Friday, 10 October 2014

Ironman World Championship 2014 - Pro Male Preview

The Ironman World Championship goes off on October 10th.  Last year I was way off, picking the race to unfold as a dominant swim group that paced smartly on the bike and ran away from the field with a top three of Bevan Docherty, Andreas Raelert and Pete Jacobs.  The first two DNF'ed and the third walked it in for a 3:30 marathon and a 78th place finish overall.  The combination of Andy Potts scratching on race morning and favourable currents had almost the entire field come out of the water together and the cyclists blew the race apart.  

2014 Executive Summary
This year with Potts back in the field and a slew of former ITU guys in the race, I'm doubling down on the fast front swim group playing havoc with the usual race strategy.  These guys get out front and are able to moderate effort through town and the first part of the bike as the other guys chase to catch up, which at the end of the day could save those thoroughbred legs for later in the run.

The top two swimmers from last year (Brandon Marsh and Clayton Fettell) are both at home, but no matter - Andy Potts, Harry Wiltshire, Marko Albert, Jan Frodeno, Ivan Rana, Igor Amorelli, Frederik Van Lierde, Tim O'Donnell, Pete Jacobs, Bevan Docherty and Dan Halksworth are all able to put a gap into guys like James Cunnama, Tyler Butterfield, Craig Alexander and others who were able to swim up front last year. Also bad news for the guys like Sebastien Kienle and Bart Aernouts who will for sure be off the front on the swim. 

The one certainty here is that Andrew Starykowicz goes to the front early and rides away solo.  If we get the truly hard bike day that people seem to think is in the forecast, there may be carnage on the return trip.  I expect the top runners to mark each other, and those that have great bike legs (Rana and Frodeno having shown great form this year) to take risks to go with the right guys on the trip home.  I expect Starky first into T2, with or without Marino and Kienle who will make a charge to the front.

I think Frodeno, Rana and Eneko can get some separation on the bike from the other super-runners (Docherty, O'Donnell) and it's then their race to duke out, with the Olympic Champ taking the title after reeling in the fading MVH late in the run.

Top ten prediction:
1. Jan Frodeno GER
2. Ivan Rana ESP
3. Eneko Llanos ESP
4. Bevan Docherty AUS 
5. Marino Vanhoenacker BEL
6. Tim O'Donnell USA 
7. Frederik Van Lierde BEL
8. Andy Potts USA
9. Bart Aernouts BEL
10. Tyler Butterfield BER

Ironman World Championship 2014 - Pro Female Preview

The Ironman World Championship goes off on October 11th.  Last year I picked three of the top four correctly (though not in the right order) with Mirinda Carfrae fourth - my belief then was that the women's game had changed and there would be a front-pack swim group that would transition into a lead bike group like the men, isolating Rinny and neutralizing her devastating run speed.  That did play out, with a nice group up front...who proceeded to not appear interested in pushing the pace (with the exception of Rachel Joyce near the end of the ride).  Carfrae then ran a course-record 2:50 to run them all down and won her second world title.

2014 Executive Summary
Conditions are ripe for the same predicted outcome to play out this year.  Last year the swim conditions were calm and the currents favoured the weaker swimmers, narrowing swim gaps and keeping the race relatively close out of the water.  This year there are forecasted swells and potentially nasty winds out on the bike course.

Like last year there is a 5 minute male-female pro swim stagger.  This has been well-received to allow the women to have a 'fairer' race with less interference from the pro men in the swim and to minimize disruption from the slower pro men on the bike.  Lead group swimmers that are back this year include Jodie Swallow, Leanda Cave, Meredith Kessler, Amanda Stevens, Liz Blatchford, Rachel Joyce, Caroline Steffen, Michelle Vesterby and Gina Crawford.  Add to them the Angry Bird Daniela Ryf as well as a healthy Mary Beth Ellis and there will be fireworks up front.  Last year Carfrae was over four minutes back out of the water, in a group with Heather Wurtele, Caitlin Snow and Linsey Corbin - look for that gap to be at least four minutes this year and likely more.  

All of those girls with lead-pack swim speed can ride a bike, I expect them to work better together than last year, and also expect Ryf to take a flier off the front at some point to gap them into T2.  I can't see Carfrae, Wurtele, Corbin and Snow being able to close the gap on the leaders so that 4+ minute swim gap could easily run out to 10-15 minutes by the end of the bike.

Rinny could run 2:50 and not make the podium.  I predict Ryf holds off the field on the run as she hasn't had to run close to full-out at any race this year (including her world championship in Tremblant), Rachel comes second again and Caroline Steffen rounds out the podium.

