Monday 2 September 2013

Injury update and Skyline Trail

Hi all!

It's been a while since I posted here the last time. If you followed my blog, you probably read that I head some hip flexor issues. Good news is it finally healed up, bad news is now my right knee is somewhat uncooperative recently. Due to the hip flexor injury, I wasn't able to participate in the Blackfoot 50-miler, which I was really looking forward to. Now with the Lost Soul Ultra (100km for me) coming up, I am a little bit afraid what is going to happen there ... Not only that the knee is troubling me, but also due to both injuries, I wasn't able to really train for the Ultra distance. Now I am consistently asking myself whether it will be a good idea to give it a try this weekend or whether it will lead into even more injury ... But since I already pulled the plug for the Blackfoot 50-miler earlier this year, I will now at least toe the start line, give it a try and see how things unfold during this hopefully sub 15h journey.

Nonetheless, I also had a wonderful longer run with Pat and Ben when we ran Skyline Trail during August long weekend. It was also Pat's bachelor party :) Here the video if you are interested: Skyline 2013.

I tried to take a time lapse of this run with my GoPro strapped on my forehead but this resulted in a awkward running technique to keep my head levelled. In the end the whole time lapse didn't work out and Pat's little videos were WAAAAY better as you can see in the Youtube clip.

This was a great run and it gave me some confidence that I can, even with barely any run training, have good long run. With this run in my legs I decided to try Lost Soul and see how it unfolds.

Stay tuned if you are interested in the Lost Soul race report :)

Happy training!

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Great White North Triathlon 2013: Race Report

Yesterday was the day of the GWN triathlon and it was a great day! A lot of records were broken, the weather was nice (most of the time), and it was also the first race in which Sanja and I were able to race together since she gave birth to our little boy Sean. THANKS to Glenn and Ingo for taking care of the little guy! Sanja finished her third triathlon and first half iron distance race yesterday. She did her first triathlon in 2009 (sprint), another race in 2010 (Olympic), and yesterday her first half iron distance race! I am very proud the way she finished this race as I know how long and painful it can be! You can read all about it here.

My race went pretty much the same as the Edmonton ITU race two weeks ago, except that my swim was better. The bike felt great again and I was going as hard as I could. Since I knew I had no run fitness due to my messed up hip flexor, I went all in for the bike. I made it all the way into 2nd place, which felt pretty good, especially given the small amount of training I put in. Thanks to Kevin for his Hed tri spoke and Josh for his disc wheel. This aerodynamic advantage certainly helped getting that bike split! Too bad though that the bike course was different this year, as I would have loved to see how this result would have compared to the previous bike splits.

But let’s start with the swim first!

Just in time for GWN, I got my new Nineteen Rogue wetsuit. This wetsuit is a significant upgrade to what I had before. The flexibility is enormous and I was able to get my arms moving almost as good as in the pool. Since we were a bit late on race morning, I didn’t get a warm up swim in. Instead I did some arm swings while I was waiting for the gun to go off. And then without countdown, the gun went off and the race was on. During the entire swim I felt good and my arms were working well. This was pretty much the first wetsuit swim I really enjoyed! I also liked the fact that this we only had to swim one big loop. I exited the water at 25:38 min and was pretty happy with my performance. Transition was quick but was not timed separately.

The bike went very well and I had again a good time out there. As I mentioned earlier already, this year I had a disc wheel and tri spoke. In fact, I was riding a disc for the first time in my life, and it felt great! I am definitely considering getting my own disc wheel pretty soon! Shortly after the first turn around, I moved up into 3rd place and shortly after the start of the 2nd lap I moved up into 2nd position overall. I knew that this ranking will only hold for as long as we are on wheels, so I enjoyed every single kilometer. In the end I finished the bike in 2:12:54. T2 felt pretty quick, but again no splits were available.

