If the miles behind me could be put into words before you, you would feel my efforts, my struggles, my desires. Most of all you would see my joy. Watch me from afar run the trails and hills and miles upon miles and you will see ...

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bring on the Heat!

Last week and this week I did a couple long runs but with three layers on top including my arms. Although it was warm out (about 20 degrees) I needed to start teaching my body how to deal with the heat that will be the Desert Half Ironman on July 8th. Train for the worst is how I’ve always done workouts - hills, tempos, and now heat.
Back last Friday I drove to Osoyoos and rode the bike course of the race and ran one loop of the run. FIrst of all, anyone who’s done it knows that Richter Pass is no picnic. I parked at the Visitor’s Centre, gave them my name and next of kin and told them if my car was still in the parking lot in the morning then something’s gone tragically wrong.
I started up the hills with an absolute tailwind which meant in 30 degree weather, sweat was soon blocking out any ability to see. Cars were speeding up behind me and I could hear them for a kilometer because the wind carried the sound way ahead of them. There were moments when I’d crest a hill and get a slight crosswind to dry the eyes and then I was climbing again. Made it to the top and looked forward to the long descent on the other side but any semblance of an easy ride I wasn’t having this day. There were headwinds on the down and crosswinds on the flat. Of course it was easier than normal as through the rollers and the flats towards Keremeos is usually fraught with winds bearing right down on me. These weren’t just any winds, these had obviously travelled over the Pacific straight and unobstructed from the Queen K near Kona. Now any traffic behind me was startling me every time because the wind was blocking out the sound from reaching me. Giving it all I had and not looking at the computer was all I could do to keep my ego in check while realising that my bike strength is not where I’d like it to be. At the halfway I was at 1:20 time-wise and thought I was on a good pace. Of course now the turn was made and back to Osoyoos I suffered. Having never rode the opposite way back up Richter, I was expecting similar rollers and finally a fairly long climb back to the top. I lost count how many rollers there were but it felt like ten. There was at least three eight percent hills that went on and on while getting battered by the hurricane force winds. At least I could see. Now began the long four percent hill to the top of the Pass where I thought there would be a break from the wind. There was. Due to the change in direction, or shelter in the hills, or just some kind of weird jet stream pattern there were winds looking to defeat me. This once again brought on searing heat and sweat-drenched vision. I could also feel the spots on my back that were missed by the sunscreen. There has to be an easier way to apply that stuff by yourself in hard to reach areas. Of course, most of my body fell into the category of “where the sun don’t shine” as everyone on the coast has been bundled up for months on end. Then the sun comes out and so do the tri shorts and tanks and that separates the fake-and-bakers from the arctic-tanners. Pretty easy to spot those who thought they could get away with little or no lotion on the first real sunny days. So I got to the top looking so forward to some kind of relaxing decent but the wind Gods were still angry. They threw at me horrendous cross wind that kept me gripping the bars tightly, too afraid to stay in the aerobars for fear of being blown over. At the bottom the wind was fully in my face and I passed two guys loaded down with panniers heading to, get this, Newfoundland!! Ha, suddenly I felt worlds better with my ride over in ten short minutes. I finished in around 2:50, somewhat slower than the out part of the course.
I packed up the bike and headed to the run start. Of course there was wind at almost every turn but luckily the course is mostly flat. My legs felt really heavy, probably from the heat, and after a few missed turns I was done a lap and went to cool off in the lake.
So I don’t know how the body will hold up for Osoyoos but I’m hoping a few days at the Shuswap and then some time in Penticton will build up the heat endurance. We’ll see.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Memories of Ironman Coeur D'Alene 2004

Since it's been three years since I raced at Ironman Coeur D'Alene, this is my race report from 2004:

