penticton

Transitions

Well readers…yes it has been a little while, but don’t fret! I’m still alive and back in the game. A lot has happened since my last post…I mean it HAS been 8 months (oops). So let’s get to it!

NATIONALS AFTERMATH AND 2015 DEBRIEF

2015 was a banner year for me, capped off by my Canadian duathlon title. Winning that race was the culmination of 3 years of hard work and focus following a decent debut season in 2012. While I didn’t necessarily always get the results I wanted in 2013 and 2014, it was all worth it with what I was able to accomplish in 2015:

2016 Medal Haul

My haul from 2016!

Following Nationals, I stumbled upon this awesome series of cross country races on Wednesday nights called the Frank McNamara XC race series. Set in various places in the Edmonton river valley, I got my butt kicked by some serious trail runners every Wednesday night during some good old-fashioned foot races. It was a great way to finish off the season by going back to my cross country running roots in a fun, low pressure scenario.

LOOKING FORWARD TO 2016

With a positive end to a three year block of goal setting now in my rearview mirror, it is time to look forward to 2016 and beyond. My ultimate goal has always been to race with the elites at Worlds. Mixing it up with the best is truly the pinnacle for me, and seeing the performances that those men and women put together on the grandest stage of duathlon is incredibly inspiring.

While it would be equally amazing to make that debut at the recently (-ish) announced 2017 World Multisport Festival in Penticton, BC, Triathlon Canada’s new requirements for obtaining an International Competition Card (necessary for competing in the elite race at Worlds) will make that goal difficult. So while this does still remain a stretch goal, my focus has turned to the following progression:


2016
Double National Championship attempt (standard distance on August 24 in Penticton, sprint distance on September 4 at home in Edmonton)
2017
Double AG World Championship attempt in Penticton, BC. Use that performance to obtain my ICC from Triathlon Canada
2018
Represent my country and the Maple Leaf in the World Duathlon Championship elite race in Odense, Denmark

This ambitious set of goals is going to require committing to training and living like an ITU pro, which unfortunately is going to require changes to the set-up I became used to the past several years. I owe a lot of the credit for where I am today as an athlete to Tommy Ferris and Ignition Fitness. Becoming a national champion happened under Tommy’s watchful eye, and I doubt I would have gotten to this level without that valuable development time.

My team for 2016

My team for 2016!

My schedule for 2016 is posted under the tab above, with highlights being a trio of races in August and September where I will attempt to defend my standard distance Canadian title before taking on two National Race Series draft legal sprint duathlons in Edmonton and Montreal. Fitting in with these goals, this winter I was presented with the opportunity to join up with the Edmonton Triathlon Academy, an elite development training group in the city. With the ETA, I will have the opportunity to train with like-minded athletes in a team environment, working on duathlon skills just as much as on my fitness. The results have been positive so far, I would say; here are some brief recaps of my solid (if unspectacular) early season races to kick off this season of blogging!

APRIL 17 – ST. ALBERT ROAD RACE 10KM (1st OVERALL, 34:34)

My season officially kicked off with the St. Albert Road Race in mid-April, where I set my personal best for 10 miles last year. This year, my focus has been on running fast over the 5km and 10km distances, so I would be running the 10k in St. Albert this season. I was carrying some very good fitness into April this year, giving me high hopes of a record-eligible course PB. Unfortunately, I took a stupid but painful spill on some gravel during an early training ride that left me with a pretty deep bruise on my hip, ending my hopes of really running fast at this race. My goal became simply to win the race, and with a surge up a false flat 3km into the race, I accomplished just that (only after a lonely 7km around northern St. Albert). Final time – 34:34 for 1st place overall. Not bad for a rust buster.

St. Albert Road Race 10k

Charging to the finish in 1st at the St. Albert Road Race 10k

APRIL 17 – NORTHERN ALBERTA SPRING SERIES #1

Immediately after the St. Albert race, my team and I headed east towards Sherwood Park for the first race of the Spring Series bike races, a series jointly put on by several of the cycling clubs around Edmonton and aimed more at getting in training miles and developing skills than being a full-on bike race. This would be a fantastic opportunity for me to learn some skills on the fly, and to see firsthand how the dynamics of a draft legal bike race plays out. Considering my goals, this seemed like just the ticket despite having raced in the morning. I raced with the C group, which ended up being more like a “learn to race” group. I did manage a little solo break with 6km to go after a long pull into the headwind, which was very exhilerating. However, I was caught and finished with the group, exhausted but satisfied.

