Tuesday, 31 January 2012

January

January has come and gone - I had no hard and fast new years resolutions but did set three targets for the month:

1. Swim more metres than I swam in September, my biggest swim month of 2011 (54,970).
2. Get back into the routine of doing all three sports each week.
3. Own the dance floor at Tim and Caryn's wedding.

Number one was made a lot easier by my awesome teammates at the Toronto Masters of the Universe swim team who made swimming way more fun than it would be solo.  Number two was harder than expected due to 'year end'. 

For most, 'year end' refers to December 31, and is usually accompanied by time off work, good food, great friends and associated revelry.  For accountant-types, 'year end' refers to the 45 days following December 31 when all annual statutory reporting is required to be filed with the relevant authorities.  This type of 'year end' involves working almost continuously, greasy fast food bereft of nutrients, work colleagues becoming the only people you interact with, and revelry reserved only for that moment when all documents are filed and normalcy returns (February 9th, not that I'm counting). 

The 2011 version of 'year end' for Canadian accountants is a particularly memorable one, as 2011 marked the year than Canadian companies transitioned from reporting under Canadian accounting rules to International Financial Reporting Standards.  This change was promised to bring increased transparency when comparing companies in different countries; in reality it brought heaps of extra hours of work and piles of billable hours for accounting and law firms.  The result of the IFRS geek-a-palooza was way higher work stress than usual, way lower energy levels available for training, and less overall training stress realised in January than was planned. 
'Revenge of the Nerds', compliance version.
Swimming - 17:00 hours, 55,025 metres
Relative to the competition, swimming was my weakest leg in four of my five triathlons in 2011.  I'm fully committed to returning to a decent level of swimming in 2012, so despite the work constraints I was regimented in my swim plan for the month.  Managed to top the September 2011 total by 55 metres, and also exceeded my ENTIRE 2010 swimming total (including races) by 25%.
Key session was a double-header: on Friday January 27 we did a main set of 10*200 LCM on 3:05, where I averaged 2:52 comfortably.  Nothing to write home about, but in June last year I would have barely made that set holding 3:03's.  Two days later we followed that up with a main set of 5*400 LCM best average on 6:30 (5:44, 5:37, 5:36, 5:35, 5:36).  Still some work to do but happy with the start of the season in the pool.

Lots of time spent staring at the black line in January.
Cycling - 16:55 hours, 528.6 kilometres
Here's where the wheels fell off the training plan.  Most of my cycling sessions were planned for the evening, and as things heated up at the office, bike workouts were dropped.
Key session: none, really.  Never had the consistency to allow for intensity to be slotted in.

Running - 25:55 hours, 340.8 kilometres
Solid month of running, in line with January 2010 and 2011 (though in 2010 was only running, 2011 was running and biking but no swimming).  Feeling comfortable with running 90-100K weeks and 30K long runs, will now be able to add intensity wherever it can fit in around the bike workouts.
First spent pair of shoes in 2012 - 810KM dating back to November.
Key session: 30K run with 16K at 4:25 pace, then 6*5 mins tempo (avg 3:40/k) with 1 min rest, warm down.  Garmin link: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/145615672.

Nordic Skiing - 1:02 hours, 7.5 kilometres
This was an ill-advised foray into classic Nordic skiing at Chateau Montebello.  Five wipe outs and full-body bruising later, there will be no more of this happening in 2012.  Until the next time I find myself at a resort with groomed trails.

Total - 61 hours
Almost a 50% increase in hours over last January, and on par with April 2011 despite zero outdoor rides.

Oh - about Number Three above - although determining if someone 'owned' a dance floor is a largely subjective exercise, I believe the air guitar to 'Paradise City' can be considered conclusive evidence of ownership.
'A hard case that's tough to beat...'
February Preview
Targets for February:
1. Double bike hours from January.
2. Bring Friday AM swim pace down to 1:22/100 or under by the end of the month.
3. Take Tremblant by storm for JT's 'Last Waltz'.  And maybe strap on those Nordic skis one more time.

So based on this ridiculously mild winter we've had so far, what happens if Wiarton Willie doesn't see his shadow on Thursday?  Do we get to replace the early spring with early summer?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Chateau Montebello

In the summer of 1999 I worked for CP Hotels at The Algonquin Resort in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.  CP owned pretty much every iconic Canadian hotel and resort at the time, and since employees were able to stay for $30 a night at any property in the chain, I made a rather long short list of the places I wanted to visit that summer.  Chateau Montebello in Montebello, Quebec was on that list, but being 800 kilometres away from St. Andrews, it never happened.  This past weekend I finally made it to the Chateau, as two great friends were getting married there in a winter wonderland setting.
Chateau Montebello - The 'World's Largest Log Cabin'
The resort grounds are on the Ottawa River, on a parcel of land that was part of the Seigneurial system of New France, meaning that from 1627 to 1854 it was owned by the King of France and was 'maintained' (i.e. the rents and taxes were collected by) the assigned Seigneur.  The Chateau itself was built by 3,500 labourers in 1930 as a private wilderness retreat for business and political leaders of the time, and until 1970 only members of the 'Seigniory Club' and their invited guests could attend.  Now the only control over who attends is the price controls imposed by Fairmont on room rental rates.

