Saturday, 31 August 2013

The right equipment can make a huge difference!

I've been feeling really good lately and two weekends ago I set my personal best time for a 10km run at 57:42. Again, I know that these times are not spectacular but in a relative sense to what I was able to accomplish before it's really quite good.

This past Sunday I competed in the Edmonton half marathon. It was a last minute decision, I needed to run for about 2 hours according to my training schedule and I usually have a tough time trying to figure out where to go and how to work in water breaks, etc. Well, this race lined up perfectly and so I grabbed my credit card and signed up.

I didn't taper at all for this race. The only thing I did differently was that I was supposed to cycle on Saturday but decided to sit that workout out and just stretch instead. Other than that it was full steam ahead. When I got up on Sunday I was feeling great, well rested and hydrated. I got down to the race site WAY too early again. Ugh, what the hell is wrong with me? I stood around in the chill morning air and ran into a few people I knew and had some nice chats which was a great way to pass the time.

The time came to line up and so we corralled into the start area and made our way out. Like most runs I started out feeling a little sluggish but I'm used to that so I kept at it and after a couple of kilometers my legs loosened up and I was off. When I hit the 5km sign in 31:11 I knew I was holding a pretty good pace. Not too fast but not slow. Just a nice manageable trot. It was around this point I started looking at my watch all too often. I fall into this trap at every race where I start calculating my times and when I should finish and I forget to "just run." In the early going it appeared it helped as I picked up my pace and my second 5km were completed in 30:45. This was when I made the decision that I would not walk today no matter what.

I'm still not sure if this was the right decision to make or not because I've read that walking breaks actually can speed you up because you rest just enough to keep plugging along. Despite this I made it a personal mission to keep running non stop. The next 5km made me regret this decision. I got it done in 33:02 but was starting to suffer a little.

However, my mental conditioning was strong enough that I was able to ignore my aching legs and just keep them turning over. My mantra became, "the more you run, the sooner you're done." Now, easier said than done, but it worked and my last 5km was slightly faster at 31:52. 1km to go and feeling really good and I did the last 1.1km in 6:59. Total time was 2:13:39 and a personal best by over 15 minutes. For those that don't know, that's a huge improvement to make in a race of this distance.

Now, I know it would be easy to take all of the credit but there is one thing that I've changed recently that seems to have made the most incredible difference for me. My Hoka OneOne runners are a godsend. These are a cushioned running shoe that take the pounding of the road out of your run. I think one of the biggest mistakes I've made is underestimating just how big I am. Typically, the people that the triathlon magazines are aimed at are of a slight build and as such can focus on a minimalist shoe that will give them the best return on the run stride. However, at 260 pounds the impact that my joints take while running for over 2 hours is insane. By the end of the run it's not my lungs that are begging me to stop, it's my feet, knees and hips.

My Hoka OneOnes took this pounding out of the equation and as such in consecutive weeks I did my fastest 10km and half marathon runs. Now, keep in mind that Hokas are a RUNNING shoe. Because of their thick sole I would not recommend them for sports or other activities where a great deal of side to side agility is required because they are not built for this. BUT, if you want to run on a cloud with angels singing and carrying you to the finish line they are amazing.

Thank you Hoka!!!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Every race has an "I can't" moment.

It doesn't seem to matter what distance or type of race I do, the most important skill I've developed has nothing to do with swimming, biking or running. It's the mental fortitude I've developed to push out negative thoughts and just keep going.

These thoughts usually take on a whiny, almost childish tone in my head and it's things like, "this is hard" or "my feet hurt." Finding the motivation to carry on is absolutely critical if you want to have any success.

I realized I had this kind of grit a while ago. In October of 2008 my wife and I signed up for the Devon Half Marathon Turkey Trot (Canadian Thanksgiving is in October). I had no business in this race. I was over 300 lbs and had never run more than about 10km at a time. On top of this, my feet had been giving me some trouble so I did what anyone would do. I got orthotics... and I wore them for the very first time during this half marathon. Seriously. I took a hard piece of foam designed to basically reshape your foot and wore it for the first time while trying to run 21.1km. I realized at about the 5km mark that this was not going to be a pleasant day. My feet were KILLING me.

At about the 10km mark I knew I wasn't going to be able to carry on like this so I took off my shoes, ripped off my race number and I quit. As I started to walk back to the start area barefoot I realized that I was going to have to face everyone and tell them I quit because it was too hard. This did not sit well with me. I don't quit. So I put my shoes on, without orthotics, or insoles of any kind and I started to jog a bit, walk a bit. It became evident soon after that that I was in dead last place. Every time I approached an aid station I could hear, "here he comes" and as I passed they would take everything down and start packing up. Soon the sweep bike and the paramedic golf cart were following me in.

