Larry's Blog Pages

June 19, 2007

Binbrook Duathlon

After a full day to replay this race over a few times in my head, I still cannot decide if I am satisfied with the total experience or a little disappointed with the way I planned my aggressive attack on this course.

I arrived very prepared on this race morning as I had really thought most of my pre-race routine out and executed a lot of the little details the night before. My equipment was packed, nutritional products collected and my bike set up for a quick park and rack upon entry to the Binbrook Conservation Area. This quiet park south west of Hamilton was another perfect spot for multisport with ample parking and amenities to serve the growing number of participants on the HSBC Triathlon Series.

Once past the gatehouse at the entrance to the conservation area I had a short drive to the grassy parking lot and picked out a spot very close to the transition area. I gathered up all my gear, unloaded my bike and made my way over to the athletes staging where I easily found a position on the overflow rack that was actually more assessable to the exits than the age group spot that had already filled up. This may have helped on my best transition times to date in any duathlon!

After setting up my spot, I wandered over to pick up my race kit (I was even pre-registered for another time saver!). I then had a cheerful group of volunteers apply my body markings and also set me up with my timing chip. Having all this completed with so much extra time before the event I even was able to take the bike out for a test run to adjust a few things and hopefully improve my aero during competition. I rode for a few minutes out on the driveway to work out my legs then took my ride back to the t-zone before easing into a relaxing jog, building up to a few sprint burst before making my way to the starting line two minutes before the official gun.

As the Duathlon was first to go we had a nice crowd to cheer us off and with the final count down to “ONE” we were off and running. I jetted out very quickly and got to the head of the pack, jumping on the heels of the tour guide on his mountain bike. From the transition zone we headed down the short grass towards the lake and followed the pathway through the fields along the shoreline. This path took us to a trail cut through a young forested area that snaked through the park just off the lake and brought us back to another grassy path leading to the lake’s dam.

I was surprised to remain out in front at this point and figured I might as well add to the lead I was feeling strong and knew some of the better cyclists would reel me in once they got to their specialty. The bike guide pulled me down the edge of a gravel road that crested the dam to the east of the lake. It was only a 200 metre run along this section before the first Duathlon turn point (triathlon turn around was further down the dam) as I made the turn 100 metres in the lead. With the help of my tour guide, I was now heading back through the pack of runners to retrace my opening steps. I kept the pace up but now started to feel a little lost without the aid of KM markers as I really could not tell what that pace was. It is tough enough to gauge pace on flat asphalt but on trails that twist, dip and raise it is even tougher.

A little more than seven minutes into the race I passed back along the beach near the start/finish line and continued out to the west end of the park, a little concerned that I was pushing too hard. I really didn’t know what to expect next in regards to terrain so I stayed on the bikers tail as he lead me into another bush trail that curved its way through the conservation area. This was another loop with a small hill that was just large enough to test the knees. ! When I got to the top of the loop I had opened up an even larger lead and was determined to finish the 4.5km trail run with under 4 min/km splits.

Once again, the loop led me back through the field of runners. It was a great feeling to hear their words of praise as they motivated me to push on even quicker towards our bikes. I took a look back and the closet runner was 30 seconds behind my pace as I made my way up the gentle hill on the edge of the lake and into to T1.

I kept my running pace right through the transition to my ride and quickly slipped on my cleats, helmet and exited out the back door to the mount zone. I was the first athlete on the road (tri or du) and the Police escort was there waiting for me at the gatehouse of the park. This was a first time experience for me and I was pretty excited to be out in the lead, although, I knew it was not going to last very long.

After a kilometre on the road I looked down and realized I wasn’t getting up to my normal speed. Was it the quick run on the bumpy terrain or the Saturday training session that was finally catching up with my legs? Whatever it was I tried to power through and kept pushing on the pedals. Around 3k out from the park the inevitable pass occurred as two riders in tight formation and relaxed aero position pushed out to the left and made their move, pulling away to take their turn with the Police bike.

I continued to spin along the relatively flat course afraid that my legs would burn out in a lower gear but I just couldn’t create any speed and the winds hitting me from all sides were not helping out the cause. With every turn along the route I thought this is going to be the stretch I catch one gust that would give my legs the boost they needed to rest up for the final run but it was not to be as they always seemed to hit from another front angle. I just buried my head, trying to stay with each rider that passed but they eventually would get away from my pursuit.

As I looped back along the return side of the road, I counted down the clicks to transition making sure I kept my position respectable. I realized most of the athletes passing by were from the triathlon so I knew I was still in decent shape in the overall scheme of things.

I finally hit the park driveway disappointed in my cycling effort and wanted to get back out on the trail to hunt down my competition. A quick dismount from the bike led to another speedy transition and I was back on the run course, mixed in with the triathletes this time round. I got into a shuffle that seemed to quicken the further along I got out from home base. I was slowly making my way through the other runners (all from the tri) and reached the turn around on the dam again.

As the Triathlon participants were running a longer finishing route they continued past the turn point so I knew I had only three people in front and nobody behind at this time. The gentleman in position three was roughly 400 metres in front of me and runner five, at that time, was 500 metres back of me.

As the heat of the day was starting to make its presence felt, I elected not to push things and decided to stick to my current pace mentally accepting a fourth place finish. This was one of the first times I have made this decision but my body was telling me this was the correct choice.

