Sunday, February 5, 2017

Tri the Oval 5 - Winter Triathlon 2017

So after a year off, the Halifax Winter Triathlon was back. But this year we had a change. Instead of the bike ride there was a snow shoe leg in the middle. So Skate, Snowshoe, Run, with distances of roughly 5km/3km/5km (the skate was pretty much dead on).

Due to the fact that it was late getting put together, this year had a small but mighty crowd of crazy souls, who braved the starting temperature of about -10C.

yes, those are bacon costumes

The skate started off well, with beautiful ice and low wind. My first few laps were nice and fast, allowing me to keep up with the top couple of skaters. But my lack of long training skates on the ice meant I ended up slowing down a bit, eventually coming off the ice in 4th. But my transition to snowshoe was fast, so I immediately jumped to third place. 

Luckily we had a good little snow fall a few days ago, meaning we could actually hold the snowshoe portion of the race. Yes, there were a few bare spots, but overall, running in snowshoes was fun. Now, I will admit that I had never really run in snowshoes before this, as we just bought our snowshoes this year and have had next to no snow falls in Nova Scotia. But I think I did well, keeping my cadence high and pushed through to take over second spot.

This lead to the run. Luckily I had my running shoe on, so I just had to pop off the snow shoes, drop them off at my transition zone spot and take off for three laps around the Commons.

I could see Adam ahead of me, but I knew unless he had a cramp or something, he had far too big a lead (he is a really great skater on hockey skates) for me to run that down. Still, I felt okay running, considering I had really no rest at all before hitting the sidewalks. Pretty much all three events use the same muscles, so it is a great workout.

Sure enough I watched the gap stay the same for much of the run, with me finally coming through the finish line in second place overall.

  don't hide the finish line cones!

It was a great event and took me 47 minutes to finish, so well below my 50 min goal time (just a rough estimate in my head). Yes, the distances were a bit short, as I mentioned, so likely that 50 minutes would have been a lot closer. Still it was great fun, and I am 5 for 5 on these events, and I couldn't pass up the 5th Tri the Oval Toque.

For my efforts I won a custom Cow Bell (thanks James), and some much needed Java Blend coffee beans.  And I can't wait for next year's race. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

MEC PPP Race #1 Jan 2017

So yesterday I was wondering what my run fitness was going to be like when actually tested against others and today I found out.

MEC's race #1 was finally here after being postponed previously due to a large snow storm. This time around weather was not going to be an issue. In fact, the weather was wonderful. About -2C when i woke up and around the 0C mark by the time the race started, so plenty warm. Also the wind was pretty much non-existent and the ground was frozen hard. Conditions could not have been better to see what speed was in the old legs.

Not a picture from today

I started the day with a good warm up run with Craig and Stacey, partly for us and partly to show Stacey a little of the course, we did around 3km in all. Then Craig and I did a few strides int he parking lot to get the blood flowing in the legs. Finally we were called to the start line by the Race Director.

These races pit all distances together at the start, so if you don't ask, you don't always know who is racing what distance. A few of us chatted a bit while waiting and I felt I had a good sense of who my competition was. Still, my main goal was a sub 19 min run, something I had not done on this course and this early in the year. 

And we were off!

Immediately Drew took to the lead and I popped into second. Our pace felt okay but I knew it was ultimately a bit too fast. By the first 500m point I checked and yup, a 3:22 pace. So yeah, I started to ease off a bit. Then Lee took second place, quickly followed by Fraser. 

As we hit the first major hill of the day (really this race is a big climb and a big descent) I quickly caught back on to Fraser and decided to take this chance to pass him. I pushed the first hill as much as I dared, hoping it would lead to a gap. 

Finally reaching the top of the climb, you run a relatively flatish bit for awhile, before quick down, then another steep but shorter climb. This whole race is steep climbs and descents with rolling terrain in between. The top of this section meant we were now at the halfway point. 

As we tore down towards the major descent of the day, I was still in 3rd in my race, 4th overall.  Halfway down the descent of Cable, Fraser caught up and passed me again. He clearly relished the big downs, while I was just trying to hang in there.  Now I was sort of resigned to what I assumed was 4th, hoping to be able to hang onto my current average pace for a course PB at least.

Then we hit the bottom and another slight climb, then a down, then a climb (you get the idea). I started to reel Fraser in a little bit and with a little over 1 kilometer to go I knew it was now or never and bridged the gap. My goal was to tuck in behind him, and see if my legs had a sprint finish.  But (and there is always a but) another runner started to pull up beside us. Sigh. What race was he in? I had no idea. So soon we were 3 abreast with about 800m to go.

