2009 Oliver Half
Oliver Half
Photo by ASI

2009: back in the saddle

In the beginning of 2009 I decided in a fit of enthusiasm to join Taralyn in racing the Oliver half iron. I signed up with the Y Tri club again and come the start of the new year, I got in the pool for the first time in months. To make matters worse, I had waited a little too long to register for the club and found myself stuck with the dreaded morning swim time. The morning swim is at 6 a.m. I actually went back to bed after the swim and before work a few times because when I got home after the swim it would not only still be dark, it was also still earlier than I usually get up. After spotty swim attendance and trying to adjust to getting up three hours early twice a week I gave up and transferred to the evening swim time. It might be less macho, it might take up my whole evening, but boy do I ever feel better.


New toy

My old heart monitor, the Suunto X3HR that I've had since 2005 started acting more and more flaky. It would get stuck showing the wrong date and time and fail to respond to button pushing (even the reset combination). Only taking the battery out would get it reset.

Being the sucker for good design (ahem, good-looking design) that I am, (I'm typing this on a Mac) I elected to go with another Suunto. Although it's fun having the altimeter feature, it's only available in combinatino with a heart monitor on the X3HR and up series, and although I liked my X3HR, I was willing to give up the altimeter to get some features that I could get on the standard heart monitors, such as memory for more laps, smaller and prettier case, etc.

I tried the t1c first, but found that it was missing a feature that I really rely on, which is storing more than one workout in the training log. I want to be able to recall a number of past workouts (the X3HR remembers 8) and go through and see my training time, average heart rate and all the lap times for each stored workout. The t1c only allowed you to go through the lap times for the last workout. So I went back and got the t3c, and I'm very happy with it.

Without going into a whole review I'll say that the new style of monitor strap is nice and does indeed seem more comfortable (I didn't get a heart rate in the lake under my wetsuit though, which I thought I could usually get with my old monitor—but I'm only tried it once). It counts calories, and although I have little faith in the accuracy of the numbers (it knows your age, weight, gender, and percentage of max heart rate), it is kind of fun to look at that number and it's at least interesting to compare calorie counts for your various workouts and, for example, your bike commute. I work at the top of a hill and the watch reported 146 calories to get to work and 77 to get home. It also keeps track of three heart rate zones, and once I figure out some meaningful values to enter into that setting then the time in each zone will be of interest. The watch also keeps track of how much time your spent training in each zone for the last five months or so.

There's also a setting that the user enters to indicate your overall level of fitness and training, which connects to a metric called “training effect” for each workout which is supposed to be a measure of how much aerobic training benefit you're getting out of the workout. I'm skeptical of the training effect metric because I've seen it report a lower effect for a 95 k ride than a 20-minute ride with a hill. Sure, the maximum intensity was higher on the short ride, but there's more to training than that. Still, for someone who's apparently as addicted to measuring things as am, it's something new to watch and speculate about. At least the training effect makes me feel good about suffering through a hard run compared to cruising through a slow run.

Finally, there's an optional GPS “pod”, apparently about the size and shape of a hamburger patty. Having GPS is tempting: how you can get speed, change of altitude, all that good stuff on your workouts, but the thing is just a little big, reviews are mixed, and I don't really want to spend the money on something that's probably a pain to use and carry.

Oliver Half Ironman—race date June 7th

After the finish Well, this was the big race of the year. I didn't train that well and in particular neglected the last few weeks when I had a bad cold and was busy doing other stuff that needed doing. However, my bad preparation had the pleasant side effect that I pretty much didn't care about the result and was just there to do the best I could and have fun.

And hey, it was fun. The race was very big, bigger than it's been in the past. Other years I think they've capped registration at 450 or so, but this year they had to move the transition area into a space that had more room and they registered 1100 people! They divided the group up into three waves leaving five minutes apart, which worked quite well. I had lots of company throughout the race without getting pounded in the start.

I hadn't seen the bike course before and I was surprisingly disoriented out there. Aid stations came as a surprise and I had only the vaguest idea of where I was. That said, it's a great bike course: quite flat, and very pretty. It was a windy day with the winds such that one long leg of the course had a tailwind and the other a headwind. Since we went around 2 1/2 times we got to switch between these two a few times. I didn't mind the headwind but was glad of my aero bars.

The run was a bit of a slog. The weather was not nearly as hot as it could have been—only in the mid twenties I think, with even a few raindrops at the end of the run. Nevertheless I was putting ice in my clothes and pouring water over my head for most of the run. I had passed Marc on the bike, but I found myself catching up with him on the run as he'd apparently passed me in transition. We ran together for a while and then I went ahead and caught up to Taralyn who was walking with a bad side stitch. We walked while Marc caught up and then we all walked together for a while before Marc and I started running again and finished together, announced by the amazing Steve King.

At the end of the awards ceremony we stuck around to see the Ironman Canada entries get awarded. Ironman Canada sells out every year on the day that registration opens, which is the day after the previous year's race. However, a certain number of entries get distributed to different races to be offered to the top finishers, with entries allocated among the age groups depending on the number of people in each. When the fastest racer declines the entry, it goes down to the next fastest finisher and so on. The entries tend to roll down quite a way because most people either don't want to do the Ironman, and if they do they've already entered (this isn't a free entry being awarded, you pay the normal entry fee). Taralyn was on the edge about whether she wanted to a spot but when it came to distribute the women's entries, there were 12 entries and 10 people who wanted to race and she was in! With two spots left for the women and me standing right there I was tempted for a moment but I had already decided that I really don't want to spend the rest of my summer training like mad.

Overall I highly recommend this race. As usual for Outback Events the organization was excellent throughout, from a thoroughly informative pre-race meeting to great post-race food, which showers and free massages. The race course is really nice with a small, warm lake and a scenic, flat bike course.

Notes for future use:

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