Friday, December 16, 2011

It's The Holidays!

Its exactly mid-December today and with the days getting short and the mercury getting low its certainly quite difficult to remain motivated.  At the end of the day though I firmly believe that it is important to give training a bit of a break.  My last race was a half mary in November, which means my season may have ran a little bit later than others, and I'm only about 5 or 6 weeks into my "break" while some of the people I train with are already starting up training cycles for June races.

Of all sports, triathlon is probably one of the most consuming sports you can pick up.  The long hard hours of training for an Ironman take a toll not only on your body, but your relationships.  For couples where both parties are athletes, this isn't so bad, but when family and friends are thrown into the mix things get a bit more complicated.

Over the holidays, one way to balance your athletic development with the time you want to spend with those you love is to step back and put yourself in "maintenance mode".  Recognize that you're going to pull back on the training volume whether your like it or not.  So rather than wrestle with scheduling whatever workouts in that you can, tell your coach, or go into your training plan and limit your workouts to one hour per a day at the most from the days leading up to Christmas, all the way through til the 2nd or 3rd of January.

With an hour a day its not hard to squeeze the workout in right when you wake up, or in that 4:00pm lull where everyone else is using the bathrooms in your house to get ready for the evening's festivities.  But keeping boring 2.5 hour LSD trainer rides, or 1.5 hour runs on the treadmill in the plan over the holidays is just a recipe for disaster.  Who wants to be doing those things when their kids are getting worked up to build a gingerbread house?  Or your husband actually proposes the idea of watching "It's a Wonderful Life" by the fire?  Or your wife insists you still put Christmas lights up even though the 25th is days away...

Anyways, I do enjoy going to runs on holidays like Christmas Day and New Years Day, everything is so quiet and peaceful.  But remember, it's Christmas and it only comes once a year so its time for things like tobogganing, skiing, ice skating, eating, drinking, and being merry :-)


Friday, December 2, 2011

Sponsorship Starts at Home

Well its that time of year again.  Holiday season sure, but its also that time that athletes should be talking to prospective sponsors for next season.  Though some sport specific companies will have probably already signed some of their athletes for next year, many "normal" or non-sport related businesses are just in the budget making process or will soon have next year's budget and funds to draw from.

The process of approaching sponsors in your sport is fairly straight forward.  For example, if you're a cyclist, you may have seen a brand's rep around, or you may have a good relationship with you local bike shop that can help open up that dialogue.  Some businesses like K-Swiss and CycleOps even have applications available online, or at least have an email address for sponsorship proposals.

Where things get a little murkier is with often overlooked local businesses.  Your immediate geographic community can often be an untapped market of potential sponsors so long as you know how to engage local businesses and properly represent yourself.  Without exception, every business in your area has a vested interest in developing or reinforcing positive attitudes towards their brand, which means that every business in your area represents an opportunity worth your consideration about approaching.

Can't make the connection and wondering why an oil company, or a dentist's office, or well, whatever, might take an interest in you and your sport?  I'll explain a few important pointers for pursuing these opportunities and then I think you'll start to see the draw.

Be a Presence in Your Community

As an athlete you have the ability to share your skills and energy with others in the community.  I honestly believe that its the social responsibility of athletes to share their gifts with others, an in turn, help bring their society up.  This could take the form of running a local run club, coaching a local amateur team, speaking to children about the power of sport and the benefits of an active lifestyle, or just good old fashioned donating your time at the local soup kitchen.

What this demonstrates to sponsors is that you're an individual ready and willing to be a positive contributor to your community, and in turn an ambassador of goodwill for the brands that are interested in you.  If you don't have the time or resources time to give back to your community, why should any local sponsor be willing to devote time and resources to supporting you?

Learn to Talk Share Your Accomplishments and Inspire Others to do the Same


Professional athletes are great at this.  Ever watch a hockey game and see a player talk about themselves and what a great game they had?  No, they deliver concise, easy to understand answers and are generally pretty down to earth about their achievements.  Amateur athletes on the other hand usually either go into technical details that simply fly over the head of the formerly interested counterparty, or they downplay the accomplishment because they simply don't really know what to say.

Don't shy away from your accomplishments, and when someone asks about your sport, use the opportunity to bring it back to them.  If you're an triathlete or marathoner, when someone inevitably says "I could never do that".  Let them know what they can.  Every triathlete either themselves is a story of overcoming adversity, or knows of an inspiring story like Sister Madonna, or Rick and Dicky Hoyt.  Share those stories, and let others know that sweetness of success in sport is most often a function of hard work and dedication.
Coming across as humble, grateful, and eager to share your sport will garner you the respect and admiration of others.  A likeable guy or gal who is successful in their sport is far more likely to catch the attention of local businesses than someone who is their own biggest fan.

Network, Network, Network


People who are successful in their sport often fall into the trap of only associating with others who are directly involved with their sport.  That can mean they only talk to other athletes, coaches, and prospective sponsors.  In a city like Calgary, and in most cities, for every business that has sponsored a race or athlete, there are dozens of businesses that haven't even considered the opportunities that sponsorship can provide.

Learn to get out of your comfort zone and whenever an opportunity arises to attend a silent auction, fundraiser, Christmas Party, Stampede Party, whatever, take the opportunity up.  Learn to network and make new connections with people you've never met before using local events that are completely unrelated to your sport, or sport at all.

Of course there is always the virtual world as well.  Media such as Twitter, and Facebook can help you engage and make connections with others that you normally wouldn't interact with.  What I'm saying is start following local business and your local movers and shakers that may not have anything at all to do with your sport.

Once the relationship is established, think of things that you can offer those businesses.  Lead a run club for a small oil and gas company, donate coaching sessions to silent auctions, help lead group rides for charity events like the Ride to Conquer Cancer or the MS Bike Tour.  Events like these are full of people with something to offer your if you have something you'd like to offer them.

If the idea of breaking the ice with someone you've never met before is a little unnerving, consider courses like the Dale Carnegie Course, or ToastMasters to help make new connections and build your public speaking confidence.

That sums it up


Thats all for now, as always, if you ever have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or tweet at me.  I'm happy to help.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Last Chance Half, and thats a wrap

Sunday November 13 was the Last Chance Half Marathon and my last race for the season.  Starting the season with the Calgary Police Half Marathon, and finishing with the Last Chance Half Marathon was a great way to bookend the season and see how far I've come.

Game Face! No, not really.
Coming into this race I was excited to have fresh legs, probably for the first time since August 28, the day before Ironman.  After Ironman I raced the Subaru Banff Tri as a cyclist for a relay team, and a few weeks later I ran Melissa's Half in Banff with my fiancée, and about two weeks after that I was running again to get ready for LC.  Being fresh I put a little more pressure on myself and decided that this would be a race where I would take some chances and try and hit the elusive 1:30 HM mark.

The race started and right away I was running with a quick start around 4:10/km.  For the first bit this felt fine but after about 2km I figured the pace wasn't sustainable.  Already starting to get some negative feedback from my legs I decided to back off the pace a little and just go by feel.  I backed off to about 4:30/km which was a bit slower than I wanted, but then I came across another runner who I've raced against before and started pacing off him.  That helped to get my mind off the clock, but at the same time helped push me along a bit.  I actually struck up a conversation with him and said (maybe a bit too crypticly), "You raced the Police Half right? We've done this before".  What I was referring to was playing cat and mouse with each other for km after km.  I'm glad I introduced myself and he knew exactly who I was, we struck up some conversation and it turns out Ron is actually a great guy and a very impressive athlete.

I kept pushing but not feeling great until around the half way mark.  Up until I was calculating splits and times and thinking about what my finish time would be if I blew up, not the best frame of mind.  But after the turnaround I started seeing teammates, friends and my dad.  I had about 45 minutes left in my 2011 season, so I  figured "damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead".  I re-passed a lot of the people who got by me after I backed off the pace and I pushed right until the end.

My old man and I post race
My finish time was 1:33:51, beating my previous PR of 1:39:10 (which had snow on course which probably cost about 3-4 minutes to be fair).  I'm super happy with the result and I believe it was a great way to finish the season.  I firmly believe that the goals you set should be a little it out of your reach, if its something easily within your grasp then your goal becomes an expectation, and with expectations we have no incentive to push beyond what we're capable of.

