Monday, July 28, 2008

Bala Falls Triathlon

First let's get the numbers out of the way. I'm a bit of a math freak so let me get it off my chest.

Long Course Sprint

Swim (750m) -- 15:46 (2:07/100m)
T1 -- 1:43
Bike (30km) -- 57:55 (31.1 km/h or 19.3 mph)
T2 -- 1:13
Run (7.5km) -- 35:43 (4:46/km or 7:40/mi)

Total: 1:52:19

69/340 participants
17/39 in M40-44 AG

A few months ago I had signed up for the Bala Falls triathlon. Because of my kids schedule, it had looked like I wouldn't be able to do it. We were all supposed to drive down to New York city to pick up my 16 year old daughter who was away at camp there. Don't ask. Anyway, my wife ended up flying there and I remained home with my 14 year old daughter. With a little bit of cajoling, I was a ble to convince her to come with me to Bala and volunteer while I was racing. I might have failed to mention that we would have to get up at 4:30am to make the 2:30 drive up there.

The site was very nice, although a bit wet. Quite a few mosquitoes, but I never go anywhere without my 30% DEET spray. Bugs just LOVE me. I racked my bike and got my bib and swag while my daughter went to the volunteer line. She ended up preparing the food tables with some others.

I must admit I wasn't feeling the love. The previous weekend's race was still fresh to mind and I wasn't sure I wanted to go through the grinder again. Well I was here so I prepped my transition area and walked around a bit. I actually went to the swim exit and memorized where my bike was. In all previous races, I have had difficulties finding my spot. I did the same from the bike re-entry. The pre-race email had clearly stated that there were no AG assigned rack so I picked the first good spot I saw. Now I noticed AG signs on the racks. I'm in the 25-29 rack. Well, I'm not moving.

Swim (750m) -- 15:46 (2:07/100m) - 16/39 in AG

As they start the pre-race meeting in the transition area, I start slipping into my wetsuit. I'm still not feeling it. Only when I finally got into the water did I finally start to get excited. The feeling of excitement cannot be denied. The pros started, then the first wave. I was in the 4th wave and all of a sudden it's time.

I had decided to pick up the pace a bit to see what happens. GO! This is the biggest race I've been in and I'm having a hard time getting started. I started too far back and now I'm following feet that seem like they are barely moving forward. A few minutes of that and I'm swimming. I just go a tad harder than usual but I try to maintain my "TI" technique. My goggles fog up a bit toward the end and I've having a hard time seeing where I'm going. That anti-fog spray isn't woth $h!t. All of a sudden, I'm passing white caps from the earlier wave! Allright! I push a bit at the end, although I didn't feel like it made me go any faster, just more tired. I get out, lift my goggles cause I can't see anything, pull the zipper cord and unsuit my top. I'm running!

T1- 1:43 Bike (30km) -- 57:55 (31.1 km/h or 19.3 mph) -- 23/39 in AG

I enter the transition area and find my bike faster than usual. Someone has thrown his wetsuit and towel all over my stuff. Asshole. I get out of my wetsuit, I put my belt number on, I "sock-sock-shoe-shoe-glasses-helmet" and I'm running toward the bike exit.
And I'm running. And I'm running. Where is that mount line? I get there eventually and jump on my bike. Rolling hills they said on the email. They weren't kidding. Although there were no monster hill, there were very few flat sections. Pretty much always going up or down a hill. I kept an eye on my 305 to make sure I didn't do anything stupid and kept my HR mostly under 160 which I feel is close to my LT, although I never got tested. Before the race, I moved my seat up by about an inch and moved it back down about 1/2 an inch. Well, forst the first time ever, I lost all feelings to my package. Maybe it was because there were mo monster hills and I rarely got off my seat but the fact of the matter is, that seat is going back down before my next ride. Anyway, got passed by more men than I would have liked, passed a few others. Road surface was pretty good. Anyway, 30k isn't that long and I just did my best, which isn't much. I get to the dismount line and run to my spot.

