2016 - Season in Review

When mid-September rolls around, there is no denying it: the race season is coming to an end in Ontario.  When it finally arrived, we were blessed with a hot, dry summer.  Now if only it lasted for one more month and we could have one more race...  Alas, it isn't meant to be and it's now time to reflect on our results and recharge our batteries.

2016 Goals

After strong results in 2014 and 2015, I was mentally prepared to push myself further and faster this year. I set four primary objectives for the season:
Goal #1 - Rock Worlds in Aviles, Spain
Goal #2 - Run a sub-1:20 half marathon
Goal #3 - Win the MSC Toronto Island duathlon 
Goal #4 - Qualify for Worlds 2017

Alas, an injury flared up in the spring, which grew progressively worse - eventually being diagnosed as a near stress fracture in my femur - forcing me to reassess my ideas and attitude for the season.  And the results?

Goal #1 - Achieved.  After the ups and downs of my injury, I entered the world championships in a renewed state of gratitude to be there and openness to the entire experience.  I soaked up and contributed to the Team Canada spirit and I think that positivity helped my performance.  I posted the fourth fastest Canadian time and was middle of the pack in my age group.  

Goal #2 - Postponed.  My fitness is still present and I can maintain a decent run speed of around 4:00/km, which was my half marathon race pace last year, despite having spent 96% of my training between April and September on the bike.  But I don't have much distance under my belt and seeing as my weakness is overuse injury, I won't be doing a fall half marathon.  Instead, I have decided to step back, follow doctor's orders, and rebuild my run endurance at a maximum of 10% increases each week.  

Goal #3 - Postponed.  This goal had special meaning to me, as Toronto Island was the site of my first duathlon and I would have loved to win the top spot on the podium at my hometown race.  Perhaps another year.  This summer, I treated it as a test of my recovery following six weeks off running.  (To be fair, this year I did post an overall win when I unexpectedly won the early season Flower City Challenge Duathlon in Rochester, New York.)  

Goal #4 - Achieved.  There were five qualifying spots per age group at Esprit Montreal's standard distance duathlon, which was my first and last chance to qualify for Worlds.  I channeled Gwen Jorgenson's coach and told myself, "Just do what you've done before."  That's what I did, in a manner of sorts, setting a new PB on the bike that propelled me to tenth place overall, third in my age group, and a coveted spot at the ITU World MultiSport Festival in Pencticton next year. 


Thank you...
In our lives, we are the accumulation of the teachings, support, guidance, generosity and wisdom of others.  I owe many thanks to my partner Rob, who is boundless in his support (and dry in his humour - "Why would you want to run up a hill five times?") and to my coach Roger, who meticulously crafts the arc of the season (and who helpfully kicks my butt when needed).  I'd also like to thank the entire team at MultiSport Canada for hosting the Recharge with Milk series.  It's through you that so many Ontarians have discovered the joy of challenging oneself through duathlon and triathlon.  

What's ahead for goals in 2017?  First and foremost, I'll be focusing on remaining in good health and good spirits.  After all, this sport is about being healthy and having fun.  Additionally, I hope to help further build Ontario's duathlon community in the coming months, adding to the efforts of the many fab folks who over at Canadian Duathlon Enthusiasts.  I've got a few other ideas in mind to share when training ramps up again.

Until then, here are a few snapshots from the season past...  Happy training!

Toronto MEC 15 km

Completing 10 km and heading out for another 5 km - it's a mental challenge passing the finish line like that.  
I treated this race as an early season test of pacing and tactics, as I was already showing signs of my injury.  

Rochester Flower City Duathlon

The start of a battle on the bike that saw another competitor and me jockey for position, passing each other three times.  

Delighted to win and surprised to receive a jar of peanut butter and a beer mug as my prize. 

World Age Group Duathlon Championships

Inspiration on-the-go.. 

Ripping it up on the bike course. 

MultiSport Canada Gravenhurst Weekend

All smiles with Team Ignition Fitness.

Rocking a MultiSport Canada t-shirt as a volunteer - it was an honour to give back to the series. 

MultiSport Canada Toronto Island Duathlon

Smiling between Coach Roger and Garvin Moses, who was volunteering at the race. 

Montreal Esprit Weekend

My bike in transition, looking extra sleek with a new (to me) 3Sixty5 Cycling 60 mm carbon wheel. 

The Smiling Assassin will be back at Worlds in 2017.

Epilogue: The Smiling Assassin Plots his Return

It's all about that bike...

I got my start in endurance sports through a long distance charity bike ride  which gave me the confidence try running.  When I dove into the latter sport, I took advantage of local clinics and grew in strength and speed.  Wherever you go or live, you can get in a run workout.  Not so with cycling.  When I began training with Ignition Fitness, one of my goals was to break through on the bike.  Ironic then that it took a near break in my femur this season to find new speed on two wheels.

Between April and September, I spent a lot of quality time with my Felt.  My power output rose in response.  But oddly enough, my race results in August didn't match my effort.  I averaged 299 watts for a 15 km TT  but only a 37.5 km/h pace.  Something similar happened at the Toronto Island duathlon   Was a brake rubbing my rim?  Was I dragging a parachute?  Why didn't my speed match my power output?  

At Montreal Esprit, everything finally came together.  Off the heels of a tough 10 km run in the blazing sun and soupy humidity, I zipped onto the bike course and immediately aimed for a 40 km/hr average.  In the more technical (and crowded sections), I fell below that, but on the back half of the course that benefitted from a tailwind, I went well above that.  In all, I averaged 38.93 km/hr for a total bike split of 1:01:39... and I still felt like I had gas in the tank.  That was a much-needed physical and mental breakthrough.  

Next year, I'm aiming to crank up the speed further to eventually average 40:00 km/hr on a race bike split.  Couple that goal with a return to health and form on the run, and it will hopefully be a year of growth and new benchmarks.