Coaching highs and lows

Anyone who has ever coached an athlete knows the coach goes through the highs and lows with an athlete. It is very stressful to watch athletes compete and know you can do nothing to help them, except cheer if you happen to be on course. Sitting at home following them online can be euphoric or agonizing, that is if there is online tracking.

Around race day, I tend to do another analysis of their past several weeks and months and really analyze how the preparation went. Are they ready? What went well? What could we have done differently? What uncontrollable circumstances occurred that may affect the outcome? This doesn’t mean a coach isn’t confident, but rather they are willing to critically look at themselves and the athlete to determine what could be done better and to make a educated estimation of performance. Yesterday was a perfect example.

One of my athletes, who has been with me the longest, was racing Ironman Lake Tahoe. Her preparation heading into the race was spectacular. No injuries, consistent training and high motivation, had brought her to the start line in the best shape she has ever been in and well prepped for a PB. So, what happened?….Weather. Snow, frigid temperatures and all around misery for the athletes lead to over 1100 dnf’s or dns’s (about 40% attrition). Throughout the day, as I watched times get slower and slower, I knew the PB was not going to happen. When I saw she had finished though and stuck out a brutal day of racing, that made me very proud.

No, this race didn’t lead to the time we were hoping of. Yes, there were things that could have gone better on race day. However, there are still some major positives to take away. First, she made it to the start line. This is one of the greatest feats because it requires a commitment to a lifestyle and preparation. Anyone can sign up for a race, show up and compete. It take a lot more to meticulously prepare for this race and to alter your lifestyle to a healthy, active one. Second, nothing is more gratifying for a coach than to see their athlete fight for what they want. Starting that race, she knew the time was going to be slow, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t be a positive experience. I love a fighter. Third, set goals and be willing to throw them out the window on race day. The night before during our discussion, I was blown away at the relaxed, calm athlete on the other end of the line. When life throws you a major loop, make sure you’re willing to go with the flow. Preparation and routine are great, but you need to have fun and be flexible to.

At the end of the day racing is fun. Yes, it’s incredibly painful and nerve racking, but totally worth it. Whatever or wherever your next race is. Embrace the highs and lows that go along with it and have a blast. A happy athlete is a fast athlete!




Last Minute Musings

I’m packed and ready to race tomorrow. The story of today was definitely the rain. It rained heavily this morning and then poured for 3+hours this afternoon. The training swim was actually cancelled and many roads are flooded with lots of debris on them. It will make the race even more interesting if there is still flooding in the morning, but right now you can’t think about that. 

I’m definitely excited about the race tomorrow and am getting into the suffer mindset for tomorrow. There is no doubt in my mind that tomorrow is really going to hurt. The difficulty of the course, the intense humidity and the heat will leave all competitors fighting for every stroke, pedal and step. Yes, tomorrow will be a sufferfest. That being said, it doesn’t mean there won’t be success or reward for your efforts, you’ll just need to work for it

The race start at 6:30am local time. You can follow live and track me at the following link;

Thanks to everyone who helped me get here and I’ll talk to you after the race.


Cancun 70.3

Sunday was a very tough day for me in Cancun. My pre race warm-up seemed to go quite well and I ended up helping a lot of people in transition. I’m not sure what it is about me, but people were asking me to pump up their tires, asking what pressure to run tires at, nutrition, run, bike questions, etc. I guess because I’m white and blonde, everyone, including the pros expected me to know english.

The swim was one big loop that started in a swamp. The water was quite calm, but we had to run out 50m in a mud bog that was to shallow to swim. I got around the first buoy with the group and then we all were about to miss the second buoy. I went to correct myself, but part of the way they let us go ahead and I found myself having lost the pack. The rest of the swim I tried to play catch up but was not able to pump up the speed.

There was a long run to transition and I had a quick transition. I tried to settle in right away on the ride, but was quickly aware that my watts were a little low. The ride was pretty flat, but there was enough wind to make the bike a little slower than expected. Already the air was hot and humid. I went through almost 6 1/2L bottles on the bike as well as 4 salt tablets, which seemed to be enough. Nutrition wise, I tried something different during the race and it seemed to do the trick. During the ride I just felt like I wasn’t able to get my body up to speed. I averaged about 250W for the ride and would have liked to be more around the 280W, so something wasn’t right. I was getting very frustrated as the group rode time into me. About 60km in, my left hip started getting really sore and felt like the joint was locked/swollen. For the last 20km I really couldn’t get comfortable on the bike and was counting down the kms till I got off. I had to stand quite a bit to try and open up the hip, but nothing seemed to help.

