Lakeside Triathlon Weekend
This race will always be special to me because seven years ago, this was my first ever triathlon. It is only 20 minutes away from my hometown so it also means that I get to come home and visit. I always have good memories racing in Lakeside.
On Saturday in the sprint distance races, my Dad was racing in the Sprint Duathlon. This would be his second race since recovering from his accident in 2015. I little bit of context here – my Dad was out on a training ride (training for the Lakeside Duathlon) in August 2015 when he was hit by a car. This gave us all quite a scare given the extent of his injuries. Despite still living with the effects of his accident every day, he still comes back hungrier every time. We cheered Dad on to sixth overall and second in his age group – a 2 minute improvement over his time from last year and 6 minutes over his time pre-accident. Watch out Masters Duathletes!
We came back the next day for my race which was the Olympic triathlon. I needed something to take my mind off of the upcoming accounting exams that I would be taking this week – nothing like 2 hours in the red to ease the mind. So Geord, my Dad and my friend Shawn arrived at Lakeside bright and early with coffees in hand. I got setup in transition while catching up with fellow athletes after a couple weeks off of racing. As gun time approached, I wrestled my way into my wetsuit and headed down to the shorefront.
Swim 1500m (26:16 – T1: 0:57)
The 2 lap swim course took place in Sunova Lake at the Lakeside resort campground. Air temperature at the 9AM race start was a “fresh” 10 degrees Celsius and water temperature slightly warmer at 18 degrees. After watching athletes brave the cold waters in the sprint distance races the day before, I was definitely not looking forward to the first couple of minutes in the water. However after a short warmup and letting my wetsuit do its job – I was warm and ready to go. The race was on.
I quickly found myself swimming solo after the first turn buoy. My pecking order in the water is such that I’m too slow to keep up with the lead group of experienced swimmers, but a little but faster than a lot of the slower groups, so I normally find myself swimming in “purgatory” occasionally picking off some of the swimmers who could not keep pace with the lead groups. I finished the swim averaging my usual 1:45 per 100m pace which had put me in 17th place out of the water.
Bike 40km (0:58:56 – T2: 0:52)
After a relatively smooth T1 I grabbed my bike and headed up to the mount line. As I started to mount my bike, I dropped my chain and it got jammed between my inner chain ring and bottom bracket. I quickly realized that I’d need to remove my shoe from my pedals to right my chain again. I sorted out my chain and strapped on my shoe that I had taken off all while standing still. This whole production cost me about a minute of ride time according to strava. A minute that I could not afford to lose if I wanted to contest the overall win. My race was slipping away early on.
I was now riding angry trying to make up for lost time in that rather embarrassing ordeal at the mount line. As I began picking off riders, my confidence started rising. I made my way through 15 riders on the bike course which put me in 2nd place behind Jessey The Elf. Adjusting for the dropped chain mishap, I finished the bike leg moving at just under 42km/h, averaging 372W and picked up a couple of the Lakeside bike course KOMs on Strava. This gave me the fastest bike split of the weekend by over 3 minutes – you can’t be disappointed with that
As I was coming in to transition, people were saying that I was around 4 minutes down on the leader. This, in reality, would mean that I’m 3 minutes down because Jessey started in the PRO wave which was exactly a minute ahead of my wave start. Either way, 3 minutes to make up on a 10km run is a very tall order – I would give it my best.
Run 10km (0:37:10)
The run course is a 2-loop, out and back 5k so I knew that I would be able to see where I stand with the leader on 3 occasions. All that I could do is run my hardest and hope that the time gap shrinks each of those times. One foot in front of the other.
There were a couple aid stations on course and each time, even if I didn’t grab any water, I thanked the volunteers profusely – they can definitely be an athlete’s best friend on a challenging run course like this! At every turn around, the time gaps were decreasing but not fast enough to be able to contest the overall win. I finished 2nd place overall in 2:04:11 also with the fastest run split of the day by half a minute.
After the race we hung around to cheer on Shawn as he raced in his first ever Triathlon at noon. He ended up finishing ahead of his goal time in the top 20%. I can say for sure that is much better than my first ever race.
I was also delighted to hear that my fastest run split won me a new pair of Skechers Performance shoes!
Next steps for me will likely be the Overdrive Standard Duathlon Provincial Championships in October. Hopefully I can stay fit until then hahah.
Til next time,
2017 Multisport World Championships
Well this is it – this is what all of my training has amounted to; those hundreds of hours pushing pedals in the pain cave, thousands of kilometres on the roads, and the half dozen hours of pool time hahaha. All of that in preparation for this one day. Before I get into this, I just want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart who have helped me along this journey. Your relentless support will be forever appreciated and has definitely not gone unnoticed.
Penticton, British Columbia
Geordana and I left our apartment in downtown Toronto on Thursday morning to meet my Dad and brother at Pearson Airport who would also be travelling with us. Between all of our checked bags and my bike it almost felt like we were permanently moving. After a short layover in Calgary and finally descending into Penticton, moving permanently would be just fine with me because this place was absolutely unbelievable. Maybe I’ve just become too accustomed to the concrete jungle, but this place was a breath of fresh air. I mean this figuratively because in reality it was still a tad smoky. Nonetheless, all of us were excited to be here!
After checking into our rooms at the Penticton Lakeside Resort, I quickly built my bike and headed out to meet Jasmin Aggarwal, fellow Canadian athlete for some course recon. Having ridden the course a couple of times already Jasmin took the lead on this one and we proceeded to ride the course in its entirety. Couple things I noticed immediately; like the rest of Penticton, the bike course is absolutely breathtaking – it’s a two loop, out-and-back course running along Okanagan Lake on highway 97 going north towards Kelowna. I had to take this in as much as I could now knowing that I wouldn’t be able to appreciate how beautiful this is on race day – there would be more important things to worry about. The second thing is that the course is pan flat and very fast. This is definitely a plus for me as this would fall right in line with my strengths. Between now and race day I would ride the entire course four more times to ensure by Monday I would know exactly where the turns are, when I would eat, when I would drink and exactly what my effort should be at any given point on the bike leg. I also practiced slipping in and out of my bike shoes on the fly several times after the incident I had in Bracebridge the weekend prior. No chance I was messing it up this time.
The run course I also previewed a few times with my Dad and brother. We would meet first thing each morning to go for a 30 – 40 minute run together. Best way to start any given day in my opinion whether you have an upcoming race or not. The run course is a 2.5km loop that starts on Lakeside drive by the lake and loops upwards on Martin Street into town and back again. The section on Martin Street is a long steady “slope” that wasn’t steep enough to call an actual hill, but I’m sure would be pretty painful for the sixth time at 190+bpm (and it was…). On race day I would complete this circuit 4 times for the first 10km run then another 2 times for the last 5km run after the 40km bike ride. Anyways! Now that I had meticulously familiarized myself with the race course, it was time to enjoy ourselves while we could!
Our hotel is right on Lake Okanagan with a beach just adjacent to it. Over the duration of our stay we had frequented this beach quite a bit. On Saturday during the Sprint Duathlon races Geordana, Dad, Joel and I went for a hike along the bluffs to the north east of our resort. We got to see some incredible views, stunning wineries, and other athletes getting in some last minute nervous exercise.
