best water bottle ever?

i'll be perfectly honest: i've really struggled to find the right hydration system over the past couple of years. i've come across water bottle fail after water bottle fail, from loose-fitting lids popping off to having all of my water spill out moments into a race. i've had my share of face-fulls of hydration fluid when trying to take a quick swig during transition. in numerous races in 2009, my profile design aero bottle's secret self destruct button went off after hitting a bump, blowing off the top of the bottle, spewing my drink all over me, my bike and the road. at the toronto islands race last august, this happened as i was exiting t1, leaving me with no rehydration fluids for the rest of the race on one of the hottest days of the year. i've crossed the finish line with milky sunglasses, covered in homemade concoctions meant to be consumed, not used as ammunition in a water bottle fight. i've spent many hours post-race cleaning sticky messes off my bike and had to replenish my supply of missing parts from water bottles that have blown up while riding. and it seems that whenever i do come across something that works, the water bottle isn't big enough and even without any spilling mishaps i'm out of fluids halfway through a race or training ride. brutal.

another difficulty has been eating food. i don't buy any commercially made products like powergels or powerbars, instead choosing to make my own from a small list of high quality, raw, natural ingredients. eating my homemade bars fuels me up properly, but chewing makes my heart rate scream as my breathing changes to allow me to chew and swallow. gels are the solution to this problem, but finding the right receptacle for carrying them has been an equally challenging dilemma.

but it looks likes other, smarter people share the same long list of refueling problems. some genius out there created the Gel-bot, a 24 ounce water bottle with a built in gel flask. when i first saw it at the running room i was confused about how it worked, but after a bit of online research i added it to my holiday wish list. i now have three of them, and after using them for only three workouts, i'm absolutely blown away by how great they are. the bottle has a valve that looks like any other water bottle valve: pull the valve up to drink water, push the valve down to stop the water flow. however, when you push the valve down, you're able to get the gel that you've already put into the built in "energy core", which is a little cylinder that holds 2 gel packs worth of gels. it uses a little piston system (similar to a syringe), and all you have to do is suck out the gel between gulps of water. this bottle is also bpa-free and fits in a regular water bottle cage on any bike. brilliant. no more messy gel packs, no more racing heart rates while chewing, no more time fiddling to get food out of your jersey pockets. now why didn't i think of that?

happy holidays!

the holidays are upon us and i would like to wish my family, friends and fellow multisport athletes a very happy holiday season. this can be a hectic time for many of us and i hope you all have a chance to sit back, put your feet up and take a moment to enjoy yourself during the chaos of the season.

all my best to you and yours.

toroto criterium pics

i completely forgot that i had these pics. i was organizing and printing some photos this afternoon and came across about 200 pictures i took at the toronto crit that took place last may at the st. lawrence market in toronto. this event was on a friday evening and i stopped by after work, camera in tow, to check out my first crit. the energy at this event made the hair stand up on the back of my neck; the athletes were zipping by at more than 40km/h and the crowd was jumping. even if you're not a cycling geek this event is worth checking out. let's hope we see it again in 2010.

the importance of balance

so in my last post i mentioned that i had only missed one or two workouts since getting started on my program at the beginning of november. i was thinking about it and realized that both workouts i missed i was able to make up for a day or two later. however, as the holidays are approaching and work is crazy, i missed two workouts last week that i haven't been able to make up, as well as last night's weekly yoga class. the workout i missed last thursday was a pretty important one. important because it would have been an easy way to see if my training is actually paying off. i was supposed to take part in an indoor 40k time trial at absolute endurance but couldn't because i had to work late. the last indoor 40k TT i did was in mid-october so i was anxious to see how my wattage and time has improved with about 8 weeks of training. but no go. i thought i could make up for that missed TT on sunday but just couldn't fit it in.

i had to email my coach yesterday to let him know that there's a very good chance i'll be missing a number of workouts over the next couple of weeks, mostly because of work. i had to work on saturday and sunday of this past weekend and will probably have to do the same this upcoming weekend, and right now my focus has to be getting my work done. deadlines are deadlines, after all.

and it's just that time of year. things are crazy for pretty much everybody this time of year so i've decided i'm not going to feel bad if i miss some workouts. once the holidays pass and the new year gets rolling, i won't be as busy as i am right now and i'll get right back on track. no sweat. the holidays mean traveling, seeing family and friends, eating excessively and not stressing about the little things. like missing a workout. i am pretty bummed that i missed that workout last week and won't be able to make up for it, but i think i'd rather worry about which wine i should bring to which holiday party.

however, my body is fairly sensitive to my work/workout balance. if i do too much of either without balancing it out with the other, my sleep quality is affected. and that's where i am right now. i've had about a week's worth of nights with little or no good, deep sleep. all i've been doing over the past couple of weeks is working working working and it's taking its toll. so today i've decided that no matter what, i'm going to go to the gym for a bit of a break in my work day. i haven't been to the gym in weeks because i've been so busy, but i decided last night while i was lying in bed staring at the ceiling at 3 in the morning that if i'm going to be working a 10- or 12-hour day, i'm going to reward myself with a trip to the gym, even if that means that i get an hour's less worth of work done. if i'm busy i still need balance, because too much of anything can take a toll on your body, mind and spirit. not a great place to be when the holidays are approaching.

feeling it today

it's been a long, loooonnng time since my last entry, and only because not too much has been going on. training is going well and ever since starting up again just over a month ago, i think i've only missed one workout. maybe two? life has been busy, especially work. the holidays are approaching fast but that doesn't change the fact that project deadlines are looming, so i've been putting in a lot of extra hours at work these days. i haven't been to the gym in a few weeks because i haven't been able to afford the time during working hours, but morning and evening run/ride workouts are going well.

my coach has been giving my leg lots of time to heal before pushing ahead fully with running workouts, and i think i've only done one hard, run-specific workout. all other run workouts have been slow and short, 45 minutes being the longest. needless to say, my running legs are sluggish and i definitely, definitely, definitely am not the runner i used to be. my legs feel heavy, and even a modest pace feels like an effort. i'm struggling to get my splits down to levels i want to be at. however, it's good that i haven't been pushing my running legs too much. for the first three weeks or so, the day after any run done outside (any run not done on a treadmill) my right leg would be bothering me with aches similar to those i had just before my stress fracture. i was concerned and thought i may have to cut out running again for a few more weeks, but now that my legs are stronger and i've been back at it for awhile, all seems well. i've been pain free after all of my outdoor runs for the past couple of weeks, but efforts still remain short and slow.

since running training has been light, that's left lots of time for riding and my bike training has been going great. when my coach and i sat down to talk about what sort of program i'm looking for, i told him i want him to push me, and he definitely hasn't let me down. i've been working harder on my riding then i ever have, and feel like most of my training rides in the past were nothing but unfocussed spinning sessions. every workout feels like it matters and it's making a difference. it's pretty awesome. i don't expect to roll out on my bike in the spring and suddenly be able to push an average of 60km/h or anything, but i do expect to improve my times from 2009. and i'm going to need those improved bike times to make up for the fact that i'm mr. slowy mcslowy out there on the run.

anyways, on to the reason i wanted to do a blog entry today: i've just finished a couple of tough interval workouts on the bike and am feeling completely exhausted today. thursday was intervals at low cadence, high resistance (12 x 2 mins, 30 secs recovery, followed later by 8 x 2 mins, 15 secs recovery). these low cadence, high resistance were extreeeeeeeemmly tough and i was telling tara, that day's group leader, that i don't think i like her any more. i wasn't nearly pushing my full wattage and it still felt like i was pushing about 10 times that because it was so hard.

this morning was another tough intervals workout, which included 6 sets at maximum heart rate. i was practically ready to faint by the time i got through those first 6 intervals, and when they were over i still had nearly an hour of riding left before my cool down. now here i am at home, getting ready to head out for the night with some friends and i'm feeling completely exhausted. and tired. even with a full day off in between those workouts i'm feeling burnt. it doesn't help that i just finished reading an article about how your muscles basically get torn to pieces when doing high resistance, heavy workload intervals and you should give yourself a couple of days recovery time before doing any more similar workouts. tomorrow is another day off and i'm looking forward to it, and i also can't wait for my next recovery ride.

way to go, magali!!!

a huge huge HUGE congratulations to canadian female triathlete magali tisseyre. she finished 3rd at the ironman 70.3 world championships today!!! magali posted the fastest run of the pro women, making up huge ground in the last leg of the race. she finished less than 6 minutes behind race winner julie dibbens and only 1.42 behind second place mary beth ellis. it looked like an exciting race and i'm looking forward to reading her post-race report on her blog.

way to go, magali!

