Category Archives: Triathlon

Why I Race: Health Hope Happiness

By Cory Boddy:

There are a lot of reasons to race, whatever your discipline. Over the years I’ve focused on mountain biking, then switched to running, then mixed it up with duathlon, and now I’m pretty into road cycling and cyclocross. The disciplines have changed, but my reasons for racing haven’t. I like the challenge, I like to see improvement, it keeps my head clear and my heart healthy, and I like social aspect of cycling. There is something else though; a bonus, an added motivation that comes from being part of Fiera Race Club.

Whatever race I compete in, my race entry fees are matched with an equal charitable donation from our sponsor, Fiera Biological Consulting, to the club-supported charity of my choice. My choice is always Camp He Ho Ha.

Camp He Ho Ha or more proper: Health, Hope, and Happiness is a local camp near Edmonton, for people with special needs. Every summer over 800 campers attend, some as young as 7 and others as old as 90.


One of the best summers of my life was spent at Camp He Ho Ha. I was a Camp Counselor and for four months 800 campers with disabilities brightened every moment. I’ll never forget that summer and I try to use that experience to steer the decisions I make some 20 years later. That’s why I continue to support Camp He Ho Ha and why I’m thrilled to be part of a race club that allows me to give even more.

We are truly fortunate to be able to race, train, and ride with a club that makes this possible.

Since joining Fiera Race Team, I have participated in enough races to see Fiera Biological donate  $1,800 to Camp He Ho Ha! These are donations that are direly needed, and appreciated, and all I had to do was something that I already enjoyed, and fill out a simple online form after each race. That’s it. I didn’t have to win, or do well… or even finish, come to think of it. I just had to do what I’m already passionate about doing … get outdoors and challenge myself.

So as the race season sets upon us, I hope the rest of my Fiera Race Club teammates will challenge themselves to race and remember to report their race achievements to secure a donation to Camp He Ho Ha or any of the other worthy charities we have chosen to support. There are plenty of reasons to get out there and race. This just happens to be one of the better ones.


Since the club began, the racing adventrures of our membership have generated nearly $10,000! Below is a list of the awesome charities supported by Fiera Race Team as a result of our racing efforts. To report your results, just look to left side-margin of this homepage where it says Recent Results, then click “tell us about it!

Right to Play

Doctors Without Boarders

Nature Conservancy of Canada

The Canadian Red Cross

Food Banks Canada

Camp He-Ho-Ha

Stollery Children’s Hospital

Environmental Law Centre






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.


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.


Bike Course

IMG_3787 - Version 2

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.


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.


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



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.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 10.27.34 AM

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 10.28.09 AM

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 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!


The results are here:

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!

Great White North: The Baldwin Report

This past weekend, we had a number of our athletes compete at the Great White North, western Canada’s triathlon. One of those athletes was Lesley Baldwin, who put in a fantastic race to finish 7th in her age group, and nearly breaking the top 100 overall (out of 698 racers!!!!). Here is how the race went, according to Lesley:

I lined up early on the very left side of the beach in hopes of minimizing my involvement in the carnage I was sure would ensue – there were to be nearly 1000 people in this mass start! I swam hard off the gun and got lucky for the first 200m – masses of people on either side, no one in front to kick me in the face. Lucky! The rest of the first lap was a pretty bumpy ride. When I got onto the beach I could see there was a big mass of people about 15m in front of me so I tried to swim hard and catch the draft pack. I didn’t really make it, but I did get my heart rate up and as a result did a terrible job of sighting to the first buoy. All good to the second buoy, but the final stretch was again plagued by bad sighting. I was aiming for the yellow arches on the beach and kept wondering why everyone was swimming diagonally across my path. There was no need for so much contact at this point! Alas, I realized my mistake: the exit was not through the arches. I was aiming for the wrong spot and it was *I* who was swimming diagonally across their paths! I didn’t really enjoy this swim and hope the organizers will consider splitting the field in coming years.
Time: 31:03 (+11 second off last years time…not bad in light of my foibles)

I used a wetsuit stripper for the first time. She was great! Suit was off in no time. Everything was wet, wet, wet! Sunglasses on, sunglasses fogged. Sunglasses off, everything else on, sunglasses back on. Go!

