Month: October 2014

2014 Season In Review

To my readers, thank you for being so loyal this year. I don’t know exactly how many of you there are, but I am pretty sure I haven’t visited my own site over 3000 times since the beginning of the year…so thank you! I know I owe you a Season in Review post, considering the fact that my last race was 6 weeks ago!

2014 was a pretty wicked year. I won a bunch of races, held on for a bronze medal at Nationals, got humbled by the best the USA had to offer, felt the highs of peak fitness and the lows of the recovery doldrums, ran two HM’s and a 5000m on the track, started this website and got a solid following, started Ontario Duathlon Central and got a huge following, got muddy at Paris to Ancaster, then built a road bike. Wild ride!

I was going to use a “3 highlights, 3 low-lights, 3 lessons, 3 goals” format, but then I remembered where that idea came from…Cody Beals’ blog! Since he is a regular reader, I opted for another format. Month-by-month, here are 12 notable happenings, at least one for each month. I’ll wrap up with some broad goals for the next year in all areas of my life (because balance is key!).

JANUARY Race(s): None

Anecdote: January is cold and snowy. Training for your first half marathon is hard. Mixing the two can lead to some very sketchy long runs. Often consisting of several mind-numbing laps of the same short, semi-clear route. Or a retreat indoors to the treadmill. Luckily, this summer I work at a hotel with unlimited access to their treadmill and pool!

FEBRUARY Race(s): Grimsby Half Marathon (3rd, 1:18:01)

Highlight: First Half Marathon. I have never run anything longer than a 10k race, and even those have been few and far between. So the idea of a March half marathon felt daunting. Even moreso when, because of the dearth of tune-up options in February, my tune-up for the Chilly Half on March 2 would be a half marathon 2 weeks prior! I mainly solo’ed my way through awesome weather to a 1:18 HM debut.

MARCH Race(s): Chilly Half Marathon (19th, 1:16:24)

Lowlight: Second Half Marathon in snowy, -20 temperatures. After tentatively declaring my first half marathon (a controlled, monitored effort) a success, I took to the streets of Burlington two weeks later for the Chilly Half Marathon, hoping for a 1:15:XX clocking. I held strong through 10 miles (~57:30) before falling apart the last 5k. I have never wanted a race to end so badly as I slogged through slush and wind to the finish.

Martin Rd

APRIL Race(s): Harry’s Spring Run-Off 8k (15th, 27:21), Paris to Ancaster 65k (tons of fun!)

Lesson learned: Sometimes it is best to just back off, put in some hard training, and do some fun races to break up the monotony of the hard work. April was some of my biggest training volume of the entire season, and I came into both races pretty hot. Harry’s is a favourite course of mine, with two killer hills in kilometers 4 and 8. Paris to Ancaster has been on my bucket list for sometime, and I had a blast slogging through the mud, towing groups of “cyclists” along the rail trail, and getting dirty. Having those two “races” to look forward to made the training easier.

In Aero Position

MAY Race(s): Iron Hawk Duathlon (7th, 1:01:05), MSC Woodstock Sprint Duathlon (1st, 1:00:25)

Lesson learned: Sometimes a bit of forced rest can pay dividends. Before Iron Hawk, I had a sharp pain in my right foot, diagnosed as peroneal tendonitis. Recovery can take weeks or months, but rest, a massage, compression socks and some faith that I had done good work in April got me to the line. The pain stayed away for 61 minutes, and I held my own against pros like Sanders, Bechtel, and Forbes for a 7th place finish.

Welland Finish 2

JUNE Race(s): MSC Welland Duathlon (1st, 1:24:24), McMaster Twilight 5000m (10th, 16:02.5)

Highlight: Repeat victory in Welland. Despite missing coach Tommy’s course record again, I successfully defended my title in Welland against a strong field. Save for super-cyclist Grahame Rivers, I would have been first off the bike after a 16:34 opening 5k run and a PB 46:58 30k ride, and I made the pass barely 1km into the last 5.25k run. Well-executed final tune-up before a big double in July.

US Nats Bike Cornering

JULY Race(s): Canadian Duathlon Championships (Toronto, 3rd, 2:01:45), USAT Duathlon Championships (St. Paul, 9th, 1:21:12)

Lowlight: Toronto Triathlon Festival. Despite an early season focus on short course racing, Nationals has always been a dream of mine, so I set of to Toronto for the race. However, complicated logistics, poor weather, stupid pre-race decisions, poor nutrition, and a sub-par first run put the nail in the coffin. I had thoughts of calling it quits after sitting up the last 10km on the bike, before limping home with a 3rd place finish.

