Race Reports

A Brief History of Triathlon (and Duathlon) Esprit Montreal

Every September an event captivates me like no other. What’s that? Oh no, I’m not talking about the ITU Grand Final or Powerman Zofingen. Those are fascinating to follow, but occupy the part of my mind that houses “Things That Are Slightly Out Of My Reach”. No, I’m talking about the Esprit Triathlon in Montreal.

THE DETAILS
Triathlon Magazine Canada did a fantastic write-up on Danny McCann’s unique event in 2010, to commemorate the 25th anniversary. 8 years later, the event is still going strong with no end in sight. The race takes advantage of the facilities of the Formula One Grand Prix and the 1976 Olympics. This year, the run course returns to the paved path encircling the rowing basin rather than taking on the gravel Voie Maritime, while the bike leaves few excuses for underwhelming times (unless it rains) due to the flat, non-technical layout and smooth road surface.

Esprit

Photo: Zoomphoto.ca (2018)

Many big names in Canadian triathlon have given this race a try in the past, as you can likely tell by looking at the course records that have stood the test of time. More recently, Esprit has been a mainstay on the Triathlon Canada Domestic Race Calendar as a national championship and World Championship qualification event, especially on the Multisport side. This has made the race a hot ticket to close out many athletes’ seasons. It follows that the one that intrigues me the most lingers near the bottom of the course record list…

A PIECE OF DUATHLON HISTORY
Benoit Simard‘s 2008 duathlon course record seems to have stood the test of time. Considering some of the names that have taken on the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve since then, I decided to dive into the results a little more. As far as I can tell the duathlon debuted at Esprit in 2008, when the elite National Championship was accompanied by an age group (non-drafting) event. Since then, an astonishing 42 sub-2:01 times had been recorded since 2008.

Esprit Men

Esprit Standard Duathlon rankings list since 2008

The race has been consistently fast since its debut. Heady names like Simard, Bruce Bird, David Frake, Stephane Proulx, Jonathan Tremblay, Francois Marceau, Eric Noel and Alain Lafleur appear on this list, all coming to their finish times in any number of ways. A keen eye will spot an unusual number of times from the 2008 race (13), and after some further digging I was able to discover that the 2008 course also did not include the Voie Maritime just like 2018 course.

The women’s races have been similarly spectacular, though with a little more recent splash of flavour courtesy of Lynda Gingras. The names are just as impressive here, highlighted by Lynda and Peggy Labonte. A total of 27 women have broken 2:21 at Esprit, including 6 women in 2008. The ideal course conditions and beautiful Montreal autumns lend themselves to very fast times.

Esprit Women

Esprit Standard Duathlon rankings list since 2008 (women)

SO WHERE DO I COME INTO THIS?
My name DOES appear on the list, somewhere in there. It came during the 2015 Canadian Championship race, a cagey championship race where I secured one of my best results to date. I also won a tactical affair in 2016, when Esprit hosted a draft legal qualifying race. But something has always drawn me back. I grew up in this sport hearing the names listed above, and looking up to them. A part of me believes that the key to adding my name to that whispered list (the one in my own head) is a time at the top of that list. So that is what I set out to do on September 9.

THE RACE – ANATOMY OF A SOLO TIME TRIAL
In the past I’ve linked up with friends, but this year I wanted solitude. I picked a hotel that I knew would minimize logistics, one that is also easy access to pre-race training facilities. My pre-race run session (1 mile easy, 1 mile of 1:00 pickups, 1 mile easy, 1km of 0:20 strides) was on the turf field at the college down the road. I warmed up for the race alone, and shut off from the world until the horn started the race.

Esprit Start

Photo: Zoomphoto.ca (2018)

I was focused on my task. We got a surprise the day before the race, as construction on the basin diverted the new run course onto the Circuit. No matter, there’s nothing that can be done about circumstances such as that. Hand-wringing is wasted energy. I was off the front immediately, racing the clock and destiny. The miles ticked away quickly. 10k was covered in 34:06, but the course diversion added ~300m for a final split of 35:16. The bike course was clear and quiet to start, and Akela and I got to work.

Esprit Run 1

Photo: Zoomphoto.ca (2018)

The air was crisp, so I knew it was important to punch as small of a hole in the wind as possible. I took every tangent on a rail, and was easily the fastest moving bike on my part of the course. The congestion picked up on the last laps, and I was forced to the very outside of the track. Still, the speed ticked up and my excitement grew. I rode to feel, not numbers, and found a dark place that I’ve rarely found on the bike.

Esprit Bike

Photo: Zoomphoto.ca (2018)

Back into transition there was still hope, but it would be excruciatingly close. I had done the training, sacrificed a lot to arrive supremely confident. I had faith. The miles started ticking away, even the volunteers knew something special was happening. I ticked the boxes, making sure to take my last gel. I rounded the bend back onto the basin and felt my goal in my grasp.

Esprit Run 2

Photo: Zoomphoto.ca (2018)

The final straight at Esprit is interminable. The gantry looms ahead of you, but seems to creep closer at a snail’s pace. I picked up a lead bike, and used it to pick up my pace. I was flat out as the seconds ticked by, and the clock came into view. Pulling faces, I watched the digits change. 23…24…25…26. Just like that, it was gone. I enjoyed the final 75 metres and raised my arms as I broke the tape, still undefeated in Montreal but an excructiating 24 seconds short of history.

Esprit Finish

Photo: Zoomphoto.ca (2018)

I had put together the fastest bike (58:44) and second run (17:35) splits of my life. Prep to tape, it was the most complete effort of my career. It was a beautiful race, despite less than half a minute of unfinished business that draws me back next year. I whispered my name amongst the greats of Canadian duathlon, and sit here after a week of reflection satisfied yet still hungry.

