Race Reports

“Sweet Success” – Alberta Provincial Duathlon Championship Race Report

Time for a little history lesson. Let’s go back to 2012, my first year as a duathlete. I had circled MultiSport Canada‘s Cobourg stop on my schedule, to qualify for Worlds in Ottawa at the race that had been awarded the Ontario Championships. But let’s be honest…I wanted to win. I lost seconds on each leg and was beaten into 2nd by 57 seconds by Kevin Smith (in 1:59:35).

Duelling with Kevin Smith in Cobourg

Duelling with Kevin Smith in Cobourg

Fast forward to last May: I went to Iron Hawk (the Ontario Sprint Duathlon Championships) with vague designs on getting the provincial title I missed out on the previous two years (Belle River in 2013 didn’t fit into my schedule logistically)…yet on race day I was foiled by names such as Sanders, Bechtel, Forbes and Loewen. On July 18, 2015, however, I would not be denied…even if I was racing in a different province than previous years.

Chasing in vain at Iron Hawk 2014

Chasing in vain at Iron Hawk 2014

ALBERTA PROVINCIAL DUATHLON CHAMPIONSHIPS RACE REPORT
I circled the Victory Duathlon a few months ago when I found out the ATA had named it the provincial championships, hoping I could take a shot at that elusive title. Originally, the format was to be a 5k/40k/10k…inverting the runs of the standard distance and making for a good but not perfect prep race for Nationals in September. So the late change that swapped the race distances and preserved the international standard distance was welcomed by me. Not to mention the fact that the massive rainstorm that was supposed to hit on race day came a day early!

Stepping away from the powermeters to get a calibration

The day started early enough, and happening upon a rollover accident, a convoluted construction detour and a freight train didn’t stop me from being at the race site before transition opened. Being the superstitious athlete that I am, I chose to forego my bike mechanical run-through on the road and give my bike a static check on the rack. Then off for my run warm-up on the course with a few race pace accelerations. Ritual, ritual, ritual.

RUN #1 – 35:01 (~9.8km, 3:34/km STRAVA FILE)
I went off strong, but under control. 10km is a long way to go, and I didn’t want to go about biting off more than I could chew by ripping a 3:07 first kilometer. I had some welcome help the first lap of the two lap run course, as a few of the athletes from the sprint race paced off me which helped me to keep the pace steady at ~3:33-3:34/km. Other than that, the run was pretty uneventful as I just tried to hold my pace, focusing on smooth running form, hydration and nutrition. There is still some room for improvement on my running.

Out for my second lap

BIKE – 1:01:30 (T1 + ~39km + T2, 38.7kph STRAVA FILE)
I have to give kudos to the organizers here; they could have given us a course full of long, single loop out-and-back sections, but instead they chose to give the athletes a true Worlds-like feel for this Worlds qualifier by creating a very spectator friendly, looped course that featured a two lap first run, four 10km laps on the bike, followed by a one lap final run. Because of this, my grandparents and my aunt were able to come out to the race, and see me compete throughout the day instead of sitting out in the wind for two hours just for a few sightings!

Starting my ride

On the flip side, this did make for a bike course that was a tad slow. Add to that the fact that the way out featured a net downhill and a hard tailwind, with an uphill drag into a headwind back to transition, and it made for an uneven ride. My average speed would spike above 40kph on the fast section before dropping back to the 38’s by the time I completed each lap! I put in a very consistent ride, coming in with lap times that were very close to the same on each lap, and came into T2 after putting my stamp on the race with another very solid bike split.

Out for another lap!

RUN – 18:23 (5km, 3:42/km STRAVA FILE)
Now, over the course of the bike leg I couldn’t help but notice a figure in black I recognized from the duathlon start line who seemed to be making headway on me on each lap of the bike. This motivated me to push on the bike, and starting the 4th lap it dawned on me that there was a good chance I would stay away for the win (barring a major blow-up on the run). Not knowing my competition very well, however, gave me some impetus to work hard on the second run to secure my first major championship.

Time to suffer

Simply stated…I was a bit of a mess on the second run. To be fair 5 seconds/km slower than the first run is a pretty solid day at the office for me, as I am usually 10+ seconds/km off my first run pace after a strong ride. So to run that close to my first run pace after such a strong ride is encouraging. The second run was a mixture of emotions and pushing through the effort left in my legs from the bike. Coming to the finish felt like a dream, and as I crossed the line I pumped both fists and broke down a little bit. A huge smile was plastered on my face.

A barrel of emotions

FINAL RESULTS – 1ST PLACE OVERALL (1:54:52)

This one was a long time coming, but I did have to earn it. The figure in black I kept seeing on the bike was Moritz Haager, a former triathlete (and blog reader!) who turned to duathlons this year and recorded a VERY solid 1:59:13 finish. This is a name to file away in your memory banks folks, as he put in a very steady all around race. Also of note in 3rd place was Liyang Wang finishing in 2:03. Liyang is from Ajax but is out here in Alberta doing an internship…a name to watch for my Ontario readers. Very solid performances you two!

