2012 Calgary Ironman 70.3

Calgary hosted the 1988 Olympics, continues to host the famous Stampede, the Flames hockey team, lots of energy companies (the province of Alberta is Canada’s oilpatch) and this past weekend, a group of hardcore Ironman types looking to race a really tough half. Home of the oil cowboys of Canada, Calgary is posh and fancy but likes to dress itself up casual. I have to give a side note to my American friends: only here do Canadians call a road a trail. In Victoria, trails are skinny and not meant for cars. For this 70.3 event the weather was spectacular all weekend, the course was gorgeous and the spectators were awesome. Thank you to Paul Anderson and his organizing crew in Calgary for such an amazing race and big thanks to Rose and Madi Serpico from Tri-It Multisport for such a fun homestay. I will be back for more.

Every half Ironman is tough and the competition at this year’s event in the women’s pro division was formidable. However, I underestimated how hard just racing this course was going to be, let alone meeting the challenge of my competitors. I was very happy to share the podium in third with women’s winner Magali Tissyere who had a strong race start to finish and Heather Jackson who continues to impress this season with her very close runner up position. Following girls who have earned podiums at the World Championships is excellent. Two speedy Canadians Sara Gross and Lisa Mensink took fourth/fifth. Another interesting fact is that all top 5 females had blonde hair so rest assured blondes are all having more fun tonight.

The biggest positive I can take from the race was the bike. First a big thank you goes to Ridley’s Cycle in Calgary for sorting out some pre-race mechanical issues, due 100% to my poor mechanical skills. I earned the fastest bike split on a pancake course (well there was maybe a tiny uphill here and there but I wasn’t out of the big ring even once so that is a FLAT course in my books. Last season I had my arse handed to me on ALL flat courses no matter how fit I was on the bike so this is promising and I can work with that.

Looking at my race in the overall picture I wasn’t flying but because of some strong riding my race result was excellent. I didn’t have the kind of day to challenge Magali or Heather for the win in the end and I am greatly disappointed my run was appalling. However, I am stoked to have been part of the front of the race that day. I am pretty sure there are a few things I could tweak that may result in immediate improvement for my next event. I know that although my splits for the swim and run are the only signs of weakness, the bike was tough as well. Getting it all together is really, really difficult and the frustration motivates me greatly. This is why this sport is so addicting!

In the end I think I underestimated the altitude. I know my body and know that altitude requires respect if I am going to do well…. I just didn’t check the precise altitude where the race started or that of the race as it rolled back to Calgary. The last 10km of that race was so hard and I was thinking that each kilometer of the last 10km felt like two. Mostly because each kilometer was taking me close to the time I normally take to run two of them 🙂

To earn the fastest bike split of the day I rode my Trek Speed Concept 9.9 size small with Di2, the Hilo saddle and an Aeolus 5 with the disc wheel built on a Powertap G3. That is a fast combination but I think I would have gotten away with the Aeolus 7 as well as the wind wasn’t as gusty as I expected. Sadly I messed up my bike cockpit before the swim and couldn’t actually gather any data on race day. Blonde moment I guess.

I think it was an excellent result on a day that wasn’t really as strong as I am know I can be. Onwards I go, off to Colorado to give it another go next weekend with more acclimation. No matter what, these races are going to be good training for me going into Worlds this year.

Thanks to Trek, Bontrager, Rudy Project, Shimano, AVIA, Powerbar, Polar, Powertap, Champion System, Hwy 19 Wetsuits, USANA, ESI Grips, TP Therapy and Saltstick. Another podium place which is adding up to a lot of podium spots this season. Hope to keep the streak running. I still would love to see the top step at a 70.3 this year again. Thanks to all the awesome athletes and volunteers for making the race in Calgary so special and thanks to Paul Anderson for running the pro podium in time for me to attend and make my flight out… so appreciated!! Sorry I had to miss your speech Rasmus… big congrats again on your win!

I am now in Vail at my friend Kevin’s place relaxing at elevation. Looking forward to visiting altitude ace Sara Tarkington in Boulder and her fiancé Doug. Next up Boulder is 70.3, so stoked!!

It’s good to have friends 🙂

2012 XTERRA Mountain Championship, Beaver Creek, Colorado

Beaver Creek is a resort above Avon, Colorado.  It is quite fancy, with some beautiful homes, golf courses, a skating rink and a bunch of great shops and restaurants exposed to the gorgeous views of the mountain.  The trails at Beaver Creek are also great with something for everyone from the beginner or woman with a baby jogger to some more technical and skinny single track for the mountain bike enthusiasts.  The XTERRA course started down in Nottingham Lake in Avon, sending us straight up to the top of Arrowhead at about 9500 feet before  shooting us across the mountain to Beaver Creek, where we climbed another 1300 feet on the run before finishing at the base of the gondola.  This is a true climber’s course with very thin air.

