biking

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…

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Breakthrough

I had a whole blog post schedule planned for the next 3 weeks on both of my sites (this blog and Duathlon Central). But sometimes something comes up that I just feel the need to write about that blows my schedule out of the water…it’s usually something that seems very simple on the surface, but usually ends up being much more than that as the season goes on…

Thursday’s run was one of those things. Earlier in the week, I had to convince Tommy to add in an endurance run to my Thursday schedule, on a day that was previously scheduled as a day off. I hate days off, but I have learned to handle them in moderation. After a bout of diagnosed overtraining last year and several years before that spent flirting with it, I have learned that I can push my body to ridiculous limits only if I have adequate recovery time, which sometimes means a day of rest. However, I had taken the Monday off after Woodstock, then done two days of relatively light training, then this other day off before a monster weekend, and I was feeling a little bit anxious about my ability to effectively run for 75 minutes on Sunday after having not really run more than 30 minutes at a time for the previous month or so. We ended up adding in an hour of running on Thursday…an hour of running that ended up being one of the best runs of my life.

Sometimes while running, I feel like I am fighting what my body was created to do, and it feels like a struggle. Other times, it feels like all my hard work to become an elite long distance runner, and then a duathlete, has paid off by making me look like a runner. And then there are the rare occasions where I feel like this is what I was born to do, and nothing else. Going into this run, I was really lacking in the confidence to perform the high-intensity training that is on its way in preparation of my Welland title defense, Canadian Nationals in Toronto, and US Nationals in St. Paul. Confidence is a funny thing, especially considering I had just won in Woodstock the preceding weekend leading from wire to wire. I should have been buoyed by that…instead I was feeling scared that the lower volume, higher intensity training of May would lead to an early peak for my goal races. I have a tendency to overthink, especially when I have the time to think, which makes it very hard for me to trust the process sometimes. Tommy can usually do a fantastic job of calming me down and helping me see the big picture again, but this was one of those occasions when I think I really just needed to experience it for myself.

The run really wasn’t a big deal. A tad shy of 14km in 1 hour, with some 15 second strides at the end. It wasn’t a night run (my favourite), and it wasn’t overly special or magical. It just…flowed. That’s one of my favourite things about running. You can be out in your own little world, and you are the only one who knows what you are accomplishing. The majority of the people that I went past during this run probably had no idea what I was doing. The other runners I passed likely perceived my speed, but definitely not the fact that I was having quite possibly my breakthrough workout of the 2014 season. Only I knew at the time, and that insider knowledge fueled me all through the run. Every stride felt effortless, and even the hill out of the valley near the end didn’t register with me. I felt unstoppable.

While the run really wasn’t anything special (numbers-wise), it did set up an AWESOME weekend of training. For the past 4 days, I have been absolutely dialed in to my training. My Saturday workout produced some effortless climbing on hills that have never been effortless, and some of my most consistent and powerful tempo sets on the bike yet this season while still saving the legs for a strong run off the bike. Sunday’s run was also a “work of art”, as Tommy put it, where I nailed the race pace sections of my 75 minute run almost to the second, before turning over some quick 31 second 200m repeats on the track upon arriving home. I have a very tough week of training on tap coming up, but the confidence and power that I have received from the simple act of adding that Thursday run and the resulting weekend training results have me excited for it, ready to nail this week and next before heading to Welland to defend my title. I may have produced the same results without that Thursday run; that we’ll never know. But that run allowed me to get excited about the hard training of the weekend, and to have the strength to get out there and do the work that needed to be done. Thanks to Coach T at Ignition Fitness for talking me through this rough patch and helping me see the big picture again…I needed it.

Training is about balance. Hard work and recovery go hand in hand. Physically, that day off on Thursday may have been the right thing for me for one final rest before getting down to work. But equally as important as the physical aspect of this sport is the mental aspect. When you are out there alone for as many hours as you are, you have to believe in what you are doing. You have to be able to tell yourself before lacing up that you WILL walk out that door, you WILL accomplish what needs to be accomplished, and you WILL knock today’s workout out of the park. Because when you have that confidence, magical things can happen. You can lift impossible weights and run impossible distances…it just takes finding that one thing that makes you feel unstoppable. So do what makes you feel unstoppable, and then tell the world what you were able to accomplish.

Until next time…keep du’ing it.

“I am Iron Hawk”: Provincial Duathlon Championships Race Report

Last Saturday I participated in the Iron Hawk Duathlon, which doubled as the Ontario Sprint Duathlon Championships and made for a fantastic season opener for duathletes in Ontario. You can check out the race recap I wrote about the race for Duathlon Central here. Needless to say, the race more than lived up to billing, and I was treated to a race against the most competitive field of athletes I have ever raced, and I think it brought out the best in me. The lead up to the race wasn’t the best, as I dealt with some injury issues, an important bike part left in Hamilton, and some last hour mechanical issues, but I was still able to pull off a 7th place finish in one of the fastest Ontario duathlons in recent memory! Enjoy.

