My Invention

I present to you “The Subjectivity String©”:

subjectivity-string

After my last post, some of the scientifically minded have argued that after running the 10 meter draft zone (I call it 10 meters because that is the space between bikes) through some computer models, they have determined that at that distance there should be no draft effect occurring. My response to this is that this simply does not agree with real world experience. I think most professional triathletes who have been part of one of these “legal draft packs” will agree. But, let’s assume that the computer models are correct. The result of this assumption is that athletes are not riding with the 10 meter space between bikes.

In reality, this is very likely contributing to the problem. Though I do believe there are some athletes who are blatantly breaking the rules, I do believe most athletes are not doing it intentionally. I believe the problem is rooted in the subjective component of the 10 meter draft zone. I will bet you $100 that if you had 10 people mark off what 10 meters looks like on the ground, without being able to pace it out, the majority of those people would be off by several meters. Now imagine trying to make that judgement while pushing pedals as hard as you can, traveling at well over 40kph. In all honesty, I have no idea what 10 meters looks like, so in the event that I was riding in one of these packs, I would be completely guessing if I am actually riding “legally.” In packs in championship races you have ten or twenty athletes guessing what 10 meters looks like, some of whom are really trying to push the limit, and ride right on that guesstimated line.

The other side of this coin- and I believe this is also a major contributor to the current problem- is that the officials also don’t know what 10 meters looks like, they are just guessing. Officials are human beings and have a conscience. The penalty for drafting is 5 minutes. If you give someone a 5 minute penalty you have completely ended their race. Officials are reluctant to give penalties because they know they are just guessing as to what 10 meters actually looks like. No one wants to go to bed at night wondering if they wrongly awarded a penalty, and ended someone’s race. It’s easier for officials to just not award penalties, that way they can sleep at night. On a similar note to this, there have been many athletes who have been awarded penalties, who believe they were wrongly penalized. Of course these situations are going to arise when both parties are just guessing as to what the 10 meter distance actually looks like!

That’s where the “Subjectivity String©” comes in. It’s a 10 meter long string with a washer on the end of it. You attach it to your rear chainstay and then the washer ensures that it stays strung out 10 meters behind you. All the guesswork of the 10 meter draft zone has now been removed. Athletes can see exactly how far to ride behind another athlete, and they can push it as close to the limit as they want. But, the moment they cross that line, they are now breaking the rules. From the official’s perspective, the zone is now clear as day and can be policed very sternly. Officials can even ride with a camera if they want, and if they catch an athlete in the zone, they can snap a quick picture. They can then show the athlete the blue card. If the athlete feels the referee is wrong, the referee can show the athlete the photograph. This way the referee can sleep at night, and the athlete cannot dispute the penalty.

I hope you can see that I am trying to be a little humorous in this post. But the idea presented is what I think could really help solve a lot of issues on the bike in Ironman triathlon. I challenge the engineers among us to develop this piece of technology. The big thing is that it needs to project 10 meters from the back of the bike, and it needs to be visible to both the athlete riding behind the bike, and an official riding on the motorcycle beside. I would gladly put up money to have this technology developed, and I believe many of my professional counterparts would contribute as well. Once the technology exists, we can then have WTC make this mandatory for all professional athletes to have equipped on their bikes (much like helmets and brakes), and be working properly before every race. Referees can also have a few on hand in the event that an athlete’s device malfunctions. The referee can ask the athlete to stop and put a new one on.

Sometimes an analogy helps to understand an issue, so here is my stab at describing the issue at hand: We live in a day and age where many sports are doing 360 degree photographic replays to determine whether a ball was over the line or not, yet in triathlon we haven’t even figured out how to paint the lines! Imagine tennis or football being played with imaginary lines! In long distance triathlon, both athlete and referee are relying on imaginary lines, and those imaginary lines can make or break an athlete’s race.

By virtue of the fact that earlier this week I flew over the Pacific Ocean at close to 1000kph for 14 straight hours, I am confident that someone can develop this technology. You might be able to make some money (there are over 1000 professional triathletes; and of course, there is potential to market this to the AG field as well), and you will help for the betterment of our sport.

If the computer models are correct, and there truly is no draft at 10 meters, then with this technological advancement we will have solved the drafting issue, and made the Ironman bike truly non-drafting. Who will answer the challenge?

70.3 Worlds 2016

70.3 Worlds has been a tough race to swallow. In the months leading into the race, I said to myself many times: If you keep the swim deficit to 3 minutes, push 360w on the bike, and then run 3:20/km for the half-marathon, you will win the World Title. On Sunday, I came out of the water with a little over 3 minute deficit, averaged 364w normalized power on the bike, and then averaged exactly 3:20/km for the run. It was good for ninth place, nearly 3 minutes behind the front of the race. I can’t get down on myself, as this is likely the best performance of my career, and was exactly what I had hoped to accomplish.

It’s obvious that my assessment of what is required to win a World Title was way off. I think the root of the problem was that I based my assessment on the races I had done earlier this year. Those races had many great athletes, who were also in the race yesterday. What they did not have was a very large and well organized front pack on the bike. What I failed to appreciate prior to yesterday, was just how strong the drafting effect is, when in that front bike pack. Despite pushing the highest average power I have pushed all year, I still was out-biked by nearly twenty guys. The reason the pill is difficult to swallow is that off of lesser power outputs, in prior races this year, I was able to pull back 3 to 5 minutes from many of those same people.