The best part of the day though was my dad running his first Half Marathon on his 59th birthday.  His finish time was a strong 2:05, and his first running race was the Calgary Police 5km back in April.  So to say he has come a long way this season would be an understatement.  He's already becoming a competition minded age group athlete and is pretty excited that next year when he turns 60 he'll be in the young end of his age category.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Holiday Gift Ideas for the Athlete in Your Life

Egg Nogg Lattes are back in Starbucks now, so as far as I'm concerned its now that time of year.  I pretty much buy all the coolest gear I can get my hands on, so I've decided I should impart some of that knowledge with you folks, so here I've put together my first annual Athlete's Holiday Gift Guide!

Stocking Stuffers (Under $25)


Toasterz Reusable Heat Pack ($6.75 available at MEC.ca)- These are very cool... er... warm.  For runners, skiiers, and boarders who spend lots of time outside through the winter this is a reusable chemical (not the dangerous kind) heat pack.  You simply click the disk and it creates some sort of chemical reaction that provides warmth for when the cold starts to get to you. Once its cooled down, just boil it and its ready to go for next time.

The Stick ($20-$40 available at most running shops)- This pretty simple little tool is a must have for anyone who puts serious mileage in but doesn't want to pay for a massage every few weeks.  It works similar to a foam roller but is smaller and harder.  Great on smaller muscles like your calves, but can definitely tackle larger tissue areas like your IT band.

Gifts for someone you like a bit more (Under $100)


Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf- ($48 at Lululemon)- Gentlemen, if you're not sure what size pants or shirt to buy you lady friend, or you don't trust your own judgement in color/design and don't want to ask the friendly staff at Lululemon for help, then a scarf is the perfect gift.  The Vinyasa scarf is a tres versatile gift that can be worn on the way from the gym, on the way to work, or on a cozy drive out to the chalet in Kimberley.

Lululemon Beach Coast Hoodie ($98 at Lululemon)- This is a safe bet for the guy in your life and is a pretty tried and true gift idea .  Its street enough that if he's one of those guys who's still holding out from wearing Lulu based on some misguided principal, he might be willing to convert.  If your guy already wears Lulu stuff, then you can bet he wants one of these.  These always have cool designs and the thick cotton is good to keep you warm on the drive back from the ski slopes, so this one is a staple in my coat closet.

CEP Compression Socks ($60 at most run/tri/ski/snowboard shops)- My mom always used to get me socks for Christmas.  I probably would have appreciated it a bit more if they were CEP Compression socks.  I've always strongly encouraged boarders/skiiers to wear the appropriate socks for their boots when they hit the hills.  As a runner though I wasn't a convert to compression until recently.  I've got a couple pairs of CEP running socks and use them for recovery or travelling and don't go to a race without them.

Nike+ Sportband ($69 at most running stores)- This is a very sweet piece of equipment.  Using the Nike+ sensor you put in your shoe, which is basically an accelerometer, this device tracks your time, speed, pace, distance.  The cool thing is that its not GPS based, so you can use them indoors or on the treadmill and its a fraction of the price of a more expensive GPS watch.

Louise Card/ Sunshine Card ($85/$99) at respective websites or local ski/snowboard shop)- Free ski days, and discounts the other day? Yes please.  If you ski or snowboard but not enough to warrant a season pass, these are for you.  They pay for themselves basically after about 2 uses so you can't go wrong.  Plus with direct to lift you can skip the ridiculous lines at the ski hills when you get there.

Who Needs a Bonus Anyways? (under $500)


Rudy Project Sun Glasses ($150-$300 at www.e-rudy.com)- There's shades for the sun, and there's shades for the snow.  Heading into winter now a lot of people generally wear the same sunglasses that they use in the summer.  Even if they're sport glasses though its important to realize there are different lenses for different lighting.  There are plenty of times I've been outside where I needed shades to deal with blowing snow, or glare from the ground, but my dark Oakley shades made it difficult to judge contrast.  This impairs depth perception and results in things like skiing off cliffs... okay thats never happened, but who doesn't want a new pair of shades.

Olympus TG-610 ($249 at Bestbuy)- If you've got an athlete in your life, or are one yourself, you know that the need for a camera 15 feet below water is pretty likely, and that when its freezing cold outside is precisely when you'll want that perfect shot, and after you're done all this you'll just drop you camera on the pavement.  Well with this cool little camera has got it all. Another feature I like is its "tap control" which allows you to tap the camera from different sides to control operation, ideal for underwater use or when you're on the hills wearing ski gloves.

Garmin Forerunner 910xt ($390 at outdoor stores and bike shops this December)- Yeah so this is awesome. Bear with me while I have a geek-gasm here. The Garmin 910xt takes your standard GPS watch functionality and adds ANT+ compatibility to read power from devices like a CycleOps Powertap, Quarq, or the upcoming Garmin Vector.  Beyond that, it offers extensive swimming metrics such as distance, stroke count, stroke type, and efficiency. Whats cool about that is that its accelerometer based, not GPS based, so you can actually use it in a pool.  Its a bit expensive, but its the last computer your triathlete friend will ever need.

CycleOps Fluid2 Trainer ($389+ online and at your local bike shop)- Its winter, and if you're SO has a sweet road bike, and no trainer, then the CyclOps Fluid2 trainer is exactly what you should buy him/her.  Secure your bike to the trainer with the straightforward latch system of the Fluid2, get on your bike, put on a movie, and you're ready to go.  I prefer fluid trainers to magnetic and wind trainers since they're comparatively quiet, and you can put down a lot more power and still have realistic road feel.  If you're buying one for a petite lady friend who rarely puts out over 250 watts, the Magneto or Mag+ isn't a bad bet either, and its a bit cheaper at the mid-$200's.

Playstation 3 Uncharter 3 Bundle ($299 at Futureshop)- Yeah thats right. I just added a video game console to the Athlete's Gift Guide.  They're athletes, the goal during the off season should be to get them OFF the trainer and ON the couch.  Hot games this season include; Batman Arkham City, Assassin's Creed   Revelations, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, and Uncharted 3.  You won't thank me later.

Dream On (You're not going to get this)


Santa would deliver presents far faster with this
Specialized Venge ($8000 for the frame)- What does a bike frame that costs as much as a Kia look like? It looks like this.  The Specialized Venge is the brainchild of bike manufacturer Specialized, and Formula 1 race team Mclaren.  Let me say that again, the Venge literally is the baby of a wicked fast bicycle, the S-Works Venge, and a McLaren Formula 1 car.  Differences in how the carbon is cut, and how the frame is molded mean the bike is lighter, stiffer, and more aerodynamic than every other bike on the road.

Well thats all for now folks.  Maybe if the mood strikes me I'll write up another gift guide before the holiday season really gets into swing.  I'll keep you posted (pun).

Cheers,

Raf

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lululemon Run Club

So as some of you may have heard me talk about, I'll soon be co-leading the Lululemon 17th Ave/4th Street Run Club.  I'm very excited to be a part of the Lululemon team and am super excited to be leading the club with rockstar marathoner and fellow ambassador Andrea Rice! (check out Andrea's blog here, she's running the NY Marathon next week!)

The run club will be for runners of all levels but one of our main goals for the group will be to introduce new participants to running.  So whether this is your first run or 101st run, we'd love to see you out there.  For experienced runners, think of this as your easy recovery run, for new runners, think of this as an opportunity to run outdoors in a safe, welcoming atmosphere.


Each run will meet at 5:15 on Tuesdays at the Lululemon on 17th (by Melrose) and we'll spend 15 minutes talking about things like gear, training, staying motivated, etc.  We'll then head out at 5:30pm and run for 30 minutes from the store.

Lastly, don't be intimidated by the weather, we'll tell you all about proper running gear into the cool winter months, but part of this is showing people how refreshing it can be to run in the cooler months.  Also, you can check out my Cool Running post (below) for some extra tips on... cool running.

See you Tuesday at 5:15pm!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cool Running

The past few weeks we've once again been blessed with a comfortable, seasonal, autumn, but with Halloween just a few days away we're all reminded that the days are getting much shorter, and long winter nights are just around the corner.

