Sunday, 26 May 2013

Speechless! Canadian Forces(CF) Running Championships (Ottawa Race Weekend)

Sometimes you just don’t know what to expect. And sometimes when there is no pressure to perform, that is when you truly excel. And this proved to be one of those weekends and races. Seeing as I had just done Ironman Texas last weekend, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect running a Half-Marathon eight days later. I wouldn’t normally attempt such a feat but seeing as I had won the CF ½ Marathon title last year I felt somewhat obliged to make an attempt. An added benefit is that most of my family lives in Ottawa so it would also provide us with an opportunity to spend time with the greater family.

We arrived in Ottawa early on Tuesday evening. The kids were of course super excited to see their grandparents, though I’m sure some of their excitement was freedom from the van. The week in Ottawa was uneventful with the exception of realizing on Thursday that my right hamstring did not want to cooperate. I went for a light 35min run in the morning and my right hamstring was extremely tight. I managed to get a massage that afternoon at Renaissance which seemed to help loosen the hamstring up a good bit. For the remainder of the week I kept nursing the hamstring with a combination of heat and self massage. 

I attended the Canadian Forces mandatory briefing Friday afternoon and then went with my fellow CF members to our Pasta Dinner. It’s always great going to the CF Championships as you get to reconnect with friends throughout the country. It was also great seeing the horde from Cold Lake (hopefully we represented 4 Wg well.) I also picked up my race package and my Ottawa Race Weekend Tech Shirt.

Saturday morning I did my final run, a light 30minutes with a few accels to test the hamstring and make sure the legs were firing. Hamstring was tighter than I would have liked but the accels felt good. I went down to the race expo with my wife, Claudia, so she could pick-up her race kit. I was pretty happy that she was racing. She says she hates running, so I had signed her up earlier in the year (this would be her second 1/2 Marathon – the last one was in 2010.) I spent the rest of the morning hanging out with the folks at the Compressport Booth at the Expo. Compressport has been a fantastic supporter and so I figured the least I could do was give a little back. I was so very thankful to be able to hang out with Jonathan, help sell some merchandise, and learn a little more about new items coming from Compressport.

The Race

Sunday morning I woke up at 0500hrs and had my standard race breakfast of a cup of coffee (Starbucks), a blueberry bagel with Jam and two eggs over easy. Seeing as I was still the only one up, I elected to take a 30minute nap. We headed down to the race start at 0730hrs and were parked and at the start by 0800hrs. I warmed up for about 15minutes, had a few sips of water, and then took a Gu Gel (Java). My hamstring was ok during the warm-up, but I felt a slight pop with the final accel. I contemplated pulling the pin on the race, but I felt like I had to run. I figured I’d go out hard and see what the hamstring would do. 
And we are off!
I lined up in the first coral right at the front and to the left. When the horn sounded I was off like a flash. I figured I would go out hard for the first kilometer and then see if a pack would form. Three runners were ahead of me and I was pretty confident that two of the runners were clearly going out too hard with the lead runner being in a class of his own. I settled into a pace which I knew was slightly faster than I wanted to run, but figured this was the best way to run as I anticipated that deep fatigue from last weekend would come into play later in the race. My right hamstring was starting to tighten up through 5kms and I was getting a little worried. I was thankful to be wearing Compressport Quad Sleeves as I felt the compression they provided was assisting the hamstring. I went back and forth a couple times battling for third and then finally began to open up a lead as we turned onto Carling Ave. 

I continued to push and quickly began to realize that this race was going to be a mental battle;  either I let my legs rule and slow down or I block the screaming from my legs and mentally focus on the task at hand. As we turned onto Wellington, Jonathan Gendron (another CF Runner and one with a faster qualifying time finally caught me). We ran for about a kilometer together and then I told Jonathan to go get the next guy. Jonathan put a little surge in and quickly bridged the 100-200m. I turned into Tunney’s pasture and saw 34:28 as I crossed the 10km check-point…a whole 1:30 faster than last year. I quickly realized that running a 1:15:00 was possible. I put a Gu Roctane Gel downrange at the Tunney’s pasture aid station and then set about passing the runner now in 3rd position.  It was just shortly thereafter as we climbed the small hill on the Parkway that I opened up and created a gap. Jonathan was still only 200m ahead and I continued to pace off him. 

As we crossed over into Gatineau I knew I just needed to keep pushing. My legs were tired and the fatigue was really starting to settle in. I reminded myself that this was a mental battle, pace off Jonathan, forget the legs, and remember you don’t know who is behind you. It was a blessing having Jonathan just up the road as I knew he was running strong and I just needed to stay on his pace. I tried to push a little harder and my right hamstring reminded me it was not happy. So I maintained the pace and pushed through to the finish. No finishing kick today! I was stoked to see 1:13:42 as I crossed the finish line sporting my flashy Orange Brooks Pure Connects. Wow! I was going to be happy running the same time as last year (1:16:22) and would have been content running a 1:20 a week after Ironman. 
Pushing through the last 100m.
A new PB 1:13:42 was just icing on the cake. I finished 3rd overall and 2nd in the Canadian Forces Championships. It was once again an honour to race in the CF Singlet and represent the Forces. Words can not accurately convey the honour it is to receive the support of the crowds in Ottawa simply because you wear the CF Singlet.