As the rules currently stand, the draft zone is 12 meters from front wheel to front wheel, which makes the space between bikes 10 meters. It is obvious from Sunday, that despite this distance, there is still a significant draft effect occurring. That is where the rules currently stand, and everyone played within those rules, so I can’t be upset with any of my competitors. I would say the reason this particular performance stings so much is because of my expectations.

We describe the Ironman bike leg as being “non-drafting.” One would think that if it is truly “non-drafting” then there should be no draft effect occurring on the bike whatsoever. This just simply is not the case. Unfortunately, I came to this race thinking it would be a non-draft bike, and had a rude awakening. In reality, as the rules currently stand, Ironman biking is “semi draft-legal.” I have not done anything to change the rules, so I can’t complain about the rules.

I think everything happens for a reason though, and suddenly this issue means a lot more to me. Moving forward I see only two options for the future of Ironman racing. Either we stop pretending that the bike ride is non-drafting, and call it what it truly is: A semi draft-legal bike; or we change the rules and the method in which they are enforced, so that the bike ride is truly non-drafting. That way no one’s expectations differ from the reality that they experience, and athletes can make more informed decisions on which races to do and which ones to stay away from.

Moving forward I am going to investigate which direction the pro field would like to take. I will say, in speaking with some athletes after the race, there certainly seems to be a sentiment that the rules need to change. It appears that Ironman racing has evolved significantly over the last few years, yet the rules have remained the same. Perhaps a 12 meter draft zone created the desired effect in the past, but this is not the case anymore.

Of course, I am very aware of the age old argument: Why don’t you just swim faster, so that you can participate in the draft dynamics? My response to that argument is this: You are missing the point! If I was a front pack swimmer, the draft rules would still be disadvantageous to me. As you saw on Sunday, the uber-bikers like Andi Drietz and Sebastien Kienle were unable to get away; largely because of the sheer size of the pack, and the fact that the drafting effect becomes progressively larger, the further you go back in the pack. If the race was truly non-drafting then the race would have looked significantly different.

Another argument that I am sure will be made is that the pro men have already voted in favour of “semi draft-legal” racing, by virtue of the fact that many of the top contenders rode as a pack, spaced exactly 12 meters apart. My response to this argument is: Not everyone was in that pack, and not everyone who was in that pack wanted to ride within that pack. I think many guys were forced to adopt a “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. And of course, everyone who was not in that pack, was disadvantaged by that pack.

I greatly appreciate everyone’s messages and support before, during and after the race. I gave it everything I had on the day. Moving forward, I will be hitting the pool hardcore, while rallying for change.

Wiesbaden 70.3

After Racine 70.3 I was left feeling a bit deflated. Though I attribute a great deal of the poor performance there to things that could have been better controlled (nutrition, pacing on bike, training leading into the race, etc.) in the back of my mind I was still left wondering if perhaps I had peaked too early in the season, and my best was behind me. I had a strong feeling that in order to race to the best of my ability at 70.3 Worlds I would need to do another race beforehand in order to prove to myself that I’m actually in good form. Wiesbaden 70.3 happened to be just enough time after Racine but before 70.3 Worlds, that I could put in two decent training blocks, and then do a taper into the race. It was also far enough away from 70.3 Worlds that I could come home and put in one more solid training block before heading to Australia. I decided to sign up for the race.

Wiesbaden 70.3 also happened to serve as the European 70.3 Championship. This meant that it would be a very competitive race. About a week after signing up for the race (and booking my flight and hotel) I found out that Wiesbaden 70.3 is regarded as one of the most challenging bike courses on the entire 70.3 circuit. Initially I thought this would be good and advantageous for me, because I thought all this meant was that the bike course was hilly, much like St. George. Indeed, it is hilly, but what makes this race so much different than any other race that I have experienced, is that the descents are not on big wide open highways, but on very narrow roads through small villages. I don’t think there is a single downhill section on the course that does not have a sharp hairpin turn or S-bend that is preceded by a sharp descent.

Being someone who grew up in perhaps the flattest place in all of Canada, where the largest hill within 100km is a reclaimed garbage dump, as well as someone who has spent a great deal of my bike hours on a stationary trainer, I was very intimidated by the course. I actually considered taking a 100% loss on the flight and hotel and not going. I not only was worried about being severely embarrassed by my European competitors, but was also worried that I would crash and suffer an injury that would cause me to miss 70.3 Worlds and/or Kona. But, sometimes you need to get out of your comfort zone, so I boarded the non-stop flight from Detroit to Frankfurt.

Immediately upon arrival Erin and I drove the bike course. With hindsight, I’m not sure this was a good idea. I couldn’t believe just how technical the bike course was. There had to have been 40 or 50 descents, most of which were very steep and at some point went around a sharp corner, or even several of them back to back. For the next three days leading into the race my only goal was to ride around and try to learn how to ride a bike on this new style of road and terrain. In that time, I got moderately comfortable with the roads, enough that I felt like I might be able to make it off the bike without dying.

I thought with 100% certainty that the race would be non-wetsuit. The days leading into the race were actually rather cool, and the race ended up being wetsuit legal. I didn’t cry when they announced this one hour before the race. The swim course was also very technical. Trace a wine glass with a perimeter of 1900m onto a lake…that is pretty close to what the swim course was. I recognized Boris Stein, the defending champion, about 1 kilometer into the swim. I knew this meant I was having a good swim. I also thought my only ticket to having a decent bike split was to shadow him on the bike and watch the lines he was taking through the corners, so I was very happy to see him. The pro women started only 2 minutes behind us, and one of the best swimmers in the sport: Jodie Swallow, was in the race. When I didn’t see her pink swim cap fly by me by 200m to go, I knew I probably had just swam my life time best swim. I was about 2:30 down to the front of the race, which had several active ITU athletes in it, so this was by far the best swim of my career.