2009 - my year in review

the 2009 racing year is well behind me and my focus is now 100% 2010. up until just a couple of weeks ago i was hoping to be able to get at least one more race in this year. but as that was not the case, the rest of 2009 will be used to get ready for 2010 and beyond. 2009 was my second full season of racing and i went into it with some fairly ambitious goals. in an effort to be continually improving, taking a close look at what i wanted in '09 will be an exercise in ensuring that i learn from my mistakes and figure out what worked best.

goal 1 - qualify for the world championships
this one is fairly straightforward. yes, i did qualify for the world championships and will be heading there with the national team. awesome... off to a good start.

goal 2 - improve my times at all 2009 races that i also competed at in 2008
tough to say whether or not i was successful in achieving this one because the only event that i was able to race in 2009 that i also raced in 2008 was welland. i can kind of include gravenhurst because i made it to that race both years, but in 2008 i was only able to get through the 1st run before a flat tire took me out of the race. all of the others i missed because of injury. however, if i just compare the splits from welland and gravenhurst year over year, it looks something like this:

welland 2008 welland 2009
r1 20.11 r1 18.33
t1 01.33 t1 00.37
b 51.47 b 46.32
t2 01.21 t2 00.39
r2 20.47 r2 19.12
ttl 01.35.36 ttl 01.25.32

gravenhurst 2008 gravenhurst 2009
r1 41.49 r1 37.26
t1 01.18 t1 00.41

as you can see, i did make some pretty big improvements year over year, including cutting more than 10 minutes off of my total time in welland. so although i was only able to compare my times from '08 to '09 in one full race and one run/transition, i did improve my year over year times at identical races in 2009. sweet.

goal 3 - dramatically improve my bike splits
of all of my goals for this past year, this is the most subjective. and similar to goal 2, the only way that i can really know if i improved is to compare the same race from year to year. since welland was the only '08/'09 race, i have no choice but to compare those two races. looking at the numbers above, not only was i able to knock off more than 5 minutes from the same ride one year to the next, but i was able to hold an of average of 38.7km/h, compared to 2008's 34.8km/h. not too bad. but this is where it gets tricky: there are many different variables to consider such as wind, weather, fatigue, and nutrition. something else to consider is the fact that i rode a different bike in '09. in 2008 i raced all of my duathlons on a road bike, whereas in 2009 i was on a time trial bike, and since welland is straight and flat - perfect conditions for a TT bike - my time and speed in 2009 would have undoubtedly improved even if i was at the exact same 2008 fitness level. i worked hard on my riding last winter because in every race in 2008 i was usually in the top 3 overall for each running portion of each event, and many times my bike splits would be 12th or 13th overall. clearly riding is my weakness. in 2009 i think my worst overall bike performance was in gravenhurst at the provincials, where i placed 7th overall amongst some of the province's strongest athletes. anyways, i suppose it's fair to sum up this one like this: did i improve my bike splits in 2009? absolutely. did i dramatically improve my bike splits? who knows.

goal 4 - improve my transition times
compared to my goal of "dramatically" improving my bike splits, it's much easier to decide wether or not i achieved this one. in 2008 my transition times were regularly 1 minute or more, whereas in 2009 many of my transitions were below 40 seconds. i found what made a huge difference for me was to start mentally preparing for the transition before entering the transition area. transitions can be pretty hectic and staying focused makes a huge difference.

goal 5 - run a sub-38 10k
i actually ran 2 sub-38 10ks in 2009: 36.16 at sporting life and 37.26 at the provincial du championships. my previous PB was 38.27.

goal 6 - win my overall age group in the HSBC series
i didn't get this one. i finished 2nd overall. early on in the season i was pretty sure this was going to be a tough one to fulfill because, thanks to my schedule, it looked like i wasn't going to be able to make it to too many late-season races. as it turned out, it was injuries that finished me off after only 3 HSBC appearances. however, i did finish 2nd overall in one of the most competitive age categories with only those 3 races, and i won my age category in every one of them. what i like especially about my ambitions to win the overall age group category is that it's a sign of how my focus has changed over the past year. in 2010 the overall age group win will not be a goal of mine because i'll be focusing on things slightly differently next year.

goal 7 - finish top-3 in every race, except the nationals and the worlds
i should have been more specific with this one: finish top-3 in every duathlon, except the canadian duathlon championships and the duathlon world championships. the canadians didn't happen in '09 and i didn't go to the worlds, and my only non top-3 finish was at the provincials. i raced 7 duathlons in 2009, and this is how i finished in each of them:

1st, 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 5th, 1st

close, but this was a goal that i did not achieve. not to say that i'm bummed out about this one. the total opposite, in fact. i'm pretty psyched with these results.

looking back on my 2009 racing year many months after my last race, i can say to myself with confidence that i had a very successful year. it will be tough to make such huge improvements in 2010, and it will be hard to top a year of overall finishes like that. i can't honestly expect to show up at each race next year hoping to shave 10 minutes off of my time from the year before. if anything, i'll remember 2009 as a year of injuries, and this will be what i take away from this past year as a mistake to learn from. i need to train differently if i want 2010 to be injury free. what i'll carry over to next year because it worked for me this year will be two things: mentally focus and prepare early for transitions, and don't go out too hard too soon. in my first race of '09, a 10k race in whitby, i sprinted off the line, took too long to settle into a pace, and paid for it in the last half of the race. after leading for most of the race i lost the lead around the 7k mark and crossed the line in 2nd place, heaving and panting and feeling drained.

as i mentioned above, my goals will be much different for 2010. my schedule for next year is tentative at best, but i will likely race less, focusing my efforts on key races throughout the year. that being said, i will definitely be a regular on the HSBC and Subaru circuits because those races are the most fun. it's so great to get out there and see all of the familiar faces. as competitive as this sport is, and as competitive as i make it for myself, the most important thing is to ensure that i have fun, encourage myself and other athletes to not take things too seriously and enjoy racing.

my second home

i've been at absolute endurance every day this week except monday and it feels as though it's become my second home. i'll be heading there again tomorrow for a few hours and again on sunday. when you're training in a group environment it makes the long, monotonous workouts easier to bear. i had to spin for 90 easy minutes yesterday before making any changes to my heart rate or power output, and the only reason i got through it was because there were a lot of other like minded people right there alongside me. it's a whole other mindset compared to riding at home on an indoor trainer by yourself.

my training has ramped right back very quickly, although the running side of things is coming along slowly. it's amazing how fast some downtime will change your body, and my legs are sore sore sore after only running what for me would typically be a couple of light, let's stop and smell the roses-type jogs through the park. once my running legs are strong again i'll get that mileage back up, but until then it's slow and steady. i had a very painful massage on wednesday night to help with the tightness, but now my legs are feeling loose and limber and fantastic. today is a day off for me so my body has some time to recover before hitting the pavement again tomorrow morning. the weather looks good for this weekend so it will be great to get outside and enjoy the rare, sunny weather, a nice break from all the shitty rain and clouds we've had over the past few weeks.

a small announcement. and some new gear.

