Larry's Blog Pages

May 25, 2010

Victoria's Duathlon - 2010 Race Report

Hard to complain when we finally receive some warm, summer conditions but when we have not had a chance to train in the heat, you know it will become an issue at some stage in the race. Victoria's Duathlon in Waterloo, Ontario is one of the earlier events in the province so the spring temperatures can range year to year. This concern creates the need to start the race later in the morning than usual (11am) to give those cooler years a chance to warm up. Well on this day, we didn't need the extra time to get up to temperature and we were going to hope our bodies adapted quickly.

After getting registered and chatting with some fellow Falcons, I headed to the car to pull out the new ride. It was so new to me that I had not even had a chance to have it fitted or adjusted. To do a speedy self evaluation of the set up, I jumped on the bike and used the car windows as mirrors. I moved the seat positioning around a touch but was far from dialed in.

Transition set up and warm up went smoothly so I used the last few minutes to wish some others good luck and then went to the line to visualize my race. With a strong 2009 in duathlon, I do have a certain amount of confidence in my athletic abilities but when you toe the starting line with the field that assembled on this day, you cannot help but wonder how you will meet some pre-event goals. There hanging out at the front were some of the bigger local names of triathlon ready to tear up the course. This was going to be a tough day…

Once the horn sounded it was time to remain focused and pick my pace. I settled in behind the main lead group knowing many of them could pull off really quick opening runs. I didn't want to over extend myself and was very comfortable leading the chase.

As we closed on the second km marker, I had a few guys make a move up the left side of me. I didn't panic and stayed with my plan. This paid off as my consistent pace allowed me to pull past those runners near the three kilometre sign as they slowed on the gradual uphill. Even though my legs were feeling super light at this point, I remained content to stay put as I was right around the time I was looking to hit for this leg of the race. After four kilometres of running, I was able to hold that position (12th) into transition with a small six second cushion over several athletes.

I was very smooth through transition and came out organized and ready to put my Argon E114 to its first test. Through the opening stretch of hills I held my ground trying to key on some riders ahead. I ended up pushing past one buy lost that spot to a charging Tyler Lord. He was showing his cycling strength and I was not able to match his talents, as usual. HAHA

As I watched him roll away, I found myself in a line with a couple other fellows. This being the race I was hit with a penalty in last year, I did not want to risk a repeat and carefully kept a safe distance from the athlete ahead. This hurt my momentum, without a doubt, as I had to let up a few times when I slowly closed the gap but knew I would be stuck in the draft with a gradual pass. Didn’t help to learn after the race that he had also been DQ’d very early in the ride for a centre line violation so he probably was not pushing to his limits. I would have lost my mind if I was hit for drafting a DQ’d athlete…

During this chess game, I had one other triathlete sail past me. Mark Linseman has always seemed to be a little ahead of me during Subaru events (he in tri and me in du) in the past. Usually, I am able to stay relatively close but on this day he was crushing the bike. I did not like to let him go but I did not feel the power to chase and this was another minor blow to my race plan as I thought I would be able to respond to these attacks during a thirty km bike portion.

By the turn around, I had found a little space about ten lengths behind Mike Greenberg (a former elite triathlete that now competes in my Age Group) so I just kept him in view as I searched for a boost to match last year’s bike effort. Thankfully, the last five clicks are pretty quick so I added some speed to my average as I happily trailed Mr. Greenberg and a few others that had caught us during a cautious lead in to the dismount line.

Even though I performed another respectable transition and had put myself in good shape in the overall scheme of things, my energy levels were hitting a low point as I entered the final four kilometre run. The heat was really starting to be a factor and I had no room for error if I wanted to reach my time target and placing goals.

As I exited the bike corral, I was sitting in twelfth place but saw several cyclists making their final preparations to jump off their bikes. I knew many of the faces and grew very concerned about my position. Shortly into the run I shuffled past one person into eleventh as we started up the only real hill on the run course about five hundred metres from T2. I assumed this position would be as high as I could go due to the running skills of the people ahead of me. As if that realization wasn't morally draining enough, I quickly lost the spot I had just gained to an unknown competitor and he was not sticking around to chat. I had to kick things into gear.

As I made my way out to the midway turn around, I drew on the group heading home along the final two kilometre stretch. They looked so fresh and effortless in their strides. When I finally had my chance to make the turn, I could see I had a small gap to play with. It was a bit of a relief but I still wanted to finish as quickly as my zapped legs could take me.

For the rest of the run I focused on the back of the runner about three hundred metres ahead of me and tried to hold the gap. I did not have the energy to look back so I used the crowd along the final kilometre to gauge chasing athletes. Thankfully, after they clapped for me there was enough of a pause to take any panic out of the last few minutes of the race.

