Friday, December 30, 2011

My thoughts on "what it takes" for a fast Ironman

I have been reading the past week on various internet forums experts espousing their knowledge on what it takes to be fast at Ironman racing. Some are very, very scientific in their espousing; others very basic in their philosophy; many outwardly claim the other person is flat out wrong while they are right.

First thing I want us to all be clear on is that we are individuals. Therefore, what works for me will probably not work for you. For example, this is the best thread on Slowtwitch this year if you want a psychology experiment on the culture of keyboard experts. It is based of a simple tweet from one @pstriathlon, or Coach Paulo Sousa that basically said; Swim Fitness trumps swim technique. 245 posts later on slowtwitch (and counting) people are STILL DEBATING the merits of his tweet.

Second, the notion of the Joel Friel's Triathlete Bible 3 weeks on/1 week recovery protocol. Quite a bit of scientific study has been devoted to optimizing THE PEAK. The part of the season you are high flying and crushing it. Lance Armstrong mastered this each July for 7 years as an example. Yes, there is a base, build, speed, taper then race as common language over a season but I want to ask why 21 days on; 7 days recovery?

Third, Triathlon is a 3 sport sport. We train in the pool and lakes, ride on the trainer and the roads, run on the treadmill at the gym, in the trails, and on the roads. 3 sports: swim, bike, run.  Why is that? A gun goes off, the sport is swim, bike, run and the winner has the fastest time since the gun was sounded. That is 1 sport!

So what the hell am I getting at here?

There is no silver bullet to be faster tomorrow than you are today UNLESS, you believe the silver bullet is one word - PROCESS.

What do I think it takes to be a fast Ironman?
  • DO IT - the workouts.
  • LOG IT - in a diary to review later. Highlight the workouts you LOVED and the one's that HURT
  • REPEAT IT - again, and again, and again (the ones you love and the ones that hurt is a good starting point to repeat!)
Key rules:
  1. For 99% of us triathlon does not pay the bills. Work sport around life. Best time therefore is the time you own; morning!
  2. Consistency is critical. 
  3. If you are tired, rest
  4. Eat colored foods slowly to comfort not full
  5. And, what makes race day work is your head, not your legs, assuming you did rule #2.
My friends, my training protocol complexity is its bloody simplicity. Do the work. Shut up and do the work. The rest follows. Stay consistent. Stay focused. Repeat, repeat, repeat. 

I am seriously concerned as the sport grows athletes are looking for the next "YASSO 800" as the workout the will signify their ability to race Ironman fast.  Then want to apply that workout and say "I'm ready to crush this Ironman".  There isn't one workout. There is consistent work that gives us a high level of aerobic fitness that allows us to go for 9, 10, 11 hours in the water, on the bike, in the shoes. 

The only predictor to a fast Ironman is consistent hard work and a very fresh brain on race day that allows you to go into the depths of pain and suffering required to go faster than you thought you could. 

So, my ask is if you are training for an Ironman in 2012 and have super confusing workouts in your schedule that you have to study to understand; or have super scientific explanations to why it will work for you; or a plan that is cookie cuttered around a monthly calendar please ask yourself this: "am I getting the work done?"

Do the work. 
Do the work.
Do the work.

The do the work philosophy is why I respect coaches I have never met. Joel Filliol, Paulo Sousa, Brett Sutton. I read their material and see a simple consistent theme; consistency in hard work. It is why I respect coaches I have used in the past myself like Nigel Gray and Steve Bentley.  Do the work; repeat the work; stop complaining.

Do the work
Do the work
Do the work

Good luck in 2012.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Race Report: Hamilton Half Marathon for Hope

My Endurance sport bucket list:

- Hawaii Ironman = done
- Boston Marathon = done
- base camp Everest = never happening
- Trans Alps bike race in France = TBD
- Ride Across America (RAAM) = doubtful, that thing is just nuts!

- NYC Marathon = run this Hamilton race under 1:30 as a 40 year old and voila! Its now or never because the 2013 race that standard moves to 1:23 for a half marathon which was my race speed in 2004...I'm older and slower now, so shut up and put up time!

So, this happened!

After Hawaii I was pretty well cooked. I have been swimming but that is really it. Riding my bike to work for 2 wheels fun but nothing more.  Then, towards end of October I started to feel ok and did 1 treadmill workout to feel what 6:30 to 6:45 per mile pace felt like. Answer? TERRIBLE!

I have learned a very valuable lesson in all this sporting madness. You neve know what's possible unless you try.

So Meredith gave me the go for it and I registered 3 days before the race. I put a quick race plan together as follows:

- first 3 miles at 6:45 pace
- downhill section at 6:15 pace therefore "buying" 90 seconds under the 1:30 cut off I needed
- next 3 miles at 6:45 pace "buying" another 15 seconds
- final 4 miles stick and hold as best I can!

I raced it to perfection except for the final 4 mile part! It is a painful experience to know you are dying a slow death in the running legs, watching your GPS pacer go from 6:34 to 6:36 to 6:40 average pace over the course and then turn right into a headwind knowing it will only get slower!!

Dying, legs like lead; brain fighting nasty thoughts to slow down; side stitches creeping up; shoulder pain start which is the trigger to my diaphram muscle about to convulse uncontrollably...all the tell tale signs I am shutting down fast!! 5KM to go, 4Km to go...come on man, dig in!!! 3KM to go; 2KM to go...this is it mate, 1 final 8 minute mile is all you need so que the key self talk....PUSH, PUSH, BREATH, BREATH....

Turn corner and I am in absolute please end this now mode.....cross line in 1:28:08. Grab water, turn off the finish chute and fall down. Done, Dusted, Cooked. Absolutely 100% spent.

But I'm in. November 4th, 2012 Team Captain Meredith and her stupid, stupid husband are going to THE BIG APPLE to knock another bucket list off-:)

AFter the race, arriving home I spent 4 hours on the couch. Ironically the NYC Marathon was on TV! I watched and the best commentating quote re: racing marathons was this:

"Its easy until it gets hard"

Yeah, it sure is!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Family and Friends,

Meredith and I are now sitting back in beautiful west coast of Maui enjoying some great R&R, sunsets, fine wine, beer, and great cheer! Ironman Hawaii has come and gone and WE BOTH survived. Craig Alexander, the men's champion and NEW COURSE RECORD holder said in his acceptance speech:

"a great friend of mine Simon Whitfield said 'Great things happen to people who make great things happen. Well, I would like to say: 'Great things happen to people who surround themselves with great people"...