Well, it's been four weeks since the big day on June 27th and I've had time to reflect on the last seven months. It was December first last year when I started training for my second Ironman. I had just gotten over a bad chest cold that had me laying low for two weeks. I think it may have been a sign from my body for a "forced rest" as I had been training for the Haney to Harrison relay race which I did just before I got sick. As anyone who has done it knows, it's difficult to get up on a dark December morning to train for an event that is months away. The alarm goes off at 4:30 or 5am and you try to think of any reason not to do the scheduled workout. It's definitely a mind over body moment when you have to drag yourself from your warm bed. Knowing you're going out in the cold to jump into a cold pool is not inviting. Or dressing up for a run that takes longer to do than the run itself. Or, my favorite, getting bike shorts on, heading to the cold garage to bike on the wind trainer while staring at the walls. Once you're out of bed the hard part is over. You just need to train yourself to get up as soon as the alarm goes off before you can convince yourself to hit the snooze.
I had some goals for my race in Coeur d'Alene this year: finish in a faster time than Penticton in 2002, finish under ten hours, finish in the top 100, and, with the dream that is only a distant speck on the horizon on a chilly winter morning, qualify for Ironman Hawaii. There weren't a lot of memorable workouts this year like there were for Canada two years ago, just the scheduled sessions I tired to stay motivated for. The highlights on the bike were the Cypress mountain repeats and of course the solo ascent up Mt. Baker in May. That was the longest ride of the year just under eight hours and 230km.
Then of course there was the lowlight: About three weeks before my race I had my first truck vs. bike incident and I did not come out ahead. I was on a road when a truck came to a stop sign intersecting my road and the lady pulled out in front of me basically running me off the road onto the gravel shoulder. I didn't come out ahead on this one. I got up off the ground and took a second to take stock of all my parts. The bike looked okay at first glance, the road rash on the shin, hip and shoulder was not the end of the world, but the elbow was another story. It was quite surprising how little blood there was for a gash like that. I thought "this is not good" and a secondary thought was if I'd be swimming any time soon. I went into a school across the street with the lady as she stopped to see how I was. I cleaned up as best I could but there was a fair amount of dirt and gravel in the elbow so I got the woman to drive me to the hospital. It took a couple of hours but I came away with seven stitches in the elbow, a tetanus shot, some drugs and a prescription for more drugs. Also no swimming for ten days. I thought I'd go to ICBC just in case anything got worse with the injury. Becuause the frame of the bike was bent a bit, I managed to get a new frame and other components that were scratched. It was quite a stressful two weeks while I healed not knowing how the injury and bike damage would affect my race. I couldn't get a new bike in time for the race so I had to ride the damaged one.
Went down to Idaho about five days before the race to get ready and to finish the taper. Did a couple easy bikes and runs and swam in the chilly lake a few times. The weather was pretty hot at the beginning of the week but closer to the race it was cooling down some. My Mom, Dad, Steve, and Bonnie showed up the night before the race to lend their support. I didn't have much time to visit as we were doing the dinner thing and getting our stuff together for the big race. I gave them my predicted times, said good night and told them I would see them in the morning.
For some reason I was not nervous as I woke at 4am. The weather looked gloomy with dark clouds everywhere. There was even a bit of thunder thrown in for effect. I ate breakfast and headed to the transition area. Once there it was almost like I was doing a short course race. I only did a quick run warm up and basically got my bike ready. I must have delayed too long however because before I even had my wetsuit on they were announcing only ten munutes left to warm up for the swim. A little panicked I tried to get to the beach. "Tried" being the optimum word because I never made it to the warm up. The set up was rather poor because all the competitors had to funnel through a small opening in a short brick wall to go down some steps to the sand. It was quite the traffic jam with athletes and spectators alike trying to move around in that area. As this was the exit path from the swim as well, I was a little concerned there may be another jam up as I finished the swim (due to my turtle pace there's usually lots of people getting out at the same time as me). As I made my way down to the beach I saw Dad and Steve behind a fence for the spectators. They were wearing shirts that said "Darin Bentley #202 Our Hearts Are With You". What a great way to start the day. We high-fived and I got down to business.
I made it to the water's edge and my warm up consisted of splashing the water on my arms and face and a bit of stretching. After the anthem it was a matter of waiting from a signal from the tv helicopter to indicate we were live and ready to go. The gun sounded and seven months of long hours away from home, the sacrifice of social events, and constantly being tired and grumpy and stressed finally came down to this: I was racing. I hadn't done an open water race since July of last year and though it never usually bothers me, I was somewhat anxious in the washing machine this morning. After a few hundred meters the only thought was "even if I qualify for Hawaii, do I really want to do another one of these swims?". It took a good fifteen minutes until I settled down and got into my own slow rhythm. I've never been hit in the head and face more in any open water swim. My goggles were fogging up so I found it hard to see the place on the beach where we were to exit, run over the timing mat, and jump back into the lake for one more lap. I followed a pack of people and managed to clear the lens as I started on the second lap. It was uneventful and I finished the swim in 1:05, 326th overall and slower than 2002.
I went through the transition tent quickly and jumped on the bike. As usual, the first forty-five minutes of the bike felt like nothing and I was flying. Everything I read always says to not go hard at the beginning of the bike and how it should feel very easy. I always fear that I start out too fast but it's hard not to when it's so effortless. As I came back through town the first time I saw about two blocks ahead these two huge heads bobbing up and down in the crowd. They looked familiar and as I got closer I realized they were blown up pictures of the kids with some Hawaiian sayings on the posters. Hannah's said "Oe Kupianaha! (You're amazing!) We love you!" and Elias' was "Oia, oia, oia! (Go, go, go!) #202 We love you! ". That little section hit me pretty hard as they and Carrie were not at the race. In a way they were with me all day. I got pretty choked up, let off a huge cheer, and felt like I could ride forever.