Highlight: USAT Duathlon Championships. 6 days later was US Nationals, so a short memory was required. Redemption was sweet, as I stayed within myself on the first run, navigated the technical bike course, and flew through the field on my way to the 3rd fastest second run. The trip was an amazing experience. It was Emma’s first time out of Ontario, and my dad made the surprise trip from Edmonton to watch.

TO Island First Run

AUGUST Race(s): MSC Toronto Island Sprint Duathlon (1st, 1:02:28)

Lesson learned: Proper recovery is an underrated, often overlooked, but incredibly important factor in endurance training. After my Nationals double, I underestimated the time it would take for my body to get back to normal, needing a few extra recovery days here and there. A sketchy performance in Toronto and compromised recovery in the following weeks led to an inconsistent and sporadic build up to Lakeside.

Mass Start

SEPTEMBER Race(s): MSC Lakeside Sprint Duathlon (1st, 1:01:46)

Lowlight: Switching races in Lakeside. After spending a ton of time promoting and pumping up the international distance provincials at Lakeside and looking forward to being a part of it, I was forced to switch into the shorter, sprint distance race due to not feeling ready…both physically and mentally. It was quite a blow to have to miss the race, but I was able to finish off my MSC season undefeated, with 4 overall wins.

New experience: Watching races is actually quite a rewarding experience. After switching races, I had the opportunity to go to the Sunday races (the sprint was on Saturday) and represent Ontario Duathlon Central and MultiSport Canada by live blogging the event. I had more fun spectating than I did competing all year (possible exception being St. Paul). It was great to see the guys I wrote about all year in action.

1. Complete Bike

OCTOBER Race(s): None

New experience: Building a road bike! After using my CX bike as an ill-suited road bike all year, and riding my TT bike entirely too much, I sold it and used the proceeds to accumulate the parts to build a road bike, including a 2nd Powertap. I took a vintage 2003 Klein Q Carbon Team frame and fought for days with my new arch nemeses, internal cable routing and cable tension, and came out with a sweet road machine!

2014 SEASON SUMMARY AND GOALS FOR 2015
So despite some bumps, I would consider my 2014 season a success. I doubled my career win count. I got my feet wet at the national and international level, and delivered some good results there. I took a leap of faith, quit my relatively comfortable job in professional sports and ventured into the abyss of life as an athlete.

Next year will be about taking the next step, seeking out some competition that I have never faced before and finding out where my limits are. I had my eyes opened this season as to what it takes to do this sport successfully, and my major focus this offseason will be about setting myself up for success in 2015. My three broad goals for 2015:

1) Become a more well-rounded athlete. Worlds in 2016 may very well be draft-legal for non-elites, and part of the reason I wanted a road bike was the develop the skills needed to be successful there if I choose to go. I also would like to dabble in the new Powerman USA series, likely at the September 27 event in Frankenmuth, MI. And finally, my training may end up being a little less…dry than it has been in past years.

2) Develop my brand into something attractive and lasting. It’s no secret that self-branding is almost as important as training in this sport, and I think 2014 was a good start. 2015 will be about kicking it into overdrive and leveraging my brand, sponsorship packages and intrinsic value into a strong network of support relationships.

3) Work on the forgotten aspects of training. I have an offseason strength training program, but it is more or less forgotten once race season rolls around. This is something I would like to continue deeper into my 2014 season. Starting in 2015, I also want to create a more stable routine, including consistent sleep hours, a predictably scheduled day, and a wholesome nutrition plan, building on the steps I took this year.

A season review post would not be complete without a HUGE thank you to my sponsors and supporters:

Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for some fun features the next few months!

Until next time, keep Du’ing it!

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Why you should check out the Ignition Fitness/Skechers Athlete Team

Over the past few days, I have been getting some questions about the Ignition Fitness/Skechers Athlete Team, for which the application period opened a few days ago and will continue until November 30, 2015. This is the program that got me started on my journey with Ignition Fitness, and I have since continued to develop as a budding elite duathlete.

You can read all about the team at the link I posted above. Tommy Ferris has done a fantastic job of attracting an excellent group of sponsors, a top-notch coaching staff and support team, and has put together a fantastic program for athletes looking to get to the next level. Bringing Skechers Performance on board as title sponsor is just the icing on the cake of a program that I believe can be very valuable to any athlete. And that is the perspective I would like to expand upon: my own perspective and experiences as part of the Ignition Fitness athlete team over the past two seasons. Why I think you should be a part of the Athlete Team.

