2015 Season Debrief

It's nearly Christmas, so if I don't post a 2015 season debrief now, it won't happen.  It's vacation time, which gives me the opportunity to pause, reflect and write.

At the beginning of the 2015 season, I set four quantitative goals, three of which I met:
- qualify again for Worlds (check), ideally at both provincials and nationals (stretch goal - check!)
- stay healthy and injury free (nope - see below)
- take a podium spot (check)
- win a race (big stretch goal - check!)

I also set several qualitative goals:
- build my bike strength and speed (perhaps this should have been quantitative - it will be in 2016)
- continue learning about bike maintenance (check)
- get to know more fellow athletes the scene (check)

Wow, I won a race!

It's all about that bike.

If I chose one theme for 2015, it is the year of the bike.  I started the season with goal of improving my strength in cycling.  Having finished an exciting first year of coaching with Ignition Fitness that netted results I hadn't dreamed of, I embarked upon a journey to get my bike splits faster in the year ahead.

Life - or more specifically, a thief - threw me a curve ball when, in February, someone stole my bike.  To make matters worse, it happened the night before a training event with my Ignition teammates.  My Cervelo had been locked in a rental SUV in our condo parking garage and while I was upstairs packing the remainder of my gear, someone smashed one of the vehicle's windows, pulled out the bike, walked up two flights of stairs (passing several security cameras), and took it out into the cold, winter night.  And that was that.

It shook my sense of security in my own building.  If there was a silver lining, it was that it was tax refund season and the spring bike show was right around the corner, so I was able to get a new bike within relatively short order.

My new Felt B14. My first time ever riding/owning an all-carbon bike.

Over the arc of the season, under Coach Roger's watchful eye, I undertook a lengthy effort to build my cycling strength and speed.  He structured my workout plan to increase my FTP and to make the most out of the limited time I had to train.  In general, I biked about four times a week, two or three week nights for an hour and once on Sunday for 1.5 hours.  I also tapped into the expertise and knowledge of fellow athletes, like Daryl Flacks and Jesse Bauer, who generously shared their tips about how they've become such strong cyclists.  (It seems to have something to do with embracing the physical pain of tough workouts!)

With thanks to Taylor at Sweet Pete's, I refined my bike position with a RETUL fit session.  A big part of fast cycling is a proper bike fit and using sensor technology, video analysis and old fashioned measurements and observation, Taylor set me up in a speedy position for my new bike.  After several months of racing and training, I've got some ideas for Taylor for the year ahead.

Trying out the new position after a RETUL bike fit at Sweet Pete's.

While the statistics show that I did become a faster cyclist in 2015, my growth in that discipline wasn't proportionate to my progress in running.  For 2016, we're incrementally adding time to my bike workouts, where possible, and I've been measuring my output using a borrowed power meter.  That being said, there is still some mental or physical barrier I need to push through to break through my plateau in this discipline.

Bumps and bruises
Despite my best efforts, as mentioned elsewhere on my blog, twice this season I have dealt with injuries.  The first resulted from trying a new strength training manoeuvre at the gym, while the source of the second remains a mystery.  The latter was a sudden flare up in my shin splints, despite no significant change in my workouts.  That happened in late summer and in order to save my shins for nationals in September, I modified my August race schedule.  It seems clear that I'll need to plan my workouts carefully and continue with my physio if I will be able to continue competing in duathlon.

Since taking up this sport in earnest, I've had a number of nutrition questions.  For example, am I eating properly for recovery?  (And the corollary, how tired should I feel while working out this much?).  Is it possible to stop and reverse the weight loss I've had since beginning training?  Can the right nutrition plan truly feel like "rocket fuel" as some people say?

After reading a blog that Spencer Summerfield wrote about the positive impact of seeing a nutritionist, I contacted him and he shared his advice.  Not long after, I met with Tara Postnikoff of HEAL Nutrition for my first consultation.  Through several visits with her, I've refined my race fuelling plan and have modified my diet, which has made me stronger and kept me satiated longer.

Outside of workout nutrition, in 2015 I dealt with stomach pain, which increasingly manifested late at night or early in the morning.  It felt like what I imagine is the sensation of a punch to the stomach.  I would awake at the start of the day to find my abdominals clenching.  After a barrage of tests, doctors confirmed that it wasn't something serious, but that I had irritation or inflammation of the stomach.  They put me on a GERD diet which, in summary, rules out most of my favourite types of food.  This condition is an ongoing challenge and I've had setbacks, to the extent that I'm considering dedicating the entire month of January to eating bland food (in other words, following the diet) to see if that gives my stomach time to heal.

Busy season
I again packed my season, mostly because I love racing.  Working out is fine, but it doesn't compare to the thrill of toeing the start line and the feeling of a job well done at the end.

For posterity's sake, here's a summary of the year's results:
Harry Rosen 5 km - 11th OA, 1st AG, new PB for that race
Toronto Yonge St 10 km - 131 OA, 19 AG, new PB for 10 km
Toronto Goodlife Half Marathon - pace bunny, can't wait to do it again!
Woodstock Sprint Du - 3rd OA, 1st AG
Toronto Challenge 5 km - 11th OA, 3rd AG, new PB for 5 km
Guelph Sprint Du - 1st OA (First ever duathlon win!)
Gravenhurst International Du - 4th OA, 1st AG
Bracebridge International Du (Provincials) - 10th OA, 2nd AG, qualified for worlds
Sunset Shuffle 6 km - dropped out in advance due to injury
TO Island Sprint Du - switched to relay due to injury
Esprit International Du (Nationals) - 17th OA, 2nd 3rd AG, qualified for worlds, new PB for international distance
Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Half Marathon - 122nd OA, 25AG, new PB

Moving on from all the competitive stuff, the 2015 season offered a lot of camaraderie... as well as coloured powder and the occasional picnic....

With long-time friend David at the MultiSport Woodstock weekend. 

Mahnaz at Woodstock, after completing her first triathlon.

Me, Rick, Lawrence and Rob at the Colour me Rad run.  Here the running is less important than the colour packets!

A civilized post-run picnic at the Sunset Shuffle.

Looking ahead to 2016, it is clear it will be an exciting year.  I'm already training for my biggest race yet, the World Age Group Duathlon Championships in Aviles, Spain.  As that race is in June, it will impact some of my usual spring / early summer race choices.  Late summer, I may travel to British Columbia for the Canadian duathlon nationals and for the fall, I'm mulling over skipping the Scotiabank half marathon to once again try the Prince Edward County half.

Regardless of the race choices, I'm grateful that I have the ability - and the means - to compete and challenge myself in this sport.  I also want to recognize the efforts of individuals like Jesse Bauer and Larry Bradley, who have proactively strived to build the duathlon community in Ontario - and beyond.  Their efforts have helped grow the sense of camaraderie, friendship and competition among this still nice sport.

Thank you to my partner Rob for his patience and support as I put myself through so many workouts and drag him to races (or nudge him to race himself).  My thanks to my coach, Roger, and the rest of the team at Ignition Fitness, and to the folks who help prevent my injuries and fix me up after they happen: Raj from Foundation Physiotherapy and David from Yorkville Chiropractic Centre.

Happy holidays and see you in 2016.