Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Humble Beginnings

I've been running most of my life even in elementary school I could remember running in x-country races against my friends. I never really thought of myself as a good runner I was always the kid that crossed the line looking like he was really suffering the entire time. However there was something about that suffering that I liked. I think it was the fact that it was like stepping into the ring and facing an opponent knowing that you are going to hurt your body and willing accepting the pain that's coming. Taking yourself to a place not too many people can go. I'm still running and taking myself to that place but it's been a long, tough road to get to where I am now.

A big shift in my attitude came when I met Amber, all of my success in the last three years I owe to her. She is my inspiration and source of strength when I am feeling down. I like to think we support each other in all that we do and I'm very happy to have Amber and Harley in my life. I tell Amber that if I had never met her I would be drunk in a ditch some where. Probably not true, but we met each other at the right time in our lives and I know she has helped me reach beyond what I believed was my potential.

Training for the Vegas Marathon I was a little unsure of how I was going to do. I had not run a marathon since Boston in 2008 (a year and a half ago). My training runs were going well, I felt strong for most of them and never had a sense that I was completely shattered afterwards. The toughest run was a 32km long run the day after a 3km (all out) x-country race on the Nordic Centre trails. I was hurting from the very start until the final 130th minute. I told Amber it was the best "mental training day" I could have hoped for, during a race there is always a point where you just want to stop or at least slow down. During that run I was preparing myself mentally as much as physically to run in that zone where you are comfortable being uncomfortable.

The day finally arrived after 13 weeks of hard training and I was optimistic about having the race of my life but I was still a little uncharacteristically nervous. Thanks to Amber for keeping me calm and giving me the space I needed to be in my own head race morning. When we're both racing I'm usually the calm one but that day I needed her to be there for me and she definitely was.

I started in the first corral with the elites, a bunch of Kenyans and Ethiopians who were about 40-50lbs lighter than I was. I looked around and felt completely out of place, I was a hulk in the midst of a bunch of feather-weights. The race started out very, very fast. A group of about 50 men and women were running a blistering pace. I tried not to get caught up in race strategy too early and stayed with a pace that I felt I could handle but still was pushing my ability. Eventually I found a group of about 10-12 guys that were running a tough but good pace. It was a little windy on the way out so I stayed in the group for as long as I could but it seemed like the pace was getting stronger or I was getting weaker so before the 7 mile mark I let them go. By the time I hit the 10 mile mark I was hurting but still in that zone of being comfortably uncomfortable. I met my goal of getting there under an hour.

When I broke off on the marathon route and left the 1/2 marathoners to battle it out I was confident I could get to the 20 mile mark in under 2 hours. The point from mile 7 to mile 19 is a long, slow, very gradual climb and I was happy not to have the downhill pounding on my legs but at mile 19 I had an incredible side stitch that felt like a knife being plunged into my diaphragm. This is where the mental training has to kick in or your race is over, I took a moment to collect myself and just kept moving. At the turn around at 19 miles I understood why I was hurting so badly, it was a long-slow downhill all the way back to the strip. I let my legs go and the stitch went away.

I hit the 20th mile in 1:58.58 and was confident I could shuffle the final 6 miles in under 40 minutes. Mile 23 is when my legs started cramping up, my quads were seizing and I had some strange alternating weakness in each leg. I could tell things were getting tough because I was really hurting but I ended up catching two guys in the final two miles, one of whom was walking. That's one of the tough things about the marathon, it doesn't matter how in shape you are it will kill you before the end, usually in the final 3 miles for me. This time though I was mentally ready and just kept my legs shuffling until the end. I finished with a new PR of 2:36.45 and was the top Canadian and 1st in my age group!

From my humble beginnings on the elementary school field suffering like a fighter in a 15 rounder to my race on Sunday I earned that finish. Thanks to Amber and H-dog for the training and inspiration, I'll always feel on top of the world with you in my life.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Finding Zen

I just finished the book Amber lent me, "Born to Run" and if you've ever wanted an excellent read and an opportunity to discover why you run then read this book. It's not something that would appeal to non-runners or even recreational runners but for most triathletes and marathoners it speaks volumes. I've never really thought about the fact that I feel fantastic after I go for a run but prior to, I can barely conjure up the motivation to get off the couch, let alone put on the cold weather gear and go running in the cold, icy trails. Thank God I have Harley who keeps whining until I relent and get my butt out the door. Before Amber and I got him I ran a lot less but I still had the same enjoyment and feeling of peace after a run.

I'm sure you've had the feeling of having an incredibly stressful and tiring day at work. You can't imagine going out to run but you do anyway and all the problems, worries, stress, seem to melt away with each mile. If you haven't had that feeling then you're not running long or hard enough! I'm not saying that you need to suffer to run but there is something about putting your body in a state of physical stress that quiets your mind and allows you to do all the other things in your life with ease.

This is where I find Zen... some people find it in different activities but for me it's an activity that dates back to the first human, distance running. In fact the only reason that Homo Sapiens outlasted Neanderthals was because they practiced "persistence hunting" they ran down their pray until it was too exhausted to continue and collapsed. Neanderthals had to come in close contact with a ferocious beast fighting for it's life. If you got a broken bone or infected wound you were as good as dead, but if you could run a marathon dinner was waiting for you. Running also created a "community" you needed to play your part and live in peace with those around you, there were no police, no courts, no lawyers so if you didn't get along with others in the tribe it could be life-threatening. Running as a tribe allowed everyone to release energy in a productive an healthy way and operate for the good of everyone.

I have less than 5 days until the Vegas marathon but now I'm looking at this race with an entirely new perspective. I'm not concerned about time goals any more and I'm going to try to celebrate the fact that I can run and that I find peace in running. I'll still go and run to the best of my ability but now I realize that a lot of modern society running is focused on achieving time goals and place results. That's not what running is about for me, it's about achieving that state of Zen and creating a community who loves to do that ancient lost art- running for the love of it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Born To Run

After Sunday's 40km run in 2:48 I was feeling really good about my progress and my ability as a distance runner, then I read about the Tarahumara. Amber ordered a book from the library called "Born to Run" and was gracious enough to let me read it first. I've only covered the first couple chapters but it's a story about an ancient Indian tribe in the Sierra Madre of Northern Mexico. They are legendary runners and have apparently found the secret to health, happiness, longevity, and peace; running.

