Jul 22, 2016

Challenge St Andrews Race Report

The swim course the day before the race
Since last fall, when a large group of Cape Bretoners decided to register for Challenge St. Andrews, April 10th has been circled on my calendar. Having doing this race in 2014, I knew it was a very well organized event on a challenging (but fair) course. Other than a few minor injuries, training had progressed quite well since Ironman 70.3 Florida (April 10th). Thirteen Cape Bretoners were all set to complete the half distance, 2 in the aqua bike (include my wife Lisa), and 1 in the 5k road race.

I traveled to St. Andrews feeling well rested and confident the recent flare up with my left hamstring wouldn't adversely effect my race. The forecast was calling for cool temperatures (14-16 degrees) with a high percentage of showers, which was cause for concern for most athletes, but it didn't bother me too much because I race better in cool weather.

Swim: 29:32 (1900m)

The swim is a counter clockwise loop that is very easy to navigate. Males and females went off in separate waves which meant that overcrowding wouldn't be too much of an issue. The water temperature was close to 20 degrees meaning it would be a wet suit legal swim. When the gun went off I quickly found a good rhythm. During the swim (unlike the bike and run) you really have no gauge of how well you are doing other than where other swimmers are in relation to you. That said, I felt as if I was swimming well, and at each turn buoy fellow Cape Bretoner Chris Milburn (who is typically faster than me in open water) was just a few meters ahead of me - which reassured me that I was swimming efficiently and sighting well.  I exited the water in 20th place overall -  12 seconds faster than in 2014, which I was very happy with.

T1: 4:27

Of all the triathlons I've completed, St Andrews has, without a doubt, the longest and most challenging T1. It involves a run up a steep hill of approximately 600 meters. I navigated my way up and out onto the bike course as efficiently as possible in a time that was 15 seconds quicker than in 2014. I had the 10th fastest time in T1, and moved up from 20th to 16th place by the beginning of the bike leg.

Bike: 2:30:21 (90k)

There are so many variables that can effect bike times in triathlon. Of the three disciplines, bikes times vary (from one triathlon to the next) more than swim and run times - because of the terrain, wind, temperature, smoothness of the road, etc. I was confident I was in better shape than I was at the half in Florida in April, but I knew beating my bike time of 2:22:52 was not realistic because this was a much more challenging course. In 2014 I biked 2:33:12, so I figured something around 2:27:XX was a realistic goal. That said, when you train and race with power, you learn not to focus too much on time. My plan was to be as quick as possible while normalizing at least 250 watts. The wind picked up more than anticipated and it started to rain - both of which made the bike leg more challenging. I was happy to keep my power very close to 250, and ending up normalizing 255, which I was very pleased with! And the best part was, I approached T2 feeling surprisingly fresh. By that point I had climbed my way up into 9th place overall.


T2: 0:47

By looking at my T2 time in comparison to everyone else (4th overall), most would think that my T2 was efficient and uneventful. It was very efficient, but unfortunately it was eventful - almost disastrous. As I was approaching the dismount line I did as I always do and undid the straps on my bike shoes and peddled the last 100m or so with my feet on top of my shoes. Unfortunately, on my last peddle stroke my left shoe started to drag on the ground, which caused my bike to tip to the right. Somehow I was able to get both feet to the ground just in time before falling over. I'm not saying this would have ended my day, but had I fallen it definitely would have adversely effected my run. I parked my bike in T2 feeling as if I had "dodged a bullet."

Run: 1:26:23 (21.1k)

My plan leading up to race day was to attempt to maintain a 4:10/km pace for the run. If I was able to achieve this, it would be 6 seconds faster/km than I had ever run at the half distance. When I reached the first turnaround point of the double out and back course I was right on target and I learned that I was now in 7th place overall. It was a that moment that I figured if I could maintain my current pace that I could crack the top 5 - which was another goal of mine going into the race. As you'll see in the picture below, my pace stayed very closer to my goal pace, and I was actually able to pick it up a bit over the last few kms. With 2km to go, I moved into 5th place, and in the last 200m I was able to out-sprint the guy in 4th, which was an added bonus!