Until next time…keep Du’ing it. And check out Strava for Run 1, Bike and Run 2.

Esprit Men 2018

Esprit Men’s Standard Duathlon rankings since 2008…including 2018

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A Big Day Out – 2018 ITU World Duathlon Championship Report

Buckle up for a long post! Another year, another World Championship start, and another boatload of lessons learned for future races. I think it’s important to go through the details of such a fascinating race. As a duathlete, it’s an adventure to navigate the season and get enough experience with the skills your need to be successful at the World Championship level…especially in North America. I’ve attempted to race every draft legal race that I could get my hands on, but it’s been a pain-staking process. Here’s a quick recap:

WTS Edmonton 2016

Canadian Sprint Duathlon Championships 2016

  1. WTS Edmonton Sprint (2016) – first run strung out, caught leader on bike, work together in two-man breakaway, outrun by Alexandre Lavigne for the win.
  2. Esprit Montreal Sprint (2016) – solo run/bike breakaway, caught on last lap, spent ~1/2 lap in lead breakaway, winning move made out of T2.
  3. ITU World Championships (Penticton 2017) – planned to race AG but selected for Elite race, dropped early on first run, missed group on bike, limped home solo.
  4. Duathlon de Boucherville Sprint (2017) – led solo wire-to-wire, won by 2:30 as chase was focused on provincial title coming from within group of 4.
  5. Overdrive Sprint (2017) – tried to lead solo wire-to-wire, caught by Garrick Loewen on last lap, made crucial transition mistake and was outrun.
  6. USAT Duathlon Championships Sprint (2018) – front pack run, led out of T1, breakaway caught, crucial positioning mistake on last lap and was not able to close gap to podium.

As you may or may not be able to tell from above, of the 6 draft legal races I’ve done, I’ve spent significant time in a group larger than 2 (including myself) in exactly *1* of them. Luckily, I get to do a significant amount of my training with the Edmonton Triathlon Academy under the watchful eye of Kevin Clark, and only this year have I become more confident in my ability to stay at the front of a group controlling the pace. We do a lot of race simulation work on tight technical courses, so going into my first European race I was hoping I could avoid some of the “crucial positioning mistakes” that plagued me in the past.

Odense

Denmark is wicked beautiful

Coming out of my first World Championships in Penticton, where mostly I was just happy to be there, I learned 3 key lessons that shaped my World Championship race in Denmark:

  1. Don’t underestimate the stress of the pre-race dance (briefings, nit-picky rules, etc.)
    I managed the pre-race relatively well this year. I flew in to Odense early (June 30) and took advantage of a homestay generously offered by Odense Triathlon Klub member Bjarne Johansen. Bjarne and his family made it really easy to adjust to the time zone, culture and available food options. Bike familiarization went smooth, so did the briefing and sign on, and I entered the race chute calm and collected…a stark contrast to my state in Penticton!
  2. If you can’t comfortably run 30:XX, going out with the leaders is a recipe for a bad time
    This year, I made two conscious decisions at the line that demonstrate my commitment to a sane start: I chose a spot in the second row behind a Belgian I know likes to start steady, and I swapped spots with the top ranked U23 (Matt Smith) to move back to the 3rd row. After the horn, I went right to the back and followed the searing pace of the leaders out from a safe distance, running my own race. Final score – 30:25 for ~9km
  3. Once you mount your bike, don’t settle…especially if the plan is to ride your heart out to a certain point and see how the groups shook out
    The last two years I’ve had a plan to put my head down and ride the first half lap as hard as I could and see how the race shook out. Both years, I rode up to the first rider on the road and settled in while a rider with a top bike split blew past from behind. This is a good segue into my lessons learned from 2018…
Pre-race

Pre-race (Photo: Lise Christiane Myltoft)

LESSON 1 – Do your research, but trust your instincts
On the last lap of the first run, I made my first decision. In Penticton I rode up to my target on the bike only to find him not 100% and unable to help. In the process, I lost the wheel of Yannick Wolthuizen, who I didn’t know anything about pre-race but would go on to bridge to the chase pack. With this in mind, I pulled up on world #1 Søren Bystrup (DEN) during the last lap.

Søren is a Powerman specialist who had a good chance of riding himself back into the race. I thought I could link up with him into T1 and up to a chase group. However, my experience in Penticton led me to pass him and attempt unsuccessfully to bridge to the next group. I exited T1 in between groups, with Søren and two super strong Dutch riders somewhere behind me.

Odense T1 Exit

Photo and Edit: Spencer Summerfield

LESSON 2 – Trust the process, trust the plan
Coming into the race, I had planned to put my head down and ride my own race until the first right-hander onto the bridge, and if one of the solo riders sprinkled up the road was strong enough to help me then chalk it up as a bonus. Instead, I rode up to the first rider on the road and chose to sit in and work with him. He was able to take 1 turn before eventually dropping out. I was left to forge on solo, bleeding precious time to the group forming up the road.

Odense Bike Course 1

Head down (Photo: Spencer Summerfield)

LESSON 3 – Sometimes, the race makes your decisions for you
Shortly after that, Bystrup and the two strong Dutch riders that I had left behind in T1 came flying past and urged us to hop on. I turned off my brain, put in a huge effort to get on, settled for a second and switched back on, watched another gap open and was blown out the back. It happened in seconds. That group rode up to the main chase with some of the fastest bike splits in the race, while I was left to stave off elimination 5 minutes down the road.

These three decision points crossed a span of ~10 minutes of my 1:47 race time, and completely defined it. The group went up the road while my calves cramped up behind my knees from the effort of trying to get on their wheels. The cramps worked themselves out by the end of the first lap, but all my allies had gone by then. Would I have been able to ride up to the chase pack with them without being blown out the back? Maybe not, but I would have given myself a chance.