At this point I really started to get embarrassed. It wasn't bad enough that my feet were killing me, well, to be honest my everything hurt. Now I had paramedics circling like vultures waiting for me to collapse so they could cart my carcass off to the finish area. I had a standing offer from them to get on the back of the golf cart and get a ride back and this was SO tempting but I would not be denied. Around 3 hours and 15 minutes after I started I slowly jogged across the line to the accompanying music of the Rocky theme. I was simultaneously overjoyed and thoroughly disgusted with how the race went. The final indignity was that as I was standing with my hands on my knees trying to contemplate what I'd just done, they pulled the plug on the inflatable finish arch and it deflated behind me.

Post race and in pain
I learned a lot of things from this race. Don't try new things for the first time on your longest run to date, like orthotics. Don't wear cotton without some kind of nipple protection or you will regret it, see above photo. When you go to treat the bleeding nipples, don't shave big circles around them in your chest hair so you can put on band-aids or you'll look ridiculous when you go swimming (for real). Finally, and most importantly, I learned that I'm capable of so much more than I ever thought possible and this has served me well over the past five years.

My next major "I can't" moment came at the Lake Chapparal olympic distance triathlon in Calgary, AB. This was my first open water swim and thus my first time swimming in a wetsuit. Now, a triathlon in a swimming pool is one thing, but venturing out into open water is a whole different animal. You can't touch bottom, there's no resting at each end, and a wetsuit really feels like its squeezing the air out of you if you're not used to it.

Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na FAT MAN!

I got about 500m in to the 1500m swim and started to panic. I couldn't breathe. I flipped over onto my back and floated for a bit until I regained my composure. I loosened the velcro around my neck a little and this helped. I got back to work and finished up the swim. Ironically, I probably should have quit this time because I crashed on the first lap of the bike course and took my only DNF of my career to date.

No break in the foot, just pain

Tore up my custom jersey!
Despite not finishing the race I did learn quite a bit from the swim. I still occasionally struggle in open water and I believe it comes from a healthy fear of dieing. When you swim in open water you are surrounded by other swimmers and you get punched, kicked and even swum right over. So on top of just trying to swim you are getting distracted and this adds panic to an already uncomfortable situation. But every time I go through one of these experiences it gets a little bit easier.

A little over a month later I completed an Olympic distance triathlon. This was in Las Vegas and I faced another challenge in that race. Less than 100m after I started I stepped on a stone and turned my ankle. I sat on the ground for a couple of minutes and contemplated whether or not I was going to be able to do this. After testing it out I decided to give it a shot and, although slow, I chipped away at the 10km run and finished in a depressing hour and 35 minutes. But, I finished.

A little bigger than usual.

As the title of this edition suggests, I still have those moments of doubt at every race I do but two major ones stick out in my mind from Ironman. The original Ironman Canada course was in Penticton, BC and it started out with a 60km almost flat section followed by a mountain summit. 1600 feet of elevation over 11km (7ish miles). As I climbed, and climbed and climbed I started thinking WAY ahead about the fact that I had to cycle another 120km and then run a marathon and that I could not do it after this suffering on the bike. Not a chance. But as has always been the case, I put my head down and kept plugging.

Climbing Richter's Pass 2010
One of the nicest things my wife has ever done for me was a small gesture that's become a tradition for my Ironman races. At the time we only had one child and as I laid on the bed the night before Kim came over with Kelland and traced his hand on mine so I would have him with me all day and I used this often for motivation. Now when I travel for a race we put the kids' hands on an over shirt that I wear on the bike.

My boy's hand
When I hit the "run" my calves started cramping so I started out by walking. This walk was awkward and ultimately led to the worst blisters I've experienced in my life. Around kilometer 30 (mile 18)  I felt the one between my first and second toe explode and this felt amazing for the time being. 23When it was all said and done the bottom of my feet were a mess and needed attention at the medical tent. This led to a funny interaction. 99% of the people in the med tent are in rough shape, puking, hallucinating and passing out. Here I am sitting down eating a giant container of Chinese food that my amazing family had waiting for me at the finish line and getting strange looks from the nurses. They finally came over and asked why I was there and with a mouth full of chow mein noodles I mumbled, "my feet hurt." They patched me up and as I went to get up and leave my legs wouldn't work. I actually had to be wheel-chaired to my dad's van to get back to my hotel.

