Tuesday, 7 July 2015

2015 Subaru Vancouver Triathlon

I never considered myself a marathoner until I finished my second marathon.  So in true form, I do not consider myself a true triathlete yet.

No "One and Done" for me.

While training for Lavaman, I set a goal for myself. I would attempt an Ironman in the next 5 years (2020).  Lavaman was the first step.

After Lavaman, I spoke with Andrew (our volunteer coach) about my goal(s).  After informing me that he coaches, a meeting over drinks, and a rundown of what he could do for me, I was signed up. I had an official coach.

Just recently, I read an article about the best investment to make when training. Is it that fancy bike that weighs less than your shoe? The wetsuit with carbon nanotube propellers sewn into the legs? Or maybe those runners with the new fangled sole that supports your pinky toe?

Nope.  It was a coach.

Link to Article.

I knew from training for Lavaman that Andrew's knowledge was second only to his passion for the sport. We came up with a weekly schedule that ensured I would be fully prepared come race day.


Mondays were weight training in the morning and pool swims at lunch. I've had a personal trainer for a few years. Lifting not only helps me build strength, but it helps tremendously with injury prevention.

The pool swims took a bit more getting used to.  I had taken a few courses with Seahikers, but that was geared towards proper form/technique. These swims were all about endurance. After a couple weeks, I became increasingly comfortable in the water. Soon, 3 sets of 500 meters were just a another day at the pool.   

Tuesdays were track nights. Speed work.  My old nemesis. Surprisingly, all the swimming and cycling has helped improve my running. On one occasion at the track (after some mix up with math), I ended up running, what could have possibly been, the fastest mile of my life. Even my long runs on the weekends were starting to get faster.

Wednesdays were weight training in the morning again and a cycle session in the evening. I had done an indoor cycle session with Andrew for Lavaman, and knew first hand how much my fitness would improve.

Part of the race course includes UBC Hill (twice). I knew that this would be a challenge. But after the hill interval workouts we did (especially Belmont Hill), UBC Hill and I are buddies now.

UBC Hill Interval workout:

Belmont Hill Interval workout:

I found that when on a stationary trainer, I enjoy hill workouts and dislike speed/cadence work, but on the road, it's the opposite.

Thursdays are my open water swim courses with Seahikers.  I will admit to being a bit spoiled after having my only open water experience be the warm, clear waters in Hawaii. English bay is quite a bit colder. Getting used to swimming in murky water has been my biggest mental challenge. The cold water, the wetsuit, and my natural tendency to want to tense up, made breathing in the open water difficult at first, but just like the longer pool swims, I soon adapted. I am so used to the visible meter marks on the pool floor to judge my speed, that in the open water, I have to concentrate on slowing down to keep a good pace/rhythm.

Fridays are rest/recovery days.

Saturdays and Sundays, at the beginning of the training program, were long runs or long cycles.  Toward the end of the program, they became brick workouts. A brick workout is when you do your cycling and then transition immediately into your run. This builds and trains your muscles to be ready for transition 2 on race day.

All in all, the encouragement, knowledge, and passion from both Andrew and everyone else who swam, rode, and ran with me, helped make me as prepared as I can be for this race. As I sit here on Friday evening, anxiously/nervously awaiting Sunday morning, I cannot help but feel an immense feeling of gratitude toward everyone who has helped me in any small part over the part few years. 5 years ago, the notion of sitting here, writing an article about my second triathlon, in a blog devoted to the endurance races I've done, would be so ludicrous, it would go beyond plaid.


Sunday has come and gone and (SPOILER ALERT) the 2015 Subaru Vancouver Triathlon is in the bag! 

I now consider myself a Triathlete.


With a 7:30am wave start, I arrived at the beach at 6:00am to ensure I had adequate setup/warm up time.

As the cab drove me to the start line, the sky was dark, cloudy, and orange. It looked like one of those apocalyptic storms from the movies. 

