Month: July 2014

“Redemption” – USAT Duathlon Championships Report

Note from Jesse: This report will be a bit longer than these reports normally are. This trip had such a large impact on me, and not just from an athletic standpoint, that I’d like to dig a little bit deeper on this one. The duathlon community in Minnesota is absolutely incredible, and the event was exceptionally run by the organizing committee. I will touch a little bit on each of these, and am planning on expanding this into full articles over on Duathlon Central in the coming months. Enjoy!

“Redemption” is how I would describe my experience at the USAT Duathlon Championships in St. Paul, MN this weekend. After a rough race full of trials and tribulations in Toronto at the Triathlon Canada Championships (while still bringing home a bronze medal), I had the race I knew I was capable of in St. Paul. It validated all my concerns about just not having the requisite training for the international distance (which was the plan all along), as well as my nutrition struggles. Indeed, in briefly chatting with Tommy we agreed that my training had been much more focused on doing well at US Nats, with a good performance in Toronto being more reliant on brute strength and luck. I now feel much more confident that I will be ready for the international distance for Lakeside in September.

Coach T and I

Talking things over with Coach T after TTF. I love this picture! (Photo Credit – Emma Parker, 2014)

BEFORE I GO ANY FURTHER, I need to thank a few people. First, I need to thank my parents, who funded everything  but my entry fee and wheel rental for this race. My dad also surprised me by making the trip to St. Paul for the race, joining with Emma to be the best support crew I could ask for. Mom, I wish you could have made the trip as well…we missed you and I raced extra hard just for you! Second, a huge thank you to Emma. Emma, you put up with me taking us in circles en route to our final destination, and likely winging one too many things during the weekend…for that I am super appreciative. She also funded my wheel rental (a Hed Jet 6/Powertap Disc combo courtesy of Big Race Wheels). I have been having trouble with my disc cover rubbing, and it would have been a shame for my day in Minnesota to end due to a mechanical. THANK YOU!!

Support Team

I had some great support out on the course! Emma made her first airplane trip just to be there for me, and my dad flew in all the way from Edmonton. Thank you! Just wish Mom could have made it too…(Photo Credit – Emma Parker, 2014)

Since this report is a tad long, feel free to use these quick links to jump straight to certain parts:

TUESDAY/WEDNESDAY – THE ADVENTURE BEGINS

Our adventure started on Tuesday, when I took the train out to Long Branch to meet Cam and pick up my wheels. The rest of the day was a bit of a whirlwind, as even with my front brake opened all the way, I could not fit the wider front wheel into the fork. Luckily, I had an extra Ultegra brake lying around that I threw on. The reputation that brake has for consistent stopping power proved very true, something that would pay dividends on the course I was due to face. After a few trips back and forth to Nate at Noble Cycles (King and Locke in Hamilton), I had the bike dialed in and ready to pack up…which was quite the adventure. This would be my first duathlon outside of Ontario, and my first that I would have to fly to. I must have packed and re-packed my bike 3 or 4 times, trying to get it just right so that I could fly in peace without worrying about dealing with a broken bike upon arrival! Thanks to Cody Beals for all the help (and for convincing me to bring my aero helmet along, despite the inconvenience).

US Nats Bike Set-Up

Thanks to Big Race Wheels, Felt Bicycles, Wheels of Bloor and Noble Cycles for setting me up with this beauty for the race.

THURSDAY/FRIDAY – PRE-RACE IN ST. PAUL

After a flurry of packing, cleaning, and one last workout on Wednesday, we set off for Pearson on Thursday morning for what turned out to be an uneventful trip (my bike made it in one piece!). Thursday night we rented bikes and rode around Harriet Island (where the race would take place on Sunday), and checked out the set-up. The transition zone and the finish line were all set up…and they looked absolutely incredible. Transition was decked out with every state flag and duathlon specific scrims and signage, and the finish came complete with 100m of red carpet. Every turn in the course was marked with gates and fences for 50 feet on either side, and it was wide open and easy for spectators to be a multiple points on the course…you could really feel that they had pulled out all the stops to give the race a championship atmosphere.

USAT Transition

You could feel the championship atmosphere!

I rode and ran the course the next morning (course maps here). The run course was stunning…a two lap course along the Mississippi River, on flat and smooth surfaces that were begging for speed. The bike course, though picturesque, was the only complaint many competitors had about the weekend. I’m not complaining though, since technical courses are to my advantage by narrowing the spread between the top guys and myself. Each of the three ~10km laps starts on awful pavement up a 500m hill across the Mississippi. The hill deposited you at the top of a harrowing downhill on equally bad pavement, through a dark tunnel with a sharp 90 degree right at the end. The next 7-8km couldn’t have been any more different…flat, fast and smooth out and back along the river, an awesome place to make up the time lost at the beginning of the lap. However, each lap ended with another sharp uphill and harrowing downhill, on the same poorly maintained roads. This would have a marked effect on my cycling strategy and bike split.