Now my dad was not one to be denied either. This military man was not going to let some fence keep him from getting to his son. So the next thing I know he is pulling up right beside the bike lot with a huge grin on his face. I asked how he got in with a vehicle if all the roads were fenced off. He said, "easy, I moved one." It is these memories of my dad that are special. He would do whatever he needed to for his family.

My most recent "I can't" moment was at Ironman Los Cabos. I mentioned this in my race report but it bears repeating. This was a hard race day. The swim was a little choppy and you had a current working against you. It was hot, windy and the bike was hilly. In fact, they've changed the bike course because they felt it was too hard after the first go 'round. With 40km (24 miles) left in the 180km (112 mile) bike course I had had enough. I was in Mexico alone, I was in pain and I just didn't have anything left in the tank. It was then that I saw my guardian angel Roxi.

Roxi's husband Carlos was racing and I knew the family because I coached their older two boys in high school football. I pulled over on the bike and hugged Roxi. She asked me how I was doing and all I could muster was "not good" and I started crying. Roxi told me to get back out there and that she'd be waiting for me to finish. I needed that and I finished up strong and got out on the run course. I was really hurting, but because of my previous experiences I knew that if I paced myself and just kept moving I would finish with plenty of time before the cut off. I was not happy and with it being a three loop course it is mentally fatiguing because you complete one loop and in your mind you're thinking, "I have to do that two more times?"

Normally at this point I'm smiling and excited. Not in Los Cabos. It was everything I could do to finish.

We often look at clichés as cheesy and of diminished value, but to be honest, there's a reason that things become cliché. They ring true. One of the quotes that you will often see on posters and motivation Twitter accounts is, "Your mind will quit 100 times before your body ever does." This is so completely true. 

I believe everyone needs to incorporate some circuits and lactate threshold work into their regular training plan. If you only ever jog, swim or cycle at a comfortable pace your body won't know how to react when things get tough. By taking your body to the limit on a regular basis you will train not only your body but your mind for the pain of racing. Also, pay attention to your body and how you react to different types of nutrition. The most important lesson I've learned about my body is that if I get sad it's because I'm low on sugar. Within a minute after taking on a gel or some gatorade I can feel my mood elevate and my pace pick back up. You can only find out how your body will react by testing it. This will take time and is not comfortable but the payoff is worth it.

Whatever your motivation, whatever your race, it is absolutely critical that your mind and body both be trained for endurance. Exercise both often and don't be afraid to fail in training. You need to push your limits to continue to grow and improve.

Happy training!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Personal Transformation from Exercising to Training

It has occurred to me a number of times recently that I have made a very slight but important change in my approach to triathlon. I am no longer exercising, I am training. It may seem odd but I think the reason for it boils down to self esteem.

When I first began my journey into fitness I was happy just being out of the house and moving. To be honest, that was all I could expect at that weight. That has continued for about five years. I would get a program from my coaches and if it said "run for 30 minutes" I would go and run for 30 minutes. I wouldn't look for a tough course or push myself particularly hard, to be honest I would look for the flattest course possible, and I would get results because I'd come from so far down.

But after Ironman Coeur d'Alene this year something clicked. It was not a conscious decision but all of a sudden I started looking for hills and pushing my body to where I wan't sure I could take it. Looking back I really think this can be linked to low self esteem and depression. Until recently I think I've been doing the bulk of my athletic endeavors to prove to other people that I'm not as fat and lazy as I appear to be. That was honestly how I saw myself, fat and lazy. Granted, I was right... at the start. Lately, however, I'm starting to see that I'm an athlete again and am putting more pressure on myself to perform, not just participate.

My Mom has battled her weight for my entire life, in fact my entire family has. On one of my dad's tours in Afghanistan Mom decided that she would lose weight. Now if you don't know my mom, she is a stubborn and determined broad. She put her mind to weight loss and lost over 100 pounds within the year. And after that 100 pound weight loss she still said that she didn't see it when she looked at herself in the mirror. I thought she was absolutely nuts, she was almost half the size she had been. But that's the wonderfully awful thing about the human mind. We can convince ourselves of things that aren't really there. If you've got a bad self image you will still see a fat person in the mirror even after you've lost the weight. But, on the positive side, if you've got a good self image you will see a stud when you've got your car's seat reclined all the way, have a pencil thin beard and a hat with a flat brim even though you look ridiculous.
One quick google search got me this. Knew I was right.
Aware of what my mom had told me about weight loss I've been taking photos of myself from day 1 of my weight loss journey. These photos serve as indisputable proof of my progress and even my flawed brain can't convince me that I'm not succeeding. 


