Well I did my first half iron distance this weekend but it was no small test for me.
Let’s take a step back. As a youngster, I raced multi-day bike races and multi-day MTB races. Did road and off-road triathlons for fun without much training. In 2010, on a bet, I started running again. While I always enjoyed running, the first outings were very painful and let’s just say hard on the ‘heart and lung system’. Of course I could bike and play hockey and keep up with 3 kids and work 60+ hours a week but could I run a 5k again under 23 minutes… It happened within 2 weeks and I have not stopped since – that summer I ran 3 ‘5-K races’ and did 2 ‘try-a tri’.
So 4 years later (May – June 2014) when I started planning my season, I was unsure if I was going to finally put my ‘big boy pants’ and sign up for a half iron distance race. Yes I booked a hotel for Muskoka 2 years in a row and never signed up for the race… SO I challenged myself and signed up for 3 Xterras and a number of sprints for the summer – you have to understand that I hate swimming in a lake so the Olympic distance never entered in the picture. Following JD, Piers, Kim, and other members of the TCoB doing the half distance motivated me. After having a chat with my wife (who is the voice of reason and knows me too well) and team members, I agreed to meet with Ana and sign up for the ‘Barrelman Half-Iron Distance’. Now – remember – I hate swimming in a lake – I had 12 weeks and had to get going on swimming OWS. I also had to cancel my beloved Xterra racing schedule. With dedication / motivation to finish one, I embarked in a very organized training program developed by Ana. I realized I was training but not really training.
So the calls / emails started – who is going swimming outdoors. Thanks to JD, Tanya, Patti, Piers, Kim, and Olivia who showed up for their swims but also to motivate me to keep it going. First outing at Gulliver – I did the raft swim (4-3-2-1) in 27 minutes non-stop about 1.6k. So I said it is not that bad… As the weeks went by, always with my buddies, I started swimming 2 loops under 40, 38, 36, and then 34 minutes non-stop. Hey I am onto something – if I don’t lollygag and focus, I can do this 1.9k swim. Then the longer workout started – love the long rides but the long runs… not so much. I saw tremendous improvements in my running form and tolerance / speed etc. as I increased the mileage. Started to play with nutrition – hey I am doing pretty good so I think I am ready.
As race day approached, I started to worry about if I am really cut for this type of endurance sport. So I tapered and followed the program to a T for 12 weeks. Got organized the day before / morning of race and drove to Welland to register and rack the bike. Then I drove to Niagara Falls T2 in Chippewa along the Niagara Parkway and attended a pre-race meeting. Then I learned that we would swim counter-clock wise in the canal (so right to left for those who have done Welland Half in the past) – over half of it against the ‘current’ and biked 92.5k because of construction. The wind on the Saturday was also unbelievable and we all hoped it would calm down…
Slept poorly at the 4-point Sheraton Saturday night, got the race gear sorted out and picked up Mike at the parking lot in Niagara Falls. Got to Welland to prepare in the heavy rain but no thunderstorm yet. Weather calmed down and it was off to the races… got the transition bags sorted out and BAM it was here. I had a goal – be a finisher and hopefully under 5:30.
New wetsuit and 100+ people in my wave, I was ready for this. Down the river for 300m with a hit in the face / split lip but I kept on. Got grabbed a few times and one guy even pulled me under as I was drafting for a bit. Got a (R) calf cramp from kicking hard to get away from him then made a wrong turn. Instead of cutting in at the last buoy, I crossed the canal – so swam an extra 175m I think… Came out of the water in just over 35 minutes 11 out of 51 in AG… so take away the 175m extra, I was on fire and ‘killed the swim’.
T1 was slow as we had bags to empty / refill and get the HR down before I embarked in the 92.5k ride with gust of up to 60k at times. Bike went well, passed numerous people from wave 1 and some in my AG. The first 30k were hard as the wind was relentless. Drank a little every so often and ate some of the things I used in training every 30 minutes or so. Then at 65k I hit the wall, time for a caffeine gel… hey tasted funny. Finished one bottle from bottle exchange – HEED – still had a bottle of water from the exchange in my saddle carrier – but I forgot all about it. Ride picked up as hovering around 40-45kph with a nice tail / side wind. Then the Parkway arrived – more wind and something funny happening inside my stomach and my left shoe / pedal felt funny… T2 arrives 2:39 – saw my crew – happy that I survived and ‘killed the bike’ – good dismount… and search and rescue for bag 358… 8 out of 51 off the bike!