Top ten prediction:
1. Daniel Ryf SUI
2. Rachel Joyce GBR
3. Caroline Steffen SUI
4. Mirinda Carfrae AUS
5. Jodie Swallow GBR
6. Liz Blatchford GBR
7. Leanda Cave GBR
8. Mary Beth Ellis USA
9. Meredith Kessler USA
10. Michelle Vesterby DEN

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 in 12 Workouts

This past year I raced one bike race, 1.5 triathlons and three running races (one in costume, one covered in mud, and one where my quads almost disintegrated down Yonge street).  Despite a small amount of racing, lots of fun was had with elevated heart rates, decent amounts of sweat and smiles all around.  Here's 12 workouts that made my year really fun:

January 12, 2013: A beautiful mid-winter day that reached 15 Celsius. Four of us looped west of the city, south of Caledon, stopped for coffee in Kleinburg and back into town.  81K outdoors in mid-January makes for a glorious day on a bike.

February 18, 2013: I named this workout '20 minutes of glory', my best performance in the 20 minute power test so far, coming in at 356 watts for 20 minutes at 78.9 kilograms (4.5W/Kg for 20 minutes).  

March 13, 2013: Swimming was OK in January and February, then excellent in March: 55KM for the month, the biggest of the year.  This workout was 4500 yards, starting easy-ish and ending very strong.

April 27, 2013: In New York City for my brother's bachelor party, we kicked off Saturday with a makeshift beer mile in Central Park.  It was closer to the 1.5 beer mile as our loop was a bit long - it was fun, nowhere near my previous results, but a good time on a sunny NYC day with some great friends.

May 24, 2013: Destination bike rides are my favourite type of workouts, and on this day I rode Toronto to Ingersoll on the day before my brother's wedding.  Fighting a headwind most of the day, and a huge bonk at the end, it was a great 168KM ride which ended up being my longest ride of the year.

June 15, 2013: A birthday bike ride on the Cape Cod Rail Trail with Kim - her longest bike ride by a factor of almost 2.5!  

July 27, 2013: A full day at Lake Wilcox - 2KM open-water swim, 92KM bike ride, 30 minute brick run.  

August 2, 2013: The Rocket to Peterborough, done twice in 2013 (the other was in May), the first one was headwind almost the whole way, this ride was tailwind and it was ridiculously fun.

September 5, 2013: Only 2.1KM in the long course pool three days before the Muskoka 70.3.  Over the lunch hour, the pool was almost empty and for the first time since March I actually felt like a swimmer again.

October 14, 2013: Quad-buster of a Thanksgiving day ride, sticking mostly to the MGCC Bagel route.  Legs completely unprepared for that much distance after the off-season!

November 9, 2013: Approximately 18KM of riding on a clunky, heavy mountain bike across the Golden Gate Bridge with six high school friends.  Bike riding like we were eight years old!

December 6, 2013: Running around the reservoir in Central Park with Kim, in shorts, on a sunny day, in the city that never sleeps.

2013 training totals:
Swimming: 89 hours, 302KM - 1:34/100M ('12 - 100/333/1:49, '11 - 101/331/1:50)
Cycling: 266 hours, 8,203KM - 30.8KM/H ('12 - 283/8,375KM/29.7, '11 - 362/10,972/30.3)
Running: 221 hours, 2,787KM - 4:46/KM ('12 - 177/2,316KM/4:35, '11 - 250/3,368/4:28)

Have a happy and healthy 2013!


Friday, 11 October 2013

Ironman World Championship 2013 - Pro Men

The Ironman World Championship goes off on October 12th.  My predictions last year were pretty bad, picking a Macca-Crowie-Michael Raelert podium (actual results: DNF-12th-31st pro/68th overall).  My biggest miss was not even including Pete Jacobs in the 'contenders' as I truly thought he didn't have the bike strength to hang with the front-pack cyclists, and he fully proved me and many others wrong.  For a numbers-based look at the race, check out the detailed analysis prepared by Thorsten Radde.  I like Thorsten's addition of a 'potential' calculation for each athlete this year, instead of just a straight Ironman average time as that provides a more refined analysis:

My analysis below is much more qualitative as racing fast and often may result in quantitative data that someone is primed to do well in Kona, but we've seen in the past that this can more often than not lead to burnout and DNF's on the big island.  Note that in the race last year, winner Pete Jacobs had a very average to below average season, but the only race he cared about winning was Hawaii and he got it done.

Executive Summary
There are two former champions in the field (Pete Jacobs '12, Craig Alexander '11,'09,'08) both looking on-form and in contention, as well as possibly the deepest field of challengers in the history of the race.  

Andy Potts has led out of the water every year he's raced here, often solo.  Last year he had Marko Albert on his feet, this year with Aussie fish Clayton Fettell as well as ITU'ers Bevan Docherty and Ivan Rana in the field, there is a chance that there could be a split in the front pack.  Jacobs beat Fettell out of the water at the Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast so if there is a break I think he's in there, some of the other favourites may miss the leaders.

A lead group out of the water can really change the dynamic of this race - Potts would really benefit instead of riding the first miles of the race solo, Jacobs is the big winner if he's in that group as it forces Crowie, Raelert and others to chase right off the gun.  Andrew Starykowicz will be close to the front on the swim, and he'll go off the front on the bike probably not to be seen again until mile 9-10 on the run, and as the lead group leaves the Queen K on the way to Hawi expect to see Kienle bridge up then leave the group in the dust on the climb.  I don't think Kienle and Starky ride together as Kienle will be a few minutes down on Starky out of the water and I doubt Sebi rides that much out of him.

