2007 Triathlon Stuff

This was the year after Ironman Canada, and it was pretty slack overall. Not much structured training, but some fun stuff.

January 1st: New bike and first event of the year

Rather than put my road handlebars on my tri bike and riding it in the rain, I bought a road bike and put fenders on it. It's a Flyte SRS-2 that I found very lightly used at Pro City Cycle. It's so nice it's probably too good to be a winter bike, but I keep telling myself I'll keep it really clean.

I took it out for the BC Randonneurs New Year's Day populaire (thanks Sam for making me go). Dressed in yellow jackets and black tights, red LED's flashing, we rode 60 wet kilometres (65 by my computer). The group hung together, which was nice because I had some company and didn't have to read my route card. I've hardly ridden since Ironman, but I felt great until the last 10k when all of a sudden my legs were rubber and it became a bit of a struggle. Getting up King George Terrace was a slog, especially because it meant turning away from my house. Here is the results page with photos. Note the relentless rain.

April 29th, Times-Colonist 10k

First race of the year! I finished in 56:12, which is a lot slower than my time from last year, but I'm happy enough with that because I didn't train nearly as hard this year.

May 7th, first brick and long runs

I did the Y Tri Club's in-house triathlon yesterday, which is a very short and unofficial practice triathlon that the Y club puts on. It was my first triathlon of the year, and indeed, my first brick workout (a bike ride followed immediately by a run) of the year. It felt all right and made a good workout. Afterwards there's a potluck with great food as always and great door prizes. I got a free entry to the Oak Bay half marathon passed on by the original winner who couldn't use it.

I've also done two long runs now, “long” meaning anything over an hour or over 10k, whichever is longer. Two weeks ago I did a 13k run, and this last Saturday I ran twice around Elk Lake for 20k. Ramping up the length of one's long run this quickly (10k to 13k to 20k) is not the way it's supposed to be done, but the day of the 20k I just felt like it and luckily I got away with it—no injuries or sickness. That Saturday was the day of the Elk/Beaver Lake ultras, and we chatted a bit with someone who was on his fifth lap of the 50k distance. Impressive.

May 20th, Oak Bay Half Marathon

Has it failed to rain on any of my events this year? I don't think it rained during the 10k, but the weather has been chilly and overcast for all my races so far and today was no exception. It was dry until about an hour into the run, and then it started spitting and then raining lightly. Not too bad for racing, but not nice for those who were walking, and also not very nice once you get the finish. I didn't know what kind of time to expect, but I ran better than I thought I would and finished in 1:58:37, which made me happy because it was under two hours and also was not much slower than my best half marathon to date, last year at the Island Race Series Comox race.

There weren't many people I knew in the race, but I did see a few people I knew spectating, including my parents and Mike and Mary, who live just a few blocks off the course, so that was nice.

Here I am at the 8k mark. Look at my almost-great race number!
Photo by Mary Sanseverino: photo setMary's Flickr page

May 22, Overdue trip to the physio

You won't be around endurance athletes for long before the subject of injury comes up. When people talk about injuries, they're usually not talking about accidents, strains, or sprains. Instead, what endurance athletes almost inevitably suffer from to some extent is overuse injuries like bursitis and tendonitis. I've been very fortunate and haven't much trouble at all, but ever since Ironman Canada I've getting soreness in my right hamstring. My physiotherapist took a look and told me that it's probably some misalignment in my hips and lower back that's causing the hamstring to tire itself out trying to pull my body straight. He gave me a couple of stretches to do (which I should start doing again) and some acupuncture.

While I was there, I asked him about something I've been wondering about (I'm like a sponge for this kind of information), which is: is it ok to go past a 90 degree bend when you're doing squats and leg presses? and if it's not okay, what's going to happen? Here, for your reading enjoyment and knee care, is what he said (as best as I remember): Doing deep squats (past about 90 or 100 degrees) does put exponentially increasing strain on your knees, so you can only get away with it if everything, in particular your kneecaps, is tracking correctly. If there is a problem, you'll know because there will be increasing irritation in the knee. So it probably won't be a sudden and catastrophic injury, and if whatever you're doing doesn't hurt, it's probably ok. This is good news. He finished by reminding me that most of us, particularly triathletes, don't need to be particularly strong within the deeply bent part of the leg's range of motion, so there's really no point in going deeper.