I have been so fortunate to meet and become friends with GREAT PEOPLE. Meredith is GREAT PEOPLE, and I thank her for her patience in another Ironman pursuit. Her greatness comes from her being such a great friend. She is amazing. She conquers. She supports. She empathizes. She listens. She toughens up (NOTE: do not FK with Ms. Mere. She had a root canal and crown 3 days before we left, then an emergency root canal the day before we left! I say, total CHAMP!)

She affords me to pursue more of myself than ever thought possible before we met by being her. Every stroke, pedal, stride is brought to you by Ms. Mere-:)

A few key people along the way support and help as well. You know who you are. You have big hearts. Big Sis and daddy who are always a rock of family; Clarke and HCK who toughen me the FK up; YT and her words of wisdom; Stud T (NOT what you think!) for her positive vibrations; C3; Shepley; Le bike team; Endurosport; New Balance Toronto; Cervelo bikes; the list continues. All are GREAT PEOPLE. Nothing is possible without that support period.

So the race report itself.

Swim: 1:06 - HOLY S***!!
I didn't swim a lot in training but I knew I would get by. This said, there were points in this swim that were flat out scary. This swim at one point required some serious rugby scrum tactics to get through!

I got into the water 20 minutes ahead of the start. I did a quick warm up and found some space about 3rd row dead center of the group. To the right are usually the fast crew; to the left slightly slower and given I had space I felt confident this was where I wanted to be. The gun sounded, I started fast and had clear water and thought "GREAT!". Then we came to the first buoy where it was complete fight for your life stuff! The swim actually stopped as we tried to make it through on the left of the buoy. No going right, that is illegal and the surfers are very, very strict about not letting this happen. OK, one will be easier right? NOPE....repeat all the way until about 500M to go on the way back to the pier. It was insane. But, we survive, take a deep breath and remember to smile and stay positive! 

I started swim just behind and left of the blue surfboard.

Bike: 5:12 - piston legs turn, turn, turn.
I made a very conscious decision to cover up my shoulders and arms on the bike after my race here in 2003 where I literally cooked like bacon! The ZOOT arm coolers and team kit Hincapie cycling jersey really, really helped keep me cool as I soaked them every other aid station with cold water. My bike leg goal was to stay within myself, this is not a bike race, and enjoy the climb to Hawi into the wind. On the way back into headwinds stay low and remember how lucky I am to do this, to be here at the Kona Hawaii Ironman, and never complain.

These goals were made easy as my mantra began to sink in..."Just smile" and "to not do my best is to sacrifice the gift". I wrote on my bars three quotes:

  1. To not do your best is to sacrifice the gift - Prefontaine
  2. If you are going to go thru Hell, keep going - Churchill
  3. I'm so bad, I make medicine sick - Ali

I felt great the whole way. Twice negative talk entered "OMG, a marathon? seriously? Control-ALT-Delete self talk and back to smiling!If I got negative at all I read my bars, reminded myself how lucky I am and I need to honor that "luck" by doing my best.

As we reached town I really did feel amazing and was looking forward to running! That never happens but my Power Data told be I did a very smart, controlled bike ride and that I should be able to run well.
note: hands, arms, shoulders, neck all covered from sun!

Run: 4:32 - So that happened!
I knew it 50 metres into my transition off bike to the transition tent. Instantly my ab muscles cramped. Not a stitch, actual ab muscle cramping! I stayed in the tent for over 8 minutes, stretching etc. to try and loosen it up then hit the road. I then stopped immediately and waited for my GPS watch to link into the satellites because I was still cramping. I figured, 2 minutes here can save my race. So I waited, and waited, and waited...the watch got going then so did I but my cramps were brutal. I suddenly was problem solving and thinking fast, fast, fast what to do? I realized missing my E-Load on the bike was now killing me (I stopped for my bike special needs bag in Hawi, I then got off my bike to look for it myself, I then thanked the volounteers and rode off without said bag! They didn't have it, that's racing so move on!) Now I was paying.

I went about 2 to 3 miles along Alii drive and finally saw Meredith!! I walked up to her and gave her a big kiss and hug. Melissa Spooner was cheering athletes with Meredith. I looked over and said, "Wait, is your name Melissa?" .... "Why yes now get running!" Meredith and Melissa then looked at each and realized "yes, we HAVE met!"....after much fun and banter I was off and running/walking. 7 miles into the run I found a great groove and knocked a few 7:45 miles but the cramps were coming and going and I reverted back to my mantra


My goals were to have fun, and learn about myself. I learned that the this race was my most enjoyable race because I smiled the whole way! I had FUN OUT THERE! I cheered on friends! I cheered on competitors as they passed me. I was NEVER negative on the run. I was having too much fun! Sure it wasn't fast, it wasn't crushing it, it wasn't all was so, so much more.

It was learning that competing against a clock is just that. IT'S A CLOCK PEOPLE! Who cares?? Competing against yourself and how focused you can get when actually going slower vs. faster is quite surreal. I learned that sport is fun, enjoy it! It's a gift. You might not be here ever again; enjoy it!

cramps passing, time to run!
cramps are back, SLOW!
cramps are gone again! Time to run!

Finish! 11:03:39 

This is the superbowl of triathlon, a sport I really haven't competed in for 3 years. I suffered the last mile of this run as the cramps began to really take their toll. I could only walk Alii drive into the finish shoot because the pain was so intense. It was horrible; AND I LOVED IT!

Nothing beats finishing the Ironman.

last 200M. thank god!
and that's that!
I did my best
I loved every minute of it

"If I could, you know I would, if I could I would....let it go..." Bono from song, Bad.


But then, to do that is to make it easy which it isn't. You get out what you put in. Mental and physical. The biggest lesson on the streets of the big island is that being mentally trained is critical to meeting goals. 

Stay focused.
Have fun.

See you out on the roads friends!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Kona Diary day 6: ...Not even a mouse...

Friends and Family,

This is it, twas the night before Ironman and I can say, this town went ghost! Not even a mouse!!