It was a split transition, meaning the bike would be point to point. It also was organized like an Ironman race in that you had to put all of your gear in bags and then grab the bag off a rack as you are coming out of the water, and then put your gear on in a change tent. I put my helmet and race belt on, then threw my wetsuit and cap in the bag and ran back towards the swim to re-rack my bag. I couldn’t figure out what a lady was yelling at me in German as I was headed backwards, but eventually I figured out you weren’t supposed to re-rack your bag, but rather drop it with some volunteers in the opposite direction I was headed. I had a 20 second lead on Boris out of the water, but after this I was a few seconds behind out onto the bike. I immediately surged and went right to the front of the pack, of which Boris was the leader.

I knew that in order to run well I was going to have to bike as steady and as controlled as possible. I settled into about 350w at the front of the pack. On the first descent I found out that I am a very bad descender. I think Boris was a bit annoyed and came by me immediately. I didn’t dare pass him as my goal for the remainder of the race was to shadow him. Unfortunately, this plan was short lived. On the next descent I had perhaps one of the more humbling experiences in my career. It was a moderately steep descent into a fairly tight corner. Boris didn’t have to break aero position. I got out of the TT position and had to hit my breaks for fear of crashing. Boris immediately opened up a 50 meter gap. I think Bart Aernouts was a bit annoyed now and he came by me to bridge the gap to Boris. My new plan was to stay third in line and shadow them both. On the next corner they put a good 100m into me, and I took the corner in what I thought to be a fairly aggressive manner. New plan: stay in contact with them as long as possible.

At the bottom of the hills I would spike the power very hard and try and close the gap. The descents were just too close together, and despite many 400w+ intervals, the gap got so big I could not bridge it. That was the last I saw of Boris. Once out on my own, with no feedback from anyone in front as to whether the corner could be taken in the TT position, or how much you needed to brake, or what line to take, I was forced to ride the corners even more cautiously. New Plan: Ride the downs cautiously, ride the ups very hard. I knew this could potentially fry my run legs, but I had no choice. If I both rode the downs cautiously and rode the ups conservatively, I would have an embarrassingly large deficit off the bike.

Fortunately, there was about an 8 kilometer section about 30k into the course that was pretty much all uphill. I rode it hard and passed quite a few names who I knew were major contenders for the win. On that section I posted my by best 10 minute and 20 minute power I have ever posted in a 70.3: 423w and 402w respectively. I got a time update from someone and found out that Andreas Drietz was over 4 minutes up the road. I knew that was already likely too much of a deficit to catch him on the run, but I stayed positive and reminded myself that it’s not over until it’s over!

I came off the bike in fifth place with about a six minute deficit to Dreitz. Once again, I grabbed my bag off the rack and ran to the change tent. I opened my bag and was taken a back. Someone had stolen my shoes and replaced them with a different brand! Then reality kicked in and I realized I had grabbed the wrong bag. I ran back, and fortunately, my bag was there!

I’ve been doing a lot of running. I find once I start getting over the 120-130km/wk range my run really starts to come around. Due to the massive power spikes and lulls on the bike, I knew there was a high probability that my run legs were not going to feel good. I settled into a pace that felt comfortable, and constantly reminded myself to relax the shoulders. My watch beeped and I went through the first kilometer in 3:14. I knew then that I was going to have a good run. At about 3 kilometers I caught up to Patrick Lange- winner of Ironman Texas with a blistering 2:40 run off the bike. Dude can run. We ran the next kilometer side by side. My watch beeped: 3:07 for the kilometer.

For the rest of the run I just stayed focused on running to the best of my ability. I knew I was pulling back time from everyone in front of me. At about 6 kilometers I entered 3rd place. At about 14 kilometers I pulled up next to Boris. I was impressed. He was not going down without a fight. For some reason, I enjoy suffering, and a piece of me smiled when I knew I would have to run the remaining 6 kilometers hard, in order to hang onto second place.

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About a quarter mile from the finish I finally got to see Andreas Drietz, just as he was about to round the corner into the finishing chute. He probably was grinning because he was about to win the European Championship, but to me the grin said “payback’s a b***h, aint it?” (as the tables were turned in Oceanside and Texas). But, in all honesty, if there was anyone I had to lose to in that race, it was him. Not only is he a great athlete, but he’s a really good guy. So much so, he consoled me at the finish line by saying, “You have North America, I have Europe, now we settle the score in Australia.” You can’t not like the guy!

All and all, I am very happy with the race. I got exactly what I came for: I am confident that I am in good form, and that I can execute a good race in Australia. Thanks for reading and following along!

Racine 70.3 2016

What a day. This one stings a bit. The race was originally to start at 7am, but then due to increment weather the swim was cancelled, the bike course was shortened to 30 miles, and the race wasn’t to start until 10:30 am. The race was to be a time-trial start, with everyone let off in 30 second increments from each other.

