Steelhead 70.3 and Beyond

Yesterday I raced the Steelhead 70.3. This was to be my last race before the 70.3 World Championships. The best part of this race is that it is not very far from my house. A total drive time of about six hours each way. Additionally, I grew up just outside of Windsor Ontario and I travelled to Michigan regularly as a kid, so I kind of felt as if I was racing at home.

About two weeks prior I received my new bike from Louis Garneau. It is called the Gennix TR1. Check it out:

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I gave the bike its first test at MSC Triathlon Series Bala. The course was moderately challenging, and I did not run a disc wheel, but I was pretty certain that I had saw some “free speed” gains. That being said, the real test was going to be Steelhead 70.3.

I arrived early on Sunday morning to the unfortunate sight of fairly choppy waters. I knew this was going to make the swim quite a bit more difficult for me, as I have swam in comparable water only one time prior (Texas 70.3). I would say the conditions this time were worse than in Texas, and additionally, the swim was point to point so there was never any relief from the waves and swells. I welcomed the challenge though as the only way to get good at something is to practice. I have exceeded all of my own expectations for the season thus far, so anything from here on out is just icing on the cake. It was only three months ago that I finished the race in St. George and was considering whether or not I was cut out to compete professionally, and had pretty much abandoned my dream of competing at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. It was with these thoughts in mind that I plunged into Lake Michigan.

It was a running start, which is the first time I have ever done this. I found out that I am bad at it. By the time I even started swimming I was already 10 meters back from the leaders. I tried to find some feet, but the waves were just too shocking. I was almost immediately gapped and knew that I would be swimming the whole swim alone. From here on out I figured I could only control the controllables, so I focused on a relaxed recovery, and finishing my stroke. About halfway through the swim, I remembered a tip someone gave me a while back about swimming in choppy waters: A deeper entry will get you to less turbulent water and allow you to grip the water better. For the rest of the swim I focused on this as well.

I exited the water four and a half minutes back from the leader. This was no surprise. I wasn’t sure who it was, but I was pretty certain Igor Amorelli wouldn’t have been too far behind. I knew he was a very strong swimmer-biker, so I knew I would have to go to work hard on the bike. I wanted to put out a similar power output as I did in Racine, to get a bit of a sense of how much “free speed” I had acquired due to the new bike. Unfortunately, my Garmin bike computer must have connected to someone else’s power meter in transition, because when I started the ride I had no power readings. I tried to connect to mine while riding, and I did, but then I hit “yes” when it asked me to calibrate it but I didn’t want to stop pedalling, so it screwed up the torque value and gave me a power number that was meaningless. At this point I knew I was wasting precious time, so I decided to ride this one on feel.

For the most part, I just tried to put out a hard effort the entire time. I got a time to the leaders at around 10 miles and it was 3 minutes 20 seconds. I knew I had just made up about 1 minute and 10 seconds, so by a quick estimate I thought I might be able to catch the leaders by around mile 40. Around mile 40 I caught my first glimpse of the leaders. I have never been “first off the bike” in a pro race, so I suddenly received a huge surge of adrenaline. I eventually caught the leaders around mile 45. It was a group of two: Amorelli and Fabio Carvalho. I went by them as hard as I could in hopes that they wouldn’t come with me, as I really wanted to be first off the bike. I didn’t look back until around mile 55. I saw that it was just me and Amorelli. I knew I would be first off the bike as we were just about to enter a no passing zone.

On the run, my only intention was to put out a solid effort from start to finish. The run course was actually quite beautiful; it reminded me of cross-country running. I settled in around 3:25-3:30 per kilometer pace and was able to hold this right through to the finish. Due to there being so much variation on the course (hills, winding paths, narrow paths, gravel, grass, etc) the run actually went by rather quickly.

The finishing chute was lined with lots of people and I got to slap a bunch of high fives as I was approaching the finish line. This race meant a lot to me because my dad was able to make it. I gave him a big hug at the finish line and we reminisced about the days when I used to run with ankle weights while pulling him on his bike to the beach, then do five laps in the sand on the beach, then pull him home. Overall it was an awesome experience. I am a bit sad that this is the last year that a pro race will be held in conjunction with Steelhead 70.3 as it was a great all-around course and venue.

After the race my family and my girlfriend’s family all went to a local pub and had a bite to eat. We then went back to the awards and then started the relatively short trip back home. Of course, the weekend would not be complete without having some Windsor pizza, before making the drive back to Hamilton.

I’ve got to give a huge shout out to Cycle Culture for tuning my bike up for me on Friday despite having a million other commitments to tend to. As well, I have to give a big thanks to Louis Garneau for getting me on this awesome bike. I think it is safe to say that it is a very fast bike! As well, in just the last few weeks Vorgee has come on board to sponsor me with goggles. Years before I was sponsored by them I felt that they made the best goggles on the planet. I am confident that my vision will not be what holds me back in any of my swims. And of course, without the support of Dr. Richard Kniaziew,  Saucony, eLoad, CompuTrainer, Nineteen Wetsuits, Embrace Open Water Swimming, C3-Kinetico, and Multisport Canada this result would not have been possible.

I am now excited to take a few weekends off from racing. As much as I love racing, the travel takes its toll on the mind and body. For the next four weeks or so I will devote myself 100% to getting in the best possible shape I can for the 70.3 World Championship in Mont Tremblant Quebec on September 7th. The theme of this next training block is: NO LIMITS! Perhaps I will do a mid-block update so that I am not silent for an entire month. Thanks very much for reading and following along.

 

4 thoughts on “Steelhead 70.3 and Beyond

  1. So pleased for you, Lionel, and thanks for blogging about your journey. You strike just the right balance between technical and personal info, and it makes for an engaging read. All the best for a great experience in Quebec!

  2. You never stop your learning Lionel. Well done. Now time for the real pre Mt Tremblant work required to pay proper honour to a World Championship.

  3. Great Race and Race Report. I did almost EXACTLY the same thing with my Garmin and GPS… I hit “yes” and I had to stop pedaling to recalibrate it. With a Stages, I just had to unclip my leg foot with pedal at 6’oclock for 2-3 seconds. Although I think the value was still 5-8 watts off…. of the tailwind was just that much stronger coming back. I don’t feel so bad now. That bike course was killer that day! I saw you on my way out of T2 (I was actually only 11 minutes behind you on the clock at that point…hard to believe… I ran just a tad slower. Loved how hard you were still running even though you were almost 10 minutes ahead. Good luck at Worlds!

    You can always slum it with us age groupers next year and make it a long training day. Local Michigander Stubleski will probably be there so you’ll still have someone to race with. Isn’t a fun race with your family there better than points and a purse?

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