Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mission accomplished

The whole goal of racing three weekends in a row all over the world was to get my ranking back up after an 18month hiatus due to injury. I need my ranking up so I can get into World Cups and World Championship Series events that get me qualified for the Olympics. I just got the email that I am on the startlist for the Edmonton World Cup July 10th and the Hamburg World Championships series event the following Saturday July 16th. Next on the list will be whether I get into the London World Championship series event on the Olympic course.

I am glad all the travel and racing paid off and look forward to the recovery and fitness gains from it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Heading home!

Last race of three in a row done and done!  I felt like I was getting stronger as the races went on and aside from some back tightness I felt I could still have a really strong race to finish off the trip.  The course was a cold wetsuit swim at 15C and then a hilly two lap bike course with a 1km granny gear climb followed by a two lap run with a hill in the middle of the lap both ways.

 

The days leading up had been cool 22C and comfortable with a haze blocking the sun mostly.  Race morning we awoke to beautiful blue sky and we could actually see around the beach front city of Weihai.

 

I started off with another good swim, second/third for the first lap then lead the second lap after an extensive series of dolphin diving in and back out from the turn.  It was a longer 300m run to transition but opened up a smaller gap into transition from the guys on my feet.  This was helpful as we had 50m to put our shoes on before going up a short out of the saddle hill to start the ride.

 

We quickly formed a group with Kyle, Gavin Noble (Irishman from last week) and an Aussie.  We started rolling off as a group but nothing too hard as we new we had a gap and there was tough riding ahead.  We stayed as a group of four till 8km when we were joined by a Russian and a South African.  The rest of the ride was pretty relaxed and the 1km climb was solid each time but nothing too hard.  We gained a huge lead over the chase group so it was a six man race.

 

Having gone out strong but not crazy last week I wanted to push harder earlier and see how strong a run I could pull out.  Going out I felt relaxed and strong and pushed the pace on the group of five that formed up the first hill.  This managed to stretch the group and after making the 180 at 2.5km it was Kyle, Gavin and myself with gaps between the others behind.  Coming back over the hill (steeper in the return direction) Kyle and I pushed hard and opened a gap to Gavin.  We worked hard over the hill and rolled off each other along the 1km flat stretch to the 5km first lap mark.  Coming out of the turn Kyle put a solid surge in and I increased my pace but couldn’t match him.  I then focused on running solidly over and back to the top of the hill on the way back.  I continued to put time on Gavin bit by bit.  I reached the top of the hill with just over a mile to go feeling strong but hurting.  I got down onto the flat and focused on the finish stretch.  Somewhere along this stretch things started going sideways.  With 800m to go I was struggling to keep pace and Gavin went by in a blur and I got to the finish chute in a daze and wobbling to the finish.  I was then taken off to the medical area where I proceeded to throw up everything I had drunk during the race.  Guess that explains the dehydration.  A couple of IV’s later I was good to go and up on the podium in third place for the third weekend in a row.  I was feeling so strong up until the last 1200m and really wanted to finish strong and move up a podium spot, but it is what is and it has been a successful trip none the less.

 

Thanks for the support from everyone over the last weeks, it is so good to be back on the world circuit again.

 

Congrats to Kyle for going three wins in a row, he was a running machine these past weeks.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The other hotspot coffee shop

Unfortunately we didn’t find this one till the last day, so only got one cappuccino all trip.

Amakusa, Japan Continental Cup #2

Another day at the office done and one more to go before heading home. Much like the World Cup in Ishigaki, Amakusa is a smaller town in the South of Japan that is quiet and very clean and not a bad place to train.

Travel over from Vancouver was delayed by 4hrs as a result of a plane and crew change because for led lights weren't working on the cabin lighting. That meant we missed our connection in Seoul and had to overnight there instead of in Fukuoka, Japan. It all worked out as we arrived the same time as originally planned.

We had a couple of days to recover after the long flights and having raced three days prior it was nice to have a couple of flush days. I felt good after these flush days and my tune up workouts felt sharp and strong.

The field was similar to Ixtapa with a few stronger foreigners and the majority of the field from the local country. The Japanese tend to be a little weaker on the bike so the plan of getting a smaller group away on the bike was more likely to happen here then in Ixtapa. Though it was a flat course there was one hill at the very beginning out of transition to help separate those that wanted to be in a front group.

Race morning it was poring rain but still 23C however the water temp was just 20C so borderline for wetsuit.  During the race briefing and all morning we tried to get a definitive “yes” it is a wetsuit, or “no” the temperature is too warm.  We got both answers from different people and as the race got closer we found out that some of the Japanese had not brought there wetsuits so the temperature ended up being 20.2C and the Japanese "opted" for non wetsuit, so a chilly start.  As I usually do when the water is borderline, I warm up in my wetsuit and keep it on to stay warm while we wait in line for almost 10min in the poring rain for the race start.

 

Kyle and I opted to start on the inside in the hopes we would be at the inside of he first turn and not have to swim wide around the 180 degree turn.  As it turned out, everyone wanted to be there too, so after the initial run in we were smashed against the rope and being piled on.  Kyle managed to squeak out in front while I had my leg and shoulder simultaneous pulled and I went under.  After coming to the surface I started to weave my way through the mess but just kept slamming into slower guys.  I then decided it would be faster to literally crawl over guys to the outside and swim my way back to the front.  So off I went moving sideways while everyone else went towards the turn.  I eventually got out of the hoard and 50m from the turn I was right back where I started beside Kyle, I had an underwater smile and chuckle at this point.  I cruised in behind the front five to finish the first lap and then headed onto lap two.  Half way out waves started coming in and the lead Japanese swimmers obviously aren’t use to them as they drastically slowed so I felt strong and easily moved around and took the lead for the last 500m of the swim.  Unfortunately no primes.