I rolled into transition and as soon as my feet hit the ground my hip collapsed. I was still fairly quick in transition and headed out on the run desperate to run myself into top 8 (where the money was). Reality struck about 2km in when I knew my body not getting any better. By this time the heat was into the 40C territory and my body was in serious hurt mode. I felt like I was handling the heat well, but my body was just not there on the day. The run was 2 laps and it never ended. I debated dropping out the entire run, but realized I had 11th place locked down and at the slow pace I was running, I wasn’t going to do much damage to my body anyways. I finished in 11th place, not what I was hoping for, but not a bad result.

Triathlon has a funny way of breaking you down. Before the race I was incredibly confident that I could place top 5 and had no doubt in my mind that I could run quick, not just finish. As a pro, many of my training days are longer in duration than a half ironman, so the distance doesn’t seem that daunting. However, during that run, the cold harsh reality of a possible dnf snuck up my spine. Any race, no matter the distance, can crumble an athlete to the point of not finishing. Every half I have done hurts, but this race was just suffering for a poor result.

There are many positive to take away from the weekend. I’ve recovered quicker than expected because of my slower run, which should allow me to have a good race this weekend at Augusta 70.3. I learned a valuable lesson that socks are a must in half ironmans. The heat didn’t destroy me in this event (although it made everyone’s day quite hard).

Thanks for the support,


Win at Banff International Triathlon

This past weekend I raced the Subaru Banff International Triathlon. What a perfect day for racing. The weather was clear, sunny and a high in the mid 20’s. I was using this race as a final tune up before I head down south for several 70.3’s this fall. The day started out with a swim in the 14C Two Jack Lake. I was actually quite happy that my hands and feet went numb in my warm up swim so that I didn’t feel like I was cooling down during the rest of the race. I knew my main competition would come from Ironman UK champion, Scott Nyedli. About 500m into the swim I found myself at the front of the race with Scott on my heels. I decided to put in a couple surges to drop him, but he responded to each on. When I realized I wasn’t going to crack him, I settled into a relaxed rhythm and came out of the water first, with Scott on my heels.

The run to the first transition was up a hill and my breathing got out of control and I felt really off. I quickly tried to calm down once I was on the bike and focus on the next task at hand. Scott passed me 6km into the bike, at which point I decided to just follow behind him and let him set the pace. We played cat and mouse on the bike, exchanging leads several times before he lead me into T2 by a few seconds. My game plan was now to put in a surge for the first 2km of the run and see what kind of damage I could do to Scott. After the first km, I had put probably 150m on him and settled into a tempo run. Throughout the day I was having stomach issues and probably threw up half a dozen times, so I didn’t want to have to put in any significant surges on the run. As I rolled through the run, I thought about the next two weeks of racing and tried to hold a steady pace. I was quite happy in the end with my run split of 33:19 and overjoyed to get my third win of the season.

One of the highlights of the day was having Hillary and my family there to watch. Because of my travel schedule, it’s not very often that my family and friends get to see me race, so this was a treat. I would also like to give a special thanks to Centaur Subaru, Speed Theory and PowerBar, who were all on site helping me this weekend.

Full results are posted here

Next up, Ironman Cancun 70.3 on Sunday.

Here are some pics from Kelowna

Grant Burwash Kelowna triathlon

Grant having a pre race chat with Holy and Hillary. Racing with support is great!

Grant Burwash Kelowna triathlon

Grant Burwash Kelowna triathlon

Grant Burwash Kelowna triathlon

Grant Burwash Kelowna triathlon


First time for everything

Today I raced triathlon nationals in Kelowna. The race started at 2pm under some clouds and the temperature wasn’t that hot. As the day went on the sun would come out and the temperature slowly increase creating some carnage on the run. My body hasn’t been feeling 100%, but I was very excited to get the race started. The swim started out hectic as usual and in the first lap I found myself settling in at the front of a pack. After the run on the beach I started the second lap and put a solid effort to try and bridge the gap to the next pack. A few hundred meters later I found myself in no mans land and unable to bridge up. I would put in a solid effort and it wouldn’t get me any closer to the pack. I came out of the swim just behind one other athlete and about 20sec behind a large group.


