2011 started with uncertain racing and training plans. Fortunately for me, in January I met up with whom would become my new coach Bjoern Ossenbrink of Lifesport Coaching, after he took over coaching the UBC Dolphins masters swim group. After a few weeks of swimming and a good track session it was settled: I had a coach and it was time to get faster. I immediately felt the positive effects of having a top level coach guiding my training and triathlon plan. I think in the first few weeks we probably managed to drop almost 1 minute off my 5km running pace. Along the way I picked up a new bike and Bjoern helped me dial in my new 2011 racing machine.
The new TT rig
After a few solid months of training with my new found teammates of Team Ossenbrink, I was encouraged with my increases in fitness. Bjoern and I decided that instead of racing as an Age Grouper this year I would turn Pro and start racing with the big boys (after all I was seasoned triathlete having completed one half and one full ironman ....). After an annoying setback when I got sick after a team training camp in Penticton, Megan and I were off to Hawaii for some sun and riding.
3 + hours of climbing
Coach and athletes at Shawnigan
After Hawaii I had a few weeks to get back into things before the first race of the season at theSubaru Shawnigan Lake Half. Being only my second half and my first triathlon racing as a pro, I was pretty nervous and not really sure what to expect. The swim went well as I led out of the water. It was really nice to have my family, coach Bjoern and assistant coach Megan yelling and cheering me on. The bike was pretty uneventful as Leif Baradoy, Adam Omera, Chris Bordreaux and myself rode into transition together. Adam really started to push the pace on the run and him and I went off the front knocking out the km's at 3:25-3:30 pace. Around 9km in I couldn't hold the pace anymore and dropped off towards the end. Adam took the well deserved win and I was happy with my second place and my first prize money as a pro !
Next up was the Boise 70.3 Half. I won't dwell on it too much. Things didn't go my way at all. Firstly after all the excitement of my first pro start, I manged to get sick after Shawnigan. Secondly, being so pre-occupied trying to get healthy, I didn't listen to my coaches nutrition plan carefully enough and race day decided it would be a good idea to take 5 Powergels and 4 bottles of Powerbar Perform in under 2 hours on the bike.
I'll be honest having everything fall apart in Boise was pretty hard on me. After a pretty rough week Bjoern convinced me I should still follow our race plan and I would start the Monroe ITU Pan America Cup just to get me experience with no expectations. Going from long course to short course is quite an adjustment, where swimming now becomes the make or break leg. Having spent much of my childhood as a sprint swimmer I was not concerned about my speed at the start but was worried about what would happen from 400 - 1500m. Because of this I convinced myself that it would be a good idea to start easy and build into the swim. Anyone that has ever started with 50 ITU men knows that building into the swim is not an option. I quickly learnt this after the combination of my non-ranked start position and "controlled" start left me in a washing machine of arms and legs well back from the lead groups and where I needed to be. After almost coming out of the water last, I did manage to pass a lot of people on the bike and run and salvage a decent top half of the field 19th place for my Pan America Cup ITU race.
After 3 races in a pretty short period I was pretty tired. Bjoern and I decided we should do one last race before a nice break and race the Vancouver Half since it was only 1km from my house. The race started well with a good swim coming out of the water first. A very quick transition perfected from my ITU race the previous week, combined with a fast climb up NW marine drive and I managed to open up a decent lead on the field and was feeling great and confident I had a chance to take the win. Things went downhill pretty quickly when the lead motorbike decided I needed a little extra work and detoured me up 16th to the round about, where he quickly disappeared once he realized he had no idea where he was going. After stopping to decide what I should do, I decided the best thing to do would be retrace back to NW and keep riding from there. In retrospect I probably should have cut across campus and joined NW at the other side of UBC. Anyways once I got back onto the bike course I had gone from 1st to 4th and was pretty demoralized. I certainly thought about dropping out but every time I saw Bjoern he was too encouraging. Anyways I finished the bike and ran as hard as my tired legs would allow to try and close the gap to the leaders. I finished the day in 3rd with the fastest swim and run splits of the day.
After a heavy racing block it was nice to get some time to actually train. I managed a quality training session in Penticton helping out with the Lifesport Ironman prep camp. Next up was a intense 10 day Lifesport Pro camp put on by Lance Watson. This camp was good and bad for me. Training with people like Brent McMahon (who went on the next weekend to win the world cup !) and Amanda Stevens was an invaluable experience. The bad part was I learnt that my body isn't ready to train as much as these guys can. About 2/3 of the way through the camp my body decided it was done and called it quits. With only a few days left until the Sooke Pro Chase race, I hoped by body would recover quickly.
After learning in Monroe that your positioning on the swim is critical, I took out the swim in Sooke pretty strong. For the first few hundred meters I was feeling great out front with some front of the pack ITU swimmers. After the first turn I lost contact with them and led the first chase pack for the rest of the swim. I was pretty pleased with how things were going coming out of the water only having 4 ITU atheletes ahead of me. I figured on the extremely hilly bike course I could catch many of these swim run specialists. As soon as I hit land I knew my body wasn't close to 100%. I felt absolutely awful and delerious in transition. Instead of me catching people in on the bike, the first 20km turned into me getting passed and passed. At least in the second half of the bike I manged to re-pass some people, but I was still not happy with how I was feeling or how things were going. I manged to move up a spot or two on the run to finish a somewhat disappointing 8th place. Although I was in the top 1/3 of a solid elite field, I had been hoping for a break through performance.
The next few weeks were pretty rough for me. Instead of bouncing back quickly from the race and hard training camp, my body got more and more tired and I was seriously lacking motivation. Things went even more downhill when I got the date of the pre-race meeting for nationals confused and was informed I would not be able to start the race. Having spent much of the second half of the summer trying to get my swimming up with the hopes of coming out with the leaders at ITU nationals, this was a pretty big blow. I took some more time off and after a few weeks I slowly started to feel better. I and decided to race the Vancouver Triathlon and took the win. Originally Bjoern and I had planned on racing a few 70.3 races in the fall, but with the way I was feeling we cancelled those plans. After almost 3 months off of serious training in November I started to feel like I was ready to train again. My first season racing as a pro had some major ups and down. The training since November has been going well and I'm confident that I can improve significantly next season. Looking forward to 2012 and some great racing !