Tuesday, 22 November 2011

2011 - A Breakthrough Year

UBC Sprint Triathlon 2011
To start the 2011 triathlon year, I decided to race at the UBC sprint distance triathlon. The race was at the beginning of March so it was going to be cold on the bike, but 20km wasn't too bad so I figured that I could suffer a little bit of cold. I'm not a great pool swimmer, but I had the fastest bike split and run split and was able to get my first win. It was only a sprint race; the bigger races later in the season were going to be more competitive, but it was a win and it really gave me some comfidence to start off the season.

The following week, I raced at the St Patrick's Day 5km running race. I had been suffering from some pain in my right foot since early November but I never really though too much of it and figured that it would go away on its own like most of my previous injuries. I hadn't made a big deal out of it so Bjoern didn't know how serious it was. The race went fairly well and I finished with a time of 17m 28s. My foot was sore but I was able to run through it and tried not to think about it too much. The following day I did a 16km tempo run, but by the end of the run I was really hurting. Without realizing it, I had been running with plantar fasciitis. The race was the turning point for the injury - I could barely walk after. I had to take a full five weeks off of running. It was a major setback.

Since I couldn't run, I started to focus more on swimming and biking. I was supposed to race at the Delta Triathlon in April but I was forced to pull out because of the injury. Towards the end of the month I had  slowly started to run again, and although my foot was still sore it was much better than before. I really wanted to race at the Shawnigan Lake Half Iron in late May. Two weeks before the race I had a major breakthrough with the injury. We were doing some beach start simulations at Sasamat lake, and while running over the hard packed sand I hammered the bottom of my foot right on the injury. At the time it really hurt and felt like my injury had exploded, but a couple days later my foot started to feel great. It was as if I had broken all of the scar tissue and released all of the tension.

Shawnigan Lake Half Iron 2011
The Shawnigan Lake Half Iron was a tough race. I had some technical trouble on the bike; my aero hydration system broke and I was only able to drink once on each of the four laps. I had also lowered my aero bars to try to be more aerodynamic. By lowering the bars, my hamstrings were stretched out too much and I really started to feel it halfway through the bike course. Along with the dehydration, I wasn't feeling great when I started the run. I hung on as best as I could and by the halfway point of the run I actually started to feel better since I had been drinking more water. I was able to speed up in the last 5kms and finish in 5th place overall, 1st place amateur. Although I had struggled, I pushed through and came out of it with a pretty descent result.

The next race was Ironman 70.3 Boise two weeks later. My goal was to win my age group and qualify for the World Championships in Las Vegas. I felt pretty good going into the race but I pushed too hard at the beginning of the bike leg and really suffered during the second half of the bike course. I also didn't follow my nutrition strategy properly. By the time I started the run I was feeling burnt out, and was immediately attacked by a really bad abdominal stitch that persisted until the finish. I was only able to run at my goal pace for the final three kms and ended up finishing with a time of 4h 39min which was well over the time needed to qualify for the World Championships.

Victoria Half Iron 2011
After the disappointment in Boise, I really needed to have a comfortable race to lift my spirits so I decided to race at the Victoria Half Iron the following week. This would be my 3rd Half in four weeks so I didn't have any high expectations, I just wanted to nail the nutrition aspect of the race and feel good. I was a little burnt out from the heavy race schedule so I decided going into this race that I didn't want to suffer. As much as I hate to do this, I treated it as a training race. I didn't have a great swim, only barely making it under 30 minutes. Since my heart wasn't really in it, I wasn't too disappointed. Because of the bad experience on the bike at the Shawnigan Lake Half and the Boise 70.3, I decided to tone it down a lot this time and let my average HR drop by around 10bpm compared to Boise. I felt much more comfortable and actually had the 6th fastest bike split overall despite a much lower effort. I stayed comfortable on the run and despite the easier effort, I was still able to finish in 4h 19min and grab a podium place in my age category. Not bad for a training race, but one that I would put behind me.