Approaching the finishing chute, the bumpy grass was just too taxing for much of a final sprint. When the event clock came into sight, I could see I would just barely be under last year’s overall time but I was just happy to show some improvement on this very hot day.

In the end (after you take out the two DQ's), I ended up in tenth spot overall and third in my age group. The two ahead of me in the 35-39 AG have raced as elite triathletes in the past so I will take this result. My two run times were seconds off last year’s postings but many of the top people that did this race in 2009 were slower in 2010. I still would have been a lot happier with some improvement on the final run.

On the bike, I did manage a tiny gain year over year at 38.7 km/h from 38.4 km\h. Not too bad for the second time on this bike and lacking a proper fit.

Another nice surprise was the great transitions. I have yet to practice this element of the race this season but things went well so it is a solid building block to start 2010.

All in all, I have several positives to take away from this race. My confidence in the duathlon is where it should be and something I can draw on as soon as I pull through the water leg in upcoming triathlon experiments.

Lastly, I would like to congratulate all the Falcons (Marko, Shanta and Shayne) and the rest of my racing buddies on their great results. Best of luck in 2010!

May 21, 2010

May 24 Long Weekend Update

Just received a call from Via Ciclante (Bike Shop in Streetsville, Ontario) and they will be able to pull a huge favour and put together my Argon E114 before the race on Monday. I finally received the DA crank in the mail Friday morning so this was a very last minute request that a few other shops could not accommodate. I totally understand with this being the busy season for them so I do not hold anything against them what so ever. I will just have to hold Via Ciclante a little closer in a loyalty aspect if they are able to pull this off and I can race Victoria's Du come Monday.

To be honest, I was getting worried that I would not compete. The field is looking very strong so I really want to go and see how things are shaping up. I know there will be a few more elites in the race this year so I cannot compare apples to apples in the positioning but my time and placing among non-elite better be improved over last season. It may be a little unrealistic given the fact I will be entering on a bike I have not even tested but I should not use that excuse. I bought this bike as it is faster so I should be able to use improved cycling skills to muscle it to a very comparable time.

In other news, our Falcons' indoor swim sessions have wrapped for the fall/winter and I am pretty happy with my progress. I am not going to be pushing the pace with the big fish of triathlon but I have improved a great deal and have to thank Coach Hans for all the tips and help (and summer home work!!!) he provided over the course of the program. I will now have to find an open water program to jump in with here and there. The schedules are pretty tough to fit into my weekly allocation of free time so I cannot make a solid commitment. The Kelso Open Water folks have a neat little package going so this may be my best option.

On a running note, I put in a very good three week cycle. I was hitting the track paces and getting in all the compulsory aspects of the training. If I am able to keep the weight down for the next few months, I feel good about hitting my short term running goals and think I can push the pace down even more during the summer, leading to the Timberman 70.3.

Well, that is about it for now. Just crossing my fingers for a completed bike tomorrow at 5pm. I can't wait to see the final product as the frame and parts looked fantastic by themselves.

See you in Waterloo!

May 14, 2010

Triathlon Spotlight – Bruce Bird – No Limits

When you look into his racing results, it is hard to imagine that this Toronto, Ontario resident has only been at it since 2007. The success Bruce has achieved in only three years makes you wonder, “Where are all the earlier stats”?

Did they just disappear? Did he race under another name?

No, this rising star of the local triathlon scene is still a relative newbie and is attracting a lot of attention event after event. Making the most of an opportunity to meet this driven Age Grouper at a race in Grimsby, during the 2008 season, I realized just how enthusiastic and motivated he was to better himself as an athlete. From our first conversation, I knew he could match my passion for the sport. That is not easy to do.

Bruce started his multisport career with two duathlons in 2007 before jumping into a full schedule of this sibling sport in 2008. Using his awesome cycling power to move into contention during his early races, he ultimately would drop back from the leaders on the final run as he lacked the experience and confidence to push to the next level. His competitive fire would not allow that for much longer and he quickly found out what it takes to be a winner in just his fifth race on the challenging Muskoka Long Course.

This snowballed into a dominating 2008 on the Subaru Duathlon series where he claimed four victories in seven starts. He carried this roll into the Ontario Championships that year, where he pulled off an incredible second place overall finish sandwiched between two of the elite duathletes in the province (Matthew Pieterson and Kevin Smith). Next, he travelled to Montreal to compete in the Canadian Duathlon Championships in the Age Group category. Again, he rose to the occasion and celebrated a silver place showing in only his rookie season of multisport.

