Post Race Report - Welland

under almost ideal racing conditions, i pulled off my second victory of the season and my first victory of the HSBC series at this weekend's race in welland. this was a HUGE win for me because i've taken the last month off to sort out an injury, and i was concerned that my fitness level was going to be affected by so much down time.

as far as a detailed report of the race goes, there's really not too much to say. the running and cycling portions of the course were straight, fast and flat with no hills or climbs whatsoever, there was no wind to contend with, and with clouds and light rain to help cool the athletes, the race was over pretty quickly.

the distances of this race were 5k, 30k, 5k, and i took the lead right off the start line. i reached the 1k mark at a time of 3.15 and settled into a pace that got me into the first transition only 12 seconds ahead of the next athlete. i competed in this same race last year so i knew that the bike ride was going to be flat, and was concerned because i tend to do better on courses that have significant climbing portions. i'm tall and lean, not built like powerful cycling sprinters who normally dominate courses like this and tend to be shorter with more muscle mass. i didn't have a huge lead after the first run and was sure that i was going to be overtaken on the bike, so i went out there pedaling hard. i had a fantastic ride on the wet, slippery roads, keeping my average speed over 38km/h, my fastest performance in a race thus far. the rain became a factor on the two or three sharp turns because you really had to slow down and take the corners fairly wide. you also had to keep your eyes focused on exactly where you were riding. puddles of water had formed on the road in the grooves created by car tires, so the fastest sections of the course were off to the side approaching the shoulder.

struggling to get my feet in the pedals after T1.

at the 15k bike turnaround i had a lead of about 1 minute but kept pushing the pedals. feeling like the people behind me were breathing down my neck, i came into transition 2, racked my bike, and headed out onto the second run. as always, the pace of my second run was slower than my first but i still managed to hold a good enough speed to maintain the lead. i came across the finish line with a time of 1.25.32, ecstatic and absolutely thrilled with my win.

coming into transition 2 after a wet, rainy ride

whether or not i'm good enough to qualify for the national team is still up in the air because there are a lot of talented athletes out there i've never competed against, but i wanted this win badly. i wanted to come back after a month of downtime feeling better, fitter, faster and stronger. i wanted a victory on the HSBC series because i feel that with a strong performance and a win at one of ontario's premier multisports series races, i've claimed a spot as a serious contender on the age group duathlon circuit in ontario.

race winner!!!

i'm happy to report that i won my race today in welland!!! it's my second win of the season and my first ever in the HSBC series. i'm super stoked with my cycling results and my overall time, and i'm feeling stronger then ever after a month of downtime to nurse an injury. i'll publish a fully detailed post-race report shortly.

also, congratulations to canadian triathletes simon whitfield and lauren groves. whitfield won his ITU race yesterday by nudging out germany's jan frodeno in a sprint-to-the-line photo finish. frodeno just barely beat whitfield at the olympic games last year with a similar sprint finish, but the canadian veteran walked away yesterday with the gold medal and some redemption.

lauren groves also had a podium finish in her race, finishing third in the women's event.

back at it tomorrow

i'll be racing in welland tomorrow, my first race in almost a month. during my last race in milton i fell pretty hard on my left side and have been nursing my way through the injury (click here for all of the details of that injury and the rest of that race). because i'd fallen and bruised my left leg, my right leg bore the burden by compensating and adjusting slightly, and i left the race with an overuse injury. it was pretty agonizing for a couple of days. not only did i have a bruise the size of a football on my left ass cheek, but i also couldn't run or ride afterwards without experiencing discomfort in my right leg. brutal.

after a week of recovery, easy, super-light workouts and session after session of physio, ultrasound, ART, and acupuncture, my leg slowly started getting better. i followed up that easy week with two hard weeks of workouts and have been tapering this past week in preparation for tomorrow's race. in the middle of dealing with the injury i've also come down with a pretty nasty cold that has been lingering this whole time. the cold still hasn't gone away and i'm still sniffly and coughing quite a bit, but i feel pretty good physically and think that i can make it through the race. i'm psyched to be getting back to competition and my plan is to race tomorrow, race one week later in peterborough, take two weeks off, and be in peak condition for the national qualifying race on july 18th in gravenhurst.

i was in welland for this same race last year and i'm anxious to see how my times will improve on a year-to-year comparison. i'd love to go out there and break 1.30.00 for this 5k/30k/5k race (my time from last year was 1.35.36), but i'm not sure if i'm capable of a time like that.

they've always a part of racing, but injuries are still unexpected whenever they come up, and hopefully i've made the right decisions with how i've treated this one.

it's hot out. let's do some intervals.

