Monday, August 15

Self Transcendence Triathlon

I hesitated for a few precious seconds before slipping beneath the cool blanket of water. Despite being overcast, the visibility was surprisingly clear and I fixated on the frantic thrashing of some feet in front. But, just like a salmon vigorously making its way upstream, in a flash the feet were gone and I was left staring at a few random bubbles. As so I scanned my field of vision for some more feet. After swimming for a couple minutes I looked up to ensure I was going in the correct direction, and to check out the pack I was with. Turns out I was in a very small pack of two. As for my direction... tracking a red buoy amid a mass of red swim caps is easier said than done. All that came to mind was the 80’s song, ‘99 Red Balloons’.

The last time I raced a triathlon was August 1999. Since that time a lot has changed: marriage, a house, two children, an enjoyable career, a few grey hairs, and not least glasses. It’s the subtleties of life that can easily be taken for granted. Turns out, trying to locate a buoy 500m away when you’re near-sighted and not wearing glasses, is difficult at best. All I could do was smile.

With only seven swims in the last dozen years, the last few hundred meters were a tad desperate. The joy I felt grew exponentially as I a) was able to see bottom, b) could stand, and c) slowly began exiting the lake.

The next 1’46” was a blur as I struggled to take off my wetsuit and put on my helmet and bike shoes. That said, a benefit from a slow swim is that the transition was remarkably empty and I was able to clip into the peddles without having to worry about anxious competitors.

Maybe it’s due to some marathon wisdom I picked up over the last five years, but once I settled into a comfortable rhythm on the bike, I took my time moving through the field. With a limited cycling base, I tried to avoid crossing the anaerobic threshold and consequently was conservative on the hills while tapping out a metronomic tempo on the flats. I’d been targeting my return to the sport for three years, and on that early summer morning I continued to grin and count my blessing, fully appreciative of every moment.

With about 500m left on the bike, I used a slight downhill to slip my feet out of the shoes and soft peddled into transition. Despite not having elastic laces I was pretty happy with my second transition (1’03”), and glided out onto the run course feeling smooth. Perhaps it has more to do with expectations than reality, but fearing the worst, i.e. tired heavy legs, I started conservatively and felt nothing but a silky effortless stride. Feeling comfortable so early in the run, I told myself to run controlled and relaxed until 5k, re-evaluating afterwards. Once exiting the water, only one person passed me the entire race, at about 5k into the run. I remember debating picking up the pace, but instead opted for a controlled/enjoyable second half.

Cruising toward the finish line, I could hear Ally cheering, and saw Isla jumping up and down while clanging an old cow bell. Twelve years was far too long in-between races, and yet with no pressure and racing for nothing other than sheer enjoyment, I executed one of my best performances. I crossed the line thoroughly happy, with no excuses, having just relived my youth. It was everything I’d anticipated and more. Results here.

Training: 2:19:08, 14/199 OA, 4 AG, 1,500 swim 27:01 44th, 40k bike 1:10:46 20th, 10k run 38:33 8th

Monday, July 4

Vive Le Tour

Given how flat my legs were feeling a week earlier, I managed to pack some solid training into the last seven days. While meandering along the Colquitz River, Monday saw a reintroduction of speed into my running regime. There’s no substitute for the track, but the relatively flat trail makes for a beautiful commute. By the time I’d wrapped up two more rides, Wednesday’s jaunt into work was somewhat sluggish, but a change of venue along Cadboro Bay more than made up for the lacking quality.

The highlight of the week, apart from the start of the 2011 Tour (and ensuing three weeks of French cuisine) was my second club ride in twelve years. After meeting up with my brother-in-law we joined the Island Racing Club (IRC) for their weekly Thursday evening session. With a strong tailwind, the group stayed together as we looped around the peninsula along quiet farm roads toward Sidney. Once there, the games began. I had been warned. Apparently the message is in the detail.

Much like Alberto Contador, my positioning wasn’t ideal, and as we turned into the wind I watched the elastic snap and had to put in a massive effort to regain contact with the peloton (the C-group had been spit out the back). The subsequent 5k can only be described as desperate. I knew where I needed to be, but despite every effort could only watch the A-group surge up a long gradual hill and off into the distance. At this point, Chris (my unlucky companion) and I were stuck in no-man’s land, i.e. running scared from the hoard behind (B-group) but unable to regain contact with the front runners.

With the once favourable wind, pushing steadily on our helmets like an ogre’s hand we switched into time trial mode and suffered our way home. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Despite my aching legs, all I could do was smile and slowly sip a cold beer while listening to tales of grandeur after the ride was finished.

