The Tridot Pre-Season Project (and me)

This post is part of the #MotivateMe Link-up that takes place on Salads4Lunch and Run Mommy Run every Monday.  Visit them to see more great active living content.

Triathletes sometimes refer to themselves as ‘tri-geeks’.  While everyone is a ‘geek’ for what they’re passionate about and will discuss these subjects at great, great length, what I think puts the ‘geek’ in ‘tri-geek’ is the attention to the technical minutiae.  Even though I’m an engineer and an analytical person by nature, I’m actually pretty laid back about the number-crunching aspect of training.  I do like to keep records and quantify things, but that’s about as deep as it goes for me.

I started following Tridot about a year ago.  Tridot is a website/training system that is data-driven at a whole other level.  They’re working at an algorithmic level, and putting a lot of effort into doing things differently – one aspect they’ve been pushing is their Pre-Season Project.  They were recruiting athletes who had

  1. Done a triathlon before
  2. Planned on completing an Olympic, Half-Iron or Full Distance Tri this year
  3. You are not a pro or coach or have benefited from a previous Tridot program.

I qualified for this, and sent in my application for 2 months of free training.  While I’ve been a little anti-coach in the past, under this program I’m still a DIY type athlete – I’m just following a training program that has been  customized to me by complex algorithms.

Once I was selected, I completed a few steps of an ‘on-boarding’ process which included not only my height, age and weight, but benchmark assessments, which I had to take very rough estimates of – 400m/200m swim times, 25km bike time (with average heart-rate) and 5km run time (again with average HR).  They ‘normalize’ a lot of your performance by location (because of temperature, elevation and humidity factors), and ask for you bike weight, arm span, you name it.  Like I said, it’s data-driven to the next level.

I was really impressed by their interface.  It’s not exactly clean,  but considering how much data they’re presenting at a glance, it’s surprisingly easy to navigate and interpret.

I’m still learning a lot about it (between jumping into the training program, writing this up, and the rest of my life, there hasn’t been a lot of time for other reading and research), but I can tell you the little circular graphs show your planned vs actual volume and the colours are mapped to training intensities like Endurance, Threshold etc.  The intensities for each sport are explained on the dashboard, based on your current data.

The day after I was accepted into the program, there were assigned workouts to do, and they were quite technical.  The great part is that each workout has explanations and/or videos for any part of the workout you don’t understand.  I opted for 2 strength workouts per week (rather than zero) and those are included in my schedule with triathlon specific exercises.   You pick your ‘off’ day (if any).

Completed workouts can be manually entered, or you can connect a Garmin account.  While that was convenient, I hadn’t used my account in months, and my a lot of my accessories weren’t working too well.  I’ve made a point of wetting the pads on my HR strap and I’ve replaced my speed and cadence sensor.

The training schedule for my first week looked like this:

The time and effort profiles are easy to see and the logos make it quick to determine what you’re doing on a given day with just a glance.  Clicking on a workout brings up that day’s workout(s).

For strength workouts, you mark them complete as a percentage of intensity, which I found a little odd (I was prepared to record reps).  The great part is not only are there videos to show the exercises, but they’re on the same page, available by selecting a drop-down menu which is populated with only that workout’s exercises (or drills/other terminology for swim, bike, run workouts).

As Instagram will prove, I had a lot of fun with these workouts.

I should also mention Tridot’s customer service.  While the immediate volume and technical sophistication of the workouts was intimidating, they’ve been very helpful.  One issue I had was getting reminders to do my assessments (time trials at prescribed distances) while having a full training schedule.  They explained that my formal program hasn’t started yet, and the assessments were more important than the prescribed workouts and I should slot those in instead.  In fact, the assessment protocol descriptions showed that they can be substituted for a given workout,  for example, when the time trial takes less time than the prescribed workout, you just extend the cool-down period till you get the same time spent.  One thing I’ll have to get better at (besides time-management) is recording the entire workout with my Garmin.

It’s still early days in my Pre-Season Project, and I have a lot to learn, but I’ll report back every few weeks on progress, opinions, notes and the overall experience.

Introducing the FAT Project

Do you like transformation stories (as in, whole body makeovers/big weight loss success stories)? I confess, they are generally not my thing, but in this case, I’ll make an exception, maybe because the end goal of this one is to become an Olympic distance (not in the actual Olympic Games, mind you), triathlete, and because it’s a friend.





Paul McIntyre Royston named his weight-loss effort/triathlon dream the FAT Project not to invoke the pejorative use of the word FAT… it’s actually an acronym for Food Addict to Triathlete.

One of the last times I saw Paul in person was the Wasaga Triathlon in 2008 (sadly, I don’t have a recap of that race as I wasn’t blogging regularly yet), where he completed their Try-A-Tri event of a 375 m swim, a 10 km bike and a 2.5 km run.  He’d spent the summer getting healthier, and completing the race was the culmination of that effort.  Sadly, the results didn’t stick, which can be a problem in getting healthy for any of us.

He’s now over 400 lbs, living in Calgary with his wife and 3 daughters, but this time, he’s building a village, or at least surrounding himself with a team.  His weight loss efforts will be medically supervised by a doctor, dietician and nutritionist.  He’s also documenting everything through a website, with a PR firm and Film company on board to capture the big milestones on his journey.  And of course, putting his message out there helps with accountability, so there’s a full on social media campaign too, see below.

Website
Facebook
Instagram
Twitter
YouTube

I’m really excited to be able to follow Paul on his journey – I think it’s going to be uplifting and a lot of fun, and I’ll hope you’ll join me in cheering him on!