the announcement: today was my first "official" day of training for the 2010 season. now that i've gotten the results from my MRI, i'm able to start ramping up my training to get back on track. i have been working out over the past 10 weeks, but most of those workouts were simply to keep my legs moving and heart pumping so that my aerobic base wouldn't be affected, usually consisting of longer durations and lower intensities.

anyways, as today was my first official workout, i thought that it would be an appropriate time to let the word out that i was offered a coaching sponsorship with Absolute Endurance Training and Therapy. i'm very happy to announce that alan chud, coach, general manager and partner at AETT, will be coaching me through the 09/10 season. i accepted the offer many weeks ago but al and i decided not to proceed with any program until my injuries got sorted out. on friday al and i sat down to talk about what i want to accomplish in the next year or so, and right now my biggest priority over the next 12 months is to not get injured. al suggested that we start a new program on monday, but since i'm fired up and ready to go after nearly 3 months of sitting around being patient, i told him i want to start today. this morning was nearly two hours of riding and tomorrow will be a short, easy run. i'll have to continue to be patient with my running training so that i don't push myself too hard too soon, and having someone else design my workout program for me with this in mind will be extremely beneficial. as part of my sponsorship i will be a member of AETT's ambassador program, so look for me next year at the AETT tent at various multisport events across ontario.

the new gear: it's probably good that my wife is out of town this weekend. if she had of come home this afternoon she would have seen this in the living room:

although my wife is incredibly supportive of my racing and comes to almost all of my races to cheer me on, she has very little patience when it comes to bike stuff in the living room.

wheels, wheels, wheels! i totally pimped out my ride today. the first wheel on the left is the rear wheel of the current easton wheelset that i'm riding on my cervelo. second from the left is my new, piece of junk, used wheel that i'll be using on my cervelo strictly as an indoor trainer. i picked up this wheel today and i'll be able to put that on my racing bike anytime of the year, regardless of the season, for some indoor riding. i missed a few workouts last summer because of rain, so this wheel will solve that issue. this will also mean that i'll be able to bring my trainer with me to races to warm up on. in the middle is the rear wheel of my road bike, which i mostly use for indoor training. i just swapped the rubber on that one. those last two wheels? what are those? oh... nothing special. just my new zipp 909 wheelset, safely wrapped up and protected in wheel bags. hahahahahaha!!! i'm super, super, SUPER psyched about those! i've been drooling over new wheels for years and i finally got a smokin deal on a used set and just picked them up today. many thanks to endurosport for taking a look at them and giving me the thumbs up before any cash changed hands, and also thanks to them for swapping the rubber on all of my other wheels. you guys are awesome.

so yah. now that i have my new zipp 909 wheelset, i can sit back, relax and get fat. who needs to train when you've got wheels like that? they'll just go fast without any help from me. isn't that the way these wheels work?

and the official word is...

just right now i finally (FINALLY!) got to speak with my doctor to discuss the results of my MRI. and the official word is this: there is no stress fracture.


it's been a long 10 weeks of minimal, light training and this whole experience has been a lesson in patience. but now it's time to ramp up my training and get back on track. i've got some serious ground to make up.

aaarrrggghhh... more frustration.

i went to see my family doctor last night to go over the results of my MRI, and i showed up at her office expecting good news. i was expecting to be told that my tibia fracture has healed and that i'm free to start slowly building up my running mileage to get my training back on track. instead i sat around for 30 minutes waiting for my doctor to see me, only to be given the news that the hospital that i went to for my MRI hasn't faxed over the results yet. a complete waste time. now i have to wait until tomorrow at the earliest for the results.

no problem. i'm an expert at being patient.

on the upside, i did get some good news about a set of race wheels that i've been eyeing for next season. very exciting.


40 minutes on the treadmill yesterday, 30 minutes on it today. my first two runs in 9 weeks.

no big deal.

look at me! i'm running!

i was on the treadmill today. twice. running! and things felt good. not 100%, but pretty damn good. last week, post good MRI news, i was on the treadmill very briefly, testing things out. things we're still off, many of the same old irritations present. i ran off and on for about 20 minutes, very light on my feet, using the treadmill's handles to prop myself up to take most of my weight off of my legs. i quit because my right leg started to hurt and, returning to work, promptly called my sports chiropractor to book an appointment to check things out.

i ran today for a few minutes right before my appointment so that i'd be able to pinpoint and explain exactly what was still bothering me. it turns out that i've still got a lot going on with my right leg, and although my stress fracture seems to be healed (still nothing official, but things look good for that one), it looks like part of it is a back issue and some of my lower vertebrae are pinching some nerves, causing all sorts of problems through my leg.

but here's some really, really great news: after some tweaking and stretching and trying out some new things, focusing mostly on my back and my ankle (which has been bothering me for a long time but we'd assumed it was related to the fractured tibia), i hit the treadmill right after my appointment and things felt good. i ran for 12 (practically) pain-free minutes! i wanted to jump up and down because i was actually running again! it felt awesome, but, like i said, still not 100%. the only reason i stopped is because i didn't want to do too much too soon. it's been 9 weeks since i've gone for a run, after all. there's still some things to get sorted out, but now that the stress fracture is out of the way (still unofficially), i can work on determining exactly what else needs to be fixed. i can finally see the light at the end of this tunnel and hope to be back on track in the next couple of weeks. (fingers crossed, fingers crossed, fingers crossed...)

quick update...

so i had my MRI today. i was initially told that my appointment would take about 45 minutes, but i was at the hospital for almost four hours, most of which time was spent lying on my back on the scanner wearing a hairnet and industrial strength ear protection. they tried to get me take my piercings out but i assured them that would be way too much work, and i was warned that my tattoos may heat up while being scanned. i told the nurses that i would like to talk with the doctor that was onsite (who, apparently, popped in and out during my scan) after the scan was completed, but she left before i was finished and able to speak with her.

anyways, the nurses told me that the doctor said that things look good. great, in fact. exactly how great i'm not sure just yet. i should get the results from my family doctor by the end of next week, and i left the hospital today feeling pretty excited. i'll keep taking it easy until i've been officially told otherwise, but things seem to be looking pretty good for this guy. is the stress fracture gone? i don't know yet. but the answer is only days away. sweet.

and with that, the season (officially) ends

this past saturday i was scheduled to participate in what was to be my last race of the year, the fall colours duathlon in cumberland, just east of ottawa. because of my injury, my season came to an end mid-august and this was the fourth race that i've had to watch from the sidelines. and just like all of those other missed races, this one was special. the first race i missed was the cobourg duathlon and i'd been looking forward to that because it was an international distance race (10k run, 40k bike, 5k run), a distance which i plan on focussing on next year. i was going to use my time from that race to track my improvement over the next year, comparing each future race of equal distance to this one. the next race i missed was wasaga beach, my favourite stop on the HSBC race calendar. 2009 would have been my third consecutive appearance in wasaga beach and it's a short, fast and fun little course at a great venue that i look forward to every year.

after that i missed the HSBC's lakeside II, their last race of the year. the lakeside venue is pretty amazing and i wanted to see how my time would have improved from the same race last year. i was also looking for a bit of personal redemption. in 2008, i arrived at lakeside II early in the morning only to realize that i'd forgotten to bring all of my food with me, which turned out to be a very painful mistake. about 10k into the 30k ride i was completely depleted (my only source of fuel were a couple of gel packs i was able to buy just before the race started) and i struggled the rest of the way through, crossing the line with a very disappointing 5th position, 6 minutes behind the winner.

