Category Archives: Race Report

Race Report: Hypothermic Half Marathon – Edmonton

By Renee Howard

After being gently prodded by Joe (and by gently, I mean relentlessly over the last two weeks), I’m finally ready to recap and thus relive my first Half Marathon.

Back in early October, I decided to run the Hypothermic Half Marathon. Since registering for the race, I’ve had a number of people ask me “Why would you want to run a half marathon?” This is very quickly followed up by “Why would you want to run a half marathon in the winter?!” To be completely honest, I asked these same questions to myself nearly every Sunday morning, at 8 am while just about to start a long run…

In reality, training for this race wasn’t terrible. I would hazard a guess that this year was, for the most part, the best that winter running conditions could get in Edmonton. The majority of my training runs were done in temperatures between -10°C and 5°C, I never once wore grips on my shoes, and only a handful of times did I have more than three layers on my upper body! In the fall, I knew that the projections for winter 2015/2016 were for a mild winter with less snow than usual. So I took advantage of this and tried my hand at winter running!

It’s funny because I’m supposed to be writing a race report, but after 17 weeks of training most of what I want to share are things I’ve learned, funny moments, or weird winter running quirks that I’ve picked up since starting my training back in October. So much so, that I would have to say that running the race was the easy part! There are lots of things I could say about winter running, but I’ll stick to my given task, and write a race report.

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I like the Hypothermic Half Marathon race because the proceeds benefit Nature Alberta. The cause is important to me and I’ve volunteered as a course marshal a couple of times so I knew this was the race I wanted to do. Though the course isn’t much to write home about (two loops along Ada boulevard starting and finishing at the Highlands Golf Course), the reason most other people run the race is for the breakfast! This was apparent from the very beginning when the announcer’s pep talk mostly comprised talk about how good the bacon would be at the end, also very early into the race when the people I was running with were counting down the minutes until they could get bacon, and again at right around the 15 km point when I passed a group of runners chanting bacon, bacon, bacon to match their steps. As a vegetarian, the bacon wasn’t really doing it to keep me going, but I knew there would be breakfast potatoes available so that was enough for me!

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The looped course, though not very scenic, was actually very motivating to run! I passed other members of my training group multiple times on the course, I high-fived my much faster friend as she flew by me twice, and I was able to run past my spectators four times. Plus, there’s nothing like a group of race marshalls watching at the corner, cheering you on to keep you running when you really want a walk break (thanks Tonya ;)). Overall, it was a really good first half marathon race!

While I didn’t beat my Goal A of under 2:30, I did achieve my Goal B of finishing upright and smiling. I’m already planning for my next race, knowing I will train a bit differently to surpass Goal A next time. My struggle now will be integrating cycling into this summer’s training schedule to be able to keep up with the rest of the Fiera Race Team. See you all on the trails! Results are here!

12733422_10153225436710807_970726274870943921_nPhoto of my fast friend, Katie, and I (2484) taken minutes after I crossed the finish line. Also a great photo of the on-site facilities…

 

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Race Report: Blizzard Bike Race

Posted by Joseph Litke

Last weekend was the Blizzard Bike Race in Devon.  I decided to register and test the fitness I’ve gained over the winter of training with Aerobic Power, and to test my new-found fat biking skills, since having jumped onboard with the fat bike fad last fall.  IMG_3185IMG_3184

The Devon Bicycle Association puts on a great event, so I was a little surprised that the race was not all that well attended. I am guessing that people assumed that trail conditions would be treacherous because of all the early melt conditions, and the state of most trails here in Edmonton; however, conditions were great.

The race was held at night, there was a kids race, and for the adults, a self-seeded 4-lap, and 6-lap race.  Other features of this event included a Le Mans start (a running start to you bike), a bonfire, and a flaming start-finish line.  Also hot chocolate, giant cookies, and a chilli dinner. IMG_3183IMG_3192IMG_3186

I staged well in the 6-lap event, and got out on single track in third place.  We three rode together the whole race, with the exception of maybe most of the third lap, when I managed to break away, but couldn’t make it stick.  In the end, a well-timed, and dominating final attack in the last 100 m from Marc Ouellette (Devon Bicycle Association) secured him first place. I hung on and rode through the flames in second place. Kieth Thomas was on my heals for third.

This image from Devon Bicycle Association's Facebook page. Credit to Nancy St-Hilaire

This image from Devon Bicycle Association’s Facebook page. Credit to Nancy St-Hilaire

It was super fun, and any off-road worthy bike would have sufficed I think. In fact, I am pretty sure I would have hung in the top three on my mountain bike, and actually might have faired better in the sprint for the finish line.

Big thanks to the Devon Bicycle Association for putting this event on. Check out DBA’s Facebook and “Like” Nancy St-Hilair’s photos; they’re pretty great.  IMG_3184

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Race Report: Fernie 3 all mountain stage race

By Duncan Purvis

A couple of friends and I decided that this year we would head to Fernie for the Fernie 3 All Mountain Stage Race. This is one of those decisions that sounds better in February than it does trying to drag oneself out of bed on the third day of the “race” (by “race”, I mean ride). The Fernie 3 was held on June 27, 28 and 29th. Since I signed up I think I was worried most about whether or not it would rain while we were there, which often happens in Fernie. What I did not worry about was record high temperatures in the +35 range. It hit 36 on Saturday, 37 on Sunday and “only” 30 on Monday.
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Day 1

The first stage was a 28 km course with 1,300 metres of vertical. The start was a new subdivision just off the highway on the way to the ski hill. When we arrived at 8:45 for the briefing, it was already in the mid 20’s. The race (ride) started at 9:30 on a beautiful, newly paved road. For the first 5 minutes of my day I quite enjoyed myself.

