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!

National Team!

i did it! i qualified for the national team with my finish at the race in gravenhurst. it was a tough, gruelling race and a full report is coming soon. i'm away on holidays right now and my internet access is extremely limited, but i'll post a full play by play account of the event as soon as i'm back home.

over active imagination + anxiety = no sleep

the big race is the day after tomorrow and my nerves are still getting the best of me. i didn't sleep at all last night, tossing and turning with visions of the race racing through my mind, my over active imagination at its worst and causing me great anxiety. i'm terrified of getting another flat tire like i did last year, crippling my race. but the thing is, i've been out there on that course many, many times and i've ridden the bike course up and down, over and over, and have never gotten a flat tire except for that one time last year. the odds are strongly in my favour and i'm doing my best to focus my energy on positive thinking. i'm going to have a great race; i'm going to do the best that i can do out there; i'm going to get the results that i know i'm capable of. i'm not going to stress over the things that i can't control. if the universe should decide that it's time for me to have another flat tire, so it shall be. the things that i can control, i will. the things that are beyond me will take care of themselves.

something's off

out on my workout last night i felt exhausted and worn out. it appears that my sinus infection is back and my head was feeling heavy. i was struggling to keep my heart rate up, i was super sensitive to the exhaust fumes of cars passing me on the bike, and my legs and the rest of my body were feeling tired.

after a great workout on saturday, i spent the whole day sunday building a patio in my backyard, which meant hours of arduous labour. since i live in a row house, the only access to the back is through the house. that meant that every bag of gravel and sand (15 x 66lbs) and every flagstone (104 x 22lbs) had to be carried up the front steps, through the house, and down the stairs in the back. not to mention digging and hauling out all of the earth that will eventually be replaced by the stones. by the end of the day i was completely exhausted and showering and making my way to the couch to finally get some rest seemed like an effort. add to all of that the fact that i slept terribly that night and woke up with every inch of my body aching. not exactly ideal conditions to be in less than a week away from the biggest race of my year.

so i guess it's no wonder that i was feeling terrible on my workout last night. the good news is that i've otherwise been feeling fantastic over the past couple of weeks, so hopefully all i need is some rest. my diet has also been off track since friday, and with all of the strenuous activity my body is desperate for some proper nutrition. i had a great sleep last night and i've got only a couple of workouts left this week before hitting the brakes and resting up for saturday.

saturday is only a few days away and my nerves are creeping up on me. i'm haunted by the flat tire i got on this same course last year, ending my race while i was in 4th spot. if that happens this year my race will be over just as quickly as last year's. i'm convincing myself that it's not going to happen and i'm focusing on how great the race is going to go, rather than thinking about what could go wrong.

long ride at the cottage tomorrow

tomorrow morning, weather permitting, i'll be doing my last tough workout before my big race next weekend. i'm heading to the cottage in the kawarthas tonight and, of course, my bike is coming with me. thundershowers are in the forecast but i'm hoping to do a long, steady-state 6ok ride with some hard intervals thrown in, and then follow that up with a 10k tempo/intervals run. it'll be a long day out there but this workout has to be a good one. i'll start tapering my workouts after that in the hopes of peaking on the 18th.

i was hoping to get to the other cottage in gravenhurst at least one more time before next weekend to ride the race course again but it's not going to happen. i got two rides in up there so i've at least got those, and i hope to use that course familiarization to my advantage.

i'm feeling fast and strong these days and my workouts have been great the past couple of weeks. i've been working with a naturopath to change a few things in my diet lately and i'm feeling the benefits before, during and after excercise. it's pretty incredible, actually. my diet has always played a huge role in my training so taking it to the next level with an expert's guidance seems to be paying off. but i won't get too far ahead of myself and i'll let you know how i feel following my next race.

i've got my fingers crossed that the thundershowers will hold off until the afternoon!

shin splints. ouch.

i've been having some pain in my right foot after some hard workouts lately so i decided to get it checked out. i thought that it may have been related to an injury that i got at the end of may, but it turns out it's a problem all its own. enduring what was without a doubt the most painful and agonizing physiotherapy experience of my life, i was surprised to learn that i have shin splints. and it looks like the culprit is my running shoes.

luckily it's nothing too serious and can be sorted out with some stretching and therapy, but i do have to get a new pair of shoes which sucks because i've only been running in this pair for about 5 weeks.

i suppose i should be grateful that it's an easy fix. i'm not out for the season or anything so that's pretty sweet. i'm just out $200 for another pair of stupid shoes.

Post Race Report - Peterborough Sprint

a fantastic venue, a challenging course, a sunny, beautiful day. today i was racing the sprint duathlon in peterborough and found myself amidst all three of those. held at beavermead park, this was one of the prettiest racing venues i've been to. massive fields of green, bridges, rivers, a lake and recreational trails. and those are only the things i saw while on course. this was a quick sprint consisting of a 2k run, a 20k bike, and a 5k run, we were racing alongside the sprint triathletes and the long course tri/du athletes (2k swim/85k bike/21.1k run for long course triathletes, 2k run/85k bike/21.1k run for the long course du).

the first run of the duathlon looped around the soccer fields in the park. the course was sketchy in a few parts because of the soft grass and muddy ruts but, before i knew it, i was already at the turnaround point on my way back to transition. in the lead off the start line and for most of the first run, i came into t1 with two other athletes at the same time, barely two seconds separating all three of us. i'm skeptical about the actual distance of the first run. it was supposed to be a 2k run and i finished it with a time of 5.59, and i've never run a kilometre in less than 3 minutes, let alone two of them back-to-back.