Friday night featured a little bit of this...
Hurry Hard!
...and quite a bit of this.
Saturday had activities for those that just wanted to chill...
...for those that wanted to throw the body (and the Labatt Bleue) around...
 ...and those that wanted to work up a sweat.
What's not shown in the photo above is my busted body on the side of the trail after getting absolutely schooled in cross-country skiing by Emilie...wipeouts galore have the body pretty sore this week.

All of this was just a prelude to the main event on Saturday night, great times with great friends.
Rockstars!
No trip to Quebec is complete without their provincial food - after consuming a few of these over the weekend I'm sure it's pure coincidence that I weighed in 2kg heavier this week than last.
Vive le Quebec!
Of course Quebec isn't famous just for inventing the poutine and providing us with a French feudal land system in the 1600's, it also spawned one of the biggest female pop sensations of the 80's...

Friday, 20 January 2012

Dominance

The US Olympic marathon trials were contested last weekend in Houston, Texas.  Unfortunately there was no live streaming of the race as NBC seems to think we still live in the 20th century where tape-delayed sports were tolerated.  Meb Keflezighi broke away from Ryan Hall and Abdi Abdirahman late in the race to win the title, though all three men will toe the line in London on August 12th.  In the women's race, the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist in the 10,000 meters Shalane Flanagan won the title in only her second ever marathon, she'll be joined by Desiree Davila and Kara Goucher.  

Following the race, I came across a posting of the fastest 400 marathons ever run.  Kenya absolutely dominates this list - in the top 100 performances, Kenyan runners account for 62.  Sixty-two!!  Including the four fastest performances ever, and eight of the top ten.  
Geoffrey Mutai - the fastest marathon ever run, though not the world record.
Kenya's neighbours to the north, Ethiopia, have 24 performances in the top 100, and the only two places in the top ten not owned by Kenyans.  Only six other countries are represented in the top 100, four American performances, four by Moroccans, two Brazilian performances and one each for South Africa, France and Portugal (with these last two being the two slowest times in that last, both at 2:06.36...if you can call that slow). 

There were 150 Kenyan men and 50 Kenyan women who made the Olympic qualifying standard (compare that to Canada where so far we have two men and zero women who've made the cut - granted it's a super tough standard, that just shows how dominant Kenyan distance running is...) so making the Kenyan Olympic marathon team may be the toughest squad to make for the 2012 games.

Included on the short-list of candidates (the final team will be selected on April 30th following the Boston, London and Rotterdam marathons) are the following class runners:
- World record holder Patrick Makau (2:03.38 at the Berlin Marathon in 2011)
- World's fastest marathoner Geoffrey Mutai (2:03.02 at the Boston Marathon in 2011, not a world record as Boston is a point-to-point, net-downhill course that doesn't meet the IAAF criteria for a world record)
- World's second-fastest marathoner Moses Mosop (2:03.06 at the Boston Marathon in 2011, two-time world cross-country champion)
- 2009 and 2011 world marathon champion Abel Kirui (who won in 2011 by 2:28, the largest margin of victory ever)
- 2011 London Marathon champion Emmanuel Mutai (2:04.40 personal best, 9th best performance ever, silver medallist at the 2009 world championships)
- 2011 Frankfurt marathon champion Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich (2:03.42 personal best, second fastest 'official' marathon ever and fourth-fastest marathon overall)
Only three of those six, which includes the four fastest men in history and five of the eight fastest men in history, will make the team.  

World record holder Patrick Makau
Despite this incredible record of dominance, only one Kenyan has won the Olympic marathon - the late Samuel Wanjiru in Beijing in 2008.  That may be why Abel Kirui is on the short-list of six runners despite having a personal best that is two to three minutes slower than everyone else on the list - he's come up big when it counts, being the winner of the last two world championships.

For those interested, Geoffrey Mutai's pace per kilometre in Boston was 2:55 - I could maybe knock out two of those in a row before falling over.

Speaking of dominance, check out Pearl Jam rehearsing for Saturday Night Live at the height of their Seattle Grunge Superpowers:


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Moneyball

A pile of new books made their way into my stocking this holiday season, and the first one to be put to bed is 'Moneyball' by Michael Lewis.  I was a massive baseball fan growing up, and until the 1994 strike-shortened season I tracked baseball stats like it was my job every summer.  The book was a fun reminder of those days, it's also a great story about the value of challenging established practises and what outside of the box thinking can accomplish. 