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The course quickly veered off to a fire road that I can only describe as being covered in about 3 inches of finely powdered dirt. 150 mountain bikers churning up the silt turned it very dusty, very quickly. As I was not winning the race (ride) at that point, I was behind a number of other dirt churning machines so as if the heat wasn’t enough, a few mouthfuls of dirt really added to ambience. After about 10 minutes in the dustbowl, the course mercifully veered off into some single track. For about 30 seconds, I was again somewhat happy. Then the trail started going up. Then it went up some more. Then a bit more. Then a few seconds of rooted, rocky downhill and then up again. I think there might have been an aid station and some watermelon. Then up, and up and up some more. At one point the climb broke out of the trees into the baking sun. I think I was suffering a little bit from the heat. (as well as suffering from the fact I had not mountain biked in the actual mountains since June of 2014). There was some point in time that I had just decided I was never going to be cold ever again in my life. That I had absorbed and created so much heat that I was just going to exude warmth for the next 40 years. Mercifully, my thoughts kept my mind from the pain my legs were suffering from, and after a few grueling hours I had reached peak elevation.

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Nothing like a mountain bike race to get your fill of that clean mountain air! Breath deeply.

I thought to myself that I had made it. Just a nice downhill, and I could cruise across the finish line and drink some more . I was wrong. The next 20 minutes was a hair raising (if I had any) descent. Chock full of steep drops, roots, rocks and trees it was almost harder than the uphill. No rest for the arms, or braking fingers, my upper body was sore by the time I finished. So while it was a relief to hit level ground, it lasted about a minute because the course sent us back up a hill again. I think there might have been an aid station and some watermelon.I thought to myself that I had made it. Just a nice downhill, and I could cruise across the finish line and drink some more Slingshot IPA from FBC. I was wrong. The next 20 minutes was a hair raising (if I had any) descent. Chock full of steep drops, roots, rocks and trees it was almost harder than the uphill. No rest for the arms, or braking fingers, my upper body was sore by the time I finished. So while it was a relief to hit level ground, it lasted about a minute because the course sent us back up a hill again. I think there might have been an aid station and some watermelon.

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Aid stations are crucial on hot race days, and here the author is captured by his own bike cam elbowing his way to the beer keg for some much needed mid race refreshment.

This time, the climb took us up some singletrack to meet up with a fire road that came out of the trees at the bottom of the cedar bowl at the ski hill. By now it was about 12:30. It was hotter than it was when we came out of the trees the last time. I cursed the fast riders who were probably done by now and drinking all the cold beer. I again contemplated my fate as the human furnace. I finally came around the corner of the climb and saw the trail disappear into the darkness of the trees (Shade!), a fittingly named downhill called “Dark Forest”. While it was somewhat cooler in the trees, this trail was another steep downhill in soft black dirt that I can only assume came from the burning fires of Mordor. Or perhaps I was in a heat induced hallucination. I really was suffering from the heat. A bit dizzy… I remember thinking that I was probably a bit of a danger to any other riders around me, but luckily I remembered everyone was probably already finished by now and they had likely packed up and gone home. I was only a danger to myself. Only a small spill in sooty black soot of the dark forest, and I was back out on “powdered dust road”, headed for the finish. That’s when the muscles in my right quad seized up in a gnarled spasm. Sigh. A few stops to stretch it out and I was back on the glorious new asphalt, headed for the finish.

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Shade, thank Shimano! Welcome to the Dark Forest!

If I’ve had a harder day on the mountain bike I’d have to think back to day 3 of the transrockies where I had walk most of the way up Cox hill in the pouring rain. But hey, at least that day I was cool. Of course Im referring to the “temperature” sense, as I never, ever feel like I’m “cool” in the I’m awesome sense, in a race like this.

Obviously, my greatest fear was that the free keg of beer donated by the FBC at the finish was gone, or worse yet, warm. Happily there was some nice cold stuff still left when I got there.slingshot_with_glass_small

Day 2

You know that feeling when your friend books the accommodation (for 3 people) and it turns out to NOT be three bedrooms, but two bedrooms and one crappy short leather couch on the top floor of an non-air conditioned apartment complex that was built as close to the railroad tracks as any building code would possibly allow?

I wouldn’t call “sleep” what I did that night. More like a series of short naps in a sauna with a train.

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Planes Trains and Automobiles….. and mountain bikes.

Just to make sure my worst fears from the day before did not come true, I decided to make sure I had my free beer BEFORE the race started, and before those fast guys got it. I showed them. Hiccup.

Day 2 was a 32 km course with 1225 of vertical. After the horror show of the day before, this day was almost pleasant. Maybe it was the pre race beers. Or maybe I had recognized that I needed some electrolytes in my water to stave off any leg crampsIt started out in town with a km or so of pavement. The group hit the trail, but thankfully it wasn’t as dusty. As usual, it just went up and up. I think the first climb was about 500 m over 5 km. I kept telling myself it was just like all the hills in the River Valley back in Edmonton. The corresponding first downhill was a really nice piece of trail nice flowing, fast turns and not too steep. This downhill led into a nice section of smaller up hills and smaller down hills, faster sections of up down, versus big climbs and big descents. It was fun…

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That way?!!? Are you serious? According to my GPS the beer is just over there! What’s your volunteer badge number? I am going to need to speak to your manager!

