canadian duathlon championships

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

“No Excuses” – National Duathlon Championships Report

No excuses. That’s my mantra coming out of the Canadian Duathlon Championships in Toronto Sunday morning. Lots went wrong, but there is nothing and no one to blame for my performance except myself. Racing is about taking what the day hands you when you wake up and turning it on its head into something positive. Sunday, David Frake and Larry Bradley were on another level and were just too much for me. Still, I pulled in to the finish as the bronze medalist at the Canadian Championships, a result that I am exceptionally proud of despite the hand I was dealt today. Full results can be found here.

TTF Bronze Medallist

3rd place in Canada, and M25-29 National Champion

The days and hours leading up to the race were a whirlwind. The logisitics of the Toronto Triathlon Festival are difficult at the best of times, and downright complex for someone who relies on public transportation to get from point A to B through C. I went to the mandatory briefing on Friday to get the ins and outs of the course. Emma and I had originally planned to stay with her friend at Yonge and Finch on Friday and Saturday nights, with me going to a Saturday briefing after watching the Toronto Pan Am Cup in the morning. However, the financial impact of that was too significant and I went looking for other options. It was here that I need to send out a HUGE thank you to Larry Bradley. Thanks to Larry’s generosity, Emma and I stayed at the Fairmont Royal York on Saturday night in relative luxury.

However, the morning was a bit of a whirlwind. The nerves kept me awake until around 11, and we were up at 4am for breakfast and check out. I tried to get through my normal breakfast, but I had a bit of a nervous stomach which didn’t help. I brought more than enough fuel for the race, so I figured I would just get it in during the lead-up to the race. Upon arrival, I did a little spin on the bike down the trail before getting body marked and setting up in transition. Then I headed out for a little run warm-up with some strides. The forecast called for rain and wind all day, and sure enough the skies opened up during my warm-up. To my displeasure, it started to rain pretty hard…but everyone races in the same conditions, and champions make the best of the hand they are dealt! I finished up, reset my transition and checked my bag, then headed out along the trail for the 1km walk to the start, where I found out (during the downpour) that the start would be delayed an additional 15 minutes to better align with the Olympic triathlon!

Transition

TTF transition zone as the sun comes up (Photo Credit Emma Parker, 2014)

RUN #1 (10KM) – 35:22 (3:31/km, 1st overall)

Finally, we got started. I knew there were a couple other quick runners in the field that I hoped I could pace off of. I also did not believe David Frake one bit when he said he was in poor running condition, so I downgraded my chances just a little bit. However, the race did not play out as I had expected. One fleet-footed runner came with me, but the other did not. We held ~3:25/km to the turnaround, but that proved to be a bit too much for my running mate, Mike Park. After the turn, he dropped off my pace and I was left alone for the remaining 4km. I watched my pace slowly drop from 3:25’s to over 3:30’s along Lakeshore Drive, and my stomach started growling. I tried with no luck to get a gel down, and decided to wait for the bike…

BIKE (38.8KM) – 1:04:14 (210NP/199AP, 5th overall)

After an awful transition brought on by some poor pre-race preparation, I was out on the bike weaving through triathletes. Now, at this point I question the race organization for starting us when they did. During an international distance duathlon, the top runners usually run ~35-40 minutes, while Olympic triathletes swim ~20-25 minutes. However, both of us are high caliber athletes who can ride at a similar rate. Why are races not set up so that we reach the bikes at the same time, instead of 15 minutes later?! Here I was, pushing 45kph (on a pleasant 210W), and weaving around triathletes going 35kph. How does that make sense? That went on for much of the bike, and I just had to grit my teeth and deal with it. The way out on the Gardiner and then onto the DVP was solid, as I averaged ~38.5kph up the hill in <220W (which was about my target for the race).Frake passed me at 5km, with Larry following close behind. With all the weaving and the poor road conditions, I had a hard time getting enough nutrition in. I am going to experiment with liquid nutrition prior to Lakeside to combat this issue I have been having all year.

The last 20km of the bike were a disaster. I struggled with the wind to maintain my wattage from 20-30km down the hill, though I was able to hold my speed to the Gardiner while passing huge hordes of triathletes. I recorded a personal best time of ~46:15 through 30k…but then I cracked. The headwind kicked up, and my lack of calories came back on me with a vengeance. I struggled the next 5km, and actually sat up to keep the dizziness at bay for most of the last 5km. I seriously debated racking my bike and walking off the course, despite sitting in 3rd place off the bike. I have only 6 days to recover before US Nationals and I was concerned about digging myself into too big of a hole to complete my double. However, I felt I needed to at least try to hold my podium for everyone who has supported me on my journey. So off I went! After the race, I discovered that I was only 35 seconds down on Larry at the turnaround…yet I would start the run nearly 5 minutes behind him. Ouch.

RUN #2 (5KM) – 19:41 (3:56/km, 7th overall)

By this point, winning was out of the question (Frake ran 36:10 and then out-split me by nearly 10 minutes on the bike), and 2nd was incredibly unlikely (chapeau to Larry, he backed up a phenomenal bike with some very solid runs), but I could consolidate a podium spot with an okay run, a result that is definitely something to be proud of. I left my Garmin in T2 in my daze, so I ran blind. Good thing too…I really did not want to know how slow I was running. I ended up running the 7th fastest second split of all duathletes, which is very abnormal for me. I was outsplit on the second run by more people than I have been outsplit by in all of my domestic races…combined. Yet, I still managed to finish third in a very respectable 2:01:45 time. Not nearly what I wanted, but still admirable!

Coach T and I

Talking it over with Coach T after the race. (Photo Credit Emma Parker, 2014)

FINAL RESULT – 2:01:45 (3rd overall, M25-29 National Champion)

Despite the race not being what I wanted, I am incredibly proud of my final result. 3rd in Canada at my first Nationals is something to be proud of, and the splits leave me hungry to get back after it in St. Paul. On a good day with some good help, I may have been 1 minute faster on the first run, and with some better preparation and nutrition, I may have been another minute faster on the bike and 2 minutes faster on the second run. That would have put me at 1:57-1:58, and within striking distance of Larry. Lots of work to do, but I’m ready for it. Thank you so much to Larry Bradley and my girlfriend Emma for making this weekend possible, and to my coach Tommy Ferris and awesome sponsors Ignition Fitness, Felt Bicycles, Clif Bar Canada, Wheels of Bloor, Nimblewear Inc., Big Race Wheels, My Sports Shooter and Multisport Canada for all the great support! Bring on the best the US has to offer!

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

TTf Podium

Canadian Duathlon Championships Overall Podium (L to R Larry Bradley, Dave Frake, and me; Photo Credit Emma Parker, 2014)

Thanks sponsors!

Thank you to all my sponsors!