Provincial Indoor Champs

On Saturday February 1st I raced at the Awake Chocolate indoor triathlon at McMaster University. It also happened to serve as the Provincial Indoor Triathlon Championship, something that has not occurred in a long while. I knew before going into the race that it would be a stacked field. Andrew Yorke, Alex Hinton, John Rassmussen, Francis Lefebvre, Myles Zagar, Taylor Reid, just to name a few. You’ll notice that they are all short course athletes. So immediately, doubt about doing well started to creep in. Particularly, I was worried about going there and then making a fool of myself by getting annihilated in the swim, and then not being able to keep pace on the run because I have not being doing nearly as much top end stuff as in previous years. But, a good ass whooping has helped motivate me many times in the past, so I went into it with this thought in mind: “If I do well, that will be motivating. If they kick my ass that will be the push I need to really get things rolling this year.”

The format is simple: 15 minutes of swimming, followed by a 5 minute transition to the stationary bikes that were beside the indoor track. Then 15 minutes of biking, followed by a 5 minute transition. Then 15 minutes of running. The swim and run were scored by how far you travelled in that time. For instance, if you travelled 1000 meters in the swim you would receive 725 points. For every 25 meters further you travelled than this, you would receive 25 more points; and for every 25 meters less than this you would receive 25 less points. The run was similar. If you travelled 4 kilometers in 15 minutes (i.e. 3:45/km) you would receive 825 points, and for every hundred meters further than this you travelled you would receive 25 extra points, and for every hundred meters less you travelled you would receive 25 less points. The bike was the only challenging area to score. We decided that absolute wattage would have to be the determining value. The bikes were equipped with some sort of algorithm that took into account your cadence and the tension or gearing you had the bike on, then would display a wattage value. So for instance, if you pushed 300 watts, you would receive 750 points, and for every 10 watts over this you would receive an extra 25 points, and for every 10 watts under this you would receive 25 less points.

You will notice that the swim accounts for 33% of the race. This was very unfortunate for myself, and if this was any other race, I most certainly would not have entered in it due to this fact. To put it in perspective for you: At Muskoka Ironman 70.3 the swim took me about 26 minutes. The whole race took me 4 hours and 1 minute. That means the swim accounted for about 11% of the race. The bike took 2 hours 20 minute, so approximately 59% of the race, and the run took me 1 hour and 11 minutes, so approximately 30% of the race. Thus, having a weaknesses in any of the three disciplines would be greatly magnified in this particular format. And unfortunately, by ITU standards, I have a real weakness in the swim.

Anyways, let’s get on with it! Knowing I needed everything I could get, I wore a swim cap and my Nineteen Swim Skin. The race was not wetsuit legal (I know because it was the first thing I asked!!!) but fortunately the Nineteen Swim Skin is made of a more hydrophobic fibre than your skin, so you slip through the water a bit better with it on. It is completely legal, and I took it as a great opportunity to get some practice in it in case I encounter some swims this summer that are not wetsuit legal. Initially I was supposed to be in the same lane as Taylor Reid, and I liked this placing because I would be able to tell how well I was doing based on how often he was lapping me. Unfortunately, he decided to swim an 800 meter time-trial and so needed to be in his own lane, thus I had lane 6 all to myself.

I was going into this swim on very little swim mileage. As I have mentioned several times now, I am currently doing an experiment with my swimming. In short, I have reduced my swimming drastically (about 3 times per week never longer than an hour) and supplemented the time with stretching. I was pretty motivated though because on the Thursday before the race I decided to swim a 1000 meter tempo after having swam 1800m at a pretty good pace. I ended up swimming 13:53, which was a PB by one second. I figured I’d have a good shot at taking this down another second or two during this race. Anyways, the gun went, and I started off very relaxed. In fact, never once was I not relaxed. This was by far the least pain I have felt in a swim race in my entire life. Anytime I started to feel tension coming on in my chest, shoulders or back, I told myself to relax. I had very little oxygen deprivation the entire swim as well. I usually will take a breath going into the wall (I don’t do this anymore coming off the wall!) but I was in such little oxygen debt in this race that many times I decided not to take that breath either.

Anyways, never once did I look at the clock, so I had no clue how well or how bad I was swimming. At around 500m I noticed someone a few lanes over that appeared to be about to lap me, but then I realized that they must have just been swimming slightly behind me and were just starting to overtake me. I realized that it was Dominika Jamnicky, a good female ITU level athlete. We appeared to be swimming about the same pace, so this was very motivating, because I knew she was able to swim around 20 minutes for 1500m without a wetsuit on, in open water. For the remainder of the swim I just made sure to keep her in my peripheral. At about 900m I was still feeling very good, so I decided to increase the turnover a bit. I then noticed that I was starting to pull away, and this was motivating as well.

My goal (perhaps I should say dream) was to swim 1100m. If you swim this far in 15 minutes you would need to average at least 1:22/100m. That in itself would be about a 13 second PB for me over 1000m. I made the turn at what I thought to be 1075m and I really started to pound it because I hadn’t heard the whistle to stop yet. Then, I made it to the turn for 1100m, and still no whistle! I thought: “Crap! I miss counted the laps! I’m probably 100m behind what I thought I was.” But, I kept the turnover going just in case. I then made it to the next wall and made the turn and it was at that point that I heard the whistle. I thought: Is it possible that I just swam 1125m? In other words, did I just average 1:20/100m for 15 minutes!? I was very doubtful, but swam back to the wall full of anticipation. I had asked the lap counter to mark down my time through 1000m. He said that indeed I had swam 1125 meters, and that I went 13:23 through 1000m! In other words, I had just PBed by 30 seconds! I was over the moon about it! The most interesting part was that it wasn’t very difficult. Most certainly, the least painful “time-trial” I have ever swam. The unfortunate part is that I think if we had instead swam a 1500m, I probably could have come close to breaking twenty minutes, which as I spoke of in a previous post, was once what I thought of as amazing swimming (and the 20 minute barrier is still a massive mental block for me).

