Sunday, November 22, 2015


The wife and kids clean up at the CMC AGM and awards night. Laura = Female Youth Runner of the year, Female Youth Multisport Athlete of the year, Kids of Steel - Gold Level Award; Andrew = Male Youth Runner of the year, Male Youth Multisport Athlete of the year, Kids of Steel - Gold Level Award; Guylaine = Female Multisport Athlete of the year, CMC Challenge Award winner. Me = nothing.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Heartbreak, Boston style.

It was the best of times.. was the worst of times.

Today, it was official: despite breaking 3:55, Guylaine's Boston Marathon Qualifying time did not hold up against the "cut-off". This year, due to higher than normal applications, the BAA had to enforce a stricter cut-off than last year. It was 2 minutes and 28 seconds (versus 1 minute and 2 seconds last year). Guylaine had 1 minute and 8 seconds "in-hand".

We had a feeling it might not work out this year. Oh well. Next time(?)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Challenge Cedar Point - Race Report - Full Iron Distance


I wasn't exactly sure what my official race time was, but it was a few minutes before 2pm when I exited the T2 tent and started the marathon; an easy four hour run would get me to the finish at sub-11. Five-forty pace.... we've had this conversation before. I had my Garmin set up to just show one field... Average Pace. In large, 3/4 inch high numerals, I just wanted to see 5:40. This would get me to the finish line in four hours. "Do NOT run any faster than 5:40 pace or you will blow it". I've had this talk with myself every night for the past 3 months in anticipation of this very moment...

5:05... 5:10... 5:07.... "DAMMIT! I'm running too fast". "Slow down, slow down, slow down". The first kilometer chirped at 5:17. "Come on Phil, don't do this... slow it down!" Km 2 at 5:30. "Too fast, slow it down...." As much as I tried I could not. I was feeling like the King of the World.  Km 3 at 5:17... "Oh what the hell, let's see what happens..."

It was the 19 kilometer mark, when it all started to unravel. My knee was throbbing, my quads, glutes, hammies and calfs were all cramping; every step was torturous. I pulled into the special needs area at Mile 13 and popped two extra strength Tylenols (numbers 5 and 6 on the day), washed them down with some apple juice and continued to the turn-around for my second loop.

Despite a tumultuous start to the weekend, a bum knee, a rough swim, a loooong T1, a windy bike and messing up my run pace again, I survived Challenge Cedar Point 2015 and even came in first in my division, crossing the line triumphantly with my daughter in 11:04:05.

I'm a winner!

Course Time Pace Distance Division Gender Overall
Swim 01:08:31 01:46 /100m 2.40 mi 1/26 10/115 12/169
T1 00:07:56 - - 1/26 9/115 10/169
Bike 05:35:11 20.05 mph
(32.2 kph)
112.00 mi 1/26 5/115 6/169
T2 00:02:23 - - 1/26 5/115 6/169
Run 04:10:02 09:33 /mi
(5:56 /km)
26.20 mi 1/26 10/115 12/169
Finish 11:04:05 - - 1/26 10/115 12/169

In a nutshell:




Andrew (Sprint) and Laura (Kid's Race)

What a total Shit Storm. We woke up at 5AM to get the kids ready to their races. First bad news of the day was via email from the Race Director, from the night before.

Dear Participants in the Sprint and Kids races,

As a race director for the past 10 years, I experienced some of the toughest conditions today in my history of race directing. Mother nature gave us a tough fight today. Here is a summary of what we experienced: Our massive finish line anchored down by thousands of pounds toppled over today. Many tents were destroyed. Our boat capsized while setting the swim course and had to be rescued by the coast guard. Much of our important equipment was ruined. Nonetheless, we are excited to put on a great race tomorrow. However, we are forced to make some important safety changes.

The sprint and kids races were going to be duathlons... bummer.

We pulled into the Cedar Park parking lot in the windy, rainy blackness. The first observation was, there were a lot of cars with bikes still on the back... We started unloading the bikes, when an official from the race came up to us with the bad news. "We're cancelling the swim and bike."