Jun 27: A.M. run 29:59, P.M. run 1:04:48 w/ 6x3’ (3’)
Jun 28: A.M. bike 75’ w/ 5xhills, P.M. bike 60’
Jun 29: A.M. run 1:25:06 w/ 6xstrides, P.M. run 25:13
Jun 30: bike 2h+ w/ 60’ TT
Jul 01: day off (scheduled)
Jul 02: run 1:00:35 w/ 5x1’ (1’), 15’ T, 10’ T, 5’ T
Jul 03: bike 2h30 w/ 60’ FBG

Monday, June 27

You Have a Big Belly

After a solid two week training block including one race, I was eagerly looking forward to some rest. Back in ‘the day’ when I was running with Wynn Gmitroski, he’d prescribe two days off during his recovery weeks. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but after reflecting on my performances the results speak for themselves. I came across a similar approach to adaptation when working with Jon Ackland in the late 90’s, again, with good results. And so borrowing from the best, I’d scheduled myself more of the same.

What I didn’t take into account was the lingering effect of last Sunday’s ride, and my recovery not occurring until the back end of the week. Needless to say, I was listless until Saturday.

Monday’s run was rough; I was tired, late in leaving work, and my legs ached. Thankfully I was running through some of my favourite urban trails and I was able to slip into a comfortable rhythm. The rest of the week rolled along nicely until I jumped into the pool on Thursday evening. After a short warm-up, I threw on some paddles and pull-buoy, and glided through 3x400m. I remember feeling quite chuffed (I typically sink) up until the point a fish slipped into the lane beside me. As I splashed throughout the next set, 4x(1x100, 4x25) the ease with which my webbed neighbour swam left me wanting. I keep reminding myself, it’s all relative.

On Sunday I bolted on some borrowed aerobars, and with nothing but empty roads and sunshine chased my dreams through some rolling farmlands. As I powered my way along a newly paved section of road, I vividly remember looking down and seeing a shadow of my former self... this was pure, untainted fun!

Later that morning while helping Isla with a bird house, she turned to me and innocently announced, “Daddy, you have a big belly”. That afternoon, for the first time in a dozen years, I inched my way into my wetsuit. It still fit. Barely. What belly?

Jun 20: run 57’ w/ 3x10’ (2’)
Jun 21: A.M. easy run 24’, P.M. rolling bike 65’
Jun 22: steady run 65’
Jun 23: A.M. easy run 25’, P.M. swim 2100m
Jun 24: easy bike 20’
Jun 25: day off (scheduled)
Jun 26: Brick w/o: bike 70’ w/ 30’ TT, run 5k T

Monday, June 20

Twilight Shuffle 5k

On a muggy nondescript Tuesday afternoon, I stood outside work patiently waiting for my friend to show. We were about to embark on our pilgrimage to Chemainus, a sleepy town 80k north of Victoria which holds an annual race celebrating the arrival of summer. What started out as a flat, fast 4-miler, has turned into a twisting, lumpy (the course passes through a lumber yard) 5k. Regardless, my highlight is always the post-race thirst quenching pints at a local pub. Classic.

Larry arrived on time, and after a quick pit stop for bananas and Gatorade we were off. Three hours later we were standing in the middle of the picturesque little town, toeing the line with 328 other competitors. The field was relatively weak, but with Kevin and Lucy (both my nemesis) on either side I wasn’t going to be lacking any competition.

Apart from a local 8-year old kid confusing 5k with 200m, the start was uneventful... bordering on relaxing. I knew my fitness was lacking, and had decided to follow Lucy and Kevin for as long as I could. What I didn’t anticipate was Kevin also being off form, and as we split the few kilometres everything slowly started to make sense. Lucy gapped us at the turn-around, and Kevin and I continued to play cat-and-mouse until the final 400m climb where I managed to sneak in front with what will go down in history as my slowest 5k ever, so far.

Heading into the event, my expectations weren’t high but neither was I anticipating running that slow. If I can take something positive away, apart from the sheer enjoyment or racing and a few good pints with friends, it would be an increasing desire to perform well. Apathy hasn’t set in yet. Results here.

As for the dark side of my training, i.e., the swim and bike, everything was going... swimmingly, until Sunday morning. I was at the end of a 60’ big gear tempo piece and feeling really chuffed. It was at this exact moment, that I happened to come across (in the opposite direction) competitors from a Half Ironman event. As everyone flew passed me dressed in aero helmets and slick skin-suits, my confidence started to melt. My last triathlon was 12-years ago, and apparently a lot has changed. I just hope none of this underlines my enjoyment on race day.

Jun 13: bike 75’ w/ 6xhills
Jun 14: A.M. easy run 22:54, P.M. Chemainus Twilight Shuffle 5K, 17:59 (PW), 3:36 km/pace, 6/328 OA, 2 AG
Jun 15: bike 80’ w/ 4x (5' 80%, 5' 85%)
Jun 16: A.M. run 1:25:10 w/ 10xstrides, AFT. easy run 23:24, P.M. swim 1,800m
Jun 17: A.M. bike 75’ w/ 10’ big gear
Jun 18: day off (scheduled)
Jun 19: bike 2h25 w/ 60’ big gear

Monday, June 13

Tilting Upward

With gray clouds threatening overhead, I sat under the awning of Fol Epi Bakery and gazed out over the waterway. I’d just finished my twelfth ride in as many years, and as I gently blew at the steam snaking across my cup I basked in the joy that accompanies numb legs.