Heading into T1 I really tried to bridge up but was only able to catch the 3 riders in front of me. Every time on the Knox hill the pack would attack and spread out a bit. By the second lap we ended up getting a descent group together and were working together fairly well. My energy levels were up and down on the bike. At times I felt really strong and then I would be at the back of the pack and feel like crap for a couple minutes. I really interested to see my power files from the race as this was the first race I did with a power meter on. On the 5th of 6 laps on the bike going up Knox hill, I started to feel my rear tire go flat. The pack I was in dropped me and it was just myself and one other athlete off the back. I was losing traction and sliding around corners. At the bottom of the hill I hit the train tracks and then felt my rear tire go completely flat. After that it was the long walk of shame to transition and handing in my timing chip.

Today was only my second DNF in my triathlon career and my first flat. It was a frustrating day, but there isn’t anything you can do about it. The good news is that I’m ok and didn’t crash out. Now I have 8 days in the Okanagan of training to get ready for the fall of racing. Congrats to Simon Whitfield and Kyle Jones for going 1,2 in todays race.

There will always be another race and it will go better than today did. This wasn’t what I wanted, but racing is all about highs and lows. Today was a low, but highs are to come. Thanks to everyone for your support. It means the world to know people are out there cheering me on.


My first Half Ironman Victory….and broken toe

First off, I would like to thank Mike Bock and all the others involved with the Chinook Half Ironman this weekend. Through the race, Mike has supported my athletic pursuits financially and so on Thursday I decided one of the best ways I could show my gratitude was to compete in his race. Thank you Mike.

Heading into Saturday, my legs were still tired from the week of training and I had a specific game plan to swim and bike hard and then try and cruise the run. I have been feeling quite strong lately, so I was excited to see how the body would feel over a longer race. My swim went quite well and I came out of the water with a sizable lead. The water was about 16*C so my hands and feet were a little chilly, but I was doing fine. My first transition was a little slow trying to get out of my suit, but I was quite relaxed and excited to start riding.

Grant Burwash Chinook Half Ironman triathlon 2011

Grant Burwash Chinook Half Ironman triathlon 2011

Grant Burwash Chinook Half Ironman triathlon 2011

Grant Burwash Chinook Half Ironman triathlon 2011

The bike headed out 22x into a head wind. The ride out seemed to take forever, but I tried to stay in aero as long as possible. I could really notice the lack of time on the TT bike and felt like I wasn’t riding that fast. I tried to just keep riding tempo and stand up on the hills to stretch the legs out. After about an hour my legs started waking up and I even said “hello legs” at one point. The irony is that not 10mins after I mentioned this I hit a huge head wind section and my legs decided to leave me again. The way home I just flew with the tail wind. I got much more comfortable and realized I was riding time into my biggest rival, Kyle Marcotte (multiple top 5 finisher at Ironman Canada).  On the way home I tried to just relax and even shared some words with Darcy and Doug in one of the Centaur Subaru mechanic vehicles. I was bugging them that they were getting beat by a two piston engine as they tried to snap some pics of me. By the time I hit T2 at 96km I was ready to get off my bike and start running…this is where the race got interesting.

For my second transition, I always take my cycling shoes off while riding. When I jumped off my bike and was running it to my transition the front wheel skipped on some gravel and the bike fell infront of me. I proceeded to trip over my bike and fell over my bike. While falling down I cut off the bottom of my left big toe and put a nice puncture wound between the big toe and second toe with my chainring. Then, I landed and on the same toe and ended up breaking it. Right away I knew something was wrong, but was not about to stop.

