Tuesday, 30 May 2017

CISM - World Military Marathon Championships – May 2017

All setup and ready to race!

It’s not every day that you get to race a Military World Championships on your home soil, but this past weekend that is precisely what I got to do. I was selected to the Canadian CISM Running Team this past fall in preparation for the Championships as part of the Ottawa Race Weekend. I was pretty stoked to be part of the team and excited to be taking another crack at a sub 2:40 marathon. I had finally broken that mark in February this year at the Mesa-Phoenix Marathon (2:39:32) – in my laziness I never got around to writing that race report.

Anyways as the weeks trickled by after February, I wasn’t really sure how my fitness was coming along. I wasn’t as consistent as I would have like to be and honestly, I was a little depressed. CISM Triathlon Training Camp in Clermont in March was fun, but I left that camp wondering if I really wanted to race triathlon this year. Things didn’t go as I would have liked during Camp and instead of leaving camp encouraged to pursue excellence, I left camp wondering if I should give up triathlon, do some bike racing, and do what I enjoy most, run! 

Team Canada ready to race!
March and April in the military are always busy as we scramble to complete everyone’s Personnel Evaluation Reports (PERs). As an Officer Commanding a Flight (equivalent of a Company in the Army) the responsibility for everyone’s PERs rests completely on my shoulders. It often feels like you have no life as you frantically try to do your “normal” job while trying to push a final product out that meets the detailed requirements of higher headquarters. Least to say we are finally through that hump for this year.

Team Canada at the Awards Ceremony

Searching for a will to train coupled with an enormous burden of trying to represent your folks in the best manner possible weighed on me heavily. I was constantly tired and torn between going in early or staying late or taking the time to train. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I felt my allegiance being pulled to work. I hate not being able to train…if you don’t believe me ask my wife. 

Anyways, enough of my ranting; this is supposed to be about running. I knew I had the fitness and the base to run another good marathon so in late April and early May I hunkered down a little and put a few good weeks of training in. I knew I was still lacking a little speed but I knew I had enough tempo work to be fine. As the race approached I felt more and more like bailing. I didn’t feel like I was in the shape I should be for a championship and I honestly didn’t want to let my team down.
Anyways, race week finally arrived and on Friday I found myself on a plane heading to Ottawa. Upon arrival at the airport we were greeted by our amazing guide Ron. Each of the teams was assigned a guide (probably less important for the Canadian Team but for some of the countries that didn’t speak English having a guide who could translate was paramount). I met the remainder of the team in the Team Canada HQ (ie. Mike Mueller & Denis Cloutier’s Suite) and then we proceeded to do our check-in. 

The gentleman himself, Ron our guide.
I elected to stay at my parents and so after our Friday evening activities were over, my brother Samuel and dad picked me up from Ottawa U. I got up Saturday morning, did a quick shake-out run and then headed back to Ottawa U for the Canadian Armed Forces Nationals Brief (the Canadian Armed Forces Running Nationals are always held as part of the Ottawa Race Weekend). Hosting the Championship in Canada meant the Canadian Athletes could compete in Running Nationals and the World Military Championships. The rest of Saturday almost seems like a blur. After the Nationals brief I had a quick tour of the Expo with Phil, then a bite to eat at Ottawa U Cafeteria and then we got ready for the CISM Opening Ceremonies. Thankfully the ceremonies we efficient (ie. Professional, but short and to the point).

Phil and I made sure to stop in and say hi to our friends at the Compressport Booth
After the opening ceremonies I quickly changed and then headed back to my parents. The house across the street from my parents had gone up for sale (or at least the for sale sign had gone up on Thursday – the property wasn’t officially going to be listed until this Wednesday). Michelle Kupe, our Real Estate agent, had coordinated a showing for 1600hrs on Saturday afternoon. The house was in pretty good condition and well we certainly couldn’t complain about the location: across the street from my parents and brother/sister in-law and backing onto a Park. Well so much for an early bedtime. After a few calls, text messages, back and forth between Claudia and me and me and Michelle, we were submitting an offer. By the time that was all done it was almost 2300hrs. Least to say I was in bed shortly after 2330hrs, but I didn’t fall asleep till well after mid-night. At 0400hrs I was up, had my standard pre-race breakfast (a couple eggs, a couple pieces of toast with jam, a cup of coffee, and a glass of orange juice) and then headed downtown to Ottawa U.