Sharing the podium with Moritz and Liyang

This was a very big day for me. In a race that was meant to be an international distance tune-up for Esprit, I was able to put together a very solid start to finish performance…can’t ask for more than that! Thank you to the race organizers and Alberta Triathlon who put on a very solid event with a Worlds like feel, an awesome development for a Worlds qualifier such as this. And as always, my equipment and support crew put me in the best possible position to succeed: my 3SIXTY5 Cycling FAT 60 once again helped me deliver the top bike split on the day (across all disciplines)…if you are looking for a good set of race wheels, check them out (and use discount code “jesse-2015” to receive $50 off)! My Skechers Performance GOMeb Speed 3’s have quickly become my favourite racing shoe. And of course, I am proud to represent Ignition Fitness at venues across Canada. Tommy really has helped me reach another level.

Provincial Champion

I’ll be heading back to the Bat Cave for the next 6 weeks to prepare for my next challenges…looking forward to the journey. So until next time…keep Du’ing it!

"I am going to drink so much New Belgium Fat Tire out of this..."

“I am going to drink so much New Belgium Fat Tire out of this…”

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The Lowest of Lows, The Highest of Highs

This post has been a long time coming, mostly because I have been trying to keep it simple lately and focus on the bare minimum: working and training. Someone once told me that sometimes you just have to get off the internet and put in the work, so that’s what I did for a little while. It was refreshing, but it’s time to get my thoughts down into a post for my loyal readers…

SPRING REFLECTIONS

This spring was essentially a season of coming up just a bit short of my goals. My focuses for the spring, St. Albert and Calgary, both ended up being less than a minute off my goals for those races. This is understandable given that a really rough winter left me with not much choice but to try to race myself into shape by May. Still, I was able to record some PBs for 10 miles and the half marathon, as well as sharing some unforgettable experiences and races with family that I have been away from for a long time. This year was a growth year, and I really enjoyed my spring experiences despite the results not being exactly what I wanted. And isn’t that the real goal here?

A RUST BUSTER AT FOOTSTOCK

I decided that the Footstock Duathlon would make an excellent rust buster for me. I’ve noticed results of this race the last couple years on Sportstats, and it always intrigued me. One of my favourite childhood memories is driving to Cochrane (the venue for Footstock) for the best ice cream around as a treat, so chalk up another experience for me in my growth year. As an added bonus the race has a 40k bike leg that I could use as preparation for Nationals.

Sailing into transition after the first run at Footstock. Before the “fun” started!

Unfortunately, the race wouldn’t turn out as I envisioned. The course climbs out of Cochrane from the start/finish to the transition zone, then continues to the turnaround on the bike. After a solid run and a good steady bike where I extended my lead to ~5 minutes, I learned a valuable lesson about racing in the mountains: be prepared for anything. Despite 6 degree temperatures and overcast skies threatening rain, I chose to race in just my Champion Systems skinsuit and no warm weather gear. I got caught in a freak rainstorm on the bike, and I had to call it a day at halfway. The official reason was hypothermia, and I spent the rest of the day in urgent care.

REDEMPTION AT THE COMFORTEC RED DEER DUATHLON
(CLICK HERE FOR FULL RESULTS)

After Footstock, I had a chance to re-assess my goals and finalize my race schedule for the summer. The sparse Alberta duathlon schedule limited my options, but I went back into my pain cave for a few weeks, had a breakthrough workout or two, and came out for the Comfortec Red Deer Duathlon with nothing more than getting some race miles in, maybe finally cracking 1:00 for a sprint duathlon, and perhaps finally putting up a respectable bike split.

The true goal on this day was to do my best to execute and then identify some areas to improve, so I could address them prior to Nationals. I picked out the Comfortec Red Deer Duathlon for a couple reasons: (1) I LOVE the idea of a duathlon only event in the summer…even for a start-up event it brings out the whole multisport community to experience a duathlon and increase the level of competition and (2) it uses the standard duathlon distances, a rare idea for Alberta duathlons, and utilized a relatively simple and flat out-and-back course that promised to be fast.

The organizers really went all out to give the race a pro-like feel.

The organizers really went all out to give the race a pro-like feel.

I had already set up my transition when the thought occurred to me that I didn’t take my bike out to spin through gears (not enough caffeine obviously), so I decided to forego it and just run through the gears while the bike was racked. I hung around transition and mingled a little bit with the people who stopped to oogle my bike on their way by before heading out for a warm-up on the deceptively tough run course. It was always either going slightly up or slightly down, making it a little bit tough to get into a rhythm and really roll, and probably 30-45 seconds slow.

