Monday, August 31, 2009

Race Report: Cobourg Provincial Championship Triathlon as a Duathlon – Aug 28th, 2009

Race Report: Cobourg Provincial Championship Triathlon as a Duathlon – Aug 28th, 2009
1.5km Swim 5km run, 40km Bike, 10km run.
385 Registrants
Periods of Heavy Rain, Swim cancelled due to rough waters

A Highway Scare
My race preparation was much better this week. I got enough sleep and woke up with more than enough time to ensure that I had all of my gear with me; I must have rechecked 3 or 4 times. When I left my house it was dark and raining with no signs of the weather letting up. As I drove north on the DVP out of Toronto I felt good about having left my winter tires on all summer as the extra traction was welcomed in the wet conditions. I merged onto the 401 expressway heading east and began visualizing the race, which I had been doing for the entire week leading up to the race. My main point of focus was to establish my rhythm in the swim early on and extend my stroke to take more advantage of the glide; try to improve my overall efficiency in the water.

Traffic on the road was light but with each vehicle I passed my attention was keenly focus on the road as visibility was poor with the darkness, rain, mist and road spray. The highway is at least three lanes wide in both directions all the way from Toronto to Cobourg (115km). After having passed a car on the left I noticed that a pickup truck was approaching on the right. I realized that I may have lingered too long in the left lane after the pass, but did not want to be passed on the right. I accelerated then pulled into the center lane. The pickup truck now appeared to have no intention of passing me, preferring to follow closely behind in an aggressive tail gaiting position. I moved over to the far right lane and slowed a bit to allow the driver a way to pass without having to change lanes. As the pickup truck rolled by I noted that it was an older style single cab Green Ford pickup similar to the ones that I drove when tree planting 20 years ago (that is another story). The pickup truck pulled ahead of me but did not complete the pass. The driver then opened the sliding back window and stuck his arm out to solute me with an extended you are number 1; not really.

I could not figure out what I had done to make the guy in the pickup truck so angry. I slowed down more to put some room between myself and the truck. To my dismay the pickup was also slowing and showed no intention of leaving me. I decided to pass the pickup by moving into the far left lane and accelerating. Not letting me get away, the pickup also sped up and as began picking up speed, I could see that the driver’s side window was all the way open; the driver clearly had the intention of telling me something. I looked to my right to see the driver’s angry red face contorted face screaming at me in complete rage. I shrugged my shoulders as if to indicate that I had no idea what the problem was and accelerated. I now began to worry that no this insane guy with clear anger issues might follow me off the highway at my exit; now only 15km’s up the road. My plan was to get far enough ahead so the driver could not see me get off at the Cobourg exit. I had the faster vehicle but was limited by the weather conditions. As I pushed the car faster I began thinking about how horrible it would by if I lost control trying to get away from the lunatic in the Ford. I kept seeing the vision of the angry screaming face and wondered how F’ed up this guy’s life must be and how far he might go with his Road Rage. All of my Zen like pre race visualization was lost, as I had descended to the bottom rung in the hierarchy of needs. The angry driver was clearly trying to keep pace but I had managed to build a gap. As I slowed behind a vehicle nearing the off ramp I kept a keen eye in the rear view. I was quietly cursing the slowness of the driver in front as I watched the pickup coming into view. I let out a great sigh as the truck drove by the off-ramp leaving me in peace.

At the first red light I checked my Blackberry and saw three messages from my Friend Joe, which was irregular given the time of day. The most recent email was titled ‘Sorry’ with the message “Didn't mean to freak you out on the 401”. Joe had been driving back home from having spend some time caring for his mother. Joe’s Mom lives North of Toronto and he lives in Long Sault just west of Cornwall. I should have recognized Joe as the driver but with the lousy visibility, the contorted face and not knowing his vehicle, I did not make the connection. Joe probably was actually giving me the number 1 solute and the yelling was most likely pre race encouragements in the vein of “Kick some butt Bird”. Damn the poor visibility. Relieved that the incident was over, I switched back to pre race mode.