Odense Bike Course 2

Working hard (Photo: Spencer Summerfield)

THE REST OF THE WAY
The rest of the race was actually quite thrilling. Relieved of my cramps, I found I had some great legs on the bike. Knowing that my day could end if I didn’t use what I had left, I buried my head and rode myself up to Niall Cornyn (IRL) and Vincent Onyango (KEN). I was the strongest in our trio, so I started taking 40-60 second pulls to theirs of ~10-15 seconds, while dropping them out of the corners. my work dragged us up to the Ciprian Balenescu (ROU) and Christian Stounberg (DEN) right around the time we saw the lead moto coming the other direction leading out the eventual podium of Andreas Schilling (DEN), Yohan Le Berre (FRA) and Mark Buckingham (GBR).

I sat in for a bit of recovery, then we went back to work with our races hanging in the balance. We lost Vincent out of the two right-handers going onto the bridge, and then watched him get pulled off the course before the turnaround. That spurred on a desperate race to the lap turnaround before we suffered a similar fate. We made it with about 150m to spare. The group didn’t seem interested in riding anymore, so I tried a fruitless attack before settling in for the last run.

Odense Run Course

Last bit (Photo: Carolynne Simons)

I charged out of the underground transition and started to gap the group I was with. I steadily increased the pace over the first two miles before tying up and slowing in the final mile. I was caught by my Irish compatriot and ran with him until he turned the screws as we re-entered Kongen’s Have for the final time. Final score – 39th place (1:47:31)…click for more!

Am I happy about the result? Not really. If I was, then I should probably start thinking about moving on. Am I pleased with my progression to this point, and the fact that not only did I attack the bike course but was also the engine room of my bike pack? Absolutely. Did I learn a ton and have a week that I’ll never forget? Definitely. Special thanks to my parents and AG Team Canada for the oodles of support throughout the week and on the course, and to my host Bjarne and his family, for ensuring that I was able to navigate a new country smoothly and successfully.

With Bjarne

Bjarne…what a legend!

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

Beauty

What a beauty. (Photo: Matt Smith)

Qualifiers, Provincials, and Some Single Sport Fun

Some of you may know that I recently re-launched my little pet project, Canadian Duathlon Central. Back when I first started that project I wasn’t doing anything except training and writing, so I was able to keep up both this site and DC. When I started working again alongside a bump in training, I had to consolidate. I started using this site as a place for duathlon commentary along with my race reports and such. I kept that up for awhile, but what I really enjoy doing is writing about the sport in Canada and not so much my exploits. I have SO MUCH FUN diving into reams of registration lists, race results and athlete profiles, and then writing about them. I feel like I contribute so much more to the sport doing that than just my own adventures, and it always felt a little cheap broadcasting those from a site with my name all over it.

So this is going to be my last big article on this site, for a little while at least. Most of my writing from now on will be over on Duathlon Central, including my own race reports. This site will continue on in its static form, and the archives will remain undisturbed. The tabs above will remain, but if you want to catch up with my writing please head over to Canadian Duathlon Central (linked above). So let’s dive into one last little (late) update!

I raced a lot in July in an attempt to simulate my 3 big goal races, which all fall within an 18 day stretch. I raced two duathlons, a 5k and my first “race of truth” (individual time trial) across 14 days. The big lesson I learned in this stretch of 14 days: short memories are good memories.

GREAT WHITE NORTH DUATHLON
I raced GWN with the primary goal of getting my qualification for Penticton 2017 out of the way. It was the first year GWN hosted a duathlon, and the atmosphere was pretty low-key at the start as the sold-out triathlon started 12km away at Hubbles Lake…a stark contrast to the festival-like finish line atmosphere. I started this race with a vague idea that some dude named Evan Bayer was going to be one to watch or something like that. Boy should I have listened closer.

GWN Run Start

I took the lead right away, perhaps a bit too hard, coming to the turnaround right at 17:45 with about a one minute lead. Coach Kevin was on the course, encouraging me and giving me time gaps, but the struggle started about 2.5km into that first run and continued to be a mental challenge the rest of the day. The gap stayed where it was on the way back to T1 as I slowed, and I headed out onto the single-loop, out-and-back 40km bike with an ~1:15 lead and a tailwind.

GWN T2

That lead lasted until about 19km into the ride, where I had the pleasure of having a freight train named Evan Bayer unceremoniously blow past me. I tried to stick with him and keep within ~20m of him, but alas my legs just would not respond as I pushed underwhelming power (~25W below target), lost sight of my benchmark and bled over 3 minutes in the last 20km of the bike. In hindsight, trying to stay with him may have done me in. The rolling hills and persistent headwind sapped my remaining energy, and the only good thing I can say about that 5k was that I ran just fast enough to hold onto 2nd. LESSONS LEARNED: Give your competition and the standard distance the respect it deserves; 10k/40k/5k is no joke, and neither is Evan Bayer.

GWN Run 2

COMFORTEC RED DEER DUATHLON
Like I said, short memories are good memories. I quickly put Great White North behind me and looked forward to Provincials at my favourite venue on my favourite course at the Comfortec Red Deer Duathlon, 6 days later. Honestly, it was already a perfect day just showing up a provincial championship at an event 100% focused on the duathlon.

Red Deer T2

It was largely a solo affair fuelled by desire. I started at the front and but due to the fatigue of racing 6 days prior I decided to fall right in behind the leading pair until about 1.2km, where I decided to push on. The result was a delightfully even and controlled 3:23/km pace for 5.1km and a 1:45 lead in T1. I screamed through transition and settled right into my cadence straight away. The bike course had changed slightly from a straight out and back to a course with two turnarounds, but that wouldn’t end up mattering much. I blitzed my bike course record of the past year, riding 28:54 for 20km (41.6km/h) and cruised the second run for my second career provincial title. The final tally was 56:06 with an 8:42 margin of victory, my fastest sprint duathlon ever and a mark that should keep me in the conversation come Nationals.