June 3, Panorama Classic Triathlon

Flat on my back after the race. Thanks JoAnn for the photo. Lying flat on my back after the race

Distance: 500m swim (in the pool), 32km bike, 8km run

Yesterday was my first official triathlon of the year. I'm getting a little more relaxed about my racing: this time I went out the night before, drank a pint of beer and went to bed at midnight. I did bring out the number one race bike, but I forgot—and didn't really care about it—to put my good race tires on it, so I raced on my worn training tires. I did go through my race checklist in plenty of time beforehand so I was organized and had everything I needed. One nice thing was that I was in one of the middle swim heats so I didn't have to get up too early: six o'clock instead of the more usual five a.m. wakeup.

Pool swims are always crowded, because the lanes are narrow and there are usually four or five people in your lane with you. People are sorted by their estimated swim times, but there is always some adjustment to be done and it's difficult to pass people with so little room. I started in third position behind Kristi and we all spent the first two lengths or so getting ourselves sorted out. I ended up out front and was able swim comfortably for the rest of the way, ending up beating my estimated swim time by ten seconds for a time of 10:29 on the swim. This is actually depressingly close to my swim speed from two years ago, but considering how little swimming I've been doing this spring it's probably only to be expected.

The transition was set up inside in the skating rink, which was nice in a lot of ways, but the floor was extremely slippery, particularly for bike shoes. I managed to get through without wiping out and set out on the bike. The bike course had changed since last year (and since I last did this race two years ago) from a two loop course to a four-loop course. It was kind of a fun course, with some short and nasty hills at the beginning and end and some flat fast stretches in the middle. I'd been out riding the course a few times, so there were no surprises. The shorter course meant that there were more other people on the course at one time and I got to see some people I knew who were in previous swim heats. I spent the third and fourth laps chasing a guy with really big calves, finally passing him and then getting passed again. After finishing I found out that he was 68 or 69 years old! Holy cow! I also recognized him as the number 5 guy from my swim lane. Also in my swim lane was my favourite 68-year-old nemesis who I chased two years ago in Sooke, but I didn't see much of him after the swim. I ended up averaging 29.6 km/h on the bike ride according to my bike computer, so I'm very happy with that.

The run was getting pretty hot, and was on a somewhat confusing multi-loop course. I felt as if I was plodding for the whole thing, with my legs never really coming together. I can't figure out how fast I actually ran because the distance given is definitely longer than it really was.

The finish line was satisfying, as always, and I finished in 1:56:33. Not bad, faster than two years ago, although given the course change it's not really a fair comparison. I was surprised to find that I came second in my age group! This was pretty cool until I checked the results and found that there were only six of us, and then I wasn't quite as impressed with myself. Only a minute and quarter behind me in third place was Julie from the Tri clinic. She's definitely going to be gunning for me at the Self-Transcendence in August!

June 17, New Balance Half Iron

Phew! It's over! This was the big race of the year, which has been on my mind since I registered on January 9th. Last year (race report), things were quite different going into this race. The New Balance half was my first half ironman distance race and I was in the midst of training for Ironman Canada, coming up in ten weeks. This year I at least had the long-distance racing experience, but I hadn't trained very consistently throughout the spring. It was going to be interesting to see how the race would go on so much less training.

I keep a detailed training log, and I find it comes in handy so I can look up what I ate and drank and other details about past races. As I did last year, I got up at 4:45 (this sounds horrible, and I hate getting up early, but this time I actually felt fairly cheerful about it), and had oatmeal with rice milk, pecan pieces, coconut and honey, which is pretty much my routine race breakfast. The pecan and cononut are there to add a little fat and protein so that I'm not hungry again too quickly. I was loaded up and driving away at 5:15 and at the race site a little before 5:45, having seen some fellow Tri Club racers on the almost-deserted roads, and I was able to park right in the main parking lot which was fantastic.

There was plenty of time to putter around getting body marked, getting my timing chip, arranging my transition area, standing in line for the bathroom, putting on sunscreen and putting on my wetsuit before my swim start at 7:00. The lake felt darn chilly, and I accurately predicted that my feet wouldn't be warm again until the run. The swim itself was pretty uneventful. The starting wave was smaller this year, as it was only the under-40 women, so there weren't that many people around me and I didn't really do any drafting. There were small ripples on the lake, but it was still pretty calm. I misread the swim buoys a bit at the end made a bit of a zigzag, but I don't think I swam too far off course.