I pulled into a parking lot near the race site along with a stream of other vehicles with bike racks. I backed up to a tree line hoping that the canopy would offer a bit of shelter from the rain while I put my bike together. I waited in my car for the downpour to let up a little. After seeing a few others emerge from their cars I opened the door and stepped into the rain. With gear in hand, I headed towards transition, found my number and racked my bike in an ideal location. I walked over to registration which located within an open picnic covered area. I noted that there were more port-a-potties (14 vs 10) than in Orillia, for a race with less than half the participants; ‘Hats off’ to the HSBC Triathlon series organizers for proper planning with regards to facilities. I began hearing announcements about swim cancellation and a start time delay. I looked out towards Lake Ontario and could see some sizeable breakers and all of the swim course makers still on the shore. There was no way that the lake would be calming anytime soon given the conditions. John Salt the organizer made a final attempt to get the swim course set up. Once again I have to credit the organizers; they did a great job of dealing with the situation by communicating clearly and often the changes and offering options for the participants. The Triathlon was changed to a Duathlon replacing the 1.5km swim with a 5km run. The race would still represent the Provincial Championships and the qualifier for the 2010 World Championships in Hungary.

I returned to the car to get out of the rain for a few minutes to warm up and pick up a pair of socks that I could now wear given that there was no swim. I was a little annoyed at myself for not having brought an umbrella noting how soaked I was. I waited in the car for about 15 minutes and watched a few cars pull out having taken the option to race another day. I headed back to transition to pick up my rain soaked shoes that I had foolishly placed upside down beside my bike before I found out the swim was cancelled. I guess it didn’t matter anyways because there really was no way of staying dry. My shoes do have a really cool feature; small drainage holes in the bottom by design not overuse. I ran into Paul Bregin who had opted to defer to the next day. Paul had just received a new wetsuit and was itching to see how fast he could go with it on. Unfortunately for Paul the following day’s swim leg was cancelled as well do to continued rough water.

I saw a clearing in the clouds headed our way and tried to wait it out in the registration area before heading over to the start area. With ten minutes to start time I headed out for a short jog and made my way to the line. There was plenty of space to move up to the front as the starting area was as wide as a whole street and my wave did not have that many competitors. I looked to see if Michael Hay, Darren Walton or Michael Keen were amongst the racers in the 40-49 wave, but they were not. I did see Derek Snider warming up earlier with his youthful 24-year old Gazelle like running form. Derek finished 2 spots ahead of me last week and blew away the entire field on the 7km run. With an extra run leg, I was going to have to have a great race including a super fast bike if I hoped to beat Derek. As my wave started 4 minutes after the main group (including Derek), it was going to be difficult to know how I was doing overall. If I qualify for elite status next year then this will not be a problem as I will start with the main group and know exactly where I stand in the overall race.

The run course was an out and back 5km course that I had run on in last year’s Duathlon Provincial Championships, so I was familiar with the course; no chance for wrong turns. I started out with what seemed like a good pace and moved into the lead of my wave by the first corner. I saw Derek flying towards me way ahead of his group about 600 meters from the turn around. I kept thinking about Derek every time that I felt my pace slowing in order to encourage me to keep pushing myself. I finished the 5km run feeling that I had run strong but within myself, I later found out that I had run personal best time of 17:18. Although the time was great for me, 5 others had faster 5km splits including Derek with an insane time of 15:31.

In my comfort zone on the bike I began working my way up to the lead riders through the hilly course. As I headed North East out of town the clouds descended and torrential rains began to fall. I took every corner with as much care as is possible without dismounting. The rain isn’t that bad when you are climbing hills, but when descending it gets a little crazy with the low visibility, higher speeds, useless breaks, miniscule tire widths and unknown condition of the road beneath you. Thanks to the out and back design of the bike course I determined that I was in 5th place by the turn-around. I moved into 3rd position on the way back into town with only Derek and Richard Pady out in front of me.