Barrelman Triathlon Recap: The Race

If you haven’t read Part 1 of my Barrelman Weekend Recap, you can find it here.


The Swim


So there I was, floating in a sea of red swim caps.  Though I had picked the less crowded side of the overall swim lane, I noticed it had filled in with new bodies behind me.  I guessed I’d have to justify my confidence in my swim pace.  Toot went the horn, and the swim began.


As I mentioned last post, the Welland International Flatwater Centre is used for various boat races, and you couldn’t find a better venue for an open water swim.  For starters, the word ‘flatwater’ is right there in the title; it’s not a large lake with waves (nor any boat traffic – but more on this in a bit).  Some swimmers claimed there was a current, but I couldn’t detect any.  We swam more or less one kilometre to the other end, and there were even signs on the shore every 250m or so which not only helped you keep track of your progress it was great for motivation – you didn’t need to be at 750m (for example) but merely knowing you were coming up on your next milestone was a great mental boost.


Traffic collisions were a factor, including one punch in the face I took in the first 100m.  I wasn’t expecting it to be that bad, but maybe I’ve been spoiled by the Bracebridge Triathlon this year, or maybe lane isn’t wide enough for that many swimmers to spread out without some bump and grind.  


At one end of the course there were lime green buoys which you kept on your right, cornered to cross to the other side, then straight back to the starting end of the course; navigation could not be simpler – everything is straight lines and 90 degree turns.  On the way back, the distance signs seemed less visible, maybe they were obscured by bushes, so I didn’t rely on them as much.  There were some small white (and orange) buoys that must serve some purpose for the boat races which had the potential for collisions, but I mostly swam right past them without incident (I think I hit one head on, and it cost me all of a second or two to get dislodged).  Somewhere in the last 400m or so, I found myself boxed in by other swimmers on all sides.  To whoever’s legs I swam over, I apologize, but ultimately I think I saved us all a few bumps by getting to the outside and passing that way.


I did most of the swim on auto-pilot without really giving much thought to my pace, and I think that worked out in my favour.  I neither overdid it nor slacked off too much, based on my time.  I had hoped to complete in 38 minutes, but it was 40.  On the other hand, my Garmin shows I kept an average pace of 1:54/100m for over 2100m.  I was initially expecting the official 1900m, but the race day literature mentioned a 2km swim (and 89km bike ride instead of 90).  The Garmin map shows I did do some zig-zagging, but nothing to be ashamed of.



Swim Stats: 2112m in 0:40:00.

Transition 1

After the swim exit you ran past the grandstand to hear people on the bleachers cheering you on (thanks guys!) and up some stairs into the transition zone.  Bike racks were organized by bib number, and each number had a designated spot that we all had identified the day before.  I took my time in this transition, and once my wet-suit was off, I made a bathroom break – I was going to make the next 90 (or 89) kilometers as comfortable as possible.  My biggest struggle in T1 is managing my Garmin while taking off the wet-suit.  I don’t trust the sleeve to be able to go over the Garmin on my wrist, so I take the Garmin off, and juggle it while I’m stripping.  The upshot was that I left the wrist band behind while mounting the Garmin onto the bike mount.  I stuffed everything in the black bag that would be transported to the finish area, and walked my bike out of transition (helmet on, of course).



T1 Stats: 0:05:40.6

Bike

Once I mounted, the first few hundred meters were a little bumpy; my hydration bottle kept spraying droplets onto me and my bike, but most importantly my phone.  I had promised to text my wife at the end of each leg, and I hadn’t punched in “Swim Done” while in transistion.  I stopped just before a bridge where the road part of the course started to open up and struggled with reading the screen in the intense sunlight, with the stains not making it any easier (I keep my phone in a Lifeproof Case, if you’re wondering how I’m able to risk taking it along in all these extreme circumstances – here is an affiliate link for some of their products).  Once I had sent that first text, I got down to business.


The course had been described as having segments “The Out”, “The Loop”, “The Back” and “The Ride to Niagara Falls”.  “The Out” was the first 20km and very straight along a road called Feeder.  It was easy going, and I was averaging over 30 km/h while feeling like I was just on an easy spin.  In hindsight, I think I had a tailwind.


“The Loop” took us down to the shore of Lake Erie.  I tried to take photos of several things while riding, but as I mentioned, the glare made it difficult to see what I was doing, especially while riding.  It probably wasn’t worth the risk, and the camera didn’t take pictures when I thought it did.  Once I hit the shore of Lake Erie, the view was so beautiful, I had to actually stop and pull over to capture this shot.  
Lake Erie


At aid station #1 they had a bottle exchange, but I stuck to my aero bottle in my handlebars.  I figured I still had plenty of drink in there, and only grabbed a gel for later.  I had been eating GoMacro bars until that point.  Somewhere near the halfway mark I switched to a Clif Bar.  I began to notice the wind.  It always felt like a headwind, no matter what, but I think for the most part, it came at a kind of diagonal.  I saw the impressive wind turbines which had been mentioned in the pre-race briefing, and I figured (according to the laws of thermodynamics) they must be slowing the wind down at least a little.  Thanks wind turbines!


It was turning into a bit of a slog for the way back from “The Loop”.  My neck and shoulders were beginning to hurt in aero position.  Reaching the second aid station at 57km was quite a relief, and I opted to make it a bit of an extended break.

After taking that video, I rode about another 2 km. I was heading down a nice downhill stretch toward one of the more interesting features of the bike course – a tunnel under the Welland canal – when I felt my rear wheel go directly over a rock. That’s not good, I thought. I rode through the tunnel, and started climbing up the hill on the other side when I felt a familiar rhythm under my saddle – whump, whump, whump. I stopped and felt my rear tire – it was a little soft and getting softer. A flat. On the biggest race of my life (so far).