Starky hits Ali'i Drive first, Kienle second, then a pack of contenders that could include Jacobs, Van Lierde, Bockel, Alexander, and Docherty.  Can Rana, Potts, O'Donnell and Dellow ride with these guys to come off close in T2?  Can Cunnama bridge his way up to this pack to give himself a chance?  Will be interesting to see how many guys are close starting the run.  I think we have a dogfight on the run that goes pretty late into the marathon, shedding guys one at a time.  The last five in reverse order I think will be Van Lierde, Crowie, Jacobs, Raelert with Docherty taking the win.

Here's a look at the full field:  

Happy To Be Here
There are 54 pro men on the start list with two so far confirmed as not starting (Chris McCormack and Andi Bocherer).  The 'happy to be here' crowd have raced hard and raced often to get here, and will enjoy the experience but won't factor much into the race up front.

Ben Cotter, 33, CAN: Fifth IM since December, PB of 8:48 on fast Western Aus course.
Petr Vabrousek 40, CZE: TENTH IM since November, fastest 8:26 at the fast Roth course.
Mike Schifferle, 40, SUI: Ninth IM since May, runs well but will be way back by T2.
Thomas Gerlach, 32, USA: Seventh IM since November, PB of 8:33 on fast Florida course.
David Plese, 30, SVN: Fifth IM since November, PB of 8:29 on fast Florida course.
Dominik Berger, 30, AUT: Sixth IM since April, PB of 8:32 on the fast Germany course.
Balazs Csoke, 30, HUN: Fourth IM since March, fast swimmer, not a great cyclist.
Christian Ritter, 30, GER: Will swim near the front and runs well, will fade on the bike.
Paul Amey, 40, GBR: Fifth IM since Nov and two in Aug for the 3x ITU world du champ.

The Comeback Kid
Chris Legh, 40, AUS: Forever known as the guy who lost part of his large intestine after a collapse at the 1997 Ironman World Championship, Chris is back in Kona racing for the first time since 2004.

The Young Guns
Talented youngsters that are here to get race experience and expect to be in the mix for years to come.
Stefan Schmid, 26, GER: Youngest in the field!  Runs well, will be behind after the swim.
Pedro Gomes, 29, POR: Won two IMs late in the season (Challenge Vitoria and Ironman Sweden).
Daniel Halksworth, 27, GBR: TBB'er who will be right up front on the swim, fourth IM of year.
Per Bittner, 28, GER: Another TBB'er who will be behind out of the water.  Runs well.
Maxim Kriat, 29, UKR: Has a nice bike-run combo but will be behind out of the water.
Igor Amorelli, 29, BRA: Best known for getting stiff-armed at the finish of Brazil 70.3 this year.
Tyler Butterfield, 30, BER: Solid across all three sports, a '12 Olympian for Bermuda.

Almost, but not quite
These guys can put together solid races but are a touch below the level required to be a player.
Ian Mikelson, 33, USA: Swimming better and ran 2:53 on a hard Lake Placid course in July.  
Cyril Viennot, 33, FRA: Solid bike-run, could be 4-5 minutes back out of the water.
Horst Reichel, 31, GER: Ran 2:50 in S Africa earlier this year, PB of 8:10 from fast Sweden race.
Bert Jammaer, 33, BEL: Best ever finish is third at Tremblant in August, fourth IM since Nov.
TJ Tollakson, 33, USA: Can ride really well, will be tough to make lead swim pack.
Matthew Russell, 30, USA: Weak swimmer but strong bike-run combo.  20th last year.
Jimmy Johnsen, 35, DEN: Won IMWA in December, solid runs but will be behind out of water.
Axel Zeebroek, 35, BEL: Was near the front for the swim and a decent piece of the bike last year.  
Ben Hoffman, 30, USA: Has won his last three IM starts, pack two swimmer with strong bike.
Jan Raphael, 33, GER: Won IMSWE in 2012 in 8:04, won't make front pack out of water.

The Fish
These guys swim really well, putting them in a nice position out of the water especially if they help create a breakaway out of the water.  Likely don't have the bike strength to be up front by T2.

Brandon Marsh, 38, USA: Had a great race coming second at the North America champs.
Marko Albert, 34, EST: Came out of the water second behind Potts last year.

The Aqua Bikers
These two guys will create a different type of race in Kona this year with their unique style of racing.

Clayton Fettell, 27, AUS: Swims at the front and may give it a go with Starky off the front.
Andrew Starykowicz, 31, USA: Swims well, likely first to T2, hasn't shown ability to run fast.

The Aquatically Challenged
These guys are formidable athletes, they just can't stay close in the water.  If they have a career day in Kailua Bay, they could set themselves up for a title shot.  They all would benefit from coming out together on the swim to put their bike strength to good use bridging up front.