My first transition was pretty darn slow. I had my wetsuit down to my hips by the time I reached my transition spot, but my suit has thick rubber in the legs, and the legs are really tight because it's a men's suit, so it's just plain hard to take off. As well as the usual socks, shoes, and helmet, I put on arm warmers, gloves and glasses and took off on the bike.

My first thought on the bike, once I had pulled up my arm warmers, passed a few people and got settled in to riding was that my seat was too low. I haven't touched the adjustment, but it does tend to creep down very gradually, so maybe it needs to be fixed. But of course this wasn't the time to deal with it so I put it out of my mind. Being better on the bike than in the swim means that I pass a lot of people on the bike. Pretty much anyone who appears in front of you, unless they just passed you, is slower than you, so I try to maintain my momentum and make the effort to push by them. The rules for almost every triathlon prohibit drafting on the bike, and it's the hardest rule to follow. You have to allow five meters of empty space between bikes except when you're passing, and you have to complete a pass within 15 seconds. In this race there was a four-minute penalty for drafting. The no-drafting rule means that any time you start to get close to someone you really want to pass them and stay in front of them, so that you don't have to slow down to make space between you. It's good etiquette to call out a warning of “on your left” when you're passing someone so that they don't move out into you and so you don't scare them by suddenly appearing out of their blind spot but not that many people seem to give the pass warning. One person thanked me for letting her know I was coming, but a lot of people would move way over to the right, which wasn't necessary at all. Of course people with disk wheels don't need to say anything; the “roinga-roinga-roinga” sound of their wheels gives us plenty of warning.

I ate six gels (Carb-boom) on the bike, and drank just over two bottles of Gatorade. I use a gel flask in a bento box type bag instead of individual gel packets because I find it less messy. Carb-boom comes in big bottles, which is convenient, and I prefer it over other gels, especially Clif Shots, because it's less sweet-tasting and more fluid, which makes it much easier to get down. This year I decided against the aero bottle and went with a single bottle in my frame mount because I don't like how the aero bottle splashes on rough roads and the inconvenience of having to squirt your refill fluid into the aero bottle at every aid station.

The bike was over fairly quickly and I made my way through another slow transition, this time stopping in the bathroom, and headed off on the run. Just as I did last year, I felt good at the start: springy, good pace, but by the time five kilometres had gone by I was beginning to fade, and by the second lap I was taking it one kilometre at a time. I haphazardly ate three or four gels, which I'm pretty sure I needed, and drank water and Gatorade at the aid stations. The finish line, when it came, was quite a relief. It was great to find Julie and Jill from the Y Tri clinic there handing out the finishers' medals, and after saying hi to them and to Bob, who was taking pictures, I had a seat for a while in one of the conveniently-located chairs and drank some water. Ahhhhhh.

So to compare last year's result with this year: my swim was about 30 seconds slower. The bike route was 12k shorter, but my pace on the bike was only .5 kilometres an hour slower this year. The biggest difference was on the run, where I ran nine minutes slower on the exact same course. When I compare last year's training with this year's training, the difference is that last year I did about three 20k runs, lots of 4-5 hour bike rides, and consistently put in about 10 hours or more a week of training. This year I did three 20k runs, a few longer bike rides, of which the longest was 87k, and I put in about 3-6 hours a week of training. So I wonder if the long bike rides are the key to maintaining pace throughout the last of the race, or if it's the total weekly volume that makes that happen.

July 2, Hurricane Ridge

Yesterday I rode downtown on my bike, took the Coho ferry across to Port Angeles, and then rode the 32k up 1600 metres into the Olympic mountains, to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic national park. It's a ride I've been wanting to do for a while, because it's the biggest climb I've had the chance to do, and also because I think it's neat to be able to ride from my house to the top of a mountain without having to drive anywhere.

Here's a shot from the ferry as we are leaving the Victoria Harbour. I've drawn an arrow to where I think Hurricane Ridge is on the skyline.

