multisport

Breakthrough

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…keep du’ing it.

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

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

Running

Heading out onto the run course

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

Pre Race Fix

Last minute mechanical work on my Felt B16

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

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

Aero Position

Tucked into aero to get out of the Essex County winds

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

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

Dismount

Heading into T2

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

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

Finish Line

Pulling in for 7th overall

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

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

Cooldown

Out for a short cooldown jog

Happy

It’s finally race season!!!

Ice Cream

Post-race rewards

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

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

P2A Start Wave

My start wave at Paris to Ancaster

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

Emma and Jesse

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

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

HSRO Bib

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

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

P2A Start Line

The Start Line in Paris

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

 

Martin Rd

Climbing the Martin Road Hill!

#1023

A muddy 65km in 2:45:45

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

Until next time, keep Du’ing it!

Equipment Review – 2014 Felt B16 (My New Ride for 2014)

Getting a new bike seems to be one of the days in every multisport athlete’s season that they look forward to the most. I had planned for my next blog post to be either a current issue affecting duathletes, or a race report from my adventures at Harry’s Spring Run-Off…but then my new bike arrived, and I just have this feeling that my readers want to hear all about that first! Please excuse any technical jargon, and feel free to comment on the post with any questions.

My bike splits in 2014 will be brought to you by a 52cm 2014 Felt B16. When Coach Tommy worked out the Ignition Fitness/Felt Bicycles/Wheels of Bloor sponsorship deal in late 2013, it set in a motion the (long) series of events that led to me getting my new steed. The whole process took about 4 months (well worth it, it turns out) that started with listing/selling my loyal Argon 18 E-80 (thanks for two seasons of memories, have fun in Montreal!), and continued through ordering the new one (a sleek 2014 Felt B16), awaiting its arrival from the factory (with a few minor hiccups at customs), making the journey to Wheels of Bloor for pickup and fitting (via 5 methods of public transportation), and finally taking it home to add my own personal touches.

Freshly built and fitted

Freshly built and fitted at Wheels of Bloor

The B16 is Felt’s entry level carbon fibre time trial bike, but comes packed with goodies. You can view the full component spec pictured above here…nothing spectacular, but it will definitely be more than handy once I add my own finishing touches! The guys at Wheels of Bloor were great, as they had my bike built and ready for me to be fitted when I finally arrived at the shop Friday afternoon. The gentleman who fitted me also adjusted everything to match the measurements generated by my latest RETUL fit. 20 minutes of adjusting and 5 minutes on the trainer later, it felt like a rocket ready to be launched. Some of the adjustments included dropping the cockpit as low as it can go by removing spacers and installing a -25 degree stem, moving the aerobars as close together as the stem allows, and tweaking the saddle height for my short inseam. After navigating the journey home, I bolted on my bottle cages, attached my DIY Garmin mount, and strapped on my Powertap in preparation of my first training ride.

Adding my own touches

Ready for the maiden voyage

Most of my own personal touches occurred in the cockpit area. Everyone has their own configuration that works for them…mine is pictured below. For races, I generally only run one bottle mounted horizontally between the extensions. The first incarnation on my previous bike was simply a cage zip-tied to the extensions. Since then, I’ve added an aluminum X-Lab Torpedo mount to the cage, which I find helps ease my mind about whether or not my bottle is staying completely horizontal while riding. Though definitely not necessary, the peace of mind helps. My Garmin 910XT mount is also a custom job: an empty Nuun electrolyte tablet canister cut to size, holes drilled on either side and zip-tied between the shifters. A strip of adhesive Velcro (the soft/”loop” side) keeps the standard Garmin quick release kit mount from sliding around at high speeds. It’s that easy! It’s simple and definitely not the most creative configuration I’ve seen, but it works well for me.

Above view of my cockpit layout

View from above of my cockpit layout

Saturday morning meant my first test ride on the Felt. Maybe it’s just me, but I love to break in new equipment with a long workout…long runs for shoes, and long rides for bikes! So off I went for a 3 hour jaunt around Flamborough County, with a mixture of steady state riding, climbing, flat to rolling time trial intervals, and a few all-out townline sprints…basically a test of all aspects of the ride quality of a new bike. Being the first time I had ridden carbon fibre, I was amazed at the ride quality. Besides feeling very light, it seemed to absorb many of the bumps and gouges of county roads that my old aluminum frame did not. I was also very impressed with its climbing ability (for a TT bike), its quick acceleration to cruising speed, and the ease with which it cut through air once I got it going. The 105 drivetrain shifted crisp and clean, and the Microshift bar-end shifters and stock Felt TTR saddle were a pleasant surprise. Overall, my first impression was that the Felt B16 delivered a truckload of quality in a modestly priced package, great for any multisport athlete who has outgrown the modified road bike and wants a full-blown carbon fibre/aerodynamic experience.

