Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Letter to My Future Self - Year End Recap and Goals for 2016

Last month, I attended a networking event with a professional event planner as the guest speaker. She seemed knowleable when it comes to goal setting. She suggested that we try writing one to our future selves.

Here's a selfie letter addressed to future me a year from today...

Dearest Future Me,

Looking back, I don't think I quite pictured so much travelling opportunities for Year 2015. I can certainly put some of the blame to my friends for instigating. As a result of some ambitious planning, I was rewarded with some amazing adventures that I'll cherish for a very long time.

A 4-day trip to Maui turned into a jammed packed schedule when I blindly added more itinaries to it. From running in a local race, biking around the west volcano (note to future self, the size of it is a lot bigger than it looks on a map), and climbing up the famous Haleakala, I wanted to do it all. Future me, can you blame me? The secret to make this possible were picking up a full box of Gatoraid from Costco and practically getting no sleep during those 4 days. Brian and the rest of the engineering gang had to put with my extra-curricular cardio sheninagans.

A double red-eye flight to Sweden via Iceland doesn't sound very pleasant but we were on a budget and luckily got to see a 'corner' of Iceland during the 19 hours or so layover (another note to future self, Iceland is also much larger than it appears on a map). Jen and I checked out the boiling hot Geysers that had water bursts every 10 minutes and Gullfoss, one of most famous waterfalls in Europe. We didn't see much darkness for 50 hours as we flew above the darkness circle. We were fortunate to explore both east and west coasts of Sweden with the help of locals and to tact on that World Championships Long Distance in cute little town Motala. By absolute dumb luck, we flew in on Sweden's biggest holiday called Midsummer and enjoyed the local festivities. We made some friends with other Team Canada athletes. We took on so many modes of transportation from renting a car in Iceland, taking a ferry to Sandhamn Island east of Stockholm, embarking on a double-decker bus which had free ferry service to nearby Islands near Goteburg, not the mention the countless trains and busses. This summary blurb doesn't do justice, remind me to read Jen's full travel race recap. 

A road trip to Oregon with Derrick wouldn't be complete had we not visited Nathaniel and Sophie in Portland. We had tacted on a race in Eugene and stayed in a house transformed into a hostel. We enjoyed some food truck and voodoo doughnuts.

A trip to the land of cottage country and floating barges with motorized engines was next. Lise was able to trick me into signing up for the inaugural Ironman in Muskoka. It was more of an adequeate excuse to meet up with several other friends along the trip including Vince, Hector, Claire and Andrew.

Some highlights this year are definitely breaking most of my running PBs (ie. 5k,8k,10k,half,full marathon), qualifying for a Duathlon Worlds AG spot, cracking top 100 in an Ironman for the first time (50th without the pros in Muskoka), and finishing as 2nd top Canadian in the Worlds Long Distance Triathlon in Sweden. 

Despite all these adventures and many personal acomplishments, I know, future me, you see this large monkey on my back still. I've been told by one or two local professional athletes particularly that they see potential in me, but I smile way too much in races. I apparently should be pushing harder. The fitness is there, it's a question of will power and determination. I think for 2016, I'll need to crank out (pun intended there) a few solid local performances. I.e less travelling and more local races and more painful suffering. 

Realistically, I want to aim to:
A - qualify for 2017 Worlds in Penticton.
B - get those sub 3 hour marathon and sub 10 hour ironman monkeys off my back.

The time has come. No more sandbagging and soft pedalling.

PS - Two exciting things on the 2016 calendar is Boston Marathon and I'll be an ambassdor for TRS Racing Team next year. TRS Racing team is an international amateur triathlon team. I'm also signed up for Great White North and know I'll be competing against some friends for those coveted qualifier spots!

In the meantime, I'll be keeping busy learning and networking as always. My career is certainly left a little idle these days, but I know there will be many opportunities for 2016. It's time to chase them, which is both scary and exciting.

Wish me luck! 

Winston (me!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Bonus race - Rock 'N' Roll Vancouver RR

A side note: Thanks to Triathlon BC, I managed to snatch up a last minute entry into the race.

Alas, my very first entry into the popular RNR series. My training was a bit all over the place leading up to this one, but I survived the half marathon in Vancouver late last month. My overall impression of the race was a positive one.

The post-race beer garden and concert festival reminded me of the marathon majors atmosphere like Boston and Chicago. More than the usual race, many local bands were sprinkled along the half marathon route. However, I overheard after the race from some hardcore RNR old timer that this race lacked some music along the course compared to others RNR races. Haha jeez, tough sell!

There were two distances to choose from, i.e. a 10k on Saturday and a half on the Sunday. This was the second year since RNR took over the existing 10k James Cunningham Seawall Race.

Only after finishing the race did I realize what all the fuss was about, hidden inside a few white tents set up near the finish area. Runners can claim their serious additional bling, which were dished out for competing in multiple races in their series. I have to admit that as a first timer to this brand, I was a bit jealous of the bling but of course I didn't earn them. Ironman has a lot to learn from these guys.

