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Monday, December 21, 2009

Run, Fatboy, Run! Weight and Performance

How much is 20 pounds?

The other day I was at the store and picked up a 20lb bag of road salt. Oh. My. God. I can't imagine running with that extra weight, it's staggering. How did my knees handle the pounding? Next time you see one of those big bags give it a try... really drives home how much of an impact it should really have!

I remember showing up for my first 1/2 marathon in Peterborough.

I looked around and realized "I don't look like these people"! They were thin and athletic, I was close to 200lbs with a pretty respectable gut on me. I ran my little (big?) heart out to a 2:07 finish, side by side with some of the skinies.

The Performance Penalty

But what is the true penalty of extra weight? How much faster would my debut have been with the same training but 20lbs less to lug around?

Well first let's just look at the calories:

Calories (kCal) = 0.406 * (weight in pounds) * (distance in kilometers)

So plugging in the numbers for a 1/2 marathon, we get:

180 pound runner = 1542 kCal
200 pound runner = 1713 kCal

So it's just under 200 kCal difference. Doesn't sound like much, but it means running out of glycogen stores earlier or (more sensibly) having to knock back some pace.

Slow down, Fatboy!

Runner's World examined the issue in this article. Their conclusions was that all other things being equal, "healthy runners will race about two seconds per mile faster for every pound they lose". For a half marathon, they have a 20 pound reduction translating to slicing a staggering 8:44 off your time.

Almost nine minutes! Wow.

I recently did a half marathon in 1:47:43, at about 185 pounds. My goal is to get my weight under 170, which wouldn't quite be a drop of 20 pounds, but close... maybe I have a 1:40 in me yet!

Implications for biking and swimming

For both, the answer is "it depends".

Swimming - Fat floats... 'nuff said! Well not quite - you are punching a larger hole in the water which must use more energy. But on the other hand, I saw a program once on a gentleman attempting to swim across the English Channel, he intentionally gained massive amounts of fat to help him achieve the task (some of that may have been to tackle the cold, though!).

Cycling - I played around with this calculator a little. Being heavy increases rolling resistance, but relatively insignificantly. It would also increase your aerodynamic profile, but again this effect would be relatively minor for only 20 pounds. That leaves the biggest impact being dragging those big fat cells up hills! The amount of force that takes goes up pretty much linearly with weight... so either drop some pounds or ride flat courses.

Weight Loss = Magic Bullet?

No... remember the term "all things being equal". A heavy but fit guy can beat a light but unfit guy. But if you train the same amount, being lighter can shave precious minutes off your time, it's great bang for your buck!

Friday, December 11, 2009

End of Year Rest and Relaxation

'Tis the season to take a break...

Ironman wiped me out a bit more mentally than I think I realized. The post-Ironman high kept me going through October, but I think a few weeks of R&R were overdue!

So for the last few weeks I've cut back significantly. A couple of runs a week, some mountain biking, the odd indoor trainer session (Spinervals!), and a swim here and there. No schedule, just doing what I feel like for as long as I feel like as fast/slow as I feel like.

It's all very liberating... much different than the training "workout" mentality!

I've also been taking the opportunity to bring my weight down, controlling calories to drop a few pounds. I was getting into the high 180's after Ironman, I've managed to get that down to the low 180's with the intention of getting to the 160's for the race season (specifically for the fall marathon!). No magic, just keeping my calories in to about 2000/day and keeping active.

2010 is coming, though... it's time to awaken from this slumber and get back at it!


I'm going to do the Peterborough 1/2 marathon again at the end of February. That means I need to start training... hmm... last week. OK maybe next week! It's a B or C race at best, so I just want to make sure I'm doing 20+km long runs before then. I'm hacking together a plan for that now.


My 5th Paris to Ancaster! I can't believe it's been 5 years since I first got my ass handed to me by this race... but I'll be back for more in April.

Until I can get back outdoors (probably in March) I'll be using Spinerval DVDs and doing a lot of intensity, intervals, just anything that can help with this rather unique race (see last year's race report for the gory details!). On-road, off-road, drafting, mud, wind, a killer climb, it has everything. Good way to get a well-rounded start to the season!


My first triathlon won't be until late July this year... a bit disappointing, but something had to give. I just have too much going on, including a long relay adventure race in June. I'll be trying to improve my swim over the winter, though, focus is still on technique.

2010 - here I come!

I'm ready to rock!!! There's a lot to be said for some time off, even if it drove me a little stir crazy at times.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mountain Biking - Joy and Pain

The Joy

There is nothing quite like bombing through a forest on your bike, a bed of fallen leaves beneath your tires. One moment you're in a sparse maple forest, the next you're on a bed of pine needles shadowed by towering spruce trees.

Not only do you get to experience nature, but as a cyclist it's a whole different challenge. Staying upright as you navigate between trees, across sand or mud, over a stump, around tight turns... you figure out how to keep a bike upright very fast, or end up on your butt.

If you attack the trails, you get the adrenaline junkie experience of trees whipping by your head and being just a little bit out of control. Or you can back off a bit, take it easy, and soak up your surroundings.

And the surroundings can be spectacular... especially when the fall colours are at their most brilliant, it's amazing.

The Pain

With the challenge comes the occasional painful moment. I had two this weekend.

First, we ended up on a trail blocked by several downed trees. As we crawled over and under them, I managed to get a few good gashes from dead branches that were sticking out (see picture). No big deal, they clotted and I kept riding, but not for pretty boys!

Second, as we rode down a rather narrow trail, I failed to notice a thick branch at head level... as I went under it, it clipped the top of my helmet, snapping my head back. My neck immediately hurt which made me quite concerned I'd done serious damage... fortunately it felt better within a minute and after a sleep it's fine.

Most of my spills have been at low speed and didn't do any damage, other than to my pride.

But we've had other incidents over the years... a buddy of mine cracked a helmet on a fall, that and I had a pretty good spill at high speed when I hit some sand that knocked the wind out of me. Both were scary, as you realize just how far away any real medical assistance would be. We've been more cautious since, and we're better riders than when we first started.

Joy > Pain

Is it worth it? Absolutely! If you're just starting out, here's some tips:
  • Stay on the main trails ("double track") until you get used to it and get your bike handling skills up to snuff
  • Keep in control - and that really means keep the speeds low, especially downhill. It's easy to get going quick, only to realize too late that there's something in your path.
  • Watch for mud and sand... these can be right smack in the middle of the trail, and it takes practice to be able to navigate through them without taking a spill.
  • Wear a Lid - helmets are absolutely critical while mountain biking, it's suicide to be out there without it.
  • Carry first aid stuff and cel phone - just in case
  • Don't ride alone
And have fun!

Next up... mountain bike skills 101.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Good-bye, 2009... Hello, 2010!

My last race of 2009 is in the books, so I figure it's a nice time to reflect a little.


I started the year dreaming about Ironman Canada. I'm ending it still glowing from it.

It was awesome, the greatest experience of my life.

When 2009 started, I had one season of triathlon under my belt. More specifically, I had completed a try-a-tri and a Sprint! So to close out 2009 as an Ironman is a pretty awesome feeling, it represents a year of dedication and training that I couldn't have imagined even a couple short years ago.

Other Stuff

In the spring, I did Around the Bay for the first time, the oldest road race in North America. That was really neat, especially the finish in Copps Coliseum.

I crushed my 10k personal best at the Sporting Life 10K, and went sub-45:00. I had to gut out the finish to get under 45:00, now that was suffering!!!

I set a personal best at the 1/2 marathon in Peterborough in February (then beat it again at the Hamilton 1/2 in November).

I finished my 4th straight Paris to Ancaster, an annual mountain bike race and the first race of any kind I ever did.

My triathlon season was all about Ironman preparation: the Muskoka Long Course in June, the Peterborough 1/2 Swim/Bike and the Belwood Sprint Tri in July. Some success, some failure, lots of lessons to apply at Ironman.

And I finished it all off by doing my first bit of trail running in the fall, building up to the 25k Vulture Bait trail race.


How do you top 2009? You don't. It was a special year, one I doubt I can ever repeat. First time doing anything is special, first Ironman was once-in-a-lifetime.

But I still have things I want to accomplish.
  • Muskoka Ironman 70.3 - I've wanted to do this race since it started, it's local (Ontario) and the course is quickly becoming legendary for its difficulty. This won't be a "I just want to finish" thing, I want to rock it! I plan on doing a lot of work to improve my swim, and I think I have room to improve in the bike/run as well.
  • Full Marathon - I've done one, and as soon as I crossed the finish I wanted to try another one. I didn't want to risk a spring marathon in my Ironman year and I wasn't up for training that much in the fall, so 2010 will be a better year to go for it
  • Trails - I enjoyed the trail running and love mountain biking, so I want to put it together for an adventure race or something along those lines. We're eyeing the Moraine for Life Adventure Race.
I have some other smaller goals, like completing my 5th straight Paris to Ancaster, maybe improving my 1/2 marathon best, etc... but I'll firm those up in more detail as the season unfolds.

