Thursday, July 31, 2008

Why Ironman?

This is a difficult time of year, all the hard training and countless hours away from friends and family really start to take there toll. I'm fortunate enough have someone I love who likes Ironman as much as I do, but at times even she feels run down and exhausted from all the training. By the end of this week I'll have done 15kms in the pool, 210kms of cycling, and 44kms of running. That's enough to keep you in a perpetual state of fatigue. I'm so tired and hungry all the time that sometimes I ask myself "why do you do this?" I know anyone training for an Ironman, or an Ultra Marathon (Alan) probably has moments like this too.

It easier to lay on the couch than it is to go out for a hard run. When it's raining outside it's a lot more fun to curl up with a love one and watch a movie than it is to gear up and spend difficult hours suffering on the bike. It's really, really hard to get up at 6am and get to the pool before work than it is to just go for a latte and arrive at work at 8am. When I think of the number of weekends Amber and I have suffered on the trainers in our basement over the winter it makes me wonder, what would we have done with all that free time if we weren't training? Something constructive I hope.

Everyone's reason for doing an Ironman is different and I hope they learn a little something about themselves along the way. This year I've learned that I do have the mental tenacity to do well in triathlon (and in life) and I hope to always try to improve the man I've become each and every day. When someone asks me "why do you do Ironman?" The best reason I can tell them is "after completing in an Ironman, everything else in life is easy."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

One More Month

Well there is only 31 days left until D-day, training is going well although I've been really tired and finding the motivation to keep it up has been tough. While I'm home this week I want to concentrate on my swimming and I think that is what has been sapping my strength. My swimming is coming together, completed 4kms yesterday and 3kms today, and while the weekends have been devoted to long bikes and long runs I've been trying to swim as much as possible. I really need to have a good swim in Ironman, that is what is going to set me up for a good race and the way things have been going, I should have a terrific race.

I've had an incredible year, set new personal records in every race distance this year and I know I can do the same in Louisville. I have set a high goal time for myself (9:30) but I think this is totally achievable with the level of fitness I'm at this year. All I can do is prepare to the best of my ability for the next 31 days and whatever happens on the day was the way it was meant to be. I'm going in physically and mentally strong, I just wish I wasn't so tired all the time.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ascend, Descend, Repeat

Amber and I are spending a terrific weekend in Jasper again, I think we both love being there so much that we look for any excuse to go out there. We're 34 days away from Ironman and the training has been ramping up all month and I feel like I could train all day, every day out there.

Yesterday we had a long ride planned and I was itching to take in the surroundings on my bike. We headed out the icefields parkway and veered off on the road towards Lake Athabasca. There were some really good climbs on the way out and I wanted to get in as much climbing as possible while I was out there. Once I reached the turn off for Marmot Basin I decided to follow the road for as long as it would take me (I didn't see the sign at the bottom saying it was an 11km climb). It was early in the ride and I was feeling fresh so I decided to go to the top and it took me about 30 minutes. It was an absolutely amazing ride and I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting a tough, tough climb with an incredible view. The descent was a lot of fun too, I averaged 60km/hr and reached the base in about 9 minutes.

I continued on the road and saw AD coming back as I was heading out and told her about the climb and she was excited to do it as well. Once I reached the turn around I started back and took another road I've been wanting to ride the last time I was out here. The Edith Cavel summit road was another terrific ride, 15kms of climbing and at the end you are sitting at the base of a snow capped mountain! At the end of July! The road was not in good shape so anyone wanting to do that ride I would recommend a cyclecross or mountain bike. The descent was a lot of fun but the road knocked the stuffing out of me and I was pretty tired at the bottom. The rain started to come down on the way up but it was one time I didn't really care, I was in paradise and nothing was going to bring me down today.

I hooked up with AD again who was really cold from the rain so we headed back into town and had some lunch and warmed up a little. We still wanted to get in some more distance so we headed out again on the Yellowhead towards the BC border and I felt great, I was moving fast and strong and was feeling great about my bike fitness for Ironman. I finished the 43km out and 43km back in 2:30 and the entire ride was 183kms in 6 hours and 5 minutes. Didn't break any speed records but pretty good considering everything here is either a climb or a descent.