I didn't do my homework before the race, but check out #RunForTheBling which has a whole whack of medals. One for doing both 10k and half races organized over the weekend. One for doing the ones on the west coast. Another for a World Rocker. My goodness there was one for everyone. To entice you some more, they also offer a packaged tourpass to save money.

******Anyways enuff of the long spiel, onto the race recap!******

This race had a comfortable 4hour limit and a start time at 8:15am. The race was broken into several waves based on finishing times. Weather was pleasant and dry.

First thing I did was a little warmup jog towards the morning clothing bag-drop trucks after parking my car a few kilometres away.

The volunteer at the table for the G-H last names truck asked for my name. And by absolute luck someone repeats "Winston Guo" after I had said it. It was my good friend Kevin, fellow triathlete who was there competing as well. I barely recognized anyone in a field of 5k people until that point. All of us, triathletes even disguised into proper running attire, really do stick out like sore thumbs, eh? Awesome. :)

The race felt very much like the sun run. Similar downtown area and absolutely no space for pre-race curb stretching without asking politely.

Shaun. during spin class, mentioned about the survivor story of a man from last year's event. At the startline tent next to the announcer, two very special people were given a celebrity introduction. Apparently, a man collapsed during the race last year and a doctor who was running near him stopped and performed CPR. The man survived and ran with the doctor in the race for this year.

I squeezed my way into the first wave and just behind the elites. Jen was there! I wished her good luck and asked her to move closer upfront with the other elites.

The course was generally a large clockwise loop starting on Hastings Street between Burrard and Thurlow, pops into scenic Gastown, ramps up the Dunsmir viaduct, and wraps around the seaside seawalls, cuts onto Pipeline road, and finally finishes at Stanley Park seawall near Devonian Harbour Park, right next to Stanley Park.

1-3km - It was a slight downhill towards Gastown along Alexander and Railway Streets. I held back efforts and watched the pack comfortably.

4km - Once reaching Powell Street turnaround, there was slight hill on route back. You could catch a glimpse of the leaders at this point. Someone joked to me "Still not too late to catch them" - I laughed and thought haha yeah right. #nochance

7km - We ran up the Dunsmuir Viaduct. A medium climb but the efforts still felt strong and steady.

8km - I could still see Jen running the entire way only about 10-20 metres ahead. We did a mini loop around the viaduct onto the Carrall Street Greenway. There was a pack of runners running with her. Jen pulls out to tie her shoes, only then must I pass her for the time being. I was secretly hoping to hang on with her within sighting distance for as long as possible.

9-11km - I catch up to former UBCTCer run coach Ivrin. He was looking strong and we exchanged places like yo-yo. At this point, I was still holding strong. Jen passes me again undernaeth the Granville bridge. I was still feeling good as this was my previous home turf training grounds that I would do all the time.

12-13km - Still holding strong but the pace fades a little bit along the seaside English Bay area.

16-17km - The infamous Pipeline Road, which had the biggest elevation gain of the route. I just couldn't recover after this point as my foot pain started. I no longer had the punch in my legs like the first 12kilometres.

18-21.1km - Runners were passing me. It wasn't pretty!

Where is that doctor?! I wanted to collapse at this point of the race too!

I lost most of my time on the last 5k, from being on pace with a couple minutes faster than my PB time, to missing my PB time entirely. It's one of those embarrassing races! Argh you can say! Butter fingers and choking epic-ally near the finish. Had I ran a less positive split for the race, it would had felt a lot better. Well I know a future PB is certainly within me.

No words. The nerdy graph doesn't lie...

In short summary, the hills killed my steady pacing. It's not a fast course like the First Half.

Thanks for reading!

Kevin and I enjoying some post race "Windstorm" beer, as the sign indicates.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Sunrise Run - Goodlife Fitness Victoria 8K Road Race RR

Some exciting news to share before I get onto the race report from the Victoria 8K over the long Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.


1 - I am mostly moved in with my roommate Brendan. Living with a professional triathlete certainly is inspiring. Aside from the frequent feverish boring talk on light cardio related topics, Brendan would often bake these amazing recipes virtually from scratch, from his big white textbook, NY best seller - Joy of Cooking. Yummy treats like pumpkin pies, apple crisp, homemade pizza, and I threaten to "v"-log it to provide a means of supplemental income for him. Still haven't acted on it though...

2 - On top of my morning bike courier breakfast deliveries, with huge help from Brendan I've managed to picked up another moonlight job as a Spin Instructor at the local bike shop Westpoint Multisport. I've survived teaching (and participating) in 4 brutal classes so far and enjoy it a lot! With minimized time for training, my workouts have been a bit more focused. The same can't be said for that still odd water exercise called swimming.

3 - A special shout out to Jon Heinz, who is currently in India. He will be our third and final roommate when he returns to the country, whenever that might be. In the meantime, he kindly requested that I blog more frequently for strictly selfish reasons. That is so that he can keep tabs of my training and make sure I don't get ahead of him. Good to know there's at least one reader of mine out there. :) 


Is an 8K road race even worth blogging about? 