2010, bring it on!!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Race Strategy: Take the Shortest Path

"The shortest distance between any two points is a straight line"

I ran a 1/2 marathon over the weekend, part of which took place on a very wide 3-lane highway. I noticed that most of the runners were sticking to the far-right lane, as if they were driving in a car. This put them on the outside of some long sweeping corners.

However when they measure a course, they actually use the shortest path.

How do you figure out the shortest path? Look far ahead to where you're ultimately trying to go and race toward it. This will typically mean making as straight a line as possible from the inside of one corner to the inside of the next.

Of course, you don't want to be cutting people off, so be aware of who is on your right or left... I'm looking at you, Mr. iPod!!!

How much can this save?

The better question is - how much is taking the long way costing you! Every extra step you take is a step away from your goal time, or worse, away from a Boston Qualifier.

The cost depends on the course - it is highest on a wide course or one with many corners, lowest on a narrow straight course. Once you have your mind dialed in to take the shortest path, though, you'll find you naturally gravitate toward it and it's really just "free speed".

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Race Report: Hamilton Road to Hope 1/2 Marathon

The Race

Hamilton Marathon - Half Marathon.

The course is great for a Personal Best, it was mostly flat with a good 3K or so of very fast downhill. Lots of room on the roads near the start, and the wide paved trail it uses at the end.

I have only two complaints:
  • The kilometer markers were all off by 100m, 1K was at 1.1k, 2k was at 2.1k, etc. The end distance seemed correct, though.
  • No sports drink, pop, juice at the finish!? Not even in the lunch tent! I needed sugar, bad, and I had to resort to eating some sour candies I picked up... not good.
Other than that, things seemed well organized. Lots of porta-potties, the buses worked out well for me.

My Race

The Garmin Data
(Elevation is pretty neat! I didn't realize the downhill was in such a short section, felt like longer)

I had a pretty aggressive number in my head, 1:45:00. My PB before this was 1:49:17, but I figured for a bunch of reasons that I could kill that number.

Didn't work out that way...

I started out feeling great, and immediately got on my target 5:00/km pace. A few kilometers in, a buddy from my tri club caught up to me, so we chit-chatted for the first 1/2 of the race. Everything seemed OK.

I noticed my heart rate climbing a bit from the 170's to the 180's around 11k, so I tried to back off just a bit, but kept my eye on that 5:00/km. I still felt OK, like I could carry this to the end.

But my heart rate didn't stop there... climbed through the 180's and by kilometer 15, into the 190's. I wasn't sure what to do, I felt like I should back off, but that would mean kissing my 1:45 good-bye. I stupidly chose to stick to my 5:00/km pace, which I did successfully until kilometer 17k...

... and then the wheels came off. I ran out of gas, tried to take a short walk break to get things under control, but it just didn't help. My 5:00/km pace became 5:36, then 5:22, 5:48, 5:46... and finally, mercifully, the finish line.

Final results: 1:47:43 (271/934 overall, 25/44 M30-34)

A personal best (but a very unsatisfying one!).


My goal, while reasonable, was a bit too aggressive. But I compounded that mistake by not abandoning it early enough. That cost me even more time.

I'm pretty new to heart rate monitoring, but the signs where there - as soon as I hit the 190's I needed to back off. Lesson learned!

Next Up...

Nothing! How weird, I've been training for something for almost a year straight.

I'm going to do a bit of swimming to work on my form, a weekly spin on my bike. I want to take a couple of weeks completely off running to let some lingering aches and pains heal up, then I'll ease back into it.

Base training for 2010 starts January 1st... wh00t! :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Preview: Hamilton Road to Hope 1/2 Marathon

The Race

The Hamilton Road to Hope Marathon. I signed up for the 1/2 marathon on a whim, after some friends suggested it.

Things I know about it:
  1. It's in Hamilton
  2. The course is net downhill!
  3. Simon Whitfield is going to be running the 1/2
  4. The course is net downhill!
  5. It's point-to-point
  6. The course is net downhill!

Apparently this is the best full marathon in Canada for qualifying for Boston (it produces the highest percentage of qualifiers). I'm only doing the 1/2, but I'm counting on the downhill to help me!

My Strategy

I'm not all that confident... had a run on Sunday that seems to have tweaked something in my knee, looks like IT band is acting up again. I've been icing/stretching/Ibuprofen'ing like crazy, hopefully it's enough to hit the start line healthy.

My best 1/2 marathon was 1:49:17 in February of this year, with snow on the ground... in fact I've only ever done 1/2 marathons in February! I'm really hoping to crush that time on Sunday and set a new Personal Best. I feel like there's a 1:45:00 in me waiting to come out, but a lot will have to go right to find it!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Marathon Deaths: An Analysis

Three runners died during their 1/2 marathons this weekend in Detroit. A man also died during a race I was in this year, Ironman Canada.

As more people take up endurance sports, this is becoming a more common occurance.

The media love the parradox... a healthy active person suddenly drops dead while exercising. And I'm sure inactive people get a smug satisfaction out of it, as it gives them one more reason to stay on the couch.

Well, not really.

The Benefits

As Dr. Paul Thompson identifies in this study, active people are 30-50% less likely to suffer a heart attack than inactive people. So the benefit to being active is quite clear and irrefutable, over a lifetime you are less likely to die of heart disease.

Around 250 per 100,000 die of heart disease every year in Canada.

The Risk

But what is the risk while running a marathon? Most recent statistics peg the death rate at between 1 in 50,000 to 1 in 75,000 participants.

If you run one marathon per year?

Around 2 per 100,000.

The Conclusion

The numbers don't lie: being active is far more likely to save your life than to kill you, by an order of magnitude. If every inactive person took up marathoning, we'd have far fewer overall deaths from heart disease, not more.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Race Report: Vulture Bait Trail Race (25k)

The Race

Vulture Bait. It's a trail run around Fanshawe Lake near London, ON. The main distance is a 50k ultra race, I opted for the far more modest 25k.

This was my first trail race, so was looking forward to the experience! It was going to be a "B" race for me, but by mid-week I'd pretty much decided it was closer to a "C"... I've been sick for a week with a chest cough, and it stuck around for race day. Grumble.

Garmin Data

Results: 2:33:00, 85/171 overall, 44/61 Men under 49.

Race Day

C-c-cold! Just below zero at the start.

I'm not used to running in the cold yet for 2009, so I made the classic mistake of over-dressing. I wore a long-sleeved technical shirt and a wind breaker jacket, which was just too much, one or the other would have been plenty.

3 - 2 - 1 - GO?

The start was certainly different from most races I'd seen... everyone was lined up, and suddenly they started going! No gun, no whistle, nobody on a loudspeaker saying "3, 2, 1, GO!". I assume someone officially told everyone to start, but I have no way of knowing for sure.

The course started out on fairly easy flat trails. They seem well trod and straight, a nice warm-up. I was trying to control my effort on heart rate, so would back off any time it spiked over 170bpm.

At some point, we turned into some single-track section which had more stumps, rocks and sharp little climbs. Despite my relative lack of experience, I was able to keep pace with those around me.

The aid stations were odd... I'm used to having a row of volunteers dangling cups out and not breaking stride! But here there were far fewer people, and I had to come to a complete stop to grab my two cups of Heed.

By about 5k my lungs were burning from the cold air and my chest cold. My sincere apologies to the people around me for the snot-rockets (I was careful not to hit anyone but it's still gross!!!). I was a bit of a mess.

The one thing I hadn't practiced that threw me off was running across hills, ie. the hill goes down right to left. I actually slipped a little on one section like this, just wasn't used to it.

Halfway, time to race!

By halfway I was still feeling pretty good, so instead of sticking to a near-LSD pace I decided to pick it up. My heart rate got into the 170's more consistently now, and I would only back off it it were over 180. I started passing people one by one, and I don't recall anyone passing me from the halfway point to the end. I'm sure some of them were doing 50k, so while I was revving up for my finish, they were still in the first 1/2 of their race.

The one thing I did very poorly was nutrition... I went in without a plan, other than to drink whatever they had. I also had a bottle of my own to supplement between aid stations (they were about 5k apart). I also didn't realize they'd be using Heed, which I've never tried... and I ended up using some gel they handed out in the goodie bag. Very amateur-hour of me, I should have taken better care on a race of this length, I didn't get the calories I probably should have.

There were more technical sections in the second half, lots of loose rocks and several steep up and downs. Even one creek crossing across slippery rocks - the lady in front of me slipped and ended up with a shoe full of ice cold water! Oops.