I went off first. I did not have any plan whatsoever for the altered race distance and format, and eventually I think this mistake lead to my unravelling. The race starts up a very steep hill. I surged up the hill pushing over 500w. I then pushed very hard for the remainder of the bike, doing large surges out of every corner. This is very uncharacteristic for me. If you ask me how I think the best way to ride a bike is, I will say “dead steady power output leads to the fastest running.” For some reason I threw this out the window. About midway through the bike I was burping up my sports drink, meaning, it was not emptying from my stomach. I attribute this to riding at too high an intensity, as well as eating too close to the race start and still having breakfast food in my stomach (when the race was cancelled I went back to the hotel and had a second breakfast).

Stomach issues set the tone for the run. I came off the bike with a little under 3 minute lead on Matt Chrabot. I felt decent for the first while but could not, nor did I want to consume anything. I knew it was hot and that I had to consume something, so I tried to force water and sports drink down. It did not agree well with my stomach and I started to develop a stomach cramp. Around 5 miles the wheels started to fall off. My leg turnover started to drop considerably. Then I started to have the sensation I needed to use the port-a-john. It hit me really hard and really fast. I made it to mile 6 and stopped in to the washroom. A one-piece suit is great, but very tough to get on and off in the middle of the race.

The second half of the run was nothing but a struggle. I felt terrible, and to add insult to injury my mind was no longer in the race. By mile 9 I had already conceded the victory to Matt. I actually thought to myself, “you are going to finish second today.” This is how I know nutrition played a large role in the performance. The first thing to go when I am in a calorie deficit / dehydrated, is my competitive spirit. Contrast that with St. George 70.3, where I got the nutrition right, and you would have had to have taken me away on a stretcher before I would concede the victory to Sebastien Kienle.

Matt caught me right around 12 miles. I had no response for him whatsoever and congratulated him on a race well done. Unfortunately, another wave of stomach upset hit me, but this time there was no port-a-john around. I will spare you the details, but I stopped, walked, and had another episode of Ironman Arizona. I ran through the finish line feeling very embarrassed. I knew Erin was still periscoping and wanted to get off the camera and away from everyone quick. Unfortunately, there was drug testing afterwards, and so this was going to be a complete reliving of the Ironman Arizona experience. Fortunately, Erin had a fresh set of clothes for me in my backpack, but unfortunately a man had to watch me clean myself, as you are not allowed to leave the sight of the drug testing chaperone once you have completed the race.

I then went to drug testing and set a new record for longest duration to produce the 90mL sample of urine. I consumed 5L of liquids in 3 hours and 4 minutes, and produced exactly 90mL. That is with two attempts where literally nothing came out, and two partial samples. This is amazing because the race only took 2 hours and 20 minutes. To me this means that not only did I botch the nutrition during the race, I must have come into the race dehydrated as well. 7 hours after the race, I had consumed over 7L of liquids, and still had no desire to go pee.

 

Why did all of this occur? Leading into the race, I took a risk. 70.3 Worlds is my focus, and I did a full taper into Mont Tremblant 70.3 just three weeks ago, so I decided to train much harder than usual coming into this race. On the Sunday prior to the race I did 7x5min@435w on the bike to 10min@380w; then later in the day did 7x1km@3:02/km. On Monday I did 2hours@275w straight to 10k@3:55/km. Tuesday was 2x30min@370w to 15min@370w on the bike; then later in the day was 7x2km@3:17/km. Thursday was 2x15m@380w and 400w; then later in the day was 5x1km@3:14, 3:12, 3:10, 3:06, 3:02. I do not believe that this added fatigue played a role in the result, but I do believe the choice to train into this race set the tone for the day. Mainly, I think I did not give the race or the competition the respect it deserved.

I will say, if I had to lose to someone on the circuit, it would be Matt Chrabot. He is genuinely sincere, and an all around good guy. He has offered me many nuggets of wisdom over the years, asking nothing in return. Even after this race, he gave me some breakfast nutrition tips to hopefully help prevent the port-a-john episode from happening again. I am very happy for him and congratulate him on a very well executed race.

As for me, sometimes losing is worth a lot more than winning. The last time I lost was in Kona, about 8 months ago. I used that experience and the fuel it gave me to win in Arizona, Panama, Oceanside, Texas, St. George and Mont Tremblant. I already feel the anger and frustration growing inside, and I am sure this performance will have a similar effect. Thanks for reading and following along.

Training and Race Nutrition

I had a traumatizing experience at Ironman Texas in 2015. It was very hot and humid and I was coming from a long Canadian winter. In all of my training and racing leading up to this race I never really gave much thought to hydration and nutrition. It was the norm to go for a 20 kilometer run in the middle of summer and not bring anything to eat or drink. On the bike in Texas I consumed less than one Gatorade bottle per hour. The bike took me over four hours, and I also probably sweat a bit in the hour long swim. By the time I got off the bike my vision was beginning to get blurry, and my muscles were not functioning very well. I felt like a concrete block. These symptoms only got worse during the marathon, to the point where I was swerving all over the path. It was by far and away the most painful experience I have ever endured. I remember having the feeling that I was pushing myself very close to death. For a long while after that race I feared the next time I would have to do an Ironman.

In the days and weeks after that race I did a lot of searching for the answer as to why I felt so terrible. Eventually I went to a laboratory and had my sweat rate measured under similar conditions to those in Texas at the time of year of the race; I also had my sweat sodium concentration measured. In heat and humidity very similar to that of the race in Texas, my sweat rate on the bike was over 2L per hour. My sweat rate on the run was closer to 2.5L per hour. Keep in mind, the actual sweat rate during the race was likely higher because there was no sun heating the surface of my skin in the laboratory.

