Monday, 30 March 2009

My thoughts on bike racing

After returning home yesterday from my first weekend ever of bike racing I had lots of thoughts etc about how it went. There was the first race on Saturday morning followed by a second on Sunday so Denise and I just stayed out near the race sites so we didn't have to drive all the way back into Vancouver twice. 

Race 1:

Saturday morning, while driving to Langley from Vancouver, looked OK. I say OK as in Scotland that can mean one of two things ... either its going be a grey and cold day, or it's going to be a grey, cold and rainy day. It eventuated in the latter, the rain starting to spit just as we were unpacking the car near the start/finish line... 

We signed up, Denise with the B Group and myself with the C Group. 
(B Group - Cat 3) (C Group - Cat 4/5)

With much advice in hand (stay near the front ... don't lose the wheel in front of you ... don't mess up in the corner while 3 deep) I headed out with my group...INTO AN IMMEDIATE SPRINT. Yes the main thing that got me about racing this weekend was the start/stop mentality throughout the groups. We'd blast along at 50kph then cruise at 25kph for a bit, then repeat. Corners got me too. If you were in any position out of the top 5 you'd be caught up in the ripple effect of breaking going into the corner causing a mad dash out of the other side, literally having to push 100% to catch back up. 

Still off I headed into the rain. 

Naturally I was last from the start. I somehow got caught at the back before the race had even begun and there I was stuck. The yellow line rule was in play meaning I couldn't storm up the outside in the other lane ... I was stuck at the back ... in the rain. 

While you're stuck at the back in the rain many things start to go through your head...
"What am I doing here?"
"Can I feel my legs anymore?"
"Who is the greatest sportsman of all time?"

... ok maybe not the latter but the two before for sure. You see in my little triathlete mind being at the back only meant one thing ... I was LAST. In turn that only meant one thing too ... I was LOSING. I had not yet grasped the fact that in general a bike race really only happens in the last 10% of the race. The rest of the time is spent going through a series of speed increases and decreases to hopefully drop as many people as possible ... oh and the occasional mad dash of a breakaway followed by the running down of that breakaway by the peleton. All good fun. 
... if you knew all that. 

For me I was stuck at the back in last place, cold, wet and miserable. And I had not yet grasped the fact that you had to sprint out of the corners ... so 35km in I got dropped (from last place) coming out of a corner. At this point I had to literally sprint for about 500m in order to catch back up, it is very demoralizing to see 50 people slowly pull away into the rain in front of you. But I caught back up. 

At around about 50km I had had enough. The back was no fun, the spray, mud and looking at people's asses all day had finally taken their toll and I was ready for some proper cycling. I proceed to pull out (not past the yellow line) and rode past the group, into a head wind, up into the top 5. Now I felt better, legs were firing a bit quicker, cadence was up, plus I was no longer in last ... which can only be a good thing. 

Two laps to go so I pushed it from the front. Lots of people it seemed were now feeling perkier too so I had some company up there pushing the pace. A breakaway seemed fun at one point but then I decided against it ... my sunglasses were too steamed up to see the corners properly so I needed a wheel in front of me for guidance. Check Spelling

1km to go and the boys (and girls) were getting antsy. I was up in 3rd ready for the ensuing craziness of a sprint finish in the rain. Twitching, swerving, sprinting and of course crashing followed but luckily I avoided all disaster and crossed the line in 7th .... a cold triathlete. 

Race 2:

Day two rolled around and it looked like a better day. In Scotland terms a Great day. There were clouds but it looked to me as if the sun might creep through ... and it did, turning into a beautiful morning by the time 1030 came around. Today I was to be riding with Jeremy (Speed Theory) and his friends from the Atomic race team. I was very excited to have friends around me to work with and even just to speak to! 90 minutes is a long time to be stuck at the back alone!

Off we went into the first of 6 laps. Lap 1 was carnage. Jeremy got caught up in the first crash of the race and another Atomic rider who was right beside me flatted almost immediately. Two team mates down in the first 2km. 

Lap two was much better. Atomic rider Mike stormed past me (I was riding in about 10th place) as we approached the start of lap two and shouted "you up for it?". At the speed he went past I presumed this to mean "Breakaway?" so I stormed up on his wheel and ramped up the effort. 

Attempt 1 lasted about 30 seconds before we were reeled back in. 

However now I was at the very front of the group (around 60 in our group today) so I continued to push the pace from the front (~50kph) with the other top 5 riders for the rest of the lap. Laps three and four contained two more breakaway attempts in which we were chased back down almost immediately. No one was working once the group was formed, a few times we got 50m or so but the second the group took shape no one wanted to take their turn ... patience mike patience. 

The end of lap five. 

Approaching the end of the lap you reached a big downhill followed by an equally big uphill. At the end of lap five I found myself once more at the front. Down the big hill I go ... up the other side I go. 

A small line of riders came up my left hand side but as we reached the top of the hill they fell back a bit so it was just me in the front followed by 60 guys in a line behind (a line for a bit then just a big mass of cyclists). 

