Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Top Ten Lists - Highs and Lows

2009 Top Ten Lists - Highs and Lows

On the final day of the year I am taking a look back on my top and bottom ten moments from my 2009 season.

Bottom Ten

10. Bike the Bruce: Not being able to break away from the pack no matter what effort I put in
9. Guelph Olympic Triathlon: Leaky goggles that I could not figure out and no mental fortitude to go on without them, instead I floated around until I fixed them.
8. Orillia Triathlon: Cutting my feet in the water before the race even started
7. Peterborough 70.3: Dropping from 1st to 6th place on the run after emptying my tank on the bike course
6. Muskoka Long Course Triathlon: Panic in the water right at the start, had to stop and calm down before continuing.
5. Peterborough 70.3: Pounding away on my pedals right past a policemen and a turn on the ride back towards transition.
4. Orillia Triathlon: Missing a ZAG with less than 2km’s left in the bike and riding off course down a hill before turning around and figuring out my mistake
3. 70.3 Triathlon Worlds: Watching guys run past me at the start of the run (just after transition) that I had sailed past on the bike with 40km left on the bike course.
2. Milton Triathlon: Panic in the water in my 1st ever Tri – felt like my heart was going to explode
1. Duathlon Worlds: Watching the third guy in my category pass me on the final 5km run, knowing that any chance of a podium was over.

Top Ten

10. Peterborough half-iron: Finishing a swim without panicking.
9. Bike the Bruce: Acting as a lead out man for Ian that put him into a situation to win, which he did.
8. Gravenhurst Duathlon Provincials: Holding of David Frake by seconds to capture the title (David later beat me by almost 4 minutes at the Worlds).
7. Toronto Island Triathlon: Looking at the results board to see that I had won my first Triathlon
6. Duathlon Worlds: Wearing team Canada colours for the 1st time.
5. 70.3 World Championships: Finishing with the 4th fastest bike split amongst amateurs in a race soiled by drafting. Event atmosphere was top rate.
4. Good Friday RR: Getting into a break-away and grabbing second place in the race.
3. Niagara RR: Winning my first RR with a final push up the hill
2. Ontario Provincial RR: Winning the race in a solo break over the last 2 laps.
1. Muskoka 70.3: getting to the run turn around and then realizing that I had built up over 1km lead in my category; finishing as the top amateur in the race. The race atmosphere was amazing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 MultiSport Goals Revisited

2009 MultiSport Goals Revisited

On Nov 12th, 2008 I sent Bryce Croll the president of the UofT triathlon Club a list of goals as part of the process of requesting a Triathlon Mentor in the mentorship program. Bryce assigned Paul Bregin to be my mentor and he did a great job sharing his experiences with me; a Triathlon newbie. I commend the UofT club on this mentorship program and have signed up to be a mentor in 2010.
Now that the season is over, it is a perfect time to reflect back on my 2009 goals as I work on setting my 2010 goals. In general I feel that I was making some big guesses in setting my goals as I had never competed in a Triathlon. In hindsight my goals do seem overly ambitious. In looking back on 2009, I was impressed with the level of competitors in the two world championships that I competed in this year (Duathlon and 70.3).

I did not include any cycling goals in this as they did not apply to my application for a mentor; for 2010 I will definitely include cycling goals.

Short Term Goals:
1: Finish acquiring the parts & building my TT bike
Status: Accomplished
Notes: Easy goal and fun
2: Continue to focus on improvement in swim and running
Status: Accomplished / Ongoing
Notes: My run times improved throughout the year as did my swim times. At some point I am going to start having diminishing returns based on age, but I prefer not to think about that, after all this blog is called midlife and denial is certainly a part of the midlife crisis
3: Be able to run a 5km at a 3:25/km pace (My last race in Sept I ran the 1st 10km at a 3:36/km pace)
Status: Close but no Cigar
Notes: My best time was 3:28/km pace in the Cobourg triathlon where the swim was substituted with a 5km my time was 17:18
4: Be able to swim a 750meters at a 1:30 pace (by May 2009)
Status: Not even close
Notes: What an ambitious goal set just 6 weeks after I started swim workouts. I got down to 1:36/100m by the end of the season for 1.9km, but have a difficult time obtaining that time in a pool
5a: Obtain Elite status as a Duathlete
Status: Accomplished
Notes: I applied and the OAT granted me the status
5b: If I do not gain Elite DU status - Win my age group at the Phx Desert Classic DU Feb 22nd
Status: Accomplished in a way
Notes: I competed in the elite wave and finished last but my time was good faster that the top competitor in my age group
5c: If I do gain Elite status - post a top 3 bike split and finish no worse that to 60% of competitor in the Desert Classic DU
Status: Failed
Notes: I had the 17th fastest bike split and finished 12th out of 12 amongst pros

Year Long Goals:
1: Qualify for the 2010 Worlds in Duathlon Elite division
Status: Abandoned
Notes: I qualified for the elite Duathlon Worlds but have decided not to enter, I am not close to being competitive at the elite DU level.
2: Qualify for 2010 Worlds in Age Group for Olympic Distance triathlon
Status: Accomplished
Notes: I won my age group at the provincials in Cobourg
3: Finish top 3 in the 2009 Worlds DU championship in September in NC
Status: Failed
Notes: I finished 10th and was impressed at the level of competition
4: Be the 1st to cross the finish line in at least 1 local race (impossible as a Duathlete as we always start later)
Status: Accomplished
Notes: Ironically it was in a duathlon, the provincial championships in Gravenhurst
5: Finish in the top 20 overall at Muskoka 70.3
Status: Accomplished
Notes: I finished 16th and was the top amateur
6: Finish in the top 5 in Victoria's DU
Status: Accomplished
Notes: I finished 3rd

Multi-Year Goal:
1: Continue to Qualify and compete in Worlds with top 3 finishes
Notes: Wow that was ambitious I will need to adjust downwards for 2010
2: Become a Top level Triathlete - Run splits down to 32-34 minute 10km
Notes: Absolutely insane goal, not sure how I am going to get there. I ran 35:46 at the DU worlds and it just about killed me.
3: Stay with lead groups out of the swims
Notes: First I have to catch up to them before I try to stay with them. Long way to go on this one

Dream Goal (Hey why not dream): Defy Mother Nature and be a 43 year old member of Team Canada - triathlon at the 2012 Olympics
Notes: Yes I was still basking in the glow of Simon’s silver in the 2008 Olympics. I might as well include my goal of competing in the Tour De France. These dream goals have no basis in reality.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Subaru Triathlon Series Banquet 2009

Subaru Triathlon Series Banquet 2009
Casblanca Inn, Grimsby Ontario

40-44 Age Group Winners: Michael Hay, Me, Michael Keen & Curtis Coyne
Jim, Michael Keen, Me, Ken & Kathy Madsen

On Sunday Nov 29th I went to the Subaru Triathlon Series 2009 year end banquet. I wanted to attend the event as a way to close out the season and begin to prepare myself for 2010. Natasha (my wife) and I arrived at the banquet room a couple of minutes before 10am; the scheduled start time. It is always a little awkward looking for a place to sit at a table for ten when you do not recognize anybody. Luckily there was a completely open table right at the back, so we selected two seats facing the front. Soon afterwards several other people joined us; Ken and Kathy Madsen ( Karsten’s Parents), Michael Keen, Jim, Mark Keating and his two sons.

Janet and Mitch Fraser did a nice job organizing the event as the 15-20 tables were all completely filled. Kevin MacKinnon acted as MC telling stories about the foundation of the series and tying in many of the people in attendance. Michael Keen got the conversation going at out table by relaying his experience competing in his first Cyclo-cross race the day before. He went on to tell us all about losing his old beater bike and deciding to replace it with a CycloCross bike. Mike was super excited about the experience and even talked about organizing an event in Guelph some time down the road. Michael also offered to provide me with swim coaching if I wanted as he is a M2 level coach. It was very nice of him to offer. Once I had been seated for a while I began to recognize some familiar faces that I had walked past when I first entered the room; no disrespect intended Curtis Coyne.

After all of the tables got up to get breakfast at the buffet (ours was last as we were closest to the food), Kevin handed the microphone over to Barry Shepley who took us all through a slideshow of some outstanding Canadian triathlon accomplishments. It’s pretty nice to have the voice of the ITU (Barry) and Ironman (Kevin) doing the speaking at our Ontario race series banquet. Barry who leads a development group of promising young triathletes is thinking of ways to enhance the Subaru series for 2010. What I liked most about what Barry said is that he promised that his top athletes (including Dave Sharratt & Sean Bechtel ) would compete at all of the local race series events. I look forward to the higher level of competition which will only help to drive everyone’s results.