With about 3km to go, I started feeling a bit light-headed. I briefly considered backing off, but I heard someone coming up behind me so my animal instinct to go faster kicked in! I put in a good finishing kick, passing one last person on the way to the finish.

A Whole New Respect for Ultra-folks

I guess it never really clicked for me just how hard 50k would be... but 50k on trails? Wow. Brutal. Even the 25k beat me up pretty good, my ankles and knees were quite tender by the end. It's less impact than running on roads, but you're also using a lot of muscles that normally get a vacation.

I'm not entirely sure it's my thing... I enjoy the trail running, but I found the race lacking something that road races or triathlons have. It was almost TOO friendly, like nobody was actually competing with each other! They were just out for a run on some trails. It was a really nice fall run, though, so maybe it will be something I do annually to close out my season. We'll see, I'm undecided.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sniff. I'm snuffed up.

I'm sick. And I have a race in 5 days.

Last week was a near write-off. I managed to get in a spin on my indoor trainer and one 10k run, but it was awful. I rested through the weekend, then tried a 10k run today which was just as bad... my heart rate shot up at even the slightest attempt at increasing my pace.

Not good!

Plan for this week: Rest. I'll try a short run on Wednesday or Thursday if things feel OK, otherwise I'm going into this race on Saturday cold. Not ideal, but I was going to run it as more or less an LSD anyway.

And 3 weeks from now is the race I really want to rock... the Hamilton 1/2 marathon. This is a good chance to really improve my 1/2 marathon time. I've done three 1/2 marathons before this, but it was always the YMCA one in Peterborough in February. Not ideal conditions and never in peak shape, so should be lots of room to improve there!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Preview: Vulture Bait Trail Race (25k)

Vulture Bait features a 50k and 25k option. I'm doing the shorter one this year as my first trail race. Ideally, I'd be doing something closer to 10k for my first, but at this time of year there aren't many options for that!

I've been told this course is easier than most trail races, so a good place to cut one's teeth. Of course, what's "easy" to seasoned trail runners could still be quite difficult to a novice like myself!

The aid stations are 5k apart, which at my trail pace will be over 1/2 hour. That's not enough fluid for me, so I'm going to bring a water bottle with me on the course to supplement the aid stations.

Goal: finish with a smile on my face! I'll push if I have something left, but mostly I'll just learn, take it all in, and pace it to finish.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Weight Loss and Training

Weight is a highly individual thing.

Some people eat whatever they want and don't gain an ounce. Others (ie. me!) just get a whiff of food and gain a pound.

I see this kind of comment a lot:

"I run 4 times a week but I haven't dropped any weight!"

I can relate.

I trained for Ironman. Every week was 10+ hours of training, 8,000-10,000 calories burned through exercise. This went on for 8-9 months.

So how many pounds did I lose while training for Ironman?


On race day, I weighed almost exactly what I did when I started out in December/January.

The reason? Training became a license to eat. And eat I did... extra carbs, extra protein, even extra fat... when you know you're burning calories like crazy you feel you can consume them like crazy.


And now the worst part... how much did I gain after Ironman?

SIX pounds.

When the training slowed down to 3-4 hours per week, with an unchanged diet, the weight shot up. Fast.

Obviously, something needed to change, so I am back to dieting before things can get out of control.

The Food Plan

Ultimately the only way to lose weight is to control what's going in. I've lost a lot of weight this way, so I'm back to it.

Before excercise, I require roughly 2400 calories per day just to keep the lights on. (You can calculate this on any number of sites on-line)

My eating plan:
  • 2000 calories 5 days each week
  • 2400 calories 2 days each week
  • 600 bonus calories each week for fun/enjoying life

This means a 1400/week calorie deficit.

2000-2400 isn't terribly restrictive, and if you choose wisely it can go a long way. A cup of strawberries is 50 calories, a peach/apple/orange are all around 50, celery and cucumber are nearly zero. The volume of food I'm eating is pretty close to what I normally eat, it's just less caloric.

The Training Plan

I'm ramping up to average about 6 hours of exercise each week, and each hour for me burns about 800 calories. That's an extra 4800 calories.

I consume 200 calories/hour during exercise on average, which I don't count toward my daily total. I also allow myself some recovery calories over and above my normal calorie allowance (300-400/week).

Bottom line: I will burn 3600 more calories than I consume exercising.

Weight Loss Projection

Total weekly deficit = 5000 calories, which is about 1.5lbs of loss per week.

So Far...

I'm down 7 pounds, from 191lbs to 184lbs. It's only been a week and a half!

Some of that has to be water weight and such... so I'm not popping the champagne just yet. I expect that getting to my target weight of 170lbs will take a few months.

170lbs by Christmas!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ontario Trail & Ultra Races

Trail Race Calendars

A friend of mine sent me these two main calendars for trail/ultra races:
  1. Ontario Ultra Series/Ontario Trail Series - This is geared toward the Ultra crowd (>42.2km) but there are other shorter distances at most of the events.
  2. 5 Peaks Ontario - A series of five trail races, typically featuring "Sport" (around 5K) and "Enduro" (around 12K) options.

There are other one-off events here and there, I've mostly found out about them on Running forums. The Running Mania site has a great Ultra/Trail section, most upcoming races are discussed there.

If anyone has any other sources of information, please let me know!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ride Report: Tour de Greenbelt (Newmarket)

I participated in the Tour de Greenbelt for the second year in a row.

Click here for my 2008 report.

Great work, Meghan!

I did this ride with one of my daughters again this year which was fantastic. The bonding time I get from biking with them is tremendous, and seeing her so excited about cycling and being part of an event like this really excites me. Exercise and cycling is just a part of our lives, I hope it's a part of their as adults someday too.

You can kind-of see our equipment laying at our feet... basically it's my hybrid and a trail-behind bike for Meghan, with its own handlebars and pedals. It's very cool! And she doesn't just coast, she pedals her heart out... a big help getting up hills!

The Ride

This year they've added longer options - 50k and 100k - to the 25k ride from last year. We did the 25k, but this time they attracted a more serious crowd with the longer distances. I could see myself doing the 100k in future years on my own.

My only complaint - the route. It wasn't the best of the Greenbelt by any stretch, and included some very busy roads. At one point we even took to the sidewalk... I just didn't feel comfortable in the traffic with my daughter.

The best thing was the start/finish at the Farmer's Market in Newmarket. Fantastic! The theme of the ride was fresh produce from the Greenbelt, and being able to buy a bunch of stuff after the ride was excellent. We stocked up on local strawberries, raspberries, broccoli, eggplant (despite Meghan's disagreement), brussle spouts... all right off the farm. Nice.

A great time for both my daughter and I!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ironman Tattoo


  • I'm proud as hell that I did it
  • I want to pressure myself to live up to it. I won't ever be the fat guy who people say "YOU did IRONMAN!?". If I'm not living up to it, I want to embarrass myself into doing better! Take that, future self.
I'm not really a tattoo guy, so I went with the simple M-dot without any fanfare or flair.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Trail Running in Durham Forest, Ontario

This is a bit of a follow-up to my post on Mountain Biking in Durham Forest, where I talked about the forest itself a bit more, how to get there, etc.

I recently took up trail running as I prepare for the Vulture Bait 25k, my first trail race. Today I ran in Durham Forest.

My Garmin Data (I finally bought a Garmin - yay)

Roads and Sidewalks? Who needs 'em?

Two words: TRAILS ROCK!

There's something very zen about running through a dense forest, with nothing but your foot steps to keep you company.

I could go on for a few paragraphs trying to explain it, but honestly, just go out and do it. Find a nice trail and run it!

Do you need special shoes? Nope! They make trail shoes, but I got by just fine with some old road shoes. If there were slippery rocks or deep mud, maybe it would be a different story, but to try it? Just go do it.

Do you need to go somewhere special? Not really. I found a ravine near my house with walking trails, that got the job done. Conservation areas, parks, anywhere with trails through trees and you're good to go!

Benefits I've found so far:
  • The surface is soft and forgiving. The impact of concrete and asphalt can be hard on you, even with super-gel soft pillow shoes.
  • The stability muscles get a work-out. Each stride is different, your foot lands at different angles, you have to jump over stuff, it's a much more thorough workout.
  • It breaks you out of your rhythm. No setting a pace and sticking to it for an hour, you need to go up steep hills, down them, recover when you can and do it again.
  • Zen baby, zen! Nature and lots of it... very calming and soothing. And there is no time for boredom, you have to constantly scan for stumps, roots, rocks, fallen trees, sand, puddles, mud...
  • Bugs. I didn't encounter many, but I heard them plotting to get me next time...
  • Bears. Once again, I didn't encounter any, and where I run there usually aren't any, but if you're in a real forest there is a risk of wild life encounters. I carry dog spray on all my runs/rides, though, so I felt prepared. Or bring a whistle... or both!
  • Risk. There are obstacles and some of them could trip you up if you aren't careful (and probably even if you are). I went down a few very steep rocky downhills today that freaked me out a bit, but I feel more confident with every step. And let's face it, dodging cars ain't no picnic either!
Bottom line - if it interests you even a little, go out and try it! Just a short jaunt on some gravel or dirt trail near your house during your regular run... then turn it into something more if you like it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mountain Biking in Durham Forest, Ontario

Now that triathlon season is behind me, I can do things just for fun that don't necessarily lead to a "goal".