That certainly doesn't mean that its time to head indoors however, it just means its time to make a few changes to the routine.  You'll find that with some pretty easy changes to your schedule and gear, you can train outside year-round, and even have a good time while you're at it.

Here are a few tips and considerations for training as the temperatures drop and the days get shorter.

  • How much to wear-  Summer is easy, shorts and a tee shirt.  But fall/winter is a bit trickier.  Overdress and you'll find yourself overheating after 5 minutes, underdress and you'll freeze your tail off.  A good rule of thumb when you head out for a run is to dress as though its 10 degrees warmer than it is if you were idle.  So if its -5C out and you're going for a run, wear what you would were if it were +5C and you were walking to work.
  • What to wear- Layers, layers, layers.  Forget about your old college hoodie and sweat pants.  You typically want to wear 2-3 layers of technical and insulating fabrics depending on the conditions.   Ideally with the exception of your base layer, the more zippers the better since this allows you a lot of flexibility in adapting to temperature changes on your run.  More layers will also keep you warmer than just a since thick ugly sweater since the air between each layer will act as its own insulation the same way a double paned window insulates better than single (house windows vs car windows).  Go to a running store or click on either of these links for a good explanation of how a good layering system works; GO Outdoors or MEC
  • Run the good routes you know-   If you run in your neighbourhood or on the same pathways fairly frequently you probably know which ones are the best lit, have the most other runners, flood the least frequently (rain/melting), and cross the fewest roads.  Stick to these routes, there's the many obvious safety considerations involved here but I also say this because these are the routes you'll have the best workouts on.  These are the routes you'll feel most comfortable pushing yourself on since you'll see other runners braving the elements, and you won't have to worry about as many safety concerns (ice, poor lighting, drivers seeing you).
  • Run shorter loops, closer to your base- Rather than running one big 10km loop, do things like try two 5km loops, once one way, once the other. At the end of the day running in cold weather presents a slightly higher risk should something go wrong.  If you're having an off day, cramp up, have IT band issues, or worse yet GI issues, you'll want to be close to home so you can cut through the park and get back in just a few minutes, or call your roommate to come to your rescue so you can go to Starbucks instead.  
  • Know the conditions- Know what time the sun sets and rises, what the short term forecast is for the next few hours, how far your route takes you, etc.  The big thing here is that you don't want to be caught offguard by something you could have figured out by going to theweatherchannel.ca.  Like a freak snowstorm, or you know, the sun setting and it dropping 10 degrees.
  • A couple things to bring- A phone is a must have, so is a toque, gloves, $10, and a pair of sunglasses for reflecting snow or those stinging little snow flakes that fall when its really cold.  Another piece of tech that I like to have are those little thermal boot/hand warmers you can get at any ski shop.  If you get colder than you'd thought, you can crack a couple of those and you'll be good to get home.  
The last thing to have that'll do you good for cooler/cold running is a buddy or group to run with.  Its funner, safer, and it will give a little extra motivation to HTFU and get out there.

You'll find running as the temperature starts to drop really isn't so bad once you get out there and do it once.  A little smile will come across your face when you run by the gym windows where people running on their treadmills watch you go by, the runner with the grit to brave the elements.  And you'll discovery there is a knowing, unspoken camaraderie between you and the other runners out there when its -15C, dark, and you're running like the Energizer Bunny. So give your running brothers/sisters a wave or a nod when you're out there, we'll be sure to give one back!  :-)

Raf

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Quick Update

Just a quick update on things today.  A couple weeks ago I ran the Melissa's Half Marathon in Banff, it was a beautiful day in one of the most incredible places to race in the world.  This one was a pretty relaxed run for me and I just ran with my fiancee Shirley and helped her to set a PB.  A few other friends raced this one and it was great to be out there with everyone on such a great morning.  Also a pleasant surprise was some of my awesome friends from the Lululemon on 4th Street manning one of the aid stations!

I also started structured training again this week after a month off following Ironman where I just did some fun rides, and relaxed runs.  Now I'm back at it, swimming with the Talisman Centre Masters Swim Club, doing runs and track work, and getting whatever rides I can in before the snow falls.  For the next month or so I'll be focusing on the run, as I'm going to be racing the Last Chance Half Marathon November 13th and shooting for a personal best, somewhere in the 1:35 range.

I'll be off to Mexico next week for a nice relaxing vacation as well, hence more running rather than riding, and hopefully more surfing rather than swimming.

Lastly, I'm meeting with a couple of the awesome gals from Lululemon in the next couple days to talk about putting together an intro to triathlon workshop/event sometime in November.  If anyone is interested in attending, shoot me a note and let me know what you'd like to know more about.  More details on that to come.

Cheers!

Raf

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Mental Endurance Race

In this blog post I'm going to talk about some of the experience I've had in endurance events, and the strategies that have helped me through my races.  First and foremost, I am not an exercise physiologist, or a sport psychologist, so please keep in mind that this is an n=1 examination of endurance racing, at the end of the day you know your body best, so its important to race how you are most comfortable.

My first open half marathon was the Calgary Police Half Marathon which I did a few months prior to Calgary 70.3 last year in the interests of actually having run the distance before showing up to a Half Ironman.  My comfort zone is on the bike, not on feet, so as with any rookie runner my primary goal was to finish the race, my secondary goal was to finish the race in under two hours.  I was successful after completing both goals and went on to have a great year of racing.

See? Snow!
I did the Calgary Police Half Marathon again this year and was remarkably faster, and improved by a margin of about 18 minutes in one year despite very poor conditions this year (think snow... lots of it).  One obvious variable had changed, I was much more fit.  But the other thing that changed was my mental strategy.  The first time round I chose to listen to music, and was mentally focused on training my goal of making fast, easy.  In training I had prepared myself to run faster, more comfortably, for longer, and that's the mental strategy I brought into the race.  It seemed appropriate at the time since my goal essentially was survival, but I look back now and wish I hadn't been so blissfully unaware of how well our brains are designed to work with our bodies.

This year was a complete 180 from that strategy.  After ruining my headphones in the washing machine (not as bad as when I ruined my passport in the washing machine) I started running without music.  It was boring at first but after a while it allowed me to place a lot more focus on how my body felt, and when I wasn't thinking about that, I was actually making use of my other senses.  I became acutely aware of how hard my foot was striking the ground from the sound of the pavement, how hard I was breathing, how my joints were feeling, and where my muscles were at.  But in addition to that I also came to appreciate the birds, the wind, the other runners, the crispness of the air, and the warmth of the sun.  Its a little like doing yoga versus going to a club, you can enjoy both, they're just different.

So when I showed up at the race this year I was prepared to utilize all the information that my body was designed to provide me.  By choosing to focus on associating with internal stimuli such as perceived exertion and how my body felt, balanced with external stimuli such as other racers, the varying terrain conditions, and the people there cheering me on, I was able push harder and this actually made the race go by faster.  This is in stark contrast with my first go at the Police Half where I was listening to music to actually tune out what was going on both internally and externally.  This time I was able to go beyond that comfortable running zone and actually "race the half marathon", rather than just "run the half marathon".

A number of studies conducted on endurance athletes have supported this approach.  A study conducted at the 1989 US Olympic Marathon trial, Silva and Appelbaum (1989), found that elite marathon runners who paced and focused on other runners as a part of their race strategy faired better than runners who tended to adopt a dissociative mental strategy during the marathon.

Similarly, a study conducted at the 1996 London Marathon found that racers who relied on a dissociative internal mental race strategy (ie; doing anything to keep you mind off the hurt in your legs) were more likely to hit the wall/bonk, than other racers.  The study ultimately leads to a conclusion that would suggest it may be ideal balance internal associative check ins on your body, with an overall external focus on race day.