T2 by now my HR is through the roof as I am looking around for my ‘bike to run’ bag – 50 bikes in T2 (including some swim bike racers…) – I am doing great for my first half-iron distance. Checked the watch and I am at under what I expected – ~3:15 at T2, so I am thinking 5:15 – 5:20… 5:17 was more like it!!!
The run started very well and I kept faith that I would finish. Still no sign of Mike and Allan who started 5 minutes after me but who are machines on both the bike and the run. Saw JD and Meghan (his daughter) at about 5-6k and was encouraged by being told that I was in the lead pack – meaning the AG pack. So more smiles on my face. Then it all started to fall apart – 6K had to walk, got caught by an AG at 7k (it was about time as he is Mr. Canada according to a conversation I had with him last year at a race …). Then Mike caught me at 8k – asked me if I needed anything from his ‘Pharmacy on Wheels’. At that point I was running 5 and walking 1. I felt horrible, I was having cold sweats, my stomach was acting up and my mental health was not where it usually is… Back to T2 for the second loop saw some TCoB / Pace racers starting their first loop and that motivated me a little – also seeing my crew at T1 gave me a ‘little’ boost as by then I was ready to quit. Then I remembered, they have ‘COKE’, so I started ‘doing COKE’ every aid station. Paced picked up but by then I knew 5:15 to 5:30 was in jeopardy. I did not care, I just wanted to finish, saw Allen at 13k and was waiting for him to catch me quickly but he only showed up at almost 15k – what took him so long… I think he walked Burning Spring hill (but don’t say anything). By then I am feeling ‘Hey I am not doing too badly now’… another false illusion. More hills, more COKE, and less motivation to keep going. As the Ks went by I realized I was at 19k, no more stations…
So I finally arrived at the finish line at 5:31.26 – 23 out of 51 after run; 15 out of 51 in AG (102 out of 488). I was happy to have finished but also had mixed emotions. I was laughing, I was crying, I wanted ice, water, food, chocolate milk, sit down / stand up / stretch… Holy cow – slow down Charlie… I promised myself that I would do a Half Iron distance race and I did it. Happy with how I handled the training, family life, busy private practice, 3 kids with busy schedule, and having enough time and energy to spend time with Karen. But the question remains – AM I PHYSICALLY SUITED FOR THIS DISTANCE?
I admire all of you HIM and IM racers and I still cannot understand how you can do more than one a year… Thank you to my wife Karen for supporting me during the last 3.5 months for that aspect of my life. I would also like to thank Ana, JD, Patti, Tanya, Piers, Kim, and Olivia (not in any preferred order) for helping me during the last 3.5 months and Margaret for asking me to write a little (long) something. Thanks for the thumbs up and good vibes on Facebook.
One thing I know for sure – you are never prepared for the unexpected during a race or in life in general. Now it is up to me to decide if I am prepared for next year’s challenges and what I will challenge myself with… Who knows what JT will do in 2015? One thing for sure is that ‘while I trained smart and controlled only what I could control, “the run killed me”’.
Don’t miss this awesome celebration of your triathlon season. Join us for Cocktails, Dinner, Awards and Presentations all followed up by a great party with D.J. and dancing.
Date: Saturday Nov. 1st, 2014
Place: Burlington Golf and Country Club, 422 North Shore Blvd. E., Burlington
Time: Starting at 5:30 with cocktails, Dinner at 6:30, Awards, Door prizes, Presentations and dancing to follow.
Sometimes, it happens that you get to try new stuff even if you weren’t planning on it. Saturday at Wasaga beach was a great example of this. Just one hour before the start of my second Olympic triathlon, which I prepared for and even set some goals to achieve, they canceled the swim. The wind was too strong, waves were too high and the river (our back up swim course) too dirty. Just like that, we were doing an international distance duathlon. It does consist of 10k run, 40k bike and a 5k run in case if you are not aware. Yeah-yeah just in that order. Needless to say, I didn’t train for that. And, anyways, who runs 10k before getting on their bike? So I decided to go out as hard as I can and see how long I can hold on.