After that I knew I had work to do. The first real hill I passed a lot of people and again felt I was going a bit too quick There were a lot of technical descents and you couldn't really get a lot of speed up. The second big hill involved me passing Lori Bowden (Hawaiian Ironman Champion last year) and thought that for sure I am going too hard. There were some more downhills and then we headed out onto some flats in an industrial area.
After a big loop we turned and came back the other way and it was here the wind was really strong. The next forty-five minutes was spent in a huge headwind. After leading a bunch of guys who were following me three bike lengths behind (that's the closest they could legally come), some of them began to pass me. I realized that even being as far as three bike lengths behind, you still get a bit of a draft effect that cuts down on the wind in front of you. I was going to try this on the second lap more. Going through town again was great as I anticipated my support crowd to be there and they didn't disappoint. I saw the posters from far away and got that choked up feeling in my throat again as I went passed.
The second loop was definitely harder and got worried I may start to fade. It wasn't bad and on the second time on the flats I stayed more behind guys and did find it an advantage. I raced into transition, handed off my bike, and tried to get my legs to move properly as I headed to the change tent. Total bike time 5:16, a couple minutes faster than Canada in 2002, but slower than I wanted to do. I think I was in about 70th place now.
I whipped through the transition like it was a sprint tri and headed out on the run. It starts with a short out and back around the first mile marker. As usual I felt all awkward and wobbly as I started but the only thing on my mind was to get my running legs back. I wanted to run around 7:30 miles but after the second marker my watch said I was sub-7:00 for both. Time to slow down a little. It was amazing how I was catching people who looked really strong on the bike only moments before.
After the turnaround we come back through transition and saw the support crew cheering me on. I tried to ignore the hot spots on my feet and hoped they wouldn't turn into blisters. The course heads out along the lake front and before heading back to finish the first loop you have to climb a three hundred foot hill. I didn't think that would be very fun on the second loop. The crowds along the route were great. People on their front lawns had sprinklers and hoses going so you could run through them. There were also little trigger-happy kids with squirt guns bigger than they were ready to soak you at the slightest hint of your permission.
Coming back into town I saw my crew and told them I'd see them at the finish line soon. At this point there were so many people coming off the bike and starting the run I couldn't tell which lap anyone was on anymore. I didn't know who it was I should be trying to chase down. The weather was getting hotter every minute. It was an extreme test of mental perseverance that enabled me to go on at the speed that I did. Not that it was a blistering pace, but for me it was fast. I had tunnel vision on the last loop and didn't acknowledge the volunteers or enjoy the experience as much as I have in past races.
After that ugly hill again, I passed the third place woman. She had a cyclist escort designating her position. We approached an aid station and the guy on the bike asked her what she wanted. She said, "gatorade and banana". I wondered if he was going to peel it for her as well!!! Must be nice.
A few blocks from transition the road has two lanes drawn on it. One will lead you straight to go to your second loop, the other leads you to turn left a block earlier to go towards the finish line. As soon as I went into the finishing lane, people started to notice. They realised that I was nearing the finish and because there was no one around me, I felt like I was leading the race with all the clapping and cheering for me. As I turned to go down the street to the finish, it was still blocks away and all I could see was a bunch of people in the distance. I thought about enjoying the moment but as I got closer to the clock I could see it was getting close to 9:50. Wanting to break this time I booted it and just snuck under in 9:49:55 and nearly collapsed into the arms of the volunteers. The finish area was great at this race because you could reunite with your family and friends about twenty feet from the finish line. At Penticton you had to get herded into the recovery area and it was hard to see your loved ones for awhile because of all the crowds. Final run time 3:22 (coincidentally the same time I ran my very first marathon in 2000 in Vancouver), final place 29th, 8th in age group!!!
They posted some preliminary results while I was still recovering with the folks. The numbers said I was 10th in my age group. As there were only nine spots in my age group to go to Hawaii, I was disappointed but could always hope for a roll down the next day.
I got back to the motel and phoned Carrie who told me she and the kids watched me finish on Ironmanlive. That made me happier than when I finished. I bawled. Then she looked at the results and it showed me in 8th place. No, I told her, I was 10th, I saw it at the finish. No, she said, you're 8th. I bawled. I'm off to the big Island for the legendary Ironman World Championships - basically the birthplace of the Ironman!!!
The next day at the sign-up for Kona, I saw the results on paper. There were two guys who got drafting penalties on the bike and when the penalty times were added to there finish times, I was ahead of them.
I'm looking forward to Hawaii on October 16th but I really want to cherish the experience as it may be a once in a lifetime occurance. You never know what's waiting around the corner so you might as well go for it.
I need to thank, again, everyone who made this day possible. Carrie, Hannah, and Elias, of course, for without their understanding and shoulders to lean on when I was at my worst during training I would not even have been able to put my toes in the water at the start; my Mom and Dad who gave me encouragement (and lots of babysitting on some of those really long training rides); Steve and Bonnie who have followed me to both my Ironmans for support; Evelyn who did the race as well and somehow managed to misplace 5 litres of body fluid along the course and required the same amount of IV's in the medical tent afterwards; Steve for all the bike maintenace; and all the boys on the Sunday rides. Thanks also to all who took this time to read my race report.
There will hopefully be another in a few short months detailing the big one. I'm undecided yet as to what kind of race I want to have on that day. It'll be a busy summer and one reason I did this race instead of Penticton is that it saved me from training all summer and missing out on family things. I owe this to Carrie to be around more. However, now that Hawaii is looming....
If you're not busy on October 16th at around, say, 4am BC time, tune in to IronmanLive and see me jump into the lovely blue waters at Kailua-Kona to start the race of a lifetime. Love to all. Darin.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Good Wishes to Ian