I knew the final run to the finish included a final good climb before a big downhill to the line, so I made the choice to just push it. Darn, I wanted that 3rd place and I wanted to get the best time my legs had. So I took off.

As the climb happened I could here Fraser's foot steps getting a little softer, and I pushed harder. We crested the hill and I could see the finish line, so off I went. I crossed the line 3rd overall and with an official time of 18:29, a PB on this course, and a great result so early in the season.

I collapsed a bit after the finish, knowing my legs had given it there all. But I recovered fast enough to watch a bunch of other great runs happen from the BLTRunners, with Craig coming in a well run course PB as well (and very close to the 20 min mark) and Stacey come in 2nd for women with a blazing time.

Looking over the data post race I was totally happy with most of my stats, but really the heartrate data was wonderful. A good spike to start things off (not uncommon in a 5K all out race) but then a  recovery and solid high Zone 4 effort throughout. All of my recent speed work seems to be paying off.

As is always the case, a huge thanks to those that keep me running well, Alan at Seaside Chiropractic, Jeff Z at Kinesic Sport Lab, Luke at Aerobics First and my fellow BLTRunners. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Getting Ready to Race 2017

So the first running race of the season is a few weeks ago  tomorrow. yeah, it was cancelled due to a big storm that swept through but is back on. The ever fun MEC race series has begun. This one will be a cross country style race in Point Pleasant Park and I like to see how well I do in this race as a gauge to how my training needs to go. As a fairly hilly race, and usually icy, I struggle to go under 19 min on a 5 km run here. This year I have changed up my training program a bit, so perhaps this may be the year.

BLT Runners unite from last year's MEC PPP Race

More importantly, this year I am really focusing on my muscular health. Last year I focused on pure speed and while there were glimpses of it, 2 injuries set me back overall.

Part of what I am focusing on is getting into a better routine of exercising and strength and flexibility. But I am also now starting my monthly visits to see my main guy Dr Alan at Seaside Chiro. Sensing some tightness in my Achilles already this year, a quick trip to see him and some ART (Active Release Therapy) has already made a world of difference in cleaning up what could become a big problem.

Not my actual legs

I am making note this year of aches and pains and tight areas that don't go away with rest. These areas I then will focus on strength and flexibility and then get Alan to help.

So I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings (and what shoes I will wear!). Report to follow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2017, Speed Skating and Race 1

Race 1 of 2017 was supposed to be the MEC Winter PPP race. Sadly it was postponed as a big snow storm came rumbling through the night before and made it too dangerous to get out. The race isn't canceled though, so in a few weeks we will try again.

Instead my first race this year was on the speed skating oval. The local clubs host weekly races, sometimes serious affairs and other times, like this past week, more of a relaxed fun time. These races are more practice races for the top end athletes and a chance for us casual skaters to try out what we are made of.

I signed up for the 500m and the 3000m. The style ended up being Olympic style (head to head) for the 500 and a mass stray for the 3000 (due to time constraints).

First up was the 500m, which is a lap and a straight away in length with a cross over half way through the lap. They are strict about the starting procedure, which is fun to go through. You also have to give it your all and not just race the person lined up with you as the final results are made from your time alone, not how you did in just your race. One shot and you are done.

So I lined up with James and we were soon off, with a bit of a running start to get speed in to the legs and quickly we were in the first corner.

I was totally up to speed and with James the whole first bit, but ultimately my lack of cornering ability really slowed me down and by the time we hit the final corner James pulled ahead. I pushed on the final straight and wound up with a time of 58.75. I'll have to see how that compares with last year, but I haven't been on the skates that much this year. I ended up 9th out of the 25 skaters that started (there weer 5 DNS's).

Time passed and it was almost 3000m time. The wind had really picked up and it got much colder. Being a mass start there were 6 people in my race. We got off to a start (I was in the second row) and I was keeping up with the main pack. A bobble ahead of me lead to a bobble from me and I lost quite a bit of momentum. I picked it back up and was able to stay with a couple of other racers for a bit, but by the half way point my legs were screaming and I couldn't hold a big stride anymore. I was lapped once and ended up last in my heat, but 9th out of 19 skaters that started. My time was 7:27:68.

All in all a fun, but tough morning of racing. Can't wait for more.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Year in Review

As the year comes to a close I have just finished a crazy day of skating and running. 20km on the Halifax oval to kick off speed skating season and 13 km of running to finish out the year and the week. I'll admit that has tuckered this boy out.