Excited for my first ride

Excited for the first ride

However, there were a few areas of improvement that first ride pointed out. First, some of the cockpit adjustments I originally settled on proved to be too aggressive for me, especially this early in the season. So, upon returning from the ride I adjusted the extensions outward by a millimeter or two, slid the extensions back a bit and moved the armrests slightly forward and farther apart. This allowed me to slide my BTA bottle mount all the way back to the headset, giving me a little bit more room to slide a bottle out without mashing it against the buttons on my Garmin. The end result was a much more comfortable ride, at least for a few minutes of spinning on the trainer. I came away very impressed with the adjustability of the cockpit.

Second, though I thought the shifting and acceleration were excellent, I did find the stock FSA Vero crank a little heavy and slow to respond during hard accelerations (though it would do in a pinch). It came spec’ed with 52/36 gearing, as opposed to the 50 tooth big ring I switched to late last year after reading a great blog post by my friend Cody Beals (who happens to be fresh off a 5th place finish in his pro debut at IM Texas 70.3, great work Cody!). I am a high cadence spinner and I don’t generally put out enough power to push anything larger than a 50 tooth big ring without really struggling, so I had always planned on changing this out. However, I decided to try the larger gearing on the first ride, just to see how I liked it. Turns out I don’t, so off came the Vero in favour of an FSA Gossamer crank I had lying around the office (with custom 50/36 gearing). Due to my very amateur wrenching skills, the ease of an external bottom bracket was another reason to switch. Other swaps I made with existing parts I had lying around were to change the stock SunRace cassette/chain for a 105 chain and an Ultegra 11-25 cassette (11-28 for hilly races), and putting on my Williams S30 Powertap wheels for training rides. For races, I will swap in a Bontrager 50mm carbon race wheel, a disc cover for the rear, and some narrower race tires. As well, I THINK I can still get lower, so I’m on the lookout for a low-rise headset dust cap to make that a reality.

Try not to drool

Try not to drool

All in all, I am VERY excited to start my adventures of training and racing with this bike. HUGE shout-out to Coach Tommy at Ignition Fitness, and my sponsors Felt Bicycles and Wheels of Bloor for setting this all up. I’m slightly embarrassed about the number of hours I spent on all three of these sites the past few months browsing and drooling over this bike, and I am beyond excited to finally have it in my possession. Be on the lookout for some wicked fast bike splits out of me this season on this beauty! Next up for me is a little hiatus from the roads to prep for Paris to Ancaster on April 27 before heading back to the pain cave to get ready for the Ontario Sprint Duathlon Championships in Harrow on May 10. Be on the lookout for a Harry’s/P2A race report in the coming weeks, as well as a feature I am working on about an important issue currently facing duathletes in Ontario.

Until next time, keep du’ing it!

Getting Progressively Stronger…in the Long Run

As I wrap up a very solid two week block of training, I got to thinking that with everyone I’ve talked to in this great sport, there is always that one workout that just gives you a certain satisfaction..a certain excitement when you see it inked into the calendar. Indeed, I have spent many an hour engaged in conversations with fellow athletes about our “favourite workouts”. They range from favourite interval workouts to long, steady runs, and have reasons varying almost as widely as the type of people I talk to. There is no right answer…what works for me may not be what works for you, and you may not get the same enjoyment out of it. But it helps to share, because this spirit of collaboration is what makes endurance athletics so great. So let’s dive right in!

For reasons only known to someone out there who is not me, my progressive long run that is one of the reasons that I look forward to my weekend training as much as I do. A progressive long run is just that…a long run (usually 60 to 120 minutes in length for me) that gets progressively faster over the course of it, with some variations. It is a departure from the previous widely-held belief of a weekly long, steady endurance run, as it adds a note of intensity and variety to what was previously a metronomic, grinding pace.

The best part of these progressive long runs is that they can be as formal or as informal as you would like. During my build up to the Grimsby and Chilly half marathons, each minute of my long runs was scripted to simulate a race effort as much as possible. It involved me doing bursts at or near race pace on legs that had already been put through a steadily increasing pace for an hour or more. But they don’t have to be that scientific. Sometimes it can be quite liberating to just go out and run, and just letting the pace naturally drop as your legs work themselves into it. This flexibility is what has made progressive long runs a staple in my training. Interestingly, I happened upon them for two reasons. One is simply through the evolution of commonly held beliefs…the other was borne out of necessity, and provides and interesting contrast between my training as a single-sport and a multisport athlete.