Shameless to admit, sure it is! I've never actually ran a distance less than 10k officially (by officially I mean when there's verifiable public proof i.e. online chip-timed results). 

Given if I finish, 8k was going be an another distance to put in the PB books for this year. My only obstacles are: 
- the 6-hour time cut-off, 
- and ensuring no kids in their early teens photo-bomb my pictures. 

It's totally okay when older men and ladies beat me, but I think the kids need to earn their spot on the ladder pecking order if they want it enough to beat me. :P 

There are the classic half and full marathon distances as well, it's ironic that the regular full marathoners get less time than us 8Kers with only 5:29 to finish or else they need to go to the early start.

Katrina, Eric and I opted for an afternoon ferry to get onto the Island. Jen should had joined us too, but unfortunately caught a bad bug leading up to the race and smartly decided to take some recovery time instead. We visited Theresa's new place and had a nice pre-race pasta with her. I can conclude that a dietary nutritionist certainly has all the kitchen gadgets imaginable. 

I also re-united with our Canada House roommate from Sweden this year, Karmen. It's funny because now I've bumped into or seen all of our fabulous housemates since Sweden (Jen, Hector, Claire, Alyssa, and now Karmen). Talk about a small triathlon community here in Canada. Karmen and Jim was just the most amazing hosts for my stay and only a short jog to the start line on Belleville Street. 

Super runners Jen and Mike have told me that this 8K course is not exactly the fastest with some minor hills to negotiate. Their take-home tip was to approach it like it was a 10K race. 

It's a brutal start only if you compare yourself to the later risers doing the marathon. 
7:15am for us. I wore arm warmers in 12 degrees C and thought I could do without them. 

The course starts near the finish area, westbound on Belleville Street, a few zig zaggy turns for the first kilometre and smooths out on Dallas Road. The turnaround at Beacon Hill Park is just before Cook Street with a gentle hill.

Overall it's still a fast out and back course that warps around the scenic oceanfront.

I channeled the "so-smooth" running style mentioned by the commentators when streaming some of the Kona action the day before.

Interesting pace work for an 8k, and nothing like the super conservative starts of a typical marathon. Everyone near the front wave went out hard during the first two kilometres. Suicidal pace going sub 3:30s. The pace settles quickly and the gap opens and the pack thins into linear fashion by only 3K for me. I was running in the 3:30s to 3:40s per K.

Hearing Steve King's voice at the finish was nice. It wasn't pretty but I squeaked out a sub 29 minutes. Luckily, I did manage to win my *gender* age-group (the lead girl in this age group absolutely crushed it). It was a lot of fun. Slowpoke long course athlete posing in the shorter distance. I think I could had easily held on for another 2k if it was a 10K race. But, I still need to do some serious intervals if I want to figure out a clue to get any faster.

Eric and I got to relax and chill for the rest of the morning and cheer on Katrina and the rest of the marathoners.

Thanks for reading. Shameless again, I just couldn't refuse a cheap entry and I'm looking forward to the Rock and Roll Half this weekend. :D

Happy fall running!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Big Move and Racing Cottage Country - Muskoka IM RR

August sure was a busy month! Not only was I stoked for this inaugural full-iron Muskoka race at the end of month, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to move in with one of my best friends Brendan. It was an awful taper plan but I made it worked.

Long story short, my fabulous friends from both ends of the country were able to help me out, big time. Definitely stating the obvious here but don't try to move and do an ironman in the same month on your own. :P

Sunrise Swim for Hospice

Andrew, Lise and I arrived in cottage country in Huntsville early and we had some time to kill. Andrew wanted to smash some beers as a new pre-race ritual. Even I decided to join in on the smashin' action (only 1 beer for me) at On the Docks Pub, which was in the heart of the town of Huntsville with a scenic view of the water. At the pub, Lise shamelessly signed us all up online for Sunrise Swim for Hospice, which was like Huntsville's version of Kona's "underwear" charity event.

The event was surprisingly very well organized with a guest speaker and good music and more food than you can imagine. We chit-chatted and made some local friends as this was their go-to swim spot.

The coolest propelled floating barge was used as a coffee/tea post swim hangout spot.


We stayed at a cabin, err cottage about 8km along the bike route from the expo resort area. The owner was great and shared a little bit of the rich history of the property. We learned that between the two nearby lakes exist the Guinness World record for the shortest railway line in the world. 

The water temperature was perfect for wetsuit swimming. The swim was also flat as a pancake and had no currents to worry about.

I was nervous but excited as I haven't done one in over 14 months. I seem to have a bad memory and always forget how hard these races are. I rode a bit of the bike course from Dwight Beach to SeeBreeze. The little SeeBreeze out and back was added subsequently to make the bike course the full 180km. Dwight Beach was pretty bumpy at times and you needed to pick your lines carefully to find the smoother patches. We drove the remainder bits from Baysville to the end of the two-lap-bike loop. 

Deerhurst Resort

Car was parked at a nearby unused air strip and then we got shuttled in. It was neat that the transitions tents were actually inside the Deerhurst Resort. We snaked our way into the swim start. I followed Lise into the front of the 1:10 corral to find her mom (credit for below pic).

