Category Archives: Editorials

Editorial – 2017 ITU World Duathlon Championships (Elite Standard Distance), Penticton BC

First off, I want to thank all our readers for your patience while I took a very selfish year to myself with minimal writing. Secondly, thank you to you all in advance for reading this super long post. I didn’t want to spare a detail, so I included lots of pictures to break everything up!

I’ve just made my way back from Worlds in Penticton, where I raced the Elite Standard Duathlon last Saturday (spoiler – results here)…the reason for my selfish year. It was a roller coaster, and the gathering of duathletes from around Canada gave me a chance to talk to a lot of people that I knew previously to varying degrees. The number one piece of feedback I received from duathletes during my time in Penticton? Was it people asking for advice, training tips or wanting to know more about my journey to my first elite international ITU start? Nope. It was this:

“I love your blog, why don’t you write more/did you stop writing?”

…or something to that effect. Getting to the start line on Saturday entailed a lot of bumps, obstacles and hurdles, and it required 100% of my focus to be on my own personal journey, rather than that of my sport as a whole. There was a lot of introspection and re-vamping of my own brand, and a long to-do list to check off in order to get to the start line. That said, now that I’m safely on the other side of this experience I realize I dropped the ball a bit too much, and gotten a little bit too far away from my brand.

Toe the Line
365+ days to get here (Photo: Liyang Wang)

So let’s fix that. I want this post to take the form of answers to the questions I received, because I think that’s how my experience can generate the most value for my fellow duathletes out there looking to make this leap. So let’s do it!

On why I took this particular journey…
After the question I got above, the next question I got was why I chose to get my elite card for Penticton, rather than racing the Age Group races in pursuit of high placings. To be honest, my original goal set last year was to do just that: race the AG races at my best, see what happened and make a decision on racing elite in Denmark after that. But then I got this idea in my head near the end of last season while talking to Alexandre Lavigne leading up to and after the Canadian Duathlon Championships in Penticton (standard distance) and Edmonton (sprint distance). I finished one spot behind him in both races (4th and 2nd respectively), and we both started dreaming about representing Canadian duathlon on the world’s biggest stage.

Jesse and Alex Drafting
Duelling in the cold at the 2016 Canadian Sprint Duathlon Championships (Photo: Tammi Bauer)

It kind of took hold of me, and the curious side of me wanted desperately to know how I would fare against the likes of Benoit Nicolas, Emilio Martin, Yohan Le Berre, Benjamin Choquert and Mark Buckingham. Doing it in Penticton would allow me to make my elite debut as one of the youngest competitors and work the kinks out in a familiar location. I could do it in front of a home crowd, and with all of the advantages that come with racing at home instead of in Europe where several additional layers of complexity would have been layered on top. As a stepping stone, I don’t believe it was better or worse than racing AG in Penticton…just a different way of easing myself into elite competition.

Challenge Penticton Hill
This hill was about to take on a whole new meaning…(Photo: Moritz Haager)

On preparing for the race…
Having already lined up for races in Penticton, Edmonton and Montreal Esprit (where I took the sprint distance win in a cagey affair), I added Powerman Michigan to the back end of my season to pad my resume. It was enough to secure my International Competition Card from Triathlon Canada, and from there I embarked upon 2017. You can get all the dirty details on my 2017 races from my #InstaRaceReport’s on Instagram, but I think it’s valuable to go over why I organized my season the way I did.

Elites
Toeing my first elite start line. And I thought I was star-struck THEN (Photo: Brad Reiter).

Duathlon is very much so a niche sport in North America, which makes it very hard to (a) qualify and (b) prepare for an elite draft legal World Championship. I focused my spring on running fast for 10km to pad my selection resume, running a full indoor season of 3000m races before hitting the roads for a 16:10 5k in March and a 33:10 10k in April. May long weekend kicked off a bike focus for me, aimed at preparing the system to ride very, very hard for the first lap of the bike leg and then hanging on. I topped out my 5 minute power at 306W (5.5 W/kg) and my 30 minute power at 265W (4.8 W/kg), and did a bunch of bike racing (mainly criteriums and road races) to work on positioning and tactics in the group.

Jasper
Laying down the watts up to Marmot Basin in Jasper (Photo: Luis Franco)

I had two key non-drafting duathlon tune-up races, a course record at the Footstock Duathlon in June and a runner-up finish to Stefan Daniel at the Provincial Duathlon Championships in Red Deer. Non-draft racing turned out to be a more ideal form of preparation than I thought, as it is a good opportunity to put everything together. I supplemented these with draft legal race simulations with the Edmonton Triathlon Academy, which allowed me to fine-tune skills like transitions, positioning, bridging to and working with a group, and running off the bike. I don’t generally believe in a “sum of all parts” approach to multisport training (piecing together training from the different legs that combine to make a multisport event), but without races to use as training sessions, I was able to make it work. Despite the sometimes bumpy DIY approach to elite duathlon racing, I felt confident I was toeing the line prepared.