My good English mate, Ian (of Ultraman's Canada and Hawaii '05 fame), is embarking on an epic ride of massive proportions. On June 22nd he and about 40 other riders will attempt to cover 540km and 13,650m (yes, that's metres or roughly 45,000 feet) of elevation in the 32 allowable hours. The Race Across The Alps covers ground through Italy, Switzerland, and Austria over some mountains that are used in the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de Suisse.
It's amazing to even attempt such feat but with Ian he has been working extremely hard at school and has had very little time to train. A month ago he attempted the Raid Provence Extreme (needs to be translated). It involved a distance of 666km with 9000m of elevation. This one he couldn't achieve a checkpoint time due to a crash which resulted in a probable broken rib.
All I can say is that this guy has guts and to try this race elevates him to celebrity status in my book. Good Luck Ian!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New Balance Half Iron June '07

PREEMPTOR FROM CARRIE: Since this race was done as a 'chase', it was difficult to spectate. You couldn't base where your athlete would be judging from who was going by on the bike. This is why I have to apologise for lack of photos of Darin except for the awards. I was standing out at the side of the road with the kids, waiting for Darin to come by on the bike. We kept watching and waiting. The kids were getting ancy. "When are we going to go in?" "Yep, I think we missed him, Mom."
And I kept answering, "Just a few more minutes, these guys look fast, too." I had the camera at the ready, but wouldn't you know it, as soon as I looked down to change my position, there he was! No picture. Same thing happened on the run. We saw the first place women come by (remember, it was a chase) and were waiting and watching. Then, out he appears from the trail. Everyone knows you can't cheer and snap a picture at the same time! At the finish, I have to say it was poor positioning on my part. The only space was sort of behind a tree and then another guy and his family sandwiched their way between us and I just couldn't see. I could see athletes coming in on the far side in between spectators but couldn't really see who they were until it was too late to focus!

