Category Archives: Race report

World Champ

Champion
1.
a person who has defeated or surpassed all rivals in a competition, especially in sports

 

Great way to start a story; definitions, inspirational quotes, pretty much anything you would see on a motivational speakers book jacket or the line from a fortune cookie, that you slammed down after an illasvised order from your local Chinese takeout. Hm, oh the duck is fresh? I’ll take that…anyway back to the point. I usually look down, judge, or smirk smugly from ivory tower of fitness at those who need these things to keep striving for their goals. If you want it, take it. Persistence is really one of the few things I can point to in my life that I have always been able to draw from when I was feeling down. Grit, the grind, doing something just because it felt good to do something. Eating away everyday at something you thought was unachievable. We all have these goals in our lives and for me, my triathlon goals were lofty but achievable. Qualify for age group World Championships at the three major distances, Olympic, Half-Ironman and Ironman. I never stopped to ask why these were my goals, just that these looked good on paper and people would recognize my accomplishments. This thought came to me as I was flying through the first 20 miles of my bike ride at the half Ironman 70.3 in Calgary this July. It was kind of a bad time, I thought, to ponder why I was doing something when the hardest parts lay ahead of me but at the same time, it put me in the right frame of mind. Why did I spend all this time, money, and passion on this endeavour? Why did it matter so much to me to go to the world championship? And then it hit me, it was for all the wrong reasons. The real reason had been staring me in the face the whole time. I want the respect, admiration and amazement of those I cared about. It was not because I loved being in the outdoors, it was not because I loved racing at a competitive level, it was not because I loved pushing myself to my limits. It was vanity. “Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely” Adam Smith once said. I had fallen prey to the very thing I find the most annoying about this sport that I love. I was ” that guy”. From that moment on I dropped the pressure of qualification and just enjoyed the everlasting bliss of the moment. The hammer down in the last 10 miles of the bike, the taste of each gel, the feeling of weightlessness when I transitioned to the run. It all felt real, authentic, pain and pleasure. The turnaround point on the run were I about ran into a awesome volunteer, each cold sponge that I put on my neck, I was running on pure bliss. Till that hill at mile 11. Oh right forgot about that one. I still felt every wonderful step after that though, running on pure endorphins and sense of gratefulness. I was back baby. I realized why I did this sport. Why I signed up for that first race 4 years before that. I was hooked on that feeling. As I crossed the line to the shouts of some of the most important people in my life I felt an overwhelming sense of pride wash over me. Not because I had finished, not because I had set a personal record, but because, I had changed the meaning of the word champion to myself. There is a second definition that I have adopted for the word Champion. The verb of the word. I have become a champion for sport and the power it has to bring clarity, if only for a moment. So did I get the world champ spot, you ask? Yes, by default which was just apropos for the situation. I said no thank you, of course, I didn’t need that carrot anymore. I had the real deal.

This was not going to be a 2016 reflection but it turned out to be a great picture of what 2016 was like. 2017 will be filled with many races and many deadbeat moments. I can’t wait.