The awards presentation was painless as Kevin moved through the award winners quickly; which is a must when everyone in the room is receiving an award. We all received a plaque, a long sleeve shirt, a series key chain and some travel sized toiletries as well as a selection from the prize table. I selected a package of Powerbar Gels which I just happened to have run out of, Bonus! When I was picking up my shirt Janet mentioned that she appreciated the email that I sent to the Clearwater 70.3 race organizers, as I had cc’ed her on the email. It meant a lot to me hear that small appreciation / recognition.

As the room was clearing out Ron Vankoughnett came over to me and mentioned that he had come across the picture that I posted of him receiving his Gold medal at the duathlon world’s this past September in North Carolina 65-69 age group. He asked for a copy of the photos which I gladly sent over to him this morning. It was gratifying to be able to provide him with those photos and nice to know that people are checking out this blog.

I spent some time catching up with Michael Hay had been sitting with Dave Sharratt at the table next to me. M Hay has some much great information to share about the sport. We talked about the drafting down in Clearwater and he told me that if he ever competed in that event he would treat it as draft legal because that is what it is. He has never taken part in the Clearwater event and he is one of the top athletes in the 40-44 age group worldwide; in fact he was the 2008 world champion 40-44 at Olympic distance. He told me about the Rev 3 triathlon series that includes some prize money for age groupers!/about/index.htm. If changes are not made to improve the WTC events that are clearly problematic (Clearwater) then top athletes will seek out alternatives; which will be quick to spring up. The top athletes have a lot of influence over the entire community and often act as coaches for developing triathletes.

Appreciation for the race series was a common theme. Last year when I attended the banquet for the first time I heard Kevin and Barry rave about how good the local races were. They said that they attend races all over the world and that the Ontario races are world class events. I did not give the praise much thought as I figured that Kevin and Barry were just saying what they had to say as speakers at the Subaru banquet. A year later after having competed in 21 races in 2009 (run, bike, duathlon, triathlon - including two World Championships), I give a lot more weight to the high praise awarded the Subaru race series. Janet & Mitch put on 10 top level events all within 3hrs drive of downtown Toronto. I am lucky to live in this area and look forward to competing in many events in 2010. Thank you Janet & Mitch and everyone else who has helped to make this race series a big success.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ironman World Championship 70.3 - The Run

Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championship - 2009
Clearwater Beach, Florida
20091114 – The Run

Still able to wave to Mom at the mid way point of the run
Half way on the run
Sprinting to the Finish on fumesCollecting gear at the finish - unable to speakMini showerNothing left in the tank

Heading into transition I was careful to get off my before the dismount line. I then ran over the timing mat and through the entry archway with my bike. There was a team of Orange shirted volunteers waiting to take competitors bikes back to the racks. I had never been involved in a race that offered this special service, and it was nice. Having just giving my precious Cervelo P3 to a complete stranger I ran down the rows of transition run bags in search of #1144; the bags were lined up in perfect numeric order. I spotted my bag easily, grabbed it and ran into the transition tent. In the tent, I sat down then pulled my running shoes and cap out of the bag and put them on. I started to put my bike helmet into the empty bag but another volunteer stopped me saying that he would take care of it; so I got up and ran out of the tent. I may be using the tern ‘run’ a little too freely here as I was barely jogging, my body feeling the effect of having given so much on the bike.

As I exited the run transition I could now hear the cheering supporters who lined the course. I had decided to proudly wear my team Canada outfit from the World Duathlon Championships and it was a fantastic decision. Countless people shouted out “Go Canada!” as I jogged and then later ran by. Most of the competitors wore club uniforms or gear promoting their sponsors. I always made a point of trying to acknowledge people’s support with a wave or a head nod or when I got more tired, thumbs up or finger up; but not the middle one.

During the 1st few hundred meters of the run I began to worry that my body may not open up as I felt tight and exhausted. People were cheering while I was basically shuffling by, and it was only the start of the run; I had 21km’s to go. A few runners now ran by me including some that I had passed handily with 20 miles left on the bike course. This further demonstrated how much time can be gained by drafting; I should have been at least five minutes ahead of those people at this point not 30 seconds. Not only had these guys made up time but they were way fresher than I was which they demonstrated by running by me with relative ease. Fortunately my body began to loosen up and my pace picked up after about 500 meters.

The run course was a two loop journey from Clearwater Beach over a causeway down into Clearwater, through a downtown neighbourhood before returning back over the causeway into the transition area for a second lap. I kept myself in check holding back a little bit of energy for the final 25% of the run. The last time that I ran this distance I hit rock bottom with one quarter of the run left, so I was trying to guard against that this time. Unfortunately due to my exertion on the bike I knew that I was in much worse shape this time for around. Running up to the top of the causeway provided an excellent vantage point over the entire area; the highest point must have been 6-8 stories high. I did not think too much of the climb the first time over the bridge, but we had to cross it a total of four times and it would take its toll on me.

I took in water and Gatorade at every aid station; there were six (maybe 7) aid stations per lap. These energizing volunteers also handed out sponges soaked with cold water which I squeezed out all over my face and head. I followed the same hydration and nutrition plan that I had done for the Muskoka race. This was a poor plan as it felt much warmer here in Florida and I was surely losing much more fluids than I was taking in.

I was not the only one suffering out on the run course, I passed a lot of people even though I was not moving that fast. However, unlike the bike course where no one had ridden away from me, many people ran by. I did not have the strength to adjust my speed to any of my competitors and was just trying to maintain a pace and lessen the pain that I felt increasing with each step. I began thinking about something that I had read that stated the race winner will most likely be the runner with the quickest turnover. Instead of lengthening my gate I shortened it as this seemed to lessen the impact I felt as my feet hit the pavement.

By the time I hit the turn around point of the 1st lap marking one quarter of the way into the run, I began telling myself that I had come from far away to be here and that this would all be over soon so don’t give up. The second time up the causeway hurt a lot and I felt like the sun was burning a hole through the top of my head. By the time I crested the ramp I was so focused on the next step that it was difficult to think or react to anything else. I calmed myself a little bit on the top flat portion of the causeway before descending the other side. On the way down my quads screamed as gravity forced a bigger load onto them than they wanted to carry.

Heading back towards the end of the first loop, I could hear many people cheering and I tried to take as much energy from their encouragements as I could. With one lap to go I was completely depleted of energy but full of the will to see it through to the end and determined not to walk. My pace was continually eroding although I felt like I was giving a consistent effort. I felt incredibly hot and continued to douse myself at each aid station. The further along I got the more signals I received from my body to stop, most body parts from the waist down were aching especially my quads and calf muscles. Heading into the final 5 km’s I kept thinking about all of the support that I had received from my family and friends, most people told me to “Kick Ass!” and that is exactly what I wanted to do. With 1.5km’s to go I ignored my body completely spurred on to Kick Ass and increased my pace ultimately to a sprint for the final 150 meters.

As I crossed the finish line gasping for air I realized that I was in trouble. Volunteers were congratulation all of the finishers and handing out a ribbon, cap and towel. The finishers were being ushered away from the finish line and into the finishing area to make room for more people. I was handed water and asked if I was alright. I could not speak as I continued to gasp and rest my hands on my knees in a hunched over shape. I was asked several times if I needed to go to the medical tent and I just shook my head no. I was then asked if I needed to sit down, which suddenly sounded like a great Idea. I just started to sit on the pavement right there where they were handing out liquids and a couple of people steadied me and ushered me over to a chair. I stayed in that chair for 20 minutes pouring bottle after bottle of water over my head and drinking as much Gatorade as I could. I was unable to speak but or do much with my body for most of that time, although I was thinking clearly.

As it turns out I was dangerously dehydrated and I should have gone over top the medical tent for an IV to replenish my fluids. Instead, I gathered my strength after cooling down and then limped out of the finish area. I leaned on my step father as I slowly made my way down the boardwalk to the message tent to have someone work on my legs which hurt a lot. The message area was huge and there was a line of athletes waiting their turn; I took a number and waited my turn. It did not take long for my number to get called and I lay down on a table to get some treatment. After a few minutes of light message my legs began cramping painfully so I had to stop, apparently I was still too dehydrated to receive message.

