multisport

A Border City Battle – Tecumseh Duathlon Preview

I spend a lot of time with my finger on the pulse of duathlon in Ontario. My role writing race previews and recaps for Ontario Duathlon Central has me trolling results every weekend, and digging through registration lists during the week. One of my favourite races on the Ontario calendar is the Windsor (now Tecumseh) Duathlon in Tecumseh, Ontario. It was my first duathlon in 2009, and I returned two years ago where I was first off the bike on my way to the overall win and a course record on the current race course (1:23:43). Unfortunately, I will not be able to make it again this year (not for lack of trying), but with several excellent athletes planning on attending, there could be quite the battle taking aim at my mark. Here is what each of those contenders may need to do to win (in no particular order).

Author’s Note – The following preview is all in good fun, and will likely be entirely wrong (as I have often been in the past). Much like I did for Welland, I highlight the contenders in the men’s race and how each MIGHT win the race. This is an unofficial preview, and the opinions reflected on the potential outcome of the race, as well as the traits of each athlete, are my own. Take it with a grain of salt as I am not, and do not pretend to be, an authority of any kind other than what I can glean and guess from looking at results and chatting with athletes. So without further ado…enjoy!

SCOTT FINCH (2014 results: 1st at Niagara – 1:21:08)

SCOTT FINCH

Photo Credit – Chyla’s Race Photos, 2013

Strength – Experience. Scott knows how to win duathlons, and has been doing it for years. There are no real holes in his game, as he has done it with the run, on the bike, and with his head. He takes care of the low-hanging fruit and doesn’t leave things to chance. A true winner is a rare commodity, and Scott is just that. And this race will require its winner to be 100% on, gun to tape.

Wild Card – Race fitness. Scott is smart, and he proved his fitness two weekends ago in winning Niagara. However, he has very few races under his belt in the last 12 months, and this will be his deepest test in Lakeside last year. There is really no substitute for racing, and when the chips are down just knowing if and how you will respond to the race can be valuable.

How Scott wins on Sunday – Use his matches wisely. Scott has always had the bike split necessary to lead off the bike, and the running legs to hang on for the win. Race savvy can go a long way, and knowing when to burn matches and when to save them is crucial. A smart racer knows the bullets they have, and uses them judiciously.

DARYL FLACKS (2014 results: 16th at Iron Hawk – 1:03:59, 1st at Leamington – 1:02:03, 3rd at Guelph Lake I – 1:55:39, 2nd at Sprint Nationals (Belle River) – 1:02:31, 6th at Nationals (TTF) – 2:04:23)

DARYL FLACKS

Photo Credit – Chyla’s Race Photos, 2014

Strength – Take your pick. Strong bike, mentally tough, plenty of race experience. Daryl comes in to Tecumseh with more du’s this season than anyone else in this preview combined. His bike is always in the top tier of racers, and he shows up to every race willing to win or die trying. These guys are always a factor, especially with a weapon like Daryl’s bike. Don’t ever count him out.

Wild Card – The run. If there is anything, it is that Daryl’s short course run lacks the bite that it sometimes takes on the last run to seal it. Daryl gets better as the distance goes up and has excellent chops at 10k or longer. But with only 9km of running and a strong short course runner in the field, a winning move on the bike will have to be decisive and final.

How Daryl wins on Sunday – Crush the bike and hang on. Apart from Scott in top form, no one in the field can out-ride Daryl. He nearly executed this strategy to perfection in Belle River, coming up just short (27 seconds) to a very talented CIS varsity runner and elite U23 triathlete, Chris Moyer. Redemption is sweet, and no one there on Sunday has a run quite like Moyer.

RYAN ALLISON (2014 results: 12th at Iron Hawk – 1:02:24)

RYAN ALLISON

Strength – The run. Likely the strongest runner in the field, Ryan has put together an impressive list of running results this season. So far this year, he has recorded a 16:26 5k and a 34:09 10k, results that no more than a handful of Ontario duathletes can match. This race may come down to getting as far away from Ryan as possible on the bike before the second 6km run.

Wild Card – Bike fitness. Apart from Iron Hawk, Ryan has not raced any duathlons this year, focusing instead on running. He has been very open about the lack of time he has spent on a bike. Of course…he said that before Iron Hawk too, then proceeded to outsplit me. The bike is a wild card, and may make it difficult to put a dent into whatever lead he may have off the first run.

How Ryan wins on Sunday – Bike for show, run for dough. This race can be won on the run. With a 3km run to start and a flat bike to come, there is enough time to gap the field early and get lost among the triathletes on the course while keeping the foot on the gas. Being first off the bike may just seal it, but watch out Ryan…the horses will be coming for you to ensure that doesn’t happen.

SHAYNE DUMOUCHELLE (2014 results: 5th at Sprint Nationals (Belle River) – 1:03:52, 2nd at Niagara – 1:22:35)

SHAYNE DUMOUCHELLE

Strength – Tenacity. One chat with this guy and I already know that he just wants to win races. He says he doesn’t plan on being crowded on the bike course, which I could only assume means he has nothing short of victory on his mind. His first two du’s have been a top 5 finish at Sprint Nationals and a narrow 2nd place at Niagara. Improvement curves usually goes up quickly.

