Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vermont 50 MTB and Ultrarun (pacer!!)

Woah, so I had a great weekend pacing my friend in her first ultramarathon - a (very muddy) 50k trail race in Vermont. There were 50k runners, 50mi runners and 50mi MTB's on a beautiful course. I had the pleasure of athlete-watching (my favourite kind of people-watching) at the start line and at Dugdale aid station before I took a shuttle to Goodman's aid station to meet her and pace her the last 10 miles. She kicked ASS -- her last 10mi were her fastest of the entire race. She's now an ultrarunner and holy crap am I proud!!

Pictures pretty much say it all:
An expo unlike any other: among the typical exhibitioners
at an athletic event (sports companies, bicycle manufactures,
etc), there were also several stands selling maple syrup, fresh
produce and home-baked pies. Hellllooooo Vermont! 

At the campground I was staying at. There were also stuffed
(fake) bears everywhere - wearing hats, climbing trees, being
awesome. 


My friend and I just before the start of her first ultra! Exciting!

Definitely the best picture of the day. Totally
captures the nervousness surrounding a "first
time" race. 

Runners passed by this private property, where a bunch of
horses were running around, but they also were seen running
in that open field far up ahead as well. Most of the race course
is on private land, which really makes it stunning. You run
up people's country driveways, explore their forested "backyards"
and then keep on going. It's AMAZING. 

Dugdale aid station. I love how hippy the race shirts are. 

View from Goodman's aid station, where I began pacing my
friend for the last 10 miles. 

She might have thrown her water bottle at me right after this
was taken...

After running in a forested section for a good while, we suddenly
found ourselves out in the open with spectacular autumnal views. 

This did NOT capture it effectively, oh well

I have a feeling someone's been stealing road signs...

Among many things I can really commend this race on is the
fact that they marked the course INCREDIBLY well, not only
pointing at which direction you need to take, but also putting
up posters in bright pink if you started to go the wrong way.
For those runners afraid of getting lost out there on the trails,
this is huge. 

Vermont being Vermont...

Someone's home!


Yep, this is someone's PROPERTY. WTF, mate!

Finishing it up!

Annnnnd we're done. It was such an awesome day!!! 

Well... that's got me itching to do some trail runs and races, eh?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Off season!

I'm doing whatever I want for 2 weeks post-Vegas, and that "whatever" has so far included a lot of rest.

After the World Champs, I took 4 days completely off, making the ridiculously long drive back towards Montreal. I then camped in Indiana for 2 nights, going riding on quiet roads in Hoosier National Forest and swimming in Patoka Lake on one day, and running a really small 10k run race the next.

Swam to this island in Patoka Lake. Pretty cool!

No comment...

Some rural roads: quiet, nicely paved, and in beautiful
autumn weather. Awww yeah. 

Yes, I asshole-d it up by getting the full IM 70.3 World Champs
cycling kit. Sometimes, you just gotta be a douche. 

Umm, yeah, it was awesome!

Camping!
Off season/rest ends next Monday. Then it's time to rediscover some run speed because I want to massively PR in a half-marathon in November here in Canada. I haven't run on roads, or on flat terrain, or worked on run speed in a long long time so it'll be interesting to see what I can do. I know I'm starting to recover fully because I'm starting to go CRAZY with all the casual exercising and resting. 

I returned to Montreal yesterday, and one of my dogs became a lard ass while I was away this last year and a half, so I've beginning HIS training again. We went for a cruisey really short trail run in the small (MINIATURE) forest behind my house and he kept trying to cut me off and slow me down because he was tired from all the running. It'll be great to whip him back into shape! 

This weekend I am pacing my friend in her first ultramarathon, the 50k trail run in Vermont: Vermont 50 MT Bike or Ultra. I'm pacing her the last 10miles and I can't WAIT!!!! I do love trails and taking pictures and being around hippy ultrarunners. It's going to be fab!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ironman 70.3 World Championships Las Vegas, bitch!

I'm finally starting to make the epic drive back from Nevada, across the United States to Montreal. I've apparently missed 3 weeks of school already, and this is my last semester of my bachelors so I have got to GET OUT OF THERE, asap! Damn it, I hate school. Anyway, race report:

I had done Ironman Louisville 2 weeks prior (race report) and the 2 in-between weeks were restful, but definitely not as restful as I should have done. I ended up visiting a friend in Tucson, AZ and somehow found myself on a 6hr ride, including the 40k climb up Mt Lemmon. Ooops? Nevertheless, the entire race season was catching up with me, and it had been a long one! It started in March back in Australia and I was pretty much doing a race or race-like event every weekend (a lot of mass cycling events, which the Aussies are famous for). The real race season began June 5 in Cairns, QLD when I did the Challenge Cairns half (race report), then I finished up exams in Melbourne, jumped ship back to North America and raced 70.3 Calgary (race report), 70.3 Boulder (race report), and Ironman Louisville. In all, I placed well, surprisingly enough 4th AG at each one. I was especially proud of the Boulder and Louisville races. To say I was tired by the time Vegas rolled around was an understatement. In none of my pre-race workouts did I feel "fired up" or "all engines revving". I could put in solid efforts, but these were nothing but solid IM-pace efforts. I was thus hoping that the rest pre-race would be just enough to make my energy arrive JUST in time for the World Champs Sunday morning.