The book tells a story about Lance Armstrong in his first New York Marathon and the fact that he called it "the hardest event he's ever done" and he is probably the greatest endurance athlete in the world. Well the Tarahumara practice "persistence hunting," if you've never heard of it don't worry only the Tarahumara can do it. Basically if you want to hunt a deer you run after it until it dies of exhaustion or it's so tired that you are close enough to kill it. There have been stories of Tarahumara running for three days hunting or competing in traditional races. To run the equivalent of 12 marathons without stopping is something a Tarahumara will do to migrate or hunt. They have shown up at some American races like the Leadville 100 to race for food when their people were starving of malnutrition, they were promised their village would be fed by an American sponsor if they competed. In 1992 a 52 year old Tarahumara runner named Victoriano Churro came in 1st, followed by his 41 year old team-mate Cerrildo in second. These people are simply the toughest runners I'd ever heard of, they don't have fancy runners, they don't get hairline fractures, achilles tendionitis, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, torn hamstrings or any other problem that they rest of us suffer from. What is their secret?

Well there really is no 'secret' they simply start their lives running and continue until they die. Most of us are told, don't run too much you'll damage something, your knees, your ankles, you'll get arthritis. I think our society has become so unable to deal with pain and discomfort that we drown ourselves in medications and therapies that don't help. Now I'm not saying that running will solve all medical issues but could you imagine how much better life would be if everyone ran. There wouldn't be a strain on the medical system, hundreds of millions of dollars would be saved in health care costs, our seniors would have the attention of the medical establishment they deserve and preventable medical problems (obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks) would be minimized. I think the Tarahumara are on to something.

I'll try and capture the spirit of the Tarahumara 12 days from now and remember that a marathon is just a warm up for the real race, life.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mental Prep

Thanks to my wonderful wife for reminding me of the importance of preparing "mentally" for any goal you're striving for. Lately I've been a little too consumed with the day-to-day minutia results of training and I know that training to reach a peak does not occur in a linear manner. I tell my clients everyday, "if you look at your investment statements every month and expect it to go up, your bound for disappointment. However, if you trust in the plan you've set in place and have confidence in the process that in the long run you will do extremely well, then it will happen." Time and time again I see clients selling their investments when they're down 10, 20, 30% and none of them make those losses back. No wonder so many people have lost faith in the market. I have never sold any investment at a loss and 2009 is proving to be one of the best investment markets in the last 30 years! Unfortunately not many clients realize that and it's only because they haven't prepared themselves mentally for the inevitable ups and downs that they are going to experience.

There are definitely ups and downs in training as well, I have days where I feel like a 5km run at a snail's pace feels like I've just done a 1/2 Ironman. Then there are days where I can run light and easy for 21- 30kms and I'm just flying along. I've been trying to keep reminding myself that the ups and downs of training are normal and gains do not occur in a linear manner. I think most triathlete, type A personalities expect things to progress better and better and never see a plateau but I know my body doesn't work like that.

Mentally preparing for a race or for anything in life is so important that it almost outweighs the physical prep. It reminds me of a run I went on with my friend Chris when I was helping him prepare for Ironman Austria a few years ago. We had been doing long runs every Sunday for a number of weeks and I was feeling very light and fast. At that point I could run about a 37:45 10k and about a 1:25 half-marathon, I was feeling so good and both of us were running very well together. We were going to do a 2hr brisk pace run that Sunday and Chris told me that a friend of his was going to join us. He said he hadn't been training in a while but he'd run with us for as long as he could. When we met at Eau Claire I was greeted by a slightly paunchy guy in his mid-40s and I immediately thought "this guy is not going to last the first 2k. What is he doing here?"

We took it easy at the start but up'ed the pace in the first 5kms, we were averaging about 14-15kms/hr and I was feeling the effort of such a hard run very early on. Paunchy guy was right there, breathing like a racehorse giving it everything he had but not losing one step on us. I couldn't believe it! I was in the best shape of my life and I felt like I was hurting and this guy was still right there! What's going on here? He wasn't in better shape but he was one of the toughest guys "mentally" I'd ever met. He stayed with us step for step the entire run and everyone was exhausted by the end. He didn't look as exhausted as I did but he taught me something that day, being mentally tough can take you far, far beyond what you thought you were capable of. At this stage in my life I'm well aware of how important mental preparation is. Sometimes I just need a little reminder and that's when I recount the story of the paunchy guy with a herculean running effort during a cool April Sunday in Calgary.

It was only later that I learned that this guy used to race with the Canadian national team for the 800m. Figures!

Check out Amber's post on mental prep, it's a great reminder.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

36 Kilometers and 2hrs and 32 Minutes Later



Okay so I know the toes are not the most attractive but I run about 50kms/week and this week will be about 80-100kms so imagine what your toes would look like.

Yes it's true, 7lbs lost after running 36kms this morning, that's 4.12% loss in 2 1/2hrs. I know most of that is just due to dehydration but it got me thinking about finding my optimum weight leading into Vegas. I went down to the gym in our basement and grabbed a 7lb medicine ball and I was shocked to see how large and how heavy 7lbs actually is! At the beginning of my run I was carrying around this medicine ball in my muscles, fat and tissues. That's a lot of extra weight when you are trying to prepare for a marathon. For the average ahtlete an extra 7 to 10lbs is not a big deal, if you are in shape and you've done the training, you'll still finish. However if you are trying to set a PR (like I am) any extra weight can't really slow you down.

Trying to find my ideal weight is a tough balancing act; I need to insure I'm eating enough to keep up with some of the hard training days to come and not eat too much to put me over the edge and slow me down. Right now I'm a little on the heavy side but in four weeks I'll be ready.

Today's run was very, very hard, I just got back from a work trip in which I didn't get a lot of training time. Harley was pushing me very hard at the start, which isn't unusual but today I just wanted a nice steady pace. I knew it was going to be a long day and I didn't want to use up all my energy in the first 21kms. My breathing was labored, I always had the feeling like I just wasn't getting enough air. There is something about running in the cold that makes me feel like there is no oxygen in the air, I think someone should do a study on that. I remember feeling the same way when I was training for Boston in March. Fortunately it turned out to be my best Marathon ever but I really paid for it out on the race course and it took me weeks to recover. I'm willing to make the same sacrifice on December 6th in Vegas but I still have some work to do, I'll get there 4 weeks to go.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Congrats To My Friend Colin and his Family!