Feb 21, 2008
Aug 9, 2013

324 lbs

262 lbs

Despite my obvious progress, I have a very tough time seeing the positive parts of the photos, especially the front view. My love handles SCREAM at me when I see this photo and the thought of putting it online makes my stomach queasy (yours too I'm sure). That being said, this series of photos is something I would encourage everyone who is starting a training program to do. That, and take measurements from time to time. The problem with using just a weight scale when you're getting in shape is that you will put on a bunch of muscle if you're going from fat to fit like I did. This will mean that some weeks you may lose body fat and gain a pound. It's enough to make you crazy if you don't track other indicators of fitness. Another great indicator is just how your clothing fits. You will start to have room where you didn't before and you'll need new holes in your belt.

I know I have some work to do before I'm where I'd like to be physically but keeping these pics handy means that when I'm having doubts and not really liking who I am I can look back and actually see my progress. Aside from my love handles I really am happy with how far I've come and this has led, I believe, to my change in training. I'm at a point now where I have achieved so much that I believe in myself. I'm very sentimental and I find meanings in a great number of things. While running in Great Falls, Montana the song My Inner Ninja came on (click for video). This is a corny poppy song that's fun to run to and just bop along. But this time I actually listened to the lyrics and they struck a major chord with me:

                            I've had bad habits but I dropped em, I dropped em
                                 I've had opponents but I knocked them out
                                        I climbed the highest mountains
                                              I swum the coldest seas
                        There ain't a thing I've faced that's been too much for me

I started thinking that this was actually about me! I had terrible habits that I've had to change.  One of the first adventures Alli and John, our friends and trainers, took us on was up a mountain. At Escape from Alcatraz I swam in water so cold my face froze almost instantly. As for challenges, Ironman is about as tough as they come and I've knocked out four of them so far. Glad I've been an inspiration for a song :)

Kim (front), Alli (middle) and Me
Swimming from Alcatraz to shore. I'm in the black wetsuit.
I know that I'm not done my adventure but I'm certainly well on my way and am so happy I have documented my journey.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Exercising on holidays,

Travelling and training is a tough combo. Your time is valuable, road food isn't great for you (but it tastes SO good), and you're out of your routine. My wife Kim and I are taking our 3 kids, Kelland (4), Calliah (2 1/2) and Cambrey (13 months) from Edmonton, AB to Disneyland. A round trip journey of 5,678 Km (3528 Miles). I'm going to document how I do as I go and see what comes from it.

Not sure how this is going to work out, wish me luck!!!


One of the best things my wife has done for me is spent some time researching our meal stops ahead of time. Since Ironman Coeur d'Alene on June 23, 2013 I've been on Weight Watchers because I hadn't lost any weight despite training for a 15 hour endurance race. On race day I was 275 lbs and in less than a month I've lost 13 pounds. I get 55 Weight Watchers points a day and this has been perfect for me, not hungry and some days it's too much food.

We left on Friday July 19 after work and drove 503Km (312 Miles) from Edmonton, AB to Lethbridge, AB arriving at 10 at night. Needless to say, I did not get a workout in. I did a good job of watching my diet however. Stayed on plan.

My coach Jeremy is absolutely awesome and has been working really hard to get me a program that is going to continue getting me the gains I want.  In fact, before heading off to Thailand for a month he hustled to get me a plan before he left. I feel bad because I realized almost immediately that my training is going to be determined by time of day, availability of equipment and family responsibilities, not what my program said. SORRY JEREMY!

Saturday we left Lethbridge, AB and drove 870 Km (541 Miles) to Idaho Falls, ID and one of our major destinations on the trip. Famous Dave's BBQ restaurant is absolutely phenomenal. The food is fantastic, the service is outstanding and the beer is cold! After nearly 10 hours on the road and at least one kid screaming at a time I was ready to sit down and just relax. Some brisket, chicken and 2 tall beers later I was satisfied and we headed back to the hotel. It was 8:45 pm and I was ready to just crash. However, I realized that if I was going to start skipping workouts on day 2, this was not going to work. I geared up and headed down to the river and ripped off a quick 5K run. The scenery and beer buzz made it go by relatively quickly and when I got back I was quite proud of myself for doing it as my guts were begging me to stop the entire time.

Sunday was another long day.  830Km (516 Miles)  from Idaho Falls, ID to St. George, UT. I was a little worried about this leg of the journey as we had promised the kids we would stop at Costco for some lunch and some shopping. They LOVE Costco and it's like $9 to feed a family. It's not great food but it's cheap and they're not on Weight Watchers, I am. I was happy to find out that American Costco has chicken Caesar salads and the dressing comes on the side. I jumped at this and used a trick my mom taught me a long time ago. Rather than dumping the dressing on top I dipped my fork in the dressing so I got the flavour with as little dressing as possible. As you can see below it worked quite well.

