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
Done a triathlon before
Planned on completing an Olympic, Half-Iron or Full Distance Tri this year
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.
WARNING: Do not try this at home. Well actually, you couldn’t anyway, since it involves going outside. And if I really didn’t want anyone to do it, I’d probably keep it to myself instead of blogging about it. Still, as you’ll see, this sort of thing isn’t for everyone. I guess, what I’m saying, is attempt this sort of thing at your own risk.
In late November of last year, we had a stroke of luck in our scheduling I suppose. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law were attending her company’s Christmas party, and the company had rented out the Better Living Centre at the Canadian National Exhibition and filled it with rides and attractions for kids. They didn’t have kids of their own, so they invited our kids to take advantage and have fun that particular Sunday. Normally, my wife and I would take advantage of the time for a date of some kind, but she was otherwise engaged (I don’t remember what). What I ended up doing, is resolving to go for a run (or maybe rollerblade along the Martin Goodman trail) once I had dropped the kids off.
I found the trail to be a little wet and slippery, so I opted for a run. I knew I had hours to spend, but I wasn’t in the kind of shape to go far (or fast) so I figured I would do a long, slow distance with plenty of breaks and sight seeing.
I even wore a backpack with my laptop and a book in it. This is the first thing you might want to think twice before attempting. My pace was a slow jog, so the bouncing around was minimized. This backpack also has a nice laptop sleeve to keep the hardware still and stable, still the risk of falling and breaking it was there. The first stretch of the Martin Goodman trail offered some pleasant reminiscing to when I was training for the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon in 2006.
The weather got a little nastier and I felt like I needed my first break so I found a Starbucks and had an Eggnog Latte. This is risky item number 2. I’ve never been the fastest or the strongest in body, but I have pretty close to a cast-iron stomach. I sipped my holiday coffee treat, and started putting things in motion to move this blog from its old home on Blogger/blogspot to self-hosted. I read a little in a book called Sapiens: A Brief History or Humanity by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s a really interesting book, but I confess, I haven’t been keeping at it; I’m a very slow reader when it comes to non-fiction.
After I left Starbucks, I turned North away from the Lakeshore area toward the city. I passed by Old Fort York, which I’ve seen plenty of times, but I also saw something that puzzled me:
That is a canoe – sitting by some old railway tracks, with no water nearby, in the middle of the city. Stay weird, Toronto.
I hadn’t had lunch, and just the day before a friend had told me about Toma Burger Addiction. I already knew of the place, I think it had been in the papers even, but my friend was giving me a first hand account of how good it was. When it comes to gourmet burgers, we live in a golden age. I had the El Diablo, and it took a while to prepare, not that it bothered me – I was enjoying listening to the Australian accents of some exchange students (I think) at the next booth. I even had a beer – remember what I said about the cast-iron stomach? That was about to be tested, but first, let me show you the burger:
I honestly didn’t feel it to be that mind-blowingly good (I think Burger’s Priest still holds the championship in my opinion) but still it was a gourmet burger that I got to enjoy…. and then it was time to try to run back to the car.
Not to worry, I didn’t puke up my lunch on the way, but to say I didn’t notice any detrimental effect either would be a lie. My pace dragged, and my stomach felt like I was dragging a boulder along on the inside of me. Still I made it into the Exhibition grounds, and took what seems to be a ‘frustrated selfie’… I guess I was tired.
All in all, it was a fun way to spend the mid-day, and see a bit of the city. The kids were sweaty and exhausted and grinning when I picked them up, so they matched my mood exactly.
Have you ever gone against the recommended practice in your fitness endeavours and NOT regretted it?
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.
I’m pleased to announce that I’ve taken my already great relationship with 5 Peaks to the next level! I am now a “Trail Crew Leader” which is their new term for ambassador; I’ve already sung their praises on this blog and in all my social media channels… but now we get serious.
And not a season too soon either – I’ve managed to convince a few people to try it out, but 5 Peaks is amping up the promotion and swag at their races, so it’s time for me to put a little extra pressure on you dear reader.
I’ll be putting out a series of posts, each one covering one facet of what makes these events so great, and the good news is that I’ll soon have a discount code for you to save money on registration, and this year my code will be usable for any of the races nationwide (there are events in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec).
So I ask you, especially those in the Greater Toronto Area: WHY HAVEN’T YOU JOINED ME AT ONE OF THESE EVENTS IN PAST YEARS? TELL ME! I WILL DESTROY YOUR PUNY EXCUSES!!! Ontario race number one is Terra Cotta on April 22nd; save the date!
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.
In a rare win for Facebook advertising, I came across this event that was being run by Hardwood Hills Ski and Bike. It sounded like a great date night; my wife and I had a similar experience on our trip to Smuggler’s Notch in 2015. The combination of fresh air and exercise with a bit of decadent comfort food is hard to resist.