with a quick transition i was off on the 20k bike ride, just behind jason lacombe, one of the two other athletes i came into transition with. i got held up in the no passing zone by a slower athlete so jason got ahead of me right away on the bike, and i didn't see him again until the turnaround at the 10k mark. i also got passed by david frake, the third athlete to come into t1 with jason and me. i didn't see david again until post-finish and, for some unknown reason, he was disqualified from the race. my guess is that he was either caught crossing the centre line of the road while riding (the bike course was PACKED with slower triathletes and the lead duathletes had to weave through all of the traffic), or else he passed someone in the no passing zone. anyways, the bike course was a challenging little ride. it was fast going out for a little bit thanks to a nice tailwind, and there was a nice variety of tough-but-not-too-tough rollers that kept you on your toes. this was my first real opportunity to test out my new aero position and, making my way through all of the triathlete traffic and battling the headwinds on the way back to t2, i started the last 5k run roughly a minute behind jason.

this ended up being a race between jason, david and myself. at the halfway point of the second run i spotted jason ahead of me and realized that i'd made up some ground. i tried pushing it for awhile to see if i could catch up to him but he was just too far ahead. jason (1st place) got me (3rd place) by about 40 seconds, and the next closest competitor was behind me by almost two minutes. because of david's DQ i officially ended up with a 2nd place finish, but david was fast out there and beat me to the line. i don't know why he was disqualified but, regardless, he's a much faster athlete than i am. i would have happily accepted 3rd overall and given him his 2nd place finish.

but i'm very happy with my time of 58.38. my next race is my big one for the year and it's almost exactly double the distance of this race. i would love to finish my next race in gravenhurst in a time of less than 2.05.00 and, according to my results today, i may be able to do that. however, gravenhurst is a very tough, technical course with lots of hills and very few flat sections, and over the past couple of years winners of the event have been crossing the line with times in the 2.10.00 range. i think that a time of less than 2.15.00 would be respectable so that's what i've set my sights on. i'm not sure if that time will be good enough to qualify for the national team but i guess we'll see.

so for now it's back to training for the national qualifier in two weeks. i'm giving myself almost no downtime after my race today so that i can keep my momentum going. i've had great races back to back and, hopefully, it only will only get better from here.

racing in peterborough tomorrow

i'll be racing in the sprint duathlon tomorrow in peterborough, my last event before my big race in gravenhurst on july 18th. as always, i'll be racing against myself and the clock, not my competitors. the distances for this race are 2k/20k/5k, and my goal for tomorrow is to have a time of 1.02.00 or better. i've never raced on this course before so i'm not sure what to expect.

my plan is go out there strong tomorrow and empty the tank. although it's definitely a race for me, i'll mostly be using this as my last major workout before toning things down slightly over the next couple of weeks. i need to be in peak form for gravenhurst so, after this race, i'll continue to focus my training on high intensity hill climbing and sprints on the bike, and long interval running workouts.

the race in gravenhurst is almost exactly double the distance of this race, so i'd like to come away from tomorrow's event with a time that i'm happy with. i need to head to the national team qualifier in gravenhurst confident with my chances of making the team, and a strong time in peterborough will help with that.

anybody know a good agent? hahahaha...

after my win in welland on sunday i'd barely had a chance to recover and enjoy my victory before i was absolutely swarmed by the media. as i was making my way through the throngs of paparazzi flashbulbs, i was pulled aside for two exhaustive post-race interviews. roger hospedales, who publishes the HSBC podcast, grabbed me and kara kindree, winner of the women's duathlon, for interviews that have been posted on itunes. you can find the "Welland Duathlon Winners" interview by clicking here.

i was also interviewed by john vessoyen from the welland tribune. i've been barely mentioned in the article but you can still read it here for shits and gigs.

i'm currently recruiting agents that will be able to represent me in all future interviews with the media and coordinate guest appearances, as well as a publicist to assume responsibilities such as press releases. hahahahaha... yah right.

bike fitting at endurosport

for those of you that can make sense of the diagram above, congratulations. you're of a rare few. i, on the other hand, interpret an image like this as a foreign language and prefer to leave bike fitting and geometry to the experts. that's why, yesterday, i brought my bike with me to endurosport. i'm at the store at least once a week to go for a run with dan rishworth, manager of endurosport's leaside location, and this week i wanted to spend some time with him to go over my aero position mid-season.

when i bought my bike in october (a cervelo P3) i had a fairly thorough bike fitting then, rode it indoors for the off season, and made a few small adjustments of my own here and there over the winter and early on in the race season. now that i've been outside and racing for a couple of months i figured it was time to go over my aero position with an expert, and there's nobody that knows more about bike fitting than dan and the staff at endurosport. dan is a magician when it comes to proper aero position

we spent an hour together and overall my position was, according to dan, already pretty good. things got super technical and we tweaked the cleat position on my cycling shoes slightly and lowered my aerobars by about 1cm. this will lower my back somewhat, allowing me to tuck through the wind more efficiently. i'll ride this new position for a few weeks and then lower my aerobars again by another 1cm because, more or less, the lower you're able to tuck yourself out of the wind, the faster you'll ride. 1cm may not sound like a lot, but it's actually a pretty significant change in position and i'll have to adjust to it before fine-tuning my position any more.

if you're questioning the efficiency of your riding position i would definitely recommend that you have an expert like dan - or any other staff member at endurosport - go over it with you. duathlon and triathlon is all about going as fast as you possibly can, and an efficient aero position is crucial for speed.