Jordan Rapp, 33, USA: Dream day would be to come out of the water near Kienle.
Bart Aernouts, 29, BEL: ITU World Du Champ '10, has run 2:37 and has best run here last year.
Ronnie Schildknecht, 34, SUI: Seven time IMSUI champ, likely 4 minutes off swim pace in Kona.

The Players
Luke Bell, 34, AUS: Placed 7th in Kona in '06 at 27 years, didn't win his first IM until this year when he won twice (AUS and IM North American championship).  Solid across all three sports, potentially fatigued from Tremblant.

Luke McKenzie, 32, AUS: Top ten in 2011, back on form earlier this year with a win at IM Cairns. Will swim and bike at the front but hasn't run under 3 hours since IMBRA in 2010.  

Bas Diederen, 33, NED: The overall age group champ in Kona '11, has podiumed all four IM races he's done since Sept 2012 including third at the Ironman Europe championship.  First pack swim, great runs and solid bike.

David Dellow, 34, AUS: A quiet season for last year's 9th place Kona finisher with front pack speed on the swim and solid bike and run credentials.  If there is a decisive swim break this year, expect Dellow to be in it.

Faris al-Sultan, 35, GER: Fifth place last year was The Speedo's best result in Kona since coming third in 2006.  Had a nice win at Lanzarote this year, will be in the mix all day and knows what it takes to win here.

Timo Bracht, 38, GER: Last four years in Kona: 6,5,6 and 6.  Will have a deficit on the swim but is a rocket of a runner.  If he can bridge up with the second-pack swimmers on the bike he could make some noise on the marathon. 

The Contenders
Tim O'Donnell, 33, USA
Palmares: ITU Long Distance World Champion ('09)
2013 wins: Ironman Brazil.
TOinTRI flirted with the 8 hour barrier in Brazil this year.  After fighting sickness in the Kona '11 race and suffering some injury problems in the lead up to last year's race, Tim is on form and has the strength across all three disciplines to be in the mix all day.

Andy Potts, 36, USA
Palmares: Ironman 70.3 World Champion ('07), Olympian ('04).
2013 wins: Ironman Lake Placid, Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, Ironman 70.3 Eagleman, Ironman 70.3 Timberman.
Potts has led the race out of the water every time he's raced in Kona, though this year he may have some company for the early kilometers on the bike.  Has been top ten twice here before, with a best of 7th last year.  More focus on Kona this year could have him poised to be at the front until the final stages of the marathon.

Dirk Bockel, 36, LUX
Palmares: Challenge Roth champion ('13), Fourth at Kona 2011, Olympian.
2012 wins: Challenge Roth, HITS Half Naples
Dirk was in fine form last year, then broke his hand reaching for a bottle on a training run during race week.  A beautiful 7:52 race in Roth sent notice to the rest of the field, but he had some injury downtime after Roth and is working on a five-week build into Kona here.

Ivan Rana, 34, ESP
Palmares: ITU World Champion ('02), 4x ITU World Cup winner, 3x Olympian.
2013 wins: Ironman Cozumel, Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote.
Which Rana will show up in Kona?  The one who made his Ironman debut with a 2:44 marathon in Cozumel to destroy the field, or the one who has had trouble keeping up the pace on the bike in his races since?  Needs to be close off the bike to unleash his run.

James Cunnama, 30, RSA
Palmares: Challenge Roth champion ('12).
2013 wins: Ironman 70.3 Cozumel, 
James raced Kona in 2009 and vowed not to come back until he was ready to be a contender.  He started the year with three second-place finishes, and appears to be coming into form at the right time, winning the Cozumel 70.3 ahead of Terenzo Bozzone in Kona-like conditions.  His swim appears to be much improved and will be key to him cracking the top 10.

Sebastien Kienle, 26, GER
Palmares: Two-time 70.3 World Champ ('13,'12), twice raced sub 8 at the IM distance (Roth '10,'11).
2013 wins: Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
The season is already a success for Kienle after defending his Vegas title.  I expect him to ride through the main group, but won't have enough of a lead off the bike to hold off the horses listed below.

Eneko Llanos, 36, ESP
Palmares: ITU Long Distance World Champ ('03), three-time XTERRA World Champ ('03,'04,'09).
2013 wins: Ironman Asia-Pacific Champion, Ironman European Champion, Ironman 70.3 Mallorca.
Eneko has had a year for the ages, winning two of the three Ironman 'majors' outside of Kona, going sub-8 in Frankfurt and running a 1:08 half marathon to finish off Mallorca.  Under Dave Scott's watchful eye, if he can make the main pack on the swim he'll be up front all day.

Fredrik van Lierde, 34, Belgium
Palmares: Two-time Abu Dhabi Champ (2011), 3x Ironman France champ and course record holder.
2013 wins: Abu Dhabi Triathlon, Ironman France.
FVL broke through in Kona last year with a third-place finish, and has had a great season so far, beating Eneko in Abu Dhabi and destroying the field in Nice.  Expect him to be a factor during the marathon but could be crowded up front this year!

