Friday, December 19, 2014

Year End Recap for 2014

It’s been an exciting but tough year for me. 

Coming off the smoking fast and furious courses in Chicago and Arizona in 2013, the overall year of 2014 felt like a slower curse than 2013 but with a hidden success story in a not so obvious way to the untrained eyes. 

The word – perseverance – pretty much sums up my style points for this year.

For one, and despite racing for 10 consecutive years now...some would say it’s about time I secured my first ever triathlon AG “win” (i.e. seriously all those bride maid's positions were well worth it, eh?). The support from friends has always been there, and it is their belief in me that has contributed to my gradual improvement over the many years. So a big thank you. But not so fast, the triathlon gods certainly has a sense of humour – of course my first top of the AG podium result was a non-sanctioned-standard (and for the old schoolers aka Olympic) triathlon distance. Oh sigh the controversy begins… WFT is a trestle challenge you might ask? Okay fine, so the Shawnigan Lake Trestle Challenge doesn’t officially float the boat as my first AG win in a triathlon but wait there’s more to this story. Keep reading… :)

Speaking of 10 years, this year was my tenth year in the sport and the UBC TRI/DU was one event I have never missed (in a upcoming post, I'll summarize my 10 years of racing in 85 races...just joking ) and almost nearly missed this year. Of course the gods and goddesses of triathlon were up to no good juvenile tricks again and destroyed the poor heating system for the 60-year old outdoor pool facility. UBC Rec was forced to suddenly cancel the registration process for the remainder months leading up to the race in fear that new applicants would overload the pool capacity. At the time I was just moments from signing up, but my fingers were just too darn slow (from a lack of fingers intervals and fingers farklet training of course). Luckily our good friends at the UBC Triathlon Club had some extra spots and I was able to trick/charm my way into the race. Phew record secured…also finally breaking the coveted sub 2:30. I was the happiest 4th place AG finisher, especially because way-way ahead of me if you consider taking a sneak peak up the list of results, some heavy lifters big names Chris Young, Nathan Killam and get ugly star Jeff Symonds were all good company in my AG. Amazing stuff.

This year I also struggled big time by falling rock bottom with my working life. For once, with my unexpected newfound available status, I can joke that my work life, triathlon life and dating life can go in no other direction but up! As my many blog followers seems to really appreciate this when really bad news happen. [Silence] DAM you guys!! 

But I forgive you guys, when eventually news were more positive.  :)

Okie, onto more serious stuff. My right knee was showing some weakness in armour. I guess sneaking in a half marathon PB and 10km PB and racing a lot in a period of a few months didn’t help. I was too stubborn to stop training and racing and even persevered through in Oliver with bad nutrition in hot conditions. I still remember Steve King announcing my name saying I was racing in Shawnigan the week before too! The Victoria Half IM was 1km longer on the run, but I managed to achieve a PB 4:48 because of the bike, but had to fake the run.

Leading up to the big race in Coeur D’alene was supposedly my big race of the season. However, I was struggling to run 5km on easy runs leading up to the race without the knee inflaming. I couldn’t bare the thought of running a marathon. I think the difficult bike section made me focus on just finishing the run in CDA. It was one of the slowest bike splits of any given past ironmans despite showing promising results in halfs this year. This goes to show that you cannot fake an ironman, and you especially cannot fake an ironman during tough conditions. 

I learned some hard lessons getting smacked by the winds. With enough head shaking and perseverance, what could be seen as a disappointment finishing more than an hour slower than Arizona last year, this race really opened my eyes in the sense that improvement is not necessarily always a measure of less units of time to complete the distances. If you want your monies worth, the tough conditions in races, whatever they may be on the given day, are the reasons why we get into this sport.

