Oct 1, 2016

Firing at all Cylinders & Unrealistic Expectations

I’ve had a really busy summer, and as a result, I haven’t posted lately. Since my last post, I’ve completed three triathlons, one duathlon, and two running races (see results for more info). Being that I don’t have the time to write race reports for all of these races, I’ve decided to write about what I feel are my best and worst performances of these 6 races.

Firing at all Cylinders: Bridgetown Triathlon Race Report

Going into Bridgetown, I felt confident that I would have a good race. I learned a lot from Ironman 70.3 Florida and Challenge St Andrews, and was excited to put it all on the line in Bridgetown. I was also looking forward to returning to Bridgetown because it’s where I did my first half iron distance race. For those that are not familiar, it’s a very flat course, which bodes well for fast times.

Waiting for the fog to clear (l-r): Mark (Campbell), Corey, Jarrett
Swim: 34:37 (1900m)

The swim was delayed by close to an hour due to fog, which surprisingly didn’t bother me too much. There was still a significant amount of fog when they decided to start the swim, but we could see just enough to navigate in the water. This swim is quite unique in that it takes place in a river where you can gain a significant advantage or disadvantage from the current. On this day, based on the times, I believe it was the later. Overall, I was very pleased with my swim! I was able to draft the eventual winner of the race, Corey Deveaux, who is about 5-7% faster than me in the water, for the majority of the swim. After the last turn about 300m from the swim exit, I decided to let him go so that I wouldn’t be exiting the water completely out of breadth. His swim time was 21 seconds faster than mine, and when he told me after the race that he was happy with his swim, this made me even more satisfies with mine.

T1: 0:54

One nice thing about smaller races like Bridgetown is that the transition zones are relatively short. For this reason, and the fact that this was a non-wetsuit swim, my T1 was very fast. I was pleased to be starting the bike portion in second place. At this point I was 37 seconds ahead of third place. My goal leading into the race was to place second (assuming Corey didn’t have any mechanical problems on the bike), but I expected to be in 4th or 5th after the swim. Not having to make up time on the bike was a bonus!

Bike: 2:25:14 (92k)

Having raced here before, and having done 2 half iron distances races this year, I had a pretty good idea of what I was capable of in terms of time and normalized power (NP). My NP was 255 watts at Challenge St Andrews, but I felt like I could have pushed a bit harder. So I chatted with Coach Jesse, and we agreed that I could push around 260 watts and still be able to run well. I had a great first lap with a NP of 262 and I still had lots of gas left in the tank. Because I race with Corey a lot, I often use how far I am behind him as a gauge of how my race is going. At Challenge St Andrews I was almost exactly 10 minutes behind Corey, so I figured (assuming he had a good race) it was realistic to try to match or beat that spread in Bridgetown.  Typically he makes up about half of his time over me on the bike, so I knew if I was going to be less than 10 minutes behind him overall that I’d have to be less than 5 minutes behind him on the bike. As I approached the last turnaround (69k) I determined that Corey was approximately 3.5 minutes ahead of me (including the ~30 seconds he was already ahead of me at the beginning of the bike) – which meant I was right on target. And my NP was holding steady at 261. So far the day was going exactly as planned, until at the 80k mark, when I heard SNAP! Initially I had no idea what the noise was, but I quickly figured out that it was the shifting cable for my front derailleur. This had never happened to me before so I started to freak out a bit. For those that are not aware, the front derailleur is what enables you to control the tension on the chain. There are 2 rings on my bike – commonly referred to as the “big ring” and the “small ring.” The big ring is used while going down hill, on flat terrain, and occasionally on moderate up hills. And the small ring (which I was now stuck in for the rest of the race) is used when climbing up hill. The only thing that helped ease my stress level is that we were on a flat course, and I figured I would still be able to maintain my current wattage if I spun very fast in the small ring. So, I increased my cadence from around 90 to between 110 and 115 and it didn’t turn out that bad. Although my legs were likely a little more fatigued because I had to spin them so quickly the last 12k to maintain my effort, I completed the bike leg with a NP of 260 – 4 minutes behind Corey and 5 minutes ahead of third place.

Here's is a look at my Strava file from the bike portion. 

