Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Steep Hills and Just Escaped the Rain - Westwood Tri Sprint RR

Nanaimo's Westwood Tri was first of the Dynamic Race series for the season. I decided to do this trip solo, as most people had already arrived days in advance. This was a bonus race for me, as I wasn't sure how quick I would recover after Nashville Marathon two weeks ago. In the end, I ended up making more friends than I bargained for racing this local race. I stayed with the Abbotsford Triathlon Club's headquarters at the Vancouver Island University (VIU) as they had nearly 20 or so members staying there. It felt amazing to be part of their culture, which reminded me of what our tri-club had back in the Subaru Western Canada days.

This short course distance was a bit unknown for me simply because my last 7 sprint events were all in the comfort of an indoor pool and these were all competed way back between 2005 and 2008. Nearly a decade ago, nine whole years of sabbatical in this discipline and this would be my first open water sprint. :)

A third layer unknowns was that this course was super fun with hilly challenges. Joe, race director, said "Tell your friends to race here if they like the challenge". I studied the course by riding it the day leading up to the race and the race morning to ensure I knew where to make gear change because those 15% grade towards the elevated lake didn't allow you to cheat on big ring.

A Norwegian friend and I biked from the ferry and we only had 30 minutes to make the 6km trip to race expo. Too bad it was pouring rain and steep hills, we quickly got a taste of this beautiful challenging course. In return the swim was pancake flat and as calm as a safe haven. Not a single wrinkle of wave on race morning.
Here it goes, a steep downhill to start the bike.
Photo Credit: Rainer Plendl

A small change to this year's bike course to the descent out from the lake made things safer. This was only the 2nd annual event in Nanaimo and many returnees brought their road bikes this time instead of their tri-bikes. More on which has a greater effect later!

Equipped with the power meter, this was really neat to see all the spikes on the hills. Changing gears was the name of the game as when you did settle in to a comfortable power, the course throws some turns and false flats to get you out of saddle again. A boxing match, in which luckily I was not penalized too much for not using my nice wheels.

The bike course was one out and back, the out part has an additional out and back. The standard distance went along the same course but headed out further along main Jingle Pot Road.

As we were heading back towards the hill to the lake, you had to ensure you take the blind turn with the right granny gear otherwise you won't be getting far.
What a fun course!
Photo Credit: Rainer Plendl

The run was a counter clockwise loop for us around the lake. Punchy near the beginning. You hear a loud echo in the middle portion from the lake from all the finishers. I heard the winner being announced as I was still half way around the lake. The final kilometre felt like a gut check, with a killer puncher hill. Once you got over the hill, a short steep downhill and you're not too far from the finish. I'm pretty stoked on the result: 5th overall and 2nd in age category but I was more happy that I finished this tough speedy event.

I was so glad to be done, the rain came pouring down on the poor standard people, as they were still on the bike.
Last stretch to finish!
Photo Credit: Rainer Plendl

We were welcomed with fresh pancakes and sausages from a food truck after the finish. Heated tent was a brilliant idea. A large chunk of the participants were BC locals and we were able to hang around and watch the sport we loved. So it was easy to make friends.

So back to the road vs. tri-bike debate. No race wheels, no road bike, and yet you can still perform very well on this course. It favours the power to weight ratio regardless of weight of the bike. My heavy (21lbs) tri-bike was averaging about 200watts on the course. I was surprised to hear from Martin (he pulled off the fastest bike split of the day) that he said he worked harder on his road bike in this year's race. He said he was slower than on his tri-bike from last year, despite the hillier course and heavier tri-bike. A tri-bike almost always wins in a triathlon. There simply isn't enough of a draft advantage riding individually to warrant the road bike, unless you prefer comfort and better handling, which comes at a cost of speed.

I think I'm hooked on this distance again. I think I'll definitely be back for next year.