Having had an ambivalent attitude toward motivation the whole race helped me not panic and freak out. Obviously I wasn’t going to set any impressive time now, I just needed to focus on getting the tire fixed. I had wisely opted to take along my repair pouch rather than extra bottles behind my seat. I actually saw another rider a mere 200m up the road from me that had the same problem. I walked my bike up to where he was (with a runner who seemed to be helping out) under the guise of “misery loves company” but the truth was that I wanted guidance on fixing the problem. I’d practised switching out a tube enough times at home, but I felt a little less comfortable using a pressurized CO2 cartridge. They’re expensive, so I didn’t like the idea of using one when I didn’t have to.

The other guy was having no luck with his CO2 cartridge, and blamed the valve he was using, so I offered him mine. Once I had my new inner tube installed on the wheel, I waited for him to give me my valve back. It hadn’t worked for him, and sure enough, it didn’t work for me and my lone cartridge either. Luckily, the runner volunteered to run back to the aid station, where a repair van from VeloFix. We waited for a bit, and sure enough the van pulled up, and was able to inflate my tire with the all the effort of pulling the trigger of a motorized pump. I was off, and though I hadn’t watched the clock at the time (in the interest of staying calm), I had blown over 30 minutes on the entire misadventure.

There would be just over 30 km left to ride, and those clicks became more and more painful. Maintaining aero position was doing a number on my neck, and I was compensating by having my head tilted more forward, which reduced my field of vision to only a few meters in front of me – not good, not safe. I started to come up on my brake hoods, and abandoned aero position altogether. No body position was helping my neck at all – I wished I could have rode “no hands” and sat upright. Somehow I finished the ride, but the last 10 km were at a very low speed; it’s a shame I was in such a bad state, because that seemed to be very pretty countryside.

I pulled into the T2 transition area, wondering if I should bother trying to finish at all.


Bike Stats : 88.99km in 3:52:40

Transition 2:

I got off the bike and went through the motions of going out for the run. That became the strategy: simply try to put my legs on auto-pilot and see what happened. If my neck pain didn’t decrease in the first two kilometres, I think I would have packed it in. Shoes were on, and out the run exit I went.

T2 Stats – 0:5:45.7

Run

The good news was that my neck stopped hurting pretty fast as soon as I was upright. For the bad news, I need to know if you’ve heard of an entity known as the Blerch, as featured on Matthew Inman’s webcomic, the Oatmeal. If not, head over there and come back. Now I remembered the Blerch as a demon of general self-doubt more than one of sloth and laziness, and to me, that was what he represented. I generally try to keep the language on this blog pretty clean, but right here, I’m going to pull out some much saltier stuff, so if that offends you, you can skip the next paragraph.

For all 21 km, the Blerch and I had a knock-down, drag-em-out street fight; I’m talking about head-butts, knee-cap kicks, elbow strikes, groin shots, kidney punches, rabbit punches, biting, scratching, fish-hooking, you name it, for every inch of that course, that motherfucker and I went at it. “What are you even doing?” … “A real man would be at that hospital with his family!” “What do you think you’re going to prove? Are you supposed to be some kind of hero? Big deal, like a million people have already done this distance, and most on harder courses, in less time.” In short, I felt like I didn’t have the right to be there, 6 months of training or not, but my legs kept moving.

The only way to take the fight back to my own Blerch, was to try to finish, and do it with a smile on my face. That meant trying to enjoy the weather, the locale and the environment in general.

This put a smile on my face within the first kilometre… it was almost exactly what I was thinking at the time.

It was a two-loop course, and it was later in the day, and I probably looked like I might be fast enough to be on my second loop, but it was a little demotivating having spectators tell me I was “almost done” with less than a quarter of the running mileage under my belt.

The aid stations were nice and frequent, just about every kilometre I think (my memory has gotten fuzzy as it’s taken a long time for me to get this post written). I turned down Coke at my first opportunity, but it wasn’t a mistake I was going to repeat, and I think I had it every chance I got after that. Coke’s gotten some bad press lately, but caffeine and sugar felt pretty good to me at that stage; it didn’t even matter when it started to get luke-warm and flat.

The run course took us through some lovely parks in the area.

There was plenty of variety on the run course. Shady parks were one of my favourites, but there was a climb that got you to a decent vantage over the falls, then you wound through a pedestrian pathway and stairs in the “downtown” of Niagara Falls, then around to main strip where you could keep the Falls on your left while being gawked at by tourists. The mists cooling you off was an added bonus.

I was closing in on 9-10 km when I remembered there was a cut-off time for completing the first loop… but I didn’t know what time that was. John Salt, the race director, had mentioned that exceptions could be made if they felt your first loop time wasn’t representative of your potential finish time. I got panicky, because I doubted that would be the case. I kept asking volunteers if they knew the first loop cut-off time, and they didn’t. The Blerch had me in a choke-hold – I reckoned if I didn’t make the cut-off, I wouldn’t argue the point and fight for my finish. A volunteer told me the overall cut-off time was 5:00PM, so it turned out I was fine, but running alongside so many others who were finishing only to make a turn and head out for another loop was disheartening.

A hawk, watching the procession.  Apparently I have time to bird-watch while tri-ing

While the fatigue was certainly there, my spirits lifted with the idea that I could (and probably would) get the job done and finish that race. More coke, more bananas, more water, more smiles and jokes with the volunteers. I tried to find things that would amuse me.

