Monday 7 October 2013

Summer Season Ends With A Fizzle

   It has been a while now since I made a blog post. I wanted to wait until the end of my summer race season to recap my results and give some insight as to how it all unfolded. I truly felt like I would just slip into running and triathlon seamlessly and have only amazing tales of success to share. It was an interesting summer with its ups and downs, but in the end I learned a lot about these sports, but more importantly about myself. Now where to begin...

I promised back in a February post that I would keep track of my stats and share them for comparison sake. Here is the summary 6 months later.

Body Stats Running
Feb Aug Feb Aug
Height: 6' 6' 1000m (1km) 4:03 3:40
Weight: 150lbs 145lbs 3km 12:33 12:05
Body Fat %: 5 3 5km 21:52 20:35
Resting Heart Rate: 45         41
10km 52:52 43:46
Max Heart Rate: 181 181 21.1km 2:11:06 1:48:06
VO2MAX: unknown unknown 30km - 2:59:37
Furthest Distance: 26km 30km
Cycling Swimming
Feb Aug Feb Aug
Trainer Road 25m Pool Open Water
Average km Pace 31km/h 100m 1:55
10km 25:58 750m
20km - 38:17 1000m -
30km 1:26:50 Furthest Distance: 2100m 3000m
40km -
Furthest Distance: 56km 162km

   Well I still haven't mad a sub-twenty on a 5km yet, but I'm getting close and chipping away consistently. My cycling distance has surpassed all my expectations by completing a 100 miler with my fiance (now wife) Christine and daily 15km time trails back and forth to work. The 2100m in the pool was a total workout distance, but the 1675m open water swim was one consistent swim and my longest to date. I did make the 30km Around the Bay distance, but the race left me broken and unable to run for sometime after so I have not made a comparable distance since. I have however discovered a love for trail running and after Run for the Grapes half marathon, I will be leaving long distance road running behind. I'm skipping right over the classic 42.2km marathon distance to set my sights on completing a 50km trail run next season. I have some ideas already for next year which will be very different from this season. It will consist of very few races, but ones that I can focus on more completely instead of dividing my attention and training between too many smaller events.

   Here now is one of the few times I will use my blog to lay down a rant. During a BBQ at a friends house this summer a super hi-tech scale was presented as a challenge to all the athletes. As it was a group of amazing cyclists so I assumed I would blend right in with their results. I was pretty surprised to find out I was among the elite results. Now I have received a lot of feedback this summer concerning my weight and how I look like I'm "wasting away". I posted on bone breadth testing a few months ago. This is where you determine your skeletal size and by that your ideal weight. I have a small skeletal size for my height and therefore am very slender naturally. Here's where I may piss some people off, but I feel it needs to be said. If I where to tell someone they look like they were gaining weight or "plumping up nicely" they would be horrified and offended, but for some reason people think it's not insulting to tell someone they are "way too thin", "skinny" or "wasting away". Well here's the truth Ruth. The results from that day on the scale showed at 145lbs I'm 60lbs of muscle and tissue, 60lbs of water, 5lbs in body fat and 20lbs in skeletal weight. That's a perfect 50/50 split of water to muscle and tissue. Very elite results. The sad truth which few are willing to believe or admit to is that if everyone was this fit we would ALL look leaner than you think. The average person has become generally unfit and a little over-weight so that is now sadly viewed as the "norm". We all fall into the 3 categories of body types, (endomorphs, mesomorphs and ectormorphs) so we would all have different body shapes, but would all be very lean at athlete body fat percentages. Ectomorphs are tall and thin so we tend to look more "skinny" naturally. I have no extras on my body, it's just muscle or water. Think what you will about how I've leaned out due to my ability to run, swim and cycle distances most non-athletes can only dread, but this is what an endurance athlete looks like.

   On to the real meat of this post, race results and my take on the summer season. I had 5 races booked for summer. Three were triathlons and two were running races. Let's take a look at them one by one.

Moon In June 10km
Bib# 1026 Ryan Brown Hamilton   21st overall
M35-39: 5/26   Pace: 4:24   Time: 43:46

   This was one of the running races I was looking forward to all season. It's an evening race starting at sunset in downtown Burlington. As my only 10km distance I wanted to set a good time and the goal was sub-45 minutes. That's 4:30min/km pace. I felt absolutely amazing that night with Chris there to cheer me on. It's a double 5km loop and as I came by city hall I saw the clock time at 21:23 so I knew I was on pace to make it. I spent the second loop chasing down a strong female runner and she knew it as well. I finally caught and passed her at the 8km mark and with the fear she might try and overtake me I ran as hard as I could, never looking back. It's an indescribable feeling to accomplish a goal you have been striving for. I was on cloud nine for the rest of the night and the after party atmosphere in the streets was amazing. 