PS - Thanks to Brendan for dropping and picking me up from the ferry.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Beats and Heat in Music City - St. Jude RNR Nashville Marathon RR

Last month, Jen and I traveled down to Nashville, Tennessee to race the Rock 'n Roll half and full.  I have a bucket list goal of racing a marathon in every state, so it was hard (really impossible) to say 'no' when Jen brought up the race.  The Rock 'n Roll races are well known for having rock bands at every mile and the awesome race bling.  What better place to go than Music City itself?

We arrived in Nashville with a warm welcome.  And by warm, I'm talking 20+ degrees Celsius and 80% humidity.  Ugh.  This was going to be a rough race.  But more on that later.

Nobody was using the commuter bikes, because they were all on the party-beer-bike-mobile. 

We were doing a marathon, seems fitting that Nashville is nicknamed Athens of the south.
Parthenon replica in Centennial Park


Statue of Athena Parthenos holding Nike, the Goddess of Victory

The race expo was pretty cool  Jen signed up for the remix challenge (2 races in one weekend, for 3 medals), so we had to stop by on Thursday.  This actually worked in our favour, as we didn't have to wait in any lines.  Score!  Toyota was one of the title sponsors.  They had a little area set up with fun and games, which included making your own tie dye headbands!  Jen and I went the matchy-matchy route and got them made in the same color as our shoes.

Race Bling for Mile, Re-mix Challenge, and Half
(this one has a light up display inspired by Broadway!)
Tie-dye Headbands to match our shoes!

So now for the first race; Jen's mile.  I had the luxury of leisurely walking to the finish line and watching the race unfold from Shelby bridge.  On a side note, my past job looked into a conceptual design a marina here, but it never got constructed.  Now back to the race, Jen and this other girl were battling it out down a long winding hill.  I captured the moment Jen passed this girl and went on to win the race (note the double Mohawk which reminds me of a cats tail when they get scared).

Double Mohawk!

View under Shelby Bridge of the would-be Marina

With the scorching temperatures, the race director decided to start the race 30 min earlier, meaning we had to be on the start line at 6:45 AM.  This didn't make it any easier, as the heat and humidity had already reached a record high for the race (24 degrees Celsius and 80% humidity at the start).  Prior to this race, I got some expert advice from Canada's favourite marathoner, Rob Watson, to adjust my race goal by 5-7 min.  Honestly though, the heat made the race feel similar to a triathlon run.  So, I treated my nutrition and race strategy like a triathlon. I felt like a bag of bricks right from the gun.

Pre-Race already sweating (no pun intended) :)

When the gun when off, a whole sea of people took off down the hill.  I tried to hold back knowing that most of that group was doing the half distance.  The course has a lot of history, passing through some of Nashville's most iconic areas.  This includes the Honky-Tonks, Music Row, 12 Ave South and Centennial Park.  So the first 7 miles were basically all up hill.  Though most of it was gradual, there were a couple punchers.  I tried to stay relaxed and mosey my way to the top.

Because of the heat, the race director told the marathoner's that we could divert towards the finish line at the 18K and 30K marks if things got tough.  When we reached the 18K point, only a small trickle of people turned off for the marathon (curse them!!!!).  It was deflating knowing that I would be running solo for the rest of the race. A group of 4 of us ran for a bit. A triathlete in the group became friends with me after the race and told me he signed up for the season tour pass (great idea)! I eventually caught the lead lady and ran with her a bit.

I don't think Jen was here for the race...

