runner

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