multisport

A Big Day Out – 2018 ITU World Duathlon Championship Report

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

WTS Edmonton 2016

Canadian Sprint Duathlon Championships 2016

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

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

Odense

Denmark is wicked beautiful

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

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

Pre-race (Photo: Lise Christiane Myltoft)

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

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

Odense T1 Exit

Photo and Edit: Spencer Summerfield

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

Odense Bike Course 1

Head down (Photo: Spencer Summerfield)

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

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

Odense Bike Course 2

Working hard (Photo: Spencer Summerfield)

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

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

Odense Run Course

Last bit (Photo: Carolynne Simons)

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

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

With Bjarne

Bjarne…what a legend!

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

Beauty

What a beauty. (Photo: Matt Smith)

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Qualifiers, Provincials, and Some Single Sport Fun

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

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

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

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

GWN Run Start

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

GWN T2

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

GWN Run 2

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

Red Deer T2

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

Red Deer Finish

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

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

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

Great White North & Gravenhurst Weekend Recap

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

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

Melissa Paauwe

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

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

Evan Bayer

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

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

Sean Delanghe

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

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

Jasmin Aggarwal

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

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

Karen Ugarte Bravo

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

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

Matt Straatman

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

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

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

Triathlon Ontario “Du the Double” Provincial Championship Challenge 2016

Well, the first big month of the Canadian duathlon season has come and gone, and I can say objectively that it has been a good one. The Coupe du Quebec is absolutely smoking this year, and intriguing new contenders and huge races have popped up from the world of bike racing in B.C. and Alberta. Here’s a quick run-down of some of the races this past month (a longer update to come after this weekend):

2016 Belwood Podium

MSC Belwood Overall Podium (Photo Credit ZoomPhoto.ca)

I would say that Ontario better look out after some of these results, but many in the Great Lakes province have had their eyes firmly fixed all year on the Multisport Canada Gravenhurst race weekend. It is the Triathlon Ontario championships for both sprint and standard distances, and also hosts TO’s popular Du-the-Double Challenge. While only being a provincial championship, the duathlon community has embraced it as an annual event to look forward to, and it is typically one of the best-attended events in the country. As this moment there are 71 athletes registered in the standard and 65 in the sprint, with several more still deciding on their race distance and will likely register in the coming days. So what are my thoughts? (I will stick with just the standard for now).

STANDARD DISTANCE – WOMEN
Historically one of the toughest standard distance races in the country, the first 10k run course in Gravenhurst chews people up and spits them out. In the words of Darren Cooney last year, “I kept thinking is this the big hill everyone talks about? Is this one? Or is it this one?”. By the time you hit the bike in the rolling Muskoka hills, your legs are often thrashed. With this race representing the only qualifier for Worlds in Penticton in Ontario, for the standard distance at least, those two spots per AG are sure to be hotly contested. Jasmin Aggarwal is back to grab the title that eluded her last year where she finished 2nd in the standard distance race in Bracebridge (and won the sprint) on her way to the Du the Double prize. She is hot off excellent performances at the ITU World Duathlon Championships in Aviles, Spain (3rd in F20-24) and at the Toronto Triathlon Festival (in the triathlon). Competition for Jasmin will come from Julie Reiter, Worlds team member Tara McAninch McLaren and Renee Hartford, while some intriguing wild cards may make the racing even more interesting on Saturday. Jessica Kuepfer has some VERY strong run times to her name but is bouncing back from IM Muskoka 70.3 last weekend, and Carol Bedley has a relatively recent sub-3:00 marathon to her name. And might we have a Tammy Purdy (defending champion) sighting? If so, that will turn the race on its head. My money is still on Jasmin Aggarwal to take over the top of the podium this year. Of course this is the women’s race, so 4 completely off the radar athletes will show up and completely upset the dynamic.

2015 Bracebridge Podium

The podium from Bracebridge in 2015, featuring several 2016 contenders!

STANDARD DISTANCE – MEN
This seems to be the race that everyone is keyed up for, and for good reason. Ever since I raced in Ontario, the provincial championships have been a major focus for the men’s duathlon field. Last year, youngster Brian Moore doubled back from the sprint to win the standard distance as well, taking home the Du the Double prize. He will attempt the double again, as will last year’s runner-up Matt Straatman. The race will likely be missing last year’s bronze medallist Larry Bradley, who may opt for only the sprint, but may very well gain the talent that knocked Larry off the top of the podium in Welland (Sean Delanghe). Also of note is Charles Bedley entered in the Double; Charles is a hell of a runner (30:43 10k/2:16 marathon in his past) who has been cropping up on the Ontario duathlon scene regularly the past several years, so this is in no way new to him. When Charles is on the start line, he usually shows up ready to win. On a course with as tough a run as Gravenhurst I predict that really strong runners to have an edge on this day, and I would say these four are the most accomplished runners in the field. That’s not to say that Gravenhurst regular (and National 6th-placer) Andrew McLeod, long course specialist Daryl Flacks, and Garvin Moses (who is en feugo right now) won’t have something to say about that. Unfortunately, Jeremy Carter has been forced to pull out of the race due to injury. Other athletes to keep an eye on include Steve Beasley (who WON M60-64 at Worlds this year), Spencer Summerfield (accomplished MSC duathlete making his standard distance debut at this race), Mark Cullen (Boston Qualifier venturing into multisport this year), Mike Park and Kevin Gallagher (teammates who always present a fun battle to watch). Special shoutout to Bob Wild representing M75+ in yet another provincial championship! Now the hard part: (1) Brian Moore (2) Matt Straatman (3) Sean Delanghe (if he shows, Bedley if not). It’s hard to bet against Moore after last year, even if he hasn’t raced much at all as far as I can tell.