I was especially thankful that the temperatures were dropping. I had been camping in Lake Mead Recreation Area since I arrived, and let me say that it is NOT fun camping when the night-time temperatures continue to hover in the mid-30s C (95F). I would wake up sweating and dehydrated. The Saturday before the race, we experienced a day high of only 37C (99F) -- in contrast to the 45C (113F) of the previous days, this felt like a cool breeze. I could actually sleep well at night. Hurray!

Transition: You start the swim on this side of the lake, finish
on the other side, and have to run around the back side of the
lake to reach T1. From T1 you have to run with your bike
 up a couple switchbacks to get to the road. It was ridiculous
and AWESOME!!!!

Pre-race: Blah blah blah, I felt excited and not nervous and was ready to take on the day. Set everything up, the usual.

My coach, Lee Gardner, had 1 other athlete also competing
at the 70.3 World Champs: John H. This is us just hanging
out pre-race. Photo credit: Lee Gardner. 
The swim course as viewed from the bridge which we swim
under. We swim out 7 buoys, turn around, and swim back 9
buoys to finish further down and on the other side of the lake.


Swim: I went out hard and tried to stay with the front pack, hoping to find a good set of feet. And then, all of a sudden I was dropped. It felt like I was swimming well, form was excellent, but, like I said, no "oomph". I had only one gear today, and that was definitely IM-gear. So, I swam it in on this long course (how did no one in my AG get sub-30, I have no idea! Long course I suppose)

Me pre-swim. The girl smiling right behind me was super great,
she ended up finishing 9th AG, from Argentina. I hope to find her
somehow online, and try to meet up with her in Canada next year!

Chicks 18-29 wave about to go off, at 7:50am.
I'm in there somewhere. 
I ended up turning in a 36:36 swim (13 AG), my slowest to date this season.

T1: Run around the lake, get gear on in the tent, run to bike, run with bike up switchbacks, get on bike. Painless, right? Ha! I loved it!

Bike: I was staying in the recreation area in which the bike course passed through, and knew firsthand just how beautiful this place was. And how challenging. There is 1081m (3547ft) elevation gain in this 90k bike ride, more than what some IM bike courses offer. To top it off, T2 is a full 226m (741ft) higher than T1. It's a punch in the face, and I looooooved it!

I also unfortunately could not have the race I wanted. Right off the bat, I could barely keep my HR in zone 2, and most of the time it floated mid Z1-low Z2. It would drop hugely on the descents and take forever to climb back up. When you're excited to see a 130bpm reading, you know you're overcooked. I was overcooked!! But I rode on, knew when I signed up for this race that I would be doing it on tired legs and with a tired body. At least the views distracted me:






My time was 3:17:08, having dropped back to 17th AG. Truly ugly! 

T2: Get off bike, get shoes and cap on, start smiling!

Run: I had my plan... loop 1 cruise, loop 2 start working, loop 3 "fuck this shit, RUN BITCH RUN". The course is 1mile down and then 3 loops of 2 miles up, 2 miles down. It's hilly, it's a grinder and a bitch, and of course I loved it. I fell in love with this entire 70.3 course and can't WAIT to return next year, with hopefully a better taper/rest! 

Anyway, the run was hot but I kept cool with ice down the tri suit so never really noticed the heat. I got my cola on, started smiling. I very much cruised the first lap, not really noticing the hills. Lap 2 I told myself to start really working, putting in a good effort, and by the 3rd lap my joints/tired body were unhappy but I told myself to RUN THE HELL UP so I can bomb the downhill finish. Once you hit that turnaround and know it's all downhill from here, you can't help but smile. You let yourself be reeled in by Mike Reilly's voice, and just let it fly. It was AWESOME. 

Finish chute! Huzzah! Also... I can't believe I still heel strike.
Photo credit: Lee Gardner. 
Time of 1:58:16, moving back up and finishing 14th AG. Not exactly in the top 10, as I'd hoped, but given my exhaustion, I'll take it. 

Total time of 5:57:28 (14th AG), a good half-hour slower than my "slow-time" expected. Then again, post-race I was talking with other athletes and the race director himself and he said he expected everyone's times to be just about half hour slower.

What do I think? I think I could have EASILY been in the top 10 had I not been so mind-bogglingly exhausted from IMKY, but I'm still super happy with what I achieved and absolutely cannot WAIT to return next year, hopefully with a top 5 in me. It's going to be an exciting season, 2012, that's for sure!!

