBC DUATHLON
Typically the first Canadian duathlon test, this one usually draws some pretty strong athletes to Vancouver. Nick Patenaude won the 5km/20km/5km race overall, but the real story was Cat 2 female cyclist Morgan Cabot winning the women’s race and placing 2nd overall thanks to a far and away race-best 31:04 bike. That’s fast as HELL, though I guess we should have expected that out of the reigning B.C. provincial TT champion. She beat 2014 Canadian duathlon champion Sara Massie by 5:13. Hopefully we see her in more duathlons this year.

FLOWER CITY CHALLENGE DUATHLON (ROCHESTER, NY)
There was some high placed Canadian content at the Flower City Challenge duathlon in Rochester NY, and it looked like a tactical battle that led to a 1-2 Canadian invasion of the podium. Guelph’s Josh LeBlanc sizzled the first 5k (in 15:52) before Toronto’s Darren Cooney methodically closed the gap en route to a race-best 54:54 for a 30km bike before starting the games. Back and forth they went until Darren took the lead late in the bike and didn’t look back. He took the win in 1:34:38 to LeBlanc’s 1:36:11 despite Josh’s race-best 19:36 second 5k.

IRON HAWK DUATHLON
One of the highlights of the duathlon season, the Iron Hawk duathlon has likely only been matched for depth and competitiveness by the Bare Bones Duathlon that it shares a weekend with. This year, Kirstie Kniaziew once again did her thing by coming 5th overall and winning the women’s race by…a lot, but the big story was a wide open men’s race that was without superstar (understatement of the year) Lionel Sanders for the first time. Liyang Wang took an overwhelming win by running a race best 17:31 for the first 5k and not looking back. He rode a race best 29:55 followed by a race fastest 9:11 (for 2.5km) to beat Brad Reiter and Spencer Summerfield into 2nd and 3rd respectively. 57:41 would have had him rank in the top 5 for duathlons in the past 3 years. Dude looks ready for Worlds, I’d say.

DUATHLON SOREL-TRACY
Last but certainly not least is the defacto “opener” of an incredibly competitive Quebec duathlon circuit. Sorel-Tracy is a 5km/33km/2.5km (approximately) duathlon that usually brings out the best of Quebec multisport athletes. This year, Bathurst triathlete Lee Roy took one step up to the top step, winning this year after finishing 2nd last year on the heels of a 16:02 5k/49:06 bike. The women’s race was taken convincingly by last year’s Montreal Demi-Esprit runner-up Annie Gervais thanks to some strong running. Browsing the results shows many of the big names in Quebec racing, falling right in with the trend of athletes being super fit for Worlds in June.

Let’s hope that continues right through to national championships season in August/September!

I’m heading to Jasper this weekend for a training camp to kick off the second half of the season. So until next time…keep Du’ing it!
Peace out yo!

Transitions

Well readers…yes it has been a little while, but don’t fret! I’m still alive and back in the game. A lot has happened since my last post…I mean it HAS been 8 months (oops). So let’s get to it!

NATIONALS AFTERMATH AND 2015 DEBRIEF

2015 was a banner year for me, capped off by my Canadian duathlon title. Winning that race was the culmination of 3 years of hard work and focus following a decent debut season in 2012. While I didn’t necessarily always get the results I wanted in 2013 and 2014, it was all worth it with what I was able to accomplish in 2015:

2016 Medal Haul

My haul from 2016!

Following Nationals, I stumbled upon this awesome series of cross country races on Wednesday nights called the Frank McNamara XC race series. Set in various places in the Edmonton river valley, I got my butt kicked by some serious trail runners every Wednesday night during some good old-fashioned foot races. It was a great way to finish off the season by going back to my cross country running roots in a fun, low pressure scenario.

LOOKING FORWARD TO 2016

With a positive end to a three year block of goal setting now in my rearview mirror, it is time to look forward to 2016 and beyond. My ultimate goal has always been to race with the elites at Worlds. Mixing it up with the best is truly the pinnacle for me, and seeing the performances that those men and women put together on the grandest stage of duathlon is incredibly inspiring.