Back on the run course an interesting race was developing for the final 10km. I would be able to judge my relative position at 3 turn around points. At the 1st turn around I was just slightly over 1 km behind Derek who was being followed closely by Richard. At the 2nd turn around I could tell that I was losing ground to the front two guys. Richard was marking Derek like a Lion would his prey, it seemed clear that Richard was just waiting for the right moment to pounce and move into the lead. At the final turn around expecting to see Derek, I instead saw Richard who was confidently heading back towards the finish to claim the victory. Derek meanwhile was leaning against a pole stretching his leg for a second before resuming the run. Being passed in the home stretch after giving every thing you have can be extremely demoralizing and impact you in many ways. With a different strategy Derek would probably have won the race, which I am sure that he will do often in the near future. I saw Derek’s leg issues as an opportunity for me move into second place and focused on keeping my pace consistent for the final 3km’s of the run. I finished up with the10km run in a time of 37:15, which was good enough to move me into 2nd place overall and 1st in my age category. I crossed the line with a big smile knowing that I had done my best.

In the last few races I have competed in I have been fortunate enough to be able to run a little faster thus reduce my times. I hope that I am able to keep the fastest guys in view for the 1st 10km at the Duathlon Worlds at the end of Sept, which means that I probably need to run close to 35minutes; which would be a new personal best. It will be difficult but not impossible. In 2-weeks time I will race in the Muskoka 70.3, my goal is the beat Michael Hay and place in the top 20 overall (1300 competitors). I hope that the run training I have been doing over the past 6 weeks will pay off and I wont see the collapse that I experienced in the Peterborough half-iron where Michael Hay cruised past me 4km into the run and then proceeded to beat my by 6 minutes.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Race Report: Orillia Triathlon Aug 23 2009

Race Report: Orillia Triathlon
750m Swim 33km Bike 7.0km run.
642 Participants
Overcast threatening rain and cool

A Misstep
As I sit in front of my computer typing out this race report I have just finished removing my bandage and pouring Hydrogen Peroxide over the cuts on my feet. The mild injury was a result of a misstep that I took prior to the race start that was a result of a series of poor decisions that I made.

I decided to compete in the Orillia Triathlon based on several factors
The high I was on after having won the Toronto Island Triathlon the prior week
Anticipation of a high level of competition
I had already paid for a for the season series pass
Desire to gain more experience heading into the final events of the season
Having already competed in numerous events this season, I wanted to minimize the impact that this race had on my family life. My strategy was to wake up early on Sunday morning, drive up to the event (90 minutes) to be there in time for the 8am start time, then leave right after the race and get home before noon; Less time that a round of golf. On Saturday, Natasha and I packed up the kids and drove out to Oshawa for her best friend’s daughter’s birthday party. We arrived at the party at 1pm and had a great visit that lasted until 11:30pm. By the time we drove back home, unloaded the car, got the kids into bed and set the alarm for 4:50am, it was already 1am. After a short restless sleep, I loaded my gear into the car and headed over to the nearest gas station to fill up and put some air in the tires; it was now 5:50am.

I arrived in Orillia by 7:20am, enough time but only barely to get ready and warm up for the race. I noticed right away that the transition area was set up poorly, the entry and exit points were on the same side of a large rectangular area. Any one who was not set up the first rack would have a disadvantage which grew in proportion to how far back they were from the 1st rack. By the time I got found the mid-life crisis rack (Men 40-44), it was already completely full so I set out in search of an overflow rack; which was located in an awful location near the far end of the transition area. I grudgingly accepted my spot, racked my bike dropped my gear and jogged over to registration. I decided then and there that I would definitely submit an upgrade request to elite status for the 2010 season based on rack positioning alone. Sure I could have arrived earlier and gotten a better spot, but in order to compete as often as I do and have some type of balance in life, something had to give. On this day that something that had to give was time; sleep time, pre race set up time and post race cool down / feeding / socializing time.