Craig Alexander, 40, AUS
Palmares: Three-time Ironman world champion (’08,’09,’11), two-time 70.3 world champion (’06,’11). 
2013 wins: Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, Ironman 70.3 Kansas, Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens.
Last year was a disappointment for the three-time winner, with nagging injuries affecting preparation and a long season taking its toll.  A drafting penalty in Vegas may have just knocked off enough effort there to save Crowie's best for Kona, but at 40 it may not be enough to hold off younger legs at the finish.

Pete Jacobs, 31, AUS
Palmares: Ironman world champion ('12).
2013 wins: Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast.
PJ put it all together last year, swimming near the front, biking with the pack and running away with the title on the marathon. Last year he almost won too easily, and wasn't pushed after the Energy Lab - how will he react if it's close in the closing miles?  He's had cramping issues in the past later in the race, and if it comes down to a multiple-athlete dogfight out of the Energy Lab, the cramps could end his chances to defend his title.

Andreas Raelert, 37, GER
Palmares: World record holder (Roth '11), 2 time Olympian, four-time Kona podium, silver at 70.3 Worlds.
2013 wins: Ironman Switzerland, Ironman 70.3 New Orleans.
Andi has been on the podium all four years he's made the trip to Hawaii, including last year where he had a disastrous swim, coming out four minutes down on the main contenders. While he may not be right up front on the swim I think he's closer than last year and could be poised for a late-race battle with Bevan, similar to his 2010 battle with Macca.

The New Boss is Kiwi
Bevan Docherty, 36, New Zealand
Palmares: Olympic silver ('04), Olympic bronze ('12), 2004 ITU world champion, Ironman 70.3 bronze ('12).
2013 wins: Iroman New Zealand, Ironman 70.3 Boise, Ironman 70.3 Vineman.
The last Kona 'rookie' to win the race was Luc Van Lierde in 1996, who set the course record.  This is only Bevan's second Ironman, he's a hard-nosed racer who commented that it was 'easy' to run 2:49 in New Zealand.  He's tough as nails, races well in the heat and is the 'purest' runner in the field.  I expect to be with the leaders on the swim, will be smart on the bike to be with the top run threats in T2, and use his ITU speed to run away with the title, the first for New Zealand.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Ironman World Championship 2013 - Pro Women

The Ironman World Championship goes off on October 12th.  My predictions last year were OK, picking two of the three medalists (Steffen-Ellis-Cave compared to an actual podium of Cave-Steffen-Carfrae).   For a numbers-based look at the race, check out the detailed analysis prepared by Thorsten Radde.  I like Thorsten's addition of a 'potential' calculation for each athlete this year, instead of just a straight Ironman average time as that provides a more refined analysis:

My analysis below is much more qualitative as racing fast and often may result in quantitative data that someone is primed to do well in Kona, but we've seen in the past that this can more often than not lead to burnout and DNF's on the big island. 

Executive Summary
There are three former champions in the field (Leanda Cave '12, Mirinda Carfrae '10, Natasha Badmann '98,'00,'01,'02,'04,'05) though Badmann at 46 is no longer a threat for the title and after an injury-ravaged season in '13 I can't see Cave competing for the title.  

Like last year there is a 5 minute male-female pro swim stagger.  This has been well-received to allow the women to have a 'fairer' race with less interference from the pro men in the swim and to minimize disruption from the slower pro men on the bike.  The biggest criticism was from Team TBB last year, as Caroline Steffen was pipped for drafting early on the bike after riding up into the back half of the men's race.  

The biggest change this year is that there are three legit super-stud swimmers in the field - Jodie Swallow, Haley Chura and Liz Blatchford.  These three will swim up and through many of the pro men, and could have 1-2 minutes on the next group of chasers (Amanda Stevens, Meredith Kessler, Leanda Cave and maybe Gina Crawford).  Another 1-3 minutes after them should be another group of favourites (Amy Marsh, Rachel Joyce, Anja Beranek, Caroline Steffen and potentially the fragile collarbone of Mary Beth Ellis).  If these first three groups all come together early on in the ride, that could be lights out for Mirinda Carfrae, Heather Wurtele, Yvonne Van Vlerken and Sonia Tajisch as they may not have enough horsepower to keep those girls close enough to run them down on the bike.

Expect Caroline to hit the bike hard and aim to bridge up to her teammate Jodie Swallow up the road.  Haley will definitely fade from the leaders and I expect Liz, Amanda, Gina and Anja to drop off the pace before T2.  I expect Caroline to be first into T2, Jodie either with her or close by.  Rachel Joyce could hang with Caroline all day if she has a day like she did in Texas where she rode 4:42, not far off many of the pro men that day.  I expect Amy, Meredith, Mary Beth and Leanda likely together as a group for most of the ride, and Heather Wurtele bridging up to make contact with them before Hawi.  I think Heather makes the pass on the way back to T2 so we have Caroline - Jodie - Rachel - Heather as the first four on the run, followed by the Amy-Meredith-Mary Beth-Leanda group.  With the depth of the women's field this year, I think Mirinda is too far back at T2 to challenge for the win.

