Race Reports, Trail Running

HALIBURTON FOREST 50K Ultra Trail Race RACE REPORT

INTRO

On Saturday September 7, 2019, I officially became an ULTRA-MARATHONER. An “Ultra-Marathon” is any race that is longer than a standard marathon distance. Meaning anything further than 42.2KM or 26.2Miles. 

I set out on a goal this year to complete the 50K Trail Race in beautiful Haliburton Forest. I’ve been working up to this distance ever since I started running 2 years ago. I’ve run 2 marathons in the past and this was an inevitable event. My motivation started years ago when I read the books “Finding Ultra” by Rich Roll and “Eat & Run” by Scott Jurek. 

PRE-RACE


Booking accommodations near Haliburton Forest Reserve isn’t really simple as all the cabins on the compound were well reserved in advanced. And the nearest lodges and hotels were at least 30 minutes away from Base HQ. Regardless I got myself and my parents a room at the charming Oakview Lodge & Marina. It’s been family run for the last 4 years by Anna and Greg. They are absolutely awesome people. The lodge was very cozy, rooms well sized, and they accommodated my vegan meal request. Having a handful of trail runners staying with them, they actually prepped the fruit bowl, made vegan muffins, and started the coffee pot at 4AM for those doing the 100-M and 50-M races.

GOALS

I learned very quickly that a trail race is not remotely comparable to a road race. And each trail run is totally different. There are so many variables. For one, the distance is super long, and the terrain from course to course could be extremely technical with a lot of tough uphill climbs and scary descents on rocks. So my 5 hour goal was immediately tossed out. I just wanted to finish this as best I could and have the most fun. Being it my first 50K, any request would be a PB day for me. 

THE RACE

Strava log: https://www.strava.com/activities/2688540279

This has been the hardest thing I’ve physically and mentally done thus far out of all my races. Every step needed to be accounted for with full alertness. No zoning out here. 

A huge difference between Ultra trail and road races are the aid stations. The aid stations were like buffets. I learned to only take carbs like boiled potatoes with salt, jelly beans, pretzels, cola I had some PB&J but felt the fat was hard on my stomach. Race was good up to the 25km turn around. Then something happened, everything of my body seized up and stomach didn’t feel right. it took about 30 mins for things to get normal. Then I was able to run again and started passing people again. There was good weather overcast with shade for the vast majority of the race. However, we did have heavy and light rain downpour near the end. Overall, this was a tough yet really fun experience. I really felt one with nature. 

POST-RACE

The final few KMs or so lead us out of the forest and finally back on to the road heading to the Finish Line at Base HQ. This road happened to be uphill of course. But with the orange chute in sight, it just made me want to throw it all down and rocket to the the finish. It was an awesome feeling. After receiving my medal, that was it. I became an ultra-marathoner. I FOUND ULTRA. 

I ate a banana and drank a ton of water on the drive back home. Took a shower, watched Bianaca Andreescu win the US Open defeating Serena Williams. And then went to India’s Taste buffet for dinner. 

LESSONS

  • I need bigger trail running shoes
  • I need a tighter fitting hydration vest
  • Apple Watch still had 44% battery life after a 7 hour workout!

THINGS TO DO

  • Need to do more trail running locally for practice

CONCLUSION

I’ll be damned, but I love running, and I think I love trail running even more. I can’t wait to do my next one. Currently eyeing Sulphur Springs in 2020!

Cycling

Ride Report: Ride4UnitedWay 60K, 2019

I’m started to like non-race events. I get to practice some road handling skills, meet like-minded people, and simply have fun. 

Ride4UnitedWay took place in Durham, ON. A place I haven’t been since graduating from UOIT! 

Initially, I was going to do the 100K route, but there was a severe thunderstorm warning. So I switched to the 60K to be on the safe side. But in a strange turn of events, there wasn’t a drop of rain. We had some gusts and a very welcomed overcast. 

My cycling has improved significantly. I am now comfortable and can pass people on steep climbs, and am confident on thrilling descents.

To-do: I still really need to learn to grab my water bottle, and eat while riding.

This was a fun event because my friend Randall came along. His longest ride was 40K, so this was a big event for him, and I’m so proud of his fast progress! 

Strava log

At the end of the ride, we feasted on a free lunch. We had a veggie burger with quinoa salad. Good times!

