Saturday, 31 March 2012

March

March in southern Ontario was more like May - multiple days in the 20's, very few days below zero, and hardly any precipitation (with no snow).  Which for triathletes means outdoor riding season came early this year!  So great to see so many people out on the roads. 

This month in Triathlon
The 2012 triathlon season is in full swing - a bunch of high profile races all went down this month.  In the short-course world, the unofficial season kick-off is the Mooloolaba Triathlon on the Sunshine Coast of Australia, where big names lined up to earn Olympic points and have an early season kick-out to see who's showing early season form.  The French had a great race, with Laurent Vidal winning his first major ITU race and teammate David Hauss coming third.  Sandwiched in between them was Brad Kahlefeldt.  Canadians got a boost to their hopes of fielding three men at the Olympics this summer when Kyle Jones claimed 8th spot, jumping the Canadians over the Portuguese and Russians into 7th place in the current team standings (top 8 teams get 3 starts in London).  On the women's side, Aussie Erin Densham took the title, with Nicola Spirig and last year's world champ Andrea Hewitt rounding out the podium.
Densham making a bid for the Aussie Olympic Team
In the long-course world, there were three major events during the month - Ironman New Zealand was a bit anti-climactic as weather conditions forced the race to be run as a 70.3 instead of a full Ironman.  Marino Vanhoenacker took the title ahead of Tim Reed and Cam Brown for the men, and Meredith Kessler took the women's title ahead of Kate Bevilacqua and Jo Lawn.  On the same weekend in Abu Dhabi, Rasmus Henning took the title after almost two years of sub-par performances ahead of Team Abu Dhabi member Faris Al-Sultan and Eneko Llanos.  Former pro cyclist Nikki Butterfield won the women's race ahead of Canadian Angela Naeth and Team TBB's Caroline Steffen.
The biggest race of the month was the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship held in the middle of metropolitan Melbourne, Australia. Big Kona points, a large prize purse and the promise of a fast course drew a star-studded field, with Craig Alexander throwing down a 2:38 marathon to race sub-8 for the first time, winning a super-tough duel with Cam Brown (who just missed going sub-8).  Cam wouldn't have raced here had Ironman NZ been a full race, racing so well in Melbourne was a bit of a consolation for having his ten-year winning streak snapped in Taupo.  Frederick Van Lierde, who was 5th in Abu Dhabi, rounded out the podium.  Caroline Steffen, coming off her bronze medal performance in Abu Dhabi, destroyed the bike course and missed the Ironman-brand world-record by 50 seconds, ahead of Rachel Joyce and Mirinda Carfrae.
Grizzled Vets Holding Court in Melbourne
March Summary
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. 

Swimming - 11:55 hours, 40,568 metres
A big drop in metres from Jan and Feb, sickness struck mid-month, as well as when the weather got nice, a few swim sessions were sacrificed for outdoor rides. 

Key session was a 4000 meter swim session on March 30: Main set of 10*300 on 4:30 LCM, we'd been talking about this set since January and I hit it in a pretty fatigued state.  I would have liked to have held a faster pace (average was 4:21 or 1:27/100) but it was good to make it.  45 minutes of solid swimming at a pace comparable to long-course race pace.

Cycling - 38:50 hours, 1,108 kilometres
The unseasonably warm weather allowed for more road time than prior years.  Even with missing part of the month due to sickness the totals were similar to last May. 

Key session: No monumental rides during the month, however I was surprised to see a PR on the Brimley Road hill climb so early in the season - my club rides Brimley once a week (four to five repeats a workout) and usually peak fitness comes later in the year.  I'm still 45 seconds off the KOM time for the hill but happy to be faster than last year in March.  http://app.strava.com/activities/5461430

Running - 29:05 hours, 384 kilometres
March started slow for running as I came back cautiously from February's calf twinge.  Total mileage was my highest since March 2010 when I was only running whilst training for my last marathon.  Legs felt heavy almost the entire month due to the high intensity bike workouts, but the stride is smooth and pace is good at long-distance effort.