Grant Burwash Chinook Half Ironman triathlon 2011

the big cut, you can see the swelling starting to set in as my joint becomes huge

As I headed out for the run I looked down at my toe to see if it was bleeding through my white shoes. The blood was just starting to flow, but the pain only got worse. As the half marathon progressed, I became more and more uncomfortable and my gait got worse and worse as I was unable to put as much weight through the foot. I knew something serious was wrong, but was to stubborn to stop and figure it out. I cruised through the first of two laps cheering people on and talking to my lead bike. The second lap started in the same manner and then I really started to hurt. My foot was getting the better of me and I had to slow down. I still ended up running a new course record 1:16 half marathon at the end, and was happy with that. As I cruised to the finish line I realized I was going to win my first ever Half Ironman. The glory was short lived as I needed a medic immediately, but I was absolutely stoked to win this long Half Ironman race in 4:09. My fitness is really starting to come around and I am excited for the rest of the summer. Congrats to everyone else that raced and thanks to all the volunteers and others that came out to support me.

Grant Burwash Chinook Half Ironman triathlon 2011

Grant Burwash Chinook Half Ironman triathlon 2011


Oh Ixtapa… hurt me again

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in 1067 days…race an ITU triathlon (more in a later blog). I had such high hopes and was actually more nervous than normal about the race. Leading up to the race I didn’t feel that great, but it didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary for casting myself into a new environment for the first race of the season.

Jon and I were staying about 30mins by bike from the race site. We decided to spin to the race in the morning and then try to stay out of the sun until the swim warm up. The waves were quite large on the entry to the swim and I was actually having a hard time focusing. My mind was filled with a million different thoughts and it wasn’t until the gun went that my mind started to quiet. I had a descent entry into the water and didn’t get hit by any bad waves. I got tossed around in the water and swallowed my share of salty ocean water. I started to feel better in the swim as time went on, but was just about 15secs behind a large pack of guys. The run to T1 was about 500m and I really tried to run hard and make up the gap, but the legs just weren’t there.

Exiting T1, I knew I planned on putting in a solid effort to try and bridge up to the gap. Unfortunately again, my legs just weren’t there to make that move. I ended up hovering about 20sec back riding alone for 12km. Looking behind me, I saw a group of 4 riders and made the decision to sit up and let them catch me, hoping together we could catch the next pack. I ended up having to really back off the pace to let them catch me and immediately I realized this was a bad decision. The group was very disorganized, so immediately I started yelling orders at everyone and trying to get people to rotate through and share the work. An American named O’Brady and I were definitely the strongest so I suggested we try and break away. This was a great idea until O’Brady was taken down by one of the other riders and I had to bunny hop him and actually rode right over his chest. I thought I was done right there. The rest of the 40km bike ride involved me getting very frustrated with guys that wouldn’t work and myself doing 80% of the work at the front and the rest of the time trying to avoid being taken out by the other athletes bad bike handling skills.

Now it was time for the run, the hot, humid, unrelenting run. My legs were cooked from the bike and on the first 2.5km my legs felt like sweaty cement pillars. I tried everything I could to keep me cool in the 30+ heat. There was a water station every 500m and I took full advantage grabbing 2-3 bags of water at each station and pouring it on my head and body and carrying the cool liquid in my had. The whole run my body just wasn’t there and I couldn’t every find that fast gear. My mind went through every emotion on the run from “I’m better than this”, “I’m going to have to walk”, “I’m feeling ok”. Then, it was all over. I finished a very disappointing 22nd wasn’t pleased at all. Yesterday hurt a lot.

There are positive to take away from the race, but it’ll take a couple days for me to fully digest the disappointment that occurred yesterday. This was the smartest I’ve ever raced in the heat, but I need to take a couple more risks and make the race happen for myself. I know it’s not the race that my friends, family and supporters had wanted for me, but it wasn’t the race I wanted for myself.

Congrats to all the other athletes there that finished. It was a tough day and my hat goes off to all of you.

Now, back to the drawing board before Monroe.


World Cup Run Standard….check

This past weekend I flew out to Victoria to run in the Times Colonist 10km race. I had one thing on my mind this weekend, and one thing only. That was to run under 32:40 and get the World Cup run standard. What this means, is that once I have the swim and the run standard and the swim standard, I can apply to race on the triathlon World Cup circuit.

The weekend started out famously with a pick up from the airport by Jon and then enjoying my time with him and Holly before the race. I was put up in a hotel a block from the start line the night before the race which set me up perfectly for race morning. I was absolutely blown away by the hospitality that the Jacqui and the whole race organization committee showed me. Attached to my number there was a hand written card, they put me up in a hotel and provided me with elite status. On top of that Jacqui came up to me before and after the race to see how I was doing, introduce herself and congratulate me….WOW! This is how a race should be run. Thank you so much to Jacqui and her staff.

