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.

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