I drank four more bottles of water and then limped over to the results board to find out what my times were and where I finished up. I was finished in 11th place out of 190 people in my age category. I left nothing out on the course so I had no regrets about where I had finished. I was sore and dehydrated but that would soon pass. It is now four days later and the process of writing about the events has helped me to get back down to reality after competing in such an exciting world class event. I hope to make the event part of my 2010 plan and will do so if I get some confirmation that the race organizers acknowledge the drafting problem and make some plan to improve the situation.

Thank you all for your support during this season it has meant a lot to me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ironman World Championships 70.3 - The Bike Leg

The Bike Leg - Ironman World Championships 70.3
The Transiton area
Heading out onto the bike course - Part 1
Heading out onto the bike course - Part 2

Finishing up the bike course - I am the guy at the back

A pack of riders finishing the bike course

The transition area could not have been set up in a more beautiful location, in a park alongside a boardwalk between the Gulf and the Bay with palm trees scattered throughout the park. The start of the bike course was lined with cheering fans enjoying the fantastic November weather, which climbed up to the low 80’s during the run.

I picked up my bike transition bag which contained my socks and ran on into the transition tent to put them on. There were long rows of chairs in the tent so I sat down on one and started putting on my socks. I felt my calf start to cramp so I decided to remain standing and pulled my socks as quickly as I could. I should have listened to this body indicator and adjusted my fluid intake during the ride. Exiting the tent I ran over to my bike, snapped on my helmet, pulled the bike off the rack and ran with the bike towards the transition exit. I had to slow down to the pace of the people in front who were also leaving the transition area as there was no room to pass. I was surprised to note that even at the World Championship level competitors have not mastered the running bike mount. I ran past 3 people mounting their bikes directly after the bike mount line and then hoped onto my bike and rode away.

I felt like yelling out a war cry as I switched from just getting by in the water to attack mode on my bike. Starting out at the end of the 12th wave and posting a mediocre swim time, there must have been 1000 competitors in front of me as I started out into the bike course. I got up to speed and began passing people; lots of them. I had to call out “On your Left!” many times as I made my way past. The course could only fit a maximum of 3 bikes across in the most spots and I often had to pass someone that was in the process of passing someone else. As I made my way by people I started to notice that some of the cyclists were not obeying the clearly communicated rule of keeping four bike lengths in between themselves and the rider in front of them. When I first spotted this infraction I called out to the rider and held out 4 fingers indicating that they needed to follow the rule and back up. Clearly I am no race official but what I was seeing was a blatant disregard for the rules and a complete disrespect for the honour of the sport; unfortunately this was only the tip of the iceberg, which really pissed me off.

I kept on riding at a good pace, hammering away on my pedals enjoying the speed. In the two plus years that I have been competing in Triathlon’s and Duathlon’s I have seen the rare case of a younger rider lingering in the sweet spot too long after being passed, but I have never seen such outright cheating. After calling out to a few individuals who had been drafting behind the rider in front of them, I came across a literal pack of about 8-10 riders; a mini peleton. Not only is pack riding totally illegal, totally cheating, it is also dangerous on a time trial bike that is built for speed not manoeuvrability. When you are following closely in a group you need to be able to react to sudden changes in speed and obstacles in the road that are blocked from view, this is more challenging on a TT bike. I yelled out to the group “Pack Riding” and pointed to them as I passed response.

It was not until about 20km’s into the ride that I came upon a rider moving at a pace close to mine. Just as I expected after passing him he picked up his speed and followed me, he was not drafting just using me as incentive to increase his effort. A few km’s down the road he rode past me. This kind of thing is common as you can be easily encouraged by a slightly faster cyclist just in front of you. The extra adrenalin usually wears off after a bit and the faster rider continues on up the road, each cyclist going on at their own pace. After getting passed I stopped pedaling, adhearing to the rules, to let the gap between us reach four bike lengths. I then took a short break getting a drink and collecting myself. I knew that I was faster that this guy otherwise I would not have caught up to him in the first place. I stayed back for a few minutes until his adrenalin wore off and then I rode past again I called out to him “Here’s a carrot for you”, on the way by; indicating that once I got back in front he could use me as inspiration to dig in and increase his effort again.

I continued to pass many riders including a group of three guys that were clearly too close to one another; separated by 2 bike lengths instead of 4. The 3 cyclist were travelling fairly fast but certainly kidding themselves if they thought they were following the rules; they were definitely enjoying the benefits of drafting. Most likely one of them was trying to do the right thing and the other two were not letting him get away. I worked my way by and so did the strong cyclist who was still behind me at a legal distance. What happened next will help to demonstrate how the packs of riders were forming. The group of three riders (including at least 2 cheaters) increased their pace and then started following close enough to enjoy the draft being generated by the strong rider behind me. As soon as you move inside the 4 bike lengths you don’t need to put in as much effort to keep up with the pace; a weaken rider can therefore easily stay with a stronger one. The guys who were drafting may have been putting out 30% less energy that the guy in front of them who was following the rules.

A few km’s down the road I was passed by the strong cyclist again, so I dropped back 4 bike lengths as per the rules. Then one of the 3 other guys came by me so I backed off another 4 bike lengths, only this guy was not observing the rules, he stayed just two bike lengths behind the strong rider. Then the other two cheaters did the same thing and just like that I was four bike lengths behind a group of four riders, three of whom had no business being there. I stayed off the back for a bit contemplating my next move. During that time one of the group of three tried to do the right thing and take the lead instead of following two bike lengths behind. This guy slowed almost instantly without the advantage of the draft and was passed again by the strong rider. I decided to ride away from this pack and hammered my way out ahead of the group; trying to put some room in between myself and the followers.

I could now see riders headed in the opposite direction as we neared the turn around point close to the half way point on the course. I was shocked to see two large packs of at least 20 riders zoom by in the opposite direction. What the f&ck?! Do these people know that this is the World Championship, where is the honour, where is the respect?

There was an aid station set up just after the turnaround point, as well as a timeout tent; which was empty. Didn’t I just see two large packs of riders headed in the opposite direction? Where was the enforcement of the rules? Where were the race officials? In the mandatory pre race meeting we had been told that officials on motorcycles would hand out yellow and red cards on the bike course for infractions such as drafting and those penalized would have to spend 4-minutes in a time-out tent. So far I had not seen any motorcycles and I was half way done the 90km ride.

After the turnaround I felt someone on my wheel and I mean right on my wheel, I quickly looked back and confirmed my suspicion, there was someone less than 6 inches off my back wheel. I waited for the guy to pass but he did not, he was just following my wheel like you would in a cycling road race. I called back to the guy “Are you serious?!! Pass or drop back”. The guy dropped back and I never did see exactly who he was.

A few km’s up the road the strong rider and the other three drafters caught up to me again and by this time they had made two more friends. Just like before after the strong guy came through I dropped back four bike lengths. Then the other five guys came by one after the other with no more that two bike lengths separating them. One of the 5 guys named Pedro was following right on the wheel of the guy in front of him…Rules Schmooles I guess, eh Pedro. I quickly ended up in the back of the group. These five guys must have seen the four bike length that I allowed in between myself and the guy in front of me as an indication that they needed to pass me to close up the legal gap.

All the while this jockeying was going on, we were passing other riders, no one had ridden away from me nor would they on this day. Some of the guys that we passed also joined our pack and then proceeding to pass so that they could stay closer than four bike lengths away from the pack. I gathered my strength for a few minutes as my frustration grew and then decided to make another attempt at breaking away from this growing group. The drafting was getting so bad that I started to hear a lot of free wheeling; which meant the guys in the pack did not even need to peddle consistently as they conserved energy. On my way past the guys in the pack I called out to one guy named John pointed out what was a maximum of one bike length distance in between himself and the guy in front of him and asked him “Do you feel good about this?” he answered “No” and I followed with “Then why do it”. I have to give John credit his conscience kicked in (temporarily at least) and he dropped back to the legal distance. On my way past Pedro all I could do was shake my head as he had his head down and arms in the aero bars in full draft mode an inch behind the guy in front of him.