RUN 1 (Strava file here)

I went off the front from the gun at a solid but controlled pace, but had some unexpected company in the form of one tough fella in my age group. He put himself on my shoulder and seemed determined to stay there; I would drop him on the uphills, but every time the road went down he dug deep and clawed his way back in. I got rid of him for good with about a mile to go, on the biggest uphill of the run, as I put in a big surge to get ahead.

Heading out on the first run, with some unexpected but welcomed company.

Heading out on the first run, with some unexpected but welcomed company.

BIKE – 29:27 (Strava file here)

I transitioned well, better than I expected, and was out on the bike feeling pretty sprightly. The bike course was flat, flat, flat. The pavement quality could have been a little better, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would come up with the results that I did. I’ve done a lot of work this winter and spring on my bike set-up and position in order to create the fastest and most aerodynamic option I could manage. I made upgrades to wheels, tires, tubes, saddle, and basebar, as well as cleaner cabling and a RETUL bike fit from Sweet Pete’s Bike Shop that is as fast as it is comfortable. A meticulously maintained drivetrain also makes a big difference!

Ready for a ground-breaking bike

Ready for a ground-breaking bike

I started the bike with a mindset that somewhere around 31:00 for 20km would be a huge coup for me. My previous best during a duathlon was 32:59 at Toronto Island last year, but I immediately knew that time was going down in flames. Being solo off the front of the race with clear roads ahead of me and the lead moto to focus on definitely helped, and after turning out of the headwind section at the start of the course, I watched my average speed slowly creep up towards and eventually beyond levels that I had never seen before. I rarely watch my speed during races, instead focusing on maintaining a consistent wattage, but I couldn’t help sneaking a peek every now and then on this day. My power stayed in control, and my NP of 227W was actually significantly below my goal wattage of ~240W for 20km.

Channelling my inner Tony Martin on the bike - note the open mouth!

Channelling my inner Tony Martin on the bike – note the open mouth!

As approached the last turn and sat up to undo my shoes, the realization crept in that I was about to come in under 30 minutes for 20km. I couldn’t help but break out into a huge smile, because never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that this would have been the result. You can click the link above to see the file on Strava.

RUN 2 (Strava file here)

To be totally honest, this last run was just a procession of emotions. I would have had to blow up pretty bad to not break 1:00 for the race. I struggled pretty bad on the last 1.25km, but I had enough time in the bank to fly up the final hill with a big smile on my face. My pace was pretty close to the pace of my first run, which after that strong of a bike is quite a bonus, and I was able to come across the line in a course record and new PB of 57:28!

Full-on suffer mode

Full-on suffer mode

IMPRESSIONS AND REFLECTIONS

For 3 years now, I have been knocking on the door of the next level without quite being able to get there. Since 2012, I have been flirting with 1:00 sprint duathlons and 2:00 standard duathlons, winning a few races along the way but always feeling like I had been sitting on a plateau without a way out. On Saturday, I think I got to that next level: I won on the bike with a legitimate, big league split. The runs were not too shabby, but I started the bike with less than a minute lead, and finished it with over 4 minutes in hand; that is a big deal for me.

Trying to fathom the time on the clock

Trying to fathom the time on the clock

If my extensive research can be trusted, then this is the second fastest 5km/20km/2.5km sprint duathlon in Canada this year (as scientific as that analysis can be), behind only the esteemed Lionel Sanders. I am now buoyed with confidence going into Provincials next week and into Nationals in September as a legitimate contender, rather than the outside shot I considered myself before this weekend. There is a not insignificant amount of rain in the forecast for the weekend of Provincials, but I’ll be going into it looking for a good effort over the standard distance as preparation for the real thing in Montreal. Welcome to the big leagues, JB.

A huge thank you to all my supporters for their continued help this season. Coach Tommy of Ignition Fitness, that one was for you and your continued belief in me even when I was ready to quit. Chris and the guys at 3SIXTY5 Cycling, you guys have been nothing but great. Not only does my FAT60 set-up fly on the road, it gives me one of the best looking bikes in transition. And I continue to fall further in love with the Skechers Performance running shoe line; the GOMeb Speed 3 makes a great racing shoe, and the rest of the line covers all my bases for training. Next week is Provincials, so watch for my next update very soon! Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

1st place overall - 57:28

1st place overall – 57:28

One happy camper

One happy camper

Obligatory bib number shot...complete with my gold medal and brand new Oakley Fast Jackets courtesy of the race organizers for my overall win!

Obligatory bib number shot…complete with my gold medal and brand new Oakley Fast Jackets courtesy of the race organizers for my overall win!

Spring Racing, Canadian Half Marathon Championships and More…

This year has been a year of experiences. This weekend I capped off my spring season in Calgary at the Canadian Half Marathon Championships, my first national championships for running since cross country in 2008. In the past several weeks, I’ve taken in some races and venues that I’ll never forget, and most importantly I have been able to share this thing that I do with some family members that have never been able to see me race. It’s been incredibly rewarding to have such amazing support from all corners of the country, and I believe these last few months have made me a stronger athlete and person. So let’s recap!