While it would be equally amazing to make that debut at the recently (-ish) announced 2017 World Multisport Festival in Penticton, BC, Triathlon Canada’s new requirements for obtaining an International Competition Card (necessary for competing in the elite race at Worlds) will make that goal difficult. So while this does still remain a stretch goal, my focus has turned to the following progression:


2016
Double National Championship attempt (standard distance on August 24 in Penticton, sprint distance on September 4 at home in Edmonton)
2017
Double AG World Championship attempt in Penticton, BC. Use that performance to obtain my ICC from Triathlon Canada
2018
Represent my country and the Maple Leaf in the World Duathlon Championship elite race in Odense, Denmark

This ambitious set of goals is going to require committing to training and living like an ITU pro, which unfortunately is going to require changes to the set-up I became used to the past several years. I owe a lot of the credit for where I am today as an athlete to Tommy Ferris and Ignition Fitness. Becoming a national champion happened under Tommy’s watchful eye, and I doubt I would have gotten to this level without that valuable development time.

My team for 2016

My team for 2016!

My schedule for 2016 is posted under the tab above, with highlights being a trio of races in August and September where I will attempt to defend my standard distance Canadian title before taking on two National Race Series draft legal sprint duathlons in Edmonton and Montreal. Fitting in with these goals, this winter I was presented with the opportunity to join up with the Edmonton Triathlon Academy, an elite development training group in the city. With the ETA, I will have the opportunity to train with like-minded athletes in a team environment, working on duathlon skills just as much as on my fitness. The results have been positive so far, I would say; here are some brief recaps of my solid (if unspectacular) early season races to kick off this season of blogging!

APRIL 17 – ST. ALBERT ROAD RACE 10KM (1st OVERALL, 34:34)

My season officially kicked off with the St. Albert Road Race in mid-April, where I set my personal best for 10 miles last year. This year, my focus has been on running fast over the 5km and 10km distances, so I would be running the 10k in St. Albert this season. I was carrying some very good fitness into April this year, giving me high hopes of a record-eligible course PB. Unfortunately, I took a stupid but painful spill on some gravel during an early training ride that left me with a pretty deep bruise on my hip, ending my hopes of really running fast at this race. My goal became simply to win the race, and with a surge up a false flat 3km into the race, I accomplished just that (only after a lonely 7km around northern St. Albert). Final time – 34:34 for 1st place overall. Not bad for a rust buster.

St. Albert Road Race 10k

Charging to the finish in 1st at the St. Albert Road Race 10k

APRIL 17 – NORTHERN ALBERTA SPRING SERIES #1

Immediately after the St. Albert race, my team and I headed east towards Sherwood Park for the first race of the Spring Series bike races, a series jointly put on by several of the cycling clubs around Edmonton and aimed more at getting in training miles and developing skills than being a full-on bike race. This would be a fantastic opportunity for me to learn some skills on the fly, and to see firsthand how the dynamics of a draft legal bike race plays out. Considering my goals, this seemed like just the ticket despite having raced in the morning. I raced with the C group, which ended up being more like a “learn to race” group. I did manage a little solo break with 6km to go after a long pull into the headwind, which was very exhilerating. However, I was caught and finished with the group, exhausted but satisfied.

MOVING FORWARD

I did one more Spring Series race on May 1, but it was more of a training race than anything. I had planned to leave for Penticton 3 days later, and most of my teammates were racing around the city on the 1st. It was either the Spring Series race or a long solo ride, and I decided to headed to Ardrossan for some more skill development and camaraderie. I raced up a category in the B group, but just hung out near the back and watched the dynamics of the race play out. With the large group, it was difficult to move up without crossing the centre line…and that was just fine with me.

Penticton Road Trip

Some highlights from my Penticton Road Trip! Full report to come.

All of this training and racing has led to possibly my highest training load since I started this absurd sport, yet it has been done in a way that was not overwhelming to my body. Everything so far was aimed at a shot at redemption at the Bare Bones Duathlon in Penticton, where I finished a well beaten 5th last year. This year, I was able to dip under the course record time from last year and improve my finish to a well-beaten 2nd (by just over 2 minutes). I followed that up the next morning with my second road running win of the year, winning the Blossom 10 Mile in a solid (if unspectacular) 58:11. But you shall have to wait for that full report to hear more…

On a final note, I am planning on taking this site in a different direction. While you will still be seeing race reports from my season, I truly enjoy writing about the duathlon happenings around the country, as well as the odd post on training and equipment optimization. With such an exciting season coming up for duathlon, age group and elite alike, I’d like to make that the focus of this site. In retrospect, even my race reports often take the viewpoint of being a commentary on training methods, equipment choices and race dynamics. So…hope y’all are okay with that!