Turns out, there were several forest fires that were burning throughout the night all over BC, and with the current winds, Vancouver was in the prime location for all the smoke to accumulate. 

This had some benefit for the race. Instead of a day of sun and heat in the mid 30s (mid 90s F), it was overcast and much cooler.

Since I am coached through Life Sport Coaching, I was able to use their tent to store my gear. Transition did not open until 6:30am, so this worked out perfectly. I dropped off my gear and went to get a warm up run in. 

After some drills, a short run, and some sprints, I jogged back to the Life Sport tent just in time to see a bald eagle fly over head. It was a pretty cool sight.

By then, Transition was open. After getting body marked, I grabbed my gear and started prepping my area. The first thing I did was to air up my tires. Bikes had to be checked in the day before and leaving fully inflated tired out in the sun/heat was not a good idea. I then proceeded to fill up all my water bottles and lay out everything I needed for each discipline. After a few mental run throughs of each transition (and once I was sure I had not forgotten anything), and a walk through of the entrances and exits, I made my way back to the tent to get ready for my warm up swim.

The water was much colder than I was used to, granted I am used to doing my open water swims in the evening. I used this time to make sure the water was calm enough to sight using the race buoys, or if I needed to sight something higher. Luckily, the water was relatively calm.

After my warm up swim, I made my way back onto the beach were I ran into my friend Angela. We chatted for a bit and she snapped a picture before I had to make my way to the start. 

The Swim 

My coach had advised that I start toward the front of the pack. We both felt that my swimming had become very strong and I would have no problem holding my own amongst them. 

The countdown was over, and the pack was rushing down the beach to the water. We had practiced this several times in my swim course, but today things stacked against me very quickly.

 I know which one is me, but I'm not telling.

The adrenaline caused by anticipation, the start of the race, the chaotic and crowded melee of the entry, and the colder than usual water, all allied themselves together with one purpose. Let's spike Joe's heart rate.

And they did just that.

About 200 meters in, my heart rate was so elevated, I could barely breathe, let along find any sort of rhythm. For about 10 seconds, I was ready to quit. Just roll over on your back and stick your hand up. The med boat will see you, pick you up, and you can just just call it a day. No need to put yourself through this.

Another 75 meters in, I called to a med boat and grabbed the side. This is legal, as long as the boat does not move and you do not gain any forward momentum. The medic asked me if I was ok. I told him I just needed to get my heart rate down. I held onto the boat, eyes shut, taking deep, slow breathes for a minute or 2 (I honestly could not tell you how long I was there).

I let go and continued on, trying to relax. After rounding the first turn, I sighted for the next buoy. On my second sighting, I noticed I was veering to the right quit a bit, so I made sure to angle myself more to the left. The buoys were on my left hand side and I breathe on my right. Every time I took breathe, I could see that several people were 100-200 meters off course due to the current. I made note of this for my second lap. I ended up only being about 50 meters off course for the turn.

Once around the second buoy, it was a straight shot to the start area again. My sighting and my line were much better, and I was starting to relax a bit more. As I approached the 3rd buoy, all I could think was, "You better swim well, Andrew and all the other spectators can most likely see you from here."

I rounded the 3rd buoy and was off on my second lap. This lap went much better. I was able to find my groove and rest (side stroke=my rest) less.

As I was sighting, I noticed something odd. I could see orange buoy, then orange buoy, then nothing. Where was the red turn buoy? Maybe the turn buoy was orange? No that's not right, I remember it being red. Maybe the red buoy is just perfectly lined up with the orange buoy and I can't see it. Yeah, that's it.

I passed the first orange buoys and sighted again. Orange buoy, then nothing. What was going on? Then I saw a race official on a stand up paddle board trying to get our attention. He was inside the race course yelling and pointing, "Swim for the boat! Not the buoy! Swim for the Boat!"

That is when I saw a med boat where the red buoy should be. I was not too far off and only had to go a bit right to get to the boat. I looked to my left and saw that the pack was about 20 meters inside the course. I got confused for a moment, but then realized why. The red buoy had moved with current. Everyone was sighting off the red buoy and were now off course. As I rounded the boat, I could see them pulling the red buoy back int place. When my head was underwater, I could see the buoy anchor line pulled super taught.