Red Deer Finish

MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT 5K
Like I said in the first section and reiterated in the last section…short memories are good memories. This was the flip side of that, the side where a tempered ego after a good race usually trumps an inflated one. Buoyed by my success in Red Deer, I was hell-bent on sticking with the front group as long as I could at this race. I mean…it’s only 5k right? I wanted to see if I could do it. Turns out…I couldn’t. Going out in 3:03/3:11 hurts when the 3rd kilometer goes up a hill. I went back and forth with a few guys fighting for minor places and ended up 9th place in 16:30. LESSON LEARNED: 5k’s hurt, especially when you go out in what would be close to an SB for 1000m with a bunch of dudes way faster than you.

ERTC ShuTT UP LEGS STRATHCONA TT
Luckily, I didn’t have long to dwell on this one, because Kevin decided that our senior group’s session on Sunday (the 5k was Saturday) would be a 25km time trial in Strathcona County. The local cycling club took a gamble in adding a citizens/single-event license category and our club took full advantage of that, turning out 10+ athletes and filling out the citizens category. I took it way too seriously (per usual), rolling out my trainer for warm-up, pulling out all the stops with my equipment set-up, and hunting down my minute man like a trained assassin. I didn’t end up catching him, but I DID manage to pace the citizen’s category in 35:51 (42.2km/h).

SUMMARY
I chose to look at this block as one, rather than looking at the races in isolation. I trained hard coming into the block, had two great races and two not-so-great ones, and got some valuable experience with back to back racing. Overall, I am happy with the effort put out over the 14 days and am optimistic about having better success later in the season. What have I been doing since then? You’ll have to wait until this week to find out :). As I publish this I am on my way to Penticton for the standard distance National Championships. The race is Wednesday, stay tuned to Duathlon Central for the recap! That’s all for now, thanks so much for reading!

Great White North & Gravenhurst Weekend Recap

What an exciting last month or so of the duathlon season! I want to start with the first two National Race Series events before getting to the rest. Lots to cover, so let’s get to it! You can check the results of each race by clicking on the bold heading:

GREAT WHITE NORTH DUATHLON (STANDARD DISTANCE)
This race was important not only because it was the first race of Triathlon Canada’s National Qualifying Race Series for the duathlon in Penticton next year (Triple Threat in Winnipeg notwithstanding…we’ll get to that later), but it is also where some important markers were set for the rest of the country in 2016. 2 new contenders each emerged as the winners of the men’s and women’s races, setting fastest times in Canada for the standard distance this year, and also faster than any other athletes in the country have recorded in 2016. Let’s start with the women; Melissa Paauwe simply rode away with this one. She came in 16 seconds behind the fastest runner (Dana Hansen, 41:36 to 41:52) then wiped it all out in transition and rode 5 minutes into her competition. Hansen brought back a minute by running a strong 20:11 last 5k, but the damage was done. For reference, 1:06:08 is fast, and would be the 6th fastest split OVERALL in the race. 2:11:33 has not been touched by a female duathlete on Canadian soil.

Melissa Paauwe

Melissa Paauwe, finishing up a stellar 2:11! Photo credit Ken Anderson Photography

The men’s race was a similar story, though the gaps are a tad bigger and the race was in doubt a tad longer. Luckily for you, I got a front row seat for this one by virtue of being the one wiped out. I ran off the front right away, and steadily opened a gap of ~1:00 by the 5k turnaround. But then…the gap stayed where it was (36:36 to 37:40) and was steadily wiped out over the first 20k of the bike with a fast tailwind. The hunter? Evan Bayer, who apparently is a pretty handy time trialist. He rode 58:00 to the finish, which is no joke on a fair GWN course with a steady wind from the south. Bayer then followed that up with a very solid 18:18 5k to cruise over the line in 1:56:05. This time has only been beaten once on Canadian soil so far this year. By Bayer. The next week. Myself (2:01:27) and reigning National bronze medallist Moritz Haager (2:02:00) made up the rest of the podium.

Evan Bayer

Evan Bayer, off hunting gold medals. Photo credit Ken Anderson Photography

GRAVENHURST DU-THE-DOUBLE CHALLENGE (SPRINT AND STANDARD)
Let’s start with the standard distance, shall we? Since it is the National Race Series Qualifier after all. There were 4 quite compelling races on this weekend, as Triathlon Ontario and Multisport Canada delivered on all the hype this race received. Elite masters runner Charles Bedley was the protagonist on the first run, taking it out in 34:16 on a tough hilly course. However, laying in wait was another strong runner (Sean Delanghe, 35:06), this one with a little better cycling pedigree. He took over the lead early on in the bike, only to give it up to a hard-charging Matt Straatman later on. Delanghe didn’t panic, and put in a race second best 17:28 5k run to come from behind for the win in a strong 1:59:05. Straatman just missed the 2:00 barrier in 2nd, while Andrew McLeod once again showed up at his best, using a race best 1:03:00 bike to claim 3rd. Bedley ran 16:54 to consolidate 6th.

Sean Delanghe

Sean Delanghe, taking the Ontario provincial standard distance title! Photo credit Zoomphoto.ca

The women’s race was a little less back and forth, but still compelling. It was a two horse race at the front, as Jessica Kuepfer used a slightly faster first run (40:55 to 41:03) to lead into T1 before defending Du-the-Double champion Jasmin Aggarwal stamped her claim on the race with a 1:13:11 bike. The second runs were pretty much a wash (20:01 for Jasmin to 20:09 for Jessica), and the win went to Jasmin Aggarwal in 2:15:47. Naomi Lynne Wolfson stormed through the bike to momentarily take 3rd on the back of a race-best 1:12:37, but couldn’t hold off Leslie McArthur’s stronger running legs as the latter took 3rd at the finish line.