On my way over to registration I could not help but notice the enormous line ups for the 10 race site port-a-potties. I knew that I had to go badly and worried about the time it would take to make it through the line. I picked up my race number, placed my name on the list of competitors moving up to the 1st start wave. I then picked up the prize plaques from the 2 previous races where I was unable to wait around for the award ceremony. With gear in hand I joined the queue for the potties. I started doing the math on which line was better, the huge line for the group of 8 or the long line for the group of 2. A vacuum truck was parked beside the group of 8 and the operator was in the process of taking turn cleaning out some of the already full potties. The time was now 7:42 and I realized that I did not pick up my timing chip or go to body marking which are both required. As I quickly scanned the park grounds, I ditched the line to get my chip and markings. I then ran back to transition to set-up all the while searching for another bathroom of sorts.

Having finished setup with wet suit now in hand, I raced down towards the lake. I noted that there were almost no people to the north of the race site near the water so I quickly dashed off in that direction. In the north corner of the park there was a concrete bandstand that I ran around looking for a bathroom. As I cleared the structure I noticed another concrete structure to the West that looked promising in terms of housing a bathroom. I ran over to discover that the building had two open doors facing me that were marked men’s and women’s change rooms that appeared vacant. I felt clever for having found this great option. Often times the masses line up for what is in plain site instead of going a little bit out of the way to find a much better option. I burst through the change room door to see 4 walls and no people and no toilets, this truly was just a change room. All of the sudden not feeling quite so smart I ran to the side of the building where some lifeguard staff were hanging out and asked if there were any washrooms, they pointed me down around the corner to a lower level on the opposite side of the building. I dashed to the front only to find another enormous line-up…foiled again. Not taking any time to think I turned and ran for the lake as far away from people as I could get. I dropped my wetsuit thinking that it might be easier to pee without it on and descended the bank to the water. The water entrance was all rocks and I tried my best to navigate my way in without falling. Once in the water and with the pain in my bladder subsiding I began to feel a pain in my right foot. Unfortunately in my haste and poor decision making I had cut my foot in a few spots on the rocks while entering the lake. I climbed out of the water and raced over to the start area; I then pulled on my wetsuit and got some help zipping up the back.

I jogged into the water which had a nice sandy bottom, just in time to hear the announcement for the swimmers to exit the water for a shoreline start. I headed for the inside most position and found my swim coach Bob Hayes standing there. With 20 seconds to the start I lifted my foot to assess the damage; there were 4 cut marks on my right foot on the arch that were bleeding a bit but not too deep. I took a couple of deep breaths trying to focus on the race and then ran down to the water as the horn sounded. I realized that my long legs were an advantage for me on this type of start and after a few dolphin dives I found myself right near the lead. If only the entire swim were a combination of water running and dolphin dives...Once the water got deep enough I switched to swimming and was overtaken by many of my competitors. It was difficult to sight the buoys as the wind was causing some rough conditions in the water. I found that I had to correct my course on several occasions; I need to do a better job of swimming in a relatively straight line. After about 200 meters I felt my timing strap slip down my leg to my ankle. I had made another smart decision to attach the timing chip part way up my calf so that it would be under my wetsuit and thus make it easier to get out of my wetsuit after the swim. I contemplated leaving the strap loose around my ankle for a few strokes and then decided that dropping my timing chip to the bottom of Lake Simcoe was not worth the risk, as it might be difficult to retrieve what with the depth and the reeds and people swimming over top of me. My clever mid calf strategy backfired as any time savings was more than lost while I carefully removed and reattached the strap while floating in the water as people swam by. Once the strap was securely fastened, I resumed my race pace effort throughout the rest of the swim not making any ground on the group in front of me, but not losing any more to the swimmers behind.

Instead of the feeling confident while heading into the bike phase I was annoyed; at my sore foot, at the extra distance I had to go through in transition, at the extra long distance I had to run in bare cut feet after transition and before the bike mount. All of this negativity I was feeling was a direct result of being tired. I mounted my bike and began reeling in competitors as I made my way out of town along the course. My one water bottle dislodged and hit the pavement in a fast rough section as a crossed over highway 11 about 3km’s into the ride. I have been thoroughly unimpressed at the water bottle solutions for the Cervelo P3 bike, which has been addressed in the next generation – P4, with a water bottle integrated into the frame. I caught up to Paul Bregin and then Bob Hayes before the 10km marker. After passing Bob there was no one within view, and I had no way on knowing what position I was in. As I crested a hill on a long straight I still could not see anyone on the horizon. I began to entertain thoughts that I was in first place but found it odd that there was no pace vehicle at the front of the race. My first place fantasy was dashed when I made it at the next turn some 6km’s up the road when I yelled out to the policemen directing traffic to find out how many other riders were ahead of me; three. I found it hard to accept the answer and started thinking of why the friendly policemen may have made a mistake in counting up to three.

