Tag Archives: Rudy Award

Road to my 1st Ever Rudy Award

All Winners

Greetings all! You’ll never guess what this blog post is about. What’s that? My Rudy Award? Damn, you folks are good at this guessing game. Of course you are right that much of this post will be about my quest for a Rudy Award. But it will also diverge a little bit to fill you in on another race that I recently took part in. You are unlikely to ever see this one crop up at the Olympics anytime soon, but it is still a feat in human endurance and spirit. Yes, I speak of that most impressive athletic endeavour, the Beer Mile! If you’re not sure what that it, please follow the link and read a bit for yourself. It is devilishly simple in concept, but can be hard to execute. And I now speak from experience. Before I delve into that particular report, I’ll get into the meat of my Rudy Award, and just touch casually on each of the events that went into making this award a reality for me in 2011. I didn’t get there completely alone, so there are people to thank for their support as you can imagine. Before I go on, please have a look at the pictures and video I took of the beer mile as well as the awards ceremony. You’ll get a good laugh, and can then read on for the real story.

As you no doubt know by now, the Rudy Award is achieved by completing five specific athletic events in one calendar year. The Winterlude Triathlon, a Keskinada Loppet 50km event (skate or classic), the Rideau Lakes Cycling tour (a double-century ride), any full length marathon, and any full-distance Iron-distance triathlon. I have tackled all those events over various years, but always found it hard to squeeze them all into the same year, due to my other racing interests, which often resulted in timing conflicts. Last year, for my 35th birthday, I had hoped to complete it, but a really cool AR opportunity meant that I skipped the Rideau Lakes tour, so no Rudy for me. This year, the stars and the calendar aligned, and I achieved the Rudy Award. The following paragraphs will give a slight retrospective on all the events.

First up: The Winterlude Triathlon.

Waiting to Start

I’ve tackled this one a few times before, and still consider it one of the ‘easiest’ and funnest events of the Rudy Award. Feel free to read my whole post from this year’s edition for a refresher on how this race went for me this year. To put myself in the best possible position in the race, I bought a new set of clip-on ski blades, as well as some fancy new ski poles to clip in and out of. That would make transitions quicker, and also give me a boost on the ice to skate fast. Well, as with past years, due to the fact that I was skiing classic style, I had no hope of doing very well. However, I had a lot of fun at the race, and was joined by Deanna as my race photographer, in spite of the fact that we had company visiting. We wrapped up and were home before 10am, at which point I cooked breakfast for all 🙂 Great start to the quest for the award. One down, 4 to go!

Second up: The Keskinada Loppet 50km Classic Ski Race.

My Group or Racers

Oh boy. This event is actually one of the ones I get more nervous about. That’s for the simple fact that I have the least amount of training and practice in it. The full story of this year’s race can be read here. Although I consider myself fairly average in athletic ability, I still have some competitive spirit in me, and would like to do better each time I start a race. I have a long way to go before I’ll place well in a 50km ski race, but I still try hard. As such, I put in a valiant effort into my training this year, and equipped with my new poles, I felt pretty excited about this race. Mother nature of course tried to make it as challenging as she could, forcing me to try a completely new waxing technique the night before the race. The conditions would basically be a thin layer of fresh snow on top of a thick layer of icy snow, with temperatures fluctuating in the day, which meant I had to put on a layer of klister and THEN cover it in regular wax. Tricky but needed. I got the grip I needed, and had a fun time racing. I completed the race in better standing than last time, and felt that I had definitely learned more about ski racing and tuning skis. A great experience! And once again, Deanna was there at the start and at the finish to cheer for me, send her positive energy, and snap pictures!

Third up: Ottawa National Capital Marathon.

Two Runners, One Love

Ahh, the marathon. My old friend. Many moons ago, when I really started to get serious about physical activity, it is running that I turned to in order to improve my aerobic abilities. I have steadily been improving, and gradually building the endurance base I rely so heavily upon through years of running. I’ve been to Boston. I’ve run a 3:10 marathon, and I’ve felt the pain of running in heat and running in cold. Through it all, I’ve had to be disciplined, but the result is that I now feel I can run a marathon with relatively little preparation. Of course, there is always work to complete a marathon, and you can read the full story of this marathon in my post. I’d had visions of another Boston-qualifying run this year, but due to my own silliness, missed that goal. I blamed it on my GPS, but really it was my fault. However, I still got a respectable 3:16 finishing time, and declared that I am faster than at least 99.82% of the worlds’ population 🙂 Cocky? Perhaps? Deserving of this? You bet! I’ve worked very hard for many years to get where I am! I also wasn’t the only one racing this time. Deanna did the 1/2 Marathon, and I stayed out in the rain long after I finished in order to cheer her in and celebrate together. It was a really great feeling to both finish a tough race and hold up the medals together, and I was now 60% of the way to my Rudy Award!