I push the pace a tiny bit. The line of guys beside me creep further back. 
I push the pace a wee bit more. No line of guys beside me. 
I take a sneaky peak down at the ground and there is no shadow of a wheel behind mine. I have a gap. No idea how big yet but at least 5m. 
I push the pace more, working calmly up through my gears. I go down onto my drop bars starting to really push. They've let me get a gap and they don't know I'm working hard yet!
Off I go riding hard into the final lap. 50m gap in hand. 

Two guys bridge up to my breakaway shouting at me to go with them. I ride hard on their wheels until it's my turn to push. I push past them hard, when I look around to see where they are I realize I've broken away from them too. Pushing hard down on the pedals now I start to realize the peleton is catching, but people still fire up to try and break with me. Each time I push it and no one works with me. So the peleton finally catch up but I stay at the front and push it solo for a few more km. 

When I finally pull off, spent, the group rides past, patting me on the back as they ride through for the work I put in. Was a great feeling :) 

I didn't contest the sprint finish not wanting to risk a crash but in my mind I had won and it was a great feeling. 

I love racing and I felt like I had raced, pushing my limits a bit and working my triathlete butt off in the process. While riding back to the car two riders went past and asked me if my break had stuck. Before I knew what they had said they were gone but I was smiling at the thought of me making a breakaway stick in a bike race :)

Maybe next time!

Until then,

Train hard.


Wednesday, 25 March 2009

VO2 testing


Beautiful day in Vancouver today, unfortunately it's also the day of the week I have to spend the most hours in class so I've been couped up a bit. The end is in sight though with less than 2 weeks left of class then a mad panic before exams ... then it's summer.

To take some of the sting out of the impending exams I have started studying well in advance which is planned to aid in my passing...passing of exams that is...naturally no pun intended. So along with my Xnumber of hours a week training I'm trying to get in about 2/3 hours a day in of studying too, trying to think of the exams as a race and this as my pre race prep...makes it a bit easier to sit down and study hard after a long days training.

Yesterday though, to add to my lactate test I did last week, I got to head back into the lab to have my VO2 max measured. I find peace in numbers so having a current VO2 number in my brain helps me focus on areas I need to work on and keep pushing through these hard weeks.

As I'm pretty sure Simon Whitfield reads my blog and I don't want my main competition knowing my stats I'll keep my number locked away in my head for now, but all I can say is that it'll be higher tomorrow, a little bit higher the next day and a lot higher by June. I guess that's how you have to look at your training, there are no huge jumps, no massive gains. Even though it may look like people make terrific progress over night from time to time, it's not so simple. They've been working hard for many many days to make those jumps, it can get tough but it's meant to .... because you'll get tough in the process.

Quick note before I head off to study. Headed out for a spin yesterday afternoon with Denise and we stopped by Speed Theory on 4th Ave on the way back for a chat and a look around (as we do on the way home from most rides). Two bikes stood out from the back of the shop and we spent quite a bit of time chatting about and admiring them but I was jealous of their future owners. Got me thinking about my "one day" bike collection I'll invest in when I'm old and doubt the bikes will be completely different in the future but it they look half as nice as some of those kicking around the store I'll be a happy old man!


Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Weekends riding


well luckily the sun seemed to peer out this weekend just long enough for me to get some quality dry time in the saddle. It's been a few weeks since I've trained at anything above 4 degrees so it was nice when it hit 5 on Sunday morning! :)

Was mainly out in North and West Vancouver pedalling around casuing trouble and playing with traffic. Enjoyed a hearty Sunday morning breakfast courtesy of the Donut shop in Deep Cove, beautiful views from the pier and got some nice shots of the Lions Gate Bridge on the way home.

Friday, 20 March 2009


So the rainy season seems to have arrived here in Vancouver,

I'm putting it down to these reasons...

1) Lots of training is currently being done each day
2) Denise is in Arizona (30 degrees)
3) Fraser is in San Diego
4) There are lots of races happening right now in sunny places

But I really don't mind. As Fraser put it a few days ago I'll be "hard as nails" once race season comes around. I've already got 1 sub zero race day in me thus far :)

Today I ventured to the run track for my weekly track set, unfortunately the week of rain had made the track pretty muddy ... but I had cleverly taken a towel with me in my car in anticipation of getting messy, so my car stayed clean...I however didn't...

Plus because it was pretty cold out there when I got back inside the fronts of my legs actually steamed up...

looked quite funny!

Oh well, onward and upward...into the rain.

Train hard.


Monday, 16 March 2009


Hey guys,

Cancer and cancer support are two things very close and important to me, as of March 2009 I will be working with the Lance Armstrong Foundation as a LIVESTRONG Global Leader increasing awareness and support among athletes worldwide.

The message behind LIVESTRONG is very clear, to pass on knowledge, advice and support to sufferers and survivors alike. To clear the path for a future, within communities, governments and across continents without cancer.

I hope to help promote the message of the LAF through my position as a sportsman will work with the LAF to find ways to raise awareness and support both within triathlon, sportsmen and women along with everyone I meet along the way.