Wild Card – Experience. Shayne has the least duathlon experience of anyone listed here…which could very well mean absolutely nothing. Multisport racing has some technical element, and seconds can be had in areas that aren’t governed by mental and physical toughness. This race could very well come down to those seconds…or not.

How Shayne wins on Sunday – Be the last man standing. Shayne is back for a rematch with Scott, and gets some duathlon veterans coming along for the ride. I could tell he was smarting from the tight 2nd place in Niagara, and I gather he badly wants the W in Tecumseh. The skills are there to push the other three right to the line, as is the hunger. Watch your backs boys.

This race could play out any number of ways, and will be exceptionally fun to follow. If I had to guess, I would say Ryan leads the field into T1, with about a minute gap on the group containing the other three. From there, it depends on how he rides. If he rides like he has in the past, Ryan will be tough to beat. By his own admission though, that’s not likely. More likely, he rides around how he did at Iron Hawk, and likely gets caught somewhere on the second bike lap. Me, I’m hoping for Scott, Daryl and Shayne to come into T2 together with a minute or two on Ryan, creating a wild 3-way footrace for the line with a pair of fleet feet chasing hard from behind. THAT would make for some good TV.

Until next time, keep Du’ing it!

“Redemption” – USAT Duathlon Championships Report

Note from Jesse: This report will be a bit longer than these reports normally are. This trip had such a large impact on me, and not just from an athletic standpoint, that I’d like to dig a little bit deeper on this one. The duathlon community in Minnesota is absolutely incredible, and the event was exceptionally run by the organizing committee. I will touch a little bit on each of these, and am planning on expanding this into full articles over on Duathlon Central in the coming months. Enjoy!

“Redemption” is how I would describe my experience at the USAT Duathlon Championships in St. Paul, MN this weekend. After a rough race full of trials and tribulations in Toronto at the Triathlon Canada Championships (while still bringing home a bronze medal), I had the race I knew I was capable of in St. Paul. It validated all my concerns about just not having the requisite training for the international distance (which was the plan all along), as well as my nutrition struggles. Indeed, in briefly chatting with Tommy we agreed that my training had been much more focused on doing well at US Nats, with a good performance in Toronto being more reliant on brute strength and luck. I now feel much more confident that I will be ready for the international distance for Lakeside in September.

Coach T and I

Talking things over with Coach T after TTF. I love this picture! (Photo Credit – Emma Parker, 2014)

BEFORE I GO ANY FURTHER, I need to thank a few people. First, I need to thank my parents, who funded everything  but my entry fee and wheel rental for this race. My dad also surprised me by making the trip to St. Paul for the race, joining with Emma to be the best support crew I could ask for. Mom, I wish you could have made the trip as well…we missed you and I raced extra hard just for you! Second, a huge thank you to Emma. Emma, you put up with me taking us in circles en route to our final destination, and likely winging one too many things during the weekend…for that I am super appreciative. She also funded my wheel rental (a Hed Jet 6/Powertap Disc combo courtesy of Big Race Wheels). I have been having trouble with my disc cover rubbing, and it would have been a shame for my day in Minnesota to end due to a mechanical. THANK YOU!!

Support Team

I had some great support out on the course! Emma made her first airplane trip just to be there for me, and my dad flew in all the way from Edmonton. Thank you! Just wish Mom could have made it too…(Photo Credit – Emma Parker, 2014)

Since this report is a tad long, feel free to use these quick links to jump straight to certain parts:

TUESDAY/WEDNESDAY – THE ADVENTURE BEGINS

Our adventure started on Tuesday, when I took the train out to Long Branch to meet Cam and pick up my wheels. The rest of the day was a bit of a whirlwind, as even with my front brake opened all the way, I could not fit the wider front wheel into the fork. Luckily, I had an extra Ultegra brake lying around that I threw on. The reputation that brake has for consistent stopping power proved very true, something that would pay dividends on the course I was due to face. After a few trips back and forth to Nate at Noble Cycles (King and Locke in Hamilton), I had the bike dialed in and ready to pack up…which was quite the adventure. This would be my first duathlon outside of Ontario, and my first that I would have to fly to. I must have packed and re-packed my bike 3 or 4 times, trying to get it just right so that I could fly in peace without worrying about dealing with a broken bike upon arrival! Thanks to Cody Beals for all the help (and for convincing me to bring my aero helmet along, despite the inconvenience).

US Nats Bike Set-Up

Thanks to Big Race Wheels, Felt Bicycles, Wheels of Bloor and Noble Cycles for setting me up with this beauty for the race.

THURSDAY/FRIDAY – PRE-RACE IN ST. PAUL

After a flurry of packing, cleaning, and one last workout on Wednesday, we set off for Pearson on Thursday morning for what turned out to be an uneventful trip (my bike made it in one piece!). Thursday night we rented bikes and rode around Harriet Island (where the race would take place on Sunday), and checked out the set-up. The transition zone and the finish line were all set up…and they looked absolutely incredible. Transition was decked out with every state flag and duathlon specific scrims and signage, and the finish came complete with 100m of red carpet. Every turn in the course was marked with gates and fences for 50 feet on either side, and it was wide open and easy for spectators to be a multiple points on the course…you could really feel that they had pulled out all the stops to give the race a championship atmosphere.