If there is one friend in my life other than Amber that I can say has been with me through a lot it's definitely my bud Colin. We met in Junior High school and we were both very athletic and had a lot of energy that needed to be directed in a 'healthy' way. We both played hockey, soccer (although for different teams), ran x-country, track, did well in school (although he didn't have to work as hard at it as I did) and we were inseperable as kids. It wasn't until the first year of University that I realized how much of a positive influence my buddy Colin brought to my life. He went away to play Junior Hockey in Saskatchewan and I started University, we stayed in touch for a while but eventually started to follow our own paths in life.

When he came back to Calgary it was like old times, we hung out at University once again, played soccer for the team(s), U of C had 5 mens soccer teams. Hit the weight room together to "pump it up," went to some of the same lectures and generally had a good time together. Eventually I started a career being a travelling bum and he went to California to be a chiropractor. We stayed in touch off and on and I even visited him in San Jose for a little while which was a lot of fun but I missed my good friend. I was determined not to let us drift apart even though our lives had gone in different directions. I made the promise to myself to keep in touch no matter where I was or where he was every April 20th (Colin's birthday) and I've kept that promise for over 8 years now.

Colin has been a true friend and has been beside me through a lot of turmoil and I can definitely say that we will always be great friends. We both have our own families now and are very happy with the direction we've taken. I can't say we both have the same philosophy, he's a bit more of a risk taker than I am, but we both respect eachother's differences and admire what we've achieved so far in life. He welcomed a new edition to his family this week and Amber and I are very happy to see he has a happy and healthy family. Congrats Colin and Nichole we know Daymond and Evangeline are some of the lucky kids to have parents like you.

The Chala Family

Proud Dad

Ready to go!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

3kms of Torture and 30kms of Turmoil

It was a tough weekend of training once again but well worth it. I was having some biomechanical issues last week, my achilles was acting up and my hip flexors were really tight and sore. I spent most of the week working out on the trainer and it was a nice change, I had a chance to still push myself but didn't have the high impact of running. My body appreciated the change and I felt like all my little issues had subsided.

I was on the road for a couple days this week so I spent an hour on the treadmill in Peace River. I'm trying to make sure my trips turn into mini training camps so I stay focused and prepared. I came home on Friday night and took Harley out for a 10k around Crystal Lake a couple times. He was running fast, so I went with it and used him as motivation to run a little faster. The first 5k we did in 18:42 and the second 5k in 18:35 (no pee breaks on the second lap), 37:17 for the full 10k and it felt pretty good. Amber and I had a good time Friday night and finished a couple bottles of wine, which was one bottle too much.

Saturday we met a couple guys from the run club to do our usual run and post run coffee. It's better running with some other people when you're not feeling 100%. Later Saturday afternoon Robert, Paul and I were part of a team for the last Wolves x-country race of the year, it was a 3 x 3km relay. I wasn't too concerned about racing for 3kms but after running 13kms hard on Thursday, 10kms hard on Friday and another 10kms easy Saturday morning I probably should have been. The race was a lot of fun but I have never felt 10 minutes of torture like that before. The route was beautiful, through the trails of the GP Nordic Centre. I was the anchor and Paul and Robert had set me up perfectly, I had a lead and all I had to do was maintain it. I started out so fast that I thought the muscles on my legs were going to fly off as I was running downhill. The first half was all downhill and the second half was all uphill. I hit the bottom and was completely out of breath but struggled to just keep moving as my lungs were ready to burst and my body filled with lactic acid. It's very hard to explain how you feel when you're running beyond your limits. I kept having this thought creep into my brain that I needed to just stop and walk, I know that this is just a defence mechanism but it's so hard to overcome. I did manage to hold on and ran my best 3km ever, 9:49. We won the team race by a km!!

Sunday was a long run with Amber's group, they were doing 16kms and I was doing 30kms. The first half was hell, I was struggling but Harley kept me moving and we completed the first 16kms in 1:02. I didn't want to go back out but somehow found the strength, I think it was the thought that Amber's girls were still out there running hard. I soldiered on and shuffled through another 14kms, one of the toughest 30km runs I think I have ever done, 2hrs of turmoil. It was a great "mental training" day for Vegas, there is always a point after about 35 or 36kms when you want to just stop and walk and I needed to put myself there in training and overcome that feeling. Now I'm ready for some rest.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Preparing For Vegas

I know it's been a while since I posted anything but not a lot has been going on other than a lot of hard work. I've been very busy at work and trying to fit in training has been a real challenge. I still managed to run about 50kms with Harley on the weekend and my achilles tendon flared up so I was massaging my calf for hours on Saturday. This week I've been biking a bit more and it's definitely helped, cross-training always seems to create more of a balance.

I'm away from home for the next couple days but I'll be back with Amber and H-dog on Friday. I was asked to be a part of a team relay on Saturday, it's just a short 3x3km race but it'll be a lot of fun for us old guys to go out and kick some college runners butt.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

34:25, new PR!

It's been a long time since I raced in a 10k and I was really excited to see if all this hard training over the last few years has helped my speed at this distance. The Grande Prairie Fall Classic 10k was today and it was great race with about 125 people and a lot of fantastic people organizing it. Amber had all her 'Women of Strength' running and they looked fantastic decked out in matching gear. She was there to support them and they were all so excited to be out there competing. I love that energy from new runners who are just out there to finish and have fun, it makes me want to just go out and enjoy being with other athletes and run as fast as I can.