WOODY’S RV WORLD MARATHON WEEKEND (10KM) – 2ND PLACE (36:01)

A week after the Bare Bones Duathlon, I wanted to do a 10km tune-up before Calgary. While I may have benefited from using the weekend for one last long run or tempo workout, but I had heard great things about the Woody’s RV World Marathon and wanted to take part. It didn’t hurt that there was a pretty decent prize purse on the line for all of the races. It was…an experience. Kieran McDonald showed up to race his hometown race, so I knew the win was likely going up the road as he put 4 minutes into me in St. Albert. I was coming into this one pretty hot at the end of my last big half marathon block, so my focus was to put in a solid effort, and maybe put up a decent time. However, after a solid pace for 4k those plans were scuttled by Mother Nature. A family of geese decided that it would be a good time to cross the course just as I was about to run by. As some of you know, I am TERRIFIED of geese. Petrified. I did what anyone would do in my situation…I stopped and waited for them to cross or someone to come to my rescue! Eventually a lead bike came back to scare them away, but not before Mama Goose and I had the stand-off of the century. I ended up cruising in for 2nd in 36:01, though my moving time was slightly closer to my half marathon pace (~34:55). At least I’ll have a story now!

Starting the Woody's RV World Red Deer 10k - 2nd place overall (36:01)

Starting the Woody’s RV World Red Deer 10k

CANADIAN HALF MARATHON CHAMPIONSHIPS – 21ST PLACE (1:15:51)

After Red Deer, it was half marathon time. The excitement slowly built while my training slowly tapered off, due to Calgary representing my spring focus. Though my #1 goal this season is a good performance at the National Duathlon Championships, it has helped to have a goal to strive towards this spring, with a bit of rest to look forward to afterwards. I love championship racing, and the Canadian Half Marathon Championships in Calgary fit the bill perfectly as something that I could get revved up for. It would also serve a dual purpose of providing an excuse for building up a ton of volume base in the spring before scaling back and sharpening up my speed during the summer. It would also give me a chance to spend some time with my youngest cousins in Calgary, and as I would later find out, to race the event with my Uncle!

I took the weekend off of work so that we would go down Saturday morning to the expo and pick up my race kit. I also squeezed in a quick race prep workout to scout out the start/finish of the race. With the Stampede Grounds getting a retro-fit for the weekend to create finish line right in front of the grandstand, it promised to be a heck of a finish! Race morning dawned EARLY due to the 6:30am start time. Like ungodly early. Good thing I slept a lot Friday night and Saturday afternoon, because 3:30am comes ridiculously fast. I am thankful for the early start though, because we woke up to perfect conditions (slightly overcast, 9 degrees, and calm wind conditions). The morning cool was a perfect calm before the storm, as I got in a good warm-up and was in a great headspace leading into the race. The race itself was a tale of two halfs: the first 7 miles, and the final 10k to the finish.

Working hard through 7km

Working hard through 7km

THE RACE

During the first half, I was feeling GREAT. Maybe it was adrenaline, or maybe I was just experiencing a perfect collision of peak physical fitness and a great headspace. After an initial surge the first 400m, I settled into a solid pace just under 5:40/mile (~1:14:30 pace). I was passed by the lead women’s pack (who started a bit more sensibly than I did) at about 5k, but from there I had a steady stream of casualties of the hot early pace up the road to drive me forwards. I also had the eventual bronze medalist in the women’s race, old university friend Dayna Pidhoresky, to push me and provide some motivation to keep the pace high for much of the race. I reached the 10km split in 35:24, and focused on the second half of the race.

It was around this point that I noticed two things: (1) that my legs were starting to rebel against me and (2) that I was struggling to get as much oxygen to my muscles as I am accustomed to. I expected the first, but glossed over the second in my preparations. I was still on my pace goals, but I knew that I was probably short a long run or two that would have made my preparations perfect. So I knew that the second half would be tough. What I didn’t account for was the altitude. Hamilton and Windsor are at sea level, while Edmonton is at ~2000′ and Calgary is at ~3500′. I’m still trying to adapt to training in a location higher than sea level, and racing in Calgary with the extra altitude and accompanying dry air was a bit of a struggle. I had wondered why results and records in Calgary were typically a tad slower than I knew those runners were capable of, and this is likely the answer. Browsing the results afterwards confirmed that it was indeed a tough day.

The stretch from 7 to 10 miles was a physical struggle. I just kept telling myself to keep the pace as steady as I could until 10 miles, and then anyone can suffer through the last 5km. I just put my eyes on whoever was up the road and focused on reeling them in, before moving on to the next athlete. Just before 10 miles, I turned to Dayna and huffed out “Let’s just get to 10 miles, and then there’s only 5k left”, which I think we both needed to hear at that point of the race! My 10 mile split was 56:54, a full 23 seconds faster than my time in St. Albert, but I was in a world of hurt. All I could do was grit my teeth and focus on getting to the line as fast as I could. That last 5km were a blur as I poured everything I had into it, and before I knew it I was re-entering Stampede Park and the last stretch. There were still two half marathoners just ahead of me as I entered the last corner, so I launched my final sprint and crossed the line in 1:15:51…a new PB which would be good for 21st overall at the National Championships!