I did manage one focussed shot, in the end.

As I was using this race as a warm-up for Osoyoos in three weeks and to just shake the cobwebs from my racing mentality, I wasn't expecting a whole lot time-wise. Of course I had a time goal, as usual, it didn't really matter what the outcome was. I was basically gauging my fitness to on the bike and run to see if I should push or back off my pace. I also wanted to fine-tune my transitions which, by looking at the results, need a lot of fine-tuning. Maybe it was a bad omen from the start when (more on that later), in the ferry line up, I realised I had forgotten my half-bottle of CarboPro 1200 in the fridge at home. No worries, I'd just grab some at a running store in Victoria. So we get there and I find out Running Room doesn't sell it and a further twenty minute drive to Peninsula Runners revealed they had sold the last one earlier in the day. That's cool, this wasn't an 'A' race, I just picked up some Hammer nutrition endurance stuff where the main ingredient is maltodextrin, my fuel of choice. Grabbed a few gels as well for back up and I was on my way. No use in worrying about things out of my control. Even though I'd never used the Hammer stuff I was open to using it because there was nothing else.
Made it to Carrie's aunt's (Barb, thanks for the free accommodation and cheerful hospitality!) and set out to get the race package. The weather was calling for rain on Sunday but bringing with me a great record of racing in decent conditions, I was optimistic that things would turn out alright. The morning turned out overcast but not cold and didn't feel like rain. We got lucky as it never rained at all and the sun came out for a bit during the run.
So back to the bad omen thing: I looked at my run number the night before and in the morning went to get body-marked after I dropped my bike off. I told the marker '652' and wasn't until I actually got my race number out that I saw it was actually '562'. Great. I had to change the '5' to a '6' but changing the '6' to a '5' was not so easy so the guy basically scribbled out the '6' and wrote the '5' beside it. Now that looked ridiculous, never done that before and I SWEAR I'll never make that mistake again. Then I remembered about the timing chip I'd picked up already. The girl at the table exchanged chips with me and I have to apologize to the poor athlete who went to pick up 652 and found out someone else had picked it up earlier. I joked that "I bet that's never happened before" and the chip girl replied that I was the third person that day who had mixed up numbers. Not a good sign.
I haven't done a mass-start swim since July '05 at the Peach Classic. Needless to say, I wasn't looking forward to this. Luckily the race was done in waves so the whole 600 people weren't going all at once. I started out and five strokes later I could feel the anxiety building. It happens when I don't race for a while. The water was a bit choppy and every time I breathed, I got slapped in the face by it. Luckily there wasn't a mass of swimmers near me or I would have freaked right out. Anyways after stopping and taking a few deep breaths I resumed and started feeling better by the five minute mark and completed the swim in my turtle pace of thirty minutes and change, besting my '01 time by two minutes. More bad omen stuff: I was tugging on my wetsuit zipper cord all the way back to my bike and could not get the @#$! thing undone. I was trying the velcro tabs that covered the tab and nothing worked. I actually asked the guy beside me to get it for me, "no, my friend, this really isn't my first triathlon, honest". So now I'm out of my wetsuit, helmet, glasses, socks, shoes, grab my bike from the rack and it doesn't come. I put the saddle under the bar but with the bikes (yes, I actually came out ahead of others) and bags and transition crap next to it there was some tender jockeying of gear to get it out. Okay, in the pedals and on the road.
About eight k in one of the elastics from the aerobottle on my bars breaks. All I can think of now is if the other one goes I either ditch the bottle or end up holding down with my thumbs as I ride along. Oh, well, deal with that when it or if it happens. I saw quite a few people with flats along the way and was fully expecting to blow a tire any second. The first lap of the bike felt surprisingly easy - the hills felt good and I just spun up them mostly in my aerobars. The second lap I could feel the hills for sure but think I was only a couple minutes slower so that was good. The Hammer stuff went down okay and I actually stomached some gels which I haven't done in years. Came in to transition and didn't fall over or anything!! There would be no more bad things to happen.
Took off doing four minute km's which felt surprisingly easy. This is the ten km run course that I did the Elk/Beaver 100km race on back in May last year. Nice to know this time that I would only be doing it twice. It was a trip down memory lane of that 100km day seeing the same spots along the way and where the aid station was where the ever-diligent Carrie was handing me new bottles for eight hours. Of course the ever-kind Carrie says to me as I saw her after the first lap, "only nine more laps to go!!". I was feeling good until about fifteen k's when fatigue set in. I thought about my marathon finish in May and new I had more in me. I also thought about how this was supposed to be a feeling-out day and a warm up for Osoyoos. Instead of cranking out the next four k's I decided to go hard from eight to nine and then coast in. Don't ask me why but I started going hard from seven to eight. I caught up to a guy who had passed my around the ten km mark and the competitive impulses were too much, I had to keep pushing it a little to stay ahead of him. Had I gone a bit faster sooner I may have caught up to the guy in my age group that finished ten seconds ahead of me in second place. OR I could have cut a minute off my first transition and not had to go hard at all.
This race was all about re-discovery for the longer course races and I learned alot over the four+ hours. Osoyoos here I come!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Long Ride