USAT Transition

You could feel the championship atmosphere!

I rode and ran the course the next morning (course maps here). The run course was stunning…a two lap course along the Mississippi River, on flat and smooth surfaces that were begging for speed. The bike course, though picturesque, was the only complaint many competitors had about the weekend. I’m not complaining though, since technical courses are to my advantage by narrowing the spread between the top guys and myself. Each of the three ~10km laps starts on awful pavement up a 500m hill across the Mississippi. The hill deposited you at the top of a harrowing downhill on equally bad pavement, through a dark tunnel with a sharp 90 degree right at the end. The next 7-8km couldn’t have been any more different…flat, fast and smooth out and back along the river, an awesome place to make up the time lost at the beginning of the lap. However, each lap ended with another sharp uphill and harrowing downhill, on the same poorly maintained roads. This would have a marked effect on my cycling strategy and bike split.

Rough Pavement

Rough Pavement!! (Photo Credit – Emma Parker, 2014)

After checking out the course, I headed to packet pickup. Normally, this wouldn’t be much to speak about, yet I feel the need to do so here. In Toronto, nothing in the race kit made any mention about the race being the Canadian Championships, and to commemorate the event we got…a white Gildan t-shirt. By contrast, in St. Paul I received a custom USAT Duathlon Championships running hat and quarter zip jacket, socks, and a TYR drawstring bag. And instead of body-marking, everyone got USAT tattoos with your race number. Quite the contrast, and a stunning example of the role duathlon plays in the US multisport community.

USAT Race Kit

Awesome swag in the race packet, courtesy of USA Triathlon. First rate event.

SATURDAY – RACE MORNING DAWNS

Race morning dawned unspectacularly. The time change played in my favour, because the early 7:45am start felt like 8:45am. Staying in a hotel across the river from the race site also was an excellent call, as there was no commute to the race necessary. I got my timing chip, set up my transition, and talked to Alex Arman for a bit. Alex is an Illinois triathlete/duathlete who I have been following the last year or so, and talked to him a bit leading up to the race. He also was the 8th overall finisher at Age Group Worlds in Ottawa last year. We did a little warm-up on the run course, and I checked my nutrition bottle before getting race ready. I have been having trouble with my nutrition in previous races, as taking in gels while redlining in shorter races just did not work. I didn’t pay for it in shorter races, but definitely did in Toronto. For St. Paul, I decided to mix a Razz(berry) Clif Shot in with my electrolyte drink, and get it all in liquid form. This plan worked perfectly! I would end up finishing the bottle and the race without the cramps and other nutrition issues that have plagued me in the past.

US Nats Transition

Setting up transition in the morning. Focused! (Photo Credit – Emma Parker, 2014)

RUN #1 (4.6KM) – 14:37 (3:12/km, 7th overall & 1st M25-29)

I positioned myself in the 2nd or 3rd row back at the start line. I didn’t really knew what I was up against, and didn’t want to get drawn into the gun-slinging that I have seen too many American races devolve into. Luckily, St. Paul pro Dan Hedgecock (who would go on to the overall win) positioned himself right in front of me…I just followed the wedge out at a controlled pace. That course was FAST. I slowly picked my way through the field, moving through the quick starters as they inevitably faded. I ended the first lap in around 9th feeling great, and picked my way through the field over the second lap until only 3 other athletes were ahead of me. And I was making 3:12’s look easy as a cruised my way into transition…worlds different than the struggle that was my first 10k at TTF. Transition was ugly, but I had a tough spot right at the Run In/Out, and had to run quite a long way with my bike.

US Nats First Run

Heading out on the first run. In tough against some good competition! (Photo Credit – Emma Parker, 2014)

BIKE (31.2KM) – 50:48 (36.9km/h, 29th overall & 3rd M25-29)

The bike was…interesting. In fact, the way I was forced to pace it, the race felt more like an ITU race than a TT. As I mentioned in the course description above, there was never more than 7 or 8 consecutive kilometers to establish a rhythm before having to punch it uphill to be first to a tight corner, or to hang on for dear life down a suicide hill. As well, the course was quite crowded with large packs forming following at a legal (usually) distance, an unavoidable side effect of putting 350 athletes on a 3 lap bike course even with well-spaced wave starts. A unique course like this required a different strategy than I was used to on calm, quiet Ontario roads. I decided to just tuck in on the rough downhills, and recover a couple times each lap  before trying to make up time on Shepard Rd while cruising past the packs. I also seemed to always be stuck behind a big group going uphill, and had to punch it in order to be the first to the turn to avoid having to come to a stop going around it. It made for an incredibly uneven ride, where I was going back and forth with 2 athletes from my wave while weaving around older athletes. I was shooting for an NP of 230-235, which I hit right at the high end (235W). However, that came with an AP of 213W and an awful VI of 1.10. Luckily, I spun up the last hill and coasted the last long downhill right before transition, which helped to get the crap out of my legs heading into the final, decisive run.