After this, I grabbed my bag and sprinted up to the indoor track to the bicycles. I had measured my seat height from the bottom of my pedals and the distance the tip of the saddle was from the centre of the bottom bracket, so I was able to quickly replicate my position on the bike at home, to the stationary bicycles at the track. We had to wait around a bit, because they were about 3 minutes behind schedule, but eventually we were given the green light to start pedalling. I had no idea what anyone else had swam. I had a suspicion that Andrew Yorke would be at least 150 points ahead of me out of the swim. Later I would find out that he too swam a lifetime best and was actually 200 points ahead of me. That being said, I knew the only place where I would be able to make up any of those points were on the bike.

As I spoke about in a previous post, I held 430w for 20 minutes by myself, in the privacy of my training room, over a month ago. So I was quite confident that if the bikes were even remotely accurate, I would be able to do this again (seeing as the bike was only 15 minutes in duration). Initially, Barrie Shepley sent out the points system to a few of us for review, and the 1000 pt standard i.e. the highest you could possibly score, was 420 watts. I sent him a message telling him I’m pretty certain I can hold more than that, and so he reset the highest standard as 450 watts. Once I started pedalling I knew that I might be able to surpass this number. I was immediately pushing about 475. I tend to be more of a “rise to the occasion” type athlete, and I have been doing intervals in excess of 500 watts at home, so I wasn’t sure if this was being a bit ambitious, or if I was just feeling really good. By 5 minutes into the bike I hadn’t seen anything under 450w, so I was certain that I would surpass the highest point standard.

This was a bit unfortunate because in the back of my mind I was saying, “what’s the point in averaging over 450w? You’re not going to get rewarded for it, and you’re just going to hurt your legs more than necessary for the run.” But, holding back is not in my nature, so I gave a good effort right to the end. According to the bike, I ended up averaging 465w. The unfortunate part is that if the standard had went to 500w, I think I could have averaged over 470w. Which, as you’ll see in a few moments, would have affected the outcome of the race. As a side note, for those paying real close attention, I do not think the bikes were completely accurate. I would say if you put my Gennix up there on an indoor trainer and took power readings with my Garmin Vectors, I more realistically would have averaged somewhere in the 450-455w range for the 15 minutes. So, the bike I was riding, I would say was 10-15w higher than the actual wattage value. If you want to see what 30 seconds of the final 3 minutes looked like, watch this (no I am not possessed!):

 

Next up was the 15 minute run. I have done very little top end running this year, for several reasons. First, I was coming off of injury, and second, because I am starting to specialize for the half-marathon off the bike. The training required to run a sub 1:10 half-marathon off the bike, and to run a fast 5 or 10k off the bike look quite a bit different. That being said, I knew this run was going to hurt REAL bad. It being on a 200m indoor track was not going to help things either. Anyways, the gun went and as expected, Andrew Yorke took it out real hard. I think we were through 200m in 32 seconds. I knew I was going to pay for this pace so early on, but I decided to go as long as I could with the main group. I stuck with Yorke and Hinton for the next 10 laps or so, each one was pretty consistent, something like 36 second 200s. At about 3 kilometers the pace started to catch up with me and I folded to the pain. I started to drop back and once the elastic snapped it was lights out for me. I tried to keep it together to the best of my ability though because I had no idea where I sat in the standings. I ended up running about 4850m (3:07/km). What’s amazing, is that Alex Hinton ran just over 5000m! Here we are about 400-600m in:

Run Photo

Afterwards, I found out that I had finished 3rd, 100 points behind Andrew Yorke, and 25 points behind Alex Hinton. And, as I had feared, I was only awarded for pushing 450w, despite having pushed 15w more. Here are the top 5 results:

Rank

Participant (Male)

Total Score

Swim

Bike

Run

m

Score

W

Score

m

Score

1

Andrew Yorke

2,725

1,325

925

409

900

4,800

900

2

Alex Hinton

2,650

1,200

800

406

900

5,000

950

3

Lionel Sanders

2,625

1,125

725

450

1000

4,800

900

4

Myles Zagar

2,525

1,300

900

398

875

4,200

750

5

Oliver Blecher

2,375

1,225

825

361

775

4,300

775

Overall, I am really happy about the result. I didn’t think I’d have much of a shot being able to compete with such a heavily weighted swim, and such short distances. The best part was the swim PB. The wetsuit really helps me out (usually about 5 seconds per 100m), so I am really starting to believe that one day in the near future I can be on the feet of the 1:15/100m group in a wetsuit legal swim for 2000 meters. That usually is the main pack in the men’s pro race.

Of course, I would not have swam so well if I didn’t have the help of Steve Hill, and Nineteen wetsuits. I certainly would not have biked as well if I wasn’t backed by Richard Kniaziew, Cycle Culture, CompuTrainer and Louis Garneau. Major thanks to all of my sponsors. Things are moving in the right direction! By the way, check out all the sweet Garneau apparel I’ve been rocking in workouts:

LG Bike Shot

I knew Louis Garneau was a high quality garment manufacturer, but it wasn’t until I put on the bib shorts that I truly understood what all the hype was about. They are amazing! Additionally, I raced in the two piece tri-suit, and it is by far the most comfortable tri-suit I have ever worn. In fact, the day before the race, I was walking around the house in it because I prefer it over regular clothes!

If you’ve made it this far into the chapter book, all I can say is: thanks for reading!!