Now the race. My quad had been bothering me for a couple weeks leading up to the race, but when I hit the start line, there was no question in my mind that I would run standard that day. I knew I was definitely fit enough and was looking to run 31:30. After a solid warm up, I toed the line with 11,000 of my new closest friends and got ready to rock. Just before the start Jon found me and yelled “Let’s go G-Force” into the masses, which got me right fired up.

Grant Burwash TC10k 2011

Grant Burwash TC10k 2011

The gun went and I settled into a good pace right away. I rolled through the first mile in 5:05 and then settle in. I had a hard time not letting the legs fly. The early season race jitters were high and I just wanted to let myself go. I knew I needed to conserve, so I tucked in behind a group and just ran. A few moves later I found myself running alone in 8th place and went through 5km in 15:47. This was perfect pace. The initial half of the course had some rolling hills on it and never seemed to be flat. I hoped to maintain on the last half, but then the quad acted up. I suddenly got really stiff and couldn’t let the legs get any speed. Jon got some video and I looked as tense as I felt during the race. I was caught by 2 guys and we ran together until 8km before they started to pull away. The last couple km, my quad really started burning and there was no spark left in the legs. I gutted it out though and crossed the line in 11th place and in a time of 32:11. Slightly disappointed with the time, but happy to have standard taken care of.

After I finished I watched Holly come through, 20seconds shy of a pb and then went for a nice long cool down. Within 5mins of finishing I was feeling fine and actually just really wanted to go for a long run or bike. As a whole, I’m happy with the weekend and look forward to the next step. Here are some pics from the weekend.

Grant Burwash TC10k 2011

Grant Burwash TC10k 2011

Thanks to everyone for your support.


Augusta 70.3 Race report

The swim was down stream in the Savanna River and so my goal was just to stay in contact. I had a good warm-up and was excited to go. After trying to hover in place with the current for the start the horn finally went and the day had begun. I never really settled into the swim, but was very conscious of my position and my effort. I came out of the water with a descent swim and not having lost any significant time.

Grant Burwash Augusta 70.3 Ironman Triathlon

Grant Burwash Augusta triathlon swim

It was raining as I started my bike ride and I tried to stay in contact with the guys in front of me. There were some uber bikers at the race, and a very strong pro field overall. I knew I would lose time to some of the guys, but I wanted to stay in contact with the group of 6 guys just ahead of me. This plan worked for about 15km, and then things went down hill. There just was no spark in my legs and I felt as if I was 1 or 2 gears easier then what I needed to be pushing. The air temp was 25-28*C with 100% humidity and pouring rain. I made sure to stay hydrated knowing that I was still sweating a lot, even if I couldn’t feel it. The rain was torrential and in a couple sections, I actually sunk my front wheel, which is a 58mm deep 404! The course was a little slower with the rain, but there was only one corner that was really sketchy, considering I didn’t know it was a 180* corner. As I approached the end of the bike, I kept telling myself to look forward to moving on the run. My hip had been hurting for the past 50km, but I viewed the run as starting fresh.

Grant Burwash Ironman 70.3 Augusta triathlon

Grant Burwash triathlon Augusta

When I got to T2, everything was soaked. I slid on my sopping wet racing flats and headed out on the course. I tried to push the pace and settle into my rhythm, but I knew I was running slow. Then, the mind games really began. As I was running, I realized how uncomfortable I was. My entire body ached and I was incredibly fatigued with the effort. All my mind and body were telling me to do was to stop and drop out. After the first mile, I started counting down the mile. However, I mentally couldn’t stand to count down every mile or km on a half marathon, so i decided to count to half way and then start counting again. Mentally I had to keep telling myself “You don’t quit Grant”, “This is what you came here to do”, “You are stronger than this”, “You can finish this G-Force”. Pretty much any motivation I could muster up, I used. Nutritionally I needed to get an extra gel in me and I really started to hurt. I tried to grab one at an aid station, but the gel got knocked away. I though I could grab a gel at the next station, but there were none at the next 2. This is when I really knew I was screwed. By the end of the race I had no spark left and just wanted to finish more than anything. After 45mins in the med tent, I finally was able to grab some food and bike home in a very disappointing 15th place. It’s nice to know that on a bad day, I can still crack top 15 in a field of over 3000. Now it’s time to gain weight and look toward next year.