Fourth up: Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour.

Celebration

The best part of the RLCT is the fact that this isn’t actually a race of any sort, in spite of what some people may think. It is rightfully called a cycling tour, and after riding 370km in one weekend, I was glad it wasn’t a race. In fact, this was a great opportunity to just get out and do something pretty epic with a good group of friends. You can read the full report here. You’ll quickly see that this event would have pretty much been no fun at all without the company of great friends. We were a happy little ‘six-pack’ of riders taking on the ‘challenge route’, an unsupported option which has us finding our own way and being relatively on our own. That has it’s upsides and downsides, but when you’re with friends, even the negatives just turn into funny memories (right Dave? No hard feelings on the route mistake, right 😉 The other fun aspect of this was that I could spend my entire ride with Deanna. She has really taken to cycling, and we love to get out. In fact, she even looks forward to the winter riding in the basement. This was a good chance to get a feeling for what some serious cycle touring might be like for both of us. The results were very positive, and the conditions for this year’s RLCT were absolutely perfect. And with the completion of this great event, I was 80% of the way to my Rudy. Just one event to go. Piece of cake, right??

Final Event: The Canadian Iron Distance Triathlon.

At the Finish

Ugh! That’s all I can think of when I have to summarize and look back on this event. There is a distinct chance that had it not been for the Rudy Award, and the amazing support of Deanna and other friends, I may have given up on this one. It still stings to think about this race. For the full deets, please read my post. It was a great exercise in discipline and unwavering commitment to the sport on my part. The one thing I will say for this race is that in retrospect, I’m GLAD it wasn’t easy. I will never forget the effort I had to put in to finish it, and subsequently, completing my Rudy Award under those conditions make it all the more sweet and give me the feeling of having earned it! The main problem was heat, and some poor nutrition on my part. Nothing that hasn’t happened to countless other athletes in countless other races, but it still hurt nonetheless. However, as alluded to, the fact that Deanna was there for pretty much the entire day, tirelessly cheering and pushing me on, made all the difference. I dedicate my finish in this race to her and my other good friends who supported me that day. Thanks Dave, Kev, Meghan, and Pete! However, on crossing the line, I knew I had done it. I had fought for, and won my first Rudy Award. I wasted no time in letting Rudy know that he could add my name to the list!

Epilogue Event: The Beer Mile.

Posing with the Champ

That leaves me with a paragraph to describe the beer mile. This event, traditionally done by athletes at the end of their season, is a chance to cut loose a little bit, and combine racing with drinking a bit of the suds. Four laps of a 400m track, preceded by completely chugging a beer (minimum of 341mL and 5% Alcohol) for each lap. That’s 1.609km or 1 mile of total running, and consumption of 4 beer in rapid succession. I’d read about it before, and always wanted to try. Obviously, the running is sort of secondary to the speed of drinking. I suspect that 5-7 years ago, I actually would have fared better, as my running speed has increased, but disproportionately to my drinking ability! However, some athletes possess a gift, and the days’ champion is a fine example. Ryan Grant, a respected local ‘professional / elite’ athlete can do both. In an astounding time of 6:59 he managed to win the race. That’s a pace of 4:20/km INCLUDING the beer chugging! For my part, I managed an 11:10 finish, but I KNOW I can do better, and will just have to train for next year 🙂 There were about 19 brave souls who took part in the challenge. Weather was chilly but good, and I chose to use Budweiser. My technique was poor, but I had a fun time. Shortly after completion, the 4 beer went straight to most of our heads. I was giddy and silly, and ready to head to the Rudy Awards and silent auction.