As the course turned and started heading back into town, my garmin was reading about 30 km. the single track gave way to a gravel path which appeared to me to lead us straight back to the finish line. I felt good. I forgot that apparently this weekend was about suffering, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when I came around a corner and instead of course markings pointing straight down the gravel path to the beer, they pointed up a steep hill into the trees. I thought about stopping and arguing with the course marshall that my garmin said I had gone 32 km, and that’s what the course was supposed to be, but if I was honest with myself, I did demonstrate some willfull blindness as the elevation gain was on my garmin was only reading about 1000 m. Cursing the organizers I headed up the hill. Maybe it was the power of negative thinking, but my leg cramps came back again despite my electrolyte precautions. Another few breaks with precious seconds between me and cold beer ticking away, I eventually hit the top. Again, not sure if it was my bad attitude but I managed to slide out on the gravel road going down the hill. Just to add a little road rash to my hip in case I was feeling too good about myself. Finally, the finish line came into view some 35 (an extra 3!!) km into the day.

Day 3

Train,Sauna, sticky leather couch etc. And honestly, if all that wasn’t bad enough, the building fire alarm decided that it needed to go off at 3 am. I was merrily sleeping right through it before one of my friends woke me up to tell me they were going downstairs until the fire dept. came. I told him I felt safe in my bed and to text me if there actually was a fire. I tried to go back to sleep but the fireman came barging in to the apartment looking for the fire. He didnt find it, and he also didnt tell me to get out, so I went back to bed.7GoJtUzaA0UrXOh9utQKqJUmnyR

We awoke, (or were still awake) for day three to some overcast skies! It only hit 31 that day. This day was a 30 km course with about 1100 meters of climbing. We rode a lot of the trails we did on day 2, but in reverse direction. They were fun, but served to simply show me that anything I was going fast on the day before was in fact a net downhill. Another excellent blow to the ego. On the plus side, there were some times when I was actually pushing it, as opposed to just surviving. felt good enough to try and chase some people as opposed to hating the world and everything in it. For brief moments it was “race” not a “ride”.

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I finished, no significant injuries or bike damage. Day 1 gets more and more enjoyable in my memory, the further back in time it goes. We stuck around for the banquet on Monday night and sure enough, the FBC had some more cold beer.  All in all, fun weekend. Already thinking about registering for next year! Have to say I was impressed with Fernie and the number of trails they have. Its obvious they have done a lot of work on trail maintenance and have built the requisite structures to ensure smooth riding. Obviously they need to work on filling the valley floor or shaving the tops off the mountains so their climbs are more like the Edmonton River Valley, but I’ll give them some time for that.
In summary, Fernie Brewing Company makes good beer.

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A lot of work has gone into the trail system at Fernie. Features like this boardwalk are not uncommon, and super fun.

Race Report: Canada Day Criterium (Crazieness Canadensis)

Canada Day has come and gone, and along with it the Canada Day Criterium in which Fiera Race Team’s Cory “Sugar” Boddy was contesting the Category Five (Cat 5) criterium race. I should say here that Cory is not new to racing and he is fast.  He would probably fit well into Cat 4 or 3, but to get out of Cat 5, you have to earn your way out by placing well in races.  In road cycling, it is not often the fastest rider that wins, but often the rider that has the best team, or choses the right time to attack, or the right time to rest, or just happens to get right behind the right rider.  Further, a lot can go wrong in a race, and there are only so many races in a season, and only so many weekends available for racing, so sometimes moving up a category is a monuments task.

Cory Body, poster child for the 2011 Xterra Duathlon takes the time for some fan photos, to sign some autographs, and a shot interview with the Fiera Report.

Cory Body, poster child for the 2011 Xterra Duathlon takes the time for some fan photos, to sign some autographs, and a short interview with the Fiera Report.

For those that are not familiar, I will provide a brief explanation of what exactly a Cat 5 criterium is:
Imagine if you will, a 1 to 1.5 km long obstacle course in the form of a circuit, and comprised of narrow streets, and sharp corners. Obstacles include manhole covers, storm grates, curb bump-outs, potholes, stray dogs, and poorly attended children. Now imagine 25 or so nervous, adrenaline-hopped, and fairly frightened, aspiring athletes with experience ranging from zero to almost none, hurling themselves around this circuit as fast as they possibly can, riding in a tight group such that their wind resistance is not that of 25 nervous individuals, but rather that of a single frightened beast.  As they lean into the corners, their naked, freshly shaved legs come within a few short inches of the road surface which is essentially a concrete belt-sander revving at speeds well into the 50 kph range, poised to shred skin, spandex, and carbon fibre at any opportunity. Elbows touch, wheels bump, adrenaline swirls in their wake, and inevitably, the belt sander reaches up to take a few of them. Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to imply that these races are dangerous, as there are ample safety measures taken. Almost all riders, for instance, wear fingerless gloves which of course protect each racer from suffering the discomfort of being fully gloved. Further, many racers wisely wear sunscreen, thus preventing the affliction of a nasty sunburn while they lay at the curbside beside their broken bicycle waiting for a first aider or maybe an ambulance while the race continues on without them.  Further yet, it is mandatory for the sake of both safety and fashion that each racer have perched upon their head and securely fastened under the chin by a ribbon, a bit of styrofoam to protect the road surface should their heads collide forcefully with it. Finally, each bicycle is equipped with two safety levers on the handlebars, one on the right, and one on the left. The right lever serves to warn riders behind not to follow too close.  A rider feeling crowded from behind simply squeezes the right lever forcefully causing his bicycle to slow suddenly, only for a moment.  The rider behind, in the interest of safety, applies his right lever more forcefully causing his bicycle to slow more suddenly for a longer period of time, and so on, causing a happy rippling shudder of safety and well-being to pass through the group, from front to back, growing exponentially more pronounced as it goes. At the back of the group, a blissfully unaware racer with his eyes rolled to the back of their sockets, and wondering “why, why, why did I do this to myself?” and “why, why, why did I pay money to do this to myself?” will become aware of the approacing shutter of safe cyclists too late, and he will be forced to apply the left lever (also called the front brake).  The left lever engages an emergency rider ejection system ingeniously powered by the perfect ratio of panic and inertia. The endangered racer is promptly ejected out of danger, hurtled up and over the handlebars to the awaiting safety of the belt sander I mentioned previously. He will slide along the belt sander for half a city block, while his $5000 bicycle cartwheels along beside him, the happy spectacle of which will likely entice others to engage the panic and inertia ejection systems on their own $5000 bicycles. The sound of bodies colliding with curbs, and carbon fibre skidding unabated along residential asphalt will ring like music in the ears of those whom continue racing, giving pleasurable goosebumps and causing them to look back over their shoulders at the scene, while spectators look away, covering the eyes of their children.   The ejected riders will eventially come to rest, and those that are conscious will worry for their bicycles, and those that are able, and who’s bicycles are able, will probably get back on their bikes and rejoin the race, ignoring the gaping rips in their spandex, their buttock visible to all who dare look, oozing red, pink and clear fluids in quiet mourning for the skin left smeared on the pavement.