T2: 0:45

Unfortunately, I entered T2 without my brain J. When I mounted my bike I got on my running shoes and headed off for my run. But after a few seconds of running I realized I still had on my helmet, so I had to return to my bike to drop off my helmet before heading onto the run course. At the time I felt as if this cost me a lot of time, but looking at the other T2 times, it likely only cost me a few seconds. In a tighter race, this could have been very costly. 

Run: 1:24:59 (~20k)

Being that it was starting to get very hot and I typically don’t run nearly as well in  heat, I began the run feeling cautiously optimistic. I knew I had a comfortable lead on third place, and that it was highly unlikely I would catch Corey, so I decided to settle into a pace (4:15k) that I figured I could maintain for the entire run portion. As the heat crept up to around 25 degrees my pace got a bit slower, but overall I was very pleased with how I held it together. One of the things I focused on over the past year was heat acclimatization – and it certainly paid off on this day. I believe three key things made the difference: doing all indoor spin sessions in 20-25 degree heat; doing ~50% of my running last winter indoors on the treadmill (also 20-25 degrees); and taking salt tabs on the 3 days leading up the race. 

The end result was a second place finish – 8.5 minutes behind Corey and over 10 minutes ahead of third. It’s nice to see what is possible when you’re firing at all cylinders (minus a shifting cable J). This was a personal best at the half distance for both myself and Corey – which made it ever more special. Unfortunately, Jarret’s (Gosbee) day didn’t go quite as well as he wanted, but hats off to him for sticking it out and crossing the finish line! Jarrett was only 3 weeks off of a 45-minute personal best at the half distance and likely wasn’t fully recovered. He and Corey are another reason I chose to write about this race. It wasn’t just my best performance of the season, it was also the most fun “race trip”’ of the year. We decided to stay in Bridgetown the extra night instead of driving the 6 hours home after the race. This gave us a chance to relax, have a few drinks, and reflect on the day – which was a blast!

Now, from the good to the bad: the Cape Breton Fiddlers Run (Fiddlers) Half Marathon…

Unrealistic Expectations: Cape Breton Fiddlers Run Race Report

The start of the marathon/half marathon!
Being that I took a step back from structured training during the month of August after I got back from Bridgetown, I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of a time at the Fiddlers Half Marathon (September 11th). I finished in 1:21:18 at the Long John Jaunt in February, and I figured I was in similar shape leading up to the Fiddlers. The running goal that I’d like to reach the most is a sub-1:20 half marathon (3:47/k) and my best to date is 1:20:58 at the Long John Jaunt in 2012. Ever since, I’ve been focused more on triathlon, and have been unable to put it all together and break that elusive 80-minute mark.

Leading up to the race my plan was to try to match the same pace I ran in February (3:52/k), but when the gun went off on race morning, the excitement of the hometown marathon race weekend got the best of me. My plan of attach on a flat course like this one is to always pick a pace (in this case 3:52/k), stick with it as long as possible, and then if I have anything left late in the race, drain the tank (which almost never happens). If I had followed this strategy I would have come through 5k around 19:20. Instead, my 5k split was 19:01. I know that might not sound like much, but when you are that close to your breaking point, 19 seconds is an eternity.  At that point in time I still felt fairly good but I knew in the back of my mind that it could end up costing me later in the race. I was able to keep my pace between 3:50/k and 3:55/k until I reached the turnaround point (10.5k), but I quickly went from feeling not too bad to feeling terrible. The second half was pretty well a disaster. I ended up running it 2+ minutes slower than the first half, and the only good part about it was that I didn’t get passed by anyone else.. As someone who prides himself as usually being able to maintain a constant pace from start to finish, this was especially frustrating. My final time was 1:23:47 (3:58/k) and due to having unrealistic expectations, I missed the opportunity to have a strong race at the Fiddlers – which is very important to me. I am confident that if I had gone out at 3:52/k, I could have maintained this pace and hopefully finished in 4th (instead of 6th). As I explained above, I knew sub-1:20 was not in the cards, but I went for it anyway. The lesson I learned from this race was to always listen to my gut. Once I got over the frustration of mismanaging my race, I went back to enjoying the incredible atmosphere. It was awesome to see the resurgence of the Fiddlers Run in 2016 – hats off to Nick Burke and his great committee! 

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