Friday, December 21, 2012

The End is Near...almost!

Whether or not all the claims about the Maya apocalypse are true...WHATEVER. What a 2012 year it has been for me! No regrets.
I feel I am so lucky to have friends to share so many fond memories in my races this year.
From the 8,800 ft in elevation gain at Orcas Island at my first ultra ever in February...
...and the screaming girls at Wesley College and historic breaking heat-wave at my first Boston in April...
...and the tour de france feel at another famous Heartbreak Hill at Switzerland m-dot in July (luckily we narrowly escaped the waterspout which occurred only 6 days after in the same lake)...
...and the last ever 30 year anniversary Canada m-dot at Penticton in August...
...and many many more races locally...
...I don't think I can top it off.
It's been a blast (hopefully no pun intended).
Thank you! You guys rock! You guys know who you are!
Keep on trucking.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Persistence is Key

Sometimes when you truly believe in tackling something in the best way possible, I’ve come to accept that taking harsh criticism is just part of territory. It is so easy to make judgements and offer unsolicited advice on meeting tunnel-vision-like objectives. But the bigger picture seems to be always a miss. It is persistence that keeps me going. Your gut knows best when comprising for the bigger picture.

It is just frustrating when people don’t want to listen and assemble virtual walls up. Over time, I’ve learned to be patient and hopefully one day those walls would come down. Otherwise failure is almost inevitable. It is a soft skill they don’t necessarily teach in school but rather a skill that is developed over time.

Usually I take my training zen-ny habits and apply them to the work place. And not vice versa.

But in this case, I think I can. My Victoria Marathon time was about 11ish minutes off my goal time. My mind wanted to go, but my body was just beat after a long race season. I peaked during the IMC race in August. My foot started aching during the race in Victoria and I felt an uncomfortable injury was coming had I pushed it. My gut knew the bigger picture would be to keep injury-free, and comprising this one race objective would be okay.
8888.8 km - Awesome!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ironman Switzerland

I am thrilled with my result. 

Awesome placement of "x"

Zee "short" report
And now the super late one...

A pb time of 11:18:47 on a day that showed scattered bits of strong hail, heavy rain, and sunshine. At times, I was soaked, I was dried, then I was pegged by little cannon hail balls, and finally I was back being soaked again. It wasn’t the most pleasant feeling. The weather gods couldn’t quite figure out what to hand us; luckily it wasn’t a waterspout that occurred only a week later in the exact swim location at Lake Zurich! 

Coming into this race, I knew my biking was by far my biggest challenge. I had little peace in mind. Did I put my bike together correctly? Also, just days before the race and biking in Europe for the first time, I began to question myself whether I am still a semi-competent bike rider, despite not speaking the language and not knowing the abundance of heavy Swiss-German signage nor being familiar with the traffic rules. The next round-a-bout could very well be the next round of butt beatings for me.

That wasn’t my only problem. Just like my experience at the Victoria half this year, buoys and swim caps were EXACTLY the same bright colour. Brilliant! Sighting will be a lot like finding where’s Waldo. 

We unintentionally skipped the pre-race dinner safety briefing too. Yikes. Meeting up with a friend (blame Max) got me distracted and we totally forgot. Oops, trust me I don’t usually pass up on opportunities like this to get food often. I was still in travel mode.

Considering execution on race day is almost 90% mental, I wasn’t faring well at this point prior to the race.

Luckily it did pan out!

Pre race, Brendan was very smart and got a taxi for us. It saved us a lot of time and we had plenty of time to settle the nerves.

Race bibs had to be worn on the bike, since there were no body-markings. This affected jels placements. Timing chips must be worn on the left ankle. 

There was a big talk in German, then English, then German again. Then they told us to shake hands to random athletes around us. The Swiss anthem was played shortly before the gun started. 

The swim was a unique setup. The beach start actually begins in a private beach park. Separated by two pontoons strips, there was also a section courted off for ladies only start, which I haven’t seen before. Firstly swim a rectangular loop. Swim under a little bridge and then run onto a little island to get a checkpoint. Then complete the hypotheses length and the remaining triangle as a second loop. Swim under the bridge again, while getting funneled in by lane ropes.  Then hop out on the other side to transition, and finally enter T1 on the public side of the beach park.