I kept on shuffling through the same course as we started on, 4.5k of grass paths, gravel trail and asphalt driveway. Winding out to the west loop I noticed I was holding pace with the other runners and could feel the end of the run getting thankfully closer. I took one last look in the rearview and there was still a nice gap so I ran solo for the last 1.5k for the first time in any race. Nobody to catch, nobody to push, no need to kick. I made my way up to the finish corral and the announcer had the play by play to confirm my fourth place finish (2nd in AG) as the fans brought me to the line.

My first experience on the HSBC circuit was now in the books but with mixed emotions. Did I let one get away or should I take it for what it was, a positive training race along the way to bigger goal?


The Multisport Canada - HSBC Triathlon Series crew prepared a very professional event and seemed very organized and accommodating. They had plenty of people on duty and made it very easy for athletes to get information and direction. The run course was visibly marked and easy to follow, especially with the biker guide leading me through the first time! The bike course was well controlled in respects to traffic and flow thanks to many Police officers on the course and on the corners. The post-race food was decent and enough to satisfy my hunger and thirst after a challenging day on the course. The awards presentation went quickly and wrapped up in time to get back to Toronto to enjoy the afternoon at home. One item on my wish list would be more km markers along both run and bike routes to help with pacing.

In summary, the beautiful weather, friendly athletes (a large contingent of Running Free athletes) and relaxing setting made for a great Sunday morning. I was very pleased with the event Multisport Canada produced and hope to get out on this series a few more times this season!

June 9, 2007

Milton Duathlon

The latest stop on the Subaru TriSport circuit brought a large number of triathletes and duathletes together for a multisport meet at the Kelso Lake Conservation Area just outside Milton, Ontario. The first outdoor triathlon this season brought enormous crowds of athletes and spectators to this great rural setting, only half an hour from the chaos of Toronto. Although, the forecast was a little scary at times during the week the weather turned out to be incredible with tons of sun and very little wind, conditions perfect for racing.

I arrived at the park slightly before the gates were scheduled to close giving myself plenty of time to get prepared and ready to race. Even though I was running off less sleep than usual, I felt fresh and couldn’t wait to test my training against the other duathletes in the 159 person field in the Du.

After a lengthy drive through the park, I finally found a spot for my vehicle and got all my gear together and assembled Barry’s Cannondale and wheeled it down to the transition zone. The transition area was a buzz and jammed with athletes and bikes so it was tough to find a spot for my ride. I ended up squeezing in on the last bar of my wave (I couldn’t see an over flow section) and the bike racks were so full that I couldn’t leave my bag around the bike so I pulled out my essentials and laid them out tight to the wheels. To make room for other athletes I took my bag over to the side of the zone to the fence line hoping I would not have to make an emergency visist to the bag during the race.

Due to time constraints during the week, I unfortunately was not able to get over to Running Free to stock up on gels and bars for this race so I had to make my way up the hill to the post-race “village”. I spotted a vendor selling gels and purchased a few to take along on the ride. After getting them prepared and taped to the bike I had around fifteen minutes to warm up. I found a nice, quiet spot to stretch out and also watch the first wave of triathletes commence their swim. After working out most of the tightness in my upper body, I proceeded to run a few hill climbs and some quick sprints to wake up the leg muscles. Feeling a little more limber I was off to the starting line for the 5 minute count down and instructions from one of the race officials.

As the official counted down the final seconds we crept to the line and pushed off along a cool, shaded lane of dirt and stone. I have not trained on this type of surface so it took some time to adjust to the feeling of rocks pushing through my racing flats.

The start of the 2k run was a slight incline which separated the group quickly. I attempted to stay near the front runners (some I recognized from other runs and I am aware of their talents) hoping they would set a solid, fast pace. The first kilometre seemed to rush by in an instant and then we were guided around the turn and back past the other racers following us along the narrow path. By this time the leaders were slowly pulling away but were not too far out of reach which was very encouraging. We gradually closed in on the transition area from a steep, gravelly decent to the timing mats at the gate. At this point I was in 6th spot and hoping to complete a speedy transition.

I rushed to my bike, clipped on my helmet, got my cleats on in good fashion and made my way to the bike course happy that I had not dropped many spots during the change, as was the case in Waterloo. I mounted the bike smoothly on the fly and got clipped into the pedals. It was now a huge mix of athletes on the bike course with a lot of late wave triathletes and other duathletes required to share the road.

The first stretch on wheels for us was the park’s main driveway (with a few speed bumps) that took us out to our first real public road of the race. I was making good time on Barry’s Cannondale and could sense I would be stronger today than in the past as the bike was just made for speed.

As this race was very close to family and friends I was fortunate to have a helpful cheering section just as I turned out from the conservation area. I used their support to grab some extra energy and started cranking it out heading north on Tremaine Road on my journey to the dreaded “6th Line Hill” that everyone had spoke about leading up to the event.

It was a short ride on Tremaine to a controlled left turn onto Campbellville Road where I was among a large number of riders bunched together minutes away from the climb. We got our tempo up moving down a hill toward the right hand turn at the foot of the 6th Line which tested my turning for the first time on this bike. I didn’t want to take a big chance on this turn so I made space for myself and went wide around the bend. Meeting us around the turn was our big challenge of the day, the 1.3 kilometres of slow, pumping accent up the escarpment that brought everyone to crawl as they made their way through the high gears.

Although, I was not intentionally attacking the hill, I seemed to be moving up a quicker than the riders around me which inspired me to push forward as I huffed and puffed up this intense slope. As I approached the top I began to beam in delight that I had made it up one of my biggest cycling tests to date making up several spots lost along the way.