The course took us to a baseball stadium at the 28K mark.  I hit a home run and had to run the perimeter of the stadium.  Too bad the stadium wasn't full of excited fans, because I could have used them.  Lol!!  The second half of the race was much harder than the first half, despite being flat.  The racers were all spread apart, and temperatures reached the low 30s.  My pace slowed drastically, but I was catching people.  It was encouraging to hear spectators tell me that I was in 24th place overall.  Normally I never hear this (being ranked over 100+)! The loop around Shelby Park was near death at 38K! Temperature was well into the 30s Celsius by that point. I eventually caught 4 more men and finished a personal best of 20th overall and won my age group (which never happens in a marathon).  Even though I ran a 12 min positive split, I still felt strong. I was very happy with the race, despite running 15 minutes over my PB.  After all, the winner also ran a positive 12 min split. Jen finished 3rd female overall in the half. :)

After crossing the finish line, Jen and I went out to explore Nashville.  We went to the honky tonks (live music at the bar on at least 4 days of the week - odd criterion) and learned that marathoners are ultra-light weights.  Haha!  Nashville is well known for its barbecue.  Basically meat that has been smoked all day and so tender.  My mouth is watering just thinking back to it.  One of our friends at Mile2Marathon recommended going to the Swingin' Door Pub for honkey tonks.  It was so good that we had to go for barbecue two more times (one was with Jen's friend from university).


Post Race Barbecue, I reluctantly posed for the photo, but I was so hungry, I just wanted to eat!
Nashville's Favourite Treat

For those of you who follow hockey, Nashville was in the playoffs.  They had one home game while we were there.  They had a large TV set up outside the stadium for fans to watch.  The atmosphere was electrifying.  Before the mile, Jen was talking to a fellow competitor from Nashville.  He was saying that down town Nashville had a sketchy vibe, and until the Predators came to town, few people would hang out there.  That must be why the city supports their team so much!  I can say it feels safe like here at home. Everyone was supporting their team by wearing cow boots and hats. As a fun activity, they had a car with for the St. Louis blues that people could smash with a hammer.  Afterall, we were in Smashville :).

Overall, this was a really fun experience.  Jen and I got the 3 pack pass, which means you will be reading about two more Rock 'n Roll races this calendar year.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

St. Paddy's 5K and Sun Run 10K RRs

Quick updates from two local races.

St. Patrick's 5k

Fun race as usual for me and hard for me not to do it since the race director is Steve, but the competition was fierce as advertised. After party with beer was fun too. This year I ran a bit slower since it was only a week after my UBC du race. Only steps from the downhill start, I got overly excited and got this unusual feeling when my chest strap heart rate hinge came unsecured. I had to hold the monitor for the rest of the race (pretty much the entire race), here's a look at the messed up data, which some heavy vertical oscillations. :)
Lessons learned: always check that chest strap is secured. I was stoked to still sneak into the top 100 - finished 97th overall.

Sun Run 10k

I was hoping to represent our tri club team but we didn't secure enough members to qualify. So Winston had to go rogue and run for himself. Less pressure, more individual glory. Race execution went slightly better! I started the race with Nathaniel, UBCTC alumni, near the back of the blue group. I was afraid of getting run over by the speedsters but mostly didn't want to get in their way. :)

I could see one of our M2M training partners Judy most of the way, stoked for her for crushing a PB time! For me, I had a black cloud over my head and had to not take too many risks as my marathon was coming up in 6 days in Nashville. Still a great time, finished pretty much where I expected to me based from recent interval efforts. 37:43. Here's a slightly better representation of my run dynamics. Here's the data:

Two races, two about 20s shy from my PBs from last 2 years. One was a build down, and the other was a build up. I'll have to race both the 5k and 10k distances properly another day to hit a PB again one day. But the focus this year is some marathons and multi-sport. :)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Another Wet Rainy One! - UBC Tri/Du RR

It's been a few months of off season, I'm excited to get back at it. UBC Tri-Du was my first race of the 2017 season. Also last February, I just transitioned into a new job, I can become a working man again! No more mid-day naps between jobs, unfortunately. PB's will now be tacked on with an extra minute or two of grace. :)

Of course just when I thought I can escape the swim, the rain comes pouring down. The sky just came down. The previous 3 of 4 du-s at UBC were some of the wettest I've been in. This one was one of them. At least this beat the snow that came down from last week. One cancelled race earlier this year is more than enough. 
Instead of the swim, stick a run, and you get run/bike/run for the duathlon but really it felt like swim/swim/swim with the cold miserable rain.

