Haute Route Pyrenees

The 800km route from Barcelona through the Pyrenees to Anglet

The 800km route from Barcelona through the Pyrenees to Anglet

I leave today for Barcelona where I will be doing Haute Route – Pyrenees. It’s a seven day stage cycling race that begins in Barcelona and travels through the Pyrenees mountains to finish in Anglet on the French coast. I am very excited. Actually, I think this is the most excited I’ve ever been about a race.

I expect it will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, which funny enough, is probably what excites me the most about it.

I’ve never done such a long race on so many back to back days. It’s really hard to know how my body will react. I think it’s inevitable (although a bit pessimistic, or is it realism?) that there will be a day or two that my body won’t/won’t want to click into gear. But, I’ll just keep turning the pedals.

Based on what people have said after doing this race, I know the smart thing is to ease into it and go fairly easy for the first couple of days, to train into it, but that will be pretty hard for me to do. I don’t have a step by step, hour by hour race plan. In Ironman, I knew every step of the way how hard I would be working and what I would be eating & drinking. That knowledge and preparation worked very well for me in IM. Although, it took a sizeable error (I feel stupid as I write this, but yes, I drank ~800 calories in the first hour on the bike out which resulted in debilitating stomach cramps) on my first one to recognize that I needed to put more time into planning to be successful on race day. 

Seven stages and 21 cols & ascents, including the famous Tourmalet which we will ascend twice

Seven stages and 21 cols & ascents, including the famous Tourmalet which we will ascend twice

Preparation: shoulda, woulda coulda…I find it a rare event when I speak with another endurance athlete that says they are 100% prepared for the race. I have high standards for myself and I don’t think I lived up to them during this training cycle. I had a lot of personal stuff going on (I’ll spare you the details) that took, without question, priority. I’m not upset about it, it’s just what happened. I’m going to do my absolute best. No excuses. 

Pacing: for Haute Route, it’s truly an endurance event with 20,000 meters of climbing over the seven days, so my overall plan is to burn as few matches (stay aerobic vs. going anaerobic) as possible each day. I’ve learned that I can dig deep for a couple of days in a row, but after that, my reserves can run dry. I expect I will learn a lot more about how my body reacts over the next week. If I’m feeling good on day five I’ll start to dig deeper.

Nutrition: I plan on taking in a bottle of electrolytes every 45 min. I take in as much natural nutrition (bananas) as possible to keep my stomach happy (gels & packaged products work for a one day race, but my stomach is not very happy after the race. TMI?). I’ll also take in electrolyte pills in varying increments, depending on the heat.

Goal

  • C goal – to finish
  • B goal – to finish top 100
  • A goal – to finish in the top 50. Chatting with friends that have done it, I think this is a challenging and achievable goal. Normally I would have a time goal that I work towards which keeps the goal more about me and how I perform, and isn’t relative to others, but it doesn’t seem practical to have a time goal over this distance and varied terrain, so I’ll stick with the placing goal for now. 

I had some incredible training partners this year that pushed me beyond my comfort zone each and every ride, but more importantly made the rides easy with offside banter, laughter and friendship. You know who you are – thank you. 

Allison…I’ll spare the details and just say I couldn’t have done this without your support. Thank you.

This is going to be fun! Thanks for reading.

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2014 Race Calendar

What roads do you plan on traveling in 2014?

What roads do you plan on traveling in 2014?

Feb 16: First Half Marathon

  • One of my favorite races of the year. Great course along the water and usually perfect, crisp, racing conditions. Great to get an early season half marathon in the schedule which encourages winter miles.

Feb 22: P’ayak 50k – Nordic Ski Race

  • I still have yet to skate ski, and this may be an error in judgement going from no experience to the longest distance, but this will give me the motivation to train through January & February. I plan to use skate skiing through the winter as a substitute for mid week training on my bike…because I still struggle with riding in the cold rain of Vancouver winters more than a couple days per week.

Mar 2: Spring Series Aldergrove Short – Bike race

  • The Spring Series is 9 days of racing through March. The series is organized by Escape Velocity, a cycling club based in Vancouver that is passionate about developing the sport, especially amongst youth.
  • My plan for the series is to race the “B” group (roughly category 3) where the distances range from ~80km to 110km.