With this obstacle in the books, it was time to fire the burners and I started to get up to speed making my way through the crowds of athletes along the rolling hills of the Milton high lands. Most of the rollers of asphalt up here were gentle and I geared through them very smoothly gaining many more positions than losing. At around the 7k mark, a group of seven riders, myself included, broke out from the rest of the pack and battled back and forth for most of the next 20k. As we caught the next groups we would line out, down the middle yellow line, and make our pass then scatter back into formation to avoid drafting and the penalties associated with getting caught. During this long stretch of racing we made a couple testing turns that almost put me down due to the pebbles on the wide spot of the corners. In both instances I had my cleat come out of the clip but I was able to catch myself before the bike could slip out from under my weight. These novice mistakes forced me to make some time up to catch the group so I could use their pace to keep my position near the leaders of the duathlon.

Shortly after my second brush with disaster on the 15th Side Road turn we found ourselves back on the 6th Line, making our way back to the big hill and a chance to bomb it down the slope of the Niagara Escarpment. By the time we reached the crest a few of us had created a little gap from the four other competitors giving us plenty of space on the road. After a slight hesitation on my behalf, I hit the hill in line with the others making sure I had some room to move just incase someone bailed ahead of me. I had a very fast decent tucked nicely on my aero bars not wanting to loose any ground on the two that hit the hill before me. As advertised, the left back onto Campbellville Road approached quickly so I started to apply the brakes just before the base of the slope and made the corner comfortably, able to jump out of the saddled to power back up another little hill on the way back to Tremaine Road.

I knew my fans would be waiting patiently for my return but since Tremaine angled down to the park I was flying by them a little faster this time and was only able to give them a little wave of appreciation for cheering me on.
Again pumped up from my cheering section, I made my way back down the park entrance and pedaled my way past more riders trying to set myself up for my goal of a top 15 position. Little did I know I was doing much better thanks to my best ever bike time, which turned out to be 16th out of the 159 participants.

Next on the race agenda was Transition 2. I prepared well in advance for my dismount and touched down right at the line for a solid start to the change over. As I ran to the bike rack my glasses dropped from my jersey but there was no way I was going to back track (the reason I buy very cheap one!) and grab them. When I reached the bar I was only behind one other guy on my rack which really was surprising given the bikes stationed there before the race. Everything seemed to be flowing nicely and the new elastic laces worked like a charm (I used them for the very first time). As I was slipping on my second shoe and just about to take off my helmet, my first error of the day occurred. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that my bike was falling. I continued to slip on my shoe and looked up to see the whole rack had collapsed as the two of us had jarred it enough to pop out the stanchion to my left. I guess there were so many people on this rack to start the race someone probably pulled the stand too close to the end of the pipe. The smallest vibration down the bar would send it to the ground. I wasn’t sure if it was when I put my bike on or if the other gentleman had created a little ripple along the pole but it had toppled over and we both scrambled to get our bikes back vertical. Thankfully, some very helpful fans were standing on the other side of the fence and saw this and quickly got the bar back on the stand and saved us a great deal of time.

Finally, onto the 7.5k run to end this event and my legs were feeling the effects of the longer ride and the uphill trail climb to get the run started took a lot more out of them. Due to the number of triathlon waves out before us there were still a great number of athletes out on the trail before us. Most of them were in the same boat, slowly making their way down the trail. After a kilometre of running too slow for my liking, I started to shuffle my feet with a lot more purpose and started to make up a lot of ground through the masses.

At this point we were still climbing upwards to higher ground but I was pulling away from the others and had only been passed by one runner, the same gentleman from the rack debacle who I know from past races is a better runner and didn’t want to burn myself out trying to stay with him. After a brief stint on the road we headed into another conservation area lane and up into the trail system that included a steep climb into the bush. This trail traveled up to a loop where we finally started to move downhill. At this stage of the race I felt rejuvenated and really started to pick up the pace. Back down the trail and along the driveway towards home I continued to make positive stride and positions. It felt good to find this hidden energy and the folks I passed graciously complimented my kick back to Kelso. After doubling back much of the trail into Kelso a new twist sent us out past the ski chalet where we all parked. Remembering this section of the park from the walk in at the start of the day, I knew nobody was going to catch me so I kept pouring on the gas and made up a number of spots (not sure if the were in the Du or not but didn’t take any chances). After a slow start to the run I came home with the 5th fastest leg to finish over 2 minutes quicker than my total race goal of 1:33:00 with a final chip time of 1:30:44. This placed me in 6th overall!

During the first two postings on the results board I was listed 3rd in my 5 year age group but they must have changed that age grouping just before the awards ceremony and I was bumped to 4th in an expanded 10 year age category. Oh well, that part was out of my control and I was very pleased by my effort and desire to race on this particular day. I have poured a lot into training lately and the gains have been amazing. I would like to send a special thank you out to Syd Trefiak for sharing a whole lot of knowledge with me and getting me on the right track this season. It is very much appreciated!

See you on the course!

May 31, 2007

AdiPacer - Scotia Bank Waterfront Half Marathon

With swag in hand it is official that I will be leading some great runners down the waterfront in the Scotia Bank Half Marathon on Sept 30th. Adidas sponsors this pace bunny program and has been generous in gear which is very much appreciated. I am leading the 2:15 continuous charge of runners and look forward to the task and the training runs planned to get the runners prepared. Frist one is this Saturday, June 2 so it should be a blast putting in a nice long run with some folks looking to hit their goals in this race.

Hope to see you on the course!