Jasmin Aggarwal

Jasmin Aggarwal, defending her Ontario standard distance title just one week after racing hard at TTF! Photo credit Zoomphoto.ca

Back the next day on the tough Muskoka roads was Jasmin Aggarwal to once again contest the double. She was not originally entered due to an injury she has been struggling with, but decided to take a shot regardless. The decision paid off as she led wire-to-wire, recording race-best splits across all three legs to take a 4 minute win in 1:09:01. Karen Ugarte Bravo put in a strong bike ride to hold off 3rd place Kathryn Sherwood by the slimmest of margins (7.1 seconds) and 4th place Lindsay Miller by 21 seconds. Wow!

Karen Ugarte Bravo

Karen Ugarte Bravo, on her way to a silver medal in the sprint. Photo credit Zoomphoto.ca

The men’s race was hotly contested once again, as Matt Straatman was out to avenge his tight 2nd place finish of the day before. He kept the leaders close (again led by Charles Bedley in 16:55 with Delanghe 12 seconds adrift in 17:07) before unleashing a fantastic bike split (31:19 on this rolling course) to take a big enough lead to hold off a hard-charging Delanghe to take a 12 second win. The times (59:28 to 59:40) were truly exceptional to anyone who knows the Gravenhurst course. Defending Du-the-Double champ Brian Moore didn’t come into the weekend 100% and struggled on Saturday, but salvaged the weekend with a steady performance to round out the podium on Sunday.

Matt Straatman

Matt Straatman, on the hunt for that elusive provincial title. Photo credit Zoomphoto.ca

Now this post is getting a little bit long, so I will leave the highlights from the rest of Canada to a separate post tomorrow. Instead of full recaps, I’m just going to highlight some very notable performances from the other events with an eye on drawing your attention to some potential major contenders for future Triathlon Canada Series duathlon events later in the year. Our next one is none other than Standard Distance Nationals in Penticton, with 10 spots per AG available for the World Multisport Festival in 2017 (also in Penticton). If you are interested, the full list of results since Triple Threat in June are in my previous post!

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

A Road Trip to Penticton and a Recap of Some Duathlon Racing Across Canada

My major focus in the early season, and indeed my first major test of fitness, was to be a return trip to Penticton, BC. While the structure of the weekend is definitely unusual and likely sub-optimal, racing the perennially super-fast Bare Bones Duathlon on Saturday followed by the Blossom 10 Miler on Sunday morning represented a challenge that I really wanted to undertake. Click on the race names for the results page, and read on for some recaps!

BARE BONES DUATHLON
My primary focus for this weekend in Penticton was a return to the Bare Bones Duathlon, organized by the Penticton Triathlon Club. This was my favourite race last year, next to the Comfortec Red Deer Duathlon (which incidentally, has been named as the Alberta Provincial Championships for 2016), and the grassroots, no frills atmosphere is the perfect place to lay it all out there and just worry about racing. The course keeps you honest, with flat but technical and exposed 5km (2 lap) runs sandwiched around a tough out-and-back 33km bike that travels along an exposed lakeside road then takes in two long and steady climbs (and the corresponding descents). It is as much a test of personal strength as it is a race.

Leading the way

Leading out the first run, with 2nd place hot on my heels

I came into the race knowing that the major competition would be two-time defending champion Nathan Champness, and that the race in previous years had had one of the deepest and most competitive fields in the country. Nathan had won last year in a course record of a shade over 1:27, while I had finished 5th in 1:31:04. The first run went out as fast as it did last year, but this year I was able to take control (or so I would lead myself to believe) of the race halfway through the first lap. Despite that I was not able to shake Nathan throughout the first run, and though I was able to split 16:11 for the first 5k I had only about 10-15 seconds on him heading onto the bikes.
Heading in from the bikes

2 minutes down coming off the bike it 2 too many

I was able to ride strong, though issues with my Garmin had me riding blind and a little more sporadically than I would have liked. The long downhills allowed for some recovery after riding the hills harder than I would have liked, and I still was able to ride 51:55 for the 33km (37.8km/h and 4 minutes faster than last year). Nathan had passed me 4km into the bike, and had a 2 minute lead on me by T2, so I just focused on running strong and consistent enough to solidify my 2nd place finish. My final time was 1:26:43, inside the course record from last year but well-beaten into 2nd place. Nathan Champness was just too strong on this day…kudos my friend!

BLOSSOM 10 MILER
Though my legs were TRASHED following Bare Bones I was able to get in some decent recovery Saturday evening, doing some rolling and then kicking my feet up in preparation for my longest test of the season. The Blossom 10 Miler was more of a “might as well do it since I am here” race, but I am glad I did it. The race is point to point, starting in the middle of a rural road 1 mile north of Naramata and heading along some picturesque lakeside roads (complete with an absolutely stunning view) and then onto the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. The last mile turns into Penticton, heading along Lakeshore Drive and finishing at the SS Sicamous. The course is almost entirely downhill save for some rollers in the first mile, and the strong wind from the north from the day before continued, giving us a solid tailwind for almost the entire race.

Chillin

Double races in one weekend is hard


Like Saturday, Jeremy Hopwood went straight to the front of the race and I followed him to a small gap on the rest of the field straight off the bat. I was able to get a gap on him on one of the downhills, and from there I used the twists and turns of the course to inject some pace and increase my gap once out of sight. In time, he faded out of contention while eventual podium finishers Hector Carlos and Josh Heinrich made their way up. I kept running strong trying to maintain my pace (~3:38/km) before trying to drop the hammer at the exit of the KVR Trail. In the last mile I had some hopes that I could dip under the 58:00 mark, but I ran out of gas in the last 500m (about 2 mile later than I expected to) to finish in 58:11 for the overall win. It was a solid effort at another fantastic local grassroots event. I will most definitely be back next year!
Got the win!