Run1 - Jen and the lead group took off, I hanged onto 4th into T1. Jen had cold fingers and unfortunately had a little picnic in T1. I will need to help her with getting some speedy laces for next time!

Bike - It got windy along SW Marine Dr. I was averaging a little slower (mostly due to caution) on the course on this day around 36.X km/hr when normally it would had been maybe a kilometer or two per hour quicker. Our friend Morgan almost caught me at T2, she was only a few meters behind me when I dismounted. I didn't dare jumping off the shoes as the bike rack was within a parking spot reach.

Run2, I couldn't feel my toes. Probably I should had dressed more than just tri-suit and arm warmers on this day. Luckily the race was just long enough to bare without them. I hung onto 3rd overall to finish.

The finish was too cold to hang around! I was frozen but I survived.

Overall it was a cold race. I got a little running nose afterwards and had to take the following week easy.
Credit: UBC REC

I didn't mount my new bike gadget (Edge 520) on the right aero bar (had to be on the left one to sync better with the power meter). So a lesson learned for next time. Here's some neat run dynamics by the FR735xt. My form became less beautiful the second time around, as expected. :) 
Run 1 vs Run 2

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Year 2016 Recap - Brace Yourself for more Graphs.

Being process driven, I like to marvel the new set of dorky graphs from 2016! Put on your nerdy glasses for another boring post on number crunching data. For the original post from 2015, click here

1. Shoes by Year

Last year I wanted to start training with cushion shoes. This method has given me an advantage in getting more softness and protection for my poor aging joints and calves. For racing, I can then use the lightweight racing flats and feel like I'm flying and get those ground contact times down. :)

The Brooks Ghost is a great cushion shoe for 20km-25km LSD runs. Still light enough but cushy enough for protection. 

The asics Cumulus is a slightly greater mid-cushion, perfect for sprinting down hills and is built like a tank. Be careful of its obnoxiously long shoe laces, as I do tuck them in so I don't trip. Its secondary gel cushion technology makes it soft on the heel especially.

The adidas Boston and adios are new editions from 2016 too. Watch for them in 2017, they are dangerously fast, I'm slowly transitioning into racing in them. :D I normally have been racing in New Balance's 1400s.

2. Distance and Intensity Flow Diagrams 

Since 2015, I kept track of workout intensities for each day.

Red meant Race Days/Time Trial Efforts,
Orange meant Lactate Threshold,
Yellow meant Intervals,
Limegreen meant Steady State, and
Green meant Easy Only Days.

Usually after a big race in red, you'll see some solid green easy days.

Lots of easy bike workouts here in green, which gives me more base to focus on running.

You might be wondering about the missing data after September. I did take a little break from swimming, that's indeed just me slacking off. :) 

3. Intensity Breakdown

Here's the aggregation by intensity. The run comparison is neat as more percentage is spent in easy and more racing as opposed to 2015. Less volume and less intervals, and yet despite more racing, was the strategy for 2016, which resulted in personal PBs in half and full marathons last year.

4. Bike Terrain

For 2016, I was still training blind without the power meter for the most part, but the volume is up there. 2017 will be fascinating with the new power meter.  :)

5. Lucky Shoes for Long Course Races

A Winston's classic graph. It looks like there might be one more big race for the 1400s before I retire them.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Last Chance to Run on the Floating Bridge! - Amica Seattle Marathon RR

There were a bunch of justifications I made, some of them silly, to do this race.
  1. My last race in Victoria was a race in Canada for the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, and hence now this brings us to Seattle for the American Thanksgiving.
  2. A bunch of friends from Adidas Runners Vancouver and our Cambie Run Club were going down, so it was a bit of a no brainer for Jen and I to tact on this race to end the 2016 season with them. Also a chance to visit my good friends in Seattle, Michael and Daniel.  
  3. Also, mostly it was my last chance (eh hem…my first and maybe only chance) to run on the I-90 scenic floating bridge, which was my excuse for choosing the marathon over the half distance. The half marathon version goes near but doesn't actually go over the floating bridge.
Morning Start @ 5th Ave + Harrison St

Bonus: Also I guess there’s some added symmetry to do an east coast US marathon in Boston earlier in the year and now a west coast US marathon in Seattle to end the year.   

