General Ramblings

Emerging from Hibernation

It’s been a little while, but the first race report is out of the way and I think it is time for a little update on the rest! There is a touch of irony in the title, considering we got 5 inches of snow in Edmonton overnight, but I need to get my writing game back on track. So here is an update, and perhaps a tad about where I want to go…let’s do it!

MOVING AND TRAINING IN EDMONTON

The big news of the past month or so is that I moved from Hamilton back to Edmonton. I made the move at the end of February, and it took me a little while to re-adjust and adapt to the different lifestyle and slightly higher altitude, but the move went pretty smooth and the weather has been (mostly) spectacular. The shortage of paved, quiet roads closeby to ride on is kind of a bummer, but I’m taking it as an opportunity to get some solid quality in on the trainer with the occasional foray outdoors. The adjustment period from the move was quite smooth training-wise, and I have been working hard to be ready for 2015.

Skechers Performance, my amazing supporter for 2015, has been taking good care of me so far.

GROWTH YEAR IN 2015

I am about 90% of the way to finalizing my race schedule for 2015 (it can be found here). 2015 is going to be a growth year, where I kind of take everything in stride and focus on enjoying the journey. Apart from the Canadian Duathlon Championships in September, I am not going to focus as heavily on results as I have in the past. Sure, I’ll probably get a little revved up as the day of a race gets closer, but I am going to try to use race days experience new venues and to get a little bit of that “for love of the game” feeling back.

Racing officially started about a week and a half ago (MEC 5k rust buster notwithstanding), as I went back to where it all started for me with running. My first running race ever took place at the Lacombe Park Lake in St. Albert, and on April 19 I came full circle and looped past that same lake during the historic St. Albert Road Race 10 Miler. You can read my report on that race here, but the gist is I ran a new 10 mile PB (57:17), and got thoroughly humbled by some fast dudes on my way to a 7th place finish. BUT…it was a ton of fun and a great race experience to kick off my season. (Side note…a surefire way to kick your season off on the right foot: race a new distance and get a guaranteed PB!)

Finishing up the south loop of the St. Albert 10 Miler

Finishing up the south loop of the St. Albert 10 Miler

Pieces are coming together bit by bit. I just started a new job, and I am making my way through a big training block in preparation for the Calgary Half Marathon (which I have finally officially registered for, by the way). I am pretty confident in my ability to carry my good vibes from St. Albert over to my upcoming races, and I think running fast is actually very realistic. Next I will be heading to Penticton for some fun at the Bare Bones Duathlon and then hitting a 10k in Red Deer for my last tune-up race before racing the best in the country. With a little bit of luck, I am hoping that I can accomplish my spring goal of running 1:13-1:14 in Calgary.

MARGINAL GAINS

Bare Bones will be…a bit of an adventure to be honest. It will be a great opportunity to see where my ability to redline for a couple 5km runs and a 50 minute TT is. My numbers on the bike have slowly been creeping in same direction as my run recently…slowly. The race takes place on the hills of Challenge Penticton, and has some long uphill grinds and some quick, twisty downhills; the perfect barometer to also see how much work I will need to do on handling a bike after a long winter on the trainer, and also to test out my new position on my TT bike. Two months ago, I went in to Sweet Pete’s Bike Shop in Toronto to update the RETUL fit on my time trial bike.

Elevation profile for the Bare Bones Du...should be fun!

Elevation profile for the Bare Bones Du…should be fun!

It was a new bike last year, but my needs have also changed since my last fit so it was just time for an update. I believe that a proper bike fit is the number one piece of low hanging fruit on the tree, as well as piece that is most often missed. Fit is king when it comes to aerodynamics. Surprisingly my fit didn’t change all that much, though I have noticed that my fitters seem to relish my “aggressive” position; Taylor, my gracious fitter at Sweet Pete’s, seemed positively gleeful when he announced that he was taking out ALL of the spacers from under my stem. I ended up toeing the border of an aggressive triathlon fit and an upright time trial fit, while still keeping my hip angle sufficiently open to facilitate breathing and a strong run off the bike.

