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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Race (that wasn't) Report: Zoot Open Water Swim (4K)

It sounded like a good idea... an early season 4K swim in open water to simulate the 3.8K at Ironman.

Didn't quite turn out that way.

The Preparation

I got there quite early and it was clear it was going to be a chilly day. Around +8C, not exactly beach weather.

It took a while for me to psyche myself up to get going... it just felt so cold, the water looked cold, and the wind was making the lake choppy. As a guy who has swam in open water a grand total of 3 times, this was a bit intimidating.

Pulled on the new wetsuit - fit snug but that's what they're all about. Joined my fellow swimmers in the water and did a bit of warming up (cooling off?). Mostly I wanted to get comfortable with exhaling in the cold water, I'd had problems with that before.

The Start

We all lined up to get going, when it was clear the buoys were not staying put... they sent a boat out to go fix the furthest buoy, but to no avail. Race director announced we'll only use 3 instead of 4, 750m loops instead of 1000m (probably not all that accurate!). So right there my Ironman swim simulation was gone...


I started out and it all started coming back. With the headwind (and head waves) it was hard to feel the nice gliding sensation from the pool. I let the wetsuit do its job holding me up and concentrated on reaching out and breathing, it took some getting used to but I began to get my mojo. The bilateral breathing was not going to work, as the waves kept filling my mouth with water to one side, so I stuck to breathing one side, worked OK.

The water was shallow - too shallow, my hands kept hitting the bottom. That was annoying.

I went around the far buoy which was now clearly drifting as well... as was the 3rd buoy... I headed back to shore to finish my first lap, following the crowd which was now just doing an out-and-back.

As I headed out on my second lap, I noticed swimmers already coming the other way... my first thought was "wow they're fast" but then I realized the far buoy was completely gone. The race director guy was with them, instructing everyone to turn back and "he'd explain".

Long story short: conditions were too bad to safely race.

Frankly, I think this wasn't really accurate, it was shallow water and the waves were annoying but hardly dangerous. It was really just that the buoys wouldn't stay put, properly anchoring them would have let us race. But at this point I guess it was too late to fix, so they had to cancel it.

Most of us then went out on a practice swim loop, might as well once you're out there and in the water! This was helpful for me, as I need all the open water swim experience I can get.

Came back to shore, got my refund, and went home a little grumpy that I hadn't been able to get in my Ironman test swim distance. But I learned a few more things about open-water swimming so I have a few take-aways for what to work on.

  • Need to practice breathing to one side only - I only ever breathe bilateral, which may not be possible
  • More open-water swim experience is a must - I want to figure out how to feel the glide I get in the pool when I'm in open water
  • Need to do longer stints without stopping in the pool - I felt the need to pause more often than I'd like

Monday, May 25, 2009

Century Riding

Century Ride = biking 100 miles (160k)

My biking has felt really good this year so far, so I've been pushing the mileage a bit sooner than I planned. Last week I did 100k without any trouble, so this week I decided it would be a good chance to do 160k (100 miles).

Calories out

For my weight (north of 180lbs) and speed, I've calculated that I burn over 4000 calories over 100 miles. It's a staggering number, considering my normal daily intake goal is around 2500-3000.

Calories in

There is no way you can offset 4000 calories during the ride, it's just not possible, which means you will be relying on glycogen stores and fat stores to make up the balance.

Glycogen stores can hold almost 2000 calories of energy (more if you are well trained). To top them off:
  • Fuel up well the day(s) before with good carbs
  • Eat a nice breakfast

During the ride, you want to consume carbs so you aren't depleting the glycogen stores, as when you run out of glycogen you bonk and are done. And I mean done, no energy, smack the wall, done.

  • Consume as many calories on the bike as you can handle, a typical person can digest 250-300 calories per hour of carbs
My plan

Friday I went for an evening 15k run, immediately after had chocolate milk and a bunch of carb-heavy snacks.