This year I put more time into my preparation.  I went to altitude early, I laid off the cookies and I did some specific training for blasting straight uphill with no air around.  I stayed with my favorite homestay Kevin, did the Avon Dunk n’ Dash to get primed, did one lap of the Vail Grind Race (the full race would be way too hard for my bad day of acclimation), I think I did a lot of things right.  However, part of my job is finding a way to get every last second out of my race and I think this time around I made some judgement errors that cost me gobs of time on the bike I had no chance to recoup on the run.  In the end, going to Beaver Creek was pointless when it comes to points but in terms of boosting fitness gains I am sure it is going to pay off in the long run.

Thanks to all of you who watched on www.xterralive.com! I appreciate all the kind words for my tough day and thanks to XTERRA for letting our fans watch from home.

Big congratulations to fellow Canadian Danelle Kabush for taking the win on the day.  She completely deserved her big win.  I was proud of her, Sara Tarkington and Suzy Snyder for taking the top spots on the day in front of Renata Bucher and I.  It was nice to see new faces on the podium after it all.

Photos by XTERRA  in my snazzy Hwy 19 Rogue wetsuit

My race in a nutshell:  I had a decent swim as normally I lose more time keeping the effort controlled in the early stages of the race.  I got out of the water in my normal spot although I let Suzy gap me when I was pushed off her feet by one of the men swimming with us, choosing to avoid any extra effort at all early in the race.  That was the same plan on the bike.  I rode the first section to Arrowhead very controlled as I knew I had very good power and felt the last half of the race was where I could put the most time in as it suited me best.  I also know Shonny did the most damage to me in the past in that section so I felt I could do the same since I had good legs.  Suzy was riding really well on the day and stuck with me for most of the first climb but I could tell when I opened it up a bit I could get a gap on her so I wasn’t worried.  However, when I hit the first major downhill and flatted I was worried. 

I used part of a cartridge to try to fill the tire, no luck, took the valve out and put a tube in but sadly only had a partial cartridge left so the tube was not really full.  I gingerly rode the downhill and then went in pursuit.  According to my Polar file below it looks like I lost a bit over four minutes on the side of the road the first time.  I was getting splits that I was closing the gap down… not as fast as I would have liked though as I was riding a soft tire in very rocky conditions that was bad in the corners and I didn’t want to flat again. 

Polar file on the RCX5 with speed data on the bike.  The drops to zero indicate disaster 🙂

However, I did flat again in the last miles of the race which was a disaster.  I stopped again but my Big Air was finished so i hopped on to ride it out.  I rode the last half mile of Alley’s Loop on a flat, up the last climb and the entire way down corkscrew and into transition on the rim.  Because the ride was a disaster, I went off into the run a bit deflated, but chose to run a solid split to get the training in and get the most I could out of the day.  I ran in for fifth.

Now it isn’t all losses when you lose due to mechanical failure.  I got to practice with my Genuine Innovations inflator which needed to be done.  I was pretty sloppy with it, sadly, although I think I changed tubes fairly quickly.  In my next two XTERRA races I will carry more than one inflator for sure.  Also, the volume of tire I chose would not be appropriate for high speed at the pressure I choose to ride… so I had to learn that the hard way.  So lesson learned before Nationals and Worlds.  I was riding a prototype tire rather than one of the beefier offerings from Bontrager so I either need to ride the higher volume tire or more pressure.  Stay tuned on what the decision ends up being.  However that guy who asked why I never flat in races during my Q&A at the AVIA tent while I was nowhere near wood to knock on can totally suck it right now 😉

Next up is the Calgary and then Boulder 70.3.  I am feeling pretty fit right now and totally, completely and utterly motivated to kick some ass.  Here’s hoping I can bring full gas to both races.  Thanks for reading!

2012 Fireroad Cycling 100km Dirtfondo – Cedar City, Utah

Cedar City is a town of about 28,000 in the southwestern corner of Utah near to St George and the Zion national park.   The ski resort Brian Head is nearby as is Southern Utah University.   It looks a little old fashioned with its soda shop in the drugstore, tons of knickknack stores and a cute little main street.  Those are juxtapositioned against the new aquatic facilities and the Starbucks.  Cedar City is, as it turns out, is a pretty sweet place to train.  The Multisports mafia have known that for years as Cedar City was their altitude training grounds when Paula, Heather, Roch and Paul were in the thick of triathlon domination.  Now they run training camps out of the city which you might want to try.  I went for a one day training camp for the Fireroad 100km Dirtfondo which is exactly as it sounds: a 100km grandfondo on dirt.