Guelph Lake 1 - Sprint Triathlon 750m/20km/5km
Bib# 654 Ryan Brown Hamilton   197 overall   M35-39: 39/65
Swim: 18:51 Bike: 38:17 Run 21:35
T1: 3:02 T2: 1:50 Total Time: 1:23:31

   This was the race that I had really started training for in August 2012. My first triathlon. I was ready, or so I thought. The one component I was lacking confidence in like most triathletes was the swim. I didn't have enough open water practice under my race belt and it was about to show. I had figured out the transition area, racked my bike, wriggled into my wetsuit and lined up on the beach. The gun went off for my wave and it was a sprint down to the water. I knew almost immediately that I was in trouble. I was struggling to keep pace and was right in the middle of the pack. By the turnaround buoy in the middle of the lake I was in full panic mode. I had to roll on my back for a while to catch my breath. I came out of the water exhausted and nauseous, a feeling that would stay with me for the first 10km of the bike as well. The last half of the bike leg was where I began to feel like I was back in the race and began to pass other competitors. During the run I really came into my own, making up approximately 50 placings and passing one person after another. My running is my strongest aspect so I knew this is where I would have to make a move. I came across the line strong and had finished my first triathlon. It's amazing how much you can learn about a sport and yourself in an hour and a half. I knew where my weaknesses were and what I needed to do to work on them.

Mine Over Matter - Off Road Sprint Triathlon 500m/8km/5km
Bib# 269 Ryan Brown Hamilton 3 overall M30-39: 2/11
Swim: 10:31 Bike: 33:01 Run 23:39
T1: 2:45 T2: 1:39 Total Time: 1:11:32

   My second triathlon appeared a little by surprise. Last years event was in August and when I signed up I thought the date was the same, so I was more than surprised when I began receiving emails of the upcoming event. Luckily I had the day off work, but was having an anxiety attack during the entire morning as I felt I was unprepared. I arrived at Kelso Conservation area in Milton early enough to see the mud covered finishers from the mornings long distance tri event. This was an "off-road" tri and I knew the mountain biking and trail running conditions were going to be tough as it had rained all night. At least the sun was shining now. It was a small field of around 35 of us for the short distance and well all chatted on the beach while we waited for the start. It was only a 500m swim so I knew I could make this distance. The gun went off and it was on. I actually raced the swim portion this time coming out of the water 5th, but once again sick to my stomach from the effort. I lost too much time in transition trying to get my shirt on over a wet body, but staggered out to mount my bike. Same old story here too, nearly vomiting as I climbed the massive start hill on my 35lbs non-race setup mountain bike. The only thing that saved the bike portion for me was skill. Many of the racers actually had to dismount and carry their bikes over obstacles like logs and rocks. I have a strong BMX background and was passing people by bunny hopping over logs and hammering it through the rock sections. It paid off because I came into the run transition in a much better place. I had been having issues with my cranks arms coming loose and what I didn't know until after the race is that I lost a crank arm bolt and had just made it back before the arm fell off. Pure luck. Now I was feeling good and it was on for the trail run. I love trail running and especially the hills. On the first hill I began passing people like they were going backwards. The last half is a flat section around the quarry where you can see other racers ahead of you. I saw one and I was slowly gaining on him. With around 1.5km to go I was close enough to see the age they write on your calf in black marker. 38, dammit my age group. I was close to max effort, but decided to go for broke. I'd sprint the rest of the way and if I passed out then so be it. The guy I passed was someone I befriended at the start of the race and had explained to that I felt I was best at the trail run. He must have accepted this fact because as I came up on him he simply gave me a high five and said "what took you so long?". I came across the line fourth, with one female ahead of me. Funny how the race that began with total anxiety was my best finish yet!

Beamsville Bench 5km
Bib# 23 Ryan Brown Hamilton   11 overall
M35-39: 3/14   Pace: 4:08   Time: 20:35

   I had planned on making this, my last 5km of the season my sub-20 race. The day before at work a co-worker considering doing the race as well asked why I would pick such a difficult course to try for a sub-20 minute result. What?? I asked sheepishly... "Well it's full of hills" he explained. Shit. In a way it was a relief because I knew I wasn't going to make it while running hills so I resolved myself to just doing my best. The next morning we arrived at the winery where the race was taking place. For the first time I had the confidence to lineup at the front with the elite runners. The plan was to make a break away right at the start and settle in to a good pace to avoid the typical bunch ups. This is exactly what I did, falling into line with the top ten runners. I held my place, passing one person and getting passed once. An uphill sprint to the finish line and I was close, but no cigar. I missed the sub-20 medals by 35 seconds. Well there's always next year. I did however medal in 3rd place in my age group so all was not lost. Plus I did have an amazing time and made a personal best.