Once I got to the front I put in a huge effort to try and break away; staying far to the left as I could so as to discourage the drafting behind me. Unfortunately I could not hold off this increasingly well organized and growing pack and I was caught and quickly assumed my spot at the far back. The bike course at this point was only wide enough to fit two bikes, possibly three. That is when our pack caught up to another slower pack of mostly women riders; all regard for the rules went out the window as we got all jammed up. I could see that the riders in the front of the faster pack moved into the left lane and started passing by the slower group. Unfortunately some of the people in the slower pack tried to join the faster group; this served to block everything up, creating a huge slower moving group of close to 50 riders.

I sat up on my bike and looked around trying to figure out a way past this mess. I was discouraged at this point knowing that I was stuck following at a slower speed. My strength in the bike leg was being taken away from me; I had to find a way to overcome this unforeseen challenge. This whole mess had been caused by a culmination of cheaters slowly eroding the no draft zone from four bike lengths to zero. I had spoken to these people before the race and I respected them, could these possibly be the same people? Who could feel good about their results after riding in a draft pack conserving energy for the run? I held up my hands in disgust and the German guy beside me began sharing his frustration, although I could not understand a word of it.

Maybe I am being too hard on my fellow triathlete, after all there are rules in all sports which are broken all of the time. It is typically up to the league to ensure that the rules are enforced and those who break them are penalized. When rules are not enforced they are not followed. The organizers knew that drafting was a problem as they went to the trouble if setting up time-out tents and warning us about drafting in the pre race meeting…unfortunately the warnings amounted to empty threats. From what I saw out on the course at least 25% of the people showed a total disregard for the drafting rule.

At this point in the race an official showed up on the back of a motorcycle and yelled out at the front of the pack to break things up, then began making strong arm gestures and taking down notes. I did not see any violation cards being pulled out, and that is a shame. I do appreciate the effort of that race official, but it was not nearly enough; yellow and Red cards should have been flying out like at a dirty soccer match. I stayed in the far left lane and backed off four bike lengths as the pack seemed to be reacting somewhat to the official. It was at this point that I decided to get aggressive. Some guy behind me yelled out “On your left!” indicating that he wanted me to move over so that he could pass. I yelled back to him that that I was going to pass the guy in front of me as soon as I had a chance, and then did not let him by me. I knew that that guy behind me had no chance of staying with me if I could only break free of this pack.

The were the occasional 100-200 meters opening on the left side of the road that closed down pretty suddenly, I used these gaps the power past riders and them force my way back into the full passing lane before crashing into the obstacles ahead. I did this a few times and worked my way up to the official who was still taking notes near the front of the pack. I was out of my saddle and yelling out “Coming Through!” to the riders in front to ensure that the official knew I was passing and not drafting to avoid any potential penalty; little did I know that no penalties were being handed out. It makes me wonder what the race official was writing down in the notepad. When I checked the standings after the race there was not a single penalty imposed - pathetic. Through my aggressive riding I made my way to the front and broke away from the pack; head down I put in a monster effort and never looked back.

Then something positive happened, the course widened as we headed south over a bay. Not only was this scenic but it felt almost luxurious to have the whole road to navigate down. I looked up ahead and who did I see, it was the strong rider from earlier in the race; he had also managed to break free of the pack of cheaters. As I rode past him I looked over and said “That was F&cking Awful!” he agreed and I rode off ahead never seeing him again.

Up ahead near the end of the causeway over the bay I saw that the rode was going to narrow again. I also noted another pack of riders not moving too fast. I dug in and raced ahead at maximum speed to ensure that I got past them to avoid getting blocked in again on the narrower road. I kept my tempo high for the final ten miles of the bike leg and did not experience any more issues with pack riders.

I finished the bike course in 2:05:01 which was the top split in my age group and fourth best amongst all amateurs. I dug in deeper than I wanted to in order to avoid the drafting packs but I do not regret my strategy. I most certainly suffered much more out on the run put I am proud of how I competed.

My email to the Clearwater 70.3 Race Organizers

Clearwater Ironman 70.3 Team,

I just participated wrapped up my 1st season of Triathlon’s by competing at your amazing event this past Saturday in Clearwater. I wanted to provide some feedback and ask a question that will help me in my preparation for the 2010 season.

I qualified for this race in Muskoka on September 13, 2009. I was blown away by the Muskoka event, the atmosphere, the course, the athletes, the fans, the organization, it was all amazing. I then began planning my trip to Clearwater and training for the World Championship.

The Ironman World Championships 70.3 - an awesome Brand
This event is the jewel in a sparkling crown for the Ironman 70.3 race series. The 70.3 brand depends on the success of this event as the entire race series draws athletes who are vying for a spot in the World Championships. From what I could tell you (the race organizers) took every step to make this event spectacular and I give you full credit for it. The location, the amazing setup, the volunteers, the ability to adjust to adverse weather conditions, absolutely everything was top notch.

The Problem
Unfortunately the execution of the event failed with regards to the enforcement of the rules on the bike course. There was an outright disregard for the drafting rules which spread to more than 25% of competitors; my estimation based on what I saw on the course – I started at the end of Wave 12 and had a mediocre swim – I passed hundreds of people on the bike course posting the 4th fastest time amongst amateurs 2:05.

Not only did I see individual drafting occurring, but I saw large packs of 20 or more cyclists working together. I got stuck at the back of a pack myself for a bit after the half way turn around. When my pack tried to pass a slower pack - one larger slower pack of over 50 riders was formed. It was at this point that I saw my 1st race official who sped to the front of the log jam and began yelling at people to break it up before taking notes. I did not see any violation cards handed out.

I put in a monster effort to break away from the pack and finished up the final 20 miles in front of that pack. However, some of the people in the pack who I typically would put 5-10 minutes into from the point I broke away until the end of the course, finished up less than 30 seconds behind me; which is extremely discouraging. Needless to say I was completely spent for the run but take pride in having followed the rules.

The Solution
Fortunately, there are ways to correct the problem and to restore the shine back to this Diamond of an event (in my eyes at least

1. Make it a draft legal event (I don’t like this one) this way all competitors know what to expect from the start. As a draft legal event athletes would be forced to use draft legal bikes thus increasing the safety which is sorely lacking when packs of riders are leaning into their aero bars.

2. Enforce the Rules!!! Hire out more motorcycles and get well trained officials who are not afraid to impose violations and even possibly make mistakes. You could find leaders from local bike teams who will easily be able to spot drafting. I am sure that all of the competitors would be happy to spend an extra $5 each for the additional costs to ensure that the event is as fair as possible.

The Question
Do you have any plans to address the drafting violations for the 2010 event?

Thank you,

Bruce Bird

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ironman World Championship 70.3 - The Swim

Race Day – Nov 14th 2009 - The Swim
Sunrise on Race morning
The swim exit for the early starters
Swim exit getting more congested
Swim exit when I got out - Congested
Heading over to the strippers

I got a decent amount of sleep, made my final preparations and got a lift from my Mom and Stepfather down to the race site. On the way to the car I stopped to capture a picture of the moon and the sky and the light just breaking over the horizon; it was a beautiful morning. Near the race site, triathletes were scurrying in all directions in the pre-dawn light in anticipation of the start. We could only get so far in the car so I got out and walked over to the transition area to set my bike up by clipping my shoes in and laying my helmet on my handlebars. The rest of my gear had been set up the day before, but I was warned that shoes would fill with sand and the helmet would blow away had I set them up yesterday; so I heading the warning and waiting until morning.

The Transition was almost empty when I arrived. As I entered I was warned that the area would be closing in 5 minutes; no need to panic I have become used to these types of time constraints. I guess that I prefer to arrive later and have less time milling around, but sometimes that strategy kind of bites me in the ass. I was also leaving in one of the last waves so I had I little more time than most before my race began.

I felt composed and calm as I made my way out of transition and over to the swim start area which was located just a few blocks south. I was intent on taking in the whole experience of the start and ultimately arriving at the start line prepared and relaxed. Just as I neared the crowded area surrounding the water entry, a starter’s pistol fired and the pro women were off first. Next to go would be the elite men who were also making a water start a few minutes after the women. The age group athletes were lined up according to wave start number in a long line heading north from the start line. I spent a few minutes watching the women navigate the course so that I had a good sense of how far I would be swimming before taking the important left hand turn at the end of the harbour. Once they made their turn I found a spot where I could lean up against a car and get into my wetsuit. After getting some assistance with my zipper, I and breathed in a couple sprays of nasal decongestant to mask what was left of the cold that I had been fighting over the past week. I then dropped off my green race bag with my shoes and stuff that I had worn that morning at the designed area and joined the queue along with the rest of the people in my wave who were wearing purple caps.