Before and After. A tad lower and sleeker, and a bit more comfortable. Thoughts?

Before and After. A tad lower and sleeker, and a bit more comfortable. Thoughts?

Another look

Another look

LOOKING FORWARD…

There`s a lot going on in the world of multisport right now. Equality is a hot button issue that keeps coming up all of the triathlon media. Bike fitting and equipment choices are taking on more and more importance as more information about it gets out there. My awesome supporter Skechers Performance has a whole line of shoes that I`m putting to a hard test, and hope to get some reviews out in the near future. And finally, duathlon in Ontario still has a soft spot in my heart. Some of these I might write about, others I might not, but they all resonate with me to some degree. I guess you`ll have to stay tuned!

Regarding Ontario duathlon, I will at least be writing some race previews for a few races this year. I`m currently looking for the names of people who plan to compete in the following races, since privacy issues have made it very difficult and tricky business to find these names elsewhere:

  • Iron Hawk Duathlon
  • MSC Welland Duathlon
  • Subaru Guelph Lake I Duathlon
  • MSC Belwood Duathlon
  • Ontario Duathlon Championships (Bracebridge)
  • Canadian Duathlon Championships (Esprit in Montreal)

If you are reading this and are competing at one of these duathlons, or know someone who will be, then feel free to shoot me a note at my contact email above. The information would be greatly appreciated. This is all in good fun, and is in the name of building up some excitement for the sport in Ontario, so the more information I can get means I can write a better preview! Pictures to accompany your section are also excellent.

Until next time…keep Du`ing it!

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The State of Duathlon in Ontario

Duathletes (and triathletes),

Much has been said on various social media about the tardiness of important announcements regarding provincial and national duathlon championships. Most of them center around either the difficulty in planning a season when these dates are not established well in advance, or around a perceived “lack of respect” shown to duathletes. I too fight the same battles, and feel similarly slighted when a new national championship date pops up in April or May. However, consider an alternative explanation, and take a look at two scenarios this past year that highlight the other side of this issue:

The Triathlon Canada championship schedule was announced well in advance (January), but did not include a duathlon national championship. That particular announcement did not come until March (or May for the sprint race)…likely because there were simply no locations bidding to host the championships. Yes, it was a debacle, but the result was slow registration and a poorly attended national championship. To add icing to the cake, the organizing committee chose not to renew the duathlon for 2015 (as was the case in 2012/2013 at TTF).

The second scenario was the release of the Triathlon Ontario championship schedule. Again, announced well in advance (January) and this time INCLUDED a duathlon championship at Lakeside. True, the original date was changed from mid-August to mid-September for reasons beyond our control. However, we were given options by the hosts, and Lakeside remained. We pushed the race hard on Duathlon Central and on social media for months, and even managed to convince MultiSport Canada to let us do live coverage for the event. This was essentially the ideal situation for duathletes with regards to provincial championship exposure. And the result was…slow registration and a poorly attended provincial championship.

The above represents two very different scenarios with very similar results. As an organizer, that would signal to me that there is quite a bit of risk involved with bidding for a duathlon championship. Unless a very specific set of conditions are met, the reality is that there is a very good chance of less than 50 athletes showing up to a championship race. Hence the difficulty finding a willing host for a duathlon championships! It is a brutal catch 22, as duathletes feel they should not be expected to re-arrange other commitments to attend events with announcements coming as late as they do, and organizers do not feel they can justify the expense and extra work of preparing a bid without some more assurance that the event will be a success. So we are left with some options:

1. Keep doing what we are doing. Minimize risk, sign up a week or two in advance and hit the races that are closeby. With the uncertainty involved for big events, it is definitely hard to rationalize several rearrangements to your schedule as the announcements trickle in. And trying to guess the dates is about as sure of a thing as Russian Roulette! Alas, if we continue on the same path, the catch 22 continues. Race directors often already have their minds made up before raceday registration. Signing up the day of often doesn’t do more than salvaging the event for one more season. Getting more races or amenities? We can probably forget it. Stagnant growth may be better than decline…but not by much. The vicious circle will continue.