Tuesday, 10 March 2009


Second Degree Frostbite ;

"Reddening of the skin, throbbing, burning sensations followed by bleeding or swelling"

According to environment Canada at the time of my race on Sunday morning it was -3 plus the fact I was riding my bike at 50kph makes the temperature around -13 degrees. This seems to have had a pretty rough effect on my hands and have been in a bit of pain today ... especially while out riding my bike in the cold.

You can't win every battle though and it looks like my hands aren't too bad, the bleeding has stopped but the stinging is still lingering.

Bleeding hands : (

oh and if anyone ever gets frostbite...don't put moisturiser on it! STINGS!

Haha well I hope everyone is training hard, especially those *Fraser and Denise* who are either in or heading to very warm climates!


Monday, 9 March 2009


Just in case you didn't believe me about the temperature yesterday...

(this morning in Vancouver)

I would also like to say thanks to my friends at Speed Theory ( for yesterday, they helped me with all my bike needs running up to the race and continue to help me out almost every day. Also during the race yesterday I ran in my new running shoes for the season, Newtons, I raced in the 9.2 Ounce Men's Neutral Racer and they are ridiculously light. Made running off the bike a lot easier when it feels like there is nothing holding you down. The only store here in town who stocks them is forerunners ( and I'd say just go in and try a pair on...they're good.

Thanks again for all the support yesterday!


Sunday, 8 March 2009

UBC Triathlon

First race of the year. Done.

It was about 3 degrees here today, add in the wind, being wet and the trisuit and I'd like to think it was below zero...sounds better anyway :)

Lined up for the start around 12noon, it was so cold that most (all but 3 I could see) racers were taking advantage of the poolside "changing tents", in they went in their swimming gear, out they came covered in thermals, gloves and hats. I think in reflection gloves would have helped...especially when I was stuck in T2 with my helmet on...thanks to the marshals for helping me out.
Swim went well, I got to lead out due to my fastest entry time which was nice having clear water...until about 550m in where I quickly encountered the previous heat which had some stragglers. Unfortunately I couldn't afford to wait until the end of the lane so just snuck past each of the swimmers I met, hope I didn't cause them any trouble but I tried my best to get by unnoticed.

T1 was ok, slower than I wanted mainly due to the cold and the unswept route into transition.
Once on my bike though I got into the rhythm and started to work the first lap. There is a slight 4km downhill on each lap which was great to get the speed up, plus a total of 3 turn arounds on each lap which made spotting where my competition was easy. After the swim I had about 80 seconds on second place so I knew where to look on lap 1, it looked like I'd managed to gain another 20 seconds or so on lap one so I put the hammer down a bit more come lap two. That said the cold had started to get to my face, chest and hands so I started to feel a bit chilly, no matter I kept the cadence up and had put in a solid 2.5 minute gap on second place come T2. Time wise I was on track for under an hour but a dwindled 60 seconds or so getting marshal assistance with my helmet, realising this I sped into my trainers and off onto the run course.

Was amazed by the support on the 5km, everyone I passed from the earlier heats slowed down and cheered me past, some of the local cyclists road with me shouting support and keeping me relaxed as I ran. Everyone from my residence had come out in force to cheer me on and it really does help when your friends are there

A new best 5km time by 3 minutes plus a new course record quickly made me forget the cold...and the fact it is only March. Great first race and presume this means the training seems to be working!


Saturday, 7 March 2009

UBC Triathlon ... maybe

I'm sitting in my room, 20 hours out from the first race of the season ... and it's snowing.

Being honest I knew it would snow, the forecast was for snow and given my previous history with the sport of triathlon it is only customary for it to snow. At least 7/10 races I compete in seem to have weather limitations, be it severe rain, wind, flooding, snow ... jelly fish (ok not weather but they're scary). Snow hit my first race of the season last year just as we were exiting the swimming pool into T1...a quick throw on of a 2xU jacket and off I went.

My main concern is they cancel the race tomorrow, snow is just snow, rain is just rain. We train in it all the time so I have no problem racing in it but I realise the safety issues so cancelling is really the only option when it is really snowy. Currently its snowing hard but not sticking, as long as it stays off the roads we should be ok.

The race is a Sprint, 700m/20k/5km, swim in the outdoor pool, bike around the main road (2xout and back) and the run is through campus. Its a pretty big race with thousands of entrants each year but I think there will be a few no shows tomorrow if its still under zero!

I'll post again tomorrow after the race,

Let's hope it's on ... can't wait,


Tuesday, 3 March 2009



It has been a hectic 2 weeks over here but I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. That light comes in the form of the first race of the year, the famous annual UBC triathlon. Attracting 3000 competitors it is the big start to the year in BC and the largest indoor pool swim tri in North America.

So once my exams are done (Friday) I get to focus on racing again.

It has been busy in other areas too, last Thursday I announced my intentions to commit my full attention to triathlon over the next 4 years once I graduate from university next April. It is a step forward but also a step that we've been building up to take, I have been really encouraged by everyones support for my decision and it just reaffirms that it is the right one.

I hope to keep my support team around me and build on the great start I have already hard, there is a lot to work on and that's part of the fun!

In the mean time I'll keep trying to pass these midterms and will post a full pre and post race report at the weekend...

...some pictures of my tiny triathlon store/dorm room here at UBC
My little bike centre...