We then watched the Pro Duathlon with Jesse Bauer, Johnny Rasmussen and Paralympic Silver medalist Stefan Daniel representing the red maple leaf. What an experience that was! The speeds that these athletes can operate at is nothing short of robotic. Congrats to all athletes who competed!
On Sunday evening, the night before the race we had met up with a bunch of my friends who were also travelling on this side of the Rockies. They were on the tail end of their trip and made Penticton one of their final stops so that they could come and see me race. This was such a great motivator having your close friends and family by your side supporting you no matter how crazy they think you are. We all had met up for a nice dinner at the hotel restaurant, told travel stories and parted ways for the night.
Having checked my bike and helmet into transition, packed my transition bag and pre-made my breakfast the day before, most of my race morning preparation was mental. I’ve had butterflies in my stomach for weeks now in anticipation for this day. I kept visualizing key aspects of the race and what I needed to get done in those moments. After eating my usual pre-race breakfast of oatmeal, an apple and 2 cups of coffee I grabbed my bag, said bye to Geord and made my way down to transition conveniently located right beside the hotel exactly 90 minutes until the race start at 7AM.
I threw my headphones in and continued listening to the audiobook “Iron War” by Matt Fitzgerald. I had been listening to this book in the weeks previously during my running workouts. It depicts the 1989 Kona Ironman World Championship battle between the legendary Mark Allen and Dave Scott. In this book there’s a chapter where it talks about studies in exercise science done in the late 80s and early 90s with the intention of exploring the limits of human capabilities in endurance sports. Having a very analytical mind myself, this was all very interesting to me. Without getting too far into the weeds, the conclusion of the vast majority of these studies are that the limits to our potential are self-imposed – it’s a mental game. The best endurance athletes are those who are able to fight these instincts of perceived effort and exertion, supress the pain and just keep going.
One change that I had made as a result of this new found knowledge is that I removed my heart rate stats from my data screens on my Garmin watch that I am able to see while racing. The less I know about how much I am suffering, the better.
After getting set up in the transition area and some nervous banter with friends and fellow athletes Garvin Moses, Liyang Wang, Larry Bradley, Andrew McLoed and Jasmin, I surrendered my transition bag to the ITU officials and began a short warm up. I met up with Geordana, my dad, brother and friends briefly beforehand apologizing that I had got them out of bed before 7AM while on vacation. Geordana placed her hand on my stomach and said “I can still feel the butterflies – you should’ve swallowed a net”. We all laughed about this realizing this is just what I needed to loosen up a little bit. Geordana has always been good at bringing me back down to earth. After assuring me that I would be just fine, my friends sent me off and I entered the corral where male athletes ages 18 – 29 would start first. These 5 minutes until race start felt like the longest 5 minutes of my life. However before I knew it they called us up to the line, heartbeats over the loud speaker, “athletes take your marks”, and the race was on.
Run 10km (34:15 T1 – 1:07)
My original “goal” that I had set for myself in this race was to run a 35 minute opening 10k. After thinking this over given the strength of the running field that I would be competing with; the 35 minute 10k ended up being Plan C. Given the likelihood of everyone forming a few select groups after the first lap (2.5km), Plan A would be to hang on in the lead group and Plan B would be to drive the chase group. If I wasn’t able to hang with either group – then I would do my best to pace myself to a 35 minute 10k which would be a personal best.
After the first lap I found myself in the lead group of eight containing myself, Sam Bell the Kiwi, a Colombian, a Great Britain athlete, and four Americans, three of which were all working together at the front setting the pace. Our first 3 kilometre splits were under 3:20min/km – this was a relentless pace. Once the group was formed the pace at the front let up just slightly. Shortly after we began our second lap the three Americans took off the front giving me no hope of chasing them down; time for Plan B.
After the second lap the Americans were about 25 seconds ahead of us completing the first half of the run in just over 16 minutes. I was now running on the heels of the kiwi, Sam Bell, with the GB athlete, Matt Grantham, the fourth American, Jeevan Philip, and Colombian Alex Diaza rounding out the second group. We completed lap 2 at around 16:30 which would be my fastest 5k ever by a minute.
The Colombian, Alex Diaza, attacked our group of now 3 in efforts to bridge up to the lead group of Americans. I was now working together with my new friend, Sam Bell to keep this chase alive. There were a handful of moments in this run where I felt like I could not keep going and that I had to slow down. Sam and I worked together now in efforts to catch the GB athlete who went off the front of our group. He had got away for around a minute but we ended up reeling him before entering T2. Also in our collective efforts, we had cracked the fourth American. I want to now thank Jesse Bauer, who had competed in the pro race a couple days prior for his relentless cheers throughout the entire race. On the last 750m of the first 10k Jesse called out to me “big gear, no fear!”. This was a welcome reminder that 1) I would soon get to stop running and 2) the bike leg, especially on this course, is my domain – this is where I get to prove myself. I chanted those words back to Jesse and stormed into transition ahead of my 2 fellow competitors. I finished the first 10km run in 34:15 – my fastest time ever.
Bike 40km (57:03 T2 – 1:37)
Myself, Sam Bell and Matt Grantham entered and exited T1 together. I saw my family and friends at the top on the hill outside of transition cheering and this gave me just the boost I needed. I arrived at the bike mount in-between Sam and Matt. I wasn’t sure which line either of them were going to take so I opted to stop completely for a moment, mount my bike and ride on from a standing start. I now had the 2 of them about 20 meters up the road. After meticulously practicing this in the days leading up – I slipped into my shoes after building up some momentum without a hitch. Big gear, no fear.
The out-and-back bike course goes east for a short ways along Lakeside drive and then north up highway 97. I had caught and passed both Sam and Matt before we reached the highway. It’s hard to pick a goal time on a bike course like this given the wind variability we’ve had over the first few days in Penticton. So I told myself that anytime my power meter reads below 350 watts, I would push harder. There was no contingency plan for if it read over 350. If I was reading higher and I felt good, I put my head down and kept pushing – the World Championships are no place to start holding back.
I turned onto the highway and, as planned, ate my first of 5 energy gels. That was a blistering opening 10km and would need some sugar ASAP if I wanted to throw down a devastating bike split. Since the course was so flat, I could see most of my competitors about a minute up the road. This was great psychologically having someone to chase – you worry less about your effort and focus more on reeling in the bikes up the road. I had caught and passed a couple athletes before the first turnaround which put me into 3rd place. Coming up to the turnaround I saw the 2 lead American cyclists Albert Harrison and Cody Foreman. They were about 1 minute and 40 seconds up on me respectively. Moving back into town I could see that I was reeling in Cody pretty quickly so I wanted to make sure I made the pass before turning onto Lakeside drive where the roads got a little bumpier and windier. I came back into town sitting 2nd still around a minute down on the leader and now 10 seconds up on Cody.
The second lap I could feel myself starting to tire – it could have been that I burnt too many matches on the first run or that I pushed too hard on the first lap. Either way, I wasn’t going to slow down so I pushed as hard as my body would allow me, relentlessly chasing down the leader. We got to the 30km turnaround and I was still a minute down; it was turning into a stalemate. I fought hard all the way back into town and entered T2. My dad had shouted that I was a minute down on the leader – what else is new. I finished my ride averaging just over 42km/h with a normalized power of 365W. This would be one of my best rides to date.