T2 -- 1:13 Run (7.5km) -- 35:43 (4:46/km or 7:40/mi) -- 10/39 in AG

The thing with the bike is that you have to manage it. I could go faster, I think, but I might blow my run. I think that the bike is where experience pays off because it's a very fine line. When you get to the run, you can just let it all out. By now, I've forgotten about "not feeling it". I've got the freshest legs ever after the bike. I can actually feel them! I have my Garmin secondary brain, I didn't forget it on the bike mount this time (see precious race report). I just start running at almost my 10k race pace. Of course, after the bike, I feel like I'm barely moving but my trusty 305 is there to reassure me. I'm passing people left and right. There's a guy with a 50 on his right calf going pretty much my speed and I latch on.
I'm number 218

I remember being passed by only two or three people during the run, one guy and one chick. Faster athletes were already in front I guess but me and my buddy passed dozens. At the turn around, my rabbit looked like he was fading a bit so I figured I would be the rabbit for a while and passed him. I didn't really feel him and I assumed he had slowed down. The return leg is a bit tricky because there are two little detours on unpaved cottage roads with fairly steep hills, just to make sure they break your spirit thoroughly. For the fits time ever, my right IT band burned a bit. I cleaned up my form a bit and it helped. Hit a bit harder, leaned forward, ... anyway I got it under control but I slowed down a bit going down a steep hill. All of a sudden, my buddy just blows by me like I'm not even moving! I decide to take the challenge and I follow. Anyway, we ended up finishing the race together, edging each others and trying to hold a conversation using only one-word sentences. "500 meters?" "600" "Shit" "sprint?" "can't!" "come on!" "ok" "go" "arrgh".
Finally, a picture with both feet in the air!

We finished pretty much together although he was in the next age group and had started after me so he finished about 2 minutes before me overall. I'm number 219 by the way, the good looking one with the blue shoes.
My Garmin says that I reached my max HR at the end. Although I was more tired at the end of last week's Olympic, I was in more PAIN at the end of this one. My daughter was trying to talk to me when I finished and I could not stop moaning "ahhhh ahhhh ahhh!". Took a few seconds before I came back to life. I kept looking for a spot to crash which wasn't too muddy.

I grabbed some food and drink and consumed all of it quickly. My daughter wanted to go so I just grabbed my stuff and we drove home.

This was my best race yet I believe. I made me feel like I kind of know what I'm doing now. I definitely need more work on the bike. Problem is, I'm a runner so I like to run. Cycling requires so much road and so much time! Anyway, now back to regular training and specially, back to Marathon training. I see you Toronto Marathon.

This might have been my last tri of the season. My kid's canoing season is entering the final throws, which means divisional, provincial and national competitions, all in August. Maybe I can squeeze the Toronto Island Tri on August 17th.

2009 will be the Year OfTthe Bike.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

As Morpheus said: AGAIN!!!

Well, barely one week since last week's tri and what have I learned? No a thing. I'm racing again tomorrow in a long course Sprint in Bala. Got sucked into that one by someone at a 10k race this spring. Anything in the Muskoka's seem to fill up quick. The race has been full for weeks.

My wife is away for the weekend, picking up our oldest daughter from camp so I transformed our living room into a transition area and washed my bike in the house. My youngest daughter is coming with me and will volunteer, if she can get up at 4:45am tomorrow, that is. I didn't feel like spending the extra money to sleep over there and quite frankly, I probably wouldn't have been able to find accommodations anyway.

This is definitely a C race. I gave everything I had last weekend and although I'm feel pretty good physically, I'm not sure how much punishment I will be willing to take tomorrow. Last weekend is still too fresh to my mind. A long course is uncomfortably close to an Olympic and during last week's race, I had to go places mentally that were not fun. I'm not complaining: this is what racing is all about and I know I did my 100% best. It's just still a bit too real.

Anyhoot, I'm sure that once I start swimming tomorrow, I'll forget all about all this psychological self-pity and just run as hard as I can. I've never seen the course so I have to rely on the pre-race email and "the course has its share of ups and downs" doesn't help much.

This should be fun!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Triathlon Saguenay Race Report

WARNING - This post contains coarse language and explicit content

When I started running last summer, I wasn't expecting that a year later I would be swimming 1.5km in a river, riding 40km and then finishing with a 10km foot race. Well, that's what I just did last Saturday. Let's start at the begining.

This winter, a few of my childhood friends told me they were doing a triathlon in our hometown of Jonquiere, QC, about 1000 km from my home in Toronto. Even though I was running, the idea of doing a triathlon had never entered my mind. Well, I said yes.