Key session: 30K run with descending 10K's, starting easy and working into long-distance race-pace.  Felt comfortable and had good speed despite hard bike intervals the day before.  Strava link: http://app.strava.com/activities/5533729

Total - 79:50 hours
Biggest training month since September 2011, not as big as the build into Hawaii but a touch more than the build into Louisville.  

April Preview
Targets for April:
1. Make it to the start line on April 15 healthy and rested.
2. Embrace 'Gambare Nippon!' for eight hours on April 15.
3. Enjoy some rest and recovery back in Toronto following the race.

The triathlon world is in full swing following a big March - some highlights of the coming month:
- April 1: Ironman 70.3 Texas, Lance's second race of the year with a bunch of studs lining up to take a shot.
- April 14/15: ITU Sydney World Championship, full Canadian contingent present Down Under.
- April 15: Strongman Japan, the largest and longest-running race in Asia (a bit of self-interest here...)

Almost as highly anticipated as April's racing is the resumption of the battle for the Iron Throne on HBO starting April 1 - 'power is a curious thing':

Monday, 26 March 2012

GoPro?

In exchange for a few race results last year and $785 United States of America dollars, the World Triathlon Corporation has accepted yours truly into their ranks as part of their Ironman Pro Membership Program:


Why Go Pro?
After his dominating win at the Asia-Pacific Ironman Championship over the weekend, I don't think Craig Alexander is shaking in his boots now that I have the ability to line up against him on the Ironman circuit.  Why would someone with a pretty demanding full-time job (and a decent appetite for burgers and pizza) try to play with the Big Boys?

1. It's about competition.  The age-group format of triathlon racing is very important to the sport, it provides comparative results across demographic groups at each races, provides motivation for racers of all ages, and creates a unique and exciting environment at the various world championships offered in the various disciplines of triathlon.  However, the sport is still providing a racing format, and in the end everyone is racing everyone else, regardless of age.  I've experienced many races where at the pointy-end of the age-group race, guys have asked me on the run what age group I was in, and if we were in different age groups, they were unconcerned about beating me.  I've always taken the approach that a race is a race, and want to place as high up in the overall standings as possible.  This opportunity allows me to hit the start line with the fastest guys and see just how far behind them I really am.

On the same topic, Steve Boyd has an interesting take on the de-sportification of running and it's impact on world-class (or lack thereof) performances from North American athletes in recent years: http://www.nzrun.com/article/11404-The-De-sportification-of-running

2. It's about ease of race entry.  Triathlon is a niche sport, but it's still a popular one, where for especially the Ironman distance races, supply often outstrips demand.  People sign up a year in advance for races.  I hardly know what I'm doing later this week never mind next year.  For most races, professional entries are accepted up to a month before the race.  I do believe that providing as much notice as possible is the 'professional' approach to setting a race schedule, but when 'life' gets in the way it's nice to have flexibility.

3. It's about the economics.  Economics?  I have no illusions of making a living from my racing results.  I do, however, love to race, and racing gets costly.  Last year I raced one half-marathon and five triathlons, which combined cost $1,800, or more than double the Ironman pro membership fee.  My economic goal for the season will be to win enough prize money to cover my pro membership (so I can then write it off against winnings on my taxes, I am an accountant after all).  

4. It's about testing the hypothesis of the following graphic.  Does it hold true?
It was bloody cold on my group ride this morning (-8c, which felt like -30c after last week's early-season heatwave), which made this 'song of the week' applicable - enjoy!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Do you Strava?

The weather has felt more like June than March here in Toronto, which means vegetation is in full bloom, pollen season has come early, and the Morning Glory Cycling Club has hit the roads earlier than ever with huge participation numbers.  57 riders out at 5:40AM on March 22! 
 
