Monday, July 14, 2014

Race Report - Suburu Vancouver International Triathlon (Olympic distance)

Let me first lead off by thanking my sponsors and supporters:  Team Ossenbrink, Sugoi, CycleOps, Speed Theory, TELUS, and (most importantly) my wife Jenny & son Eli.  You all helped get me to the start line and through the finish chute.

The timing of my first Triathlon of the year, the Olympic-distance race (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run) at the Suburu Vancouver International Triathlon, was chosen as it's a good time to test my physical and mental fitness to see where it is strong, progressing, and where it needs some work.  When you race to your true current ability (not what you wish it to be, and to the max that it is), you get a good lesson from a ruthless, honest teacher:  Reality.

I'm a time-crunched Triathlete; so much so that there was a whole issue of Triathlete magazine last month dedicated to the "time-crunched Triathlete" that I haven't had time to read yet.  I make a point to keep my cycling fitness progressing, but if I have to drop a workout, the swim or the run go first.  I sneak in short workouts in the morning, mid-length workouts at lunch, and sneak out early or negotiate with Jen for an after-work session.  But none of these blocks are consistent.  I work out when I can and do a workout that will maximize the time I have or tend to the sport where I'm slipping the most.  It's these thoughts that are running through my mind as I drive to beautiful Jericho Beach in Vancouver, BC.


The forecast was for a perfect race temperature.  Cool (but not too cool) ocean temps, low 20s on the bike, and mid 20s on the run.  Perfect for me, though I do like a cooler run as I tend to get cramped legs at higher temps.  Parking was a mess as all the half-ironman athletes and supporters arrived early and took the good spots.  I spent way too much time finding parking and walking 2km to transition.  I had a good spot in transition that allowed me to spread my stuff out.  I'm pretty minimal with my setup but, nevertheless, I do like some real-estate to spread out on.  I started to get my wetsuit on, then...  of course...  my metabolism advises me to make a detour.  "Less than 10 minutes until start" rings the speaker system as I'm standing in line to obey my metabolism.  That's always a tough call - stay in line and take whatever comes, knowing you'll have to stop again later, or suck it up.   I always choose the former.  Morale of this graphic story is that one should show up as early as possible to a race site.

Race - Swim:

The gun goes off...   and I'm running to the beach.  I get to the beach and realize I'm on the wrong part of the beach.  I trek over to the correct part of the beach and bolt into the water, in last place.  The leaders are half-way to the first turn, at least 200m up.  I'm not swimming THAT bad these days so figure I can hit the first turn by the time the back of the pack gets there, then they'll spread out.  I surprised myself and caught the pack sooner than I thought, which meant a melee at the first turn as the slower swimmers gasped and grabbed through the first turn.  Because I caught the pack so soon, it meant I had to swim around people for the rest of the leg, dodging and weaving.  I hit the shore of the second lap at over 31:00; I usually do this distance in a race under 25:00.  Still, I was frustrated but I wasn't discouraged.  I still had two legs to go.

Race - Bike:

Not my fastest transition but it's a longer run to my station and I wasn't trying to blaze through T1 and get onto the bike.  I moved with purpose and got suited and ready to ride.  I knew what I had to do on the bike; pass people.  A lot of people.

It was now time to test my bike fitness.  I had a hard week of training, but felt I could go out and push.  Right out of the gate I was passing people.  Then a bunch more people.  Once I got to the hill at Spanish Banks, I eyeballed up the hill to see who I'd pass next.  My voice was hoarse from yelling "ON THE LEFT!!!" by the time I got through wreck beach.  Literally I think I got passed 5 times the whole bike leg, by the eventual winners of the waves that went after mine.  I had a good confidence-boosting ride overall.  I hit a bit of a blip about 2/3 the way through the ride and I just couldn't control my heart-rate and wattage, but once I got to the Jericho hill downhill, it was back to business.  It does help that it's a section of the course that, if you've passed a bunch of people, doesn't have too many riders on it.  And there's a lot of people cheering and it's an opportunity to show strength at the end of a tough bike ride to both the crowd (they're cheering for your strength, after all) and the final people you pass (intimidation is a good race tactic).  Unfortunately for me, that strength would be bested.