For the first 15-20km, I fought the urge to quit. This is stupid! It’s too wet, too cold, I don’t feel like doing this today! What do I have to prove? Maybe I’ll get so cold I’ll get hypothermia and I’ll have to quit! Luckily my legs warmed up and so did my body and these bad feelings were chased away. Having misplaced my cycle computer right before the race, I didn’t have my usual speed data to help gauge my effort. In retrospect, this may have been a good thing. It was a windier day than usual so I might have been disappointed had those numbers staring me in the face for nearly 3 hours. I’ve been using a HR monitor for ~ 1 month now and I don’t really know my zones yet, but this was all I had to go on and chose 140 bpm as a goal. This felt totally manageable so I kept pushing a little harder. Shortly after the turn around, I did a quick bit of math and figured I might still be able to make my sub-5 hour goal of several months back (one I’d given up on after the Oliver race). The eastward stretch back to Stoney Plain offered up a bit of a tail wind and I was having a great time playing all kinds of number games in my head. My legs felt strong and I picked off quite a few people near the end. If anything, I should have kicked it up a notch a little earlier! People were sitting up as we rolled into town, but I was desperately trying to get there before 10 past 11 – this would give me 1:50 to complete the run which I figured was likely do-able. (Never mind that this would mean 0 minutes for transition and a pee break!) I think I hammered into transition at about 11:10:30 so I was close…. I had no problems eating and easily managed my rough plan of one snack per 30 km (one clif bar, 1.5 packages of clif blocks, half a banana and lots of water).
Time: 2:41:08 (1:47 faster than last year….not bad for a windy day and I felt like I had a super bike so I was really happy going into the run). Average HR = 141.

Thank God I had a dry set of socks. Off went the sopping wet ones and on went the dry ones. I managed to get both socks on and both feet into my shoes without ever tipping over and touching a toe to the wet ground! Should have biked even harder, I guess!

Like a drowned rat after the torrential rains, Lesley brings it home! (Photo credit to Lenka Plavcova)

The dreaded run. Except I felt great! My legs were ready to roll and I kept turning out kilometer after kilometer right around 5:00/km. At this rate I’d definitely make sub-5 hours! I felt strong all the way to the turnaround and enjoyed seeing all the familiar faces running in the opposite direction and cheering from the sidelines. The way home was windier and despite still feeling pretty good, my pace seemed to be dropping off. I ate a few honey stingers and kept going. Still, I couldn’t go any faster and my pace was really dropping…close to 5:30 now. Oh dear! But I *have* to get to the finish line before 1pm! Despite being pretty sure I wouldn’t make it in less than 5 hours, I felt like I was having a great run (and a great race) so I wasn’t too discouraged. As usual, blisters hampered the second half of the run and my feet were numb and tingly for most of the 21km. I squished my toes up every time they were off the ground to try and keep the numbness from getting worse. It worked and the foot situation was a lot better than in Oliver. Aside from 2 or 3 honey stingers, I didn’t eat on the run, but I stopped and walked through every water station. This might have been over kill on such a cool rainy day, but it’s a plan I’ve never deviated from. Maybe I’ll shake things up next time. Nearing home, I managed to pick up the pace a bit, but it was but only in the last kilometer. I could see the clock at 5:02:__ and my new goal was to get there in time for 5:02:59. I was pretty much sprinting and crossed the line at 5:03:03.
Time: 1:50:53 (3:24 faster than last year), average HR = 155.

Overall time: 5:03:03 (4:59 faster than last year and ~5-10 seconds faster than 2010).

This felt like the raciest race in a long time and I was really happy with my effort. My legs felt strong and aside from the swim and about 15km of the bike, I had great positive thoughts the whole time. Perhaps a little more food during the run would have helped the last 10km of the race? Or a better attitude towards running in the last month (I was so discouraged after my run in Oliver and I really let it get to me!) The key difference between this race and Oliver was a solid week of sleep and good food leading up to race day. I’m pretty sure it made all the difference in how I felt and how hard I was able to push. Thanks to everyone who came out to cheer, to Paul who drove us out and simplified the logistics, and to Ben and Linsday for their great hospitality (and wonderful hot showers!) both before and after the race. In summary, I’m writing this one up as a success! Will I be back next year? Never say never….

Great White North: The Schreiber Report

On Sunday (Jul-01), I passed a big milestone on my way to Kona. I finished the Great White North Triathlon 2012 with a solid performance. Of course, there is still a lot to improve but given where I am right now and what I have trained so far I am very pleased with my result. This race was the end of my first training block in which I focused mostly on speed and interval work and not on volume (you can read more on that here). My second training block is heavily tailored for a fast bike split in Kona, but also has a focus on reinforcing my running speed and increasing distance. Now, I have a week off, and then 14 hard weeks of training ahead of me.

And here is the report:
Sanja, Jan, Lenka and I arrived at Hubbles Lake bright and early with enough time to spare. Lots of friends were there and the University of Alberta Triathlon Club had a huge contingent of people racing and also spectating. Although the weather forecast didn’t really look nice, Keegan, Derek, Emily and Antony rode out to Stony Plain on their bikes even though it was raining till about noon! THANKS GUYS!!! Also a huge thanks to Andrea, Lenka and Becky for taking awesome pictures of the event!!!

