Two weeks ago, I was supposed to race the the Olympic Distance Provincial Championships in Bracebridge. I was touched that people (besides my mother) were concerned when my name did not appear in the results. I got all kinds of messages. Did I crash? Was I sick? Is everything ok?

The truth, my friends, is simply that I’m a moron…

Despite having raced there twice before, I managed to take a wrong turn near the halfway point. What’s more, I didn’t even realize I was off course for several minutes. With a sinking feeling, I pressed on as the cottage road got steadily narrower, rougher and less familiar. Then I rounded a bend at over 40 km/h to see the road drop off into a lake. I skidded to a halt on someone’s dock. Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s the GPS file to prove it:

In my head, I played out a fantasy of riding straight off the dock and sinking peacefully to the bottom of the lake. But I couldn’t stand the thought of lake scum befouling my immaculate drivetrain. After alerting a volunteer that bib #1 would not be finishing, I blew off some steam with a 100 km “cool-down” ride through the hills of Muskoka. I reflected that one DNF in over 100 race starts is not so bad.

This sorry situation left me without the tune-up I wanted for Muskoka 70.3 and without enough points to contest the MultiSport Canada Elite Series. So this weekend, I made a last minute decision to race the Toronto Island Sprint Triathlon. By last minute, I mean the day before, part way through a 3.5 hour brick workout.

I’m coming off my hardest month of training ever and Friday and Saturday were business as usual.

7am: track session (16 km)
12pm: hard swim (4000 m)
5pm: cross bike ride (1.5 hours)
7pm: conditioning session (0.5 hours)

7am: CompuTrainer ride (3 hours)
10am: brick run (6.5 km)
3pm: easy swim (2200 m)

I spent the rest of Saturday throwing together triathlon paraphernalia. By the time I drove to Toronto in the evening, I was feeling pretty strung out.

I arrived at my Nana’s to find a homemade apple pie with my name on it—just the recovery aid I needed. After a short but sweet sleep, I drowsily made my way downtown to find the ferry to Toronto Island, quaffing caffeine, blasting tunes and bickering with the snooty GPS lady.

After some minor mishaps, I found my way to Toronto Island, a success I toasted with a Redbull. Triathlon power couple Alex VanderLinden and Angela Quick were kind enough to walk me through the course several times to prevent further off-course adventures.

There was talk of cancelling the swim due to frigid water temperatures in Lake Ontario, but the final call was a shortened 375 m swim. An ice bath turned out to be just the jolt I needed to perk up and focus.

From the gun, the pace was frantic and the pack was violent. I made the tactical mistake of not dolphin diving and lost some ground to the leaders. I swung wide around the first buoy to escape the scrum and surged ahead of the main pack, exiting the water in third.

Not long ago, I was a “one pace all day” swimmer, like many triathletes. In recent months, my swim coach, Tim of Magnolia Masters, has reinvented my swim training, emphasizing short, fast repeats over the endless moderate work I used to do. You can find the type of workouts I do here. The result is that I’m gradually, painfully, developing some higher gears in the water.

I was somewhat apprehensive about the two-lap bike course on narrow, winding roads. Whipping past beginners on beach cruisers going half your speed can make for a white-knuckle ride, or at least some congestion…


But several small waves with large spacing mitigated any problems. You will not find a race series that takes safety more seriously than MultiSport Canada.

The cold water must have shocked my tired legs into submission. Knowing that strong runners like Ontario pro’s Alex VanderLinden and Mikael Staer Nathan were in pursuit, I worked hard to avoid a battle on the run.

I averaged 336W (339W NP) or about 4.8 W/kg. It’s hard to believe that this is over 40W more than any triathlon last season. My improvement is the product of some major changes as well as many marginal gains. The big factors are training with power (starting August 2013), riding mostly on the CompuTrainer (November 2013), more polarized and periodized training under the guidance of David Tilbury-Davis (May 2014), and equipment and position improvements (never-ending).

I had nearly a two minute lead off the bike, so I didn’t need to suffer too deeply on the run. Alex and Mikael dueled to round out the men’s podium. Results

Here’s my post-race interview with triathlon media maestro Roger Hospedales:

I’m heading into a big September with Ironman 70.3 Muskoka and Niagara Falls Barrelman, a new half distance triathlon. As always, thank you to Giles Atkinson (Keystone Communications), MultiSport CanadaKlean AthleteVorgee, NineteenCompuTrainer, Altra and my coaches David and Tim.