Cory Sugar Boddy and others keeping the rubber side down in typical criterium fashion.

Cory Sugar Boddy and others keeping the rubber side down in typical criterium fashion, Canada Day, 2014.

So now that you know what a criterium is all about, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. Cory survived the Canada Day Criterium in Cat 5, with bike, spandex, and buttock fully intact. In fact, he finished in a very respectable 7th place, earning him some valuable upgrade points that could help him move up into Category 4, where the pace is faster, the bikes are more expensive, and hopefully fear and panic and inexperience play slightly less of a role.  You can see all the results of the Canada Day races here.

Race Report: Coronation Triathlon – by Duncan Purvis

After a 2 year hiatus from Coronation, I decided to give it a whirl again in 2015. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a race, if just a little warm. The race is now being run by Multisport Canada, which has a signifcant amount of experience putting on running and tri races. While generally, the organization was good, and the volunteers excellent, their handling of body marking and swim organization left something to be desired. In years past, organizers had an excellent system for placing swimmers in the appropriate lanes, with the similar paced athletes. The organizers have shifted to a system of “waves” whereby athletes were sorted into approximate swim times. Unfortunately, these waves were very large, and had a fairly significant time differential. Based on my estimated swim time of 20:00, I was placed into wave 4, along with 125 other athletes with an estimated swim time of 19-22 minutes. There was no further sorting or fine tuning after that. Communication about start time was also lacking, in my opinion. I lined up amongst the rest of the 4th wavers and hoped for the best.

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Giving the Coronation Triathlon another go in 2015

 

I was a bit uncertain about the swim this year. Given the proximity to work, I had been doing most of my swim training at the YMCA downtown, which has a 25 m pool. It was only a few weeks ago that I went down to the Kinsmen one night for a swim, and I realized that training in a 25 m pool is quite a bit different from training in a 50 m pool, which I had always done previously. I found my times drop a bit so wasnt sure how the race would pan out, given the Peter Hemingway Pool is 50 m. I managed the 1k in about 19:40, a bit off my best for Coronation. I will point out, as I have in years past, tight, crowded pool swims in triathlons do not lend themselves to making friends of the other swimmmers. That’s all I am going to say about that.

It was a little before 10 when I got out of the pool, so not too hot, but I could feel that in an hour or so, it was going to be a scorcher. Given a last lap surge to try and make a pass in the pool, I was quite a bit more out of breath than I would have liked coming out of the pool.

No T1 issues and I was off on the bike! My training this year included very little time on my TT bike, but it felt great! I keep telling people this, but the ability to bomb down Groat Road on new pavement, with no cars on the road is worth the entry fee alone. Luckily, I wasn’t hit by any bent, falling girders. In 2012, the last time I did this race, I had my best bike leg ever. It was one of my goals to beat that time this year. I had planned my splits and the approximate pace I’d need to meet that so I was working pretty hard on the uphills. Each lap as I neared the top of Groat, I would tell myself that I really should coast a bit on the downhill, rest, and get my HR down some. But every time I’d start down the hill I couldn’t resist gearing up and continuing to crank down the hill. Then I’d go through the same thought process near the top of the hill. It was like some Triathlon version of groundhog day, without Sonny and Cher, and the funny. Seemed to have worked though, as I ended beating my 2012 bike time by almost 2 minutes.

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Bike Course

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Some basic Strava statistics

 

Back to T2 and I was off on the run. By now it was getting pretty warm, and I could just not calm my HR down. There was apparently a price that was a going to be paid for going hard on the bike. Running is really not my strong point, so I never expect too much. I know from years past that the key is to make time while you can on the downhill section of Groat, because coming back up as the last thing you do in the race, will never gain you much time. I started off moderately, but gradually built up the pace and before I knew it, I was at the turnaround. I won’t lie, it was a tough slog back up, and I was suffering. Dead legs, a HR that just kept going up and up, overheated, upset stomach… you name it! About 20 painful minutes later, I was rounding the bend near the pool to head back to the finish. No word of a lie, I swear they moved that corner further down the road. Bastards.