Laura spontaneously burst into tears.

We joined the rest of the eerily quiet participants mulling around the toppled finish arch, there were sporadic announcements - "we're looking into options, we'll keep you informed, looking like we'll do a 5K run at 7am."  And that's what it turned into.

Andrew finished just over 22 minutes, and certainly the first U19 participant... no timing. Bummer. Laura sucked it up for her run, despite looking forward all year to dominating on the bike again.

The rest of the day...

We were all bummed and not in a good mood. There was NO WAY, I was doing anything but a triathlon the next day. If ours was cancelled and changed to a "fun-marathon", I was not going to do it. We searched up the Google, and were starting to plan for a newly found Ironman in Oklahoma.

There is probably a world record for the number of times someone has checked the weather network app in one day. We probably hold that record now. Every 5 minutes, we would check..... temperature, rain, wind. It wasn't looking great.

Mandatory Day-Before Athlete Meeting...
The incredible news. We were going to have an Ironman on Sunday. The lake was expected to be too rough so the swim would be at an alternate location - in the "protected" marina; the dangerous algae bloom that had been looming in the marina was dispersed by the storm. Cedar Point is the self-proclaimed roller-coaster capital of the world. It was certainly a roller coaster of emotions up to hearing that announcement.


Having slept like a baby the night before, we woke up at 5am ready to head to transition and set up. It was nothing near as rainy or windy as the day before. It was cold, very cold. 10*C, but we didn't care: the race was on!

The Swim -
Because of the new swim course (marina), it was not a mass-start, but a self-seeded, 2-at-a-time, time-trial start (leaving on 5 second intervals). Your official time started once you crossed a timing mat to enter the water. I was a little bummed, as I was hoping for a good (legal) pack swim. I wasn't exactly sure where to seed, I expected to swim 1:05 ish, that would certainly be top 1/3rd. I went for broke, no one was too eager to start, so I lined up about the 5th pair.

Ready... go.

It was awesome. We were swimming with a current. The first 750 meters felt like I was on a lazy river. Sighting was great, my line was great. I passed four swimmers. We took a left hand turn, and were heading down a narrow corridor. "This is Freaking Awesome!" .... and then we were through the "breaker wall" and into the wild tempest. Oh god, was it ever wavy. Oh geez, this totally sucks.  It was bad. I felt sorry for weaker swimmers. I was honestly scared for my own well being. No one would know if I drowned. The waves were massive. I swam along the breaker wall and found the opening back to the marina. I couldn't find the turn around buoy, but I kept swimming, finally I realized I was way off course, and made a correction to hit the turn around properly. Loop 1 was 35 minutes. Not great. I was hoping for less. Loop 2 I didn't make the same mistake, and even though it was somewhat choppier, I got to shore a little faster.

The blue line is approximately the 1.2 mile loop of the Modified Swim course.
I could not recall the swim map while I was swimming, nor could I see the buoys along the lake-side stretch behind the breaker wall, so I stuck close to the wall, the Green line.
I  didn't remember it had a big bend in it - it looked straight from the water.
I ended up swimming an extra 100m total because of that. Oh well.

This was going to be long. They announced 1/2 a mile. 800 meters. I had resigned to losing 4 minutes just running there. I got the wetsuit stripped at swim-out, slipped on a pair of shoes set up at the swim-out and ran (intentionally not too fast) towards transition changing tent. It was cold, cold, cold, and after struggling a bit with to get my arm-warmers on, I was out of the tent and on the bike. [Edit to add: actual run from swim out to T1 was a tad over 1km!!!]

The Bike
My (in-my-mind rehearsed) timing strategy was: Watch for the swim. Ditch the watch in T1. Garmin on the Bike, for T2 and the Run. I had it set up in Auto-Multisport. I remembered to start it when I crossed the line. I wanted 2 fields: top line - elapsed time, bottom line - average speed. I did not want to see what my current speed was at all. I wanted to hold a good average and not be constantly chasing it by worrying about my instantaneous speed. My bike nutrition plan was to eat every 30 minutes. Easy enough to remember.