Crit Racing
Surviving my first criterium (Photo: Tammi Bauer)

With regards to the atmosphere and support…
This was by far the best part of race weekend, so it deserves a bump over the performance aspect. Canada, you are AMAZING! I’m used to being 100% self-sufficient (ie. I monopolize my parents’ recreation time), but this time around I kept finding that everything was taken care of for me, and that my parents could actually have a vacation to themselves! The LOC did a stellar job blowing everyone’s expectations of “world class event” out of the water. My plan to lay low in a quiet corner at the Team Canada meet and greet was shot to hell, because I had lineups of you wanting to say hi the whole time. Right up until the introductions, I was in awe of the calibre of event I was racing.

Transition
Stoked to represent that flag! (Photo: Cathy Williams)

Then when it came time to step up to the start line, you cranked the level up to 11. I could feel the excitement build as they announced bib 1 through 10. I planned to play the cool dude and jog up to the line like I’d been there before…but then hundreds of Canadians erupted with cheers when they announced my name. I teared up immediately, and couldn’t help but acknowledge you as your support drowned out the introductions of #12 and #13. (In fact, I teared up writing this.) The support continued throughout the race, as I had an army of friends, acquaintances and people I’ve never actually met before cheering for me every step of the way. It was the most inspiring thing I have ever experienced. Thank you again Canada…it was an absolute pleasure representing you!

Introduction
Couldn’t help it…(Photo: Darren Cooney)

With regards to performance…
With the welcome I got, you would think I had the race of my life right? Actually, the performance itself wasn’t my best. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t anticipate the adrenaline rush I would receive from the introductions, and that rush showed in my first lap. I ran it in 7:29 (2:59/km), spiked my heart rate to near-maximum, and put myself in a box that I would regret for the next two hours. After a 33:45 10k, I actually succeeded in reaching my next “end point” where I wanted to be, pushing hard on the first climb of Vancouver Avenue and putting myself into a group with Yennick Wolthuizen (NED), Masaaki Kurihara (JPN) and John Rasmussen (CAN)…exactly where I wanted to be.

Start Line
Star-studded start line! (Photo: Brad Reiter)

Unfortunately, John was still carrying a virus from racing in Yucatan the week before, and Kurihara went off the back with him. I didn’t dig deep enough into my suitcase of courage to get to my third endpoint (with a group after lap 1), and I lost Wolthuizen’s wheel at the top of the climb. From there it was a long lonely 40.5km ride on a grueling 5 lap course. My legs went the 5th time up the hill, and it made for a 5km slog of a second run. Stefan Daniel was just up the road, but I just didn’t have it in my legs anymore and finished 23rd.

Grinding
Long lonely day full of steep gradients and crosswinds (Photo: Brad Reiter)

With regards to what I did well…
So what went right? Quite a bit actually!

  • I got to the start line healthy and in the best shape of my life, which was the number one goal of my 2017 season.
  • I learned valuable lessons and gained valuable experience as to what it takes to be competitive on a World Championship level, which was goal number two.
  • I felt I navigated the pre-race schedule as well as I could. Elite racing involves a lot more than AG racing, with mandatory race briefings, bike compliance and motor checks, wheel pits, blue carpets and constant media presence. There were a few bumps in the road, but I came through it reasonably unscathed.
  • I was successful in bridging to the group I wanted to be in in the first 5 minutes of the bike, after initially missing it on the run.
  • I came across the line totally spent, but bounced back reasonably well. Well enough to go 4th fastest in Strava history up Apex Mountain 4 days later!
First one down, it’s all fast downhills from here…right? (Photo: Brad Reiter)

With regards to lessons learned…
…there was a ton. This race is kind of like your first FTP test on the bike. It’s excruciatingly painful while you do it, and you slide off the bike confident you couldn’t have gone any harder. Then you look at the data and reflect on the effort, re-test a week later, and find another 20 watts. I’m content with my performance, but I came here with lots to learn as well. The lessons I learned are numerous, and I’ll need to adapt quickly if I plan to be right in the thick of things next time around. Good thing I don’t generally make the same mistake more than once!