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Running pace heart rate splits.

 

All in all, a great race. Even swim, faster bike, slower run (they moved the corner!!!) led to within about a minute of my previous best overall time. What satisfied me most about this race was the run though. I pushed through a lot to keep running and try to keep my goal pace. I’m a bit of a Strava geek, and when I got home and checked things out the numbers confirmed what my body felt…basically i spent 96% of the race in HR zone 4 or 5. Strava also has a feature called “suffer score” which takes some formula based on activity time and HR (as far as I can tell) and give you a number. I was “pleased” that this turned out to be my highest number ever, so some somewhat objective confirmation of exactly how crappy I felt. I just re-read that. Essentially, what I think I just said is that I felt like absolute crap on a run for 43 minutes, but I’m happy because I felt like crap, and furthermore, an electronic measurement of a bodily function transferred via blue tooth to a wrist computer, and then ultimately transferred to another computer to input on a website, confirms that I felt like crap, therefore increasing my happiness. Weird times my friends, weird times.

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EXTREME suffer Score! Proof that it hurt, incase the pain wasn’t proof enough.

 

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Celebrating a successful triathlon effort with the whole family

 

Kindness matters!

As I hope you all remember, when Fiera Race Club members race, donations are generated for a select group of charities (for more information see our About Us page). We have chosen these charities carefully, weighing a few key criteria:

1) we want to support some local charities – charities that are making a difference close to home for most of our members.

2) we want to support charities that make a large, lasting, and tangible difference.

3) we want to support charities for which there is a personal connection for our members

4) and finally we want to support charities that reflect the values of a recreational, athletically motivated sports club, such that we are.

Additionally we want our modest donations to have as big an impact as possible, and at the same time we want to spread our impact around as widely as possible.

Taking all these things in to account, I think we have come up with a most deserving list of eight recipients.  They are as follows:

Right to Play

Doctors without Borders

Food Banks Canada

Canadian Red Cross

Stollery Children’s Hospital

Camp He Ho Ha

Nature Conservancy Canada

Environmental Law Centre

We don’t always receive thanks for our donations, nor do we expect to.  I hope that the knowledge that we are fortunate enough to feed our passion to train and race all while generating funds that ultimately help to make to world a better place is more than thanks enough.

Still, it is awfully nice when we do recieve a note or letter such as I recently recieved on Fiera Race Club’s behalf, from the Executive Director of Camp He Ho Ha.

“This act of kindness is written on the hearts of so many who benefit from your generosity”

Here is the letter in full.  I hope it motivates us all to keep training, racing, and giving.

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Race Report: Einstein Triathlon in Ulm, Germany

By Lenka Plavcova

Last weekend Jan and I took part in the Einstein Triathlon in Ulm, Germany. It was the grand premiere of the sport of triathlon in Ulm and the organizers promised a great race of magnificent proportions. There were 3 different distances (Sprint, Olympic, Half-Iron) to choose from. The highlights of the course included a swim in the Danube (downstream), a challenging bike course with 14% and 16% grade hills and a flat run course winding through the historic center of Ulm. We decided to sign up for the race in May. At that point, the sprint distance was already sold out, so I opted for the Olympic, whereas Jan chose the less dynamic Half-ironman distance.

Since we left Canada, we slipped out of the influence of crazy sport geeks from the UofA Tri Club and Fiera and lost our weekly triathlon routine. Actually, some of those geeks surprised us in Europe and we got some good training hours with Mike and Emily and we suffered in the X-trail marathon with Dave and Bridget http://roder-blog.blogspot.de/2013/06/v-behaviorurldefaultvmlo.html. Anyway, our training for the race consisted mostly of running. Besides that, I bike to work almost every day. The commute is about 10 km long (one way) and includes 2 km uphill with 150 m elevation gain, so it is a quite good morning workout for me. I largely neglected swimming – my favorite part of the triathlon (blink blink). Since we returned back to Europe last September, I went to the pool twice I guess. In early June, the race organizers put on a test swim in the Danube. I was glad to finally try out my wetsuit that Jan won as a door prize in Canada and that I didn’t have a chance to use during the ITU Triathlon in Edmonton because water in the Hawrelak Lake was too hot. Water being too hot wasn’t really an issue in the Danube in June as the temperature during the test swim was only 15°C. I blamed the cold temperature for not allowing me to submerge my face in water and swim freestyle.  So the test swim was very informative, telling me that I should practice cold water hardening and perhaps even swim more often than twice a year. Having learned this, I went open water swimming 3 more times in July. The good news was that I could swim freestyle in open water; however, all those swims were rather short.

With the race day approaching, things changed slightly. Because of the dry and hot summer this year, the river temperature rose to unusually warm 21°C so I didn’t need to worry about the cold hardiness any more. Instead, I started worrying they will ban wetsuits. The day before the race we learnt that the wetsuits would be still allowed (good news). However, the organizers also confessed that the swim would be longer than the indicated official distance (bad news). When preparing the race, they decided to account for the river current and extended the swim course by a factor proportional to the typical flow rate. But because of the drought, the Danube discharge was now extremely low, providing almost no advantage to a swimmer. Oh well, bad luck…

