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!

Friday, 7 October 2016

IMWC 2016 - D-1

So today was the eve of the 2016 Ironman World Championship. I woke up early, had a coffee and then headed into Kailua-Kona for a swim. There weren't many athletes at the pier by 6 a.m., but Lance Watson was there - he was doing a video for Ironman. I chatted with him for a few minutes and then excused myself and did my 15min activation swim. Once that was done, I headed back to the condo to grab the bike and do a quick 30min ride on Ali'i drive followed by a 4km activation run.

Steven and Linda asked me to sign their poster so I obliged.

Claudia and I headed into town to meet up with Steven and Linda Banks for breakfast at Bongo Ben's. A bit of a long story here, but my dad and I met Steven and Linda Banks at Coeur d'Alene in 2012. Steven and Linda are from Washington State and we've stayed in touch through facebook since then. They have been a great encouragement over the past few years so it was great to spend some time with them. They made the trip to Hawaii this year so that they could volunteer.
Waiting in-line at check-in.

After our breakfast, Claudia and I headed back to the condo so I could pack my transition bags and finish the final touches on my bike.

The stealth steed Argon 18 E-118 is racked and ready to roll.
In the afternoon I checked in my Stealth Steed - Argon 18 E-118 and then it was time to relax with my feet up for the remainder of the afternoon and continue with the mental prep.

And so tomorrow is the big day, the Big Dance. Not sure what the Lord has in store, but I am ready to give my best.

And as the kids said, "Swim Strong, Bike Hard, Run Fast". That will be my motto for tomorrow.

IMWC 2016 - D-2

Kailua-Kona was blistering with activity this morning. I drove in to downtown early this morning so that I could hit the water by 0630. By that point the downtown core was a beehive of activity. I did a quick 20min swim, which would be the extent of my workouts for the day. I typically like to take Thursday off for a Saturday race but will often do a short swim. On the return trip to the Condo Ali'i drive was very busy with cars heading into town and a myriad of runners and cyclists on both sides of the road.

Military athletes at the 2016 Ironman World Championships!

After a quick shower at the Condo and a few minutes with my feet up, Claudia and I headed back into downtown to attend the Military athlete meet and greet hosted by Ironman. It was great catching up with a few of the athletes and especially Christopher Loose who is from Belgium. I first met Chris at the CISM race this past August in Germany and we also both raced at Wiesbaden 70.3.
Christopher Loose and I.

After the meet and greet, Claudia and I made quick stops at the Roka booth at the expo and then the Bike Works of Kona shop in downtown. After that we headed back to the condo for some down time.
Bongo Ben's takes photos of the athletes that have eaten there during the week and posts the athletes' picture and country they represent on their wall of fame. I'm pointing to my picture on the wall and Mike is being his usual funny self!

For lunch today we picked up Micheal Brown, Race Director extraordinaire (he is the Race director for a few local races near Edmonton including Great White North and is the co-race director for Challenge Penticton and the 2017 ITU Multisport World Championships) and headed back into town for a bite at Bongo Ben's. It's always great being able to catch up with Mike and hear what's new in the triathlon community.

I spent the afternoon mostly with my feet up though I did take some time to clean my bike and make it race ready.

And this evening Claudia and I attended the athletes welcome banquet and the race information brief. We were happy to meet up with Les Friesen from Steinbach, MB who is racing for his first time in Kona.

I enjoyed relaxing for most of the day and starting to get myself in the race mindset. This article from Brett Sutton pretty much sums up how I am planning to race - it's just another race (JAR). I plan to have fun on Saturday and enjoy the experience of racing in Kona.