Sunday, August 21, 2016

Baddeck Duathlon, 2016

I was afraid for a moment that the duathlon season in Nova Scotia would be reduced to 2 races this year. Until along came a new duathlon is the hills of Baddeck. So I had to sign up, even with a 3.5 hour drive to get there.

We drove up the night before and stayed with a friend who was conveniently only a couple of kilometers from the race start. This meant sleeping in for once before a race.

For a first year event in the middle of summer there was 39 starters (I think more may have signed up). The race was held on very good quality and incredibly car free secondary roads with the run being on a dirt road.  The distances were 5km, 22km, 2.5km.

After sign in and set up I did a little run warm up, took on a gel and headed to the start line. The Race Director and Head Official gave us some instructions and soon we were off.

  I started up front and went off at what felt like a comfy pace. Soon I was all alone, which surprised me as there were a few fast runners in the crowd. In fact I thought I must have gone way too fast or somehow took a wrong turn. But no, I was just comfortably leading. Then I went around a corner and started to run up a hill. And up. And up. The first kilometer was up, and it was steep. Still, I held my ground and  pace and kept going. At the top was rollers but mostly more up. Finally at the 2.5km mark I hit the turn around and held a small lead. Now to go back down! Unfortunately with the pot holes and loose gravel the going down didn't quite make up for the going up. As I approached the transition to the bike I had a decent lead of about 15 second and finished with a time of 18:32. I am really happy with that as it is better than my last duathlon start this year and a much harder run.

I was on the bike quickly and started out in the lead. I didn't imagine that would last long as there were some bike demons in the group. Still, it took about 7 kilometers to lose the lead, then by 9 kilometers I fell to third.

I figured I would push the bike hard on the race. The course was very smooth pavement, but quite hilly with 238 meters of climbing. There was also a few one way bridges to contend with, but volunteers were there to help out. I passed the first 2 bridges without issue but at the third I had to slow as a car was approaching from the other side. The volunteers did get it stopped so I didn't have to wait long, but it did let Kevin catch me a little faster than I hoped. I had held him off for 16 kilometers but soon fell to fourth place.

I kept Kevin in sight for quite awhile only losing him in the final couple of kilometers. I hit the second transition with a bike time of 40:26 for an average speed of 32.6 km/hr.  More importantly Kevin was only starting the second run as I was putting my bike away.

It quickly got my helmet off and my running shoes on (the fabulous New Balance 1400's) and off i went in pursuit. Soon I found Kevin running up the hill and was reeling him in. By 800m I caught him and passed him and made it to the turn around in third place.  No rest though as I didn't know what sort of speed Kevin might be able to get out of the downhill. Push push push.  But as I closed in on the finish I was clear and crossed the line in 1:09. Third overall, second age group and totally happy.

This was a great race, followed by BBQ and pasta salad, a great bit of ART from Seaside Chiropractic to help speed the recovery and a great bit of draw prizing. And the area allowed for some great sight seeing afterward. I will be back!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Aylesford Lake Standard Distance Triathlon - July 24, 2016

(Update: Now with pictures!)

So a week late on this race report, but better late than never I guess? I had hoped to be able to snag some photos from the event but sadly I haven't seen any just yet (maybe an update to the post will come later on). So here we go.

It was a  super early morning, getting up at 4:45am to drive the 1.5 hours to race start. The weather was great though so the drive was as easy as it could be.  I did pass through some foggy patches and wondered if that might affect the race start but when i arrived I saw this sight.

It doesn't get calmer than that. The lake is wonderful and the race all takes place within a sheltered cove area but there was little to no wind to worry about anyway. The water temp was 21C so it was a wetsuit legal race, though it was going to be warm.

I got set up as quickly as possible and into my wetsuit to head to the lake. Transition was a mere 10m(?) give our take, from the exit of the swim. I floated around a bit and was able to listen to the race briefing from the water. Soon we were lined up and sent off.

