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Monday, January 31, 2011

Xterra Canada

What is Xterra?

Off-road triathlon. Open-water swim, mountain bike, trail run.


Because... pavement is overrated!!!

Off-road riding and running is a whole different set of challenges and skills. The terrain is constantly changing, you're right in the middle of nature (often covered in it!). It's tough physically, mentally, and everything in between (metaphysically?).

Is it in Canada?

What about Ontario?

Why I'm glad you asked - we actually have two multisport Xterra events in Ontario now! The details are on the Element Racing site.

  • Albion Hills Off-Road Duathlon (June 5th): 3km trail run, 18km mountain bike, 6km trail run
  • Xterrra Kelso Off-Road Festival (August 29th): 1000m swim, 18km mountain bike, 8.5km trail run (plus shorter option, plus duathlon)
What about you, Mr. Marshmallow Man to Ironman?

I'm in!

I love triathlons.
I love off-road biking.
I love trail running.

... so I will love Xterra! Everything that I'm interested in, one event. Can't wait.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

5k/10k/21k Speed Challenge

A few folks on the forums have set up a speed challenge for 2011. I'm stepping up to the plate!

Lots of different permutations, but I figured this one most appropriately matches my goals:


Goal: sub-20:00
Best: 20:34

This is the one I'm working hardest at right now, and the one I'm most confident in. I've been doing 3x800m intervals at faster than 4:00/km pace, and it's felt better and better each time. I think this one is there.


Goal: sub-42:00
Best: 44:52 (2009)

My best was at Sporting Life... so net downhill. I've made significant gains in the 2 years since then, so I don't know how relevant that result is. I find the required 4:06/km pace quite daunting, that will be tough over 10k! That's close to my current 5k PB pace. This is the one I'm most nervous about.


Goal: sub-1:35:00
Best: 1:41:10

This one should scare me more than it does... but a 4:30/km pace seems better each time I do it. I feel like I can get there.

Weight, bloody weight!

2 seconds per mile per pound.

So theoretically:
6 seconds per pound in a 5k
12 seconds per pound in a 10k
26 seconds per pound in a half marathon (21.1k)

Clearly weight will be a huge factor for attaining these goals.

I'm about 4-5 pounds lighter than I was last year in January, and only 3 pounds over my adult low. My intention is to run the Whitby Marathon at least 5 pounds lighter than last year, which just on weight alone should give me a two minute boost!

The rest will be down to conditioning. I feel fast this year, and my run training is more structured than ever... so here's to some cracking times in 2011!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tribute to a Fine Steed

I just sold my first good bike.

Not my first bike... those came and went. But my first non-department-store bike.

It's a Gary Fisher Utopia. I bought it when I was heavy (220lbs or more) and out of shape. I sell it at 175lbs and in great shape! Money well spent.

This bike changed cycling for me. Before it, there was endless frustration struggling with crappy gearing, uncomfortable positioning, squeaky brakes... it wasn't even fun to go out on those bikes.

Gary was a joy to ride. And no, that's not what she said.

I went from doing the Ride for Heart (50km) to trying out the odd trail ride to doing the Tour de Creemore (65km), to racing my first real bike race (Paris to Ancaster) to trying out mountain biking on real trails in Durham Forest, all on this bike. I did my first 100km ride on it. Lots of memories and milestones.

Then I bought a road bike for the asphalt, cyclocross for the in-between, and a mountain bike for the trails... and Gary just didn't have a role anymore. Sigh!

He's found a new home with a gentlemen who will go back to those Grand River Rail Trails and ride it where I first discovered how much I loved to bike, and started my transition from Marshmallow Man to Ironman...

Godspeed, fine steed!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tempo Burst Intervals (Cycling/MTB)

In my wrap-up to Paris to Ancaster couple of years ago, I realized a few things... mostly that I was wrongly trained for the task at hand.

It is not a long steady effort. It's long, but hectic at times, quad busting at others, steady at others... so only training for one kind of riding is a recipe for a long day!

One workout suggested in this article was a "tempo burst interval".

Basic idea: punctuate your tempo ride with all-out efforts.

My 40 minute work-out based on this:
  • 0:00 - 5:00 Warm-up
  • 5:00 - 14:00 Tempo (about 85% of max)
    • 7:45 - 8:00 Burst! 100% effort, out of the saddle
    • 10:45 - 11:00 Burst!
    • 13:45 - 14:00 Burst!
  • 14:00 - 19:00 Easy - nurse heart rate down, have a drink
  • 19:00 - 28:00 Tempo
    • 21:45 - 22:00 Burst!
    • 24:45 - 25:00 Burst!
    • 27:45 - 28:00 Burst!
  • 28:15 - 32:00 Easy
Early season... 32:00-35:00 Easy and done!