Since I experienced some restriction in the shoulder area with my old wetsuit, Dave gave me his wetsuit for the race, which is way more flexible. Thanks Dave!! I seeded my self in the front and a few minutes later the race was on. For me this was the roughest start ever! It was super wild and intense for the first couple hundred metres. After the first buoy the field was stretched out a bit and things calmed down. The rest of the first lap as well as the second lap was normal again. I exited the swim with a time of 29:34 min and headed on to the bike.

Again my transition wasn’t the fastest and I still have to put some more effort into getting things changed quicker. I left transition, passed the huge support crew and was out in the rain for the next 2+ hours. Although it was raining and a bit chilly, I was very focused and didn’t mind the rain at all. In terms of effort my goal was to average 300 watts which worked out very nicely! My actual average power was 301 watts. After about 20 km into the race I got passed by Trev Williams, whom I know is a time trial specialist, and I tried to keep him in sight. However, looking at my power output I knew this wouldn’t be a good idea. So after about 10 km, I decided to back-off again and do what I wanted to do. Before the turnaround I rode up into fifth place and then shortly later I was in fourth position in which I remained till the end of the race. On the way back my power slightly decreased, and my heart rate immediately dropped as well (see Figure below) – and this time it was not necessarily the fact that it went slightly downhill (see previous race report), but rather a lack of strength to keep pushing the 300+ watts. But this will be very thoroughly addressed during the upcoming 14-week training block.

Stefan’s power output during the GWN bike. Yikes…

I came into T2, put my socks on (which proved difficult with cold fingers and feet), shoes on and off I was. Again, the transition could have been quicker, but given the conditions I guess it was okay. Good thing I had fair amount of baby powder in my socks and in my shoes, which helped to dry up my feet a bit.

Stefan motoring on the run (Photo Credit to Lenka Plavcova)

I started running at a good pace and I didn’t feel any cramps on the first kilometre. But then after 2 km my good old friends Musculii vastus-mediales (left and right) begun to dictate the pace for the next 2 km or so. I finally managed to convince the two to work with me and from that point on I was running a consistent 4 min/km pace! Never done before in an Half Iron distance race ever! At the halfway turnaround point I saw Ben and Becky and I still felt pretty good at that point. I also saw all my other friends who were racing, as well as my Fiera Race Team buddies. Thanks to Josh who was yelling and screaming when I came by. This definitely gave me a push! Also on my way back to the finish, I passed the soaking wet UofA TriClub crew and a few minutes later Sanja and Lenka. Sanja already spotted me before I could see her, but I knew I was close since I heard her screaming at the top of her lungs 🙂 Even though I cannot see her sometimes, I always can hear that she’s there for me! I also saw Darren who only signed up for the race because Sanja did – and then she got pregnant 😉 So, he ended up doing the race although he was actually not planning on doing it this year. But still, he looked like he had a good time 🙂 Thanks for cheering Darren! On the very last turnaround point I saw that James Curran got very close in the end. Not to risk losing 4th place, I picked up the pace and ran sub 4 min for the final 2 kilometres. In the end I was still 33 seconds ahead of him and enjoyed my arrival!

This time my heart rate data actually suggest that I was racing. My average heart rate was 149 bpm and I spent 56:34 minutes between 148-163 bpm, and 28:55 min between 132-147 bpm. And what was really cool is that I felt my outer thighs were getting sore at the end of the race, a feeling which I usually don’t experience very often since mostly I cannot run that fast to make them hurt.

To sum it up, this race turned out to be a great day, despite the rain, and I am very happy with my result. It definitely showed that I am still improving and certainly haven’t reached my limit yet. It gave me motivation and I am looking forward to the next 14-weeks of training!

Thanks for reading and happy training!

P.S. Results can be found here

Chinook Half Triathlon – Race Report

By Stefan Schreiber

On the weekend of June-16, I participated in the Chinook Half Triathlon in Calgary. This is the second time that I did this race (see here for Race Report 2010) and it’s really fun and well organized. The highlight for me was definitely the beautiful run through  Fish Creek Provincial Park, one of the largest urban parks in North America. On top of all that my parents were also here for the first time since I have been in Canada and we had a wonderful time.

Race morning:
We woke up at about 4:45am with a lot of time to slowly get up, have a breakfast and drive to the race venue. The race started at 8am, transition opened at 7am and we were at the parking lot at about 6:40am. Everything went smoothly.

