blog banner

blog banner

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.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Training on the Road: Montreal

We took a short 3-day family vacation to Montreal - a lovely city if you ever get a chance to visit, very tourist-friendly, lots to see and do and the street life is second to none in North America.

Not being able to afford 3 days off, I decided to get in some workouts.


Montreal is a great town for running, if you like hills. Our hotel was in the shadow of Mont Royal, so naturally I ran it!

Gear required: shorts, shirt, socks, shoes

Being from Alberta originally, I can't call this a mountain with a straight face... it's a really big hill, though, with some seriously long slopes. My run was about 12k, in the light rain, and it was just an awesome way to see and experience Montreal. (Except for the stray dogs hanging out with the half dozen sleeping homeless guys... fortunately the one that gave a short chase didn't catch me, and the others looked too lazy to join in!)


Our hotel had a very decent pool, long enough to do laps in. It was probably around 20 yards, which normally I'd consider short but by hotel standards is extraordinary.

Gear required: swim suit, goggles

I tried to get in an evening swim, but there were too many kids... they don't really respect the concept of swimming back and forth. Scheduled a wake-up call for 6:30am the next morning and went back - only 3 people there, all adults, all doing laps, so it was fantastic.


I didn't bother - short vacation, and too much equipment to lug around. But seeing all the cyclists going up Mont Royal made me very jealous - what awesome training that would have been!

Other Places to Work Out in Montreal...

The Ile Notre-Dame is an island in the middle of the Saint Lawrence that used to host the Canadian Grand Prix Formula One race. The race is gone, but the track remains and is still used for a NASCAR race (blech!). When that's not happening, you can bike on it. Someday I'd like to do this! It's flat and curvy, and the park is beautiful.

And to recover...

After my morning run, we went to a great breakfast place, Eggspectations. It sounds cheesy, but they have some interesting twists on breakfast that hit the spot. And we found a great Italian place on Crecent street called Enzo's, it was very authentic, nice wine... mmm... seafood linguine!