Having conquered the Run-Bike-Run, Bruce decided he wanted to test the waters of triathlon in 2009 and he started his swim training in the fall to prepare for the very big jump to the masses of the local triathlon world. As if that was not enough, he also wanted to prove himself in the cycling community and pushed even harder in that discipline to prepare for a grueling year to come.

His efforts paid off in a big way as he had one of the most successful athletic seasons an Age Grouper could hope for. After some early season issues in the water, he found his comfort zone and posted several top five finishes among the experienced elites of the province. One of those being a victory at the Toronto Island Triathlon as well as a second place showing at the Ontario Triathlon Championships (turned to Du because of wild weather). As his confidence grew throughout the year, he used his lessons learned to produce the top Amateur result at the autumn Muskoka 70.3 event. This was a monster feat alongside some of the top Half-Ironman athletes in the world and secured a spot at the 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida.

On the cycling stage in 2009, Bruce squeezed in a handful of events in the M2 category with equal success. He started out with a second place finish at the Good Friday RR followed by a huge victory in Niagara the next month. In the 40k TT in Peterborough (M2), he finished a very respectable second and then raced to another huge win at the Provincial RR Championships (M2) before gearing back up for a busy fall of triathlons.

Add in four duathlons and you can see that Mr. Bird loves to race. In those competitions he captured the overall title at the Ontario Duathlon Championship in Gravenhurst and a solid tenth in his Age Group at the World Duathlon Championships in Concord, North Carolina.

I recently caught up with Bruce to ask if he was interested in answering a few questions and he was more than happy to supply the following...

1. You have only been racing duathlon/triathlon since 2007, what brought you to the sport?

Bruce - First it was challenge from a friend of mine from Delaware (Jay Zorn). Then it was a nagging ankle injury from years of Basketball, I needed to change sports.

2. Being a very accomplished cyclist, what makes you such a threat on the bike?

Bruce - Thank you for the compliment. I feel that I am constantly learning how to be a better cyclist; just yesterday (5/12) I had my A$$ handed to me by three of my Wheels of Bloor team-mates during high speed training at Exhibition place. Last year in a 40km Time Trial in Peterborough, Ryan Roth (one of Canada’s best) was five minutes faster than me; as well as a dozen+ other guys who beat me on that day. I take the losses as lessons and use them to spur me on to more intense and focused training sessions. Genetics definitely comes into play as it does in all sports.

3. Who is the pro triathlete that inspires you the most, why?

Bruce - That’s an easy one for me – Simon Whitfield. I loved watching him throw off his hat and turn on the burners in Beijing. He really inspired me with his amazing effort. I am also incredibly impressed with Craig Alexander and his sub 1:12 half marathon in the Muskoka Half Iron in 2009; how did he do that?

4. Like most Age Groupers, you have a full-time job, family and a busy life away from triathlon. What drives you to improve year after year?

Bruce - A competitive spirit, it may be tied in to a midlife crisis of sorts as I want to get faster but inevitably I will be faced with diminish returns as I age.

5. What is your major focus in 2010?

Bruce – 1. I want to have a great result at the Ontario Provincial TT Championships in the 40+ age group. I would also like to close the gap between myself and the top pro in the event (+5minutes to Ryan Roth in 2009). 2. I would like to do well in the NYC Triathlon. 3. I would like to qualify for Half-Ironman Worlds again and finish in the top 3 in my age category. I am probably fooling myself with this one as the drafting situation may make it impossible for me to exploit my strength in the cycling leg as some of my competitors my draft during the bike and save energy to hammer in the run (a strategy that I refuse to follow). 4. I would also like to get a bit closer to the amazing Len Gushe this year – he destroyed me and the entire field last year and he was 46.

6. What is the one thing most of your triathlon buddies would not expect to find out about Bruce Bird?

Bruce - I went to an arts focused high school that had no organized sports until our class formed a Basketball team in grade 10.

7. What is the one element you really need to work a lot harder on to improve you overall results, why?

Bruce - Swim. Last year was my first year competing in Triathlons and I had little swim exposure and experience. I panicked during swims and ultimately gave up huge chunks of time to my competitors. I would love to minimize my losses in the water this year.

8. Is there a triathlon rule that you would like the governing bodies to consider changing? What bugs you about the current ruling?

Bruce - The enforcement and harshness of the drafting rule at the Half Ironman Worlds in Clearwater can be improved. The pros should be racing draft legal for events like that one – that is what is happening anyways.

9. How hard is it for you to stick to a healthy diet?

Bruce - I am hungry all the time, especially after a swim workout and I eat a lot of food. I set a goal of competing at 185lbs this year down from 195lbs last year. My goal was based on physics; lighter with similar power output = faster. I read in Lance Armstrong’s book ‘It’s not about the bike’ where he spoke about how they would not even consider a rider for his team unless they had made every effort to maximize their power to weight ratio. Twice I got down to 185 and twice I got sick. I realized that given my body type and lifestyle, 190 was a more productive weight than 185 even if it meant that I would not be considered for team Radio Shack.

