Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Shawnigan Lake Race Report - Staying Positive

Before I get into my race report, here's a bit of background information as to what I've been going through over the last few months leading up to the race season. I meant to get a blog post out earlier but I've been so busy these days that it's sometimes hard to find the time.

As most of you out there know, there are often setbacks involved with training and preparing for the race season. I made some pretty good progress between January and March, especially on the bike and in the pool but running has been a bit of a struggle again this year. Running puts a lot of stress on your body and is usually where most people will have problems. In 2011 I had to deal with planter fasciitis, in 2010 I had to have knee surgery and in 2009 I struggled with ITB Syndrome all of which I have overcome.

This year I'm having some GI (gastrointestinal) problems which is limiting the amount of intensity that I can handle during periods of high exertion, in particular during track workouts and fast interval sessions. It got so bad in March & April that I had to stop running almost completely. I even had to stop swimming and cut back on biking for almost a full month. I've been trying to figure out what the issue is and have had lots of tests taken and I've still got a couple of tests coming up over the next couple of months.

Delta Triathlon on my Trek Speed Concept
I've had some GI sensitivities for many years now but it never really bothered me enough to do anything about it. Well, actually, it did bother me a lot in the past but my ability to tough out pain meant that I would ignore it (this comes in handy as a triathlete but does not do me any favors in these types of situations). Since I wasn't doing any endurance training until four years ago it was never a severe hindrance to my everyday life. After leaving it unchecked for so many years though, it's started to become a major problem and the symptoms I'm having lately left me no choice but to take it seriously.

Basically, my gut is extra sensitive right now because my intestinal lining is not very strong. Anything that I'm sensitive too is creating more problems these days than usual. My body isn't absorbing a lot of the food that I'm eating which is affecting my energy levels. Fortunately, one of the tests that I did has really helped me to narrow down the problem. I did a lactose intolerance test and found out the hard way that I'm definitely lactose intolerant. I knew that I had issues with dairy products but hadn't realized that they were this bad until now. It took almost two weeks to fully recover from it. It took five days for me to get the full impact of the lactose. It actually made my gut bleed (that's the major symptom that I've been getting occasionally over the last few months).

Delta Triathlon
Fortunately, I visited a gastroenterologist recently and he told me that it looks like my problem is 100% reversible. I'll hopefully find out exactly the extent of the damage that has been made once I get the next couple of tests done.

During the spring months I still did some small races to get myself ready for the official race season. I did a couple of 5k running races which I was able to finish in around 17:20 which was pretty good considering I'd hardly been running at all. It was a good way to maintain a little bit of speed. I also raced at the Delta Sprint Triathlon in April and managed to pull off the overall win taking 1st place. Leading up to that race I had only done around one or two easy runs per week for the previous four weeks and had only gotten into the pool around four or five times so I was really pleased that I still had some speed. It was good for my confidence to know that I hadn't lost too much.

After the Delta race I started to build up my volume again and tried to work on my endurance. I had a bit of a setback with the lactose test during that period but I managed to get in some pretty good training. I was starting to feel confident again leading up to Shawnigan Lake and tried to stay focused and remain positive. I felt pretty good but I wasn't sure what to expect.

Due to my dietary issues, I haven't been eating particularly well over the last couple of months and have struggled at times to get in enough calories. Sometimes when I'm feeling a little sick I neglect to feed myself because I don't want to feel worse and my training suffers because of it. I've lost around 10 lbs in the last three months without consistent training... Not a good way to lose weight. I recently (around three or four weeks before the race) switched to a completely dairy free and gluten free diet in an attempt to be healthier. I've been feeling much better with more energy and no fatigue during the middle of the day which has been great but I've struggled a little bit making the transition. I have to be really well organized and have everything planned out. This ended up being a problem before the Shawnigan Lake race and I didn't eat enough in the couple of days leading up. I also struggled to get enough sleep for each of the three nights leading up to it which I think played a big factor as well.