US Nats Bike Cornering

Heading in for another lap on the bike. (Photo Credit – Emma Parker, 2014)

RUN #2 (4.4KM) – 14:37 (3:20/km, 3rd overall and 1st M25-29)

The last run was a tad shorter than the first, due to the difference in position between the start and finish lines. My transition was again sloppy, as I had to navigate much more tired athletes who were entering transition ahead of me. Out on the run, I knew I had lucked out despite my uneven bike pacing. I started absolutely FLYING out of transition, running the first kilometer in under 3:10 straight off the bike. The legs came right back. I did not pass anyone, but I made up huge chunks of ground on the guys ahead of me. Around the first turnaround, I caught a glimpse of Alex, who had passed me early on in the bike. He couldn’t have been more than 20 seconds ahead of me, which was a huge surge to my confidence. I kept my eyes on his back and made the pass at the start of the second lap, taking 3 other guys from my wave in the process. One guy latched on, which just spurred me to keep the pressure on the rest of the way. I ended up putting almost a minute on those guys over the last lap, as I dashed to the finish. My final second run split was only 3 seconds off the fastest in the race, yet I came across the line charged up.

Strong Finish

They rolled out the red carpet for my strong finish! (Photo Credit – Emma Parker, 2014)

FINAL RESULT – 1:21:12 (9th overall, 2nd M25-29)

Overall a fantastic result, one that gained me back all of the confidence that I had lost after TTF. For the first time all year, I fueled myself well, started the run controlled and worked into the race, rode smart on the bike leg, used the course to my advantage, and came up with an exceptionally strong second run which would actually end up as my second fastest run of the season, both before and after the bike. Huge improvements in all areas of the duathlon race, just 6 days after struggling my way to the line in Toronto. I am proud to have been able to deliver such a great result, putting nearly a minute on someone who beat me by 6.5 minutes in Ottawa last year, in front of Emma and my dad. Thank you guys once again for the awesome support.

The Final Tally

The Final Tally (places would change as later waves finished)

Thank you’s also go out to all my sponsors and supporters. Coach Tommy at Ignition Fitness for staying the course and helping me to stick to the plan even when I felt like everything was falling apart around me. Felt Bicycles and Wheels of Bloor for setting me up with my speed machine and equipment for this season. Nate at Noble Cycles for fixing all my bike issues resulting from my poor wrenching abilities. John, Roger and the Multisport Canada crew for giving me the opportunity to hone my craft at their fantastic events. Clif Bar & Company for fueling my training and racing. And Big Race Wheels for coming through in the clutch with a wicked fast set of wheels for this big race. The second phase of my season is now complete. Coming up next is some rest, a solid training block, a rust buster on Toronto Island, followed by a shift in focus to the international distance in preparation for the Ontario Duathlon Championships at the Lakeside Resort…both races brought to you by Multisport Canada.

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

Silver Medalist

9th place overall, and 2nd in the M25-29 age group.

“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!

Pre-Nationals Perspective

Humility is a good thing. A good thing that comes with being handed a little bit of perspective when the ego starts to get out of control. I have been riding an exceptional high since my overall wins in Woodstock and Welland. This past Monday, I raced a little twilight track 5000m at McMaster, a race I saw being promoted a bit on Twitter by triathletes Taylor and Austen Forbes, where I knew the guys would be getting after it. At the very least, it would end up being a really good gauge of where my fitness is, perhaps helping to guide my final preparations for Nationals at the Toronto Triathlon Festival on July 13.

Turns out, I got my fitness test and a slice of humble pie for dessert. I ran 16:02.49 for 5k, with kilometre splits of 3:08, 3:11, 3:14, 3:15, 3:14. Here’s the kicker though: I got lapped. Twice. The lead group went sub-15:00, led by Taylor in 14:28 (what an animal!). I settled in to the second group, which I followed until one guy dropped and the other gapped me, right around 2.5km. Then I just tried to fight off the 4th km malaise that has always plagued me. The pace lagged and I was isolated. I managed to finish strong in 72 seconds for my final lap. I’m quite happy with the result, which I figure is good for about 15:40 on the roads, and getting spanked around like that really reminded me that there is still A LOT of work to do to get to the level I want to be on.

Mac Twilight Meet

McMaster Twilight Meet 5000m (16:02.49)

2014 has been a fantastic season for me. Last season, I struggled with injuries and was slow to adapt to the new training program I jumped into in joining Tommy and Ignition Fitness. There were growing pains, some overtraining, a monumentally questionable decision to run indoor track, and the aforemetioned injuries. I raced Woodstock, Binbrook and Welland last year having not been able to run more than 30 minutes at a time, with the odd progression run for “speedwork”. I was able to start grooving a bit before Worlds, but never really got into the condition I wanted to be in, which was reflected in the results. I recorded just one win (in a perfectly executed race) and whiffed on all my rough time goals.

Fast forward to this year: I focused on a steady and controlled diet of endurance volume and hard progression runs through the harsh winter (take that Polar Vortex, then ran my first two half marathons in February (1:18:01) and March (1:16:24). While many were struggling to get in the requisite bike training over the winter, I hit the trainer hard and saw HUGE gains in my cycling fitness. Between November and March, I watched my FTP spike by ~20W, and another 12W by mid-May. As a result, I have been racing on an extra 30W all season, which has resulted in keeping my leads intact deeper into the bike. A phenomenal improvement over last year, when I would nearly overextend the first run, only to get caught while the bike distance was still single digits.