Run 5km (18:02)
The first few strides off of my bike I could already tell that if I was to hang on and contest the overall podium that this was going to be my most painful run ever, period. So I started my watch again and this would be the last time that I looked at it until finishing. I rang the doorbell at the font door hurt house and was embraced with open arms as I exited T2.
This first lap of the 5k was blur – I was just fighting to keep turning my feet over. I was right at my limit and moving as fast as I possibly could. After the race some people told me that they thought I was crying coming through for the first lap – they could very well be correct.
Now on the second lap, I was at the turnaround on top of Martin Street, starting to come back down into town and this is where it started to hit me. My tunnel vision went away, I could now see that the streets were lined with people and all of them were cheering. I passed by Bob Wild, giving him a thumbs up as he would be on his way to win his SECOND World Championship title of the week. With 2 Gold Medals he is the most decorated Canadian at the MultiSport Festival – Bob is 86 years old.
Instead of turning for another lap, I turned onto the back-straight which would loop around and turn into the finishing chute – there are 400 meters left. Someone handed me a Canadian flag, I fumbled with it until I was sure I was holding it right side up. I came around the second to last bend and that’s where I saw my friends and family. I raised the flag above my heads and at the top of my lungs, in unison with Geordana we yelled “YES!!!”.
I turned onto the home straightaway and entered the finishing chute – 150 meters to go. My eyes started to well up, I could feel myself getting goosebumps, I approached the finish line with the announcer exclaiming that I was a World Champion. I raised my arms above my head one last time as I crossed the finish line. This is a moment that I will remember vividly for the rest of my life. All of the pain I had felt moments before had fizzled away now being replaced with total euphoria.
Immediately after the race, my friends and I cheered on the remaining Canadian athletes at the finish line. Shortly after that, as planned out very early on in the trip, Geordana and I went to The Peach to treat ourselves to a cake-topped ice cream milkshake because “we earned it” Geordana said. Before correcting her grammar, I thought for a second. At times, I likely wasn’t the easiest person to be around for the days, weeks and months leading up to this day. All of the early morning trainer rides in our small Toronto apartment and my pre-race nerves that seemed to start months prior to the race. Being able to put up with me for that long, if anyone has “earned it”, it’s definitely Geordana. So in no time at all, we inhaled this milkshake which tasted like it could only be a gift from God himself.
Later that evening we attended the awards ceremony where, just like old times, Jasmin Aggarwal and I were sharing the top step of the podium. Only this time we were crowned the AG Duathlon World Champions.
I was excited to find out it is traditional at World Triathlon events to trade team jackets with fellow competitors. So I was not going to miss the opportunity to swap jackets with my new friend, Sam Bell, from New Zealand. Sam and I made an unreal team early on in the race so it was a great pleasure to catch up with him afterwards exchanging stories and jackets. New Zealand, I would also argue, has the coolest looking kit on the ITU circuit so I feel extremely lucky to be wearing the Silver Fern – hopefully Sam feels the same way about the Maple Leaf hahah.
Thank you first of all to all who are still reading – I know that this is quite a lengthy race report. I greatly appreciate your interest and hope you stay tuned for what’s to come.
I want to thank my friends Max, Mehr, Ian and Laura for making Penticton a stop on your vacation. You guys being there cheering me on was such a great boost, and those wine tours afterwards were just what the doctor ordered.
Thank you to my close friends and family for standing by me on my journey. Thank you for being there for my victories and supporting me in my sacrifices. I will be forever grateful for all that you do for me.
And thank you to my supporters:
After some much needed time off, I plan on racing at MultiSport Canada’s Lakeside Olympic Triathlon as well as cheering on friends and family also racing there that weekend. My last race for this year will then be the provincial Duathlon Championships where I will try and better my 2nd place result from last year over the standard distance.
Beyond that, my future athletic goals are up in the air, so to speak. Given the experience I had in Penticton this year, I would love to defend my new World Title in Denmark where the 2018 Duathlon World Championships will be hosted. I would also like to try my luck racing the Olympic Triathlon on a world stage. Between this and my urge to have a crack at the Iron distance races, I definitely have some thinking to do!
Congrats to everyone who competed at the MultiSport World Championship Festival – Set no limits.
Til next time,
Racing in Bracebridge with MultiSport Canada will always be special to me. I consider my first “competitive” race to be in 2011 racing in the Standard Distance Duathlon as part of the Recharge with Milk MultiSport triathlon series. I will never forget this day – I finished 4th overall in 2 hours 19 minutes behind the eventual winner, David Frake, who was known on the circuit as “The Frake Train”. He crossed the finish line over 20 minutes before second place and a couple minutes even before racking my bike in T2. Frake was known for downplaying his running fitness, which I still thought was bordering superhuman at the time, and for his devastating bike splits.
This was so motivating for me seeing standing on my first podium knowing that speeds like this are achievable. It was fuel for my fire knowing that if I trained hard and ate my vegetables I would could go speeds like that.
Now six years later, here I am, competing in less than a week at the World MultiSport Championships representing Canada in the Standard Distance Duathlon. One thing I have learned since my first competitive race is that a Standard Duathlon hurts just as much as it did the very first time. I guess it goes along the lines of what Greg LeMond, three time Tour de France Champion, said:
“It never gets easier, you just get faster”
I have this quote along with Jens Voigt’s, long time Tour de France domestique, classic “Shut Up Legs” visible in my 'pain cave' where I do most of my bike training. It’s something about running a total of 15 fast kilometers split up by a 40km time trial bike that just does a number on your legs and is an all-around lung buster of an effort. With all of this in mind, I still said “yes, this will be my distance”. Endurance athletes are a complicated species.
With all of the talk of Duathlons, I didn’t actually compete in the Duathlon this weekend. I didn’t want to risk too many hard running miles just a week before the race. Running tends to be the sport that breaks me down the most, so knowing by body, I opted for the Sprint Distance Triathlon instead of risking myself not recovering fully in time. This idea behind this was that I could get a good 5km run off the bike race simulation before next weekend where my race would finish with a 5km run. This ended up working really well and here’s how it happened:
Geordana, myself and my friend Shawn left on Friday evening for our journey up to cottage country where we would stay at my Dad and his girlfriend, Nicole’s, cottage on Six Mile Lake. That is another thing I love about MultiSport Canada races; you will always have an excuse to spend a weekend up in cottage country. Spend a morning racing and the rest of weekend you can hang out on lake – need I say more.
As usual, I got off to an early start on Saturday morning which began with some simple stretches, a small breakfast and a brief inventory of my race bag. We left the island by 5:45AM so that we would arrive in Bracebridge just over an hour before race start.
Once setup and transition I took a quick warm up lap of the park with fellow Queen’s Triathlon Alum, Jasmin Aggarwal. We had done a bunch of training together over the past couple weeks as she’s also racing at World’s in the Standard Duathlon and also will put me through my paces on any day. We’re hoping to share the top step next Monday night in the 20-24AG race – one step at a time.
After then struggling in to my wetsuit I met up with Geord, Shawn and the rest of the cottage crew down at water’s edge. They wished me luck and I hopped in the river and took my place in the line.