So, let’s assume I lost 0.5L in the swim. I was on the bike for a little over four hours, and sweat a minimum of 2L per hour, which means I lost a minimum of 8L on the bike. Thus, in the first five hours of the race, I lost 8.5L. I consumed four bottles of Gatorade in that time, each of which were 710mL, for a total of 2.84L. Therefore, coming off the bike, it is safe to say I was in a minimum deficit of 5.66L. In terms of percentage of body weight, 5.66L is equal to 12.45 pounds, and before the race I weighed about 165lbs, so I had lost a minimum of 7.5% of my body weight. Running a marathon being 7.5% dehydrated is a very painful experience that I do not wish anyone to endure.

Long story short, this whole experience lead me to a company based right in the city that I live, called Infinit Nutrition Canada. They create fully customizable nutrition products that allow you to control every aspect of your sports drink. For example, you can decide exactly how much carbohydrate, sodium and electrolytes, protein, caffeine, flavour intensity, etc. you want in each serving.

Over the next year or so, I continued to measure my sweat rate under various conditions, as well as started to log how I felt under various degrees of dehydration. I came to the conclusion, that at 3% dehydration I was starting to notice subtle cognitive impairment, and by 5% dehydration I was beginning to have significant cognitive and physical impairment. This lead me to conclude that ideally, I would be finishing the race around 5% dehydrated i.e. just as I was starting to have significant impairment. Knowing this, I can then work backwards and formulate both my race hydration plan, as well as my custom nutrition blend. I will give you an example:

Let’s say I am doing a hot 70.3, in Texas for instance. Under those conditions, I will likely sweat about 2L per hour on the bike, and 2.5L per hour on the run. The bike usually takes me about 2 hours, and then the run takes me about 1.25 hours. That means I will lose about 4L on the bike, and another 3L on the run, for a total deficit of 7L. When I first learned about this stuff, I wanted to keep pace 100% with my sweat rate, which lead me to rationalize committing this aerodynamic and weight atrocity, which I believe added a significant amount of time to my Kona bike time (photo cred to Slowtwitch):

kona-bike

But, keep in mind, all I really have to do is get to the finish line not too much greater than 5% dehydrated, because this is just when I am starting to experience serious impairment. So, 5% of 165lbs is 8.25lbs, which is equal to 3.75L. We calculated above that my total sweat deficit would be about 7L, but I have 3.75L to give away, therefore I really only need to consume 3.25L of liquids during the bike and run. Keep in mind, it is much more difficult to consume liquids while running than while biking, so it is best to consume as much of this as possible on the bike.

Of course, things always look different in the real world, and in reality I have no problem consuming four 750mL bottles on the bike. Therefore, in a hot race like Galveston 70.3, I was able to come off the bike having consumed around 3L of liquids. This means I would only have to consume 250mL during the run to reach the finish line right around 5% dehydrated. In reality, I usually take two cups of water per aid station, and it is safe to say I consume 50mL or so out of each of those cups, so I likely consumed a liter or more on the run. This puts me at the finish line having consumed around 4L and having lost 7L, which means I was around 4% dehydrated. This makes total sense because I didn’t have much cognitive deficit at the finish line, nor were my muscles functioning poorly, nor was my perceived exertion very high.

That is the process that I go through when determining my actual fluid consumption plan for a race. Armed with this, I am then able to customize my nutrition blend that is in my bottles, with the help of Infinit Nutrition Canada. First things first, I am exercising at a very high intensity in a 70.3, so a lot of my energy will come from carbohydrate. Therefore, I need to be sure I am consuming as much carbohydrate as possible so I do not begin to run out of energy before the end of the race. Through lots of trial and error, I have come to find I can safely consume around 400 calories per hour, without much gastrointestinal issues. Each serving of Infinit Nutrition needs to be consumed with a mimimum of 600mL of water, so on the bike, I will consume four servings along with 3L of water. This means, I need each one of my Infinit Nutrition servings to contain 200 calories, so that after hour one on the bike, I will have consumed two servings and a total of 400 calories, and the same is true for hour two. The math works pretty well on the run too, but I will likely consume slightly less.

Once the carbohydrate is added I can then add my electrolytes. I learned in the laboratory that I lose about 900mg of sodium per liter of sweat. This means I will need to consume as close to this much sodium as possible per liter of fluid consumed. During the bike, I am consuming each of my servings with about 750mL of liquid, this means that I need about 675mg of sodium per serving (because 900mg of sodium is needed per liter, which is 90mg per 100mL; and each serving is 750mL, so 90×7.5=675mg of sodium). But, this is where the expertise of Infinit Nutrition Canada really comes in.

I actually have a bit of advantage when it comes to creating a custom blend because my sweat rate is so high and therefore I am both able and required to consume very large quantities of water. Most sweat rates are nowhere near this level, and so most people are not consuming nearly as much water. Therefore, once the required carbohydrate is added to the blend, adding electrolytes can make the concentration of the blend very high. So high that after while, the concentration in the stomach can get so high that the stomach stops emptying itself. If you have ever been in a race and felt nauseous, or heard liquids swishing around in your stomach, it is likely that the concentration of the liquids in your stomach was too high. Infinit will work with you to find a good balance between carbohydrate, electrolyte, protein and flavouring, so that your stomach concentration never gets too high, so that you continue to process your nutrition properly right to the end of the race.