#1 on that list: Mountain Biking! I have a Gary Fisher hybrid, an older one that leans more toward Mountain Bike than anything... so I slap some big fatty tires on it, and hit the trails. I like to get out in the fall and early spring, pretty much any time I'm not on the road bike training for a ride or race.

Today's destination:

Durham Forest and the East Duffins Headwaters

Durham Forest is made up of several properties, totally over 1500 hectares of wilderness.
Link to map

Durham Forest is a good place for beginners. There are 4 very well marked loop trails that are well groomed and not technical. There are a few single-track sections that shoot off the main trail, but nothing too serious. This is probably the most popular section of the trails, you'll often encounter hikers, dogs, and other mountain bikers, so keep your eyes open!

Glen Major and Walkers Woods are located just south of the Durham Forest parking lot. The northern access point is on the west side of 7th concession, right next to the giant radar tower at the top of the hill (big tower with white ball at the top). There is another parking lot a few kilometers south of Chaulk Lake Road.

This is an enormous area with trails winding around everywhere. Lots of different terrain, from deciduous forest to pine trees to a recovered gravel pit... The trails are well marked with sign posts throughout, and each post has a tiny map on it so you can figure out where you need to be going. There's a bit more sand throughout this section (especially at the north end), and some of the single track can get a bit hairy. If that's not your thing, follow the "Trans Canada Trail" signs and it's fairly easy.

The Brock Tract is interesting, but I would leave it for last, once the others have been explored. It's not as well marked, and very few people are over there. There is a very cool pine forest on the far south side, though, that's worth the trip. Keep an eye out for hunters... in fact it's probably best to wear something very bright and not deer-like in any way...

I haven't been in North Walkers Woods yet, so I can't comment on it... it speaks to just how huge this area is, I've been there a dozen times and just can't get to everything!

Have fun! Be safe and smart.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ironman Recovery - 2 weeks after Race Day

So it's been almost two weeks since Ironman.

End of Season Plans

Tri season is over for me for 2009, so my training focus is shifting to running.

I have a 25k trail race coming up in mid-October. I'll sign up for another running race or two, 1/2 marathon or shorter, just to keep the competitive juices flowing.

My road/tri bike is parked for the season, I'll bring it indoors for trainer workouts, and use my Gary Fisher hybrid instead as cross-training. Mostly on-road stuff (gravel!), but also some mountain biking, should be fun.

Rest in December, then start up again in January for the 2010 season...

Ironman + 1 week

Monday - rest (day after race)
Tuesday - 10 minute lake swim
Wednesday - rest
Thursday - 15 minute lake swim, 20 minute walk
Friday, Saturday, Sunday - rest, rest, rest!!!

I mostly felt OK, muscles felt good after two days. I was at a cottage on vacation, so just took it easy, did some very light and easy swimming just because the beach was right there, but nothing I would call a work-out. Walked a bit to wake up the legs a little.

Drank a lot of wine... B.C. interior = wine country!!! Mmm.

Ironman + 2 weeks

Monday - 16k bike
Tuesday, Wednesday - rest, rest
Thursday - 30 minute swim (in pool)
Friday - rest
Saturday - 5k run
Sunday - 1.5h mountain bike (planned)

The bike and swim early in the week were a bit miserable, muscles felt great, but fatigue was almost instant. Clearly not recovered.

Saturday's run went better than expected. I took it pretty easy, but the legs felt good, no pain, and I felt a bit more like my usual self in terms of energy. Tried a few trail sections, that went well (and the soft surface was what the doctor ordered!)

Sunday's mountain bike is just for fun, going out with a buddy. Plan is to take it easy, test the legs a little, but nothing serious.

Ironman + 3 weeks (planned)
  • Two short runs (5k, 10k)
  • Short bike (30-40k), maybe two
  • Swim when it sounds like fun, skip it when it doesn't
Focus: gradual and safe return to running. If anything feels wrong, I'll back off and use the bike instead.

You've Lost That Athletic Feeeeeling

Overall, I feel like I'm being lazy - I am used to working out 6 days a week and putting in hours and hours on the bike. But rest and recovery are job 1...

I've gained around 5 pounds since Ironman, mostly because of all the recovery reward food (and drink!) and the lack of calories being burned... I'll have to take that more seriously and make sure I get my diet more in line with the reduced training load.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Calories burned while cycling (and running)

Here are some formulas I found for calculating calories:

Calories (kCal) = 0.28 * (weight in pounds) * (distance in miles)
Calories (kCal) = 0.174 * (weight in pounds) * (distance in kilometers)

Calories (kCal) = 0.653 * (weight in pounds) * (distance in miles)
Calories (kCal) = 0.406 * (weight in pounds) * (distance in kilometers)

Forget it... technique makes too much of a difference.

The running one has a chance of being somewhat accurate, there are fewer variables in running. But cycling can be done on good or bad bikes, on flats or on hills, with head winds or tail winds, on roads or off... etc. All the factors in cycling have big impacts on calorie consumption.

But it will give you a ballpark that you can fudge for all those factors. Add a few calories if you are on a 50lb mountain bike, drop a few if you've got a Cervelo, that kind of thing.

(As an aside, units of measurement are funny, especially in a whacky country like Canada. We talk about our weight in pounds, but our distances in kilometers. Thus my hybrid Imperial/Metric versions of the formulas... officially we're metric, but we're too close to the U.S. to avoid their influence! Sorry to the Europeans for not providing an all-metric version... and for the baseball analogy in the preceding paragraph...)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ironman Recovery

I expected to be very disabled after Ironman.

To my surprise, my muscles didn't feel too bad. Sure, I lurched around in a bit of pain for a couple of days, but it wasn't even as bad as when I ran the full marathon last year. By the end of the week I felt totally normal, maybe even better than before the race.

I decided to do an easy bike workout - 30 minutes, based on some suggestions I'd read to ease back into it. Seemed a bit silly to go out for 30 minutes after all the 6-7 hour rides in training... but this is what I'd read, so I went with it.

It took about 2 seconds to realize I was very far from recovered.

There were some minor muscle pains, but mostly it was a tremendous feeling of fatigue. The energy just wasn't there... I made it through the ride OK, at a slow pace, high cadence, but it felt like I'd done 100k instead of 15k! I followed the workout with a can of Pepsi and a chocolate milk, trying to pack in carbs and protein to help get over this hump...

What I've gleaned from the experience of others:
  • It takes 4-6 weeks to recover, sometimes longer
  • Rushing back to hard/long workouts puts you at high risk for an injury and delays the recovery period even further
  • Running is the biggest risk - don't do it in the first 2 weeks after an Ironman
  • Swimming is low risk - if it feels good, do it

It's a bit early in the season to be winding down, there are a few good months left, but patience now will pay off in October/November.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The end... and the beginning

The journey is complete - I am an Ironman.

What's next?

It is going to be hard to top this year - ever. It was an incredible journey, and the experience of doing Ironman was so over-the-top amazing.

That said, there is a lot that still excites me, in triathlon and in other endurance disciplines.

  • I've registered for my first trail race in October, the 25k Vulture Bait
  • I'll do the Paris to Ancaster bike race in the spring for the 5th year straight
  • A few friends and I are planning a team for the Moraine Adventure Relay - a 160k run/bike/paddle across the rural and wilderness land above Toronto
  • My main goal for 2010 will be the Muskoka Ironman 70.3, and I will participate in some shorter triathlons (Olympics/Sprints)
  • Ironman - I will go back someday, likely when the kids are older
  • Main goal: a spring or fall full marathon, depending on how training goes in winter

The Blog

Yes, I will keep blah-blah-blah'ing... I want to keep a record of what I've done as I've already found it entertaining to go back and read (and sometimes learn from old experiences!). I hope others have found it entertaining and informative too.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Race Report: Subaru Ironman Canada 2009

This is going to be a long one... I want to capture everything so I can look back at it and relive this tremendous experience!

Race Day

Up at 3:45am to give myself plenty of time to get to the race site. Ate a bowl of Frosted Flakes (brings out the tiger in you!) and we headed down with my small entourage of my wife, sister and mom.

Other than body marking, there wasn't much to do, and there was 2 hours to do it... so I more or less hung out in transition pacing around nervously. I snacked on a bunch of goodies I'd brought and drank Gatorade.