The swim was a 2 by 1km loop in Lake Midnapore with a quick run around a buoy on the beach. The water wasn’t as cold as two years ago but still only 16 °C. I was really looking forward to the swim since I spent so much time in the pool during the last 2 years. At the end though my time this year was not faster than it was 2 years ago (32:56 vs. 32:36), although I felt better. I was hoping to be a bit faster of course, but it is what it is. The only thing that was bugging me is that I forgot how constricting it is to swim in a wetsuit, or rather in my wetsuit (Entry level Nineteen – Pipeline). My arm recovery felt way more difficult than without. It was also the first time since almost 2 years that I swam in a wetsuit. Maybe that was the problem… Since I am usually training without a wetsuit, I may not train as much those muscles required to swim well in a wetsuit. Swimming in a wetsuit looks quite different then swimming without. But since my big race is a warm pacific ocean swim, I am not really concerned with this issue.

The bike course is a 96 km quite scenic out and back heading straight into the Rocky Mountains, but for my taste the road is too busy to give it 5 stars. The turn around was close by the town Bragg Creek. As I am now in the lucky situation to ride with a power meter (see my previous post), I was not looking once at the speed I was going. In fact, my selected Garmin window didn’t show speed at all. I was only concerned with my watts and cadence. My goal was to just collect some power data to better adjust my training zones for the upcoming 14-week IM Hawaii preparation. Based on my recent 5 min and 30 min all-out efforts, I was guessing to average around 300 watts. That would be racing at 85 % of my functional threshold power (FTP, 354 watts). According to “Training and Racing with a Power meter” by Allen Coggan 2010, it is suggested to race the Half Ironman distance at about 80-85 % of FTP.  On my way out I averaged 297 watts (normalized: 306; heart rate 142 bpm) and back 278 watts (normalized: 281; hear rate 134 bpm). The lower averages on the way back are mostly due to long descent back into Calgary (see figure below). Given that I was racing correctly at just below 85 % of my current FTP, I was right on with my effort. Compared with the 2010 results, I was about 3 min faster (2:28:49 vs 2:31:17).

For all the nerds out there: Stefan’s data from the 2012 Chinook Half

As I already mentioned above the run was really beautiful (2 laps through the Fish Creek Provincial Park). It had some up- and downhills and was not boring at all. For the first 2-3 km I had some issues with my quads (nothing unusual for me). But this time they were cramping quite badly and I was considering stopping for a few seconds to stretch them. Luckily though, as fast as they came they also disappeared. I know I am prone for cramping during the first kilometres into the run, but I forgot that they usually disappear as well. So it was good to get reminded of that for the upcoming races and not become totally devastated as soon as I feel them coming. Anyway, at that point in the race I was running in second place with quite a gap to third place. So, I didn’t really had a reason to push it any harder so early in the season. I paced both my laps evenly within seconds and had an average heart rate of 146 during both laps. Compared with the 2010 results it almost exactly the same time (1:30:17 vs. 1:30:22; but my average heart rate was 153 bpm back then). But I do have to say that I felt my muscles were getting tired. I guess due to the fact that I am doing so many hard intervals workouts my cardiovascular system is superb but my muscles need more distance now. And this is what comes in my next training block starting in 2 weeks.

My transitions were rather slow. I took quite some time to get everything right and to not forget things. This is something that needs improvement for sure. But with two more Half Irons coming up there is also time to practice again under race conditions.

Thanks to Sanja and my parents, as well as Pat and Becky, and Ben and Lindsay for cheering.

Next Stop: The Great White North Triathlon next Sunday on July-1.

EDITORS NOTE: What Stefan neglected to mention in his race report is that he finished second overall and first in his age group at the race. Nice work, Stefan!!

Stefan at the finish line – looking forward to the next half this coming weekend!

News: Races this weekend, June 23 & 24.

The race is on this weekend.  Look for results from Fiera Race Team members, Duncan Purvis and Keegan Brooks as they contest the Devon Grand Prix, Crit. Provincials, and Road Race.  Look for Duncan to push the pace in the early part of the race, then sit back and prepare for a late attack in his brand new Fiera Race Team Jersey debut.  Watch for Keegan to get in to an early break, stay away most of the day, then just as it look like he could win, get a flat tire and not finish (predictions are based on past performance).  Watch Zone 4 for result.

Also this weekend, look for Fiera Race Team’s Jan Plavec and Lenka Plavcova to make some waves at the Lake Summerside Triathlon.  Expect Jan to break the sound barrier on the ride, and Lenka to stir things up on the swim.  Watch for their results here.

Best of luck to everyone racing this weekend.

News: Oliver Half Iron -June 3rd 2012

Some fit folks were out racing themselves silly a couple weekends ago at the Oliver Half Iron in BC’s Okanagan Valley.  Congratulations to Lesley Baldwin who bested 573 other entrants, men and women alike, to place 141st overall, 15th out 295 women, and 4th in her age group. Full results here.

Congratulations to everyone who raced.

Getting Aero (photo cred. to David Roberts)

More photos of the Oliver Half Ironman, thanks to David Roberts, at Flickr.