Swim 750m (00:13:01 T1- 1:03)
Given the width of the river and the rectangle route we have to go, it makes sense for this race to have a trial start to reduce the volume of swimmers setting off all at once. With this format, athletes will set off individually every 3 seconds based on bib number. So bib number 1 starts first, then 2, then 3 and so on. I was bib number 34, so knowing my strength in the water I would probably always have someone to chase given that the 1st athlete would have started their race around 2 minutes ahead of me.
Once I set off, I made my way through a handful of athletes and before I knew it we were at the turnaround; that felt really quick. Now full of this false confidence, I quickly realized that we were swimming against the current coming back to the swim exit. I finished the swim in just over 13 minutes at a 1:44min/100m pace, aka my terminal velocity in the water. More pool time for me in the near future.
Bike 20km (00:31:33 T2-0:55)
After a decent T1 I grabbed my bike and made my way out of transition, up to the mount line. With my shoes already clipped into my pedals I mounted my bike on the move and started slipping my feet into my shoes. I had the absolute worst time doing this – after watching my GoPro footage of the ride, it took me over 2 minutes trying to slip into my shoes. My insole fell out once, the straps came loose, shoes came unclipped – everything that could go wrong, went wrong while doing this. And obviously while doing this you aren’t pedaling and therefore aren’t moving particularly quickly. So I believe I wasted around a minute and a half while dealing with my shoes. Something that I’ll definitely have to practice a bunch of times before worlds next week. Once I set off I had a great bike ride – I worked my way through the field and by the turnaround I was less than a kilometer down on the lead cyclist. This would amount to even less time due to the time trial start.
Factoring out the shoe mishap, my average power over the ride was 368W which is right where I’d want it to be at this point in the race season over this distance so I was pleased with that. I also the new Strava KOM on the Bracebridge Sprint Triathlon bike segment so I’m pretty pumped about that. As I made my way into T2 I saw Geord, Shawn, my dad and the rest of the crew and they said that I was about 45 seconds down on the leader. Now I could’ve been satisfied with this knowing that he had started over a minute before me, so at this point I would be in the ‘virtual lead’. This obviously would just not be good enough so I racked my bike, whipped off my helmet, threw on my shoes and started chasing him down.
Run 5km (00:17:21)
Now the run, for me, I considered the most important part because I wanted to get a good race simulation of a hard run off of the bike that should set me up pretty well for Duathlon World’s next weekend. So I knew that to get the best training effect, I had to throw down a devastating run split.
All this aside, I ran up the hill out of transition feeling really fresh; this was a good sign. I turned the corner onto the sidewalk going towards the bridge, looked up the road and there he was. With the lead runner in my cross hairs I ignored my watch and just focussed on reeling him back. I caught and passed the lead runner, Emrys Halbertsma, just after the turnaround. At this point I started looking down at my watch to get an idea of pacing now that I didn’t have anyone to chase. My goal was to maintain the 3:30min/km pace that I had ran for the first 3km.
I crossed the finish line in 1:03:54 after finishing my 17 and a half minute run for my first ever triathlon win – and the elation set in. Most importantly, I am very happy with where my run off the bike is ahead of Duathlon World’s.
Shawn and I decided to stick around and volunteer at the Give-It-A-Try races happening later that morning. It’s always a great time helping out new athlete’s starting their triathlon journey – I am always more than happy to share my advice and experiences.
And as I said earlier, it always great racing up in cottage country knowing that you get to spend the rest of the weekend on the water. Stay tuned for updates next weekend at the Penticton World MultiSport Championships. We are less than a week away and I am beyond excited!!
Til next time,
Below are my 5 triathlon race day nutrition tips that I’ve sworn by during my 4 years of racing competitively. I am no nutritionist, but these are things that have worked very well for me from my experience – enjoy!
#1 Race Day Nutrition Doesn’t Actually Start on Race Day
To give yourself the best chance of success, your “race-day” nutrition should start at least 24 hours before the race actually starts. That’s not to say you necessarily need to eat like a horse; you just need to pay closer attention to what you eat. Make sure each meal has a good quality protein source like chicken, beef, beans or fish and a complex carbohydrate like potatoes, rice, quinoa or porridge. I tend to stay away from foods with gluten such as bread and pasta close to race day as it’s more difficult to digest and makes me feel bloated. Definitely not a sensation you want to feel at the swim start.
Eating 3 – 5 well balanced meals while staying well hydrated the day before your race, will fuel your muscles with the glycogen they need to perform at top level the next day. Make sure you eat your last meal no later than 10 hours before breakfast the next morning.
#2 Eat Your Pre Race Breakfast 3 Hours Prior to Start Time
Eating 3 hours prior to gun time will give your body a sufficient amount of digestion time. This meal, similar to the day before, should be well balanced, familiar and not too big. This should essentially top up your glycogen levels and give your blood sugar a little spike after a full night’s sleep. A good go-to for me is a bowl of oatmeal with half a scoop of protein powder, some nuts and a piece of fruit. For an Olympic Distance Triathlon or longer, for me, this comes out to roughly 60 grams of carbs, 15 grams of protein and 10 grams of fat for a total of 390 calories. Wash that down with a glass of water and you’re off to the races.
#3 Don’t Try New Things on Race Day
All of your race day nutrition products should be familiar to you. Everybody reacts to certain products differently and that isn’t a gamble you should take on race day. If you’re still looking for energy products that work for you, be sure to pay attention to the first few ingredients on the product label. Maltodextrin, a form of carbohydrates, tends to be the most common ingredient among most energy gels. It is a white powder made from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat and is highly processed. Its benefits are widely debated, but it all comes down to that it works for some and not others. There are a wide variety of alternatives out there made from more natural ingredients such as honey, cane sugar and my new personal favourite; maple syrup. Bottom line: there’s something out there for everyone, just make sure you find it before race day!
#4 Plan Your Nutrition Strategy Ahead of Time
To take most of the thinking out of your race ahead of time, it is a great idea to plan out what and when you’re going to eat and drink during the race. For sprint distance races, you won’t have to worry as much about this because the food you ate for breakfast and the day before should get you at least most of the way through the race. For races 2 hours and longer, nutrition and hydration become much more important. Fluid requirements should be around 500-750mL per hour – this roughly equates to bringing 2 bottles of water/electrolyte drink on the bike.
I’m not going to get in to the science behind it partly because I’m an accountant and have no business talking about science, but mostly because if I did everyone would likely stop reading. The one thing to remember is that your body uses carbohydrates faster than it is able to digest them. So at some point during the race you will have to begin consuming carbohydrates to replenish the glycogen stores that your body is quickly using. Depending on your metabolism, you need between 30 and 60 grams of carbs per hour of racing. With this in mind, most energy gel products pack around 20 grams of carbs into each gel. With some quick math and clever planning you’ll be well on your way to the finishing chute feeling like a little more than just a bag of skin.
#5 Start Your Post Race Recovery Sooner Rather Than Later
Three important things post-race in terms of nutrition and recovery are replenishing your muscles with carbohydrates, repairing your muscles and other soft tissues with good quality protein sources, and rehydrating with either water or an electrolyte drink. Consider wandering through the post-race food tent as you will find all of these things there in abundance. Having done this, you’ve set yourself up for a speedy recovery in order to get training for your next race!
Til next time,
Toronto Triathlon Festival – Olympic Distance
What a nice treat to have a race literally down the street! This made the days leading up stress free for the most part not having to worry about travel, packing or accommodation. This came very welcomed as the past few weekends have all included some sort of travel, so was definitely a nice change of pace not having to worry about any of those logistics.