but of all the races that i did last year that i was planning on returning to this year, the cumberland du was the most important. last year i competed in this race on a whim, only learning about it a week before it took place. every year i travel to ottawa to be with family for thanksgiving, and i figured that it would be a great way to spend a holiday weekend morning, wrapping up my racing year with lots of family members out to cheer me on. if you've ever been to ottawa in the fall then you know how incredibly beautiful it can be, and the cumberland race site is no exception. anyways, making this long story short, i won the race and walked away with my first ever duathlon victory. since then i'd been looking forward to returning to defend that victory. i'd even thought back in august that with two months of downtime my leg might be ok to go and that i might actually be able to race this weekend. but it was not to be and my leg has yet to heal. racing conditions were ideal again this year, and this past saturday morning - race morning - i woke up in ottawa to sunny bluebird skies and a fall palette of colours in the leaves.

crossing the line in 2008. my first ever duathlon victory.

judging only by time, if i'd been able to race again this year on the same course and finished with the exact same time as last year, i would have won this race by 5 minutes. patience, i keep telling myself. patience is key. with an MRI scheduled this week i'll finally learn the severity of my stress fracture and, hopefully, will sort out a recovery plan. being patient sucks.


all of the official results for this past weekend's duathlon world championships are finally up, and all i can say is 'wow'. in the men's elite race, american olympic triathlete jarrod shoemaker crossed the line in a time of 1.49.02, and in the men's age group race, american matthew sheeks finished with a time of 1.43.30. ONE-FOURTY-THREE-THIRTY! it absolutely blows my mind that someone out there is capable of running 10k, riding 40k, and then running another 5k in a time of 1.43.30.

if i had of raced this past weekend (which i had planned on doing by qualifying at last year's canadian championships, but i missed that race because i was traveling at the time), i would have had to of finished in a time of 1.48.15 or better. ppffffttt... no problem. i would have owned that podium. hahaha... yeah right. i've got some hard work ahead of me.

all that aside, many canadians churned out some pretty incredible times, too. the top canadian age group athletes were two guys that i regularly compete against. david frake - who narrowly missed a podium finish - ended his day with a time of 1.48.45, followed closely by bruce bird with a time of 1.53.09. check out larry bradley's blog as he's posted all of the results for most of the canadians that were there competing.

cograts to the canadian athletes. you all posted incredible times and i find your hard work inspiring. i'll see you at the races.

2009 duathlon worlds

today the 2009 duathlon world championships are being held in concord, north carolina, and i'm anxiously awaiting for the results to be posted online. i hope all of the canadian athletes have great races and the team brings home fistfuls of medals. i can't wait to read the race reports, hear the stories, and see how canada compares to some the world's best.

good luck, athletes. have fun out there and enjoy your races.

one step forward, two steps back

just when i think things are going well and my leg is getting better, i go and do something seemingly harmless that sets me back. last night being the warm, balmy autumn evening that it was, i decided to walk to a nearby grocery store for my mid-week grocery top up. without thinking i loaded up on a few heavy things like a carton of orange juice and a carton of soy milk, along with everything else. about 5 minutes into my 20-minute walk home, two grocery bags weighing me down, my ankle started to hurt, the first telltale sign of my bone fracture. going to sleep with it feeling slightly irritated, i woke up in the middle of the night with my right leg throbbing and i decided to skip my morning workout because of it.

it turns out that i still have a long way to go. over the past couple of weeks i've been going to the gym, riding, doing strengthening exercises and stretches, all in an attempt to heal and help prevent this from happening again, and there's been absolutely no pain until last night. my MRI couldn't possibly come sooner.

tonight i have a pretty serious bike workout that i've been looking forward to for awhile because i want to see if i can get through it without any irritation or pain. hopefully all will be fine and i'll keep moving forward with my riding, but if there is pain, i'll have to scale back on my training even further. i'm feeling defeated and discouraged. ugh.


just found out that my MRI has been booked for october 14th. aaaaarghh... that seems so far away. i hope to be well on my way to recovery by then but i'm still interested to see exactly what the MRI will discover.

one thing that i keep forgetting to post is the news that the official website for the 2010 duathlon world championships was launched on september 3rd, marking the one-year countdown to the event. at this point the course hasn't been finalized, but it's a site worth checking out if you're heading there to compete.

best of luck to all athletes competing in the lakeside II HSBC triathlon/duathlon weekend tomorrow and sunday. i'll be there on sunday morning, although i won't be racing.

the seasons are changing

last week on one of my morning rides to work, i saw my first leaf of the season fall from tree to ground. as i watched it gently land on the rec path that i was riding on, i looked at the tree that it had just been released from and noticed that, along with all of the other trees sharing that bit of grass, the leaves had started to turn from their rich, summer green to deep, rusty oranges, yellows and browns. in addition to the leaves changing colours, the air is cooler in the mornings, the sun rises lower, sits closer to the horizon in the evenings; the days are shorter, the winds have changed directions. fall is on the way.

as i patiently wait to get my MRI to acutely assess and diagnose my fractured tibia, my seasons have officially changed, too. i've finally accepted the fact that my racing year is over. early this year, when i had originally put my 2009 duathlon plan together, i had hoped to still be training for two more races at this time. racing from april to october split my year nicely in two: 6 months focusing on base training and building, 6 months focusing on speed work and racing. however, with one bad pair of running shoes my racing season has been cut short by two months, and the upcoming running portion my off season training has been set back dramatically to allow for injury recovery. before the severity of my injury came to light, i was hoping that i could have a few easy weeks of downtime in race season and still be able to get some end-of-year competitions under my belt. but now that i've been told by my sports chiro that i likely won't be running outside until december, i've humbly accepted that there's nothing i can do but be patient. a stress fracture can be a recurring injury if not treated correctly, so with my ambitious goals over the next few years in the sport of duathlon in focus, i'll take all the time necessary to ensure i heal properly. i got through my big races in 2009 before being sidelined, and my big race next year, the world championships, is at the end of next year's race season. that means that i need to ensure that i'm fit enough and strong enough to get through an entire season of racing before competing in my 'A' race.

so as summer changes to autumn, autumn to winter, i'm turning the intensity down and cranking up the duration of my workouts. for running, all i can do for the next three months is continue to run in the pool, but my cycling workouts won't be affected. i'm hoping to make some pretty huge strides this off season and want to come back in 2010 better, fitter, faster and stronger than ever. because of the downtime necessary to heal, it's likely that my running times won't come down to the point that i want them to be until about this time next year. which is fine. i'm perfectly ok with that. my focus for next year will be to remain injury free and i'll be taking a much more holistic approach to training from here on. all of my injuries this past year seemed to be caused by too much running and riding in a straight line. it's time to re-assess my game plan.

and i'd like to thank everyone out there that has offered me support after hearing of my season-ending injury. many have offered me advice and guidance, many sharing their own stories of dealing with their injuries and how, ultimately, sitting out with an injury helped them to grow as an athlete. some truly inspiring words of support came from a comment on one of my blog entries. magali tisseyre, a professional female triathlete from quebec, wrote, "ALL OF US get injured once in a while, it is part of being an athlete, part of our evolution, part of getting stronger! I think that the athletes that make it are not those that stay injury free, they are those that stay positive and consistent through adversity! In my opinion, you can evercome this for sure and will come back stronger mentaly and physicaly."

although my off season is starting almost two months earlier than i had planned, i'm more excited than ever for my 2010 racing year. i'll learn from this injury, heal, and bounce back from it stronger and faster than ever.

best of luck to all athletes

as i'm getting geared up for my saturday morning ride (my first real ride in almost a month), i just wanted to say good luck to all of the multisport athletes competing this weekend. today is the HSBC wasaga beach tri/du, and tomorrow is the muskoka 70.3 in huntsville. it's a busy weekend for the sport but, sadly, i'll continue to sit on the sidelines with my fractured tibia. especially hard for me is the fact that i've been looking forward to the wasaga beach race all year. it's my favourite race on the race calendar and i was excited to return there for my third consecutive year.

have fun out there, everyone. enjoy your race.

