blog banner

blog banner

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Race Report: 2010 Zoot Open Water Swim (2k swim)

The Race

An open-water race held annually just north of Peterborough, Ontario in Buckhorn Lake. Water is clear and shallow, and very warm even early in the year.

There are three options: 1000m, 2000m, 4000m. They all use the same 1000m course.

I gave the 2009 edition of this race a shot last year. Temps were in the single digits, the wind blew the buoys out of place, and it ended up getting canceled.

What a difference a year makes! Hot temperatures, very warm water.

My Race

I had no goals or aspirations for this race, it was really just a chance to get in a nice long open-water swim in a fun environment. Brought the family for a nice morning at the beach, it was all quite lovely.

I elected to do 2000m, which more or less matches my goal race (Ironman Muskoka 70.3).

The first lap it just took me awhile to get comfortable. This was my first time in open water since Ironman Canada last August, it just feels different. I felt pretty constrained by the wetsuit, not sure why.

Sighting was tricky on the first lap - I couldn't see some of the buoys due to the sun. I just followed the other swimmers around me to try keep on track, which mostly worked out OK.

By the second lap, the current had become quite strong on the way out... it was tough. You see the bottom, but it ain't moving - it's very disheartening. Just seems to take a lot of work to go nowhere! Going across the current wasn't much easier, as you get blown off course and have to kind of re-adjust your trajectory to keep a somewhat straight line.

All in all, I didn't do very well, finished the 2000m in about 50 minutes. A bit off my pace at Ironman, but conditions weren't as good and I wasn't nearly as comfortable. Just in general, swimming has been low on my priority list... my first tri of the year isn't until July, while I have a bunch of running and biking stuff scheduled.

To the pool!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Race Report: Whitby International North Marathon (Half)

The Race

This was the first ever Whitby Marathon.

You'd expect some glitches in a large undertaking such as this, and there was a big one: the course was completely overhauled just weeks before the event. That was unnerving, but in the end it was the only negative thing I have to say - race weekend was a blast.

Kit pickup was fast, T-shirt nice, and the facilities at Iroquois Park ideally suited for something like this. And the extra finisher's shirt was a nice touch!

The Course

I did the half marathon, which spared me some of the worst of the course changes.

It was fairly flat, mostly the hills were gradual inclines. The only exception was one short trail section connecting two roads on the far east end - it had a couple of decent climbs that could throw off the unprepared. I'd run them in training to check them out, so no surprises for me!

Mostly there were nice things to look at and in the later half of the 1/2, good crowd support - including my biggest fans!

My goal was sub-1:45 - I'd just barely missed it a few months ago at a half marathon. The plan was to start around 5:00/km and bring up the pace as the race went on.

I ended up starting a bit faster than that, 4:55/km, but my heart rate looked good so I didn't back off too much. At the 2k point, a girl fired off the course to use the washroom at the conservation area... REALLY??? Talk about bad planning!

For the first 8k or so I felt great, it felt too easy! After the 8k point, I picked it up just a little, and found myself still feeling comfortable. At about 15-16k I picked it up even more, and that's when it started feeling like work... in fact shortly after that I had a brutal stitch in my side. I walked for about 10s and it almost immediately went away... not sure what that was about.

My fans were cheering for me around 18k, which got me going a bit quicker than I should - immediately paid for that little burst! From there I knew I had sub-2:45 in the bag, I just hung on to the 4:50/km pace I was running and hoped to see an even better number at the finish.

Rounded the final corner to start my finishing kick, and there was my buddy and family, all cheering! Gave her to the finish and was stunned to see 1:41:10.

1:41... where the heck did THAT come from??? Course wasn't short by much, maybe 100m if at all per my Garmin... I'm shocked! I didn't think I had that in me, not yet! All those tempo runs paid off!

The Fans

So many of my races are far away and really early, so it was great to have one in my hometown so the family out there to share the race with me! And very inspiring to have fans out there who you don't want to disappoint.

Overall, a nice event and I had a great time.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Did Lance Armstrong Dope?

The answer is almost certainly "yes".

Landis has now thrown Armstrong under the bus in a series of e-mails to cycling officials. This has to be the final straw for anyone who still thinks Lance was clean... although I suspect it won't be.

Full text of the e-mails.

"He [Lance] and I had lengthy discussions about it on our training rides during which time he also explained to me the evolution of EPO testing and how transfusions were now necessary due to the inconvenience of the new test"

The reality is that in that era, doping was so prevalent you simply could not compete with the dopers without doping. Almost everyone who came close to Armstrong in those championship years has been caught doping, one by one. Is it really possible that Lance was so much better that he beat the best cyclists in the world doped but was clean himself? It strains credulity.

If we look at Lance's ex-teammates, well, they're a pretty sorry lot. Several have been caught doping, the most notable being Floyd Landis, Roberto Heras, and Tyler Hamilton. A few years ago, Frankie Andreu and one other admitted it outright. They claim they never saw Lance do it, but where there's this much smoke, can there really not be a fire?

And of course there is the 1999 positive test for EPO... there was no test available in 1999, but the samples were stored and later tested, and found to be positive. It was not an "official" test and his name was not supposed to be revealed, so the cycling folks had to apologize and not count it.