Brian Moore

Brian Moore at Bracebridge in 2015

Matt Straatman

Matt Straatman at Bracebridge in 2015

I am going to leave it at this for now, because I’m sure many of you are ready to stop reading. If I can find a bit of time this weekend, I will try to put together a sprint race preview. At the very least, I will edit this one to include a Du the Double preview. Time is at a bit of a premium right now, and I race twice again this weekend…

BLOG UPDATE
If you are waiting for the race reports from Great White North (where I got my butt kicked by Evan Bayer and finished 2nd in a subpar time) and Alberta Provincials at the Comfortec Red Deer Duathlon (where I did everything good I can think of an won another provincial title), you’ll have to wait. This is by design! My big races this year happen in a span of 18 days from August 24 to September 10. This is a pretty WTS-style stretch of racing that I have never really put my body through, so I took the opportunity to simulate it in July when several races that I had my eye on happened to fall in a 14 day stretch. I raced GWN on July 3, Red Deer on July 9, and will race what is essentially a two-day duathlon on July 16/17 when I do the Alberta Road 5k Championships on Saturday and a 25km ITT on Sunday, and I want to evaluate them as a group rather than in isolation. So stay tuned :).

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

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…

The Final Piece Of The World Duathlon Puzzle, And Why It’s Important To Duathletes

After a wave of announcements that rolled out from the International Triathlon Union last week, the final piece of the puzzle for duathletes has finally fallen into place: the location of the 2016 World Duathlon Championships. Strangely, the location of the 2017 event actually came out first, during the first wave of announcements. As part of a new ITU initiative, a World Multisport Festival that combines duathlon, aquathlon, cross triathlon and long distance triathlon, the 2017 event will be a part of a week long festival in Penticton, BC. I don’t think I need to say that this is GREAT NEWS FOR CANADIAN MULTISPORT ATHLETES, including duathletes. Having just spent several days in Penticton and doing a race there, I can say that it is a fantastic location for an event like this. And I am sure the thousands of athletes who have participated in the old Ironman Canada and its successor Challenge Penticton will echo my sentiments.

Now, strangely absent from this impressive list of announcements of last week was the location of the 2016 World Championship event. We had a location for the 2017 and 2018 World Multisport Festivals, the 2018 Grand Final, the 2016 World Cross Triathlon Championships, and a new addition to the World Triathlon Series (Leeds). But no 2016 World Duathlon Championships. I could fill a separate blog post with speculation on why exactly this was, but that’s beside the point today. The point is that we now have a location for the 2016 event: Aviles, Spain.

Aviles is an…interesting choice. It’s a town in the north a Spain, a short 25 minute jaunt from Gijon (who hosted the 2011 event). It is also a 3 hour drive from Pontevedra (who hosted the 2014 Worlds) and a 4 hour drive from Segovia (who won the bid for the 2013 event before retracting their bid, forcing Ottawa to step in in the final hours). That’s right…4 times in the past 6 years, a city or town in Spain has won the bid for the World Duathlon Championships. If it wasn’t for Ottawa stepping in for 2013, it would have been pretty slim pickings for North Americans since Corner Brook, with 2012 being in France and 2015 in Australia. A release by USA Triathlon (of which a screenshot is pasted below), the finalist for the 2016 was Oklahoma City…which makes this news sting a little bit more for North American duathletes.

USAT

This throws a little bit of a wrinkle into the decision making process of North American duathletes. Thankfully, in Canada we are not so hard off as our friends to the south, many of whom have likely paid for flights and accommodations in St. Paul in anticipation of perhaps qualifying for Worlds in Oklahoma City in 2016, only to find out that they will be heading back to Spain. Luckily, up here we have until August and September to make our decisions. Spain is a trek and many who make the trip annually have been there before, so some may opt just to put all of their eggs into qualifying in 2016 in order to race in 2017 (myself included, I’ll admit it).