Today was another incredible day, a 2 hour trail run with plenty of ascending and descending. The selection of trails here are phenomenal and we only tried out a couple of them but there will be plenty of them for future trips. I was feeling good in the morning when we started out but when we turned around at about 13kms my legs were significantly juiced. I held on for another 10kms and finished the 23kms in 2 hours and 13 minutes, again not very fast but a great training run for the amount of climbing we were doing. I can't wait to do another mini-training camp again here next weekend, AD's birthday weekend!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Feeling Ready for Ironman

I've been back home from vacation for a couple days now and it's nice to finally sleep in our bed again and get settled. It doesn't last long however, I was back on the road again this morning and I'm in Whitecourt today, Edson tomorrow and Jasper on Monday. The nice thing about this trip is that Amber and I have a great weekend planned in Jasper. A long ride on Saturday and a long run on Sunday in the mountains where we can build some terrific fitness at altitude.

I feel recovered from Sunday's race, I did a little 55km ride on Tuesday and felt fantastic. I can tell my bike fitness is getting there, I just need to work on my endurance over the next month and I'll be ready. It's a great feeling when your body responds to the stress you put on it in a good way. I feel super fast and strong without having to expend a lot of energy. I went for a swim and run yesterday and I still have a little work to do on my swimming, I think I could still improve my technique a little. However my running is spot on! I just need to get used to running in the heat a little more. I did a 21km run last night and the first 15km felt great, my heart rate was high but I didn't feel like I was pushing hard at all. After 15kms though I could tell the heat was taking a toll, I was suffering but I kept telling myself that you need to train your mind to deal with the suffering and it helped.

I received the "Athlete's Guide" for Louisville this morning and I'm incredibly pumped to get there and start racing! I can't wait! It sounds a lot like Ironman Canada only they are starting the age groupers with a time trial swim start. That's good news for Amber who always seems to get beat up in the swim but I hope I can find a strong swimmer to draft off of. That usually saves me a lot of energy, maybe swimming downstream will help too.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Prince George Olympic Tri

It was the last chance to test out the fitness before IM Louisville and after a week long bike tour it was going to be an incredible challenge. Amber and I arrived in Prince George on Saturday morning, checked in for the race and went to go look over the course. It was an unbelievably hilly route for the bike and run and I could tell that it was going to hurt.

Amber was not feeling up to it after the tour, 700kms of cycling in 7 days can do that to a person sometimes. I was still eager to get into the action so she was very supportive by coming out and cheering me on. I completely understood, you needed to be into it mentally and physically to complete this course. I did a quick warm up in the water and I could tell it was going to be a tough swim. The water was choppy and I was having a hard time getting a deep breath. I did what I could to get ready and by the time the race was underway I felt back in my element. I was struggling with the waves on the way out and I found it a little difficult to sight properly but I could see the leaders not too far in the distance. The second lap was a little easier but I was still having a hard time staying on course with the difficult waves. I exited the water in 6th it a time of 25.05, not bad considering I hadn't been in the water in a week.

The bike course was one of the most difficult rides I'd done in a race in a long, long time. The way out was a tough, tough uphill slough and it took me a very long time to get to the turn around. It was a little demoralizing to see 5 other bikers ahead of me at the turn around but I had completely forgotten that the duathlon was at the same time. I had passed quite a few people on the bike and was feeling good about my progress. The way back was a lot of fun and I was cruising along at 50 to 60kms/hr. I finished the bike in 1:07.50, including transitions.

The run was also a very tough uphill on the way out and it was extremely painful to push hard after a tough bike and the thought that I was still far behind. I kept a steady pace for the first lap and finished in 18:40, okay one more of those and I should have a really good run. Amber was there cheering me on and taking pictures and that was really great, she kept me going and the thought of winning was a great motivator. I held it steady for the second lap and finished the run in 37:16. A total time of 2:10.12, a great race and another 1st place this year! I am really having my best year ever and I owe a lot of the credit to my number one fan and great motivator, Amber. Thanks for being there for me babe!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tour BC- Stage 6, Quesnel to Barkerville

The last day of the tour and we are both sad to be leaving the vacation life but all good things must come to an end. Today was another difficult day, it was pouring rain when we woke up this morning and neither of us wanted to get on our bikes. The thought of leaving the nice warm tent and going out into the cold, wet, driving rain was not appealing. I really needed to go to the bathroom so I had to get up but Amber was going to go in her own time today.