We pulled into the Hardwood Hills parking lot a few minutes after 6PM, and picked up the snowshoes my wife was renting, along with some tickets to sample beers from the Barnstormers Brewery (there was also wine). I got to try their Polar Pumpkin Ale (the best pumpkin beer I’ve ever had, some sweet notes) and the Smoked Billy Bishop which was a Brown Ale, but the smokiness was something interesting I hadn’t had in a beer before – I’m not sure I’d love to drink a lot of it, but it was still pleasantly complex. Just before we headed out, we got to try some butternut squash soup.
The guide for our ‘team’ ended up being our friend Sam who we knew from when we used to volunteer with the Track 3 Ski Program. I do regret not packing a head-lamp; I guess I thought the (near-)full moon might provide enough light or that there might be some lanterns on the trail. The moon didn’t rise till we were well past the halfway mark of the 5.5 km walk, and then it hung low in the sky. It was a spectacular orange, and I wish I had gotten a photo, but the trees prevented getting a very clear shot.
Even without a headlamp we got by fine. Sometimes I used my cell phone as a flash light, sometimes there was light from the headlamps of others, sometimes following the footsteps of the person in front of you was good enough. When you did stray from the trail into deeper snow, well, you were wearing snowshoes anyway.
It wasn’t my first time snowshoeing, but I was still surprised by how much of a workout it was – the first kilometer took us over 25 minutes to complete. We learned the tricks of leaning back a little on the downhill and forward (with digging in your toes) on the uphill. After a few breaks to shepherd the stragglers (i.e. us). We found ourselves at a gorgeous lookout above the city of Barrie, with a refreshment of cider and delicious cookies. They had even transported a fire via snowmobile.
On the way back to the chalet, I found things both easier and harder. I stumbled more often, yet I felt like I was keeping a better pace and navigating better without my cell-phone flashlight – I had run out the battery and thus wasn’t able to track the route to show you the final time and mileage. Luckily, my wife’s cell phone was there to provide more pictures.
Now that the snowshoe part was done, it was time for the fondue! They had created a nice intimate atmosphere in what they call the ‘West Wing’ of the chalet, complete with live music. The singer was pretty good, and I admired the different spin she put on songs that would have been described as hard rock in their original incarnations.
In addition to bar beverages, there was also punch and water available, and you could munch on french fries before the fondue course. I have a theory that french fries taste better after skiing, and I’m pleased to report that this holds up for snowshoeing too. The fondue platter was 2 different breads, along with an assortment of fruits and vegetables. The cheese sauce was delicious!
For dessert, there were cookies, rice krispy squares and some really decadent brownies. I think the event was a real success, and there are 2 more of these events in February and March. In fact, the February one (which we can’t make it to) will be a Valentine’s themed ‘Ultimate’ Snowshoe Fondue. Check the events out here.
Have you been snowshoeing in the moonlight? Do you think outdoor winter activities and decadent food go hand-in-hand?
If you’re here as a previous reader of this blog, you’ll have noticed my new digs on WordPress and the new look of the place. If this is your first visit, welcome!
2016 was a rough year for me and my family – I don’t want to go into gory details, but there was job loss, terminal illness, death, hospital visits, emergency home renovation… you know what, I’m getting bummed out just listing them all, even vaguely and generically. The point is, both blogging and the kind of adventures that I love to write about took a back seat all year long, in spite of my efforts to “dig myself out of a hole.”
There were a few positives in 2016 and while they really deserve their own individual posts, I’m going to start 2017 with looking forward, but I’ll just list a few honourable mentions…
which we used as an opportunity to take our first family camping trip.
We managed to make a shorter, later version of our annual trip to Germany.
We capped off the year by spending New Year’s at the cottage, which is the first time we did that as a family. We tried some downhill skiing, some cross-country skiing, and lots of snow-frolicking.
What does 2017 hold for this space? Lots of the same outdoor, active family living, with a focus on multi-sport/triathlon. Some things in our life have changed; the kids are older and pursue their own extra-curricular activity with less parental involvement (except driving them to and from the venue), and I’m less fit than when I was writing this blog regularly, so some of the fitness subjects will be more on the rehabilitative side (though I’m not going to turn this into a weight loss blog). I will probably incorporate more mental health and productivity content, and I’d really like to step up the amount of gear and technology review. Also, this might not be the final look of the blog, but I have to shout out and thank Janice from Salads4Lunch for getting me this far!
Well, race season has started! It looks like this is not going to be a season of great personal accomplishments in endurance or fitness, but I’m happy to report we’re keeping active as a family. Our inaugural race for the warmer months was the 5 Peaks Trail Run at Terra Cotta.