Rolling Start Swim

Only 10 athletes were permitted to start at a time, which was slow. Andrew must had started near the front. Lise just made the group in front of me. I had to wait about a minute until the next release. Apparently they were too causal and eventually started rushing people to get them all out by 7am.

A very peaceful swim in Peninsula Lake and the buoys were easy to spot. I had no problem swimming. The problem was getting a good draft behind a big pack. Simple rectangle clockwise loop. We got out onto the 18th hole and got stripped on the greens. Luckily Lise's mom was able to spot me and help me get my wetsuit off. I scraped my elbow in an embarrassing fall a couple weeks earlier during a run across Burrard Bridge and had to gingerly peal off the neoprine.  

Flew Up the Hill in Transitions

Hector, who I met in Sweden this year, cheered me on at the hill towards the Deerhurst Resort. A solid 300m run up a little hill. I was moving quickly. The little spot inside just for me was good as not many people had arrived yet. I had no idea of my swim time at the time.

Taken Eve of Race

Beauty and the Beast Bike

The stick and lollipop two loop bike course consisted of small climbs + technical decents at Dwight Beach for the first third. One soul tried passing me at a technical turn of one of the descents and I was not impressed as he could had easily done it before or after the downhill turn. The locals definitely enjoyed a slight home course advantage as I was still struggling to pick my lines to avoid the killer bumps on the roads.

Silly SeeBreeze section out and back was when I got a time-check on my friends. A glimpse of Andrew biking in the other direction looking about 10 minutes ahead. Lise must had been a few minutes ahead at that point.

It took me a good 90 minutes to catch Lise on the bike. It meant that she absolutely killed it on the swim (1:03). I didn't exactly have a bad swim either, going about 7 minutes quicker than my best. The 4k pull swims this year has helped.

The second third of the loop consisted of Hwy 35 into Dorset and Hwy 117 out of Dorset. This stretch gets a bit flatter and more exposed. The second lap was when I felt a gust into my sails. My fingers getting numb and mind temporary loosing the ability to push. I had to take a good 1 minute break at the potty to get it back together for the last third.
The killer head winds from the last 2nd third would had meant a little tail wind on the trip back into Deerhurst. Yeah wishful thinking. Forested and more hillier. It's like the course knew, and took it away. The race was super fair, I don't think much unintentional drafting occurred as the people were all thinned out. 5 bikes length between everyone was plenty of space! 

My Way or the Highway Run

Two lap course consisted of mostly highway road (from Deerhurst Resort to Huntsville twice basically). I enjoyed the ends as there were lots of people cheering. The middle parts were unkind to say the least. 

It wasn't the run time I wanted, but at least I had good style. It was really nice of Jen to remind me my own words that the run required running "tough". I initially took the first 10k extremely easy. The thing is everyone gets jumpy coming out of T2 and wants to hold a strong pace. A guy that passed me early on running at 4 low minutes pace ended up only running 2 minutes quicker than me in the overall marathon. I just applied the brakes early on and held onto that slow pace that for as long as possible. Slow and steady worked for me. Slowly runners were turning into walkers but I held a steady pace. 

Highway heat and some rollers to get there wasn't exactly the easiest running. About 7km into the run was where one of our Hospice friends was cheering us on, Catherine! Andrew was the most encouraging runner out there, he gave me a turbo burst with his outgoing energy and words of encouragement. 

I enjoyed every little cloud cover that we would have from time to time. Stuffed ice in a few unmentionable places. 

Nerdy graph comparison to previous PB
Overall, not quite the sub 10 time I was aiming for but I'll take 10:18. First time in an Ironman cracking top 100 (finished 50th but no pros field) and better than top 10 in my age category (7th). I still have some room for improvement and to push harder for next time. :) Slowly creeping up the ranks. :D

It was nice catching up with a few familiar faces. Reconnected with Claire, nice to see her bounce back after Sweden, and with Kevin, former president of ubctc team.

Thanks for the continued support and for tuning in again. Time for some serious down time. :)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Duathlon means Deadly Calves – Point Grey Du RR

Well friends, sorry it’s been a busy month, so I apologize that this post is a bit of a ramble.

Ironman Canada weekend was supposed to be spent volunteering and cheering our many friends doing the epic race. Last year I had a blast (pun to come) to say the least; I passed the first bottle of water at the first bike aid station to Marino Vanhoenacker and basically blasted as many bottles I can to everyone passing by. Oh and cheered on some friends too.

Of course as luck would have it, two very good friends’ (James and Stef’s) engagement party was during the exact same afternoon for this year’s event. So, I figured I would make my morning productive and sign up for a local triathlon ehem duathlon race, anyways without realizing what I was really up against.

What the heck is exactly a duathlon you say? 

Lots of deadly calves pain. That’s what I get for chasing the wrong guy, who I thought was in my age category. More to come on this.

5k run, followed by 20k bike and another 5k run. 

Ekks! My brain hurts just reading that second 5K.