I started running the 2 lap run course and the first person I saw was Grant Burwash zipping by and I thought I was standing still. Then Ben also passed me within the first couple of metres into my run. We had a quick chat and he looked really strong, then he was gone. At that point there were no signs of quad cramps and I was still happy. Then after the first aid station both quads cramped up so badly that I had to squat to stretch them out. I was sitting there for about a minute trying to relax them. I kept on looking back but I didn’t see anyone coming yet. Then it slowly got better and I was able to move again. The rest was just hanging in there and not losing any time. The greatest thing on the run however was when I came by Sanja to spank her bum and tell her to keep it going. She looked amazing and I was extremely proud of her. I asked her if she wants to run together for a while but she just said GO and RUN! So I kept on moving. The rest was just grinding it out and get to the finish. At last I finished the race in 10th place overall with a 1:36:03 run and a total time of 4:14:34.Not a personal record for me but definitely a good performance.

Congratulations to everyone out there on the course breaking records or not, to all the volunteers and race organizers, the spectators, my friends from the Edmonton Triathlon Academy and the UofA Triathlon Club.

The overall results can be found here.


Tuesday 25 June 2013

Edmonton ITU Triathlon and Provincial Championships

Yesterday, I competed in the Edmonton ITU Olympic distance triathlon in Hawrelak Park. This was my first Olympic triathlon since Lake Chaparral in August 2010 as the focus of the past years was set on Ironman distance racing. However, being a coach with the Edmonton Triathlon Academy (ETA) got me excited to try the shorter distances again and focus a bit more on speed.

This all sounds pretty awesome except that I am practically injured since April, which you can read about here and here. This groin/hip flexor injury prevented me from running at all and whenever I tried to run the following days did not feel good, but at least I was able to get a few bike rides in here and there. Swimming on the other hand went really well! I logged up to 6 km swims and also swam quite often with the elite athletes of the ETA, which is the main reason for my current fitness level.

Given all that, I went into the race with no expectations just hoping that I will be able to finish the run without inducing more damage to my groin.

The weather on race morning was very nice and it didn’t look like it would rain at all (although showers were forecasted). I set up my transition area and visualized myself a few times coming out of the water, heading into T1, doing a lap on the bike course, coming back into T2 and doing one run lap. I felt very positive and was actually looking forward to compete again.

The race started in different heats, so it was not a mass start and hence it was also quite difficult to see how you were doing in your age group. Sure, everyone got body-marked but the visibility of this black marker quickly fades after putting on your wetsuit, sweating in it for some time while waiting for the horn to go off, and eventually trying to pull your limbs out again. My heat was scheduled for 9:55am containing women and men 30-34 as well as 35-39.

I was actually really looking forward to swim (since I trained so much), the only thing was that I am still swimming in a used Nineteen Pipeline wetsuit which, once you did a few strokes in it, is comparable to a deltoid muscle workout in the gym. Since most of my races were in the ocean somewhere in the subtropics, I never bothered to get a new one. Now I finally ordered a new one (Nineteen Rogue), which unfortunately has not yet arrived.

At 9:55 the horn went off and the face-down thrash-fest began. The first couple of metres felt good, then I got a little bit short of breath, caught myself again and just kept on swimming for the remaining distance. During my second lap, my stroke rate went down as my deltoid muscles were signalling fatigue. I pushed through it and exited with a time of 21 minutes and 11 seconds, which wasn't too shabby but also not as quick as I have hoped. Transition 1 included quite some running over to the bike racks but everything went quite smoothly (T1: 2:32 min).

On the bike I had a blast. I don't know how and why but I had a lot of steam in my legs! With each lap I got faster: Lap 1: 14:41; Lap 2: 14:33; Lap 3: 14:18; For lap 4 I didn't get a split. My strategy was to pedal up Emily Murphy in my lowest gear without pushing it to hard. This was the best place to stretch out a bit and grab a drink. Also since I am pretty heavy these days (fluctuating between 84-85 kg) there was no point for me trying to make up time on this steep climb. I decided to put all my effort into the descents and the more gentle uphill on Groat Road. And this strategy seemed to work out fine resulting in a 59:00 min. I headed into Transition 2, where it took me a few seconds to find my place on the bike rack, then helmet off, shoes on and out. It felt very fast and I was wondering if I had forgotten something. While running out of T2, I had to touch my head to see whether perhaps the helmet was still on, but everything seemed fine. Fast transition I thought and indeed it was (T2: 55 sec).