The Start

I joined my fellow age-groupers in the water about 10 minutes before the start. There wasn't much opportunity for a warm-up, but I did manage to flood my suit and get in a few strokes.

The atmosphere was insane... 2500 people all standing in the water ready to go, the huge crowd behind us (including my supporters!). I almost teared up, it was overwhelming.

I seeded myself toward the back and the outside like I'd planned which I was hoping would give me some clear water to swim in. They lifted the rope for the start and away we went... well almost. I waded in behind everyone and just waited, probably for about 1-2 minutes. It's a long day, no sense rushing into the crowd and getting kicked in the head or something. When I finally saw some clear water, I started my swim.

Everything felt amazing right from the start - I was calm and smooth, and mostly had clear water around me. That changed when we hit the first turn... everyone bunched up and I found myself getting whacked around a bit. Mostly I was able to avoid the random feet and arms, but a few times I got dinged. It disrupted my flow a bit, but other than that no serious consequences.

I hit the end of the swim with a lot of people around me, so I knew I had a pretty decent swim by my standards. It's my weakest leg and the one that I was most concerned about.

Swim result: 1:32:12 (2314/2595) 203/219 M30-34

Transition 1

I ran over to pick up my transition bag and headed into the tent to change. It took me quite awhile to get changed into my bike clothes, lubing up, I think most people's transitions were long, it's a different animal from a typical triathlon where you just throw on your bike shoes and helmet and go.

Time: 0:08:14


The bike started out badly - I tried to get clipped in and then realized my chain had fallen off. In my rush to get it back on, I sliced open my thumb on the chainring! I hopped on the bike with a bit of a gusher going from my thumb... I momentarily considered stopping to take care of it, but my competitive spirit said "suck it up, walk (ride?) it off"... it clotted soon enough so didn't end up being a big deal.

As I was having my drama mounting my bike, Sister Madonna Buder went by me. She is 79 years old. I quickly re-passed her, though, which I'd be a lot more proud of if she wasn't a 79 year old nun! She's incredible... this year she finished in a time of 16:54:30, just 5:30 before the 17-hour cut-off...

I settled into a rhythm and headed out of town. The first part of the course runs from Penticton to Osoyoos, it's easy and mostly flat (other than the one big climb up Maclean Hill Road). I was a bit disturbed at my speed, it was faster than my intended average at 31km/h, but I felt like I was biking well within myself. This was going to be a long day so pacing was critical.

Every town we passed through was lined with spectators... it was an amazing feeling, they cheered, shouted out to people they knew and to those they didn't... the support on the entire course was nothing short of amazing, I hadn't expected it at all.

After Osoyoos is the first major climb, Richter Pass. It's long and fairly steep... this is where the triple chainring paid off, I had a set of lower gears that most people don't. I span up while those around me were mashing, it was great! The only thing that wasn't great was the optical illusions ... several sections look downhill but aren't, or look flat but are uphill. I'd scouted the course with my dad in a car and we didn't realize where the top actually was... so that was an unpleasant surprise.

After Richter was a long scary downhill. now I've been at 60, 70km/h before, but that was in a straight line. Turning at that speed is terrifying, even if it's gradual! I had to back off, I hated to do it, but I was very worried I'd bite it and earn a trip to emergency rather than to the finish line (and I later saw some guy on a stretcher in a neck brace who had done just that).

The ride into Keremeos and the out-and-back were where I started having some muscle cramping. I've had this really hose me in the past, but today I knew I was ahead of where I needed to be so I shifted to a lower gear and span. This seemed to alleviate things, and once I hit the special needs bag pick-up at the turn-around I felt much better. I downed the cold coffee with sugar that I'd packed (mmm...) and went back at it.

The last big challenge was the climb up to Yellow Lake. In the car, this looked harmless, but with the cramping and the fact that it was 150k into the ride? It became very harmful in a hurry! I actually stopped to catch my breath mid-way and get my energy back... that seemed to help.

The crowds on this climb were so cool, it was like the Tour de France. They lined both sides of the road, leaving a narrow path for us to go through as they shouted encouragement. The roads were covered in chaulk writing, "Go Daddy Go!", "Go Fred!", etc. It was absolutely amazing, I was hurting and grinning at the same time.

(Actually that sort-of sums up Ironman - hurting and grinning)

I thought that from Yellow Lake to the end was downhill, and much of it was... but not all of it! There was still one more climb after the lake, and in town there was a slight up-hill (and a matching headwind). I suspect neither of these would have bothered me much at kilometer 20, but at kilometer 175 they were tough.

Just before the end of the bike course I heard someone yell "it's Jon!!!"... I looked over and there was my best bud from school and his wife. I went from grimacing and fairly miserable to smiling again.

Nutritionally - My goal was 300 calories an hour while on the bike, mostly from Gatorade. It has 180 cal per bottle, so I figured if I could get down one and a bit of those and a banana I'd be in good shape. I even got in two bottles some hours when my stomach would take it... this seemed to work out really well, I stuck to it during the bike and my stomach cooperated.

Bike result: 6:50:34 (1937/2595) 184/219 M30-34

Transition 2

This one went quicker, I changed very fast, lubed up again (can't have enough lube!) and took a quick bathroom break before heading out.


They should really call this a "Shuffle" instead of a "Run"... it is so hard, there was little left in the tank, and here I was starting a marathon.

My original plan was 5 and 1's - 5 minutes running, 1 minute walking. This went out the window at about 5k, I just didn't have the juice for running that much at a time. This was a dark patch in my race, I walked up hills, ran down them, and alternated running and walking everywhere else. I was way into the red at this point and with 5+ hours ahead of me this was going to be a killer run.

Along the way I saw people in various states of distress... one guy was puking louder than I've ever heard anyone puke. Not really the sound you want to hear when your own stomach is in dicey shape! Another guy was giving up, he told a passing runner to tell the people at the next aid station he was done. He sat there with his head between his knees looking down... I felt awful for him, and it reinforced that I had to be cautious so that wouldn't be me!

At every aid station (1 mile apart) I took two cups of Gatorade. This was a lot of liquid but I knew I needed the energy, badly. With the frequent walking it seemed to settle OK, and as I approached the half way point things started feeling a lot better.

I picked up my special needs bag at the half distance. I decided not to take any Tylenol for fear of upsetting my stomach, and I didn't have any blisters or rubbing so no need for Body Glide. But the Swedish Berries? Those I needed!!! Whoever said "put something in there that'll make you smile" was right. :)

The second half of the run started with a bunch of uphill sections, which I mostly walked, but I could feel myself recovering energy. When it came time to run again, I had something in the tank, it felt great! So I alternated walking and running, now running much more than I was walking. The aid stations were coming up quicker and the Gatorade was doing the trick (although by now it was like drinking vinegar or something - blech!).

With each mile I could feel Ironman getting closer. As we entered Penticton again, I picked up the pace... now I knew I was going to finish, but a new goal emerged - sub 14 hours. Main street was lined with people, incredible, all cheering and calling out your name or number. As I rounded the corner off of Main street, there they were - my family! My wife, my 3 kids with their banner saying "Go Daddy Go", my mom and dad, my sister, my mother-in-law... I was flush with emotions and excitement, it was so awesome to be doing this and to have them be a part of it!

There was one last hurdle - the loooong out and back. You pass right by the finish line, but then have another mile or so to run... it's diabolical. I had to do a bit more walking, all the while checking my watch for that 14:00:00... I rounded the turn and it was a straight shot to the finish.

The feelings in that moment are hard to describe... I had left the beach 14 hours ago, and now here was coming to the finish. The lit up finishing chute, the spectators in the grandstands cheering, it just filled me with awe. I checked my watch one last time, then charged for the finish. I threw my hands in the air and yelled "YES!!!" as I broke the tape at the finishing line...

Run result: 5:20:24 (1459/2595) 135/219 M30-34
1st half: 2:45:53
2nd half: 2:34:31 (I negative split the Ironman marathon!)

Overall result: 13:57:55 (1689/2595) 161/220 M30-34

You ARE an Ironman!

And there it is - I am an Ironman.

There are a lot of things I am proud of in my life, but as far as accomplishments go this is the top of the list. It took years of transforming myself from an inactive pudgy guy into a fit triathlete. I first heard about Ironman when Andy from "The Bachelor" said he was one... I looked it up and thought "wow, that's insane, I could never do that!". I was wrong!

I didn't do it alone... my wife is very understanding and supportive as I take off on Saturday morning for a 6 hour bike ride or try to slip in a run after supper. My kids are my best fans, and I couldn't have done it without any of them. And a final thanks to Paul from Iron Motivation - without his group triathlon swim lessons, I might never have even tried to do triathlons... and his invaluable feedback in the last month lead to a comfortable swim.

Where do I go from here?

