Friday, February 24, 2012

Runner's Den Indoor Sprint Tri, or how a 90min race can take 5 hours.

In a feat of ill advised racing that will remain unequaled (until the next time I do it), I decided to race on 6 days' notice while just finishing rehabbing an injury. I heard through the Subaru Tri Series Facebook page on Monday, February 13th that the Fighting Koalas tri club was putting on an indoor sprint tri out of the Runner's Den store in Waterdown that Sunday (the 19th) - a 750m pool swim, 20k CompuTrainer bike and a 5k outdoor run. It was only $40 and sounded like a larf, so I called the number in the post and spoke to Mat Reid to gather some more info. Minutes later I was registered...umm, oops.

In an interesting twist of fate, my freshly printed racing kit was waiting for me when I arrived at home, wondering what the hell I'd done. Looking at the spanky job EuroTriShop had done screening on the logos of my sponsors, I decided to take it as a sign - I was meant to race!

My taper consisted of taking Tuesday off (it was Valentine's Day, and my wonderful husband is far more important than training - we did go for a walk and I did 20mins of heavy weight training that morning before work), doing my longest run lately (7km) and 2 x 20mins on the trainer on Wednesday, and a 4k run and shorter-than-usual swim (2,100m) on Thursday. Fridays are off days, without fail; that's date night, and I try not to violate that rule. Priorities!

Saturday was a tune-up workout in each discipline: 45mins on the trainer with some bursts thrown in followed immediately by a 5k easy run with some strides mixed in. My sweetheart even chased me on his bike through the run, so I had great company! Then it was off to the pool for a short-but-sweet workout: 2 x 200, 2 x 150, 2 x 100 and 2 x 50, with an easy 50 swim and 50 breast cool down. I was feeling zippy, and came out of the water full of energy. Felt great! My sweetie took me out to a Cambridge Winterhawks (our local Junior B hockey team) game afterward, then it was home for a quick, light dinner and some good sleep.

Rainbow trout, asparagus and jasmine rice.

Because I was in the 12pm wave, I actually got to sleep in - I'm usually in the pool at 8am on Sundays, but I didn't even roll out of bed until 9am! I drank a meal replacement shake as soon as I got up, made sure everything was packed and ready to go, then stuffed my cyclocross bike (aka Snorky) in the trunk of the car; I'd been doing all my riding on the trainer on him, and since there's no aero penalty on the CompuTrainer I saw no reason not to race like I'd trained! I also got peer pressured into registering for Paris to Ancaster again a week or two beforehand, so time in Snorky's saddle is what I need. Downed one more meal replacement shake and pressed a cup of coffee to go, then we hopped in the car and left just after 10am. Did I mention that I'm obsessively early for every race? I'd actually had 2 separate dreams about missing my start times for this one, which probably says something about me that I shouldn't want people to know..

35mins later, we're passing by Flamborough Family YMCA; the venue for the pool swim. Ok cool, having lots of time we can go check out Runner's Den and orient ourselves a bit, so we swung down to Dundas St. to poke our heads in...just as the first wave (which started at 8am) was finishing up! In retrospect, I should have wondered more about that, but we chatted with Eric a bit and then headed back to the YMCA for just after 11am. There was a Runner's Den vehicle in the parking lot, but Mat was nowhere to be found..

Chatting with the ladies at the desk, I mention I'm looking for Mat, and they tell me he said he'd be back at noon. Hmm, I'm supposed to be on deck then, and I'm starting to get antsy (probably helped by the giant coffee I've just polished off). Fortunately, there's a cafe there that does egg, bacon & cheese on a bagel, so we get Tanker some breakfast - he did dishes instead of eating before we left. I love him, but he's a weirdo (and he gets really cranky when he's hungry). With him accommodated with a sammich, still no sign of Mat and the clock ticking over quarter to twelve, I decide that I'd better go get into my swimsuit in order to be on deck for noon. Another fellow, equally puzzled, arrives at the desk just as I'm paying my $3.75 public lane swim fee - at least I'm not completely alone in my bafflement.

