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ITU Long Distance World Championships 2016 – Oklahoma City Meltdown

World Championships are the pinnacle of any sport, where athletes test their mettle and fitness against the best in the world, and I was proud to be chosen for the 2016 Canadian World Championship team to race in Oklahoma City on September 24th. I knew the race would be hot, and the field would be strong. It had already been a long season, with more races than I’ve done in previous years, but I wanted to challenge myself and see how well I could do if I threw a few additional races into the mix. 5 weeks prior to Oklahoma I raced at the Canadian National Long Course Championships in Penticton, having a decent race and finishing 4th. After some really great run workouts in the weeks leading up to Oklahoma, I felt that I had improved my run fitness and would be able to have a great race, hopefully finishing in the top 10. Unfortunately my body had other plans for me.

I travelled down to OKC a few days before the race, with my good friend Rachel McBride. What struck me the most was the heat when we got off the plane. I had been doing a lot of sauna training and indoor trainer riding to prepare for it, but it felt a lot hotter than I thought it would. With a high humidity, it felt like it was in the mid to high 30’s Celsius.

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The QR PRsix sitting in transition, ready to race!

Preparation for the race went well in the few days leading up to the race, but I had a bit of a stomach issue the two days pre-race (had some ‘dehydration issues’) which didn’t really help a lot in the heat. Race morning came, and I felt pretty great during my run warmup. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get a warmup swim in, so we had to go at the 4k, non-wetsuit swim with cold muscles. I had my Nineteeen Wetsuits Rogue swim skin, which was my only saving grace. As our names were called out (which is pretty cool,) we ran out to the start line at waist deep water.

SWIM

The gun went off, and it was a struggle immediately. The course was a two-loop swim, with a ‘tailwind’ on the way out and a ‘headwind’ on the way back. I lost the pack by halfway to the turnaround, really struggling with arms that seemed heavy and dead. The swim back was insane, with massive chop and the inability to see the marker buoys. I was alone by this point, and by the time I FINALLY made it to the end of the first loop, I couldn’t believe we had to swim ANOTHER loop! It seemed to take forever! Into the second loop I went, and continued to struggle.

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“Don’t worry, everyone had a bad swim!”                                                                                         Photo Credit: Tenille Hoogland

Coming out the water up the ramp, Michael Brown (Challenge Penticton Race Director) was standing there and yelled out

“Don’t worry Nate, EVERYONE had a bad swim!”

A sure sign I was off to a bad start. 

BIKE 

On to my trusty Quintana Roo steed, I got to work. The first hour on the bike I spent chasing and slowly catching athletes ahead, but by the one hour mark the legs were starting to get heavy, and from the two hour mark the legs weren’t cooperating at all, and I was struggling to push any power. I kept on it, doing my best to spin and keep my head low and aero. It was a grind with a 30km straight section back to T2, with solid headwinds the whole way. I didn’t feel too hot, but I think my perception versus reality was a little skewed, and I think perhaps the existing dehydration from the previous days combined with the heat on the bike took a lot out of my legs. I finally made it back to T2 at what felt like a crawl, and felt that the run was going to be my chance to make up a bunch of the time I lost in the swim and on the bike. As I bent over in T2 to put my run shoes on, I could hear the AMAZING Team Canada team manager Tenille Hoogland yelling at me, saying

“Okay Killam, I know it’s a tough day out there, but get out on the run course!”

As easy as it would have been to just stop right then and there, I couldn’t let the team down, and out onto the run course I went.

RUN

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Heading out on the run, started out alright but deteriorated quickly.                           Photo Credit: Jenn Soost

My legs had the usual tightness that exists when coming off the bike, especially a tough bike. The opening km’s felt okay, but I just couldn’t seem to get into a good rhythm. By the 4-5km mark, I knew things weren’t good already. My pace was slowing down, and even though I was pushing harder and harder, my paced consistently slowed. By the second of 3 loops I was already suffering badly, doing what I can only loosely describe as ‘glorified walking’. Hitting the end of the 2nd loop, having slowed to a grueling pace, the easy out was to just pack it in, because I was having (easily) the worst race of my career. But as I came through the turnaround point, I decided that quitting wasn’t an option today. It was a World Championships, I was representing my country, and I knew there were a lot of my friends and family following the live updates as I raced. I was proud to be racing for Canada, and if I had to walk to the finish line I was going to get there somehow. I never stopped, I just kept moving forward, with my mind thinking about the finish line. My friend Rachel McBride passed me in the early part of the 3rd loop, and I tried to stay with her but only lasted a few hundred meters before I slowed once again. She went on to place 3rd, another podium at the ITU LD World Championships for Rachel, and I am SO proud of her. As I came into the finish chute and crossed the line, I don’t know if I’ve ever been so happy to be done a race.

The Oklahoma ITU World Championships was easily my worst race to date. But it was also an incredibly humbling experience, one that I think is important in the development of a successful athlete. If I could have chosen to not have a terrible race, I obviously would have, but I’m taking away an experience that will help me grow mentally as an athlete, one that will give me even more drive and motivation to perform next season. I also take it as a learning experience, that I need to work on performing in the heat. Even though sometimes the heat doesn’t make you feel hot, the body is much more affected than you realize, and obviously I was affected by the heat. I’m hoping to make the 2017 ITU LD World Championship team again next year, and have another crack at this race. Big thanks to Gavin and Claire Robinson, who were so kind to host myself and Rachel in Oklahoma City.