Let’s talk about the latter first here. When I was a single sport athlete, I had time to get everything in. A typical week involved alternating hard interval days with “easy” recovery days. Even with three hard days in a week (Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday) and a long run on Sundays, I still had 3 days available to me for recovery (though whether or not I used them properly is another post altogether!). However, when I added in the need to cycle, it became much more difficult to get all the required training in and still have enough time allotted to recovery. The answer was to combine workouts together. These progressive long runs are a perfect example, as there is a significant endurance-building effect to them, even as you depart Zone 2 (aerobic endurance) and enter Zone 3 (“The Sweet Spot”). The early portion is steady and aerobic, and the later, faster portion of the run serves to increase stamina and build strength for those tough final miles of a race (or for that run at the end of a multisport race). It also serves to recruit those fast-twitch muscle fibres that don’t see much action during the long, slow distance run, helping to build their endurance as well. The combined effect of quality and quantity only burns one day of training…perfect for the time crunched multisport athlete.

Many contemporary marathon runners have shifted their training towards this type of work, with some doing 30-40km of marathon pace work once or twice a month. The effects of running harder for longer are very real. But be forewarned…they are very difficult on the body. Doing these on a weekly basis may not be for everyone. Renowned marathon coach Renato Canova is often considered the innovator of this new way of looking at the long run, and even his athletes often are only doing these runs once or twice a month. Ensure you have allotted the proper recovery time for these workouts, as they can certainly take a toll on the body. But I will gladly trade taking a recovery day or two for the pure exhilaration of starting off slow and ratcheting the pace up slowly throughout the run until I’m sustaining a pace that has people stopping my to ask, “What, are you training for Around the Bay or something?” Nope…just your friendly neighbourhood sprint duathlon.

As for me, I just wrapped up two pretty easy weeks to give my body a rest after 4 months of hard half marathon training. Highlights of the last few weeks have been a 5W FTP improvement during my latest test, a solid 90 minute run at the Ignition Fitness Big Training Day, an excellent 5 workout in 3 day block during the middle of last week, and yes…a long progression run on Sunday to wrap it all up! Next on the docket is Harry’s Spring Run-Off (out of the elite corral) on April 5 to see where my run legs are over a shorter distance, then Paris to Ancaster for my first real bike race experience! Pretty excited for that, and of course I will be accompanied by my girlfriend Emma, who will likely be volunteering at the finish line of these races!

I am also excitedly awaiting the arrival of my new TT bike, a Felt B16 through the Ignition Fitness/Felt Bicycles sponsorship. We are also looking around for Emma’s first road bike as the weather warms up, so that she too can enjoy the thrills of running and riding! My first multisport test of the season will be at the Iron Hawk/Ontario Sprint Duathlon Championships, then a full slate of Multisport Canada races as part of the Recharge with Milk Ambassador team. Thanks to John and the guys for setting that up, and to Tommy, Roger and the Ignition Fitness crew for getting me into really good shape, both physically and mentally! So until next time, keep Du’ing it!

New Partnership with Multisport Canada!

I am very excited to announce that I am the newest member of the Multisport Canada/Recharge with Milk Ambassador Team for the 2014 season. This is a program set up by the guys at Multisport Canada that aims to increase exposure on both sides of the partnership with young, up-and-coming multisport athletes. I have recently taken it upon myself to become an advocate for duathlon in Ontario, trying to drive excitement for the “lesser” multisport and promote what has become a VERY competitive and tight group of athletes spread out across Ontario. Part of that is building moment for a new Ontario Duathlon website created by myself and Larry Bradley (still in its infancy at this writing), and any vehicle of promotion for that movement helps. The Ambassador Team for this season is a tad light on duathlon representation, so I am very glad I was about to work together with John Salt, Roger Hospedales, and the rest of the Multisport Canada crew to make this happen.

Most of all though, I am just happy to be able to be a part of creating excitement for the Multisport Canada/Recharge with Milk triathlon series. Since my very first MSC race at Cobourg in 2012, where John Salt personally shook my hand as I staggered across the finish line after completing my first international distance duathlon, I have felt no compulsion to look elsewhere for the bulk of my race schedule. The following two seasons, I have done everything I can to fit as many MSC races on my calendar. The organization is second to absolutely no one, the service level is unrivaled in endurance sports, the venues are fantastic, and the athlete focus is greatly appreciated by everyone I have talked to. Frankly, I have never heard a bad word.

Look for me at races this season! I will be in Welland, Woodstock, Toronto Island and Lakeside this season, and I love to talk shop. Meet the whole team here. Looking forward to the upcoming season!