Notes about the bike course: 
The bike course is described as a lollipop - you do the stick (south-east direction), and then two loops of the lollipop (a rectangle that runs counter-clockwise in a east, north, west, south general orientation), and head back up the stick (north-west). The first 8 km are on a very rough road. The rest is mostly pretty good condition. There is some rough "chip-and-seal" sections. I found the bike course to be surprisingly smoother than expected. AND - despite being often reported as "pancake-flat", I found that not to be the case, I was scrolling through my gears often, and was out of the saddle for a few climbs. Finally, I am a terrible bike-handler; this bike course has no fewer than 53 speed-sapping ninety degree turns.

The wind: It was "hella" windy. But, from my perspective, it only seemed to slow me down whenever I was heading in the Western direction - and to make things even better, there isn't a long stretch of pure West - there is a long stretch of pure East on the bottom - but the top part of the lollipop loop goes West, North, West, South, West, North etc. etc.

I was very pleased to see that I was averaging over 32 kph, for not an excessive amount of effort. I did try to dial it back a bit and not be a loop 1 hero. Of course, my splits show that loop 2 was slower than loop 1 - but I don't think I over did it. I am happy to report that I was aero for 99% of the ride.

Special needs on the bike was at about mile 50 and again at mile 85 (?) I blew by it twice. I really wanted that Milky Way bar I had packed in there for myself, but not at the expense of a minute to stop and get it.

The odd thing about the entire bike ride was that I hardly saw anyone. I was passed exactly twice. I didn't pass anyone (except for a few people who I was lapping on my second loop). There were 3 people who got in the way where the 1/2 IM course meets up with the full. I passed one of them, and never saw them again, and the other 2 passed me and I never saw them.

No problems. I decided to suck it up and not change, but to run in my tri-shorts and tri-top. 2 tylenol to numb the throbbing in my knee. And off to the run.

The Run:
Well, I had been planning on forcing myself to take it easy and hold 5:40 pace. I couldn't. I physically could not run that slow. I was running at 5:20 and it felt great. I knew the wheels would fall off, I just hoped it wouldn't be too soon, and that it wouldn't be too hard. Turns out it was going to be 19K, I had just passed Guylaine who was starting her run (relieved that she had finished the bike without any problems).  Everything in my body cramped up simultaneously, and my knee was throbbing. The "hill" on the causeway that has maybe 5 meters of elevation felt like Mt. Everest. I picked up my special needs bag, and chugged half my bottle of apple juice and popped 2 more tylenols (#5 and 6 on the day). I lost about a minute total, and headed out to the turn-around.

I accepted the predicament I had put myself in, and resigned to getting the second loop done with as little walking as possible.

SALT! It hit me at the third aid station on the second loop. I need SALT. And that I took - for the next 3 stations. It seemed to at the very least not make the situation any worse - the only problem was that every step forward was incredibly painful. This is where I started "chunking-up" the course in order to "get-er-done". Causeway - check, Marina - check, Loop-de-loop - check, bridges - check, Finger 1, finger 2, finger 3.... back up the road, back to the causeway.

Just before the bridges after the park, a guy caught up to me. "Hey, we're #6 and 7". "Really?" "Yeah, Let's run together". I couldn't. "Go ahead, I'm fading big time". I was pretty surprised to be so far ahead... ... and then the procession of people passing started: but with the 2 loop course, it was impossible to tell who was on loop 1 and who was on loop 2.

For the last 5k, I had switched my Garmin to show the time of day. At one point, I figured I could go sub-11 if I ran 6:00ish kms, I tried for a few steps, but alas, could not. I knew it would be just over 11 hours, and I was good with that. With 750m to go, I spotted Laura sitting on the side of the road waiting for me. "Can I run with you ???" Of course!!! That picked up my spirits. "I hope I'm not running too slow for you, I joked."

"Can I finish with you?" - "You sure can". Just before we hit the red carpet, I asked her, "Is there anyone coming in behind us?". "Nope". "Okay, let's do this!" I used to have strong opinions about kids running in with their parents - all that went out the door - and I was happy to have shared it with her. Especially after the Roller-Coaster of a weekend we had just had. Final time was 11:04:05.