So what does this mean in short?  When you go out on race day, listen to your body, and enjoy the race that is going on around you.  Humans are incredible complex organisms that were designed to run, we have built in feedback systems that allow us to measure things like how much energy we have left, how much harder can we go, how much water do we need, and so on.  We just need to choose to listen to them.  Beyond that, build off the crowd cheering for you, encourage other athletes, and smile when people watch you go by and clap or call your name.  Take it all in.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Subaru Banff Triathlon Race Report

First and foremost, for the record I raced the Subaru Banff Triathlon this year as a relay in the Olympic distance.  But last year I raced the whole Oly in fairly challenging conditions.  I wasn't going to write anything up on Banff this year but I thought I would for anyone racing it next year or just looking for something to read on a Wednesday afternoon...

The Swim

Stunning
The swim at the Banff triathlon takes place in Two Jack Lake (by Lake Minewanka).  I would challenge you to find a more beautiful setting for a swim course in the world.  I truly mean that.  The only catch to this is that the water in September is very cold and the weather can be fairly variable.  Last year the air temperature hovered around 15C for the entire race, and the water temperature was about 10-12C so the swim was cut in half for all distances.  This year and the year before last year however, the temperature of the day was actually mid-high 20's, and the water temperature on Saturday was around 15C, so pretty close to Ghost Lake for anyone who did Calgary 70.3.  Chilly, but not bad.

At those temperatures I would definitely recommend wearing two swim caps, or even going with a neoprene cap.  Gloves and booties aren't really necessary but I wouldn't blame anyone for using them.  Ear plugs also help some since that sort of cold water can make you a bit nauseas.  Also a must for those temperatures is getting into the water a few minutes before hand and doing a warm up swim to get over the initial shock of the cold.  I can almost guarantee you, when you get in the water you'll want to get straight out and put down one of your best swim splits ever.

On another note, the exit to the swim is actually a bit rocky, so anyone who does wear booties gets a bit of a bonus of not worrying about stubbing their toes on a rock.

Transition 1
Pretty strait forward here, you get out of the water, run about 75m up a paved ramp to transition, run down the carpet (its a gravel lot) and grab your bike, and you're gone.

The Bike
The ride is 2.5 laps around the Minewanka loop for olympians (38km), 1.5 for sprinters (25km), and basically a downhill ride to Banff for super sprinters (12km).
Down and up and down and up and down
Le Maillot a Pois Rouges (Its the mountains!)
I don't need to say much that the profile doesn't say for me so I'll sort of leave it at that.  Total elevation gain is 136m, total elevation loss is 247m, so net you're going downhill 115m.  Its basically like doing two hill climb intervals followed by a 10 or 15 minute rest before a run.  I'd say strong cyclists/runners here can push  at 100% ftp up the hills and recover on the downhills and on the in lap to Banff.  This year I took the bike leg of the race and powered through it finishing it in about an hour with a TSS of 92.5.  For the non-power geeks that basically means I went almost as hard as I could for an hour.  And with the descent into Banff at the end I would have felt fairly good had I had to run afterwards.

If you're not quite as confident on the bike, I would say don't be intimidated by the bike course, its challenging, sure, but you're all in the same boat.  As you can tell from the terrain profile the climbs are actually a bit stepped, so you'll have breaks every few hundred meters during the climb, just sit up when your speed falls below 20km/hr, and get aero when you're above 20km/hr.  Any time you're above 50km/hr, just soft pedal and hide from the wind.

Transition 2
The last bit of the ride you'll be coming right down Banff Ave with crowds cheering you on.  The town and the volunteers have done a truly exceptional job with this set up.  Transition is towards the west end of town and its a fast, straightforward transition.

The Run
There is a small chance that when you go out on the run your feet may feel like blocks of ice, I'm not joking, its a really weird sensation.  Its not a big deal though, just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

The bike was challenging but the run course pretty much follows the banks of the beautiful Bow River and as such is actually fairly flat.  For the olympic race its two 5km loops, for sprint and super sprint its just one 5km loop.  Lots of race support, lots of supporters, and probably one of the easiest best run courses around.

The finishing chute once again is right down Banff Ave.  Give it your all into the finish and smile for the camera!

Final Thoughts
This is one of the most scenic race courses you'll find in the world.  Period.  The swim is cold, but racking your bike in T1 and getting ready to swim race morning is one of the most surreal experiences you'll ever have at a race.  The bike is technical, but cyclists will love it, and if you have the opportunity to pre-ride the course, you'll probably actually enjoy it when you race.  And of course the run, its a quick tour of Banff which is just awesome.  This would be a top choice for a vacation race for anyone in Western Canada or the upper-Northwest of the US.

My coach, Todd Malcolm finishing our relay run
LifeSport Coaching who puts on the race does a really great job of this race, the post race food is awesome, the prizes are great, the volunteers are exceptional, and they get some great sponsors out for this event.  So huge props to them.

Also, I'd like to say thanks to my training partner Keith Blundell who busted out some HTFU and did the swim, and our coach Todd Malcolm who crushed the run in 38minutes.  We came first in the relay!

Finally, huge congrats to Lennina Pavon Cardoso for finishing your first tri out there, and Lily Sia Lu and Carly Louise DeBoice for kicking ass as per usual at the Banff Tri!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Shoutout to the volunteers of IMC and every other Tri

On race morning I know you get up as early as I do, if not even earlier, and I know that this is after days of working to make sure our banquet is just right, our transition area is set up for us to drop off our kit, and our race packages are in order. I realize that stuffing race packages is probably the most thankless job of all since you may never even see the athlete who carelessly dumps the contents onto the bed at the hotel as soon as they get back.  So I really appreciate that.

But back to race morning.  In the early dawn hours I showed up for body marking and Special Needs drop off and you were there by the hundreds with visible excitement for me and my fellow athletes, and you wished me luck probably a thousand times over.  As the clock would tick down closer and closer to the start you made sure I was on my way to where I needed to be, you made sure that my wetsuit was on right, and you marshalled lines at the porta-potties a hundred people deep.  You did everything you could to make sure all I needed to do was think about my race.

When the gun goes and thousands of us filled Lake Okanagan I noticed you below the surface of the water in full dive gear, I also noticed you keeping a watchful eye in the canoes and kayaks, and I was glad you were around to lead us back to shore.  For many, the most dangerous part of a triathlon is the swim so its good to know you've got our backs.

Hauling ass into transition you stripped off my wetsuit in just a few brief seconds, you grabbed my transition bag faster than I could have possibly found it, and then you lead me from point A to point B (which was a life saver in the rush I was in).  Most noticeably, when I ditched all my stuff in a pile on top of the transition bag in the tent, magically at the end of the day I found it all in there with not a thing missing. Your attentiveness did not go unnoticed.

At each aid station on the bike you made my life as easy as possible.  I'd toss my empty bottle, which you ended up picking up (I usually did aim for the garbage, really), and then I'd point at you holding my drink and you'd break into a near sprint to make sure that it ended up in my hand.  You have no idea how much not having to slow to a stop helps us, I always said thanks but we're always in such a hurry I'm not sure if you ever hear me.

When I got back to transition to start my run, man was I ever glad to see you.  This is where you stood out most in my mind.  I got into the T2 change tent, and you told me, "whatever you don't need, throw it on the ground and I'll pack it for you.  You focus on changing your shoes and I'll take care of everything else".  You shared my sense of urgency, but conveyed a zen-like sense of calm that got me remembering, slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.  I was in and out of there in about 3 minutes including the time it took to get sunscreen onto my burnt shoulders.  Nicely done.

On the run you cheered me on, handed me sponges, gave me water, asked if I wanted grapes, bananas, pretzels, anything. You asked a couple times if I was feeling okay and I know on the outside it didn't look that way, but I was, and if you weren't there waiting for me every mile, it would have been a different story.  You stood there for hours as me and 2800 other athletes shuffled by.  You were practically a saint to me at that point.

When I crossed the line, I was overcome with emotion.  I was exhausted, dehydrated, and dizzy, and I've probably never felt better.  You can't totally mute the pain with the joy though, so when you literally caught me, that did it for me, you rocked me world.  I started my day eleven and a half hours earlier and I was never more than half an hour away from your aid and then when it was all done.  At the end of it all, there you were at the finish line with no other responsibility that to say congratulations, put that medal around my neck, and take me to get food, or to see my family, or in the case of some, to the medical tent.

My favourite part of the day though, was at that finish line when you said, "Raf, you did it, you're an Ironman now".