As I rounded the make-shift-buoy-boat, I remembered from my first lap to aim to the left, adjusting for the current. This time around, I was only about 10 meters off.

Once around the last turn buoy, it was only about 200 meters to go. I turned on the gas for this, sighting often, to make sure I did not veer off course. As I approached the beach, I made sure to swim as far in as I could before standing. This reduces he amount of time I would have to run through water.

It turns out, both of my Seahiker instructors were there watching and cheering. Apparently I was too "focused" to notice them. They old me later that my exit was "right on the sweet spot."

As I ran up the incline of the beach, I began to feel very dizzy. This is normal after the swim exit, but this was a bit more than usual. I stopped running and began to walk. Then I heard Andrew, "Great swim Joe! XX minutes!!" (You will have to keep reading for the final times) 

XX minutes? That can't be right. I stopped and took tons of breaks on the first lap. Damn. What would my time have been if the swim went as planned? But like in all things, you cannot dwell on the past. Just learn from it. I put it out of my mind and went on to Transition 1. But not before hearing the announcer mispronounce my name. Joseph Haydn was the 18th century composer. I am Joseph Hayden.

Not me.


Once the path from the swim to T1 turned from sand to solid ground, I retched. Once inside of T1 and in the sight of trash cans, I vomited. A medic asked me if I was ok, and after 2 good heaves, I was fine.

I had scoped out where my bike was earlier that morning. I knew to find the aisle with the tree, turn right, and my bike was the second to last bike on the left in the first rack after the tree. I also made sure that the bright pink section of my Malibu Marathon towel was visible.

My wetsuit was already half off and I proceeded to peel it the rest of the way. I had never done a wetsuit race before, but I knew how to take it off quickly. I just did not know where in my transition area to put it without soaking my run gear. Luckily I was able to look at my neighbors area for an idea. 

After the wetsuit was off, I grabbed my small towel and began to wipe off my foot. I put one sock and one cycle shoe on before realizing I should have put my helmet on first. I put on my helmet, and then wiped, socked, and shoed my other foot. I grabbed my gels and my glasses. Normally I would put on my gloves and be good to go, but I felt I wasted time throwing up, so I decided to forgo the gloves. Spoken like a true triathlete, "I wasted time in T1 throwing up, but I made up the time by not messing with my gloves."

The Bike

I ran the bike out of T1 to the mount line and was on my way. The bike route was a route I had been training on for months. I knew it very well and was very confident I would beat my previous time. At Lavaman, I had made the mistake of not drinking enough on the bike. This lead to a severe lack of energy on the run. Since then, I had changed my hydration setup. The bottle cages were replaced with cages that were easier to pull from and put back, but the game changer was the new aero hydration system. The new Profile Design FC Hydration System, or as I refer to it, my Lazer Mounted Stealth Submarine.

It was super easy to drink from, just unclip the straw. lean forward, and drink.  When it was empty, you grab a water bottle, jam it into the valve on the top, and squeeze.  Done! Refilled. This made it much easier to hydrate during the bike to ensure a good run.

As I was taking off, I saw (and heard) Andrew cheering me on.

As I made my my way to UBC/Spanish Banks hill, I was feeling much better. About a quarter of the way up, I was passed by a fellow Seahiker. We shared some encouragement as he bombed up the hill. I now know how my teammate at Lavaman felt when I passed him on an uphill.

Once up the hill, I made sure to grab some nutrition and water. There was a short no passing zone once at the top. I was passed by 2 people, when a third person came up beside me and asked if this was the no passing zone. I told him yes and apologized for being slow. He passed me anyway telling me it was fine.  

There was a no drafting rule of 10 meters. Not very many people were following this rule, but I was not gong to risk a 3 minute penalty. Luckily, I found myself in a good spot where if someone was passing me, they were much faster than me, and if I was passing someone, I was much faster than them.