On the long straight home stretch I could finally see the 3rd place rider in the distance and slowly began to reduce the gap between us. I was curious as to where the first two competitors where and who they were. As I passed over the rough section where my water bottle had come loose I noticed that it had been flattened and that there mine was not the only casualty; much worse off than thirsty me was a female rider being tended to by paramedics. The final 3 km’s through town and down to the lake front involved several turns and changes in speed. I was still determined to catch up to 3rd place before the end of the bike course despite the fact that the rider ahead of me was often out of site due to the buildings and turns. Pedaling hard I noticed a left hand turn off of the main road up a head where a policemen was directing traffic. I set myself for a safe but fast turn and then picked up speed as the road ahead began descending. I could not see the rider ahead but I could see a sign in the middle of the road. Once I was close enough to read the sign panic, frustration and amazingly denial set in; “Bicycle Wrong Way”. How could I be going the wrong way when the last turn was clearly marked left and the policemen did not call out after me for having veered off course? I thought to myself that the sign must be wrong and even if it was correct all I had to do was head down to the lakefront and then follow it south until I found the transition area. I continued past the sign down the hill. At the bottom of the hill I was fortunate enough to come upon another policeman who was just dismounting his motorcycle. He told me that I had gone the wrong way and needed to turn back around and that I should had taken a right at the beer store past the main road. The only part of what he said that made any sense to me at that moment was that I needed to turn around. I let out a huge “This is F___ed!” as I turned my bike around and began climbing back up the hill.

When I got back up the hill I noticed the turn that I had missed aided by sighting a rider who had just navigated the left and then right turns successfully. I followed the rider in front of me all the way back to transition. I was so angry at this point that I did not adequately appreciate the cheering and encouragement of the people along the course. People were saying way to go you are in 6th place and all I could think was that I should be in 3rd place right now and I am on my way into transition where I will loose even more time due my set up spot on the overflow rack. What an awful attitude I had; in retrospect it was immature and egocentric. Fortunately I was able to make a little lemonade by taking my negative energy and channelling it into my run effort. As I left transition I saw Paul Bregin and another competitor on their way in. I yelled out to Paul that I had missed a turn on the bike as we crossed paths. Now out on the run course, I saw 2 people up ahead of me; one that I might catch and another on his way to the fastest run split of the day.

The run course was flat and the weather was ideal for running. I passed the one guy with the slower pace in the 1st km and then focused on maintaining my pace. Just after the 2km mark I found out why I could not catch the lead cyclists, Len Gushe and then Sean Bechtal were finishing off their runs almost 3km’s ahead of me at this point. At turn around point a realized 1st that I had no chance of catching 3rd or 4th place based on their speed and the distance I was behind. I also quickly figured out that I was now in danger of being caught by some guy and Paul Bregin who were not very far behind me. I pushed myself through the 2nd half of the course all the time thinking that there was a guy right on my heels but never daring to look over my shoulder so as not to provide my competitor and extra motivation. I finished up 5th to cross the finish line having held off and even increased my lead slightly over Paul and the other guy after the turn-around. I then told anyone who would listen (including the selfless volunteer who removed my timing chip), that I had taken a wrong turn on the bike; what a loser move on my part. Michael Keen who finished not too far behind me offered some generous words of encouragement stating that it was my 1st time on most of these courses and that I would do that much better next year, what a nice guy.

I finished in 6th place overall after Matt Reid posted a slightly better time having started in a later wave. My swim time was worse than the previous week but I am happy to have improved in my overall swim performance from the last Subaru race going from 42 out of 400 to 40th out of 642. I am disappointed by my mental lapse on the bike especially considering that I made the same mistake in Peterborough 7 weeks earlier. I am ecstatic about my run performance which was the best I have ever run in the final leg of a race averaging 3:35 per km ranking me 9th overall.