MRI, then gameplan

next up in my ongoing fight to heal my bad leg is an MRI. this should provide all of the missing details in terms of just how severe of a stress fracture i have. after that is a conversation with my doctor and sports chiro to figure out a game plan for moving forward. i keep reading horror stories online about people with similar tibia stress fractures that have been advised by their doctors to stay off their feet for times varying from 4 weeks to an entire year. AN ENTIRE YEAR? you've got to be kidding me! i couldn't imagine not running for a whole year. i'm not going to stress about it until i've had all of the necessary conversations, but i'm glad to know ahead of time that i could be in for a longer than expected bout of recovery time. yikes. the thought is definitely terrifying.

in the meantime i'm still going to the gym and riding as much as i can to keep my fitness up. i'm also water running as much as i can. i was at the cottage this past weekend and got a 70-minute aqua jog workout in on saturday afternoon. i'm sure i looked ridiculous out there in my wetsuit, running along underwater with my head bobbing above the surface. "that guy's walking! look at him! he's just walkin' along!" was the commentary from a boat full of geriatrics that slowly made their way past.

one thing i've realized is that i'm hesitant to ride like i normally do, fearful that pushing the pedals too hard too soon may compromise my recovery. i brought my bike up the the cottage because i wanted to get out on the roads for a 60k ride, but i had to psyche myself up to even want to ride. i ended up not riding because i don't want to do anything to stress my lower leg any more than it should be. i still ride to work as much as possible but that's usually fairly light spinning and there's no pain during or afterwards. i'm sure a 60k ride on my tri bike won't do any harm, but, at this point, i think the key is to be as patient as possible and come up with a game plan before anything else. in the meantime i'll continue to force myself into staying off my feet as much as possible. which is tougher than i ever imagined. who doesn't want to sit around on the couch, put their feet up and relax? not me.

bad news

stress fracture in my right tibia. looks like my 2009 racing season is over. i'm meeting with my doctor and chiropractor this week and next to come up with a recovery plan. i've got some downtime ahead of me but i'm happy to finally have a diagnosis so that i can start moving forward in the right direction.

more waiting

i had my bone scan today, followed by an x-ray. luckily i live close to the hospital so i was able to go there first thing in the morning, get some sort of calcium-like injection that helps the bone scan see bone fractures more clearly, go home for two hours while the liquid injection made its way through my body, then return to the hospital for the scan. supposedly my doctor won't have the results until at least thursday so i hope that i'll have an official diagnosis by the end of the week. as time goes on this whole ordeal becomes increasingly frustrating for me. i haven't had this much downtime in almost two years, the last time being when i had to have surgery on my leg in the fall of '07. that put me out for the entire winter and i was still limping in february, three months after the operation. i'm doing what i can to keep my fitness up; i'm running in the pool when time permits and am still riding to work as much as possible, but i haven't gone for a "real" ride in two weeks. riding doesn't seem to aggravate the injury but i'm not pushing it, and when i'm at the gym i'm only doing very light strengthening exercises. that's what it's about these days: keeping things very light until i know for sure what's going on with my leg. i haven't gotten my heart rate up, nor have i worked up a sweat in a couple of weeks.

some good news is that i went for a very easy, light 20-minute run yesterday afternoon to see how it felt. for sure things were way, waaaay better than they have been in a few weeks, but still definitely not 100% and i was hurting afterwards. other good news is that the strengthening exercises seem to be paying off because the pain no longer seems to be muscle related.

aaaarrrghhh... this is so frustrating. i want to be out there training. i want to go for a real ride. i want to get back into it. i was planning on racing in cobourg this past weekend but had to withdraw because of the injury. as hard as that decision was, it was probably a very wise one, even though judging by the times i likely would have walked away with a victory. two more races are left on my race calendar for 2009 and i'd like to be at both of them.

tuesday is the big day

bone scan on tuesday. much sooner than i'd thought. i was told that i may have to take a backseat to higher priority cases because of the isotope shortage, but the scan is only one week after meeting with my doctor. it's a two stage ordeal: show up, inject dye into my blood, come back two hours later for the scan. anxious for the results. i want to ruuunnnnn!!!

not ready to throw in the towel

it seems that the only thing that i have to blog about these days is the status of injuries. sticking with that theme, i'm here to report that my tricky, stubborn, still officially undiagnosed injury may be a season-ending stress fracture in my right shin bone. my chiropractor and i aren't ruling it out and we still have a few steps ahead of us before we can be certain. at this point it's proving too difficult to determine if the pain is soft tissue or bone related, so next up is a trip to my family doctor to get a requisition form for a bone scan. if it is a fracture it will show up in a bone scan, whereas an xray may not be able to spot it.

for the first time in months (except for when i was on vacation) i didn't do any training this weekend. weekends are vital for my training because it's a time for me to catch up or get in some longer workouts, but this weekend i shut it down hoping that rest, stretching and light strengthening exercises may help out. i was out for a light run this afternoon and the pain was still there, although it did feel slightly better. i'm checking in with my chiropractor tonight so i hope we'll get somewhere.

this is a very hard, frustrating time. even at the best of times when i'm getting in all of my workouts week after week i feel like i'm not doing enough, and now here i am having to force myself to do nothing at all. but i am confident that it isn't a stress fracture. the pain seems to move from spot to spot as my workouts progress; as certain muscles warm up and tire out, the pain shifts around. i can also stand with all of my weight on my right leg and move my knee around without any pain at all, and i've been told that if it is a stress fracture i wouldn't be able to put any load on it whatsoever.

but hey, what do i know? i'll leave the official diagnosis to the experts. if it is a stress fracture my season will be over, i'll be off my feet to recover, and i'll shift my focus to next year much earlier than i'd anticipated. if it's not a stress fracture, i'll work through the pain and do one more race this year before throwing in the towel. i can get through a soft tissue injury but a bone fracture is different. if i don't stop to take care of it immediately i'll be jeopardizing my future in the sport. not exactly something i'm interested in signing up for.

it's official

just received an email from triathlon canada that reads:

Dear Tommy

I am pleased to inform you that after reviewing the registrations and assessing the roll-down list, you have received a spot on the 2010 Age Group Duathlon team.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Julie Keown
Office Manager
Triathlon Canada

so there we have it. i'm officially on the national team. very exciting.


last night i did yoga for the first time in almost two years. i used to do it regularly back when i was a competitive rower, yoga being a great compliment to the extremely repetitive movements rowers use while training and racing. after a couple of bad experiences with different instructors and venues i stopped going and haven't done it since. with duathlons, most of my time is focused on training and very little time is set aside for stretching and relaxing. and, as a result, here i am almost two years later with a string of injuries that could mostly have been prevented had i taken the time to include flexibility training and stretching into my workout routines. i've always known that yoga would be a tremendous benefit to my training and have been trying to fit it in but haven't been able to do so.

last night i was finally able to tag along with my wife for a class at downward dog - her regular yoga haunt - and, after being away from yoga for so long, i noticed that i'm not nearly as flexible as i used to be and my back is not nearly as strong as it was back when i was rowing. we did a level I class that was surprisingly challenging, and i think that the only way i was able to get through the 1.5 hour class was a combination of the fact that i've done lots of yoga in the past and that i'm already in pretty good shape. otherwise there's no way i would have made it through this "easy" class. i sweat so much that i was able to wring out my towel afterwards, my legs were trembling while holding some poses, and i got worked. anyways, i left the class feeling more loose and more relaxed than i've felt in a long time and was able to notice the benefits immediately. i woke up this morning for the first time in weeks with no sensation of injury in my right leg, the pain virtually disappearing overnight.

if you're an athlete, flexibility plays a vital in your overall physical well being. i'm going to incorporate yoga into my regular routine, mostly to try to prevent and overcome injuries, but also as a means to add some balance to my training. all of my workouts are high-impact, high-intensity and highly repetitive, so an hour and a half a week of slow, relaxed movements will be a nice change of pace. even if i do sweat like a leaky faucet. which is kind of embarrassing. can the rest of the class hear the sweat dripping off my nose?

