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?