I would say it’s been a rather successful season for me, with improvements on every course I raced at last year, and many top 5 finishes. I’m looking forward to continuing this upward performance trend in 2017, but am looking forward to a little mental break and having some fun this fall racing cyclocross.

Thanks so much to all my awesome support team this year, everyone who has believed in me and has always had positive words of encouragement. My wife has been a never ending source of motivation and support, even when I leave for weeks at a time. My coach Björn Ossenbrink has helped guide me to a new level this season. Huge thanks to all my amazing sponsors, they’re the real-deal and really make all the training and racing possible. Quintana Roo makes some seriously fast bikes. Pair that with super-slick Easton wheels and Rotor cranks, and I’m lucky to be riding a monster of a rig. Thanks to Compressport Canada for ‘supporting’ me wherever I train and race. Big thanks to Champion System Canada for the amazing kit they supply me with every year. Thanks to the team at Velofix for all the bike work and hooking me up with extra gear when I need it. Nineteen wetsuits has kept me ‘afloat’ with their awesome lineup of wetsuits and swim skins, a proudly Canadian company that I’m stoked to work with. Thanks Dave at Distance Runwear for keeping my feet happy with Hoka shoes and all the other little run bits I need. HUGE thanks to my coworker and sponsor Jason Wood, for keeping me healthy all year long with Usana vitamins. I couldn’t do what I do without all these amazing people, so thanks to all of you! Everyone I interact with creates an impact on my life, whether big or small, so thank YOU! One of the parts of this sport I love is meeting so many new and awesome people all the time, and I’m truly lucky that triathlon has brought all these people into my life.

I hope everyone has had a stellar season so far, and for those of you in the offseason, enjoy some well deserved rest and recovery with your family and friends. It’s cyclocross season for me now, the next stop is Kona, Hawai’I to watch the Ironman World Championships and see if the legs will cooperate in the Kona Beer Mile, put on by TRS Racing!

Thanks for stopping by!

Nathan

Keep Calm and Roll On

Yes, I know, very Cliché. But, some days, when you’re just having one of those days, you need to just push through the duff and keep smiling. Yesterday was the first day of camp here in Tucson. As I woke up to sunny skies and warm temperatures, I proceeded to down my favourite morning beverage – the ‘ambition enhancer’ known as coffee – and started pulling my bike apart to get out on the roads. As I put it on the stand, I noted what I thought was some goo on the front fork. As I went in for a closer inspection, I immediately had a rush of adrenaline push through my body.

“Oh Shit.”

Yeah, oh shit is right. Due to some incredible forces during loading/unloading of the bike during flight, the front fork was shattered through-and-through. After 8 years with this bike case, and what was going to be my last trip with it – a new Rüster Sports Armoured Hen House will be on it’s way to me, huge thanks to the lovely folks at RaceQuest Travel for setting it up – this is the first ever damage incurred. I’ve lent this bag to numerous people, and nobody has ever had damage to their bikes either. What a shame it had to go out on a bad note.

The PRsix all snuggled up in it’s home for the next few hours!

After the adrenaline started hit, and managing to avoid the “3 P’s of and Emergency” – Panic, Puke, & Pass Out – I immediately began to think of ways to repair the situation. The fork is toast, that’s for sure. I needed a new one. So I started conversation with United Airlines to attempt to remedy the cost part of the situation. That went far better than expected, and after a trip to the Tucson Airport, I had a damage report with instructions to replace the fork and bring the bill for reimbursement. I’m a little cautious with my applause, as I don’t have anything reimbursed yet, but I do have to give kudos to United for making it somewhat seamless, with very friendly and empathetic employees willing to help me the best they could.

The next conundrum? The bike isn’t rideable. So, I know Trisports.com is a Quintana Roo dealer, and figured a trip over to their Tucson Retail Store might bear some fruit. I had a plan A, Plan B, and Plan C in my mind as ways to remedy the situation. What I didn’t a for was the incredible generosity I would encounter, along with a Plan D that proved to be the best plan of all for the short term.

You see, Quintana Roo had a whole bunch of PRsix rental bikes at Ironman Arizona, whereafter they sent them to Trisports for storage and to be rented out by the anyone who needed a bike. Luckily for me, they had my exact bike sitting in the back, and generously offered to lend it to me for the duration of my camp, or until QR could send me a new fork. I mean, I was pretty much a stranger to these folks, but they’ve lent me an incredibly expensive über-bike, much to my elation.

I have to give a massive thanks to Susan and the folks at the Tucson Trisports store, they essentially saved my camp, and a few hours later I was back on the roads, dialling in the fit of the PRsix (which is incredibly easy thanks to a simple shim/spacer system for the integrated stem!) She rolls like a dream, stops on a dime, and even with some legit crosswinds, I wasn’t buffeted around too much on the carbon clincher Reynolds Strike aero wheels (standard on the PRsix models.)

First Ride in Tucson!!!

This situation is an example that just staying calm and thinking your issue through can come out with a timely result to the problem. Next time the shit hits the fan, just stop and think for a second. It can do you wonders.