  • Those pre-race meetings? Yeah. There’s a reason elite race briefings are mandatory if you want to race. Oh, and they clean up the wheel station pretty quickly if you’re the last race of the day. Don’t worry, I got my wheels back eventually!
  • Knowing your competition is an incredibly valuable resource. I went into the race hyper-focused on a plan centered around the other Canadians. When that went off the rails, I didn’t have enough information to adapt and find other wheels to ride with.
  • Adrenaline has a HUGE effect on your performance. It doesn’t take much to build up, but it can make an effort that’s probably too hard seem effortless. Becoming intimately familiar with your limits is an asset, so you can mitigate the effect of adrenaline.
  • The first lap of the bike should be UNcomfortable, but digging deep is how you prove yourself to a pack. I missed my pack and it made for a lonely ride. 10 more minutes of intense suffering might have meant riding in a small group and a faster bike split. The number of times I’ve wasted 10 minutes…
  • It’s worth it. Oh man, is it ever. Never in my life have I ever been so proud to be a Canadian. Y’all are the best!
Finish Line
Proud to be a Canadian (Photo: Moritz Haager)

What’s next for me?
It’s been 10 days since the race, which means it’s been 10 days since qualifying started for the 2018 ITU Multisport Championship Festival in Odense, Denmark. I jumped back in the saddle for a hard climb up Apex Mountain and then another humbling at the Alberta ITT Championships (where just under 44kph was good enough for the 10th best time of the day). I’m planning to mix it up with the local racers at the Edmonton Velothon on September 4 before taking an invite to be on the start line at the Vancouver Eastside 10k on September 16, to chase the 10k PB I wanted in Penticton. From there I’ll toe the line at the Triathlon Canada draft legal duathlon qualifiers, on October 1 in Boucherville QC and October 28 at Overdrive in Bowmanville ON.

Roundabout
New Year, New Start…just like this traffic circle! (Photo: Moritz Haager)

2018 is still up in the air, but I am tentatively planning to do another indoor track season and a short road season before heading to Greenville, S.C. for USAT Duathlon Nationals. USAT’s is about as close as a duathlete can get to elite draft legal experience in North America, so I would like to take advantage of that. The final goal? Racing Elite once again at Worlds in Denmark. I’d love to crack that top 20. Was it hard getting myself to the start line at Worlds? It definitely was. Was it worth all of the work and sacrifice I put in? Absolutely. Would I do it again? I’m planning on it! It’s easy to forget that the podium was made up of men born in 1985, 1982 and 1977…I still have a lot of career left ahead of me. 44 weeks to go!

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

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Editorial Race Report: A Humbling Day in Frankenmuth – Powerman Michigan

The following series of editorial race reports follow our editor, Jesse Bauer, on his adventures across North America this past August/September. During this time, he raced the Canadian Championships/Worlds test event at Challenge Penticton, the Canadian Draft Legal Championships in Edmonton, the draft legal qualifier at the Esprit Triathlon in Montreal, and Powerman Michigan, a long course race in Frankenmuth, Michigan. This series is intended to share his race experiences as well as general race information about some key and/or new races on the Canadian duathlon calendar for 2017. The reports will be in reverse chronological order, but also increasing in relevance to 2017 race calendars for Canadian duathletes.

Little Bavaria
Have you ever wanted to race in Little Bavaria?

The first race in the series is Powerman Michigan, an attempt to bring the wildly popular Powerman events of Europe to North America. The events on tap featured a 6mi/40mi/6mi Powerman distance race and a 3mi/20mi/3mi sprint distance event. The races were contested on a multi-loop course through the beautiful Bavarian resort town of Frankenmuth, with Powerman athletes completing four 1.5 mile run laps, half on grass and half on road, four exposed and flat 10 mile bike laps through the countryside, then another four 1.5 mile run laps identical to the first. Sprint distance athletes did two of each lap. Despite the flat nature of the course, the wind and the terrain made for a difficult day on the course.

Transition Zone
Pro-looking transition zone for athletes, headlined by Ironman legend Chris Legh’s slick Trek

I came in knowing that I would be underprepared for this race, with my training more pointed towards draft legal sprint and standard distance racing. My solo time trial work has been intentionally minimized to focus on the more technical and strategic nature of draft legal. Couple that with adding an additional 25k of time-trialling followed by a full 10km of running would be a challenge.

Milling Around
Tons of athletes milling around waiting for the race start on a chilly morning

After getting the go-ahead to join the elite wave based on my results of the season (racing such names as Chris Legh, Daniel Bretscher and Colin Riley, not to mention Peter Ellis and Mark Weghurst chasing from the AG wave behind), I decided to make the trip east and give it a go. My dad surprised me by catching a last minute flight to cheer me on, and we drove down with my friend from my Windsor days Brad Reiter, who would race (and win) the sprint distance race. And at least the weather on race day promised to be nice.