May 22, 2007

Victoria's Duathlon - Waterloo

Although the Victoria Day long weekend is not the true beginning to summer, it has long been treated as Canada’s first summer holiday and this year the weather was absolutely perfect! With this beautiful weather hitting the region all multisport enthusiasts can sense summer right around the corner it comes naturally that we want to get started with the season to test out all our winter training and the new equipment collected over the break.

The first event on the schedule was held this past weekend on the holiday Monday in the quiet outskirts of Waterloo at the Community Fellowship Church. I set out on my trip a few hours before the 11 am start time and arrived at the site in plenty of time to register and pick up my race kit before putting my bike on the rack and starting a warm up. The staging area was very well set-up and conveniently close to the large parking area making it ideal for athletes to get set up without any long walks or shuttles. The Church was built more like a community centre and offered a very good facility for registration and post-event festivities central to the transition area and the parking lot.

Even though I was early by my standards, I still did not beat the rest of my age group to the transition area so I had to make my way to the overflow area and find an empty rack to get my things in order for the race. By this time the weather was warming up so I decided to make some last minute changes to my gear before heading out of the paddock for some quick stretches and to look around to acquaint myself with the start/finish area.

At 11:00 am the Elite athletes, and then some, pulled up to the line and were rushed off by the horn, down the Church driveway into a left turn down the first of many country roads covered during the event. My age group was in the second wave, three minutes behind the Elites and soon we were out of the gate and on the heels of the first wave. The 4k run to start this duathlon was mostly flat with only one average hill on the loop that went up at around 600m into the race and then took us down around 3.2k on the way back to the transition to the bikes.

I went out quickly in our wave and focused on a few better athletes that I hoped I could stay close to during the run (knowing they would pull away from me in the ride). I was pretty certain they would pace me to a respectable first leg of the race and we hit the first km marker at roughly 3:30 (even with the uphill climb), and maintained the pace as we flattened out and watched the first wave loop back down their side of the road. It didn’t seem long before we approached the 2k turn around marker that sent us back down the right side of the road where we got a good look at the competition. It was motivating to see some of the other runners chasing you down and I knew I wanted to hold them off so I kept up the pace with the leaders of our group. Shortly after the 3k sign, we plunged down the hill that was followed by a very minor grade back up to the driveway, hitting the transition area in good shape just under 15 mins.

In T1 I slapped on my helmet, strapped on my shoes, squished in a quick GU tri-berry gel and made a dash for the “bike on” line. It didn’t seem like I was in there long but the transition was poor on the stats sheet and is a definite area to work on in training.
I was now on the bike, clipped in and ready to see if the extra cycling I have worked on would pay off compared to my times at the end of last season. Reading some info leading up to this race I fully expected the hills and it didn’t take long for our group to start the roller coaster that would make up the terrain for close to the entire ride. With the slow, hard pumping ups also came the speedy downs, even on my cheap bike, some reaching over 60 km/hour. I pedaled as well as I ever have and really pushed the bike but my lack of experience and department store bike left me a little behind some of the competition I had used my running to pull away from earlier. Oh well, it’s only my third duathlon and plenty of time to improve in this discipline.

During the final 7k of the ride, a group of four other cyclists and I battled back and forth as I would grab the lead up the hills and they would take back the positions on the downhill portions and flats. Even though I know I will be able to hold them off with more training, I loved the chess game it provided and it was a fun race within the race that sped up the entire group as we twisted through the country side leading us back to the transition zone for the final 4k run. My average speed on the bike posted at 34.2 km/h, close to 2 km/h better than my pace from last fall but something I need to increase even more to be more competitive in this sport.

The group pulled into the “bike off” zone together with my bike slightly behind them at the line. With another slower than anticipated change of gear I started back out to the same 4k route on foot a little behind. It didn’t take my legs long to stretch out and I rapidly over came the deficit from my slow transition and charged past them and up the hill. I then caught a few more runners and followed by a small gap as I turned back for the final 2k of the event. Looking around at the 2k turn I felt there was only one person running at a pace that could catch me and a few ahead in the distance that I had a realistic chance of reeling in. It wasn’t long before the tall, smooth runner pulled up to my right and settled into a side-by-side run for over a kilometre picking off a few others that were beginning to fade in the heat. We continued past 3k and started down the hill together but his long legs covered the downward slope more efficiently and he started to pull away with only 500 m remaining. I hit the driveway and looked back and did not see any other challenges so I decided to exhaust the tanks and make a final sprint to the line in hopes of taking back that one position. The lumpy grass path leading us to the finish line was a little unsettling under my rubberized legs but I kept my balance and had just enough gas to catch and pass him with only 50 m to spare. The final push also helped me hit my goal to go under 4 mins/km on the last leg of the race.

In retrospect, it was a very satisfying first multisport race of the season and provided a lot of reinforcement that I am still improving. There were a lot of the Team Running Free teammates out competing hard with great results. I got a chance to meet a few of the group and that was worth the trip alone. The weather was fantastic for this event and I can only hope every race weekend will match these conditions. The race crew put together another well run event that was organized, competitive and, as always, the volunteers were terrific!

See on all on the road soon!