Post Race Report - Toronto Islands

this was without question the most fun that i've had at a race. the toronto islands race site was close by, the weather was spectacular, and the competition was top notch. coming over to the islands on the ferry in the morning only added to the uniqueness of the event and my hat goes off to the fine folks at the HSBC series. i like this series because they really try to make their events more than just a competition by adding unique venues like the toronto islands, as well as giving athletes an opportunity to do something a little different, such as the triathlon start on the Seguin Steamship in gravenhurst.

after arriving on the islands first thing in the morning, it was only a short walk to the race site. immediately i saw some familiar faces and after getting my transition area set up and my warm up out of the way, the race was set to begin. my pesky leg and ankle injuries were feeling pretty good, better after i'd warmed up, and it appeared that they wouldn't be too much a factor for me, but there was no way for me to know for sure until the race was underway. i'd been careful to eat enough food this morning because at my last race i was on the start line feeling empty, which isn't exactly the way you want to feel before your race begins. it was scorching hot out there in the sun - even at 8 in the morning - and proper hydration would play a key role in every athlete's race today. i was sweating while just standing so i'd been drinking water right up to the time i went to the starting corral. at the sound of the horn i took the early lead, holding it until the first of two turnaround spots, and was overtaken by omar hafez, a very talented runner that finished 4th in the first 10k leg of the provincial championships. knowing that we couldn't keep up with him, me and two other athletes, scott finch (a regular on the HSBC series) and damian walsh, a new face visiting from the US, held tightly to 2nd, 3rd and 4th spots. the three of us were inseparable for the first 4.5k run and many thanks go damian who encouraged both scott and me to keep at it. "c'mon... don't let him get away," damian said on course to scott and me as the other made a move. it's been a month since my last race and i didn't feel 100% out there in the early part of the race, my stomach feeling slightly off. in the end i made a bit of a break and came into transition in 2nd spot, scott and damian only one second behind me.

both damian and scott were faster than me in t1, damian getting way ahead. i caught up to scott exiting transition and he and i mounted our bikes at the same time, me getting clipped into my pedals and off the line just ahead of him. this 30k bike course started with a long no passing zone so our respective positions were held until we'd all found our cycling legs a couple of kilometres into it. it was in this no passing zone that i hit a pretty nasty bump, the mesh top of my aero water bottle popping off and all of my water spilling out along with it. fantastic, i thought to myself. all of my water is gone and it's the hottest day of the year and here i am racing. i'm pooched. water bottle problems aside i was making ground on omar and damian, the race leaders at this point, so i decided that since i was catching them so early into the bike leg, there was no need for me to expend extra energy by making a surge up to the front. i eventually caught up with and dropped omar, and damian and i were riding side-by-side by the end of the first 5k section (the course was split into two 5k sections, 10k in total, 3 laps of both for the 30k ride). in the closest, most enjoyable bike portion of any race i've been in, damian and i stayed together for the entire ride, each of us taking the lead from the other only to be caught again. "tag, you're it!" i said at one point as i passed him, only to be overtaken once again a few minutes later. the crowds became a factor as the day went on, the arrival of the ferries obvious as surges of people would show up here and there. i practically winded myself yelling ahead to make sure the people would be out of harms way from the athletes. "this is crazy!" damian said as we reached one of the turnaround points.

as the race wore on it appeared that damian and i were sizing each other up and preparing to use the race same strategy. i wasn't having trouble keeping up with him and was sticking to my "there's no point in trying to get away" plan. i jsut wanted to stay with him, not let him get away, and save my legs for a real break on the last 5k section. the heat was really affecting me because i'd only been able to sip on the scraps of water that remained in my aero bottle. i was feeling thirsty and damian was kind enough to offer me a couple of sips from his water bottle. that's how close we were for the whole bike portion. toe-to-toe every step of the way. once we were on our last lap of the bike course i took the lead early on, damian got it back again, and it appeared he was finally making a move. i held on and kept up with him but he didn't seem to be getting away like i thought he was going to. i looked down at my bike computer and we were at about the 26k mark so i decided to make my move. i dropped a gear and hit it hard. i'd passed him countless times by this time so maybe he wasn't expecting it, but i held on and kept pulling away. i was pounding on the pedals and looked back to see if he was keeping up but it looked like i'd dropped him and i was making some ground. i kept telling myself to hold this effort because i was so close to the end of the ride, and by the time i'd reached the very last turnaround before exiting to t2, i couldn't see damian behind me anymore.

the first thing i did in t2 after racking my bike was to grab the water bottle that i keep in transition area. i took a few big gulps, threw on my running shoes, and was off for the last 4.5k running leg of the race in first place, carrying my water bottle with me. my stomach was still feeling off. at one point on the bike i felt like i was going to throw up. i'm sure it was a combination of the effort i was putting in, the heat, lack of hydration, and the fact that i'd probably eaten too much food this time. i had food to eat with me on course but i definitely didn't need it. as i was moving along on the last run my stomach finally started to feel better and the water helped out, too. i wasn't feeling fast but i was moving. i had a pretty good lead now and there was no sign of any other athletes behind me and i started wondering if perhaps damian had taken a wrong turn coming out of t2. at one point i had a view of a couple hundred metres and there was nobody to be seen, and it wasn't until i looped back towards transition area the i found scott and omar in a tight battle for 2nd and 3rd. was damian a ghost? where did he go? was he alright? i made my way through the last running leg of the race, tired but strong, and came across the finish line in first place, super excited with a victory at my hometown race! i managed to come across the line about 90 seconds ahead of the other two athletes, and stuck around because it was going to be a close race for the next spot. although they were running side by side both times i saw them on the second run, omar ended up getting scott by about 10 seconds, still with no sign of damian, and neither of those two had seen him since the bike course. i waited around at the finish line until finally, about 15 minutes later, damian crossed the line. turns out he accidentally did an extra lap of the bike route along with another athlete.

sweaty, thirsty and exhausted i walked away from today's event with my third victory of the season. i got a better time than i was hoping for and am psyched with my results. i had a great ride as my cycling continues to improve and my splits get faster and faster. it was nice to realize that i'm able to push myself really hard when i have to so i may use that to my advantage in later races when trying to break away. i've had too many problems with my aero bottle so i'll be switching to something different, and i've almost got my pre-race nutrition figured out, the ideal solution falling between me eating too much for this race and too little at my last race. my injuries held up nicely and don't seem to be any worse so that's great news, and i'll take some more downtime to focus on getting those sorted out. i've only got a couple of races left this year and i'd like to make the all good ones with results similar to today's. racing at home on the islands was pretty fun and i hope that HSBC returns here again next year.

and i'd like to nominate damian walsh for sporstman of the year if i could. a very friendly, generous athlete that was just as concerned with the other athletes' races as he was with his own.

racing on the islands tomorrow

tomorrow i'll be racing the HSBC toronto islands duathlon, a race that i've been looking forward to for a long time. this stop has been a part of the HSBC's roster for a couple of years but, for whatever reason, last year the duathlon was not on the card. this year, however, duathlon is returning to the islands and i've practically been counting down the days all year. this is my hometown race. i live about a 10 minute drive from the ferry terminal, i'm going to have family and friends there to cheer me on, and my wife and i have planned on making a day out of the race because we both love going over to the islands. after the event wraps up we'll meander along the rec paths, stop in at centreville, probably have an ice cream cone, maybe rent a bike or a paddle boat for a couple of hours, and maybe go for a swim.