The final part of the process is to decide what flavour you want your blend to be, as well as how strong you want the flavouring to be. You can also add a small amount of protein to curb hunger, or a small amount of caffeine to fight off fatigue. Once I have my custom blend, I will practice my race strategy in training. At the race, I will mix all four of my servings of Infinit Nutrition into my frame bottle on the bike, as well as 2.25 servings of Infinit Nutrition into my hand bottle on the run. For the entire race the only thing I will use from the on-course aid stations is water.

If you experiencing cognitive or physical deficits during a race, and you have trained properly, then it is very likely that nutrition has played a role in this. If you’re in Canada, I would strongly advise you to contact Darcy at Infinit Nutrition Canada and start working on a race-day nutrition plan that will allow you to achieve your true potential. If you are not in Canada, I strongly advise you to find an expert in your area who does this same sort of thing. I truly believe that implementing all of the things I outlined above both in training and racing, has allowed me to achieve my full potential in 2016.

lionel bike fuel

Thanks for reading.

Mont Tremblant 70.3 2016

Mont Tremblant holds a special place in my heart. This is where I started to truly believe that I could compete with the best in the world, after finishing fourth at the 70.3 World Championships behind Javier Gomez, Jan Frodeno and Tim Don. It also happens to be where Erin did her first Ironman, and where my mom did her first full Ironman (after finishing the swim cancelled Ironman Florida in 2014). My mom, Erin and myself were all competing again this year in the 70.3, so it was sure to be a memorable experience.

I put in four solid training blocks after St. George. My training blocks look like this:

Day 1: Hard

Day 2: Easy

Day 3: Hard

Day 4: Easy with long run

Day 5: Brick

Day 6: Easy with long bike

Day 7: Hard

Day 8: Active recovery

Day 9: Off

Day 10: Active recovery

I will say, I did not give the active recovery days enough respect after the first two blocks. I went to bed late, woke up early, and did not hydrate / replenish nutrients adequately. By the third block I was feeling very depleted. I felt very similar to the days when I used to do straight 21 day blocks without a recovery period. Fortunately, after I completed the third block, I realized the mistakes I was making and was able to correct them. Despite being four blocks deep, the forth block actually ended up being my best, as I had put a lot more emphasis on properly recovering. After the four blocks were complete I took a six day taper into Mont Tremblant 70.3.

I should also mention that after St. George 70.3 I decided that enough is enough with my current stroke mechanics. There just was no way that I could swim any harder. I had reached the ceiling of my current stroke. There is never a good time to tear a stroke apart, but I figured since it was mid-season, and the big races (Kona and 70.3 Worlds) were still several months away, I just might be able to make some improvements in time for those races. Since St. George I literally have not swam a single hard stroke. Every stroke I have taken has been with conscious awareness of the elements that I am trying to improve upon. As well, I have done underwater video analysis once every three days. In the first couple weeks of this endeavour, I was swimming some of the slowest times I have swam in several years. But slowly, I started to get some groove back in the stroke. I took solace in the belief that the stroke mechanics I was cultivating would have a higher ceiling than the stroke mechanics I was trying to rid from my muscle memory.

The race started at 8 am. The later the better for me, as I usually don’t start training until 9 or 10 am. One of the unique parts about Mont Tremblant 70.3 is that you are allowed to get into the water for a warmup as early as you wish. As a weaker swimmer, proper warmup is crucial for me, so I got into the water a good 20 minutes before the gun. We were pulled out of the water about 5 minutes before the start for the singing of the national anthem. I’m not sure what it was, but the national anthem, mixed with the fighter jet flying over head, stirred up a lot of emotion. So much so that I felt tears streaming down my cheeks.

Swim Start

It was a beach start, meaning we would have to run into the water once the gun went. I lined up right next to Cody Beals. I didn’t have too much expectations for this swim. My only goal was to continue to apply the good technique I had been practicing, but under higher load. After about 50 meters I was gapped by Cody. I knew that was my ticket to the second pack, but was unable to hang on. I took solace in the fact that I could still make out the second group for almost the entire swim, every time I sighted. When I emerged from the water I was told I had a deficit of just under 3 minutes and 30 seconds. I knew there were some very good swimmers in this race, so I figured this was one of my better swims.

It’s a long run up from the water to transition. I ran it very hard and was able to catch some of the people who had swam 15-20 seconds faster than me. Out onto the bike my intention was to push more power than I had ever pushed before in a 70.3. Almost immediately I could tell that this was not going to happen. It was the polar opposite feeling of St. George 70.3. In St. George, I constantly had to hold myself back. Whereas in this race, the average power I held for the entire race in St. George (352w) felt quite taxing. I decided then that I would make do with what I had, and tried to hold 350w as best as I could.

I caught the main pack of cyclists fairly early at around 15 or 20 kilometers. I knew this meant I had swam well because in the past it has taken me 30 or even 40 kilometers to catch them. On the first out and back section I caught a glimpse of the leader. It was Antoine Desroches, all alone out front. I was immediately impressed with the way he was riding. He was laying it all on the line, holding nothing back. Personally, I don’t like the pack riding that you see in many of the big races. I do not believe that everyone is biking to the best of their ability. I realize that this is a tactic many are employing to achieve the best result possible, but I still don’t like it.