I appreciate what every volunteer at every triathlon does.  Without volunteers I would not be able to race in the sport that I love, and they truly are what makes this sport possible.  I won't be racing in IMC next year as I've got my sights set on other races, so I'll be joining the ranks of the thousands supporting the race and I really am looking forward to it.

I just wanted to write this blog post to say thanks to the town of Penticton for hosting the gem of North American triathlons once again, and thanks to all the volunteers that made that day possible.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ironman Canada 2011 Race Report

So Sunday was the big day, and with everything fresh in my mind I thought I'd post my race report to let you know how it all went and share my experience with everyone. I'll be concise and a bit more technical in this post, and sometime in the next few days I'll talk more about the experience.

Pre-Race
Had dinner at about 5:00pm the night before and got to bed around 8:30 or 9:00pm. I woke up at 4:00am and had 2 Extra Calorie Ensures, half a bagel with peanut butter, an orange juice, and a coffee, all good for probably a bit under a thousand calories.

Made my way down to the special needs drop off and body marking at about 5:45am. You could really feel the excitement and nervousness in the air as everyone exchanges greetings in the early dawn light mixed with giant flood lamps. Then took care of all the other pre-race stuff like tire pressure, one last pit stop at the porta-potties, and wetsuit on. Then it was down to the beach....

Swim
Over 2800 people started on that beach, its a crowd. As per my coach's suggestions I started on the inside right of the buoys where it is less crowded. I'm not a strong swimmer so I seeded myself a few rows back.

They sing the national anthem and then in about a minute the horn blows. I managed to find myself a pretty open spot of water and didn't really bother to draft anyone, but I know I had a couple ladies drafting me. Didn't have too many issues with other swimmers, but around the corner buoys you definitely have to go into a head up swim (don't do breast unless you want to start frog kicking people behind you).

Early in the swim I had some issues with my left shoulder but they want away after about a thousand meters. After about 2500m I started getting tired and had to just focus on long powerful strokes. For the record, I'm not a great swimmer, my longest continuous swim prior to this was 2100m, and 18 months ago I could say I swam only in the loosest sense of the term, meaning I wouldn't drown if you threw me into a pool.

Coming back into shore there are some issues with sighting and where the sun is, but with tinted goggles it isnt' really an issue, my suggestion for anyone else would be to sight the condo towers and not the buoys.

Swim Time: 1:28:29 | Swim Place: 2187 | Position after swim: 2187

T1
Fast transition, used the wetsuit strippers, already wearing my ride/run kit, so it was helmet on, shoes on, and I was out of there.

T1 Time: 00:03:48 | Position after T1: 1966 (yes, I passed 221 people in transition, thats why you practice your transitions)

Bike
The bike was good, I'd ridden the course once already so I knew what to expect. I also know that there are very few people who are as slow as I am in the water, but as fast as I am on the bike, which is a blessing and a curse. So there was a lot of passing.

My plan was to ride at 180-200 watts, but with the heat I was forced to ride on the lower end of this, around 180 watts, given that my heart rate was getting into the high 150's. I just had to listen to my body and respond to the conditions. I knew that if I rode any harder than I was, that I'd be shot for the marathon in the heat later on.

My advice to anyone would be to skip the first aid station at McLean Creek since stations are every 10 miles, or every 30 to 40 minutes, and you shouldn't need aid half an hour into the ride.

From McLean to Osoyoos is fast with an overall descending profile and usually a tailwind. If you're an average rider this is a good place to relax and prepare yourself for Richter and the rollers, but if you're more experienced or have ridden the course before, you can take a calculated risk and try and make time here since after Richter you're always either climbing or descending.

Richter's Pass is a baby if you know how to ride it. The key to Richter, the rollers, Yellow Lake, or any hill in an iron distance triathlon is to maintain the same level of exertion that you would have on the flats. I'm a strong rider and my ftp is roughly 280 watts, or 3.8watts/kg, and there were a lot of people passing me early in some of the climbs. This is completely fine but if you're breathing is audible and you're riding out of the saddle in a 180km time trial followed by a marathon in 35 degree heat, you're doing something wrong.

Once I reached the top of those hills, be it Richter or the rollers, or Yellow Lake, it was "click, click, click" as I geared up and accelerated downhill with the same effort as I climbed up (about 190watts for reference). Trust me, its a lot easier and more fun to pass people going down hill than uphill by keeping your exertion level on both sides.

I didn't have any issues with tacks and flats, or with aid stations running out of water like some people did. Once in a while I'd see groups of people with flats, but I honestly don't think it was tacks, just rough roads combined with some maybe too high tire pressures in the desert sun, but I could be wrong. As for aid stations running out of water, that really sucks, I only showered myself with water from a bottle once when a lady offered me a bottle that she'd used to do the same (a class act I should say).

At Yellow Lake I saw Shirl, Jen, and Jill in a Tour de France-esque tunnel of spectators which provided a great boost at a challenging point. That was great, and from then on it was one small climb and 30km of descending into Penticton.

Bike Time: 5:44:06 | Bike Place: 467 | Position after bike: 777 | Average/Norm Power: 167/180 | Average HR: 155 bpm

T2
Dismounted my bike, and while I was running it turned on me and I fell on it because of my slippery cleats. Big bruise on my leg, but my ego took the worst of it. Cleats off, running shoes and visor on, sunscreen on, and I was out of there.

T2 Time: 00:03:24 | Position after T2: 739

The Marathon
This hurt. Something about getting off your bike after a 180km bikeride and going to run a marathon at 2:30pm in 34C (94F) heat is mentally challenging. My original plan was to run 5:20km's and only walk the aid stations if necessary but it quickly became clear that this marathon was about surviving the heat.

Your legs never feel great when you start the run in a triathlon and this case was no different. After about 5km I was starting to recognize that keeping my body temp down would be critical. So the plan changed to walking the aid stations and doing everything I could to keep cool, sponges, water, ice, etc.

At the 8km aid station I was kind of a jerk and walked right by Shirl, her family, and some of my friends. I knew they were there and I could hear them, but that was probably the first aid station I walked and I was simply in a world of hurt and needed every last ounce of energy to keep moving forward. After that point though I thought about how those people were there for me and I owed it to them, and myself to HTFU and get on with it.

Jordan and the Tri It crew were about on bikes providing words of encouragement telling me I looked strong. But when I started seeing some of the pros walking I started thinking about how easy it would be to slow down and how much time I had to finish. Then I saw none other than Janelle Morrison, a true inspiration for me, and she reminded me of the wise words she shared with me a couple weeks before, "you owe it to yourself to fight". My pace picked up, and I wasn't about to back down.

I stuck with walking the aid stations, as did many others, it was simple attrition out there, and anyone who managed to run the whole course deserves an extra medal or honourable mention or something. Into town I just kept telling myself, get to the next aid station and you can walk just a little bit, and then I kept telling myself, "40 minutes and you're an Ironman, 30 minutes and you're an Ironman, 10 minutes and you're an...".

Run Time: 4:10:41 | Run Place: 410| Position after run: 470 | Average HR: 162 bpm

The Finish
My wonderful fiancée Shirley, and two incredible friends Jen and Jill were my catchers and I was so happy that they were there on the other side of the line rather than somewhere back on the course. They brought me pizza, pepsi, water, and smiles.

Coming down that finishing chute was like... well finishing an Ironman. You literally have thousands of people cheering for you as you run down the carpet, and after 42km of you body telling you to stop, all of the sudden, you're done. Its a mix of all the bad things you'd expect from a 226km day, completely muted by the relief, exhilaration, and happiness of landing among the stars for just a few brief seconds.

One quote sums it all up best...

“I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious”

-Vince Lombardi

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ironman tomorrow

Invictus
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Powerful Beyond Measure

The first multisport race that I ever signed up for was a sprint duathlon two years ago. I was hesitant at first but wanted to set a goal for myself. I guess after that race I was hooked and went from racing a sprint du, to signing up for the 2010 Ironman Calgary 70.3 even though I hadn't been in a pool in ages.

Fast forward to last August, a few weeks after Calgary 70.3, I was signing up for Ironman Canada which is now only days away.