For such a short race, we had terrible conditions. At least it was consistent. Heavy downpour of rain. We were all bunched up together under a tent to stay warm before the start. I was debating all morning on whether to use A or B runners, A or B cycling shoes, two shoes or the same pair, two pairs of socks or one...etc etc. Ended up using A shoes, and B cycling shoes and one pair of super soaked socks. 

We were also thinking of the poor people doing the race in Whistler, they must had had it worst. Funny that we were wearing arm warmers in late July, when during the UBC tri in mid March this year, we got away with only sleeveless tri top and shorts. Of course just hours after the race, the rain would stop.

The 5k loop consisted of a lollipop figure (i.e.  a stick and two loops around the thunderbird stadium similar to the crit bike race on Tuesdays). 

The 20k bike was a stick and two loops of the same UBC tri course.

The duathlon portion of the Point Grey (which also had Sprint and Short tri distances) was also sanctioned as the official Provincial Championships and I was secretly eyeing the potential belt buckle. I knew the guy I had to beat was Jen's friend Nick. 

The small field was deep. Many versions of Team Canada outfits were proudly represented. Jen and I had our UBCTC outfits, which was fitting considering we were on home turf.  

The gun was off and the first 5k felt like a open road race. Jen, Nick, and another guy named Mike exchanged the leads many times and I was struggling along about 10 metres back the entire 5k. The first 5k was actually 5.1k, and as the trio approached T1, I caught up to the pack and cheekily passed them for my very short lived TV time as they say in the Tour de France (about 4 seconds before I lost it). :) 

It wasn't a smart move on my part. I have lots to learn about tactics and duathons...Jen also joked afterwards that someone mentioned the water run 5k and swim was done. What's next? Paddle boat the ride of course! Another instance, Matt and Vanessa was also making fun of me before the race and my nutritional bento box plans for short course racing. Ugh...seriously Winston? C'mon...

One person had a fast transition with last year's camo, I thought that must had been Nick. The one person I had to chase down. It was a bit frustrating because the leader stayed within 10 seconds gap the entire 20k. In a long distance race, you can chase them down easily. I was thinking wow the leader is definitely making me earn this!

T2 was mind-numbing slow despite being only around 40 seconds. I had my wet socks still on that I was suppose to discard during T1, and couldn't see with all the rain. It wasn't a flawless transition, one shoe I couldn't get out in time, because the appraoch to T2 was a mini climb. 

I ran the first kilometre of the second 5K (aka run KM 6) going 3:50 per km pace on dead calves. I guess averaging 38.8km/hr on the bike doesn't exactly give you the freshest calves either. By 2km in, and approaching the loops, I can see the leader running a similar pace as me. It was a bit disheartening because I was already going at threshold pace and the pain was the only thing I could control. The gap wasn't closing. 

Turns out the leader beat me 12 seconds on the run and bike portions, and absolutely destroyed me by 30 seconds on the transitions. Talk about an ITU style racing. I crossed the finish line and was surprised to see the Mike, who was also wearing the Camo suit. Nick was close behind, and it was a good thing that Mike lead the race for the most part, otherwise I would have likely needing a sprint finish with Nick, who would had likely beat me given his experience. 

I guess my fitness is coming along, but I still have a lot to learn on the tactics and those mundane transitions. 

I was racing the people in an older age category because I'm turning 30 next year for a Canada slot for the worlds in Spain, but it's probably 99% safe to say I won't go because James and Stef wedding is during that weekend ironically. Also my finances are a bit broken after Sweden this year. :)

Thanks for reading. My goodness, the recovery for a duathlon was brutal for me. I couldn't stand up straight because of DOMS calves on day 2-4 post race. It wasn't pretty to say the least.

Also a huge thank you to TriBC for drawing me in their wonderful prize pack giveaways! The Rudy Project and Aqua Sphere gear are fabulous! Perks of being a member, I guess. :D

No belt buckles, but the medals seem like a bit more classier touch! :)

Photo cred: Naiely for coming out to cheer in the rain! I was too confused after the race and couldn't spot her.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Bit by the triathlon bug – Motala ITU World Championships RR

Warning: brace yourself for an extremely long post ahead. :)
Some personal struggles, some training, and finally some of my reflection at the World Champs. I’ve left out the fun travel stuff for future blog posts. :P

Boring pre-race thoughts and struggles.

It’s funny how life’s lessons can be pretty unpleasant at times, and yet you must face the new opportunities presented to you head on. This scares me.

The big competition was happening in this cute little farm town that the locals giggle about when I mention Motala, Sweden.

Here's my story and a little snapshot of my journey and struggles to this world championships:
  1. Got laid off from my job
  2. Gained some insights by racing a lot more (Mike McMillan may say this is an understatement)
  3. Accidentally qualified at Vancouver for 2015 Worlds (albeit, as one of the slowest National Champions in recent history for my age category, but hey I’ll take it).
  4. Got a new job
  5. Signed up for Worlds (Jen Moroz qualified as well and peer pressured me to sign up…but it’s not her fault as I may be the easiest person to convince for a race-vacation, “racation” when there's friends, travel and race involved)
  6. Got laid off (yes not a typo, again…due to the same tough job market)
  7. Got a little bit better as a triathlete
  8. Have the race of my life at the World Champs! I’m ready for this!
I’m learning to think like a triathlete and less like a traditional runner. I was willing to devote to a fast race from start to finish with transitions included like the typical hockey analogy of playing for the full three periods.