Costco salad

Dipping your fork in the dressing gets you the taste without many calories

This is how much dressing was left over after and I didn't miss it

After getting to Utah we had supper right away so I had time to let it digest before my run as yesterday was not pretty. A quick internet search showed that EVERY gym in St. George closes at 6pm or earlier on Sunday, including Anytime Fitness and Elevation Fitness "The Best 24 Hr Gym." To be fair those gyms have scan in for members but for guests, no dice. Plan B. Our hotel was right on main street in St. George so my run was out the door, down the street and then up a loooong hill. It took me 10 minutes to summit the hill but the run back was really nice. After using Map My Run it came out at 5.25Km in 33 minutes. Not very fast but with the 9 hours on the road and the long hill I'll take it.

Monday, easy day, 197Km (123 Miles) from St. George to Las Vegas. Home of the buffet! I've done some serious damage here in the past and was a little concerned about how this would play out. We stayed at the Palms and the room we had was perfect for a family with kids. As it happened it was also spacious enough for a cardio circuit. I didn't want to take too much time away from my family so we set the kids up in front of the TV to rest before going out and I got a workout in.

Hotel pushup
2 times through:
20 pushups-20 situps-10 burpees-20 Supermans
15 pushups-15 situps-10 burpees-15 Supermans
10 pushups-10 situps-10 burpees-10 Supermans
5  pushups-5 situps- 10 burpees-5 Supermans

Then non-stop, 50 body weight squats, butt down to heels.

I was thoroughly soaked and tired after this but it was great, didn't have to leave the family, got it done quickly, and no guilt about missing a workout.

My old coach Karl MacPhee used to say you can workout anywhere and I took his advice. Kelland weighs around 50 lbs so I carried him on my shoulders as much as possible and just walked. We had to walk anyway so I got a bit of a workout in without being away from the family for even a second. 

Kelland riding high at the Las Vegas outlet mall

Tuesday morning in Vegas I got up and downed a pre-mixed EAS shake and headed down to the fitness centre. I got in my Fartlek run (jogging with sprints of 30 seconds mixed in) done by 7:30am and didn't need to worry the rest of the day about my workout. We actually hit 2 buffets this day but it wasn't that big of a deal. If you go into a buffet in the right mindset you can still do well on Weight Watchers or any other plan where you're trying to watch what you eat. Often at restaurants it's the sides that can be your big downfall. Rice, pasta and potatoes are very high in calories and come in abundance because they're cheap. At a buffet you don't need to have any of them on your plate because you get to decide what you eat. Also, you control the portions. I started each buffet with a huge salad with various vegetables mixed in. This helped to fill me up faster with almost no caloric hit and was a great strategy. Then I would hit the meat; instead of a baked ham, half a turkey and a side of beef like I wanted I got a slice of beef, a slice of turkey and a slice of ham. Not big but enough that I got the taste and walked away happy. I also only had a small desert at one of the 3 buffets we hit in the 2 days.  Phew! I was worried about this leg but I feel like I'm on the right track.

Wednesday we finally made it to California. A relatively short 481km (299 miles) drive from Vegas to Encinitas, CA and visited the tri mecca that is Nytro Multisport. My home shop in Edmonton, Element,  is awesome but limited in their availability because we're in Canada. After getting a couple of treats at Nytro we checked into our hotel and got ready for the beach. I had done some research ahead of time and the San Diego Tri Club has an open group swim from Tamarack Beach just 8 miles from our hotel in Oceanside. We took the kids to Tamarack and they had a blast. As they were just wearing down the people started showing up for the ocean swim so I got my wetsuit on and got a mile swim in the ocean.

Calliah trying to clean her hands. This did not end well.

Cambrey happily ate sand and pooped it out for 3 days. Seriously.

Kim and Kelland playing in the ocean.

A little body surfing before the big swim.

When I got back the kids were loaded in the car and it was off for some Mexican food. You just can't find decent Mexican food in Edmonton so we eat it almost every day when we're in California and I've learned a valuable lesson. Unlike most restaurants, you WANT to eat at the sketchiest looking places when getting Mexican. It's going to be the awesome authentic stuff. We found the perfect place just around the corner from our hotel and it didn't disappoint.

Thursday was San Diego Zoo day. This is absolutely awesome every time we go. The kids' bedtime stories often feature animals and when the little ones saw their favorites in real life they were awestruck. Such an amazing experience for all of us.