So in my prep for two half-ironmans, one in June and one in July, and ultimately Ironman in August, last week I completed my longest ride of the year - a whopping four hours. I always find I ride better mentally after not being in the saddle for a couple days. Sort of renews the interest and excitement because going out too many days in a row just drains me all around.

The Cramerotti tri-frame I've been riding the past few years usually makes my back ache if I push too hard too long in the aerobars. I figured today would be the usual: feel strong for around ninety minutes and then need to stretch every ten after that. Don't ask me why but I felt great the whole way. I had a tailwind going east and did a 45 minute tempo ride and figured I'd get crushed as I turned around to come back west. There was a bit of a headwind on the return trip but it was going more north-east so I didn't get the usual brunt of it. I was powering into it and my average speed didn't drop very much. I ended up with 132 km over the four hours and having been aiming for around 120 I was pretty happy.

Of course Tuesday's ride sent me right back to reality. I was set up to do a two hour bike and a thirty minute run as five minutes easy, twenty hard, and five easy to finish. I felt awesome as I went out along the rural roads of south Langley but again had the ever-present east-blowing tailwind. I knew this time I would get hit hard on the way back so I turned around a few minutes before one hour. It's a good thing I did as there were lots of uphills coming back and the wind was the worse I'd ridden in in a long time. I was grateful for the dump trucks flying by me and giving me a few seconds of pull in their huge wakes.

Not sure if it's the run I did the day before, being tired, or a different type of positioning when riding into the wind but something makes my motivation drop and I want to just stop. I guess tomorrow I'll try riding north/south and hopefully get less wind. Living on an western-most point, it's tough not to do ANY east or west riding. Oh well, train for the worst and hopefully race the best.