Anyway, my main post for game day inflection was yesterday's. Today, it is short and sweet to say a few words of thanks.

First, thanks to the support staff:
  1. for their amazing speed machines.
  2. for the amazing speed shoes, training clothing, and great service.
  3. for their support of my sport pursuits and our bike team 
Second, THANKS TO all of you! There is no web link to that. It's an old school THANK YOU shout out. You keep me even and I hope to do you proud
Thank you to the people of Kona for gracing our pursuits on this land. We owe you so much and I will do everything I can to give you, your land, Madame Pele and company complete respect tomorrow.

So what did I notice today?

Today at bike check in I noticed something very cool. While Specialized had their super team in town all week and launched a new super bike with much fan fare and spend of $$$, Cervelo had their staff including CEO at the bike check in shaking hands and handing out shirts to all the riders checking in a Cervelo. I love that style of marketing, direct to the people. Well done CERVELO!

My "Then-Gen P3" is below but honestly the "now gen" bike all others still copy.

Cervelo P3 with Zipp 303 front/808 Powertap back
Pro Missile bars
Ultegra kit with FSA 172.5MM crankset

Last, one slice of motivation I learned on twitter today. 10-14-1066 was the Battle of Hastings when the French army of Duke William II of Normandy beat King Harold II of England, killing the English king in battle and changing history. William's army did what the Roman's couldn't and Norman rule began.

My bib number is 1066. I'm ready for battle.

"Never ever give up! We will never surrender!" - Churchill

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kona Diary day 5: The Champ(s)!

friends and family,

It is getting close. I know because I am getting quiet. Unlike other big races though, what I am finding is a sense of calm. Inspecting what I expect of myself.

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift" Prefontaine

It is a star studded field here, the Superbowl of the sport. I mentioned in earlier posts about sipping coffee beside Olympic and world champions. Today I found calm in asking, 'what does it take to be Olympic Champion? To be world champion?" I then found these two guys and I must say, both were incredibly kind and nice to take the time and give a shout out.

Frodeno, yes that guy who outsprinted Simon in Beijing for Gold. I did tell him no one in Canada was cheering for him but we are happy for him all the same!

Chris McCormack (MACCA) 2 time Kona champ and an ITU World Champ in 1997. Also a huge boxing fan like me.

I suspect these boys, to be champs, go to places I will need to visit Saturday. I say thank you for the inspiration.

"If you are going to go through hell, keep going" - Winston Churchill

It has been three years since my last Ironman. I was way more prepared, I was younger, but I was flat. I didn't want to be there. I was there out of habit, I wasn't there for the love of sport, for the places one goes to learn more of themselves, for the process of winning against only yourself. Today I found myself smiling out how inverse this experience is. I am so focused, happy, mentally prepared to go into myself and ask very, very dark questions but I am no where near fit like my mid 30's racing. 

"The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have" - Vince Lombardi

I have a great life. I have a great wife. I have great friends. I have a great job. I have health. I have healthy family around. I have my mom's spirit. 

"He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life" - Muhammad Ali

I hope I live up to what I have and do those that I trust and respect around me proud Saturday. I will take risks. I will be courageous in the battle. I will go to hell and back.  I have Welsh blood. I have Canadian blood. Those two pieces together create a proud fighter. I hope to be crowned CHAMP in my own battle with myself Saturday.

In Canada we say Game on.

In Wales we say Kick off.

In Ironman we say FINISH: "you can quit, but no one cares and you will always know" Collins, Ironman Founder

Kona Diary Day 4: Blazeman and Super bikes!

friends and family,

The show that is Ironman Hawaii goes on, each day the intensity of this place grows! Some of it is truly hilarious, like guys running in speedo, compression socks, no shirt. Sure, they have rock bodies but please, get a grip!

I heard a great quote yesterday: Training hero; Race day zero. That happens a lot here. Guys hammering their runs and bikes along Alii Dr only to be absolutely bullocks on race day.  Bad for them; good for me-:)

So, what did day 4 bring Meredith and I?  First and foremost an incredible 20 minutes with Bob Blais, the father of the passed Jon Blais, ALS Warrior poet. If you don't know what I am talking about, please click through here: and also watch this 6 minute video on You Tube to understand what Jon did to put the discussion about ALS into the sports space:

I get inspired by people doing extraordinary things. Many have probably read my experience with as a great example of my being inspired by everyday people doing extraordinary things.

Jon Blais did an extraordinary thing; he did an Ironman with Lou Gehrig's disease. 12 months later Jon returned to Kona in a wheelchair; 6 months later from that, 18 months after finishing Ironman Hawaii Jon was dead. But his legacy is far from dead. He and Team Blazeman are spreading the awareness message about ALS and recently in partnership with Northwestern University funded a major research breakthrough re: the common cause of all ALS. Knowing the cause is the first step to understanding how to treat it. To put this work into perspective, no breakthroughs from 1939 when Lou Gehrig died to 2011 now the Blazeman Foundation has raised funds since Jon's passing and in 5 years have a major breakthrough.

Stopping by the Blazeman booth and sharing time with Mr. Blais was inspiring. Want to join the cause go to the website above or email Bob at

After passing by the Blazeman booth I sought out what I term "the super bikes". The next generation of aero fast bikes. I dropped into the Specialized booth to see their 1 day old Triathlon Shiv. My initial thoughts are: BLAH. If you are going to build a super bike 100% dedicated to triathlon, PLEASE GO FOR IT! Don't take your current model, add a few bells and whistles with no aero data to support it and call it the fastest there is. From there I visited the BMC booth and really dug the Swiss precision. Clean lines, integrated front and rear brakes, dropped rear triangle. Integrated aero cockpit. Only thing missing was BB30 (Cervelo version being the BBright) bottom bracket to shave weight, and add stiffness/power. Then onto Trek to see their Speed Concept and like the BMC very clean lines, integrated brakes, great aero cockpit but they have not integrated their own BB30 bottom bracket system.

Last I visited my bike support crew where they had their wind tunnel tester with a vague promise for January 2012 launch of the NEXT GEN P series. I ride currently the "THEN GEN P3" (see picture right side bar of blog.) NEXT GEN P will have the Cervelo BBright bottom bracket but otherwise they are tight lipped re: bike features!!!!