2. Take charge. Registration is open, or opening very soon, for most of the races on the schedule. Pre-registration shows commitment and leaves an excellent impression in the minds of race directors. A good pre-registration, or several in a row, can save a race indefinitely. A strong pre-registration takes the guesswork out of an RD’s job, as bib numbers can be ordered, and t-shirt, award and food orders can be firmed up to reduce waste. This puts their mind at ease when it comes to big and potentially expensive decisions…like putting in a championship bid.

3. Head to some new locations that offer what you want if you have to. I understand this is not always possible for those with families and commitments but regardless, a championship loses relevance if a race organization is laying out the resources to cover the costs of a championship, only for a mainly local field to show up. If race directors see athletes willing to travel to races to get what they want, they may be more willing to put in that bid…knowing that they will see a truly national or provincial field as part of the return on their investment. Fair or not, if we’re not willing to go out of market for championship races, then we risk losing them for good.

4. SPREAD THE WORD. Do you have friends who are runners but are looking for a new challenge? Why not turn them on to duathlon? I have never understood why duathlon isn’t more popular relative to triathlon, despite having only two sports to train and eliminating the most logistically challenging! If every duathlete brings a friend who wants a new challenge, or one who is intrigued by triathlon but just doesn’t have the time to spare to get to the pool, then we double the numbers of every race. New blood is just another way of showing RD’s that we are committed to making our sport sustainable!

And triathletes…why not try out a duathlon once or twice next year? A full schedule can be found here. Such a fuss is made about races where you have to get wet, but what about one where you do not? No fiddling with wetsuits, goggles, water temperatures, sand and frenetic swim starts. Just a simple RUN-BIKE-RUN, and the need to truck half the amount of stuff to a race that you normally do. Sure, the first run makes the rest of the race tough…but in a sport where the pinnacle is Ironman, isn’t challenge what we are all looking for? Duathlons can make great rust busters before that first tri, fun season finales once the water cools off too much, and an excellent change of pace in the middle of a long season. Come join us once in awhile, we don’t bite!

5. OR…we can all learn to swim. Just kidding. Sort of.

As much as we would like to be held on the same level as triathlon, the reality is that triathletes get the things that duathletes want because they have the numbers to back it up. The risk of hosting a championship that exists with duathlon does not with triathlon, because hosts of triathletes will travel to Magog, Edmonton or Toronto to race a championship event. They know the race will sell out, or close to it, which eliminates a lot of the risk of not getting a return on their investment. It may take time, but change takes time. The options above are just the first steps.

The powers that be and the organizations that care are willing to work with us.There have been rumblings and discussions among the big names in the sport (*cough* notably absent was Trisport Canada *cough*) to discuss the state of duathlon in Ontario. Duathlon is a sport that is steeped in multisport history, and they want to get there again, just as much as we want to. We need to convince the race organizations that we are willing to do what it takes to generate a return on their investment…that the next big star in multisport might just be a duathlete…that the next can’t-miss race on the calendar could be a duathlon. We are very spoiled to have race organizations like Multisport Canada who do so much for such a small community. Not many race organizations would stick to their guns and continue to put on events that draw 40 people, but they do. I’m not sure about you, but I think it is about time that we return the favour and step out of the large shadow cast by triathlon. Help resurrect this great sport.

Yours in run/bike/run,

 

A Duathlete and Passionate Duathlon Enthusiast

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.

Niagara Half Duathlon Cancelled, and What It Means to Duathlon in Ontario

Word came from Multisport Canada this weekend that the new Half Distance Duathlon added to the BarrelMan weekend would have to be cancelled. While the reasoning behind it is sound, this comes as a huge blow to duathletes in Ontario banking on the long distance race to end off their season. With Peterborough and possibly Welland on the schedule for a similar distance, 2014 was shaping up to be a rare year for long course duathletes to be able to focus on the longer distance. While triathletes generally have a wealth of options to choose from when it comes to race distance, the scarcity of longer distance duathlon offerings makes it very hard for those with long course ambitions to gear a whole season towards the distance. That’s a lot of stress to put your body through for a pay-off of one race, but 3 offerings makes it much more feasible. Duathlete friends that I have like Larry Bradley of Mississauga and Daryl Flacks of Windsor seemed to be reveling at the possibility of a long course season!