Race - Run:

The reality was simple:  I knew my run fitness is not where it should be and it would be tested today.  I transitioned quickly and though my legs were like logs, I was spry for the first 2km.  Once the course got technical and had some ascents/descents, I started to hurt and knew I'd be hanging on for another 8km.  The frustrating part is that I've held a faster pace on much longer courses in the past.  It's a piece of humble pie when you have to accept the result of the amount of work you've been able to put in.

Did I mention that I really don't like loose gravel-packed run courses?  It's like running in quicksand.

The 2km to 8km in the run was non-eventful in the fact that nothing changed:  I was not enjoying running.  I got proper nutrition at each aid station to stave off a cramping calf muscle that was bugging my for the last two weeks and that I tore at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in 2010.

The last 2km I tried to summon what I could and shave a few seconds off my eventual finish time of 2:31 and change.  I have to admit that I didn't push those last 2km as hard as I could, since it wouldn't have mattered that much on the finish time.

I did get a fun 'celebrity' moment after finishing when the announcer who blurts out your name as you cross the line remarked "I always love the 'other hobbies' information our athletes provide.  It says here that Jared cures and smokes his own Bacon".  I was greeted with a roar of cheers and applause from spectators and volunteers.  A few athletes afterwords asked if I was "the Bacon Guy" and asked if it's less-fatty/gluten-free/organic/100-mile etc.   Of course I said yes to all of it cuz hey, I'm "The Bacon Guy".


Here's what I learned this race:

- The next 7 weeks need to summon my best effort at being a less time-constrained Triathlete
- I need to get to the race site earlier to get to the race line on time
- I need to focus on the first 200m to 400m of the swim and get in with a group and have them drag me around the course
- I need to keep pushing my bike fitness - it's my strength and makes up the majority of the race
- I need to do more mid-distance high-intensity bricks off the bike.  I need to remain strong for the first 5km
- I need to practice mentally "hanging on" during the last half of the run
- I need to add a bit of core and strength work right now to stave off fatigue during the bike and run
- On poor terrain, I need to shorten my stride and up my turnover rate.
- I need to trust my nutrition plan to do what it needs to (that was probably the flawless thing about my race)
- I need to eat a bit less bacon and drop 5 lbs

Happy racing everyone.  See you at the next one:  Point Grey Triathlon!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ok, self, let's get our butt in gear. Time to adapt, again.

Sorry for the hiatus.  It hasn't just been a hiatus from blogging about Triathlon, but a hiatus in regular, recurring training as well.  Winter and Spring this year had some unexpected challenges with work and the motivation/de-motivation that can sometimes come with not doing something you love for a living.

I am happy to announce, though, that things are changing.  I'm back doing work that I enjoy and, though it's always stressful to change jobs, I feel like things are on the up again.

Luckily for me, my coach has been able to help me maintain a somewhat good base fitness.  So now it's time to build.  Race season is here and I'm looking forward to some training and some vitamin D! Eli has also joined me for a few workouts and likes to yell "faster!  faster!" during hill repeats with the running stroller, especially when it's not possible to go any faster.

Sometimes life can get in the way but it's how you deal with it that counts.  I'm still determined to be in my best shape ever for the ITU Triathlon Grand Final on September 1st.  That's 3.5 months to build.  Getting into my best shape with a busy job and a busy young family will be no small feat.  I can't easily change either of those circumstances (nor do I want to).  So it means I will need to adapt, again:

- Bring back the morning workout (though not every morning)
- Be strict about getting in a lunchtime workout
- A 30 lb stroller with a 35 lb toddler in it is a good training accessory
- Bring maximum quality to every minute that I find for training

Alight.  Let's do this!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Why you should consider watching the Sochi Olympics

Dear Sochi (justified) Boycotter,

I will watch the Winter Olympics in Sochi.  I will do so happily, but not without personal struggle

I will rarely watch live and prefer to PVR and fast forward through the commercials because the sponsors pay for their brief airtime with me.  I will watch not because of national pride but because I want to celebrate my closest neighbours participating.  I will watch not because I agree with the practices of the host nation; in this case I deplore the practices of this particular host.

I will watch because the athletes participating did not choose these particular Olympic games to participate in.  They were chosen.  Though Men's Hockey and a few specific athletes in other sports do make a lot of money, the vast majority of these elite athletes barely scrape by, relying on family, friends, and a side job.  Their chosen profession is not celebrated properly except for 2 weeks every 4 years.