I stayed to the outer edge, wanting to avoid getting beat up at swim start. I managed to get swimming right away and was keeping up with the main pack no problem. Unfortunately on the outside I kept getting pushed off course and found it hard to swim straight to the first buoy, but my pace felt great regardless. After 1 lap I wasn't too far behind the leaders and started lap 2 with a small group of my own. As I hot the final buoy I did start to get over taken by a few fast swimmers. That seemed confusing, but ultimately I found out it was the fast Sprint distance racers that started shortly after I started my second lap. I exited the water at 27:56 for my fastest 1500m swim yet in a race. 3rd in my AG and 8th overall. I actually swam 1660m due to being thrown off course occasionally, so I am even more happy with my pace. I just need to be able to fight for my line a little better.

Transition was fast, wetsuit off, helmet on and off I went. 46 seconds but only 2nd overall.

The bike starts with an uphill climb out of the park, it also goes over some speed bumps. These weren't a big issue at the start. Onto the road and I had already passed 2 people. Then off I went. The road is almost all new pavement. The first half is chipseal, then proper pavement once you get a few kilometers in. It was going to be a loop course, though this year we were not expected to go all the way back to the start. this would help avoid some road congestion into and out of the park as well as limiting how often we had to go over the speed bumps.

The chip seal was pretty slow going, but over all it is a fast course. The hills are generally low grades, though they can drag on. A couple were seemingly slower than one would expect, this could also be the new pavement which is sticky in the heat. Oh did I mention the heat? By the time the bike leg start the sun was full out and beating down quite handily.

I don't know exactly what place I was in by the second loop on the bike as a few fast Sprint swimmers were in the mix. I did pass a few riders but mostly concentrated on my race at this point. I road by feel for the most part, trying to stay at about 80-85% max effort.

The bike leg finished with a ride downhill and over speed bumps. I too this area cautious and made sure to take a few last sips of Gatorade. As I hit the bottom of the hill I was quickly out of my shoes and then off the bike right at the dismount line.

Like swim out, the distance to transition was not far. I got in, racked my bike and and was into my shoes. This time I managed the fastest transition time at 26 seconds. My bike time was 1:09:58 for 40 km (though this was touch short).

I was soon upon a competitor. He has gotten a penalty so had fallen back a bit. As I passed him he tried to hold on to my pace, and did so for about 2 kilometers before  I could here him drift off. By 3.5 km in I had worked my way to 2nd overall and could not see 1st at all. So my goal was to maintain my current pace, and again run by feel. It was hot, the road was hillier than expected and I was very happy to take a cup of water at the 5km point.

First place was probably 1 km ahead of me once we passed, so I knew even attempting to catch him was futile. I just needed to hold position. I finally glanced back as I approached the downhill to the park and was quite clear. I picked up the pace a bit in the last section as i finally glanced at my watch and saw that I could make a sub 40 min 10 km no problem.

I crossed the finish line at 2:18:46 with a 10  km run time of 39:42. 9 minutes faster than my first race this year. 2nd overall, 1st in AG and spent. It was a great race with some good battles.

At least 1 more Standard distance triathlon awaits me in Shubie later on in September. So for now, back to the lake to get faster. Take care.    

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Ingonish Standard Distance Triathlon, June 2016

Well here we go, the first Triathlon of the year for me and I decide to once again try my hand at the Standard or Olympic distance triathlon.  Two years ago I did my first and only Standard distance in Ingonish and did not do as well as I had hoped. I had wanted to hit a sub 2:30 for my debut, but instead languished with a 2:37. A lot of that had to do with a horrid swim in frigid water.

But on to this year. This winter I have been really hitting the pool a lot and trying to get my endurance and comfort levels up in the water. As I mentioned before, I hurt my Achilles in April and it limited what I could do as I was letting it heal. While I could swim, I had to limit my kicking in the water. So I relied on a lot of pull buoy swims. I figured I could at least build my endurance and since this swim was almost guaranteed to be wetsuit legal, I knew that my kick was useful but not critical.