I entered the lead around 40 kilometers. For the remaining 50 kilometers I allowed myself to have a little fun. Whenever the speed went below 25kph I got out of the saddle and spiked the power. I climbed almost the entire mountain section of the course standing. TrainingPeaks did an analysis of my power file if you are interested in a more in depth look at the ride:

http://home.trainingpeaks.com/blog/article/power-analysis-lionel-sanders-win-at-ironman-70-3-mt-tremblant

We are starting to get close to the big races, so I do not want to accumulate any unnecessary fatigue. For the first half of the run I strived to hold sub 3:30 kilometers. Once I reached the turnaround I was able to get a split on second place. At this point I had about a 4 minute and 30 second lead. I decided to relax a bit more, stop looking at my watch, and just run by feel. I must say, it is amazing how much quicker time goes by when you don’t look at the watch and just listen to your internal sensations. It was starting to get rather hot at this point, so I took it as an opportunity to practice my cooling strategies, and put ice down the front of my shirt and cold water on my head through each of the aid stations.

Run Course

Coming through the finish line was amazing. The sides were lined several people deep, and the sound was deafening. I made sure to slap as many fives as possible, and soak it all in. I stuck around the finish line for the rest of the day as both my mom and Erin were racing. My mom worked here way up from 51st in her age group out of the water, all the way up to 7th by the end. Erin was in much better shape this time round than in the Ironman and was able to finish in just over seven and a half hours, completing the half-marathon throughout the hottest portion of the day. I think her proudest moment this time round was not having to walk her bike at any point up Chemin Duplessis. I am very proud of both of them for how hard they worked to achieve their results.

Tremblant Finish

I have to give a huge thanks to everyone who cheered and followed along during the race. I heard many cheers throughout the bike and the run and this helped me to stay focused and continue to push myself to the very end. Next up will be Racine 70.3, and then I will do my final preparations for the 70.3 World Championship. I apologize for taking a bit of a hiatus from the blog. I have a few posts that I have been working on, so will get back on here more regularly from now on. Thanks for reading and following along!

Photo credit to Trimes.org.

St. George 70.3 2016

St. George 70.3 holds a special place in my heart. I did my first pro race in September 2013 at Muskoka 70.3. Long story short, I won the race over the great Andreas Raelert. It is likely that Andreas was deep inside his Kona preparation, so the significance of this victory may have gone to my head a bit too much. 8 months later I did my third pro race in St. George. At that time, it was one of the best 70.3 fields ever assembled. Jan Frodeno, Sebastien Kienle, Tim Don, Brent McMahon, Andy Potts, Terenzo Bozone, Bevan Docherty and Marino Vanhoenacker were just a few of the names on the list. Having won Muskoka 70.3 I felt that I had a real shot at competing for the overall win. Every day in practice leading into the race I envisioned myself crossing the line in first place. Another long story short, I ended up finishing 18th place, ten minutes behind race winner Jan Frodeno.

That experience was a true test of my love for triathlon, as I began seriously contemplating quitting the sport. The reality of the race was very far removed from how I had envisioned it. In the immediate hours after the race I was a terrible person to be around. I was miserable and did not want to talk. I felt terrible about myself. The worst part though was the embarrassment. All of my friends and family were watching. Many of them too thought I had a shot at competing for the overall win. The reality was that I lost time in all three disciplines to the top athletes. They were in a different league!

The next morning I went for a jog with my mom through the St. George desert. I reflected back on why I got into triathlon in the first place. I was in poor mental and physical health. I entered in an Ironman to help remedy those issues. After just 8 months of devoting myself to triathlon both my physical and mental health were completely transformed. But there I was less than four years later, feeling many of the same poor feelings I had when I embarked on my triathlon journey. It was there that I realized I had lost my way. Somewhere along the lines triathlon had turned from an endeavour in which I developed positive qualities, to an endeavour that was beginning to create and enhance negative qualities. I awoke right then and there from my slumber. I knew I needed to change my orientation and attitude towards triathlon. From then on I vowed that I would only do triathlon for fun and for the joy of pushing myself to the limit. If I ever crossed a finish line again without joy in my heart, that would be the last finish line I crossed.

I would say of all the lessons I have learned over the years, this was the most important one. Winning races is irrelevant if you are winning them with a poor orientation. You will have bad races, you will have mishaps. With a poor orientation to triathlon these experiences will have a negative effect on your mental and physical health, as well as the health of those around you. You are doing yourself, your friends and loved ones, as well as the triathlon community as a whole a disservice if you allow these types of negative feelings to go unchecked. When I changed my orientation to triathlon for the better, it felt like a weight had been lifted. There was no more pressure. There was no more disappointment or negative feelings. There was only one goal now: To push myself to the best of my ability, regardless of the cards I am dealt. I arrived in St. George on May 4th 2016 wanting to give thanks to the race for teaching me this invaluable lesson.

Unlike Oceanside 70.3, my build up for St. George went smoothly. After Texas 70.3 I took a few days easy, and then I put in a hard two week block. In that time I ran a lot of hills and did a lot of riding on the CompuTrainer out of the saddle, as I knew the course was going to be very hilly. I also mentally prepared myself to suffer more than I ever had before. But, I knew that due to the course being so challenging, I was going to have to be very patient. If I started off too crazy, it was likely that I would blow up, and not be able to push myself as hard as I could if I was more patient with dispersing the energy.