On Saturday, a day before the race, Geordana and I walked from our apartment down to the transition area where they had an expo with vendor tents, race briefings and race kit pick up which was our main goal of the day. In order to pick up race kits, every participant had to attend a pre-race briefing which essentially outlined all of the ins and outs of the course highlighting any changes from the previous year. While attending the briefing we had met Olympic Triathlon gold medalist, Simon Whitfield, and what an honour that was! He is an excellent ambassador for the sport and an all-around very down to earth guy – was great talking with him.
After spending a couple of hours at the expo we made our way back home for a relaxing evening. I then as Geordana puts it, “very methodically”, got all of my gear ready for the race. This takes care of all the thinking that you don’t want to be doing race morning – if you’re rushed you forget things haha. With a freshly waxed chain and newly polished BLADE wheels, I was ready to go.
After around 4 hours of restless sleep I woke up 3 hours pre-race to eat breakfast. With my scheduled start at 6:58AM, this had me getting up a little before 4AM. This is my usual routine to ensure I have enough time to sufficiently digest my food before gun time. With a little more convincing than usual, Geordana and I were up and out the door by 5:15AM.
The transition area was a little more congested than usual so I was really glad I had everything packed and ready to go in the order I needed it the night before – No thought required!
Before I knew it, we were 20 minutes away from race start so I struggled my way into my wetsuit, met quickly with Geordana where she wished me luck, and I headed down to the water where I did a short warm up.
Swim 1500m (0:26:14 – T1: 1:47)
The swim took take place in Ontario Place’s West Channel swimming 700m east, then turned left swimming 20m south, another left coming back 700m west and the remaining 80 or so meters were diagonal towards the exit ramp where we would finally get out and run towards T1. The water this time of year in Lake Ontario is still pretty cold and suspiciously green so it was an easy decision opting for the wetsuit on this one. This race in particular was a wave start – so the pros started at 6:50AM.
Gun time for my age category, 24 and under, was at 6:58AM. This was also the 4th wave of athletes to start so I knew that I’d have to be on the lookout for slower swimmers in the preceding waves. Being an “in-water” start, as the horn blew we all stopped treading and started swimming; the race was finally on.
Once I escaped the washing machine effect of everyone fighting for position, my swim was more or less pretty uneventful. The swim course was pretty straight forward, I had a small group to swim with for the majority of the time and there were no issues navigating through the stragglers from previous waves. Before I knew it, I was peeling off my wetsuit while running up into transition – that wasn’t so bad! I finished the swim sitting 80th overall in a little over 26 minutes at a 1:44min/100m pace which seems to be my terminal velocity in the water at the moment. I’ll definitely have to looking into strategies in pushing past this plateau moving forward.
Bike 40km (0:57:04 – T2: 0:42)
After a very lack lustre performance in transition, myself and a group of others ran our bikes up the hill out of transition, across the man-bridge over Lake Shore Boulevard where the mount line was located. What happens next is probably the first, and thankfully, the only hiccup of my race. As I began to mount my bike, one of the guys running up to the mount line with me lost his balance and deviated from his line stopping right in front of me. This caused me to then lose my balance and I fell straight over my handlebars. Luckily, after some on the fly diagnostics, my bike was fine and I escaped with just some minor cuts and scrapes. I swallowed my pride, remounted my bike and started hammering.
After the first 30 seconds of riding I could already feel that this was going to be a better race than the previous weekend in Gravenhurst; I felt strong, my power numbers looked promising – I was off to the races. It’s a very surreal feeling seeing cyclists rather than cars on the Gardiner Expressway and the DVP. This was something that I tried to take in as much as possible as this is a very rare opportunity for anybody.
The bike course was out to the Eglington Avenue exit and back to Ontario Place. Having commuted for work a handful of times up this way, I knew that the way out would be a gradual uphill. With this in mind my strategy was to push a little harder than I was comfortable with on the way out and dial things back slightly after the 20km turn around. The idea behind this was that, being a heavier athlete, it would be inherently easier for me to gain time going downhill rather than uphill; that’s just math. The opposite would be true for a lighter rider who does not have to fight gravity as much as I would going uphill.
I wish I had something more exciting to write about here – the bike course went just as I planned. My power figures going out and back were around 365W and 330W respectively. I finished the bike course now sitting 10th overall, clawing back 70 places in a time of 57:04 going just over 42kph which also got me the best bike split of the day. I could now breathe a sigh of relief – my power is back!
Run 10km (0:38:14)
After a smoother T2, I set out on the run course feeling fairly fresh. I caught a glimpse of Geordana and a couple of our friends who were kind enough to make out early on a Sunday to cheer me on – this was a great motivation starting off on what I was anticipating to be a pretty painful run.
The run course at TTF this is a lapped course – so you ran 2km out along the lakeshore and to transition twice. I set off on a modest pace initially until quickly deciding I could go probably go a little faster. I ran to the first turnaround moving at a 3:37/km average pace. There is a slight 500m downhill (which happens to be the ONLY hill) just before the 2.5km and 7.5km turnaround. I knew that this hill was going to be pretty painful on the second lap so I began mentally preparing myself for that.
One of the benefits that I saw this race as part of the wave start is that I could pretty much bank on me always seeing athletes up the road. This plays a huge role psychologically because you always have someone to chase, despite the fact that they may not have started in the sane wave as I. So I began playing this game of leapfrog which I believe really helped me out on this run. Before I knew it I was at the second turnaround now starting to climb the painful 500 meter hill for the second time. At this point you start having to reason with yourself just to keep turning your feet over. Between fire in your legs, your lungs ready to burst and your heart trying to beat out of your chest – as long as they’re not injury related, you’ve gotta fight these very strong bodily instincts all telling you to STOP.
Being a pretty reasonable guy I told myself now at 2km left, you have less than 8 mins left if you continue at this pace and there was talk of beer at the finish line (its 9AM lol) - this seemed to be enough to keep me slugging along in what I like to call “the hurt house”. Being familiar with this state of mind, I threw on my best pain face and soldiered on to the finish line. I completed the 10km run in 38:14 at a 3:49/km average pace finishing in 8th OA and 2nd in my 20 – 24 age category. My overall time was 2:04:03 – for a Provincial Championship, I’ll take it!
After analyzing my run stats, I must’ve pushed myself pretty hard because it has been a little while since I cracked 200bpm. I have my max heart rate currently calculated at 205bpm so this is getting precariously close to the red line. Though dangerous to sustain this heart rate for any length of time, I jumped up to 200bpm momentarily in the last 50m of the race after my brief stint in the aforementioned “hurt house”. Needless to say, if the race were any longer I would’ve hit the wall.
And we’re done! It felt like my runner’s high lasted the rest of the day. I caught up with Geordana and our friends, and we then saw a few other Queen’s Triathlon Alum compete in the sprint distance races. It was nice to have Simon Whitfield handing out medals at the awards presentation – that’s not something you get to experience every day!
Now after a few solid weeks of races and the corresponding preparation, I’m gonna take about 10 days of “active recovery” before my last big training block ahead of next month’s Duathlon World Championships. The next stop for me will be MultiSport Canada’s Bracebridge Sprint Triathlon as the last tune up before my big day in Penticton.