I had also hoped to get open swims in starting at the beginning of June. Instead I only got in the water 2 weeks ahead of the race. Still I managed 4 swims and grew my confidence. My second open water swim lead to my new wetsuit tearing at the seam, a new one was rush mailed to me, but it had a hole in it. My old one was on stand by but I did manage to do some last minute repairs and use the new suit (Aquasphere and MEC were really good about this and still let me return it after the race, thanks guys).

So morning of the race and the weather was awesome, warm temps in the air and under the water. In fact it was almost too hot with someone shouting out that it was 21C. That is crazy for this time of year, but still wetsuit legal. I got checked in fast and headed to the water as soon as I could. I got in, got through some of my anxieties and felt comfortable. With the bright sun I opted for shaded goggles.  Anyway, our group lined up for the start and away we went.

I hung back a touch at the start as I knew this would help me avoid any panic. And while this meant the lead group would work away from me, having a comfy start would be so much more important. A few dolphin dives, and a few breast strokes and my worries went away and I was quickly into a good rhythm with my front crawl.  I soon caught up with some other swimmers and worked my way through and around them and before I realized it, lap one was done.

Around the start buoy and off I went for lap two. I was pushing comfortably hard but not overdoing it. I passed a few more swimmers and was feeling really good. Sighting for the final buoy / shore was tricky with the bright light but I kept a fairly straight swim happening. I hit the shore with a time of 28:27. A sub 30 minute swim was my goal, I blasted through that by 1.5 minutes. Last time I swam in a time of 35:43. So yeah, that hard work seems to have paid off. I was 17/30 overall for the swim. Last time I was 34 out of 36.

To the bike! It is a long haul from swim out to transition at Ingonish. Close to a 400 m run on crusher dust and sticks. But I don't shy from that and managed to get the fastest T1 time with a 2:32, including stopping to fix my ankle timing chip enroute. I got out of the wetsuit, helmet on and away I went on the bike to hopefully catch some other competitors.  

I zipped past a few riders to start then settled in to a decent rhythm on the bike, 40+ km to go and I didn't want to burn out early.  I passed Adam as he had to stop to deal with a massive cramp a few kilometers in. That's tough as I know he has worked hard and is a beast on the bike (and had a great swim). I figured he would be back though and I knew I needed to put some distance in while I could.

One of the huge downhills had a torn up section of pavement which we needed to slow down for. I played it very safe and slowed to a crawl. After that it was pristine pavement and big hills. As I approached the run around I was able to start to count the riders ahead of me and found I was currently in 11 place.  But I also saw that Adam was now only a minute or so behind me. And a head wind came up. Wowza.

I managed to get to just past 30 km before Adam managed to pass me, but I did mange to work my way to up 9th by that time, falling to 10th as another rider passed me with about 5 km to go. Now I was settling into my position and saving what I could of my legs for the run. My endurance for long rides was nearing its end as I hadn't been able to get out as much as I wanted in those last 2 months. Still I crossed the line in a time of 1:17:34 which compared to last times 1:20:30 showed a lot of improvement. That was good enough for the 9th fastest bike split of the day (though Adam should have had at leas that or more if he didn't have to stop for so long).

T2 and another win for Ian! 31 seconds, a full 7 seconds faster than the next person meant I had a great change from bike to run.

Off to the run. My really big inner goal was a sub 40 minute 10km run following the bike. On this course it is tough. Steep short hills, heat and it is not the easiest place to run. I kept the pace steady to start knowing that the first steep hill is the worst. As I crested it, I could start to see a few other runners within striking distance. Ideally I wanted to catch them as early as i could, know that I didn't want to drag them along to the finish. Within 1 km I caught up to Adam, then Iain before the 3 km mark.

As I approached the start of the second lap I was now catching up to mark as well. But his 400m lead was still not the easiest gap to get through. I watched my average pace and pushed as hard as I dared and by the 7th kilometer, I passed mark. The race was mostly downhill and I pushed through the tight muscles to the finish line.