It’s time for me to fold the laptop up and get out there for some more miles. It’s a sunny day in Tucson, and after running across a fellow juggling bowling pins on a unicycle last night, I feel like things are going to be a-okay. Have a safe one everyone, happy miles!

Nathan

Tucson Training Camp Wrap-Up: SUCCESS!

Already REALLY missing swimming in the sun! Hillenbrand Aquatic Center at the U of A campus.

After 3 weeks of incredibly sunny training in one of my favourite training destinations, I’ve returned home a little worse for wear but positive there’s been some solid gains made for the season. I’m excited to be able to go back with Jenn in less than 5 weeks, for another 2 hard weeks of training. Returning to the rainy weather here in Vancouver is a tough pill to swallow, but I’m making the best of it.

No matter how many times I climb Mt Lemmon, it NEVER gets old

I decided to make a short little video to highlight the training camp and all the things I got myself into over the miles. I hope you enjoy it!

Halfway up Mt Lemmon, just above Windy Point

HUGE thanks to all my incredible sponsors and support team for helping me get to and through Tucson in fine form. Thanks to the folks at Quintana Roo for getting me a bike quickly on short notice, and huge thanks the the crew at Speed Theory Vancouver for getting the bike built last minute, it rode like a dream! Thanks to Champion System for clothes on my back, they kept me comfortable over the miles. Thanks to Compressport for helping me make the most of my recovery time, and making traveling as pleasant as possible. Thanks to Powerbar for keeping my fuel tank all filled up through all the miles. Thanks to Dave at Distance Runwear for keeping my feet in the fastest and most comfortable footwear possible, my Pearl Izumi N1’s (on a side note, wearing them through a rocky canyon will beat the bejeezus out of them!) A huge thanks to coach Björn for directing this big show of a camp, and helping keep my focus where it needed to be. Thanks to Jesse and Amy for putting me up at your sweet digs, and a special thanks to Jenn for putting up with me disappearing yet again for weeks on end.

This sunday is the UBC triathlon, which I’ll be competing in alongside many other local athletes. It was my first ever Olympic distance race 7 years ago, and this will be my 5th time racing it. Hopefully the weather will cooperate, but I’ll be ready for whatever craziness gets dished out.

Riding with the Gang, enroute to Mt Lemmon

I hope everyone has been enjoying this late winter weather, have a blast out there and stay safe!

Nathan

The Infamous Tucson Saturday Morning Shoot-Out

I’ve been anticipating this all year, ever since I got to ride in it last year at Tucson Training Camp. It’s held a small dark corner of my thoughts, slowly building excitement as the trip down here to Tucson approached. Ever since I rode in the Shoot Out last year, and missed the front pack due to getting trapped in the gutter (along the edge of the road, boxed in by other riders,) I’ve needed a touch of redemption. Now that I’m here in Tucson, it was paramount that I got to engage in the excitement of bike racing, not only in a warm climate, surrounded by strong riders, but also aboard my triathlon bike.

Yup, the Quintana Roo TT bike, with aero extensions and everything.

Sounds somewhat out-of-place, or perhaps a bit offside, but I’ve discovered that as long as you’re able to hold a straight line, stay away from the aero bars, and don’t perform any nerdy triathlete shenanigans, you’re more than welcome to participate. It’s essentially a free impromptu race, every saturday morning ranging from a 7:30am-6:00am start, depending on what time of year (check out the little breakdown of the ride HERE and a map/elevation description HERE.) It’s exciting and fast paced, and today’s ride was no exception!

It started with about a 20 minute roll-out through town; I noticed a lot of chatty banter, with far too many serious faces. I think roadies need to smile more.

Rolling through town, lots of smiles from team Canada

As we neared Valencia, the road that is essentially the ‘Start Line,’ there was a lot of silence, and riders shedding layers as they prepared for the beginning of the Saturday morning excitement. I’m sure many riders prepare for this ride all week, with carbon race wheels and bikes worth almost as much as my house surrounding me, to be ready to try and take that final sprint, along with the Shoot Out glory and bragging rights. I’m pretty sure having that win on a resume is a pretty big deal, far more lucrative than winning the Velo Vets Iona sprint. Even though we were at a pedestrian pace rolling out, my legs were practically bouncing and I’m pretty sure my heart rate was in zone 4.5, anticipating crossing over that starting line. We hit Valencia, and all of a sudden a rider came by the outside lane and said “let’s get this party started!”

Classic.

It was action pretty much from the gun, no real breaks forming until a few miles down the road, but a hard and fast pace was set immediately. There’s no fooling about at the shoot out; if you want to stay with the front group, you’re going to have to suffer for it. Luckily for me, I not only brought my best suffer face, but I also loaded up on my favourite pre-‘race’ octane beverage: beet juice. Essentially, I felt like I brought a gun to a knife-fight.

There was no looking backwards today, I was focused on one thing, and one thing only: make the front break, and hold on for dear life. It took a turn for the hurt at 13 miles to go, or ‘The Bridge,’ where the pace gets really cranked and I definitely felt the burn for a few pedal strokes. I managed to hang on, and even to move myself through the field nearer the front of the pack. As we neared the Sprint Hill ‘Finish,’ just after mile marker 5, the main group I was in made a big effort to pull back the breakaway, which I’m fairly sure the bacon-powered Triathlete Ben Hoffman was a part of. Myself, my buddy Jesse Vondracek, and a new friend I’ve made here, Maik Twelsiek (another professional triathlete with some big wins to his name,) were all in that main group, and it strung out pretty long near the end. I managed to get myself into a good spot and finished close to the front, somewhere in the top 15(ish), a respectable spot for a triathlon nerd like me.