Race Reports, Triathlon

TORONTO TRIATHLON FESTIVAL 2019 – OLYMPIC RACE REPORT

INTRO

This event marks my 1-year anniversary of Triathlon. And it will forever hold a special place in my heart. I pushed myself into very new uncomfortable, and to be honest quite terrifying zones.  You may recall my first ever experience with open-water swimming (OWS) at TTF Sprint last year. And how I bought and “taught” myself to ride a bike just 3 weeks prior to that. I’ve been running for about 2-years. And basically had to teach myself how to swim and bike. There’s just something really intriguing and exciting about the sport of triathlon. For some reason I keep pushing forward. 

PRE-RACE

I had to keep reminding myself that I only just did IRONMAN 70.3 Muskoka 2-weeks before. There was some residual fatigue, but for the most part, I felt pretty solid going into TTF. It will have been my first Olympic distance triathlon. I hear this is a favourite, as it’s a good balance of speed and endurance. 

GOALS

Have fun and make the most of this amazing local urban race. 

SWIM (1.5KM)

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/2551190210

I know it’s only been a few weeks since Muskoka, but I got a lot of good feedback on my poor swimming technique. So at least a had a wee bit of time to try implement some new skills. Despite the weather being really hot, the waters of Lake Ontario was still really cold. I felt like it kind of affected my breathing, but I managed to stay calm. I swam freestyle continuously without stopping, panic, or backstroking. In the last quarter, my left goggle got flooded, so that made sighting hard, and overall slightly annoying. Out of the 4 triathlons I’ve done, this is my best pace of 2:56/100m. Despite this, I fell like this was actually harder than Muskoka for some reason. 

BIKE (40KM)

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/2551195078

Finally, a relatively flat bike course for me! This is a fun out and back on a totally closed Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner. Free of traffic. My dream! However, I felt like I lacked power on the first half. I think I was pretty drained from the swim or possibly still experiencing some fatigue from Muskoka. But after the turn-around, I absolutely loved the ride back. This is also the longest i’ve rode without dismounting for any reason! I still need to work on my arms and hands getting numb though. Also, my PowerTap P1 pedals weren’t responding so I couldn’t track my wattage. I’ll check them out and see if the batteries were dead. 

RUN (10K)

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/2551121753

This was a hot and humid run to say the least. There were no large trees like in Muskoka to shade athletes. So, we had the sun beaming straight on us. I dug deep and pushed through 2-laps and almost PB’d my 10K. 

POST-RACE

After getting my silver donut-shaped finisher medal. I enjoyed a nice big veggie burger. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Hello post race delicious veggie burger ?? Had a blast this fine and hot Sunday at @TorontoTriathlonFestival! Met up with so many awesome IG Tri-buddies like @pacing.and.racing, @mrtdoespe, & @pkperformancecoaching ??Had a nice swim, though Lake Ontario was still pretty cold. I really need to work on this part of Tri. But swam continuous without panic attacks or backstroking. Glad to get onto a flat bike course. However, I felt pretty drained from the swim, and my legs didn’t want to pump out the power I wanted to on the first 20KM. Not sure if it’s residual fatigue from Muskoka 70.3? Anyways, things got a lot better on the second half of the bike. I love cycling without the fear of traffic on the DVP and Gardiner! This 40KM ride is actually the longest distance I’ve gone without getting off the bike for any reason. And as usual, I was stoked to get to the run. I actually almost PBed my 10KM too! It was a hot sweaty run, but I pushed through to the finish chute. Thank you so much to all the phenomenal triathlete community, volunteers, and organizers for another epic race in the heart of downtown #Toronto! #NOLIMITS #TriathlonTO #TTF2019 #TorontoTriathlonFestival

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LESSONS

Figure out why I couldn’t put out the power I wanted on the first half of the bike leg. 

THINGS-TO-DO

  • Learn to use clip-in pedals
  • Get a true bike fitting with Saddle pressure mapping
  • Invest in an actual Triathlon bike
  • I need a real triathlon watch 
  • More outdoor riding to get bike-handling skills 
  • Learn to take hands of bars and eat/drink while riding
  • More Open Water Swimming and add speed
  • Get stroke analysis and improvement 

CONCLUSION

TTF 2019 is my final triathlon of the year. So, as of now, I’ve done 2 sprints, an olympic, and a 70.3. I can’t wait for my next season of triathlons in 2020! 

For now, I will continue improving my swim stroke efficiency, and road cycling skills. 

And my training build to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October resumes.

Race Reports, Triathlon

Race Report: IRONMAN 70.3 Muskoka 2019

INTRO

On Sunday July 7, 2019 I “finished” by first crack at the half-ironman distance in Muskoka, but there’s a DNF twist based on a technicality. I’ll get to that by the end of this report. Not to be concerned, this isn’t a sulking review. I’m in good spirits, I indeed receive my Finishers Medal, t-shirt, and cap within the total time limit. And most importantly, look forward to the process of improving myself! 