The Race itself was awesome. The National Sports Office did an amazing job coordinating the CISM - World Military Marathon Championships and along with the Race Director and his team pulled off an amazing event. The CISM athletes were included as part of the Elite field. This meant that besides the normal aid station we had our own bottles every 5kms. This meant I got to use F2C Glyco-Durance and Electro-Durance as my on course nutrition). We were lined up in the front of the field and at 0700hrs we were off. I so enjoy racing in Ottawa wearing a CAF singlet and wearing a CAF CISM singlet this year was even more special. The cheers from the crowd for being a Canadian and a member of the Forces was unreal.

Phil and I knew we would be running a fairly equivalent Marathon and so we had agreed prior to the race that we would try and stay together and pace off each other. Having such a talented field meant packs would surely form. In the first 5kms of the race I settled in, found a good draft, and avoided the urge to go hard. After about 5kms, the pack that Phil and I were with started to thin out. I realized that we could either surge a little and bridge up or we might end up in no man’s land. So Phil and I slowly surged and bridged up. A few kms later we had added James MacLellan our team mate to our pack and set about pulling in the next pack which included the speedster Alex BoulĂ©. Shortly after entering the Parkway, we slowly closed the gap on that pack and as we headed towards the Gatineau portion of the course Alex, James, Phil, and I were all running together in the same pack. However, that was short lived and as we entered the first few rolling hills in Gatineau, Alex and James pulled away.
I felt great the opening half of the marathon - much, much better than I had felt in Mesa-Phoenix earlier this year. However, the small hills in Gatineau, the infamous bridge, and the rollers along Sussex and into Rockcliffe quicky took their toll. By 30kms I was starting to slow and as I hit 32 I remember thinking to myself that as long as I ran 4 min kms for the remainder I would be sub 2:40 again. Thankfully a small pack including a Lebanese Army Gentleman and one of the Polish girls passed me and I realized my best option was to jump in with them. I was able to enjoy their draft for between 4-5 kms however once we hit a few small hills they pulled away. With 5kms to go, I was struggling, but I knew the end was in site. 

The last kick to the finish!
Finally the finish arrived and I was relieved to see 2:39 on the clock knowing that I was going to break 2:40 for the second time this year. Final time 2:39:39 (7s slower than Mesa-Phoenix). I was 64th overall, 21st in my age category, and 41st in the Military (yes, I did get chicked by two of the Polish girls – but at least one of them is an Olympian.). The effort was good enough for third overall in the Canadian Armed Forces behind Alex and James and second in the open division (Alex races in the Master's division).

The guys may have gone home without any additional hardware, but the girls locked up 3rd place in the team competition. Well done ladies!
It was totally an awesome experience that I will not soon forget. I am already looking forward to next year hoping that I will be selected as one of the athletes sent to race the 50th CISM World Military Championships in Beirut, Lebanon in the Fall of 2018.
Hanging out with the fast Polish Team. They swept both the Men's and Women's podiums!

A special word of thanks to Active Physio Works, F2C Nutrition, and Compressport Canada for supporting me on this amazing journey. 

Accepting the Silver Medal (Canadian Military Open Division) From MGen Pelletier, CAF Running Patron

Thanks also to Spencer at the Tech Shop in Edmonton for ensuring I had a new pair of kicks to race in.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

#sub9hr - Ironman Arizona Race Report - #smashyourgoal

So I had set out at the beginning of the year that Ironman Arizona would be my only “A” race of the year. That meant that everything this year was focused on having a great race here. The goal from the onset was very clear in my mind…go sub 9hrs. 