I definitely ran as hard and as fast as I could, right from the start I was in a lot of pain. I knew I was running the first 5k very fast, maybe a little too fast but I was determined to set a new PR and I didn't care how much suffering I was going to go through. Well I didn't care before I started but I definitely cared while I was running. I finished the first lap in 16:40 and I was struggling to try and hold my pace. During the second lap I could tell I was slowing down but I had absolutely nothing left to give. I really, really wanted to just stop and walk but I knew it was just my mind trying to convince me that this is not normal pain. Usually you feel pain and you do everything you can to stop it as soon as possible but an athlete cannot give into that suffering, I had to stay in my "pain cave." I suffered through the remaining 5k and finished with a PR of 34:25!! A great way to kick off my training for the Vegas marathon, hopefully I have one more PR in me before the end of the year.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kakwa Falls Mountain Bike Trip

Last weekend was one of those epic rides I'll remember for a long, long time. It sounded like a lot of fun when I signed up three weeks ago, a 40km ride through the beautiful mountains south of GP with an incredible waterfall at the 20km turn around point. There were a lot of local athletes there and I was really looking forward to a fun day. It started early with a 6am meeting at a local coffee shop and about 25 people were up and ready to caravan out to the start. It was a long drive to get there but I carpooled out with Denis and Robert two great brothers who are also Ironman athletes and love to talk about IM. We chatted about this year's race, what we would do differently, what we did well, and what we're planning on doing this year, it was a lot of fun. After a couple of hours we were starting to wonder if we missed the rendezvous so we were looking around frantic for 20 or 30 minutes.

Fortunately we did end up finding it and we let out a huge sigh of relief. The weather was cool but it looked like it was going to get warm later in the day. Robert and I were debating if we should pack jackets or not and decided to play it safe and take one. The beginning of the ride was a lot of fun, tough, tough terrain with a few river crossings which meant your feet were wet and cold right from the start. After a few steep hill climbs I warmed up and just my feet and hands were cold. Robert, Denis and I were far ahead of everyone else, we stopped for lunch at the falls and right away it started to snow! Yes snow! We took some quick pictures and high-tailed it out of there right away.

The way back was absolutely brutal; cold, wet, muddy, and I was exhausted from the jackhammering downhills and steep unrelenting climbs in the mud. I couldn't wear my glasses anymore because they kept fogging up and without them the mud would hit my eyes every minute or two. It was an extremely difficult 20kms to get back to the car, I was so cold my hands and feet were in a lot of pain, hanging on to the handlebars was very tough and changing gears was nearly impossible with the mud clogging up everything. I made it back shattered and beaten it was a day that really tested me but those are the rides that true life experiences are made of. I'm definitely doing it again next year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Tribute to the Greatest Athlete Ever

It's hard to define what makes someone the greatest, is it the will, the determination, the strength, a combination of all three? If you asked me ten years ago who I would consider the greatest athlete ever I probably would have mentioned a few names but in the last ten years one man has shown the world what it means to be the greatest. It's hard to really know what a bike racer goes through during a day of racing unless you race a bike yourself but imagine pushing your body so hard that your heart and lungs are near collapse, 180bpm! Your legs are so full of lactic acid that they feel like they are on fire as you are turning over the pedals. Every thought in your brain is telling you to stop and just relax but you continue to push.

I can't think of a more difficult job than being a bike racer and I can't think of a stronger athlete than Lance Armstrong. I think I feel a bit of pride knowing he started his career as a triathlete and progressed to being the greatest who ever lived. Remember as you look at this montage that Lance is suffering more than anyone else out there, he just knows how to deal with it better having come back and beaten cancer. He makes it look so effortless as he passes other professional cyclists like they were standing still but remember he is hurting, he's just found a way to turn his pain into progress. We can all learn something from Lance, don't ever give up, keep pushing your limits, who knows how far you can reach.

Who would have thought the greatest athlete ever would be from Texas! Be proud of where you are from, don't ever be ashamed and live your life like there is no tomorrow. Keep pushing those limits and you will find you can reach places within yourself you never thought were possible. We thank you Lance, thanks for showing us that the only limits we have are the ones we place on ourselves.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Glorious September

September is a great month after a summer of a lot of hard training, this month is a great time to just relax and not worry about any sort of structured regimen. Today I had a opportunity to come home early and go out for a fun ride with Amber. We cruised around the city trails and had an awesome afternoon hanging out on an incredible September day, 28'C!! I'm loving every minute of this abnormally hot weather.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Enjoying The "Off-Season"

It's been a nice couple of weeks of recovery after IMC I haven't done any swimming and only some casual biking and running with friends. Amber and I have almost finished our yard projects for the year and I have to say our house looks a lot better than it did just six months ago. We've completed our deck, landscaped the back yard with rocks and trees, bought a new BBQ and patio set. Next year we'll complete the front yard and over the winter we'll paint the interior of the house.

I haven't felt any pressure to do any sort of training and I know my body is thankful. It's the first time in a long time that I have felt like I'm healthy. This summer it seemed like I was always fighting some sort of cold or flu and my body was struggling to stay strong while completing some tough training days. I am very thankful that I had a terrific race and I obviously don't do well without having a big goal to shoot for because I only made it one week before deciding on my next big race, the Las Vegas marathon!! I'm really excited, I've never been to Las Vegas and Amber is taking a group of her "learn to run stronger" girls down for the 1/2 marathon so I thought I'd tag along and concentrate on finishing a marathon for 2009. I've completed at least one marathon every year since 2000, 7 Calgary Marathons (2000-2006), 1 Kelowna Marathon (2007), and 1 Boston Marathon (2008), this will be #10! I'd like to do a "destination marathon" every year with AD, it's a great way to see new places and definitely a bonus to not have to lug around your bike on a couple plane trips.

I have a 10km race in a couple weeks in town and I'd like to set a new PR, I know I'm capable of running under 36 minutes I just have to work on a little more speed. After that I'll concentrate on putting in some distance work and I should peak again by December 6th. I'm not too concerned with setting a PR in Vegas, I just want to go there and have a good time with Amber. Placing in the top ten would be nice but is secondary to catching some awesome shows and losing a $100 bucks gambling (that's all I can stand to throw away and not be completely upset with myself).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

No Going Back

I admit I was a little apprehensive leading into this years' Ironman Canada. I kept having this panic that I just hadn't done enough training leading into the race. Amber was great at keeping me calm and relaxed when I would talk about the fact that I haven't done enough swimming or long riding before the race and I wish I had another month to prepare. I tried to remain cool and I knew that I couldn't do anything to change the result now all I could do was rest up and go for a few open water swims to sharpen up. There is something about living in a smaller centre when all of the other local athletes are looking at you to make sure you're doing well, you feel a lot more pressure. However, it was great to have so much support leading into the race and the Grande Prairie community is absolutely an awesome place to be from, I feel really proud to call it my home.