Fast forward to Friday, the day before the race. I'm at my friend Jean's (Jean is a man name in French, kinda like John) cottage and we're loading the bikes in my car. We've decided to drive the bike course, ride the run course and ... swim the swim course. The race course is right "downtown", about 25 minutes from the cottage. We get there, drive close to the end and decide to ride the last part, which is pretty darn hilly. The roads look like they haven't been maintained in 30 years. We then drive to the transition area and ride the 5k run course, which we will have to do twice tomorrow. Hmmm. The course crosses the river three times. There is one bridge and two dams. To get to the last dam, there is a huge hill. Doesn't feel too bad on the bike, but we ARE standing on our pedals.

To the swim. We slap our wetsuit on and head for the river. We have to sign in at the lifeguard station and the lifeguard says we MUST wear a life jacket. We laugh. She gets mad and says that she can't stand triathletes, that people have been ignoring her all day and that we can all go to hell. We jump in the water and start swimming. The current, contrary to what we had been led to believe, is not too bad. The water is about 72 degrees. We swim about 500m and head back. We drive around and come back at 6PM to get our bag. Very basic: a bib and a technical shirt: the shirt is really nice.

I'll skip the social part, but it was nice to see my old friends, some of which I hadn't seen in 20 years.

Only 3 of us were signed up for the race: Jean, 45, from Calgary, Dan,44, from Edmonton and me, TriJD, 44, from Toronto. It just happens that Dan and me have the exact same birthday. The 4th guy, still living here, ended up not being able to race for health reasons.

It's Saturday morning, 6 am: Race Day! Jean makes a batch of smoothies. I'm not too hot on milk product before a race, but they tell me it's a tradition so what the hell. Quick coffee, potty break and it's time to load the cars. We arrive there at 7:30 for a 9-ish start. It's a small race with less than 100 athletes between the Sprint and the Olympic. There's also a team, a U13 and U15 tri as well as Sprint, Olympic and Team duathlons. I would say about 225 people. When we show up, people are signing up because the weather is nice. We get marked. At my previous tri, they put your number on your arm and your age on your calf. I like the age one. We go to the transition area to set up. In my previous tri, there were people of all shapes and sizes. Not here. Everybody looks intense and seem really intense. There are VERY few chicks. Only 5 out of 45 in the Olympic and 12 out of 40 in the Sprint. I go to the potty one last time before putting my wetsuit on. All of a sudden, they announce that we're starting early because the train, which intersects the run loop, is early! I go back to make sure my stuff is ready, put Bodyglide where is required and put my wetsuit and cap on. The weather is perfect: about 20C (70F) and the water is the same temperature.

Swim - 1500m - 32:08:00

When we were kids, I've always been the least athletic of my group of friends. They were all in the waterpolo team so I pretty much know that I'll have the worse swim. I have my full length wetsuit, they have short ones. They will start the Olympic first and then start the Sprint when we're all in our second loop. We get in the water and a guy yells GO! and we're off. I start well behind and on the outside. The first leg is with the current so we're cruising down the river. I just swim, breathing on both sides. The water is flat. I'm swimming with a bunch of people and we're colliding quite a bit. We swim under a bridge and I hear my name: I look up and a couple of our support team are waving. I wave quickly and keep going. Shortly after I finish my first loop I hear the splash of the Sprint guys. As I turn the last corner and start my last leg, 3 or 4 guys with yellow caps swim right over me. I swim a bit more to the outside and plug along. I see feet and I just follow them to the finish. I get out of the water and pull the top of my wetsuit off. I look at my rack and see my bike. Amazing, Dan's bike is still racked! I start stripping. The transition area is on asphalt and I don't want to hurt my wetsuit so I try to be careful. I'm stuck! Fuck it, I'll buy a new one. I step all over it and get out of it. I throw the wetsuit on the bike rack and look at my stuff. I look on the ground and my chip is laying there! I put it back on. I can't think. I start chanting "sock, sock, shoe, shoe, glasses, helmet go". Thank's AG podcast! I unrack and as I start running I see Dan running up to the rack. We say "HEY" and I'm gone.

Bike - 40 km - 1:21:13 - includes T1 (2 minutes?)

