Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Race Report - UBC Triathlon 2011

Immediate thoughts after the race: "It wasn't that cold!"

Thankfully it wasn't snowing, nor was it raining. It was actually sunny-ish on March 6th. Something I could only dream of before. Nevertheless, the race was fun, albeit I bonked pretty hard on the run but more on that later. Right now, here's the recap:

For a 12:40 start, I had no idea how to manage my nutrition for this race. Normally, I just feast the day before, wake up 2 hours prior to the race, eat a banana and bagel, and go for it. This time however, plans were different. I slowly nibbled through food for a good 3-4 hours before realizing that I shouldn't eat more for fear of cramps and more importantly, washroom breaks. This was a bad idea because as the race was about to start I started to get hungry. Not a feeling you want to feel before a race. However, I manned up and swam like a champ, beating the generally good looking Vincent Lavellee by a couple dozen seconds on the swim. That was all I secretly wanted to acheive.

It's too bad the rest of my race didn't fare as well. The bike ride was fun, but I didn't have enough nutrients to sustain 40km, so I had to reserve my carb reserves and bike slower to conserve the carbs and burn off the non-existent fat I carry on my body. It's probably all on my face.

My bike time was about 5 minutes slower than what I had anticipated, but in all honesty, I probably shouldn't have fiddled with my seat position the day before the race. Lesson learned.

my trademark face of pain courtesy of Thomas Belsheim

Coming off the bike has always been insurmountably difficult for me. I always feel as if I am on the brink of death. My legs at this point tell me that I shouldn't have pushed that hard on the bike, but I tell myself that I didn't push that hard and my legs are just trying to complain about nothing. Unfortunately, it wasn't nothing. I did not manage a single minute in my entire run where I though to myself "This is fun". It was more "I am about to die! Where is the turnaround!". When I finally reached the 9km mark, I felt as if I had a new breath of life in me. What were once rotting logs that I called my legs were suddenly healthy oaks gleaming with a spondaic harmony.

Approaching the finish line with my trademark face of pain, there is nothing left in me. Not even to stand up. The shallows of my face no longer have shape. They are just vacuoles looking for sustenance to feed them. When I crossed the finish line all I could think about was how far I pushed my body on that run. It wasn't a run to prove how fast I was. Nor was it a run to show off to my mates. Or my race endurance. It was a personal experience of how far I could push my body on limited resources and see how it could stand up to the punishment. I had to transcend beyond what I thought were the physical limits of my body to pursue my goals. And once I reach my goal, it only gets more difficult from there. I live everyday as if the previous was easier and push the limits just that much further.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

First Race of 2011 Coming Up And There's Snow On The Ground!

It's that time of year again where we dust off the old tri suit and embark on the spiritual quest that is a triathlon. Unfortunately, there's some snow outside and Vancouver tends to have a difficult time dealing with what I would consider a light flurry. Even so, the hallmark UBC triathlon is one week away exactly and it's time for me to HTFU (for non-cyclists, that means harden the f*ck up).

view from my window

Having already done the coldest "summer" triathlon race is recorded history, I feel that this should be cakesauce in terms of Jens factor (see chart here). But it's always good to prep for the worst.

My game plan for the race is this: keep as warm as possible. If there was anything I picked up from racing in Banff it is that having sensation in your limbs is vital for just about everything, including trying to dismount off a bicycle (my legs caved in during the second transition at Banff, making for one embarrassing tumble). The only difference in this race is the swim. A 1500m pool swim is definitely going to be a lot nicer on the body than a 7C glacial swim so there won't be a need to completely dry off and that will save a good 2-3 minutes on transition one.

Going from the swim to the bike, I'm pretty certain I will be more drenched cycling than swimming as the weather forecast calls for a downpour.  And then running in those clothes won't be much fun; running never is even at the best of times.

The goals I have set for myself are these
swim 23:00
T1 4:00
bike 1:15:00
T2 1:20
run 45:00

There you have it. My goal is a sub 2:30:00 race, which will heavily rely on a miracle happening during the run, but until then, this week is my tapering week so here is my list of activities for the week for all those who wish to scrutinize my life even more.

2000m swim as 5x400m
8km run as 1km on, 1km off
1 hour on the trainer
8km run paced for a 43min 10k
2400m swim as 3x800m *may change to a trainer ride
20km light bike ride

Also, no going out until race is over

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Taste Of The Real World

For some time now, I have always wondered what it would be like to have a real job. Not one you find off the classified adds. Or at a grocery/retail store. Or wherever else teenagers usually get employed to. A real job is more like a career. People stay in them long term because they can. They don't get sciatica from lifting boxes. Physical exertion is limited by the length of your lunch break. There's lots of tea and/or coffee involved. And a salary is nice too.

This is what I would consider to be a career. Although, those that like jobs that are more laborious are perfectly entitled to say their jobs are real too. But for me, with triathlon and an extensive (or would be extensive) Physics and Math background, it is not enough to just muck about all day.

I know in about 10 minutes I will change my mind about this, but having a job is so much better than school. There is just so much more time. You are relaxed and energized and ready to seize the day!  Even with this amazing plethora of awesomeness, work is still work and I need something else to fill my evenings and weekends when there is no energy left in the tank. Normally, I would dive at any and all opportunities to train, but when you work, you have an added responsibility: you can't sleep on the job.

Another thing about the real world that school life doesn't really prepare you for is who your co-workers are. All my co-workers are amazing people. My supervisor is awesome too. But we all have different interests and passions. For instance, if I want to go for a run or bike now, I would have to trudge along alone. For me, that's fine most of the time, but eventually that gets really boring and company would be nice, except all my workout mates are back at school and no one at my work shares the same enthusiasm for masochism.