The night before the race Amber and I went over to a local campground to meet some other GP athletes doing the race. We had a great pasta dinner and talked race strategy, training days, and race goals. It was a lot of fun and nice to know other people were feeling a little nervous as well. I had a good strategy leading into the race, don't push too hard on the swim, pace myself and eat as much as possible on the bike, and run fast while taking in water and coke for the marathon. The plan was great but even the best laid plans can fall apart when you're in a race environment for 10 hours. There was no going back now, it was time to step up and show what you are made of.

I woke up at 4:30am ate and packed up everything I needed for the day. We made our way down to the start to see that 2600 other athletes were just as nervous and all thinking about what their day would bring. There is a lot that goes through your mind right before the swim start, "am I going to drown in this madness? Have I done enough to get over the mountains on my bike? What are my legs going to feel like after 6 to 8 hours of racing when I still have a marathon to complete?" Ironman is one of the most nerve wracking days I'll ever experience in my life but part of the reason I love it is because after an Ironman, everything else in your life is easy.

The swim start was a mass pile up of people, arms and legs flying everywhere, people crawlng over you, pushing you from the left and right, causing you to get a mouth full of water whenever you wanted to take a breath. I did get into a rhythm after the first 1500m turn and found some feet to draft off of for a little while. The swim back to shore is about 1800m and it feels like an eternity! I was getting really tired of swimming but managed to stay fairly strong until the end and finished with my best swim time (1:02.01) I guess the $780 new wetsuit was worth it.

Starting the bike at Ironman Canada is one of the best feelings in the world, the crowd is going crazy all around you cheering and yelling as you make your way out of Penticton going 40 to 45kms/hr. I felt like I was in the Tour de France and it's probably the closest I'll ever feel to being a professional athlete. Definitely one of those rare moments in my life where I understand why I killed myself for 20 hours a week training throughout the summer. In that instant I was Lance Armstrong flying through Paris on my way to another decisive victory. However after I left town and the crowds died down I got back to earth and focused on the job at hand, finishing this race.

The first 65kms to Osoyoos is very fast and there is usually a tailwind and today was no exception. I was flying through the first section at an average of 39 to 45kms/hr and making sure I was eating as much as possible. I ate half a sandwich, two gels, two fruit bars, four salt tablets, and drank two bottles. It wasn't hot out yet but I could tell that it was going to get very tough, very soon. The climb up Richter Pass is a series of climbs and plateaus and although I was being passed by quite a few riders, I did my share of passing others as well. I made it up without too much effort and stayed in control of my heart rate (very important in a race this long) and I was happy to have done a lot of climbing on my bike all summer long. I saw some other GP riders out on the rollers after Richter Pass and I did my best to try and not let them get too far ahead but in a race like this if you let your ego take over and push too hard on the bike, your day will be over before you ever start the run. I stayed patient and didn't let anyone else influence my race and I knew it would pay off in the end.

At the special needs bag (120kms into the bike) I grabbed a bottle of coke, a couple more sandwiches, fruit bars, gels, another bottle of nutrition and made sure I took in as much as my body would allow. It's so important to take in as much as you can on the bike because if you wait too long, your day is done. After the special needs my chain dropped and I had to take a minute to fix it but other than that the rest of the bike went fairly smooth. I was really worried about the climb up Yellow Lake that's usually where I end up losing it but I was a lot stronger on the bike this year and had the legs to get me through the entire 180kms. Near the end I could feel my calves cramping but I took the rest of my salt tablets and it seemed to help. I finished the 180km bike with another great time (for me) of 5:17.02.

By the time I started the run I had been racing for 6 hours and 25 minutes and I was so incredibly tired. It's very daunting to know that you have to complete a marathon at that point of the day, it's 1:30pm and the heat was incredible. I did everything I could to keep myself cool, dumping water and ice on my head and body every mile of the run. It did seem to help and I kept ticking of the miles one by one. I saw Amber at mile 18 and I was really hurting at that point, she yelled some encouraging words and let me know how well I was doing. My legs were cramping like crazy, I was dehydrated, and severely calorie depleted but I was going to keep running for as long as it took. Unfortunately I fell apart in the last mile of the run and could barely managed to walk, let alone run. I was "bonking" I tried to down a gel but it was too late all I could do was try to jog and walk in the last mile. The crowd was cheering me on and Amber was urging me to keep running, I summoned up any last bit of energy I had left and managed to run through the finish chute. Completing the race with my bast time ever (9:38.12) finishing 29th overall and 3rd in my age group. I was so, so happy to be done and needed to be carried to the message tent where I met Amber. I was completely out of it mentally and could barely manage to string two sentences together but I definitely knew that even though I qualified for the Hawaiian Ironman World Championships I was not going to put my body through that again in another 6 weeks. I was happy to end my season with that race and have some much needed recovery time. I just had the race of my life and all of the hard training was worth it.

I owe a lot of thanks to some great Grande Prairie triathletes for supporting me and training with me during some tough days this summer. There have been some real memorable moments leading up to the race, riding in 40km/hr GP winds, riding from Grande Cache to Grande Prairie, and many others. My biggest supporter is and will always be my beautiful wife Amber, thanks babe I couldn't have done it without you and H-dog (my running coach) if you're not running fast with Harley, your not running hard enough.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Catching Up

One of the difficulties of training for an Ironman is that everything else in your life seems to take a back seat. Little things around the house have been piling up on me and this weekend I slowed things down with my training and focused on some of the things I've been neglecting.

Friday I came back from High Level and went out for a little 40km bike just to spin the legs. Saturday I woke up early and headed out for a ride and after pushing myself in the cold, rain and wind I called it a day after only 90kms. I had plans to do 180kms but decided I wasn't in the mood to face the wind for another 3 hours and went out for an hour run with Amber and Harley instead. I decided it was a lot more fun being with my family instead of suffering on the bike. Then Amber and I ran errands for a lot of the afternoon and went out for a dinner and a movie at night.