…but managed to get the win on day 2!


A WORD ABOUT SOME DUATHLONS FROM ACROSS CANADA
Keeping with the new theme of this site, I’d like to recap some of the great duathlon action from around the country. With the World Championships for age groupers being in Aviles, Spain in early June this year, many duathletes are coming out of the woodwork this spring further along with their fitness than in previous years. Lets dive into a few:

UBC DUATHLON
Typically the first Canadian duathlon test, this one usually draws some pretty strong athletes to Vancouver. Nick Patenaude won the 5km/20km/5km race overall, but the real story was Cat 2 female cyclist Morgan Cabot winning the women’s race and placing 2nd overall thanks to a far and away race-best 31:04 bike. That’s fast as HELL, though I guess we should have expected that out of the reigning B.C. provincial TT champion. She beat 2014 Canadian duathlon champion Sara Massie by 5:13. Hopefully we see her in more duathlons this year.

FLOWER CITY CHALLENGE DUATHLON (ROCHESTER, NY)
There was some high placed Canadian content at the Flower City Challenge duathlon in Rochester NY, and it looked like a tactical battle that led to a 1-2 Canadian invasion of the podium. Guelph’s Josh LeBlanc sizzled the first 5k (in 15:52) before Toronto’s Darren Cooney methodically closed the gap en route to a race-best 54:54 for a 30km bike before starting the games. Back and forth they went until Darren took the lead late in the bike and didn’t look back. He took the win in 1:34:38 to LeBlanc’s 1:36:11 despite Josh’s race-best 19:36 second 5k.

IRON HAWK DUATHLON
One of the highlights of the duathlon season, the Iron Hawk duathlon has likely only been matched for depth and competitiveness by the Bare Bones Duathlon that it shares a weekend with. This year, Kirstie Kniaziew once again did her thing by coming 5th overall and winning the women’s race by…a lot, but the big story was a wide open men’s race that was without superstar (understatement of the year) Lionel Sanders for the first time. Liyang Wang took an overwhelming win by running a race best 17:31 for the first 5k and not looking back. He rode a race best 29:55 followed by a race fastest 9:11 (for 2.5km) to beat Brad Reiter and Spencer Summerfield into 2nd and 3rd respectively. 57:41 would have had him rank in the top 5 for duathlons in the past 3 years. Dude looks ready for Worlds, I’d say.

DUATHLON SOREL-TRACY
Last but certainly not least is the defacto “opener” of an incredibly competitive Quebec duathlon circuit. Sorel-Tracy is a 5km/33km/2.5km (approximately) duathlon that usually brings out the best of Quebec multisport athletes. This year, Bathurst triathlete Lee Roy took one step up to the top step, winning this year after finishing 2nd last year on the heels of a 16:02 5k/49:06 bike. The women’s race was taken convincingly by last year’s Montreal Demi-Esprit runner-up Annie Gervais thanks to some strong running. Browsing the results shows many of the big names in Quebec racing, falling right in with the trend of athletes being super fit for Worlds in June.

Let’s hope that continues right through to national championships season in August/September!

I’m heading to Jasper this weekend for a training camp to kick off the second half of the season. So until next time…keep Du’ing it!
Peace out yo!

Transitions

Well readers…yes it has been a little while, but don’t fret! I’m still alive and back in the game. A lot has happened since my last post…I mean it HAS been 8 months (oops). So let’s get to it!

NATIONALS AFTERMATH AND 2015 DEBRIEF

2015 was a banner year for me, capped off by my Canadian duathlon title. Winning that race was the culmination of 3 years of hard work and focus following a decent debut season in 2012. While I didn’t necessarily always get the results I wanted in 2013 and 2014, it was all worth it with what I was able to accomplish in 2015:

2016 Medal Haul

My haul from 2016!

Following Nationals, I stumbled upon this awesome series of cross country races on Wednesday nights called the Frank McNamara XC race series. Set in various places in the Edmonton river valley, I got my butt kicked by some serious trail runners every Wednesday night during some good old-fashioned foot races. It was a great way to finish off the season by going back to my cross country running roots in a fun, low pressure scenario.

LOOKING FORWARD TO 2016

With a positive end to a three year block of goal setting now in my rearview mirror, it is time to look forward to 2016 and beyond. My ultimate goal has always been to race with the elites at Worlds. Mixing it up with the best is truly the pinnacle for me, and seeing the performances that those men and women put together on the grandest stage of duathlon is incredibly inspiring.

While it would be equally amazing to make that debut at the recently (-ish) announced 2017 World Multisport Festival in Penticton, BC, Triathlon Canada’s new requirements for obtaining an International Competition Card (necessary for competing in the elite race at Worlds) will make that goal difficult. So while this does still remain a stretch goal, my focus has turned to the following progression:


2016
Double National Championship attempt (standard distance on August 24 in Penticton, sprint distance on September 4 at home in Edmonton)
2017
Double AG World Championship attempt in Penticton, BC. Use that performance to obtain my ICC from Triathlon Canada
2018
Represent my country and the Maple Leaf in the World Duathlon Championship elite race in Odense, Denmark

This ambitious set of goals is going to require committing to training and living like an ITU pro, which unfortunately is going to require changes to the set-up I became used to the past several years. I owe a lot of the credit for where I am today as an athlete to Tommy Ferris and Ignition Fitness. Becoming a national champion happened under Tommy’s watchful eye, and I doubt I would have gotten to this level without that valuable development time.

My team for 2016

My team for 2016!