My finances were certainly stretched, with not having to fall back on the steady income. This forced me to cook more meals and eat out less. I’ve incorporated more pasta and even dare I say it…salads into my diet. Sigh, this was a blessing in disguise. It made me a more efficient athlete. I don’t crave burgers and fries like I used to anymore, but I do still sometimes binge-out on the slurpee department however. :P

Pre-race conditions and strategies.

Especially for the newbie triathletes in the lead-up to any big competition, I would say it’s pretty normal to dwell your energy on the race conditions and moan about the bad and hope for the good.

There certainly wasn’t a lack of this in this race as the water temperatures to air temperatures dipped near the lower spectrum of the fancy matrix calculations (I haven’t bothered studying it since they would change it anyways).  We only found out within the last 24 hours from race start from our team manager that the swim would be shortened from 4k to 1.5k. The little canal locking bridges were going to go up at 11:30am and may conflict with some racers on the bike course, so the race start time was adjusted a little later to accommodate the shorten swim. A little more sleeping-in time for all. Considering the midsummer sun rise was at probably around 3am and the race start was close to 9:30am, we had over 6 hours of solid sun to prep for the race start. It was nice!

Normally I would be thrilled for the shorten swim aspect, since I would think that I am a runner and the general notion that runners don’t like to swim longer distances. However I learned to tune the distractions out and just accepted it for what it is. I was satisfied with any distance because I trusted my training for a 4k swim will show regardless in the actual distance of the race unless of course the entire length of the swim was to be cancelled.

Brendan Naef, a professional triathlete and a very good friend who I have raced with in my first five ironmans called me up before the race to talk about some strategy. He’s a great mentor for me even though he’s too modest to admit it. After pestering him for a bit in the weeks advance, he eventually suggested that I should be more aggressive on the bike because my “strong” running background this year can handle it.

Mike McMillan, a close training friend, also suggested I don’t soft-pedal. I guess that means no negative splitting and taking it easy on the bike unless there was a sharp hairpin turn.
I’ve completed the training; hopefully this was worth the gamble. It is the World Championships after all. 
Race numbers and timing chips everywhere! Can you spot them all? :)

Nutrition plan.

I’m a gels person.

One gel pre-swim. Packed 6 gels for the bike. And 3 gels for the run.

3 salt pills for the bike and 5 more for the run.

2 penguin bars for the bike.

Bought this Swedish powerade passion fruit for the bike.

The rest of my nutrition was relied upon the aid stations.

Note – Little did we know, we all found out during the race that no gels would be provided at the aid stations. It was a fair decision, but I think it affected most people as this was not anticipated.

Ok the race, calm cool and collected.

With the shortened swim and delayed start, we had plenty of time for chit chat and photo ops.
Such a rookie mistake to forget the bento box.
Solution: Zip-lock bag and electrical tape.

Pre-race jitters

Cold, slightly choppy, and crowded swim start!

Race start was a floating start and separated into three heats starting at 10 minutes apart. First elites, second males under 50 and thirdly females and males over 50. Para-athletes started a further minute back from the third heat.

The gun was off.

My race experience was a bit different from the ladies and older males heat. Despite being a little crowded starting in the second row near the centre on the way out, I actually got to swim on the way back with the tail current. Mostly clean swimming the entire way, I didn’t experience any extreme kicking or grabbing unlike the horror stories heard from the later heat. Sighting off the church was helpful as someone suggested earlier during our team swim orientation. Everyone was pretty respectful despite the crowded packs. Certainly there were the odd times of touching others and friendly bumping near the turns.  I drafted people most of the way and very fortunately got a quicker swim for 1500m by a couple of minutes when everybody else saying it was a couple minutes slower. A lady on our team Canada team had given me a nice compliment that I was the only person she came across who didn’t whinge about their swim time. I was quite thrilled going 2 minutes faster than my personal best. 25:12. (1:41 per 100m pace). It was a great start to the day!

A dizzy T1.

Sandwiched by two fellow Canadians beside me. I was the "jam".

The fast swim meant that I would be a little dizzy getting my wet suit off. Hector , talented swimmer and triathlete from our house, said this was quite normal if you pushed it hard on the swim. I drifted for a solid couple wobbles before re-gathering my composure. The poor volunteer in front of me during my episode must had thought I was a zombie.

Grabbed the bike and heard our team manager Joyce cheering. She was a welcomed face and motivation on the course. My fellow Canadian mates in my age category came out around the same time. I managed to see Jamie on the bike rack and wished him good luck.

European-style bike racing.