I didn't realize it at the time but when we set our sights high and finish what we set out do, something great happens to those around us, they ask themselves to do the same. In the past year I've had the pleasure of seeing my dad, my brother, my fiancee, and a half dozen other friends cross the finish lines of their own races. From sprints to Half IM's, they've done it. I can't say that they wouldn't have done those races anyways, but its nice to know that I've been those journeys.

Aiming your sights high and settling for nothing less than success isn't something you do just for yourself, its something you also do for those around you. The power of individual successes combined with the strength of social networks means that we can each make the world a better place by rising to our potential and encouraging others to do the same.

(For empirical evidence of this I strongly urge you to watch Nicholas Christakis' video on the Hidden Influence of Social Networks)

For more poetic evidence of this, I have a quote for you.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

-Marianne Williamson

A Big Thanks

Just a few days away now from Ironman Canada. I arrived in Penticton yesterday evening and did a "quick" 2 km swim this morning in about 40 minutes, followed by a 40km bike ride. Its funny how your perceptions of short and long seem to change when you're doing an Ironman.

Anyways, I just wanted to take this opportunity to say a few thanks to some huge supporters of mine over the past few months.

First and foremost, the team from Lululemon on 4th Street in Calgary has been incredibly generous to me and has been a great team to have on side. I became a Lululemon Ambassador this summer and its been an incredible experience thus far and I look forward to the next year of being a part of the Lululemon family. And a special thanks goes to Andrea, the rockstar who was the first to introduce me to the Lulu team!

Next is the Tri It Multisport crew. I've got to know and work with the Tri It team on a couple of projects through redlime marketing and I've had an awesome time. On top of that, the experience and knowledge of the sport that they've shared with me and all of their other customers has been top notch. I'm happy to call them my friends on a personal and professional level and would recommend anyone in Calgary visit them for anything and everything triathlon related.

My coach Todd Malcolm of No Limits Triathlon has been a great coach and mentor in triathlon for me. His knowledge of the sport, technical aptitude, generosity, and exceptional athleticism make him a great guy to have in your corner going into a triathlon of any distance.

Now of course my friends and family. You've all been incredibly supportive and patient with me over the past couple of months. Triathlon is an incredibly demanding sport, not only of one's self, but also of the relationships you have with others. I'm so greatful to have you all as my base of support and hope to do you all proud on August 28th. And for those of you out here in Penticton, after I finish the race, first round is on me!

Last but certainly not least, my wonderful and beautiful fiancee (as of last Friday), Shirley Blundell. Thank you so much for being my support crew, my biggest fan, my inspiration, and my best friend. I can't wait to give you a great big hug the moment I cross the finish line and I'm so happy to be with you.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A round up of some good IMC discussions

Internet forums are a great tool to communicate and learn from other individuals and athletes. Generally as a big race approaches, old discussions will be rehashed and new ones will come up about the best strategies and tactics for the big day.
Below is a roundup of some good discussions I've come across on slowtwitch with loads more information than I'd be able to summarize here. Happy Friday everyone!
For those of you heading to Penticton <-- Strongly recommend reading this one!
Cheers,
Raf

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ironman Canada Bike Course


So its not long until Ironman Canada now. I've just finished my last big weekend and it was a good learning experience. I rode the bike course a couple of days ago and found one thing I wasn't quite prepared for was the heat and really started to fade in the second half of the bike course.

For anyone who is doing Ironman Canada and won't have the luxury of riding the bike course before hand, I've come up with a few quick pointers based on my experience and the advice of others.
  • If at any time during the ride you feel like you are going hard, you're going too hard
  • Be sure to hydrate, I usually take in about 750ml of fluid per hour and I stuck to that plan this weekend. It wasn't enough, both times I reached my girlfriend Shirley who was supporting my ride I found myself chugging almost a litre of water even though I didn't feel thirsty. Remember, by the time you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated
  • The ride down to Osoyoos is fast and a slight downhill, if you find yourself cruising along at 40kph and your HR is relatively low, consider taking advantage of that time to hydrate and relax. The work starts at Richter, and you can start to build there
  • Take your time up Richter, its not as bad as people make it out to be if you have a plan. Be mentally strong here and be very patient. I'm a strong climber/cyclist but I made a point of sticking to my 200watt target race power even up Richter. For me this meant I was climbing at about 9-10kph. For my friend Keith, an average cyclist/triathlete who was trying to stick to 160 watts, this meant climbing at 6-7kph. If you're making the ascent any faster than either of these two respective ranges, you're going too hard
  • Learn to descend comfortably, it may be a little late for this less than 3 weeks out, but a couple rides with some long descents will do good to prepare you for the IMC course. Even if you just do the climbs and descents of the IMC course in the weeks before the race, you could save a couple minutes on the ride
  • On the rollers after Richter you may be tempted to try and take the momentum from the last descent and power over the crest of the hill to the next descent. Don't, these rollers are a little too long and too many to do this without burning up your legs
  • Not long after the out and back, which is where you get your special needs, you'll approach the Seven Sisters. They start so gradually you may not even notice you're starting to climb. Here and all over the course you should always be mindful of your power/HR/perceived exertion. There are a lot of false flats and a lot of sections where the terrain will deceive you into thinking you aren't climbing when you actually are. Remember, if at any time you feel like you're going a little hard, you're going way too hard
  • Save your energy for the run. At the end of the day, incremental power on the bike isn't as valuable as incremental power on the run simply because you're trying to overcome far more wind resistance riding at 35kph, than running at 10kph. Going 5% harder for 6 hours on the bike might mean you get off 10 minutes sooner, but end up shuffling for an extra hour on the run. Its not worth it, people rarely say "I wish I'd gone out harder on the bike", but often say "I had a great ride, but things fell apart on the run", its all legs, its all related, and on a course like IMC, your patience on the bike will be rewarded on the run.
Anyways, I'm assuming everyone racing IMC who reads this is now probably into their taper. So stay safe, and take it easy, we're into the home stretch here friends!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tips for Ironman Calgary 70.3

I raced Calgary 70.3 last year but never wrote up a race report on it, so I thought I'd write up some tips for anyone racing it this weekend. And for anyone not racing, they're definitely still looking for volunteers.

Pre-Race
  • Make sure you check out the IM expo at the Westin, lots of cool stuff, lots of volunteers, and a cool place to visit overall. Plus I'll be volunteering at the info desk on Friday from 10am-2pm
  • You'll be racking your bike at transition the day before, probably early in the morning, make sure you're tires are below pressure since its going to warm up through the day and you don't need two flats at 5:00am the next morning when you're getting ready to start
  • Run through you transitions several times when you pack your transition bags since it is a point to point
Swim/T1
  • The water is cold so to be prepared for that, take a pre-race swim right after the wave before you starts
  • Its a 6-7am start depending on the wave you're in meaning the air temperature will be a little cool, probably around 10C ish. But don't be tempted to overdress, it should warm up.
  • Sight Sight Sight, the buoys are a little far apart here and you swim under a bridge so make sure you've got a good race line when you're in the water
  • T1 has quite a bit of gravel since its not a paved lot, so be prepared for that. I wouldn't go as far as bringing sandals or anything since they lay carpet down, but you might want to think about it if your feet are fragile.
  • Take advantage of the wetsuit strippers, get your wetsuit down to your waist once you're out of the water and the strippers will be waiting for you at the top of the ramp. Once you get to them, just lie down and let them do the rest.
Bike
  • Like I mentioned, its going to be pretty cool that early in the morning, but for most people its arm warmer cool at worst. Last year was cold and cloudy with a high of only about 18C and most people were good with the standard tri tank and shorts
  • Depending on your fluid intake and sweat rate, you might be able to get away with just two bottles for the entire course, more likely 3. But it won't be hot when you're riding in the AM, so don't worry about a 3 hour 26C degree ride in the blazing hot sun.
  • Pace yourself, follow your race plan, and pay close attention to RPE and HR (power if you have it). There are a lot of rollers early on in the ride that can shut you down by the halfway if you aren't paying attention to your effort.
  • Once you turn back south towards Cochrane (maybe halfway through the ride) there are going to be some long descents, take that time to drink and rest and descend carefully. Last year there was a crash here and a guy needed to be taken off in an ambulance. This is also where I lost my Oakleys at 70kph... so if you see them... uh nevermind.
  • Coming out of Cochrane is the one real climb on the course (probably a Cat 4 or 5 climb in TdF terms), so just relax, sit up and spin up it.
  • After the long climb is a long false flat. Again, pay attention to your HR or power not your speed.
  • Remember the bike course is a couple km's longer than the standard 90km, so don't sweat it if you're a few minutes off your usual pace. The prevailing winds are generally out of the west though, and the net elevation change is descending, so that might be enough to make up the time difference.
  • T2 is in a grassy field, and your transition bag should be at your rack.
Run
  • The run course is absolutely beautiful, so for the first couple minutes use the scenery and the crowds to calm yourself down for the half mary ahead of you.
  • You're going to run a few km east, then you loop back past the finish line before you run down into the Weaselhead Valley, the crowds should give you a nice boost.
  • Its a steep run into the valley, and once you're down in there its flat and you'll have some good coverage from the trees to keep the heat from being a huge issue.
  • Once you get to the other side of the valley you'll have to climb a steep hill, so be prepared for that, there should be an aid station at the top if I recall correctly.
  • Once out of the valley you have a few km's before the turnaround. On the way out you'll think you were setting a great pace, on the way back you'll realize it was another false flat.
  • Once you're back in the valley after the turnaround you've got about 7km's to go including the climb back out of the valley which is going to hurt but won't last too long.
  • After the climb you'll pass by the finish once more before you actually get to the finish. Pay close attention to your pace, and get ready to dig deep. You're almost home.
  • Smile for the camera as you cross the finish line! And don't step on the finish tape like I did! The timing mat is *before* the finish arch, so you can stop and make yourself look pretty before you get to the line.
Thats all and good luck this weekend! If you're from out of town and have any questions feel free to email me or ask away! And like I said, I'll be volunteering at the info desk Friday from 10am-2pm if you'd like to stop by and say hey!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Just a few quick updates