Jesse V, rolling on his Litespeed, during a brief recovery zone.

The ride back included some exciting pace-line work, something you don’t get many chances to do when you’re a triathlete. It was a hard effort, really fast too, as we rode back towards town.

It was an exciting ride, the closest thing to actually racing, and I would highly encourage anyone with pack-riding ability to ride the Shoot Out if they come down to Tucson. An awesome thing to note, was seeing so many Canadian kits in the Peleton, even some local kits from the Vancouver area, including team Coastal Ride (based out of the city I work in, Delta.) There was a noticeable amount of pretty serious riders, including many members of the Smart Stop Cycling Team, plus a TON of sweet looking Champion System kits, which are hard to miss.

Immediately post shootout, with the front pack.

So far the camp has been excellent, my energy is higher than ever, and the body is back into high-mileage mode. The mileage as of 11 days of training:

Swimming: 30kms
Bike: 1050kms
Run: 92kms

Total Hrs: 55hrs

Time to go hit the hills with Jesse and the super-dog Addy for a few hrs of trail running. Then, my favourite, costco trip!

Happy training everyone!!

Nathan

Tucson Training Camp Round Très

SUNNNNNN!!!!

Sorry, I just had to. For all you poor folk stuck in the big city of Raincouver, I’ve completely succumbed to the urge to get overly excited about the nice weather here in Tucson. I feel like I’m on a different planet; just waking up to that inexplicably bright orb in the sky that generally seems so vacant during a Vancouver February works wonders for a person’s mental fettle! It seems to be able to cure any dark or depressed grey matter with it’s warm bright rays and Vitamin D enhancing effects. I urge anyone living in the GVRD to escape for a warm excursion during this time of year, even if only for a weekend! (Vegas anyone?!?)

Just pack your bike and ESCAPE the winter blues!!

Enough of that (not exactly uplifting Valentines Day chatter eh?) now that everyone’s cursing my overt enthusiasm and excitement for the weather, here’s a quick update on training camp activities:

I’ve made even more friends, including Tricia Shadell, a budding up-and-coming pro Enduro Mountain Biker. It was great to meet Tricia (a friend of Jesse V and Amy,) who was here to race a 24hr MTB race as a relay team member, but unfortunately managed to break her collarbone (not a little crack either, a rather legit FULL BREAK,) before the race, after she biffed it HARD chasing pro downhill mountain biker buddies on the trails. But to make her feel better, I made her my staple breakfast favourite of oatmeal pancakes (recipe coming soon to a blog near you,) and Canada’s finest pure maple syrup (for which there is no equal. Period.) I also tied my first ever ponytail, as she was rendered single-armed due to the break. Actually, I didn’t just adequately perform the tie, I freakin nailed it. And it was a double-bobble, which in my eye deserves some kind of trophy or plaque, or at least a sweet-ass medal.

Crispy-edged goodness…..
Pancakes to make a sad day happier, easy to eat with one hand!

I’ve come across roadkill wild hogs while riding that would most certainly have caused my untimely demise if I came across them alive (big, MEAN looking fellas, gnarly teeth all over the place!)

I’ve had a pleasant conversation with a Harley rider while stopped at an intersection (while ogling his ride, he claimed my bike looked damn light. I replied with, “Yeah, but it doesn’t sound as awesome as yours,” (after which, he gave a good solid revving, which I returned fire with an awesome sign of the horn, leading to even more eardrum-shattering revving and laughing.) After our shenanigans, I discovered his son raced BMX’s.

Amazing what you can learn at a stoplight.

It’s been glorious here so far, swimming with Jesse V and the Ford Aquatics Masters at the Hillenbrand Aquatic centre, a phenomenal place of high performance that really shows how serious they are about athletics at USA universities! All outdoor, all the time, and the short course yards makes you feel like an absolute stud!

Logging some hilly, twisty desert miles on the new QR

After 3 days of training, I’m already getting a tad tired, having logged 10km of swimming (including this AM’s swim, but not tonight’s swim,) 430km of riding, and 12km of running (number will most likely triple before today’s end.)

It’s only beginning, and I can’t wait to log some more miles on the new Quintana Roo CD0.1. Since I’ve been powering through so many of my Powerbars, I’ve started making some whole food training fare, based on some of the concepts and recipes of The Feed Zone: Portables, including leftovers from the above mentioned oatmeal pancakes (PB&J sammy’s anyone?) as well as some Salted Dark Chocolate Sticky Bites that are currently cooling, that I’ll post about sometime soon.

PB&J Pancakewich is uplifting during a LONG ride

Besides the beautiful weather training and being joyously reunited with Trader Joe’s, everything is doing slick here at camp. I hope everyone is enjoying their early season training, have a fantastic weekend and go have some fun!