I flew into Phoenix on Thursday morning and headed directly to Cactus Pool for a swim. After my swim, I ran into Brent McMahon who had just finished his swim and was headed out for a run. I then headed down to Tempe Beach Park to complete athlete check-in. Athlete check-in was very quick and I had a quick walk through the expo. On my way out, I ran into Jordan Bryden. I headed back to the car to put my bike together. Just as I was finishing, Jordan reappeared and said he was going to head out for a ride as well. So once we both had our bikes together we headed out for a ride on the course. I was very thankful to be able to ride with Jordan as he knew the course. We biked almost a full loop with the exception of the climb at the end.

After the ride, I headed up to John and Sue Coffen’s. They had once again graciously agreed to be my home stay while in Phoenix. John and I had first met back in Coeur d’Alene in 2012 and have stayed in touch ever since. 

Friday I did a quick 5km run as I was unable to fit it in on Thursday. After the run, I headed down to the expo for the athlete briefing and then to take in the expo. I ran into Michellie Jones at the Compex booth and thirty minutes later I walked out as a proud owner of a Sport Elite Muscle Stimulator. In the afternoon, John and I went to Slowtwitch gathering at Tribe Multisport. John introduced me to quite a few of the local athletes. 

Argon 18 E-118 (aka my Stealth Steed) Racked and Ready to Race!
Saturday morning I did a quick brick: ~30min ride followed by a 4km run. I then headed down to Tempe Beach Park for the practice swim. I did one loop and then checked in my gear. 

I didn’t have a very good sleep, but that’s pretty much standard. I woke up at 0345hrs and made my typical breakfast of a couple eggs, a bagel with honey (instead of the typical jam), a coffee, and a glass of cranberry juice. I headed down to Tempe Beach Park at 0430hrs and was in location shortly before 0500hrs. Parking was an absolute breeze and the parking garage was directly across the street from transition. I dropped off my bike special needs bag (500mL of Red Bull + 2 Gu Gels), pumped up my tires, and put my nutrition on my bike. 
The picturesque swim!

Swim – Swim Strong
As I’ve stated before the swimsmart initiative from Ironman turns the race into a TT, however, the advantage is the swim start is a lot less chaotic and quickly spreads out the field. This resulted in very little contact during the swim. I swam using my motto Swim Strong. I was a little disappointed to see 1:05:XX on my watch as I exited the water, but knew that even with a  1:05 my goal should still be within reach.

Bike – Bike Hard
Through transition efficiently while ensuring I had sunscreen applied to my arms. I was onto the bike and very quickly settled into a mod-hard effort. I quickly found myself in a pack with three other athletes. It was clear that the athletes I was riding with all understood how to ride legally and attempted to maintain 12m of separation. The bigger issue was the athletes that we were passing were not falling back like they should be. I was getting pretty sick and tired of the yo-yo-ing effect from the passes and kept moving to the front of the pack which required surges to above threshold effort. I knew I didn’t want this to continue for the remainder of the race so at the turn-around on Beeline Highway I put the hammer down and took off. One of the other athletes had a similar idea and he passed me on the way back down the Beeline Highway. I felt very strong on the bike  and made sure to focus on my nutrition in preparation for the run. On the bike I consumed 2 Caramel Bonk Breakers, one during each descent on Lap #1 and Lap #2, and 2 Gu Gels on the third descent and ride back into  Tempe. In addition to that I drank about 5L of PhD Glyco Durance Strawberry-Kiwi Flavour (1200 Calories) and 500mL of Red Bull (220 Calories). I was pretty happy with my lap bike splits of ~1:32, 1:33, and 1:33, Final Bike Time was 4:38:05. Power 203W Avg, 210W NP. IF 0.78. VI 1.03.
To the finish by His Grace!