Shark Boy was participating in his first timed event. He’s quite fixated on numbers and quantifying things; it’s always a big deal who’s older, who’s bigger, etc. I’m a little apprehensive about introducing him to more competitive events – he seems to be the fastest kid in his own schoolyard races, but I don’t want him to get upset if he’s not the biggest fish in a bigger pond, if you follow my meaning.
Luckily, 5 Peaks seemed to have no problem with parents running alongside their kids at this event; I guess there was plenty of space on the trail. Though plenty of kids took off in front of us, I tried to get him to reign in his pace and save the best for later on. I’m really glad he listened, because he got to trade in his disappointment at being in the back of the pack for the thrill of passing others on the uphill climbs, who had already blown up. He did give me a good scare when he tripped and landed practically on his face, but he got up again and kept running without any tears, so no blood, no foul, I guess. He ran the entire 3 km and ended up in 20th place overall.
The Lightning Kid did the 1 km ‘fun run’ with his mother. He’s picked up some speed from last year, and I think the concept of racing is starting to sink in, but he still does take his time to smell the roses on the course. I think he just loves all the attention he gets.
I participated in the Sport course race. Since the race was some time ago, I don’t really recall too many details, but Terra Cotta isn’t the hilliest course in the series, but it is still very pretty. I came in 22nd in my age group, which I was happy enough with, considering I wasn’t really training prior to the race.
I mostly wrote this recap to entice readers to come join us next time at Rattlesnake Point. You can use the discount code of MARK (courtesy of my friend Mark Sawh) or JESSICA (courtesy of lacesandlattes) for $5 off each registration. The 1 km fun run for kids is free. Hope to see you there on June 25th!
“No, no… Dig Up, stupid!” – Chief Wiggum, The Simpsons – Homer the Vigilante
I think this is becoming an annual tradition. Every year around Christmas time, the chaos of the holidays eats up my ability to get any blogging done. So that when other bloggers are writing up end of year round-ups, Iron Rogue is in radio silence. After that, come the new year resolution/goal/plans posts, and this space is still in hibernation.
I almost don’t mind. While I don’t have a problem with the end-of-year and new year stuff, I certainly don’t need to do what everyone else is doing. The start of 2016, though has dealt us some extra turmoil that has kept me from getting started again. The nature of that turmoil, I’m going to choose to keep private, but it’s comprised of more than one unexpected event, and dealing with it has eaten up not only time to blog, but also time to exercise and take good care of my health and fitness, which dries up the well of subject matter for this space.
That means, among other things, that I’ve put on holiday weight and then some, and I’m not in good shape physically – or at least not the shape I’ve come to expect of myself. I think of myself as being in a hole, and climbing out of a hole is always challenging even if I’ve done it before.
I’m going to start, and this post is a declaration of that beginning. Does that mean I have goals and plans? No, not yet. I guess I have… Ideas. If I discuss those ideas here, that won’t make a plan, but it’s a good start to not only creating a plan, but starting to write again. Also, many of these ideas will make for future posts, which I will label in an effort to pique your interest in reading this blog going forward.
To start getting my house in order physically and creatively, I started following BexLife more seriously. I signed up to do a 21 day mantra challenge, where she provides a mantra every day (the above image is from Day 6) that you meditate on for 4 minutes. I’m generally lousy at this kind of thing, and I did struggle with some of my meditation sessions, but for others, I had an epiphany or two. You can see some of my experiences on my Instagram account. As Bex says “Look How Dope My Life Is” (#lookhowdopemylifeis). I have to be honest and report that I didn’t get it done every day of the challenge, but I did learn about myself and I think I can make meditation a more regular part of my life – daily would be ideal. I also didn’t manage to make every day of a core challenge called #thegetthatcorechallenge organized by Heather Rose Scott of Fit Strong Fierce. How did I drop the ball on two daily challenges that didn’t have much of a time commitment beyond a few minutes each? WE WENT TO JAMAICA! [future post alert!]
So I guess I traded guided meditation for feet-in-the-sand and core exercises for swimming with the kids, but it didn’t do much for getting back in physical shape. It wasn’t the most active of our family vacations (plus unlimited Jerk and Red Stripe), but I will do a write-up to talk about it soon.
Before I even started the 21 Day Mantra Challenge, I did an exercise recommended by Bex to build Do-It-Yourself Mantras. You can find the video to explain it on the page linked above. Briefly, you take a list of 10 things you want…
…freedom to go outside
…a super hero body [future post alert!]
...harmony in my family
…robots [future post alert!]
…a working side hustle (i.e. monetizing this space, as mentioned in last year’s Vision Board Post)
…to keep learning
…to be a good Scouter [future post alert!]
…to travel as much as possible
…respect for my contributions
You also need a list of 10 things you can offer…
I CAN OFFER
…my knowledge of active family life
…my knowledge of mobile communications and wireless networks
…my experience with scouting
…my willingness to learn
Anytime you want a mantra, pick one from each list (with some correlation between the two, hopefully) and your meditation session is good to go.