The awards themselves are pretty low key. The main event is actually a fundraising silent auction, with proceeds going to maintain the website and mailing list activities of TriRudy.com, which is, auspiciously, the place where the entire Rudy Awards got their start. The auction goes on for 2 hours, and at the end, there are a few little speeches, and the awards are handed out to all the winners. I believe this year there was about 19 recipients, and each of us are formally recognized and presented with our plaques by the namesake of the award, Rudy Hollywood. I now have the nice plaque in my house and it will hang in honour near my various medals that I have on my ‘I Love Me Wall’ (so called by Deanna when she first saw my medals on the wall). As many people point out, getting a Rudy Award isn’t the award itself so much as it is a recognition of a lifestyle choice. The choice being to dedicate oneself to the pursuit of fun and physicality which in turn leads to a healthy lifestyle. For my part, it has also been a gateway to great friendships and meeting like-minded people. It felt great to finally get the award, but a little piece of it also belongs to all those who have cheered me on, congratulated me on races, or even been inspired in part to get active out there. Thanks to all of you, and in particularly the beautiful Deanna who was with me on the entire journey this year! So where do I go from here? Same as always I guess. Looking to the next cool and fun event to line up at and race in I suppose. See you out there!

Mission Accomplished! Twice Iron Through Determination

Receiving Bronze

Greetings friends! Let me get right into this race report. To summarize the events of the Iron-distance race that I just completed, it was the greatest challenge I have taken on when compared to all my races before. Not for the physicality of the race, but for the will needed to complete the event. Indeed, this race had almost nothing to do with the swimming, biking, and running, and everything to do with sheer determination, and the assistance of good friends willing to help me get to the finish line with their own spirits. Yup, it was that kind of a day folks. I’ve said before that you only get out of a race what you put into it, so I had not been expecting the best race ever, given my lack of preparation, but I got way more than I bargained for with this doozy. Please join me on my journey by reading through the remainder of this blog post. I will indeed try not to pontificate too much, but there is much to say. As usual, don’t forget to check out the pictures from the race, then read on for the rest!

First off, let’s just get the good out of the way. I finished the race! In fact, my standings at the finish line put me in 24th overall, 19th male, and 3rd in my category with a time of 12:57:40. A full 2 hours longer than the first time I tackled an iron-distance tri in 2007. In that race, I trained specifically for the race, putting time in the pool, on the bike, and running in the months leading up to the race. This time, I was banking on my built-up endurance base and desire to finish. In and of itself, that SHOULD have been enough, and by looking at my performance in the swim and the bike, things looked good on paper. I’d planned on 1.5hours for the 3.864km swim (completed in 1:21:18), 6 hours for the 180km bike (completed in 6:03:18), and a reasonable 4 hours for the 42.2km marathon. However, you’ll note that my actual marathon time was 5:25:59! So just what happened? Therein lies the crux of my race report.

Rewinding only slightly, I should mention to you all why I chose to race in the iron-distance triathlon in Ottawa at Mooney’s Bay. In a word: Rudy. In two words: Rudy Award. I’ve talked about it in the past, but this year was finally the chance I had to actually complete the award. To get it, you need to complete 5 events in a calendar year. The winterlude triathlon, the Gatineau Loppet, Rideau Lakes tour, a marathon, and an iron-distance tri. This was to be the final event in my bid, and I aimed to finish, no matter what. As luck would have it, that would soon be put to the test.

Leading up to the race, the forecast kept changing from day to day. For most of the week, it seemed apparent that we would get some rain. While the idea of getting rained on for part of the day didn’t have me too excited, I’ve done it before, and knew I could cope. There are worse things than being wet for a few hours. So what might be worse? Well, heat I suppose. I would soon become very acquainted with heat, as on race day, temperatures spiked so that at one point, with the humidex, it was about 42 degrees celsius! Yup, that’s when the wheels came off for me, and several other racers battling it out on the course, united only by our desire to finish the race and end the suffering.

At 4:45am on Saturday, my alarm went off, and by 5:30am, Deanna and I were out the door. The race start was for 6:30am, and I had to get my transition zone stuff ready for the long day. Before heading out, we checked the forecast again, and saw that there would be no rain in store for us. Once on site, I got my gear laid out, did my body marking, and headed to the beach for the swim start. Since I’d only been swimming 5 or so times in 2 years, I had low hopes. As it turned out though, it was my strongest leg. It was quite nice to be swimming in the still and calm of the morning as the sun began to rise. I felt good, and stayed in my zone. I focused on my stroke, and made good progress, coming out of the water in 15th place. All was going well so far.