i got home from work today and, somehow, still managed to get my wednesday intervals workout in, even though the backyard thermometer read 32˚C. it was a warm run in the park and the heat got to me, my first interval time being 17 seconds off of my best time, and my fastest interval of the workout was still 5 seconds off. i'm supposed to be getting better, faster, fitter, stronger, but, in heat like this, i'm not gonna beat myself up.

gravenhurst reconnaissance ride II

i was back at the cottage this weekend and went for my second reconnaissance ride on the route that will be the race course on july 18th. last time i got lost but i was ready and knew the route this time and, after completing the entire 40k course, i doubled back and re-rode a couple of sections in order to get as familiar as possible with them.

it's a tough, challenging ride. the course is mostly short ups and downs, tight corners, and one or two big climbs. it's hard to get a rhythm going because just as you're settling back into your saddle after a quick climb, you get around the next corner and you're back out of your saddle climbing again. the longest, straightest, flattest section is only a couple of hundred metres. you really have to keep your head up and prepare yourself for what's coming up next.

my ride was on sunday morning which was sunny and beautiful, but on saturday morning, which was wet and rainy, i went for my weekly long run. there's nothing like running in the rain, and i even saw a white-tailed deer while i was out there. i had just reached a dead end and was turning around to head home when it spotted me from where it was grazing just off the road in the bushes. startled, it sprinted a bit further away and eyed me down as i got closer, turned around and headed in the other direction. i'd never seen a deer that close in the wild before.

the nice thing about doing long workouts in the morning while you're at the cottage is that you can enjoy the rest of your day guilt free. sitting on the dock, drinking wine, eating freshly grilled foods and all of the other fruits of a relaxing cottage weekend taste so much sweeter when you're not reminding yourself that you're still on a workout schedule, whether you like it or not.

Home sick today

i woke up this morning with a nasty cold/flu/headache thingy so i booked an appointment with my family doctor immediately. it's nothing more than a nasty case of sinus infection so i'll be back on my feet in a day or two, but i've taken the day off of training today. thursdays are typically pretty hard days for me, usually consisting of at least a computrainer session and a run immediately following. i'll just have to make up for it on the weekend.

Post Race Report - Milton

milton was a tough race physically, mentally, and emotionally.

i hadn't planned on doing this race but somehow talked myself into showing up in milton - a place i'd never been to nor thought i'd ever come to - alone on an early summer morning. conditions were incredible for racing; it was the type of beautiful day that only few can appreciate.

leading up to the start of the race i was distracted mentally. i had to keep reminding myself that i was there to race, forcing myself to snap out of my daze to concentrate on what was important that morning. this was just the beginning of my mental setbacks for the day.

the race was tough physically for obvious reasons: many parts of the run course were on broken, uneven off road trails, and the second run started with a steep uphill ascent. the 30k bike course was climb after climb after climb. shortly after starting my ride i realized that they don't call the area Halton Hills for nothing. headwinds gusted at 60km/h, and at one point i was actually riding on an angle because i had to lean into the crosswinds to maintain a straight course.

but what made this race really tough physically was an unexpected fall coming into transition 2. i came into the bike dismount area too quickly and wasn't fully able to get my left foot clipped out of my pedal. i threw my right leg over my bike while i was still moving, hit the brakes, slowed down abruptly, and must have run into the person in front of me. this stopped me dead in my tracks quite suddenly, unexpectedly. with my left foot still clipped in, i fell hard to the ground and, jacked up on adrenaline, i pounced back to my feet, picked up my bike with the help of one of the race volunteers, and proceeded on with the transition. the whole thing happened so quickly and all at once, and i quickly moved on to the second running leg of the race.

approaching the 1k mark of this 7k run, my right leg started feeling funny. something was off. i initially thought that my leg was having trouble adjusting to the rough, uneven pathways. because i don't normally do a lot of trail running, moving along at full-out race-pace on terrain that i'm not used to seemed like it should be to blame. i'd fallen on my left leg, after all, and it was my right leg that was bothering me. i had come into transition 2 in the lead but was overtaken by the eventual race winner by the 3k point of this run. i was having difficulty getting into my groove because my leg was hurting, but eventually found my running legs and settled into a pace that i could hold without too much agony.

for the remainder of the run i was able to hold onto 2nd position. thinking that i'd made up ground on the leader and was catching him approaching the end, i had a hard sprint to the finish line. it wasn't until i'd caught up with and passed this person that i realized he was not, in fact, the duathlon race leader, but rather a triathlete that just happened to be wearing a similar racing jersey.