Apologies for the loooong update…it’s been long overdue. So until next time…keep Du’ing it!

Penticton Peach

Peace out! For now…

“Ultimate Redemption” – How the Canadian Duathlon Championships Was Won (At Esprit de Montreal)

14 months ago, almost to the day, my race at the Canadian Duathlon Championships in Toronto ended in bitter disappointment. I went right to the front on the first run and set a strong pace, only to watch it unravel into a mess of lost power and nutrition issues on the second half of the bike. I limped in for 3rd and was lucky to be that. When Nationals were announced for September 2015 in Montreal, I immediately put it on my calendar and Coach Tommy and I set to work building my entire season towards this race. This report will be in two posts, starting with the play-by-play here followed by my thoughts, reflections and shoutouts later.

Coach T and I

Debriefing after 2014 Nationals. Presumably planning an assault on redemption in 2015.

THE RACE
Duathlon and triathlon are much more than just the sum of their parts. It’s not just running, cycling, and in the case of triathlon, swimming…they are their own sports entirely. In 2012, I did my first big-time race. Sure, I had done (and won) duathlons prior to my first standard distance duathlon in Cobourg at the Ontario Duathlon Championships, but this one was different.

I was racing an athlete with multiple pro World Championship appearances on his resume, Kevin Smith. I finished 2nd that day, but Kevin didn’t beat me thanks to any one particularly dominant part of the race. Instead, he took bits and pieces of time from me over all 5 stages of the race (Run #1, T1, Bike, T2, Run #2) that added up to 57 seconds and the win by the end of the race. That day I learned a valuable lesson that I have remembered ever since: every little bit counts.

Mr. Smith showed me the way to win a championship duathlon in 2012.

Mr. Smith showed me the way to win a championship duathlon in 2012.

On Sunday, I put my year of hard training together with the racing knowledge I have gained since that race. Leading into the race, I was shocked at the field’s depth. Though it was missing a few big names due to injury, late season burnout or the dark side (triathlon), over 180 people were still due to race including many of the top names from all over Canada. I arrived on Wednesday to give myself plenty of time to adapt to the time change and humidity.

This didn't last...

This didn’t last…

RUN #1 (9.9KM) – 35:23 (3:34/km, 1st overall)
It rained all night on Saturday but by some stroke of luck, as I was setting up transition the rain STOPPED for the duration of the race. I knew that the first run had a good chance of going out hard despite the choppy gravel stretch to start and I was prepared to follow. Everything went according to my expectations…until it didn’t. We went through the first aid station quickly as a group of 5, one athlete made a joke about Mo Farah swinging wide for water at Worlds in the 5000m, I followed him to grab a cup…and all of a sudden we were 2 off the front of the race. At this point I took control of the race with Garry Mathieu on my shoulder…foreshadowing the day.

Leading the first run like a sucker.

Leading the first run like a sucker.

At this point, the racing stopped and the mind games started. Garry and I started talking to each other…conversing at 3:30/km. It started off nice enough, as Garry offered me his water cup after he saw I had flubbed my own cup (what a nice dude). We went back and forth a bit, and I kept up the conversation throughout the second lap around the basin partially to gauge his effort level (and partially because he was one interesting dude). I got the distinct feeling Garry was doing the same. I was content to run in front, often throwing in small surges that were meant to stretch but not necessarily snap the elastic. Garry had run 13:38 in college…I wasn’t getting rid of him that easy, but I could try to soften up those legs.

Battling hard on my first run in my Skechers Performance GORun 4's

Battling hard on my first run in my Skechers Performance GORun 4’s (ZoomPhoto, 2015)

THE BIKE (39.5KM) – 1:00:58 (includes T1, 39.8kph, 4th overall)
We came into T1 stride for stride, and I dashed to my bike. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him reach down for his cycling shoes that were not clipped to his bike, and kicked it into overdrive. Knowing the run to the mount line was about 300m from our bikes, I booked it across transition, out to the mount line and onto my faithful Felt B16 shod in 3SIXTY5 carbon clinchers. I knew if I could get a gap going onto the bike I would put him in chase mode for the next little while. I only managed to get 5-10 seconds, but that 5-10 seconds took him almost 8 laps (out of 9) to close down. Don’t tell me transition isn’t as important as swim/bike/run.