May 6, 2007

Sporting Life 10K

For a night runner, an early wake up call is not always the way you want to get going to test your abilities against 8000 other runners but when you need to rely on public transit to get you to the starting line that is only the first struggle of the event. I have a bad habit of usually rushing around too much on race days so I was determined to change this routine and had everything packed up and ready to go the night before the run. Well, one missed bus, one slow bus and one taxi later and I arrived at another race later than anticipated with only 15 minutes to spare.
The worst part about being late this time was that I was supposed to meet two co-workers at a specific time and place that we selected earlier in the week. As I wandered into the vast crowd of athletes I noticed the cargo vans packing up so I pulled up beside the first one in line and got dressed quickly into my running gear, grabbed a few carbs from my bag and handed my extra gear over to the crew as they were sliding down the door. With this important duty off my checklist, I headed out to find my friends and hopefully get in a bathroom break before the gun. As luck would have it, I happened upon them only a minute into the search as they were waiting in line at the bank of port-a-potties. Looking at the time and the line up to get to the bathroom, I realized I would not have time to wait any longer so I wished them good luck and headed to the front of the pack.
As I made my way along the sidewalk to the starting line I could sense the excitement in the air and had a bad feeling I was not going to get to my time slot to hit the starting mats with the other runners of my pace. I scrambled up the side of the mob of people and got up near the front just as the gun went off. It took a couple of stutter steps to get in line with the crowd right before the starting banner and then I was off through the traffic. Although, runners were asked to line up according to estimated finish times, many were not in the right spot so I had a lot of weaving to do to find open daylight to allow me to settle into a pace. The downhill nature of the run made it difficult to tell if I had gone out too fast but my legs were feeling fresh so I decided to stick to that speed until the first KM marker and then adjust gears if needed. The marker didn’t seem to take long to reach and a voice on the megaphone clearly barked out the time so there was no need to pull back my long sleeves to check my watch. 3:44 for the first tenth of the race felt about right so I held that pace and continued down the unusually traffic free street and through Police patrolled intersection after intersection.

(I am in the red Running Free hat with red Brooks shorts near the front)

We rapidly hit the next KM marker with the group around me holding a steady pace, pretty much identical to the first split. With two k’s under our belts we continued down the steep hills of Yonge Street and were joyfully greeted from an overhead bridge by a vocal group of fans that pushed us along to our first slightly uphill grade of the race. I still felt strong and knew the upcoming climb (the only real uphill of any visible slope) would not wear on me at this stage of the race so I pushed on maintaining my pace and concentrating on my task ahead.
During the third KM we encountered another speedy decline that sent us speeding down the open street near Summerhill station and under another bridge then back to a more gradual decent to the lake as we passed St. Clair Street.
By this point of the race I had become accustomed to running with several members in the group so I knew which section of the road they preferred and was able to visualize the next portion of the race. We continued along past Bloor Street and came up on the fifth KM flags at 19:18 of the official time. I felt like I had a lot left in the tank at this point but knew the land was going to flatten out soon. Also weighing in on my course management was the wind coming from my left side that I figured we would be running straight into it once we turned east further down the street at Adelaide.
The crowds were great down this stretch of Yonge and the urban music near Dundas Square was a timely pick-me-up and a fresh diversion from the analytical stats turning in my mind. Heading further along Yonge, to areas more familiar to me, I was a lot more certain of the upcoming terrain allowing me to prepare for the left turn at Adelaide. This occurred just after seven kilometres and I was actually able to sling shot past a bunch of runners who took the turn too wide due to the number of people reaching that point bunched up like grapes. Footing on this stretch of the course was a little dicey due to the streetcar tacks laid down the middle of the road and, with the next turn to the right side, I settled close to the curb to avoid getting caught up on one of the rails. We traveled east along Adelaide for roughly 900 metres before turning back to the south on Sherbourne. This was a quick little feeder road to our sprint down Lakeshore, in the cool shadows of the Gardner Expressway. Hitting Lakeshore West we lined out in a string of runners with the wind to our backs. The nine KM marker approached but I didn’t dare look at my watch as I didn’t want to loose my focus and break the pace in my rubber legs. With less then half a kilometer left we hit the Air Canada Centre and I knew exactly how much track was left so I put it into high gear ready for a great finishing kick. The second last turn on to York brought the finish banner into site and I just tried to hold off any challenges from behind. With only 300 metres to go one caught and passed me and we made our final turn for home on Bremner. I thought he had me with his sudden burst of speed but I was not going down without a fight and just as I hit my kick his engine stuttered and stalled and I was able to regain my position from him about five metre from the timing mats.
I looked at the official time and was relieved to see the time very close to the time I visualized the past few weeks and was even happier when I looked at my stop watch to see 23 seconds less (which was true as per
Now that the race is over I have had some time to look back on the event as a whole and not just the race itself. The weather was fantastic and just perfect for running. The opportunity to test your abilities against some of the very best runners from Canada, and even the World, is simply amazing. The volunteers on the course, the police at all those intersections and folks at the finish area were all very friendly and respectful of the athletes making my experience a positive one. Even when I came late to hand over my bag they did not complain or turn me away. They were careful taking the chip off my race shoes so they were not damaged. The crew recovered my bag quickly so I was able to stay warm and dry off in no time at all and the folks at the drink and food stations had an endless supply of treats so I could re-fuel. The only issue I had with the whole event, and it would not deter me from entering again, was getting to the start via TTC. From my house it just takes too long by bus and with all the road closures. It is one area I will have to plan a little better next year so that I can get a proper warm up and fuelling in before hitting my marks.
Overall, it was a fun race with great atmosphere (cheering crowds and music along the way) and terrific volunteers. I would recommend to all runners looking for an early race in the season. I will be back to improve on my PB, with asterisk.