The long course duathlon race at the BarrelMan triathlon was aggressively lobbied for by Larry, in the interest of duathletes around Ontario. However, declining registration for longer distance duathlons has been a chronic problem in Ontario, with some fantastic races at excellent courses drawing only 20-25 competitors to the line on race morning. As such, a minimum registration number of 25 entrants was instituted in order for the race to be staged. A preliminary survey suggested enough interest for MSC to open registration and plan the logistics for the first run, with even some interest south of the border! However, registration was slow to develop, and with only a week until the deadline, registration had just cracked double digits. The deadline came, was extended, and went with a final registration tally of less than 15 competitors, spelling the end of the dream.

I’m not here to dispute the decision, which I believe to be sound and justified. Staging a race for less than 20 competitors just seems ridiculous, especially when the race is a large-scale, point-to-point course that requires the design and implementation of a completely new run course in Welland. Sounds like a losing proposition to me. The guys at MultiSport Canada work themselves to the bone to provide a top-notch race environment, and to expect that same commitment when we can’t even prepare ourselves to commit 6 months in advance is absolutely absurd. No, I’m here to to implore duathletes in Ontario to reassess our priorities here and save our sport, and to figure out why we let such a wonderful opportunity slip away.

The problem seems to lie in the length of the commitment. Perhaps we were just…too afraid of laying out that investment without knowing whether or not we will be fit or healthy come race day. It is quite the commitment. However, I think the more likely answer may just be apathy. I am relatively new to the sport, having only competed for 2 full seasons, but I have already noticed that the effort put in by race directors is not matched by the commitment of the competitors in duathlon. Too many people just expect to be able to show up on race day and for there to be a race for them to compete in. I hope we realize the behind the scene logistics that have to go into putting on a duathlon! Building a second run course, coordinating the start times and the timing systems, making space in a transition area by taking away spots from the (more popular) triathlon…even colour coded bibs so that each race can be differentiated…this all costs something! And to do it for 20-some athletes…well that seems like a disconnect.

There is an alternative explanation, one that I can understand because well…this was my reasoning. I’ll admit I’m just as guilty here. I didn’t enter because I am just plain not up to the distance. It took me 9 years of running experience and endurance-building to attempt my first half marathon, and that left me a sniveling mess for hours after the race. With only 2 seasons of cycling under my belt, a race with a 90k ride is nothing more than a distant dream. I would have loved nothing more than to support my sport and compete in Niagara Falls…it just wasn’t in the cards for 2014. Maybe others were in the same situation. Maybe there just isn’t a market for long course duathlon. Duathlon is incredibly hard on the body in the first place. That first run trashes your legs, and more often than not the second run consists of a lot of just trying to hold it together. In terms of difficulty, I’ve heard comparisons between international distance duathlons and half iron triathlons. Most who have moved up in distance have gotten themselves into the water to go chasing after the illustrious Ironman label. That in itself could be a big contributing factor to declining registration numbers for long duathlons, even the 10k/40k/5k distance. Agree? Disagree? Discuss in the comments or join the discussion on Twitter.

Regardless of the reasons why only 13 athletes registered for the race, there is no doubt that this will have a detrimental effect on duathlon in Ontario. If we have not lost the faith of race directors already, we must be mighty close. For a race to be lobbied for, created, and planned only to watch it fail for lack of interest would not make me want to go out of my way to create opportunities for a group. We have two separate race series that run duathlons alongside almost EVERY triathlon weekend on their schedule. This is a luxury that not all duathletes have, and most are forced into the water very early due to lack of race options. We are LUCKY to have what we have, NOT entitled to it. Duathletes, we need to work a little bit harder and show a little bit more initiative in order to continue to be pampered by race directors the way that we are. So this is my open plea to Ontario duathletes: PLEASE don’t let this sport die. I love it too much, and I am nowhere near ready to get into the water yet. Let’s use 2014 to prove to race directors that we are a strong group with a stronger voice.