Full version:
  • 32:00 - 35:00 Tempo
    • 33:30-33:45 Burst!
    • 34:45 - 35:00 Burst!
  • 35:00 - 40:00 Cool-down
  • 40:00+ Stretch and be glad it's over!
Hopefully this trains my muscles to get used to getting hammered with lactate during a tougher effort and recovering - that's the theory!

Tried this work-out for the first time the other day - it was awesome. I was actually surprised to find the tempo pace felt a lot easier than during some of my stand-alone tempo rides... might be psychological? In any case, it was a fun ride that felt hard and satisfying, highly recommend!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

If you want to be functional at 80...

I was watching Ironman Kona last night from last year, which once again featured Lew Hollander.

This guy is 80 years old, and he's still out there giving it. I don't think anyone would guess his age looking at him, he's spry.

His advice?

"If you want to be functional at 80, you better damn well pay attention at 40"

Words to live by!

You see a lot of older gentlemen in the gym who you can tell are only there because a doctor told them they had to be. They're carrying a gut, they're winded, clearly not fitness nuts... until they were forced to be by their first heart attack, knee replacement, etc.

Get on it now, reap the rewards the rest of your life. Your 80-year-old self will thank you!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Calories Burned per Stair while Stairclimbing

I kept finding site that quoted the number of calories burned per minute while climbing stairs... which I find to be completely useless. Someone who climbs faster will obviously burn more than a slow-poke!

Finally I stumbled on this article:

So an average person of average weight burns:
  • 0.11 calories per step going up
  • 0.05 calories per step going down

Add a bit if you're big, subtract a bit if you're small... but at least it's a good ballpark.

I figured it out for a 10 stories of stairs I climb in my office building, and it was around 20 calories. Doesn't sound like a lot, but I go up at least 3 times a day. That's 60 calories... and if I go down as well, that's another 30, almost 100 per day!

Not bad for virtually no investment in time.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Running: Speed Training

Since one of my goals is to get to that sub-20:00 5k, I will be doing more speed work this year than in previous years.

The three key runs each week:
  • Intervals - 6-7 x 800m or 5x1000m, with recovery time equal to or slightly less than interval time. Pace around 3:50-3:55/km (based on previous 5k race pace).

    Editted - I had this at 3-5x800-1000m, but after my laclustre 5k race I received more feedback from the good folks at and some blog posters... seems this was not sufficient, and my rest was too long. Also I had them at my current 5k pace, but it sounds like they should be slightly faster by 5-10s. Fixed!

    Objective: improve V02 max, which is how much oxygen your body can use.

  • Tempo - 5-8km "comfortably hard" (4:19-4:30/km).

    Objective: build stamina, ability to hold pace over longer distances

  • Long Run - 5:05-5:42/km, slow and long.
The paces are from the Attackpoint calculator. I plugged in my best 5k time from last summer... I'm hauling around a few extra pounds and I'm not quite in as good of shape, so to start with I will add a few seconds to each.

Since I have two half marathons planned this spring, I plan to get my long runs >20km in the coming months. This is more than sufficient for a 5k! Hopefully the tempo and interval works pays some dividends and I finally crack 20.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year's Goals

I don't tend to make "resolutions" as such, but I do want to set a few goals for 2011. Sticking them out here for all to see will keep me honest (and help me remember what they are!).

Goal 1: Weight into the 160's (pounds)

I went back home over Christmas, and people who haven't seen me in a couple of years kept calling me "skinny". That was lovely, but really I was just skinny compared to the fat guy I used to be!

My BMI is in the "normal" category right now (24.5 @ 6 feet) so this isn't really about health, but rather about performance. As I wrote a year back, "healthy runners will race about two seconds per mile faster for every pound they lose" (per Runner's World).

15 pounds = 30 seconds per mile = almost 7 minutes off a 1/2 marathon, 14 off a full.

That's worth it!

It will also help on the bike, especially with the sharp steep hills you encounter in cyclocross (my latest addiction).

Goal 2: Sub-20 5k

This is one I have been putting off as I've been focusing more on long stuff, but even without focusing on it I've inched closer and closer to it. It's also one that gets harder with age, so best to do it now!

Last year I managed a 20:34. I figure between the weight loss and an increased focus on speed work I should be able to find the 7 seconds per kilometer it will take.

Goal 3: Not suck at Cyclocross

I love cyclocross: I love the bike, I enjoy ripping through off-road trail on it, I like watching races. It's just cool.

But I suck.

I tried it once last year just to check it out, and I was way behind the other race participants. Some of that is technique, some of it is specific conditioning for that kind of riding. Long story short: there's work to be done.

It's not like running where I can set some kind of specific goal... maybe "not get lapped at the Durham cyclocross race"? But who knows who will show up and hand me my ass. In any case, I will try my best to get better for Paris to Ancaster (not really a cyclocross race) and carry that through to the cyclocross season, and hopefully not suck.

To 2011!

Good luck in meeting your goals too. :)