So this brings me to Vancouver Half two weeks after CDA. I was thinking of just a backyard style recovery race but this was actually the big test. A triathlon friend joked that my CDA Ironman race was a prep for the Vancouver race. There were some tough ocean currents, some persistent winds and hot run conditions but nothing I haven't seen already. The experience from the many races came in handy and it was another day in the office. My time wasn't pretty going nearly 5 minutes slower than last year's 14th AGer rank. This year it was a huge shock at finishing - you guessed it - top of the AG podium (but also one of the slowest AG champs around :P). The triathlon gods and goddesses certainly has a sense of humour right? I guess so. This Vancouver race was the national championships and also qualified me for ITU Worlds in Sweden next year; however I was still too bummed to appreciate the moment as I was still job searching. Only 11 days later, I started applying for a new opportunity and eventually within the end of the month I was suddenly employed again, but also leaving my full-time triathlete status behind. Guess before you know it, one thing lead to the next and now I'm going represent Canada and going to Sweden next year! 

It's unusual to be standing here!

Still reading, still here? I guess the lesson here is never stop believing even when the world is against you. The real life script is sometimes best to be left unwritten. Let those tricksters triathlon gods and goddesses take care of the rest. :)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ugh Toronto again!? #STWM RR

Nope don’t be confused, and yup it’s Toronto...ugh-gain.

Nobody does back-to-back-same-destination-races ever, but I can be somewhat excused for my poor taste in variety by visiting the fam of course. For the record, that was the main purpose of the trip - obivously ;). However instead of two weeks of touristie stuff and watching a polar bear do flip turns, this time it was only for two days and it had to be all business with a lot less time to tact on a marathon.

And so Sunday dawned upon too early once again, but I was ready unlike last time. Good thing my sister's place was only minutes from the start and finish. No red-eye flights, I took care by planning an early Saturday morning flight from Vancouver to Toronto. I felt bad, but Naiely was kind enough to insist on driving me 5 am to the airport. Also I've been busy and had to schedule in 6am yoga on the friday before the race to simulate the time difference and reboot those legs (I think it worked).

So to recap, in May of this year, I ran 3:12, with a 1:29ish first half split.  This time around I was originally shooting for the sub 3 hours, but fell short again, however given my training, I was pretty ecstatic with the result. I ran sub 3:07, with the same 1:29 first split for my second personal best time ever. For those number crunchers, these were my three latest marathons, including my PB in Chicago last year.  

I can explain the sudden jump from first half splits to second half splits. So the race organizers for this race decided the people running the half was going to be starting at the exact same time as the marathoners. I only found out the day before from my sister's roommate because she was running the half at the same time. 

This meant that 25k people were storming the streets of Toronto minus the 5km people at the same time. It felt like the majors like Boston and Chicago again, and I was running effortlessly just "staying in the bus" and running crowds. People were making funny hand gestures to be polite changing lines throughout the course of the race. Very sportsman like and gentleman sport I guess. 

Immediately off the start, the running pace was fast and I was trying to hold a steady even pace. This was when a familar friend's doppelganger showed up to the rescue. Backwards white Newton cap and compression socks. He ran as smooth as can be and I tried keeping pace with him. Hopefully he wasn't too annoyed with me. As you probably figured out, this was Derrick Lee's doppleganger as seen in this picture, and he went on steady to finish 2:57.

Credit to Nic Browne for finding this picture.
    Unfortunately for me, I couldn't keep pace by the halfway mark. The half runners were pealing off and the marathoners were left to themselves to battle the dragon so to speak. My legs started to be more stiff and when the tough got harder, I started to slowly fade. I think more progression runs would had help me. Channeling Rinny (Mirinda Carfrae) didn't work. Those legs got stiffer and stiffer and it was only a matter of time the pace was slipping. Race conditions were perfect, and I stayed on top of my nutrition. I noticed the people around me during the second half, had some serious kick in accelerations when they wanted to turn it up a notch. I felt like I was getting dropped like a bag of bricks by cyclists all around me. For most of the race, I was running defensively and it was a mental test.