After one of our early season rides, our Club President asked how many riders were on Strava.  A few hands went up, I'd heard about Strava but hadn't explored it as I already log my workouts through uploads to Garmin Connect, and log quants and qualitative data through the Slowtwitch Training Log.  His description of the site was 'Facebook for Cyclists'.  After confirming with a couple users that file uploads is super easy, I decided to check it out.
 
From the Strava website:  "Strava lets athletes all over the world experience social fitness—sharing, comparing and competing with each other's personal fitness data via mobile and online apps. Currently focused on the needs of avid cyclists and runners, Strava lets you track your rides and runs via your iPhone, Android or dedicated GPS device to analyze and quantify your performance. Strava makes fitness a social experience, providing motivation and camaraderie even if you’re exercising alone."
 
Why is Strava more fun than Garmin Connect or Training Peaks?
The social aspect of Strava makes it easy to compare your individual rides and overall mileage with your friends, your peers (locally or abroad) and with the wide range of professionals that upload data to the site. 
 
The app also gives you the ability to create 'segments' during your rides, which once created, the app goes into your GPS files and extracts those 'segments' from your ride data, essentially giving you lap data based on the segment drawn on a lap even if you didn't hit the lap button during your ride. 
 
The coolest aspect of segments is that even if you didn't create a segment during your ride, but someone else already has (or will in the future), your data for that segment is pulled and added to the all-time list, showing the KOM and QOM for the segment ('King of the Mountain' or 'Queen of the Mountain') and everyone ranked behind.  You can also toggle to only show your own performances, which allows quick and easy comparison of results of a familiar piece of road across each time you've logged that segment. 
 
Here's a link to the segment data for the Morning Glory Bridle Path route, our Thursday morning Criterium-style workout.  We typically ride this 5K loop five times each workout:
 

What if I don't have a GPS device?
Well apparently it works with an iPhone or Android phone, but seriously, if you don't have a GPS go get one - amazon.com has super-cheap running ones and the Edge 500 is the best cycling computer I've ever had and isn't super expensive. 

Happy training!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Green Mountain State

The great state of Vermont got its name from Reverand Peters, who, while visiting the area in 1761, performed a ceremony on top of one of the many green coloured hills to declare the area 'Verd Mont'.   In March, this area would be more aptly named 'Mont Blanc' with all the snow, however there's a certain mountain in the French Alps that's already laid claim to that name. 

I spent the past weekend in Jeffersonville, Vermont, where two great friends got married on their mutual birthdays.  They'd spent a year scoping out the area, getting to know the local businesses, and putting together a phenomenal party for their friends and family.  The lead-up to the wedding day was filled with skiing, delicious microbrews, amazing locally sourced food, and huge amounts of laughs.  

Food highlights included smoked prime rib, huge assortment of local cheeses, delicious pork sausage, quinoa salad with the wedding dinner, and apple-spiced doughnuts topped with ice cream in lieu of wedding cake.  The most decadent meal of the weekend, however, was the creme brulee french toast served up at The Mix - not many foods 'beat' me, but this one did, it was so rich.  
Magnifique!
The officiant for the wedding was the brother-in-law of the groom, Adam Kreek, who in addition to being an officiant and all-around kick ass guy, is an Olympic Gold Medalist and three-time world champion rower.  Triathletes may remember that Simon Whitfield wrote 'Sing Like Kreek' on his handlebars in Beijing, to give him motivation to dig deep so that Simon could also belt out the national anthem on the podium like Adam had a few days earlier.
Sing like Kreek!
Adam and I had a great talk about high performance athletics: what it takes to be the best, and the value of surrounding yourself with other high calibre athletes.  He's a super interesting guy, and if you get a chance to hear him speak, or are looking for a speaker for an event, you should seek him out.  This Friday he's also gunning for a Guiness world record for the largest rowing class.

Here's him and the crew belting out our national anthem - pretty good motivator to get out the door and finish this day off with a run!