Putting my running shoes on and standing at the starting line in my trisuit felt weird, but my first run went really well. I ran a new 10k pb with 39:51 on a two lap flat run course. At at that point I knew I was in the top 10. This was the part I didn’t practice for and now I respect the duathletes even more. It is tough! Switching from run to bike was actually quite hard and it took me a while to get comfortable. But nevertheless, the bike was fun even when the wind made it quite challenging. When I dropped off the bike and headed for my second run, my the only goal was not getting passed. I succeeded with the encouragements from Tanya, who took time to drive all the way past Barrie to see us race. In the end I finished 8th overall and second in my division. Really not bad for a surprise race.
What did I learn from that experience? I will say it again: everyone should try something different at least once a season. Sign up for a different race, travel to a new site, or try a new sport. Just get out of your comfort zone!
Come mountain biking with us at Kelso! Join us at 5:30pm every Tuesday at the summit parking lot for a fun ride in our local trails. Everyone is welcome, it doesn’t matter how expensive is your bike or how good you are. We will ride until the light or the weather doesn’t let us, don’t jump on your trainer so fast you will have all winter for that. Possible weekend rides at Kelso or other venues if some riders are interested.
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Most Triathletes have heard the word Periodization before. It simply means organizing a yearly activity plan to yield the maximum training for each energy system at the correct time in the season.
P-1 – Start from the finish
Pick you’re “A” race for the season, and work back from there. Set up the appropriate taper (Generally – 3 weeks for Ironman, 2 weeks for half Ironman, Marathons and half marathons, 10 days for Olympic triathlons and one week for Sprints, 10km runs and your first Tri-a-Tri).
P-2 “B” organized
Pick your warm up events – i.e. your “B” races – ideally they should match your “A” race in some regard i.e. terrain, distance (maybe), organizational considerations may be appropriate like mass swim starts, multi-loop technical bike ride or choppy/cold water. Set these “B” races into your program outside of your taper and within the last 12 weeks of your “A” race.
P-3 Do the math – match the training
Two considerations here – if you are competing against yourself and you have a goal time in mind, calculate what your event times (including T-1 and T-2) need to be to hit your goal. Now you have training targets to compare yourself to. Devise your workouts to match these targets.
If you have a performance/podium goal, do the research. If you want to come top 3 in your event look-up all past results in your age category and the category younger. Come up with the top threes finisher’s split times, then come up with the “best in class” times i.e. the fastest individual swim , bike and run times. Use a combination of these as your benchmarks and strive to hit those times in your training.
P-4 – Timing is everything
Here you need to prioritize your energy systems training periods. Most systems need to be worked on year round. However there are times when one takes precedence over another. Base training focus happens in the first training blocks of the season. Power building in the middle training blocks and threshold focus occurs 12-14 weeks out form your “A” race day.
P-5 Train your Weaknesses (to a point)
So we know we are only as good as our weakest link – if that link is swimming then that should be your first priority and your focus early in the training. HOWEVER – keep in mind the percentage of time that is devoted to that activity in the event. So should you swim 5-6 days a week if you sink like a stone? Well maybe, but there is the law of diminished returns. When you can swim well enough to get the job done reasonably well then it maybe time to focus on the activity that requires a greater percentage of time in the event (typically the bike). Once you have identified your strengths and your weaknesses and the time devoted to that activity in the event then set your periodized time line and focus.
P-6 Resting is your best workout!
Simple – we do not get stronger from working out and overloading. We get stronger from working out, overloading then recovering from that stress. No rest, no recovery, no adaptation. It is a fine balance to know what is overtraining and what is “over recovering”- each person is different, each season is different for each person – it is vital to find your seasonal stress balance. Once you have found it work this into each training block (i.e. 1 easy week after 3 harder weeks, 1 in four, 1 in five – what is right for you?)
P-7 Workout with friends but Train on your own.
It is fine to find likeminded people to workout and spar with, but be clear on what your goal workout is for that day. Warm-up and cooldown with your buddies, however your main set needs to be about you and what you need to achieve that day, that workout, that rep. Got the idea?
Building these concepts into your yearly program will ensure that you get focused on your big event. Practice your skill sets in minor events and lazar in on your desired outcome.
