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.
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!
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!
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!
Nice Job on the podium and really good for grinding it down and heading out there for the 2nd run. Yes you are right, sometimes you just have to get out there for the sponsors, they are there for you all year long. I love the NO EXCUSES. I may be last or close to it in every race, but yes there are No Excuses, just me.
Way to go and Fly Like the Wind at the US Nationals.
Thanks Richard! My mantra for this week is “Short Memory”. The focus now is on going fast in St. Paul, and then assess everything following that. You can’t get it right every time!
BTW, way to fight through adversity in Peterborough. Sounds like you had an interesting day out there!