 

Transition was easy and quick as I had a 5sec gap and had time to let Kyle and Gavin cross in front of me before I headed out onto the bike.  Up the first hill I looked back and there was only seven of us and then a large gap.  The pack consisted of to two Canadians, two Irish, two Japanese and a Korean.  We quickly got rolling and swapping of pulls and worked efficiently and strongly.  We stayed together the whole 40km with the pace slacking slightly over the final 10km.  Still poring rain I was wet but perfectly warm and the impeccably clean Japanese roads meant our facing and suits weren’t full of road grit which is a nice change.

 

The transition was again quick and painless with a small group on I was third out behind the two Irishmen.  I knew the younger would be well back through the run and I thought I could pull the other one in throughout the middle k’s if not earlier.  Kyle quickly bridged up after a shoe stuck in a plastic back slowed his transition and we ran through the first couple of km’s together.  The course was very challenging with several long and steep hills and also a very steep pounding downhill.  Despite feeling solid going out, around the 2-3km mark Kyle pressed forward and got a small gap and the Irishmen Gavin stayed ahead.  I tried several times to close these gaps on the downhill’s, flats and corners but to no avail.  I ran solidly through to the final 2km at which point the gaps had grown a bit more and it was clear I wasn’t going to catch.  I don’t normally take it easy in a race as I always try and push my fitness, however, with a third race in a row only six days out (Saturday race) I opted to run strong controlled to the finish and give out some high fives along the finish.  I came down the shoot in third again but having still got the job done as needed, more points, no signs of injury flaring and feeling strong and ready for the next weekend.

 

All in all, it was another solid race after such a long break and a well executed one.  After an 18month break it is important to not lose the attention to detail and the small moments that require specific focus.  I feel I haven’t missed anything yet after this break and I am getting fitter as I go.  It will be a long season so I am very satisfied with these solid races as I will be able to build off of them and keep my best performance for the World Championship Series events and Olympic qualifying races.

Favourite coffee shop in Amakusa

Me sitting enjoying my coffee while Kyle is served his iced coffee.

Friday, June 3, 2011

You can heat train, but 37C and 80% is never easy

After doing seven heat sessions before Monterrey World Cup and three more before heading to Ixtapa I felt pretty comfortable with my prep. However, 37C and 80% humidity for some reason never gets easier. Even drinking 1.5 liters on the bike even having a frozen visor and wristbands waiting for me in transition didn’t alleviate the stress for long.

All that said the race started with another great swim exiting the water in third and after the 500m run to transition (this was a swim/run/bike/run type triathlon) I got in and out in second.

My goal was to push hard at the beginning of the bike to try and separate a group in the hopes of gaining a minute or two with a group of ten or less ideally. I lead the group for the first 5km pushing 350-400watts with no one coming around to help. We did get a separation but with motivated teammate Kyle Jones and several other strong cyclists (Croes, Serrano etc) in the group behind I couldn’t hold off the chase group all by myself. The remainder of the ride consisted of several breakaway attempts by myself and a few others, some under 100watt spinning and a crash on flat straight stretch. This was quite disappointing as two of our developing Canadians (John Bird and Cole Stewart) were taken out of the race as a result. Heal up quick boys!

The end of the bike was typical wit a big glob forming with 2-3km to go and I decided I would be the one to stretch it out heading into transition to avoid the mayhem. This was extra important as we dismounted and then immediately made 90degree turn and crossed a grassy median that had palm trees, bike racks and divots. Again I got in to transition in second and then fifth out onto the run.

Strategy for the run and these three weeks of racing in a row is to be consistent and still be a bit conservative. The goal here is to have solid finishes in order to accrue a solid number of points so I can get back to top race form and back on the World Championship Circuit.

So I began the run similar to Monterrey which was steady hard with the plan to build. I slid back a few positions in the first 500m but by the first turnaround at 1.25k I had moved up into third with two Mexicans breathing hard on each shoulder and Kyle Jones and Mannie Huerta 20m up the road. Judging by how hard the Mexicans were breathing and how relaxed I was I thought I would be able to shake them by 5km or so. Well…I guess there is an advantage to growing up in Mexico, they hung on bumping my elbows and clipping my heals all the way to 1.25km to go. One was yo yo’ing every aid station so I knew I could stress him going out of the last turnaround when I started a push for the finish. That worked for one Mexican but the other proved to be tougher to shake. The heat was really punishing now but I had under 1km to go. Before the race I had broken the last stretch down into 1.5min, 1.5min and 1min to go. So I took it a step at each time and once I got to 1min to go I started my kick and gapped the final Mexican and with 200m to go I sprinted in. It felt horrible and intensely hot but I got third and continued the race right through to the med tent. After about 20-25min there I felt normal again and headed to the hotel room to pack up for the flight home in 3.5hrs.

A short layover of two days in Vancouver, just enough time to get a Chinese visa before flying out Tuesday for Japan.