It was the first time in a triathlon where the idea of quitting did not cross my mind even for a split second. 

I registered for this race almost a year ago. And my triathlon history is super short having only done 2 sprint distance events before. Needless, to say I was cool and calm up until the day before. I was absolutely terrified in the 24-hours just before the big day. 

PRE-RACE

 

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I’m here! Feeling very overwhelmed and not going to lie, pretty terrified. But loving the vibe and experience in Muskoka! I signed up for @im703muskoka almost a year ago and have been training ever since. This will be my first attempt at the half-Ironman distance. I have no idea what to expect tomorrow. There’s so many variabilities in a triathlon. I only intend to not drown in the swim, crash/mechanical on the bike, and not get sunstroke on the run. It’s going to be HOT tomorrow. My goal is to have fun and finish strong. Final #carbloading with a delicious cheeseless Primavera pizza with mushroom, artichoke, red peppers, and black olives at @tlp_by_the_lights ???? #AnythingisPossible #Ironman #Ironman703 #IronmanMuskoka #poweredbyplants

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I arrived in Huntsville Saturday morning and stayed at the Tulip Inn, which is close to the start/finish line at the Canada Summit Centre. My pre-race carb-loading involved a delicious veggie primavera pizza from That Little Place by the Lights in downtown Huntsville, and then a veggie fettuccine bowl from East Side Marios. I did this race and the lead up to it on a whole food plant based lifestyle. 

GOALS

  • Don’t quit
  • Don’t drown on the swim
  • Don’t crash on the bike
  • Don’t have a mechanical bike issue
  • Don’t faint on the run
  • Have fun 

SWIM (1.9KM) 

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/2513017844

This swim in Fairy Lake was gorgeous. I took a good 30 mins to put on and pull up my ROKA wetsuit. By putting this much attention into this, I had no chest or shoulder restrictions. The water was wonderful and warm with nice sandy bottom.

It was my best Open Water Swim (OWS) to date. No panic attack. No loss of breath. Kept calm whenever I got crawled over or kicked in the face. Continuous swim with no stopping. No reverting to backstroke. And completed under the 1 hour cap. Additionally, the volunteer wetsuit strippers yanking them off our bodies was a unique yet time efficient experience.  

Now that I know I can be completely comfortable in OWS, I need to work on building and bringing in more power and speed to my stroke.

BIKE (90KM)

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/2513076283

They call IM70.3 Muskoka the “Beauty and the Beast” for a good reason. It’s an insanely challenging course. With big climbs, and steep descents. Yet, it was such an enjoyable ride at the same time. 90K is my longest outdoor ride to date, with the previous being 50KM at the Tour de Gueph. I was honestly was surprised that I did not crash or fall over once and not one drop of blood was shed. My mounting and dismounting is improving too. 

Based on my history ex. Milton, I was certain that there was a 90% chance I’d end up in a bloody mess at some point and pull out. Shockingly and fortunately, that did not happen. 

I noticed that after around 25KM, my hands and arms got numb, and had to take breaks to feel the sensation again. So this needs to be figured out ASAP. I feasted on all of my Lara bars, cliF bars, gummy bears, did not like the waffle stingers though.

RUN (21.1KM)

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/2513232950

Just like the previous 2 Sprint Distance triathlons I’ve done, all I keep telling myself is to “just get to the run”. And that was no difference in Muskoka. I’ve been been so happy to see a “Bike Off” aka dismount sign before. my plan was to stay at a consistent power the entire-time. The run is when I passed a boat load of people. It was a particularly hilly course, no surprise, but I actually don’t mind running up hills since my Spartan races. I loved the finish chute with the finisher banner to hold over my head at the end.

 

THE TWIST “DNF”

This acronym stands for “Did Not Finish”. To me, it’s a rather vague term especially in the sport of triathlon, because it is used as a status on a handful of outcomes. It can occur if someone quits mid-race on their own terms ex. fatigue, a race-ending injury, an unfixable mechanical issue, not making the final cut-off time, or intermediate cut-off times. 

I’m coming into the world of triathlon from running. And I’m used to events such as a marathon having a singular cut-off time of 8 hours for example.