Caroline's been here before, leading out of T2 only to surrender the lead down the road.  I see her and Rachel having a strong battle out to the Energy Lab, then Rachel bringing it home strong for the win, Caroline in second and Heather Wurtele rounding out the podium in third.

Here's a look at the full field:  

Happy To Be Here
With 37 pro women on the start list there’s invariably a collection of racers who have achieved their goal for the season just by earning a spot on the pier to rack their bike.  Of those 37, we know one for sure isn't starting (Camilla Pedersen recovering from a scary bike accident) and there's been rumours Erika Csomor isn't racing either, so there may be 35 starters.  These athletes tend to race numerous times just to qualify, and are relatively tapped out by the time October arrives.  This year’s ‘happy to be here’ crowd:

Eva Nystroem, 35, SWE - Fourth IM since November, weak swimmer.
Sofie Goos, 33, BEL - Fourth IM since November, lacks bike power to hang up front.
Sara Gross, 37, CAN - Fourth IM since November, made her Kona debut in 2004.
Ashley Clifford, 27, USA - Fifth IM since November, good swimmer weak cyclist.
Mirjam Weerd, 38, NED - Fifth IM since November, struggles on the run.
Mareen Hufe 35, GER - Fourth IM since November, PB of 9:38 in Germany.
Anna Ross, 31, NZL - Third IM of the year, no runs faster than 3:15.
Haley Chura, 28, USA - Could be up with Jodie on the swim, yet to run faster than 3:17.
Rebecca Hoschke, 36, AUS - Fourth IM since December, IMOZ winner in weak field.
Jennie Hansen, 29, USA - Won IMLP, strong run but will be far behind by T2.
Elizabeth Lyles, 35, USA - IMMOO winner against a weak field, good runner.
Britta Martin, 35, NZL - Won IMWA in December, PB of 9:37 at Sweden.
Kim Schwabenbauer, 34, USA - Fourth IM since November, had a strong run at Tremblant.
Jessie Donovan, 37, USA - Three IM wins since July 2012, weak swim and a strong bike.

The Old Guard
These women have been at the top of the game for a long time, hoping for another strong hit-out.
Erika Csomor, 39, HUN: Kona will be IM #5 for the year (with two wins) if she races.
Amanda Stevens, 36, USA: Was first out of the water last year, this year will be leading the chase pack.
Rebekah Keat, 35, AUS: Finished 13th last year, best placing since 7th in 2007.

The Young Guns
Talented youngsters that don't yet have the TSS or experience to be there at the end, but we'll see then progress in the years to come.
Michelle Vesterby, 30, DEN: Likes tough bike courses, has yet to run sub 3:14 in an IM.
Anja Beranek, 28, GER: Nice swim-bike combo but runs in the 3:18-3:23 range.
Kristin Moeller, 29, GER: Will be way back at T2 but has a deadly run with two sub 3 marathons this year.

The Players
Sonja Tajsich, 37, GER: Strong cyclist and great runner, ran herself into fourth last year.  Swim is a big weakness and she could be 15-20 minutes off the lead by T1.  Has been battling plantar fasciitis which will hamper her run strength. 

Linsey Corbin, 32, USA: Cracked the top 10 in Kona for the first time last year and followed that up with a win at IMAZ a few weeks later.  Solid but not spectacular across all three sports, knows the course well as this is her 6th time here.

Meredith Kessler, 35, USA: Won IMNZ and the Ironman 70.3 North American Championship - St. George.  Usually in the mix until T2 but hasn't run under 3:10 in an IM.  Have off the course distractions caused stress in the Kona build?

Caitlin Snow, 31, USA: Has a blistering run that has put her in the top ten in Kona the last three years.  Her bike is a huge liability though, if she loses 25 minutes to the top women on the bike again this year top 10 is best-case scenario.

Amy Marsh, 35, USA: Could compete for 'top American' honours, Amy has a great swim-bike combo but has yet to run sub 3:11 in an Ironman which won't get it done in Hawaii for the podium.

Gina Crawford, 33, NZL: Gina's raced four iron-distance races already this year, with a win and three seconds.  Strong swimmer, good cyclist and competitive runner looking to improve on her seventh place last year.

Natascha Badmann, 46, SUI: One of the biggest surprises in last year's race, the six-time champ put together the day's fastest ride and a solid run to come 6th, her best placing in Kona since '06.  Backed it up with a solid race at IMMELB in March.

Yvonne Van Vlerken, 34, NED: Twice a Challenge Roth winner and the runner-up in Kona in 2008, YVV has the skills to be in the mix at the end if she's on a good day and can limit her losses in the water.

Liz Blatchford, 33, GBR: Former ITU'er has front-pack swim speed and solid run legs but will likely fall a bit off the pace on the bike.  Won IM Cairns in her Ironman debut.