Next, up, 180km of cycling up and down the canal, twelve times in total. I knew the focus of this leg would be to ensure that I ate and drank lots to keep the engine firing on all cylinders for the marathon to follow. I had enlisted the help of Deanna to act as my soigneur. As I would pass by her on the loops, she would trade out my empty bottles for full ones of Nuun, my drink of choice. The first couple laps went pretty well, as I had changed into proper bike clothes and made sure to coat myself in plenty of Vaseline to prevent chafing. I could tell that it was warm at this point, but I didn’t feel too badly about it. However, I started noticing that it was getting difficult to eat and drink properly. This manifested itself in a few ways. Firstly, I had the distinct impression that I was slightly nauseated the whole time. Every time I started to eat something and wash it down with drinks, I seemed to have to wait longer and longer for my stomach to settle. In fact, somewhere during my second lap, I had to pull off and use the porta-johnnie to deal with some GI issues.

After that stop, I thought that my troubles were gone, but I believe it was actually only the beginning of my woes. I kept pressing hard for the majority of the bike ride. Initially, I was able to hold and average speed of about 32km/hr. However, as the laps ticked by, the speed dropped to just under 30km/hr. The main reason it didn’t drop lower was that I was now blessed with some great fans on the road. Of course there was Deanna, but at other parts of the course, there was now Chris and Agnes and their newborn, as well as Kevin and Liam. As well, there were all the great volunteers along the course who I’d started to get to know. With all of their help, I kept pushing on, and was quite happy when I saw that my final lap was finishing off, and I was just at the 6 hour mark. In my mind, the final 4 hours I had presumed for the marathon should go well.

After racking my bike in the transition zone, I changed quickly into my running clothes, and also slapped on more Vaseline to stay in good shape. Sadly, I forgot to apply more sunscreen, which would mean I’d probably get a bit of a sunburn on the run. If only that was all I’d get. I left the stadium and started my 42.2km run with relative hope. I didn’t feel great, but assumed that as I put in a few kms, things would improve. After the first half lap, I noticed my pace was already way up. I seemed to be getting slower and slower. Not only that, I was now pretty much completely unable to drink and fluids or eat any food, and my body and limbs felt heavier and heavier. I had no idea that the heat had gotten as high as it had, but it was becoming more and more apparent.

The run was a 3.5km run out, and 3.5km back, for 7km total loops, repeated 6 times. The first lap hurt. The 2nd? I felt like it was absolutely destroying me. At the far end of the loop was Deanna, Dave and Meghan, out there to cheer me on. However, my energy was decreasing with every step. On the way back to the stadium on that 2nd lap, I came face to face with the distinct possibility that I might not succeed. I had stopped sweating now, and although I didn’t realize it quite yet, I was at a minimum suffering from heat exhaustion, and in fact, was likely close to heat stroke. Not a good situation when I still had most of a marathon left to run.

I was shortly thereafter joined by Pete Dobos who was on his bike. He kept me company for most of the way back to the stadium. At times, I had to suck it up and just walk for long stretches. It was absolutely demoralizing. In chatting with him, we came up with the conclusion that I needed to get my core temperature down. The best way to do that would be to dive into Mooney’s Bay when I got back there, and that is precisely what I did. It felt absolutely amazing, but still wasn’t enough to get me fully back in the game. If I thought lap 2 was hard, lap 3 was an absolute nightmare. In all my races in all the years I’ve been racing, I have never been so unsure of the outcome. The only thing that was certain was that I needed to see this through. The reality in my mind was that I’d either finish the race, or be taken off in an ambulance.

Once again, at the far end, I had the mixed fortune of seeing my friends. Seeing them caused a few things to happen to me. At first, it was nice to see familiar faces. However, it also made me want to throw in the towel and just join them on the sidelines. I felt like I was reduced to basically crawling at this point. I sat in the dirt at the side of the path and put my head down. Dave had been awesome enough during the last lap to get me some cold water, Gatorade, chocolate bars, and even an ice cream sandwich. Nothing was working though. I was pretty much in tears at this point. I honestly had NO IDEA how I would be able to finish, nor did I even want to. For their part though, Deanna, Dave, Meghan and Pete were awesome. Not for one second did they let me believe that I wouldn’t finish. Dave told me I was looking good, even though I know that was a lie.