A sweet thing about this triathlon was that it started late and directly in the middle of our home town. Jan’s race started at 9:45 and mine at 11:30, so we didn’t need to get up crazily early. I went with Jan to the start line to cheer him on and also to see the main star of the race – a former ITU Triathlon world champion Daniel Unger who was competing with Jan in the Half-ironman race. Unger was actually the big teaser for the race as there was a 5,000€ prize awarded to those who beat him. I watched the start and then walked along the river towards my starting spot just 1 km downstream. I still had plenty of time so I sat down at the river bank and waited. The time passed quickly and shortly I was standing in my wetsuit on the pontoon. We were given enough time to jump in and test the water, which I appreciated. The race went off and I started with my excellent freestyle technique. The first 20 meters went fine, I enjoyed the bubbling water around me, but then people started to cross in front of me and bump into me which I found annoying. I had to constantly look up and started to run out of breath, so I switched to breaststroke. I tried to switch back to freestyle again but I could not get into a comfortable rhythm, so I finally gave up and continued with the breaststroke. 20 min into the swim I started to feel tired and gave freestyle one more try. However, when I realized that I was swimming into the bushes rather than straight ahead, I surrendered again. The swim started to feel really long and I was looking forward to seeing the exiting pontoon. To my great relief, that happened after long 47 minutes. As I was exiting the water, my head was spinning and my legs were cramping. I guess I used mainly the legs to power me through the water. I toddled into the transition zone and grabbed my bag. There was a line of chairs to sit on while taking the wetsuit off, which I gladly accepted and sat there for a little while.

Lenka, making sure she still had a pulse after completing the swim.

Lenka, making sure she still had a pulse after completing the swim.

I put on my Fiera jersey and ate some gummi bears that I had in the pocket. I started to feel better so I ran for my bike and out of the transition area. I mounted on and quickly headed out on the bike course.

The course started with a 12km-long flat section, followed by a rather short but steep hill. The organizers set up a prime there to spice the race up. I felt pretty well on the flat part and climbing the hill was not so bad either. The course then went over some rolling hills in the middle of fields. Uh, did I mention that it was 35°C and burning sun that day? It felt pretty hot so I made sure to drink enough water. I also started to wonder if I should perhaps eat something. I reached for an energy bar and started to chew on it bite by bite. I don’t like eating while moving. Even when I buy an ice cream on a normal day I prefer to sit down or at least to stop while eating it, so gulping down the energy bar was not a big pleasure, but soon I could feel the new energy in my body. I knew that one big hill is still waiting for me at the kilometer 35, so I decided to have a gel. It was the first energy gel I ever ate and I can tell you it won’t become my favorite treat (yes, I know you’re not supposed to try out new things during the race but I have an adventurous spirit). Maybe thanks to the gel, climbing the 18% grade hill was not that hard. I even overpassed two riders there which was an occasion that didn’t occur during the entire ride so far. The last stretch of the bike course was a nice long descent towards the stadium. Overall, I really enjoyed the bike part. The course was interesting and diverse and closed for traffic which was really sweet. In contrast to my swim experience, the bike felt nice and easy.

Lenka, looking good in her Fiera Jersey, and comfortable on the bike. Photo credit to a roadside gofer.

Lenka, looking good in her Fiera Jersey, and comfortable on the bike despite having to detour off pavement through a section of African savannah! 

Bike to run transition went smooth. It was really nice to run on tartan through the track and field stadium. The first kilometer of the course was shaded by trees. I met Jan heading in the opposite direction and waved at him. I was running 5:26 min per kilometer pace and was passing people. However, then I hit the sunlit pavement and started to feel overheated. I had to stop in the aid-station at 2.5km to have a drink. I continued running at a pace of around 6 min/km but felt pretty awful so I stopped occasionally in the shade to cool off. It was too hot. There were a couple of sprinklers set up on the course, which was awesome but didn’t help for long. Thanks God for the aid stations! I had Gatorade and water at every 2km and was wondering if I should also eat something but my stomach didn’t feel so happy about this idea and was cramping every now and then. I kept running and was very happy to see the mark for the last 3km. Shortly after Jan passed me from the back and asked how I feel. I said that I feel awful and that he should run ahead. So he ran and I ran too, just a little bit slower. I skipped my obligatory rest and drink at the last aid station and ran into the stadium for the final stretch on the oval track. Hooray! After 3 hours and 37 minutes finally crossing the finish line!

Lenka, finishing her first Olympic distance triathlon! Congratulations.

Lenka, finishing her first Olympic distance triathlon! Congratulations.

To sum it all up, the race was a great experience. The organizers did a great job in all respects. I was particularly impressed how promptly they responded to the unusual heat wave and reinforced the aid stations and cooling possibilities along the course. This race was the first Olympic triathlon race I’ve ever done if I don’t count our family triathlon last September that admittedly is a bit less professional and less competitive. It was definitely the longest and hardest race I’ve done so far. So here is my take on it:

Swim: I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to swim freestyle during the race. I learnt how to swim freestyle just 4 years ago thanks to the awesome swim coaches from the UofA Tri club and my technique has been improving since then. I’m able to swim 750m freestyle in a pool and I’m still secretly hoping that a day will come when I complete a race swimming freestyle in open water. Sadly, it didn’t happen in this race. Maybe I need to practice more, or maybe I just need more mental toughness to get over the initial discomfort.  My only excuse for the 47 minute swim is that it was not 1.5km but almost 2.5 km according to Google maps.

Bike: When I looked at the results, I realized that feeling great and relaxed on the bike might not have been such a positive thing. I didn’t have a bike computer and I wasn’t monitoring my speed during the race but I was hoping my bike split would be better than 1 hour 37 minutes. I don’t think it was the uphills where I sucked the most. I suspect I was losing mainly on the flats and downhills. Next time, I should try to wake up my inner ‘fiera’ and ride more aggressively pushing a bigger gear. Learning how to ride with aero bars might also be helpful.