Overall time: 4:31:28

I crossed the finish line feeling incredible. Not only was it a personal best for me at the half distance, I honestly don't think it could have gone any better - which is not something I can say very often! And to top things off, my good friend and training partner Corey Deveaux (who had crossed the line in 2nd place about 10 minutes earlier) was at the finish line cheering me on. Shortly after, two other friends/training partners, Chris Milburn and Andreas Burger crossed the line, followed by the remaining Cape Bretoners in the race. It was fantastic to be able to celebrate with such a great group - including Lisa who, despite having a work schedule all winter that was not conducive for consistent training, completed the aqua-bike (1900m swim/90k bike). I couldn't have been more proud!

Top 5 accepting our Club Championship Award!
 At the awards banquet that evening Corey received an award for finishing second overall, and the Cape Breton Barbarians won the Club Championship for being the triathlon club with the fastest 5 to reach the finish line. Leading up to the race we figured we'd have a realistic shot at winning, and when our top 4 (Corey - 2nd; myself - 4th; Chris - 10th; Andreas 11th) were all in the top 11, we figured that we would be tough for any other club to beat. We just had to wait to see where our next athlete would finish. Stephanie Myles was our next athlete across the line in a very speedy 5:30:53 - good enough for 15th female overall. The prize to the fastest club was a $500 - which hopefully the entire club will get to enjoy once triathlon season is over.

If you've never done Challenge St. Andrews, I highly recommend it! Other than a lengthy T1, it's a fantastic course. In addition, it is very well organized and accommodations are quite reasonable. For more on the race, including all of the Cape Breton results, click here.

Cape Breton Barbarians post race!

Jun 28, 2016

Ingonish Triathlon Race Report


The Ingonish Triathlon has always been one of my favourite events of the year for as long as I can remember. After doing the sprint distance in 2015, I was poised to return to the Olympic distance as my last prep race before my “A” race of the year – Challenge St. Andrews on July 10th. However, the injury to my left hamstring resurfaced 5 days before the race, and as a result, I was advised by my coach to do the sprint instead. Not being able to compete against the top competitors in the Olympic distance was frustrating, but not being able to do so because of reasons that were within my control was even more frustrating. Click here to read why.

Although my hamstring was feeling better each day I decided I’d listen to Jesse’s advice (or should I say order J), and I informed the Race Director that I would be now be doing the sprint distance. The night before and the morning of the race I had a lot of mixed feelings. I was disappointed and frustrated that I wasn’t going to complete the Olympic distance as planned, but I was also relieved that I had made the smart decision and switched to the sprint race.

Swim: 11:26 (750m)

I was very happy with my swim overall. I feel as if I sighted well, and wasn’t completly exhausted exiting the water (as was the case in years past). My time was quicker than it ever was before at the sprint distance, but I don’t look too closely at time for open water swims because buoy placement, wind, current, etc. can really effect your time. I was however, pleased to exit the water so close to the leaders (75 seconds). I exited the water in 5th place.

T1: 2:44

I was a bit disappointed with my transition, but I didn’t let it bother me too much. From swim exit to my bike (350 meters) went smoothly, but I was a bit more disoriented than normal when I arrived at my bike, and as a result, my T1 was 12 seconds slower than last year. Not a lot I know, but nonetheless unnecessary. I exited T1 in 9th place.

Bike: 36:16 (23k)

Because I was hoping to take it easy on the run, I had full intentions of going hard on the bike. Within 5 minutes I was back into 5th place, and by the 10-minute mark of the bike, I was now in first place. I did not look back or let up because I didn’t know how fast those behind could run. I was able to normalize 299 watts, which is in the range of what I was expecting. I was very pleased to finish the bike over 2.5 minutes quicker than last year! This is due to a variety of reasons. Firstly, I’m in better shape than I was last year. Second, last year I did a 140kms on the bike the day before Ingonish Tri and this year I was rested. Thirdly, my new Flo Disc/Flo 90 wheel set and Scott Split Aero Helmet allowed me to cut through the wind more efficiently. 