On the run I could feel my quads cramping right away. This was not really surprising given the lack of run (and running off the bike) training this year. My actual injury however, did not affect my running, but I knew that the pain will come the next day at the latest, and actually it came on the same evening ... ouch! I was running at around 4:10- 4:15 min pace per kilometre which was the fastest my quads would allow me to do. During my last lap I tried to turn it up a notch, which partly worked, but did not result into any significant change of my overall time. After I crossed the finish line in 2:05:50 (full results here), I was super happy with what I had accomplished that day given the circumstances.

I guess the most important thing to improve, besides getting rid of the injury and being able to train again, is to get a better wetsuit. As I already mentioned I ordered the Nineteen Rogue, which comes with a lot of flexibility in the shoulder, and which hopefully will arrive before the Great White North Triathlon on July 7th. Also, spending more time open water swimming would be beneficial, although this is not easily achieved in Edmonton. That's why we will move to Australia next year ;)

I would also like to thank everyone out there who was cheering for me, including my parents who were visiting us for 4 weeks, Sanja and Sean for their amazing support, as well as the entire ETA crew and the volunteers on the course.



Friday 17 May 2013

Blackfoot Ultra without me / A few notes on injuries

So, it is official - I won't start my first Ultra marathon this month due to a nagging hip flexor/groin injury. This past weekend I ran one loop of the official Blackfoot run, and man I have to say WHAT A BEAUTIFUL COURSE!!! If you ever have the chance to fit this race into your schedule, do it! You won't regret it.

This test run however, also showed me that my leg isn't really ready yet to run for multiple hours. With this race off my list, I am looking forward to what comes next and hopefully get this injury healed up.

A quick note on injuries:
Almost all the major injuries I had so far (= injuries were I was barely able to walk), were caused not by doing too much volume but rather by doing too much AND too quick (a.k.a. stupid things).

My first Achilles tendonitis was due to a steep 5km hike. I never did this sort of uphill hiking before, but since I was in good physical condition, I went up that hill pretty quick. The next day, I could feel the tendon the first time and shortly after my life turned into a 6-months nightmare. During the 7th month, I was able to slowly start running again and was fully recovered a few weeks later

My second Achilles tendonitis (on the other leg), was initiated in the gym while doing squats with weights. It was the first time for me in the gym during the off-season and instead of being smart about it, I ramped up the weights to quick and my second 6-months nightmare was about to begin. Luckily, it was the off-season and by the time summer came by I had it under control. 

My most recent longer-lasting injury (about 5 weeks now) happened while cycling too hard and too quick after a period of being off the bike for almost 6 months. I took part in a research study that involved hard cycling 14 days in a row. During the second week, I could feel some irritation in my hip flexor/groin area but kept on going hard. Again, I set myself up for the next injury, which now prevented me from participating in my first ultra marathon.

Writing it all out here will hopefully help me to identify these stupid things ("too much-too quick") right away and to respond "You know what, that sounds intriguing, but I pass!".

Stay healthy!


Saturday 4 May 2013

My first 50-miler is coming up and I have groin pain - yeehaaaw

The Blackfoot Ultra is coming up (May 25) and I am dealing with some groin issues in my left leg for about three weeks now. I tried to run a few minutes every now and then but I still cannot get back to training. This is very frustrating but I guess I have to swallow that pill. Hopefully, it will heal up soon so that I am able to start at least and see where it takes me. The reason why I got this groin issue was that I participated in a research study that involved 14 consecutive days of intensive cycling. I was hoping that this study will get me into training and racing mode, which it did, but my legs, or rather some muscles in my groin area got over-used in the process. Looks like I was a bit too optimistic to agree to such a study after 6-months of no cycling at all. The result: perhaps no 50-miler for me and most likely no road racing next weekend, i.e. Velocity stage race without me :(