NO STOPPING: Traffic instruction or Mantra? You don’t have to decide.
The course went by Marineland… I wished a dolphin would splash me to cool me off

The kilometres kept ticking off, and soon the end was in sight. Without having to chase a time goal, I wanted to cross the finish line in style. Some click their heels, but that is NOT my style. I wanted to try a cartwheel, but I didn’t think my body was up for it, so I opted for what I thought was the Ickey Shuffle (named after Bengals Fullback Elbert “Ickey” Woods), but I must have mis-remembered it, and mixed it up with some of Cuba Gooding Jr.’s steps from Jerry Maguire. Behold, the Iron Rogue Shuffle.



Run Stats : 20.13 km in 2:27:03




I got my medal. I got my free hat. I found a shady place to lie down. I called my wife, and simply said “It’s done.” I was emotional, but not entirely happy. The entire race I had been questioning this whole multi-sport, outdoor, active adventure lifestyle we pursue as a family. All the kinds of things you’ve read about in my posts (unless this is your first time visiting – in which case, stick around and see what we’ve gotten up to).

I’d given up a chance to be with my wife and child during a hospital visit (they were discharged shortly before the swim began). During the six months prior to the race, several times I’d been gone for hours off on a run or a bike ride. When things didn’t go my way in regards to my training, I was probably a miserable dick (sorry again about the language) to be around. I craved “normal”, and promised everyone more time, and more of me for the next year at least. Living the adventure has had costs, and I wasn’t sure of the rewards anymore.

Finished.


It’s been weeks since I finished, and I’ve tried to fill in the time I used to spend training with “normal” people activities. The kinds of errands that seemed to get put off – a couple of have been completed, but many seem to rely on others, or bureaucracy so they’re incomplete, and the time I spent on them feels wasted. I guess that’s what I love about endurance sport – I put my own time in, and my effort dictates my results. A half-hour spent running equals a half-hour spent running.

One thing that has filled in the void left by a half-iron training plan is work. It’s a big reason why this post hasn’t been published before now; and while I’m not lazy and I’m willing to put in an honest day’s work, my father told me that no-one ever lies on their death bed wishing they spent more time at the office.

Lastly, just 20 minutes before I started writing this paragraph, my wife told me about how well he does somersaults in his Acro Dance class, or more to the point, how much some of the other kids struggled with them. I don’t know all the science, but even if they hadn’t had formal instruction in gymnastics and other activities, we let our kids “off the leash” enough (especially in the outdoors) that they’re able to make the neural connections to integrate various body movements and have body awareness enough to learn complex movements in a hurry.

So maybe we won’t give up our active family (multi-sport) lifestyle just yet. After all, what else am I going to write about?

Barrelman Triathlon Recap – Part 1: Pre-Race

I’ve read triathlon race recaps that have to be broken up into several parts; I used to complain (to myself) that they were too long, but I think I get it now.  A lot goes into these longer races, and my experience at the Barrelman Triathlon fits the bill.  I learned a lot, felt a lot, suffered a lot, smiled a lot.  So, while I’m not sure how to break up the actual race experience, I’m going to devote this post to everything leading up to my swim start.


On the Saturday, we took the Kids to Ashbridges Bay for the Beaches Kids of Steel Duathlon.  I wanted to devote my energy to getting the Lightning Kid through his first race, and it turned out we had registered Shark Boy for the age 6-7 category, which meant no parents on the race course.  Luckily, he’s always been able to roll with changing circumstances, and he’s done enough of these to feel confident.


Taking the Lightning Kid through his race acted as a nice little shake-out run for me, and he did a fantastic job.  He ran the first leg (50m) hard enough to get a little gassed, and I helped him with his helmet and bike.  He walked the bike (which he didn’t get to practice much before hand) out of transition to the mount line, and then we took off.  There were occasional stops to look at dogs, and I’m actually proud he chose to dismount for the one part where a decline was too steep – discretion is the better part of valour, after all.  Not that he lacks guts; he managed to get his glider bike up the biggest incline on the course (600m) and rode quickly back into transition.  The way to get him to keep up the pace was simply to say “FAST!”…. I must have said it 100 times in the race.  We headed out for the final run (100m) and before I knew it he was crossing the finish line to collect his medal, and his high-fives of course.


Shark Boy had to tackle new distances this year.  I already mentioned how well he dealt with having his expectations subverted – this was a big deal, since he hasn’t turned 6 yet, and was expecting to win or place in a race where everyone was younger or smaller.  In the 6-7 age category, he’s a small fish in the big pond again.  He handled all the distances (longer than he’s experienced before 250m run, 1.0km bike, 100m run) no problem, and I explained that running with the big dogs and not coming first was worth more than coming in first in a contest that is easy.  He seemed to get it.


After a celebratory round on a trampoline they had there, we headed home and I got to packing.  I had intended to dash off right after the kids’ race, but with the mandatory athlete briefings at 2:30 and 5:00, I could opt for the second one and linger a bit.  I figured I’d be leaving my wife with both of them for the rest of the night, so whatever I could do to lessen the load before leaving was a good move.  The Lightning Kid was tired, so I helped get him down for a nap, and apparently the plan was to go see a movie, Shaun the Sheep, which would be the Lightning Kid’s first trip to the movie theatre.  I left the house at 2:00PM for the drive to Welland, and got a text message that while they were all playing in the back yard, Shark Boy had locked his mother out of the house in a fit of pique.  Guess he’s the one who should have had a nap – not a good sign for peace on the home front.