Guylaine came in 10 minutes faster than last year at 12:47:36. and 2nd in her division.

Official Results

The Data!!!

Bike Splits

Run Splits


Breakfast - Large Bowl of Fruit Loops + Apple Pastry Bread.
Pre-Swim - Cliff Bar + Gel
T1 - Cliff Bar
Bike - 7 Gels, 1.5 packs of Cliff Blocks, 1 Cliff Bar, 3/4 bottle of Gatorade, 3 bottles of water
T2 - Nothing
Run - 2 Gels, 1/2 pack of Cliff Blocks, 1/2 cup of Coke @ 5 stations, 1/2 cup of Gatorade at 8 stations, water at every station.

The Pics

Andrew's Big Finish

Laura's Big Start
Laura, smiling, even after a cancelled swim and bike.

Pre-race briefing

Swim-Start. I'm the guy with the orange cap (and blue goggles).

Shoes lined up for the 1/2 mile run from Swim-out to T1

Finishing the first loop of the swim

Guylaine Rocking the Bike

Guylaine, Pro-Style

Aero is everything

Guylaine's Big Finish
Woot! 2 Finishers.

Good night, Cedar Point.

Me, on top of the Podium! (3rd place was absent).

Guylaine in second spot on the Podium


Monday, September 07, 2015

Challenge Cedar Point - The Ironman Scenarios

When I first signed up for this event, I was hoping to go under 11:30. That was based on a smart run, and an acceptance that the bike would not be as easy as The Canadian was. Thinking back, the bike for the Canadian last year was on crappy road conditions, and with a significant enough wind blowing the wrong way to really slow down that course (i.e. I've got much faster on that same course for the Half-Iron and Olympic events). That said, I think I can still hold 32 kph for Cedar Point. The thing that hurt me the most last year at the Canadian, was my total brain fart on run-pacing - I will not make that mistake again this year. So all that said, I am officially going on the record with a possible chance of going under 11 hours. (On a perfect day).

Swim @ 1:40/100m: I've been swimming really well lately. Last year my "real" Canadian swim pace was 1:40 over 4.2km; granted the water was super calm, but I was the lead swimmer with no draft. I'm hoping for a little draft pack this year, and I'll concede that the water won't be dead calm.

Transitions: This is the wild card. I don't normally dilly-dally, but they make you go through the transition tents at Cedar Point, and you have all your gear in separate bags. They're not particularly long, but I'll give myself 4 minutes each.

Run: My ACE in the hole this year(?) I will not exceed 5:40/km pace for the first half. Hopefully, that will be enough to put in a solid 4 hour run. More than going sub-whatever on the day, my A goal this year, is to have the perfect Ironman run at 4 hours even. 5:40 pace. Not 4:50 pace like last year.

"A" Scenario on the left: 10:57:58.
"B" Scenario on the right: 11:32:18.

Horsing around at the Labour Day 5K Chase today. 1, 2 and 3 kms at 5:40 pace exactly. 4K at 4:01 (feeling antsy), last kilometer, I jogged it with Laura.

5AM update...

Bib number list was just posted. I will be #668; Guylaine will be #572.
And, because I have an Excel problem, I had to arrange them all by event...

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Let the taper begin.

The bulk of the training is done. 2 weeks left for tapering. The last 18 weeks has seen: 48 Swims for 118,350m; 77 bike rides @ 4,258 km; and 78 runs for 596 km. Approximately 260 hours of training (14.5hrs per week). As per usual, completely unorthodox. Basically, bike as much as possible, run 3-4 times a week (nothing super long), and swim 3 times a week. Two-a-days when possible. Intensity level at low-medium, with a couple of good all-out-Monday night duathlons, and 2 or 3 races for good measure. It's paid off so far with PBs at the Super-Sprint, Sprint Triathlon, Olympic Triathlon and Half Ironman distances. Let's hope it does magic for the Full.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Cornwall Triathlon - Nirvana Achieved