Rough Pavement

Rough Pavement!! (Photo Credit – Emma Parker, 2014)

After checking out the course, I headed to packet pickup. Normally, this wouldn’t be much to speak about, yet I feel the need to do so here. In Toronto, nothing in the race kit made any mention about the race being the Canadian Championships, and to commemorate the event we got…a white Gildan t-shirt. By contrast, in St. Paul I received a custom USAT Duathlon Championships running hat and quarter zip jacket, socks, and a TYR drawstring bag. And instead of body-marking, everyone got USAT tattoos with your race number. Quite the contrast, and a stunning example of the role duathlon plays in the US multisport community.

USAT Race Kit

Awesome swag in the race packet, courtesy of USA Triathlon. First rate event.

SATURDAY – RACE MORNING DAWNS

Race morning dawned unspectacularly. The time change played in my favour, because the early 7:45am start felt like 8:45am. Staying in a hotel across the river from the race site also was an excellent call, as there was no commute to the race necessary. I got my timing chip, set up my transition, and talked to Alex Arman for a bit. Alex is an Illinois triathlete/duathlete who I have been following the last year or so, and talked to him a bit leading up to the race. He also was the 8th overall finisher at Age Group Worlds in Ottawa last year. We did a little warm-up on the run course, and I checked my nutrition bottle before getting race ready. I have been having trouble with my nutrition in previous races, as taking in gels while redlining in shorter races just did not work. I didn’t pay for it in shorter races, but definitely did in Toronto. For St. Paul, I decided to mix a Razz(berry) Clif Shot in with my electrolyte drink, and get it all in liquid form. This plan worked perfectly! I would end up finishing the bottle and the race without the cramps and other nutrition issues that have plagued me in the past.

US Nats Transition

Setting up transition in the morning. Focused! (Photo Credit – Emma Parker, 2014)

RUN #1 (4.6KM) – 14:37 (3:12/km, 7th overall & 1st M25-29)

I positioned myself in the 2nd or 3rd row back at the start line. I didn’t really knew what I was up against, and didn’t want to get drawn into the gun-slinging that I have seen too many American races devolve into. Luckily, St. Paul pro Dan Hedgecock (who would go on to the overall win) positioned himself right in front of me…I just followed the wedge out at a controlled pace. That course was FAST. I slowly picked my way through the field, moving through the quick starters as they inevitably faded. I ended the first lap in around 9th feeling great, and picked my way through the field over the second lap until only 3 other athletes were ahead of me. And I was making 3:12’s look easy as a cruised my way into transition…worlds different than the struggle that was my first 10k at TTF. Transition was ugly, but I had a tough spot right at the Run In/Out, and had to run quite a long way with my bike.

US Nats First Run

Heading out on the first run. In tough against some good competition! (Photo Credit – Emma Parker, 2014)

BIKE (31.2KM) – 50:48 (36.9km/h, 29th overall & 3rd M25-29)

The bike was…interesting. In fact, the way I was forced to pace it, the race felt more like an ITU race than a TT. As I mentioned in the course description above, there was never more than 7 or 8 consecutive kilometers to establish a rhythm before having to punch it uphill to be first to a tight corner, or to hang on for dear life down a suicide hill. As well, the course was quite crowded with large packs forming following at a legal (usually) distance, an unavoidable side effect of putting 350 athletes on a 3 lap bike course even with well-spaced wave starts. A unique course like this required a different strategy than I was used to on calm, quiet Ontario roads. I decided to just tuck in on the rough downhills, and recover a couple times each lap  before trying to make up time on Shepard Rd while cruising past the packs. I also seemed to always be stuck behind a big group going uphill, and had to punch it in order to be the first to the turn to avoid having to come to a stop going around it. It made for an incredibly uneven ride, where I was going back and forth with 2 athletes from my wave while weaving around older athletes. I was shooting for an NP of 230-235, which I hit right at the high end (235W). However, that came with an AP of 213W and an awful VI of 1.10. Luckily, I spun up the last hill and coasted the last long downhill right before transition, which helped to get the crap out of my legs heading into the final, decisive run.