Niagara - Sprint Triathlon 750m/25km/7km

   Where to even begin with this one. This is the fizzle at the end of the summer. Since the anxiety filled swim in Guelph Lake I had been obsessing over open water swimming. Early morning swims 3 days a week in Lake Ontario. It was during this time that I made my 45 minute 1.6km swim. I was ready for the swim this time. I had also been pushing my cycling to new heights, well distances. I completed 150km and 162km (100 mile) rides in July. A second attempt at the 100 mile distance is where things began to fall apart. Christine and I ended up at Lake Erie around the 90km mark when I began to notice my left quadriceps getting sore. "No big deal" I thought, "it'll pass". I was very wrong. the pain only got worse and worse. By the time we reached the outskirts of Hamilton I was peddling one legged. I managed to get home and ice my leg, but the damage was done. It turns out what I thought was an unrelated groin pain was really the cause. Swelling had cause the nerve to my main quadriceps muscle to shut off leaving the normally "helper" muscles to do all the work. This cause them to become over-worked and fail. This was one week before the race. I was not listening to my body and had gotten a little over-confident about my strength. That Wednesday I tried to bike with Chris on our new built fixed gear bikes and this time my leg began to fail at 30km. I was fucked for the race. Well at work that Friday the same co-worker who was so knowledgeable about the Beamsville race suggested I switch my tri to a relay and get someone to do the bike portion. Brilliant! I knew just the person for the job, my fiancée Chris. We were both excited about the thought of doing a triathlon as a team and so it was decided. The day before the tri I had slightly over booked myself, (as usual). I had promised some buddies I would come out for a skate at the Waterdown bowl. Good morning session and my leg seemed ok. Off to work for the afternoon and then to the climbing gym in Burlington with some friends for an hour or two of indoor rock climbing. Good idea the night before a triathlon right? Ahem. It was a late night and by the time Chris and I got home and pack everything for the race it was after midnight. Exhausted we fell asleep, only to be woken up a couple hours later as Chris was near comatose with a blood glucose level under 2. She was unable to communicate and marinating in cold sweat. After an hour we got her sugars to level out, but I had made the call and she wasn't racing in the morning. Now the onus was back on me where it should have been and I had decided not to race. I have never backed out of a race before because of being unsure of myself. "Could my leg make it?" This question would have me up the rest of the night and eventually have me wandering the streets at 4am beating myself up about what I could have done differently over the last week to have prevented this. I shouldn't have gone for that long bike ride or maybe if I had not ridden all week and just rested... Maybe not gone climbing and gotten to bed early... It was all too late and the next day all we could do was mope around the house. Chris was destroyed from the nights low blood sugar and I was destroyed with athletic guilt. It was the end of my summer races and I feel like I let what should have been the coup de grâce to my season slip through my fingers.

   I really did learn a great deal this summer. Being my first race season I did expect to make mistakes and have both failures and successes. That's exactly how it played out. I'm sure no matter how long you race, just like in any sport you are always learning and dealing with ups and downs. Really it's just like life itself. For me there is now the fall races to work for. Run for the Grapes Half Marathon was in September (but that's another story), Halloween 7km in October and the Casablanca Classic 3km in November. Then a winter of hard training to do it all over again next year, only a little wiser and stronger this time.


  1. I've been so proud to watch you accomplish all these things. You are a truly dedicated and competitive athlete. It's such a pleasure to be there at these events.
    I think we all need to stfu about our opinions on other people's bodies. Really, I think it's mostly jealousy at seeing someone as fit as you.

    I'm also very sorry we didn't get to do that tri relay. You calling it off ended up being the smartest decision. I was destroyed after that life threatening low blood sugar. I'd still love to do a relay one day.....REALLY!

  2. Wow, what a great season for you! That's awesome.

    Open water swimming freaks me out too. I spent 2 months this summer doing a swim challenge to improve my form. Next step is to take it outside, into open water.

    I just looked up the body types you mentioned at the beginning of the post, and based on self-classification, I am an endomorph, which is slightly depressing as Brittanica tells me "Under normal conditions the endormorphic individual has a great deal of body fat, but he is not simply a fat person; if starved, he remains an endomorph, only thinner." Let's hope I got the self-classification wrong! :)

    Can't wait to hear about all your plans for next year. For the record, trail running and 50ks are AWESOME!