I want to do the Muskoka 70.3 next year, and another stand-alone marathon. I'm also planning to do some trail running, something I've been meaning to do but haven't got to.

I'm not in any rush to do Ironman again. It's incredible, inspiring, amazing... but also expensive, time-consuming, and painful! I can't see myself leaving it behind forever, but for now, this chapter is closed.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ironman Checklist

I've maintained a race checklist for regular triathlons, but with Ironman comes some changes.
  1. Comfort is more important than a quick transition: I will change into sport-specific clothing rather than use tri shorts the entire race as I normally would
  2. There are two places on the course where you get to pick up additional gear/food you have packed, called a "special needs bag". One is during the bike, the other during the run.
  • Food (Bar of some sort, Gatorade)
  • Water
At swim:
  • Goggles
  • Swimsuit
  • Swim Cap (provided)
  • Wetsuit
  • Sunscreen
  • Body Glide
  • Gel

At the transition to bike:

  • Bike
  • Helmet
  • Gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Socks
  • Bike shorts
  • Cycling jersey
  • Towel
  • Cycling Shoes (+ orthotics inserts)
  • Race number
  • Race belt
  • Watch
  • Gel
  • Shammy Cream
On the bike:
  • Bike
  • Pedals
  • Water bottles (with Gatorade or eLoad)
  • Pump
  • Spare tube
  • Patch kit
  • Duct tape (wrapped around chapstick)
  • Tire levers
  • Multi-tool
Bike Special Needs:
  • I can't think of anything... I have a tube, patch kit, etc on my bike. Maybe something yummy to eat?
At the transition to run:
  • Running Shoes (Reflective tape applied)
  • Duct tape (wrapped around chapstick)
  • Race belt
  • Socks
  • Shorts
  • Shirt
  • Long-sleeve shirt (wrap around waste if not using immediately)
  • Anti-chafing cream/stick
Run Special Needs:
  • Tylenol
  • Caffeine in some form (chocolate?)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ironman Race Plan

I've been mulling over a race strategy for months now, going through it in my mind. With two weeks to go, it's time to commit to it!

Overall theme: Pace to finish. It's a race, but the first race I need make sure I can win is against the clock counting down 17 hours. Anything else is gravy.


Goal: exit the water feeling fresh
  • Start away from the craziness - outside and behind most of the field
  • Find an easy pace, focus on being smooth and relaxed
  • Breathe to one side, get plenty of air
Going out too hard here could cost me a lot by the end of the day, going too easy won't cost me more than 10 minutes. It's important to keep calm and smooth. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

Transition One

Goal: fast but calm

No running, catch my breath. Change quickly, lube up, sunscreen up, and go!


Goal: eat as much as I can tolerate and get off feeling like I could have gone faster
  • Eat 300 calories per hour
  • Target pace between 25-26km/h
  • Spin the climbs, conserve energy, be smooth
Pace - normally I'd go by feel, but I'm hesitant to do that after my experience at the Toronto Marathon last year. Tapering makes you feel amazing, and a pace that feels good at the first kilometer may be a disaster by the last one. So I've chosen a target average speed is a relatively easy 25-26km/h. This should let me leave the bike with something in the tank for the run.

Hitting that average will be tricky... there are two big climbs on the course, each followed by long descents. How high does my average have to be before the climb? At the top? I don't know. I'm looking at the 100k mark as being a good indicator, though, since it's at about the elevation of the start. If I'm below 25km/h I will know that I have to pick it up a little, if it's above 26km/h I'll know to back off a little.

Transition Two

Goal: fast but calm

Change and go, not much more to say!


Goal: get to the finish before 17h00 is up
  • Walk breaks from the start (5 and 1's)
  • Stay slow - 7:00/km or slower
I have been using walk breaks in training, 10 minutes of running followed by 1 minute of fast walking. In the race I will start with 5 and 1, and hopefully hold it through to the end. I've never done anything for over 13 hours, so I don't know what to expect.

Stay smooth, stay slow, and concentrate on finishing before 17:00 is up. Don't risk the finish for a faster run time, stay on plan.

That's it! To the finish! :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Triathlon Pace Calculator

A great calculator for calculating race pace:

I know it's awesome because I wrote it! :) Enjoy.

Any feedback is welcome, or let me know if there are any other calculators you might want to see.

Features I'm still planning to implement:
  • Imperial units (currently only supports metric)
  • Pace band generation based on the paces chosen (for run/bike)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lessons Learned in the Pool

I had a private swim lesson with our local tri club's swim coach. I was just hoping to get some last minute advice on my stroke, a few things I could brush up on in the closing weeks of training.

He noticed a few things right away. Some of them I was aware of, some I wasn't.
  • Breathing - bilateral wasn't working for me. This was a bit of a surprise, I was always told to do bilateral. However I found myself out of breath now and then, so I would cheat and breath on every stroke now and then. My coach pointed out that this break in rhythm was consuming my thought process, and being deprived of oxygen even a little was a bad thing. He told me to pick a side and breathe every stroke for now, until I improve alot, then go back to it someday.
  • Breathing late - I'm still not sure exactly what I'm doing wrong here, but I start my breath too late in my stroke. I think it's because I'm relying on the pull to rotate my body, which is wrong. Need to figure this out.
  • Looking up - I try to look down, honest, but I keep raising my head just a little... and this throws everything off enough to slow me down. Look straight down, then look across the water when it's time to breath.
  • Pull straight back - I was keeping my wrist locked, so at the end of the stroke I would actually be pushing the water up instead of back. This is wasted energy that is doing nothing to propel me forward - instead the hand should be kept perpendicular to the water
  • Slap the water with my feet - every so often, do a kick that tests where the water level really is. This is a tool to help make sure your feet aren't sinking.
That's it for now - I'm sure there are other things I need to learn but it was a lot to take in during one lesson! I'll have another session with him in a week or so to go through it again and hopefully identify any other issues.

Fast swimming, here I come!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cyclists and Stop Signs

I read this article in the Toronto Star, and debated it around some internet forums.

The premise: bikes don't stop at stop signs.

To most people, this is probably a pretty obvious conclusion. Personally, on my bike, I only stop at stop signs if there is something to stop for. No cars, no bikes, no pedestrians, I go.

I suspected - but did not have proof - that motorists did the same thing.

I enlisted the help of two senior statisticians:

And we headed off to the all-way stop near our house in Whitby.

We hung out there for awhile, until my statisticians demanded their compensation (a trip to the playground).

The results:

12 stops, 39 non-stops. Pretty close to the Star's discovery with cyclists, only motorists don't have the "clip out" excuse. Some of them almost stopped, slowed to a creep, but many just looked around and blew right through.

Oh, and there were 2 cyclists not included in the tally. They didn't stop.

I asked my oldest daughter what she learned. She replied "I learned that most people don't obey the law!". I'm not sure that's a lesson I really wanted to teach her so young... but here we are!

Tapering for Ironman

My tapering plan varies from sport to sport:
  • Run: 4 weeks
  • Bike: 3 weeks
  • Swim: 1 week, but not really a taper at all...
The Run Plan

This weekend is my last run training weekend before the taper, so instead of my usual 20-25k long run I went for a 27k, and chose a route with some hills and elevation changes. It went fine, no issues, comfortable distance.

Plan for the next few weeks:
  • 18k, short run of 10k
  • 15k, short run of 7k
  • 12k, short run of 6k
  • Race weekend! Short run of 5k during the week
Intensity will stay the same, slow and steady on the long runs, comfortable tempo on the short ones.

The Bike Plan

I always feel good on the bike, like I can recover from anything. This is something I need to watch in the run-up to the race!
  • 130k (pre-taper)
  • 80k
  • 50k
  • Race weekend! Short bike prior.
The mid-week rides will be around 20-25k instead of 30-40k.

The Swim Plan

I haven't been doing a lot of long swims, mostly because I have more to gain from doing speed work (focusing on fixing my form). I did a 3000m session today, that was my longest ever, and that should be about as long as it gets for me. So there isn't really a need to taper, my volume is pretty low already.

In the last few weeks, I'm going to get in a few last open water swims. I also have a few sessions with a swim coach, just to see if there's anything we can identify that might help me out.

Ready to Rock!

It's nice to be done the bulk of the training and be looking toward the finish line... I feel confident I've done what I need to do in order to be ready for this race. Of course I won't know for sure until I hear those words... "you ARE an Ironman!" But I think I'm there, I'm ready, let's do this thing!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

2100 calories, no solid food

Ride Distance: 160k (100 miles)

Expected Time:
6-7 hours

Fueling goal: 300 calories per hour (to match my Ironman target)

Target Calories: 1800-2100

Total Calories Burned: 4000+

Food Plan:
4 Gatorade bottles @130 each = 520kCal
5 oz gel flask @110/oz = 550kCal
6 oz gel flask @110/oz = 660kCal
Banana = 70kCal (ok, it's solid, I admit it!)
eLoad package + extra Gatorade power = 330kCal
Water bottle = 0 kCal
Nuun tablets = 0 kCal

Total = 2100-ish

I'll stop for water, but other than that I'm all set! The Nuuns will compliment the gels with some missing electrolytes.