However, a funny thing happened. I got back up, and just started walking again, starting the long trip back to the stadium to finish lap 3. Once there, I’d be half done, and could start thinking about the finish. Deanna walked along with me, and when I found the energy, I’d pick back up to an easy jog / shuffle. Eventually, Deanna told me she was going to get her rollerblades so that she could keep me company. She headed back that way, and once again, Pete showed up on his bike to keep me company. Once at Mooney’s Bay, I dove in the water again, entered the stadium to finish lap 3, then on the way out for lap 4, dove in the water a 3rd time. This appeared to finally start to help me. Pete made the observation that I was now over the hump. 3 laps down, 3 to go!

On this lap, I finally found my legs again, and was able to manage a jog for most of the way. I was a little cooler, and managed to get more fluids into me, and even had a bit of food. Unfortunately, the damage had been done already to my body, so I was unable to get any real speed under my feet. However, even at my slow jog, I felt 10 times better. In my mind, walking the marathon, although it would have been possible, was not the way I wanted to finish the journey. I had to feel that I was truly racing. Towards the end of lap 4, Deanna found me once again, and I was happy to report to her that I was moving for real again. Unfortunately, she had to duck back home to walk the dog. However, at my pace, and with 2 laps yet to go, I knew I’d be about 2 hours. Another dip in my ‘pool’, and I kept going. The next time I’d see her, I would hopefully be almost finished.

Laps 5 and 6 went by mercifully uneventfully. I focused all my energy on just putting one foot in front of the other. Drink and eat as much as I possibly could, and offer support and encouragement to all my other fellow competitors. Suffice to say, I was not unique in my level of suffering. There was a large portion of the iron-distance racers walking much of the course. A lot of them also had the support of spouses, family, and friends as well, walking with them on their laps, offering encouragement and support. I was very touching and emotional to see. As they say, no one is alone in their journey to complete and iron-distance tri. It may not always be as physically evident as it was there, but mentally, everyone has people helping them with every step.

Nearing the end of lap 6, I could taste the finish line. Deanna had once again joined me on the rollerblades, and I only had to finish the last few hundred meters into the stadium in order to finish the journey. Highlight of lap 6? 6 cheezies that I got from a spectator. They propelled me, smile on my face through the last little bit. Then, nearing the final turn, another great booster. A group of people I’d asked to cheer for me earlier had taken the task to heart, and upon seeing me, broke into great cheers of Steve! Steve! Steve! It was amazing, and all I needed to hear to keep me going to the finish line. The last 200m into the stadium is a blur. The announcer called my name and some other stuff about me, and I saw the finish banner being held for me to run through, which I did, with arms held high. It was done, and I had been victorious. The hardest fought finish I’ve ever had to endure!

There were a few celebrational pictures, then it was off to collect my things and make our way home. The pain and stiffness of the effort were already setting in on my body. I could barely walk, and I was still quite badly dehydrated. I finished my night off with a delicious meal of rotisserie chicken, before finally trying to go to sleep at 10pm. It was a very fitful sleep that night, and after the awards breakfast at 9am the next morning, the whole event is now but a memory. I’m proud of the accomplishment, and now have to get back to the task of recovering, especially since I have races for the next 3 weekends as well! No rest for the wicked, right? So ends my story, and I hope you’ve all enjoyed it. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to check back for my next story. Thank-you to all those who have helped me on this journey. Without you, I’d never have gotten as far as I have.

Slipping and Sliding 50km to the Finish

Welcome back to another race report. This was a tough one, and one which required me to try a new skill the night before the event! I’m talking of course about the Gatineau Loppet, a 50km cross-country ski race that I just completed over the weekend in the classic category (as opposed to skate skiing). The real challenge in this year’s race was the crazy weather that we had in the days leading up to the event. In spite of the crazy conditions, I had what I would call a successful race, and was very happy to cross the finish line. The best part of the event was that once I completed it, I was able to say I was now 40% of the way to my 2011 Rudy Award. Yup, event number two is in the bag, and the next 3 events will be in MUCH warmer conditions! Obviously, I wasn’t about to tote a camera around with me on the course, but there are a few pictures from before I started, as well as some thumbnails I grabbed from the ZoomPhoto page. To see all the pictures, check out the folder on flickr. After that, click on back and read the rest of the story.