I get to the line, mount my bike, press START on my Garmin 305 and I GO. The course was a 20 km out and back, which we did twice. The first half is flat, with rolling hills and a couple of decent ones toward the end. The course cuts traffic on the road that goes to the closest lake and people are trying to get to their cottage. Some people are PISSED OFF. I'll learn later that some drunk (at 10am) tried to drive in the bike course and hit two cyclists, right in front of the cops. Un-fucking-believable! I'm not aware of any of this though. My bike is uneventful except that as I start the second loop, I get this urgent need to piss. This is disturbing. I'm squeezing gels out of my cool new Gel-Bot and drinking water out of my second bottle. I'm keeping my HR between 70 and 80% of my running max, which is 193. This is my second tri and I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm thinking that this feels hard enough. I'm a bit worried because I've never ridden that hard for that long. I'm going over 30 km/h except on the hills where it's all over the place. I endup with a hair under 30 km/h average, which I'm happy with because it's faster than my prior Sprint average and the course was harder. I slow down as I get close to the line, get off my bike and I'm running to the transition area. I know that Dan isn't far behind because I saw him about 500m after the turnaround.

Run - 10 km - 50:34:00 - includes T2 (1:30?)

I rack my bike like a pro, throw my helmet in my bag, put my cap on, strap my number belt on, switch shoes in 5 seconds and I'm just GONE! What did you say? What about that Garmin 305? As I cross the mat, I go to press on LAP and there's nothing there. Damn. Would you believe I have NEVER run without it since I bought it? I don't look at my HR on the run but I do like to look at my lap pace. It's set to lap every Km and I really like to follow my pace. Well, not today. Did I mention I had to pee? I also forgot to pee. I'm just out of the transition, I forgot my 305, I have to piss like a race horse. How am I feeling? I can't really feel anything below my ankles and my legs aren't responding quite as expected. I've done bicks but this is ridiculous. The race course immediately goes down hill. My quads feel like there going to give out and I'm afraid I'm going to trip because of my phantom feet. Within 5 minutes I feel ok. Not great but ok. I had planned on a 4:45min/km pace but I'm pretty sure I'm not doing it. I see one of the few girls ahead of me, maybe 50 meters. She looks strong. I don't think I'm going to pass her any time soon. I don't see anybody else. 100 people spread over a long course makes for a thin field. Other than my bladder starting to freak out, the fist 2.5 km goes ok, except that I can't go any faster. I don't pass anyone and nobody passes me. At the turn-around I grap a cup of water, drink a gulp and dump the rest on my head. The climb commences. I'm still following the girl. I can't get any closer. We pass a couple of people. The hill is brutal. As we get close to the bridge that brings us back to the line, the girl starts to accelerate. I understand that this is her last (only?) loop. Sprint, Du? I'm losing my rabbit. Sure enough she goes on the finish side and I go for another loop. By now, I've decided that I'm going to wait for some bushes and piss there. I'm downhill again so I'm in a better mood but I know what's coming. As I start the climb for the second time, I pass a guy who ventilates like he's on top of the Everest. I think I'm going to blow by him but he hangs on. I keep hearing him litterally breathing down my neck. No way this guy can't sustain that level of pain for another 2 km! My problem is that now, I can't stop to piss. He's right there. He can't finish before me. I'm breathing fine, he's about to pop. But I can't fucking accelerate. I didn't even look at him when I passed him. I have no idea what he looks like. I keep running. I wonder for a while if it would help to cry. I'm SO FUCKING TIRED. What if the wheezer has a kick? I can't imagine, he's getting worse. We get back to the top just before the last bridge, about 750m from the finish. We're on the bridge. As we get off the bridge, I hear my guy, about 10m behind me, pick it up. Fucker. As tired as I am, you're going to force me to sprint. I should punch you in the head. Well, my track sessions paid off. Just as he tries to pass me, we're about 400m from the line. I can do that. I just take the fuck off. He didn't even try. Never heard him again. I hear my name and number. I look around: no camera, thank god. I don't think I can smile. My friend Jean is standing there yelling something. I high-five him and keep going. A lady tells me to stand still while she takes the chip off. Are you kidding me? I've been going for nearly 3 hours and I have to stop and not move? I must have done it cause the chip is off. Where is the water? No one is handing out water! Are you shitting me? I go inside the building where the food is served and get me a bottle of water. I see a chair and sit in it. WHAT THE FUCK? I'm pissing in my tri-shorts! I forgot I had to pee! I get up and run to the toilet. I do what must be done and it feels great. I grab some food and go sit outside with Jean waiting for Dan who shows up a few minutes later.