This really is a test of how I'll feel with a liquid and gel diet for an entire day... in theory, it should be more easily tolerated in a stressed GI tract, but reality and theory have a way of diverging on me at the wrong moment.

It took me less time than anticipated, just over 6 hours.

I ended up having about 10 ounces of gel, and 5 bottles of Gatorade, one eLoad. Pretty close to my goals. Everything sat well, except for the eLoad... I don't know if it was because it was at the end of the ride or something in it, but my stomach didn't like it as much.

I have my Ironman nutrition plan: 300 calories of Gatorade and gel.

Solids are overrated.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mechanical Failures - Lessons Learned

When 27 gears become 3

I was riding the other day, went to shift gears and SNAP goes my rear derailleur cable. It left me stuck on the smallest chainring (toughest gear).

I stopped, tied the cable securely so it wouldn't flap around, and continued home.

With the triple on the front, I had basically 3 gears... took a few minutes to get used to this, as typically I stick to a cadence range of 85-100. Now I was doing everything from 60-110+... and on one particularly steep section, I was down under 20! It also meant some cross-chaining, which didn't sound good...

Made it home, then $10 at my local bike store and I had a new cable.

Flat tire

Last week, I was flying along at a pretty good clip, when I turned the corner and saw a 2" ridge across the road.

No sign, no warning, just a ridge (one of those ones when they're repaving and they grind down the road).

I couldn't stop - I nailed it. Immediately after it seemed like the bike had survived... but then POW, like a shotgun blast the tire went. I was still moving pretty good, but managed to slow the bike down and get to the side of the road.

It's very important to carry a spare tube - not just a patch kit - and this situation showed me exactly why! The tube wasn't just split, it was completely severed clean across. Completely un-patchable.

One other note - careful with the pumping. I had a flat once out on the road and when I was pumping with my little hand pump, I wiggled the stem around too much and it snapped off! I pumped it up as much as I dared, which when I got home turned out to be around 60 psi. Not as much as the 120 psi I started with, but enough to keep the rim off the ground and finish the ride!

Moral of the Story

You can get by on a half-inflated tire or even missing most of the gears. I have a friend who even rode with a broken chain, by keeping the tension across the top and rocking the pedals back and forth.

Be mentally ready for problems and don't be afraid to get creative when they happen.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Race Report: Belwood Sprint Triathlon

The Race

Belwood Sprint Triathlon - 1000m swim, 30k bike, 7k run.

It's set in the Belwood Lake Conservation area. I didn't walk around too far away from the race site, but what I saw wasn't terribly inspiring... the only really neat feature was the giant dam that created the lake for the swim.

This was a "C" race for me - I signed up this week, didn't taper or really prepare much for it.

The Swim

1000m single loop, along side the dam. The beach wasn't the kind of place anyone who wasn't doing a triathlon would hang out very long, but the water was clear enough. I couldn't see the bottom, but I think it's very deep there.

I got in 10 minutes before the race for a quick warm-up and to get acclimatized. The water felt warm, and I was pumped and ready to go! I was in the second wave, and they were leaving a lot of space between waves, so I knew traffic wasn't going to be a big concern. I lined myself up near the back, 3, 2, 1, we were off.

All in all it was a very uneventful swim. I felt comfortable and good, and thought I'd done fairly OK. It's my weakest sport, so I'm usually near the back of my age group (and the fact the wave behind us caught up confirmed this!).

Swim Time: 25:12 (2:32/100m) 383/463, 40/46 M30-34

Transition 1

After a loooong run up to transition (this seems too common!) I went over to the bike rack.

Hey, who took all the bikes? Oh right, everyone else in my wave is already gone! Well not everyone, there were a few people left, but by the time I muddled through transition it was just me. Disheartening, but I knew my best was still to come.

As I struggled to get into my socks, I had a big hamstring lock-up. It's happened more than once after the swim, I don't know what's causing it, I'm hardly kicking at all during the swim. Maybe I'm tensing up or something? I would like to figure that out - it cost me about a minute of stretching in an already painfully slow transition.

T1 time: 2:59 (ouch!)

The Bike

Finally, something I'm good at!

The course was pretty flat, only a couple hills to speak of and they weren't steep at all. Roads were smooth, it was a good fast course.

I started hammering it from the moment we hit the road, and immediately found myself passing people. The occasional super-star from later waves blew by me as well, but for the most part I was the one dishing it out! It was fun.

By the halfway point, my average speed was 36 km/h... this was just ridiculously good, so I knew the tailwind and slight downhill had helped. Sure enough, when I turned around at the turn-around point, the head wind just about stopped me dead. Very windy, I tried to make myself as small as I could on my aero bars and just keep pushing. By the time I finished up, my speed had slipped to just shy of 33km/h - not bad at all, I'm happy with it. I'd like to try that course again when the wind isn't so harsh, though, I think I could really rock it.

Bike time: 55:32 (32.4km/h) - 147/463, 25/46 M30-34

Transition 2

This went better, racked my bike and put my shoes on. I have orthotics I need to swap between shoes, it takes a bit of time, but I felt fast and didn't dawdle.

T2 Time: 0:59

The Run
The run is on gravel trails. It starts by crossing the dam, then heads out on some double-track rail trail. A bit rough, but I didn't mind it at all. The route plays with your mind a little - on the way back, you can see the dam and the finish, but you have to double back and do a second out and back on a different trail first. If you're not expecting it, it can be a nasty surprise!

I was dreading the run. My training has been geared toward Ironman, so it's heavy on the long slow stuff and short on any speed work. And worse, I haven't done any brick workouts in months - they're not important for Ironman, as the penalty of a slow run start is so small compared to the overal run time.

So I plodded out of transition just looking for a comfortable pace. To my surprise, I didn't feel bad at all, my legs were working well and I had energy. I crossed 1k at 5:12, which made me very happy - I was expecting to be north of 5:30! I figured I'd try keep this pace, and maybe back off to 5:20/km or so if my energy wasn't there.

But instead, I got faster and faster and faster...

My run splits:
  1. 5:12
  2. 5:06
  3. 5:03
  4. 4:56
  5. 4:51
  6. 4:55
  7. 4:03
I don't know why I felt so good. I did the carbo-loading thing, ate a decent about before the race, and managed to get in some Gatorade during the bike. But I was shocked at just how well it went (and WOW what a finishing kick!)

The Finish

The most fun was the last two kilometers. I was starting to hurt, when I found myself behind someone from my wave (M30-39). We had all started together so passing him meant beating him.

I stuck with him during the 6th kilometer - his pace was about right for how I was feeling. But I knew I wanted to cross the line first. This became my mission.

After we passed the 6k marker, I started to pick it up, and his pace just wasn't as fast as I wanted to be. I passed him, a tactical mistake... I'm sure he saw my leg and realized we were racing, because he picked it up behind me. I could hear him, plod, plod, plod. I started to feel pressure to go faster, but it wasn't there, and I backed off, letting him by in the process.

But I didn't let him get away, I stuck behind him and reeled him back in. I could see the finish now, off in the distance.

What I didn't notice was the two other guys we were catching... as we did, I noticed they too were also from my wave, M30-39... It was ON!

I asked myself - what would Simon Whitfield do? Well he would throw down his hat and give 'er to the finish. Sadly, I didn't have a hat. But I did have legs with a little something left and a tremendous desire to beat these guys.

So I turned it on, big-time. I bolted around the guy I'd been focused on, and passed all three of them in a blur. All I could see was the finishing chute, and the fans lined along side cheering. At that moment, I was Simon Whitfield (except a wee bit slower)! I took a quick glance back, nobody had managed to respond, and I fired across the finish.

I stood there, gasping for air, grinning ear to ear. It was a special moment... for a few seconds there I felt like I was competing for the win instead of a middle-of-pack age grouper finish!

I couldn't be more addicted to this sport.

Run time: 34:06 (4:52/km) - 217/463, 32/46 M30-34

Total time: 1:58:46 - 227/463, 32/46 M30-34

Some Simon...

I don't usually care much for famous people, but Simon Whitfield is a pretty amazing guy. He has the heart of a champion, he is always able to dig deep and find that extra something when it matters the most. I respect the hell out of him and he's one of the few people who really inspires me.

Check out the finish (at 2:00 or so)

(Nobody wiped out behind me, and I didn't win, but in my head this is exactly how it looked! LOL)

Post-race Navel-Gazing

I'm delighted with my result.