Saturday I made sure I ate about 65% carbs (estimate only!) and snacked a lot on low-fat high-carb snacks.

Sunday I had a bowl of cereal and hit the road at 7:00am...

On the bike I consumed:
  • 6 bottles of Gatorade (780 Calories)
  • 3 shots of energy gel (360 Calories)
  • 4 medium sized boiled potatoes (600 Calories) (skin removed after boiling!)
  • 1 package of Cliff Shot Blocks (200 Calories)

Total: almost 2000 calories, just over 300 calories per hour.

I'm really happy with how that all worked for me, I didn't have any stomach issues at all and felt I had energy for the entire ride. There was obviously some moments of fatigue - it's a long time to spend on a bike - but no bonk or crash.


The other half of the battle is electrolytes - mostly potassium and salt. This is especially important when it is hot out.

Gatorade has some, but for long efforts on really hot days it won't get the job done. eLoad has more salt and potassium.

But neither can compete with real food - especially bananas and potatoes. One banana has over 400mg of potassium, one medium potato has over 700mg of potassium. A generously salted potato wrapped in foil will cover you and then some. Boil it in the skins to keep the potassium in!

Happy riding.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Preview: Zoot Open Water Swim (4000m)

I haven't done this swim before but stumbled on it and thought it would be a great experience.


There is a choice between a 2K or 4K swim, either 2 or 4 1000m laps. The water is around 5 feet deep throughout, so it should be warm even early in the season (and in Ontario, this is early!).

Near my house, $20, why not? The Ironman swim is 3800m, this gives me the chance to try that distance out in the open water before the actual event without having to bike or run after.

My only hesitation was last year's results - I would be last place by at least 10-15 minutes! But in 2007 there were some people more my speed, hopefully some of them show up. :)

Recent Swim Progress

I did a 2000 yard swim the other day (40 laps of a 25 yard pool) in 45:00. It's not lightening pace, but it's around where I thought I was, so I'm happy with it. Best of all I felt really great at the end, not at all winded. I'm also not getting the full advantage off the walls, mostly because I was trying to hit or read my lap counter watch thing! That cost me time.

I'm going to do a bit more work on swim endurance rather than just drills over the next few months, hopefully I can get that down a bit further. But I honestly don't see even 10 minutes here or there as a big deal considering I'll be spending around 7 hours on the bike at Ironman. Get through the swim, then bike efficiently and run with whatever I have left! :)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Race Report: 2009 Sporting Life 10K

My result - 44:52 (994/10,762 overall, 166/792 Men 30-34)

I'm delighted! My previous 10K was my first ever running race, so I knew a Personal Best was in the cards. I thought I had an outside shot at a sub-45:00 finish...

The Race

Bombing down Yonge Street into the heart of downtown Toronto, ending at historic Fort York. A fast 10K, predominantly downhill. A great place to set a personal best!

The atmosphere was amazing. I was near the front at the start, looking back at the sea of over 10,000 runners, it gave me goosebumps. The entire run I was surrounded by people, but I never felt all that impeded, everyone around me was moving quick.

The bands were cool, the spectators were encouraging, weather was fantastic, I don't think you can find a much better 10K race to run!

My Race

I wanted a sub-45:00 time. That was my goal. I didn't know if I had it in me, but I was going for it, and I knew it was going to hurt to get there.

My original plan was to stick with my buddy who has a Garmin and pace off of him, but in the excitement of the start I got ahead and was pretty content just running my own race. I found a pace I thought was fast but comfortable, but when I hit 1K at 4:10 I knew I was going a bit too quick. It's deceiving with the downhills, I didn't know if I was quick because of the downhill or because I went out too fast...

Then my shoelace came undone. I couldn't believe it, that's never happened to me before. I usually run with loose laces, so I made the decision to let it be for the time being and keep my pace up.

I missed the 2K marker so I didn't get another time until 3K, which was 8:30 (4:15/km average). Too fast! I was trying to pull it back but I didn't want to give away the free speed from the hills.