Gutting it out to the finish in Calgary

Gutting it out to the finish in Calgary

FINAL THOUGHTS

I unexpectedly made a few appearances on the Athletics Canada live stream of the race, which you can view here. You can see me in all my glory at 10:55, and from 32:55 to 34:25. I also uploaded this race to Strava, so that you can check out my progress mile-by-mile.

While this result did come short of my goals, my philosophy is that you can never complain about a PB. I cam here to run fast, and I ran faster than I have ever done before in my life. Sounds like mission accomplished to me! Reflecting back on my spring season, I wouldn’t change a thing. I have a few days off to reflect and recover and this post is already getting super long, so expect a reflection post with my thoughts in the next week or two. I would like to thank all of my amazing supporters from all corners of the country, including my amazing team at Ignition Fitness, Skechers Performance Canada, and 3SIXTY5 Cycling. But right now I want to talk about an issue that popped up this weekend that is very important to me:

GETTING “CHICKED”

Honestly, ^^this^^ is likely the only time you’ll ever hear me use this phrase, which often comes out when a male is beaten by a female in a race…because I hate it. I think it’s something that we as endurance athletes need to exorcise from our vernacular, because it creates a stigma where there really shouldn’t be one. The thing I love about this sport is that it is 100% black and white. Regardless of our differences, all runners can be boiled down and compared via a series of numbers, and those numbers are simple and pure. Let’s look at some personal bests:

  • Runner A – 31:46 (10,000m)/31:49 (10km)/1:10:47 (HM)/2:28:00 (Marathon)
  • Runner B – 31:41 (10,000m)/31:59 (10km)/1:11:20 (HM)/2:35:16 (Marathon)
  • Runner C – 15:11 (5km)/31:35 (10km)/1:16:24 (HM)

Based on those numbers on paper, how would you expect those three runners to finish in a half marathon? If you guessed the order they are listed, then you would probably be right. And here’s the kicker…on Sunday you would have been: Runner A is Lanni Marchant, Runner B is Natasha Wodak, and Runner C is myself. I finished 21st overall behind these two ladies in Calgary…and there is no reason to believe anything else would have happened. In fact, without having Dayna (another incredibly talented athlete who is also faster than me on most days) to push me for most of the race, I likely would have finished even further behind. The fact of the matter is that I finished 21st at the Canadian Half Marathon Championships, behind 20 truly speedy Canadians. Nothing more, nothing less. So let’s remove this phrase and the attached stigma from our language, and appreciate these strong, talented and occasionally world class ladies for what they are: some seriously fast runners who work just as hard as you do, and who may beat you on one day or another. And there is not an ounce in shame in that :).

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

Thrilled to be able to share this one with my Uncle Dennis, Aunt Jean, and cousins Karl and Jakob.

Thrilled to be able to share this one with my Uncle Dennis, Aunt Jean, and cousins Karl and Jakob.

Road Trip To Penticton…And A Race! My Bare Bones Duathlon Race Report

This weekend my family and I made the pilgrimage from the Prairie flatland that is Edmonton, down through the foothills near Calgary, into and out of the Rocky Mountains, and finally into the vineyards and hills of inland B.C. and Penticton. All for 90 minutes of racing. Yes, I dragged my parents 2 days and 13 hours total of driving, one way, so I could run and ride my bike around Penticton for an hour and a half. On Mother’s Day weekend. Aren’t I a great son? That said, it was a fantastic experience that was a great way to start my duathlon season.

I knew going in that I was going to be pretty tired. I would also have been in the car for 7 hours on day 1 and 6 hours on day 2 before racing on day 3, which led to some tired legs on the morning of the race. I was not overly concerned however, because (a) I have ridden only 2 times a week on the trainer for the past 7 weeks and (b) this race was more about the experience than it was about anything else. The road trip alone was worth it. It was, in a word, stunning…I think I am smitten with the town of Golden, BC. The road up to Banff, through Golden and into Penticton was punctuated by way too many “Holy crap”‘s and “Oh wow”‘s from my seat.

In awe of Golden, BC

In awe of Golden, BC. Mom was just glad I didn’t get eaten by a real bear while I was out for a run.

Upon arriving, I pulled out my race set-up and went to recon the course. This was the first time I have ridden my TT bike outdoors since Lakeside last year. Note to self: if your first ride outdoors is on a twisty course, feet from a drop-off into a lake which then turns and climbs up a big ass hill with a corresponding sketchy descent, then you’re going to have a bad time. After riding the course, I was a tad terrified of what Saturday would bring. And by “a tad” I mean quaking in fear. It turned out that ride was just what I needed, because I was MUCH more confident riding the course in my aerobars on Saturday having done that on Friday.