With that, I leave you a short clip on how to be a mountain biker:

Nathan

Stuck on the Road Side at Challenge Penticton

Having my favourite bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, pondering how many pairs of gloves I’ll need to wear to survive a few hours of riding in -4 weather (that feels like -8,) I came across a hilarious photo that reminded me of the crap luck I ran in to at Challenge Penticton last year. Some of you may know I had a ‘little’ mechanical trouble on course, with the end result being my first ever DNF. You can read my 2013 Challenge Penticton Race Report if you’d like to find out the details to that catastrophe. Ironically, finding this photo is perfect timing as I’ve just joined the Team at Quintana Roo and Litespeed, so my needs in this photo have been filled! Big thanks to my teammate Chris Young for the photo.

That’s me in the background, standing on the side of the road. Pretty much sums up my feelings at that moment!

Speaking of a new whip, it’s time to go saddle up and ride out! I think I’ll leave you with a little video to create a smile, and possibly brighten up a possibly dark, cold, snowy winter day. Happy training!

Nathan

NEW BIKE DAY!!!!

As I sit here, grazing away on my PB celery stick and bowl of trail mix, I eagerly await my ride tomorrow morning. Not because it’s going to be -6 out, although that IS quite appealing (not); my excitement is because I get my maiden voyage on my brand spankin new race whip! That’s right:

NEW BIKE DAY!!!
The incredible mechanics at Speed Theory Vancouver stayed up late last night to get it all built up, and they did a phenomenal job too! I’m blessed to have a great shop to work with, these guys help me out huge all the time, and seem to be able to fix everything (except a failing relationship due to spending too much time out training than with your partner. Apparently you’re on your own with that.)
Along with exciting New Bike Day, I’m ecstatic to announce my new bike sponsor for the next few seasons! I’ve decided to partner up with the awesome team at Quintana Roo and Litespeed; the weapon of choice for 2014 will be the Quintana Roo CD0.1, built up with Shimano Ultegra components, Rotor Cranks, Power2Max power meter, PRO Missile bars, a Cobb saddle, and the lightning-fast Gray 9.5 carbon tubulars. It’s a rig I’m excited to train and race on for 2014, and a partnership that I’m pumped to have moving forward in my career as a professional athlete. 
Some Simple Math:

+
=

Always remember: keep your mechanics happy!
They worked late to finish it, homeward bound!

A bike fit with Coach Björn Ossenbrink tomorrow will be JUST in the nick of time, as I fly out to Tucson on monday for a 3 week training camp with my good buddies Jesse and Amy, where I’m sure there will be many miles shared, and even more monster cookies abolished to depths of my bottomless appetite. 
Remember Jesse and Amy?

….How about these cookies?!?!?
said, the race rig from last year needs to find a new, loving home. You can find the ad HERE. It served me well, I hope to find it a great new home to get ridden fast!
My trusty roadie is also looking for a new home, a complete bike that will guarantee some fun on the flats and especially on the hills. That ad can be found HERE.
Even more exciting news: I’ve been informed that the awesome folks at Speed Theory Vancouver can order ANY of the Quintana Roo bikes in to their shop, so if you want to rip it on a QR too, they’re the ones to see!
The rest of my awesome support network will be announced very shortly, as I finalize everything and sign in blood on the dotted line (well, not really, but that sounds way more official than digital signatures.)
Happy training everyone, stay safe and work hard!
Nathan

Where did the last few months go?

Christmas Eve above the snow line

It’s been a while since my last post, and a LOT has happened since then. I decided, as we do in triathlon, to take a break from much of the social media scene for the remainder of 2013 (post-Austin 70.3,) and have just been slowly getting back in to the swing of it lately. After the last race of the season, I find that there’s a bit of a depression, even if only slightly, that the race season is over. You’ve worked so hard, every day, up to this pinnacle point of the season, and then it’s all over. It’s tough to get into the off-season, to be able to wake up some days and not have anything planned, to just go with the flow of your days and weeks. It offers some freedom, the freedom to do whatever the heck you want to do.

The freedom to eat whatever size pancakes you want!

If I wanted to go to the gym and lift weights, I did.

If I wanted to go row on the erg, I did. I got so excited about rowing that I came close to retiring from triathlon to be a rower. 
Trying my hand at rowing

Almost.

I spent a LOT of time NOT running, swimming, or biking through November, mostly hitting the gym, the rowing erg, or baking something. I began mountain biking a fair amount later november and through december, as we had a rather warm start to winter. Mountain biking helps build fitness and explosive bike power, as well as gives you a completely different stimuli to road riding. It’s also just plain fun.

Fun in the woods….
….Even fun in the snow!
Can’t forget café rides with your buddies…
…and riding with the ladies!

Once the snow started to fall, it was XC ski season!!! I find XC skiing to be a massive boost through the winter. I come back to cycling MUCH stronger, and a lot more fit than the year before. Plus, it’s loads of fun. It’s even a ton of fun when you’re watching your buddy race up in Callaghan!