Here are some photos of those bikes:





Last, we finished off a great day with the team dinner. Great night with great friends!!!

Tomorrow I start the day again in the ocean! YIPPIE! From there, hope for more surprises!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Kona diary Day 3: legends....

friends and family,

Day 3 here in Kona has been a bit of whirlwind. The winds are up, the swells in the ocean are up, the local surfers are happy; the triathletes are nervous!!

For those not too far off their rocker and into this sport like me (all of you clearly smarter!) today was unveiling of the new Specialized Tri specific bike. Essentially this little rocket is causing a stir in the sport because they signed Craig Alexander to promote the bike. I don't know all the details other than Craig was riding Orbea for the past 7 years, showed up at the half Ironman world championship in Vegas 3 weeks ago on a Cervelo causing major internet forum buzz, and is now front center on Team Specialized. Personally the marketing cynic in me believes Specialized paid him to show up at said Half Ironman on a Cervelo to create the buzz then held the secret until today about he joining them as day one of Super Bike launch....but that is just me. I hate marketing...anyway...

The upside of the Super-Bike Specialized launch was having the pro team in town to do the promotion. The best part of triathlon is our culture where pro's start the same course amateurs do, and sleep in same hotels and eat at same restaurants. It's not cycling elitism; its community. This morning at Lava Java, the local hangout in town for great coffee and food, Meredith and I shared breakfast with:

- Olympic gold and silver medalist Simon Whitfield
- World and Olympic champion Emma Snowsill
- 3 time world champion (duathlon, junior tri, elite pro) Tim Don
- 2 time world champion Javier Gomez
- Multiple world series race winner and 2012 Olympic favourite Paula Findlay
- Fastest Ironman record holder  at 7:45 Mario Vanhaucker (before it was lowered to 7:41 by Realart)
- 2 time Kona Ironman Champion Norman Stadler

That was the breakfast crowd! Fine company and yes, I was a little star struck truth be told. Mostly by Javier, he oozes class mate, he really does. He is to the right of this photo of Simon and Paula.

I also got to have a quick chat with one of my top 3 favourite Ironman athletes Norman Stadler. He retired this year after open heart surgery. He's a class guy in my opinion. A two time champion. He put Kuota bikes on the map and owns the Kona bike course record riding 180kms in 4:18. Yes, I typed that....4:18. Ridiculously FAST!

My day was book ended with an ocean swim out the Coffees of Hawaii floating espresso bar; a 45km ride into 40-50km/hr winds to Hapuna Beach and ending with a Team Canada dinner at the Kona Brewing company. Great evening to cap off a great day.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Kona diary day 2: Energy lab

Day 2 started like day 1 today; a nice 30 minute 2km swim at the pier. Plenty more people there this morning that yesterday and I suspect the anticipation will only grow as the week goes on.

From there I met Meredith and headed for the breakfast buffet and then onto Lava Java for coffees/teas. Lava Java has been taken over by Team Commerz Bank and Scott bikes. The whole team was there this morning for breakfast including 2 time winner Norman Stadler and favourite for the 2011 race Mario Vaunhaucker (spell is wrong there for sure!). The place was a buzz with energy and might be avoided later in the week.

I then head out to the Energy Lab to experience that section of the run in the peak of the Kona heat. Suffice to say, this was a bit of a confidence sucker as I felt like I was going to melt into the asphalt coming back out. Literally, COOKING!  Legs felt great running though, but man, that was really hot!!!

A nice meal to close out the day with the Endurance Sport Travel team at Bubba Gump's and a few purchases along the walk and voila, day 2 is complete!!!

of course, we had an ice cream watching the waves and sun too....see below:)

Kona Day 1: Inspired already....

Welcome friends to my first of daily journals from Kona, this being Sunday evening October 2nd after a pretty long journey in yesterday. Our flight to LA on Air Canada = GREAT; our flight from LAX to Kona on UNITED = well, typical United.....landed safe though which is what matters after a pilot announces "making a fix as the whole flight is over water"

AH, yes please, FIX THAT!

Ended up sitting beside the Rachel Joyce family support team from London, England. We talked rugby more than Ironman I think-:) Great group and her 5th place last year was no fluke, the girl can run like wind. Be great to see how she does.

We were picked up at Airport by Ty from Endurance Sport Travel and then again this morning to join their crew for a great home cooked breakfast. There we met the first few of the 100 or so travel guests the crew have as clients this week. Among them, Tara Costa from The Biggest Loser TV show of which Meredith works out to religiously.  You can learn more about Tara by visiting but what I would like to say is, she was given a chance to do better for herself on the Biggest Loser and she took it by the you-know-what's!!!! She then took that learning to do better for others. Her Foundation is now working on educating and changing America's childhood obesity problem. Example I said to her today, at my work vending machine a Dasani bottled water is $1.25. A can of coke is $1. They are both Coke products and Dasani is tap water bottled so tell me, how is that possible?   She is out in schools, communities, local races, even F-100 companies educating the impacts obesity has and how we can do better. In the short 30 minutes I learned quickly, Tara Costa has my and Meredith's RESPECT. And yes, she is racing Saturday!!! INSPIRED!

Workout wise today I started with a 30 minute swim in my new speed suit! It ROCKED! Water was nice and warm and the salt water+suit kept me flying through the water...good confidence boost. Late morning was a 70km ride up to Hawi and back. The winds were very manageable and my legs felt sweet! 

My biggest stress right now is two fold:
Kona Brewing Company Lager or Pale Ale?
What kit do I race in Saturday?

Tough choices!!

That's it for tonight. Hopefully I can get some inside scoop on Specialized press conference tomorrow that has none other than Simon Whitfield in attendance. Yeah, Simon says LONDON2012WIN!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ironman Hawaii - countdown begins!

Friends and family,

WOW, is it really 2 weeks until Ironman Hawaii? How did that happen? Where did summer go?

I find myself in a place I have not been for 3 years and 6 weeks. That place is Ironman Tapering. The dreaded 3 weeks leading into the big day. I always find the first week he worst...

  1. did I do enough?

  2. am I ready?

  3. pain, are you my friend?

Here are my answers and some sage advice for others walking into the Ironman storm.