Set up and ready to rock McLean Creek Road!

Set up and ready to rock McLean Creek Road. Pro tip: Always pre-ride the course if you can! Aluminum brake tracks and a shallow front rim were a confidence booster for me on this day.

Saturday dawned after a surprisingly good sleep and a very smooth lead-up to the race. I was the first one at the race site, as usual, and was set up with plenty of time to spare. After my recon ride, I decided that I would be undergeared with an 11-23 on the rear, so I had put on my 11-25 the night before. I was still under-geared…so I bought an 11-28. As it turns out this little grassroots race draws a pretty good field, with some of the local long course and ITU pros making their way out for a shot at the prize purse. Wandering around the transition area, I saw plenty of fast set-ups and evidence of sponsored athletes, so I knew that I would be in for some tough competition in my first du of 2015!

Hot on the heels of the leaders.

Hot on the heels of the leaders, in my Skechers GOMeb Speed 3‘s and Nineteen race number belt.

Fast forward to the start, the pace went out pretty hard. Not absurdly hard, but there were a few junior development athletes in the race who took the pace out pretty hard before turning a bit earlier than the full distance racers. I tucked in to the back of the lead pack of about 8, right on the shoulder of a dude in a Mexican ITU suit with Lesser printed on it. Apparently the dude is pretty good. Not to mention that Nathan Champness, Justin Birks and Chris Young were all waiting in the weeds, ready to pounce on a demanding bike course that they knew very well…

Heading out, terrified, onto the hilly and demanding bike course.

Heading out, terrified, onto the hilly and demanding bike course. A slippery looking front end on my B16, GOMeb 3’s awaiting my return to transition…

I entered T1 in 2nd place after averaging under my goal first run pace of 3:20/km on the twisting two lap run course. My intention on the first run was to get myself onto a clean course on the bike, and not have to worry about weaving in and out of traffic while I got some fluids in and got comfortable on my aerobars. After a solitary ride along the lakeshore, Champness passed me at the start of the climb, and Birks came past near the top. To be honest, after starting the climb it became a battle between me and the course. It was a tough grind, but I felt like I went 12 rounds with it and came out only slightly bruised and bloodied.. I was passed twice more during the ride, coming into T2 6th and in a decent spot to run my way into the top 5. Which would be a solid finish considering the pro field that turned up for the race!

Done! Time to run!

Done, time to run! Similar speeds to 2014 on a tougher course and lower watts. A testament to how slippery my new fit courtesy of Taylor at Sweet Pete’s Bike Shop is. Just need some 3SIXTY5 wheels to cap off my set-up!

Starting the run, I was about 30-40 seconds behind the 5th place athlete (the top 4 were pretty much long gone). I guess knowing the course like the back of your hand has some value (as well as being able to ride 40kph+). I focused myself on bearing down on 5th place, ready to call it a hard-fought battle if I could make the pass. The gap closed slowly (he was one tough dude) but I would not being denied. I eventually made the pass at the turnaround on the second lap, then kept the pressure on the rest of the way. I ended up finishing the race in over 1:31, with the extra climb on this year’s bike course likely adding 3-4 minutes compared to previous year’s results.

5th place, 1:31:04 for the 5k/33k/5k course.

5th place, 1:31:04 for the 5k/33k/5k course.

I can’t in good faith publish this report without a glowing report about the Penticton Triathlon Club and the organizers and volunteers at the race. It was a small race, a grassroots race, but it seemed like it was as much a part of the community as Challenge Penticton. I saw them out working hard to mark the course the night before, and I found out later that the local pros who raced also helped to design and mark the course. After I finished the race, the guy who won (Nathan Champness) sought me out and thanked me for making the trip to come race. I didn’t know I was such a well-known oddity at this race! At the awards they seemed to have more draw prizes than people at the race, so at the end the RD walked around and picked people at the bar to go up and grab a draw prize. He made a special effort to seek me out before I left and have me go and grab a draw prize. Then he made a point to talk to me for a little while, and complement me on my race that morning…even though he was in the middle of giving out awards!

Completely spent

Completely spent. Both myself and my gear.

The course was incredible scenic, and once I got over my fear of toppling into the lake it really was quite beautiful to ride along the shore for the first and last 7k. The hill part was BRUTAL, but the experience was something that I cannot get in any other place that I have raced. And the feeling of community was incredibly refreshing. Even the people just enjoying a day at the beach who made a point to stop and cheer us on while we suffered in the heat made it a great experience. If I have a chance to go back, I definitely will. I might have to go back just so I can get in the money! All in all, a great duathlon debut for 2015, and diversion from my heavy half marathon build. Thank you to everyone near and far who supports me in this journey, including my wonderful supporters Ignition Fitness, Skechers Performance and 3SIXTY5 Cycling (who have been amazingly supportive and patient as I chase after these foolish running goals during the spring). I was especially happy that my Papa was able to finally see me race a duathlon. Hope you enjoyed it! I’m in action again…tomorrow! In Red Deer for a quick 10k tune-up before starting my taper for the Canadian Half Marathon Championships in Calgary.