My schedule for 2016 is posted under the tab above, with highlights being a trio of races in August and September where I will attempt to defend my standard distance Canadian title before taking on two National Race Series draft legal sprint duathlons in Edmonton and Montreal. Fitting in with these goals, this winter I was presented with the opportunity to join up with the Edmonton Triathlon Academy, an elite development training group in the city. With the ETA, I will have the opportunity to train with like-minded athletes in a team environment, working on duathlon skills just as much as on my fitness. The results have been positive so far, I would say; here are some brief recaps of my solid (if unspectacular) early season races to kick off this season of blogging!

APRIL 17 – ST. ALBERT ROAD RACE 10KM (1st OVERALL, 34:34)

My season officially kicked off with the St. Albert Road Race in mid-April, where I set my personal best for 10 miles last year. This year, my focus has been on running fast over the 5km and 10km distances, so I would be running the 10k in St. Albert this season. I was carrying some very good fitness into April this year, giving me high hopes of a record-eligible course PB. Unfortunately, I took a stupid but painful spill on some gravel during an early training ride that left me with a pretty deep bruise on my hip, ending my hopes of really running fast at this race. My goal became simply to win the race, and with a surge up a false flat 3km into the race, I accomplished just that (only after a lonely 7km around northern St. Albert). Final time – 34:34 for 1st place overall. Not bad for a rust buster.

St. Albert Road Race 10k

Charging to the finish in 1st at the St. Albert Road Race 10k

APRIL 17 – NORTHERN ALBERTA SPRING SERIES #1

Immediately after the St. Albert race, my team and I headed east towards Sherwood Park for the first race of the Spring Series bike races, a series jointly put on by several of the cycling clubs around Edmonton and aimed more at getting in training miles and developing skills than being a full-on bike race. This would be a fantastic opportunity for me to learn some skills on the fly, and to see firsthand how the dynamics of a draft legal bike race plays out. Considering my goals, this seemed like just the ticket despite having raced in the morning. I raced with the C group, which ended up being more like a “learn to race” group. I did manage a little solo break with 6km to go after a long pull into the headwind, which was very exhilerating. However, I was caught and finished with the group, exhausted but satisfied.

MOVING FORWARD

I did one more Spring Series race on May 1, but it was more of a training race than anything. I had planned to leave for Penticton 3 days later, and most of my teammates were racing around the city on the 1st. It was either the Spring Series race or a long solo ride, and I decided to headed to Ardrossan for some more skill development and camaraderie. I raced up a category in the B group, but just hung out near the back and watched the dynamics of the race play out. With the large group, it was difficult to move up without crossing the centre line…and that was just fine with me.

Penticton Road Trip

Some highlights from my Penticton Road Trip! Full report to come.

All of this training and racing has led to possibly my highest training load since I started this absurd sport, yet it has been done in a way that was not overwhelming to my body. Everything so far was aimed at a shot at redemption at the Bare Bones Duathlon in Penticton, where I finished a well beaten 5th last year. This year, I was able to dip under the course record time from last year and improve my finish to a well-beaten 2nd (by just over 2 minutes). I followed that up the next morning with my second road running win of the year, winning the Blossom 10 Mile in a solid (if unspectacular) 58:11. But you shall have to wait for that full report to hear more…

On a final note, I am planning on taking this site in a different direction. While you will still be seeing race reports from my season, I truly enjoy writing about the duathlon happenings around the country, as well as the odd post on training and equipment optimization. With such an exciting season coming up for duathlon, age group and elite alike, I’d like to make that the focus of this site. In retrospect, even my race reports often take the viewpoint of being a commentary on training methods, equipment choices and race dynamics. So…hope y’all are okay with that!

Apologies for the loooong update…it’s been long overdue. So until next time…keep Du’ing it!

Penticton Peach

Peace out! For now…

“Ultimate Redemption” – How the Canadian Duathlon Championships Was Won (At Esprit de Montreal)

14 months ago, almost to the day, my race at the Canadian Duathlon Championships in Toronto ended in bitter disappointment. I went right to the front on the first run and set a strong pace, only to watch it unravel into a mess of lost power and nutrition issues on the second half of the bike. I limped in for 3rd and was lucky to be that. When Nationals were announced for September 2015 in Montreal, I immediately put it on my calendar and Coach Tommy and I set to work building my entire season towards this race. This report will be in two posts, starting with the play-by-play here followed by my thoughts, reflections and shoutouts later.

Coach T and I

Debriefing after 2014 Nationals. Presumably planning an assault on redemption in 2015.

THE RACE
Duathlon and triathlon are much more than just the sum of their parts. It’s not just running, cycling, and in the case of triathlon, swimming…they are their own sports entirely. In 2012, I did my first big-time race. Sure, I had done (and won) duathlons prior to my first standard distance duathlon in Cobourg at the Ontario Duathlon Championships, but this one was different.

I was racing an athlete with multiple pro World Championship appearances on his resume, Kevin Smith. I finished 2nd that day, but Kevin didn’t beat me thanks to any one particularly dominant part of the race. Instead, he took bits and pieces of time from me over all 5 stages of the race (Run #1, T1, Bike, T2, Run #2) that added up to 57 seconds and the win by the end of the race. That day I learned a valuable lesson that I have remembered ever since: every little bit counts.

Mr. Smith showed me the way to win a championship duathlon in 2012.

Mr. Smith showed me the way to win a championship duathlon in 2012.

On Sunday, I put my year of hard training together with the racing knowledge I have gained since that race. Leading into the race, I was shocked at the field’s depth. Though it was missing a few big names due to injury, late season burnout or the dark side (triathlon), over 180 people were still due to race including many of the top names from all over Canada. I arrived on Wednesday to give myself plenty of time to adapt to the time change and humidity.

This didn't last...