I watch the Olympics because I can sympathize with the story of the unsung elite athlete.  The resolve it takes to completely dedicate your mind and body to seeing how far the human body and spirit can be pushed takes a self-consuming focus, dedication, and belief that our limits are tested but not finite.  These athletes are struggling with competing in these particular Olympics.  Does the pursuit of redefining physical limit outweigh everything else.  Everything else these athletes have given up suggests that to them it does.  To them it must.  You can't give your life to something and not follow through, no matter what.  

If you decide not to watch, I can completely understand.  

But consider taking a look your chosen path/passion/profession.  At the thing you've dedicated every available moment, every available cell of your body to pursuing.  Remember it has come with some or many sacrifices.  For the unsung athlete, in the majority of cases, the sacrifice is that you put family on hold, you put a financially gainful career on hold, you put relationships on hold.  Your best friend is your sweat, pain, and belief.  Pretend you were the best artist, the best banker, the best electrician, the best consultant, the best carpenter, the best doctor, etc.  Imagine being devalued because people didn’t like the country you practiced your passion in.  They didn’t like who sponsored your profession.  They decided that your ability didn’t matter because you were given privilege to practice what you do.  

Some countries with a strong Olympic record reward successful Olympic performance.  Many with that same record do not.  I say that only to reinforce that they are playing on a level field.  They see each other as fellow competitors.  They are not competing for your favour, their family’s favour, their friend’s favour, or their country’s favour.  That favour is simply motivation and support for what their ultimate goal is:  the performance that matches their best potential.  For every athlete who achieves it, their sacrifice will be worth it.  If it happens that it is the current recorded best on the entire Planet Earth, even just on that day?…    …well…   imagine for a second, for a split second,  the personal pride you would feel.  The pride that goes with living a humble life in order to pursue something that seems wildly ambitious, naive, and fantastic.

My schooling involved deep study of the Olympic movement.  I would like to bring an accessible perspective of what it means to compete.

Citius, Altius, Fortius is not a motto meant for the IOC, not sponsors, not the host nation.  It is a motto for a person who wants to physically manifest it.  To that kind of person it always has, and it always will, been a drive and a dream.

Consider tuning in.

With the warmest regards,


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Accidental hiatus and trying to regain focus

It's been quite a while since I posted.  And primarily it's been because I haven't had much to post about.  The truth of the matter is that I haven't been training consistently since last summer for a variety of reasons.  Nevertheless I got picked up again by Triathlon Canada to represent our country at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final (Olympic distance) being held in Edmonton, AB, Canada (not a glamorous venue, but it does mean a ton of my family can come).  I'm also again getting fantastic support from Sugoi Performance Apparel (

So why am I not training like my usual self?  The truth is that it's been a lot tougher than I thought trying to balance family, work, and Triathlon when you have a young family.  It takes a toll on your motivation to train when you constantly miss workouts for a variety of legit reasons.

Training effectively requires a very structured approach.  When the rest of your life is unstructured right now, it's hard to follow a structured training regime.  My workouts right now tend to need to fit into whatever time magically appears in my schedule and wherever (geographically) I happen to be at that time.  For example, let's say I have a bike and swim workout scheduled on a particular day but the only time that opens up is during the lunch hour and I'm no where near my bike or a pool.  Well, pretty much that day is a write-off if I'm following a structured training approach.  So I finish the day a bit disheartened and without the endorphin kick I get from training.  Multiply that by x number of days over y number of weeks and you can understand why someone who is extremely structured by habit can find themselves frustrated and demotivated.  Especially when you have hired a coach.

So clearly a normal child-free, stable work commitments, regular schedule kind of approach won't work for me anymore.  What now?  I'm looking for suggestions on what to try, but here's my current plan.

- Make sure I always have the right gear in my car in case an opportunity for a workout presents itself
- Start running and biking more with Eli in the Chariot
- Sunday morning swims with Eli will be treated as kick sets where I push him around on the foam rafts (which he loves)
- Treat the regimented day by day schedule as a list for the week rather than for the day.  Move around workouts as required but following good training principles (e.g. don't do two hard breakthrough workouts consecutively)
- Be more proud of the training I can do and less frustrated by what I cannot.