Running

Heading out onto the run course

LEAD UP TO THE RACE (Not pretty!):
The week going into the race was a bit of an adventure. I felt a twinge in my foot on my Saturday long run a week out that ended up being a bit of peroneal tendonitis and left me limping around the house for the rest of the weekend.A few days off it with some aggressive icing and stretching, and I was able to get through some runs later in the week without much pain. I declared myself ready to race. I drove down to the race Friday night with Emma and her parents, where we stayed at a friend’s place in Leamington. Upon arrival, I was putting my bike together and discovered that my rear skewer was…still on the sidewalk in Hamilton! D’oh…luckily fellow competitor Brad Reiter happened to live three blocks from where we were staying, and had an extra skewer. Thanks Brad! Surprise #2 came after I had set up transition on race morning. There’s a reason I always take my bike out after setting up to make sure everything is okay mechanically. Turns out I had so little clearance between my rear wheel and the frame that as soon as my tire picked up some dirty, it started to rub on the inside of the frame! So 45 minutes before racetime, there I was with my bike up on the mechanic’s stand, adjusting my wheel to sit a bit further back to solve the rub! I got it sorted out in good time and was able to get a good warmup in. Ready for the race of my life.

Pre Race Fix

Last minute mechanical work on my Felt B16

Everything was right in the world when the gun went off. This was excellent. I started in about the third row because everyone in front of me was just so fast! I had a plan to let the guys take off and just hook up to Rui Xu, who I know is around my level, for the first lap, and then see what happened. I was able to do exactly that, ran a very strong first lap, then I found that I had the legs on the second lap to gap him and chase a couple people down. Through that second lap, I moved from 11th to 7th heading into T1 with a 17:10 split. The first run was about 250m long, and my 5k split was somewhere between 16:25 and 16:30. An awesome first split, a duathlon run PB, and feeling great to boot. My foot wasn’t even yipping at me like I expected it would, and actually allowed me to focus on the race instead of the pain. Great start!

RUN #1 (5.25km): 17:10 (9th fastest)

Aero Position

Tucked into aero to get out of the Essex County winds

The bike has always been my weak point. After a sloppy transition where I had trouble with my watch and my new helmet. I was out on the bike with a fire in my eyes. The course was entirely flat, but the wind more than made up for the lack of elevation change! Every lap of the two lap course had a headwind section, a crosswind section and a tailwind section before a 180 degree turn. My lack of outdoor riding really showed here, as I was constantly having to slow down to navigate the many turns on each lap. Racing guys on road bikes has its perks, as I was able to make up most of the ground I lost on the turns during the headwind sections. I spent the bike going back and forth with Colin Lavigne and Paul Kolb, and flipped into race mode on the second lap as I tried to stick with them. The time was a 2 minute 20k duathlon bike PB, but still some work to do here.

BIKE (19.9km): 34:03 (13th fastest)

Dismount

Heading into T2

After a much better second transition, I was back out on the run course in 8th position. I most definitely brought my run legs with me to Harrow, and my experience as a duathlete came through for me. Against a very elite field, I still put up a 5th fastest second run split, and posted my first ever negative split second run. Nothing really much changed in the race during this second run, as it was more a formality for the majority of the top 10. However, I came out of T2 hot on the heels of Lavigne, and dug deep to reel him in. About 1km into the run, I pulled up alongside, put on a burst of speed and tried to distance him. I couldn’t help but smile coming around the last bend, as I held onto 7th place in this competitive race. A new Sprint Duathlon PB of 1:01:05, a fantastic race and a great sign of things to come for my 2014 season (once I get this foot 100% again!)

RUN #2 (2.75km): 8:51 (5th fastest)

Finish Line

Pulling in for 7th overall

Shout out to Lionel Sanders, Austen and Taylor Forbes, Sean Bechtel, Garrick Loewen and new du-er on the scene Sjaan Gerth for the great races! Y’all are fast! Next up for me is a pair of MultiSport Canada races, in Woodstock and Welland. Then it’s off to Toronto for Nationals and St. Paul for US Nationals (with maybe a 5k track race thrown in). Thanks go out to my coach Tommy Ferris with Ignition Fitness for getting me in the shape to drop such a great result, and to Felt Bicycles for my fantastic new race bike and Clif Bar Canada for fueling me. I also want to thank John and Roger at MultiSport Canada for setting me up at the bulk of my races for the 2014 season. With the uncertainty in the Canadian duathlon calendar as a whole, it is awesome to know that I will be taken care of at my races. But of course, the biggest thanks goes out to my girlfriend, cheering section, and race photographer Emma, and her family for giving up their weekends to get me to my competitions. I cannot express my gratitude enough! You can find the results of the race here.

Until next time, enjoy a few more photos…and keep Du’ing it!

Cooldown

Out for a short cooldown jog

Happy

It’s finally race season!!!