Now it's time to rest, relax, and catch up on school. For the next 2-3 months, I'll be back in Montreal focusing on destroying my half-marathon PB by racing 2 halfs in Ontario. Can't wait!! 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Las Vegas 70.3 World Championship bike course shots

So I'm in Nevada, and have been camping out at a nearby campground. The race prep is underway, the packet has been picked up, the last workout is in the bank, and the bike course has been explored.

I'd never gone to Clearwater, but I have a funny feeling that this course will be a true test of who are the best PRO and AG athletes. We're in the desert and despite it being an inhospitable wasteland, it is impossibly beautiful as well. Here are photos from the bike course:

There's nothing out there. Usually, if you stop, you hear
birds chirping wherever you are. Here? You hear nothing
but wind. It's... bizarre. 


Beautiful course. 

This is what race courses should look like. I hate when races
go through industrial areas, or cities... I want courses through
national parks, and I desperately want to be surrounded by
nature. I'm going to love it!


The athlete dinner and race briefing is tonight, there's a practice swim tomorrow, then I'm meeting my coach and another athlete of his that also qualified for Vegas for lunch, and lastly I have to drop off my bike and gear bags. Last race of the season!! Punch it out!!! 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Goals for Vegas 70.3 World Championships

Okay, so I'll be heading into my first World Championships event in just about 1 week's time. The Ironman 70.3 World Championships for 2011 are to be held, for the first time ever, in Henderson, NV, on a far more fair course than the draft-fest that was Clearwater, FL.

Where am I going into this race?
-- Tired but recovering well from IM Louisville, which I raced last weekend to a 4th place AG finish (race report here)
-- Coming off an awesome (very long) season of racing, which resulted in four races in a row of 4th place AG finishes. With each passing race, the competition got deeper, the racing got harder, and yet I still placed 4th, so that's AWESOME
-- I'll be competing against far fiercer ladies, and this is my first season where I've been mildly competitive, so I hope not to be crushed
-- It'll be at sea level, pretty much, and my 70.3 PR (5:23:47) was at altitude, one week after racing another 70.3... so I hope to lower that, but I have nooooo idea if I can.

In the end, I've got 2 goals: "IDEAL IDEAL" time and position goals, and "realistic ideal" goals; and I guess I've got another option, which is... "all fucking hell breaks loose and I realize just how exhausted I am, and I totally screw the pooch".

IDEAL IDEAL goals, dream goals, holy shit if I do this I'll die happy (until the next race, that is):
Swim: sub-30' swim. I've got it in me, just got to execute and frickin' SWIM, mate!
Bike: sub-2:45 bike. I've got a 2:51 bike at Boulder 70.3. The Vegas 70.3 has a tougher course (slightly), but it could be made significantly tougher if we're given a windy day. Sub-2:45 would be ideal if it is windy, but I'm at sea level
Run: sub-1:50 run. No idea if I can do it (my ancient stand-alone half-marathon PR is 1:49:17 and it'd be cool to crush it in a 70.3), the run course is hilly but it's the last race of the season and I tend to get manic and try to kill myself b/c I know I've got nothing to do (but school) after this.
So that equates to about a 5:05-5:10 (given T1/2 times), and about a 15' PR from my last 70.3 in Boulder on August 7th. It's a stretch, but why the fuck not??

Realistic ideal goals, in the realm of possibility given my current state but still on an awesome day of racing!
Swim: sub-31'. Enough said. Don't be lazy.
Bike: sub-2:50. Tougher course, but I'm a better cyclist than I was even 4 weeks ago, so why not??
Run: sub-1:53. My legs are tired, I know it, and I have no idea if I even have any speed at all after IM training, and the very sporadic run training in general due to shin splint injury these last 4 months. As my coach said, I am probably very "metabolically inefficient" at running right now. But... it's at sea level... and about as hilly as Boulder 70.3 run course (1:54:xx), so why the fuck not, eh?

And, in the end, it's my first world championship, so I'll actually be ecstatic if I finish in the top 50% of my AG rather than the bottom 50%. If all else fails, it's always better to be faster than the majority, right??

Once Vegas is done, I'll start posting about next season's race schedule (fucking epic, that's what it is!)

The summer is wrapping up, so here are some of my favourite shots from these last few months spent traveling through central USA, mainly Colorado:

Deer in Colorado Springs

Palmer Park trail run

Wilson Ranch pool, C-Springs

View of Pikes Peak from afar

Garden of the Gods

The Incline

Near the top of Pikes Peak

Rocky Mountain National Park

Teton National Forest

Teton National Forest at sunset

Teton National Park

Calgary, Alberta


Telluride

The Grottoes, on Independence Pass

Maroon Bells

Cycling along Independence Pass

Top of Independence Pass

Leadville getting ready for the LT100

Used to be Leadville's general store


Turquoise Lake during the LT100



Louisville


Louisville and surrounding counties getting ready for IMKY


Underwear run

IMKY transition with bridge to Indiana in background

Number 71

IMKY swim time trial start

Getting up to get 4th place AG award, far right