In Aero Position

Thanks Felt Bicycles and Wheels of Bloor for the extra speed.

My run has also improved. Before this season, my duathlon 5k PB was 17:04 (Welland 2013). This year I have split faster 3 times. Each time I have then got on the bike and pushed wattage that would have been absurd last season. I have been able to finally adapt to Tommy’s training program, which emphasizes higher intensity, lower volume and more recovery. I still hate days off…but I am learning their value. I have also finally started to pay attention to the other areas that need it. I used to burn the candle at both ends, and eat terrible food. My diet was primarily processed foods. However, Emma has been helping me slowly shift to a more plant-based diet, and cooking out of a Thrive cookbook. We rarely eat out anymore, and I have been forced to be more careful about what I put in my body in order to get the right nutrients. I feel stronger than ever, and bounce back from workouts quickly!

Thrive Energy Cookbook

Eat clean, race fast.

As a result of all of this, my confidence is sky high heading into Nationals on the 13th. I truly believe that with a well-executed race that I can be a national champion on July 13. Only the day will tell us if I am able to achieve my goal. For this, I have a few people to thank, people that I would not be here without.

ROUGH LOGO 3 blank

Everyone at Ignition Fitness has been awesome, especially Coach Tommy Ferris. It’s taken a little while to get to know each other and to wrap my head around the program, but we’re making huge progress now. Tommy is incredibly flexible, which has been awesome with all of the life changes I have had in the last 2 years. Through Tommy’s hard work, I have also had access to many sponsors that have allowed me to have the best equipment (thanks to Felt Bicycles and Wheels of Bloor) and the best nutrition (courtesy of Clif Bar) to push me into that next level. My teammates have also been nothing  but supportive at races!

MSC

Being a part of the Multisport Canada/Recharge With Milk Ambassador team has been one of the best things I have stumbled on in my career. It started with an article I wrote about the doomed Barrelman duathlon that got me thinking about what I can do to save my sport. I conscripted Larry Bradley into helping me build Duathlon Central and took a more active role on social media and with race directors to create opportunities for duathletes, before being asked by Roger and John Salt to represent duathletes on the Ambassador team. It has been incredibly rewarding. The Multisport Canada crew puts on a top notch event, and I am proud to represent them. Every result means more when the race director is there to be the first one to congratulate you, the venues are second to none, and the race distances are challenging and great preparation for provincial, national, and international championship events. Given the choice, I will travel the extra hour or so to get to a Multisport Canada event than any other race!

Emma and Jesse

Always there for me

Most of all, my family. My girlfriend Emma has been dragged around to more conservation areas at ungodly hours than any reasonable person should be expected to. Yet, when I cross the line I’m pretty sure she is more proud of me than anyone else there. I can’t wait to chase her around the Lakeside Resort in September for her first sprint duathlon! Transportation has always been an issue for me, but her parents have been unbelievable as well, rearranging their lives to get to all the races I can’t get to myself. Finally, I need to thank my parents who, despite living across the country in Edmonton, are always there. They flew in for a week to see me race at Welland, and are the primary sponsors of all of the expenses I will incur for TTF and US Nats in St.Paul.

Obviously, success is a team effort. Without my sponsors and these 5 incredible people, I would have a lot more to worry about and weigh me down! For that I am thankful, but there is still a long way to go. I intend to keep the pressure on for the next 11 weeks in search of a Provincial title, a National title, and a chance to make a name for myself nationally and internationally. Should be fun!

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

“That’s Two in a Row” – MSC Rose City Duathlon Report

It’s been a tough 3 weeks of training since my last race in Woodstock, but I came in to my favourite venue at my favourite race series on an emotional high. The final result (click here to view) is best described by Lou Brown in Major League 2.

Welland Pre-Race

Chatting with Larry Bradley pre-race (Photo Credit Emma Parker, 2014)

However, my second win of the 2014 season started off with a little bit of a scare. After a good warm-up and little recon of the course (ie. getting to know which potholes to avoid if I wanted to keep my front wheel intact), I was heading out to the start line when I caught a glimpse of the great Dave Frake racking his bike. As he had just come off setting a course record at the Real Deal Gears Thursday Night Time Trial, I was a tad relieved to hear that he would be competing in the duathlon relay (where he put up a stunning 41:24 split on the 30km bike). The target on my back was quickly apparent when series director John Salt called out in front of the entire field asking Larry whether he was going to run me down or not!

