Friday, July 2, 2010

Guelph Lake Olympic distance Triathlon Race Report – June 20th, 2010

Guelph Lake Olympic distance Triathlon Race Report – June 20th, 2010

The Guelph Lake Olympic distance triathlon started on time on Sunday June 20th at 8:30 am under warm summer conditions on the last day of spring. The event grew to 622 participants this year from 458 in 2009. Some of the top local athletes were in attendance thanks in part to a commitment that Barry Shepley had made to have his team participate in all Subaru Series events this season, including professionals Sean Bechtel and David Sharatt.

Last year in my second ever Triathlon at this event, I was the twelfth athlete to cross the line in a time of 2:10:14; one competitor who finished in front of me DQ’ed so officially I finished in eleventh place. I was hoping to improve my time by about four minutes which I though was achievable considering the problems that I had in the swim last year. I also wanted to test out my bike strength and was a little concerned that my recent training results indicated that I had lost some strength or fitness or something maybe due to the cross training that I was doing; Bike, Run, Swim, Yoga. The second place finish in my age category from two weeks earlier at the Mooseman event had stung my pride. The more I reflected on my performance the more realized that it was the last five kilometers of the run that lost me the race due to inferior conditioning / preparation. As a result, I had put extra energy into my run training over the past fourteen days.

I am discovering that the amount of time required to fully recover from a 70.3 half iron event is definitely greater than I would like it to be. Thanks to the yoga classes that I am attending the soreness seems that I feel post race seems to heal must faster now than last year. Unfortunately it takes just as long or longer, thanks to being 1-year older, for the strength to return to my muscles. Although I may have not been fully recovered for some of my recent training sessions, I felt in good condition for the race that day.

A friend of mine Paul T. who has just joined the ranks of mid life multi-sports enthusiasts, met me at the Trafalgar exit car park off the 401 highway to carpool our way to the event. Paul was even more organized me and had plenty of space for my bike and gear inside of his SUV. Paul was racing in the 40-44 age group along with me and 76 others; once again dominating all other age groups with regards to participation. I also met up with Mike D. and Jason G at the event, two guys who I had gone to school with at McGill twenty years ago. Mike and Jason played for the Football team and have both become much leaner as a result of the training required to prepare for these types of events. It was great to see old friends all taking part in such a positive event.

The Race

Swim 1500meters

I found a great spot to rack my bike as did Paul and minutes later Michael Hay pulled up said hello and placed his bike on the opposite side right beside mine. Michael had competed in a half iron event (Rev 3) two weeks prior as well and he let me know that he was still feeling the effects of that effort. We spent some time catching up and then I headed down to registration. The event was a mass swim start and swim caps were being handed out according to participants swim times based on the honour system. Red caps were for anyone who could swim 1500 meters in under 23 minutes, and the seven other colours were for progressively slower swimmers. I grabbed a Royal Blue cap indicating that I could swim the distance in 23-25minutes, even though I had never actually swam that fast without fins. I was thinking that because of the training that I had put in and the buoyancy advantage of wearing a wet suit that today was going to be the day, which was faulty thinking that I would soon pay for.

After making the final preparations I headed down to the lake front with wetsuit, goggles and Royal Blue cap in hand. I went out for a warm up swim and took some time to get used being in the water, with my face in the water. As the start time approached I headed over to the far outside position which was clearly the most direct path to the first marker, which for some unclear reason was skewed over away from the starting area created a funnel effect right from the start. I stood on the edge of the water and allowed all people wearing red caps to move to the front. No one in blue caps seemed that eager to jostle for a starting position so I just maintained my spot; which also turned out to be a mistake. Here I was at the front of the 23-25 minute group before the race even started and I would have to pull out a miraculous swim to even break 25 minutes. This meant that everyone in blue caps behind me was going to pass me, which in a mass start swimming event in a funneled area meant that many people were going to need to swim over top of me. It all seems so clear now but this wisdom somehow escaped me while I was standing there waiting for the starting horn to blast.