  1. Doesn't matter, what's done is done. Look forward only.

  2. No matter what the training log says, YES U R!

  3. He and I will have a 10 hour conversation October 8th. I plan to lay him out Ali style.

It is two weeks tomorrow until race day. Look for some updates here and hopefully daily logs when I get to Kona Saturday, October 1st.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tour for Kids Ontario - inspired & tired

Friends, family - please read this:

I have spent 12 years in endurance sport. I have some very satisfying sporting moments in my "memory chest" that, upon reflection, I think are pretty good. Hawaii Ironman; Boston Marathon; podiums & awards. All of those are meaningless.

This past weekend I participated in the 8th annual Tour for Kids Ontario, a four day cycling odyssey around the Kawartha's in support of 3 Kid cancer camps:
  • Camp Trillium which offers and promotes recreational experiences to bring children with cancer and their families together through an environment that normalizes relationships and experiences, helping families in healing and life quality.
  • Camp Quality which provides week long camp experiences as well as year round support for kids with cancer and their families to come together and be kids.
  • Camp Oochigeas which offers year round programs for children affected by cancer at sites in Muskoka, SickKids Hospital, and Downtown Toronto camp location.
I've come home a slightly different person.

I don't have kids. In fact, I can't have kids. But those kids around in my life; nephews and nieces, cousins and friends families, teach me everything about life with their pure zest for life and adventure. These are life lessons that at times, us as adults, forget. Work, money, stress, work some more to pay for this or that...we just keep moving but is where we are moving to or from more or less centered than a kids passion and zest for life? Often, if not always,
I would submit that answer is no.

Because I think these lessons are important, I want to do my best to write down what The Tour for Kids is all about through the experiences I gained there. I want to guarantee you however, I cannot do the past 4 days justice in written word. You must experience it, truly, it deserves the rich tradition adjective cyclists love to use: EPIC.

First, what was I doing? 4 days/800kms on a bike with like minded people.
Second, what to expect? Grass roots (but quite professional) organized cycling odyssey over tough terrain in Ontario's Kawartha and Haliburton regions.

Each morning we would gather, some 500 of us, and share in some animated and fun stretches and stories. Then we pay tribute to kids with cancer through a story told by a kid cancer survivor. We then set off, in groups of 20 or so riders set up by distances of 200, 160, or 100KM routes. Over the day we would have rest stops with stocked fruits, sandwiches, drinks and incredibly gracious hosts dressed in costume. We would meander through the marked course with my front group averaging 35-37K/hr with the occasional attacks and counter attacks to add spice to our long hauls. We would arrive to base camp tired, sore, elated, and proud to share stories of shoulda, coulda, woulda's across this or that climb; that descent or this attack! We would share these stories over swims in the Trent river and a few Mill St. Brewery's finest lagers. Dinner would be served with a mixed array of fabulous foods hot and cold while the organizing team introduce one of the supported camps per night to tell their history and what it is they do for pediatric cancer patients.

Through it all we would make friends for life.

We listen intently, at times laughing and others fighting tears. Not all the stories end with "remission" or "beat cancer" because some stories inevitably end in "....(s)he left us..." We take the bad with the good. We stand up and applaud. We hug and embrace not just physically the friends around us, but emotionally the bond we are creating with each other and the direct impact we can and are creating in these kids lives.

And sometimes in life you listen and learn more about yourself than you realize. I learned this at Tour for Kids:
  • one person makes a direct difference to kids with cancer.
  • never under estimate the power of the bike
  • their is good all around us, go out and seek it
  • laughter and tears co-exist in harmony
And I reminded myself again, I personally get more out of endurance sport when I am connected with others and fighting for a cause. What separates Tour for Kids is that, while you are participating you are learning exactly where your money is going; you are learning its impact from the people who receive it; you see it live in person by meeting kids who have received funds and by staying at Camp Ooch!

And you know you can do more always.

On day 2 in the evening Camp Quality came to speak and a cancer survivor Joleen (forgive me if I don't spell that correctly please!) spoke. Like her peers, she brought the house down with her tales of what camp means to her. We spoke afterwards and met her mom. both are stunning and vibrant and full of life, proof positive this cause works. Ends up, they are from Atikokan and my sister, a local GP Dr. in Atikokan has treated Joleen. Doug, my big sister's husband taught Joleen at school; he's a teacher. Life comes full circle sometimes. As I stood there stunned, a little taken back with emotions I realized I was standing taller, firm in my belief this program is working, and proud in the movement we are building. I also realized I was standing tall because of the immense pride that big sis and her husband gave me by making a difference to the very people I was riding for. Life at times is a very, very small place.

Here are some facts about Tour for Kids:
  • 100% of all donations go directly to these camps. Admin fees to run the Tour are paid for by our registration fees and sponsor dollars.
  • 50-60% of operating budgets for these camps are directly paid for by the donations provided by Tour for Kids.
  • In 2010 Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation that runs Tour for Kids gave away $4.7MM
  • Tour for Kids in past 7 years leading into 2011 have raised $5.6MM
  • in 2011, the Ontario ride sold out with some 55o riders participating and expanded it's current offerings in Alberta and Ontario, to the East Coast Cabot trail ride.
I ask you take a deep look into The Tour for Kids and ask what you can do to maybe throw some support its way. You can email me from this blog and we can get connected and create zest and adventure for kids with cancer when the disease, at times, takes that away.

Thanks for reading & ride safe.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A sports fan top 10 "Wish I could..."

I was thinking this morning as the sun rose from the east along beautiful lake Ontario and I ran my morning km's off the chart, if I was any better at what I do athletically, what would I want to experience? Visualize those moments to feel like you can do anything kind of thinking...I boiled it down to top 10 and associated an emotion to each. I think this list also shows my sports interests!!