A big Congratulations to Jonathan Gendron for winning the CF Half Marathon and pacing me through the second half of the race. 

And of course having my wife racing as well was all the more special. She did great running a 2:05! 

Claudia & I prerace!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Heading to Kona Again! Ironman Texas Race Report!!!

The best part about Ironman racing is nothing ever goes perfectly. As Big Sexy (Chris MacDonald) said at the Ironman Welcome Dinner,  “Ironman is all about who handles the adversity the best.” Essentially no Ironman race ever goes exactly as planned. The other part about racing that I like is no matter how out of it you may think you are, if you regroup you can often come back.

Race Morning.

Up at 0400hrs for a light breakfast: a couple over easy eggs, a bagel with jam, and a cup of coffee. We headed to the Woodlands at 0500 arriving shortly after 0520. Transition didn’t go as planned. When I checked my bike my rear tire was flat. I think the heat had over inflated my tire forcing the tire off the rim and over-expanding the tube. Seeing as I normally only fill my Hed C2 rims to 90psi, I don’t see how they can really expand that much to ove- inflate but I guess that’s a lesson learned. I quickly ran back to the car and changed the tube (thankfully my tool kit and pump were in the car).

The start was chaotic. The only saving grace was that it was a non-wetsuit swim so anyone not racing for Kona slots or AG awards could race in a wetsuit but the wetsuit wave started ten minutes later. I think that reduced the chaos at least a little. I lined up just to the left of the right start buoy as it had the straightest line down the buoys. When the gun went off all hell broke loose. I don’t think I’ve been in a worse start. There were punches, kicks and pulls for the first couple hundred meters and then things slowly spread out. I think part of the issue was the poor visibility; you couldn’t see you own hand let alone the person beside you or in front of you. The best part…not even 500m into the swim, I passed some guys doing backstroke…seriously, if you are going to do backstroke then perhaps you should start at the back. Other than the punches and kicks, the swim was uneventful. I was happy to see 1:08 on my watch as I exited the swim, a PR of almost 8 minutes (and without a wetsuit ).
IM Texas Swim - about 200-300m after the start.
Transition was uneventful and then it was onto the bike. I felt very strong as I jumped onto the bike and I knew I was going to try and push the bike a little. I was aiming for 230W and if I felt good after 90km I was going to push it a little more. After about an hour or so on the bike, my right quad started to tighten up a little so I back off the pace slightly and went by feel. Shortly thereafter my race took a turn when I heard the dreaded hiss. At first I thought it was the guy in front of me who I was in the process of passing, but quickly realized it was my rear wheel. I thought to myself - seriously now. I jumped off the bike, yanked off the disc and quickly changed out the tire. I thought, ok a little adversity is ok. Back on the bike with having lost only about 5 minutes. As the bike went on, I knew there was no way I was going to be able to hold 230W. My power was dropping and I was quickly starting to overheat despite my best attempt at dousing myself with cold water at each aid station. Nutrition seemed to work well, but the last hour on the bike was a bit depressing as my power continued to drop and I fought to keep my quad from seizing up. I was happy to finish the bike and see 6:11 on the clock as I entered transition – mentally calculated that I must have just biked a 4:50 (actual was 4:48) (The clock was set to the Pros start which was 10 minutes earlier than us). Despite my struggles in the second half of the bike course, I had managed to hold my position, and bike a 4:48 (including the pit stop to change my flat) on 207 W (average power including zeros) / 211 W NP.
Just passing aid station #10. (The person in front is Jennie Hansen -FPro)

Through transition, where I had one of the volunteers douse me with water, apply sunscreen, and then proceeded to the first aid station to get ice. I was a wreck coming off the bike. I knew I was close to heat exhaustion and felt awful and to top it off I couldn’t get my Garmin 910xt to display my pace. So I decided to forget the watch and focus on trying to get myself cooled off as I worked my way through the first lap. So at each aid station I stopped and refilled my suit with ice and doused myself with water. I felt pretty good through the first two loops. The last half of the last lap was mentally taxing. I wanted to walk, but I had no clue of my position in the race so out of fear of potentially losing a shot at Kona I pushed to the best of my ability. I was stoked when I came up the finishing shoot and saw 9:19 on the clock. Sweet a new PR at the Ironman distance 9:09. Despite a 3:04 on the run, I still managed to have the fastest run split in the age group and one of the fastest amateur runs. 

Heading up the finisher's shoot, but taking time to high five the kids!
2nd in the M30-34, 4th Amateur, and 17th Overall.  Kona here we come!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Update from Texas! Tomorrow is race day!!!

Now in Texas!
So we arrived in Conroe, TX (about 20minutes North of the Woodlands) early Saturday morning spent the night (or more like the rest of the morning) at the Baymont Inn & Suites checked out and then into Piney Shores Resort . Claudia had managed to book us at the Piney Shores Resort using our Time Share points from RCI. If you are ever up this way and looking for a nice relaxing place Piney Shores is great.