Advertisements

Lake Padden WC BBQ gone bad…

Sweet, tangy sauce. Tender fall-off-the bone pulled pork. Lightly toasted white, fluffy, potato bun. Decadently rich smoked gouda Mac’n Cheese, all polished off with an ice cold root beer and punctuated with a generous piece of the sugar crusted cornbread cake, smothered in butter. As I was eating this meal, a monthly treat provided to us by our wonderful boss for a job well done, the passing thought as I slammed a second piece of cake, “I wonder how this is going to affect my race tomorrow?” Oh well, YOLO. I should have said no. I should have stuck to the plan. I should have been a good boy but the inner glutton screamed out for more and I gave it to him. To the point that I felt a tumultuous battle being raged in my digestive tract the rest of the day and even my patented pre-race meal of safe sushi sat like a layer of bricks in my stomach as I laid my head on the pillow. Would I recover in time to push myself when I needed to? Short course racing, unlike the Half Ironman I had done two weeks prior to this race, is a whole different animal. You are basically battling how much pain your muscles, digestive system and fatigue your body feels for the whole 2-ish hours. You are never relaxing, constantly pushing the envelope to your max sustainable effort. I warmed up well for the swim, something I am trying to do more often when I race, as I have seen much better results when I do. My hands cut through the waves like that butter that I had generously piled on top of the cake. Swimming felt good, it sounds weird saying it even now, but swimming has been feeling good as if it is the start of a wonderful relationship. I find myself looking forward to the swim. A chance to put some time into Stuart. A powerhouse on the bike and a very good runner but slightly slower swimmer than me. The air horn blasted and the water frothed with the windmilling of arms of the 50 fastest swimmers. My position was good, heart rate and effort was high but it was only for 12 mins, I just needed to hang on. My hands hit sand and rocks, beautiful dry land. The rest happened like a blur. I jumped up sprinting to transition. Helmet, socks, glasses, take off. Shoes on the bike, strap in and go, go, go. Power to the pedals up the hill, ugh what’s that feeling in the stomach? ignore it. Faster, harder, burning in the legs, stomach pain again. Take some water, a little better. Damn, there goes Stuart! Tried to stay with him for a little but everything hurt too much. Legs, stomach, chest, back off a little, Brent. Save something for the run. Off the bike, feeling ready to hurl. Sprint out of transition, maybe that will cure the stomach pain. Nope, breathing rhythm off, pain growing, legs were not responding. I felt like I was running with jello for legs and lead in my shoes. Not a great combination. At that point my focus changed. Just finish. Make it stop. The rest of the run was a fight to not lose whatever was left rolling around in my stomach. I crossed the line, 4th overall but disappointed in myself. This was the only race where I had not improved on my last years results. I knew even after Victoria only being two weeks before, I had a better race in me than what I had just done. I knew I had not done my best. I knew I only had myself to blame. Some lessons are tough to learn. Diet and nutrition, the fourth discipline, had been ignored and I had paid the price. Never again.

PS my Calgary Half Ironman story is in the works and hopefully some actual content worth reading. Thanks again for your time.

Victoria 70.3, the good, the bad, and the fun

When the alarm rang at 4:30, I was already in a light sleep. I get this way every night before a race. I sleep like shit, and wake up three to four times to make sure I am not missing my alarm, secure in the knowledge that I set the alarm for this very reason, so that I would get up only when it went off. It is a moronic game I play with myself, but so far I can’t seem to help it. 4:30, go time. The checklists begin, teeth? Brushed, Oatmeal? Cooking, Race gear? Ready to go. Pooping? Soon. Everything is going according to plan. One last look at the weather outside, cool but not cold. Perfect. Here we go, out the door 5:00. I figure we will get there with plenty of time. Oh, wait this is a big race. 1800 participants big. 1800 cars with friends and family extra, 1800 neurotic messes running around a public park trying to get their logistics straight. At this moment I am reminded of an ant farm, each person has their tasks, goals, and rewards. Everyone is doing their own thing but we are collectively doing the same goddamn thing at the same goddamn time. I leave the car while my faithful Leslie is trying to find parking and I make my way briskly to the transition area. The feeling in the air is electric but I try to remain calm. Checklist in my head as I run through it again, bike, shoes, running shoes, number OK, got it, air in the tires, done. I want to get in the water for a warm up swim but my time is running short. I hurry out of transition to find that there is a choke-point on the path where the hoards of people are slowed to the pace of molasses on a January morning. I watch the time for swim warm up pass and shrug shoulders. I begin walking to the start area, where there is supposed to be labeled areas for the rolling start, where you take your best guess of your swim time and line up with others of your ability. I planned on being around 35 minutes for the 1900 meter swim and after they announced the swim was shortened to 1500 meters I adjusted my time accordingly. I start to go to the coral and out of the crowd I hear my name, it is my wonderful Leslie who has found me in the throng of wet-suit and swim capped clad people. She wishes me the best, we talk about any last details and she sends me on my way with a kiss. I always love having her at these races, she brings me a sense of calm that I cannot put a price on. As we start to line up in the start chute, I look around me to find that most of the people I am with are being a bit timid in line. This is not a good sign as starts like this can be a bit of a fist fight and I realize too late that I am way too far back in the group. I will have to swim over hundreds of people during my swim. This thought quickly dissipates though as I remind myself to make the best with what I have. The moment is almost at hand. The world goes quiet. The gun goes off! And we don’t move, for a good 5 minutes, which seems like eternity. Finally there is movement and we shuffle to the start line where our chip starts and I am off running through the water like a madman.