this will be a flat and fast course and i'm hoping to do well. there are a couple of elite male athletes entered in the race but i don't recognize their names so i don't know what to expect. there's a good chance they could both beat me and i expect the rest of the field to be tough, too. but if i can get the time that i'm hoping for i should be able to finish on the podium. my injury is doing better these days but it will definitely play the most vital role in how well i do tomorrow. since it's a race i will be pushing myself, but if my body is telling me to slow down and take it easy i will. my injury is definitely affecting my performance, but the last time i ran intervals i forgot my watch so i couldn't see just how much it's slowing me down. the good news is that my riding doesn't seem to be affected so i should have a strong performance on the bike. learning from my mistakes in gravenhurst i'm going to fuel up better for this race and hope to cross the finish line feeling like i've actually pushed myself.

regardless of how i place tomorrow, if i can get the time i want i'll be very pleased. i always head to races competing against myself and the clock, pushing to get my target time. this race will be the same and if i can get through the injury and cross the line feeling strong i'll be even more pleased. if you're looking for something to do tomorrow morning and have never been to the toronto islands, come check out the race for sure. it'll be an amazing venue, the weather looks fantastic, and you can spend the whole day on the islands exploring, having fun and relaxing.

weather, training and injuries

as a canadian it's my duty to talk about the weather. and as an athlete that does the majority of his workouts outside, weather plays a huge role in the length, quality and type of workout i'm able to do. the weather has finally been cooperating over the past few days and i've been outside enjoying it. except for a couple of nasty thunderstorms on sunday which i got caught in, promptly ending my run and sending me inside to do a long ride on the indoor trainer, the weather this week has been great for outdoor training. monday i wasn't able to get a workout in because i was getting caught up at work after a week away, tuesday was a 50k hills ride and run, wednesday was a ride to a from work and intervals in the afternoon, and today is another ride to and from work. tomorrow looks good so i'll be back on my bike riding to work again and will do a tempo run in the afternoon, all the while doing my best to work through an injury that just won't go away.

because i was traveling with work last week i wasn't able to get any workouts in. when i'm in the field i'm typically working 10-18 hour days and traveling from spot to spot or getting ready for the next day in the evenings. i thought that with a week's worth of downtime my injuries might actually begin to improve, but this week, now that i'm back at it, they seem to be even worse. i'm seeing my physiotherapist tonight and my chiropractor tomorrow in a effort to get this thing finally taken care of once and for all. i'm not ready to throw in the towel and put an end to my racing year just yet because i'm planning on racing right into october, so i'm going to do what i can to beat this thing. if i'm advised to put a halt on my training and racing i will, but otherwise it's business as usual.

i'm racing in toronto on the islands this weekend at a race that i've been looking forward to all year and am not prepared to miss. it's my hometown race and i'll have family and friends there. i've already prepared myself for the fact that i'll probably be hurting after this race and have already booked physio and chiro appointments for next week. i haven't raced for nearly a month so rest and downtime aren't helping, so i'm just gonna go out there and do what i can. i'm ready to race again and i'll see how my body reacts. hopefully all will go well and i'll be no worse off than i am now, but, as my physiotherapist who's also a multisport athlete said, "people always end up hurting themselves when racing because that's when they're working the hardest."

new balance store, thank you

i just wanted to say a little thank you to the new balance store on bloor street west in toronto. at the end of may it was time for me to get a new pair of shoes, and on the advice of my physiotherapist i went for a pair with less arch support in order to compensate for the orthotics that i run with.

i've been running in new balance shoes for about 10 years without ever encountering a problem and that whole time i've basically stuck with the same shoe. new balance is great because they have a line up of shoes that they're constantly improving while sticking with the things that work. i run in the 769, before that i ran in the 768, before that the 767, and so on. all i have to do when it's time for a new pair is go in to the store, ask for the latest in the seven-six series, check my fit and i'm out the door. i know what i'm getting every time.

after talking with one of the sales reps at the store on yonge street, explaining what i was told by my doc, i went with the 904s, a shoe with the same arch support system as the seven-six series but significantly lighter and with less all around support. after only a few weeks of running in the new shoes (i didn't start running in them until mid-june) and a couple of races, i developed some very painful shin splints. my physiotherapist and i determined that the shoes were the problem and she told me to go back to my old shoes, but i didn't want to switch so close to the big race of my year (the provincials). anyways, i worked through the shin splints, stretched and massaged them and dealt with them as best i could.

when i finally just recently had some time to go to the new balance store to get a new pair of shoes (a new pair of my old shoes) i explained my story to the sales rep. she told me that the 904s were not meant for every day, high mileage training. they're racing flats, designed to be used only on race day. i felt duped! i'd bought those shoes on the advice of one of their sales reps, the shoes' treads had completely worn out, they'd caused me shin splints, and now here i was forking out more money for another pair of shoes. brutal.

understanding the plight of an injured, broken new balance die hard, the woman at the store told me she would happily exchange my 904s for another pair of shoes or store credit, although it was more than two months after i'd bought them. i didn't have them with me and went back to the store a couple of days later, original receipt in hand, re-explained everything to another sales rep, and walked out of there with another pair of brand new 769s. so now i have two brand new pairs of the shoes that i love and trust, and am happy to say that i'll be sticking with new balance and can put a happy ending on this little incident. although i'm still working through the injury, things are improving with the new shoes and should be fine after a couple more weeks of lesser mileage training and less intense workouts.

so if you're looking for new shoes, new balance rules! and the peeps at the new balance store on bloor street west in toronto are pretty cool, too.

check out this link

a little shout out from OAT, the sport's provincial governing body.

right back at it

after a week's vacation and a week off of training i got right back into it this morning. i had a great ride to and from work today and my legs felt great, and i also had an intervals workout with some better than expected splits. i'm a huge supporter of the importance of rest when you're a competitive athlete. i think a lot of people underestimate the value of recovery and convince themselves that they're only going to make progress if they're constantly pushing themselves. i say rest is good. there's too many things out there to enjoy in life and it's possible to be an athlete while taking pleasure in all of those things. it's just a matter of finding a balance that works for you and taking some time off when you deserve it.

Post Race Report - Provincial Championships

this was the race that i'd been gearing up for all season. early on in the year i'd found out that the national championships had been cancelled, and all ten of the national team qualifying spots that were available at that race had been dispersed across canada. with six spots available at this race - the ontario provincial duathlon championships in gravenhurst - i went into it completely blind as far as knowing what to expect. i started getting back into multisport in late 2007 and missed the provincial and national championships that year, as well as last year because i was traveling, so this was the first time that i would be competing against a gathering of all of ontario's and, perhaps, canada's finest duathletes. i had to place in the top 6 in my age group and, although i was pretty sure that i was capable of doing so, i'm in one of the most competitive age group categories in the sport. every time that i've been beaten this year, each of those athletes have been in my age group category. there are a lot of strong, talented duathletes out there and i was expecting every one of them to show up at this race. needless to say, i was nervous the final few days leading up to the race.

i arrived at race site early because i wanted to give myself as much time as possible to register, set up my transition area, warm up, and do everything else that needs to be done on race morning. there were only a couple of athletes there when i arrived, one of whom was larry bradley. larry and i are both avid bloggers and the two of us have been chatting back and forth online for a couple of months, so it was nice to finally have met him in person. once all of my pre-race responsibilities had been taking care of i still had plenty of time. i headed out on my bike for about 15 minutes to make sure everything was in check and to see the first kilometre of the bike course. the course starts off with a couple of challenging uphill climbs right out of transition area, makes a few short turns onto some residential streets, and then heads away from town to three main out-and-back roads just north of town. on the final return trip of the bike course you wind your way back through more residential streets before descending back down into transition area. i had finished my run warm up and stretching a few minutes before the race began when my family showed up, so i had a quick opportunity to say hello before heading off to the starting line.