39:36. I got my sub 40min 10km. Two minutes faster than my last time. In fact I finished in 2:28:38 compared to 2:37:47, 9 minutes faster than my previous best. Faster in all legs and I was feeling really good. No aches and pains. 6th overall and 2nd in my age group. A success for sure. I was feeling so good we spent the rest of the day hiking and the next day as well.

This triathlon is really great and I hope to get to continue to go back and enjoy both it and the awesomeness of the Cape Breton Highlands.

With my Achilles issues over, i can get back to finding the early season speed I had as well. Things are only looking up.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Multisport is Back - Navy Trident Duathlon 2016

We're back, for multisporting action with the first Duathlon of the year. Wow, it seems like it has been forever.

Sadly this year there aren`t very many duathlons, though there is a new one in Baddeck that might be interesting. So I did not want to miss the first, Navy Tridents at Shearwater.

I really like this event, with its traditionally fast run and bike course, but this year due to some logistics, the course had to have major changes. When I first heard of them I wasn`t too sure what to expect, but you have to sign up and go for it to find out.

Of course I am also fighting my Achilles issue still, though it is getting so much better. Coming into this race I had been running 5 days a week, though nothing very long (3-4 km runs each day). I knew I could still run fast, but had no idea what sort of pace I could hold. And my cycling had fallen away a bit as well. Sitting in a time trial position pulled my hamstrings which put pressure on the Achilles. So I had been on the bike, but in the last few weeks, most rides were on the easier side.

Race day came and I arrived at site to a full transition. Of course most of those bikes were for the triathlon that was happening at the same time. Our group was small, but there was some great competition among the guys.

So after a brief meeting to explain the new course we lined up to start the first run.

Not wanting to overstress my Achilles from the start, I took off at a comfortable pace. That immediately sent me to the lead. From that point on I decided to go by feel, comfortably hard and not crazy. The route was pretty twisty and hilly and was comprised of 2 loops. I led the first run from start to finish, and finished in a time of 16:35. Now I wish that really was a full 5 km with that time, but really the course was a few hundred meters short. Regardless I felt good and had a 43 second lead over second place.

Onto the bike and what was a twisty, tight and hilly course with 5 loops of just under 4km each. Wow, that was actually a lot more fun than I thought it would be. As expected Greg caught me by the end of the first loop. he is just too good of a cyclist. I was still holding my own though and hoped I had enough of a lead over Kevin. If I could stay ahead of him long enough, my second run would be too much for him.

I didn't see him until the end of loop three, where I caught him in the distance. Not knowing how fast he was going, I pushed hard  and by the end of loop 5 Kevin finally caught up to me. As he passed with less than 500m to go, he just said "Too late now." I felt good and tucked in to a safe distance behind him, not worrying too much about him pulling a lead. By the dismount line we were still together.

I dismounted with an average speed of 31.8 km, which I was okay with. I know there was speed left on the table but that' was fine.

A quick change (after forcing my bike back into the rack due to a lack of space) and I was out on the run course. I just had to find enough oomph to stay ahead of Kevin as I knew Greg was too far ahead and the final run of 2.5 km was not going to be nearly enough.

By the time I saw Greg I had eaten a huge chunk of time back, but still it was never going to be enough. I stayed ahead of Kevin no problem and crossed the line in second place with a time of 1:04:56, 34 seconds off of Greg and a final run time of 10:38 (almost 1.5 minutes faster but again too short of a run).

Second overall with my lack of training and not pushing too hard to hurt my Achilles, and I am really happy with that. By the next day my Achilles felt fine as well. So I know it is healing up just fine.

Next up is the Ingonish Olympic Distance Triathlon. I can't wait.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Just Keep Swimming

Okay, so I am not a great swimmer, but I have been putting in a bigger effort this year to up my time in the pool, because more time swimming will equal faster swimming. Seems simple enough and, well really, it is kind of that simple when you are starting out in the slow world. Passed a certain point, technique starts to become the way to build speed, but right now, endurance and strength and comfort level are the way forward.

