Wednesday, 29 February 2012

February

The year is a sixth over, winter is more than two-thirds behind us, it's no longer pitch-black when I leave the house in the AM or when I leave the office at night, and Lance Armstrong has settled the debate about whether he would be competitive with the best athletes in the sport. 

This month in Triathlon
The biggest story in February was the inaugural Ironman 70.3 race in Panana, where only days before the event Lance Armstrong announced he was making his return to on-road triathlon racing.  Lance's story is well-known, but people often seem to forget that before he went on to be a world champion, Olympic champion and 7-time Tour de France winning cyclist, he was one of the fastest triathletes in the world...at age 16.  At ages 18 and 19 he was the US sprint-distance triathlon champion, and only gave up the sport to move to the more lucrative sport of cycling.  
Big Tex in Panama
In Panama, Lance raced very tactically - his swim is good enough to make the lead pack, and despite being the strongest cyclist in the field he rode with a group of strong riders for the 90K bike segment - likely at a much lower percentage of his threshold than those around him.  He likely started the run much fresher than his counterparts, and lay down a solid 1:17 half-marathon in stifling heat to come second.  It took a huge effort by the 2004 Olympic silver medalist and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, Bevan Docherty, to run Lance down in the closing miles of the race.  Panama was a big KPR ('Kona Points Ranking') race for the pros, so Lance's goal to qualify and compete in Kona in October is alive and well early in the season.  People seem to either love or hate Lance, but regardless of your feelings towards the guy he's going to bring a huge amount of exposure to the sport this season.

Also in Panama, Canadian Angela Naeth won the women's racing in convincing fashion, beating a strong field that included Leanda Cave who was 3rd in Kona last year and won Ironman Arizona.  Naeth is coached by one of the great personalities in the sport, Chuckie V.

The biggest news locally in February was the announcement of the Toronto Triathlon Festival to be held in July.  In late 2011 there were rumours that WTC was trying to put on a 5i50 race in downtown Toronto that would have the bike on the Gardiner and the DVP; in the end it looks like the city went a different direction and this event is run by a new group featuring the support of the ITU, Triathlon Canada, Triathlon Ontario, and the superstar backing of Simon Whitfield.  This race will compete head-to-head with the Muskoka 5i50 which is on the same day just up highway 400, which is unfortunate as both races will be fun and I would have liked to race them both.

February Summary
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.

Swimming - 21:00 hours, 70,306 metres
With January topping my biggest single-month meters total in 2011, it was a tough ask to follow suit in February with two less days in the month and a four-day weekend out of town with no access to a pool thrown in.  The volume in January made it possible to consistently bang out 4-5K per session in February, making it my biggest volume swim month since 2000.

Key session was a 5300 meter swim session on February 19: Main set was 2000 meters for time (long course).  My time was 28:07, with 500 splits of 7:04, 7:02, 7:02, 6:59.  Average pace per hundred just over 1:24, so not quite at the 1:22 I had hoped but I feel that I'm on the verge of a speed breakthrough in the pool with a steady build of volume through the end of 2011 and two solid months to start off 2012.

Cycling - 28:30 hours, 888.1 kilometres
Didn't quite hit the target of doubling January hours in the saddle, but did put in a lot of solid work and set the foundation for March, which will be my first big bike build of the year.

Key session: A short-but-sweet one hour on the trainer doing FTP intervals, coming off a solid week of FTP testing.  Encouraged with the power output, though there's still a lot of work to do.  Not sure how much Luke McKenzie weighs, but according to Inside Triathlon magazine, he rode Kona at 271 watts which was 82% of his FTP...so 330 watts, which I'm not quite at yet.  I rode Kona at 215 watts, which was conservative based on my estimated FTP at the time of 290 (74%).  Garmin link: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/153208142.

Inside Tri illustrating the benefits of making the lead swim pack, as well as proper bike pacing.
Running - 15:42 hours, 204.6 kilometres
February started well, knocking out 90KM in both of the first two weeks of the month.  During a 30K run in Mont Tremblant I aggravated an old calf injury, so took a week and a half off running to let it heal up.  (Note that staying injury-free during the trip to Tremblant was inversely related to goal #3 for February of 'taking Tremblant by storm', which we definitely did.)  I've run the last three days (short and easy) and feel no pain, so hoping to get back to regular distance weeks soon and bring back some intensity by mid March.

Key session: 27K run including 3*12 mins tempo (avg 3:35/k) with 2 mins rest.  Felt uncomfortable but not terrible, stride felt great.  Will hopefully get that speed back by the end of March after the short running layoff in February.  Garmin link: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/147061923.

Total - 65 hours
Four hours more than January with two less days, and 23 hours more than last February.

March Preview
Targets for March:
1. Lay down some 3-5 hour outdoor rides on the weekends.
2. Bring swim pace down to be consistently 1:20/100 SCM and 1:22/100 LCM.
3. Burn up the slopes at Smuggler's Notch for my once-every-Olympiad attempt at downhill skiing.

Watch for some wicked-fast racing in March as the following top-shelf events are kicking off around the world:
- March 3: Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, a strong field of uber-bikers and a fat prize purse.
- March 3: Ironman New Zealand, one of the oldest races in the circuit and the first IM of 2012.
- March 24/25: ITU Mooloolaba World Cup, an early-season test for a lot of the Olympic hopefuls.
- March 25: Ironman Melbourne, the Asia-Pacific championship just loaded with talent.

With all the talk about Bevan Docherty's race against Lance in Panama, I'll sign off here with my favourite finishing-kick video in triathlon for a race that doesn't involve Simon Whitfield (as Sydney takes the gold, Hy-Vee 2009 takes the silver, and Beijing the bronze in the Simon-inclusive category):

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