Elliot’s First Race of 2014

Getting retro

I’ve been spending a lot of time working on my run and strength over the last month, with a fair bit of time on the ski trails. Having all the time off lets you reset your body and brain, and lets you slowly grow that hunger to train and race. For AAA personality triathletes like myself (and I know a lot of you,) it can be bloody difficult! But when you start to slowly get back in to it, and start the rebuild into the new season, your body and mind will thank you. You may not notice it at first, but come august, when you’ve spent a lot of time breaking yourself down with training, you’ll REALLY appreciate it. I’m feeling superbly fresh, and I’m ready to do what it takes to exceed my expectations this year. Continuing into my 4th season with Coach Björn Ossenbrink, I’ll be starting the year with a 3 week Tucson training camp, staying with my good buddies Jesse and Amy. The big races this year will be Challenge Atlantic City and Challenge Penticton, both full iron distance events, finishing up with Austin 70.3 again.
I’ve also been building on and creating new relationships with my sponsors, and will shortly announce who my superstar support network will be! It’s been an exciting few weeks as I finalize everything, and things are starting to really happen.
I hope everyone has had a superb Christmas and New Years, I know I sure enjoyed a week up in Sun Peaks skiing, all while making some awesome new friends! Best of luck to absolutely everyone this year, go fast and enjoy every second of the journey.
With all of that, I leave you with this, ‘How to Be a Road Biker’:
Stay tuned, and stay safe!
Nathan

Breaking Barriers: the Austin 70.3 Ironman Race Report

Preparing for battle.
Going to war.

That’s how I felt the days and weeks leading up to the Ironman 70.3 Austin race on Sunday. I felt like I was preparing my body and mind for an epic assault on my competition, ready to push my body to its breaking point. I went into every training session motivated by these aggressive and unusual (for me) thoughts, fuelled by something that I had been missing all year. I was focused, I was determined, I was fitter than I’ve ever been, and it was all about to culminate into a performance that I can be bloody proud of. It had been three years since I was in Austin for this race, the last time I was here I came 20th overall, won my age group by a fair chunk of time, and was one of the top (if not the top) amateur racer on the day, a defining moment in my career when I realized that maybe I, too, could race as a professional in this sport I’d fallen in love with.

But I digress. Let me preface the happenings of the Austin race with a quick blip on the radar of why it’s been so silent on here the last few months:
Every warrior needs a good lid. Pretty doesn’t hurt either.
For starters, I’ve been in the process of moving, starting on September 29th, and has pretty much accounted for 97% of my time outside of training and working. It’s been a big haul, Jenn and I joining forces and moving in together, to the Vancouver neighbourhood of Dunbar: a perfect setting for mental clarity and comfort, as well as a prime and very ideal location for training. Less than 5 minutes from front step to trail head, multiple pools and open water swim venues within minutes drive, and smack-dab in the middle of some mighty fine riding routes, giving me the options of the flat time-trial friendly roads of Richmond and Delta, or the hilly and punchy routes through North Vancouver and beyond. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been so worth it already. I’ve been mentally stronger, with the hunger to perform at the forefront of my mind. In the last 5-6 weeks before Austin, I had been having some of the best running sessions that I can remember, getting some incredible track work in and really smashing some tough interval sessions. I’ve finally found my running legs back, and I knew Austin would be a good day for me.
Now, let’s fast forward to Sunday’s race.
Yup. This is at the gym. Seriously.
My most awesome teammate Rachel McBride was heading down to Austin with me, ready to defend her title as 2012 Austin 70.3 Champion. She was extra-awesome to invite me to stay with last year’s homestay, Doug and Liz (and 8 month old Claire.) Arriving to Austin’s sweat-producing weather, I was absolutely blown away (and am still in disbelief) by Doug and Liz Vreeland’s incredible hospitality and generosity. Doug helped us pick out run and ride routes, even taking us to the local masters swim to swim along side multiple All-American swimmers and double Olympians (which was rather humbling, as they lapped us on a 200yrd set like we were standing still!!!) He even took us to his ‘gym,’ although I would probably rather refer to it as the Disneyland for Fitness Junkies; they not only had high-end fitness equipment (including spin bikes and all the other incredible machines known to man, as well as some that aren’t known by many,) but they also had a lap pool, full yoga studios, outdoor military-style obstacle course, outdoor gravel path for running, and a full service coffee bar. Oh, and how could I forget the LAKE! Yes, that’s right, they had a bloody LAKE in the back! Rachel and I took advantage of the lake, practicing our starts, finishes, and smooth water entries. You know, very professional business and such.
Practicing my smooth water-entry for race starts. Nineteen Rogue helps with the ‘Hang Time.’

Getting close to race day, I was getting that feeling inside that has rarely shown itself in my career, the feeling that I knew I was going to perform well. Doug and Liz took incredible care of us, and come race morning I was rested and ready to go to battle. The days leading up to the sound of the gun going off felt like my body was preparing itself to suffer like I have never yet.