Things are starting to get real – less than a month away!
And finally, it’s not easy dating a triathlete so a huge thank you to my girlfriend, Geordana, for her endless support and being there with me every step of the way.
Thank you to my other supporters – BLADE Carbon Wheels, MultiSport Canada, and Brown’s Sports
Till next time,
2017 MSC Gravenhurst International Duathlon
So this weekend we headed up to cottage country for the MSC Gravenhurst International Duathlon. Last year, this was the race where I qualified to compete in the 2017 World MultiSport Championships so this race will always be special to me. I had also planned on using this race as a “tune-up” for the World Championships this year just to see where I am at and what I still have to work on.
Leading up to the Race
I was planning on treating this race and the time leading up to the race as a mock preparation for the World Championships next month. So I would do all of the same workouts, eat the same food, use the same equipment, etc. In theory this sounded like a brilliant idea because this way I would be able to isolate things that weren’t working for me and use my race results as a gauge for what I needed to work on over the next 5 weeks. If only it were that easy.
Eight days before the race Geordana, my girlfriend, and I somehow got very sick and were pretty much bed ridden from Thursday until Sunday. To spare you the details, during this time we both were unable to keep food down and were constantly struggling to stay comfortable which led to very poor sleep patterns. Needless to say I did not hit all of the key workouts that I had planned on doing; this strategy was a write off.
I began to feel better on Monday, six days before the race. Having not worked out since Wednesday last week, I (perhaps naively) pushed the interval workouts that I had planned on doing last Thursday and Friday into this week. This was really cutting it close to race day as I wasn’t sure if I would be able to recover fully before the weekend. This is a risk I was able to take at there was no pressure on me for this race; it wasn’t a qualifying race nor was there any big prize that I knew of. When I got around to doing these workouts I just felt flat and drained – the speed nor the power was there. Not typically a good sign knowing that I’d have to push harder than this during the race now just 4 days away. My body just wasn’t absorbing the food that I was eating the way that it would if I was healthy. This is a common term know among cyclists as "blocked legs". There wasn’t anything I could do about this other than rest, take it easy in the last few days for the race and hopefully my body would shake this sickness on its own.
Race day came and I felt surprisingly good. I followed my same routine; eat breakfast ~3 hours pre-race, arrive at transition with plenty of time, do my warmups and stretches. While chatting with fellow athletes Andrew McLeod, Spencer Summerfield and Garvin Moses, I learned that the bike course was changed last minute onto smoother roads. This was a GREAT tidbit of info remembering how rough some sections of the original bike course were last year. If only they would switch around the run course to make it less hilly ;). This is a notoriously tough duathlon – there are very few (if any) flat parts on the run and the bike course is very similar with rolling roads and very few flat sections. John Salt, MultiSport Canada founder and race director, had announced after the race that this venue is probably one of the toughest International Distance Duathlon courses offered in Canada. This was very apparent soon after the starting gun went off.
Run #1 10km (37:11 – T1: 0:39)
After sizing up my competition in the starting chute, I saw Charles Bedley who I had remembered smashed this run last year in under 35 minutes. So I made it my goal to stay with him and at least keep him in my sights without him ripping my legs off. This had worked out brilliantly for the first 5 or so kilometers; I was hovering at around a 3:30 – 3:35 min/km average pace, Charles was 50 meters up the road, and my heart wasn’t trying to beat out of my chest just yet. This felt like a pace I could keep up for the duration of the 1st 10km run. We then hit this hill at the 4 km mark and this just gassed me, I wasn’t able to regain composure or find my rhythm. I was giving it everything I had to keep Charles in my sights, but he was slowly and painfully tearing my legs off. My heart rate for the last 5km hovered at around 190bpm maxing out at 196. My perceived effort was through the roof, something wasn’t right. I finished the 1st 10km run 55 seconds behind Charles who had successfully tore my legs off – kudos to Charles.
Bike 40km (1:00:52 – T2: 0:38)
This was my domain, I was ready to throw down big numbers like I did in Welland a couple of weeks ago. My aim here was to gap the field leaving myself an insurmountable lead for the final 5km run which I was sincerely dreading at this point. I had a speedy transition, mounted my bike, slipped into my shoes on the go and started hammering. I tried not to look at my Garmin head unit until I had caught Charles. I told myself that I’d burn a couple matches, catch Charles, and then I’d carefully measure my effort for the remainder of the bike. I made the catch at the 5km mark and now had 35km to put in as much time as possible into my competition. Once I began tracking my effort I quickly realized that I was unable to push the power that I was planning, my legs felt flat and drained – just like they had in the workouts I did in the week leading up to the race. Having discovered this, I ignored my Garmin and raced the remainder of the bike course based on how I felt. After the turnaround I then saw that my main competition was following more closely then I was anticipating – there was Larry Bradley, Andrew McLeod, and then Chris Schindler who were all around 1 – 2 minutes back. I finished the final 20km riding scared while at the same time trying to leave something in the tank for the final 5km run. I approached transition and dismounted my bike surprised to see Chris Schindler right beside me. He had destroyed this bike course in under 55 minutes going over 44km/hr. I have never seen those types of speeds in a MultiSport Canada race. Very impressive bike split! After analyzing my effort, I pushed just under 300W for the duration of the bike course. This is around 50W lower than my original expectations and 70W lower than what I was able to push over 56km two weeks ago in Welland. Just goes to show how much an untimely illness can take out of you. Looking on the bright side, this was still in the top 5 best bike splits of the day. Now on to this pesky 5km run that I’ve been dreading.
Run 5km (0:21:09)
I was out of transition 20 seconds faster than Chris so with the winding, hilly road we were running on I was able to get out of sight. Being able to see your opponent up the road is a huge motivator to push that much harder. So goal for this run was just to stay out of sight, other than at the turnaround, of course. The perceived effort on this run was just through the roof, my legs had nothing left. I was almost slowed to a walk going up most hills simply because I could not push any harder. Good news though – when looking behind me, I could not see Chris. I was counting down the kilometers, this race could not finish fast enough. Before I knew it, the hills were behind me and I re-entered the park and turned towards the finishing chute. The familiar voice of Steve Fleck announced my name as the winner of the International Distance Duathlon and my grimace turned to a smile. I broke the tape, crossing the finish line being personally greeted my John Salt, himself. Despite it not being the performance I was hoping for, I was elated.
This is the kind of experience I always seem to have at MultiSport Canada events all race results aside. The comradery among athletes really makes all of these races feel like a community. While I caught my breath I was able to converse with fellow athletes, family and friends who had all made it out to the event. I popped by the BLADE Carbon Wheels tent and drooled over the new 2nd Generation wheels that Rob had on display.
Before I knew it, we were called up for awards and to my surprise I was the proud new owner of a new pair of Skechers running shoes as the 1st OA Duathlete! Shortly after this we had left for a relaxing afternoon on the lake in cottage country. I have a week to recover before the Toronto Triathlon Festival where I’ll be competing in the Olympic distance Triathlon right in my “back yard”.
This weekend was a real eye opener to the importance of recovery – even though we may feel great, your body needs more time than you think to recover whether it be from illness or hard training, etc. This will definitely be something that I will be more conscious of in the future.
Listen to your body!