So how was 2016? In general, pretty darn good. Some great highs, horrible lows and loads of other goodness as well.

The year started with my first real season of speed skating. I logged many laps at the oval, having joined the Nova Scotia Masters. That lead to some fun racing, a few falls, and a some great fun and new friends. Did I become a great skater? Nope. Did I win races? Not really. But it was a great new experience and I am so glad I took it up. The only sad thing was not having a full season to compete in as the winter was so mild they had to shut the oval down at the end of February.

Throughout the winter I really upped my game when it came to swimming. Still not the great crazy amount that some swimmers hit, but for me, I made it to the pool a minimum of twice a week and really put in a solid effort. I was hitting 6000m a week, but of solid good swimming, some endurance work and some speed work I also spent some time with my chiropractor to help free up my shoulder, which was always holding me back in a  lot of things in life. As the summer approached I switched as much as possible to swimming outdoors, usually in Chocolate Lake. There I was lucky to often be joined by my friends Craig and Mark, which was great. As the water warmed up I even stopped using the wetsuit and got in some of the longest outdoor swims of my life, well over 2500m at a time. What did this mean? 2 of my 3 triathlons ended up having great swims. 27 minutes for an Standard/Olympic distance triathlon is a okay in my books. The one bad swim, well that just sucked. In the end I had just over 103 km of swimming.

This year my cycling took a back seat. I wasn't commuting to work via bike but I did try to get a decent ride in each week. Plus my usual easy paced group rides, which are fun, but more of a recovery session for me.   I had 4809 km of cycling, from easy paced to race, and even started a cyclocross club with some friends. And this November I managed to finally race in a cyclocross race. It was cold, wet, windy, muddy and snowy. All the best things rolled into one.

Running? Ah, running. Such big plans, many good results but also 2 sidelining injuries. My goal was to focus on 5 and 10km runs and things were going well. I won the first 2 races I entered. I was in the final prep work for the Bluenose 10km race when my first injury hit. Achilles tendentious. I was off running for 2 weeks, then managed to start to work back up to running thanks to physio. By the time the race came I managed to feel confident in doing well, but was unsure of my goal time of getting under 37 minutes. Ultimately I didn't achieve that goal, clocking in at a high 37 minute run. While the time wasn't great I did win my age group, came in 7th overall and won entry into next year's race. And that was my season. Great build session, then a nagging injury, followed by good come backs but never able to get that top end speed I so wanted. I won a few other races, including Leg 2 of the Rum Runners Relay, so I can't be too unhappy altogether. Low point? Walking the final leg of my final season duathlon (booo). High point? Coming back the next week to take 3rd place overall in the hilly 5K race in Shubie, the place where I hurt my IT Band weeks before.

Total running mileage for the year? 1865 km. Not bad for having to take close to 5 weeks off from running during the year.

Multisport had some great moments as well. Duathlons went well. No wins, but a second and 3rd overall with some great runs and an almost points championship. I ended up in second overall as I had to walk that final run of the final race. Still, I put up a good fight.

In triathlon I opted to race longer, doing the standard distance races. The first 2 went really well. Great swims, good bikes and awesome runs. I manged to keep all my 10km runs under 40 minutes. My 1 bad race still wasn't too bad. The swim went horribly, meaning I was so far behind exiting the water I thought it was all over. But a really good bike ride and a great run brought me right back. Not the way I wanted to finish the year overall, but still I felt pretty good.

Now for less selfish reasons. Two big big big highlights for me this year? First was helping to start the BLT Runners running club. What we thought would be a good idea, turned into a great idea. Starting in June we managed to really gather members as it turns out that the BLT Trail is a true nexus for runners in this area and in neighbouring areas. We focus on the social aspect of running, with recovery runs, coffee runs and occasionally a wing night run. With the addition of coached speed work session this winter, we are starting to grow our group and grow some serious runners as well.  Check out the website

And finally, my Movember charity run was once again a success. Our best year yet with a great donation to men's health issues. The race went smoothly, it sold out and we couldn't have been more happy. And there was coffee and cake. Next year will be awesome!

So 2016, how was it? Great. I've added to my group of friends, I've found fellow runners ans cyclists and swimmers to train with, and my sporting life got a little more social. Bring it 2017.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Cyclocross Action - Time to Get Real

Finally, I had a moment to take a break this month for just plain old fun. Painful, nasty, messy fun.

The final race of the local cyclocross series was taking place and I had a free day. Of course being my first proper race it just had to be the worst kind of day, or in cyclocross world, an awesome day.