YES, I’m a bit of race snob when it comes to these minor details in race destinations planning. I’m all about the patterns.
  • Double heartbreak hills for my races in Boston and Zurich for 2012.
  • Double canyons from Grand Canyon in Arizona and the Canyon on LaSalle Street in Chicago for 2013.
  • Double marathon races in Toronto for 2014.
The Race:
Some great opportunities to pose under the Space needle prior to race start. We were lucky to have perfect conditions - dry not too warm, not too cold. It was raining heavily the day before. It was a casual late start for the marathon peeps at 8:15am. The half was originally scheduled for 7:30am but got changed to 7:45am. I got to watch Jen prep for her half race just a little bit earlier and afterwards, I mimic her exact pre race stretch spots and warm-up drills to get ready.

The anthem got played and we were off. My strategy was to run a little faster on the flats and then coast up the killer hills near the end. This means positive splitting more than what I would normally do. It also didn't help that the timing mat was at 13 miles instead of 13.1 miles.

This was a fun race, a scenic but brutal course. The elevation grade changes are steeper than I had hoped.

The course starts near the Space Needle and heads east towards Lake Washington in a generally giant counter-clockwise loop, with a twist to get on and off the floating bridge. Most of the hills are at the start and near the end.

It's like a scene from King Kong, we ran away along the hilly streets of Seattle towards these highway on-ramps. Seeing the mono-rail cars above was really cool! 

6-7km We run across a large tunnel to escape the downtown traffic

8-12km Flat and floating bridge! We head towards and back from Mercer Island, and a second tunnel. Too cool and fun!

The course settles down and is mostly flat with minor turns, also completing a loop around Seward Park (about half way). To my surprise, I wasn't sure if I was off course as there wasn't a half way timing mat. Of course, I later realized the 'halfway' mat was actually earlier at 13 miles.
Madrona Park view along the route

Now to the business end of the race...

31-35km welcomes the deadly hills. A cheer zone was at the bottom. Lots of people started to pass me! I was running until that point before approaching the big hill on Madison Street. Instead of an acute angle turn, Darn you Galer Street was taken to short-cut onto the big hill, which is steeper than the actual big hill. My jaw dropped. My legs without much hesitation came to a grinding screech. My pace band was thrown out the window. It was just getting to the finish line at this point. Many mountain goats such as Alan from our run club at Cambie were flying up those hills, making me feel like I was moving backwards! Gravity was also no help! Thank you.

The final 7km which is the portion I like to race the race within the race. I had nothing. Unlike Boston where I was charging. I was slowing down. Please end the suffering!

Over positive 5 minutes split, I ran 3:03:47. Not pretty style points, but not bad. I'll take it! The evil pacer for 3:05 marathon did it by half relays, so he was just charging towards the line. Curse his fresh legs! :) There's a race photo of us just before reaching the stadium finish, one of us in clearly more pain than the other.

Here's the nerdy graph of my recent marathon compilations. As you can see the obvious last 7km in general aren't so pretty.

After the race, Jen helped me grab my bags as I couldn't walk.
No passing outs! :) 

She also won some prize money for one of the top ladies to spend at the EXPO, superstar, I know! But the lady at the expo cashier heard about her generosity and wouldn't let her 'just' buy gifts for her friends, instead she ended up getting 8 more free shirts along with the original gifts. I don't think Jen wanted shirts initially, but now ends up getting more than she bargained for. Sharing is caring. :D

Memorial Stadium @ Finish area

Thanks for reading. Until the new year! Happy New Year, sad old year. Merry Christmas too.