Overall, I finish around the same time as I normally do and try not to get digitally spanked too much, by successfully finishing within less than one hour from the leaders. I can't say the same for triathlons. But with another marathon under my belt, I know where I need to improve my weaknesses and keep training for the long term goal which is to run a faster ironman-marathon. On a fun fact note, I did get embarrassed by the exact same 3:05 pace bunny in the late stages of the race again as I did from the May marathon. Oh wells, I'll take the baby victories that I can. Sub 3 is definitely within reach if I can only keep my leg fitness in check. 
My sister promoting the other marathon's sponsor. :)

Until next time and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Vancouver Long Distance RR and F/T Triathlete Status in Jeopardy! :D :D

So two weeks after the big kahuna race in Coeur d'Alene, what better way to combat post-m-dot depression than by doing a recovery race in your own backyard, right right? C'mon surely I can't be alone...:D

What a poser! :P

The Vancouver race was fun. Despite being well rested (ehem lack of training) physically from the earlier than usual Ironman two weeks ago, the mental preparation and hoping racing more would increase my fitness on race day was wishful thinking at best. Perhaps some dream-slayers will say I got overly ambitious trying to squeeze 5 triathlons in less than two months and a marathon before that... But dang, it was certainly well worth it. Just enjoying triathlons while I still can and having a lot of fun. No regrets. :) 

In short, the swim had some usual tough ocean currents, moderate winds on the bike, and hot conditions on the run with no ice at aid stations. It made for some fun racing but slower times as a result. Excuses excuses I know they are quite weak! :)

The swim was a game of mad physics and applying vectors to swim to the bouys. They started a new swim wave feature, which makes it a bit lonely swimming with the 40 peeps vs 200++peeps in previous years. I.e. gone are the days of luxury drafting in the waters. Also the extra ocean current made for some extra swimming mileage distance relative to water.  

Mad physics on the swim!
Swim Splits (hey at least I was consistently bad at swimming physics):
Lap 1 19:04
Lap 2 19:13

The bike was uneventful and might be a bit tougher than last year. I tried picturing the winds from the Coeur d'Alene race and making sure I had better nutrition than from Oliver race this year. 

Suffering some s-miles on the bike...:)
I had to really muster up some strength for the run. It was hot and there was no ice at the aid stations which made for some lovely warm showers. In all, business as usual, I've been through quite a bit of suffering this season and this wasn't going let me from not finishing.

Beautiful backyard style racing.

Finishing grind and pretending to look "fresh"!
Quietly sneaked sub 5! 

PS - I'll be starting a new job opportunity next week with an exciting new team and it's bittersweet news that I will no longer racing as a full-time unemployed triathlete. The run was fun while it lasted (no pun intended). Got to pay 'em triathlon bills somehow. :)

PPS - Thanks for zee continued support! I very much appreciate it. Hopefully more racing to come very soon, but going enjoy some down time from racing now. :)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Earning the Cake in this One - IM CDA RR

Well...another one is in the books. Coeur D'Alene m-dot course is no-doubt one of the most scenic races I've done. Clear waters to swim and scenic run. This was my 6th iron-distance and probably the toughest to date. It was a fun race and well supported. The community really embraces this event. 

I don't think I could have done it without all my training partners, especially since this race is so early in the season. Tyler, Jamie and I stayed a bit out of the downtown area about 10km outside in Post Falls. We enjoyed the quietness away from the expo. Here's some random highlights.

During drive back in Washington near the Columbia River along the drive from CDA. Some very scenic volcanic rocks. 

Team Cervelo at Post Falls

The Cedar floating restaurant...we had to had to go....right? (that wasn't a question)
Race morning smiles
Post race slurpee + relaxing

The swim was a beach self check-in start within a 20 minute period much like a marathon run start. I started with the 1hr - 1:15 group about 3 minutes after from the first AG start at 6:40am....super early I know! Tyler started near the front and Jamie about 40 seconds back. The plus side I had plenty of space to swim. It was nice not worrying about the ensuring blood bath that was to occur. It was actually enjoyable minus the choppy swells generated by the winds. It turned out that these winds will be met again on the bike.

The swim split was the only PB on this day. Squeaked in a sub 1:15 :)

Legs needed some HTFU but no luck.
The winds were getting stronger as the day went on. There were parts where I was averaging 20km/hr for a 30km stretch. It wasn't pretty to say the least. The 30kph winds made the two climbs felt like one long continuous one. Hindsight is a bit 20/20 but I think more mountains climbing is required to master this course. Nice smooth steady continuous brute force.