The drive to Welland was peppered with rain showers and some downpours, but the forecast for Sunday/Race Day was good, so I didn’t get too worried; I just didn’t like my bike getting wet on my car roof.  The swim and T1 were located at the Welland International Flatwater Centre which is used for open water races such as Dragon Boating, Kayak, and Rowing.  I got my race kit/swag, different gear bags and timing chips.  The rain kept me from experiencing the exhibitors at the expo, and some were packing up for the day anyway.  I did get a chance to talk to Jessica from LifeSport Coaching about getting our kids involved in multi-sport; getting them on bikes seems to be a common difficulty.
The Welland International Flatwater Centre in the rain


I was on Periscope a fair bit that day, and I’ve compiled all the scopes I did on Saturday into one video:

As you can see, I got my race kit, scoped out the swim venue as best I could, spied on bikes and drove to Niagara Falls. During the race briefing, they mentioned several spots on the road where large trucks carrying the blades for wind turbines had damaged the roads. I knew those wind turbines would be an interesting sight on the ride, and it certainly was windy in the general area.

From Welland, I made my way to the Chippawa area of Niagara Falls, where I stayed in a cheap motel steps away from Kingsbridge Park where the T2 transition area was to be. I described the motel as a “great place for a drug deal to go bad”, it reeked of cigarette smoke, had borderline no hot water, and various other failings, but it had free wifi, the owner was a nice enough fellow, and it was one of the better deals for accommodation in the local area.

I organized my gear into the various bags (black was to keep my wet-suit and anything else I would drop in T1 – Welland to be transported to the race finish, red had anything I’d need in T2 for the run, and a clear bag for anything I’d need after the race was done like clean, dry clothes), then tried to go to sleep.

I got a late night text message. The Lightning Kid was having difficulty breathing; throughout the cold and flu season this seems to happen. He wakes up wheezing, and difficulty breathing is pretty serious. When we take him to the hospital emergency room, sometimes it’s not really anything, but at least once he’s had pneumonia. This time ended up being one of the worse ones – my wife stayed up with him from 10 PM to 3 AM before taking him to the hospital – he would be put on an oxygen mask and given oral steroids for the better part of Sunday morning. Plan A had been for my mother to take care of the kids so my wife could take a bus to Niagara Falls and cheer me on for the run portion, and we’d take Sunday night as a romantic getaway. Instead, my mother went to the hospital to assist my wife, Shark Boy went to his grandfather’s house for Sunday, and I would race alone.


Of course, a big part of me was questioning what kind of man I was, not being at the side of my wife and family, and instead gallivanting about in some vain attempt to prove something… to who? For what? Did I think I was some kind of hero or something? Then I’d argue that I’d come this far (including a fair distance from the hospital and home), and I should try to enjoy the day. So my mindset went from giving my all to simply trying to auto-pilot my way through the race and soaking in some of the experience while fighting the temptation to throw in the towel and go home to take care of business on the home front.


I drove to the parking lot of the Rapidsview Park (getting a little lost on the way), with plenty of time to spare. I’m guessing I caught one of the first shuttle buses. Though I joked to the crowd:”Anyone feel like doing a little swimming, biking and running today?” my mood was dark and I mostly kept to myself on the bus ride back to Welland.

I verified my fear that I hadn’t packed my timing chip into any of my gear bags, it was still back in my car. This is the kind of little mistake that is no big deal when you arrive with time to spare, but the end of the world when you’re running late. Fortunately, I fell into the former camp and joked with the volunteers about being in a special little club with other who had done the same.

I set up my transition area, including mounting my phone on my bike, but not before I took my last selfie before the swim.


I headed down to the water and waded in to get a few practice strokes in. The water was surpisingly warm, and the swim was less about a warm-up than just checking that the wet-suit was on comfortably. I met my friend Peter, and helped him with his Garmin. The elite and first two swim waves went off starting at 9:00 and every 5 minutes after that. You could start on either side of this floating divider, and though they encouraged faster swimmers to go on the far side of it, the far side was more crowded so I ended up floating on the side closer to shore as I waited for the horn to go off.

I had a long day ahead of me.

To be continued!

You can still donate to my RODS Racing Page to aid in the adoption of an orphan with Down syndrome.

Looking Ahead to Barrelman, Looking Back on the Training Season

This is the final week of “training” before the Barrelman Triathlon.  I put training in quotation marks, because between lower back pain, a head cold (that descended to my chest on Sunday), and some of the rainiest weather I’ve seen in at least a month, I haven’t been hitting a lot of workouts.  I thank my lucky stars that I’m tapering, and the workouts don’t count as much (or at least that’s how I’m consoling myself).  


The good news is that I’ve gotten chiropractic treatment for my back and it’s been improving slowly yet steadily, and I’ve got until next Sunday to shake this cold.  Doctor Wife’s prescription is to be in bed by 10:00PM (N.B. my wife is not a doctor, but I still think it’s a good prescription).

I’m feeling ambivalent about the last few weeks of training that I’ve been through.  On the one hand, I’ve hit new records for distance in every sport (all time distance for open water swim and bike, and 2 year records for running, pool swim record probably occurred earlier in the season), I’m faster and stronger than I’ve probably ever been, and I’m thankful that I’ve been able to undertake the journey at all.  Still, I feel controlled by the program: Monday=Strength, Tuesday=Swim+Run and so on.  I was watching a Periscope a few weeks ago where the host was distinguishing between exercise and training.  If I understood her correctly, training has a finite goal, and is structured to serve that purpose, whereas exercise is more about general maintenance, health and fun.  I commented that I missed exercise and was sick of training, but I don’t think I really made myself clear. I just want to take an exercise class for fun sometimes, without questioning which of the 3 masters (Swim, Bike, Run) I’m serving.
This needs updating with a bunch of other new ideas…

I’m already wondering what I’m going to do with myself when it’s done; which feels like a mistake, because I haven’t finished the race yet. Still, stay with me for a bit while I ruminate. Most of all, I want to re-devote my time to my family; while I think I did ‘Walk The Line’ the way I said I would on my Vision Board, how can I ever really give enough? Big ticket items include volunteering with Shark Boy’s Beaver Scout Colony and helping the Lightning Kid with speech and occupational Therapy work.