10: Its game 7 of the stanley cup and you are on home ice. What the hell is that feeling like in the dressing room before you head out? I suspect INTENSITY.
9: You lead out your team mate as the race favourite into the Forest of Arenberg in Paris-Roubaix then finish the race of all races back of the pack in the Roubaix velodrome after he wins! I suspect that is PRIDE.
8: The night before a 1500M track final in the Olympics trying to sleep. This must be NERVOUS.
7: The work is done and its time for the start of the 1500M track final in the Olympics. I suspect all is quiet and very ZEN.
6: Last mile of the Boston marathon toe to toe for the win. This has happened the past 2 years on the womens side. It only takes being on the wrong side of a corner to lose; or right side to win. I suspect this feeling, for me anyway, would be THINK STUPID!
5: Final lap of Indy 500 making the pass for the win just like this past may. I suspect this is ELATION.
4: Winning the British Open. I have no idea, I don't golf. In fact I hate playing golf, but man I get drawn into it on TV!
3: 5 set marathon center court Wimbledon. I suspect once it is all said and done we are back to PRIDE win or lose.
2: Sprint finish for gold medal 2012 London Olympics Triathlon. I should ask Simon Whitfield this is 1 year's time.

And the #1, what would THAT BE LIKE?

Millenium Stadium Cardiff, Wales v. England 80,000 singing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Welsh National Anthem) and I am in the #9 jersey; my dad is in the stands.

This feeling I know because I shed tears just being 1 of the 80,000, it's PRIDE, PASSION, SERVICE, AND DAMMIT LETS KICK SOME ASS!

As for the Olympic feeling I sure would love to sit down with SQW over a beer or 6 and pick that brain. I sense a thesis paper on "being a champion - what it takes & how it feels".

Post script: Nothing beats the feeling crossing the finish line of an Ironman.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Doping beyond the peleton actually exists people!

Above is a great photo ( source: )how prevelant dope can be on performance. Specifically, the early 90's brought the use of EPO to the cycling peleton and the endurance world. Cycling has taken the brunt of the media attention on this simply because, well, it's the dirtiest. Culturally always has been so I get it. But above is a great graph of the 10,000 metre records falling dramatically post EPO mass market into sports. No one talks about this, I find that interesting....

Anyway, with the recent press re: Lance courtesy of 60 Minutes taking the dope debate main stream many general public type fans are having ah-hah moments. So, at work come the questions did Lance dope etc. I am beginning to answer "duh". The look in return is confused, I then say "well, I know what time it is and as simple as that is, so to is answering 'is there dope in sport?'

Recently I answer with the question, do you think other sports dope. Answer, "baseball and football, well yeah of course!". Do you care? Answer: "Yeah!". Do you watch it? Answer, "Yeah" retort - "then you don't care! Wake up, if you did, you wouldn't *PURCHASE* the goods by watching!" This process is how I reconcile my who cares approach. It's sports entertainment to me which really, is kind of sad because I love the authenticity of sport. The pureness of a Simon Whitfield, or a Clara Hughes is what makes sports so generous and enriching. Go pro level, and well, I don't care.

So, point being; when debating Lance and drugs in cycling take a minute to ask if you REALLY CARE by looking at all the sports you are a fan of.

The 10,000 meter race is a premiere Olympic event; a true test of speed and endurance. Gruelling for those at the top of the food chain and one that pays athletes top, top dollar for winning. It is doped; pure and simple. And I love watching it!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Balance shoes!

Friends and family,

Since the WTC drew my name from the lottery gods and invited me to race Kona this year I've gone back to the foot paths of Toronto and started running. It was only 8 weeks layoff from running but with a long term view that for 2011 I was not running at all. That changed of course with the invite to Kona Ironman and my mind shifted to slowly building back some run strength. Little did I know how much I missed running, and how much I love the cleansed feeling running brings me.

So, shortly after my last pair of New Balance shoes wore thin I reached out to New Balance Toronto to see if they would like to extend their support of my pursuits again for 2011. Sean and his crew were immediate in their support and what has really been great is to partner again with New Balance Toronto and start running! I love running and this year I am running on these felt like neutral cushioning shoes which has been awesome! The New Balance 1080 are the bomb and my feet feel great!

This part of the blog is absolutely a plug because the team at NB Toronto Bloor West store (and there other locations across Toronto which can be found here) are the most service driven group I have worked with. Their service model is unparalleled. I have spent 15 years in this sport and therefore I have visited A LOT of retailers in Toronto, in Canada, in the USA. NB Toronto is by far the best service I have received. They are knowledgable of product and fit, courteous with customers, prompt to return calls when orders arrive and as important, prompt to call to provide status when there are delays. I also see them with other customers taking time with each to ensure customers get what they need, what color caught their eyes (though color designs are plentiful!)

Product specific news, what really gets me comfy is New Balance's product design for a narrow fit shoe. This I have come to learn over the years of running is best for me. Most shoe manufacturers have one to three max widths, not NB. They have 6! from extra narrow to XX-Wide. There narrow fit shoes are my liking (B width) as the toe box is perfect space for my long narrow digits but the shoe still fits snug enough around heel and forefoot for a fast, comfortable run. My trouble with other shoes was either the toe box was massive causing slipping up front or a good fit in the toe box but friction in the heel cup causing blisters. I turned to New Balance, loved the product, then approached New Balance Toronto for HELP please! That was six years ago and they have been every bit a partner to my love of running since.

The past few years New Balance has released a great range of casual shoe wear. Nothing beats long days at the office in a pair of NBs vs. dress shoes; especially when the executives don't know I am actually wearing a running shoe vs. dress shoe-:) They have also styled out some really nice sandal wear. Again, these have that "running shoe" quality vs. the old school hippie sandal quality-:) An example of a shoe I wear in office includes my casual Friday's NB755.

I really do recommend for your next shoe purchase, you consider visiting a New Balance Toronto store. You will enjoy how you are treating as much as what you will be wearing!

Now get out and run!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tucson lessons 2011

Here are my 10 lessons from 9 days bike riding in Tucson:

10. Never be surprised what you run into in the desert. This dude was walking with Jesus cross from El Paso to San Diego because god told him to. I asked he give the camera a "Don Cherry" so that's what we did.

9. Know where the house is located before going riding, could lead to some serious oh-sh** moments when crashing behind your team so they don't know where the hell you are! In this example, when crashing then triaging your elbow realizing you don't know where the house is became a very big problem. Thankfully Sue stopped by and we rode the hour home then promptly to St. Mary's hospital. BTW: The crash happened before cross bearer and I met, but surely they are related in that, no bones broken and able to keep riding for rest of week!