When we got back to the hotel I did a quick google search for a local gym and "Oceanside Fitness" had a spin class at 8pm. Perfect, it was quarter after 5 so I had time to help with bedtime and then head out. I called ahead to make sure I could get a spot in the class and the extremely confused lady on the other end told me that the class was almost over. I went silent for a moment and told her that in fact, no, I had almost three hours. "No, it's 8:15 she said." I asked where she was and it turns out that "Oceanside Fitness" is aptly named, however it's in New Brunswick and is beside the Atlantic Ocean. Luckily, 24 Hour Fitness in Oceanside had a spin class at 7pm and this was great.

The next 7 days were going to be very tough to deal with. Friday we were leaving Oceanside and going to pick up our friend Shawne from LAX and then take in a couple of classic Los Angeles events. Dinner at Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles and a Dodgers' baseball game. Before picking up Shawne we took the kids to the California Science Center. This place is just awesome and is home to the Space Shuttle Endeavor. This was an extremely difficult day for me, my father was extremely interested in space and I was overwhelmed with memories of him and how much he would have loved to see this exhibit. The reality of him being gone was never more painful than this day. This was a full day and my legs were hurting after spin so no workout today.

Me and the Space Shuttle Endeavor.
Chicken and Waffles. So good.
Saturday we took Shawne on a tour of LA. We took her to Hollywood and Venice Beach primarily to see the postcard Los Angeles. It was a perfectly sunny day and, aside from the traffic, a really great day. When we got back to the hotel Shawne and I did a lap of Disneyland which is almost exactly 5Km. We did it as a Fartlek run to increase the effect it would have.

We had 5 days in Disneyland and that means walking and eating.  I think you actually strike a pretty good balance if you don't eat too crazy because you walk a lot! However, I'm training for Ironman so just walking wasn't going to cut it. There's a 24 Hour Fitness less than a kilometer from where we were staying and for $10 you can get a guest pass. I got in three really good sessions including a spin class that put me through my paces. The great thing is that 24 Hour Fitness is just that, 24 hours. With the exception of the spin class I was able to go after the kids were in bed and not take away from our Disney vacation.

9:41pm and hitting the gym.
The return trip featured a few long drives but the first day was just a quick 4 hours to Las Vegas and the Springhill Suites. This is next to the convention center, it does not have a casino but does have an awesome fitness center. A really nice surprise, 4 treadmills, some other cardio equipment as well as machine and free weights. I got in a treadmill hill set and some weights and was really happy to be able to do it inside as it was 42 Celsius outside.

The next day was 8 hours of driving to Ogden, Utah. This worked out really well as two of my good friends, Mark and Janelle, were in Park City, Utah (just outside of Salt Lake) for a bike race. I refereed hockey with Mark and now we cycle together and Janelle and I went to University together and I've known them both for about 15 years. I also played cupid and so I'm 1 for 1 in the matchmaking department. They surprised me at Ironman Canada 2012 and came to support me so I wanted to get there and support Mark in his 100 mile ride. Unfortunately, with the 8 hour drive and the time change I missed Mark finishing by about 45 minutes and I felt really bad about this but we met for lunch and got to talk about the course. It was TOUGH and I'm really proud of him for doing so well. We got to the hotel and took the kids to the pool for a little fun. I did a couple of sprint laps but that was the extent of my exercise for the day.

Yurbuds earphones aren't just great for exercising, they also keep the kid noise out of my head.

Ogden to Great Falls, MT was another long day of driving but I was needing a run. I was agitated and feeling sluggish so I headed out of the hotel and up a hill, the first 15 minutes was uphill and the return trip was down so it was a really nice way to end the run. Then a quick weight set in the hotel and off to bed and ready to get home the next day.

The final day was a 3rd straight 8 hour day and by the time we picked up groceries and got the van unloaded there was no workout this day.

So after all of our driving around we did a total of 6995 Km / 4346 Miles on the road, .........

With trepidation I stepped on the scale on Tuesday morning and looked down with one eye open and much to my joy it read.... 262.0.  EXACTLY the same, to the tenth of a pound, what I weighed when I left. Nothing gained, nothing lost and right back to the grind tomorrow.

Overall I'm really happy with how I did on this trip. I think the keys that I learned on this trip are:
1) Eat well whenever possible, the bad food will find its way in but hold off as best you can.
2) Get your workout done early if possible. This way you won't have it hanging over you all day and distracting you.
3) Do your research, find out if there are gyms and healthy restaurants available where you are going.
4) Have fun! Don't let your diet/training become all encompassing. This is where you can really screw it up with your family. Take too much time away from your family on holidays and your training might become a sore point in your relationship.