Niagara Half Duathlon Cancelled, and What It Means to Duathlon in Ontario

Word came from Multisport Canada this weekend that the new Half Distance Duathlon added to the BarrelMan weekend would have to be cancelled. While the reasoning behind it is sound, this comes as a huge blow to duathletes in Ontario banking on the long distance race to end off their season. With Peterborough and possibly Welland on the schedule for a similar distance, 2014 was shaping up to be a rare year for long course duathletes to be able to focus on the longer distance. While triathletes generally have a wealth of options to choose from when it comes to race distance, the scarcity of longer distance duathlon offerings makes it very hard for those with long course ambitions to gear a whole season towards the distance. That’s a lot of stress to put your body through for a pay-off of one race, but 3 offerings makes it much more feasible. Duathlete friends that I have like Larry Bradley of Mississauga and Daryl Flacks of Windsor seemed to be reveling at the possibility of a long course season!

The long course duathlon race at the BarrelMan triathlon was aggressively lobbied for by Larry, in the interest of duathletes around Ontario. However, declining registration for longer distance duathlons has been a chronic problem in Ontario, with some fantastic races at excellent courses drawing only 20-25 competitors to the line on race morning. As such, a minimum registration number of 25 entrants was instituted in order for the race to be staged. A preliminary survey suggested enough interest for MSC to open registration and plan the logistics for the first run, with even some interest south of the border! However, registration was slow to develop, and with only a week until the deadline, registration had just cracked double digits. The deadline came, was extended, and went with a final registration tally of less than 15 competitors, spelling the end of the dream.

I’m not here to dispute the decision, which I believe to be sound and justified. Staging a race for less than 20 competitors just seems ridiculous, especially when the race is a large-scale, point-to-point course that requires the design and implementation of a completely new run course in Welland. Sounds like a losing proposition to me. The guys at MultiSport Canada work themselves to the bone to provide a top-notch race environment, and to expect that same commitment when we can’t even prepare ourselves to commit 6 months in advance is absolutely absurd. No, I’m here to to implore duathletes in Ontario to reassess our priorities here and save our sport, and to figure out why we let such a wonderful opportunity slip away.

The problem seems to lie in the length of the commitment. Perhaps we were just…too afraid of laying out that investment without knowing whether or not we will be fit or healthy come race day. It is quite the commitment. However, I think the more likely answer may just be apathy. I am relatively new to the sport, having only competed for 2 full seasons, but I have already noticed that the effort put in by race directors is not matched by the commitment of the competitors in duathlon. Too many people just expect to be able to show up on race day and for there to be a race for them to compete in. I hope we realize the behind the scene logistics that have to go into putting on a duathlon! Building a second run course, coordinating the start times and the timing systems, making space in a transition area by taking away spots from the (more popular) triathlon…even colour coded bibs so that each race can be differentiated…this all costs something! And to do it for 20-some athletes…well that seems like a disconnect.

There is an alternative explanation, one that I can understand because well…this was my reasoning. I’ll admit I’m just as guilty here. I didn’t enter because I am just plain not up to the distance. It took me 9 years of running experience and endurance-building to attempt my first half marathon, and that left me a sniveling mess for hours after the race. With only 2 seasons of cycling under my belt, a race with a 90k ride is nothing more than a distant dream. I would have loved nothing more than to support my sport and compete in Niagara Falls…it just wasn’t in the cards for 2014. Maybe others were in the same situation. Maybe there just isn’t a market for long course duathlon. Duathlon is incredibly hard on the body in the first place. That first run trashes your legs, and more often than not the second run consists of a lot of just trying to hold it together. In terms of difficulty, I’ve heard comparisons between international distance duathlons and half iron triathlons. Most who have moved up in distance have gotten themselves into the water to go chasing after the illustrious Ironman label. That in itself could be a big contributing factor to declining registration numbers for long duathlons, even the 10k/40k/5k distance. Agree? Disagree? Discuss in the comments or join the discussion on Twitter.

Regardless of the reasons why only 13 athletes registered for the race, there is no doubt that this will have a detrimental effect on duathlon in Ontario. If we have not lost the faith of race directors already, we must be mighty close. For a race to be lobbied for, created, and planned only to watch it fail for lack of interest would not make me want to go out of my way to create opportunities for a group. We have two separate race series that run duathlons alongside almost EVERY triathlon weekend on their schedule. This is a luxury that not all duathletes have, and most are forced into the water very early due to lack of race options. We are LUCKY to have what we have, NOT entitled to it. Duathletes, we need to work a little bit harder and show a little bit more initiative in order to continue to be pampered by race directors the way that we are. So this is my open plea to Ontario duathletes: PLEASE don’t let this sport die. I love it too much, and I am nowhere near ready to get into the water yet. Let’s use 2014 to prove to race directors that we are a strong group with a stronger voice.