I had envisioned the race and my performance many times prior to the start and in none of those enactments did I foresee the start that I had. The horn sounded and I began jogging into the water. Thanks to my height, long legs and the gradual slope into the lake, I was able to remain upright longer than anyone else around me. By the time I started swimming, I was no longer on the outside but in amongst many swimmers. As I started swimming I realized that I was hanging tough amongst many people at the back of the red cap group. I continually felt people knocking into me but paid in no mind and kept on swimming. After another minute or so I realized that I was swimming beyond my abilities and needed to slow down in order to catch my breath all the while people kept banging into me. These of course were people from my wave fighting to get past me. I decided to stop swimming for a second in order to catch my breath, this of course made matters worse as there were way more people behind me than in front and they all crashed into me each time I slowed. My thoughts quickly changed from my performance in the entire race to whether or not I would be able to swim another 50 meters without calling on a spotter in a kayak for assistance. I realized that I was now entering a panic mode and had to act quickly in order to salvage my race. I took a quick 90 degree turn to the left and swam away from everybody else. Once I got to the outside where no one was crashing into me, I began to take deeper breaths. The influx of oxygen into my lungs had the amazing effect of dissipating the panic feelings that had hold of me. I concentrated on breathing and gradually worked my way back into the race. All of this had happened within the first 250meters of the race.

By the time I rejoined the main path of swimmers I was now moving at least as fast as everyone around me, which made things much easier. I was now comfortable amongst my competitors and was even able to work at drafting by following bubbles up ahead of me. As I exited the water after the first lap I was breathing calmly and able to pass a few people as we ran along the beach to start lap two of the swim. Once in the water I decided to try and draft some more and found it to be relatively easy. I felt as tough I could have passed the guy in front of me but that may have cost me too much energy so I stayed in behind and was content to follow at his pace. I exited the water in 78th place and took an extra 15 seconds or so in transition to pull on a pair of socks before heading out onto the bike course.

Bike 40km

I hoped onto my bike and calmly increased my speed before getting my feet into my shoes. I bunny hoped my bike over a speed bump on my way out of the park and looked down to see that my chain was off of the front ring and the rear derailleur. Given the enormous amount of slack in my chain, I figured that I had somehow busted my rear derailleur. Fortunately I was able to get back into the big ring up front and downshift in a gear without having to dismount from my bike or loose too much time. With my chain back in place I was now able to focus on the race. The first half of the bike leg on the out and back course was mostly uphill and into the wind, which suited me just fine. The uphill portions were gradual and a never had to shift out of the big ring up front. I worked hard on the climbs and coasted on the downhill portions in order to conserve energy fro the run course. I passed 70 people on the bike posting the second fastest time of the day, fifty seconds slower that Sean Bechtel the eventual winner of the race. My bike time was 41 seconds quicker than in 2009 and I felt as though I had not dug as deep into my reserves making the transition to the run much less painful.

Run 10km

Out on the run course I was now all by myself although I could still hear the announcer Kevin McKinnon calling out the names of the athletes dismounting from the bikes. I was listening for two names, Michael Hay and Mike Greenberg. I had seen Michael Hay on the bike as I passed him at around the 18km mark. He offered up some encouragements as I went by. I was a little surprised by his slower speed as I had fought hard for nearly 5km to catch him in the Peterborough race last year. I was not exactly sure what Mike Greenberg looked like but I knew that he was a great swimmer and runner who had finished fourth in the elite amateur category of the New York City Triathlon last year. I was using this race to gage my conditioning heading into the NYC triathlon scheduled for July18th this summer. As I headed off further into the run course a heard Kevin calling Mike Greenberg’s name and hoped that I had enough of a lead to hold him off.

At around the 3km mark I saw Sean Bechtel heading in the opposite direction and cheered him on. I then heard the familiar sound of someone with a high cadence running me down and watched as a smaller younger runner worked his way past me. The first turn around point located just past the four km marker provided me with an opportunity to judge how I was going, I saw that Derek Snider was closing in on me and hoped for his sake that he had not gone out too hard as he did in the same distance race in Cobourg last year. A few hundred meters behind Derek was Mike Greenberg Who I judged to be less two minutes back of me. Michael hay was nearly a full km behind me and I realized at that point that I was going to beat him for the first time, he encouraged me again as I headed down the road towards the second turn around.

I kept what felt like a steady pace and was eventually caught by Derek with three km’s to go. I told him to keep it steady and push through for the final two km’s with no repeat of Cobourg. He tried to reply but I shushed him telling him to save his energy for the run as he picked up the pace and left me behind. Once he got a couple hundred meters ahead of me he slowed a bit or I sped up and remained at that distance for the duration of the race.

I sprinted in to the finish in a time of 2:07:11 good for ninth place overall and first in my age group, just over three minutes faster than last year. I had not worn a watch so I had no idea what my pace was, but I felt as though I had run a sub 38 minute 10km. As it turns out my run time was over 39 minutes which was only a slight improvement over my time in 2009. On the positive side I felt much better after the race than I did in 2009 and was able to recover quicker as well. I managed to stay a minute ahead of Mike Greenberg which bodes well for NY. It was great to see so many familiar faces at the race and to have my father, step mother and their dog show up to cheer me on.