The Contenders - Women with a shot at the title
Leanda Cave, 34, GBR
Palmares: Ironman World Champion ('12), ITU World Champion ('02), Ironman 70.3 World Champion ('12).
2013 wins: Ironman 70.3 Miami.
This year has been injury-plagued for Leanda.  She has the experience to get the most out of her body so she could make noise on Saturday.  Most recently placed 13th at Ironman 70.3 Worlds.

Mary Beth Ellis, 35, USA
Palmares: Undefeated in IM outside Hawaii (8 wins), two-time silver at 70.3 Worlds ('08,'09).
2013 wins: Ironman North American Championship, Ironman France, Ironman Cozumel, Ironman 70.3 Florida.
Suffered a broken collarbone in early September, has the Honey Badger healed enough to be a factor?  Was right in the mix last year until fading to fifth during the second half of the marathon.  

Jodie Swallow, 32, GBR
Palmares: Ironman 70.3 World Champion ('10), ITU World Long Distance Champion ('09), Olympian ('04).
2013 wins: Ironman Sweden, Ironman 70.3 South Africa.
The fastest fish in the pond, she's raced sub-9 twice this year on fast courses.  Relatively new to the Ironman game, she's raced three this year with two marathon blow-ups - if she can pace this one effectively she could be there at the finish.

Mirinda Carfrae, 32, AUS
Palmares: Ironman World Champion ('10), Ironman 70.3 World Champion ('07).
2013 wins: Ironman 70.3 Muskoka.
In four races in Kona she's never been off the podium (2-1-2-3), but the quality of the cyclists up the road will make this a tough ask for Rinny to podium again on trip #5.  

Heather Wurtele, 33, CAN
Palmares: Five-time Ironman champion.
2013 wins: Ironman Coeur D'Alene, Ironman 70.3 Latin America Champion Panama, REV3 Quassy, Ironman 70.3 Calgary
Big wins in Panama and Quassy, a much easier Kona validation than last year and most recently 10th place at the 70.3 World Championship (behind 9 women not competing in Kona).  A strong season has this Canadian poised to snag a podium spot.

Caroline Steffen, 35, SUI
Palmares: Two-time ITU Long Course World Champ ('10,'12), twice Silver at IM World Champs ('10,'12).
2013 wins: Challenge Roth, MetaMan, Ironman 70.3 Philippines.
Xena has pulled back the racing a bit this year compared to last, which should have her cracking to finally top the podium in Hawaii.  Her swim looks to have improved over prior years, which gets her to the front faster but can she drop Joyce on the bike? 

The New Champ
Rachel Joyce, 34, GBR
Palmares: ITU Long Course World Champ ('11), Challenge Roth champion ('12).
2013 wins: Ironman Texas (course record 8:49).
After a dalliance with Matt Dixon and PurplePatch fitness in 2012, Rachel signed on with 'The Man' Dave Scott for the coming season.  She's raced twice (Oceanside 70.3 as well as Texas) yet destroyed the women and half the men in the Lone Star State.  No doubt piling on the TSS up in Boulder under The Man's watchful eye, her disappointment from being ill on the Big Island in 2012 will be washed away by becoming the third British woman to take the title in the last three years.
A second world title for RJ?

Friday, 27 September 2013

Muskoka 70.3

Last race of a very quiet season!  After a super strong spring, motivation waned for the rest of the year.  After a strong race based on average fitness at the Toronto Triathlon Festival, I dialed up the training a touch to get in decent shape for this early September test.  

The race is the same day as the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas, therefore many of the top studs are out of the country racing, but with 100 slots to the 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championship on offer, which will be hosted outside the USA for the first time in our neighbouring province of Quebec, the field was anticipated to be much deeper than previous years.

At bike check-in on Saturday, I noticed that as I was walking with the bike, the cranks were turning: not a good sign.  I'd noticed this at the Toronto race as well, but didn't remember it from training rides in between, so thought the wheel cover was causing the issue.  At check-in, I stripped the cover off, and the issue persisted.  Slightly concerned, but with no real time to check it out, I racked the bike and hoped for the best. 

The forecast for race day was cold - single-digit Celsius readings, which is unchartered territory for me - very used to hot and humid days but this weather presented some interesting clothing options.  The day itself was beautiful after rain showers on Saturday, so I packed a couple options in transition (long sleeve top and gloves) and decided I'd see what others were doing after the swim.

Breakfast was a bagel with peanut butter, a banana and a Boost+ shake.  I had a swig of First Endurance gel 20 minutes before the start, and put on my casual shoes to walk down to the water - it's a bit of a trek in Muskoka, and wanted to keep my feet warm.  There's a bag check down by the water for the shoes, however after the race I forgot to pick mine up so someone has a sweet pair of blue and red Pumas - enjoy!

Something I tried for the first time was swimming in compression socks - I'd overheard Joe Gambles talking about it at Syracuse last year in the pro meeting, he'd 'learned' the trick from Fred Van Lierde, doesn't really slow you down in the water and then you already have socks on for the rest of the race.  I figured the extra coverage from the compression socks as well as the Compressport For Quad products would potentially help with the cold.