From the ferry terminal the ride to the top took 2:33. This was one of those rides where it's fun to have a heart monitor that has an altimeter function: my altimeter registered 1571m of cumulative climbing and only 18m of descending, which shows you how constant the climbing is. (Heartbeats taken to reach the top: 23 332.5.) My average speed from my house to the summit: 13.6 km/h. The ride up was pretty long and challenging, and my lower back is still sore today. The first section up to the park entrance seems to be where the steepest climbing is, and after that it levels off a little (I'm told the grade is about 6-8% throughout). According to my watch we'd already climbed 500m when we reached the park pay booth, so keep this in mind if you ever do the climb and take heart.

on the way up I was comfortable in a short-sleeved jersey all the way up to the top, although I could feel it getting cooler, but once we reached the parking lot I immediately needed my jacket and I was glad that I brought a warm windstopper shell jacket because the ride down was cold! And a bit scary. The road is quite fast, with curves, and I know someone who actually came off the road on the descent two years ago (amazingly, he wasn't badly hurt). It took only 45 minutes to get from the top to the ferry terminal and every time I looked at my bike computer on the descent it appeared to be reading between 50 and 65. scratch on my leg
We reached the ferry terminal again with 35 minutes to spare, and then we had a relaxing boat ride back to Victoria before heading off to our respective houses. Total distance door to door: 77.8km.

The only memento from the occasion was where I gouged my leg on a sharp edge sticking out from my fender while I was walking my bike through customs.

me at the summit

July 16

Tri for Compassion

Yesterday I got up at 5:00 a.m.—ouch—to volunteer for the Triathlon of Compassion, which raises money for the Victoria Women's Sexual Assault Centre. People raised over $18 000 for the cause, and they expect that with the proceeds of the race and some last-minute donations coming in they'll make their goal of $20 000. It's a really neat race and I'll definitely do my best to volunteer or participate in the future.

My volunteer position was as a marshal on the bike course, so I got to see and cheer on every participant (three times for three loops of the course). Since this race is quite short and has a pool swim, it's quite attractive to beginner triathletes, and it was nice to see lots of people riding mountain bikes participating (although one of those people cut me off just as I was going to start my cheering with “I'm just going to work”). The race goes in heats because you can only fit about 30 people at a time in the pool, so the slowest swimmers go in the first heats and the fastest people in the last heats. This is nice because it means that the people with the slowest overall times still cross the finish line while there are still lots of people on the course. Finally, this race is known for having great draw prizes both for the volunteers and participants, including a bike.

July 23

Sooke International Half Iron—relay team

me, Troy
and Bob I did the bike leg of this race as part of the “Struggle, Mash and Shuffle” relay team. I was a little worried about the weather, as it had been raining steadily the night before, but on the day it was wet but not actually raining. Being a relay participant is pretty luxurious: beside the obvious bonus of not having to do the whole race, you get to start out in your most comfortable and dry riding clothes. I wore my new Y Tri club bike shorts with my Ironman bike jersey. I did my best to ride as if it was a bike race, and especially pulled out all the stops on my last lap (we had ride 4 loops of the course), and I was pretty satisfied with my time: 3:04 and change for an 87km course, with some nasty hills (see below). Finally I wobbled into the transition area and let Troy pull the timing chip off me.

The course seemed pretty hilly, so I thought I'd compare it to some of the other bike courses I've ridden. My watch has an altimeter, and keeps track of the cumulative climbing and descending throughout each workout. Note that because my watch works by measuring changes in atmospheric pressure (not by GPS), if the barometric pressure changes during a workout it will produce an error, so there's some inaccuracy in these numbers. For the courses where I started and finished in the same place, the difference between the cumulative climbing and descending values gives you an idea of the error due to atmospheric pressure change during the ride.

Desert Half Iron route (about 90km, one loop), which goes over Richter Pass and back: cumulative ascent and descent 1263/1276, difference between the highest and lowest point on the course: 400m. Ironman Canada route (180km, one loop): cumulative ascent and descent approximately 1505/1442, 512m between the highest and lowest points. New Balance Half route (93km, measured on the old 3 loop course): cumulative ascent and descent 958/948. Sooke International Half Iron route: cumulative ascent/descent 1139/1181 (note that this route starts and finishes in different places), 117m difference between the highest and lowest points.

Those who are training for Ironman Canada and have done some of these other races: take note that all the half ironman races I've measured here have more climbing per kilometer than the Ironman course.

More about my watch: it's a Suunto X3HR, and I've been using it for three seasons now. I'm pretty happy with it. The only things I miss are 1) the capacity to store more than 10 splits on the lap timer and 2) recording the average heart rate for each lap.

October 8

Royal Victoria Marathon

Well, I finished my second marathon yesterday, so I guess the first one wasn't a fluke! I was a little nervous coming up to this one because I didn't feel I'd trained that well and worse, my hip had been hurting during my longer runs, but in the end my hip wasn't too bad and my training brought me in two and a half minutes slower than two years ago, which over a marathon distance is practically identical.