Extra rested and recovered, in the
best recovery tool I’ve ever seen, Recovery Boots!
So how did the race go? Well, let me tell you.
It was a bit of a shocker to wake up at 4am, look outside, and realize that it was raining so hard I couldn’t see the street lamp outside. Not how I expected to start my race morning in Austin. But, it faded away to a light sprinkle, and by the time I headed lakeside for swim warm-up, it had stopped.
Standing knee deep out into the water, green and pink fluorescent swim caps splashing and bobbing through the water, the rest of the pro field was warming up in the light glow of the morning sun. Some serious faces, some smiling and laughing (which, as you can imagine, I was a little closer to the latter,) but all looking fit and ready as I was. We lined up for the starting canon to go off, 15 minutes late (to give us more light,) and I was treading water right in behind Ben Hoffman and Richie Cunningham (which, in retrospect, wasn’t a good choice to park my arse for the swim start.)
BAM! The gun went off and it got furious as usual. It was down to fisticuffs instantly, a raging battle of testosterone and the unwillingness to give up the oh-so-coveted spot in the draft zone. It took about 300-400 meters before it started to spread a bit, and I was able to take stock of the situation. I managed to get on some feet that had me working fairly hard, but I was able to relax the legs and save some energy for the rest of the day. As we neared shore, I could see the clock closing in on the 26-minute mark, and I was able to race up the shore in 26 minutes and change, a fairly decent swim for me. I ran through transition in my usual sprint fashion, pushing my way past a few guys (whom I figured were moving at too much of a pedestrian pace for my liking,) grabbing my bike and ripping through T1 with one of the fastest transitions of the day, only next to the race winner Matt Charbot (who got through about 1 second faster.) I pride myself on my fast T1, and today was no exception.
My Nineteen Rogue helping to a solid 26 min swim.
Out on to the bike, the legs were working right away. It was push push push from the get-go, and I started putting targets on guys’ backs and picked them off. Fellow Canuckle-head Stephen Kilshaw was also racing, and he came by me after about 8 miles or so. I decided to go with him, and bumped it up to maintain contact with him (it’s a mental booster if you can stay within sight of the guy ahead of you!) We slowly reeled in guys one at a time, until we had made our way from 21st (out of the water for myself) up to the top 10 or so. I was working hard with a few guys, and when I looked back, there was a massive peloton of guys following right close. Like, a LOT of guys. Some of them were so blatantly drafting, the back of my aero helmet just nicked their nose as I turned to look them square in the face. I ended up burning a LOT of matches during the later stages of the bike, as I was frustrated by the drafting and only a few of us were up front trying to push the pace; the rest of the peloton would just suck wheel when we tried to get away. I’d say my favourite quote of the day was when a certain fellow Canadian came by on the bike, as we were working bloody hard, and said “Hey Nate, we gotta work it up here and drop-off this trash at the dump!” (pointing backwards with his thumb to the bunch behind us.)
Classic.
Head-down, guns blazing.
I was attacking on hills as much as I could, but to no avail. I ended up riding with ‘Big Sexy’ Chris McDonald (another guy who used to be a bit on the heavy side, topping out at 250lbs in his prime,) for a bit, and in the last few km’s I made an attack and he came with, splitting the group apart a bit. We did manage to get into T2 a football field length (or two) ahead of them, but by then I was burning matches by the handful.
Thank GOD I brought a grown-up size box of matches to this race.

Good thing I packed my big-boy box of matches.
Being careful in T2, it took me a bit to get my socks and runner on. Testing out new shoes last weekend (yes, I was trying something NEW close to race day, the same way I screwed myself the last time I was here,) I managed to rub nickel-sized holes in my Achilles, forcing me to be extra careful when putting my gear on. I lost some time in T2, but I took off at a fairly solid pace onto the run course.
I could tell fairly quickly that I was going to have to suffer on the run today. A few guys passed me right away, and I just kept pushing after Chris McDonald, telling myself I would catch him no matter what. I knew there was someone way up ahead that was slowly coming into my sights, and about halfway through the run, I committed myself to the chase; the hunt was on. I straightened up, and really started to lean into it. Lucky for me, I dropped all my Powerbar gels just after mile 1 on the run, saving me some precious weight I needn’t carry around. Who needs gels anyways? So by the third (and final) lap I was starting to feel the effects of only having coke and water on the run course. I started to really give it, with the foggy vision coming on, legs absolutely screaming with every iota to ‘oh-please-God-make-him-stop,’ and even the dreaded ‘counting steps’ (something I do when I am really in the hurt locker.) I could see him up ahead, and with only two miles left I really punched the gas right through the floorboards. With nary a mile to spare, I managed to cruise by him, giving my best poker-face, and surged ahead. I managed to gap him quickly, but he put in a huge surge that had me redlined, pushing so hard I could barely see in front of me, people screaming in the crowds, my body ready to give out any second. I could even see I was closing in on another guy up ahead, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to close that gap. As I hit the second-to-last timing mat, I could only imagine Björn on his computer, screaming at the screen to “GO FASTER UP UP UP” as he watched me close the final minutes of the race (make sure of course, you read that line with a thick German accent!)
Still Smiling!
This race is the first one I’ve done that has timing mats every mile of the run course. For me, I know that every single one of my supporters who is following the race can see me crossing over every mat; they can see who is passing me, and who I’m passing. This brings a new dynamic to my racing: knowing the most important people to me are watching live results stream in; the people who drive me to perform to my utmost potential, to give me best effort, who I strive to make proud, because they are my TEAM! I know they are watching, I can ‘hear’ their cheering and vibes as I cross over the mats and hear the ‘BEEP-BEEP’ from the computers. As I was suffering immensely out there on the run course, that’s what went through my head. Hearing their voices, that’s my mental rocket fuel. Seeing my teammate Rachel McBride killing it on the run prompted me to get even uglier on the run course.
Coming through the LOONG finishing loop/chute, I could see that I had quite the gap on the guy behind me, but did I slow down to savour the moment? Hell no. I cranked it up and tried my best impersonation of a sprinter (FAIL) coming through the line just above conscious, somewhat disappointed I didn’t get under 4 hours, but elated to have left absolutely everything out on the run course (and certain to have knocked a few months off the end of my life.) As I crossed the line, I threw out a hug cheer, and then the body started to realize what I had just done to myself. Within steps I was bent over, hands on my knees, trying my best to hold myself up. As my world got darker and darker, I remember abruptly dropping to my knees (confusing the volunteers with my finish line ‘Cat-Pose’ yoga routine,) then feeling two rather strong guys grab me under the shoulders and pick me up, dragging me to medical as if I had overstayed my welcome at the All-You-Can-Eat buffet (engulfed in a full-on food coma.) I don’t remember much in between there and the medical cot, but I was so happy once I came to on the bed.

