As a baseball fan (and proud member of Bucs Nation…let’s go Bucs), spring is often my favourite time of year. Why? Because it’s Spring Training of course! Spring Training is a time for shaking off the rust, trying some new things, and for the players to get their heads back around the daily grind that is the MLB season. It is also the time to get that hands-on practice on an outdoor field of play, something that just cannot be simulated indoors. As a duathlete, my Spring Training is a little bit different. Duathlons don’t start until mid-May, so my “Spring Training” consists of road races, the occasional bike race, and lots of saddle time on the roads, the trainer and at the track. This year I have the added bonus of a early spring A Race at the Provincial Sprint Duathlon Championships in Harrow on May 10, and to prepare for it I raced the Harry’s Spring Run-Off 8k at High Park on April 5, and the legendary Paris to Ancaster 65km bike race on April 27.
After Chilly, Tommy and I flipped over to a bike focus. So my weekly Thursday threshold intervals on the roads turned into tough sustained race efforts on the trainer, and we added in a second long endurance ride during the week. Despite upping the ante on the bike, I still chose to open up my spring at one of my favourite races on the Ontario circuit, Harry’s Spring Run-Off. This race is the season opener of the Canada Running Series, and is held on the traffic free roads of High Park. It is one of my favourite all-time race courses, a course that loops through quiet scenic roads and includes long killer hills during the 4th and last kilometers of the race. The last hill up Spring Road is sure to bust your legs if they aren’t already at that point! I knew the bike focus might have an effect on my result, but Harry’s is always a great way to assess winter running fitness. Emma came along with me, and we made a weekend of it!
I raced this one from the red corral, where I positioned myself just off the back of a stacked elite field. This enabled me to follow the big dogs out onto the race course, leading to a speedy 3:04 first kilometer. A little hot, but that first kilometer is also slightly downhill (at least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself). After that I settled into a nice pace and just tried to work the hills hard. They aren’t easy, demonstrated by the fact that I likely gave back 40 seconds while climbing them. However, I ended up in 15th place overall in a time of 27:21, an excellent result given the bike focus and the windy and high of 5 conditions of the day. Having only done 2 real short course running workouts since November, this result does give me great confidence that my run fitness is on track for Iron Hawk.
After a down week and a 2 very excellent weekends of endurance-focused training, I entered the biggest training week of h my duathlon career, culminating with the 65km Paris to Ancaster gravel bike race on the Sunday. A great week of training left me a little tired on the line, but this race was about participation instead of competition. It was a chance to experience my first pure cycling race (in all its muddy glory), and to put myself in a race situation with absolutely no pressure to produce a result. If you have never heard of Paris to Ancaster, do yourself a favour and Google this legendary race. 65km of mud, forests, farm lanes, gravel, dirt roads and more mud…one sector of the race is so infamously muddy that it is dubbed the “Mudslide of Death”. Needless to say, it was one that I needed to cross off my bucket list once I got myself a cyclocross bike.
The day didn’t start off great, as I missed my bus to Ancaster and thus had to ride my cross bike 15km up the mountain to Ancaster at 7am…an inauspicious start. But with more than 3 hours until my wave start it didn’t hurt me all that much, and the extra volume didn’t matter much during what was not supposed to be more than a glorified long ride. I also could have done a better job seeding myself, as I like could have shaved 15-20 minutes off my time by starting at the back of Wave 2 instead of the back of Wave 3. That decision led to a lot of soft-pedaling and weaving around slower traffic until it opened up a bit. But once it opened up, I settled in to a pattern of picking up ground and dragging a paceline up to the next group on the tame stuff, then losing it all back in the mud. During the rail trail sections I found myself more than happy to hop on the front and drag an indecisive group along (it’s not like I have a time trial style race in a couple weeks or anything), which was great for the confidence. I ended up walking a lot of the muddy stuff though, as I just don’t have the bike handling skills to pedal through 3 inches of mud. At the finish, I still had the legs to pass 30 people and ride the whole Martin Rd hill, and crossed the line pleased with a good hard day of training!
As always, big thanks to Emma to trooping it out to Toronto for Harry’s and again to Ancaster to see me finish (and take some awesome pictures!) the Paris to Ancaster race. She’s the best! All in all, April was a month of great training and great experiences as I prepare for the Provincial Sprint Duathlon Championships at the Iron Hawk Duathlon in Harrow. It will be my first test of my duathlon fitness, where I will be looking for a top 10 finish against a stacked field and hopefully a personal best sub-60 minute time to start my multisport season off on the right track! Thanks to Ignition Fitness for the continued support, and to Clif Nutrition, Felt Bicycles and Wheels of Bloor for making sure I have all the right tools for success from my April races into Iron Hawk.
Until next time, keep Du’ing it!