I think I mentioned before how one becomes increasingly blasé about race preparation: I planned to get up at 6:30 so that I could eat breakfast two hours before the 8:30 race start, but then I somehow set my alarm for 7:15. Oh well, I had everything laid out ready to go and was able to eat and get myself to the race start on time without panic. My watch did actually read 8:31 while I was still in the porta-potty, but the race didn't start until I got out and had joined the crowd. I did a few stretches to let the main pack get out ahead of me and then headed out across the line.

I didn't know in advance of any friends who would be in the marathon, although Taralyn and JoAnn were in the half marathon, but I didn run into one person I knew just before the start, and I saw a few people I knew spectating. I saw my favourite nemesis, a 68-year-old man who still runs faster than I do at the marathon distance, although I seem to be gaining on him. There was also Jim Plasteras, pushing his daughter Angela in a wheelchair for the entire marathon. I passed them after a few kilometres, and then at the finish found that they were right behind me. The course passed right in front of my parents' house, so I had predicted my run time for them and they were out watching when I went by. The weather, although it looked favourable at the start, was nonetheless not on our side. It got steadily worse, and by the time I passed the turnaround point, just past half way, there was no longer any denying that it was raining. Once I got to Ogden Point, I actually saw water fountaining up through the holes in a manhole cover, but I was reasonably comfortable in a hat and light jacket. One thing that went much better than two years ago was that I ran right through the 30-k mark feeling fine, whereas the time before I had the typical crash that people are supposed to get at 30k and had a bad kilometre. This time I definitely wasn't feeling as good during the last twelve kilometres, but it was quite manageable. I think that part of the reason why things went better at the 30-k mark was probably that I had just a bit more fuel in my system. I finished an entire flask of gels during the race (I think it holds about 5), and then I picked up two more (vanilla Power Gels: the worst flavour, but I didn't care) for the end, and it worked out just right.

As soon as I crossed the finish line I started to get cold, so I took my plastic wrap and pausing only to stuff a little food into my face, I got my bag out of the gear check service and put on a dry shirt over my wet sports bra, and then my down jacket and a raincoat on top of that. Reasoning correctly that Taralyn and JoAnn probably didn't come back out to watch me finish in this rain I headed straight for the car and the hot shower at home.

December 18

The Dave Smart Memorial Beer Mile

This totally ridiculous event is only remotely triathlon-related, but since the beer mile is a sporting event of a kind, and come to think of it, it's really a multi-sport race, it goes on the page. The basic idea of a beer mile is that you run a mile and drink four beers. You drink a beer and then run a lap of the track (400 metres) four times. Both the drinking and the running happen on the clock. Now it so happens that the world champion beer mile record holder lives right here in Victoria, and his winning time this year was 5:09. Is it clear how fast this is? Just think: it was a huge deal when the first person anywhere, ever ran a four-minute mile. Now consider somebody who can run a mile and drink four beers in five minutes and nine seconds. He actually lapped me before I finished my first lap.

The race took place quietly (because it involves public drinking I'm sure it's illegal as hell) in the evening, in the cold and dark. I walked out to the track because I obviously couldn't drive and didn't even want to ride a bicycle home afterwards. Once there, I signed the waiver, got my number, and set up my four beers in a distinctive yellow bag along the transition zone where the drinking has to be completed and then hung out and chatted with some other crazy tri club people while we waited for the race to get underway. I knew that this was absolutely not the kind of thing I was going to excel at. I don't drink much, I don't train for fast running. I'm out of shape right now, and I've never tried drinking beer for speed. But it seemed like a fun thing to do (it's to benefit the Dave Smart foundation after all), and I can't forget that last year I watched Connie, a 78-year-old woman, do this.

Finally, it was time to go and I cracked open the first Granville Island Pale Ale and started drinking. When I finally got it down, I started running down the dark and wet track. Pulling into transition for the second beer, I discovered that panting and drinking is hard to do at the same time. The second and third laps went all right, but when it came time to drink the last beer . . . ooooh. There just wasn't enough room. Finally I got it in—and believe me, I was eyeing the nearest drain—and started running again. Surprisingly, the beer stayed down quite well during the last lap.

Afterwards I felt fine, and after exchanging congratulations with my fellow finishers, I called for a ride and retired to cherish my semi-drunk state with a hot shower, some food, and a little light reading. The only downside was that although I felt perfectly sobered up by about eleven o'clock, I had a terrible sleep.

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