MOVING FORWARD

I did one more Spring Series race on May 1, but it was more of a training race than anything. I had planned to leave for Penticton 3 days later, and most of my teammates were racing around the city on the 1st. It was either the Spring Series race or a long solo ride, and I decided to headed to Ardrossan for some more skill development and camaraderie. I raced up a category in the B group, but just hung out near the back and watched the dynamics of the race play out. With the large group, it was difficult to move up without crossing the centre line…and that was just fine with me.

Penticton Road Trip

Some highlights from my Penticton Road Trip! Full report to come.

All of this training and racing has led to possibly my highest training load since I started this absurd sport, yet it has been done in a way that was not overwhelming to my body. Everything so far was aimed at a shot at redemption at the Bare Bones Duathlon in Penticton, where I finished a well beaten 5th last year. This year, I was able to dip under the course record time from last year and improve my finish to a well-beaten 2nd (by just over 2 minutes). I followed that up the next morning with my second road running win of the year, winning the Blossom 10 Mile in a solid (if unspectacular) 58:11. But you shall have to wait for that full report to hear more…

On a final note, I am planning on taking this site in a different direction. While you will still be seeing race reports from my season, I truly enjoy writing about the duathlon happenings around the country, as well as the odd post on training and equipment optimization. With such an exciting season coming up for duathlon, age group and elite alike, I’d like to make that the focus of this site. In retrospect, even my race reports often take the viewpoint of being a commentary on training methods, equipment choices and race dynamics. So…hope y’all are okay with that!

Apologies for the loooong update…it’s been long overdue. So until next time…keep Du’ing it!

Penticton Peach

Peace out! For now…

Advertisements

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

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

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

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

USAT

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

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

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

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

ESPRIT TRIATHLON ORGANIZING COMMITTEE

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

TRIATHLON ONTARIO

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

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

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

MULTISPORT CANADA

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

SO…WILL YOU BE THERE?

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

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

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

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

Road Trip To Penticton…And A Race! My Bare Bones Duathlon Race Report

This weekend my family and I made the pilgrimage from the Prairie flatland that is Edmonton, down through the foothills near Calgary, into and out of the Rocky Mountains, and finally into the vineyards and hills of inland B.C. and Penticton. All for 90 minutes of racing. Yes, I dragged my parents 2 days and 13 hours total of driving, one way, so I could run and ride my bike around Penticton for an hour and a half. On Mother’s Day weekend. Aren’t I a great son? That said, it was a fantastic experience that was a great way to start my duathlon season.

I knew going in that I was going to be pretty tired. I would also have been in the car for 7 hours on day 1 and 6 hours on day 2 before racing on day 3, which led to some tired legs on the morning of the race. I was not overly concerned however, because (a) I have ridden only 2 times a week on the trainer for the past 7 weeks and (b) this race was more about the experience than it was about anything else. The road trip alone was worth it. It was, in a word, stunning…I think I am smitten with the town of Golden, BC. The road up to Banff, through Golden and into Penticton was punctuated by way too many “Holy crap”‘s and “Oh wow”‘s from my seat.

In awe of Golden, BC

In awe of Golden, BC. Mom was just glad I didn’t get eaten by a real bear while I was out for a run.

Upon arriving, I pulled out my race set-up and went to recon the course. This was the first time I have ridden my TT bike outdoors since Lakeside last year. Note to self: if your first ride outdoors is on a twisty course, feet from a drop-off into a lake which then turns and climbs up a big ass hill with a corresponding sketchy descent, then you’re going to have a bad time. After riding the course, I was a tad terrified of what Saturday would bring. And by “a tad” I mean quaking in fear. It turned out that ride was just what I needed, because I was MUCH more confident riding the course in my aerobars on Saturday having done that on Friday.

Set up and ready to rock McLean Creek Road!

Set up and ready to rock McLean Creek Road. Pro tip: Always pre-ride the course if you can! Aluminum brake tracks and a shallow front rim were a confidence booster for me on this day.

Saturday dawned after a surprisingly good sleep and a very smooth lead-up to the race. I was the first one at the race site, as usual, and was set up with plenty of time to spare. After my recon ride, I decided that I would be undergeared with an 11-23 on the rear, so I had put on my 11-25 the night before. I was still under-geared…so I bought an 11-28. As it turns out this little grassroots race draws a pretty good field, with some of the local long course and ITU pros making their way out for a shot at the prize purse. Wandering around the transition area, I saw plenty of fast set-ups and evidence of sponsored athletes, so I knew that I would be in for some tough competition in my first du of 2015!

Hot on the heels of the leaders.

Hot on the heels of the leaders, in my Skechers GOMeb Speed 3‘s and Nineteen race number belt.