US Nats Bike Cornering

Heading in for another lap on the bike. (Photo Credit – Emma Parker, 2014)

RUN #2 (4.4KM) – 14:37 (3:20/km, 3rd overall and 1st M25-29)

The last run was a tad shorter than the first, due to the difference in position between the start and finish lines. My transition was again sloppy, as I had to navigate much more tired athletes who were entering transition ahead of me. Out on the run, I knew I had lucked out despite my uneven bike pacing. I started absolutely FLYING out of transition, running the first kilometer in under 3:10 straight off the bike. The legs came right back. I did not pass anyone, but I made up huge chunks of ground on the guys ahead of me. Around the first turnaround, I caught a glimpse of Alex, who had passed me early on in the bike. He couldn’t have been more than 20 seconds ahead of me, which was a huge surge to my confidence. I kept my eyes on his back and made the pass at the start of the second lap, taking 3 other guys from my wave in the process. One guy latched on, which just spurred me to keep the pressure on the rest of the way. I ended up putting almost a minute on those guys over the last lap, as I dashed to the finish. My final second run split was only 3 seconds off the fastest in the race, yet I came across the line charged up.

Strong Finish

They rolled out the red carpet for my strong finish! (Photo Credit – Emma Parker, 2014)

FINAL RESULT – 1:21:12 (9th overall, 2nd M25-29)

Overall a fantastic result, one that gained me back all of the confidence that I had lost after TTF. For the first time all year, I fueled myself well, started the run controlled and worked into the race, rode smart on the bike leg, used the course to my advantage, and came up with an exceptionally strong second run which would actually end up as my second fastest run of the season, both before and after the bike. Huge improvements in all areas of the duathlon race, just 6 days after struggling my way to the line in Toronto. I am proud to have been able to deliver such a great result, putting nearly a minute on someone who beat me by 6.5 minutes in Ottawa last year, in front of Emma and my dad. Thank you guys once again for the awesome support.

The Final Tally

The Final Tally (places would change as later waves finished)

Thank you’s also go out to all my sponsors and supporters. Coach Tommy at Ignition Fitness for staying the course and helping me to stick to the plan even when I felt like everything was falling apart around me. Felt Bicycles and Wheels of Bloor for setting me up with my speed machine and equipment for this season. Nate at Noble Cycles for fixing all my bike issues resulting from my poor wrenching abilities. John, Roger and the Multisport Canada crew for giving me the opportunity to hone my craft at their fantastic events. Clif Bar & Company for fueling my training and racing. And Big Race Wheels for coming through in the clutch with a wicked fast set of wheels for this big race. The second phase of my season is now complete. Coming up next is some rest, a solid training block, a rust buster on Toronto Island, followed by a shift in focus to the international distance in preparation for the Ontario Duathlon Championships at the Lakeside Resort…both races brought to you by Multisport Canada.

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

Silver Medalist

9th place overall, and 2nd in the M25-29 age group.

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“No Excuses” – National Duathlon Championships Report

No excuses. That’s my mantra coming out of the Canadian Duathlon Championships in Toronto Sunday morning. Lots went wrong, but there is nothing and no one to blame for my performance except myself. Racing is about taking what the day hands you when you wake up and turning it on its head into something positive. Sunday, David Frake and Larry Bradley were on another level and were just too much for me. Still, I pulled in to the finish as the bronze medalist at the Canadian Championships, a result that I am exceptionally proud of despite the hand I was dealt today. Full results can be found here.

TTF Bronze Medallist

3rd place in Canada, and M25-29 National Champion

The days and hours leading up to the race were a whirlwind. The logisitics of the Toronto Triathlon Festival are difficult at the best of times, and downright complex for someone who relies on public transportation to get from point A to B through C. I went to the mandatory briefing on Friday to get the ins and outs of the course. Emma and I had originally planned to stay with her friend at Yonge and Finch on Friday and Saturday nights, with me going to a Saturday briefing after watching the Toronto Pan Am Cup in the morning. However, the financial impact of that was too significant and I went looking for other options. It was here that I need to send out a HUGE thank you to Larry Bradley. Thanks to Larry’s generosity, Emma and I stayed at the Fairmont Royal York on Saturday night in relative luxury.

However, the morning was a bit of a whirlwind. The nerves kept me awake until around 11, and we were up at 4am for breakfast and check out. I tried to get through my normal breakfast, but I had a bit of a nervous stomach which didn’t help. I brought more than enough fuel for the race, so I figured I would just get it in during the lead-up to the race. Upon arrival, I did a little spin on the bike down the trail before getting body marked and setting up in transition. Then I headed out for a little run warm-up with some strides. The forecast called for rain and wind all day, and sure enough the skies opened up during my warm-up. To my displeasure, it started to rain pretty hard…but everyone races in the same conditions, and champions make the best of the hand they are dealt! I finished up, reset my transition and checked my bag, then headed out along the trail for the 1km walk to the start, where I found out (during the downpour) that the start would be delayed an additional 15 minutes to better align with the Olympic triathlon!