After that tough bike leg, the run felt a lot easier in comparison. Shaded and along the lake. There's one stubborn hill that we do 2 times with a front and back side. I didn't push the pace too much because my knee had been hurting all week in the leadup. I saw both Jamie and Tyler on the run course a few times both exchanging leads. It was fun to watch them go strong into the finish as I started my second lap. It was fun running along the neighbourhood. One house had a microphone and someone would say encouragements along with your name. Another house pumped loud music and felt like a dorm house filled with so many people. 

What a relief. What a day of suffering. A face of a lot of hurt.
Overall, it was a great race. A tough course keeps the competition fair and I definitely got my monies worth. Still ranked into the top 10% of the field. Hopefully next time I can come better prepared for the tough hills on the bike. No more early season excuses. :)

 Can you see my age still on the calf? This is just a taste of the horrible tan-lines awesome souvenirs I got from this one day. :/

Friday, July 11, 2014

Poor Knees - Victoria 70.3 RR

It's always fun coming to Victoria for this race. Great race support, friends to go with and visit, and fast course. Thanks again to Theresa for hosting us.

Well this year was no different on the fast time department, however no longer can I make ground on the run. I guess my right knee has been acting up ever since the marathon in Toronto last month. So my strategy coming in was to do the "damage" on the bike and then "cruise" in the run.

There were also some slight changes with the new wave start for the swim instead of the mass start in previous years.

The swim start was a bit comical for my group, the first wave after the pros start. The horn went slightly two or three minutes after the pros start; however there wasn't adequate warning in anticipation for the horn. We kinda looked at each other and probably thought, "seriously was that the start??" The horn sounded a few more times a few seconds after to ensure we heard it I guess and we were told by the announcer to indeed start. Go along now...children. Past the point of no-return...shucks.
Me looking stunned at the clock. There was no freaking chance that my swim was that fast, must had been short by a hundred metres or so. :)

Well the bike was a huge improvement this year. It felt like this.

Here's the times breakdown, but what's more "kewl" (or super nerdy) is the graph that follows comparing the rank to the entire field. You'll notice my swim is craptastic as per usual but in the top 50% striking range for once (hey I'll take it)! But the run and bike are pretty comparable, where as in contrast in previous the run was always stronger than the bike. Poor knees!

Also the run course was slightly upgraded to the legit 21 km distance from 20km in previous years (haha it's a bit cruel to make the extra out and back stretch uphill).

Blue - pre 2014 route, Red - 2014 version

Ted Car, someone I recognized from racing the Subaru series was quickly running me down. We encouraged each other the entire way, luckily he wasn't in my AG...yet. :)

Interesting the ferry back, a bus load of tourists (including me) were taking pics of our bikes. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Tale of 6 years - Oliver RR

Flashback to exactly 6 years ago on another June 1st, I completed my very first half-ironman in Oliver. 

Just re-reading the race report, I said,  "It sure felt like a million bucks finishing in that form. I was ecstatic about my time. 5 hours 46 minutes and 42 seconds. This race was an eye-opener and something I would definitely try improve upon in the future years."
Yep the retro days...proof that it is okay to rock the jammer shorts in the half iron! I know I know, my colours coordination was pretty phenomenal back in those days. :)

Man has a lot have changed since then. I went on to complete 16 more half iron distance events. So it was nice to finally return to Oliver to do this well organized race again in the wine country. 

Fun road trip and great hospitality, we stayed near the beautiful Gallagher Lake 
Overall, I guess despite the differences in the race course and conditions, I noticed a rough 10-20-10 minutes improvement on the swim-bike-run. I think despite my nutrition mishaps on a hot day, it was interesting to compare yourself to an earlier retro-version.

Swim - was a confidence booster, first time hitting the 35 minutes marker.
Bike - felt good as I was more committed on the bike with the benefit of all the trainer rides we did in the winter. It's amazing what steady pedaling can do.
Run - was just death. Of course my nutrition on the bike was a bit lacking, so the run kinda took a hit. I had my garmin on auto-split per km and it was one of those races where you didn't want to see those splits.

Overall, maybe 'feeling like a million bucks' in this race was a far thing from the truth. I finished in 5 hours 3 minutes and 37 seconds. Great lesson in nutrition.