Mar 8: Spring Series River Road – Bike Race

Mar 9: Spring Series Wix Brown – Bike Race

Mar 15: Spring Series Bradner – Bike Race

Mar 16: Spring Series Murchie Road – Bike Race

Mar 22: Spring Series Thunderbird – Bike Race

Mar 23: Spring Series Atomic – Bike Race

Mar 29: Spring Series River Road Crit – Bike Race

Mar 30: Spring Series Snake Long – Bike Race

Apr 5: Spring Series Aldergrove Short – Bike Race

Apr 6: April Fools Half Marathon

  • I’ve done this one a couple of times. I love the location, course, accommodations, size…just about everything about it.

Apr 20: Sportif Series Aldergrove Long – Bike Race

  • The Sportif Series is 8 days of racing through April – August. This series is also organized by Escape Velocity (thank you!!).

May 3: Sportif Series Thunderbird – Bike Race

May 10: Lost Lake 50k – Trail Run

  • Held in Larrabee State Park and running up Chuckanut mountain. 2500 meters of elevation gain & 50km. Still not 100% committed to this

Jun 8: Sportif Series Atomic Long – Bike Race

Jun 28: Sportif Series Thunderbird Long – Bike Race

July 20: Prospera Valley GranFondo – 160km Bike Race

  • I did this GranFondo in 2012 and it was my first time racing on my road bike. It was a blast that got me hooked. I’m looking forward to doing it again in 2014.

Jul 27: Sportif Series Aldergrove East – Bike Race

Aug 23: Sportif Series Bradner – Bike Race

Aug 24: Sportif Series River Road – Bike Race

Sept 1-7: Haute Route Pyrenees – 7 stage Bike Race

  • My “A” race for the season and where I will target my training in order to peak. ~20,000 meters of elevation, ~800km over 7 days of racing. I’ll be doing many Seymour and Cypress hill repeats all summer to get ready for this one!!

Well, that’s my plan, what’s yours?

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Vancouver’s weather has finally made it’s annual appearance, now I have some time to write

Tofino surfing on a perfect September weekend

Tofino surfing on a perfect September weekend

It’s been awhile since my last post.

A few things have changed but much has stayed the same.

Over the rest of the summer I found myself more and more on my road bike, really enjoying putting the kilometers in. I had my biggest month ever with over 2000km in July. That was fun, and I could feel the conditioning in my legs as I geared up for Ironman Canada in Whistler at the end of August.

That race went great. I had my best Ironman time ever and felt in control (well, more in control than in previous Ironman’s, but that doesn’t say muchJ) the whole race.

I hammered the bike course hard and had my best bike split by a wide margin, on what I would say is the hardest out of the courses I’ve done (Penticton and Coeur d’Alene being the other two). It was one of those days where I was able to keep pushing and the pain stayed at bay, exactly what you need on race day but doesn’t always work out.

The run wasn’t anything spectacular, but I was happy based on the mileage I’d put in. You can’t hope for an amazing marathon time during an Ironman unless you’ve put the work in – there’s no substitute.

I left the swim out, and we’ll leave it out.

Somehow over the course of the day I didn’t keep track of my total time. All I needed to do was check the time of the day to figure it out, but I didn’t do that. I also miscalculated what I needed my run time to be in order to have a sub 10-hour time on the way out of the run transition. Allison even tried to tell me how close I was to a sub 10-hour time 12km or so from the finish, but my brain wasn’t working and I didn’t understand what she was saying (this happens during my race often – my brain’s operating on empty, normal I would say). Anyway, that’s a long way of saying I didn’t meet my goal of a sub 10-hour race and came in with a personal best of 10:03, about 1 minute faster than my previous best. Woohoo, PB!! So cool to see the small improvements add up over time.

Following Ironman, the weather in Vancouver stayed nice and I found myself out on my bike for 3 or 4 rides each week with friends, soaking up the sun as it set earlier and earlier each day. I also found my new-found freedom of no upcoming big races a breath of fresh air.

I also started running more and more on the North Shore, mostly do to the location of my new job. It’s been fun exploring new trails and it’s been a new sensation doing so much elevation, both up and down. It’s a new thing for my legs, but I have noticed some new strength in them during my tempo runs, which I’ve attributed to this change to my schedule.