Sometimes everything falls in place and you have a magical race. This year's Cornwall Triathlon was that race. I had hatched a plan to go sub 2:30 this year. That race time for some reason seems like the Holy Grail for me in terms of Olympic Triathlon finish times. I've come close to it before, but never really cracked it (okay once at Montreal Esprit, but that's a fast course). My plan was contingent on a 26:30 swim, holding 32kph on the bike and a 45:29 10K run to finish it up. 32kph was a conservative estimate for the bike - it isn't rocket fast, but despite being traffic free, the Cornwall course is technical and often the wind can creep up on you.

Swim (1500m) - The swim course looked longer than I expected. I was starting to have doubts. I just put them aside. Fuggetaboutit - just grab a fast draft and hold on. The horn went off, and it was absolute mayhem. It was an uncharacteristically rough (for Cornwall) swim start. Within 50m I was at my frustration limit, I couldn't get any clean water, and it felt like there was a wall of swimmers blocking me the whole width of the channel. I went way wide to swim around them, blowing a ton of matches, and seemingly for nothing. Once past the mayhem, there was no one to swim with. I hit the turn around buoy and found a pack, but they were swimming way wide off course, and so I made a decision to ditch them and swim close to the buoy line. My sighting was great despite my left lens being completely full of water for 1500m. I was constantly thinking about the 26:30 goal I had set for the opening leg, but I didn't feel I was swimming fast enough to get it, I was depending on taking an easy draft off someone, but there was no one there, and instead I could feel constant nipping at my toes. I was getting really peed off. I managed to talk myself down, and after hitting the last turn on the second lap, I gunned it for the shore. I got out at 27:18 --- close, but dam, I was really hoping not to start the day off in the hole.
Photo Credit: Nicholas Branchaud
T1 - I had budgeted 2 minutes. I was in and out in 1:38 thanks to the wetsuit strippers and a clean transition zone.

Bike - 4 x 10k loops on the closed road circuit. It was in a word - exceptional. Over the past 2 years about 50% of the course has been freshly paved, and the remaining road is in very good condition. On top of that the wind that can sneak up on you (coming from the East), was almost non-existent, and when it did start up - it was gently blowing from the West - which feels like a net-benefit on this course. I had set the bike computer up to show only AVG speed, and I was committed to the goal of 32kph. Lap 1 came and went at 33.9, and then by lap 2 it was up to 35, and for lap 3 and most of lap 4 it was staying pretty much at 35. I knew today was the day.  There was a great buzz about the race (as is usual), the course loops around the T-Zone area twice per loop, so eight times over 40k - and there were a ton of people cheering. And all along the bike course, the volunteers at the road blocks were all enthusiastically cheering. This bike course makes you feel like a rock star for sure.

Photo Credit: Andrew Ha

T2 - I capitalized on my learning a few weeks ago at the Maple City Triathlon, and didn't make any of the rookie mistakes I had made there. I was in and out of T2 in 1:15.

Run - a 10K along the recreational path - 5k out and 5k back. This is where I normally blow it. My legs are so fired up, I usually run way too fast right off the bat. I set the Garmin up to display only one field for the run segment: avg pace. I knew I wanted to run close to 45 minutes, so I wasn't going to let myself run any faster than 4:30 pace. Thankfully, I had done that because I came out of T2 running 3:40 something, and it felt like nothing... so I forced myself to slow down. Within 200 meters, I had the pace dialed down to 4:30 and I was feeling good. I was about 5 seconds behind two Zone-3 Sports guys, and they were running consistently, so I made a tactical decision to bridge up. I shadowed them most of the rest of the way, we were splitting 4:35 kms so that was fine for me.