5K came at 21:37 - a new 5k personal best! Too fast. But this was about when the downhills would end and the real work would begin. I started to fight to be close to my 4:30 target pace. By 7K I was starting to really feel it, I let the pace drop a bit trying to find my mojo. Near 8K I decided it was a good time to take care of that lace, lost about 10-15s but mentally that little break helped reset me.

The Final Kilometer

I hit 9K at 40:40 - I knew I had to find a 4:20 kilometer to save this thing and pull off the 45:00.

This is where the mental games really started, my body was screaming at me to stop or pull back. I told myself "If you don't do this now, you have to wait a whole year to do it. Gut it out!!!". It hurt, bad, but I knew I only had 4 minutes left of hell and then it would be over.

I turned onto Bathurst and crossed the rail tracks, and then there it was: the last downhill, and I could see the finish line. Everything hurt, but it was time to go and go fast! I forced the legs to start turning over faster and faster as I started to pick off runner after runner. A young kid was keeping step with me, we were kind of trading back and forth as we both sprinted past the rest of the field. It was amazing and excruciating at the same time! I finally managed to drop him as we charged into the finishing chute.

Last 100m was lined with spectators, but I barely noticed them, I was focused only on that finish line. I went into that final sprint and just gave it absolutely everything, I knew it was going to be very close. As I charged accross the finish I felt like I was going to throw up or lose bladder control, but somehow in that haze I managed to stop my watch...

And there it was, 44:53. I beat my goal by 7 seconds.


Dizzy, confused, gasping for air... the usual. When you get the most out of yourself it hurts, bad, and I didn't leave much of anything out there today. I gulped down a few cups of Gatorade, then some apple and banana. My energy came back pretty quickly and finally I could enjoy the accomplishment. I turned to my friend and said "well I'm glad I did it today, now I don't have to do this again next year!"... but I know I probably will, and with an even faster time in mind...

Oh, and the medal they gave out was amazing. I didn't expect to get one for a 10k! But they went the extra mile. The entire event was top-notch, the post-race food and entertainment was great, the corrals were well organized, I can't recommend it enough.

Yay! :)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Panic: only three full months of training to go!

I can't believe it's May already, time just flies by.

I had a brief panic attack when I realized I'm only 4 months from Ironman! That's only three months of training, followed by a month where I'll be training but tapering.

A quick run-down of where I am at:


I've been mostly doing technique work in my swim sessions up to now, and I feel like I'm sliding through the water much better, and my balance has come a long way. I'm following the idea that pool time is primarily for practicing swimming, not neccessarily leaving feeling like I've had a great work-out.

Next steps:
  • 2000m test to see where I'm at
  • Use one of my weekly sessions to focus more on increasing swim endurance
  • Open water swims with tri club starting early June

I just switched to using my road bike outdoors (rather than indoors or mountain biking), but I have a much better base than I normally would following the off-season. All that trainer time really paid off this year, I feel like I'm in great shape.

Next steps:
  • Increase mileage - long ride to increase to 100k in the next month
  • At least 2-3 rides of 150k+, probably one in June, two in July.


I built up to 30k for the Around the Bay race in March. Since then I've been maintaining a 20k long run, as well as at least one other more challenging (hilly) run in the 10-15k range per week.

  • Increase LSD from 20K to 25-27k, gradually
  • Maintain the 10-15k hill run

What, me worry?

I'm confident I'll be ready.

My swimming is under control. I've become a competent and consistent swimmer, and having done 1900m in December gave me the confidence that 3800m will be within reach.

The bike is where I have the most experience and the most confidence. I've built up to 160km two years in a row without issue, 100km has become routine, so I don't anticipate any issues with the training.

And I'm running better than ever, and more injury free than ever. I've already covered the longest distances I anticipate running in training, so it's just a matter of keeping it up and not hurting myself.

Ironman, here I come!