Race Report: Niagara Triathlon
700M swim 25km Bike 7km run
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.