Everyone was going a touch faster than my comfort effort. I averaged close to 38-39 kph on first lap. I saw Jamie on the first turn-around and then started to push even harder. Too fast!

There were a lot of swedes on the course. I was impressed by the sportsmanlike conduct displayed by most when hazards appear on the course. Friendly gesturing when there was a hand-cyclist on the right, water bottle on the road and sharp turns. The sharp hairpin turn-around was about a 1 metre wide and too sharp of a bend even when going slowly around to approach the next lap. I nearly smoked the gates on a couple occasions at slow speeds. Luckily everyone was pretty careful around me.

The people who had deep rims stayed on pace. You needed these wheels just to play the game. I certainly was enjoying the European style competitive racing. I was holding 37 kph on the second lap and noticed the stronger cyclists slowly pulled away. The moderate winds got a little stronger.

I struggled on the third lap as I ran out of my supply of gels. One more would have been nice. But I guess everyone was suffering a bit on the last lap so it was still pretty steady in placing. I got dropped by a few more stronger cyclists on the second lap but slowly passed a few more on the last lap. Every time I passed the penalty area, some people would sprint to the box to serve their time. Good to know that some enforcement was in place. There’s a nice little grassy patch of farmlands and you can see the linear waves of cyclists weaving through the fields. Some people noticed there was sushi provided by the Japanese support car!? Could this be true? I averaged low 35s kph on the last lap. 3:15:41 (avg 35.7kph) Incredible, way faster than my 70.3 pace!

Uneventful T2.

I grabbed my three gels and kinder surprise container with salt pills. I noticed a good chunk of my rack was still missing bikes which meant I was in good shape. None of the fellow Canadians in my AG were there yet, but I knew they both were great runners.

Some camera time and a solid run.

First two km, I had to shake off some bricky legs. At one moment I even ran backwards like 10 metres to pick up the three gels that dropped from my pockets as the crowds kindly pointed them out. After Eugene marathon and dropping my salt pills, I knew the few added seconds was worth the trip back.

Fedrik from Sweden asked me what my pace goal was and I said 4:20. He agreed and ran with me for the first two laps. We both were cruising smoothly at the same pace. It was nice having foot steps along the way. A lot of stronger runners had passed me. I was still holding strong at 4:30s. I got slower in the trails, did not appreciate the 2x one kilometer sections of trails.

Mary Beth Ellis was completing her third lap when she lapped me going at 4:20 per km pace. The camera on the motor biked pan his camera on me on a few occasions before Mary Beth Ellis approached and eventually passed me. I tried running with her for a few kilometer but I don’t think she appreciated my company as much as I appreciated hers. Fedrik from Sweden held strong and went a couple minutes faster on the last lap. Again, no gels at aid stations, and it was a good call to run back for the gels. I still felt comfortable but my pace slowed a bit as my lack of nutrition followed. 2:17:56 (4:35 per km pace).

Finish finally.

Hector Rodriguez, our top Canadian team finisher greeted me at the finish line. It was a very nice gesture for him to say he was worried I might catch him despite the shorter swim, which he would had digitally spanked me by more time anyways. Honestly I had no idea he was that close ahead and I was more worried the other two Canadian strong runners in my AG and others in my AG would catch me. As always my intention is to make the passer earn the pass. I somehow posted the quickest time from T1 to Finish from our Canadian team, but only barely as Hector was less than a minute from me and discounting his phenomenal swimming abilities.

Final thoughts.

Overall this was a very organized event by ITU. The volunteers were fabulous and the competitors were very friendly and sportsmanlike. Smooth diamond shape transitions and bag tunnels. Even beer bottles were removed from the bottom of the lake the day before the race.

This was also one of the few races where a strong swim, lead to a strong bike, and a strong bike lead to a strong run. My friend Carl Reilly would always say that a good run comes with a good bike. He was right!

I proudly finished 11th in my AG (top 25%) and way above my initial top 50% expectation. My time was 6:03 and probably would be under my goal of sub 7 hours had the course been a full distance but happy either way.  I’m very proud of my result and my fellow Canadians competing and I’m going use this experience as a confidence booster in my future races knowing I CAN race with the Europeans and other AG national champions (no pun there Canada ;)). 

That's racing sometimes, you take a gamble by pushing harder and could snowball into a huge advantage. From qualifying as one of the slowest national champions in recent history to one of the faster athletes on the Canadian team, I was elated to represent Canada with such an incredible performance this year. The additional time off from work also didn't hurt. Another blessing in disguise, but I will need to find new employment in the mean time. Shucks, good things will come to an end, unfortunately. :P

Adam Zanbilowicz who I met at the UBC tri this year also performed well, with the help of his entire family on course. He looked great on the run course.

My travel partner in crime Jen Moroz ran herself to top Canadian female finisher. We were lucky to stay with some like-minded Canadian athletes at our little Canada house. I admire their display of friendliness and supportiveness throughout this experience. Kudos to Hector, Alyssa and Karmen for their fabulous company.
Our little home away from home.

Fabulous fellow housemates.