Into the changeroom, and I'm seeing some Fighting Koalas swim caps. This is a good thing, but they're being worn by 12 year old girls. Please, please don't make me embarrass myself by trying fruitlessly to keep up with kids in the pool! I mean, I've made some progress, but that means I've gone from swimming like a cinderblock to swimming like a brick in water wings. Nothing else for it; I suit up and head out to the deck. I find about 8-10 people in Koalas caps...all 12 and under. Crap! Slurping on a water bottle with a scoop of lemon-lime Heed, I felt a little out of place.

Finally Mat appears - all is well and I'm not going to have to be lapped by children, but I will have to wait until 12:40pm for my wave to start (as the kids would be going first). Ok, so much for being home by 3pm or so! The kids are all going to be racing in one lane, though, so I have the use of another lane in which to warm up. I need to do something with myself, as I'm all twitchy - keep getting the feeling I should be setting up a transition area and getting into my wetsuit! I hop in and chat a bit with the fellow who arrived at the desk at the same time I did - turns out his name is Art, he's a former university swim team member who podiumed in all of the races he did last year, and he's doing the swim in drag shorts because all of his speedos have disintegrated. He's also hoping for a 1:15/100m pace, though he hasn't been in the pool since May. So much for not being embarrassed in the pool!

I paddle my way through a 100m interval and a few 50's just to feel the water a bit, and make my final decision - I may have only learned how to do them in November, but I'm going to stick with flip turns for the race. I've done them consistently through all my pool workouts since I started with them, and I'm not sure how well I'd do with open turns anymore. 750m will be the longest straight swim I've done while flip turning, but I've done 500's and 400's in training, so I'm confident I can pace my way through the whole thing and it will be a nice time trial for me. Based on my training, I'm figuring I can probably pull off about 16:15 - a 2:10/100m pace, which is the best I've managed in a metre pool (my usual rec centre pool is short course yards) for 400m.

A bunch of other people have turned up, and it appears that my wave will be split into two groups: Art and the other fast people will be in one lane, with myself, a gent named Shane who would only be swimming 375m, and a lady named Cathy who reckoned herself slower than I'd be starting first, with a 5sec gap between us. With only a minute or two's warning, I set out and hoped I wouldn't feel a tap on my feet!

Oddly enough, the swim went quite well for me - I was stroking fairly smoothly and feeling relaxed, though I did manage to flub one of my very first flip turns and fill my nose with water! I got myself past the spluttering quickly and just kept on moving, lapping Shane before he finished his half-distance swim, and even lapping Cathy with about 8 lengths (of 30) to go. Now THAT felt great! The whole thing went much faster than I expected, but Mat scared me by asking if I was sure that I'd counted correctly when I stopped - I said I was sure, and he said he thought I'd done an extra 50. I asked about times, and he discovered he'd counted one of my 50's as a 100, so I was bang on 15:37 for the 750m. Better than I expected - a 2:05/100m pace! Think I'd only ever been able to hold that for a 400 in my yard pool previously.

Onto the deck, Mat explains that the kids who swam before us were probably just getting onto the CompuTrainer at that point, so it would likely be about 2:30pm before our wave started the bike. It was only 1pm! Oh well, there's a Tim Hortons directly across from the store where the bike would happen, so I figured I'd take Tanker for a coffee to keep my calories up. I headed for the change room, finishing my bottle of Heed, and figured I'd get my bike/run kit on and just throw street clothes overtop...but not before getting Tanker to take a photo in full-on dork mode:

Yeah, that's my Compressport Canada compression socks and quad sleeves, plus recovery shoes. Embrace the geekdom! EMBRACE IT!

So, off to Tim Hortons for a cafe mocha - finally getting my usual pre-race coffee, since I rarely brew one at home. By 2pm we figured it would be safe to head over and get my bike set up on the CompuTrainer, but it took until almost 3pm before the kids ahead of us had finished and cleared the room!