April 30, 2007

April Training

Got all my training in today so I am able to relax tonight for a change. 42k on the bike during the two way commute. Very windy conditions today, specially tonight so things were very tough but results slowly showing on the bike. Hit the Lakeshore for a very quick 8k run at lunch. Didn't have my stop watch (very forgetful these days) but by the clock on the side of the Queen's Quay building it was at most 33 min's. It felt quick and I have gone below 32 before so I think it was just a little over that magical 4 per km pace. Sporting Life 10k this weekend so one more quick trainng run tomorrow and then taper for rest of the week. Can't wait as I really think I can hit my goal.
After a grueling 17K run late last night I decided to take it a little easier today and stick to 10K or so but combine it with a trip to the bike store to pick up my bike stand. I got geared up and threw on my backpack to bring it home. I wanted to go at a slower pace but that always changes once you get moving so I got the the store a little quicker than I expeced and a lot sweatier than planned. The sales rep grabbed my bike stand and brought it out to the front desk. It was in a box that had no way to fit in my backpack so I stood there for a minute and thought about my options. As usual I selected the most insane solution and started to run back the 5 or so km's home with the box under my arm. Luckily, it was very light but when the legs started to get tired my whole stride suffered. I was going to stop and get on the bus but for some reason my legs just kept moving. I actually made decent time with the awkward parcel and now have a great stand to tune up my bike on.
Technically a day off running and cycling today so I just hit the ice for an hour and a half of goaltending during a fun game of pick-up. A good little sweat but nothing compared to a real training session but my body needs a day to relax. Just looking at some running sites and then round out the day with some push-ups. Hopefully, the weather clears up so I can bike to work in the morning. Good night all!
More meaningful time spent on the bike this morning and evening with the daily commute. Little scare in the morning as my rear brake cable slid out of place and I was without rear brakes for the rest of the trip into work. Happened at a bad spot going down a little slope with speed just as a turn for the Lakeshore path approached. Made the turn but was a little too close for my nerves. Tightened the cable for the ride home so that went smooth. Supper and family time and back out for a good 10k run, although legs were a little sluggish to start still hit my goal for the night so good day of training!
With the warmer weather getting better everyday, I can finally combine my commute to work with some training by getting on the bike in the morning and pedeling 21km to my office. I am not one to take many relaxing rides so it is a great training run to get the blood flowing in the morning and to build a great appetite in the evening. 42km round trip is just what my upcoming duathlon season needs as I am very green on the bike and really want to compete this season with my age-groupers. I am always accepting cycling tips so fire them my way ( )!
Not one to stick to a schedule, I decided today would be a good day to run home from work, an 18k journal from the heart of the city along Bloor to the West Mall / 427 area. It started out very windy and very wet with a major thunderstorm passing through the area. That could not slow me down and I pushed along making pretty decent time even with a few stops along the way for traffic lights. Just before High Park, I caught another runner and we continued along together for approx. a km so that was a friendly positive to the run. Felt strong for most of the run and ended up at the desired location in around the time expected, just under 5min/km. A quick stop for a refreshingly cool Gatorade and a short little walk home to re-fuel on supper.

April 23, 2007

ENDURrace 8K - Waterloo

Spring is here in all its glory and this made it a great time to finally pull out the shorts for running. As most male runners can attest, tights are comfortable but create an open door to many jokes and harsh comments from passing traffic.

I arrived in Waterloo just minutes before the gun as highway 401 was a mess and I had just wrapped up a slow, frustrating game of golf with my buddies. The Run Waterloo group was more than accommodating and rushed me through the registration process and made all the nessacery adjustments to ensure my time from last week would be added to this race for the overall combined event time. After getting through check in I headed for a quick change and fast fuel up of Amino Vital and a power bar. I wanted to get them in the system earlier but could not reach them while driving so I had to get them down quick and run to the line.

The little jog over there acted as my warm up along with some standing stretches as the race crew counted down the last seconds leading up to the horn. Off we went along the same starting stretch as the week before along the back side of the community centre of RIM Park. I could tell the pace was not as brisk right from the horn so I settled in around 20 runners back of the leader and got into an early pace that I hoped to maintain for the duration of the race. As we heading down University Ave., a nice two lane road with a fresh, fast surface, we lined out to protect ourselves from the slight breeze blowing into our faces. The first km passed in just under 4 minutes, which was the pace I was aiming to hit, so I took note of the stride and tried to repeat the motion turn after turn. We approached our next corner as we made our way to the mile marker on Northfield Drive, a single lane highway with many rolling hills, and the leaders began to pull away down the slope and up the first hill in the horizon. A group of five of us let them go and settled into our own pack in a nice consistent pace as we hit KM markers two through four along this stretch. By this time the hills started to take some victims and our group dwindled to three as we turned right onto Sawmill Road through a little settlement with some gracious cheers from the local residents. This was just a short tease of flat road that made way to our next right turn back towards RIM Park on Woolwich Street. Our race experience was tested right away on this section with a steep downhill decent that rubberized the leg muscles and lead to brief flat piece of ground to a bridge that required full concentration due to the uneven nature of the bridge surface. The race was now only 2k from completion and I was picking up the pace after a tasty GU gel and coming up to a group of two more runners that had been a little out of reach earlier. I have always loved the hills and our next one was a doozy. I knew that I could catch both of them there and maybe crack the top ten for the race. The hill was a pace killer to be sure but I leaned into the grade and pumped my way past one of the runners half way up and came up on the heels of the next as we hit the crest. We were almost even as we pushed on to a horizontal stretch of back country, His stride on the flats was a little smoother than mine at this point and he effortlessly started to pull away down the country road leading to the familiar finishing leg (last 1.5 km was were we completed the ENDURrace 5K last week). We twisted down a small hill along the back side of the community centre's soccer pitches relieved to see the finishing banner. My target was now out around 40 metre in front and I knew I only had 500 metre left to bring him in with an uphill to the line as my only advantage. One last turn and up to the line we raced. He heard my footsteps quicken with my challenge and picked up his turnover with a final sprint. So close but I could only narrow the gap to 3 seconds at the line but good enough for tenth spot and a very satisfying race in perfect weather and a country side setting.