So until next time…keep Du’ing it!

Great to share this race with my Papa, who took a road trip of his own to support me!

Great to share this race with my Papa, who took a road trip of his own to support me!

Oh, and we stopped in Canmore on the way home so I could do a long run at 4600 at the Olympic Nordic Skiing Centre. Where it rained.

Oh, and we stopped in Canmore on the way home so I could do a long run at 4600 at the Olympic Nordic Skiing Centre. It rained.

So It Begins! St. Albert Road Race

ARGH!! My writing game is way off. I have 3 drafts 95% of the way done but can’t seem to push them over the finish line, and here we are 1 official race into the season. If nothing else, I am prompt with my race reports so let’s get back on track with the St. Albert Road Race 10 Mile Run.

THE LEAD UP

When Tommy and I set my schedule, we did so knowing this year would probably be a growth year. With nothing really that big on the schedule until Duathlon Nationals in September, it would be a good opportunity to try some new races and experiment, and have some fun in 2015. So I’ve chosen races based on going back to my roots, and heading to locations that I have always wanted to go but have not had a chance. You can see my race schedule here.

The journey started on Sunday, back in the place where (amazingly) this all started. I still have a Polaroid somewhere of 10 year old Jesse in his very first cross country race, sprinting to the line through a snowstorm. So on Sunday, I went back for the historic St. Albert Road Race for the 10 miler. I did a little tune-up the weekend before this one, a small 5k that I won as part of a 20km day and after 10km steady in 43:00, but this was the official start to my year.
MEC 5K

THE RACE

Historically, this race has always been pretty quick. It has a very pro feel to it, with wide lanes coned off the whole way around the course. I also woke up to nearly perfect conditions of sun, 7 degrees and very little wind. Little did I know that this would be one for the ages. From the gun, I was part of an 8 person lead group that was quickly clear. The pace was probably a tad too rich for me right now (~5:20/mile), but there was no way I was about to put myself in no man’s land.

Waiting for the start horn

Waiting for the start horn

So I tucked into a pace I knew was probably too fast for me, praying that someone else from the group would eventually want to drop back with me…and soon. To my relief, at around 2 miles just that happened. We dropped back and worked well together through about the hill at the 4 mile mark before I set off alone. I felt very strong on the hill, which bodes well for future races, but from then on it would be a solo mission of suffering and limiting the damage.

Finishing up the south loop of the course

Finishing up the south loop of the course

The leaders were long gone by this point. I was holding out hope that someone would pop and come back to me, but that just didn’t happen. Those dudes were fast. In the past I have struggled and bled time when left alone, and I especially thought that would be true in this one. Though I did positive split (28:04/29:13), and I did slowly bleed time between 5 and 8 miles, I was able to rally in the last two miles. I even ran my last mile almost as fast as my first one (5:26 vs. 5:24)!

Pretty spent at the end of my first 10 miler

Pretty spent at the end of my first 10 miler, but helped along by my Skechers GOMeb Speed 3’s.

All in all, a successful season opener, 57:17 for 10 miles. Good race, fair course, and a new personal best. Going under 57:00 would have been nice, but I won’t complain. I raced a solid race, start to finish, and toughed out a long solo effort without completely cratering. My splits at 8km (27:58) and 10km (35:20) were also very encouraging. Thanks to all of my supporters and sponsors, especially to my parents and friend Steve for dragging themselves out of bed to cheer me on, and to Skechers Performance and Ignition Fitness for suiting me up and getting me ready. Next up for me is a rust buster duathlon in Penticton on May 9, before I test myself over 10km on May 17 and the half marathon on May 31. Hopefully I can keep the good times rolling and meet my goals of sub-33:00 for 10k and 1:15 for the half in those races. Should be a blast!

Cheers to good friends! Thanks for coming out Steve.

Cheers to good friends! Thanks for coming out Steve.

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!

“Unbreakable” – MSC Lakeside Race Report

This past weekend was a big one for duathletes in Ontario, and I was fortunately able to be a part of the entire Multisport Canada Lakeside Weekend. Saturday was for the sprint duathlon (results here), which I participated in, and then Sunday was the Ontario International Distance Duathlon Championships. Racing Saturday was a ton of fun, a throwback to my cross country days, and left me free to mingle and meet the duathletes I write about every week on the Sunday.

Number and Medal

Still undefeated in MSC events this year, mud and all.