These concepts are important for performance based athletes as well as recreational and participant athletes. Achieving your goal is so much more rewarding if you create a plan and train to that plan, like creating a list and crossing things off as you complete them.
Remember to enjoy the process. Regardless, who you are this is still your recreation!
On August 24th I completed the 32nd Lifetime Chicago Triathlon, competing in the Olympic distance event, this is my 3rd year in a row racing in Chicago in one of the largest triathlons in North America with over 9,000 people competing in this event spread out over the sprint and international distances. Most of my races have some form of humorous anecdotes or weird experience to them and this race was no exception. The events actually began the day before, when the rains drove in, the storm was one of the most ominous storms I have seen, at one point it looked like Sharknado 3 was about to begin! The rain and high winds began and it rained steadily, heavily and biblically for hours, bringing back memories of the Great Flood of Burlington 2014.
The morning arrived and I headed down on my bike to transition at 4:00am, transition is located on a grassy knoll in the Monroe Harbor district of Chicago, once getting there and clearing security and bag check I entered the transition area, instead of finding firm footing the grass had given way to pools of mud and water unlike any I have seen before. It was a mess, trying to lay out your gear in an area that had any patch of ground that was not thick deep mud was impossible. Off to the swim start, following the US national anthem the first wave of pro’s was in the water. The swim was going to be a challenge high winds had created choppy conditions, where the swim is located is in the harbor along the shore wall, the choppy conditions were magnified as you were tossed from both sides making the swim tougher than normal. I went into the water in wave 14, the temperature was a balmy 74F decent temperatures to say the least. I was surprised at the number of people I saw hanging onto life boats, kayaks and the shore wall along the 1.5k swim, several times I saw lifeguards jumping off the shore wall to rescue swimmers who were struggling. Upon exiting the swim you have a 500m run to transition on a carpeted pathway, upon entry into T1 the mud was thicker now and footing was precarious at best. I saw several people falling as they raced to get their bikes, running in here I was like a 3 legged cat trying to bury crap on a frozen pond. Once I reached my bike and donned my helmet I grabbed my shoes picked up my bike and carried it to the mount line to avoid running in my cleats and trying to push my bike through the deep ruts in the mud carved from other participants.
This year is the first year in 18 years they have adjusted the bike course, part of this year’s bike course took place in the tunnel and busway section of downtown Chicago for approx. 18kms of the race it was very dark, I had clear lenses on which permitted me to see much better than the dark lenses would have, glad I paid attention during the pre-race briefing the day before, there was a horrible crash in one of the tunnels that had paramedics resuscitating one of the riders as I went by.
Upon returning to transition it was the same drill take shoes off pick up and carry bike and run in barefoot, exiting I put my running shoes on and tried my best to run out of transition to the run course, but the footing was so poor it made me slower than my normal Flash like pace, hard to believe eh? The run course is flat and winds through the museum district of Chicago, the heat had reached a blistering 105F it had become so hot, insert “how hot was it” here.. the Chicago fire department had set up water cannons along the route to keep runners cool, misting fans were used at some of the aid stations, plus they added several more aid stations this year, to try and keep runners hydrated.
All in all this is a first rate race with over 9,000 people competing in it and thousands of fans lining all aspects of the race course, even some of the people who live under the bridges in some of the areas were watching the bike section of the race which made me reflect for a moment as I watched one shirtless man who had been sleeping on a piece of cardboard stand to watch the riders, how fortunate I am to have what I have and be where I am, it was certainly a contrast when you consider the number of riders going by, all on bikes worth thousands and in some case tens of thousands of dollars with all the Tri-geek paraphernalia on, and this individual had his worldly possessions in a Walgreens plastic bag sleeping in a tunnel on a cardboard box.
All in all a great time and great race extremely well organized the event runs flawlessly given the numbers and logistics of putting this together, if you have an opportunity to put this race on your calendar you will not be disappointed and Chicago is not a bad city to spend some time in as well.
Participating in Tcob is something I dont think i could do without. It offers a hugely supportive environment creating a team atmosphere for what most people would think is an individual sport. The feeling of community at any TCOB event is so strong I think of the group as my other family... My super fit family! I am not just a better athlete for being a member but a better version of me.