The temperature was freezing (as in zero), it was snowing, then raining, then snowing and the wind was extremely gusty. As the ground wasn't frozen due to the nice day we had the day before, that also meant the ground was actually muddy. But I had been waiting all season to finally get a chance to race and couldn't pass things up.

I had prepped my bike the night before, finally mounting my new Clement tires, and adding a little extra lube to the chain and pedals. When I awoke the next morning I knew I was in for a treat.

I arrived on site and was happy to see quite a few other racers. I paid my entry fee and got my bike and myself ready.  I took 2 practice laps and then headed back to the car for final prep. Soon we were all on the line to start.
There I am, way at the back

Soon we were off, though in cyclocross that isn't always as explosive as it sounds. We were on slush and snow and mud and going slightly uphill, so it took a bit to get the confusion going. Still I managed to get on and start riding and not get too caught up in others.

I passed a few riders initially and then settled into a pack.

And then the crappy thing happened. I stumbled getting off my bike due to a chain reaction back up and my chain came off. It only took a few second to get it back on, but I lost a few places I had worked to get. So back at it I went.

The rest of the race was circuits of the crazy muddy mess, which included quite a few dismounts for obstacles, or treacherous downhill corners. I passed a few more people, fell off once going around a corner, cut my leg (just a little) and generally couldn't breathe a lot.  The only thing I hated was that my pedals filled with snow and that froze to ice and I could get clipped in. So on the bumpy course it was hard to maintain total control and often I couldn't really pedal as hard as I wanted to.

Finally I passed the start finish line and was told, final lap. I pushed hard to pass a couple of more riders and finally brought it home. I manged to get 7 laps compared to the leaders 8 laps which was fine in my book. I finished 8th out of 13 in my age group and 35th our of 46 for men. It took me a little more than 50 minutes (45 minutes plus a lap) to complete the journey.

Then the aftermath!

Still smiling

That's why I couldn't clip in

It is amazing what a bucket of hot water will do to help this situation

So what a baptism by fire. I loved it and can't wait to get some more riding in soon and some racing next season. Many parts of me are tired and sore now, but it was totally worth it.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

MEC Race 5, 2016 - Shubie Park 5 km

My final race of the year as far as running goes, and truthfully had I not paid for this in advance I probably would have stopped at my last race. I have the end of a cold and I am still rehabbing my IT Band issues. Luckily the cold is mostly gone and the IT Band has been behaving well. I have even managed a few pain free runs over the last week and a half, though still some tightness. But the physio and work I am doing is making things progress really well and I knew I wouldn't hurt myself by dropping down and doing the 5 km race today.

Yesterday was windy, warm and really wet, and I opted not to run the annual BLT 5K fun run to save my knee. Instead I was the bike marshal and had a blast cheering others on. This day was a bit drier but so much cooler and very windy. I knew the cooler temps were going to be great during the run, but they always suck at the start.

Eventually the half marathon was off and we lined up for the 5 and 10 km race. Having not run hard or fast for any distance in awhile I didn't know how well my lungs would be able to survive this race, but hey, what better way to find out, ha ha.

Soon we were off and I quickly tucked in behind Drew, knowing he was probably going to take the lead. I didn't think I would be able to hang with him too long, but getting dragged to a bit of a lead over the rest of the runners in the first kilometer would be handy.

At about 1 kilometer in a new player passed us both and I fell to third. My breathing was getting worse, but I was able to manage it. Looking back into my Garmin data I see that my average heart rate was 173, which explains the breathing. That is mid Zone 4 for me.  Regardless of the breathing my hip and knee were feeling just fine at this point, though I knew the big downhill was coming.

Kilometer 2 through the turn around turned out to be a crazy mess. An entire area was flooded out so that meant running uphill through a nice little river. Nothing feels better than soaked feet. 

I hit the turn around still in third, right behind Drew and had a hint of a lead over 4th place. No time to rest now!

I managed to keep on Drew until about the last 500 m of the race. He had a little kick left and started to pick up speed.  I managed to hold my pace as we approached the finish line.

I crossed the line a few seconds behind Drew for third place in a time of 18:47. It was a tough run, but I made it through. No pain in the knee or hip either. And as I type this many hours later, all is good. So I am definitely on the mend.  It was nice to finish the season with another medal, even if I wasn't at my best I still had a little oomph in the engine.

It was also a privilege as well to cheer on my fellow run club members, a few of whom we got to snap some finish line shots with.  And that banana was great. Thanks also to Christine from MEC for putting on a great race series.