Sunday I had a long run planned and Amber, Harley and I went down to the Nordic Centre and ran some trails. It was great fun, although Harley was pulling Amber so hard that her legs are completely trashed today. The first 5kms we ran together and then Amber followed Harley and I on her mountain bike for another 10kms. It was so much fun being together and I didn't even feel bad that I only ran 15kms that day. Later on we had some friends over for coffee and then a great dinner with family that night. I also managed to change a tap in our bathroom that's been leaking for a while.

So not too much on the training front this weekend but it was very busy and it's about time I started tapering down anyway. I'll try and get in a few swims this week and next and I should be ready to roll.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Finding Out What's Inside

This has been such a great year for me, Amber and I are extremely happy together, professionally I've had tremendous success, training feels very good and almost effortless, and racing has been fantastic. The only really difficult time I had was at Great White North when I was only a week recovered from being completely down-and-out with the flu and I had one of the toughest runs I've ever had in a race. I almost feel as if I haven't suffered enough in training to prepare myself for a race like Ironman. Last year I had so many difficult rides where my body completely broke down that I was forced to lay in the ditch on the side of the road while my body tried to do it's best to recover. Usually it didn't help much but it did provide me with a mental break from the constant suffering I was going through.

This year I have felt really good on the bike, my running is better than it has ever been and although I'll never be a great swimmer I've also made very good progress with my swimming technique. Tour BC seemed to fly by with not a lot of really difficult days and I was adding on extra kms every day. I set a PR in a half-marathon in May and I won 3 out of the first 4 races of the year. I was thinking I was invincible until yesterday. One of the crazy things about feeling like you are indestructible is that sooner or later you will find your breaking point, just make sure it isn't during a race like Ironman.

I was really excited to do this Grande Cache to Grande Prairie ride that Robert S.(a fellow triathlete) was talking about. It's a 185kms over some very, very mountainous terrain and one of the most difficult rides I think I've ever done. It didn't help that I decided to do my long run on Friday instead of Sunday (dumb) and my legs were tired before I even started. The plan was for Robert's father-in-law to drive three of us out there at 6:30am and drop us off with a "drop zone" at 110km where I left a cooler full of drinks and food. The first hour started off great other than the fact that my water bottles kept being launched out of my holder every time I went over the slightest bump. I had to end up carrying them in my jersey which was really annoying because I was also wearing a camelback. If you've never tried riding up a mountain with 3 liters of water on your back let me tell you, it's not the most comfortable thing in the world.

The first hour went fairly fast, Robert had done the ride last week and he had a profile of the route and the first 35kms were mostly downhill. That was a good feeling to start because I needed to feel fast for a little while. The remainder of the ride was a lot of uphill with some fairly steep grades at times. I was in a pretty good groove and thought I was going up the climbs with ease until Robert S. came up from behind me and was talking to me like he was lounging in a chair on his deck while having a beer. "We're almost at the top of this climb" and I replied, "wow... man... you..'re... riding... well.." trying to catch my breath as I spoke. He simply looked at me and kept flying past. I wasn't in the mood to compete today and I knew I was not going to finish this ride if I let my ego take over so I just kept to my pace and kept eating and drinking as much as my body would take in.

At 85kms I got a flat, never a good thing while you're in a groove because having to stop and change it usually takes away a lot of the momentum you've built up. This was no different because I was sitting under the hot sun for about 10 minutes working away on it. I couldn't really find the cause but I noticed that my back tire was worn down to the threads so I guess it's time to get a new one. The following 25kms were very tough, a lot of steep climbs and I was getting sick of bars and gels so it was a struggle to just make it to the drop zone and I was just drinking water.

I finally did make it at about the 4 hour mark and I was really happy to have a sandwich waiting for me there. Robert S. had circled back to see how I was doing, he'd already refueled and was ready to keep going. I told him to go on and that I was not feeling as strong as he was today. After eating a little something and talking about the ride with Robert C. (the other triathele who joined us) I was feeling a little better about getting through this. There was a huge descent and climb after the drop zone and I seemed to handle it okay but it knocked the stuffing out of my legs for the rest of the ride. The remaining 2 hours I was just counting down the kms one at a time. When I hit a downhill I was cheering about how fast I covered the last 5kms and when I hit an uphill I was frustrated that I was taking so long.

Near the end of the ride there is a big descent and climb into Grande Prairie and I was thinking about that for the last 2 hours. I needed to save enough energy to get up that hill. I even stopped at the bottom for a couple minutes to collect myself so I could mentally see myself at the top. As I was slowing struggling up I saw a van slow down next to me and Robert C. was in it asking if I wanted some cold water. I guess he had enough for the day and called his significant other to come and pick him up. I didn't have that luxury (nor would I have done it anyway) so I politely declined and focused on the task at hand.

There is a strange feeling you have when your body is broken down so completely that you have a hard time really seeing things the way they appear. You get complete tunnel vision and every outside noise becomes incredibly infuriating. That's the way I felt climbing that final hill, huge noisy trucks were flying by me and I just wanted to scream, "leave me the hell alone! Can't you understand I've been on my bike for 6 hours!!" There was only 5 more kms to get to Robert S.'s house but I was so incredibly broken that I had to stop in the final 2kms and lay on the side of the road. I felt like if I didn't I was going to tip over while riding right into traffic. After about 5 minutes I regained some sense about where I was and just spun easy to Robert's house. He offered me a protein shake which I downed immediately and showed me around his house but all I wanted to do was to get home, shower and eat a entire pizza.

If you have to go through hell in training to be ready for Ironman then I definitely did that yesterday. This was the first ride that really tested me mentally and physically. I was fairly depressed about how I rode but I know I had a tough week of training leading to it and just getting through was the primary objective. Three more weeks until the race, I can still get in some good quality training but I'm not putting myself through a ride like that again, I'll save it for the race.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Calgary 70.3

What a fantastic race!! It was the first Ironman 70.3 race in Western Canada and Amber and I couldn't miss this one in our old stomping grounds of Calgary. We had a week of awesome bike training through the beautiful BC interior and I was anxious to see if it would pay off in this race. The week leading up to the event we took it fairly easy. I bought new wetsuits for both of us (it was about time) and although my swim wasn't the greatest I was happy I had it because I'm sure my time would have been even slower if I didn't. I hadn't done much work in the water since Great White North and it definitely showed.