Next up is the provincial triathlon championship in Cobourg which is an Olympic distance race (1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run). I competed on the same course last year for the Duathlon Provincial Championships, so I should be able to keep myself on course. I am still a long way away from being able to compete for the top spot for this race format as I give up way too much time in the swim. I want to focus on maintaining an efficient rhythm from the start of the swim and hope to finish in under 25 minutes.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Race Report: Toronto Island Triathlon - Aug 16, 2009

Race Report: Toronto Island Triathlon
750m Swim 30km Bike 7.5km run.
444 Participants
Clear skies hot and humid

I feel great. I just won my 1st ever triathlon in my 6th race. Yes it was a shorter race. Yes the top guys in the area who have beaten me in other events were not at the race. It doesn't matter to me right now because today everything fell into place and I put together an all around great effort. Tomorrow I can start training for and thinking about the next events.

Summer has finally arrived Toronto, the temperature is hot and humid. I did not sleep particularly well as almost none of the cool air from the air conditioner makes it up to our bedroom. I woke up at 6am got myself organized and out of the house by 6:40. I rode my bike to the ferry terminal which is 15 minutes from my house so that I could get on the 7am ferry heading over to Hanlan's point where the race was based out of on the Toronto Islands. There was a big line-up of competitors waiting to board the ferry and another line for people to pick up race numbers. I got in line to pick up my number and watched as the other line began moving as people boarded the ferry. It became clear that there was no way I was going to move through my line in time to catch the ferry. The ferry filled up and many people were left waiting for the next trip 30 minutes later, including me. When I got to the front of the line registration line, I asked the organizers if I could move up from the 4th wave to the 1st wave in order to compete directly against the potential top competitors. I was told that if I moved up and was not an elite registered athlete then my results would not count. Given that I had missed the ferry and what I was just told, I decided to stick with my wave M40-44 which would start out at 8:48am, 36 minutes behind the 1st wave. I sat down on a bench at the far end of the ferry terminal and tried to relax while waiting. When the Ferry returned and was ready for boarding one of the employees shouted out "Have your tickets ready". Initially I could not find my ticket and began to frantically search all of my pockets. Ultimately I found the ticket in my left front pocket after a triple search, how it eluded me on the 1st two passes I may never know. Unfortunately I surrendered several spots in the queue during the small ordeal. Just as neared the front on the line the workers shouted out that they were full as they began to swing the two iron gates closed on the several hundred people still in line with me right in the front. I made a quick shuffle to the left avoiding the 1st closing door and slipped through the right side with a few others just before the second door closed. No one ever took my ticket. Thankfully we all made in onto the ferry squeezed in like sardines.

After setting my gear up in transition I headed down to the lake front in time to see the 1st wave start. It was interesting to watch the lead swimmer take a bizarre tangent to the left for no apparent reason. All of us watching from the beach were urging the swimmer to head to his right. When the leader finally popped his head up to see where he was going he made an adjustment and then started heading too far to the right. I was sitting in the shade just beside the swim exit and was surprised at how much trouble many of the swimmers had marking the swim exit. The poor confused guy in the lead must have swum an extra 100-200 meters zigzagging his way across the swim course. The group of swimmers who followed closely also swam a bit off course just as they partially relied on the leader for direction.

