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PBs, chocolate milk and baby powder: Great words of advice from John.
Hello! My name is John and I am a consultant in green hi-tech. I was born in Saskatchewan, but consider myself “from” the North Shore in the Vancouver Lower Mainland, where I have lived for about 45 years. I love the Okanagan and spent some part of every summer there.
How many triathlons have you participated in?
I have done upwards of 40 triathlons, sprints, Olympics, half and full iron distances. My favorites are sprints and halves.
Where/when was your first triathlon?
My first triathlon was 7 years ago on the May long weekend in 2009. I did the North Shore Tri in North Vancouver as a bucket list item. I had always swum some but never competitively. I had not been on a bicycle in 33 years and had never been in a run race or really ever run. So there I was at the race, like standing on the dock staring into the ice cold water wondering if I should dive in. (to be clear, it is a warm pool in the tri, so not an exact match for my analogy)
With no training and no expectations other than finishing, I jumped in. I finished, both vertical and smiling...hooked. I wondered what it would be like if I trained. So, I trained some and did another tri and did better. Hook was now in deep. I needed a goal and is my norm, I looked around for what I perceived to be the most difficult (Penticton Ironman). To note here, I don’t have much in the way of cartilage in my knees and this is related to my no running experience, so I had concerns about being able to finish a Marathon. So, a week before it started, I signed up for the Victoria Marathon to see if I could do the distance. My performance was best described as a “finish” but good enough to get me training for 18 months for IMC in 2011. There were many races before and since and new races I did were based on what I heard about the race.
What was the biggest thing you learned from that experience?
The biggest thing I learned from participating in my first Tri was that your first race is a guaranteed personal best. More so, the worse you are, the easier it is to continue to personal best a race (my secret). There are a large number of people who can beat me and while fewer now than when I started, there are those I will never beat. My concern is beating me, not others and I only have 2 races that I did not PB. I also compare how I do against the average but don’t feel much in the way of podium pressure. Maybe when I am 90 and the only one left standing.
What made you register for the Pushor Mitchell Kelowna Apple Triathlon?
I heard about the Kelowna Apple in glowing references, early on, but never managed to be in the area at the right time. Finally, in 2014 I made it to the Pushor Mitchell Kelowna Apple Triathlon! I can’t believe it took me this long to make the race, but I won’t miss it again. Last year was as close to a perfect race as I have had, due to the incredible organization the long-standing race has. Everything thing was nailed but to highlight, my finish was not only vertical and smiling but I was handed the best hamburger ever, cold chocolate milk and had an excellent massage. It does not get any better than this.
A triathlon is comprised of three different sports: swimming, biking, and running. Which do you find is your strongest sport?
My strongest leg was the swim portion, but the other two are where I have been able to make the most improvement. While I started out as swim, bike, run, with each leg getting relatively worse as the race went on, I am now Bike, Swim, Run in what I am better at. My run still has the most to improve.
Which are you most nervous about, and how to you plan to overcome it?
I'm in this for fun, fitness and meeting a fabulous cohort of great people, all of which are pretty much guaranteed. If I were to worry about anything it would be wiping out on the bike. So far so good, but last year in Kelowna, while my legs were still getting out of bike mode, at the beginning of the run, I did a yard sale in front of the Rotary building. A paving stone that was a couple of mm above the surrounding concrete jumped up and grabbed my foot and sent me headlong into a crash (does that sound better than saying, “I tripped”). I missed head butting the shorts in front of me by about 2mm and while wiping out is not desirable, it highlights one of the great things about the sport. The gal in front, whose rear I just missed with my head, stopped her run and came back to check on me (she heard a crunching noise behind her.) It is this caring and camaraderie that sets this sport apart from some of its more cutthroat individual component sports. I got a bump and broke a few accessories but only lost 25 seconds in the melee. I appreciated very much her stopping to check on me, especially since she probably caused the accident, by me watching her butt instead of where my feet were going.
What are some of the steps you're taking to prepare for the Pusher Mitchell Kelowna Apple Triathlon?
The bike course goes uphill soon after getting on the bike, so I am practicing hills, as hills favor lighter riders and being light is not one of my issues. A brick is running right after a bike ride, so I tend to do a 20 minute run right after half of my bike rides. Aside from making the transition easier, it got rid of calf cramping I use to get in the first 300 meters of the run.
What's the best advice you've been given in preparation for the race?
I have learned a tremendous amount from other athletes. The list is endless, but the best comment which applies at least to both the swim and bike, is don’t go out too hard. A lot of people hit the water flat out trying to keep up with the big dogs to go as fast as you can. You end up slowing with an overall longer time or in the worst cases hyperventilate or cramp up. Know your pace and consciously slow yourself down at the beginning of the swim. When you are settled in and cruising at your pace (having ignored what others are doing), look for a slightly faster pair of feet, tuck in behind and hitch a ride. Especially on bike courses that start out flat or down hill, don’t spend all you have before you get to the hills.
Any tips, tricks, or thoughts you'd like to share with first timers?
There are a lot of people who are first timers, there are much much fewer who don’t do their 2nd race. I guess that is why the sport is growing in leaps and bounds. Translation – The odds of you enjoying your experience and doing another race is very high.
- Check all your equipment before the race to ensure all is in good order.
- Ride, walk, run, swim or drive the course before the race, so you know what is coming and you know you can do it.
- Body lubrication can be used wherever your wet suit might rub you the wrong way.
- Organize your transition for fast easy access to the minimum of what you need (i.e. fold open socks in each shoe for fast access and slipping on. Put your race number on right away but hat glasses, water bottle can be placed in a pile to be grabbed at once and put on after you are already running.) Note also, presuming you have a race number belt, you can put your race number on under your wet suit, so you don’t have to deal with it later, but practice this first so you don’t rip if off with your wet suit. Practice the transitions as these are the easiest minutes to save. (That said, not to worry too much in the first race about how fast you are, mentally prepare and go over the steps and race in your head, but remember the first tri is a guaranteed PB.
- Baby powder in your bike and running shoes can make them easier to get on and more comfortable for the race.
- Make sure your race number is facing forward on the run so you can find your pictures.
- There are 5 disciplines, not 3. Swim, Bike Run, Mental (headspace/drive) and Nutrition. Nutrition is my weakest and applies to all training and racing, exacerbated by the longer distances. You can mentally prepare and get in the right headspace but likely will need help to get the nutrition figured out.
- A good coach is a huge benefit to increasing your performance. A bad coach is not really a bad coach, but is more likely a good coach for someone else. Find the right fit it you seek this help.
- Thank the volunteers when you see them, on and off course.
- All free advice is to be received gratefully and weighted against your personal knowledge and other advice. Not everything works for everyone and there are exceptions to every rule. I don’t use socks on short course races but many do use socks, your call, but don’t try anything for the first time on race day. Have a plan, practice it and change it, as needed, after the race.
Good Luck, Have Fun and Meet lots of great Folks who love the sport of Triathlon!!