Photo Credit: Jessica Brochert
With 2.5K to go, I finally changed the mode on my Garmin to see what the race time was and how close I was to 2:30. It said '2:12'. I had to do a double-take. I did the quick math, and knew even if I dropped to 5 minute pace I would be in under 2:30. What a great feeling. It was around this time that my Zone-3 valets probably got tired of my mad-horse-breathing and they dropped me like a hot potato. I contemplated the chase for about a half a second, and just enjoyed the last couple of k's. When I approached the finish line, I was shocked to see the clock reading 2:25 - I did the craziest dance of joy, and strutted it in, completely content. Final run was 46:07. Official time 2:25:54. An official PB.

I now have the giant sub-2:30 Olympic gorilla off my back.
Photo Credit: Nicholas Branchaud


SegmentDistanceTimePaceRace Time
Swim1500 m0:27:181:40 /100m0:27:18
Bike40 km1:09:3834.5 kph1:38:35
Run10 km0:46:074:37 /km2:25:54

Average bike speed per 10k loop: 33.9 kph, 35.0 kph, 35.0 kph, 34.4kph
Run pace per km: 4:32, 4:35, 4:35, 4:37, 4:45, 4:27, 4:34, 4:39, 4:42, 4:46

Nutrition Report: 5 Gels on the day (yuck)
#1 30 mins pre-swim
#2 13.5k on bike (second loop between Boundary Rd and Nav Can)*
#3 33.5k on bike (fourth loop between Boundary Rd and Nav Can)
#4 1.5k on run ("sipped" it for about 1k)
#5 5.5k on run (after Boundary Road, again, "sipped it" for about 500m).
3/4 of Aero bottle of water on bike.
1/4 cup of water at each aid station. No gatorade this year.

* The first loop of the bike I had scouted where an opportune time might be to take a gel. The bike course was so fast this year that this was the only 'slow' spot (right after a 180 degree turn and on a slight uphill).

On-site post race:
1x water bottle, 1x chocolate milk,  1x apple juice, 1x orange juice, 1x pepperoni pizza slice, 1x chocolate cookie, 1x chocolate desert square, 1x serving of quinoa salad, 1x serving of bean salad, 1x orange slice

The other Barneses:

Laura rocked the kids triathlon, taking a commanding 3 minute lead out of T2, and winning the Girls 12-14 race. Her "Swan Song" to so speak for the Young Champion's Day. Next year she "Ages up".

Photo Credit: Pete Chaussi

Andrew capitalized on a summer-long "taper" and climbed his way up to a second place overall finish in the Adult Try-a-tri. Besting his last year's time by nearly 3 minutes, he earned a mug for 2nd AG and a $50 certificate to Bicycle World for 2nd OA.

Guylaine, making a game-day switch to Hed3's after her Zipps were determined to be leaking air, rocked a 2nd place AG in the Olympic Triathlon equaling - to the second - her PB time from last year.
Photo Credit: Jessica Brochert

All in all a successful weekend.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cornwall Triathlon Prediction

In 2012, I almost achieved Nirvana. I was 1 minute and 41 seconds over my precious sub-2:30 goal for an Olympic Triathlon. Looking back, this was my most satisfying performance in an Olympic Triathlon - the run in particular stood out as being exceptional. In 2013, I blew it on the run; my ego got the better of me running sub 4 minute pace out of T2. The bike was slower in 2013 too with more wind to contend with.

I will race smarter this year and I will break 2:30. Here's why:

1) Swim - I have erred in the past thinking that my sleeveless wetsuit was just as fast as a sleeved wetsuit. I have seen the light and the conventional wisdom, and measured swim pace with and without sleeves. Sleeves are faster. I will wear sleeves this year. On top of that, my swim form is the best it has been in a while. I did well at the CMC open water swim with a balls-out time of 23:50 with little draft, and followed it up with a 12-something hard 750m the next day at the Maple City Triathlon.

2) Bike - New bike, new wheels, I will target 32kph and not let up. I will setup my Garmin so that the only field is Avg Speed and I will keep 32 (more if there's more). There is also about 20% fresh asphalt on this years course: sweet.

3) Run - The wild card. I will hold back out of T2, and build towards 4:30 pace. That is a tough standalone pace for me, but again I managed 21:32 on an accurate and hot Maple City 5K course earlier this year. 45:30 isn't too far off.