I remember after first moving to Vancouver I started running on Saturday mornings with a group in Pacific Spirit park. For the first few years, I was following my friends that seemed to know the trails like the back of their hands. I had a very different feeling this morning in the park, where I read the route map once, put it in my pocket and then ran on autopilot. I’m looking forward to investing a similar amount of time on the Shore to learn those trails just as well, although, I think there’s a wee bit more terrain to discover!

My normal Wednesday night tempo session at the West 4th Running Room has really picked up some steam. There’s been a great group of 10+ runners each week in my pace group pushing each other. Each week, someone feels stronger than everyone else and pulls the group along. I look forward to this run each week and treat it as my hardest workout of the week, and therefore, probably my favorite!

I’ve been out riding with the Wedgewood Cycling Team over the last 6 months and have really enjoyed riding with them. They are a great group of people that love to have fun on their bikes while also raising money for cancer research, a great combination. Their rides are over a 100km each week, well-organized, disciplined and with some great hard efforts throughout.

I’ve set my sights on my big race for 2014; I’ll be doing the Haute Route Pyrenees in September. It’s a 7-day bike race that travels over 750km and +20,000m of elevation over the 7 stages.  Having never done anything like this before, I’m not really sure what a reasonable or stretch goal would be, but once I’ve figured it out I’ll let you know.

Committing to my big races now helps me stay focused on my training through the cold/wet/dark winter months.

What are your big races for 2014?

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Am I ready for Sunday?

I have my fourth Ironman in a couple of days and I have so many thoughts going through my head. Have I done enough training? Did I do the right training? Am I getting sick? Am I going to have a good race? A great race? I attribute many of these thoughts to the decreased training volume and thus, the spare time I have to think about such things. The truth is, I am the best prepared I’ve ever been for an Ironman. I have done everything possible to get ready (well, except become a strong swimmer). I know the race is going to hurt. I know there will be things I will learn. And I know I’ll have fun. Second guessing myself doesn’t help anything. Believing in myself, my training and my mental toughness will get to the finish line as quickly as possible.

On Sunday, I will…

  • Focus on finding a set of feet to follow in the swim. I will be relaxed, smooth and efficient.
  • Find my rhythm on the bike, slowly ramp up effort and stay steady from there. I’ll conserve matches while also working hard. I’ll be in pain but it will be a pain I will endure.
  • Be light on my feet in the run. Focus on a high cadence, a smooth stride and a steady pace. I will push through the pain and keep my feet moving.
  • Follow my nutrition plan.
  • And, I will put on sunscreen, twice.

Good luck to everyone racing this weekend!!

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2013 Ironman Coeur d’Alene

2013 Ironman Coeur d'Alene - DONE!

2013 Ironman Coeur d’Alene – DONE!

I’m burnt. I’m really burnt. At the race on Sunday I distinctly remember coming out of the transition tent and seeing volunteers with gobs of sunscreen on their hands ready to quickly apply some. I chose to run to my bike. That was a mistake. A really bad mistake.

Right now, my lower back is blistering due to the sunburn and I can’t put any pressure on it without fluid leaking all over…gross right? Luckily it hurts so much that I can’t feel any muscle pain from the race. That’s a positive, right?

Side note: I remember doing Mount Baker 5 years ago with Shawn. He was wearing a hat, neck cover, sunglasses, nose cover and kept applying sunscreen. Me? I had my trusty sunglasses that would protect me from everything. The result? A terrible sunburn to my face that kept me awake for 4 days and resulted in multiple people not recognizing me right away because my face was so swollen. You would think that I would learn from this lesson, but clearly I need reminders from time to time.

Shawn - setting a perfect example

Shawn – setting a perfect example

Me, oblivious to the effects of the sun

Me, oblivious to the effects of the sun

So, I have my reminder to apply sunscreen. This should stay top of mind for at least 5 years…

Traveling to Coeur d’Alene and chatting with friends before the race, everyone wanted to know my goal for the day. I told them that I was there to test out my nutrition, especially my doubled electrolyte intake plan. I told them that I was not going to cramp during the race and would take in enough water and electrolytes to prevent this from happening. I told them my swim was going to be slow. When they laughed I said, “no really, I’ve been in the water 6 times in 2 months, it’s going to be a train wreck, but I’m going to get it done!” I told them that I was going to bike hard and wanted a bike split faster than 5:15. I told them I wanted to run 3:20 or faster.

