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!