The rain let up a little and it gave us a chance to tear down camp and head off for breakfast. We had a tough day ahead, over 3000ft of climbing in 95kms and very little downhill. We drove this route a week ago and we were amazed at the amount and severity of the climbs facing us today. The route out of Quesnel was the first major climb and my legs seemed to respond pretty well but they were juiced for the remaining 90kms. The rest of the ride was either up or down (mostly up) but it was very beautiful. It's hard to imagine that thousands of people made this same trek with no roads, bikes, cars or other modern forms of transportation in search of gold. The mountain passes we went over today were extremely steep, at one point I was only going 65rpms and 10km/hr! How did they do it 100 years ago?

The most difficult climb was called 'mexican hill' and it was the longest, steepest hill I'd ever faced. It was about 2kms and at least 10 percent grade. I was really struggling but I turned the pedals over and just kept going. It was a lot of fun to be doing some climbing, it's something we don't get a whole lot of and after the lunch break in a wonderful ski lodge I was in a good mood to keep going. I only had another 35kms and I just tried to soak in the beautiful surroundings and appreciate the last moments of the tour.

I pushed pretty hard today but didn't break any speed records.

Training for the day
Bike- 95kms: 3hrs 40mins

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tour BC- Stage 5, Williams Lake to Quesnel

Today was a real mental test of will for me. I had an issue with an incredibly inflamed saddle sore and the thought of another 4+ hours on the bike was not appealing. I just wanted the day to be over right from the start.

We checked out of the motel (our one night of living the high life) and went down to the campground for breakfast. A nice change from last year, we are not eating pancakes every morning, today we had a couple of breakfast burritos and a muffin.

The ride started off a little rough, my legs and undercarriage were revolting but after about 30mins everything started to settle down a little. There were a couple big climbs coming out of town and I seemed to handle them okay so I was able to get into a rythmn and turn the pedals over at a comfortable 100 - 107rpms. Just before the lunch stop I hooked up with the two strongest cyclists in the group and they hooked on to me blasting down a hill at 50km/hr. At the bottom of the hill I needed to hook on to them because I was totally spent so I sat in their draft to the lunch stop a few kms later.

It was a lot of fun riding with them but I want this tour to be mainly solo riding so I can simulate Ironman riding. I'm not going to get any help in Ironman so I don't want any help out here. That was a tough decision to make because the last 40kms of the day were really, really painful. It was mainly uphill and into a stiff wind. All I could do was count down the signs on the side of the road posted every 5kms. I started to bonk in the last 5kms but I knew it was only another 10mins so I told myself just to hang on, I'd managed to hammer out 4hrs of riding feeling rough, I could last another 10mins. I finally made it to the campground in Quesnel and I immediately ate a sandwich and had a coke to try and refuel. A tough day but these are the days that really matter, when your feeling down, out and completely spent but you find something within yourself to just keep going! That's the key, just keep GOING!

Training for the day
Bike- 125kms: 4hrs 15mins

Tour BC- Stage 4, 100 Mile House to Williams Lake

After yesterday's tough day it was nice to have a downhill, fast day to build up the confidence again. It was a gradual 90 km drop all the way into Williams Lake and I definitely needed it. The day started rough, my allergies were bothering me and I still have some terrible saddle sores. There's no wimping out on the tour though so it was back in the saddle at 8:30 this morning.

I wanted to push it a little today, it was going to be a short day so why not. I was blasting down the first hill and 60 to 70km/hr and I my desire to go fast was spurred on! I kept hammering for most of the ride until the lunch stop, I finished the first 45kms in 1:15, not race pace but still pretty good after 4 straight days of riding.

The second half wasn't as fast but I pushed it as much as I could today. The difference in temp between the two towns was incredible! I was frozen to the bone this morning and dying of heat stroke this afternoon. I was happy for the easy day today and I'm looking forward to another long one tomorrow (125kms).

Training for the day
Bike- 95kms: 2hrs 55mins

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tour BC- Stage 3, Ashcroft to 100 Mile House

Today was probably the toughest day of the tour, it was 150km of mainly climbing. The day started off really well, there were two big climbs before the first water break and I didn't have any difficulty. If anything I thought I was taking it too easy, I didn't seem to be in a mood to push it at all. I also had the gearing changed on my bike and my chain was making a grinding sound the entire day which was getting on my nerves. There was nothing I could do about it while I was riding so I was just going to have to ignore it.