So I've gone about 2 or 3 weeks without a blog post! Super bad of me, I know.

Training for Ironman Canada has been coming along fairly well, as some of you know I don't really have a whole lot of races on the schedule as I'm been pretty focused on IMC. My swim has been consistent and my biking has been fairly strong. Been spending lots of time in the mountains and in the foothills with routes that have at least a few categorized climbs.

Running on the other hand has been tough. I've been having some IT band issues, so I took a whopping two weeks off running. Went out today though and the legs felt good, albeit a little tired from a 184km bike ride yesterday (in 5:30!).

Anyways, the most exciting news of late though is that I will be racing in the ITU Long Course Age Group World Championships in Vitoria-Gasteiz Spain next year! The Chinook Half IM was a qualifier for it and if you read my lengthy race report you'll know I faired quite well. Most of my family is from Spain so I'm hoping they can come out and watch it while I represent Canada on the world stage!

I'll have another blog post up later this week. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pre-Race Triathlon Tips

I know there are a few first timers that follow my blog so I thought I'd do a quick blog post before the long weekend with some pre-race day tips that you might not have come across yet, or not had the misfortune of having to learn the hard way what to do or what not to do.

Weeks and Days Before

- Remember to taper before your race. This doesn't mean stop doing workouts, but start to reduce the intensity and duration of your workouts leading up to your race.

- Attend the pre-race clinics and seminars, bigger races such as Calgary 70.3 or the Chinook races will put on seminars for things like changing tires, or race day nutrition. These are a great source of information for any level of triathlete.

- Familiarize yourself with the race route, not just the map, but the elevation profile for the bike, you'll want to know how big the hills are if you're racing anywhere in Western Canada. Courses like Calgary 70.3 are fairly straight forward with only one major hill and some rollers. But other courses like Chinook or Banff have hill after hill and its important you're familiar with them so you may budget your energy accordingly.

- Avoid fiber for a couple of days before the race, this means things like whole bran muffins, whole wheat pasta, etc. Sport drinks such as Heed or Carbopro are a good source of carbs a couple days before the race that won't leave you running to the latrine during your race.

- Start adapting your sleep to get up a little earlier. For most triathletes and most races this isn't an issue, but with races like Calgary 70.3 where you have to take a bus out to the start, you may need to be up as early as 3:30am. So it pays off to be a little bit lame and be in bed, lights out by 9pm for a couple days before the race.

Day Before

- Spend a bit of time with friends and family and thank them for all the support they've given you in the months of training before the race. Tomorrow is all about you, and they'll be there cheering you on so its good to let them know you appreciate their patience with your endurance based habits. Plus, taking your mind off the race for an hour or two is a good way to calm the nerves.

- Walk around with a water bottle all day and be sure to stay hydrated through the day.

- Set up everything for your transition at home the day before and visualize every step of the race to make sure you don't forget anything when you pack up.

- If you are racking your bike the day/morning before the race (a la Calgary 70.3), remember to deflate your tires 20 or 30psi. If you pump your tires up to 110 psi and rack your bike at 9am the day before the race when the temp is 10C out, and then by noon that day the temp rises to 30C, you'll show up at the race the next morning with two blown tires from the air expanding in the tire.

Morning of

- Give yourself plenty of time to have a breakfast and then get to the race start. On a side note, for breakfast I generally have a bagel with Nutella, a banana, an Ensure (the one with extra calories), and some water. You don't need to go crazy, you just need enough calories to replenish what you've burned of your glycogen stores since dinner.

- Okay now you can fill your tires up to the specified pressure for your weight. But don't just pinch the tire and figure its good enough! 90psi feels about the same as 110psi and running too low a tire pressure is a sure fire way to getting a flat during the race.

- Have someone help you put on your wetsuit. There is a right way and a wrong way and usually race partners from the local Tri shop will be around to help you put it on the right way.

- Do a warm up swim. Lakes like Ghost Lake or Two Jack Lake can be very cold, so much so that when you put your face in the water, your body goes into a response mode that causes your heart rate to spike. Its important that you get that out of the way and get acclimatized to the cold water before you start your swim.

The Last Couple Moments Before the Horn Goes or the Cannon Blows

- Control your level of arousal. If you're a strong athlete racing a sprint, its okay to amp yourself up a little. Think confident thoughts and visualize moving smoothly and strongly through the water, and riding like a bat out of hell on the bike and run. On the other hand, if your goal is to finish today, or you're racing an Iron distance race, its important to calm your mind down. You should have a plan and that plan is not dictated by a goal position (Ie; top 10 AG) or even a goal time (sub-whatever). You can't control the wind, the rain, the heat, or your competitors. You can only control you, so your goal should be to stick to the plan you've worked out and stay in your zones. Today your goal is to race your own race.

- Wish your fellow racers luck, and smile to your family or friends seeing you off. Chances are you're loved ones may more more nervous than you are about your race because they have no control over the outcome, and they want you to rock it. A smile will go a long way towards telling them, "Don't worry, I've got this one".

This is it

My coach put it best when he said that your A race is your victory lap. You've already done all the work to get there, now its just a couple of hours and you'll have finished what you set out to do. You're already a triathlete, now you've just got to cross the line.

For me the last few moments before the race are like the end of a yoga class. I'm humbled by the number of people setting out to accomplish the same goal as I am, and I'm grateful to the powers that be that have allowed me to come this far.

In the timeless words of William Ernest Henley,

"I thank whatever gods may be, for my unconquerable soul..."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chinook Half Ironman Race Report

So last Saturday was the Chinook Half Ironman here in Calgary. The Chinook Half is a local race put on by Mike Bock, an awesome event organizer who puts together a wicked, athlete focused event.

The course definitely more challenging than Calgary 70.3. The swim is a two loop 2km swim in a local man-made lake, followed by a 96km out and back to Kananaskis Provincial Park which is pretty much the entrance to the Rocky Mountains, and the run is a two loop course through Fish Creek Provincial Park which is relatively flat with the exception of the large descent/ascent out of the Fish Creek Valley.

Pre-Race

Pre-race was fairly routine for me. We had a pasta party put on by the event organizer the night before at the pre-race meeting. Oddly enough though, around 8:00pm I started getting some pretty acute pain on the inside of my right ankle which really started to worry me. I massaged and stretched it out through the next couple hours though.