The giant mud puddle that we are swimming in known as Beaver lake, is quite grown over with weeds as well. I feel them tug at my arms but I keep fighting, elbows being thrown feet being grabbed, the mad dash continues until about the 500 meter mark, then all of a sudden people start slowing down, I try to maintain my speed but I keep running into people. I get dunked once or twice swallow a big gulp of the lovely liquid and pushed on. I rounded the corner and saw the exit line not a moment too soon. I fought through the last drag net of weeds and up the ramp to dry land. Sweet, sweet dry land. I looked down at the watch, 25 mins and change, not too shabby. A personal record for me and in not the best conditions. Score. I sprint pass as many people as I can in the transition chute. I find my trusty steed and rip off my wet-suit, clip on my helmet, throw on sunglasses and run out of the transition area. I jump on the bike at the start line, things are going great considering and I am loving every minute of it.

I start out the bike trying to settle into a rhythm. Unfortunately there are many, many people that I have to pass as a result of my far back start position. I take off and try to remain calm. “It should feel easy” the words of coach, Daryl Smith, ringing in my ear. It should feel easy, and it does. About 20 minutes in I start putting down some more power playing with some racers as far as pacing and just enjoying the brisk morning sunshine. 56 degrees is a little chilly at 25 mph with just a wet tri-suit but I have had much worse and I am starting to dry out so that is great. I start whistling for some reason, I don’t even remember the tune but I remember that is where I start having fun. I love racing and this is where I come alive. I am fueling with a gel water mix in one of my bottles and water in the other to wash it down. Stay on target Brent, 10 minutes, sip fuel, 10 minutes, sip fuel, smooth power, nasal breathing, and don’t wipe that smile off your face. Thus continues the rest of the ride until I notice something doesn’t feel quite right. I look down and through the bumps and corners my handle bars have come slightly loose at the stem. Well shit. Time to work with this. I take my corners less aggressively and try to keep steady on the descents. I look down at my watch at mile forty, sixteen to go and I am behind pace for my goal but not doing that bad. I stay calm and keep working. Now I can put the power down, holding back still but less and less as the miles tick away. I turn one of the final corners and know that I have about two minutes until I get to run. Time to get ready. Shoes loose, dismount from the bike in 3…2…1..and start running undo your helmet, oh wait rookie mistake. Helmet back on, now you can run the bike over to the stand and transition…bike time 2:30 and counting…

For the last 10 miles of the bike I needed to take a leak, not like it would be nice if I could but bladder bursting pressure. To the point I was getting a stomach ache. Now I know that in a 4 hour plus race of consuming enough liquid to keep you hydrated, most reasonable people would stop and find a nice bathroom and take a wiz. Not triathletes, we think that we need to urinate on ourselves in order to save that precious 30 seconds. I say this out of jealousy. I have yet to fully be able to piss myself on the bike. Maybe someday I will develop this skill, or lose bladder control or who knows but it was not this day. Before I started running I HAD TO PEE. I ran into the port-a-john and pissed the best feeling piss I can remember. Other than that one time at Oktoberfest in Munich…but that story is for another time. I fly out of the door with fist held high, the race could end right there, I felt like a million bucks. Time to start running.

The run course followed around the lake with two small climbs at the end of each loop. My goal going into it was to “negative split” the loops, i.e. the second faster than the first. I have been working on pacing for the last couple months specifically half marathon pacing off the bike and I felt like I was nailing it after the first couple miles. Nice and steady, keep the rhythm, keep the energy. Coke at this aid station, water at the next, mile 3 mile 4, the miles kept clicking by I passed my coach at an out and back section and he yelled some words of encouragement which I yelled back. I was feeling great. Oh right, I have to run another one of these. Damn, for a moment I feel the gravity of that sink in. I see Leslie on the lap and she yells something nice I am sure, I yell back “I love you” or something like that. After that first lap I refocus and reset the mind. Time to put some pressure on. A little faster, pick up the pace, you got this. Last 5k time to really put it down. I am off my goal pace but there is not much left in the tank and I might have been a little over ambitious with my goals in the beginning. I grit my teeth for the last hill and charge down it. The end is near and I can feel it. That sweet feeling of crossing the line. That moment of pure joy and exhaustion followed by the rush of dopamine. High fives are shared, times are assessed, joking and excusing I mean analysis begins. I try to drink the moment in, savor it all. Since my first half-ironman I have shaved off almost 45 minutes. Final time is 4:36 something. 12th in my age group, 88th overall out of 1800 with about 30 pros mixed in there as well. Great day, great weekend, a great sign of things to come. Onwards and upwards.

Stats (if you are into that sort of thing) Also congratulations you made it to the end. Yay for you.

Swim

Ride

Run

IMG_4703