Some people won't believe it until it comes out of Lance's mouth. We want our heros to be good guys, clean guys who beat the evil dopers.

Sadly, the evidence does not support that.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Lure of Ultra-Endurance

What constitutes an Ultra Endurance event?
  • Ultramarathon - run longer than the marathon distance (>42.2km)
  • Ultracycling - bike longer than a century ride (>100miles/160km)
  • Ironman Triathlon - 3800m swim, 180k bike, 42.2k run in one race
Ultra Endurance means taking a ridiculous distance and going even further. It's about testing just how far you can go, and for how long.

My "Go Longer" Mind

It has always been with me, from when I first got a bike as a kid. From going a few blocks away from my neighbourhood, then you go a few streets over, then further, then further.

I biked to school in juniour high, a distance of 16km each way. I remember my parents thinking this was crazy at the time... eventually I was doing longer rides of 25km.

Then I stopped and got fat.

I started riding again in Toronto and almost immediately picked up on the 50km Ride for Heart. Then I did the 75k Ride for Heart. Then I worked my way up to my first 100k ride. And finally, I did the Ride for Karen century ride, 160km and almost 6 hours in the saddle!

The "go longer" mindset finally lead me to my first ultra endurance event - Ironman. 13 hours, 57 minutes of swimming, biking and running.

What Next?

You can't really go longer than Ironman... well I shouldn't say "can't", some can, and do. But I think Ironman is sufficiently ridiculous to have satisfied me!

But that doesn't mean there aren't opportunities to push the envelope.

My longest bike ride is currently the 180km at Ironman, but surely if I can do 180km on the same day as I swam 3800m and ran a marathon, I can do 200km! 250km? 300km? I believe it's all possible.

My longest run is a full marathon. Most don't go beyond this, but I got my beak wet when I did a 25k trail run last year, Vulture Bait. As I left, I saw the 50k racers starting their second loop... at the time I thought they were crazy. I still think they're crazy... and this year, I just might be crazy with them!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Biking in the Rain... Storm.

I really don't mind biking in the rain. You never know what you will face on race day, might as well get used to it. It's a chance to test your clothing and build a thick skin. I like the feeling of fighting the elements and coming out on top.

To a point...

I checked the forecast today. Sunny, then scattered showers. I was planning on a 3 hour ride, about half would be in scattered showers.

No biggie, right?


About half an hour in, the sky started looking ominous... the wind was strong... it felt much less like a little rain and much more like a storm brewing.

I decided it would be best to cut the ride a bit short, from 90k to 75k.

Well at about the 45k point the skies opened up. The wind absolutely pelted me with huge drops, and was so strong it nearly knocked me off the bike more than once! A bit miserable, but I knew it would pass soon enough...

... and then the lightening started. Kaboom!!! The first one was a little ways away, but the second was very close - I heard the thunder almost instantly after the flash.

At this point my mind was racing - what do you do? I was nowhere near anything, just empty fields and the odd farmhouse. Is riding a bike in lightening just a little stupid, or really stupid? I wasn't sure if it was like golf where you become a lightening rod, or if the rubber tires protected me? I still don't know, but it sure felt dangerous.

I kept going, trying to just get through the storm front. At this point my glasses were useless, I couldn't see much, and I was fighting the wind to stay upright. It lasted for about 5-10 minutes, but felt like an eternity.

Finally the lightening was over and it was just steady rain for pretty much the rest of the ride. Oh and without about 20k to go, the road was completely blocked by a fallen tree, a testament to the strength of the storm that had just blown through!

I fought the elements and won! But riding in storms is one biking experience I could live without!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Triathletes and Death

It's one of the great paradoxes of triathlete training.

You take up biking, running and swimming to improve your health. To live longer. To enjoy a better quality of life. To drop those unwanted pounds.

But there are risks involved in these activities.

Swimmers drown.
Cyclists get hit by cars.
Runners drop dead of heart attacks.

This week, a woman was killed in Burlington, Ontario, while training for triathlon. Reports say she was taking a corner when she lost control and slid into the path of an oncoming vehicle.

36 years old. Mother of two young girls. An inspiration and role model for them... and while taking part in the activity that made her an example for them to follow, she loses her life. My heart goes out to her family, it's very tragic.

It's hard not to relate to her as I approach my own 35th birthday with 3 young kids that I am trying to be an example to. I've had close calls, I've even been hit by a truck.

But what is riskier - swimming, cycling and running? Or sitting on a couch 50lbs north of where you should be?

This chart pretty much sums it up.

When I started this journey, my BMI was 32 - I was at "high risk" of mortality. Not from being hit by a car, not from drowning, but from just being too fat for my own good.

I had bone density problems. My knees and back were often sore. My cholestorol was starting to show signs of trouble, blood pressure was getting high. And the final blow was my insulin sensitivity started showing early warning signs... this is serious stuff!

... all of which went away. My last physical everything was 100%.

So yes, there's a risk when you get on the bike, or go for a swim.

But on balance, I personally enjoy a significantly higher quality of life taking part in these activities. I've increased my odds of being here for the long haul, being here for my kids and their kids.

The risk of not doing anything is far higher than the risk of exercise.

That being said - be careful out there!