pushing yourself mentally in a race is difficult at the best of times, but when you have an injury and something feels off, it's even tougher. it's hard to find a balance between wanting to keep pushing yourself as hard as possible because you're in the lead, and wanting to back off because you don't want to over-stress yourself and cause even more harm. i've never had to run injured before and it was a difficult exercise in mental focus. even before my fall that day, getting through the bike course was a challenge. when your legs are pounding, a headwind is slowing you down, and the top of one hill leads to the bottom of another, it's easy for your body to want to give up. i had to keep reminding myself that i was going to eventually be coming down all of the hills that i was climbing, wind at my back.

why this race was tough emotionally is a whole other story. some unexpected highs and harsh lows had been happening over the weeks leading up to this race. i went there alone which was a new experience for me, and an unexpected feeling of melancholy caught up with me while i was coming down the last few hundred metres of the race. the experience redefined my reasons for racing; i realized that i'm not just out there racing for myself. normally there's someone there waiting for me at the finish line, someone to say hello to, someone to ask me how my race went. every time i come to the end of a race i somehow feel that i'm crossing the line and finishing the race just for them. racing is a very social experience that always involves traveling to new places, seeing some familiar faces, and enjoying the event with loved ones and friends. without that special someone there by my side, my experience that day felt empty.

but all that aside, i came across the finish line on my injured legs in second place, pleased with my overall time of 1.29.32. as i'm a much stronger runner than cyclist, i was pretty psyched that i was able to catch up with and overtake the race leader on the bike, even though he ended up catching me on the second run. because of my injury i've decided to adjust my racing schedule and will be taking nearly a month off of competition in order to fully recover. my next race was supposed to be on june 14th in binbrook, but i'll skip that race and won't compete again until june 28th in welland. by that time i hope to have my injury taken care of and want to feel fitter, faster and stronger. i can foresee it taking a few races to get back up to 100% because i'll have to take it easy for awhile right in the middle of racing season. that may affect my fitness level. but only time will tell and i'm already looking forward to coming back to racing at the end of the month.

Post Race Report - Sommersault Early Bird

moments after the start. the guy that eventually won is directly behind me.

not wasting any time after my win in kingston, i headed to ottawa the following weekend to see some family and, while there, compete in my second duathlon of the season, the sommersault early bird long course duathlon. the distances of this race were 5k, 34.4k, 5k.

i was looking forward to this event because it was taking place on an amazing course. the race started and finished at carleton university, the run portions were on the shores of the rideau river, and the bike course was three laps on colonel by drive, a beautiful road that winds its way along the rideau canal. except for a nasty headwind on a few portions of the bike, the course was fast and flat.

i took the lead early in the race but the eventual race winner caught up with me at about the 2k point of the first run. for about another kilometer we were toe-to-toe and i was thinking, it looks like we've got a race here!, but he eventually outpaced me and came into the first transition ahead of me. i had a terrible transition because i had placed my bike on about the furthest bike rack from the run entrance and had to circle around the entire transition area on my way in and out, costing me very valuable seconds.

three laps later on colonel by drive, i had lost even more ground to the race leader but was still in a strong second position. the bike ride was scenic and windy, but rough in some patches because of some construction. which was actually pretty annoying because there weren't any signs on course to warn the athletes about the bumpy terrain. one bump was so big that the top of my water bottle popped off and all of my drink mix spilt all over me and my bike. that was on my first lap so i had nothing to rehydrate with for the rest of the ride. coming into transition 2 i was thirsty, annoyed and sticky from drink mix.

the race leader got me again in the final run, and ended up winning the race ahead of me by more than a minute. i chatted with him afterwards and he was actually a pretty nice guy, in town from vancouver for the week visiting family with his girlfriend. for this race i was hoping for a time of 1.35.00 or better so i was psyched with my second place time of 1.34.57.

before this event i had decided that i wasn't going to race again until at least two weeks later in milton, perhaps even skipping that race and taking an additional week off to prepare for a race in lakeside. this was my third race in as many weekends so i was looking forward to some well earned time off of competition.