Ice Cream

Post-race rewards

Spring Training Report – Harry’s Spring Run Off and Paris to Ancaster

As a baseball fan (and proud member of Bucs Nation…let’s go Bucs), spring is often my favourite time of year. Why? Because it’s Spring Training of course! Spring Training is a time for shaking off the rust, trying some new things, and for the players to get their heads back around the daily grind that is the MLB season. It is also the time to get that hands-on practice on an outdoor field of play, something that just cannot be simulated indoors. As a duathlete, my Spring Training is a little bit different. Duathlons don’t start until mid-May, so my “Spring Training” consists of road races, the occasional bike race, and lots of saddle time on the roads, the trainer and at the track. This year I have the added bonus of a early spring A Race at the Provincial Sprint Duathlon Championships in Harrow on May 10, and to prepare for it I raced the Harry’s Spring Run-Off 8k at High Park on April 5, and the legendary Paris to Ancaster 65km bike race on April 27.

P2A Start Wave

My start wave at Paris to Ancaster

After Chilly, Tommy and I flipped over to a bike focus. So my weekly Thursday threshold intervals on the roads turned into tough sustained race efforts on the trainer, and we added in a second long endurance ride during the week. Despite upping the ante on the bike, I still chose to open up my spring at one of my favourite races on the Ontario circuit, Harry’s Spring Run-Off. This race is the season opener of the Canada Running Series, and is held on the traffic free roads of High Park. It is one of my favourite all-time race courses, a course that loops through quiet scenic roads and includes long killer hills during the 4th and last kilometers of the race. The last hill up Spring Road is sure to bust your legs if they aren’t already at that point! I knew the bike focus might have an effect on my result, but Harry’s is always a great way to assess winter running fitness. Emma came along with me, and we made a weekend of it!

Emma and Jesse

Always there for me, even in the cold and wind 🙂

I raced this one from the red corral, where I positioned myself just off the back of a stacked elite field. This enabled me to follow the big dogs out onto the race course, leading to a speedy 3:04 first kilometer. A little hot, but that first kilometer is also slightly downhill (at least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself). After that I settled into a nice pace and just tried to work the hills hard. They aren’t easy, demonstrated by the fact that I likely gave back 40 seconds while climbing them. However, I ended up in 15th place overall in a time of 27:21, an excellent result given the bike focus and the windy and high of 5 conditions of the day. Having only done 2 real short course running workouts since November, this result does give me great confidence that my run fitness is on track for Iron Hawk.

HSRO Bib

27:21 for 15th Overall, 2nd in M20-24

After a down week and a 2 very excellent weekends of endurance-focused training, I entered the biggest training week of h my duathlon career, culminating with the 65km Paris to Ancaster gravel bike race on the Sunday. A great week of training left me a little tired on the line, but this race was about participation instead of competition. It was a chance to experience my first pure cycling race (in all its muddy glory), and to put myself in a race situation with absolutely no pressure to produce a result. If you have never heard of Paris to Ancaster, do yourself a favour and Google this legendary race. 65km of mud, forests, farm lanes, gravel, dirt roads and more mud…one sector of the race is so infamously muddy that it is dubbed the “Mudslide of Death”. Needless to say, it was one that I needed to cross off my bucket list once I got myself a cyclocross bike.

P2A Start Line

The Start Line in Paris

The day didn’t start off great, as I missed my bus to Ancaster and thus had to ride my cross bike 15km up the mountain to Ancaster at 7am…an inauspicious start. But with more than 3 hours until my wave start it didn’t hurt me all that much, and the extra volume didn’t matter much during what was not supposed to be more than a glorified long ride. I also could have done a better job seeding myself, as I like could have shaved 15-20 minutes off my time by starting at the back of Wave 2 instead of the back of Wave 3. That decision led to a lot of soft-pedaling and weaving around slower traffic until it opened up a bit. But once it opened up, I settled in to a pattern of picking up ground and dragging a paceline up to the next group on the tame stuff, then losing it all back in the mud. During the rail trail sections I found myself more than happy to hop on the front and drag an indecisive group along (it’s not like I have a time trial style race in a couple weeks or anything), which was great for the confidence. I ended up walking a lot of the muddy stuff though, as I just don’t have the bike handling skills to pedal through 3 inches of mud. At the finish, I still had the legs to pass 30 people and ride the whole Martin Rd hill, and crossed the line pleased with a good hard day of training!

 

Martin Rd

Climbing the Martin Road Hill!

#1023

A muddy 65km in 2:45:45

As always, big thanks to Emma to trooping it out to Toronto for Harry’s and again to Ancaster to see me finish (and take some awesome pictures!) the Paris to Ancaster race. She’s the best! All in all, April was a month of great training and great experiences as I prepare for the Provincial Sprint Duathlon Championships at the Iron Hawk Duathlon in Harrow. It will be my first test of my duathlon fitness, where I will be looking for a top 10 finish against a stacked field and hopefully a personal best sub-60 minute time to start my multisport season off on the right track! Thanks to Ignition Fitness for the continued support, and to Clif Nutrition, Felt Bicycles and Wheels of Bloor for making sure I have all the right tools for success from my April races into Iron Hawk.

Until next time, keep Du’ing it!