T2: 0:36

T2 was uneventful, and coincidentally the exact same time as last year. I got off the bike and exited T2 in 1st place.  

Run: 19:21 (5k)

The first thing I did when I got onto the run course was look at my watch so that I could calculate how much of a lead I had on 2nd place. After 75 seconds, there is a right turn that directs runners away from the bike course. At that point, I couldn’t see the guy in second place, which meant I had a very comfortable lead (~2.5 minutes). I did not want to take it too easy because for all knew there was somebody behind me that could run a 17-minute 5k off the bike. So I decided I'd settle into a 4 min/km pace and keep a close eye on the competition behind me. I didn’t see the guy in second until I had about 2k left, and he was about 3 minutes back, so I knew if I kept going the a same pace, that he likely wasn’t going to catch me. I finished strong and didn’t push too hard on the last 2k (which is easier said than done because it is straight down hill).

My hamstring didn’t start to bother me until the last km, which was great! I finished the race feeling very content with my decision to do the sprint distance. I likely wouldn’t have had the willpower to switch to the sprint if it wasn’t for my coach – thanks Jesse!

Total time: 1:10:21 (1st)

Ulnooweg Summer Solstice Run


The week prior to the Ingonish Triathlon I was presenting at a conference for work, and in conjunction with the conference (The Atlantic Aboriginal Award Show & Business Conference) there was a 5k run at Millbrook First Nation called the “ Ulnooweg Summer Solstice Run.” The race organizer, Chris Googoo, has been a volunteer mentor for the last 2 years for the program I run (In.Business), so I decided I would register. However, being that the Ingonish Tri was only 5 days later, I planned to run at a 4 min/km pace – which was similar to the run workout I had planned for that day anyway. To be honest, being that it was the first year for this event, and the fact that it was on a Tuesday morning (a work day for most), I didn’t expect there to be very much competition. The race was at 830am, so I got up at 4am, left for Millbrook at 430am and eventually arrived at around 745am. I went through my normal warm-up routine for 5k (20 minutes plus some strides at race pace) – which felt fine. Being that I was sitting for over 3 hours while driving, it was even more important to get in a quality warm-up. 

The race started and there was one runner (Jarvis Googoo) who started off at around 3:40/km. I tried to hold back, but I couldn’t (those that know me will not be surprised by that). Being that I felt fine I figured I’d stick right behind him and see how things went. However, at about the 2k mark I started to get a shooting pain in my left hamstring. At that moment the pain was that bad that I actually considering stopping and pulling out of the race – which I’ve never done before in all my years of racing. This definitely would have been the smart thing to do, but I just couldn’t stop myself – even though the pain got progressively worse with each step. Usually if I’m at the front of the pack in a race I’ll share the lead and break the wind with the other runners(s) at the front, but I knew that in order to stick with the Jarvis, I would have to stay behind and let him set the pace. The pain did subside a bit, and with 500 meters to go I said to myself “well you’ve come this far, and perhaps ruined what would have been a great race at Challenge St. Andrews, so you may as well go for it!” Luckily Jarvis did not have much left to sprint to the finish, and I ended up crossing the line only second ahead of him. I knew that I had done some damage to my hamstring, so I immediately went to find some ice to control the swelling. 

I woke up the following morning in a lot of pain and actually had trouble walking. After training 15 plus hours per week all winter/spring, and with the start of tri season right around the corner, I was not happy with myself. However, with a few days off of running, and applying ice a few times per day, by Friday I was able to run 60 minutes easy with minimal pain. With only 2 days to go until the Ingonish Tri, Coach Jesse advised me to switch from the Olympic distance to the sprint because I’d only have to run 5k hard as opposed to 10k. 

Click here to view/return to the IngonishTriathlon race report

Click here to view race results from the Summer Solstice 5k