This winter/spring hasn't been the best start in the season. Besides the groin issue, I also pulled my right lower abdominal muscle while swimming (flip turn too far off the wall and pushing my legs into nothing). This lower abdominal pain never really felt extremely painful but was very persistent and took 4 months to totally disappear. Since I kept on running, I also started to developed a mild Plantar fasciitis on my left foot most likely due to favouring the left leg in order to minimize the pain from the injured abdominal muscle on the right side. Yeah, it crazy I know. Now since these conditions are gone, I recently added the groin issue on my list of injuries for this year.

Anyway, at least I am able to swim long and quite frequently without any problems. I wonder how long this will last for though - haha ;)

BTW, I also signed up for the Iron Horse 100 (100 km) in October this year, and for the Edmonton ITU Olympic Triathlon (June 23).

After this bumpy start into the season, I hope my time will come and I am able to excel during the second half of the year :)

May the 4th be with you!


Saturday 16 February 2013

Next Stop: Western States 100

I few days ago I finally signed up for the Blackfoot Ultra running race. You can choose between 3 distances: 50 km, 50 miles and 100 km. I opted for the 50 miles as I know I can to run 50 km, and a double marathon seemed to be a more challenging endeavour. 100 km on the other hand was a smidgeon too much ... is it? No, actually also signed up for the Lost Souls Ultra 100 km race in September, which conveniently, is an official qualifying race for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. CRAZY, eh? Yes, I think so too, but maintaining challenging goals in your life is what keeps life thrilling! However, even if I would qualify for the Western States 100 (Lost Souls 100 km < 15 hours) there is still a lottery ahead. Every person who qualifies will enter a lottery from which the actual participants will be selected (see here for more info).

Seriously, I have no clue how this will turn out but I am very excited. For some reason I think I would be able to deal with this sort of races --- but who knows.

How about triathlon? I think I got a bit tired of doing Ironmans, or rather travelling with the bike on the plane, paying for the ridiculously high priced entry fees, accommodation etc. However, I certainly have some business to finish in Kona but this will most likely happen when we can afford it without having to recover from the financial damage for 6 months. But I will still participate in local races every now and then and of course, as I mentioned in my previous post, pick up triathlon coaching. I really feel that it's time to pass on what I have learned during all these years.

That's all for now. Stay tuned and lace 'em up!


Friday 18 January 2013

A new year and new goals

The last year has been quite turbulent and demanding, but was also successful. I had some really good races, experienced my first DNF, received my PhD, started a postdoctoral fellow position at the University of Alberta, started coaching with the Edmonton Triathlon Academy, and most importantly became father to a little baby boy born on August 23 named Sean. I still can't believe that all that happened last year.

Anyway, 2012 is over and 2013 is in full swing. What will be my part in 2013? Besides spending most of my time with my little family, this year I definitely won't be as competitive as I was last year. This means, I will race for the sake of having fun and not try to reach a certain time goal. So far, I am only signed up for the Great White North Triathlon (GWN) in July, but I am also considering participating in the Black Foot Ultra 50 mile running race in May. I always wanted to know how it feels to run (walk) 50 miles ;) Since there are no major triathlon goals this year, now it would be the best time to try it out. Anyway, we will see what happens. I am also really looking forward to bicycle racing this year again.

Besides my goals as an athlete, this year I will also put a major focus on starting up my coaching career. Last year I shadowed Bill Humby from the University of Alberta Varsity Swim Team as well as Kevin Clark from the Edmonton Triathlon Academy (ETA). Both taught me many valuable things I am really grateful for. This year, I continue working with Kevin who is currently mentoring me  coaching the swim session of the ETA age group program.

That's a rough schedule of what lies ahead of me.

If you like, stay tuned and as always happy training!