Swim - 26:48, 4th in AG, 23rd overall
The men 35-39 were in wave three along with the men 18-24.  I knew speedsters Cody Beals (18-24) and Richard Pady (35-39) were in my wave, so optimistically found my way over to them at the start of the swim and hoped to ride their feet through the opening leg.  In the words of Joel Filliol, 'hope is not a strategy' and my lack of swim training over the May-June-July period had me spit out the back about 500 meters in.  From there on out, it was a solo slog through the waves in front of us.  
Wave 3 Swim Start - photo cred Kim Astley
Similar to Syracuse last year, I had a tight feeling in my chest and felt a bit of hyperventilation in that opening 500 meters - likely due to lack of warm-up, lack of racing this year making that claustrophobic start uncomfortable, and racing at an effort that is a little too high.  Noted for next year - less reliance on hope, more reliance on meters.  

I was out of the water 5th in our wave, which was led out by Adam Golden, an old friend from my club swimming days, with Cody and Richard on his feet, and Stephen Cann about 45 seconds up ahead.
Swimming in socks!
T1 - 3:42, 14th in AG, 82nd overall
Two mistakes, here: the first was not properly scouting T1 so when I came in, I followed the woman in front of me who ran left, when my bike was on the right; the second was indecision about what to wear.  I started putting on the long-sleeved shirt but saw a lot of guys running out in only their tri suits, so decided to just take the gloves and roll with it.  

Also, with the cranks turning as I was running with the bike, and my shoes (clipped in) flying all over the place, the run to the mount line was with the rear wheel off the ground most of the way - not the easiest way to run with the bike.  
Running with a broken bike
Bike - 3:46:26, 150th in AG, 663rd overall
The wheel almost literally fell off this race in Baysville, 60K into the ride.  That issue with the cranks was in fact the death knell of my freehub, which was causing certain gear shifts through the 60K of the ride resulting in cranks and chain spinning but no force being transferred to the rear wheel.  Fiddling with the gears would get one of them to 'catch', but on a very technical first 30K and very hilly course, not an ideal situation.  I'd considered trying to find one gear and risking it all the way back to T2, but it's not that kind of course - a full complement of gears was needed.
Early in the ride making a pass
I was HORRIBLE through the technical section from Deerhurst to Dorset, and that definitely needs to be improved upon in the future.  Apparently my kind of courses are like Kona, where it's basically a dead-straight road almost the entire time, no twists or turns in sight. 

In Baysville I down-shifted to slow down for a bottle exchange, and the freehub failed.  Over the next hour I flagged down three race motorcycles, none of whom had the ability to communicate with the D'Ornella's tech support car or the sag wagon, so I sat on the side of the road until one of them came by.  D'Ornella's confirmed the freehub had failed, then ten minutes later offered up a rear wheel to get me home.  I was wearing a black t-shirt that one of the marshalls had lent me, so must have looked pretty funny on the ride back with the shirt blowing in the wind.
T-Shirt Time!
I didn't feel amazing on the bike, but had built into it by Dorset, and the stretch from Dorset to Baysville was really fun (minus the gearing issues).  Power had sat around 245ish watts for the first section, but was able to rev it up into the high 260's over the next stretch which would have been a nice figure to finish at.   

T2 - DNF
The whole way back from Baysville I flip-flopped on running or not running - part of me wanted to rip off a fast run to 'salvage' the day, the other part of me knew it would be hard to push it when the race up the road was out of reach.  The two deciding factors were hearing them announce Richard Pady winning my AG as I ran into T2, and then seeing my Mom who was completely freaked out that I was in a ditch somewhere out on the course seeing how I was over an hour later than expected.  So for the second 70.3 in a row, I took my chip off in T2 and handed it over.  

Definitely not the way I'd planned on ending the season, but it was still a nice day to be outside, several friends had great races and it gives me an excuse to pick a spring 70.3 to clinch a Tremblant spot.  Also gives me a bit to reflect on as 2014 season planning gets underway, lucky for me Arcade Fire has already composed the theme song for reflection period.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Mud Hero Toronto 2.0

This is the second year in a row that Team Imrie has conquered the Mud Hero course up at the Albion Hills conservation area north of Toronto.  Last year's blog post covers the details of the race, this year's race was very similar with the order of the obstacles altered slightly and a few swapped out for relatively similar ones.  

My brother turned 30 on race day, and we celebrated with a 'tight and bright' race uniform theme.  Our costumes won the day, and we also dominated our wave with three of the top six times in our wave (1st, 3rd and the birthday boy in 6th).  Overall I placed 3rd, potentially 2nd as the winner's time was 2.5 minutes faster than the group so he's either a stud or someone who went off course or call it a day at the half-way point.  
Team Tight and Bright - Pre-Race
Fun times had by all, on the course, in the beer tent afterwards and then the after-party at the campsite!  My only takeaway from the course this year is not to wear flat-soled shoes made of slippery rubber, no fun running downhill muddy trails in those!  

Next up is Muskoka 70.3, aiming for a qualifying spot for the 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Mont Tremblant, Quebec.
Post-Race, Pre-Shower!