Welland Start

Pushed to the front off the start (Photo Credit Emma Parker, 2014)

RUN #1 (4.98km by my count) – 16:34 (3:19/km, 1st overall and duathlon 5k PB)
Run gear – Nimblewear custom Ignition Fitness trisuit, Saucony Type A5 Racing Flats, Zoot compression socks

Before the horn, I could definitely tell my strength on the run was well-known, as I was basically pushed right to the front. I had PLANNED to let someone else take the lead across the bridge before taking over as we hit the fitness path, though this seemed to signal otherwise. Luckily a new face, Mike Park from Clinton, swooped in and surged to the front. I was more than happy to work in tandem with him on the first run, and it was actually quite nice to get to know this dude. Some strong running today from him (stealing my R2 bonus in the process!)…some more miles on the bike may make him another 20-something to watch in Ontario duathlon! We cruised through, clipping off about 3:18’s before I drifted away from him with about 600m to go in the first run. I rolled in to transition with a very strong 16:34 5k (that felt a little too easy to be true) and a healthy lead over my major competitors in the race.

Welland First Run

On my way to the bikes after a 16:34 opening 5k (Photo Credit Emma Parker, 2014)

Welland Bike Exit

Heading out onto the bike on my Felt B16 (Photo Credit My Sports Shooter, 2014)

BIKE (29.77km) – 46:58 (3rd overall, duathlon 30k bike PB, NP 235W/AP 230W)
Bike set-up – 2014 Felt B16 (courtesy of Wheels of Bloor) w/ Bontrager Aeolus 5 carbon clincher front/Williams S30 w/ Powertap hub and Dyma wheel cover rear, Michelin Pro Race 3 tires (23c front/25c rear), Lazer Tardiz aero helmet, X-Lab Torpedo BTA bottle, S-Works Trivent triathlon shoes

My transitions in this one could have been cleaned up a bit, though the duathletes had a tough rack spot in transition. Each transition involved a U-turn close to the run in/out that resulted in a longer run to and from our bikes, but as they say, it’s the same for everybody! Mother Nature definitely had her say on the bike. The winds were gusting over the canal today, which led to some nasty crosswinds on the short jaunt along the canal before the first right turn…straight into the headwind. Headwinds are made for the super-cyclists of the world, not for the 125lb rabbits who are just looking to minimize the damage on the bike. I attempted to settle into a groove, and found a semblance of one on the way out. The time trial start of the triathlon really helped to reduce the congestion on the course as I rode terrified of the monsters chasing me from behind. Surprisingly, I managed to make it to the turnaround with my lead intact, but the bad news was coming…Dave Frake, Larry Bradley, and Grahame Rivers, all in quick succession, less than a minute back. The tailwind helped keep them at bay for another 4-5km, but Grahame made the pass just before 20k, followed by Frake closer to 5k. Though Larry was charging hard, I managed to hold him off as we entered transition with a new 30 duathlon PB.

Data nerds, click here for my Strava file. Definitely much better pacing on this one than in Woodstock, undoubtedly helped along by the flat course profile!

RUN #2 (5.35km) – 19:31 (3:38/km, 2nd overall)

Emma fed me the time gap heading out of transition, so I was out on the run knowing I had a 75 second gap to make up on Grahame after his wicked duathlon-best 42:04 bike split. My legs were feeling the strong push into the headwind on the way out, but I was confident. Training has been going fantastically, and even though all my charts said I should be tired I know I am strong right now…especially on the run. After cruising over the bridge and navigating the tight turns around the cones, I went hunting. I made the catch just after the first turnaround (tons of credit needs to go out to Grahame here…to ride like that after a tough first run is stunning to see, and to know that he went from 5 minutes back over a shorter distance three weeks ago to 2 minutes back today is impressive…and a bit terrifying). From there, I just followed the lead bike back to the finish line where I crossed in a time of 1:24:24, shy of Tommy’s course record but with some gas left in the tank.

FINAL RESULT – 1ST OVERALL (1:24:24)

Welland Finish

Thanks to Ignition Fitness, Multisport Canada, Felt Bicycles, Clif Nutrition, Wheels of Bloor and the rest of my sponsors and support team for making this win happen (Photo Credit Emma Parker, 2014)

Welland Finish 2

Celebrating a second straight Welland Duathlon win (Photo Credit My Sports Shooter, 2014)

Duathlon Central Boys

Duathlon Central partners in crime go 1-2 in Welland! (Photo Credit Emma Parker, 2014)

Saturday was exceptionally special because I got to share it with some of my biggest supporters. Not only was Emma there, my rock and number one fan, always cheering her heart out and taking fantastic pictures (not easy to do both apparently!), but my parents were able to fly in from Edmonton to see me race for the first time since Worlds in Ottawa last year. You three are always there for me when it gets tough, and this sport can be incredibly tough, so thank you. And I hope you enjoyed that win Pops…Happy Father’s Day!

Big thanks to send out to Coach Tommy at Ignition Fitness, I’m proud to wear the yellow flame for you at all of my races. John and the gang at Multisport Canada, you did it again. Another impressive event…I’m proud to fly the MSC flag as part of the Recharge With Milk Ambassador team.  Felt Bicycles and Wheels of Bloor, I’m loving my new Felt B16 more and more with every race and training ride, and I live and die by my Clif Bars and Shots for nutrition during training and racing. Next up for me is MY BIG RETURN TO THE TRACK, as I take on some trackies in an assault on my 5,000m PB at McMaster on June 23…what better place than where the Canadian high school record was set? After that, it’s back to the batcave for my final prep for the Canadian Duathlon Championships at the Toronto Triathlon Festival on July 13 and my destination race of the year, the USA Duathlon Championships in St. Paul, Minnesota on July 19. Exciting times lay ahead!