Run – Run Fast
Off the bike and onto the run. As I quickly ran through transition I glanced at my watch and saw 5:48. It was at this point I felt very comfortable that I had my #sub9hr goal in the bag. My legs felt great and I felt I had sufficient margin to put a very solid effort in on the run. I settled into an effort that I classify as steady. I quickly realized that I was near the front of the age group race. I was surprised to see that I was holding a 4:00/km pace. I knew it was probably unrealistic for me to hold this for the full marathon, but knowing I had a buffer I figured I just go with it and back off the effort to ~4:16/km once the effort started feeling hard. I was through the first loop in just over 1:25 and I felt that I could run the second loop in 1:30. It wasn’t until I caught Patrick Bless (Male Pro) on the second loop that I realized that I had worked my way to the front of the age group race. As we were climbing the hill he made a comment to me about being the top age grouper. The last five kilometers were tough but knowing I had a shot of being the top age group was motivation enough to keep the hammer down. Run fast the kids said and that’s what I did. Final Run time 2:54:38.

Final time 8:43:52. A new Ironman PB by 22minutes with a PB on both the bike and the run. I have to say I am still in absolute shock that I was able to smash my goal by 15+minutes. And of course the icing on the cake was I was the 1st Overall Amateur and 22nd Overall.
F30-34 & M30-34 Podium (LtoR - 1st to 5th)

A special word of thanks to my amazingly supportive wife who graciously allowed me to race yet another year. Also, a big thanks to John and Sue Coffen for their amazing hospitality. Finally I can’t say enough about the great support I have received this year from Cam and Elise @ Element Cycling and Multisport, Argon 18, Jonathan Kisiloski the Canadian Distributor for Z3ROD, Compressport Canada (distributed by A-1 Imports), and the many amazing friends and colleagues who continue to support me and my family.  

Going home with more hardware!

Monday, 10 October 2016

2016 Ironman World Championship Race Report

Swag from the Ironman World Championships

So honestly, going into the Ironman World Championship, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from my body. I hadn't raced an Ironman in two years. As this would be my fourth time racing in Kona, I had a very good understanding of the course, but the unknown factor is always the weather. I didn’t really have any goals going into the race. I really just wanted to have a great race and enjoy racing in Kona. In the back of my mind I wanted a sub 9:30 performance and a top 20 in my age group. And of course I was hoping for another Military Division win.

Anyways, race morning I was awake shortly before four and had my usual pre-race breakfast: coffee, bagel with jam, a couple eggs, and a glass of orange juice. We headed into Kailua-Kona at about 0445 and then walked down to athlete check-in. I said my goodbyes to my amazing wife and then passed through security and then body marking. After that process was done I went to my bike, put my PhD nDurance bottles on my bike, pumped up my tires, and started my Garmin Edge 810. I’ve been using the PhD products this year and have found they work extremely well (FYI – the name will be changing to First to Cross – F2C). For the bike I was planning on 1000 Calories of nDurance, 500mL of Red Bull (at special needs), 2 Bonk Breaker Bars, 3-5 Gu Gels, and 10-12 Salt Pills.

Male Amateur Athletes all lined up for the swim start!

After the bike was all set I had almost an hour to wait before the start. I ran into Christopher Loose and Ivan O’Gorman in transition. At around 0625 I finished putting on my tri-suit and swim skin, checked my pre-swim bag in, and then headed over to the pier to watch the pro men’s start. Then I lined up with the AG men and waited to enter the water. We were able to get in the water as soon as the women pro had started. We had to wait in the water about twenty minutes before we got our time to start. I seeded myself about 5m right of the Roka inflatable and about 5 rows backs. Once the cannon went at 0655 we, the age group men, were off. The initial minute or two of the start was quite congested but things started to spread out pretty quickly. I managed to get kicked in the face, punched in the head, and scraped on the left hand in the course of the swim but all the contact seemed to be accidental. 
Male Amateur start...let the chaos begin.

I settled into a smooth but strong effort on the swim out to the turn around. I was in and out of drafts for most of the swim but once we made the turn around I found a set of feet and stayed on them for the next 30 minutes. I felt strong throughout the swim and continued to remind myself to Swim Strong. I was very happy to see 1:07:XX on my watch as I exited the swim. A new PB for the swim in Kona (which is always a non-wetsuit swim and generally slow).