This becomes painfully obvious when you do your first 100m in 1:41 at what feels like a comfortable pace, then end up with an average pace of 2:10 for a 45 minute session. So I know that I can swim at some point, but the ability to hold that pace dies off.

Initially in the year I started off building slowly to not hurt my shoulders and back, building to 2000m sessions, then eventually 2500m sessions. As my races are at most 1500, 2500 seems like more than enough to get faster while limiting wear and tear on the body.

I kept my training simple,doing 4 week long sets twice or three times a week (if I could get that extra one in). Every 4 weeks I would change my sets up, going from short and speedy with lots of rest to more endurance based sets.

Recently with my Achilles issues, I have spent the last 4 weeks swimming pretty much totally with the pull buoy so minimize stress on the tendon. So totally endurance sets of 1800-2100m.


Well at this time last year I swam 26.6 km in total. This year 79.9 km. Last year my average speed at the end of a set would be about 2:10, now 1:56 give or take. Huge improvement? For me, yes. I have hit a solid pace under 2:00 min/100m and for me that is key. If anything it is a mental break through. Also this is all pool based swimming, where I don't do flip turns, and don't use a wetsuit (the pull buoy is likely comparable to the wetsuit floaty wise, but with a wetsuit you get the float and a kick).

Soon open water swimming will start, so I will get to see just how real my progression is in a more race like situation.  Hopefully i will be able to get in the water even this weekend, either before or after my duathlon.

The end of June will tell how this whole swimming thing has worked out, can I beat my personal best (worst) Olympic swim time (I have only done one) of 34 minutes?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Bluenose 10km - May 2016

Well it has been awhile since I had a race and with my Achilles issues, I kind of had hoped that I might have a little more time to recover.  Sadly that wasn't to be and race day appeared.

This week I had been able to get a few runs in with out issue, though they were short, a max of 5km on the Friday with a couple of kilometers at pace was my best run. So I knew I could run, I just wasn't totally sure how far I could get before the old Achilles decided I would be done.

Race day. Perfect weather, 12 Celsius and no wind with overcast skies. I arrived about 15 minutes early and relied on walking fast as my warm up.  A quick picture session with my sister (also running the 10km) helped lighten the mood and take my mind off of my issue.

Soon we were lined up and ready to run. A few friends were toeing the line with me.

And we were off. The first kilometer I hung with the main group (about 10 of us). It was slightly downhill so I knew it would be fast, but a 3:09 when I glanced at my Garmin said, slow down!

I slowed it down a bit, and held my position. Ideally I knew my idea of a 36 minute 10km were not going to be, but I still had hopes of holding onto a sub 38 minute run. For that I knew I just had to pace correctly and as the entire final 2/3rds of this run were going to be mostly uphill, I couldn't overcook things in the first 1/3rd.

I was comfortable and through 5km in 18:23, which was great considering that this included the worst of the hills. I slowly worked passed two other runners as they started to fade and pulled a gap. My Achilles was still feeling fine, but I could definitely feel my endurance slipping.

As I held on through the next kilometer I finally made it back to the main final stretch, which was a step ladder of hills back to the finish line. Drew was in front of me and pulling away, but that was fine. I was just happy to still be running pain free.

Pain free yes, but not without some effort. I wasn't wearing my heart rate monitor today but I knew the effort was climbing into the top end of Zone 4 by this point. I kept pushing as best as I could up and up the hills. My overall pace was slipping as a result of the hills and my lack of any real running in the last few weeks. But the work I had done in the first 5 kilometers was holding my overall pace high.

Then just to add a little insult, as you enter the final kilometer, you hit a nasty little climb.

But hey, I still looked good. And while my legs were running out of steam, my heart and breathing weren't too bad. My Achilles was just starting to tighten now, but wasn't hurting and had't moved into my plantar region, like it had in a few longer training runs a few weeks back. The tightness was high enough that I was pretty sure it wasn't going to affect things by this point.