I was up nice and early, 4am in order to get myself prepared. Thank God Amber woke up because I didn't hear my alarm go off. We slept on my Mom and Dad's couch so I must have found a moment of feeling comfortable and drifted into a deeper than normal pre-race sleep. The roads were completely empty at that time in the morning except for the dedicated few going to the race shuttle locations. There is always a feeling of "why am I doing this again?" as you are making your way to the start before the sun has even come up. However it's the feeling at the end that drives me to keep competing and keep training hard and I was sure I was ready to race today.

The air was cool but there wasn't a hint of wind, it was an absolutely perfect day to race. AD and I finished filling up our tires and dropping off the transition bags and huddled together to try and keep warm before our heats started. I was in the second wave start right behind the pros at 7am and Amber was 40 minutes later. The start of the swim is always a little nerve wracking with all the athletes joshling for position but having the race split up into age groups was great. I had plently of space and didn't feel worried about having someone get in my way or being in someone elses' way. I was hurting during the swim and my back and triceps were not happy. It was very apparent that I need to get in the water more often just so I can feel a little fresher as I start the bike. All the swim times looked a little slow so I wasn't too disappointed to be out in around 34 minutes.

The bike course was absolutely fantastic, rolling green hills through an incredible area close to Cochrane. It was definitely tough with a lot of climbing but so much fun to be hitting speeds of 50-60km/hr on the downhills. I paced myself appropriately this time and made sure I took all my gels, salt and fluids and came off the bike feeling great. The week of bike training definitely paid off and unlike GWN where my legs were so cramped up I had trouble shuffling let alone running, I felt so much better today.

Within the first 4kms of the run I had thought I caught everyone in my age group but there was one guy that was WAY ahead and ended up finishing in the top ten! Still I was finally having a good run and aside from a stabbing cramp in my side at the beginning of the run things were going well. I was picking off pros like crazy and I was very familiar with the course so I knew where I needed to hold back and save some strength. At the 17th km I felt a blister on my right foot break open and the final 4 kms were so painful that I'm surprised I made it without walking. I was determined to have a great race and it definitely lived up to all my expectations.

I'm going to use this experience as motivation to keep training hard for IMC in 25 days. I know I need to work on my swim and keep up with the bike training and get in a few more long runs but I'm happy with where things are at right now. Great work to my beautiful wife as well who struggled through her swim (just like me) but had a fantastic bike and good run to finish her season on a high note.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tour BC- Stage 7, Kimberley to Creston

Today was the last day and I think a lot of people were relieved it's almost done. I've been feeling so great throughout the entire week that I'm a little sad that I'm not going to be waking up every morning at 6am and go out for a long ride. I think the most valuable thing I've learned out of this week is that if I have to do it, I can. No matter how much I may be dreading a 5 or 6 hour ride if I set the intention and I'm smart about fueling, I can get through any training day. I really needed to re-learn that before Ironman.

Today's ride was another beautiful one, there was one stretch of rode that looped around a farm with some horses and then vered up into the hills. The pavement was absolutely perfect and there wasn't a car anywere near. The trees sheltered the road and cast some beautiful shadows and all I could hear was the effort of my breathing as I powered up the hill. I knew that I just had a prefect cycling moment, that moment when it's just you and the road and the beauty of nature all around. That's why I love coming on this tour, I always have a moment like that at some point during the week.

The rest of the ride was great other than a slight mechanical I had with 55kms to go. I went to put my waterbottle back in the cage behind my seat and the whole set-up fell off! Waterbottles, cages, spare, levers, CO2, holder, everything. I was really lucky no one was behind me because it surely whould have taken out whoever was there. It seems the alloy was obvouisly cracked and split down the middle, oh well I kind of liked my previous set up anyway. The bottles came out of the holders way too often with this system.

I made it back to Creston in decent time and had a chance to find all the bags and have a shower before Amber got back. We checked-in to our dumpy motel in town and immediately went to get Harley as soon as possible. It was so great to see him again, Amber and I have never seen him so excited when he saw us. All four limbs and his body were shaking at the same time, it's nice that he missed us too. I'm happy we're all back together again, everything is as it should be.

Bike- 140kms, 4:14

Tour BC- Stage 6, Radium to Kimberley

Today was the second last day of the tour and you can tell everyone is starting to feel really beat up from all the consecutive days on the road. It's so hard to motivate yourself to go for another 5hr ride after five hard days in the saddle. However Amber and I opted for a motel in Radium and had an awesome night watching the tour and resting. Friday morning we got up early went to a coffee shop and had a little breakfast and hit the road.

I planned on taking it easy today, it was going to be a long day and the final climb into Kimberely looked really tough from the profile. Once I get out on the road though my mind calms and my legs take over, this is their domain and I'm powerless to stop them from hammering. There is such a sense of peace and contentment being out there on the road crusing along at 40km/hr. I suppose it's the same feeling that draws people to ride motorcycles but I enjoy it so much more when my legs are the engine.

The first water stop was at 40kms and after a brief refueling I headed out towards the lunch stop at 95kms. It's much easier if I can break down the day into; 1st water stop, lunch stop, 2nd water stop, finish. It seems a lot less daunting than '160km ride today.' I made it to lunch in great time covering the first 90kms in 2:45. The ride was incredibly beautiful and I felt truely blessed to be out here with Amber. We're both missing Harely a lot and I think 7 days away from him is long enough. Somehow it's tough to really feel like you're on vacation unless you're together as a family. Still I'm loving every mintue of this holiday and I'm going to remember this time of my life as one of the best.

Bike- 160kms, 5:07

Tour BC- Stage 5, Golden to Radium

It was a lazy morning today, I think all of these cumulative miles are starting to play havoc on my body. Surprisingly my legs feel a little tired but great when riding. I needed a day like today; flat and fast! I left town with Amber and didn't know what kind of day I was going to have until I dropped into my aerobars and started a hard push. I was absolutely flying today! The course was gentle rollers and I cruised by people at 40kms/hr listening to them go "whoa, what was that!" What a great feeling that is.