The race weekend is going to be a hectic one. On Friday, I turn 42, so this race is kind of my birthday present to myself, and the sacrifices my family has made are the only presents I really wanted. Saturday will see us put both boys in the Family Fun Fit Beaches Kids of Steel Duathlon. This will be Shark Boy‘s fourth year, but the Lightning Kid’s first. He’s been really improving on a glider bike, and participated in a bike camp during the summer to get better on a pedal bike with training wheels. The trick will be keeping him focused on forward motion rather than waving at fans. He also does fall off sometimes, and even steers into his father’s legs (trying to cause a DNS no doubt). From the race, I’m going to Welland to set up my T1 and bike, pick up my race kit and get informed and oriented, then I head to a cheap motel in Niagara Falls on my own. My wife will be in Niagara Falls on Sunday to cheer me on (for the run leg) and then we’ll have our romantic getaway night… sore muscles and all.

Remember, you can still sponsor me and donate to RODS Racing; we’re still short of sending Laura home to a loving family. I’ll be wearing my official kit if you see me there! Wish me luck this weekend!

RESTUBE – How To Enjoy Your Safest Triathlon Open Water Swim

Disclaimer: I was provided with the product for review purposes and compensated for preparing the review.  All opinions are my own.
I write about triathlon, I read about triathlon, and I talk about triathlon to people both in real life and online. What’s keeping most non-triathletes from participating in the sport, as far as I can tell, is swimming.  Improving your swim is as straightforward as spending time practising in your local pool.
What unnerves even experienced triathletes who have logged countless hours in the pool is swimming in the open water.  For example, see Organic Runner Mom here, or Fitness Cheerleader here.  While I see this as mostly a psychological hang-up, it is true that open water swimming carries a little more risk than the pool: you might not be able to see or touch the bottom, there are wind and waves (or maybe even current) to deal with, there could even be an encounter with watercraft or wildlife.  Yet training your open water swim is very necessary to a triathlete; unless every race you compete in is in a pool, you’ll need to deal with some of the aforementioned factors, as well as skills like sighting, bilateral breathing and rounding corners, or simply the novel sensation of wearing a wet-suit.

It seems to me like if there was a way to give triathletes a psychological crutch AND something to use should an actual emergency or physical difficulty occur, without impeding the swimmer’s technique, we could have a lot more happy triathletes.
I think RESTUBE is the solution.  RESTUBE is a portable buoy that can be used for flotation.   With it folded up on a belt pouch, you can swim with it strapped around your waist without it getting in your way at all, and a simple pull on a cord will inflate it should you find yourself needing extra flotation.  It can also be manually inflated with a mouth valve – then you’d simply pull it along behind you and it’s size and colour would make you more visible to boaters or any other people observing you from a distance.
Have a look at this video for further illustration:
A few notes from the video:
  • The weight I mention in the introduction comes from the extra two CO2 cartridges in the box.  When you swim with just one, it’s much lighter, and if you were to manually inflate the RESTUBE and have no cartridge, the weight would be next to nothing.
  • I’m 5’11” tall and a lot of that length is in my legs.  Many other swimmers would not experience their feet hitting the tube while swimming.  Even for me, it wasn’t a physical impediment to my swim, just a bit of a mental distraction.
The CO2 cartridges use compressed gas, which have special considerations for air travel.  If you were travelling by air to a destination where you wanted to use your RESTUBE, you’d need to notify the airline and follow the procedures they mandate, simply limit the number of cartridges you pack.  The RESTUBE instructions include guidelines for air travel – which is great, because RESTUBE would be handy for snorkeling, surfing,  and stand-up paddleboarding or other water activities you might undertake on vacation.
RESTUBE is available from Innovation Sports, and you can find out more about the product at RESTUBE.com.
UPDATE: Innovation Sports contacted me and let me know that:
Quick note about the green clip you didn’t find in the box, if you had opened the RESTUBE before using it in the water, you would have noticed this little green clip was on the unit.  When you trigger it, it breaks the clip and it is now in the lake somewhere… it is normal.


When customers are purchase the pack of 2 replacement cartridges, there are 2 clips in the package for this use.  We haven’t provided you with the green replacement clips as we sent you demo cartridges that are only used normally for demos, trade shows and testing. They are bulk, not to be sold and they do not come with the clip.

The unit can be used without a clip no problem. The green clip normally just reminds you that the cartridge is FULL of air. Once used, it becomes RED to tell you the cartridge is empty and needs to be replaced. This is a visual help. The clips also ensure that you do not trigger it too easily… just a safety clip to avoid triggering it for nothing.

Please note that Triathlon Quebec is accepting the product for races. We are working on getting the approval for races by Ironman and also Triathlon Canada.

We just got yesterday the note from RESTUBE that USAT approved it for races in USA!”

Additionally, they have provided a code which lets Canadian customers get FREE Shipping!  Simply use RT2015 when checking out.  Again, here’s the link to Innovation Sports.

How about you? Would knowing you had a flotation buoy at your fingertips make you feel more comfortable and secure in the water? Would you inflate the buoy before starting for visibility, or just keep it folded up for the just-in-case?