The swimming is what it is - I work at it, it gets better, but I'm still not that good. I feel like my form isn't horrible, but I'm losing time now with my upper body strength. I'm going to work more on developing a stronger pull and maintaining it, although my pace is fine for getting through the Ironman swim so I'm not that hugely concerned.

On the bike and run I feel so strong now, it's just all coming together. I surprised the hell out of myself with my run, it's my best triathlon run result by a lot.

Oh, and I hate my age group, they're too fit and awesome.

Next up: Ironman Canada! There will not be a sprint to the finish for me there, that I can guarantee.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Preview: Belwood Sprint Triathlon

Signed up for this on a whim... I enjoy races, and I didn't like the idea of going 8 weeks between triathlons in the middle of the summer.

This will be my last triathlon before Ironman Canada.

Swim: 1000m
Bike: 30k
Run: 7k

It's a little longer than a typical sprint distance triathlon, but shorter than an Olympic distance.

It was suggested to me that brick workouts are not very useful when your goal is simply to finish Ironman, as you won't be roaring off the bike. Therefore I haven't done very many, and this will be where my challenge likely lies.

Goals? Have some fun, get some experience, and hopefully get a decent time (around 2 hours). I'm not tapering for this or anything, so expectations are low.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Am I Ready for Ironman Canada

Seven weeks to go

I'm an analyst by nature. I analyze.

I don't trust my gut or emotions, I trust numbers and facts.

So here it goes: analysis of my Ironman readiness, by the numbers.


How far they are making me go: 3800m
How long they give me to do it: 2h20
The Pace: 3:38/100m

I have done 2000m a bunch of times now, including twice in a lake in a wetsuit. In my most recent race, I finished in 47:46, and that included a fairly long run to transition. That works out to 2:24/100m.

Fast? No. But quite a bit faster than I need to be on race day.

The last tri I did had a mass start. Around 500 people, it was a bit hectic. My strategy was to be nearer the back and to the outside - this worked well for me. I will do the same at Ironman Canada.

Strategy for the last few weeks: get out open water swimming at least 2-3 more times.

It's my weakness, no question, and I will absolutely be one of the weaker swimmers out there. But I feel I've done all I can to be ready, that cut-off time seems entirely reasonable.


How far they are making me go:
180 km
How long they give me to do it: 8h00 (or more if swim is OK)
The Pace: 22.5 km/h

I haven't gone that slow in many years... I don't go that slow on my mountain bike, on gravel and mud roads when the snow is still on the ground.

Confident? I'm downright cocky!

My pace in the 1/2 Iron Swim/Bike race I did last weekend was almost 31 km/h. I did a century ride (160km) in early June that went really well (my third time doing that distance) and have done a bunch of 100km rides as well.

Biking is my strength, and I feel great these days. I can't see anything outside of a mechanical problem standing between me at the cut-off time.

The bigger challenge will be holding back enough to run a marathon... I need to spend the vast majority of the 180k ride feeling comfortable.


How far they are making me go: 42.2k (full marathon)
How long they give me to do it: 6h30 (likely much more)
The Pace: 9:00/km

Based on my actual goals, I should start the run with 8 hours in my pocket, not 6, but let's assume the worst.

Today I did a test: how fast can I walk a kilometer? I wanted to know if the worst case happened, could I get to the finish in time.

The answer: YES. I walked a kilometer at 8:20/km pace. I was walking pretty briskly, but if I can't even walk fast then I don't deserve to be called an Ironman!

Am I Ready?


I know it will be hard. I know things beyond my control can turn my months of preparation into a DNF in a hurry - a lot of people who start don't finish, and I'm sure many of them were prepared.

But I am confident I can do this, and can't wait to tri.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Race Report: Peterborough Half Ironman (Swim/Bike)

The Race

Peterborough 1/2 Ironman. I didn't know a lot about this race beforehand, other than everyone says it's hot... today was pretty warm (24C) and the sun was out, so no exception. I'm sure the run was tough... but I didn't do it.

The Swim/Bike Option

I was stinging a little from my bad race at Muskoka, so wanted to do a long distance race. But I couldn't afford the recovery from a half Ironman at this point in the summer.

Fortunately the Subaru Triathlon Series offers a Swim/Bike option - you do the 2000m swim and 90k bike but skip the run. It sounds unusual, but there were a good 20+ people signed up for it. I overheard some conversations - a few seemed to be doing Ironman later this year, I assume like me they didn't want to have to recover from the run.

The Swim

I pulled myself into my wetsuit (and managed to damage it yet again - stupid fingernails). Got in for a warm-up, and everything felt great. After the early season freezing cold, the water felt really decent and warm. It was going to be a good day!

This was my first mass start, about 500 people. I seeded myself somewhat near the back and to the outside, with the plan being to aim for the far buoy and gradually come to the inside. It was a bit chaotic at first, but I found my rhythm and some space pretty early on and was off.

Everyone crowded pretty badly at the turn-around buoy, so I lost a bit of time there, but by the second lap I had few people around me. All in all a fairly uneventful swim, I felt good and comfortable and smooth.

The only complaint I have was the weeds, but it's an Ontario lake, that's pretty typical. My hands went through a bunch.

I was hoping for sub-50, so I'm happy with my result (and the time includes a pretty long run to transition), even though I was pretty far back there...

Swim time: 47:46 (2:24/100m) 34/37


This transition went OK. I didn't rush, I was pretty bagged from the swim, so fairly casually put on my socks, shoes, glasses, gloves, helmet, and was on my way.

T1 time: 3:12

The Bike

Nothing quite boosts the ego like handing other people their butts... and being behind after the swim means there's a lot of butts ahead!

Coming out of transition I was pretty wiped, so I focused on spinning and getting my heart rate down. It took about 10 minutes or so to get really comfortable, then I started on my nutrition, drinking some eLoad/Gatorade.

Then I started to put the hammer down, and picking people off...

It was an out-and-back course with a pretty decent head-wind, and I knew the highest point of the course was toward he turn-around, so I didn't pressure myself too much. I wanted to be over 30km/h, but the course was tougher than I though, I didn't know if I could get it.

I expected a pretty flat course, but there were some big hills. Most of them weren't too steep, but one long one in and out of Millbrook was a bit grueling. Fortunately I had my triple chainring on the front, so I was able to spin all the way up.

Brief Diversion: Things People Screw Up on the Bike
  • Bring too few gears. As I mentioned, I have a triple chainring, so I could spin up the hills. I saw other people getting crushed, couldn't have been spinning faster than 40rpm. It's very hard on the legs, takes a lot of you. I know, I know, your roadie buddies will laugh at your triple... but will they still be laughing when you kick their butts? Not everyone needs a triple, but bottom line is that you want to be able to spin whatever hills the course throws at you.
  • Don't use their aerobars. Seriously, it was a strong headwind today, and I can't believe how many people on full tri bikes weren't in their aero bars. You paid good money for that bike, use the advantage it gives you! I have clip-ons on a road bike and I was in them, what's your excuse Mr. Cervelo P3?
  • Lose their downhill momentum. I saw a lot of this - people coast downhill, and don't start pedaling again until they are 1/4 way up the other side, when they've already started slowing. I blew right by them, over and over... downhills can be a chance to rest, but make sure you use the free speed to get up the other side, otherwise you'll blow more energy than you needed to
  • Hammer it uphill. It's a 90k bike, do you really want to drain your energy and leg power jumping out of the saddle to be first up the hill? Roadies do this a lot, it makes sense in a bike race, but not in triathlon.
Sorry, needed to rant.

Back to my Bike...

At the turn-around I was just over 28km/h, so I knew 30km/h would be do-able. I was charging through the field the entire way back, the only time I got passed was up a hill by a guy that I re-passed once we crested it. It was a lot of fun... not completely fair, especially in the closing stages, as people were pacing themselves for the coming 1/2 marathon! But great for the ego.

How much fun? I started singing. I'm not usually a spontaneous public singer, but I was cruising down this hill at 60km/h+ and started singing "Soul Ride... Take it Easy...". I don't even like that song! But it seemed appropriate. I googled after, apparently the actual lyrics are - ironically - "Slow Ride"! See what depriving your brain of oxygen can do!?

I hit the transition area with a final average speed of 30.8km/h - I'm delighted with that! I sprinted to the mat which was really my finish line... and it was over. Very strange not having to run, but nice to be able to hammer the bike with all I had right to the end.

Bike time: 2:47:23 (30.6km/h) 11/37

Overall time: 3:38:20 (17/37 overall, 5/6 Men 30-39)

The Postmortem

What a great race! Great weather, nice location in Peterborough, challenging and interesting bike course, awesome. Can't wait to do it again some year, including the run.

My goals this race were to get my swim under 50:00 and to be close to 30km/h on the bike. I did both, and now feel way more confident about Ironman.