After the course took us past UBC, the road widened and the slight downhill began. I knew from my training runs that I could build up a great deal of speed on this section (40-45kph counts as a great deal of speed). On these sections, I took the time to get into, and become more comfortable, in the aero position. My aero bars are still a bit low and narrow, but that is an adjustment for my next race.

After the turn around, and after thanking the volunteers, I knew I was in for the "Dead Zone." This was an area of the course which was (I felt) worse than the hill. It's a false flat. It looks flat, but there is just enough of an uphill to slow you down. This was compounded by the fact that there was a pretty good headwind working against us. This was another spot where being more comfortable in the aero position came in handy.  

Past the "Dead Zone" and back around UBC, there was a section I knew I could build up some speed before bombing down UBC/Spanish Banks Hill. I grabbed some nutrition/hydration and made the turn down the hill. I flew down the hill hitting 62kph. Luckily I did not have to worry about anyone passing me or trying to pass anyone. The hill was all mine.

At the bottom of the hill was the turn around. The volunteers were shouting directions, "First lap, left! Second lap, straight!" I had a bit of fun with them and asked, "What about the third lap?!" They all laughed and one of them responded with, "Hell why not fourth lap!?"

I made my way back up the hill, going the same speed and cadence as the first lap, but with a lower heart rate.  At the top there was no one behind me for me to hinder in the no passing zone.

On the way out, I saw a friend, Andrew, whom I met through Andrew's (my coach) cycling and running group(s).  He was out on his long run for his Ironman Whistler training. He saw me and shouted encouragement that rivaled Coach Andrew's enthusiasm. 

As I went through the turn around, one of the volunteers asked if this was my second lap and cheered me on. I thanked them for their encouragement and for volunteering. They responded, "We volunteer because we could not do what you are doing!"  I wanted to tell them that they could, but I was already too far away.

I saw my friend Andrew again, and received the same level of encouragement.  

I built up the same speed in all the same places, and stayed very consistent on my second lap. The only difference was, I speed up a bit coming down the hill the second time (63kph).

I passed about half a dozen people coming down the hill and into T2.  As I got closer, I began to loosen my watch from my Laser Mounted Stealth Submarine's computer mount, wanting to not waste time fiddling with it in transition.  

I knew I had bested my Lavaman time and speed (average speed 29.3 kph). But you will have to continue reading for final times.


As I approached T2, once again, Andrew was there to cheer me on, looking at his watching yelling "Great time!"  I yelled back, "I beat my Lavaman time by XX minutes!" I told you, you will have to keep reading.

I dismounted before the mount line, and ran my bike into T2. I know from earlier scouting where to go. Look for the tree, turn right, count 4 sections in, you are the second slot on the right. Boom. Bike racked, helmet off, shoes off, race belt/bib on, gels and water in the back pockets, visor on, grab the watch, and GO! I put the watch on as I was running out of T2, so to not waste time.

The Run

As I ran out of T2 and onto the run course, my mind went back to Lavaman. This was where I crashed, having not had enough water on the bike. Like all mistakes, I learned from this one. I was off and running at a very good pace. The course was a flat, 2 loop, out and back, and just like the bike, I had trained on it and knew exactly what to expect.  

About 1.35k in, I realized that my watch was not displaying my heart rate. In fact, my screen was not displaying any of the normal read-outs I had set it to month ago. Turns out, I had accidentally selected Run Indoor (which I never use). While on the run (get it?), I changed it over to Run Outdoor. 

I stopped about 700 meter later to stretch my calves and then continued on. I did not run my usual 10:1 intervals, but I did walk through the aid stations to makes sure I was adequately hydrated. It was not hot, but I was working hard.  

Since the course was a double lap, out and back, I was able to encourage the athletes I knew. I saw several Life Sport athletes I met the day before, several friends from my cycle group, friends from my swim courses, and athletes I had met pre-race or during the bike section.  