Ahh, the Gatineau Loppet. One of the biggest winter events in Canada, and at a minimum, the largest cross-country ski race in the country. As part of the World Loppet series of ski races, this event draws people from all around the globe to take part in it. Over the course of the weekend, over 3,000 racers will don their skis and take a crack at the skiing in Gatineau Park. There are a full range of events, with distances of 5km, 16km, 29km, and the big one, 50+kms of skiing. On Saturday, all the events are classic style, and on Sunday, all the events are skate skiing style. Naturally, I was signed up to do the 50km classic style race. Earlier, I mentioned 50+km. The reason is that depending on conditions, the course is quite often modified from year to year, and this year was no exception.

For starters, this season sort of had a slow start when it came to snowfall. Although I’d bought an actual ski pass for the park, the conditions a lot of the time just hadn’t been all that great. However, in early February, it finally looked like things might be turning around for us. We got a substantial dump in one storm, and I had hoped we’d see more. Regardless, with that snow, the groomers got to work, and the trails were pretty good. As such, I hit the trickier sections of the Loppet course several times to train, concentrating on the steep, narrow, twisty trails, which are the most fun, and where I could make up ground. But that would only happen if they were part of the race. After all, last year things had been shortened somewhat, and the tricky bits removed.

Well, Deja Vu set in for 2011. The week leading up to the Loppet was an absolute nightmare when it came to snow. We had a string of 3 days of unbelievably warm weather, peaking at 11 degrees Celsius on Friday! Yes, THE DAY BEFORE THE RACE!! Snow was melting at an alarming rate, and no new snow would be there. Grooming would be difficult, and conditions uncertain. Well, wouldn’t you know it though. The forecast over night had the temps going from 11 degrees down to MINUS 12! Can you say flash freeze on the course? It was likely to become very icy when we lined up for the start. Accordingly, the wax recommendations all called for blue klister.

Blue klister?!? I didn’t even know such a thing existed. I thought klister was really only for warm days, with the snow was too wet for hard wax. Well, it turns out klister is also really good for ice. However, the forecast also called for a light dusting of snow, like 1-2 cm overnight. In a nutshell, the absolute worst possible conditions. Hard icy base covered in a little powder. That meant the klister would need to be covered with hard wax. Again, I didn’t even know that was possible, as klister has the approximate consistency of honey! How does one ‘crayon’ hard wax over top honey?

Internet to the rescue. I followed all the advice, and did the following. 2 days in advance, I started by ironing in 2 layers of green base binder to my kick zone. At the same time, I started my glide waxing by hot waxing my glide zones. The night before the race, I applied my blue klister, using a hair dryer and spreader. Weird stuff. I then set the skis outside to sit overnight and hopefully freeze up. In the morning, I pulled them in, and sure enough, the ‘honey’ was set nice, but tacky. Over that I was able to put two light layers of blue hard wax and cork it in lightly. You really don’t want the klister and hard wax to mix. When I was done, I was pretty impressed with my wax job. I didn’t test them, but put full faith in my job, and Deanna and I headed to the start line.

Conditions were crazy. There was a bitter, howling wind blowing in our faces, and the thin layer of lycra covered in nylon made me a little cranky. I just wanted to get going, but they pushed back the start by 30 minutes so we were stuck hanging around waiting. Luckily, we were in a heated building (with the skis outside, as you REALLY don’t want to warm up the klister!). By the time we were finally lining up for the starting gun, I just wanted to get skiing to warm up. Luckily, and happily, I had a new set of bluetooth headphones to try out, and my iPod was streaming heavy tunes into my skull as I twitched in anticipation.

At 9:30am, the elites in Wave A took off. It wasn’t until 9:36 that my group, wave D, departed on the trails. It was a pretty painful start. Slow going, lots of wind, and lots of ice. In the first 10km, I took two mild spills, but already started making up ground and passing people. The engine was running smoothly, and the skis were working flawlessly. I had a stupid grin on my face everytime we hit any type of incline. In spite of the ice, I was able to run up almost effortlessly, barely once slipping in the tracks. I couldn’t ask for better. The only downside was that once again, all the tricky trails had been cut out, and we were left racing almost exclusively on the [boring] parkway trails.

Another consideration of a long race like this is nutrition. To address this, I had decided to carry my camelbak, and had 1.5L of nuun with me, as well as 3 gels, and 2 packs of honey stinger chews. The bad news? My hose froze right at the start, so I basically carried the extra weight the whole time for nothing. Also, I never ate my own food, as I was too focused on racing. Instead, I would grab a drink and snack at each aid station when possible. This is where the clip-on clip-off poles were a god send. I’d grab the food and drink, then keep moving, using only one pole while I fueled up. This worked quite well.

