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.