As you approach the end, a crazy steep downhill is your reward with a huge crowd and a man in a banana suit (sorry no picture). Then a cruel corner and a 200 ish meter uphill again. At this point I had enough energy in the tank to finish on pace and was glad I didn't have to duke it out with anyone.

I crossed the line at 37:48. Not a PB but still sub 38 minutes and turns out 7th overall and 1st in my age group. That means free entrance into next years race. So, yay!

My wife and sister both had great races as well. Smiles all around.

Hours later, my calves feel fine, my Achilles has a little friction, but no pain. I will take it easy for a few days, then start some short runs to rebuild strength as well as continue my rehab. Glad to see things are going to be okay, and I know the overall speed and fitness will come back.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

May 2016 - Keeping the Achilles Working

So back in mid April my Achilles was a little tight during some interval sessions. I did some vague rolling with the foam roller when I got back but I didn't really go to great lengths to address things.

I wasn't smart enough to really pay attention though to the warning signs that had been creeping up. Really by the time your Achilles hurts during a running session, you have likely already not been paying attention for quite some time.

Looking back now I should have seen a few things. My lower calves were always itchy, but more from a tight deep muscular type of thing and not a surface thing. Itchy is really just a way for nerves to say, hey somethings not right.  And super tight muscles help to block up nerves. Also my right side calf wasn't firing properly, so I did what I would have done in the past and added some calf raises to my daily regime.  When I did actually use my foam roller, it was really painful at the ankle, and really painful isn't a good sign.

So by the time my Achilles actually hurt during a run, I was quite far into thing. Now luckily not that far, as a little rest and it would be fine again. The problem being that it would come back mid run.

So I went to see my guy, Alan at Seaside Chiropractic. A good assessment and he could quickly tell that the muscles in my legs were just way past needing a good foam rolling. So the tendon wasn't able to slide properly and this causes friction and thus pain. Unfortunately that friction does a little damage and the subsequent healing the body goes through doesn't always put things back right, essentially forming a type of scar tissue (yeah, its more complicated than that but still).

Long story midsized, my main problem has been a lack of proper firing of my soleus. That's the other muscle in the calf. It lives kind of behind and a little lower than the big meaty gastroc. And sadly it is often an over looked and weak muscle that is really useful when it comes to running fast. The faster we run the more we start to hit mid and forefoot and it is the soleus muscle that is really responsible for the eccentric loading of the foot. And that is why doing calf raises is exactly not the exercise you need to fix the issue of weak soleus, they are concentric and will work the gastroc.

So eccentric calf drops are the way to go. Essentially you use both feet to rise up, take away the good foot and slowly lower the bad side until you go to a low stretch. Then repeat. Ideally you should be able to work your way up to 3x15 at which point you can start to add weight and do it. This will get the soleus working right.

This needs to be coupled with massage, possibly ART and at the very least foam rollers or massage sticks. The muscles around the affected area need to get loosened up.

Running needs to be limited to short distances/ time, with the main way to tell if it is too much being, does your tendon hurt now and does it hurt in the morning? If so, then cut back. But as long as there is no pain do light / limited running. For me that is 3-6 km give or take.

Ultimately a tendon takes much longer than a muscle to completely get back to normal. I highly suggest you see someone who can assess and track your progress, but everything I have read suggests up to 12 weeks to get back to normal.

Most of the other things you may see suggested usually are great at dealing with the acute symptoms. Ice, heat, drugs, stretching and if the symptoms are bad enough are warranted.

I have come across a few other interesting exercises that I have start to incorporate as well but the eccentric calf drop is a tried and true rehab exercise that and I can see why. Even if you aren't currently having Achilles issues, this is the sort of exercise that doing twice a week is something that should help stave off future injuries. If you do a quick youtube search you will likely find any number of video examples of how to correctly do this exercise.

So up next is the Bluenose 10km. It was going to be an A race for me, now it will hopefully be a fun race. My Achilles isn't in any danger of being damaged by running the race or else I would drop out, though I do expect it will be sore afterwards.