I am pleased to say that I felt good for the entire race. One of my early falls was on my wrist, which made my double-poling pretty difficult, but luckily, my grip was good, and I was able to ski for virtually the entire race without losing traction, even at the end. Throughout the day, the weather changed several times. Sometimes, we’d have gorgeous blue skies and sun beating on us. Then for the next 15 minutes, clouds would roll in, wind would pick up, and we’d even have a bit of snow. Very odd stuff. I’m also happy to say that I was not really passed at all the entire time. I think I counted only 2 or 3 people that ever passed me. On the contrary, I seemed to make up spots the whole time, which gave me a great feeling all day. Rather than fading out, I seemed to stay strong the whole time. There must be something to this more relaxed approach to training eh? Or perhaps my 8 years or base endurance training are finally paying off?

When I finally crossed the finish line, I felt great. I attempted a mini jump at the finish line and even pulled it off! People were laughing and cheering for me, and I had a big grin on my face. Moments later, I was re-united with Deanna, who came back for the finish, and we hung out at the finish for a while, as I chatted up a few other friends that I knew in the race. We all agreed it was a tough day, but for the most part, it seemed everyone stayed pretty warm and enjoyed themselves. That’s always nice to hear. So how did I stack up year over year? Well, my pace was up 0.2km/hr. Last year I was 183rd, this year, 156th. Category-wise, I was 13 of 14 last year, but this year, a respectable 9 of 22. Not bad at all! I’ll definitely take it.

With that race out of the way, I have only one final winter race left, the 4th Mad Trapper snowshoe race. My next Rudy Award events aren’t until the warmer weather sets in, with my next likely event the Ottawa Marathon in May. Guess it’s time to start thinking about summer training. But before that, there’s still time to enjoy winter, which is precisely what I’ll be writing about in my next post. Till that time, stay cool friends 🙂

Winterlude Triathlon: Starting 2nd ‘Tri’ at Rudy Award

Good day friends! Well, I’m starting to feel better about this whole blog post thing now. I’ve almost caught up to my race reports with this posting. As the title implies, I’m going to be talking about the 2011 Winterlude Triathlon in this post. This event is the first official qualifying event I have to do this year in order to get a Rudy Award! Many of you have probably heard me talk about it in the past, as it is something I’ve always planned on doing. So what is it? Well, basically you have to complete 5 events in a calendar year: the Winterlude Tri, the Gatineau Loppet (53k ski race), Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour (360+km in a weekend), a full 42.2km marathon, and an Iron-distance triathlon. For me, it’s never been about the events themselves, but more about the timing of some of the events. After all, I’ve done all those events before, and do long adventure races and multisport events as well. So I know that I have it in me. For pictures of this year’s Winterlude Tri, head over to my flickr page. Afterward, come on back for more stories about it.

The Winterlude Tri is just one of those quintessentially Canadian events that we have around here. Where else do they hold a race that starts with an 8km skate on the worlds longest skating rink, follow that up with a 6km cross-country ski leg, and then capped off with a 6km run along the canal and its’ snowy banks? Well, in a nutshell, nowhere! I wouldn’t classify this as an overly strenuous event, as it is over relatively quickly, but you still need to do some prep, and if you have any visions of placing well, you have to be pretty talented at all 3 disciplines.

Sadly, I am not that talented at these disciplines. Let’s review where my weakness lies in this event. For starters, the skate itself. Unless you have some serious training with respect to pace lines and how to draft really closely with others, you are poop outta luck. Great for speedskaters and inline racers, but not for a guy like me, who gets out on the canal a few times a year and rollerblades strictly on a recreational basis in the summer. In order to try and get a leg up, I did finally bite the bullet and buy my own nordic skating blades. Basically, these guys are 19 inches of metal fury on the ice. They use the same bindings as cross-country skis, which makes transitions a breeze.

Second event, the ski. Well, I’ll say this much, I’ve improved a lot at skiing in the past few years. After discovering the joy of skiing, and getting a nice set of superlight skis, I’ve made great gains, and am even now racing in long events like the 53km loppet. However, keep in mind that I ONLY skate using the classic style (as opposed to skate skiing). What does that mean? I have no hope of coming anywhere near the front runners. They are easily 50% faster than me on snow.