It has been well over a decade since I’ve trained for a triathlon, and I haven’t been able to discern if my joy is based in the moment, or if I’m caught up reliving the past (I turn 40 in a little over two months). The answer to that question can be addressed partly with the fact that it has taken me three years to register for this race. This morning as I rolled out onto the side street with tired legs, there was little doubt as to where my enthusiasm lay.

My self-inflicted scheduled called for half a dozen hills. Back in ‘the day’ I’d have ventured to the Observatory, but short on time and leg power, I found myself weaving through the deserted avenues of Gordon Head in search of variety and a road that tilted up. I wasn’t disappointed and settled on doubles of: Sinclair 450m (10%), Cadboro 800m (6%), and Mt. Tolmie 650m (8%).

The reintroduction of the cycling coupled with the odd dip in the pool has resulted in my running being pushed the side. Or at least that’s how it feels. To accommodate the bike, I’ve had to move my long runs to Wednesday. And if last week’s jaunt, a strenuous post-work 1h15 is anything to judge by, the shorter duration is more than compensated by the persistent fatigue and heavy legs. This is only going to be made worse by tomorrow’s 5k race, aptly named the Twilight Shuffle.

Until later...

Jun 06: A.M. easy run 24:12, P.M. run 53:26 w/ 10x80” (2’)
Jun 07: bike 80’ w/ 5xhills
Jun 08: A.M. easy run 23:56, P.M. steady run 1:15:50
Jun 09: A.M. bike 75’ w/ 3x (5' 80%, 5' 85%), P.M. swim 1,800m
Jun 10: A.M. easy run 22:28, P.M. run 47:45 5x6’ (1')
Jun 11: day off (scheduled)
Jun 12: steady bike 2h40

Friday, June 3

VTS #2 - Open 3,000m

Triathlon 101

With a lacklustre Giro wrapped up for another year, and the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals I’m now living vicariously through an entirely different breed of athletes. That is not to suggest that I haven’t been able to whet my own appetite in the athletic arena.

A few weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of swimming my way through the Oak Bay Half Marathon. Now, as I live on the edge of the Pacific I’ve become accustomed to precipitation in all its forms. But despite this experience, I can’t recall ever being that drenched in a race. Ever.

I knew heading into the event that my fitness was building and consequently didn’t have high expectations. Based on my recent 10k, and with minimal tempo/long runs I envisioned a drawn-out 1h21. Considering I had to walk at 14k, I’m quite pleased with my 1h22, albeit my slowest half since 1999.

3:44, 3:50, 3:50, 3:57, 3:44 (19:05)
4:00, 3:57. 3:43, 3:58, 4:04 (19:42)
3:57, 3:59, 4:03, 4:29, 4:00 (20:28)
3:58, 4:00, 3:57, 3:56, 3:55 (19:46)

With Oak Bay wrapped up and my flats dry, my focus for the next two months has significantly shifted as I attempt my first triathlon in 12 years. I’ve been batting the idea around for a couple years but with Ally pregnant in ‘09, and the birth of child #2 in ‘10 the timing wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t until nattering with Rumon a few months back that I realized waiting on the sideline isn’t nearly as fun as participation, regardless of one’s conditioning. A few weeks later, with a program taped to the fridge and my commuting mule tuned-up ($500), all that was left was to jump back into the pool.

And so it was, last Thursday I tentatively slipped into the shallow end, ducked under the surface and pushed off the wall taking that opening stroke with nothing but possibility and 25m of water in front of me. I managed to dogpaddle through my first w/o in over a decade, and as my 50s gradually ebbed from 40” toward 50”, I exited the pool, twilight overhead and a smile on my face. Everything hurt.

May 15: Oak Bay Half 1:22:38, 12OA, 1 AG.

May 16: day off
May 17: bike 75’ w/ 1xhill
May 18: run 54:41
May 19: bike 60’ w/ 2x(5' 80%, 5' 85%)
May 20: 56:22 w/ 2x8x30” (30”/3’)
May 21: day off
May 22: bike 1h30 steady

May 23: run 47:18 w/ 6x1’ hills
May 24: A.M. bike 75’ w/ 4xhills, P.M. bike 60’
May 25: A.M. run 26:27, P.M. run 1:22:54 w/ 8x30”
May 26: A.M. bike 75’ w/ 3x(5' 80%, 5' 85%), P.M. swim 1,600m
May 27: run 55:48 w/ 3x3x30” hills (10”/2’)
May 28: run VTS 3,000m 10:12, 6 OA, 2 AG
May 29: bike 2h20 mountainous