Race Recap: Bracebridge Olympic Triathlon 2015

Bracebridge is a great race; I thought so when I did it 2 years ago, and this year confirmed it.  In fact, I’m now wondering what was wrong with me that I didn’t do it last year – what probably seemed like a good reason at the time wasn’t.


I went to bed the night before with pain in my right shoulder, and I woke up with a tightness in my right hamstring, but luckily both were long gone by the time I had breakfast (bagel with peanut butter, apple, and 2 cups of coffee) and hit the road.  
Breakfast


Due to logistical concerns that I won’t bore you with, I was travelling to the race solo.  Though I love having a cheering section, and there were lonely parts of the day, I did appreciate being able to focus like a laser on being organized before the race.  Having gotten to the site with a little under an hour to spare, I still didn’t get everything perfect.


From the “Don’t Do Anything New on Race Day”

  • Somehow, I had left my Saucony Triumphs in the gym locker room at work, and I couldn’t access it on a Saturday while packing.  Luckily, I keep a pair of Mizuno Wave Riders with other running gear in my desk for emergencies (like, I forget to pack running gear) and I’ve used them mostly for treadmill runs.  So they were my shoes for race day.
  • I dropped a lot of cash on aerodynamic hydration accessories.  While I also got a double bottle cage for my seat-post, I focused on a hydration system that would let me drink while riding.  I’m pretty proud that I got it installed correctly, as I’ve seen pics of some jury-rigged setups in some triathlon Facebook groups that would make MacGyver puke.  At least, I thought I had it correct; can you see what I did wrong?


I won’t tell you yet, you’ll find out around the same time I did if you keep reading.
Race Site


Other misses

  • I did do a small swim warm-up to make sure the wet-suit was on properly, but ideally I would have done even more swimming before the race.  I crossed the river and back, that’s it.
  • I hadn’t cleaned and oiled my chain the day before, but I had inflated my tires.
  • I packed both gels I planned to have on the race course in my race belt, and set up my running shoes in transition with laces untied, but the silly part is that I thought I hadn’t,  and ended up fretting over it a little during the race.


Besides actually having a swim warm-up, which never happens to me, the other big hit for me was being able to make two trips to the port-a-potty before the race, and not over-hydrating, which meant not having to take any pit stops during the entire race.  Let’s break down the legs:
A view looking toward the Swim Exit


Swim

Bracebridge maintained its usual format of having a seeded swim start.  You simply line up by bib number.  Marshals got everyone organized in batches of about 50 people at a time, and it looked like everybody tried to find people close to them in number so it made things really straightforward.  Everyone wore red bathing caps, so there was no identifying your age group by colour, but I still like the format, and I think having different colour bathing caps might confuse people into trying to get into waves.  When you reach the front of the line (the end of the dock – you are already in the water), the final marshal calls out your number to confirm (I was 107), and finishes the countdown which is 5 seconds from the previous swimmer and you’re off!


The first part of the swim is with the current.  I honestly think the current was negligible; someone had commented that they’d seen leaves on the surface that “weren’t in any hurry”, and I couldn’t see much difference in pace from the downriver part to the upriver part.  There was no line of sight between the start and the turn-around, so sighting to the next buoy was important, and also was a great way to prevent collisions, but you didn’t have to sight too often.  I had the sinking feeling that I wasn’t pacing myself well, and I had to make a persistent effort to calm myself down and not swim too excitedly, so that I’d have a good pace on the second part of the swim.


On the way back, sighting became nigh impossible.  The sun was reflecting off the water and directly into our eyes.  Sticking close to the shoreline seemed like a good idea because the current would be weaker, and it would keep me on the right side of the buoys, so as long as I was seeing dazzling sunlit water ahead of me, I figured I was doing fine.  Besides a minor bump or two with other swimmers, the rest of the swim was uneventful.  I could swear I saw some bikes whizzing by along the river, but when I look at the maps, the bike course did not go past the North shore of the river. I still have issues with the seam of the wet-suit bunching up by my neck as I swim, which causes a lot of irritation and makes me lose time when I stop to re-adjust it.  I need to find a fix for that which won’t stop me from being able to open the zipper and take off the wet-suit when I hit transition.   I finished in 28:12, and that gives me an official pace of 1:52/100m which I’m pretty happy about.  The thing is, that’s based on 1500m exactly; my measurements show 1575m in 27:42 which gives me a crazy pace of 1:46/100m!

Courtesy of MultiSport Canada


Transition 1


My biggest challenge in transition seems to be getting the Garmin off my wrist before pulling off my wet-suit, only to put the Garmin back on again.  I just don’t like the idea of the wet-suit getting damaged by me trying to fit the watch in under the sleeve.  Other than that, I think it went pretty well, as 2:35 is actually a pretty good T1 time (in fact, it’s a personal best!).  I tried to take a sip from the straw of my aero-bottle while running the bike out to the mount line and nearly knocked a tooth out… I won’t try that again.


Bike


I was so excited to take Sable (see here for the bike name explanation) out for the first race?  Are there words sweeter to say than “on your left”?  Again I think race excitement was making me a little aggressive with my pace at first, but I think I brought the pace/effort down well enough without slacking either.  As I passed some athletes, I looked at their gear and their muscles and began to doubt whether passing them was the right thing to do.  Still, if the speed I wanted to go at was faster than I needed to go to stay safely behind them without drafting, I really did need to pass, didn’t I?  