In terms of training for the week it was largely a continuation of a taper to get the body prepped for IM Texas on Saturday. I managed to get a cold on the drive down from Tucson and have yet to shake it…oh well!

Here are highlights for the week. (The best part of the week was however the reduced volume of training which allowed for lots of time with Claudia and the kids)

Saturday – Off

Sunday – went for a light 45 minute shake-out run in the morning and then for a 1.5hr ride in the afternoon with an old friend, Adam and his family, from Cold Lake.  The ladies looked after the kids while Adam and I had a nice ride and then our families had dinner together.
Just back from our ride!
Monday – 2:00 brick (Bike followed by run). Legs felt very responsive.
Ruth & James enjoyed a round of mini-golf at the Resort.
Tuesday – 1:00 swim at Conroe Aquatic Center
Family swim at the Resort!
Wednesday – 1:30 brick (bike followed by run). Then I did athlete check-in. It was a very efficient process down here in Texas. The expo was ok but definitely not the greatest.  Best part was of course snagging another Ironman Mug (my traditional souvenir from my Ironman branded races)
Argon 18 E-118 Ready to Rock IM Texas
Thursday – 0:35 swim at Conroe Aquatic Center. I also attended the athlete welcome dinner with Claudia and the kids. The meals are always pricey, but here in The Woodlands you definitely got your money’s worth. The Buffet put on at the Marriott was by far the best Ironman Welcome Dinner meal I have ever had.
Athlete Welcome Dinner - Claudia and the kids
Friday – Pre-race swim at the Woodlands. Water temperature was 76 F and swimming with a swim skin (Nineteen Rogue SS) felt very comfortable. I think the water will warm up the 0.1 degree such that the swim tomorrow is NOT wetsuit legal (I’m ready either way).  Following the swim I did a light 0:45 brick (bike/run) to get the legs going.  And finally I did bike and gear check-in. 
Me Post Pre-Race Swim
Feeling great and pumped going into tomorrow’s race. Excited to be racing Ironman again, and this one is going to be another inferno or that’s what the weather man is predicting.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Next stop Arizona: Phoenix then Tucson!

On Sunday morning we departed St George and headed to Phoenix. We spent the night in Scottsdale and then spent the next day enjoying the Phoenix Zoo with the kids. Seeing as I had my day on Saturday, Monday was a day set aside for the kids. It is a very nice zoo. It’s quite a bit smaller than the Calgary Zoo but the layout is great for children and ours most definitely enjoyed themselves. 

Ruth and James enjoyed the Camel ride.

After the better part of the day at the zoo we made the short trek to Tucson. The purpose for a stop in Tucson was primarily so I had a couple days to work with my coach, Brian Grasky, and secondly it provided a breather for the kids prior to making the drive to The Wooodlands, TX. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy the warm weather or get in some good training. Of all the cities I had visited in North America Tucson has to be the best for bike lanes…they are everywhere!

Here is a brief run down on the days in Tucson:

Tuesday – light bike ride just to shake the legs out and then a Retul Bike Fit with Brian. I wasn’t anticipating much in the way of adjustments after the Retul Fit and sure enough there was only a minor adjustment to my cleats and a slight increase in my saddle height.  This was the first time seeing the Retul system being used and it was quite impressive. If you are ever in Tucson and are looking for a good fit call Tucson Endurance PerformanceCenter (TEPC).

Post Retul Fit at TEPC

Wednesday – Track workout 12 x 400m (I went out at about 90-95%) Seeing as I was here anyways Brian invited me to his Wednesday morning track workout. It was great to meet some of the other GEC athletes as well as some of the members of the RACETucson Team. I did the workout primarily just to meet some of the other athletes. I was surprised at how responsive my legs were considering I had raced pretty hard on Saturday.  

Following the track workout I did the Mount Lemmon Climb with Brian and Travis. Seeing as I was racing IM Texas in under two weeks the plan was to spin up to Windy Point and keep my power output in check.  I did a “light” climb up to Windy Point and then enjoyed the screaming descent.  

And if that wasn’t enough I did a light Swimming Technique session with Brian at Oro Valley Aquatic Center (a 25yd by 50m outdoor pool). It was awesome to be lap swimming but outdoors something we don’t get to enjoy in Cold Lake. The technique session was very beneficial for me as Brian was able to help correct my stroke a little and provide some good drills to work on.

Thursday – Brick - Swim Session with Brian at Oro Valley Aquatic Center again. The workout was a combination of drills and a good portion in the middle of just swimming. Following the swim we pulled out the bikes and went for an hour ride. The workout was an easy 15minute warm-up and then 45minutes of work at about Ironman pace. And to finish the brick I did a light 9km run while Brian cycled with me and addressed my form.

It’s been a total blast training in Tucson the past few days. Special thanks to Brian Grasky for taking the time out of his schedule to ensure I got to see some of the beautiful sights in Tucson and get some quality training in.

And we are off to The Woodlands!