Till next time,
Simple and Essential DIY Bike Maintenance
Endless things could be said about the benefits of having a clean drivetrain, but the main benefit is that with a clean and well maintained drivetrain, your bike will last longer, run more efficiently and, in turn, will make you go faster (because that’s what it’s all about). Being guilty of this myself, it is a very important piece of bike maintenance that is very easily neglected. Rather than going into detail about all of the benefits, the purpose of this article will simply be to illustrate a fool proof way to wash your bike and clean your drivetrain so that it comes out spotless every single time.
1) Inspect Chain for Wear and Damage
Before you get started cleaning, be sure to give your chain a good look for any obvious damage such as bends or cracks. Also check the chain for wear – as you ride your bike your chain is under a consistent load and over time will begin to stretch. As it does this, your shifting will become more difficult and will begin to “skip” between gears. A trick to check for chain wear is to rest a ruler or tape measure alongside the lower run of the chain and see if you can measure exactly 12 inches between 12 pins (as pictured). If the 12th pin lines up with 12 inches then you chain is good to go. If the 12th pin exceeds 12 inches by 1/8th of an inch or more, it’s time to replace.
2) Apply Degreaser to your Drivetrain
Take your chosen degreaser and pour some of it into a small container. I personally use a small yogurt container which gives me around 150mL – this should be more than enough. Use your old paintbrush to literally paint on the degreaser to your drivetrain. Make sure you get back to your derailleur and jockey wheels, up to your cassette, all along your chain and up to your cranks. Give your crank a couple of backwards spins to let the degreaser seep in between the rollers on your chain and repeat the painting process. Let this sit and work its magic for 5 – 10 minutes.
4) Clean the Drivetrain
So after 5 – 10 minutes, the degreaser you applied earlier should’ve worked its magic and loosened up all of the grease and grime from your drivetrain, now it’s just a matter of cleaning it off. Before doing this, shift gears to move your chain onto the big ring on the front – it is much easier to clean when in this position. Take your stiff brush and begin scrubbing the derailleur, jockey wheels, cassette and chain rings. Once you’ve give those a once over, pedal backwards and, with your brush hold it along the chain – this should loosen any grit and grime in between the rollers that the degreaser has lifted. Once this is done, take your second sponge and with the hot soapy water begin to wash your drivetrain. What I tend to do here is first go over the entire drivetrain once; similar to what you did with your stiff brush. Then with your sponge, hold it against the chain on your big ring and pedal backwards with your other hand. While still pedalling backwards, take your soapy sponge and CAREFULLY pinch the jockey wheels as they spin to remove any remaining grease that’s hiding back there. To finish off, grab the chain with your soapy sponge and pedal backwards. The drivetrain should be spotless right about now. You’ll be able to tell this if you take one of your rags and run it along the chain. If it’s clean, you’ve done the job right. If not, just repeat steps 2 and 4.
6) Lubing your Chain
The final and probably most important step of the process. What you’ll want to do is find the “missing link” on your chain (as pictured). For most bikes this is what you use to remove the chain and is a good starting point for lubricating your chain as well. Now very carefully, apply 1 drop of lubricant to each of the rollers starting from the missing link and turning the crank as you go. Once you make your way back to the “missing link”, give your chain a few slow spins to let the lubricant work its way in between the rollers. With another one of your rags (this one should be dry) grab the chain, pedal backwards and wipe off the excess lubricant that has made its way to the outer plates. We do this because the lube serves no purpose there and will just collect dirt and dust as you ride making your chain look a lot dirtier than it actually is.
And now you’re finished! Repeat this process every couple of weeks. Your bike will now look and ride like new again. This will now hopefully give you that extra motivation to get training, go for that strava KOM, and sign up for that next MultiSport race. Looking forward to seeing some spotless bikes in transition – be sure to say hi!
See you there,
Six Triathlon Hacks for a more Enjoyable Race
As we want our athletes to have the best experience on race day, here are 6 triathlon hacks that you can try for a more enjoyable race:
1) Arrive Early to the Race Site
Aim to arrive around 1.5 – 2 hours before your scheduled race start. I know it sounds early, but there’s a number of things that you’re going to have to take care of before gun time. You’ll have to go through the sign in process, set up your spot in transition, and take care of any warm-ups or stretching that you plan on doing. All of these things take time and if you’re rushed in the time leading up to the race you could forget things and overall, you’re going to have a less enjoyable experience. Consider staying in a hotel nearby the night before if you’re coming from far out of town. MultiSport Canada has a list of affiliated hotels for each race on their website. So get there early, meet new people, and take it all in – enjoy yourself!
2) Check the Course Maps
Nobody wants end up going off course. Even though the courses are very well marked and there will be course marshals at all major intersections, it is a very good idea to check the course maps ahead of time. There may be times during the race where you don’t have anyone to ‘lead the way’, so this just takes out any guessing when a turn is fast approaching.
3) Organize your Spot in Transition
This one may seem obvious, but it is very important to get it right so you don’t find yourself flustered when in the transition area. Step 1: make sure you know where you are in transition, find an easily identifiable landmark near your spot so you’re able to easily find your gear. Step 2: Only take the essentials to transition – you should only have your wetsuit, goggles, bike, helmet, bike shoes, running shoes, sunglasses, towel and race belt. Everything else you can keep in your bag along the perimeter of the transition area. Step 3: organize your items in transition in order of event. Set out your towel on the ground next to your bike, place your bike shoes (if they aren’t already clipped onto your bike) on the towel closest to you, and place your running shoes behind them as you’ll need those afterwards. Place your helmet and race belt on your bike so you don’t forget to put them on along with your sunglasses (if need be). Everything should be placed in a logical manner so that you aren’t asking yourself what comes next – do all of the thinking before the race!
4) De-Fog Your Goggles
Your race will be much more enjoyable if you’re actually able to see! This is a clever hack to ensure your swim goggles will never fog up no matter how long the swim is. Do this at home before the race: put a few drops of dishsoap on the inside of your goggle lenses and rub around with a paper towel until dry. Don’t rinse with water as this will wash away the layer of soap and therefore defeat the purpose. Your goggles will now be fog-proof for race day!
5) Drink 1 Water Bottle per 20km of Biking
Although everyone is different and may require more or less water than others, but a good rule of thumb when biking is to consume 1 bottle of fluids per 20km of biking. So for a sprint distance or shorter that’s 1 bottle and for the Olympic distance plan of bringing 2. Mix it up with an electrolyte drink, anything to keep you motivated to drink while riding. Dehydration is the enemy!
6) Fit your running shoes with Elastic Laces
This hack will save you time in transition and also save you tying those pesky shoelaces before you head out on your training runs. If you decide to do this, I’d recommend fitting them before race day to ensure you get the right tightness. However, these elastic laces in a multitude of colours will be available for sale at one of the vendor tents on race day.
Well, here goes my first ever race report. I was never (and still am not) much of a writer, so I thank whoever may end up reading this for taking the time and I hopefully have not bored you to death.
Brief introduction – my name is Matt Straatman, I am part of the 2017 MultiSport Canada Ambassador team. I have a strong passion for the sport of triathlon and everything that it stands for. After 4 years of competing I’ve decided that it is time to start giving back to the sport in order to get more people involved, and what a great way to accomplish this is to act as an ambassador for the sport.