I made it to the lunch stop in good time and there was a beautiful view from where they set up. An incredible chasm overlooking a beautiful forested area. Amber arrived not long after me and we enjoyed a quick lunch and carried on.

We rode on the highway for another 10 or 20kms and then made a detour onto a secondary road. It was really nice not to have a lot of traffic around but the condition of the road was absolutely terrible! Chipseal highway for the next 60kms! Oh my undercarrage was hurting big time. It was already sore to begin with but that road really did me in.

The last water stop was supposed to be 30kms from the finish but unfortunately they weren't set up yet and with 20kms to go I ran out of water. Fortunately it wasn't as hot out as it has been the last couple days and the final stretch is all downhill so I just cruised in completely dehydrated and spent.

Training for the day
Bike- 151kms; 5hrs 32mins

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tour BC- Stage 2, Kumsheen to Ashcroft

Today was a relatively easy day, the ride started later (8:30am) and there were no killer climbs like yesterday. I was burnt out from yesterday so I was quite happy to have a recovery day today. We didn't get a lot to eat yesterday so I mistakenly tried to eat as much as possible this morning.

The road out of Kumsheen resort is uphill and riding uphill after eating a big breakfast is not a good idea. I was burping up food for the next hour trying to get my stomach to settle down. At the first water stop I felt better but I could tell I pushed myself pretty hard yesterday. I kept it slow and steady for most of the day and let my legs recover as much as possible while on a 6 day bike tour. The climb before lunch was the toughest of the day but the gradent was't as bad so I kept my heart rate in zone 1 and 2 and had a great day.

Training for the day
Bike- 75km; 2hrs 55mins

Tour BC- Stage 1, Hope to Kumsheen

The first day of the tour was exciting, Amber and I arrived a little late and we were dropping off our gear as the pre-tour announcements were taking place. We dropped our stuff off and had to run back to the hotel to grab our bikes. The adrenline was going now and to be this excited before a long stage is not a great idea. I lost Amber off the start, I thought she'd left without me but apparently she was filling up with water.

I was hammering off the start to try and catch her and it wasn't until I'd caught up with some other friends of ours that I realized she was behind me. Oh well, I knew I'd see her at the first water stop. 40km into the ride and we stopped for water and regrouped.

The sun was out full strength and by the time I hit the lunch stop, the heat was starting to take a toll. The second half was really, really hilly; typically I don't mind hills but the steep gradient and the heat was hurting me, big time! I really needed another gear to be doing these climbs. The salt collecting on my skin and the dehydration was getting to me along with the fact that I was pushing pretty hard. The last 30kms were up or down and it was a sufferfest. I definitely needed another gear but I did make it.

Training for the day
131km- 4hrs 22mins

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tour BC: Prologue


Well the tour has finally arrived! Amber and I left early Friday morning and prepared for the long, long drive to Hope. We made some stops in Prince George, Barkerville and when we hit Cache Creek we said "that's enough for today" we were in the car for 16hrs and getting really stir crazy! After a much needed rest we left today for the final stretch to Hope, it was an incredible drive and it's going to be a very, very hard bike ride. There is 7000m of climbing and most of it is in the first three days.

We arrived in Hope, dropped off our stuff at a hotel and drove to Chilliwack to drop off the rental car. Dropped the car off and we rode back to Hope for our 'Prologue.' The ride was great, it feels so good to be back in warm BC in the presence of some spectacular mountains and beautiful vistas. The ride was not indicative of what we'll be facing over the next week, we were going downhill, with the wind and the only difficulty was the amount of traffic on highway 1.

We stayed together most of the ride and I entered Hope feeling fresh and iching to do more. I had a lot of nervous energy and this short/easy ride was not going to cut it. AD was not feeling as energtic but good for her for heading to the pool with me. I put in a good hour swim at the rec centre in Hope, Amber was with me for 30 minutes and needed a rest. We finished with a great sushi dinner and prepared to really start the tour tomorrow. It's going to be a tough day, just like last year, 31 degrees and uphill for 116km, fun!