The swim sure felt a bit like those theme park boats rides hitting each other. 

The first 30ish km around the lake was nearly flat. Then as we deviate from the lake into landwards, there is a series of climbs leading the Beast, which is the largest climb of the course. My legs wanted a break, they were exhausted. I had to keep going because people would yell “bop bop bop bop bop bop!” It was a very technical course with questionable weather conditions. At one point my arms were barely holding on because of strong hail. There were a couple of instances when we had to ride over boards covering some rail tracks. Eventually the course meets the coast of the lake and heads back towards transition. We don’t turn at transition but tack on an extra 5km further out with a last minute steep stinger known as Heartbreak Hill. Boston had a Heartbreak Hill too, man oh man did I pick the right races in the same year. Both occurred on the latter parts of the course which probably give them such a reputation. The signage was what got me through the bike course. I was impressed with the multiple series of signage as you approach a particular turn. Then again, repeat for a second loop. Every component was tougher the second time around.

The run was a 4 loop course. It was crowded at times, but this made running feel blistering fast. There was always someone next to you. Aid stations were great, nuts and fresh fruit made my day. It was a mental challenge to run past the finish area 8 times before actually finishing. I was "yo-yoing" with a few guys until the 3rd loop. It somewhat annoyed me because they wouldn’t hold a steadier pace. Hahah I know I'm a running snob when it comes to getting pass. We were always checking out the number of arm bands on each passing athlete which indicated the number of loops you were on. These couple of yo-yo guys were on the same lap as me!  On the final loop, I just hammered it. At times, I even shut my eyes to conserve every bit of energy. I didn’t want to get passed by the yo-yoers again. It worked, and ran the 4th lap a few minutes quicker than the third.

I don't think I could had pushed harder. 

Overall it was a fantastic race-cation. 

Slush Puppies - the Swiss equivalent to slushies

Friday, August 31, 2012

Swissing Around

Zurich. Basal. Chur. St. Gallen. Laax. Zermatt...and sneaked out of the country to catch the tour!

Where to begin? Last month's travels went by so fast, I had little time to update!!

This is no swiss organization, so I'm just going blurb out randomly the awesome places I had visited.

1. Tour Stage 10 - Bellegarde-sur-Valserine in France
The tour was along the most eastern part of France when I was in Switzerland. A total dream come true to watch the tour in person. I was showered by gifts at the finishing town of Bellegarde, just 20 minutes train ride away from Geneva. It was an expensive train ride, but well worth it! My perception of France is forever skewed! Vive la tour.

2. Zermatt

One of the most scenic things you could do in Switzerland is tackling a 5-hour train ride along the countryside. My breath was taken away at some points. You can see why on the Glacier Express! Interestingly, my train was 46, my seat was 46, and out of the 75 destination announcements, no. 46 announcement was the highest point of elevation during the trip. AWESOME!

 Did a little hike up the Matterhorn, NBD! The other half of the Matterhorn belonged to Italy.

3. St. Gallen 

Max came to meet us in Zurich and spent the weekend and a bit to checkout Switzerland. His mission was to scope the area as he’ll be starting school in st. gallen.
A little town not far from Germany. We did check out the cathedral and this really old book collection named Stiftsbibliothek, with manuscripts dating back to the 8 to 11th century! A lot of the building were also old. Most of them easily 400++ years old.
But to more exciting stuff, this frozen yogurt purchased nearby was fantastique!!

4. Chur
Chur is one of the earliest settlements in Switzerland. I noticed Swiss infrastructure seem to generously grace trams and round-a-bouts in its impressive transportation networks. Q: What happens when you have to pick one of the two?  A: Silly question, just pick both of course.
A tram line going right through a round-a-bout.
Awesome mirrors. By this point, I was pretty familiar with Chur, taking the trains here to and from Zurich about 7 times getting from a friend, Brendan's summer camp and the glacier express. Even picked up some swiss-chocolate!