Around day 14 of the trip I really started to slip on my diet. We were constantly walking around Disneyland and finding healthy food there is really tough. Additionally, the realization that this trip was once every two years allowed me to justify a few more treats than I would have liked. In Cars Land they have a delicious Chili Cone-Carne and I couldn't resist, the famous turkey leg called out to me and we had a groupon for something called Oahu-style shave ice. This is shaved ice wrapped around ice cream with flavored syrup poured on top. This diabetes in a bowl was delicious and well worth the four dollars and personal hatred.

I can't really have expected any more out of this trip. I got to eat some of my favorite treats, I kept my fitness level up and made some amazing memories with my family. If I had to do it all over again (I will in 2 years) I don't think I would change a thing. 

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Travelling to a race. An adventure in itself. Selecting a race and a place to stay.

This is the first installment in a 3 part series on travelling to races. This edition will be dealing with the selection of a race and accommodations. 

Doing a race locally is one thing but packing up everything you need to race and travelling across the continent is a whole new ball game.

The first step to picking a race is figuring out what you want. Is it the destination that matters or the weekend that matters? If you don't have a specific race picked out then there's an amazing resource available to you. Trimapper is a tool that allows you to select a number of criteria when selecting a race. For example, you can tell it you'd like to do an olympic distance (international distance) race in California in June of 2014. It will come back to you with all of the races that match your criteria. Trimapper will give you a link to the races' websites to do more research and register for the race. takes it one step further, they show all sorts of available sporting events and even training camps and other activities.

If you want to read some other athletes' race reports` Beginner Triathlete has an entire section dedicated just to race reports. You can gain a lot of insight into how a race is run based on athletes' reports. I would read a number of them and you will generally get a very good idea of the race. How hard is the course? Is there enough water and food? Is there a good after party? (this one is critical) If you have time I would research a number of things before you sign up. UNLESS it's a race that fills up in a hurry. If it's a very popular race that you want to do, sign up immediately and figure the rest out later.

FYI, some races fill up a year in advance and others have a lottery to enter. Going to the race the year prior and volunteering is a great way to get an advanced line to register at a lot of races. Also, by volunteering you get to help out and pay it ahead to the people that will be helping you on race day, and you get a great, up close, feel for the race.

Me (Centre) with my friends Simon Fedun (L) and Kris Fedun (R) at the 2011 Ironman Canada registering for 2012. 3 big handsome fellas.  We directed traffic at a major intersection.

The first race I travelled to was an International distance race in Las Vegas, Nevada with my wife and young son. It was a very easy decision to make. It was late September so the temperature wasn't supposed to be too hot and the swim is in beautiful Lake Mead. It was like swimming in tap water, no taste and a great temperature. As for hotels, Vegas is obviously its own animal. We elected to stay in a strip hotel so this is not a great example, I just wanted to brag that I did a triathlon in Vegas. How do you like me now?

Kim, Kelland and me in Vegas. Worst decision of the trip was that beard. What the hell was I thinking?

Finishing Vegas. It's as hot as it looks.

Travel race 2 was in Oceanside, CA. (Ironman 70.3) This was also with my wife and young son. This beautiful town is about half way between Anaheim and San Diego. The destination and time of year were major factors in my selection of this race. During the race we elected to rent an apartment off of Vacation Rentals By Owner about a mile from the race site. This was a great experience. Having a kitchen allowed us to cook our own food, the separate bedrooms allowed me to get a nice sleep before my race and the private pool was great in the heat. Honestly, not a lot of downside in this example other than the fact that you have to make your own bed. I know, first world problems.

Ironman 70.3 California March, 2010

Travel race 3 was in Penticton, BC for Ironman Canada 2010. My wife and young son and our nephew were on this trip. This was my first Ironman so I was unfamiliar with how involved it is to do an Ironman. Two days before you have to be on site to register, collect your goody bags and attend the athlete dinner. The day before you have to check in your bike and your gear bags. Then on race day, you have to race (duh). Each of these activities requires you to get to the race site, usually located in a hotel's convention centre or a city park. If you stay within walking distance you will pay more per night but not have the hassle of trying to locate parking every time you want to do anything involving the race. At this particular race we stayed about 3 miles from the race site at the Best Western and this had its ups and downs. On the plus side we paid considerably less than the hotels near the race site. Another positive of this hotel was that it was located on the bike course and very close to the run course so my wife was able to hang out in the air conditioning and come out only to see me whiz by and then retreat back to the air conditioning. The down side was that for the finish my family (my parents also joined us) had to find a place to park and work their way through the crowds to see me. After this race I sat down and actually needed a wheel chair to get to the vehicle so it was quite a bit of work for my family to get me home. Had we stayed on site it would have been MUCH easier.