I quickly worked my way through transition and headed out onto the bike. The bike was quite congested for the opening loop, especially going up Kuakini Hwy. Once we were out on the Queen K things started to open up a little, but it seemed to be more congested than I could remember. It wasn’t so much congested as it was just a steady stream of people. I looked down at my Garmin Edge 820 at one point and realized I had biked the opening loop at ~210W and 230W NP. I knew this was a little higher than I wanted so reminded myself to settle into my effort and relax. I planned to Bike Hard, but I knew I needed to also Bike SMART. I was passing a lot of people, but was getting frustrated that people weren’t dropping back once they were passed. I just ignored what was happening behind me and settled into my effort. The few times I was passed I made sure that I would soft pedal and drop back out of the draft zone, only to be more frustrated by the pace line that would then pass me. As we got closer to Mauna Lani, the headwinds really started to pick-up and a massive draft pack started to form. I got pretty ticked off at this point and backed off the effort for a couple minutes to let the huge pack of probably thirty people pass me. I rode legally until I saw an opportunity as we approached the next aid station to put the hammer down and passed the pack of drafters. Thankfully a few of the athletes were likewise sick of the blatant drafting and followed suit. 

The bulk of the athletes couldn’t hold the effort and/or bridge the gaps so that was the end of that stupid drafting pack or at least the end that I saw of it. The bike is supposed to be an individual effort, follow the rules or go race another sport. Some people were clearly trying to ride legally and follow the rules while other athletes were deliberately not following the rules to gain an advantage. Unfortunately, the marshals can only enforce what they see. There were marshals out there and there were some penalties being given out, but unfortunately the marshals aren't everywhere.

The ride up to Hawi was relatively uneventful though we had a fairly strong wind on the way up and of course a screaming tailwind/crosswind on the descent. On the return trip on the Queen K we had a cross wind for most of the return leg, though with about 30km left in the ride we had a fairly strong headwind. I felt strong throughout the ride and continued to think “Ride Hard”. I felt like my nutrition plan was perfect. I was happy to get off the bike knowing I had biked five hours flat. Power 202W Avg, 212W NP, VI 1.05. 
Heading back into town after the turn around on Ali'i (photo credit Barry Green)
And onto the run. My plan was to run what felt easy on the out and back on Ali’i and then if I felt good, to start pushing a little on the Queen K. The support along Ali’i Drive was amazing. My legs felt a little sluggish, but I was really struggling with the humidity. I knew I wasn’t holding 4:15/km pace so just told myself to ignore my pace and go by effort. On the return leg, I had to start walking the aid stations to get ice down my back and my stomach to try and get my core temperature down. I knew the run was going to be a struggle, but I was going to finish and I was optimistic that I could set a new PB. The run up Palani Dr was hard, very hard, and I could feel the additional effort was really driving my core temperature up. I knew the only way to get through the marathon was going to be by staying wet and by keeping ice on me. So at every aid station I would walk, take some water, coke or Red Bull, and then drench myself in water and put ice down by back and front. As I was heading out on the Queen K I saw Tony O’Keefe on a motorbike as he was the lead bike for the Men’s Professional field. He offered words of encouragement.  I was happy to see Mike Brown and Jeff Symmonds a little further out on the Queen K. 

Heading up Ali'i to the finish!
The climb out of the Energy Lab was equally trying to the climb up Palani. However, once I was back on the Queen K I started to feel a lot stronger. I was happy to complete the final climb up the Queen K to Palani and then opened the gas as I descended to Kuakini Hwy and the final stretch. As I rounded the corner and headed down Ali’I drive, there were Steven and Linda Banks cheering for me and shortly thereafter was my amazing wife handing me the Canadian Flag so I could run down the finishing shoot with it. Final run time 3:06. It was definitely not the run I had hoped for, but I can't complain.

Final Time 9:21:27. A new Kona PB by almost nine minutes. 101st Overall, 57th Age Grouper, 12th M30-34, 2nd Canadian Amateur, and unfortunately only 3rd in the Military Division. 

No additional hardware this year, but this was by far my best overall performance in Kona! 
The best Sherpa and my #1 fan at the Athletes' Celebration Dinner! Thanks babes!

Stuffing my face and drinking Red Bull at the Athletes' Celebration Dinner!