10. What is your biggest achievement in multisport racing?

Bruce - Hopefully it is yet to come. I was happy with being the top amateur at the Muskoka Half-Ironman last year which is a tribute to the level of competition at the event.

Bonus. What is your ultimate multisport goal?

Bruce - After watching Simon in Beijing I secretly imagined myself competing in London in 2012 at the age of 43. Reality Check: The top guys are able to run a 29 minute 10km which is astounding by itself let alone after a 1.5km swim and 40km bike at insane speeds, and I am a part time athlete over 40. I would like to find balance in my life within and outside of multisport and find a way to be in contention for an age group podium spot at a world championship event.

If you would like to follow Bruce on his journey to the top, please check out his blog below.

May 13, 2010

Victoria's Duathlon - 2010 Race Preview

So the count down is on and I am just a touch over a week away from the first race of the Subaru season. To say I am cool and relaxed about this year would be a big lie. I am coming off a strong 2009, for my standards, and have been working hard this off-season to improve on my previous results.

I have added the swim to the mix so I will be tackling a totally different group of opponents. Fields of athletes 4 and 5 times deeper than the duathlons of the past. The triathlons in this area are some of the best local events in the world and the top competitors are fast and amazing to race against. Looking at all the factors, 2010 is going to be tough but the challenge is what drives me.

Thankfully, the first race is only a duathlon (the waters around here are still very frigid) but the season opener attracts a very respectable group of triathletes and duathletes looking to knock the rust off the winter legs. Last year, I had a better than expected result finishing in 17th spot (the stats say 18 but one athlete was DQ'd and still remains on the results page in the top ten), even with a 2:00 minute drafting penalty. My goal was to improve year over year and hit top 25 so this position, and the times that got me there, were a welcoming kick off to 2009.

The times I hit in the three phases of the race are lofty standards to aim for this year. The first run and bike times will be very hard to match (especially if the weather is not as perfect as last year). I hope I can shave a little time off those two but I would be happy to match them and then make the major improvement on the final 4k run. Transition times were also very solid in 2009 so I will shoot to be as smooth again this time through. 

2009 - 17th place (of 417) - 4k (13:59) / 30k (46:54) / 4k (15:22) = 1:19:17 (2:00 pen included)
2008 - 40th place (of 512) - 4k (14:37) / 25k (43:10) / 4k (16:32) = 1:16:08 (super windy day)
2007 - 71st place (of 487) - 4k (14:57) / 25k (43:54) / 4k (15:31) = 1:16:36 (3rd duathlon ever)

On May 24th, I hope to settle in with the chasers on the first run and then get rolling on the bike right off the hop. Last year, I was a little tired starting on the bike but caught my grove shortly after receiving my drafting penalty when the anger boiled through the blood.

On the final run, I should be aiming for sub 15 minutes if the conditions are decent. I ran really well last year only losing one spot (to speedy Taylor Reid) but I know my running has improved since last May so I should expect more out of this leg of the race. 

As you can see, I hope to make a jump up the results page this year. Tough to tell who may show up for the race so it is hard to call an actual place I am targeting but I would love to be top ten. The real goal is based on time and the battle with myself year over year. I am going to be gunning for sub 1:16:00 (last year was 1:17:17 before the penalty) which should be close to the top ten if the weather and course are apples to apples. As you can see they lengthened the bike portion last year from 25k to 30k so the course is not always exactly the same.

Wish me luck!

May 8, 2010

The weather outside is weather...

Well, it is ugly out there today so I was lucky to have my favourite ("not so much") track workout scheduled. 6 x 2k intervals is a toughie for me so I was not to sad to take it into the treadmill where I made the machine push me through this run workout. Thank goodness I have a few weeks before the next 6x2k workout as it is a killer.

For the bike, I will end up on the trainer in the garage tonight for a pretty smooth spin. I did want to try a ride outside on Sunday but it looks to be a chilly day in the works. We will see what the afternoon brings.

As for the new Argon E114, I have been pretty lucky to find some decent used Dura-Ace parts to add to the already amazing kit I have purchased. I also found a saddle today on sale at a local bike shop so I have kept things within the budget. Only thing left is a rear bake brake so hopefully everything makes it here in plenty of time to assemble the week before Victoria's. I think "Last Minute" is my middle name so I am not too concerned, yet!

Happy Mothers Day to all the mom, including my grandma, Mom and wife.

Have a great day!