What a great weekend! I cannot remember the last time I had that kind of experience at a racing venue – there was something for everybody. Lots of accommodations close by to choose from, the ideal venue at the Welland Flatwater Centre, great weather, and not to mention that you’re 25 minutes away from Niagara Falls.
My girlfriend, Geordana, and I arrived in Welland on Friday evening. We had decided that we’d volunteer on Saturday with the Sprint Races and Give-it-a-Trys. We were coming from far out of town so this got the long drive out of the way ahead of time. After learning that I hadn’t yet seen Niagara Falls up close, Geordana insisted on dropping our stuff at the hotel and promptly hitting the road, once again, this time to Niagara. Absolutely breathtaking. When in Welland – go to Niagara Falls!
On Saturday morning I was up bright and early so that I could get out for an easy run before we had to get to the race site. I’ll always do some form of activity the day before a race just to stay loose – I’m not sure if this is recommended or not, but it has always worked for me and I’d probably feel under-prepared if I didn’t do this. Call me superstitious.
We arrived at the race site at 8AM to assist with the water aid station on the run course. Having applied no form of sunscreen whatsoever, we wandered out to the aid station and filled cups with water and F2C for the runners for when they eventually come by. Now I will go ahead and say that this is probably one of the most rewarding experiences you can have in triathlon (next to crossing the finish line, of course). It’s the last few kilometers of the race, athletes from all fitness levels and walks of life are giving it every ounce of what’s left inside of them to get to that finish line up the road and finish the race. You cheer them on as they grimace, laugh and sometimes even cry offering any support you can. Being just a small part of their triathlon experience is very rewarding and will most definitely keep me coming back. This is just the boost I needed ahead of my race the next morning.
Race day! I had woken up even earlier than the day before to ensure that I could eat breakfast 3 hours before gun time – race starts at 8:25 so I was up shortly after 5AM. May sound early, but this gives you enough time to digest so that you don’t feel bloated while racing, which is something nobody wants to experience. This is also something that I will never be able to convince Geordana is necessary.
We arrived at the Welland Flatwater Centre about an hour and fifteen minutes before gun time. Geordana, once again, voiced her skepticism about my punctuality. There’s just a bunch of things that you need to take care of before the race such as registration, body marking, setting up transition, warm-up, etc. It’s not something that you want to be doing while rushed – you will forget things. I am an advocate of arriving early, getting everything set up, formulate a plan and get all the thinking out of the way before the race. Once I completed all of this, I struggled my way into my wetsuit, applied 0 sunscreen and headed down to the water. Geordana wished me luck and I hopped in for a warm up.
Swim 2km (34:47 - T1: 1:04)
Knowing my strength in the water, I lined up towards the back of the blue swim caps as I really wasn’t anticipating a heroic swim performance. I was aiming to swim the 2km in 35 minutes which would put me at a 1:45/100m swim pace. I have improved my swim a lot over the winter just with consistency. We have a small pool in out apartment building and I would swim 5-6 times a week for 20–30 mins on average at a time.
The gun went and soon I found myself swimming comfortably in the second group of blue swim caps. I saw some people going off the front of the group, so I decided that after a few guinea pigs went that I would follow some feet and swim ahead as well. This worked out brilliantly at first, I was sitting on some feet and slowly moving towards a group of swimmers about 50 meters ahead. This was all until we got to the turnaround – the guy I was following didn’t actually turn at the turn around so I was then on my own. Here I was stuck ahead of the group I just lost and behind the group that I’m unable to catch up to. The second kilometer of the swim was very lonely, but I did feel great. I just kept my rhythm, followed the guide rope underwater, and didn’t try anything heroic. I really did have to pee though…
I exited the water in 46th place at 34:47 which put me right on the pace I had set for myself – I was off to a good start. One thing I didn’t do before the race was walk from the swim exit to my bike so I was a little flustered once I got to the top of the steps. Found my bike in the end and threw together a pretty speedy T1, so all is good.
Bike 56km (1:21:22 – T2: 0:55)
This bike course was tailor made for me – windy and flat. People say that in Welland you can watch your dog run away for days, it’s just that flat. Normally I loathe biking in the wind, but I knew that the headwind we rode into going out of town would play into my advantage; I’m a heavier athlete so I wouldn’t get blown around too much and I have my bike set up such that I can get into a very aerodynamic position. My BLADE disc wheel and aero helmet completed the package.
Once I got my shoes on and dropped down into my aerobars, I quickly found my rhythm. I could see dozens of riders up the road and began picking them off one by one. However, I could not shake the feeling that I really had to pee. I knew I had to drink water and that just made the feeling worse. After 20km, we turned left and I stopped avoiding the inevitable; I pulled off to the side of the road and emptied my bladder.
After being passed by a rider I hopped back on my bike and resumed the chase. I made sure I didn’t let the tailwind we had go to my head – I still had to work. I have my bike fitted with Garmin power meter pedals so that I could measure my effort throughout the whole ride, not just relying on speed. I felt somewhat comfortable into the headwind at ~370W so I tried my best to keep it around there even with the tailwind. As I worked my way to the head of the race I was disappointed to see the amount of drafting going on. I knew there was nothing I could do about it except ensure that the drafters would not be able to hold my wheel as I passed them – I succeeded.
I finished the bike leg sitting in 3rd overall, putting up the best bike split of the day, averaging 41.6km/h which includes my unplanned bathroom stop. I also threw down a person best average power of 379W and normalized power of 384W. Activity file can be found here. Buy a power meter, folks!
Run 15km (1:00:24)
I came off of the bike feeling surprisingly strong. I settled into a comfortable, yet ambitious pace at 3:45–3:50min/km. My goal for the run course was to finish in under an hour and if I could hold this pace, I would come out far ahead of my expectations. With the lapped run course you get to run by the grandstand 3 times which a huge motivation! Seeing Geordana and my Dad multiple times while running was also a nice treat. There were a total of 4 aid stations step up around the 5km loop, all equipped with water, F2C, Hammer Gels and cold sponges. All of which were very welcomed over 15km in 25 degree heat! I thanked each aid station profusely at least once throughout the course of the run as at the point, they were a triathlete’s best friend.
The second lap, I found someone to run with coming strong off of the bike. We had agreed to work together which definitely helped me a lot as I was starting to suffer. I made the mistake of looking down at my heart rate which read 195BPM at one point. This quickly frazzled me and I lost my rhythm along with my running buddy. I finished the first two 5km laps in ~38 minutes
The third lap is where things get very dark for me. I was paying for the effort I threw down on the bike and for going too far into the red on my second lap on the run. I had one of the biggest blow-ups I’ve ever experienced. After hitting the wall the last 5km were like a death march – I watched my third place slip away as Billy passed me, then Chris, then Duncan, then Ryan. I ended up finishing the race 7th OA and 1st in my age group. Despite the blow up and wicked sunburn, in the end I am extremely happy with my effort knowing that I could not give one more ounce of energy. I was happy with my time exceeding the expectation I had originally set for myself. Full results here.
After the race I thanked John Salt and every volunteer that I physically could for yet another outstanding race. Could not have asked for a better venue and race day weather for that matter. The Welland Rose City Long Course triathlon is on my calendar for next year.
Geordana and I then packed up our stuff at the hotel, proceeded promptly to IHOP, threw back a whole mess of pancakes and went back to our apartment in Toronto. Life is good.