Esprit Triathlon 2006

As many of you know, three weeks ago, I competed at Ironman Canada. My race there was a bit less than satisfactory as my body shut down on me. As I said a few times this past weekend, I asked my body to do something it was well trained to do, and it refused.

I didn’t appreciate that answer, so on Saturday, I asked it again. This time, it said yes. Not only that, but it granted me the race I have pretty much dreamed about since I started this nutty long stuff 10 years ago.

Right after a tough race, most people tend to swear never to do another one. I was no different after IMC. Nancy said, rather matter of factly, “you can’t end your IM career on such a bad note. You have to do another one.”

“Oh, yes I can.” was my retort. She was right, again (so what else is new?)

A few days later, we were hiking through the Canadian Rockies and my legs were back to normal. Whoever said pain was temporary was right, and given enough time, in this case solitude while hiking, I started to think about what it would take to be ready for the Esprit Triathlon in two and a half weeks.

The first ingredient was rest. The second ingredient was a better nutrition plan than I had at IMC. The third was easy volume. And the fourth ingredient was a bit of snappy stuff on the bike.

All of these were easy to come by, but the right mix was the key. Aside from hiking a few times the week after IMC, I did no exercise. On the flight home, I put my program together and thought about it a long time. The week we got back, I swam an hour, ran 45min on Tuesday, rode 100k on Wednesday morning, rode a hard 60k on Thursday, rode 200k on Saturday, another 100k on Sunday, ran 30min on Monday, swam an hour on Tuesday, swam on Wednesday, rode 45min on Wednesday, ran 30min on Thursday, took Friday off and raced on Saturday.

Unbeknownst to mostly everyone, though probably not without a lot of speculation, we left town on Friday for Montreal with the Esprit Triathlon as the goal. And just to have a good day. Not a great day, just a good day.

Well, Nancy’s words rang true and my little program worked really well: I do not have to end my long course triathlon career with a bad race, and I had the race of my life, so far.

For the second time this year, and in my whole career, I was first out of the water. Very cool. But I had to go to the washroom. I figured it would pass, so I continued with my transition, got on my bike and let er go.

My plan was to stay as relaxed as possible, without falling asleep on the bars and leave it for the run. For the first time in eons, I wore a heart rate monitor to race. I rode with it a few times earlier in the year and knew the heart rate to avoid. I stayed an average of 8 beats below that level and felt amazing. The conditions were ideal with a slight tailwind through the winding bit of the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit, and we had a great little tailwind on the long strait off a small downhill, so it was easy to pick up speed, and then hold it with the gentle push of the wind.

Lap after lap, I felt stronger and stronger. Throughout the 41 laps of the circuit, I saw Jean Blain (in his first IM distance race, doing a studly job), Isabelle Fradette, Krista Schep, and Paul Swartzentruber. I thought I’d see Dev, Peter K, Len, Heather, Mark, John somewhere on the course.

Part way through the ride, the Half Esprit competitors got on the course and I was passed by a few of them, and then they stalled about 30min in front. Peter K rode by me and joined the loosely formed group up the road and I hung back making sure to avoid any controversy. Eventually, #33 rode past me and I recognized that he was also in my race. I’d been cruising at 39-40 kph, so did not expect anyone to be gaining, but he did. And he went right through the group. I decided to chase and at least ask him where he was in the race distance. I hammered through the group and caught up to him. His name was John, and I complimented him on his riding ability, and then asked how far he’d ridden thus far. I think he answered 40k, and when I looked down at my distance, it read 65. I was 25k ahead, so the pressure was off me to keep up and I continued to do my own thing. Eventually, he faded a bit as I continued just doing my own race. I also stayed away from the Half Esprit group.

Eventually, though, at 70k, that bathroom break became quite necessary so I pulled over and …well, you get the picture. How do you spell relief? PISS. And a long, long one. Sportstats has that lap 1:30 longer than the others. They time everything!!

While attending to nature, John went by, as did Peter et al. I got back on my bike and caught back up, went through them, caught back up to John, who was a bit surprised to see me until I explained why.

I rode steadily until 140k when I needed another pee break. Sportstats got that lap at 1:20 slower than the others. Thankfully, I was done peeing for the ride.

In a race this long, people often have conversations with themselves. I am no different. I reminded myself that it was important to keep the topics of conversation both appropriate and positive.

One side of my brain had been doing some mental math on the ride and figured I split 2:18 or so. That meant a 4:40 ride time was very reasonable to achieve if everything stayed together. That would be a whopping 17min better than my best ride ever.

The other side of my brain piped up.

“What are you doing? Committing suicide? Remember IMC!”

I had kept my heart rate in check. I was totally in control. I was well fueled. I was ‘on’.

“…not suicide,” I replied to myself, “just optimistic. And this is not IMC.”