5. Basal
Don't laugh, I checked out the zoo. I was surprised to see all the exotic animals possibly imagined here. My favourites were these penguins. We share a common interest - eating and racing! ;)

6. Laax
The beautiful countryside is where you want to be as a tourist! Mountains everywhere, one of the pickings for each day of the week basically. A paradise for training with switchback heavens, warm lakes to swim in and awesome trails. No wonder swiss athletes are so fit! Thanks to Brendan, it was awesome to crash his summer camp.

7. Zurich
And...finally Zurich, one of the most livable (but expensive) places to live.

My mind was blown when I was looking at the transit map. This is not a city to get lost in. Soooo, because it was conveniently Ironman weekend, we had to do it right? Max was awesome to take some pictures. Report to come.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Catching a Flight

Vancouver Tri
All week leading up to my trip to Switzerland, I was scrambling to get everything ready. Bought a Garmin. Bollowed a bike box. Took out some Swiss francs. Etc. Etc.

Before I knew it, it was the day of my flight. I had managed a mere 4 hours of sleep, but I figured I would bank it back on the plane. Also I figured it wouldn't hurt to tact on doing a relay run at the Vancouver tri. Crazy? Maybe...but I had to squeeze in my training one way or another. An Ironman was looming only one week away.

I had never been good at team sports. Doing the relay run meant that I had all day to kill minus the little flight to catch. Got to witness Olympican Brent McMahon do all three swims and winning them all. Remarkable! Paula Findlay was also competing (Trust me, I was all giddy inside).

Brent McMahon!

I even saw a seal swimming on course. Did a lot more cheerleading than actual racing.

It was hot.  Slurpee before the flight was well deserved.

Switzerland here I come!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Grueling Finish!!

Saunders Subaru Triathlon Victoria Race Report

I knew coming into this race, everyone was gunning for me.

No longer are the days when I can remain anonymous and shy away from finishing poorly. People of all ranks probably know me from my smiley grins, from my recently publicized newsletter and brochures, or from my impeccably-consistent finishing times. My reputation was on the line and uncomfortably nudged against it. All I really wanted was to earn my meal ticket for the ferry buffet and perhaps enjoy it with the company of friends. =)

I don’t blame rapidly improving athletes like Derrick Lee and Victoria Gilbert to trademark me as one of their soft targets. I admired their drive to improve oneself and I wished I knew a little more of their training secrets.

That said, Vincent Lavallee’s words "grueling finish" pretty much summed up the highlight of this race. Victoria Gilbert had home field advantage and was gunning me down. It was an epic display of hard work and very rarely does a 5 hour or so race comes down to a final sprint between one of your friends.

It’s funny that I can remember vividly the last kilometre of the run, and not the entire prior of the race. I had heard footsteps but didn’t bother to shoulder check because I had thought it was the same running dude behind me for the lap.

Victoria had totally caught me by surprised at 19km on the run when she passed me, with only 1km to go. The popular term of getting “chicked” was no big deal for me (Jen Moroz had previously destroyed me the day before at the Easter Seals 24 hours Relay opening rabbit run lap – hey I was the top male finisher! =)). I had even contemplated on letting Victoria beat me, but quickly realized nobody would have believed me. As a team, Victoria and I literally ran over a lot of runners in the final kilometre. At one point, Victoria rudely yelled “BEHIND!!” when we were trying to pass people, I felt a bit sorry for them.

Did someone manage to catch a video of the final sprint? This is pretty much what had happened. 

Would you capture it...or just let it slip?

Check out Theresa Price's complete team report here.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Nineteen Seconds

Subaru Shawnigan Lake Triathlon Race Report

I know it’s not best practice to compare one year’s result to another for the same race. That is, unless you are incredibly consistent.

I still haven't figured out why the race organizers would put up this slow poke as their head banner. =)

For the past three years, Shawnigan has been the official start to my summer race season. Perhaps this race is an indicator of how the season will shape up.  