What happened? Well, I met my goal of a slow swim and missed my bike and run goals. Thankfully, I also had zero cramping because of the quantity of electrolytes I consumed. For anyone else that struggles with a high sodium sweat rate (mine is 1500mg per liter of sweat), this ended up being 14,920mg of sodium throughout the day. For Whistler, where I expect it to be quite a bit hotter, I plan on taking in at least 18,000mg. My favorite way to get in electrolytes is through H2Prohydrate.

Overall, I had a great weekend. The organizers did a stand up job, the volunteers had smiles and were very friendly, I had great company and the weather cooperated. Enough said.

Thank you to Will, Noah, Shane and Stephen for some great runs over the last few months, Richele and Rich for many great bike rides and Coach Bjoern.

Next stop, Ironman Canada!

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Hello my name is…

changing-job-goalsI’ve been training almost non-stop for long distance triathlons over the last three years.

Three months ago, I hit a wall and my swim training more or less evaporated.

What happened?

I realized I don’t enjoy swimming and never will. I kept trying to convince myself to like it and keep at it, but I’m ready to admit that swimming is not for me.

And, I’m okay with this. Life is too short to do things you don’t enjoy.

When I figured this out, I basically abandoned swimming all together even though I have three long distance triathlons coming up soon where I’ll need to swim 4km continuously. Not the smartest plan and swimming that distance is a scary thought right now.

What I’m committed to is doing the training needed to get me through the swims, but no more. I’ll spend most of my time on my bike or running the trails…two activities that I’m always excited about.

With this realization I sat down and thought about whether I still wanted to pursue my long time goal of qualifying for the Ironman World Championships. While it’s a challenging pursuit, it’s no longer something that gets me excited. I found it both hard and easy to change this goal. Hard because a part of me feels like I’m giving up. Easy because I know it’s no longer a priority in my life and not something that I want to put my time into.

I’m replacing that goal with: I will comfortably ride with the “B group” during the March 2014 Spring Cycling Series, and I will compete for a podium position each race. This one resonates with me and is something I want to work hard to achieve.

With Kona no longer being a goal, I’ve also rethought my goals for my upcoming triathlons. Here they are:

June 1: Belfort Long Course World Championships.

  • Top 10% bike split overall
  • Less than 2:20.00 for the run

June 23: Ironman Coeur d’Alene

  • Top 10% bike split overall
  • Less than 3:20 for the run

August 25: Ironman Canada

  • Top 10% bike split overall
  • Less than 3:15 for the run
  • Less than 10:00 hours total time

I’m excited about this change in direction and can’t wait to get back on my bike!

Happy training!

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What doesn’t kill you makes you…Erin

I wrote this post a couple of months ago, but didn’t end up posting. She’s back in town right now and I just read it to her and she gave me the go ahead to post. She inspires me, I hope she’ll do the same for you.

My post today is about strength of character, about persisting through adversity and about knowing what you can do despite someone telling you otherwise.

What got me thinking about this?

My friend, Erin, was visiting last week and I learned that it took her three tries to get into medical school. It got me thinking about whether or not I would have the persistence to keep applying after the first AND second rejection.  I told her how special this made her, but she thought it was weird that this made her “special”.  She thought of it as having failed to get in not once, but twice.

I turned it around and asked her how many people she thought would keep fighting in the same circumstance?  What makes her special is her internal confidence saying that she would get in and that she’d be a great doctor.  This ferocity, fire and heart is what makes her special.  These characteristics will make her incredibly successful, no matter the career she pursues.

So, think for a second what happens when you have a rough day?  How do you react?   How do you harness the adversity in your life to make yourself stronger?

Me?  I think it’s the rough days juxtaposed with the great days that make the great days great….that’s a lot of great, but you get the point.

And Erin, thanks for the reminder, you’ve got character in spades.

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Seawheeze!!

SeewheezeOne addition to the race calendar! I just signed up for the 2nd annual Seawheeze on Saturday August 10th.

I’m not sure what my goal for the race is yet. It’s a couple weeks before Ironman Canada so I don’t plan on racing for a personal best. I think it will be fun to pace Allison to a PB!

Happy training!!

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A Year I’m Looking Forward To

Shane and I after the Fat Ass 50k

Shane and I after the Fat Ass 50k

2013 is going to be a year full of big races.

