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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!