It turns out, my GPS unit did not start measuring for a few minutes after I started riding, so my split time was actually about 2:15, and I did not slow down. When the booming voice of Dave Haanpaa told me to “get off the track!!” I did. When I racked my bike then looked at my bike split. I was floored. 4:32? Oh, my God! It was pretty surreal.

“Can I go that fast?”

“You just did, so deal with it,” I told myself.

“Can I run after riding that fast?”

“What choice do you have? You have to try,” was my answer.

I was right: I had to try. And besides, I felt fine, so there really was no reason to panic.

Once out on the run, I started gently, found my running legs quickly and ran without pressure, satisfied to be fueled and running well. I was knocking off just under 20min per 4.4k lap for the first bunch, then slowed about 30sec, then another 30sec, then, when I thought I had 3 laps to go, I was informed that “no, you actually have 4 laps.” I had been doing some mental math using 3 laps to go and was devastated to learn I had miscounted and had 20min more than I’d been figuring on, and fueling for. I started to slow a bit more as well as take a wee bit more time at the aid stations.

Low and behold, Dev Paul comes a riding by and starts chatting with the guy Peter that I’d just passed. Dev turned around and rode with me for a bit, realized I was in a bit of a state, and got a gel from his friend Peter. There were none at the aid stations, and mine were in my transition bag 2km away. The race rules are rather relaxed at Esprit, so this was not against them, and after all, it was from another competitor. Dev rode ahead and fetched me some Coke as well, and very quickly, things started to pick up again. My stride changed, my focus came back with a more positive attitude and I was able to run steadily again, even picking it up a bit on my last lap (very little, but after three progressively slower ones, it was a victory in its own right). On my final lap, with about 3k to go, I ran past Jean who was looking great. He was happy and seemed well in control of his bodily functions, so I wished him well and continued on my own merry way to the finish.

Crossing the finish line of The Montreal Esprit Triathlon and seeing 8:41:14 line was, without a doubt, what will allow me to sleep soundly. I am a contented man. After 10 IM races, 9 of them not what I considered representative of what I believed I was capable, and the last one completely crushing me, this was redemption and confirmation that I can do this long stuff well. If I do it right, I can overcome the 4hr barrier that has foiled my attempts at the longer races for many years.

For anyone who cares,
• Wetsuit: Orca Apex
• Bike: Kuota Khalibur
• Wheels: Specialized Tri-spoke on the front, Hed disc on the back, both about 15 years old. Disc is actually an eight speed block that meshes very well with 10-speed shifters, at least for the key choices
• Running shoes: Mizuno
• I used a grand total of four gears for the whole ride: in the first 10k, I used 53x17 on the flats into the wind and shifted to 53x18 up the very small hill, and 53x16 with the tailwind until my legs felt really good. From then on, I used 53x16 on the flats into the wind and shifted to 53x17 up the hill, then 53x15 everywhere else. I shifted in exactly the same place every time, a benefit of multiple loops and very little else to amuse my mind with
• I stood up 4-5 times for 50m each
• Average hr on the bike: 132bpm, max 145bpm. 75min under 130 bpm, 190min between 130-135, 5min between 136-150
• Average speed on the bike: 39.7kph, highest speed 50.2kph
• Average cadence on the bike: 95 rpm
• Fuel choice on the bike: 4 gels, 2 Mojo bars (200cal each, lots of sodium), four bottles of Hammer Sustained Energy (343 cal each), lots of water and Gatorade, 15 e-load capsules
• Fuel choice on the run: 10 e-load capsules, Gatorade, water, Coke
• Dinner the night before, tortellini, garlic bread, water, and a Hoegarden beer
• Snacks the day before: nacho chips, water, sandwich, basic breakfast

I learned a lot of lessons in the last weeks, but most of all, to fuel/hydrate and respect the race.

Doing the Esprit Triathlon, with its multiple loop format, absolutely perfect pavement, good spectator support, and great volunteers was a real treat. If an IMNA event is not in your future, but the distance is, remember this one and the Canadian here on home turf as options. Neither have the fan fare, but they are both first class events and worth doing.

I have to thank Nancy for her belief and doubt in me. I need both.

I must also thank the guys at the Ottawa Lions Track Club with whom I run: Coach Ray for the guidance, Jamie Stephenson for his hard work and dedication, Jason Dunkerley for his inspirational recovery and subsequent double gold medals at the World Track and Field Championships, Berry Debruijn for winding things up when we got a bit stale on the track, Vlad, Matt, Terry and Sarah. You guys and you gal have pushed me for months now. Without the hard work, this race would not have been possible.

I have to thank the fabulous clients I have surrounding me every day: I would not be who I am without you.

Doing what I do without my sponsors would be much tougher.

Lastly, but never least, thanks to Mizuno Running, Cycle Logik, Kuota Bicycles for the Khalibur, (which BTW, is now for sale.) Marc and Isabelle for the drive to Montreal, Craft Clothing and Bushtukah Great Outdoor Gear where I get the majority of my equipment.

Will I do another one? You bet.

For more about Coach Rick, click here