Vancouver Half Iron 2011

Next up was the Vancouver Half Iron two weeks later. After sorting out my nutrition issues at the Victoria Half Iron, I was feeling a little more confident going into this race. The swim wasn't great, but I still managed to get out of the water in 28 minutes so I wasn't too far off. I was 18th out of the water but managed to pass four people in T1. I had a decent bike split and passed another eight people to move into 6th place coming off the bike. I immediately moved into 5th place on the run as I came out of transition but was passed by another amateur, Eddie Smith, around the 11km mark. I tried to hold onto him but he was moving too fast for me. I later found out that he used to race for the New Zealand national team at the elite ITU level so I didn't feel too bad. I really struggled around the 15km mark when the wind picked up and probably lost close to one minute over a 2km stretch. Little did I know, Eddie Smith also struggled and only finished the race 33 seconds in ahead of me. It was a lesson for another day. Push through the hard parts, especially that late in the race, when it's almost over. When my training partner, Rachel Mcbride, caught me and eventually passed me around the 17km mark I was able to dig in and speed up again (with some encouraging words from her). She is an amazing athlete and had "chicked" me at Shawnigan Lake and Boise (where she finished 3rd overall female!). I wasn't about to let that happen again so I gave it everything I had and I eventually passed her around 300m before the finish line. We laughed about it later. Rachel would go on to finish 11th overall among pro women at the 70.3 World Champs in Vegas in September. I finished in 4h 18min and was the second overall amateur. Although it was only one minute faster than Victoria, the bike course was 5km longer. With my 5th place at Shawnigan Lake and two sub 4h 20min Half Iron results since then, I was now pretty much guaranteed to get an elite competition card from Triathlon Canada. Although I had missed qualifying for the 70.3 World Championships, I would be able to get an Ironman Pro card which was really my "A" goal for the season.

Two weeks later I raced at the Peach Classic Olympic distance triathlon in Penticton. I was there for a Lifesport training camp and actually rode the Ironman course the day before and ran a 45 minute brick off the bike. Needless to say, I didn't have any high expectations for the race. The swim was a complete gong show. The water was really rough with some pretty big swells for Okanagan Lake and there were too many people starting in a narrow area. I've never been clubbed and swam over so badly. The highlight of this race was the bike leg. Even though I had rode 160km (100 miles) the day before, I still managed to have the 4th fastest bike split and actually beat some elite athletes. When I got to the run though, I was feeling all of the racing and training from the previous days and weeks and didn't have much heart for it. I settled into my Half Iron pace and finished it off pretty easy. Considering it was just a training race thrown in for fun, I wasn't unhappy with the result. I finished 14th overall at this Olympic Distance Provincial Championship race.
Lifesport Pro Camp 2011

In the last week of July, I was really fortunate to get an invite to the Lifesport Pro Training Camp in Victoria. As well as having my own top notch coach present, Bjoern Ossenbrink, we were also coached by Lance Watson and Paul Regensburg. It was really great to train with amazing athletes including Rachel McBride, Nathan Killam, Elliot Holtham, Martina Wan, Amanda Stevens, Brent McMahon, Jonathan Shearon and Laura Reardon Keefe. The camp was awesome and really got me into great shape leading up to the Sooke Half Iron on August 7th.

Sooke Half Iron 2011
Sooke was a great race. I came out of the water in 3rd place with PR swim and quickly moved into 1st place with a speedy transition. It was really fun to be in the lead on the bike course and have the lead motorcycle in front of me for the first ten minutes. I was eventually passed by someone doing a relay and then again by Jonathon Shearon who was setting a good pace on the bike. It was a really hilly course with 1771 meters of elevation gain (over 5800 feet) in 90km (56 miles). Unfortunately, I had two mechanical issues during the bike leg and lost around 4 minutes but I was still able to come off the bike in 2nd place. The run was also really hilly, with hardly a flat part on the whole course, but I managed to pull off a 1h 25min run and finish in 2nd place overall. Even without the mechanicals I couldn't have beaten Jonathon so I was pretty happy with the result.

Kelowna National Championships
My last planned race for the 2011 season was the Kelowna National Olympic Distance Championship. I didn't train for this distance but I felt pretty good going into the race. I had a good swim, going under 22 minutes and also had a fast bike split of 1h 1min. The run didn't go as well as I hoped though. I didn't eat enough on the bike so when I started the run I was starting to fade a little and ended up running around three or four minutes slower than I hould have and finished with a time of 2h 5min 59sec. It was still good enough for a podium spot in my age category so I wasn't too disappointed.

A couple of weeks after the Kelowna race, I applied for an international elite competition card from Triathlon Canada and was accepted. With the card in hand I signed up for my first race in the Pro category at Ironman Arizona. Time to start training again...

Next post: Ironman Arizona - Race Report

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