Run: I finished the 10km course in 1 hour and 4 minutes which corresponds to a pace of 6:24min/km. This is definitely not a great split and I can run faster than that. I’m not really sure if it was the heat that killed me or if I was too tired from the previous disciplines. Result-wise, the run was still my best discipline and I managed to move up in the result list to a nice 72nd spot out of 86 women.

Also, here are some details about Jan’s race: The only training Jan did was that he bought a Tri suite a week before the race. He struggled on the swim, although a bit more successfully than me. On the bike, Jan focused on getting the hill prime. He started his mad climb! The crowds went nuts! However, 50 m before the line he ran out of gas and had to slow down. In spite of this, he had the 19th fastest time (out of 861 contestants) and even beat the world champion Unger by one second. Unfortunately, this heroic effort wore out not only Jan but also his bike and a couple of kilometers later he had a flat. He managed to fix it but knew that his race today will not be the fastest. With these thoughts, he went into the run. He ran nice and easy, not on the edge of collapse as he usually does. So in summary, Jan had fun out there and the final time of 5 hours 15 minutes was not a disappointment for him.

Jan showing off his tri-suit!

Jan showing off his tri-suit after having a quick road-side shower.

Always eating! Better safe some sausage for the run!

Cheers!

The results are here: https://www.abavent.de/anmeldeservice/einsteintriathlon2013/ergebnisse

And finally I want to take the time to congratulate Joe on making the cover of Alberta Outdoorsman!

In case you did not know, Jan doesn't just eat sausages and race triathlons, he is also a photoshop genius!

In case you did not know, Jan doesn’t just eat sausages and race triathlons, he is also a photoshop genius!

 

Edmonton Firefighters Off-road Triathlon: Race Report

By Brad Danielson
Success at my first Triathlon!

In the days leading up to the 3rd annual Edmonton Firefighters Off-road Triathlon, I was getting worried that the forecast rain would turn this event into a muddy, slippery mess.  However, the trails actually stayed dry in the week preceding the race, and the weather-man was wrong about race day as well: the expected grey rainy day turned out to be perfectly clear and sunny!  I think all the racers and the many volunteers were very relieved.
This off-road triathlon is put on by the Edmonton Firefighters as a fundraiser for the Firefighters Burn Treatment Society.
In previous years, only firefighters were eligible to compete in the race, but this year the organizers decided to expand the event and allow anyone to race in order to bring in more participants and raise the profile of their fundraising cause.
My wife, Brita, and I had signed up as volunteers for the event back in February.  But 2 weeks ago, the volunteer coordinator emailed me to ask if I wanted to race instead of volunteer.  It seems they had enough volunteers, and were trying boost the racer numbers.  (And he’s been gently prodding me to get out an try a Tri for a while now… Thanks Kevin!)
I’ve always liked the idea of doing a triathlon, but I’ve never actually done one because I’m simply not motivated to spend enough time in a pool to get good at swimming long distances.  But I was told this was a good beginner-triathlon: a short pool swim vs. a big, open-water, mass-start swim.
So my race-entry decision making process went something like this:
Can I run 5km?  Yup.   I don’t run much anymore, but fairly certain I could pull off 5km.
Can I bike 8km.  Check.  The Fiera Thursday night MTB rides and Sunday Power Hour have been giving me plenty of practice!
Can I swim 600m?  Only one way to find out.  I marched myself to the University pool…
After a few lunch-hour practice swims, I’d convinced myself that I might not be the fastest swimmer, but I could do it.
Time to sign up and give this a try!
6:30am on Race day gave me my first real glimpse of the competition: a mixed bunch ranging from total first timers (including some first-time mountain bikers!) to some experienced triathletes in their one-piece tri-suits and talc-powdered shoes.  Oh yeah, and since most of the racers were firemen, there were a lot of heavily muscled dudes!  But the general vibe was that there were 70 people out to have a fun race and enjoy the day, along with a LOT of great volunteers and supporters.  It was a very non-threatening and supportive atmosphere!
Because it was a pool swim, we were split up into heats to avoid congestion.  I’m sure no-one wants to crack open their skull in a crowded swim-lane.  Fortunately, I was put in the first heat, so I didn’t have to wait around and get race jitters.  Swimmers entered the pool with a 10sec staggered start.  I was second-last into the pool, and second-last out; a zero-sum segment I was just happy to get through.  I knew I had about 18 people ahead of me on the bike course when I ran into the transition zone.  I slopped into my shoes, zipped up my Fiera jersey, ran to the mount-line, did a flying cyclo-cross style leap onto my bike, and took off!
 Brita transition zone
The bike course started with cruel and unusual punishment: the steep hill leading from the Kinsmen center up to the High Level Bridge.
However this worked to my advantage – I think I passed 4 people on the first lap up that hill!  After the hill, we dropped into a nice circuit of twisty, technical single-track, followed by a fast gravel path section back to the base of the hill, making a ~2km loop.  I burnt through 4 laps of that as fast as I could go, taking any opportunity I found to pass the faster swimmers!
Brita was working in the transition zone, directing people to the appropriate exit gates.  All I remember about the bike-to-run transition was her yelling at me: “You’re in 2nd place!  Good job!  Now get running – I wanna see you SUFFER!!!”
I have such a supportive wife.  There’s a reason I call her my Drill Sergeant.
 *
More cruel and unusual punishment: the run course started with the same hill as the bike course.  That, I did not enjoy so much.  My run felt ragged and choppy, and I was not able to get into a good rhythm until I’d cleared the hill and got onto the flat section of Sask. Drive.  I was just very glad I didn’t get caught on that hill, as I knew there was another runner not too far behind me.  He finally caught and passed me 3/4 through the run course, but I latched onto his pace and hung with him.  He had more kick left at the end, and out-sprinted me to the finish-line, but it was very close.
Transition from the bike lead strait up a steep running climb - cruel, but not unusual.