Fast forward to the start, the pace went out pretty hard. Not absurdly hard, but there were a few junior development athletes in the race who took the pace out pretty hard before turning a bit earlier than the full distance racers. I tucked in to the back of the lead pack of about 8, right on the shoulder of a dude in a Mexican ITU suit with Lesser printed on it. Apparently the dude is pretty good. Not to mention that Nathan Champness, Justin Birks and Chris Young were all waiting in the weeds, ready to pounce on a demanding bike course that they knew very well…

Heading out, terrified, onto the hilly and demanding bike course.

Heading out, terrified, onto the hilly and demanding bike course. A slippery looking front end on my B16, GOMeb 3’s awaiting my return to transition…

I entered T1 in 2nd place after averaging under my goal first run pace of 3:20/km on the twisting two lap run course. My intention on the first run was to get myself onto a clean course on the bike, and not have to worry about weaving in and out of traffic while I got some fluids in and got comfortable on my aerobars. After a solitary ride along the lakeshore, Champness passed me at the start of the climb, and Birks came past near the top. To be honest, after starting the climb it became a battle between me and the course. It was a tough grind, but I felt like I went 12 rounds with it and came out only slightly bruised and bloodied.. I was passed twice more during the ride, coming into T2 6th and in a decent spot to run my way into the top 5. Which would be a solid finish considering the pro field that turned up for the race!

Done! Time to run!

Done, time to run! Similar speeds to 2014 on a tougher course and lower watts. A testament to how slippery my new fit courtesy of Taylor at Sweet Pete’s Bike Shop is. Just need some 3SIXTY5 wheels to cap off my set-up!

Starting the run, I was about 30-40 seconds behind the 5th place athlete (the top 4 were pretty much long gone). I guess knowing the course like the back of your hand has some value (as well as being able to ride 40kph+). I focused myself on bearing down on 5th place, ready to call it a hard-fought battle if I could make the pass. The gap closed slowly (he was one tough dude) but I would not being denied. I eventually made the pass at the turnaround on the second lap, then kept the pressure on the rest of the way. I ended up finishing the race in over 1:31, with the extra climb on this year’s bike course likely adding 3-4 minutes compared to previous year’s results.

5th place, 1:31:04 for the 5k/33k/5k course.

5th place, 1:31:04 for the 5k/33k/5k course.

I can’t in good faith publish this report without a glowing report about the Penticton Triathlon Club and the organizers and volunteers at the race. It was a small race, a grassroots race, but it seemed like it was as much a part of the community as Challenge Penticton. I saw them out working hard to mark the course the night before, and I found out later that the local pros who raced also helped to design and mark the course. After I finished the race, the guy who won (Nathan Champness) sought me out and thanked me for making the trip to come race. I didn’t know I was such a well-known oddity at this race! At the awards they seemed to have more draw prizes than people at the race, so at the end the RD walked around and picked people at the bar to go up and grab a draw prize. He made a special effort to seek me out before I left and have me go and grab a draw prize. Then he made a point to talk to me for a little while, and complement me on my race that morning…even though he was in the middle of giving out awards!

Completely spent

Completely spent. Both myself and my gear.

The course was incredible scenic, and once I got over my fear of toppling into the lake it really was quite beautiful to ride along the shore for the first and last 7k. The hill part was BRUTAL, but the experience was something that I cannot get in any other place that I have raced. And the feeling of community was incredibly refreshing. Even the people just enjoying a day at the beach who made a point to stop and cheer us on while we suffered in the heat made it a great experience. If I have a chance to go back, I definitely will. I might have to go back just so I can get in the money! All in all, a great duathlon debut for 2015, and diversion from my heavy half marathon build. Thank you to everyone near and far who supports me in this journey, including my wonderful supporters Ignition Fitness, Skechers Performance and 3SIXTY5 Cycling (who have been amazingly supportive and patient as I chase after these foolish running goals during the spring). I was especially happy that my Papa was able to finally see me race a duathlon. Hope you enjoyed it! I’m in action again…tomorrow! In Red Deer for a quick 10k tune-up before starting my taper for the Canadian Half Marathon Championships in Calgary.

So until next time…keep Du’ing it!

Great to share this race with my Papa, who took a road trip of his own to support me!

Great to share this race with my Papa, who took a road trip of his own to support me!

Oh, and we stopped in Canmore on the way home so I could do a long run at 4600 at the Olympic Nordic Skiing Centre. Where it rained.

Oh, and we stopped in Canmore on the way home so I could do a long run at 4600 at the Olympic Nordic Skiing Centre. It rained.