Originally, I was slated to compete in the international distance event as my fall A race, but my struggles with recovery in the months following USAT Nationals in July left me a little bit short, physically and mentally, of where I wanted to be on September 14th. After tanking a couple of key longer workouts, we decided that it was best to have some fun with the sprint distance instead of suffering through a race that I did not feel ready for. The further upside was I got to be a spectator on Sunday, and live blogged the event for Multisport Canada and Duathlon Central.

Lakeside Bike Set-Up

My bike was ready for the big one, complete with a new Aerojacket, but I was not.

Switching to the sprint had some downsides, namely the weather. Racing on Saturday meant waking up to gloomy skies, chilly temperatures and driving rain, conditions that didn’t really let up until halfway through the race. Though it was chilly, Sunday was not as wet and even had a few brief moments of sunshine. Saturday’s rain also made a mess of the run course, giving the race a cross country vibe. Lakeside’s run course is on gravel access road, and it can get quite torn up in the rain. 2 solid weeks of rain made for sloppy running…my kind of fun!

Ambitious Goals

I had ambitious goals for this one, but the conditions made it tough going.

The race itself was an enjoyable one, despite the difficult conditions. A solid field showed up, and I would face tough tests from Spencer Summerfield, Aaron Putman, Chris Marentette, and a few other strong athletes. I found myself right at the front joined by Chris and another younger fella (Joseph Hunter). I dispatched them heading downhill after the 1km mark, but soon after I was joined by a relay runner who pulled up beside me heading down the hill. We worked well together the rest of the run and I hit transition first of the duathletes in a time of 17:23.

Mass Start

Braving the rain and the cold (Photo Credit Mike Cheliak/My Sports Shooter 2014)

The bike course was slick and crowded, which had the effect of slowing down my bike time. Many triathletes out on the course ahead of me seemed to be skittish about riding through the puddles on the road, creating the need to continuously spike my power to surge past groups of slower athletes. I also had the misfortune to get stuck behind a car…AGAIN. Maybe I can hope for some better luck with vehicles next year. I missed my goal time for the bike by 1:17, coming in with a bike split of 34:17. Not ideal, but not bad by any stretch considering the conditions.

Onto the Bike

Heading out onto the bike, covered in mud (Photo Credit Mike Cheliak/My Sports Shooter 2014)

The last 5km of the bike portion of the race was mainly spent looking over my shoulder for Spencer Summerfield, who I assumed would be charging hard. Fortunately, I think I was saved late by an ~1 mile long No Passing Zone at the 18.5km mark. At that point, I became confident that I would be first off the bike for the second time this season, which was indeed the case. Switching from using my Garmin on a quick release strap to a Timex on the run while keeping the Garmin on the bike led to my best transitions of the season.

First off the Bike

First off the bike! (Photo Credit Mike Cheliak/My Sports Shooter 2014)

The great thing about the 5km run/20km bike/2.5km run sprint duathlon is the format. Unlike other duathlons, I find that a 2.5km final run can be fueled purely on adrenaline. Rather than holding back on the first run, you can treat the first run like an open 5km run then throw whatever is left into the bike, treating it like a 20km time trial, and still not cost yourself much time (if any) on the 2.5km run. I ended up slipping and sliding my way to a solid 9:07 split and my fourth win of the season, in a rain-soaked time of 1:01:46.

Full Flight

In full flight towards my 4th win of 2014 (Photo Credit Mike Cheliak/My Sports Shooter 2014)

As a final race of the season treat, I was able to get my new Skechers GOMeb Speed 2 racing flats some action. It was a real treat was trying out a shoe brand that I have been following for several years. The shoes were light as a feather but still substantial enough to withstand the beating I put them through on the Lakeside course. I just received a second pair of Skechers, a pair of glow-in-the-dark Nite Owl Edition GORun Ultra’s, and I am very excited to log some training and racing miles on these shoes this winter. Look for a review right here in the coming weeks.

Skechers Collection

My training shoes for what will hopefully be a solid winter of training. Some speedy GOMeb Speeds for racing and intervals, and Nite Owl GORun Ultras for the long stuff.

In advance of a season recap post, I must give thanks to my girlfriend Emma for once again braving the cold, rain and wind to be there for me once again. To Coach Tommy Ferris with Ignition Fitness for being so accommodating to my constantly changing mind. To Multisport Canada for giving me the opportunity and forum to learn and grow as a duathlete. And to Felt Bicycles, Clif Bar Canada, Nimblewear Canada, Wheels of Bloor, Big Race Wheels and My Sports Shooter for all of the support you give me and other Ignition Fitness athletes. Y’all are the best!

Congratulations also go out to my friends and competitors who raced on Sunday, especially provincial champion Scott Finch. Given how hard this guy has worked to come back from some injuries, he definitely deserves to cap off his season on top.

I am now taking a few weeks of much needed R&R. Season recap post to come. Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

Lakeside Sprint Podium Shot

(Photo Credit Mike Cheliak/My Sports Shooter 2014)