At the last aid station before the turn around, I saw a very familiar sight. Those pink polka dots could only mean one thing, Team Finn. It was my friend Terri. She was on the course picking up empty water cups. I shouted up to her, "Get off the course! You're in my way!"  She turned and laughed. I grabbed some water and told her I would see her soon.

At the turn around point was a Subaru car (one of to race sponsors). As I looped around it, I joked with the other runners on the course, "I wonder if the keys are still in it."

I made my way back to the start of the run, continuing to encourage the people I knew (and some that I did not). 

At the turn around point, I saw Andrew again. He snapped a few pictures, complimented me on how good/strong I looked, and on the time I was making. I was checking my watch often, and was very aware I was making great time. Once past the turn around, and on the start of my second lap, I joked with all the spectators saying, "That was so much fun... I think I'll do it again!" 
I ran the second lap just like the first, good pace, good mood, good encouragement. As I approached the final stretch before the finish line (same area as the turn around), I saw Andrew look at his watch, then up at me as he exclaimed, "You are 2 minutes away from a sub 3 hour!" My reaction included an expletive for which I immediately apologized for to the other spectators. 

Andrew told me to go as hard as I've ever gone. So I did. For about 20 meters, then I felt sick, so I went back to the pace I had been going. As I rounded the transition area, the race course became sand. It was hard to maintain good run form, but I could see the finish. The last thing I remember before crossing that line was, "The announcer got my name right!"


As I crossed the finish line, I looked up to see if I had indeed made it under 3 hours, but the timer read 10 something. I paid it no mind, and turned to see if I could see Andrew anywhere. I walked back to the finish line to see if I could see anyone I knew come in behind me, but I was exhausted. After asking a very nice gentleman to take my picture, I headed back to the Life Sport tent.

Everyone at the tent was asking me how I did. I told them I had a rough swim, but there was a possibility of a PB by about 40 minutes. I then ran into Andrew and Stacey (another friend from the cycling group).  She also had a very good race. Andrew was extremely excited about my time. I told him about my problems during the swim. He told me that with a current that strong, I most likely did more than 1500 meters, and given all the rest I took, the time I made was still very impressive.  

I hung out in the tent for a while as more and more people I knew came by. I saw Julie (also from my cycle group). She told me how much it meant to her to have someone on the course cheering for her. I saw my friend Ron (from my swim group who passed me up the hill). He also had a great race. One of friends, Chiara, came to talk to me after the race. She asked me how it went and told meI looked much better out there than when she saw me at Lavaman. I replied, "Well I was walking at Lavaman." We had a good laugh and congratulated each other. 

I sat in the tent for a while, soaking up all I had done that morning, when someone told me they were posting times. I walked over to the table and found my name on a long list. There was no good way for me to write down or take a picture of my time (and the table was crowded). So I went back to the tent and looked my my time online. 

What I found was amazing.

Swim time (1500 meters): 00:32:28.0
Transition 1                     00:03:21.0
Bike (38K):                      01:18:03.0
Transition 2                     00:02:04.0
Run (10k)                        01:03:43.0
Total                               02:59:39.0

Not only did I get under 3 hours, I set a new PB for all my events (even with the problems during the swim). My swim was 3 minutes faster, T1 was 40 seconds slower (I blame this on the wetsuit and the vomiting), the bike was 14 minutes faster, T2 was 29 seconds slower (bike position was not as close as in Lavaman), and the run was 23 minutes faster. Putting me just about 40 minutes under my previous time.

After I rested for a bit more, I went back into transition to pack up. I chatted with several athletes, some veterans, some first timers, but they all said the same thing when we left, "See you at the next one!"

I went home, showered, then met some friends at the beach for a post race cookout. Then I went home and slept for 13 hours. 

It was a great day.

Thank you so much for making it to the end of this entry! I know it was a long one, but alot can happen in under 3 hours!  

And as always, thanks for sharing in my journey. This bulldozer has plowed his way through yet another race and there will be many more to come!

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