I positioned myself at the very back of my wave start thinking that it would be nice to know that all of my competitors were right in front of me where I could pick them off later on during the bike leg (hopefully). As we steadily move closer to the front of the line, I was surprised to discover that the waves were not going off at the designated times; instead all age of the age groupers were leaving one after the other in a non procession. I thought that we were supposed to leave 2-seconds apart within our wave start time, but the race officials decided not to break up the waves. By not leaving any gaps in between the waves the start times were condensed and we must have begun ten minutes earlier than planned. At the time I did not think anything of it, but upon reflection I realize that this was a mistake on the part of the race organizers. The impact of the condensed time for the swim start had the following effects:
1. More congestion at the swim exit; fortunately this was not that big of a deal.
2. Tighter groupings out on the bike course which helped to contribute towards the rampant illegal pack riding that took place.

I had envisioned that the Time Trial swim start would mean that a single line of swimming dove off a dock one after the other separated by a few body lengths. I figured that the faster swimmers would pass by the slower ones and that the spacing would remain somewhat consistent; that was not what happened at all. As I approached the start archway a race official warned us that the start would come quickly from this point and that goggles should now be put on. As I approached the arch I tired to leave as much room in as I could in between me and the guy in from of me, so I hesitated for a second or two before the officials ushered me through. I proceeded quickly to the end of the short dock where more race officials were helping people into the water. The dock was wide enough to fit three people across and that is exactly how people were stating; three people wide not 2 seconds apart as advertised. An official yelled out no diving just as I was contemplating my entry. I hoped into the water feet first wondering how deep it was.

The water was a little too deep for duck dives so I began swimming right away and I felt good. I made a decision to keep to the outside of the course based on the design that had us veering to the right at the end of the harbour before taking a big left; as I noted from having watched the women pros. Visibility in the water was zero as the silty bottom of the Bay had been stirred up along with the salt water from 1000 or more swimmers in front of me. The surface was very calm and the temperature was ideal for a wetsuit; I did not feel too cold nor too hot. Even though I established an even swim pattern right from the start, after about 100 meters I felt the sensation that I needed to check my pace. There is no way to avoid that initial adrenalin rush that made me feel like superman for the first 90 seconds and then not so super after that.

When I practice swimming I focus intently on my technique, trying to apply what I have learned and be as efficient as possible. In the race I spent most of my time focusing on my breathing and what direction I am headed in. I stayed away from others for the most part until the turn buoy near the half way point. After the turn, I noticed some reeds at my finger tips and then saw another competitor walking up ahead. I touched my feet down discovering that it was shallow enough to for duck dives; and proceeded to do many of them which seemed faster that swimming. I felt a little guilty like I was cheating by doing the duck dives, but I kept thinking about what Ayesha Rollinson (swim instructor and pro Triathlete) had told me about the swim; there is a start and a finish and it is up to you to make it from point A to point B as fast as possible. I decided to start swimming again after a bit even though it was still shallow enough to keep duck diving.

After about 150 meters running parallel to the shore, I made the left turn for the final 900 meter stretch in to the swim exit. After the turn I stayed on the inside keeping the buoys directly to my left. As the channel narrowed, it started to get pretty congested for the final 250 meters. I decided to stay in behind a swimmer in front instead of working my way around him. I figured that this could be my opportunity to take advantage of some swim drafting and conserve energy; if I could only figure out how. With the zero visibility I had to focus on finding moving water in front of me in order to follow the swimmer. This proved to be challenging as the guy in front seemed to zigzag all over the place. After a while I lost the moving water in front of me so I picked my head out of the water to have a look around and wouldn’t you know it, the guy was nowhere in sight, but the final 100meter yellow buoy was on the wrong side of me. We had been specifically instructed to keep the buoys to the left and this one was on my right. I stopped and swam back around on the other side of the buoy and rejoined the seemingly endless flow of swimmers moving towards the exit.

For the final 50 meters of the swim you just had to follow the swimmers in front of you and await your turn to get onto the makeshift exit ramp. Members of the race crew were making every effort to ensure that no one got hurt while climbing the relatively steep ramp. I cleared the ramp then stripped the top of my wetsuit down as I ran to the strippers mat to peel off the rest of my wet suit. It looked like the champagne room was booked as all of the strippers were preoccupied with other customers. Fortunately I found one near the far end who seemed to be paying attention to another competitor but not really engaged. I set up right in front of her and started to peel my bottoms off. This seemed to get her attention and she instructed me to lean back, so I flipped onto my back and stuck my feet up in the air while she pulled off one leg as I pushed off the other. I popped upright as she handed me my wetsuit then I began a careful jog into transition. Once I felt my feet securely under me and had my heart rate was under control I sped up. I had prepared myself over the final 200 meters of the swim by slowing down and mentally preparing for the next stage; as I result my transition time was competitive and I was ready to begin attacking on the bike.

I finished the swim in 30:47 which was ranked me 465 out of 1438 competitors. My pace time was 1:36/100 meters, which almost met my goal of 1:35; I have some work to do in the pool over the winter.

Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championship - Pre Race

Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championship - 2009
Clearwater Beach, Florida
20091112 – Pre Race report
The night before the race. Sunset view from my room.
Pier 60 - Where the swim was supposed to take place
The Marriott Suites - Where I stayed - My Stepfather John

I am in Wave #12 which leaves at 7:40 am; 55 minutes after the Elite women kick off the event at 6:45am. Half of the athletes in my age category are in my wave the other half start 5 minutes later at 7:45am. When I fist noticed the split I thought how great it was for the organizers to place me in the 1st wave of the 40-44 age group, and that the placement must somehow be based on your finishing position from the qualifier events. Upon further examination I realized that I had my father to thank for my position as the letter “B” for Bird falls in the first half of the alphabet. Splitting the group based on last name means that I will have no idea of my position in the race until I check the results at the finish. I am a little disappointed about the splitting my age group wave so arbitrarily as it reduces the competitive aspect of starting and racing along side all of your main competitors.

I just watched some older YouTube clips of Mark Allen and Dave Scott competing in the Hawaii Ironman back in the 1989 ). The video focused on the 1st time that Mark Allen had beaten his arch rival in the event. There is no denying that the competition propelled both men the extraordinary performances. They raced side by side for almost 7.5 hours before Allen broke away 21 miles into the run. Despite the second place finish Scott ran a personal best that day. Another extremely moving clip was the famous Ironman crawling finish for 4th place back in 1997 ( . Two women (Sian Welch & Wendy Ingraham) pushed themselves to the point of collapse and then repeatedly tried to pick themselves up unsuccessfully before crawling the final few feet to claim 4th place overall in the women’s race. Ultimately it was the women who adapted quicker who won coming from behind; had the leader started crawling 1st instead of struggling to get back up right she would have won. Both women showed amazing courage spurred by a competitive spirit. As the clip ends you can hear the women who finished 5th saying “I tried, I tried” as she is being carried off. It’s pretty moving stuff as well as being fairly disturbing. She also mentioned that she threw up on the bike; note to self, be sure to take in enough calories during the race.

I am exited about the race and feel that I have the potential to put in a performance that ranks me in the top ten for my age group. There are 200 athletes in my group from 20 countries who have all trained specifically for this event. I prefer a swim start from the beach rather than in the water because I can take advantage of my long legs as I run into the water and do a few duck dives. Okay my advantage will only help me for a few feet, but hey I’ll take what I can get. I swam a 1:36/100m pace in the qualifier 2 months ago; my goal is to improve that by swimming a 1:35 pace. Hopefully the added buoyancy of swimming in the salt water will help me swim faster. I also want to do a better job in transition out of the water where I struggled in my last race. I need to calm myself leading up to the swim exit in preparation for the run across the beach and into the transition area.

I expect great things on the bike, but have no real time goal because I just don’t know the course and what speed I can carry through it. I would like to be in the top 5 for my age group on the bike, top 3 really but I have no idea how strong my competitors will be. The flat design of the course should favour my skill sets as I will not have to drag myself up hills that favour lighter athletes.