You can read about my journey and background with Ignition Fitness on my Sponsors page. Reader’s Digest version, I started off a naive university student who had no idea what his heart rate zones were, let alone how to use them in training. Now, I have gained the training knowledge needed to take me to new levels. So what can you get out of being a part of the Ignition Fitness/Skechers Athlete Team?

Welland Finish 2

Awesome kit, better results. Winning decisively in Welland this past season.

1) A battle-tested and proven coach. Whether you end up being coached by Tommy, Paolina or Roger, you are getting one heck of an individual to guide you. I can speak personally to the volumes I have learned from Tommy over the past two years about how to get the best out of my training. He imparts this knowledge with a rare combination of compassion and flexibility, yet he knows just when to be a hard ass. Roger you are getting a coach with a metric tonne of experience getting the most out of athletes in this sport, and twice that amount of knowledge. From what I gather, Roger is an athlete’s coach that makes many others seem difficult and distant. And Paolina’s accomplishments speak for themselves; you name it, she’s probably won it, and is ready to get you to that level now too.

IF Coaches

Roger, Tommy and Paolina. Set up for success no matter what.

2) Comprehensive goal-setting and season planning. The first step to a successful season is a sound blueprint for the year. Ignition coaches will sit down with you and help you plot your course for the upcoming season, including setting goals and choosing races to meet those goals. What amazed me was how specific my Annual Training Plan was, containing things that I would forget about partway through the season. Imagine my surprise when a race simulation workout popped up that had been discussed but had since slipped my mind. Thus, the Augustus F Hallett Imperial Sprint Du was born…

Coach T and I

Still my favourite pic. Tommy and I talking over some adjustments to be made after a tough day at TTF.

3) Flexibility. The above being said, I change my mind a lot. Like…a ton. During the early part of next year, my race schedule will very likely change on a weekly basis. During the season, especially towards the end, A races have a way of dropping off the schedule as I ponder the best way to get the most out of the scant fitness I have left. And some weeks…you just don’t have it. The last two years, my ATP got tweaked so many times to add in recovery periods or downtime for personal events that my head was spinning. I can only imagine how that exasperated Tommy, yet he did everything he could to work with me and make it work. And when I needed to be told “no”, I was told just that, no minced words. I’m a better athlete for it.

US Nats Bike Set-Up

Nothing but the best set up for your big races thanks to the Ignition Fitness support team.

4) Sweet sponsor perks. I won’t lie, I’m a sucker for sweet gear. With Ignition, you will be rocking the best looking and most distinctive kit in the race, with that loud yellow flame plastered across your back. Discounts and services from Big Race Wheels, Wheels of Bloor and Felt Bicycles are things I have used liberally even though I live an hour away, and the Clif Bar package and samples are always a nice surprise. I have these to thank for my bike and my wheels for A races. The addition of Skechers caps it all off. Shoes are a big expense, and two free pairs of high quality performance footwear is no small thing for any athlete. You’ll be well set-up for the season with Ignition.

Skechers Collection

Skechers to the rescue! Nothing but good things to say about these shoes so far, great to have them on board!

The bottom line is that you could say any of the things in bold above about almost any program. What I think makes Ignition different is how thoroughly they deliver on each aspect. The numbers for each coach are kept relatively small, so you better believe that you’ll be getting the level of attention you want. There are no Gold/Silver/Bronze levels of access and communication…just one level with as much access as you need. I trust Tommy and the gang to keep me on the road to fulfilling my aspirations of being a professional duathlete, and the Skechers Athlete Team program is perfect for you to start down your path in 2015. I don’t waste my time with products I don’t believe in, and I definitely don’t spend 3 days writing a blog post about it if it isn’t worth it. Join me in 2015. You won’t regret it.

Gary the Klein

So I Built a Bicycle…

Last season I spent the year alternating between my Felt B16 tri bike for most of my heavy workouts, and a Kona Jake the Snake cyclocross bike that I thought would be an excellent way to explore some of the gravel and MTB trails in and around Hamilton. While it definitely was awesome for the change of pace, I did not nearly get enough out of my CX’er. All of my training is on a single Powertap wheelset, and it became such a hassle to swap cassettes, tires, and wheels from bike to bike that I just ended up riding my TT bike way more than I wanted to.

Going to a road bike as a second bike just makes sense to me, something built to withstand the long haul and keep me off my TT bike save for the most focused TT workouts. As well, I found an unbelievable deal on a vintage 2003 Klein Q Carbon Team frameset, one of the first bikes with internal cable routing. It’s also always been a goal of mine to build a bike up from scratch, getting to know the inner workings of a race bike in the process. Plenty of Youtube videos and hours reading the Park Tool website got me on my way.