I delayed putting on my wetsuit so as to keep relatively cool for as long as possible given the heat. I could have easily have swam without a wetsuit given the water temperature, but there is a big advantage to wearing one given the amount of buoyancy that it adds. One of my biggest swimming flaws is the amount that my legs drag down in the water, which is offset when I wear a wetsuit. I got the suit on and warmed up with a 150 meter swim. There was a lot of shallow water and I had witnessed many competitors struggling with how to deal with moving through the shallow areas both swimming and running. Fortunately earlier in the week during my swim workout, one of the instructors had shown me how to do a dolphin dive repeatedly in shallow water. After my warm-up I practiced several of the dolphin dives, I even tried out the move from the start line determining that I could execute 3 before the water got too deep at the start. I set up on the inside just like the last race but this time inside of the buoy despite the fact that another swimmer had already claimed that coveted spot. I accomplished this by edging the buoy backward with my back so that I was now at the inside most position. Our wave only had 45 people in it so there was significantly more room than in all of the previous races. The horn sounded and I executed my 3 dolphin dives followed by breaking into a fast yet sustainable pace. 30 meters into the race the water got shallow again, so I switched over to the dolphin dive move again for good 5-8 dives. By the time that the water got deeper again I was out in the lead for my wave, a position that I maintained for the entire swim. When I started heading back towards the shore I realized what the earlier waves had been struggling with in trying to locate the swim exit, the sun was shinning directly into my eyes and there seemed to be no clear indication of where to exit the water. Fortunately I had the advantage of knowing exactly where the swim exit because of what I had observed just prior to the race, so my path was fairly direct.

I exited the water before the next wave started indicating that I had completed the swim portion in less than 12 minutes (waves were spaced 12 minutes apart). My goal was to complete the swim inside of 12 minutes improving on my time from the prior week. My official time was 12:51 including quite a long run from the water to the transition area placing me 11 out of 444 overall for the swim an improvement from 42 out of 400 from last week. I really enjoyed the feeling of coming out of the water first, with some more training I hope to be able to repeat the experience.

A big advantage of being 1st out of the water is that I was also 1st onto the bike course which included a 300-400 meter section of no passing right at the start. I was able to go at my own pace through this 1st section without delay. Once I got out on to the main course (3 times around a 10km loop) I focused on keeping my speed as high as possible. The course was pancake flat including 2 turn-around and 3 no-passing zones per lap. I got stuck behind a much slower rider for the 1st turn around, but was fortunately able to avoid a similar situation all of the other no-passing sections by putting in maximum efforts when needed just before the no passing zones to get ahead of slower cyclists. I completed the bike without incident and transitioned out to the run with no idea of my overall time. There were people out all over the course thanks to the spacing between the waves, as it turns out the organizers did a good job of spreading out the traffic as I witnessed no drafting or large bunches of riders.

The run course had sizeable sections in soft grass and even few spots of sand. My goal was to run under 3:50/km improving on my time from last week. I felt as though I was running a bit faster but my average speed slipped to 3:56/km however my run split improved from 12th overall to 3rd. I think that the grass sections did slow the times down a bit. Much of the run course was shaded which helped given the conditions, however, when I did run through the non shaded sections, I really felt the heat. I increased my pace for the final 400 meters and pumped my fist after finishing knowing that I had turned in an all-around good effort.

There was no real way of knowing how I had finished overall aside from waiting for the updated results to be posted, which took about 20 minutes. I was ecstatic to see my name posted at the top of the list including a fastest bike split of the day averaging 44km/hr. I finished almost 3 minutes ahead of second place and almost ten minutes ahead of the next competitor in my age group. This was a big step forwards and I hope to build on this experience going forward.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Race Report: Niagara Triathlon - Aug 9th, 2009

Race Report: Niagara Triathlon
700M swim 25km Bike 7km run
400 Participants
Weather: Wet & Overcast then Clearing

Heading into my 5th Triathlon of the season I was feeling confident that I could turn in a solid effort with no panic attacks in the water. Thanks to a Panic free 2km swim a month earlier in Peterborough as well a couple of lake training swims and 2 swim workouts, I felt as tough I had exercised my Panic Demons. I spent the night at the in-laws in Oakville which is closer to the race site in Grimsby. The drive to the race only took 30 minutes allowing me time to set up in transition and head down to the lake to get ready for the swim.

I signed up to go out with the 1st wave as I felt that I would be able to compete for a top ten spot. I set my bike up right next to Darren Walton who I have been battling very closely with this season in the 40-44 age category. We spoke for a bit and wished each other luck. By the time I completed the strenuous effort of getting into my wetsuit, I was feeling very hot and looking forward to jumping into the cool water of Lake Ontario. It felt great to be in the water and I swam an easy 200 meters to warm up.