Kinsol Trestle
Considering all of this, I'm actually pretty happy with how my race at the Shawnigan Lake Half Iron went this last weekend. I had a good swim and still felt fresh when I got out of the water. I was able to swim with a good pack of swimmers who are usually faster than me in the pool (I'm terrible at turns in the pool so when I get into the open water I don't lose time to them anymore). I was able to stay at the front of the group and avoid all of the bumping and jarring that goes on in there. The new Zoot Prophet wetsuit I'm wearing is awesome. It's got some great technology that helps with body position and has ultra flexible Yamato 40 neoprene to keep the stroke feeling natural. I actually felt really comfortable at the pace we were swimming at so I'm pretty sure I could maintain the pace for Ironman without too much trouble. The final swim time said 26:06 but I'm pretty sure the swim course was a little short so it would probably have been around 27 minutes (that would give me 54min IM swim which would be awesome).

I didn't have as quick of a T1 transition as usual but it wasn't too bad and I was able to get on my bike in fairly short order (someone knocked my helmet and glasses onto the ground and I had to fumble around searching for them). Once I got started on the bike I quickly got into a good rhythm and found my pace. The new tri suit I'm wearing, the Zoot Ultra Tri Suit, has amazing compression around the core and really helped me to keep my core engaged on the bike. It made a big difference in terms of staying in a good strong position. Not too long into the first of four laps my friend Brendan Naef passed me (we were in the same swim group) and we ended up riding over two laps together. It was great to have someone there to help keep the pace up. At some point on the third lap I dropped Brendan but it was mostly due to some cars that were in the way on the road that I was lucky to be able to get around fairly easily (he ended up keeping me in sight and finishing only 25 seconds behind me). When I looked at the data after the race I was pleased to see that my first three laps were all within one second of each other which is pretty amazing. I kept the pace really consistant. The new Trek Speed Concept bike that I'm riding from West Point Multisport is amazing. It's the most comfortable bike and fastest bike I've ever been on and it really makes a difference at these races. The Shimano Di2 electronic shifting makes it so much easier on these hilly courses since you don't have to reach over to the aero extensions to shift when you're climbing or accelerating out of corners (with extra shifters on the sides). The last lap was a few seconds slower than the three previous laps but at that point I was starting to think about the run and I wanted to make sure that I had enough energy.

Trans Canada Trail
I got through T2 pretty quickly not wasting any time slipping on my Compressport socks and Zoot shoes but I almost immediately realized that I was in trouble when I started to run. Breathing wasn't too difficult but I just couldn't get my legs moving at my usual pace. I didn't have the energy to get into a good rhythm. I tried to speed up a little to see what would happen but it made me feel sick so I just settled into the best pace I could handle and hoped that I would start to feel better. Around the 6.5km mark Brendan passed me with some words of encouragement (thanks Brendan) but I just didn't have it in me to hold on so I sent him some positive vibes and told him to run the other guys down. Next to pass me was my friend Nathan Killam at the 7.5km mark and he was running really smooth and looking fast. I passed on some words of encouragement to him also and watched him disappear ahead of me (Nathan ended up finishing 3rd which was awesome). I managed to hold on for 8th place and finish with a time of 4h 22m.

Several of my training partners had some great races. Stephanie Ossenbrink finished 2nd overall female in the Half. As I mentioned, Nathan had a great run to finish in 3rd. Brendan finished in 5th and Lawrence Grigg finished in 7th. Donovan Watts finished in 4h 32m and Geoff Watts finished in 4h 33m with a huge PB. Another friend, Cendrix Bouchard, had an amazing race and finished with a time of 4h 51m cutting off a lot of time since last year which was awesome (great swim Cendrix!). Richele Frank won her age group (5th overall female) as did Geneviève Cauffopé. Al Russell had an awesome race finishing with a time of 5h 5min in his first attempt at the Half Iron distance (well done Al!). Anita Holtham had a stellar race and won the women's Olympic distance. There were more but it's hard to name everyone. Congratulations to everyone that raced. We got lucky with some great weather this year.

Even though the race wasn't great for me I still had lots of fun and it was a positive experience for me going forward. I look forward to my next race at Ironman 70.3 Boise on June 10th. Next time I will make sure to get enough sleep and make sure that I eat properly every day. Laura has been helping me at home with the meals which I am very grateful for. To keep track of my progress between races please follow me on my Facebook page and on Twitter (both links are at the top of the page). Thanks for all the support!!!

Next blog post: Back on Track

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