Fortunately I didn't have any issues with my knee and I covered the first 70kms in under 2hrs. Amber was in a paceline with the two other GP girls and was not far behind me. I was happy to see that she was having a good day because yesterday's long ride really hurt her. We are both getting stronger though and by the end of the tour we'll both have some excellent bike fitness leading into the Calgary 70.3.

Radium is absolutely beautiful and after resting and eating I did manage to get out for a little trail run in the heat of the day. It probably reached 36 or 37'C, the run hurt but I definitely got what I was looking for with all this hot weather training. Tomorrow calls for showers so maybe one day away from the heat will be a nice break. It's another long day tomorrow, 140kms; I'll try and stretch it out to 160 but it all depends on how my knee holds up. There are some big climbs going into Kimberley so I definitely have to keep some in the tank for the finish.

Bike- 120kms, 3:42
Run- 40 minutes

Tour BC- Stage 4, Revelstoke to Golden

Today was definitely the longest and hardest day of the tour, two major climbs one of them Rogers Pass which gains 900m over 30kms. Most of the climb was a slow-steady grade which really paid havoc on my knees. By the time I hit the top of the pass at 68kms my right knee was in so much pain. I thought the descent and a little easy spinning would help but there was another major climb leading into the final water stop. At that point one of the staff offered me a couple motrin and the pain was magically gone, I don't usually like taking anything but I absolutely needed it to get into town today.

The heat really started to hurt everyone before the end of the day, I ran out of water and was dying by the end. I met up with Amber before the finish and she was suffering in the heat too but still made it in without any major issues other than some neck and shoulder pain. The rest of the day was so hot, it was very difficult to find someplace comfortable to go. We did the best we could to try and cool down and I iced my aching knee and fiddled with my seat to see if changing it had some effect on my position.

Bike- 160kms, 5:42

Tour BC- Stage 3, Nakusp to Revelstoke

Well the miles are starting to take effect on my body, in a good way and bad. I felt pretty good going into today I knew it was going to be a short day but it was all climbing and desending. The first half of the ride flew by and I felt really good but another ferry ride and a lunch stop seemed to knock the 'get-up-and-go' out of my legs.

The second half was a real struggle with two big climbs but some incredible views and really fun desents. I managed to beat the luggage truck so I went out for another 15kms just to get to the 120 I'm shooting for per day. Tomorrow won't be a problem making the distance, it's the toughest day 150kms with 900m of climbing for the first 68kms. I'll try and make it a 180km day (I haven't done one of those rides yet this year!) but we'll have to see how my body holds up. Tonight I'm sitting with ice on my knee and compression socks on, hopefully that revives my aching legs. I can feel my bike fitness coming back and my metabolism is burning through all the huge meals I've been eating. I should be right on my race weight by the time this week is done.

Bike- 120kms, 4:11

Tour BC- Stage 2, Woodberry Resort to Nakusp

Today was another great day, a lot tougher than yesterday but really fun. My legs are definitely feeling the 280kms in two days I hope all this riding is going to pay off but I'm having so much fun that I really don't care.

I remembered to bring some music with me today so I had the motivation to turn the cranks. The ride was two big climbs with an awesome descent into New Denver and another into Nakusp. The climbs were tough but fairly shallow so it was a slow steady pace into a headwind most of the day. The good news was the morning was really cool and overheating was not a problem. Although by the afternoon on second climb the temp did hit 35'C again and I was sweating buckets. The ride was 115kms but I added a bit more and by the end of the day I managed to get in 160kms.

Nakusp is an incredibly beautiful little town with amazing mountain views and a cold, cold lake to take the edge off the heat. I did a short transition run and met Amber at the beach afterwards so I could soak my exhausted legs. We had an amazing dinner hosted by the seniors centre and I know breakfast tomorrow will be just as good. They are always so warm and welcoming here that I'm really glad this was a part of the tour again.

Bike- 160kms, 5:48
Run- 17mins

2009 Tour BC- Stage 1, Creston to Woodberry Resort

It's finally here! It feels like it's been a long winter and I have felt like I've just been waiting for the warm weather to come so I could finally get in some good riding. The day before we left for tour BC it was warm and sunny in GP but the wind was howling at 40km/hr. I was actually thinking of riding in the basement for an hour instead of going outside. How riduculous is that, a warm sunny July day and the wind was so bad that I contemplated not going outside. In the end I did go out and had a nice 40km ride but still had to battle the wind.

We spent the next two days in the car which was a little uneventful other than some drama with the caregiver we arranged for Harley. Amber and I really want to make sure he is in a good home for a week but there was a bit of a mix up with who we arranged to take him in Calgary. So he made the trek with us out to Creston and Amber found a great place for him there plus we'll get to see him as soon as we're done the tour.

I was a little nervous going into the first day of riding, I still haven't been feeling 100% and Saturday in Creston was 35'C. I haven't had any warm weather training this year and now I'm jumping right into this! Yikes. The ride turned out to be okay after both Amber and I finished fixing flats in the first 8kms. The road was a cyclists' dream, beautiful rollers next to an incredible lake with perfect weather. I rode with Amber and although she was pushing a lot harder than she's used to, it was nice to have her there.

When I came close to the ferry crossing I hit the first major climb, about 5kms at 6-8%. I was riding well and bounced up the hill easily. After the ferry was the next big climb and that one was a lot harder, not necessarily steeper or longer but after relaxing for an hour or two waiting for the ferry and on the ferry, my legs started to stiffen up. However it was only another 20kms to the resort and I made it without any trouble. I'm glad I didn't push myself too hard today, there are a lot of tough days ahead.

Bike- 120kms; 4:15

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Looking For The Bears

Amber and I had a great weekend in Jasper, I even completed some great business with the Financial Advisor which made it all worth it. We spent a lot of time on our new mountain bikes, a nice change from being on the road all the time. However I really missed biking some of the great road routes in and around Jasper. It is definitely a road rider's paradise!

I had some good trail runs with Harley and an incredible mountain bike ride with AD and Harley when we saw a bear cub. Amber was a little freaked out but Harley wanted to really get to know him. He was a little hard to control, I had him on the leash while riding my bike and trying to get away as quick as possible but he was pulling me toward the bear. We made it away without seeing his mom but I'm really glad I had Harley on the leash.