Speaking of which, some wine tasting was in stored.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Trestle Challenge - Shawnigan Lake RR

WTF is a trestle challenge you might kindly inquire? Good question! :)

My interpretation is it’s basically an option to do more running over the Olympic Distance and I figured since I could use more run fitness anyways, might as well, right? Turns out I wasn’t the only one thinking this way…

It seems like almost all the people who wanted more running were up to the same no good logic. This made for a strong running field. I was chased down by runners instead of passing them after T2. It was weird but a fun atmosphere. The guy who was chasing me down yelled out “make me earn it!” meaning to go faster you slow poke! ;) Luckily I was able to hold him off just barely and finishing the last kilometre with a 4 minute per km split. Another detail I should add, of course there was a porta-potty at the final turn-a-round and I would have loved to occupy it at the time, but having a small glimpse of a guy running you down called for moments on relying on your trusty steel bladder, which worked out nicely. 

A little bit of rain kinda dampened the bike portion. It felt fast considering we only had to do two loops, I was still used to the 4-loops half iron course.

The swim also felt fast and was definitely a good first test in the wetsuit for the season.

PS - Job pursuit is still on. Little did I know, I managed to chat with someone interested in hiring marine engineers of all people at the race. It's a small world and nice to do some networking at these chilled races.  

Click here to read the team's UBCTC recap.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

GF Toronto Marathon RR

Kids, let me tell you a story on how not to run a marathon.

Drum roll please...and here come's all of Winston's weak excuses from the Toronto Marathon broken into 4 simple steps:
Step 1: Take a red-eye flight a few days before race day.
Step 2: Visit your sister and join her Korean BBQ party until 1am two nights before race day.
Step 3: Under-estimate the net downhill course. Note to self: "net downhill" doesn't mean there won't be any killer rolling hills along the way. The latter half of the course near the waterfront also had strong headwinds.
Step 4: Have blindly optimistic expectations that you will be racing at a much faster pace than your training runs on an familiar course. 

And here's the proper way: :P


The nerdy breakdown of the destruction can be found on the race site: click here for RunPix info.

While I was in Toronto, it was nice catching up with a couple of UBCTC friends Matt Reeve and Kyuwon. I still had two weeks to kill while visiting my sister, so I decided to take up the CityPass and checkout some of the other attractions. The marathon was just a tact on...obviously. :) 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sub Thirty-Nine! Sun Run RR

It wasn't pretty but I got to say it's nice to finally break the sub 39 barrier and new PB. Looking back on it, of course I was aiming for sub 39 and was satisfied with the result despite being only a second or two off from not making it. Yes yes I need to do more track workouts...sigh but at least the running gods and goddesses are fair to me.  :)

What was my strategy this time?

Simply brute force as hard as you can from the start line and then let the stronger runners do the heavy lifting and carry you to the finish (approved by a trusted friend Mike McMillan). Pacing was not important, this wasn't a marathon. And besides my weak excuse was my lungs were the bottleneck point anyways. This was a good test for the Toronto Marathon the week after.

How did it unfold?

It was nice bumping into a good friend, Chris Yee. He asked me at the start line what was my goal, and I blurred out sub 39 even though this was really a B-race for me. Chris has improved his fitness greatly and I was happy to keep up for the first few km (he's behind the Ryan Kesler look-alike in the picture below).

At around km 5 just before the Burrard bridge crossing before the elevation gain, I was breathing heavily and I started slowing down.

It was a small pack to run with because the main pack of "heavy lifters" were already gone and started 6 minutes earlier gun time (see same picture below).

In the remainder kilometres I was yo-yoing so to speak with a few runners. I was on pace for sub 38 minutes but saw that bank time evaporating quickly. It was a very positively heavy split (hey I warned it wasn't pretty already).

At the Cambie bridge crossing, I thought I had this guy (in green top in same picture below, last reference I promised) at 9km as I passed him. But I was wrong, he opened a few seconds gap to bring it home. I was happy he beat me because he truly earned it. I apologize in advance for the graphic imagery but will share anyways...I wanted to express my gratitude to this stranger for a great race but had to awkwardly walked away because his "breakfast was also all over the road", so to speak. I'm a terrible person.

A great find from a couple friends, courtesy of the Vancouver Sun website. 

 Another nerdy chart for your viewing pleasure...:).