Moments later, I was chewing floor.
My main concern in medical was that Rachel McBride wasn’t incredibly far behind me, and I HAD to get to the finish chute to be there when she crossed. After a few minutes, Rachel and her cat-ears costume came through the finish line, running her way into second place! When someone on my team has an incredible performance, it gets me even more excited than when I perform well. Triathlon isn’t exactly a ‘team’ sport in the conventional sense, but Team Ossenbrink makes it even more than just a ‘Team’; we’re like a family. So when my family kicks some ass out there, I get über pumped up! Rachel got one MONSTER of a high-five, and that was it.

Rachel and I at the finish, photo courtesy of Doug and Liz Vreeland.

The season was done.
Mmmm….everything’s better with Bacon!
















Yup. Bacon.























It was time to relax and enjoy ourselves, and in our last few days we did just that. Doug and Liz (our incredible homestay hosts) had lined up some of the FINEST joints in Austin, something Rachel and I had been looking forward to for months. We were not disappointed. Performing some feats to test our gastronomical fortitude, we had the finest Austin had to offer; Hopdoddys Burgers, The Salt Lick BBQ, and Kirbey Lane Café (where I convinced them to put BACON in my Apple Cinnamon Pancakes! But don’t worry, they were gluten free!) Rachel, Kim, Kelsey and I enjoyed each other’s company during our last days of warm weather for the year, we even got out for some Stand Up Paddle boarding on our last day, which was a hoot!
The Salt Lick, one of Austin’s FINEST!!! All you can eat meat.
The summary of my experience in Austin: much success! Every aspect of my race experience was outstanding, from working a new nutrition plan pre-race (with the most excellent of Registered Dieticians, Dana Lis,) to the events in the days leading up to the race (mostly courtesy of Doug and Liz Vreeland.) I am incredibly happy with my performance, it showed me I can really burn matches on the bike and still run decently, something I’ve been struggling with a lot this year. I am most impressed with my mental fortitude during the race, always an aggressive yet positive ‘WORK HARDER’ attitude, even when I was deep in Hurtville (remember, German accent and everything!) A 4:01 on a legitimate course, and 12th overall in a very strong field, the results reminiscent of an ITU finish, with competitors within seconds of each other. I hope to come back next year, and have even considered going down to race in Ironman Texas next year.
What to do now? It’s the offseason, so I have a few holiday calories to catch up on, some legs that need kicking back, and some much needed rest and recovery. I’ll realign my goals for next year with über-coach Björn shortly, and then we’ll start the build into the new year, preparing for the first race of the season for 2014, the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.
I want to give a MONSTER amount of thanks to all my support team this year. Saying thanks doesn’t even scratch the surface of gratitude and appreciation that I feel for all these incredibly supportive people. My coach Björn Ossenbrink and our team have been instrumental in my build up to this race, keeping me mentally and physically inline with my goals during training. Speed Theory Vancouver and Distance Runwear have kept me supplied with everything I need to run and bike all the extra miles, as well as lending an ear for me to talk off! Thanks to Powerbar for fuelling me through all those miles; Compressport for helping me recover to the best of my potential, and performing to my best when I really need it. Thanks a ton to Champion System Canada, who helped me create the most badass cycling, running, and triathlon kits I’ve ever had the pleasure of donning! Nineteen Wetsuits has helped me swim to the best of my ability, in a suit that is truly top notch. Thanks to John and ECOS coconut water, for helping me hydrate, rehydrate, thoroughly enjoy my favourite beverage on a daily basis, and keep me healthy through the sweatfest I incur every day. Thanks to Travis Wolsey of Sungod Physiotherapy for keeping my body intact during the ugliest of times, and Dana Lis of Summit Sport Nutrition for helping me absolutely NAIL my nutrition for racing, training, and getting to the most ideal body composition for racing. Huge thanks to my first ever sponsor, Brad Alderson of Popeye’s Supplements Burnaby and Coquitlam, who has kept my nutrition cupboard stocked with all the vitamins and supplements to keep me healthy. Last, and certainly not least, a MONSTER thank you to all my personal family and friends in this sport, you all know who you are. You help me stay motivated, determined, and drive me through the toughest days when the little sticker ‘WORK HARDER’ just doesn’t quite cut the cheese. One of the people I’m most thankful for, and owe the most gratitude for, is Jenn. Without her incredible, undying support of my goals I’d be a train wreck. We’re only as strong as our support network, and Jenn is rock-solid.
It’s Halloween night, and there’s some candy that needs handing out! Have a safe weekend everyone, happy training!!!

Nathan