January

Still yet to be decided is the first “race” of the year. My friend Shane has invited me to do the Fat Ass 50km on January 1st. I say race, because it’s not actually a race (I think the permit costs prevent it from becoming a race, so no losers, only winners!). I’m still having an internal debate over how smart this is having not run longer than 24km in months…this could be a game time decision. ~Okay, I started writing this post before the this “race”. I ran it and it was a blast! First ultra run and something I’ll do again, but next time I’ll do some training. Thanks for the inspiration Shane!

February

First up is one of my favorite races of the season, the First Half Marathon on February 10th. If you’re a runner in Vancouver, you know about this race. It sells out the morning it opens for registration, it has a reasonable 8:30am start time, it has an amazing route around the seawall and I love the time of the year – normally crisp and perfect race conditions. Don’t have an entry? One cool thing about this race is that you can transfer entries and there’s always lots up for grabs if you ask around.

March

I’m going to try for a double race weekend with The Dirty Duo on March 9th and the UBC Triathlon on March 10th. I’ve done the Dirty Duo a couple of times over the last few years as a relay and Joel and I are going for the win this year – all thanks to Joel’s amazing mountain bike skills! The triathlon the next day will be a good early season race to work out the kinks (and hopefully not be as freaking cold as last time!).

June

The first big race of the year will be the 2013 Belfort ITU Long Distance World Championships on June 1st. I qualified for this at the Shawnigan Lake Half Iron last summer and I couldn’t be more excited about representing my country as an amateur athlete. I never dreamed I would have this opportunity!! What makes it even cooler is that some great friends are racing as well AND Allison is coming. Pre and post race we’ll be traveling the area, including stays in Zurich, Belfort, Interlaken, Chamonix and Cinque Terre…this is going to be an amazing trip!

Next up is Ironman Coeur d’Alene on June 23rd, for the second year in a row. I loved this race last year and am really excited to return. Rich will be racing as well and I’m looking forward to many amazing training days with him kicking my ass on the bike.

August

A few months later I have Ironman Canada. This will be the first time that Ironman Canada is hosted by Whistler and I am incredibly excited about competing only a couple of hours from home.

Season goals:

My goals for the season (in order of importance): (a) have fun; (b) qualify for the Ironman World Championships; (c) complete an Ironman in less than 10 hours; (d) finish all races started.

Why?

(a) Life’s too short not to have fun, especially when it’s something taking up most of my free time.

(b) I want to compete at the highest level as an amateur in my sport and getting to Kona is a feat that is incredibly challenging.

(c) I want a new personal best.

(d) If I’m healthy enough to start a race, my thinking is that I should be healthy enough to finish and it would only be mental toughness causing me to quit. I don’t give up.

That’s what I’m registered for. I’m sure there will be a few others, probably the Longest Day 10k, maybe the April Fools half marathon and the Saint Patrick’s day 5k is always fun.

What are your goals for the season?

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It’s beginning to look a lot like…ironman training

drowning

After 5 months of unstructured workouts, including not a single pool set, my structured training for 2013 begins in 6 days. I’ve also been AWOL from my blog for about the same time period. I haven’t felt the need to write and haven’t felt like I had much to share. It’s not that nothing’s happened, but very little has happened from a training perspective. January 1st is when I drop it back into gear. I have mixed feelings, mostly because of the impact of my training on Allison. The last 5 months have been wonderful and we’ve been able to spend a lot of time together and I know how much she enjoyed my break from focused training. It was the right thing to do and was something that I, and we, needed. Having said all that, I also know the next 8 months are going to be amazing. What can I say, I struggle to be pessimistic.  One thing’s for sure, our grocery bill is going up:). I’ll also be getting back into the pool which is not something I’m all that excited about. I still find myself struggling to enjoy swimming. One change I’m committing to is to stay positive in the water and only talk about the things I like about swimming. For example, I love the exercise. I love the feeling I have after a good solid workout. I love swimming with great friends. I love laughing between sets. I love a good hot tub post workout. I love breaking through a time barrier. Wow, those all came pretty quick. Maybe I don’t hate swimming?

That’s the update for now, I’m going with something short to get the ball rolling. My next post will be about my race calendar and goals for 2013 and how I’ll be setting myself up for success.

Let the training begin!

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