Despite the twist and turns of the new route changes (swim was short and run was longer or at least felt that way) and lack of using Garmin this year (one has short battery-life, other is being fixed), somehow my predicted finishing time can be almost measured by military precision. The swim route must had been short by a 100 metres or a bit and the new addition of the wooden trestle run route is pretty spectacular.

I managed to finish comparable to my results from previous years, which is somewhat an achievement (Or is this loser talk?).

This unique finding can only be interpreted as both good news and bad news.

The bad news... is simply I haven’t improved at all since I debuted in this race in 2010.
The good news? I can’t really pretend my work/life balance has a signifcant effect and fabricate it as an excuse for slowing me down. In 2010, I had just graduated and was training like a full time madman athlete. This year, I’ve juggled with work commitments as well as trying to maintain my training schedule.

I am also starting to feel stronger at the finish. I didn’t feel super tired as I cross the finish line. I think it can be best summed up as being my stamina has increased but my intensity probably haven’t improved one bit over the years. Maybe I should start pretending to look more tired at the finish line? So people don't think I'm not trying hard enough. =)

Overall it was a very fun weekend, which included a well deserved trip to the buffet! Read Brendan Naef's full team report here.

My next A-race is Ironman Switzerland, which is coming up. Watch out world, a winstorm is brewing! Can't wait! =)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Two Marathons in Three Weeks!

I had this romantic idea that doing another marathon in less than 3 weeks was a brilliant idea.

After Boston, I just had to try the new course this year in my backyard at Vancouver BMO marathon. It featured the best of what the city had to offer. This was only 20 days afterwards and I "felt" like I had fully recovered. But let's be honest, the social aspects of watching some friends achieve new distances and then going to eat out at Chill Winston was what really attracted me. Read team update

Of course I wasn't recovered. Who was I kidding? Certainly not the running gods. My legs were absolutely struggling already at 15km. Normally they would fatigue around the 30km and I would had to survive the last 10km. I always had got to at least the halfway point in control and relative ease. I guess the rule that it takes a day for every mile you race in the marathon to fully recover really holds true.

It's just too bad I had to learn this lesson the hard way. I was regretting not signing up for the half distance despite the earlier start time. 

There was another interesting road block on the marathon course. A literal one, and by one I mean two. There were two corrals on course at Granville and Oak along 49th ave that would permit automobiles traffic to gain access momentarily as the runners crowds fizzled out. Unfortunately any straggling runners would be asked to stop running and get their time credited on the chip time.

To allow for these traffic gaps, the race field had 5 corrals each starting 5 minutes apart to allow for the gaps to occur.

Unfortunately I was caught starting in the second starting corral. I must had been one of the top 4 in my corral to catch up to the tail end of the first heat. It was a very bizarre feeling because I felt I was leading the race, despite the hundreds in the first heat starting 5 minutes earlier. Because of this, I was told by the kind volunteers to STOP. I was trying to run past them, but a human wall formed. I wasn't disgruntled and understand the first year little kinks and race logistics, I was just confused since I had never been told to stop in a race for non-emergency reasons.

But despite this awkward pause, the route was great. This route is definitely an improvement from last year's route.

 PROOF that I am a runner.

It was a very long 27 km struggle to the finish. I realized my time wasn't going to be a PB. It did prove to be great preparation training for the ironman run though.

I figured a "mr. winston" salad was fitting given we were at Chill Winston.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Boston Day 4 - Marathon Report

I'd been dreaming of running in Boston for a long time. Nothing was stopping me was an awesome feeling! I felt so kick-ass like I never before. This whole city was looking alive. Friends back home were also pouring in their awesome support!

My morning started with a light 2km jog down to the red line train. Carl and I figured the $20 shuttle from the hotel to the gathering spot wasn't worth the moolah. 

Easily I think over 300 buses streamlined Park Street to take us to Hopkinton.  I was impressed how the buses came 25 at a time and continuously picked up the crowd of over 20,000.

I remembered getting off the bus with a big sweat. It was already a sizzling 26 degrees Celsius. Oh my, it was going to be a tough day.