The Après-Race was once again very good with plenty of food and drinks to re-fuel and friendly atmosphere to relax and chat with other participants. A very nice family from Waterloo joined me for the awards and were very socialalbe and very knowledgeable on the runs that the Kitchener-Waterloo area has to offer.

I will have this two run series marked for next year so come join me in Waterloo for a nice break from the rat race in the GTA.

Larry Bradley

April 20, 2007

ENDURrace 5k - Waterloo

With the family out of town for the weekend I was looking for something to do with my spare time and came across this race on the web around noon (kick-off party had me out a little past my bedtime). I was actually looking for a low key event for Sunday but when I noticed the 6pm start I jumped all over the chance to run. I have not raced this distance in awhile and was looking for a gauge to see how my training was working and to get a smaller race under my belt before the Sporting Life 10k. I ran around the house and gathered my gear, food, gels, etc. and jumped in the car for a relaxing drive to the tri-cities.
I printed off the web page for the race and the instructions were bang on so this was a nice start to the event. The venue was a new, massive community centre (RIM Park) on the outskirts of Waterloo and was a nice and quiet park setting. The community centre contained the registration area in one of the large banquet halls that also served as the post race holding area and was conveniently close to the start/finish line and parking lot (lots of spots and FREE). After completing the registration I got changed and started to warm up. The arena was large enough to hold a couple of hundred people in the hallway and lounge areas so most participants took advantage and stretched inside as the temperature was a little on the cool side. With around 10 minutes left before the gun I went back outside to get in some running and to drop off my gear. My car was right beside the line so I didn’t have to worry about storing my stuff in safety.
As 6 o’clock neared all entrants hit the line and waited for the horn. They counted down the final seconds and the horn blasted and we were off. The group bunched down the first stretch and into a corner but there was enough room to pick a spot to get into the pace early. The road course was mainly fast and flat with very little traffic (police and traffic control were on site as well), so there was a lot of open room once you got moving past the first 400 metres. Each km was marked with a large sign and very easy to see from a distance so you had no trouble figuring out where you were and all turns had friendly volunteers and pylons to point you in the right direction. They had a water station at the mid-point of the race that was down a long, straight stretch of country road which was a refreshing change from the city scenes I see all week in Toronto. This straight-away ended around the 3.5k point of the race and we turned toward the arena where we hit some small, rolling hills as we twisted along the 4k portion of the run, taking us to the last turn up a small grade climb of 200 metre or so to the finish.
I was not exactly sure how my race was going as I forgot my stop watch, but was happy to see the time clock at the finish ticking towards a new personal target. I hit the jets and came across the line in a new PB, a full minute faster than my previous race time for this distance. I had a feeling my training was making progress but this was a nice confirmation of that assumption.
I waited around for the awards ceremony held in the banquet hall and fueled back up with their pizza, bagels, oranges and yogurt. The hall was well laid out for this event and there were plenty of tables for all competitors and fans. After a long list of draw prizes from their running sponsor they drew a bib number for a mountain bike. This created quite the moment of levity as the winner started to take the bike for a little spin but, as he turned back to the podium, he lost traction and hit the ground. He was alright physically but had bruised his ego. Funny stuff. After the overall top three winners were presented their awards they handed out medals to the top three in each age group and also top in weight categories, teams and couples.
Overall, I was very impressed with this event and had a great day for a low cost of $25. The event staff and volunteers were friendly and cheerful, the course was fun to run and the atmosphere after the race was welcoming and supportive.
Well done RunWaterloo!

Larry Bradley

Running Safely at Night

Spring has finally arrived and the fair weather runners have emerged from their health club treadmill caves. With warmer weather making the outdoors bearable again, the number of people we share the roads, sidewalks and paths with will increase and so will some of the risks that accompany these crowded areas. As a die-hard runner, I braved most of the winter nights (I run mostly at nights due to other commitments but definitely do not endorse night running) and became accustom to being one of the few souls outdoors and may have became a little complacent during these cold, solo workouts. Over the past couple of weeks I have had a number of encounters during my nightly runs (and cycles) that have been a little concerning.

Firstly, I had a group of teens shadow me as I ran down a usually well traveled, main street of Toronto. Although, it was probably just their way of mocking me and having a laugh at my expense, you never know what may happen and you have little control when strangers approach from the backside. Another incident occurred last week as I cycled at night in a quiet, residential area opposite a large park. A group of younger men were walking out from the park to cross the street over to the sidewalk when they spotted me coming down the road. I wanted to avoid any possible conflict with the rowdy bunch so I directed my bike into the other lane but one of the men was determined to create a scene and doubled back to try to kick out my back wheel. Luckily, he slightly grazed the rubber of the tire and I was able to keep forward momentum as they shouted obscenities to remind me of my fortune. Add these two examples to the carton of eggs that struck me from a passing vehicle in the stomach as I cycled home from work last fall and you can see why safety is an ongoing concern to me as I train.