I had just started summer swim workouts at the Summerville Pool near my house with the Toronto Swim Club run by Bob Hayes. Bob told me that he usually sets himself up on the very inside of a swim course and will swim in around the buoys if needed. I decided to follow Bob’s advice and set myself up on the very inside of the course a good 3 meters past the inside the start buoy. There must have been close to 100 swimmers in the 1st wave spread out along the start line. In the last couple of minutes before the start the line spread out even further and I found myself moving further away from the buoy in order to keep my position on the inside. There were 2 people who were even more determined than me to be the furthest out but we each allowed ourselves enough space so as not to get in each others way. With about 30 second to the start one swimmer made his way across the path of many competitors heading for an inside spot, he popped up right beside me; it was Bob of course. We exchanged greeting and got ready for the starting horn.

I felt relatively calm and secure in my spacing, knowing that there would be little chance of receiving a clubbing from where I was starting out. The horn sounded and we all began swimming. Bob took off with great speed and I decided to see if I could follow his feet. After only about 2-3 strokes Bob had pulled away from me, I will need a lot more training to keep up with him; Bob came out of the water in 4th place. I kept swimming with what felt like a lot of ease but then I realized that the sense of ease was really adrenalin pumping through my body. I also realized that I was nearing the end of my anaerobic threshold and that I could not maintain the current pace. I slowed down and tried but failed to work myself into a sustainable rhythm. I kept swimming but just never really got into a groove. With about 200 meters to go in the race I decided to try some water drafting, so I swam in behind the nearest guy to me and just followed him into the swim exit. I could sense that I was saving some energy because I kept thinking that I should be going faster than this guy and forget about the drafting. I did notice that he was not swimming in a very straight line but I followed anyways. I am going to have to try some more water drafting in future events earlier on in the swim.

I made my way through transition fairly quickly and out onto my bike, I must have passed 5 people on my bike mount; everybody should learn a running mount, it is not that complicated and clearly saves time. I worked my way up top speed after getting into my shoes and rounder the 1st corner carefully. I rider had gone down on the slick corner but did not seem to be in that bad a shape (speedy recovery to him). The bike course quickly turns into a steep climb up the escarpment which requires a maximum out of the saddle effort. When I got to the top of the hill there was a gap between myself and the next rider ahead of me. I put my head down and followed the course and eventually closed in on Paul Bregin who was very recognizable in his yellow TT suit. I was not sure of how much time I had given up in the relatively short swim, but passing Paul inside of 8km was a good sign that I was closing in on the leaders. I pressed on hard enjoying the whooshing sound that my disc wheel was making on the straight-aways. There were several turns to navigate on the 25km course which I took with great care thinking that there is no way to win a race on a corner. At the turn around point I realized that I was in third place and closing in Darren Walton who was in second place, and not that far behind 18-year old Karsten Madsen in 1st. Darren held me off for a good 8km before I caught up to him at the top of the hill. I hoped that we had made some time up on Karsten who had previously beaten me at Victoria’s Duathlon by passing me on the run. I descended the hill with care and lost a little ground to Darren. I then applied the pressure and passed Darren before the overpass leading up to the final straight-away. Darren said “You got me” as I passed him and I acknowledge his big effort keeping away from me. I pushed on hard making up the final ground in between myself and Karsten and dismounted in 1st place.

By the time I racked my bike and got my second shoe on, Darren was just pulling in wishing me luck. I looked out towards the transition exit and saw that Karsten was on his way out. I started the run 6 seconds back not thinking about winning the race but about keeping myself ahead of Darren. At the turn around I realized that I was actually pulling away from Darren and not losing that much time on Karsten, who looked over his shoulder several times to see how much of a lead he had. Many people encouraged me to catch him, but I never really believed that out running Karsten was an option. I finished up in 2nd place 32 seconds behind, having given up only 26 seconds on the run course. I was nearly caught by another 18-year old Alexander Hinton who posted the fastest run time of the day.

This was my best Triathlon result of the season and has helped to provide me with more confidence about my swimming and running.