Race Report: Cobourg Provincial Championship Triathlon as a Duathlon – Aug 28th, 2009
1.5km Swim 5km run, 40km Bike, 10km run.
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.