The start with the 9 corral systems was unique and seemed to work quite well. I started in corral 6 and started about 5 minutes from the gun time. These corrals were secured and closely monitored.

It was hard to settle into a good pace. I was constantly yo-yo-ing with the massive crowds - something I wasn't used to for the entire marathon. There were a lot of runners. And there were even more crowd support on both sides of the run course. Even the non-runners came out to show their support.

My first 5km was a good indicator that I wasn't going to stick to my 4:20 pace. It was a scorcher. The aid stations always started with water then gatorade on the right hand side and then the same again on the left hand side. Each mile ticked away quickly with each aid station with drinks getting warmer and warmer. I think the peak was very close to 30 degrees Celsius. 

It was only by kilometre 10, I was comforted to see the crowd bringing out the bags of ice, freezies, oranges and even little cups with ice. I definitely appreciated the awesome support because the warm water at the official aid stations wasn't doing me any favours.

At the halfway mark, came the famously loud scream tunnel with incredibly cute girls from Wellesley School all lined up (many had signs saying "kiss me"). Contrary to popular belief I didn't take any of their offers but I did had to dodge at least 3 guys trying to get a smooch. It was a very bizarre scene - it definitely made me laugh.

The crowd support was giving high fives along most of the route. If you ever needed a turbo boost, there's nothing better than running by hundreds of screaming fans willing to give you high fives. The downside, I couldn't dare stop running no matter how much it hurt.

The killer Heartbreak hill wasn't as bad as it was famously known for. This hill was at about the 34km; however, we needed to run 3 undulating hills before even getting to Heartbreak. Heartbreak was no big deal, just another bump before the finish. These hills were great for my confidence. I was able to pass a lot of runners here. I seem to run better when there are massive crowds.  

As I got closer to the city, I remember making two final turns to get onto Boylston Street with a final 3 km stretch to the finish. These last 3 km were amazing, I could hear the loud cheers perhaps even a few notches higher than the stream tunnel through Wellesley.  

I was fist pumping at the finish (official photos to come!). The dream was complete! I did it, I FREAKING DID IT!! Runners at the finish line were literally collapsing in front of me. I couldn't catch them as I was having a hard enough time to stand up myself! Okay, maybe I was too busy fist pumping...

 I have some pretty bad tan-lines. Don't laugh!

Later that day, I met up with an old friend, at a runner's bar named Crossroads. I just couldn't resist, I had to get the real Boston Creme Pie.

The BEST part of the trip! =)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Boston Day 3 - Two Very Fine Schools and Two Very Fine Treats

The next morning, off to Harvard!

Havard has an annual average of about 7.2% acceptance rate. It might be hardly worth applying.

The Old Yard is turning 375.

The John Harvard Statue is famous for its three little lies (hint hint that's not really him)!

Then it was off to the Legal Sea Foods, one of Boston's most popular restaurants! Very Fine Treat #1: Clam Chowder was in the works. Full of clams and potatoes and my favourite - CREAM!

Fried clams with fries was a little ambitious on the day before the marathon. The waitress wouldn't let me substitute the fries for the clam chowder; hence, the decision was a no-brainer - I had to get both.

Fancy light fixtures caught my attention.

You won't find this in Harvard.

From Harvard's pretty Harry Potter look to MIT's almost unfinished improvised look. I got the impression a delinquent randomly drew up these geometry to rebell against the rest of historic Boston.

When we found our friend Liam and we sure didn't mess around. We found the highly tasty Very Fine Treat #2: Boston Crème Pies (albeit the mini-version without the exterior creme and cocoanut) at the Quincy Market where Carl and I had originally pass by in our Freedom Trail Run.


Yes these weren't the full sized ones, but who were we to nick pick. These were fabulous. I ate most of the top layered pudding first, realizing it was all cake on the bottom (I was told I was eating it all incorrectly).
More to come on the real one...this was only the mini version. Carl, Liam and I ended up sitting on this bench all day for nearly 4 hours catching up (and smelling the wonderful horse poop seen in the background). I was too tired to walk after a few days of travel. The marathon we planned on tacting on was also the next day. NBD!! =)