Riding scared...very scared.

Riding scared…very scared. RETUL Bike fit courtesy of Sweet Petes Bike Shop.

The bike course was crowded, as advertised. Between squeezing through tight gaps while passing people trying to ride the tangents on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and weaving around people who inexplicably decided to ride on the right instead of the left as instructed (pre-race meetings are important, people!), I managed to have a pretty solid ride. There were some sketchy moments, most notably some nasty cramping in both calves early on, as well as some close calls on the slick and crowded hairpins and S-turns. But the games started again on lap #8…

…because at this point Garry took control of the race. I had been seeing his name pop up shortly after mine on the lap board, and he was very close behind every time I peeked during the hairpin turnaround, so I knew he was coming. Once he made the pass, it was decision time: I could keep going my pace and let him go, hoping to reel him back in on the run, or I could burn a match and ride at my limit to keep him within reach, hoping to come into transition a couple seconds behind. I chose the latter, afraid of him going out of sight and out of mind…and it paid off. He threw everything at me, including hard attacks up the small rises, but I managed to keep him within reach for the last lap, and got my legs ready for the run.

Making one of the many hairpin turns on my 3SIXTY5 FAT wheels.

Making one of the many hairpin turns on my 3SIXTY5 FAT wheels. (ZoomPhoto, 2015)

RUN #2 (5.1KM) – 20:12 (includes T2, 3:41/km, 3rd overall)
It was at the dismount that I saw a second opportunity: from about 2 seconds back I saw Garry pull up to the mount line, stop to unclip and dismount. Again I went into overdrive, completing the fastest flying dismount of my life (passing him) and sprinting to my rack spot (stopping only to slide on my Skechers GOMeb Speed 3’s) and then out of transition. This was my opening, and I put everything I had into taking it. I don’t have an exact time on my first mile, but since I saw 3:25 as my average pace for about that distance it was likely under 5:40. This was the decisive moment of the race. The next two miles were not pretty, but the damage was done.

Starting to believe it

Starting to believe it (Parichit Bagga, 2015)

For two miles I struggled physically but fear fueled me to run as hard as I could. In the back of my mind I kept seeing Garry flying around my outside, leaving me in his dust. I refused to let belief creep in until it forced its way in, but when the finish line came into view I began to believe. A shot of adrenaline, an injection of pace, and as I passed the grandstand a wide smile as I heard my pops yelling hysterically. Running through a tunnel of noise, I saw the “Canadian Champion” tape stretched out in front of me and it got very real, very fast. I started pumping my fists like mad , high-fiving people, and I teared up behind my sunglasses.

FINAL RESULT – 1:56:35 (1ST OVERALL, CANADIAN CHAMPION)

FINALLY (Photo credit: ZoomPhoto)

FINALLY (ZoomPhoto, 2015)

As I broke the tape I stretched my arms out wide in celebration and all my emotions poured into one of the biggest smiles to have ever graced my face. I grabbed the tape and hoisted it over my head, looking up to the sky in absolute shock. 14 months after bitter disappointment in Toronto, I had done it: Canadian Duathlon Champion in Montreal. 14 months of painstaking work, long solo training sessions, and foregone outdoor workouts culminating in adding my name to a list that includes (most recently) Sanders, Tremblay and Frake. And it feels gooooooood.

HUGE shoutout to Garry Mathieu for doing his part to make this one hell of a battle. Seriously man, you are one tough dude. Stay tuned for part 2: The Reflection. Until then, keep Du’ing it!

Hoist that banner! (ZoomPhoto, 2015)

Hoist that banner! (ZoomPhoto, 2015)

“Did I just do that?” (ZoomPhoto, 2015)

Your top 3 overall (from left): Garry Mathieu, Jesse Bauer, Moritz Haager

Your top 3 overall (from left): Garry Mathieu, Jesse Bauer, Moritz Haager