That leaves me with the run. My forte, my happy place. I can really redline here and actually see results in that I can pass lots of people. However, due to circumstances this year, that made very little difference. Keep reading and you’ll find out exactly why that was the case this year!

The lead-up to the race this year held great promise. The ice on the canal is the greatest it’s been in years thanks to a number of factors. I’d gone out on my new blades a few times to test them out and was pretty happy with the smoothness and speed I could get. We had a great base of snow, meaning that the night before the race, the groomer would be able to do a really good job with the snow. The run? Well, that just needs a flat surface, right? Well, they opted to modify the run route taking racers onto the actual ice surface. That could be interesting….

Deanna and I had company for the weekend, so the night before, we picked them up at the train station and checked out the Winterlude opening. I’ll save that stuff for another post though. I managed to not stay up too late, as I had to be up around 6am Saturday morning. Race was starting at 8am. Happily, Deanna also joined me, although our guests opted to sleep in. As a reward, I brewer her a pot of coffee as I ate my breakfast. I arrived, and got set up with a few minutes to spare. Barely enough though. I took a pit stop in a porta-pottie, and due to the line-up, just barely made it back in time to clamour onto the ice and into the pack of skaters.

I set myself up at the tail end of the ‘long bladers’. That is, in front of all those wearing hockey skates. After all, it was inconceivable that I would be any slower than them, but also unlikely I’d be part of the front group of ‘real’ skaters :-). My guess was very right. About 15 seconds after I picked my spot, we were off. I did my best impersonation of a long-track skater, trying to tuck in with people and keeping a hand behind my back. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for smaller groups to form, and for me to find myself towards the rear of this group. Also, it was hell on my lower back. Never underestimate the pain of being hunched over on the ice skating your brains out. When I finally rounded the last bend to hit transition, I’d been skating just over 20 minutes for the 8km course, and was in 61st out of 330.

Running over to my ski stuff, I went for a fast transition, assisted by the fact that my new ski poles are clip-in with my gloves (super-sweet feature). Unfortunately, my right boot binding was blocked with ice and snow and I had to fight to knock out the big ice chunk to get my skis on. Damn! Once fixed, I charged up the little starting hill onto the 2 loop course. It was clear that I was in a minority here. I could only discern maybe 2 other sets of pole marks from classic skiers. Regardless, I double-poled my heart out, and even stepped out of the tracks to take a few skate strides now and again. It was frustrating to get passed by all the skate skiers, but all I could do was keep pushing. Eventually, I passed a the other classic ski folks, and I’m pretty sure I would have won the solo race had there been a ‘classic’ category :-). The 6.2km ski took me just over 33 minutes, and I was the 89th fastest of the 330 peeps. Not terrible I guess.

Okay, time for the run, and time to burn it. I cast off my skinny sticks, donned my trail shoes and tried to run fast. Small problem. Running on solid smooth ice is really not easy. We were sort of equalized in that you could only run/shuffle at one pace on the slick ice without yaktrax. To make matters worse, I once again learned a lesson about double-tying laces, as my shoes came unties after the first 1.5km, and I had to pull off and re-tie. Luckily, I kept passing a number of people and was buoyed by this. Unfortunately, an earlier mistake on the course led to a dramatic shortening of the run. Our ~8k run was chopped down to 3.7km, the majority of which was on the aforementioned slick ice. So much for really making up ground there.

Right before the finish line, Deanna was off to the side snapping my picture, so I decided to detour to give her a quick kiss before finishing the race. After all, it wasn’t going to hurt my standing, and would hopefully make her smile 🙂 It worked, and I subsequently crossed the line with a grin on my face. In the end, this run of 3.7km took me nearly 16 minutes (so quite slow for me), and I was the 56th fastest on this leg. Where did that place me overall at the finish line? Well, I was 64th overall, and 17th of 52 in my category (men 30-35). Event number 1 of the Rudy Award was in the bag!

After finishing the race, I hurriedly collected my stuff, grabbed a cup of warm chicken noodle soup, and we headed back to the parked car. After all, we had guests to entertain! We made it back home before 10am, after which I proceeded to cook up some breakfast for everyone before we started the ‘real’ day!! Not a bad way to wake up and get energized, right? In my next post, I’ll share some of the fun we’ve been having outside of the race stories. But don’t worry, there’ll be another exciting race story after that too, since event #2 of my quest for Rudy Award in 2011 is on Feb.19th! Till then, enjoy this crazy weather!