So until next time…keep Du’ing it!

Welland Podium

MSC Welland Duathlon Overall Podium (Photo Credit Emma Parker, 2014)

Welland Final Results

MSC Rose City Duathlon Final Results

The Battle of Rose City – Welland Preview

Every year since I started duathlon, the Rose City Duathlon (formerly Welland) of the Multisport Canada/Recharge With Milk Triathlon Series has been a favourite on the circuit. Uber-biker Erik Box won it in my first season is a blazing fast 1:24:04 time, and I was able to take the win last season after executing one of my best ever races in a time of 1:24:34 on a very hot day. The flat and fast course lends itself incredibly well to a drag race. It is a fantastic last tune-up prior to the big races of July in Ontario. On another interesting note, as far as I can tell the course record is held by my coach Tommy Ferris, in a quick 1:23:33 time.

I will be returning to Welland this upcoming weekend with what I hope is an improved bike split. After a relatively slow start to the Ontario duathlon scene where the close finish has been a rarity, the early confirmation list promises an interesting and competitive race. The overall winners at Woodstock (myself), Milton (Grahame Rivers), and Binbrook (Larry Bradley) will all be in attendance, and who knows what wild card will reveal itself on race morning? Here is what each of the contenders will need to do to win the Battle of Rose City (please excuse me writing about myself in the 3rd person below…it just sounds better in this context!)…

LARRY BRADLEY (2014 results: 1st at Binbrook)

Larry

2014 Mike Cheliak – My Sports Shooter

Strength: A complete racer. Larry is the most experienced contender, and that shows in his solid bike and run over the years. Larry will always consistently have close to the fastest splits in both disciplines. Larry continued that trend of running a complete race in Binbrook this past weekend.

Weakness: The second run. If Larry has a weakness, it is a wild card on the second run. Though Larry is generally strong all the way through the race, he has occasionally had hiccups running off the bike if he is forced to dig too deep on the bike, which can cost any duathlete a race.

How Larry wins on Saturday: Strong second run. If Larry is to win on Saturday, he will have to keep up a steady performance from start to finish line. With strong runners coming from behind, Larry will have to stave off the heat and dead legs from 2 weekends of racing to come out on top.

GRAHAME RIVERS (2014 results: 4th at Woodstock, 1st at Milton)

Grahame

2014 Mike Cheliak – My Sports Shooter

Strength: The bike. What race is complete without the stud cyclist? Grahame is new to the sport, but has stepped in nicely as the guy everyone looks over their shoulder for after T1. A reigning provincial ITT champion, Grahame is always good for a smoking bike split.

Weakness: The run. As a pure cyclist before this year, Grahame has had a steep learning curve. Some race experience surely helped him turn a 4th in Woodstock into a win in Milton. Hopefully Grahame can carry over his cycling fitness to take his run up another notch on Saturday.

How Grahame wins on Saturday: Crush the bike. Even a consistent 4:00/km pace on the run means Grahame may be starting the bike 3 minutes behind, needing a 3 minute lead out of T2 to hang on. Can Grahame knock a further 3 minutes off his bike split from Milton and scare 40:00 on Saturday before hanging on for the win?

JESSE BAUER (2014 results: 7th at Iron Hawk, 1st at Woodstock)

Jesse

2014 Mike Cheliak – My Sports Shooter

Strength: The run. Over his short career, Jesse has become well-known for his foot speed. That is his ace in the hole, as he regularly post the top run splits in races. The question on Saturday is whether or not his bike is strong enough to keep him close enough to unleash that second run.

Weakness: The bike. As a classic former track runner, Jesse is still learning how to get the most out of his cycling. A strong bike leg still leaves him with minutes to make up on the second run. He has improved over the past year, but will that continue on June 14? We shall see…

How Jesse wins on Saturday: Minimize losses on the bike. Last year he was able to come out with a win in Welland because he was able to keep Erik and Larry close on the second half of the bike. Will a similar strategy work this weekend in his title defense?

THE WILD CARDS

The great yet terrifying thing about duathlon in Ontario is that you just don’t know who you will be racing until you get to the start line. Will Erik Box emerge from the abyss to take another shot at the course record, adding another uber-biker to the field? Will Bruce Raymer attempt to follow up his great duathlon debut with a second in Welland, adding another rabbit to the start line? Will Richard Eyram decide to dust off his P3 and running shoes, joining Larry as another solid and complete racer that just cannot be ignored? Is there another unknown out there who is planning on crashing the party with a big debut? Still so many questions, ones that will hopefully be answered before we all toe the line, but many that will be up in the air until the dust settles. All we can be sure of is that we are in for a heck of a race!

5 Tips for Aspiring Duathletes

Duathlon really is a different beast than triathlon, even though both are generally hosted on the same weekend and are often thought of as being interchangeable. Swapping that swim out for a run completely changes the dynamic of the race, and those who have experienced both can assuredly tell you that it is a different sport entirely! New duathletes need to be prepared for this shock as they navigate their first season of du’ing it. And what’s the point of having experience if you don’t share it and pass it on! Here are some tips from me that I have been sitting on for weeks and hope can help you, whether you are preparing for your first duathlon or looking for a personal best in your tenth one!