I have tried to train for this run by extending my distances and eliminating all speed work. In reviewing my run results over the past year I see that if I save some energy for the run I can maintain a decent pace. I have definitely suffered on the run in the past when I went out too hard in the swim or bike. During the Duathlon World Championships in September I had nothing left on the second run because of how hard I pushed myself during the first run. At the Peterborough ½ iron distance Triathlon I spent too much energy on the bike and struggled big time for most of the run. At the Muskoka 70.3 event this past September, I found a good balance of effort exertion, except for the swim exit and the final 6km of the run where I ran out of energy. I am going to try and match what I did in Muskoka event, with some slight changes.
1. I will be sure to calm myself near the end of the swim so that I have a smooth transition onto the bike
2. I will make sure that I find a comfortable pace right from the start of the run; if I have anything left I can always increase the pace for the final few km’s; although I doubt that I will.

note: I watched a recap of the Muskoka 70.3 from 2008 and saw Brent McMahon try to stay with Craig Alexander before dropping back for a 5th place finish. I have no doubt that Brent would have finished no worse than 3rd had he kept a more even pace. In defence of Brent’s run tactic, you do need to risk losing to win and He definitely took the risk.

Nov 13 2009 - The Night before the race.
The only thing left to do is for me to fall asleep but that may be my biggest challenge. I am extremely excited about the race tomorrow. The race atmosphere is amazing; Triathletes from all over the globe have congregated onto this tiny strip of land in between the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay. We are still experiences the after effects of tropical storm IDA that has caused higher than normal winds and surf. As a result of the change in weather the swim has be moved from the Gulf to the Bay where the water will be calmer. The start will now be Time trial format for the age groupers with athletes leaving 2 seconds apart. This change does not really impact the competitive aspect of the race as my wave had already been divided alphabetically as mentioned above. On the plus side there will be no mass start which helps out people like me who are or were prone to panic during the mass starts.

As a result of the swim change I decided to cancel my practice swim on the gulf side, as there is no need to prepare myself for the beach start. Along with the swim change notice was a warning that if any athletes were caught practicing on the new swim course in the harbour on Friday, they would be disqualified. The new course starts in a harbour and rounds an inlet before returning down into the main harbour where there is an active boating channel. Fortunately at the Marriott Suites hotel where I am staying, there is clear access to the Bay; so I decided to head back to the hotel for a practice swim. The water was fairly warm just above 70 degrees. It felt great to be swimming as I became super buoyant with the combination of salt water and my wet suit. I swam along the shore about 300 meters and then back, stopping several times just to float and stay relaxed. The practice swim gave me some reassurance and confidence about tomorrow.

I went out for a ride in the morning to tour a portion of the bike and run courses. I had to fight myself to keep from going too fast and wasting energy for the big event. I felt like I could ride for hours but forced myself to slow down and stick to my pre race plan of only touring a small part of the course. A couple of times a few other eager cyclists passed by and I almost started shaking trying to stop myself from speeding up and blowing them away. The course is so flat, except for the causeway; I may be able to put in a special performance tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

2010 NYC Triathlon Registration Frustration

NYC Triathlon Registration Frustration

After hearing about the NYC triathlon for some friends I was eager to sign up for the 2010 race being held on July 18th. There were a maximum of 3200 entrant for the race which is the same number as for 2009. Tickets wee scheduled to go on sale at 12:01am EST on Nov 1st 2009. The entrance fee was $245 and the 2009 race sold out in just 22 minutes.

On Halloween night after handing out around 500 pieces of candy (we live in an extremely Trick-or-Treat friendly neighbourhood), I set my alarm clock and went to bed for an hour. I had the web page ( up and ready and had already created my account to speed up the processing. When I refreshed the registration page I received a “page busy” response. I kept on trying but kept getting the same message. I started looking for other ways in such as finding a link through, but the only link available was for NYC tri merchandise; which I mistakenly registered for and even printed off. I kept trying the registration link and kept getting the page busy message. When I did finally get past the busy page, the message greeting me read “This event is Sold Out”. Great!!!

The popularity of Triathlon’s is amazing, especially for key events like the New York City Triathlon. Who would image that so many people would be willing to pay $245US - 8 months before the event, to get up before the sun for a swim in the Hudson river before cycling 40km and running 10km. Apparently then event sold out in just 7 minutes and 20,000 people tried to register for the 3,200 spots, leaving almost 17,000 people as frustrated as I was. It took me 90 minutes to settle down enough to fall asleep, only to be greeted by the lingering frustration when I awoke in the morning.

The registration process could be improved as the race organizer (John Korff) noted in the email to me. Apart from the entries available through a charity group, spots could be awarded based on results in other races. Doing this would help to promote other races that may not have the same interest and participation level. The organizer could establish a whole network of races leading up to a NYC event. There could also be a lottery of sorts much like for the Ironman key events.

Demand clearly far outstrips supply and whenever this is the case, somehow alternatives seem to present themselves; although they can be costly. I wrote an email to the John Korff asking for any alternative ways to register. I got an email response 2-days later informing me that I could sign up through one of the charities that are associated with the event or apply for a Champions Club ticket. I was pleased to have received a response and proceeded to investigate my options.

The Champions Club ticket cost $500 and entitled me to two passes to the race VIP tent post race as well as a Club Champions shirt. I have no idea what the VIP tent is all about but I would much rather win a shirt that says Champions on it than buy one (but wouldn’t we all).

I scanned the list of charities most of which are US based which makes it a little awkward for fundraising in Canada. With a commitment of $500US in fundraising you are guaranteed a spot in the race. I went ahead and contacted those charities with a $500 minimum only to find out that all of their spots had been taken. I moved up to the $1000 minimum level and found that there was a charity with spots left; The Running Start Foundation. Other Charities with NYC tri spots still available are as follows:
- At the $2000 minimum level – MDA ALS Division (Lou Gherig’s Disease)
- At the $2500 minimum level - Life without Lupus Foundation & the American Cancer Society.

I still have not made a decision on which path to take in order to register for the event. I don’t feel right about asking someone to make a donation on my behalf just so that I can participate in a race. I should be making the donation on my own behalf or be championing a cause that I truly believe in. Last month my wife did just that in raising money for Breast Cancer research for a 5km walk/run in Toronto. It definitely was not about the walk itself but about the cause.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My 1st Donut Ride

My first Donut Ride

I took part in my first Donut ride yesterday. The donut ride is probably one of the most famous group rides in Canada; it even has a wikipidea entry:

The Donut Ride is an informal Toronto road cycling tour run every Saturday and Sunday as well as public holidays. Typical summer numbers range from 100 to 125 riders forming a large pack, and weather permitting the ride continues year-round and often sees a dozen riders even in mid-winter. The ride is known for being fairly fast paced, often reaching speeds of about 50 km/h on straightaways. It is also known for being fairly unforgiving; riders who are dropped from the pack are on their own. –

I left my house at around 8:30am and it was a beautiful but chilly fall morning. There was virtually no traffic on the roads as I made my way across town to meet of with some of the Wheels of Bloor riders near the shop. Wouldn’t you know it I was running late and I had been warned that the group leaves at 9am sharp. I exited High Park at Bloor street at 9:05 and turned West to ride down to the meeting location. I saw a group of unfamiliar riders meeting outside the store from the Lapdogs cycling club and asked if they had seen the Wheels of Bloor group leave. I found out that the group had left heading east on Bloor at 9am of course. If I had only glanced right as I left the park I probably would have seen them. No one from the group knew which street they headed North on. I called my friend Ian, who had already sent me 2 emails, and found out that I needed to head North on Keele street. Ian told me that the group was now at St. Clair.

I rode off from the shop determined to do my best to catch up to the group. When I hit St. Clair ave I realized that I was 5 minutes behind. A few blocks further North I spotted Ian who was waiting for me along with Tony and Mike. I apologized to the three of them and followed as we wound our way through the streets on our way to the eventual meeting spot further North on Keele. I tried to take as many and turns as I could in the front as I felt badly for being late on this my first time out with the team. I did really appreciate that the three of them waited for me. A few km’s up the road we caught up with another small group of riders, I was surprised by the relatively small numbers; but was informed that we would join up with the main group further North.

We stopped at a Gas station at an intersection on Keele, north of the city and waited for the main group in the Donut ride. After standing around for a few minutes someone called out the peleton was coming and we all mounted our bikes and headed north. I looked back and saw a group of around 80 riders. A few riders passed by me and then I decided to follow Tony’s wheel. Tony stuck near or at the front of the group and so did I. We were travelling in two’s at a moderate pace. As the riders in front of me peeled off the front it became my turn to lead just as I settled into a pace, I heard voices calling out for me to join a newly forming group that were turning left.