In the standard 70.3 or Half-Triathlon distance, the final cut-off time is 8hours and 30 mins. With a swim of 1:10, Bike 5:30, and Run until the total time. However, it’s still not that simple. at Muskoka 70.3 there is also “intermediate Time of Day cut-offs” on the bike ex. 9:55AM at 23KM, 11AM at 45km, 12:06pm at 67KM, and 1:15pm at 90KM. 

When I finished the entire course, I actually made overall cut-off time in 8hr 16mins. I did the swim in 58mins, bike is 4:49, and run in 2:15. And I also made all of the intermediate bike cut-offs. 

A few hours later, when I checked SportStats, I was initially shocked and saddened to see “DNF” even though I made all those times. 

Why? It’s because I didn’t realize that there is actually another cut-off. I failed to understand that the combined swim and bike must be completed “5 hours and 30 minutes after the final wave start.” I thought that this meant the bike alone had to be within this, but they actually mean BOTH the swim and the bike need to be completed in this time. My time for both the swim and bike was 5:55. This one aspect led to my DNF on Sportstats. 

So call it as you wish. I may have not officially finished according to that bike/swim technicality, but I did absolutely indeed complete a Half-Ironman distance race within the total time. I bared as much pain and hills as all the other finishers that day.

 

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#AnythingIsPossible. More thoughts on @im703muskoka to come! #IronmanMuskoka

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LESSONS

Since I know that the bike and especially climbing such a hilly course like Muskoka is my weakest ability, I should not have used the restroom at the 3 aid stations. My initial thought was that I was going to cruise through the run and thus I needed to get comfy and use the sorta-potties before so I could run continuous without stopping. Once at the run, then that combined swim/bike cut-off would have been over. However, now knowing about this, I should have not stopped at all on the bike to hit that 5:30 time, then I would have had the entire rest of the run to use it.

Many will say that I took on way too much for a beginner triathlete too soon at this course difficulty. That’s probably true. I’ve only done TTF Sprint 2018 and Milton Sprint 2019. In hindsight I should have done at least one Olympics distance race before a Half. 

I absolutely know my bike needs a lot more work and practice. I did this entire 70.3 on non-aero road bike, without clip-in shoes/pedals, with very little hill training. So, all of these will be addressed soon. 

THINGS-TO-DO

  • Learn to use clip-in pedals
  • Get a true bike fitting with Saddle pressure mapping
  • Invest in an actual Triathlon bike
  • I need a real triathlon watch 
  • More outdoor riding to get bike-handling skills 
  • Learn to take hands of bars and eat/drink while riding
  • More Open Water Swimming and add speed
  • Get stroke analysis and improvement 
  • Get triathlon coach
  • Do more brick runs 

CONCLUSION

At the end of the day, I had an absolutely amazing experience at Ironman 70.3 Muskoka. The town of Huntsville, ON is gorgeous, and the athletes could not have asked for better weather conditions. As someone who has never been physically active for the first 29 years of my life and being overweight at 185lbs down to 140lbs via nutrition, to learning how to run 2 years ago, and then picking up cycling and swimming just a year ago, to completing an Ironman 70.3 on the challenging course at Muskoka, I am pretty darn proud of that.

As you can imagine, I was initially filled with mixed emotions. I’m not mad or frustrated with anyone. I have accepted and embraced the result for what it is. For all the possible DNF outcome scenarios I mentioned above, mine was in a weird situation. 

On one hand, it’s Ironman’s race, and it’s their rules, I misinterpreted it, that’s my bad. But on the other hand, I did not quit, I did not get pulled, I did not have a mechanical issue, and I actually finished the entire Muskoka 70.3 course within each activities times, and the total cut-off time. I completed the same course as the first place finisher. And I received my Finisher Medal at the end. I gained a whole world of experience, met inspiring athletes, day a beautiful day, and grow so much from this race. 

It’s also fitting that Stranger Things season 3 was just released on Netflix. Perfect timing for post-race recovery binging. A line that hit the spot from the last episode was from Hopper “Make mistakes, learn from ’em. When life hurts you, because it will, remember the hurt. The hurt is good. It means you’re out of that cave.” Much like when I attempted my first marathon, I hit the wall hard and finished in 5:17. But on my second go, I hit my sub-4 hour goal in 3:55. I will to do the same with triathlon.

Thank you to all the super awesome volunteers, athletes, spectators, race organizers, and the town of Huntsville and Muskoka for welcoming us into your home. I look forward to racing in Muskoka in the future!

I’ll definitely continue participating in triathlons, do more 70.3s (probably look for flatter courses), and maybe, just maybe attempt the full Ironman distance one day. 

Until then, the journey continues. 

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