Find your limit on the first run
I always hear the advice “Don’t start too hard” given to new duathletes. And you’re going to hear it here again…if your goal is to accomplish the distance, this is definitely the best strategy for you. The first run scorch the legs no matter how much you keep in reserve, and too many matches burned on the first run could lead to a difficult ride and more difficult second run. However, I do think it is valuable to refer to this as a guideline with room for progression. As you grow as a duathlete, the harder I believe you can press on that first run. As you complete more and more du’s, you will get to know what your limit is on that first run for different distances, the point where you can maximize time savings on the first run while still keeping enough in reserve for a strong bike and second run. You can then focus on getting closer to it every time. Either way, take the first 500m-1km to get your bearings, gauge your position in the race, and work yourself up to your goal pace. There is still a long way to go to be burning a match in the opening stretch!

Finding that limit!

Finding that limit!

Brick it
Just like triathlon is not the simple sum of a swim race, a bike race, and a running race, duathlon is much more than the sum of its parts. From start to finish, duathlon is very much its own unique sport, and should be treated as such. That means supplementing your cycling and running workouts with combination brick workouts. Brick workouts for duathletes can be as simple as heading out for a short run before or after your cycling workout, or even both! As you progress through the season and as a duathlete in general, you will want to start injecting some pace into these runs to better simulate a race situation, but even just a jog around the block will suffice until you feel more comfortable with brick workouts. The point is just to get your head and your legs around the idea that you will have to bike after running, and run after cycling.

Sweat the small details
Additional time can EASILY be shaved by taking the time and the care to sweat the small details. That means considering elastic laces in your shoes for easy on/off in transition, simplifying and meticulously planning of your transition procedures and set-up to minimize the number of things you have to think about after that first run, and jogging (instead of walking) your bike in and out of transition. Without the swim, you can carry everything on you from the start, making it easier to keep your transitions simple. Especially in a shorter race, T1 should be “shoes off, helmet on, GO”, T2 should be “helmet off, shoes on, GO”. Just ask Darren Cooney, who netted an overall podium (his first?) this past weekend in Binbrook by 31 seconds over 4th, thanks in part to the 35 seconds he saved in transition.

Details

Who cares about details? I do!

Don’t forget the run/bike transition
In triathlon, there is a lot of focus on running well after a hard bike. While this is still true in duathlons, there is a lot of value to working on the other transition…the run to bike transition. Practice running before biking, to get your legs used to cycling after redlining for 5 or 10km. Start with adding a short run before (and after) your ride once or twice a week, and then progress to injecting a little bit of pace into that first run. It doesn’t have to be more than 5 or 10 minutes at around your first run pace. What is important is getting onto the bike with a little bit of running related fatigue and teaching your legs to buffer that very early on in the bike. And while you’re at it, practice that transition. Lay out your transition zone (remember: shoes off, helmet on, GO), and if you are comfortable enough with your ability to attempt a flying mount, practice that too. Attach your shoes to your bike, use elastic attached to the heel pull and hooked over a part of your bike to get them nice and flat for entry, and (most importantly) get yourself mentally prepared to think of it as a race situation.

Grab all of the low-hanging fruit
The number one way of becoming a faster duathlete is to ride your bike lots, run lots, and increase the size of your engine. Buy yourself an indoor trainer and a Netflix account so you can keep riding once the snow falls. This is the number one piece of low-hanging fruit that most duathletes miss. Once you are there, transition practice, elastic laces, and even all the fancy aero goodies you see in transition are all examples of low-hanging fruit that many people believe they are “not ready for” or “not good enough for”. Why not? As long as you enjoy the sport and are willing to commit to it, I see no harm in investing in a little bit of extra speed. If you are savvy about it you can do it on 20% of the budget than the retailers would like you to believe. Assuming you are starting on a road bike, clip-on aerobars and good bike fit can be had for $200-250, and can do wonders for your bike speed. Next, an aero helmet ($50-100 used online), a rear disc wheel cover ($100 at Wheelbuilder.com) and a between the arms bottle mount ($20 for four zipties and a bottle cage) will knock off another chunk of time. Beyond that, a deeper front wheel can be found used online by the savvy shopper for $300-500, and likely hold that value. All will give you a huge boost for less than $1000 (or about half of what you would pay for a more aero frame, for at least double the speed). Just as with transitions, make sure you get lots of practice riding with all of these goodies before you try it in a race!

Aero Goodies

Deep Front Wheel – $500 used
Disc Cover – $100
Aero Bottle Mount – $20
DIY Garmin Mount – $5
Aero Helmet (not pictured) – $50 used online

The inspiration for this post was an article that Darren pointed out to me via Twitter by professional duathlete Jez Cox, which you can read it here. Jez has a lot of fantastic ideas that got me started on thinking about the knowledge I have to share, so I highly recommend giving that a read as well. Debate is always welcomed, so feel free to chime in on Facebook/Twitter or in the comments below. I would love to hear what you have to say!

Until next time, keep Du’ing it!