Ironman Canada August, 2010

Travel race 4 was in San Francisco, CA. (Escape from Alcatraz) I went alone to San Francisco for this race. In this instance I chose to stay close to the race. This was a mistake in this particular instance. I didn't realize that this area was going to be so sketchy or the hotel so yucky. I was in town for four days but the bulk of what I wanted to do was in the wharf area. If I had to do it over again I would stay closer to the "action" and suffer a little on race day.

Swimming from Alcatraz to shore sounded way smarter before I saw the distance

Travel race 5 was in Penticton, BC for Ironman Canada 2012. My wife is a very brave lady and we now had three children. Busy couple of years. After staying off site last time I raced here we elected to stay about a half-mile from transition. We paid considerably more but were at the beach and I walked to everything I needed to do related to the race. Unless it was a ridiculous amount of money I would recommend staying near transition at Ironman races.

Post race and feeling fantastic.

Travel race 6: Los Cabos, Mexico.  All inclusive resort. All alone. My wife did not want to bring the kidlets to the race and also couldn't part with them so I ventured out alone. I learned some very valuable lessons at this race that I'll share in the race prep section of this series. In this instance I stayed at the host hotel and it was great. The meetings and package pickup were IN my hotel. Super convenient.

Finishing at Los Cabos. This was HARD and I was beaten.

Travel race 7: Coeur d'Alene, ID  Not exactly a Mexican all inclusive but the Super 8 in Coeur d'Alene was surprisingly nice. Also traveled alone to this race and stayed off site. This is really worth considering if you're doing this race. The Coeur d'Alene lakeside resort prices border on gouging for this race and with the amount of parking available around the race site it is easy to park close by. However, if you can afford big bucks the resort would be a nice choice.

Much happier with this finish than Mexico.


From my experience, if you are travelling for an Ironman I would stay as close to the race activities as possible. You will constantly be heading down to the race activities to register, shop, attend dinner and race. Also, after the race, the closer you are to transition the easier it will be to get to that inviting bed. I think a lot of people underestimate just how wrecked they are going to be after Ironman. This race will punish you but it's so worth it. Remember that many of the places that host Ironman don't have a lot of big events so Ironman is a great reason for them to raise their prices. Plan plan plan and book your accommodations as early as possible. Vacation Rentals are private properties that the owners rent out and can be an awesome option especially if you want to prepare your own meals.

If you're going for a shorter distance race, staying close to the site isn't as crucial but still worth considering. Do your research in this instance. As I said with "Escape from Alcatraz," the bulk of the things I wanted to see were near the wharf and downtown but the race site is away from both of these. I stayed near the race site and the hotels in this area were less desirable. Also, because there is not a great deal of pre-race activities you won't constantly be going to the race site to turn in bikes or bags or other things. If the main reason for your trip is the destination and the race is just for "fun" then stay near the action and suffer a bit on race day.

Transition bags laid out in number order the day before the race.
Who you're travelling with will also be a major factor in where you stay and race. I'm not sure if you've ever watched an Ironman but I've volunteered at 2 of them and it can be pretty dreadful to watch. Especially if you're cheering for me. Investing 15 hours of your day only to see the person you're cheering for for about 6 total minutes requires amazing patience and amazing people. If you can get a hotel that's on the race course you're doing your loved ones a major favour. After watching you go by they can retreat to the air conditioning and follow your progress on the internet so they know when to come back out and cheer again.

ACTIVITIES: If you're going alone this may not be as big of a deal as you can completely immerse yourself in the race and not worry about neglecting family. However, if you're turning this into a race-cation you had better make sure that there's things for everyone else to enjoy or this may be your last race in a cool place. I haven't competed in a Challenge brand race but apparently they put on quite a few activities to keep the fans entertained. Ironman usually has the Ironkids fun run a couple of days prior and they get medals and race numbers and LOVE it.

Read my article about doing Ironman with a family for more insight to this area.

Kelland finishing the Ironkids fun run
Certain destinations just say race-cation. Mexico and Las Vegas were perfect examples of this.

Post race drinks and snorkeling tour in Los Cabos

As you can see I have a reasonable amount of experience. I've rented an apartment, stayed in hotels both at the race site and off, traveled with kids and alone, flown and driven. I've learned a few things along the way and hopefully you can save yourself a couple of the mistakes I've made. Keep reading next week!