8. Thank the Dr's (Dr. Madsen) and nurses (Irish Andrea). This is after stitches and ready to ride next day!

7. Take time to soak in the views after a hard climb. Here is Nigel and Andrew atop Mandera Canyon. A super tough climb I completely under estimated (read: got severely dropped!)

6. Mt. Lemmon intervals on last day of real riding after 8 days of team riding is EPIC STUFF! No photo here, 8*6min at threshold made that NOT POSSIBLE!

5. Fat Tire Amber Ale is nectar of gods, and I have Welsh AND Canadian blood...I know my beer!

4. A good bottle of California Cabernet in Canada is $30; same in Tucson is $17. Love the Safeway card, it is your friend even if it is BS marketing

3. Your team mates always take care of you

2. Do not underestimate what you are capable of ever.

1. ALWAYS BRING YOUR WIFE TO VIEWS LIKE THIS. Tucson sunset is paradise.

Tucson camps always rock, till next year - keep rubber side down in the Shootout rides!

thanks for reading!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Going to Kona - ah-oh!

My inbox this afternoon reads as follows:

Aloha and Congratulations, Rhys Spencer!

As a 2011 Lottery winner, you are cordially invited to compete at the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championship in beautiful Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on October 8, 2011!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tour for Kids - What a great cause!

Friends and family:

Yesterday I turned my whole season upside down! So many nights I have been coming home talking with Meredith, "what to do? What races? I am turning 40, what would be epic? What is it I LOVE TO DO & how can I match that as part of turning 40? Do I care? Ah screw it, just what you always do..." Blah, blah, blah.....

This week it finally hit me - and it is awesome!!

Tour for Kids is a cycling adventure I have had friends do now for about 5 years or so. I have always wanted to join them but it conflicted with one Ironman or another given it landed in mid August. I don't have those commitments this year! I can do whatever I WANT TO DO. I have set goals that I can cancel; sure, why not!!!!!! So I am doing 800km's of cycling over 4 days for three Oncology camps for kids with Cancer. They are:
  1. - a privately funded, volunteer based organization that provides kids with cancer and kids affected by childhood cancer with a unique opportunity for growth through challenging, fun, enriching and magical experiences
  2. Our signature week-long camping program provides a wonderfully unique opportunity for children with cancer to put their illness behind them and concentrate on having fun! Each camper is matched with a trained adult volunteer and medical staff is on-site.
  3. The Trillium Childhood Cancer Support Centre offers and promotes recreational experiences to bring children with cancer and their families together. The Trillium Centre provides an environment that normalizes relationships and experiences, helping children and their families in the healing process and enhancing their quality of life
I am dropping quite a few of my initial 2011 season goals. I stopped running a few weeks ago so Around the Bay = GONE. Green Mountain Stage Race, while I love you so = GONE.

Big goal is now to raise some coin for this great cause by clicking HERE RIGHT NOW!

This is such a great event and I saw how it can change people just this past winter when I helped change to blown tire of one Jim Van Horne in Mississauga. He spoke so passionately about his experience doing Tour for Kids. I reflect on that a lot because while I knew it was THE JVH we didn't talk about that; we talked about this great life altering event while changing a tube. It was quite cool for a sport junkie like me. (If you don't know JVH, please; do some google searching on Canadian Sports broadcasting icons!!! This guy started it in Canada!)

And so, I ask all who read.....all twenty or so (-:)) PLEASE think about donating by clicking this link!. I know money is tight; I know everyone and their cousin ask for your money either at the soccer field, hockey rink, parent/teacher night etc.; but these camps bring life to places with so much doom and gloom that even me, a guy without kids, gets really really pumped about it AND SO CAN YOU!

Thanks for reading. I need to get riding; 800km's over 4 days = sore ass!

Train safe!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Best Triathlete Follow up + Bike Test #2 of the season a success!

Friends and family,

Welcome back and thanks for catching up. There are a few good links imbedded in this post I encourage you to click to. Some of racing and some of great product (that I am not in anyway paid to endorse!!!!)

As a follow up to my previous post re: Best Triathlete ever; thanks for the few emails. Seems pretty much 50/50 - people say Simon or Macca. I will say this, the best 3 finishes I have seen in triathlon all belong to Simon; Sydney, Beijing, and with $200,000 on the line wins a 4 way sprint in Des Moines Iowa. All 3 finishes Simon was dropped and got back on, then won. Yeah, our boy from Kingston's a stud for sure! And too boot, a really approachable genuine guy.

Training update:

this morning I did my second bike test of the year. I am following the Vision Quest Coaching protocol whereby I get a really good warm up in, hit an interval up to a hard effort, recover then do a "step test" of 3 minute intervals one after the other adding 20 watts each interval. So, 3mins at 200 watts; 3 mins at 220 watts and so on until failure. Below are some snap shots from my CycleOps Joule 2.0 computer to show the progression from this morning's effort. The final interval actually felt pretty good but I don't think another 20 watt jump was available to me, I was getting pretty out there physically.

What's important to for the upcoming season is the improvement from the January 21st test. January 21 my last 3 intervals were 301, 315, and 325 watts vs. here being 300, 320, 350. In other words, I made a 7 to 7.5% jump in 6 weeks. That won't be replicated! It will look more like 1 to 2% increases I suspect through to the main races of the season.

Quite happy with the results, now it is time for some food!!!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

MACCA - maybe the best ever Triathlete?

Inspiration comes in many forms in my sporting pursuits. When I really need some juice to get going I will hit you tube and look for something. Usually that is in the form of a really good boxing match. This blog won't be about that but for those sports fan reading, I recommend you do a You Tube search on these key words "Ward, Gotti, Round 9, HBO". And yes, Ward is the same Ward The Fighter movie is about. That round is quite possibly the greatest round of boxing ever. Better than Hearns vs Sugar Ray; better than Ali vs. Foreman; Better than Holyfield vs. Bowe; it's an epic battle of 2 warriors.

Which brings me to this blog. MACCA is a champ and a big boxing fan. I was listening to some interviews on them trusty podcasts this week about his meticulous preparation, his focus on how to beat the 'threats' and his views on the history of the sport.