So that brings me to where I am right now in life. I have a decent job (co-op!!!) at a decent company making decent money. But I have a hard time working out alone. Then it finally dawned upon me something spectacular. Even though triathlon is a solo sport, you cannot achieve your goals in this sport alone. All triathletes should train with other people because not only does that give you company, it also brings out competitiveness and compels one other to push harder than the next. What's more, training with others also brings in the experiences of those around. There are many things I've learned just from training with others that I probably would never of figured out by myself. If you've read this far, I think it's fair that I reward you with a little secret tip of my own. If you ever get side stitches or cramps near your lungs (ie sides, stomach, etc.) the best way to get rid of them is to extend your torso out as far away from the cramp as possible. Then take a huge breath in. Hold it in for as long as possible. Repeat until the pain dies down. Basically what this does is allow oxygen to the cramped up region. This is a great tip which I have not seen on any website or blog so far and I only learned this from one of my mates. So there you go, passing on the knowledge.

There is nothing else really to say so I might as well repeat myself. If you are a triathlete and you are currently training by yourself, go join a tri club, or run with your mates, or join some sort of organized sports group. Trust me, it is definitely worth it in the short and long run. Besides all you really lose is a couple dozen dollars and when you are a full time worker, what's that to you? A new helmet perhaps.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cramming for Exams

What you need:

1) lots of food for the long day ahead
2) swimming gear to get you awake in the morning
3) reading material for studying
4) loud music to keep you awake
5) A big library that allows talking
6) Room in that library
7) Friends to watch your stuff while you're in the loo
8) Money for when you run out of food, which is inevitable

Start the day off at 7am
wake up, put on some comfortable clothing that would only seem fashionable to Sasquatch.
Swim for an hour or so.
Study - eat -> repeat until out of food
buy more food
repeat previous step
go home at 7 pm

This gives you 1.5 hours of training and 10 hours of studying.

It's not fun, but it has to be done

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Winter Workout

As winter becomes ever evident in the city not known for going below zero, I start to hunker down for what could be a fun couple of months of training. Seriously.

Personally, I love the cold; it makes you feel that little extra primal urge to stay alive and pushes you that extra mile to generate enough body heat to stay warm.

The cold also gives you a sense of gratitude for all the things that fortune you. In the summer, I don’t normally think twice about homelessness, but when frost starts to accumulate on my nose as a walk between classes, I feel the plight of the less fortunate more so as their needs hit closer to home.

Their woes are persistent while mine are inconveniences. I can put on more layers if I wanted to, but I don’t because I don’t want to have to wash more clothes than absolutely necessary. This leads me to the topic of winter training: What should one wear to stay warm in such conditions?

Lots. It’s always better to be too hot than too cold, but that being said, there are ways to avoid the hassle of cleaning up bodily fluids.

When it really cold out, for me that’s -10C or so, warm-up on a trainer inside. Then bring your trainer just outside your doorstep and crank it. I’ve noticed whenever I do this, I feel like I can breathe a lot easier. It also reduces the sweat accumulation.

The reason why I warm up inside first is so there is blood in my feet; otherwise, they tend to get very cold. And I know a lot of criticism will be in the form “yeah well, Simon Whitfield trains in his shed in like 40C conditions. What you’re doing is not simulating real world conditions” et al. What I can say to that is, in Vancouver, the warmest race (triathlon) I’ve done was 15C. It took me 2km into the run for my feet to regain sensation. But that’s just me.

This is merely a suggestion for people who want to gain a crap load of power and cadence over the winter, where cycling usually becomes minimal, unless you are a purest like Derrick Lee.

So there you go. I managed to link homelessness in winter with outdoor trainer workouts.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

When Life gives you lemons, say screw the lemons and bail.

Running hasn’t been my thing in a while, so I decided this week would be a running week. Well, things aren’t looking too bright right now. Currently, I have two ice packs resting on my quads. They have been the victim of brutality – 4ish consecutive days of rigorous running. What used to be my calves are now lumps of malignant cancers masticating on my flesh. I guess now would be a good time to warrant my complaints.

So in chronological order:

Sunday: Aquathon with a 3km run. Later in the day, a 7km run paced run
Monday: 35 minutes on a treadmill, running kilometer intervals at mile pace. 2km swim
Tuesday: 60 minutes of intervals on a track. 2km swim
Wednesday: Wreck Beach stairs ~1920 stairs
Thursday: 11km run at a relatively vigorous pace.

I know this doesn’t seem like much, but keep in mind, I haven’t been running lately. Or at all.  And when people say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, consider the consequences of your actions before you purge the tree. However, if you want to experience the hurt, then by all means indulge in my masochist lifestyle.

As you can probably tell, these past few days (since Wednesday) have been quite debilitating to say the least, but I have found sanctum from my needless humbuggery. I learned that if your calves and quads are shot, go for a swim! As long as you aren’t swimming to puke, you’re support muscles will thank you because they’ll be doing a lot of work for the next couple days. You also won’t look like a total gimp in the water.

So my advice to any novice triathletes out there right now is if you are doing a run week, make sure you’ve done run weeks before so your body knows how to adjust itself to the pace you’re going at; otherwise, you’ll overdo it like me and be forced to swim for the next little while.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

How To Manage Triathlon And Engineering

You can't. So why do it you ask?
- Engphys is one of the most regarded degrees at UBC, with the highest GPA
- Engphys pushes me mentally, while triathlon pushes me physically
- it's a great way to stay in shape

- no sleep
- no social life
- free time is spent on Math
- there is no free time
- how do you train??

Some things in life have to be sacrificed to better the rest of it. If you don't do it now, when will you? Life is too short to say later. Live in the nows of life and take every opportunity life throws at you.