Transition from the bike lead strait up a steep running climb – cruel, but not unusual.

So I ended up coming across the line 3rd.  I knew I had made good time on the bike and run course, but because the race was run in heats with the staggered-start swim, I didn’t know if my total time would be good enough for a top-3 finish.   The results weren’t posted until right before the awards ceremony, so I was oblivious until they started calling names up to the podium!  I was a bit dumbfounded, as I was expecting 3rd place at best.  But to win first overall and take the bike prime was a bit of a shock! Full results here. 
Podium Shot.  Brad, keeping those big burly fire fighters humble.

Podium Shot. Brad, keeping those big burly fire fighters humble.

Obviously the mountain biking segment made this race for me – so a big thanks to the Thursday Night crew for all the great rides lately!
The race was well supported with donations from Mud Sweat & Gears, Track’n’Trail, and some other local shops and restaurants, so there were lots of prizes for participants and volunteers.  Brita, the uber-volunteer, came away with an arm-load of sweet shwag, including a fancy jug of beer!  I can attest to it’s deliciousness, as she graciously shared it.   (I not-so-secretly coveted it.)
Volunteer Prizes, coveted by all.

Volunteer Prizes, coveted by all.

The race organizers told me that they successfully doubled participation from last year, and they want to double it again next year.  So I was told “Bring your friends!”  Consider that an official invitation for more Fierans to try this out next year.

Bringing home the hardware!

Bringing home the hardware!

Race Report: Blackfoot Ultra 100

They say the first step to recovery is an admission of guilt. This is my story.

It started out like this. Some months ago Darren-endurance-athlete-extraordinaire-McGregor sent me an online communicator note asking, “BF100 registration opens today, do you want to?” I paused, my mind spiraling into the permutation and combinations of repercussions. “OK”, I replied. “Really??” the message came back. Seconds later we were both signed up for our first 100km trail run.

Fast forward some months later. Saturday May 25, 4:59AM to be exact, I find myself in an outhouse near the start line at the Cooking Lake Blackfoot Prov Rec Area. “Chad, I think they just started,” said Darren also dropping a pre-race deuce in the next outhouse. “I’ll wait for you.”

We walk quickly but casually over to the now vacant starting line, the race director standing there blinking at us. “Uh, we missed the pre-race meeting. Is there anything we need to know?” I ask him. “No, just GO GO GO!” he yells at us.

Knowing a couple minutes won’t make or break a 100km race, I slowly shuffle off down the trail. Darren-I-don’t-know-how-to-pace-McGregor sprints off ahead. “See ya at the finish!” I shout after him. A few minutes later I catch up to him as he latched onto a pack of runners shuffling along even slower than me. We keep pace with this group for a few kilometers before we decide it’s too slow. We find our own pace and settle in for a long day.

For those unfamiliar with ultra-marathon running (i.e., anything longer than 42.2km) the pace is typically slow. For mere mortals, you conserve energy by walking up hills, you stop at aid stations to eat, you run the rest, but slowly. We’re not Kilian Jornet. We don’t have a VO2 max of 89.5
Mortals suffer. Badly. Pain management is the name of this game. They say ultras are 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental. Some people think we’re totally mental.

My day is spent thinking about each and every footstep, trying not to trip or slip, trying to keep moving forward, somewhere. In the Blackfoot PRA the wetlands are too numerous to keep track of, the hills too insignificant to be memorable, the trail too consistently muddy to be recognizable. The only way to track my progress is by the aid stations spread at approximately 5km intervals around the 25km loop we have to do 4 times. 100km is too far to comprehend. 5km to the next aid station makes it mentally manageable. And with each aid station brings the satisfaction of fistfuls of salty potato chips, fruit and soup broth.

Hours blend into each other. My kids are waking up now and watching cartoons. I’m still running. Now they’re probably eating lunch. It’s starting to rain. “Is that all you got?!” Darren-I’m-too-muddy-to-care-McGregor screams at Mother Nature. Now it’s a downpour. I’m still running. It’s afternoon, I wonder if they’re napping. The mud is thicker and greasier. A cold wind howls. I’m still running. Finally, late afternoon and I see the finish line. I want to cry but I’m too tired. A small crowd cheers me in. I cross the line but find it hard to stop moving. Endorphins and adrenaline surging. I pace around grinning like an idiot. Oh man, this is going to be hard to kick…

Hello, my name is Chad and I’m an ultraholic, results here.
(http://www.webscorer.com/racedetails?pid=1&raceid=9233&did=11730).

River Valley Royal Rumble: Race Report

Hardcore bikes reportedly put on another awesome mountain bike cross-country race event on the weekend.  Congratulations to Fiera Race Team’s Keegan Brooks who raced in the Novice category, and fought hard to grab  all the upgrade points and glory that comes with a fourth place finish.  Congratulations Keegan.  Nice work. Results.

Keegan Brooks – enjoys cupcakes, long walks on the beach, reflective poetry, and man-sized portions of whoop-ass.