The build went as smooth as I could hope, though I did run into major problems routing the rear brake cable thanks to the internal liner falling out on me, as well as getting enough tension on the front derailleur. In the end though, I was able to get it running well enough. It is nothing fancy, but it is stiff as a board and ready to take a beating as I try to catch my cycling ability up to my run! You can head to Twitter and check out the hashtag #jbsfirstbikebuild to see my progress.

So here it is, my 2003 Klein Q Carbon Team with Shimano 105 5800 11-speed components and 11 speed Williams S30 Powertap alloy clinchers:

2. From Front

The front end was as clean as I could make it for a first attempt. First returns on the new 5800 hood shapes (I’m picky about my hood shapes) are good, and the shifters have a nice, crisp feel to them. A redesigned 5800 front brake takes care of the braking on the front, while a nameless alloy ergo bend bar is where my hands will spend the majority of the time.

3. Front Triangle

Klein frames are known for internal routing before their time and stunning paint jobs. The photo here does not do subtle metallic flecked finish contrasting the matte decals on this garish, flame-inspired frame. Indeed, that is what first caught my eye with this frame, and the finish is what sold me on it being my next bike.

4. Front End

A side view of the front end reveals a carbon fiber fork to help numb the vibrations, as well as providing another look at the internal cable routing. I expect the bars will rotate downward with more road riding in the drops, just to provide me with a deeper hand position for hard efforts. An 80mm FSA OS190 -6 degree stem caps off the look.

5. Front Wheel

My trusty Williams System 30 Powertap wheelset will likely stay on this bike more or less permanently. I have had great success with these Clement Strada LGG 700x25mm tires, also to help numb some of the road vibration, and filled them with some Rubbers Brand inner tubes. I love the idea of including a patch kit with every tube sold.

6. Seat Cluster

My perch is a stock alloy seatpost and a surprisingly comfortable Giant OEM saddle I found in a parts bin for $15 last year. This is also an obstructed look at the rear brake cable routing. It took me a day and a half to route this cable, mostly spent poking a hanger through the channel blindly until it finally found the hole on the other side. Frustrating!

Cranks and FD

Shimano 105 5800 50/34 cranks (170mm) and front derailleur drive the pedals. I love the new 4-arm design of the cranks, which make for a crisp and stiff power transfer. I went with 50/34 rings because I am not yet strong enough to get on top of a 53/39, and the 52/36 configuration is not yet available that I could find. That will likely be the first upgrade (to the 52/36).

The front derailleur cable was my other sticking point, as I spent considerable time re-aligning the FD and pulling on the cable until it finally shifted into the big ring for me. I still haven’t got the front shifting quite right, but it’s getting there. Cheap Shimano R540 pedals are the next contact point for me. I got them free and have since had no reason to upgrade.

8. RD and Cassette

A 5800 medium cage rear derailleur and 11-28 cassette control the shifting. The 5800 group has limited cassette options, I wanted an 11t cog to pair with my 50/34 front gearing, and the 11-32 seems like overkill if you don’t live in the mountains. This will be just fine, though an Ultegra 11-25 cassette may be in my future as I get stronger.

9. Seat Cluster from Rear

The most interesting part of this bike is the seatstay arrangement. It’s beefy, and you can see the joins where the carbon fiber seat stays meet the otherwise aluminum frame. The rear brake mounting bolt was so beefy I had to repurpose the OEM front brake off my B16 into a rear brake here. My B16 got an unexpected rear brake upgrade in the process.

10. Garmin Mount

Of course, my trusty Garmin 910XT mounted on the stem collects all my data for me, and I went with some cheap black Deda Elementi cork bar tape to complete the bike. This bike is likely going to see a lot of miles, and I didn’t want to be swapping out expensive tape every 6 months. Wrapping the bars was my favourite part…it was fun, plus it meant I was done!

I had a ton of fun doing this build. To be honest, I likely didn’t save too much money versus buying a complete bike (maybe $100-200), and the build is not much different than an entry level build you would see in a bike shop (apart from the frame). However, I am immensely proud of myself for sticking it out and not giving up, and I have a ton more knowledge to show for it.

I would recommend it to everyone looking for an offseason project and some new knowledge. Thanks to everyone who listened to my inane questions and gave me advice or parts to use, especially Phil McCatty, for sitting down with me for an evening talking through the whole process and only laughing at me a little bit when I struggled with this, that, or the other.