Post Race Report - Limestone Duathlon

my first duathlon of the year was may 3rd in kingston. only a week after the sporting life 10k, i was confident that my running portions of the race would be strong, so i spent the week focusing on my riding.

i got a new bike in the fall of last year and had been riding it inside all winter, but leading up to this race i still hadn't ridden the new bike outside. i didn't even have a chance to change the tires from indoor trainers to racing slicks until the wednesday before my race. and on that night i just rode up and down the street a couple of times so, other than that, my race would be my first real ride on the new bike.

the race was a short sprint: 2.5k run, 20k ride, 5k run. i always like to have a target time to mentally prepare for at every race, and for this one i was hoping for a time of 1.05.00 or better. i broke it down by the following:

2.5k run - 10mins or better
T1 - 1min or better
20k ride - 35mins or better
T2 - 1 min or better
5k run - 20mins or better

from my results at my two previous 10k races i felt like i could knock off at least 2 minutes from my run times in order to get my goal of 1.05.00. last year's race winner finished the race with a time of 1.05.25 so i thought that i might do well at this race if i could get my target time.

my wife and i made a weekend out of the event and headed to kingston on friday night. we stayed in a hotel for the weekend, poked around all day saturday and checked out some great restaurants, shops, natural food markets, farmers markets, artisanal coffee shops, and used the opportunity to hook up with some family. it was great. i'd never spent any time in kingston so it was nice to see it for the first time. as a post-lunch activity, i went to the race site on saturday to pick up my race kit, and i took the opportunity to drive the bike course to familiarize myself with it. the course started with an immediate climb of about 800 meters and after that there were at least three more good climbing sections and a couple of flat sections. it looked liked a tough, challenging little course.

i showed up early on race day feeling strong, well rested, well fueled and ready to race. at the sound of the horn i quickly moved to the front of pack and had to wait for the lead cyclist to catch up with me so that he could lead me and the rest of the athletes through the first run course. unknown to me, just like the bike course, this run started with a sharp uphill climb, leveled off for about 100 meters, and then turned a corner for another steep climb. i was huffing at the top of the hills but knew that it was a short run so i carried on at the pace i had settled into.

i didn't have a chance to take a look behind me coming into transition 1 so i wasn't aware of how much of a lead i'd been able to make. i headed out on the bike portion of the race feeling like everyone else was on my heels. after the initial climb i settled into the gusty headwinds on the flats and started pounding out kilometer after kilometer. the cycling portion of my races are always weaker than my running portions so i was pushing myself as best i could, fighting my way up the hills and tucking myself out of the formidable headwinds. those headwinds turned into tailwinds at the 10k turnaround so the return was much faster than the out, but there was one last strong headwind waiting for me just as i came over the crest of the final descent back into transition area.

still in the lead after the bike, i found my running legs about 2k into the last 5k portion of the race and carried a strong pace to the finish line, nearly 3 minutes ahead of the next athlete. thrilled with my time of 1.02.14, almost three minutes better than the time that i had wanted, i walked away with my first win of the year. it was a short sprint course, half the distance of the race that i'll be doing to try to qualify for the national team, but if i'm able to carry that pace at the qualifying race in gravenhurst then i should stand a chance of making the national team. it was also a small field but the feeling of the win was thrilling, and it made all of the hard work during the off-season seem all worthwhile.

me with my "Men's Overall Duathlon" trophy. and some other guy

gravenhurst reconnaissance ride

in preparation for my year's most important race, i went for a reconnaissance ride this weekend in gravenhurst. i wanted to check out the 40k cycling route that i'll be racing on July 18th. during last year's race on the same course i got a flat tire at about the 8k mark so i never got a chance to see the whole course.

in a tough crosswind and on tired legs from a hard week of workouts, i got a little bit lost and was only able to ride about 30 of the 40 kilometers but, after my ride, i hopped in my car and scouted out the rest of the route. i'll have a couple more opportunities to ride the course before the race so i'm hoping that i'll be familiar enough with the course that i'll have an advantage over the other athletes.

it's a great course with lots of steep ups and downs, sharp corners and fast, freshly paved flats. it'll be a quick ride on race day.

what i'm listening to right now

Mother Mother
"O My ♥"

brutal workout @ Absolute

last night's workout:

25 minute warm-up

2mins @ your 3-hour pace
4mins @ your 2-hour pace
6mins @ your 1-hour pace
8mins @ a pace you can only hold for 8mins

cool down

i followed this workout with a quick 5k run and my legs are paying for it this morning. my ride to work today was low resistance/high cadence to work out the lactic acid and to get my legs moving, and i'll head to the gym at lunch to do some stretching.

with the race season in full swing, my workouts are now focusing on higher intensities with fewer breaks, rather than lower intensities for longer periods with some high intensity bursts thrown in.

i'm heading to the cottage tonight and will be riding the gravenhurst duathlon (july 18) bike course for the first time.