This didn’t last…

RUN #1 (9.9KM) – 35:23 (3:34/km, 1st overall)
It rained all night on Saturday but by some stroke of luck, as I was setting up transition the rain STOPPED for the duration of the race. I knew that the first run had a good chance of going out hard despite the choppy gravel stretch to start and I was prepared to follow. Everything went according to my expectations…until it didn’t. We went through the first aid station quickly as a group of 5, one athlete made a joke about Mo Farah swinging wide for water at Worlds in the 5000m, I followed him to grab a cup…and all of a sudden we were 2 off the front of the race. At this point I took control of the race with Garry Mathieu on my shoulder…foreshadowing the day.

Leading the first run like a sucker.

Leading the first run like a sucker.

At this point, the racing stopped and the mind games started. Garry and I started talking to each other…conversing at 3:30/km. It started off nice enough, as Garry offered me his water cup after he saw I had flubbed my own cup (what a nice dude). We went back and forth a bit, and I kept up the conversation throughout the second lap around the basin partially to gauge his effort level (and partially because he was one interesting dude). I got the distinct feeling Garry was doing the same. I was content to run in front, often throwing in small surges that were meant to stretch but not necessarily snap the elastic. Garry had run 13:38 in college…I wasn’t getting rid of him that easy, but I could try to soften up those legs.

Battling hard on my first run in my Skechers Performance GORun 4's

Battling hard on my first run in my Skechers Performance GORun 4’s (ZoomPhoto, 2015)

THE BIKE (39.5KM) – 1:00:58 (includes T1, 39.8kph, 4th overall)
We came into T1 stride for stride, and I dashed to my bike. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him reach down for his cycling shoes that were not clipped to his bike, and kicked it into overdrive. Knowing the run to the mount line was about 300m from our bikes, I booked it across transition, out to the mount line and onto my faithful Felt B16 shod in 3SIXTY5 carbon clinchers. I knew if I could get a gap going onto the bike I would put him in chase mode for the next little while. I only managed to get 5-10 seconds, but that 5-10 seconds took him almost 8 laps (out of 9) to close down. Don’t tell me transition isn’t as important as swim/bike/run.

Riding scared...very scared.

Riding scared…very scared. RETUL Bike fit courtesy of Sweet Petes Bike Shop.

The bike course was crowded, as advertised. Between squeezing through tight gaps while passing people trying to ride the tangents on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and weaving around people who inexplicably decided to ride on the right instead of the left as instructed (pre-race meetings are important, people!), I managed to have a pretty solid ride. There were some sketchy moments, most notably some nasty cramping in both calves early on, as well as some close calls on the slick and crowded hairpins and S-turns. But the games started again on lap #8…

…because at this point Garry took control of the race. I had been seeing his name pop up shortly after mine on the lap board, and he was very close behind every time I peeked during the hairpin turnaround, so I knew he was coming. Once he made the pass, it was decision time: I could keep going my pace and let him go, hoping to reel him back in on the run, or I could burn a match and ride at my limit to keep him within reach, hoping to come into transition a couple seconds behind. I chose the latter, afraid of him going out of sight and out of mind…and it paid off. He threw everything at me, including hard attacks up the small rises, but I managed to keep him within reach for the last lap, and got my legs ready for the run.

Making one of the many hairpin turns on my 3SIXTY5 FAT wheels.

Making one of the many hairpin turns on my 3SIXTY5 FAT wheels. (ZoomPhoto, 2015)

RUN #2 (5.1KM) – 20:12 (includes T2, 3:41/km, 3rd overall)
It was at the dismount that I saw a second opportunity: from about 2 seconds back I saw Garry pull up to the mount line, stop to unclip and dismount. Again I went into overdrive, completing the fastest flying dismount of my life (passing him) and sprinting to my rack spot (stopping only to slide on my Skechers GOMeb Speed 3’s) and then out of transition. This was my opening, and I put everything I had into taking it. I don’t have an exact time on my first mile, but since I saw 3:25 as my average pace for about that distance it was likely under 5:40. This was the decisive moment of the race. The next two miles were not pretty, but the damage was done.

Starting to believe it

Starting to believe it (Parichit Bagga, 2015)

For two miles I struggled physically but fear fueled me to run as hard as I could. In the back of my mind I kept seeing Garry flying around my outside, leaving me in his dust. I refused to let belief creep in until it forced its way in, but when the finish line came into view I began to believe. A shot of adrenaline, an injection of pace, and as I passed the grandstand a wide smile as I heard my pops yelling hysterically. Running through a tunnel of noise, I saw the “Canadian Champion” tape stretched out in front of me and it got very real, very fast. I started pumping my fists like mad , high-fiving people, and I teared up behind my sunglasses.

FINAL RESULT – 1:56:35 (1ST OVERALL, CANADIAN CHAMPION)

FINALLY (Photo credit: ZoomPhoto)

FINALLY (ZoomPhoto, 2015)

As I broke the tape I stretched my arms out wide in celebration and all my emotions poured into one of the biggest smiles to have ever graced my face. I grabbed the tape and hoisted it over my head, looking up to the sky in absolute shock. 14 months after bitter disappointment in Toronto, I had done it: Canadian Duathlon Champion in Montreal. 14 months of painstaking work, long solo training sessions, and foregone outdoor workouts culminating in adding my name to a list that includes (most recently) Sanders, Tremblay and Frake. And it feels gooooooood.

HUGE shoutout to Garry Mathieu for doing his part to make this one hell of a battle. Seriously man, you are one tough dude. Stay tuned for part 2: The Reflection. Until then, keep Du’ing it!

Hoist that banner! (ZoomPhoto, 2015)

Hoist that banner! (ZoomPhoto, 2015)

“Did I just do that?” (ZoomPhoto, 2015)

Your top 3 overall (from left): Garry Mathieu, Jesse Bauer, Moritz Haager

Your top 3 overall (from left): Garry Mathieu, Jesse Bauer, Moritz Haager