It was rather chilly the morning of the race (around 50 fahrenheit). Being on the heavier side for a pro triathlete, I knew this was advantageous for me. They were also calling for possible thunder showers, and I knew that a cold swim, mixed with cold air temps and rain would also be advantageous for me, so I kept my fingers cross for torrential downpours.

The swim was fairly uneventful for me. For the first 400m or so the water was quite calm, and I was swimming pretty well. I started right beside Sebastien Kienle and Cody Beals. I sighted often and was very close to both of them until the first turn buoy. Around this point I started to fall off the pace of the 25:xx swim pack. I was surprised how choppy the water got once out into the middle of the lake. This did not help my cause any, and the gap to the 25:xx group started to increase a lot quicker from then on. I emerged from the water with about a 4 minute and 30 second gap to the leaders. I knew this deficit would be difficult to overcome, but I welcomed the challenge.

St. George Swim

On the bike, my mantra was “be patient.” I wanted so bad to smash the hills. I knew my only shot at winning this race was to run very well, and I knew that smashing the hills would not fair well for my run legs. The only time I spiked the power was when passing people, and even then I tried my best not to spike it too much. I was surprised by just how quickly I was pulling time back from guys who I was sure swam 2-3 minutes faster than I did. The major changes I made between Texas 70.3 and this race is that this time round I used latex tubes for the first time, and I had CermicSpeed check my drive train before the race, and flush and lube the hubs of my wheels. As well, I was noticeably more comfortable on the bike; both from a position standpoint, and a fear of speed standpoint. Going down the hills at 60-80kph, despite it raining, I felt close to no fear. This allowed me to focus on producing good power, and holding my body taut and my head low.

St George Bike

Around 55km I caught the tail end of the main pack. Michael Raelert was in this pack and I knew he is one of the greatest runners to ever do this distance. I wasn’t completely secure with coming off the bike with him, and leaving things to a foot race, so I tried to get rid of this pack as quickly as I could. By 65km I was in second place, with Cam Dye about 30 seconds up the road. Right at the base of Snow Canyon (a 5 mile steady climb) I entered the lead. At this point I had a gap on Michael Raelert, so I thought about chilling for the rest of the bike, but then I started to worry about Sebastien Kienle. He was riding well and I knew he had the potential to run very well; at 70.3 Worlds last year he out ran both Jan Frodeno and Javier Gomez. I decided to burn a few matches up Snow Canyon and see if I could come off the bike with a gap. By the top of Snow Canyon I had about 45 seconds on Kienle.

What goes up must come down. The descent from Snow Canyon was a bit sketchy as it was pouring rain and I was hitting speeds in excess of 80kph. But interestingly, I felt close to no fear. I’m not sure if this is good or bad. Either I am increasing in confidence on the bike, or my self perseveration mechanism is beginning to wane; let’s hope it is the former. Out of T2 I had about a 30 second lead on Kienle. My hands and feet were completely numb, and I struggled to put my socks and shoes on, so I think I gave back a bit of the time I had gained on the bike here.

The run in St. George is very difficult. It starts off with nearly 3 miles of continuous uphill running. I was hurting from the first step. I knew this run was going to be a very painful experience, but fortunately I was mentally prepared for this and embraced it. I knew almost immediately that Kienle came here to win. I ran the first six miles very hard, and put no time into him. We ran pretty close to even for the first 8 miles. My family was waiting for me at the run turnaround. My dad yelled repeatedly at me “who wants it more? Who wants it more?” I thought to myself “I don’t want it anymore!”

St George Run

As I grow in strength a third layer of perception seems to be developing. The first layer is my physical body. It was hurting badly and was sending signals to slow down. The second layer is my verbally expressed thoughts. It was saying things like “slow down and let Kienle catch up and run shoulder to shoulder,” as well as “second is good, Kienle is a three-time World champion. There’s no shame in that.” The third layer observes this whole process and sees it for what it is: a delightful game of me vs. me. Despite both my body and verbal mind screaming at me to slow down, the third layer was experiencing pure bliss in taking part in a good game of me vs. me. The more it hurt and the louder the screams to stop, the more joy I experienced. Something tells me Kienle was having a good game of me vs. me as well, because I am pretty sure he gave me a big smile when we passed each other after the turnaround.

There was a second turnaround on an out and back section where I caught a second glimpse of Kienle. By this point the gap had opened up to around 45 seconds. By this time my body was actually starting to feel pretty good, but my mind was still saying I should slow down. I kept the pace as high as I could. The final mile and a half is straight and downhill. A little ways into this section I looked back and could not get a good sense of how far back Kienle was. I did not allow myself to think I was going to win the race until about a quarter mile from the finish. At that point, tears of joy and pain started to flow.

St. George Finish

It was deeply satisfying to win this race. What was more satisfying was to duke it out with Kienle for so long. I would much rather finish second in a good race, then win an easy race. I think Kienle and I had a good race on this day. I owe a lot to him as he has been one of my biggest inspirations over the years. He was the first man to prove that you don’t have to be a front pack swimmer to win the biggest races in the world. To duke it out with one of your biggest inspirations is a cool feeling.

Kienle and I

Thanks to all of my sponsors for helping make this dream a reality. I could not do this without you. As well, thanks to everyone for cheering and following along. You made this day that much more special. If you are interested in the technical details of my race, TrainingPeaks did a cool analysis of my bike and run data. You can find that here:

http://home.trainingpeaks.com/blog/article/race-analysis-lionel-sanders-victory-at-the-2016-ironman-70-3-north-american-championships