Another thing throwing a wrench into this is the fact that the 2016 sprint event will be DRAFT LEGAL, without a non-draft race for those sprint athletes who don’t own or want to own a road bike, or who prefer to test themselves against the clock (which would not have been the case in OKC). So draft legal is here, and yes there will be bugs. Triathlon Canada is sending athletes to the draft legal event in Aviles without a draft legal qualifier, and is putting the onus on the athletes to ensure they are prepared for the race. Who knows how many other federations are doing the same thing? (Good on the USAT for hosting a separate, draft legal qualifier for their athletes, y’all take good care of your athletes.) Some athletes may very well choose to use that as another reason to skip the race in 2016. Let the kinks get worked out in Spain and then race it hard in Penticton. All of this is completely valid. I’m with you. My next Worlds appearance won’t be until at least 2017, for all of the reasons I expanded on above. But here’s the thing:

Regardless of where Worlds is in 2016, the 2015 qualifiers still need our support.

Racing for a championship is an incredible experience, and an honour to participate in (at least for me), but let’s say you decide to take the year to build into it, and not race the qualifiers. You decide to try to qualify next year (2016) for the race in Penticton. You’re making an assumption there: that there will be qualifiers for you to race. If those events get the same kind of support that they did last year, then the work needed to secure them could all be for naught, and our supporters may not be so inclined to fight for these events going forward. Because three groups have worked incredibly hard to ensure that duathletes have a full slate of races in 2015:

ESPRIT TRIATHLON ORGANIZING COMMITTEE

This group has always supported duathlon in Canada. Always. It seems like every time someone is needed to step up and host Nationals, Esprit is there to do it. The numbers are always great, and it is in an excellent location to draw the best of the best that duathlon in Canada has to offer. Despite the course being a tad slow, the horses always show up and the times are always fast. They’ve never really had issues with numbers, and there is no reason to think they should this year. But in a time when groups that support duathletes are so few and far between, and where races are disappearing like crazy, don’t those that do deserve our support? I think so. I’ll be there in September, and though I can understand that Montreal is a tough ask for many of you with families and careers, I hope you will find a way to join me in “la belle province”.

TRIATHLON ONTARIO

Remember back a month ago? When you were waiting for an announcement on where the Ontario Championships would be? It was a bit frustrating, but lo and behold Triathlon Ontario came through. In a BIG way. From what I have gathered, most provinces and races were just not interested in paying what Triathlon Canada were asking for World Championship spots (espcially for duathlon), and were content to go forward with provincial championships without qualifying spots. So be it. Triathlon Ontario could have done the same…but they didn’t. They kept forcing the issue with Triathlon Canada, and wouldn’t make any announcements until they had their spots, or at least until they were sure that there was no way they could be offered. And guess what? They came through. Bracebridge will have not one but TWO qualifying spots for Worlds in Aviles. That’s a hard work and dedication to athletes that needs to be repaid with the kind of turnout at provincials that will make our governing body proud.

The start of the 2014 Ontario Duathlon Championships at the Lakeside Resort.

The start of the 2014 Ontario Duathlon Championships at the Lakeside Resort.

MULTISPORT CANADA

And last but certainly not least is a group that has NEVER stopped supporting duathletes. Ever. Last year the National Duathlon Championships at the Toronto Triathlon Festival drew 97 athletes. So they packed up their toys and went home, and are not even hosting a duathlon this year. The Ontario Duathlon Championships at Lakeside, hosted by MultiSport Canada, drew just over 40 people. So this year they bid with a race a little bit earlier in the season for athletes, and will be hosting both the sprint and standard race. If that’s not enough support, they also worked with Triathlon Ontario to come up with the “Du the Double” challenge, offering a cash prize to the best of those brace enough to race the sprint on Saturday and the standard distance on Sunday. So if chasing a provincial championships isn’t a draw for you to head to Bracebridge and race, I hope that the incredible support that MultiSport Canada continues to offer to duathletes will be. If airfare didn’t cost as much as I make in a month, I would be there in a heartbeat!

SO…WILL YOU BE THERE?

There you have it: three groups who have proven time and time again that they go to great lengths to ensure that duathlon is well supported and able to survive. Without them…we may very well not have much of a sport. It definitely wouldn’t be as lively as it is now. Yes, Aviles is a long way to go…but Penticton is going to be a hot ticket for Canadians. Maybe not as hot for Ontario athletes as Ottawa was, but I’m sure it will be close. Penticton really is a beautiful place for a race. And it would sure be a shame if a poor turnout this year is the last straw for these groups who support us so well. Nothing is guaranteed in this world. So please, support those groups that support us and do your best to attend these events so that we can keep going to them for years to come. I’ll be racing the Alberta Championships in July and then flying to Montreal for Nationals in September, and I hope you will too!

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

Being a provincial or national champion is pretty neat too. Don't miss your chance!

Being a provincial or national champion is pretty neat too. Don’t miss your chance!

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.