Training for the day;
Bike- 55Km; 1:54
Swim- 3Km; 1:00

Monday, July 7, 2008

Great White North 1/2 IM

It was one of the most nerve-wracking events I've ever been in and also one of the most rewarding. Amber and I finished the Great White North Tri this weekend and we both had an incredible race. I was sick for most of the week leading up to the event and looking back, this was probably a good thing. I don't think I would have tapered for the race the same way I did unless my body slowed me down. It was tough to be tired, weak and lazy leading up to a big event and my allergies decided to flare up in a big way last week.

We arrived in Stony Plain just in time for the pre-race dinner and I immediately started to feel the excitement of the event being in the presence of all the other triathletes. It was a great dinner and a good way to begin to feel excited about the race, even though the arena was about 30 degrees C which made it difficult to stay comfortable for long. Saturday we went to Element and bought a bunch of tri gear that we can never seem to find in Grande Prairie and Amber was re-fitted on her bike in the hope of relieving some neck pain.

The morning of the race I felt good and ready to race even though I was a little nervous for the first time in a really long time. I wasn't sure how my body would react after being ill and I haven't had a bad race in a very, very long time. I have set PR's in every race this year and I was hoping to do the same in this race but it was going to be a toss-up today. I did the usual pre-race fiddling with my bike, multiple washroom breaks and getting my wetsuit on and was ready to rock.

The gun when off without a lot of warning and I jumped in with every intent of having a great swim. I've been doing a lot of work in the pool and I wanted it to show up in my swim time today. I felt fairly comfortable throughout the swim, pushed it a little bit and started to fatigue in the last 200m but finished in 31:37, not quite the under 30 I was hoping for but still a great time for me.

I got all my bike gear on and headed out for the long 90km ride ahead. It was raining and my sunglasses were fogging up so I couldn't see a thing but nothing was going to stop me from having a great ride today. The first half of the ride was very fast and I felt great, after a couple hills though my legs were really feeling it. I was still moving quite well (a lot faster than other rides) and I didn't really start to tire out until about 15kms to go. At that point I just held on to the finish and hoped for the best during the run. Came off the bike in about 23rd place and was very happy to have an average speed of 37.5km/hr and finish in 2:23.39.

I started the run not knowing if my body would hold up but I was just going to go for it today! My quads were cramping up during the first couple kms but I knew this was just the initial shock of switching from bike to run. I immediately started picking off a lot of other runners, I was shocked at how slow it seemed everyone else was moving but I felt pretty good so I kept a nice steady pace. My breathing, energy, and motivation were all really strong I had a stabbing side cramp at about 7k but managed to get rid of it by downing a lot of water at every aid station. I kept picking people off and didn't realize how much progress I was making until I saw Amber at about 16kms and she told me I was in 8th! I managed to catch one more runner and saw the 6th place guy at the final km but didn't have enough road to catch him. Still I was incredibly happy to finish 7th overall, a 1:21.21 run time and a 4:16.49 overall time. A new PR and a great result leading up to Ironman. I know I need a little more work on my endurance but with a week of nothing but biking coming up next week, I'm going to be ready come August 31st!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happy Canada Day!

A beautiful day to celebrate being Canadian it was hot, sunny and a terrific day to not be working. I took advantage of every minute and woke up at 7:30 to go for a bike ride at 8:30. I tried out a new route which goes half way around the city and it was nice to not face a headwind all the way out and a tailwind all the way back. I finally saw some other cyclists out there and I felt like I found the route most of them take. I went out 35km to the Wapti river and back, the only difficult part was the flat I got after turning around.

Amber finished with her client and class at 11 and we headed to the outdoor pool for a swim. I felt relaxed, comfortable and 3km seemed fairly easy. I really enjoy swimming outside and I think I'm going to try to go there as much as possible over the summer. It's so nice when my fitness has gotten to a point where I can have a day like today and not feel like I'm completely wrecked. The rest of this week I'm going to concentrate on swimming and perhaps do a short spin on Saturday. Sunday is the Great White North tri and I'm looking forward to seeing how I hold up during a 1/2 IM distance. I'm not setting any expectations (this isn't a focus race) but I am going to push myself as hard as I can while still concentrating on pacing, instead of going "all out" like I have been in the other races I've done this year.