With these incidents fresh in my mind, I thought it would be wise to revisit some safety tips we should all consider as we continue with our passion for this sport.

-Run in the daylight if at all possible - Unfortunately, some of us have other commitments during these hours and must train in the night to stay active. In cases when you must run in the dark remember to stay in well lit, populated areas that are familiar to you.

-Run with a cell phone - When selecting a cell phone make sure it is light and compact to fit in your running gear. Also, purchase running gear that has a pocket large enough to hold your phone for emergencies.

-Run in groups - If you have friends, co-workers or neighbours that also enjoy running try to organize running groups that will give you the safety of numbers and also some nice conversation to help make the exercise even more enjoyable.

-Be seen when running - Make sure you have reflective material that can be easily seen by motorist, cyclists and others in your running neighbourhood.

-Carry a whistle - If you feel threatened give the whistle a blow to scare off strangers and attract the attention of others around you. I have seen some really good ones made for hockey coaches with elastic bands that wrap around your wrist.

-Do not carry money - Except for a quarter for an emergency call (if you do not own a cell phone) or bus fare please leave excess money and debit/credit cards at home. If you are approached you will have nothing to hide and hopefully they will not pursue you for anything else.

Although, I am not an expert by any means on safety or personal security, I believe I have experienced enough during my running adventures in this metropolis. Hopefully, some of these quick points will help you remain safe and sound so that you can enjoy this great activity for many years to come. If you have any other tips on running safety please comment on this piece as I would love to hear from other runners with their suggestions and opinions.

Be safe!

Brooks HVAC Gloves

For someone that spends a fair amount of time outdoors and in the cold there is one part of my body that has never really adapted well to the elements, my hands. This makes gloves a very important running accessory throughout the winter and for most of the spring and fall, as well. This season I decided to try a higher end pair of gloves in the Brooks HVAC. These comfortable, form fitting gloves are designed with special X-Static® fiber that spreads the heat evenly throughout the glove, except the pointer finger and thumb that have more of a fleece feel to them. The palm has a padded area that remains cool during the run and is a nice coolant when things get heated up on the longer runs. Each glove has a pocket on the top of the hand designed to carry transit cards, debit cards or change that can come in handy when you find yourself stranded a little farther from home than planned. These gloves seem to be more durable than the yarn Brooks Thermolite® gloves that I previously wore and dry a lot quicker due to the material composition (70% polyester/20% nylon/5% spandex/5% X-Static®).

I have tried many other gloves, and mitts, in an attempt to find a pair that keeps you warm but do not over heat and these have been the best of the batch. I can use these gloves on days that dip to -10 degrees Celsius or ones that push into the teens (above Celsius) and remain comfortable the entire run. The only correction I would recommend to Brooks is to keep the whole glove a consistent wind resistant material as the fleece portion on the pointer finger and thumb can be a little cooler than the rest of the unit on the windy days. I believe these areas are made of that material to allow you to wipe sweat from your forehead area but I would prefer it to be all one piece of fabric. If you enjoy warm, dry hands during runs on those cooler days make sure you make a little investment and try these technical gloves and be confident that you are in good hands with Brooks.

My Race Report - Angus Glen 1/2 Marathon

November 5, 2006

A perfect day for running at the scenic Angus Glen golf course for their second annual charity run. I selected this race based on a 16 week training schedule found in the Running Room book by John Stanton and wanted to committ to a race to stay motivated during the summer. With my past marathon time in mind I wanted to aim for 1:35 for the 1/2 and believed it would be a very tough challenge, especially with the hilly course ahead of me.
As we finished our pre-race stretches I wished a friend good luck and headed to the line to wait for the final few seconds for the horn. The fire truck hit the horn and we took off from the golf course and down a quick stretch of highway on Kennedy. This led to a nice, new sub-division where we weaved through the freshly paved streets at a pretty quick pace for the first few km's. I felt great but didn't want to get too carried away with the others and kept to my own race. After running through the maze of houses we ran back out to Kennedy and headed north up a decent slope past the golf course. As we filed up the road the pack started to thin and a bunch of us settled in to a nice pace at just over 4 minutes / km. This group continued to move together out to the east on Elgin Mills and towards the eight and nine km markers. A few dropped back after hitting some minor hills near the next intersection at McCowen where the great volunteers directed us north again up. We hit the 10km marker in 44 minutes and I was very happy to be in the hunt for my goal with plenty of energy in the tank. The pack seemed to drop to three at the halfway point and we started to hit more hills as we travelled west along 19th Sideroad. At this point my legs were ready for the challenge so I kept the rythym going and started to pick runners off one at a time with some pretty good hill work. It was a 5 km uphill section and I had made up roughly ten spots and was still running strong and counting down the km's. I hit Warden and started head south where a headwind confronted us and started to wear some of the other runners down. I could see around four in the horizon and took aim to reel them in. Running as confidently as ever, I passed all but one in the next two km's and settled inline with the last one of my targets. We hit the downhill together and pulled away from the others as we neared the last three km's. We grabbed a final drink in the valley and up the hill back to Kennedy we ran. I could now feel the legs getting heavier but he was in the same condition and was soon in my past. As I hit Kennedy the funnel effect create a new look as the 10 km runners/walkers merged with us so I weaved my way through the masses but couldn't tell who I was passing or may try to pass me? I don't think anyone was fresh enough so I turned on a final kick for good measure down the stretch ino the golf course drive and finished strong in 1:30:26 (chip time) for a negative split on the back side capping a very satisfying race.