Race morning, got up at about 5:30am. Had an Ensure, a bagel with Nutella, and a banana. Got all my stuff ready and headed down to the race start.

Setting up transition was straightforward and easy, there were huge sponsor posters and no assigned spots so I planted my spot right in front of a huge Subaru sign. Went around and said hey to everyone I knew, the team from Tri-It, and a few people I'd met from previous races. This really helps to calm the nerves and remind you that you're out there to have fun.

The Swim

Water temperatures were 16C, so pretty warm considering the time of year. I did a quick pre-race swim with some fist drills to remind my body to catch strong. Went back ashore just before the start.

The horn went off and out we went. In the first couple hundred meters I definitely let the rush get the best of me and I had to really focus myself and calm down. My stroke and sighting were suffering a bit because I was just too into the hustle. At the first buoy though I was able to settle in and get a good pace going. The rest of the swim was pretty straightforward with the exception of someone who decided they would grab my leg from behind and try to move me aside which almost pulled my timing chip off my ankle and really irritated me. When this happened I started kicking like a madman to let them know that if they want to be a jerk they'd have a grand time doing so.

I'm not sure how my first and second lap compare, but it does seem that my second lap went a bit faster.

Time: 42:42, distance 2.1km (can thank shoddy sighting for the extra 100m), HR 160bpm, 65th place. I wear my Garmin 310xt in the water, for the record.

Transition 1: 3:33

The Bike

The bike is my strong suit so coming out of the water so far back didn't rattle me at all. The first few km I settled into my pace and stayed in low zone 2, so heart rate around 150-155, and power around 75% of my FTP.

I quickly started gaining position and was feeling good in the first few minutes but not long after I realized I wasn't feeling 100% internally. I can't really describe it but my legs felt cool and heavy, and for a little bit I was starting to get a stitch. I started to think about my ankle from the night before and was really playing headgames with myself. This lasted for the first maybe 15km of the ride. The saving grace was that at this time I was also making up huge positions.

Around 30km things started to feel better and the field had really thinned out. By this time individual riders were at least 500m apart. We were starting to get into the hills and I was having no issues keeping pace. I kept calling "left!" to make sure the guys I was passing knew I was coming since I really don't like getting over the line on some sections on that roadway.

Approaching the turnaround I counted about 20 riders coming the other way, but couldn't tell who was racing and who was just out riding but figured I was in the top 20 anyways. Reached the turnaround and some confusion with the guy controlling traffic really upset me so I just dropped the hammer and hauled ass on the way back.

I stuck to my strategy during the bike. For the first 1/3 ride in Zone 2 with HR sub 160 with power about 75% of FTP. Then the second 2/3 ride in high Zone 2-low zone 3 with HR in 160's, power at 80-85% FTP. Its a course with a couple big climbs, and a lot of rollers so the strategy on those was to not exceed 110% FTP on the short hills, and 100% FTP on the long climbs which wouldn't last more than 5 minutes anyways. Over 55km/hr I'd just tuck in and get small. Its a tricky course to get a read on power though since most of the time you're either climbing, or spinning out.

Nutrition also went according to plan, 1 hammer gel every half hour, and finish two bottles of Perpetuum, no need to stop at aid stations.

Time: 2:56:12 for 96km. 3119 ft of climbing. Ave HR 160bpm, Max HR 172bpm. Ave Cadence 92rpm. 7th fastest bike time of the day.

Transition 2: 1:07.

The Run

For the run my plan was run an even split, and try and stay under 5:00min/km. Getting off the bike of course my legs felt heavy and I really wished I'd done more bricks recently but as per usual the battle was mental. My run cadence is spot on what my bike cadence is so I usually motor along just fine. For the first lap I motored along between 4:35/km and 4:50/km. After a few km I felt great.

Todd (my coach) was chillin around the 7km mark and when I saw him I told him he was a sight for sore eyes. I'm not sure what it was but it was definitely a good boost to see a familiar face since there weren't many spectators down in the valley.

Second lap I started hurting. During the last bit of the bike I chugged down what I had left of my drink which was maybe 1/3 of the bottle. Up until now I was aware that it wasn't really processing in my stomach but it didn't start to bother me til then so I settled back the pace a bit and let it go down. Once my stomach started feeling better and I picked up the pace, I started to get a stitch under my ribs, now I was in the hurt locker.

I tried to run through the stitch, and I pictured Macca and Raelert in the last few km of Kona and I remember seeing Macca at one point push under his ribs and double forward, but he just kept running which is what I wanted to do... Then I pictured Chris Lieto who sort of shut down in the run which was a little less inspiring. I had to stop and walk at 16km for about 200m which I've never done before in a half marathon or half IM. Reflecting now I wish I hadn't walked but it was definitely hurting, and I knew I had a good few minutes on the next person behind me.

When I picked up the pace again I still had the stitches but I could run through them now that they'd eased off a little.

Going up the beast of a hill out of the valley I ended up walking once more. It was just one of those hills that if you tried to run it you'd take such small steps someone might legitimately walk past you. And I was completed gassed at this point but it was just a km to go once I reached the top.

Ran the rest in, crossed the line, and made a big smile.

Time: 1:42:45 for 21.1km. Ave HR 175 bpm. 17th fastest run split of the day.

Post-Race:

Had Shirley and a whole bunch of other friends there to welcome me as I came into the finish. I was definitely hurting after the race but most of that subsided in about half an hour.

Finish time: 5:21:49. 2nd in Age Group, 12th Overall! (For the record, 1st in my age group was Grant Burwash, a pro/elite triathlete who won overall).

Big Shoutouts

Special thanks to Coach Todd from No Limits Triathlon who helped bring my Half IM time down on a much more challenging course, by more than 20 minutes in less than a year.

Also Congrats to Keith Blundell, my friend and training partner, for finishing his first HIM ever and who finished strong considering he'd never ridden that far ever before.

Shayne Arseneault, who finished his first triathlon that day and to the second, had the exact same time as my first triathlon.

My friends at Tri-It for being an awesome support team for me and all Calgary triathletes.

And last but not least my wonderful girlfriend Shirley who supports, challenges, and inspires me to give nothing but my best.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Social Media and Personal Branding in Sports

It seems a few of my blog posts have received quite a bit of traffic, specifically those pertaining to amateur level sponsorship and personal branding. A lot of that traffic was spurred by a discussion on the Slowtwitch forums on that specific topic.

I just want to take this opportunity to underscore how great a role social media can play for amateur athletes looking for sponsorship dollars. I won't recap why branding is so important, or how to use social media here, for that I'd recommend you go back to my original posts. But I do want to point you to a really great case study for another athlete who has done awesome to build his brand even though he isn't winning gold medals (yet).

Kevin Jagger is a Canadian speedskater who recently gave up his job in Investment Banking to pursue some impressive goals in speedskating. He's done an excellent job of using social media to his advantage and built himself a great brand with many followers which in turn has benefited him by helping to attract sponsors. A couple months back on his blog he was gracious enough to write a fairly thorough account of how he's done all this and I'd highly recommend any and every amateur athlete looking for sponsorship to read through it.

I mentioned this in the slowtwitch forum that originally generated all this interest, but one of the biggest mistakes a lot of individuals looking for sponsorship make, is that they just go ask sponsors for sponsorship without really bringing anything to the table.

The key to being an attractive individual worth sponsoring is engaging the entire community of individuals who your potential sponsor needs to reach. In one way this means engaging your neighbourhood, your city, your university, to make yourself attractive to local businesses who are the most likely to first sponsor you as an amateur. The next step is to engage the online community of athletes within and beyond your geographic area. Sure this can mean tweeting at the champions, but more importantly it means talking to the masses of age group athletes that companies sell product to.

The best way to build those connections with other athletes both in the real world and online community is to place yourself in the conversation and develop a genuine interest in the training, and achievements of others. Ask others about their training, their goals, their next race. And likewise, feel free share your own experiences, good and bad. You'll be surprised at how many great connections you can make when you realize that the key to building a great brand isn't about talking about yourself, but building strong connections with others.

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