As the new smaller group headed West, the pace quickened as the terrain descended. We turned North on Jane and the real push began. I was already up near the front as I continued to try and stay near Tony. The front riders began to take small turns at the front working through a cycle that maximized the groups overall speed through reduced exposure to the wind. As I worked my way through the cycle a few times I noticed that the number of riders taking part was gradually reducing. Some riders skipped a few turns and then rejoined the cycling at the front after resting up in the draft of the main peleton. I made it a point to try and never miss a turn. After a good stretch of this we turned East on Aurora Rd and the only person left cycling through the front with me was Tony. I knew that there were a few hills ahead but I also figured that we had at least reached the halfway point of the ride.

I took the lead up the biggest hill on Aurora Rd and then began to suffer as a few riders including Tony passed by. At this point I was unable to cycle through and had to recover in the peleton about ten riders back. As the terrain evened out I gained back some strength and made my way back up front again. The peleton turned south and the organization of the pack started breaking down as the pace reached its height. Riders now began attacking the group trying to create a gap. There were now about 5 riders taking turns attacking at this point including Tony, Darko (a well known strong rider) and me. This was the first time that I had ridden with Darko, but I had seen his results in the Senior 1 category for the past several years. I thought that he may have been toying with the group treating it as I sort of training exercise based on the ridiculously small gear he used; I was later informed that that is just how he rides…Amazing! The best attack of the day came from Tony after Darko had taken a turn at the front. I was unable to grab Tony’s wheel but I did have enough strength to catch Darko, who then bridged the gap to Tony.

The racing stopped as we rode through some local streets on the way to a Polish pastry shop for a social break. I had a great apple treat. I rode back into town with 4 other riders including Bobby, Ian and Mike from the Wheels of Bloor team. It was a great day of riding and I look forward to the next Sunday Donut ride.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Duathlon World Championship - Post Race

Post Race - Sept 26-27th 2009

The post race milling around was cut way short due to the weather. It did not take long to cool down from the heat of the effort and then start feeling the chill of the late wet afternoon. The spandex that we all wear offers no protection from the elements. I spoke with David Field a fellow Canadian who finished 5th in the 50-54 age category as we picked up our checked bags and bikes. Dave was fortunate enough to be in the first wave and therefore knew exactly what position he was in when he finished. I mounted my bike, with a coat on this time, and cycled back to the hotel amidst a steady downpour. When I arrived at the hotel I rested my gear against the wall and got right into the outdoor hot tub in my team uniform. The hot water was a welcomed relief to my aching cold body.

My Mom & John took me out to dinner again and we couldn’t help ourselves from returning to Dino’s; a wonderful Italian restaurant in Harrisburg a small town south west of Concord, where my Mom had enjoyed the best eggplant-parm she had ever tasted. Our waitress was the younger sister of the young women who had waited on us the night before. After another delicious meal as we got up leave the sister from the 1st night asked me for my autograph. At first I could not believe that she was serious and I certainly felt ridiculous and embarrassed. My Mother could not resist the awkwardness of the situation by insisting that I write something clever stating how creative I was; only my mother truly believes this – go figure. Memories of high school crept into my head when we all signed each others year-books thinking of funny things to write. Here I was 23 years later faced with the same task. I was extremely flattered by it all, but felt completely on the spot drawing complete blanks as to what to say. So I wrote the 1st thing that came to mind ‘I Love your food’. My mom saved me and added ‘and Service’, thanks Mom. I left Dino’s with a full belly, half a pizza in a box, feeling much better than I did when I came in.

We got back to the hotel at 9:30pm and I was not ready to go to sleep. I wanted to have a few more drinks but could not bring myself to ask John to pull over at a store so that I could pick up a six pack for the hotel, which did not have a bar, so I went up to my room. I spent a half an hour drying out my wet race shoes and race clothes while trying to get the race results on my blackberry. Unsuccessful, I went downstairs to use the business centre’s computer with a plan to of going out for a few drinks. The results came right up and there I was in 10th place for my age group, yes I had made the top ten barely, but I was a long way off from the podium. I had committed to and followed my strategy as planned and ultimately suffered on the final run completing the 5km in 19:47 which was 30 seconds slower per km than I ran in the 1st 10km. This significant difference in running times demonstrates that I extended myself too far in the first run and on the bike. With a bit better execution I could possibly have moved up a few spots in the overall classifications. I will try and learn this lesson, although it won’t be the first time that I have tried.

I left the hotel and walked over to the closest restaurant with a bar; the Quaker State. The dinning area was empty but the bar was full and people, some even enjoying the sound of Karaoke blasting through the sound system. I scanned the bar searching for an open seat, not finding any I left and walked to the next closest bar; Hooters. I sat down in an empty seat at the end of the bar and was carded as I ordered my 1st drink. I said nothing and handed over my driver’s license, the drinking age is 21 and I am 40. From and autograph request to being carded, things were looking up. Two beers later, feeling tired, I walked back to my hotel, stopping to check the results again and call Natasha before heading up to bed.

I woke up the next morning and lay in bed for a couple of extra hour feeling sore all over. My hips, thighs and left foot ached. I packed up my things, including my bike and brought the gear downstairs to store in the hotel office for the day as my flight was not until later in the evening.

We headed over to the Embassy Suites for the age group awards ceremony which began at 11:00am. Just like everything else associated with this event, the reception hall was enormous. We were some of the 1st people into the event so we found a table close to the podium with seats facing the right direction. After a couple plates of brunch and an hour had gone by it became clear that the hall would remain only one third full. I have to assume that the brunch must have been a bit of a disappointment for the organizers. Maybe if the awards and reception took place the same day as the event then the turn out would have been better. The elite race could have moved a day earlier to the Friday, that way all of the age group athletes could have watched and cheered. With the elite races out of the way on Saturday, the age groupers could have started earlier allowing time for a reception later in the day.

Just before the awards presentation began people started trading gear. I took a couple of photos of the bartering. From what I could tell the best deals were won by the people who struck first. Some people came prepared with gear from other years and events. By the end of the trading you could no longer safely tell which people were representing which country as deal makers were proudly sporting their new gear.

The MC asked that we all stick around until the awards had all been presented out of respect and promised to be quick. Beginning with the oldest age groupers the MC worked his way through the age group award winners. Athletes beaming with joy took the stage many draping themselves in their country flag. Some of the award winners were not present which certainly took away from the ceremony, I can only assume that it was due to unavoidable travel plans; a result of the day after awards scheduling. I was proud to watch three Canadians standing on top of the awards platform and snapped some photos to capture the moment.
F50-54 Magaret Ritchie-Gold & Carolyn Silvey-Silver
F65-69 Lynda Lemon-Gold
M65-69 Ron Vankoughnett-Gold

On my way out I spoke with Ron Vankoughnett who had won Gold by 18 seconds. As it turns out Ron had fallen near the start of the bike leg and had the scars to prove it. I included a photo of Ron and his banged up arm, his back was much worse.
Ron managed to get back on his bike and still win the race which is an amazing accomplishment.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Race - 2009 Duathlon World Championship

The Race
Bib# 570

My Mom and John (step-father) drove me over to the race site, parked in then designated area at the back and then we walked in to the stadium together. I gave my team Canada vest to my Mom, which she wore with pride for the rest of the weekend. They wished me luck and I entered the athlete’s only transition zone to make my final preparations. I had a nice talk with Dominique Martinet who was my competitive inspiration while training for the 2008 Duathlon Canadian National Championships; where I qualified for this event. Dominique was so friendly and excited for me to do well stating that I had a real chance at the top five. I left the transition area, checked my bag and then warmed up first out in the infield and then out on the speedway behind the start line.

The start of the race was very impressive with big groups of athletes going out in waves starting right in the middle of the speedway on the main track. As the starting time neared I found myself inching closer to that starting line. I began thinking about ditching my strategy of going out easy with Dave Frake as I noticed that he was about three rows behind me. As the 3rd wave pulled out in front of us our wave was ushered forwards, I let the 3 rows of people pass me and stood right besides Dave who was as relaxed as ever. Dave told me that he was worried I might go out a little too hard based on where I had been standing. I told Dave that I was going to stick with him for pacing. There a couple of photo’s of Dave and me talking strategy at the start (Thanks John for capturing that).