Dirt Fondo : Fire Road Cycling

Despite the fact I train full time, 100km on the mountain bike still sounded daunting, especially given the majority of the ride was up over 9000 feet of elevation.  However, with Beaver Creek on the menu one week later there was no time left to get my butt in shape and this event fit perfectly.  If you imagine an organization experienced in putting on events with 2000+ people, you’ll see why this event was so excellent in terms of logistics, athlete care, and organization.  A super pro race with a grassroots type feel was enjoyed by all of us. 

I did see quite a few XTERRA t-shirts milling around over the course of the weekend so it looked like quite a few people had the same idea that I had.  This race was perfect training both for the mountain championships that are coming soon as well as the US Championships that will be held in September.  Nothing like some massive big climbs to whip your butt into shape for races with massive big climbs!  Kudos to you XTERRA types for doing some smart thinking.  The race was also excellent prep for the numerous Leadville 100 competitors who will be racing in August.  Jay Prasuhn from Lava Magazine is one of those brave souls who came to the Fireroad 100km to tune his engine.  I think the event helped all the Leadville folks to test their plan going into their main event so if you missed it this year you might want to add this one to your plan.  They also offer a 25km and 60km option if you aren’t sure you want to ride that far.

My plan was as follows: try to win the KOM on the first 7 mile climb and then try to stay with whoever I could for the rest of the day as long as the pace was comfortable.  Mike Dannelly from American Interbanc put up $1000 for the fastest man and woman up the hill which motivated the suffering.  He kicked my butt up that climb as well so next year I need to try to win the $ and beat the sponsor!  J  Thanks Mike!!

After Fernie I was actually quite technically adept at the fireroads 😉 Photos by @lavamagazine’s @jayprasuhn Read more

2012 Furious 3 Mountain Bike Stage Race: Fernie, BC

Instead of a RGTV episode this week, I am going to share with you some excellent videos from the Furious3 race I just visited this Canada Day long weekend. The Ride Guide was there filming and their videos are much much better than mine!  If you are only going to watch one, check out Stage 2 where you can see that crazy bird that I think everyone was playing “chicken” with on the trail.   So funny!

This was my second visit to the spectacularly beautiful town of Fernie, BC., a coal mining town tucked far back in the eastern corner of British Columbia. The race included three stages that all started and finished either in town or within 10 minutes of town so it was super easy in terms of staging and was so professionally organized.  It was a super event that should definitely make your wish list.  I am looking forward to the race in Moab this September which is going to be a key training component in my lead up to the World Championship in Maui.  I think all you XTERRA types that are racing US Nationals in Ogden should consider the Moab race that starts right after.  The event will definitely set you up for Worlds perfectly.  Check out www.furious3.com and consider your options.

For Furious 3 Fernie, some of the trails we rode were familiar from Transrockies TR3 last year but most of it seemed either new to me or in the opposite direction from the race last year.  The biggest change was the weather: WET.  Last year at TR3 was primarily DRY.  Weird summer weather has created massive flooding all over BC and very late melting in the snowpack so even if the actual weather wasn’t terrible, the area was just plain WET.  This made conditions difficult in terms of technical challenge, mechanical challenge and was challenging my mental fortitiude in the first two stages.  However, Day 3 was sunny, there were only a few massive mud bogs and I think my skills started to almost improve so by the end I was learning how to ride again. 

There is no doubt these races are important to my offroad triathlon toolbox.  Especially in years like this one, where I choose to spend a lot of the winter improving my riding on a time trial bike, I am missing the technical skills I usually gain in winter from riding my mountain bike in the sloppy wet conditions.  My technical skills on a mountain bike started out horrible/embarrassing on Saturday and approached just average on Monday.  By the end of my next stage race maybe I will be able to ride the gnarly like a pro again.  Maybe. For this weekend Mical Dyck and Kate Aardal put on a clinic on how to be fast taking first and second spots and I ended up in third but a distant not in sight third place. Very fast riding by those two.

Stage 1

My first race on my 17” Trek Superfly 100.  I rode an XTR 40/28 front chainring which was an excellent choice for doing legpress and getting strong but if you don’t ride professionally you might want to race the steep stuff in Fernie with the smaller 38/26 option.  With bad legs I struggled the first day with lack of momentum! Read more for the rest of the story… Read more