Elite Start
Off the line with some elite company. My shoe of choice: Skechers GORun4 for the extra cushion!
First Turn
Turning off of the “cross country style” section of the run course, ~800m of groomed grass running before hitting the tarmac

Standing on the line was a little daunting, but the nice thing about long course racing that I learned immediately is that there really isn’t a made dash off the line like shorter races. I had planned to run the first run relatively conservatively (~3:35/km), and a blistering start was not part of the plan. We ran together for the first 800m on grass before everyone split up, with Legh and Riley going up the road, and Bretscher staying back with me. I wouldn’t see Chris and Colin the rest of the day except on overlapping sections of the course. I stuck to my plan, and was very happy with my metronomic ability to run between 3:32 and 3:38 on each kilometre, even with over 3km of the run twisting and turning upon itself on grass with several off-camber sections. It was off to the bike course…

FIRST RUN (6MI/9.65KM) – 34:40 (3:35/KM)

Tarmac Lap Finish
The final 2/3 of each run lap was on tarmac (except for a short stretch on wood through the historic Frankenmuth Covered Bridge)

I was a little dismayed to discover my powermeter had fallen asleep, since I was planning to pace my ride to around 210W and see what that netted me. I was also interested in having the data to analyze after the race for later long course attempts. Recognizing a lost cause, I went forward on heart rate and perceived effort. Sometime in there Daniel Bretscher blew past me like I was a doddering pedestrian, never to be seen again.

Leaving T1
The abundance of signage, not to mention great volunteers, lent a very “pro” feel to the event

Starting off there was little wind, but with each successive lap the wind got steadily stronger. Each lap started with a long straight eastbound run on chippy pavement to a loop that ended up back at the main road for a longer westbound run back to the turnaround loop. The wind was coming from the southeast, so most of the exposed lap was into a cross-headwind, with an opportunity to get some time back on the long tailwind run-in back to the race site.

Bike Turnaround
The turn around for each of the four bike laps was a wide loop in the parking lot that hosted transition, with an aid station for full Powerman athletes

I focused my efforts on keeping a steady pace on the first two thirds of each lap and getting my heart rate down and some fluids and nutrition in on the tailwind section, while getting some time back. I ended up averaging a pretty consistent ~8:00 for each 5k segment, getting closer to 7:00 on the segments that included the tailwind. I was quite happy with this effort, though the distance and my lack of long time trial training took its toll after about the 40km mark (the longest I had previously gone for a TT). After that point, the wind took its toll and my legs began to tire rapidly.

BIKE (40.8MI/65.6KM) – 1:43:58 (37.8KPH)

Dismount
Another shot of the wide turnaround loop. The whole ~65km course featured exactly ZERO 180 degree turnarounds. It was glorious.

Despite my struggles on the latter half of the bike, I started the second run in good spirits. I had always known the second run was going to hurt…I just didn’t know how much. Luckily, the multi-loop format of the run course was my saving grace here, as it made it easy to break the run into smaller chunks. I broke it up into laps, and further broke it down to grass and road sections.

Chris Legh was already starting his 2nd lap when I left transition, but my major concern was my own race. I felt truly awful at the start of the run, and my 4:00+/km pace proved that. As each section went on, I was able to work into the run, eventually getting my pace closer to my target of 3:45/km. I ended up being very happy with my effort on the second run, as I really had no expectations going in.

SECOND RUN (6MI/9.65KM) – 37:52 (3:55/KM)

Death
Contemplating just rolling over and passing out. Luckily there was tons of Gatorade Endurance formula (if you’re into that sort of stuff). Also pickles.

FINAL RESULT – 6TH OVERALL/4TH ELITE (2:57:25)

THE VERDICT
I really enjoyed this race. The course didn’t present too many obvious difficulties, but the cross country style first 800m of each run lap as well as the inherent challenges of questionable pavement and wind on any Midwest bike course presented their own challenges. It was fast but certainly not a walk in the park.

Looking out
Another shot looking out from transition. The organizers went for a big race feel despite the small crowd, and I would say they nailed it.

Considering the race was relatively small (~150 people across the two distances), I was pleasantly surprised at the big race feeling and organization of the event. The multiple lap format, constant upbeat music and excellent announcing made it a fantastic spectator course, and Frankenmuth is a fun (if not a tad quirky) resort destination to take your family. The finisher’s medal was a carving of the state of Michigan on a Powerman branded lanyard, and we walked away with armfuls of swag at package pick-up. Even the race numbers were pretty cool, with a custom background of the historic Covered Bridge that athletes run through every lap.

Elites
Probably the most star-struck I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve read about these dudes on Slowtwitch! From left: Colin Riley, Daniel Bretscher, Chris Legh and some weirdo from Edmonton

I would recommend Powerman Michigan to any athlete based in Eastern Canada looking for a getaway race to cap off the season, or who wants to mix it up with some incredibly friendly pros. And of course to elites who meet the tough standards (16:30 5km/34:00 10km/26mph bike split in a multisport event) looking for a paycheque at the end off the season without that wet stuff.

Awards
Pro tip: they don’t let you keep the big cheques. Bummer. Although that would have been hard to explain at the border…
Eerie 1
Eerie nightime transition shots, part 1
Eerie 2
Eerie nightime transition shots, part 2
Eerie 3
Eerie nightime transition shots, part 3

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!