So, I’ve slipped in my meditation, my core challenge exercises, and many other ways as I try to put my life back into the shape I want; climbing out of a hole means slipping back down sometimes. If you watch this space (and also my Instagram, especially with the #ClimbingOutOfTheHole hashtag), you’ll see how that shapes up.
I’m hoping to build a community around this site, too. That means active families, and hopefully some novice triathletes too [future post alert!]. Besides BexLife, I’m also getting plugged into Nerd Fitness; I think this year’s adventures will be guided by the kinds of connections I start making.
“This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out.
“A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
“Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on
“Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.'”
The Angus Glen Half-Marathon is one of my wife’s favourite races, largely because of the post race brunch. Last year I wasn’t feeling too well on race day, so I ended up with a DNS (Did Not Start). We had arranged for a sitter starting at 7:00 AM and the half-marathon start time was 8:00 – Google was predicting a 45 minute drive, so the scheduling wasn’t too smart on our part. Luckily we made better time than predicted (not having to pack kids in and out of the car certainly helps). After trudging across a frosty field (temperatures that morning were just above freezing) to the golf course clubhouse, I had a few minutes to grab my bib, and race kit, greet my friend John (who you might remember from my Huntsville Half-Marathon Recap) and his wife Tina (and ask her to keep my race kit bag), before being one of the last through the starting line as the race began. I was wearing a hat and gloves, yet I still felt cold for a good long while. The good news is the first few kilometres ticked by quickly. By 3 km my core was starting to feel warm but my hands weren’t, and I can’t imagine how cold people running in shorts (!) were. Those first few kilometres went through a residential area, and somewhere near kilometre 4, we came doubling back to see some of the 10 km racers who started 15 minutes after us. I hoped to see my wife but I think I got to that stretch too late, since the majority of the racers I observed were power walkers.
This course has a lot of climbs.
Kilometre 5 was followed by an early turn-around point for the 10 km racers, who would do a U-turn, whereas the half-marathoners kept going for a stretch. I saw John on his way back from our turn-around and we trash talked each other; total strangers offer us encouragements, but we’re friends long enough to say things that are terrible, yet funny to us. At the 3 km mark I had seen a porta-potty, but in retrospect, I think it belonged to a construction site, since there were no others anywhere on the race course. At kilometre 7 or so, I was regretting not having enough time to an extra break before the start. Up ahead, I saw a woman break off the road and head to a farmhouse. I figured she was going to ask the homeowners if she could use their washroom – not a bad idea, I suppose. She returned to the road scant minutes later – not enough time to have made a polite request and a proper thank-you. I realized the farmhouse was abandoned and she had simply ducked behind it to do her business, so I did the same. It cost me a lot of time, but I’d rather run comfortably and I always tell myself that the comfortable pace is faster than the clenched one. I even saw a red-tailed hawk, and it screamed that scream that hawks do in the movies, but never real life. My initial goal of 2:06 meant running about 6 minutes/km, and I was holding under that for the most part. I had a Salted Caramel Gu Gel (soooo gooooood!) at the 10 km mark, and I was able to pump up the effort a little. The sun was doing its thing and I not only had my hat and gloves off, but my jacket open too. There would be another call of nature for me after 14 kilometres (effectively breaking the entire course up into thirds), but after that I really started hauling it, and I started to calculate that a 2:04 or even 2:02 finish was within reach. The final 3 kilometres or so went along the golf cart paths of the golf course itself. It was kind of fun, but the twists and turns and hills really did a number on my pace. I talked with other runners after the race and they all felt the same way about it. I climbed out of the golf course and sprinted down the road and into the car entrance of Angus Glen toward the finish line. Official time: 2:02:34 – I think if I could have had better bladder management (for lack of a better term), I could have cracked the 2 hour mark for this half-marathon. I still pleased, because I know the speed is there now – or more accurately, the pain threshold is higher since my half-iron training.
The post-race brunch consisted of a brown bag with a sandwich and a couple of other cold foods – which is a step down from the hot brunches that they used to provide. I really, really love the race shirt (which is a long sleeve – a very refreshing switch from the endless supply of short sleeve t-shirts I’ve accrued over the years). Have a look:
The Angus Glen Half-Marathon is a nice race for this time of year, where it’s harder to find a race of this length and calibre, but I’m not sure I’m really stoked to do it again next year – I think we’re still dealing with the Daylight Savings time change physiologically speaking. I’ve almost never had so much of a problem dragging myself out of bed on a race morning. Still, it was a day of running in the sunshine with friends and family, and that’s worth a smile. See?
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!
If you haven’t read Part 1 of my Barrelman Weekend Recap, you can find it here.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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?