More travel photos and go-pro videos to come.:) Stayed tuned and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sub 3 Almost! - Eugene Marathon RR

Timeline T-minus...
-31 days - Eugene Marathon ("A" Race)
17 days - ITU Motala LD Triathlon ("A" Race)

Fun race here at Eugene, Oregon aka Tracktown USA! Missed my sub 3 by less than a mile, may have just barely eclipsed it on garmin, but that doesn't count! Maybe next time World, keep on watching! :) It's becoming closer to a sport of inches.

My kinder surprise container filled with a few salt pills was opened in my back pocket, which must had occurred when I sat on them while driving in the morning to the bus shuttle. When I tried to grab them at 5k, the pills dropped! Ah poop!

But besides the small mishap, the race strategy went really well. The plan was to cruise the first 35k with a 1:29 half split and run the last 7k like it's only a 7k race. A great tip from Bryan Andrews.

The course was flat and fast, a small hill at 7km, and mostly riverfront along the second half. I was surprised to see trees on both sides of the path when running along the riverfront. A few very steady strong runners passed me, I was impressed. 

I got to 35k right on schedule (with a 1:28:5X halfway split) at steady's 4:15 per km. But the legs just got crushed trying to jump start them for the last 7k. I guess I ran the legs into the ground and the pain was just a bit too much. Only a less than 3 minute positive split which I'm ecstatic about. There was a unsanctioned beer aid station less than 2k away from the finish, despite knowing I would miss my sub 3, I didn't grab the beer as I was determined to still chase a PB. 

The last 200m on Hayward Field, best known historic track in US, was pretty neat! Too bad I was too broken and could only a muster a pedestrianly slow 4:20s - 4:30s per km on the track. ;P

I ended up shaving about 15 seconds off my PB in Chicago in 2013! Considering 6/7 people achieve lifetime PBs in Chicago, I was thrilled with beating this time finally after trying for a couple years.  

Derrick deserves a shout for coming with me and putting up with me all weekend. We visited Nathaniel and Sophie in Portland along the way there and back.  

Couldn't walk the next day. Derrick had to put up with my zombie legs. But Voodoo Doughnuts helped. Can't believe this place is opened 24/7.

It is interesting to see the many similarities in splits between Chicago and Eugene!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Blue makes a difference! - Sun Run RR

Timeline T-minus...
-19 days - Sun Run 10K ("B" Race)
2 days - Eugene Marathon ("A" Race)
37 days - Cultus Lake Loop Triathlon ("-A" Race) Cancelled, bummer!
50 days - ITU Motala LD Triathlon ("A" Race)

After 5 years being stuck around the 39 minutes mark. . . breakthrough!

Things that were different this year.
- squeaked into the blue section by 1 second with time from last year!
- training a little smarter (i.e. no seymour climbs the day before), better nutrition etc.
- got to use the curb for warm-up without asking for permission
- had VIP treatment mixed in with a bit of friends time before the race

My results:
- I actually got my sub 38 goal time! 37:21
- Accidentally knocked off my 5km PB time too. I was surprised to see 18:21 along the 5K split on Burrard Bridge.
- Quick interview with NTDTV, lol don't judge too harshly...I was still dripping sweat after the run. :P  

What's next?
Eugene marathon this weekend! Sub 3 Sub 3! Watch out world!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Fast and Stiff Competition - UBC Tri/Du RR

Haha okay so this report is long overdue, so I'll make it quick. 

Timeline T-minus...

-42 days - UBC Tri/Du ("B" Race)
1 day - Sun Run 10K ("B" Race)
22 days - Eugene Marathon ("A" Race)
57 days - Cultus Lake Loop Triathlon ("-A" Race)
70 days - ITU Motala LD Triathlon ("A" Race)

The UBC Tri/Du had some significant changes to the Transitions, bike, and run courses for this year due to some ongoing construction inconveniences.

As a result the post swim run to T1 was a little bit longer than the previous years (located all the way at Main Mall). The 16th hill was taken out of the bike. And the Run route was modified to be more of a lollipop course (stick+loop).

All in all, I felt I was a bit faster on the swim despite the slower time from last year. A bit of a blood bath near the end of the swim when two swimmers ahead swam too slow, and swimmers behind too fast. I was about 27 minutes 14 seconds (right on target) hitting the wall (1:49 per 100m pace). I felt the extra effort to push pass in the tight lane space wasn't worth the higher energy expenditures.

A doctor, who was in the blood bath group, was very appreciative and apologetic for making me do a chunk of the swim work as we passed each other in T1 and on the run course. Eventually I found out he's going to Sweden ITU worlds as well, which is neat!

The bike was a fast course and where I made some more gains. A kilometre shorter than last year, and minus 4 times a small hill meant a fast course. 

I was battling some stomach side stitches (my weak excuse is that the air was cold) and had to run with them for the 10K. I think there could be room for improvement here. 

All in all, it was a fun race and seeing a lot of the friends of the triathlon community hanging out at the finish line. Honestly, that's probably the reason why I do this race consistently every year. :)

Fabulous location for the new finishing area!
Nerdy Graph 2015 Update