Post Race Report - Sporting Life 10k

leading up to this race i went away for a week in panama for a friend’s wedding. i had to adjust my training schedule quite dramatically because i knew that my week in panama would be a week of excessive drinking, excessive eating, and late nights. before leaving for panama i pushed myself hard on all of my workouts, getting in at least two a day for the entire week leading up to the trip. by the time that my plane left toronto, i was exhausted and was looking forward to a week off. i wanted to use my vacation as an opportunity to catch up on some sleep and imagined long siestas every afternoon, but that definitely wasn’t the case. every night was a late night and every morning started with a hangover. i was able to get three treadmill workouts in during the week and i tried to make all of them count, which is difficult to do when your sweat smells like beer from the night before.

once i was back home and had a chance to settle back into reality, i tried to get my training back on schedule as quickly as possible. i had to be careful because i wanted to recover from my lack of sleep from panama, get one or two hard workouts in, and then taper for race day which was only five days away. i got in one intervals workout and one tempo run before backing off, and as the race approached, i was worried that i wasn’t ready. i wanted to beat my previous 10k time from a month earlier but was concerned that i wouldn’t be able to because i’d taken so much time off over the two weeks leading up to the race.

i was nervous and didn’t sleep the night before the race. i showed up at the start along with the rest of the almost 13,000 competitors, did my warm up, and made my way to my starting corral. i’d never competed in a race that big before. there were about 20 professional athletes with their toes on the starting line, me and the sea of competitors on their heels. i knew that my nerves would settle as soon as the race started and, although i didn’t feel strong that morning, i was prepared with a solid race plan. learning from my mistakes at my previous race, my plan was to go hard for the first kilometer, settle, then have bursts at the 7k, 8k and 9k marks, and then sprint to the finish. if i could do that, i thought, then i should be able to beat my previous 10k time.

sure enough, as the gun went off and the race began, my nerves calmed. the athletes had already thinned out by the 1k mark and i settled into my race pace. my race plan quickly went out the window because there weren’t any kilometer markings. the only reference points i had was that i knew that there were water stations at the 4k and 7k marks. otherwise i was running blind. i felt strong as the race went on, my heart rate staying at a constant of about 98%. i also had a lot of fun out there. bands were playing every couple of kilometers and spectators were scattered in groups the entire way. i kept looking closely at all of the spectators because i kept expecting to see someone i knew, out there to secretly cheer me on.

i ended up with a time of 36.16, more than two-minutes faster than my race from a month before. the course was mostly downhill so my time probably would have been better no matter what, but i felt so much stronger at the finish line, i had energy to spare and i felt like i could have gone even faster. with no reference points on course i was running the same pace the entire distance, my only burst a sprint to the finish which snuck up on me around a blind corner.

Feeling great about my time and my fitness level, i got lost in the mass of thousands of athletes as we all made our way to the post-race area. Clearly i’d made huge improvements to my running, but to be a successful duathlete you also have to be strong on the bike. My first duathlon of the year was only a week away, which would be my opportunity to see if my cycling had made the same strides as my running.

first race of the year - Philly's Fools 10k

my first race of the year was supposed to be Harry's Spring Run-off, an 8k race held every april in high park in toronto. the Harry's race is a pretty big deal in the running community and i'd been looking forward to starting off 2009 with this race. however, procrastination got the best of me and i missed the registration deadline. to keep my early season race plan on track i started looking for another race being held on the same weekend and came across the Philly's Fools 10k in Whitby, which i promptly registered for.

i wanted to use this race as a way to set the bar for the rest of my 2009 racing year; a race that I could look back at later in the year to compare my 10k times to determine if i had been improving. in terms of actual race time, i was there to try to beat my previous personal best 10k time of 41.49.

my race plan for this day was to go out hard for the first 1k, settle into my race pace and then go hard for the last 2k. off the starting line i broke into the lead and pulled away from the pack, on the heels of the cyclist leading the runners through the course. i felt strong when i reached the 1k mark, but my excitement got the best of me and i wasn’t able to settle. i held onto a pace of about 3.25/km for the first 3km and quickly started to fade as the race progressed. i reached the 5k mark about 70 seconds ahead of my nearest competitor and i could here him catching up to me as I headed into the second half of the race. at the 7k mark he overtook me, broke ahead, and left me in his dust.

i ended up finishing in 2nd place. i’d exhausted myself by not sticking to my race plan; i’d gone too hard too soon and i’d paid for it by losing such a big lead.

however, I finished with a time of 38.27, more than 3 minutes ahead of my previous personal best. i was thrilled! this finish was proof that i’d had a great off-season and that my fitness level was good. my overall finish became irrelevant and i headed home feeling optimistic about my 2009 race year. it was clear that i’d improved my run times over the winter, but how would my cycling times improve? would they improve at all? at this point in the year i was still about 6 weeks away from my first test on the bike, which seemed like an eternity.