as i was standing there getting ready to race i was realizing that i felt pretty good. i got a few hours of solid sleep the night before (rare for me) and had had an easy, stress free pre-race morning. everything had gone smoothly so far. however, i was feeling a little concerned with how i'd fueled my body. even though i'd been sure to keep drinking water leading right up to the start, i was feeling slightly dehydrated and a little light on prolonged, burnable energy stores. my meal the night before had been the same meal that i'd had before every other race this season and i'd stuck with it because it's always worked out well for me, but this morning i was concerned that i hadn't eaten quite enough. this race distance (10k run, 4ok bike, 5k run) was longer than the races i normally do, but not by much. i figured the same meal would be just fine as long as i fueled properly while out on course. i was also standing there thinking about my race plan. usually i'm able to sprint ahead of the field right out of the gate and can maintain a strong pace at the front of the pack, but i didn't want to do that this morning. because the field was so strong i knew that i wasn't going to be able to keep pace with the race leaders, and i didn't want to waste any unnecessary energy. i also didn't want to look like a fool, sprinting ahead of all the other athletes at the beginning of the race only to end up a couple of dozen runners back in the pack by the end of the first run. so my plan for the first 10k run was to settle into a good pace right from the beginning, conserving energy for the very technical, challenging 40k bike ride with the idea of having enough left over for a strong performance on the last 5k run.

all of the athletes at the front of the start line were shaking hands and wishing each other well as our final few seconds were counted down. as expected, kevin smith, one of only a handful of elite duathletes in ontario, took the lead right from the start. we all knew better than to try to keep pace with him because he's such a strong runner, and by the first kilometre or so the field had spread out. not much happened on the first run, things remaining almost the same for the whole run. larry bradley and i were pretty much neck and neck the entire distance. the course was rarely flat, always twisty and turny, and it was difficult to see ahead of you, the road disappearing behind tight corners. on what flat sections there were i would start to slowly pull away from larry but he was right on me and would catch right up to me and pass me whenever we got to a hill. he's much stronger than me on hills and i couldn't shake him. as we hit the 5k turnaround i was feeling pretty good so i picked things up slightly and finally put a bit of distance between the two of us. but at the first uphill climb he got me again and it got to the point where i didn't want to expend that extra energy trying to get away from him if he was just going to catch me at every hill. bruce bird, who was behind us, also picked it up at the 5k point and and put some distance between him, larry and me. there was one long, flat part of course right near the 9k mark and, feeling that i was the stronger athlete on the flats and knowing that there were no more uphill climbs ahead of us, i made a move and came into transition area in 6th spot with larry breathing down my neck.

larry had a quicker transition than me and we both came out of t1 together, larry getting ahead right away but with me catching up and overtaking him at the top of the first climb. we stayed close for the first few kilometres. so close, in fact, that when we had reached the first out and back turnaround at about the 5k point, i slowed to go around the pylon and then started counting to see how much ground i'd made on him. when you get to a turnaround spot like that the idea is that if you start counting and stop when you pass by the other athlete approaching from the other direction, you double you count to see how far ahead you are. it's a great tool to see if you're making up or losing time. anyways, i started my count and as i was watching the athletes going the other way looking for larry, larry passed me on the bike! he was right behind me and i had no idea. for those first (extremely rough and bumpy) few kilometres, we played cat and mouse, me getting ahead of him again, him getting back in front of me. i thought that it was going to stay that way for the whole ride but larry must have some hidden switch on his bike because he made a break out of nowhere and he was quickly ahead of me. i thought that i'd be able to hold the ground between us but he just kept getting further and further away.

it was around this point that i started to notice that, as i'd suspected, my fuel levels were getting low. i was realizing that a) i definitely did not eat enough the night before, and b) i didn't have enough food with me on course to consume to top up my tank. i wasn't feeling weak because i didn't feel like i'd pushed myself too hard on the first run, i just felt like my tank was emptying fast. because of my diet i avoid using popular, brand name processed energy drinks, gels and bars at all costs and have been experimenting with my own energy bars and gels, but today, for some stupid, totally unexplainable reason, all i had with me out on my bike with me as fuel was half a banana. even while i was out there racing i was realizing how ridiculous it was to think that that would be enough for me on a day when i was going to burn nearly 2500 calories in two hours.

but i continued to pedal. i fought through it and stayed as strong as i could. as the race wore on larry continued to create some distance between the two of us and i got overtaken by one more duathlete. because there were three out-and-back turnaround sections i could see that i was falling behind. it didn't help that i got pushed off of the road by a cube van and almost crashed into someone at the side of the road. the van pushed me to the outside of a corner as it unsympathetically tried to pass me while i was out there racing. i went straight into the soft dirt at the side of the road, wobbled frantically as i tried to maintain control of my bike and stopped just in time to avoid hitting a woman out for a morning run. extremely frustrated i made my way back to the road, clipped into my pedals and was on my way again.

my strength continued to disappear and at one point i was saying to myself, you can go faster than this. you know you can go faster than this. i finally made it to my favourite section of the course and put in as much strength as i had left for the last 8k and headed back to transition area in 6th spot, feeling light years behind the leaders. as i came down the last hill and dismounted my bike, i heard my family cheering. "Go Tommy," they all sang out. "You're in 6th position! You're looking great!" the crowd always amps you up, especially when you have the people there you love pushing you on. with a quick couple of swigs from my water bottle in transition, i left t2 for the last leg of the race anxious to see what the situation was out there on the run course. i felt like i hadn't seen any of my competitors in a long time so i was practically expecting them all to be coming into the finish as i left to start my run.

as i found my legs and made my way past a few triathletes on course i started getting closer and closer to the 2.5k turnaround point. because of those blind twists and turns i needed that turnaround point to tell me where i was in the field. i still hadn't seen any of the duathlon leaders coming back in yet, and as i approached the last 500m before heading back home i realized that i wasn't actually that far behind all the leaders. or, at least, not as far behind as i'd feared. this gave me back some of the confidence that i needed to carry on strong. i finally saw the duathletes ahead of me and my nearest competitor was still larry. he had about 500 metres on me and as i reached the turnaround i'd decided that it was possible for me to catch him but i was running out of time, so if i wanted to make it into the top 5 overall i was going to have to push a little harder. i picked up my pace and tried to keep my eye on him. he would disappear behind a corner and then he would reappear again, each time seeming like i hadn't made up any ground. it was finally at about the same point on course where it flattens and straightens, the same point in the first run where i'd made my move, that i really hit it. i knew that i could catch him on the flats if i pushed hard and i started to make some ground. i lost him again around another turn only to realize that he was now on a downhill section getting away from me, so as soon as i crested that same hill i hit it even harder. this was the last descent before the course flattened off into the three final sharp turns to the finish.

he was now within about 20 metres of me. we both got held up by some poorly managed traffic and on the last long straight section of the run i got him and moved past him quickly. i had made my move and started my sprint to the finish and my heart rate was skyrocketing and my breathing was quick. i barely had enough wind to say "thanks!" as larry congratulated me as i passed him. i kept on it because i was expecting larry to make his own sprint to the finish and was concerned that i'd started my last sprint too soon. as i came into the final section of the race, the finish line right there in sight, i kept looking back over my shoulder expecting to get one last sprint out of larry. whether or not he was tapped out i'm not sure but i came across the line 5th overall in a time of 2.03.17, a time that i was extremely happy with, ten seconds ahead. i also finished 1st in my age group and with that secured a spot on the national team. mission accomplished!

after congratulating larry and all of the other athletes that were hanging out post-race at the finish line, sharing our race stories and patting each other on the back, i went over to see my family and thanked them all for coming out to watch and for cheering me on. with my national team spot secured, i left there that day with my wife and took the next week off from work and training. i spent a relaxing week recovering, eating, and enjoying some incredible wine. with the provincials behind me i can now focus on the rest of the season and hope to improve my race times as the year goes on. it was so great to have been able to race in a field of such talented athletes and i can't wait till we can all get together to do it again. it's rare for everyone to be able to gather at the same venue and a provincial championship is such a great opportunity to race alongside those people.

congratulations to all of the athletes out there that obtained a national team spot and if i don't see you at any races in the meantime, i'll see you at the world championships in 2010!