My good friend Anil Patel is the executive director of Framework, an organization that is leading a Moneyball-esque paradigm shift in how the not-for-profit industry communicates with its stakeholders.  Anil talks about how Framework is applying the lessons from Moneyball to the problem of measuring charities' efficiency and mission success here.  I encourage you to read the post, but Framework's key finding was this:

"Just like Lewis set-out to dig into how the A’s transformed themselves, we have been searching out the same type of inquiry in philanthropy. Here is what we’ve come up with:

From a governance perspective, there might not be a single more important management competency then how well its organization shares: How well does it share internally with their staff and volunteers? How well with its external stakeholders? And is the organization getting better at sharing month after month; quarter after quarter; year after year?"

Two things happened yesterday that made me think about the concept of organizational sharing in the not-for-profit sector:  
The first was reading that Lance Armstrong would be in Toronto today to promote his Livestrong line of fitness equipment, which got me thinking about how Livestrong has been faulted in the past for being unclear about their role in the fight against cancer versus their role is promoting the brand that is Lance Armstrong.  

The second was coming across a story in Outside Magazine that was published last week about the relationship between livestrong.org (the charitable organization), livestrong.com (a for-profit website that pays for the right to use the name) and Lance Armstrong himself. 

I found the article interesting as it tied back to the issue of sharing information - the writer addresses the confusion regarding the relationship between Livestrong donations and Lance Armstrong's lifestyle, or the fact that Livestrong doesn't actually contribute any money to cancer research when the general public seems to feel like that is the goal of the organization.  It feels like there's opportunity for Livestrong to share more information to make it easier for stakeholders to assess the organization's performance.  Information should be shared, not guarded.

Therein lies an opportunity for all the 'Davids' in the not-for-profit sector up against the entrenched 'Goliaths': in these days of economic uncertainty where there is an increased need for funding but donors are applying more scrutiny when doling out their dollars, those organizations that share how they spend those dollars in an easy to consume and easy to understand manner will be providing their stakeholders with peace of mind.  Something to consider when you're deciding on where to spend your charitable donation budget in 2012 - do you know how your money or volunteer time is going to be used?

Regardless of what happens with Livestrong or the FBI investigation into Lance's potential doping this year, I hope he races an Ironman in 2012 since it will be great exposure for the sport in the mainstream sports media, and may also get the talking heads over at Slowtwitch to stop debating how fast or slow he'll be...

Monday, 9 January 2012

2011 Year in Review

2012 starts with a look back on 2011.  Going into 2011 I had three main goals, which were as follows:

1. Learn to effectively race with a power meter.
2. Build durability on the bike to allow for faster run performances in long-distance races.
3. Find a nutrition strategy that works for races over 5 hours.

Based on these goals, I was confident outcomes I'd achieve would be to qualify for Hawaii at Ironman Louisville and have my fastest season of racing yet.

Goals:
1. Learn to effectively race with a power meter: Result: solid cycle of building power and testing throughout the winter and spring, then maintaining those power levels through the summer.  Ability to hold target watts in races then have strong runs indicates wattage goals were realistic.

2. Build durability on the bike: Result: Cycling volume in 2011 was 57% higher in 2011 than 2010, including a few weeks over 500KM and one over 600KM.  While Olympic distance run splits stayed consistent, half-iron split came down ten minutes (1:29 to 1:19 on the same course) and Ironman split dropped from 3:50 to 3:03.  Both the half-iron and iron splits were in the upper range of Ale Martinez's predicted run performances based on my Jack Daniels VDOT.

3. Find a nutrition strategy that works: Result: In training I ate anything and everything while riding at goal IM wattage and was able to digest, so was confident I could handle any type of food at that wattage (Snickers bars, sausage rolls, pastries, gels, bars, pepsi, gatorade, infinit).  Through trial and error I got a sense that I can handle up to 400 calories an hour without nausea.  For Louisville, I 'borrowed' Jordan Rapp's nutrition strategy in terms of calories and salt on the bike and the run.  It worked OK (likely a touch low on calories on the bike and definitely low on overall fluids) so upped bike calories and fluids in Hawaii, and had high energy levels and a settled stomach all day.  I now have a plan that works that can be tailored and tweaked as needed going forward.

Outcomes:
Following my first race of the season (Muskoka Long Course) I revised my outcomes based on that performance:
1. Win the Peterborough Half Iron outright (won despite a 3K detour on the bike).
2. Break the course record in Ottawa (missed by 25 seconds).
3. Overall amateur win in Louisville and place top 5 overall (3rd amateur and 8th overall after cracking on the run, managed to beat the two guys ahead of me in Kona).
4. Top 50 in Kona and top Canadian finisher (44th and top Canadian).

Overall it was a very successful season, lots of knowledge and fitness gained.  I have a few ideas for 2012 but no concrete plans yet - hoping to stay healthy and happy, and if any decent race results come my way then that will be a bonus.

Happy New Year!