One notable… observation, shall we say? I passed a female racer who’s tri outfit left something to be desired in the opacity department.  Remember that Lululemon controversy? They were like that.  Now this was a custom kit with a team name or something on them, but I felt bad about the view I had, and again, she wasn’t really going at a speed I wanted to match, so I passed her.  Guilt absolved… until I hit a hill and my chain popped off.  While I was replacing it she passed me and I went through the whole scenario again.  Twice this happened.
See how the front comes into a point?


Sometime in the last 15 km or so, I looked down at my aero-bottle and noticed that the front had a flat surface facing into the wind.  That’s not aero-dynamic!  I do believe that I mounted it backwards, although I thought I’d prefer having the main chamber closer to me (there are two different chambers which can be used for different liquids, or the inner chamber can be used to store ice to cool the outer chamber… that’s what I did on race day).


My overall goal, one I’ve been chasing my entire triathlon career, is to average speed over 30 km/h.  In spite of some tough hills and stopping to place the chain back on the ring twice, I achieved that goal… as long as you count the course as 42 km which it was (thanks to a last minute course alteration that was made for racer safety).  In the books (i.e. Sportstats Website) doing a 40 km course in 1:23:09 makes for 28.9 km/h.  Drat.


Transition 2


I noticed heavy legs as soon as I dismounted.  With my cleats in a new position on the sole of my feet, I was a little unsteady heading back to my space on the racks.


This is where I got two pleasant surprises: my running shoe laces were untied so I could do them up right and quickly, and I had packed the second carb gel into the same pocket as the first (instead of on the opposite side, as I intended), but I still had it on me and wouldn’t waste time going to my tri-bag (which was off to the side, as Triathlon Ontario rules dictate, which I found out at Lakeside last year).  I forgot to wear my visor, but ate the carb gel on the way out of transition.  Time elapsed: 2:13.  I should have gotten that under 2 minutes.


Run


My legs were still heavy as I headed out of transition, but I knew that would pass, more or less.  I was 3 for 3 on being a little aggressive with pace at the start; I could see my heart rate was too high, and I wanted to finish strong.  The run course was quite enjoyable as it followed the river and trees provided plenty of shade.  There were plenty of aid stations with water or HEED available every 1.5 km or so.  By the time I was 3 km in, I felt quite settled; my pace seemed to be hovering close to 5:30/km, which was better than I expected.  My legs were hurting, but I noticed that they were still responsive – when I told them to move, they moved and I kept good form.


As I closed in the last few kilometres, I saw the promise of a 55 minute finish, but again, the course was a little long, and I completed 10.43 km in nearly 56 minutes.  I had thought about doing a cartwheel or something goofy across the finish line, but when you’re chasing a time goal, there’s no room for fooling around.
Courtesy of MultiSport Canada



I had two goals for this race overall going in, and beforehand I thought they might be at odds with each other:


  1. Use it as a ‘B’ race to work on transitions and other race-day logistics
  2. Beat my previous time at this race, and maybe, thanks to a heavy training load this season, achieve a Personal Best for the Olympic Distance.

I’m really happy to have achieved both of those things.  While the new PB makes me happy, I needed the confidence that I know what I’m doing in terms of technique and strategy to carry me forward to the Barrelman Triathlon.


What Kind Of Changes My Bike Underwent From An Aero-Fit

I’ve been wanting to write up about my experience getting an aero-fit at BikeZone Mississauga with Coach (Kris) Kurzawinski for some time now.  When I finally had some blog post writing time available, it was shortly before the Bracebridge Olympic Tri weekend, and I wanted to get my announcement about RODS Racing out there first.

The next thing I’m going to spend time on writing will be my Bracebridge Race Recap, but fear not! As usual, I have a cunning plan to provide you with the relevant info, without spending time churning out text and photos.

I’ve been playing around with Periscope, and though I’ve made some fairly bad (e.g. a live broadcast of a bike ride where you couldn’t hear a word I was saying thanks to wind and vibration), I think this one turned out OK.  I think only a few people saw it live, but I figured out how to edit the video so everything is right side up, and put it on YouTube (My Channel – Please Subscribe!).

Here it is.


A Special Announcement

I’m racing in the Bracebridge Olympic Triathlon on Sunday… but that’s not the announcement.  A charity I’ve been following (and supporting) for the past year or two, has opened up applications to their team, and on the spur of the moment, I’ve joined the RODS Racing Team.

Donation link below.

I’ve seen first hand how a child with Down syndrome can flourish and thrive with a loving family’s support.  I’ve seen it in my own child and in the children belonging to the community I’ve joined.  Sadly, in other countries, whether because of cultural bias, bureaucracy, or simply lack of resources, children not unlike the Lightning Kid end up in orphanages, where they won’t know the kind of love that every child deserves, and you can imagine how their development wilts, as they are left in society’s furthest margins.

There are sad problems in this world that don’t have easy solutions.  This is not one of them; you see, there are parents out there just desperate to adopt these children – but the path to international adoption is not a cheap one.  The good news is that this is a problem that money can solve.

That’s where RODS Racing comes in.  Donations go to helping achieve an adoption for a child with Down syndrome from an orphanage, one child at a time.  When an adoption is successful, the next child’s adoption campaign starts.

As a member of the racing team, I’m looking to raise at least $2500 for Laura’s adoption.  I’ll be racing Bracebridge for Laura, and Barrelman too (probably while sporting RODS Racing Team apparel).

Please consider visiting my team page and making a donation.  RODS Racing is a registered charity and donations are tax deductible.  In addition to this campaign, I’ll also have other news for really cool events from RODS Racing in the near future, so stay tuned here, follow their social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) and spread the word for this wonderful cause.