Yesterday Inside Triathlon magazine listed their top 15 triathletes of all time. Sadly, they forgot Peter Reid who is frankly, LEGEND. But included were the greats; Simon Whitfield, Simon Lessing, Hamish Carter, Mark Allen and Dave Scott, Crowie and Macca to name a few. It got me thinking top 3, which got me thinking can anyway claim to be ON TOP ahead of Mark Allen?? Is that possible? Mark won ITU World's, Nice (when Nice mattered) and Kona 6 times. He won everything! But here is my argument that MACCA sits a top Allen as The Best.

Depth of competition.

Lets face it, Allen was beating Hellreigel, Kiru and co. His most famous win was Dave Scott on Dave's best day; but, his competition in Kona was only 3 to 5 deep. His competition in ITU was only really 10 deep. The sport was new, he was the best, and proved it every weekend. Macca on the other hand? Like Allen MACCA is an ITU world Champion and Kona Champion and winner of key prestigous races around the world like Roth , IM Germany, Wildflower. But Macca's competition is STIFF! When he was ITU world champ he was beating 20 deep competition then Australia screwed him and he missed out on the Sydney Olympics and a new star was born; Simon Whitfield! So MACCA turns to long course, gives the finger to the Australian federation and kicks ass for 10 years. At first Kona beat him year in and year out just like Allen, just like a boxer in a real war, to only conquer it in 2007. He repeats in 2010. What is different though is depth in Kona vs. when Allen raced. 15 deep every year in Kona. 15 guys each year can win that race now vs. 3 to 5 in the 90's when Allen raced it.

How good is MACCA? 2010 proved in the 15 minutes of the video below that when the boxer gets hit and punished and pushed to the limit, THE BEST fight like THE BEST and win.

Now, what would be the dream "match". The big "fight" in Kona terms? Remember that guy I mentioned Simon Whitfield? Yeah, I would love to see the Kona lava fields with his leg speed...then maybe a new blog can be written.....-:) But, being Canadian I sure am glad his focus in London 2012!

I vote MACCA the best ever (till 2012 or 2013 anyway) and 2010 we finally had a Kona finish worthy of big time "best round" racing!

Thoughts and debate are welcome!
And thanks Macca...I might just get in the pool this spring-:)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My thoughts re: SI Lance report.

Today Sports Illustrated and the editorial team that broke the Alex Rodriquez "drug" story published investigative journalism report on Lance Armstrong.

Click here to read the SI report

At work I was asked today what I thought, here is what I think:

I don't give a shit!

I wrote a blog about Lance in July 2010 (see side bar link to the right) and want to explain a bit more now, when the press is hot and the apparent noose on Mr. Armstrong is tightening.

I am pragmatic about dope in pro sports, it's big money and people do it. I used to get upset that cycling was always on the front pages of dope in sport and stepped away for 3 years but I reconciled a few things:

First, cycling tests the most and therefore, gets busted the most.

Second, it is sports entertainment and beautiful entertainment it is. If you think I am whacked, ask yourself this:
  • "how is it that an offensive lineman can run sub 5 second 40 and be 6'6" and 350lbs? How is it no one is ever busted in the NFL? How is it the biggest drug in the NBA is pot? I mean, look at that 19 year old 6'10" 260lbs forward who is just so dominant?"
If you are a fan of pro sport and NO ONE is getting caught in the sport you watch, ask why. FIFA's last drug positive of any noteirity was Maradona for cocaine. Please, these are superior athletes making more $$$ than baseball players and not one positive? Really, remember when baseball was squeeky clean? Um, Bonds/McGuire/Canseco/Clemens etc. were the stars.

These two points coupled with knowing I myself am drug free less a whole lot of Merlot, allow me to get on my bike with a clear conscious and train and race in the sport I absolutely love.

Third, and most importantly to the Lance question itself, the I don't give a shit part comes from a more personal place, from a place that really says to me - I just don't care if he was doped! In fact, if drugs allowed him to win and that winning in turn allowed Lance to do his foundation and write his book, then I care even less about the dope question.

Why? When you have a parent reading Lance's "Its not about the bike" in your arms knowing sooner, rather than later, we can't share that moment together and that parent gains inspiration from turning those pages, then dope up I say. I owe Lance a thanks for that moment in time, I will never forget it, it is a cherished memory for me of my mom.

If Lance was clean, clean, clean that memory doesn't change one bit. It doesn't have anymore value to it if he was clean.

Does that memory make doping ok in sport; absolutely not. I just don't give a shit if Lance doped.
Lance is bigger than his sport for all the right reasons; his foundation, his inspiration for millions, his influence in government's backing of cancer research etc. The test of a man is not how much money or fame, the test is what you do with it!

Perhaps you will argue, The test is actually HOW you gained the money and fame before what you did with in, doing right as a consequence of doing wrong does not make a right. VERY VALID, I just don't give a shit because of point #3 above.

Ride safe, please ride clean, just don't ask if you want the straight goods from me on the subject of LA!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Product review: TP Therapy Foam Roller

Friends and family:

I don't have sponsorship per se, I have help from local retailers, but not sponsorship. This affords me the opportunity to actually go to retailers and buy products I believe in. For years I have had the same relationships with GREAT products while also researching other new products that are fun to use or support my goals. This will be my first a few installments for products I am absolutely NOT PAID to endorse. I want to write about them because THEY WORK!

Context: Last week I had a great training week capped with a great 3 hour indoor ride with triathlon team and Sunday I did a 21km progression run; first 10km on 7:30 pace; next 5km at 7:15 pace and final 5km on 6:57 pace then a nice mile warm down. I was feeling great and confident. Then Sunday night while flipping over in bed (think side plank) something popped in my right rib area. Sharp jabbing pain and suddenly I could not breath! Unfortunately this wasn't a cramp, this lasted right through till morning and into work. AFter an urgent physio appt. I came home and hit the TP Therapy foam roller (see picture). 2 minutes before bed, 2 minutes when waking up for 5 Friday I am breathing pain free and back training!
I am really amazed by the power of the TP Therapy roller. Other foam rollers don't match this thing because they cave under the pressure when rolling on it. Their website is and a workout site is available at

Be prepared, it is incredibly painful to start but over course of a few days the muscles really loosen up and the rollers warms up to you-:)

I recommend the roller and I am now suffering through IT Band rolls, calf rolls, and quad rolls.

I am a big believer in the product!!

Train safe folks.