Grant Burwash Augusta 70.3 Ironman Triathlon

Grant Burwash's mutilated feet after triathlon

Grant Burwash Ironman 70.3 Augusta triathlon

Grant Burwash chillin' before the triathlon


Banff race report

This weekend was the inaugural Subaru Banff International Triathlon. Jon and I headed out Friday morning in our Subaru WRX STI to test out the waters and get prepped for the race. After a quick bike ride of the beautiful bike course and a quick dip in the frigid water, it was time to relax with some friends and prep for the day that was ahead. Before I get any further, I want to deeply thank Paul at Centaur Subaru, and Subaru for the support they showed me this weekend. It was truly a positive experience I had that left me feeling like a superstar. Everything was taken care of and lots of fun was had by all.

Saturday morning turned out to be a little hectic trying to get things ready for the race. Due to the transport of good between two transitions and the cold weather, my warm up was a little shorter than I would have liked. When the gun finally went off I tried hard to get into a rhythm quickly. The cold water (11*C) turned my face, feet and hands numb almost immediately, but by 500m I found myself in 2nd place behind Jon. The air temp was about 5*C and sprinkling, but I had decided to only race in arm warmers and to put gloves on in T1. The gloves didn’t actually happen though. When I got to my bike I tried to put my hands in my gloves and failed miserably the first time because I couldn’t manipulate my hands. So, I scraped the gloves and headed out on the bike.

The first 15km of the bike were actually ok. I was riding descent, settled into a groove and wasn’t that cold. The entire bike course was actually quite sketchy and I was weaving in and out of people the entire time. I kept thinking this was crazy, but then remembered Jon was ahead of me. I kept telling myself “Jon is even crazier than I am, so I need to be aggressive.” When I hit about 15km on the bike I started to really shiver and soon was shivering uncontrollably. My hands were no longer working to drink or eat anything and I was having a hard time controlling my bike with all the shivering. The final portion of the bike was really cool. You shot into town riding down Banff Ave and then headed to T2 at the end of the street. During the entire bike I really tried to push the pace, but my body was already shutting down. My legs didn’t want to work and my knees were aching.

Once in T2 I was really excited to get off the bike and hopefully start warming up. As I entered T2 I saw Jon leaving and though “Yes, I can do this.” However, my second transition was the longest of my life. For the life of me I couldn’t get my shoes on. Everything was numb and I was completely helpless. Thankfully there was a wonderful girl in T2 who helped me put my shoes on. What a sweet heart and race saver! It’s pretty embarrassing when a pro athlete needs help to put their slip on running shoes on…yikes! The first 5-7km of the run were brutal. I tried to find a fast rhythm, but my legs wouldn’t go. I knew my pace was slow and that I wasn’t catching Jon and this frustrated me to no end. Finally my legs started to warm up and I began catching Jon. Unfortunately this was to little to late and I crossed the finish line in second. For the third straight time this year I had the fastest run split and set the run course record.

Congrats to Jon for a very impressive win. Typically I don’t mind racing in tough conditions because I can suffer through it, but this weekend go the best of me. My legs felt completely fine the next day, probably because I wasn’t physically able to dig deep enough to hurt them. I am glad that I raced though and did have a good time this weekend. Every race is a unique journey and experience and I’m happy to have had this one.

Full Results

1 Jon Bird       Calgary     AB  1 1:43:56   1  7:17  0:59  1  1:35    1  8:52    4 0:57:52  39.4    1 1:06:43   73  1:55    1 1:08:37    2 0:35:19  3:32    1 1:43:56
2 Grant Burwash  Calgary     AB  2 1:44:31   2  8:07  1:05  2  1:57    2 10:04    5 0:58:08  39.2    2 1:08:12   50  1:40    2 1:09:51    1 0:34:40  3:28    2 1:44:31
3 Luke Gillmer   Northmead   AU  3 1:53:18   5  8:31  1:09  3  2:32    3 11:03   11 1:02:11  36.7    4 1:13:14    5  1:07    4 1:14:21    7 0:38:57  3:54    3 1:53:18