Final time: 2:43:54

I'm really happy with this race. It was great. It was also the hardest physical challenge I've done yet. I cannot imagine doing an HIM or an IM, although I intend to do just that. HIM next year and IM whenever I can talk my wife into it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fevered Pitch

As Saturdays triathlon approaches, I'm getting more and more obsessed. It shouldn't be like that since there isn't much I can do now but be reasonable this week. I keep looking at my previous races, at last year results for that event, at my friends' results last year and in other other events they raced this year. I'm a mess.

I can't wait to jump in my car on Thursday and GET GOING. I have a 10 hour drive to Jonquiere so I just want that part over with.

The Competition

I was supposed to compete against three of my old buddies. Last time I checked, one has registered for the Sprint instead of the Olympic and another one was sick (see lame explanation about sailing in a hurricane in previous post). The third one is indeed signed up and you can see a picture below.

I've know my main opponent for a while. As you can see in the picture, we have trained together in the past. This is us in the back yard, training in my father's infinite pool (we swam in a circle). If you inspect the picture closely, you might correctly infer that he has a slight edge in the water.

I was going to rely on my cycling and running ability to destroy him. Unfortunately for me, my sick sailor friend is going to let him use his 4000$ bike, instead of the hybrid city bike with fat tires, basket and streamers that he was supposed to be racing. Damn.

My last hope is the run, where I should have the edge. But I have to keep up during the bike. You can see from the picture that I've been riding for a while. I have lost the training wheel, but there's still hope.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Am I ready?

One week until my first Olympic triathlon. On Thursday, I will drive 1000 km to Jonquiere, my home town. Next Saturday morning, my friends and I will swim 1.5k, ride 40k and run 10k in a bid to reclaim our youth and to show each other that we didn't let ourselves become victims of the Couch of Doom.

Although this is a "friendly" event, we have been secretly training like Olympic hopefuls. My (Google) investigation has shown that two of them have participated in at least one long course triathlon in Edmonton, Alberta. (Full disclosure: I have done a Sprint tri as well in June). The 4th friend is pretending to be sick, following a lame encounter with a hurricane while sailing a sailboat from Puerto Rico to Quebec City. I want to see a note from an independent doctor!

If I'm not ready now, no training can save me six days from the race. This week I plan on doing a bit less volume while maintaining the intensity. I will try to practice my transitions, which were just horrible in my first tri. I would like to do a couple of open water swims in my beloved wetsuit, which will make the 1.5k swim possible for me. There is NO WAY the water temperature will be above 78.

I still have to decide how hard to do the bike. I will try to run the 10k at my half marathon pace, which is 4:45/km (7:40/mile) or faster, depending on what's left in my legs.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Easy Ones Are Over

About the same time I started my triathlon training, I changed my running program from Jack Daniel's Intermediate program to Matt Fitzgerald's "Brain Training" beginner's marathon program. I picked the beginner's program because 1) it's my first marathon and 2) it's hard to run more than 4 times a week and still swim and bike. My goal marathon is the Toronto Marathon on October 19th. I thought of doing the Scotia Marathon 3 weeks earlier, but my training is slipping a bit because of life-in-general so it will probably have to be the Toronto Marathon.

For the last 12 weeks, my running workouts have been relatively easy. I had increased the distances of the long runs to prepare for my 25k trail race, but the other workouts were fairly easy compared to Daniel's plan. We'll, no more. The marathon plan has now caught up with my fitness and I'm suffering. There will be no more easy workouts.

My plan says I should be racing a 5k race this weekend. I found one but I'm a bit weary of doing it, because I have my "friendly" triathlon coming up in 2 weeks, which is an A race. I'm racing 3 of my childhood friends back in my home town of Ville Saguenay in Quebec. Would it be prudent to unleash so close to an A race? Surely, a 5k race would be ok? Hmmm.

I'm not cycling as much as I should. I'm sick of the bike path and roads are too busy so I tend to skip the cycling workouts or keep them too short. I'm not sure what to do about it. I should try to go to the TTC (Toronto Triathlon Club) group ride Saturday morning. I have family obligations that make that difficult though. Arrggghh!

I bought a wetsuit this week! I tried to go for a swim in lake Ontario on Tuesday but the water was so cold that my hands couldn't take it. It must have been 5C. I swam about 25 meters and gave up. Everything covered by the wetsuit felt great though!

That's it for now. Out.