The horn sounded and off we went. Dave leaned over and told me that we would move up at the 2km mark. I just stuck right in behind Dave and let him lead. During the first km we were boxed in several times but gradually made our way forwards. The pace was relatively easy and I enjoyed passing people on the run for a change. I could not help myself from looking ahead to see how far up the leaders were. I told myself not to worry about the gap and just stick with Dave. At about the 1km mark Dave increased the pace considerably and I followed suit. By the 2km mark just after we had exited the stadium, I started to find his pace uncomfortable. I had to slow down to a speed that I could handle and watched as Dave moved off ahead. It was at about this point that we began catching up to the wave in front of us making it impossible to determine my placement amongst my race category. Our wave contained three age categories and by the time we got out on the bike all of the age categories were intermingled.

The run course was tougher than I had anticipated, with climbs out of the stadium exit and up to the two overpass walkways. Each climb took its toll on me straining my leg muscles and extending my cardiovascular system to its maximum. It is surprising how quickly the race changes from me against the world, to a battle with oneself. At a few points in the race I was able to switch my focusing from the internal; battle to a competitor who was close by, but for the most point my focus was on getting the most I could out of my body. For the final seven km’s of the first run there was almost no change in positioning. I was following an American athlete in the age group below mine as we worked our way through slower competitors from the waves in front of us. With under two km’s to go I started to hear footsteps behind me as a few young rabbits from the wave behind caught and past me at a blistering pace. These younger age group athletes were running at a pace similar to the elites; completing the 10km course in 31 minutes. I completed the run course in 35:48 which was very close to my goal and probably the fastest (given the course) 10km that I have ever run.

My transition to the bike was flawless, which I validated later by reviewing the results; I got through in 33 seconds which the third fastest time of the day. I got a little caught up in the bike mount area, but found my way through without much difficulty. I mounted my bike and got my shoes on before entering the tunnel leading out of the stadium. I realized quickly that the visor attached to my helmet was not going to help me; it fogged up. There was a steady flow of rain from above and road spray from below thanks to all of the riders out on the course. Windshield wipers would have helped, but I settled for using my finger and thumb to wipe the visor clean; this process had to be repeated often as it only provided a very temporary reprieve. I made sure to wipe my visor before heading into the many technical sections of the course.

Once outside of the stadium on a gradual uphill, I was able to catch a couple of the younger guys who had passed me at the end of the run. When the road levelled out I was then passed back by two younger riders. It had been a while since the last time I was passed in the bike portion of a race, but I did not let it bother me as I focused on maximizing my efforts. My legs were under great strain as I heard my thighs screaming at my brain to ease up; I shifted down a gear and kept my cadence high as while giving my thighs a short reprieve. Another rider came up from behind me from the 35-39 age group and entered the first significant turn in an aggressive manor. Unfortunately the rider started the turn on a yellow line which was extra slick; he went down quick, sliding across the road. I had taken a much less aggressive angle as was able to avoid the downed rider to the outside before making the turn and then getting back up to speed quickly on the straighter section.

The rain did not let up. All of my focus was centered on a battle between speed and safety. I started on a long downhill section ending in a right hand turn to a small off ramp. I checked my breaks about half way down and they did not respond well. I applied more pressure to the breaks and began to slow down gradually, however the turn was approaching rapidly. I squeezed my breaks so hard that I thought I would snap the cables and began making some quick calculations about how much slower I needed to be going to navigate the turn without falling. Just at the last possible moment I slowed down enough to attempt the maneuver and made the turn safely. I swore the use more caution the next time around on that section of the two-lap bike course. If I erred during the bike it was on the side of caution as other riders made time on me on corners and down hills. The number of speed changes in the course was much more similar to a criterium than a time trial, and the effort I was expended was adding up.

At the end of the first loop I entered the stadium for a lap around the racetrack. I could feel another rider moving up on me on the corners leading up to the track entrance. I refused to give up my spot knowing that once on the track I would be able to keep away not needing the same amount of caution on the long straight. I also did not want to be in a position to be penalized for drafting. I hammered for that lap digging into my reserves as my competitive spirit was fired up by that rider just behind me. As we exited the stadium and back into a more technical section of the course rider made his way by. In all about a half dozen younger riders passed me on the bike course.

I passed a lot of people on the bike but it was not until the second loop that I passed three guys in my age group including Greg Baxter who fought hard to stay with me, gaining ground on a downhill and turn before losing the position back on the ensuing climb. I also changed positions a few times with an American and a couple of Brazilians. The Brazilians were working too closely with each other for my liking and the younger of the two took great chances on the turns. As I entered the stadium again for my final lap of the racetrack I realized that I did not have much energy left in my legs which were right on the verge of cramping up. The repeated changes in speed and maximum effort had drained me. I made another speedy transition and headed out onto the run course with no real idea of my position in the race.

The run course was much less crowded now which signaled that I had moved up closer to the front of the race. Within 500 meters, I was passed by a Canadian woman, and we exchanged encouragements. It was amazing to watch her tackle the run with such a smooth gate. I later found out that Magaret Ritchie of Edmonton won Gold in the 50-54 age category and finished 4th overall amongst the females, Amazing! As great as it is to cheer for a fellow Canadian, it is still disheartening to watch someone pull away at a speed I would normally be able to match. Not long thereafter I was caught by Greg Baxter of Australia (lives in London) who also offered his encouragement. I looked ahead at him moving away and told myself to just settle into my rhythm and maybe something would happen that would allow me to catch up to him.

As I descended into the tunnel under the grandstand the sound of footsteps behind me echoed ominously off the walls and ceiling. I fought my way up the ramp one painful step at a time and then worked myself back into a broken rhythm as the gradient levelled. An American in my age group strode by me with ease looking incredibly strong. At this point the best I could hope for was third place given that I was just passed by two guys from my category, there were probably several others up ahead I had not been able to catch out on the bike course.

As I headed towards a turn-around on the run, Dave Frake ran by in the other direction; he was having a monster race and was at least two minutes ahead of me. As it turns out Dave ran the 10km in 33:35, then laid down a quicker bike split than me by a few seconds, followed by a 17:19 5km. Dave finished in a phenomenal time of 1:48:45 which would have been good for a bronze in my age group, but landed him in 5th in his group. Dave performance and placement reinforces just how tough the competition is at the World level. Dave will be moving up to my age group next year and I will be cheering for him. Naturally Dave yelled out some encouragements as he passed. I have to say a Thank You to Dave’s family who cheered enthusiastically for me out in the rain.

On the final climb of the day up to the second overpass a Brit ran by me ending any fantasy that I had about ending up on the podium. I wanted so badly to run him down but I could not do it. As I ran down the through the final tunnel back into the stadium I wondered if my tired legs would keep up with the higher speed induced by gravity or would I fall on my face. Heading into the final straight away on pit row I passed an older runner. A picked up my pace for the home strech and acknowledged the cheering supporters. Half-way down a couple of runners began sprinting by me. I reacted with a final gut wrenching effort refusing to give up any more spots; even if these guys were not in my age category. I broke into a full all out sprint and one of the other runners began to fade. I then reached for an extra gear kicking high and hard to fight for that final finish. With great satisfaction I edged out the other guy right at the line.

My mom and John were standing near the finish line soaking wet and full of support. It took me a few minutes before I could speak and then I felt a wave of emotion wash over me knowing that I had fallen short of my goal of finishing in the top three. Dave Frake came over to congratulate me and understood instantly what I was feeling and then offered up some amazing encouragements stating how impressed he was with what I had accomplished this year. Dave went on the say that I probably needed at least a month to fully recover from the half-Ironman efforts from 2-weeks ago; Thanks again Dave and thank you Mom & John.

10km Run: 35:48 3:34 per km
1st Transition: 33 seconds
40km Bike: 56:25 42.5/kph pace
2nd transition: 40 seconds
5km Run: 19:47 3:56 per km
Total Time: 1:53:09

I had been playing down the significance of representing my country in an international event, thinking that Duathlons were fairly obscure. After this experience I feel a great sense of pride in having worn Canadian colours and given all I had in the race. People were cheering for Canada as I ran by the transition areas which made the experience extra special, and I was doing my best to represent. This truly was a World Championship event and athletes who had come from all over the globe reinforced that with their spectacular and inspiring performances. I look forward to representing Canada again next September in the Triathlon World Championships being held in Budapest, Hungary.