Transition

TTF transition zone as the sun comes up (Photo Credit Emma Parker, 2014)

RUN #1 (10KM) – 35:22 (3:31/km, 1st overall)

Finally, we got started. I knew there were a couple other quick runners in the field that I hoped I could pace off of. I also did not believe David Frake one bit when he said he was in poor running condition, so I downgraded my chances just a little bit. However, the race did not play out as I had expected. One fleet-footed runner came with me, but the other did not. We held ~3:25/km to the turnaround, but that proved to be a bit too much for my running mate, Mike Park. After the turn, he dropped off my pace and I was left alone for the remaining 4km. I watched my pace slowly drop from 3:25’s to over 3:30’s along Lakeshore Drive, and my stomach started growling. I tried with no luck to get a gel down, and decided to wait for the bike…

BIKE (38.8KM) – 1:04:14 (210NP/199AP, 5th overall)

After an awful transition brought on by some poor pre-race preparation, I was out on the bike weaving through triathletes. Now, at this point I question the race organization for starting us when they did. During an international distance duathlon, the top runners usually run ~35-40 minutes, while Olympic triathletes swim ~20-25 minutes. However, both of us are high caliber athletes who can ride at a similar rate. Why are races not set up so that we reach the bikes at the same time, instead of 15 minutes later?! Here I was, pushing 45kph (on a pleasant 210W), and weaving around triathletes going 35kph. How does that make sense? That went on for much of the bike, and I just had to grit my teeth and deal with it. The way out on the Gardiner and then onto the DVP was solid, as I averaged ~38.5kph up the hill in <220W (which was about my target for the race).Frake passed me at 5km, with Larry following close behind. With all the weaving and the poor road conditions, I had a hard time getting enough nutrition in. I am going to experiment with liquid nutrition prior to Lakeside to combat this issue I have been having all year.

The last 20km of the bike were a disaster. I struggled with the wind to maintain my wattage from 20-30km down the hill, though I was able to hold my speed to the Gardiner while passing huge hordes of triathletes. I recorded a personal best time of ~46:15 through 30k…but then I cracked. The headwind kicked up, and my lack of calories came back on me with a vengeance. I struggled the next 5km, and actually sat up to keep the dizziness at bay for most of the last 5km. I seriously debated racking my bike and walking off the course, despite sitting in 3rd place off the bike. I have only 6 days to recover before US Nationals and I was concerned about digging myself into too big of a hole to complete my double. However, I felt I needed to at least try to hold my podium for everyone who has supported me on my journey. So off I went! After the race, I discovered that I was only 35 seconds down on Larry at the turnaround…yet I would start the run nearly 5 minutes behind him. Ouch.

RUN #2 (5KM) – 19:41 (3:56/km, 7th overall)

By this point, winning was out of the question (Frake ran 36:10 and then out-split me by nearly 10 minutes on the bike), and 2nd was incredibly unlikely (chapeau to Larry, he backed up a phenomenal bike with some very solid runs), but I could consolidate a podium spot with an okay run, a result that is definitely something to be proud of. I left my Garmin in T2 in my daze, so I ran blind. Good thing too…I really did not want to know how slow I was running. I ended up running the 7th fastest second split of all duathletes, which is very abnormal for me. I was outsplit on the second run by more people than I have been outsplit by in all of my domestic races…combined. Yet, I still managed to finish third in a very respectable 2:01:45 time. Not nearly what I wanted, but still admirable!

Coach T and I

Talking it over with Coach T after the race. (Photo Credit Emma Parker, 2014)

FINAL RESULT – 2:01:45 (3rd overall, M25-29 National Champion)

Despite the race not being what I wanted, I am incredibly proud of my final result. 3rd in Canada at my first Nationals is something to be proud of, and the splits leave me hungry to get back after it in St. Paul. On a good day with some good help, I may have been 1 minute faster on the first run, and with some better preparation and nutrition, I may have been another minute faster on the bike and 2 minutes faster on the second run. That would have put me at 1:57-1:58, and within striking distance of Larry. Lots of work to do, but I’m ready for it. Thank you so much to Larry Bradley and my girlfriend Emma for making this weekend possible, and to my coach Tommy Ferris and awesome sponsors Ignition Fitness, Felt Bicycles, Clif Bar Canada, Wheels of Bloor, Nimblewear Inc., Big Race Wheels, My Sports Shooter and Multisport Canada for all the great support! Bring on the best the US has to offer!

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

TTf Podium

Canadian Duathlon Championships Overall Podium (L to R Larry Bradley, Dave Frake, and me; Photo Credit Emma Parker, 2014)

Thanks sponsors!

Thank you to all my sponsors!