Finally onto the bike, they had chosen the Guelph Lake I sprint course. Oh goody, hills! *sob*

Now, I'd only ever been on a CompuTrainer one other time, and that was the first time I'd ever been on a trainer at all. I did a session at MultiSport Zone in London back in August of 2009, and it went poorly - I wasn't used to the lack of momentum that plagues stationary trainers, and I couldn't keep pedaling for more than 5mins at a time. It literally took me an hour to ride the 10km, relatively flat course they gave me! Having put in over 600km on my Kurt Kinetic Road Machine since January 1st, I was feeling decently confident. We got ourselves all calibrated for the 6-person head-to-head race and did a warmup into a rolling start.

The men immediately jumped out to a convincing lead, leaving me and Cathy to do the best we could. Coming to the first climb it became rapidly apparent that my bike fitness was not as I wished it to be! I was having to work much harder than I would have anticipated, given the grade of the incline showing on the screen vs. some known climbs near my home. Having a look 'round the internet, it appears this is a common theme: CompuTrainer Real Course Videos are way tougher than the real deal. Nothing else for it but to soldier on, though, even getting out of the saddle for the largest hill and again for the short but very steep one near the end. I happily sucked down most of a bottle with a scoop of mandarin eLoad and part of another bottle of water in the sweltering heat of the tiny room filled with panting and sweating bodies - the fans were totally inadequate to keep the place cool! I finished the 18.94km course (per the screen) in 44:09 at an average of 25.7kph and 1.90 watts per kilogram, with legs feeling absolutely trashed. I had managed it close to the average speed I had estimated (not knowing it would be so hilly), but I wondered how much I'd have left for the run, and hoped it wouldn't be too punishing.

I only had about a 10min break in between the bike and run while Cathy finished her CompuTrainer session and Mat explained the run course. I figured I was in trouble when he stated flat out it was "the hilliest 5k you'll ever see" - due to that stupid hip injury I hadn't run any hills since the beginning of January, and overall my run training had been pretty slack. The race would actually bring me to my highest mileage week yet post-injury: 26.5km!

We lined up outside the store, Mat said "go", and we finally began the run at 4:22pm. As the elevation profile indicates, there was a short level section that turned into a huge downhill prior to going right back up again. I knew my only hope was to try to hold back on the downhill, then chug upward as easily and steadily as I could. I really, really didn't want to end up walking in a 5k! I figured I might be able to pull out a 28min run, maybe 27:30 if all the stars aligned.

Through the downhill and feeling ok, I made the turn to start climbing and was surprised by the strength I still seemed to have in my legs. I'm sure that part of it was my Compressport Canada quad sleeves helping stabilize the muscles, but I managed to truck up that big stinkin' hill pretty well, though I was definitely sucking wind. Back onto the flat and through the halfway point, Lauren (Mat's fiancee who had paced with Cathy and I through the first lap, though Cathy left me well behind off the start) let me know I had clocked in at 13:15 for 2.5k - ahead of my anticipated best pace! I'd just have to see how well I could hang on through the second loop.

Down the big honkin' hill again, giving my legs a little looser rein this time, I spotted someone running along up ahead. There was maybe 100 yards between us, and it looked like I was closing the gap a bit. I focused on keeping my stride light and cadence high, then turned uphill and concentrated on driving my knees forward and up. I was solidly death whistling by this point, but still chugging away up that huge hill. I could feel all those times, even though they were months ago, that I had forced myself to run up the hill (of approximately the same size and grade as this one) that I live on top of at the end of a 16 to 20km run coming to my aid.

Onto the flat again, and I was only 10 yards behind my prey. Getting a closer look, he was just loping along easily, and wearing jeans no less! I figured he was probably just playing with me, but what better did I have to do than try to catch him?

Less than 100 yards from the finish now, and I was just coming up on his shoulder...when suddenly he turns on the jets and takes right off. There was quite literally no kick left in me, so I just hung in at whatever pokey pace I could still manage and finished about 5sec after him. Much to my surprise (and his as well, from the sound of it) Mat told me I'd actually negative split the run! Final time: 26:18 - a 5:16/km pace - with a 13:03 for the second loop. Considering my standalone 5k PR - set on a dead-flat course - is only 37 seconds faster I was truly amazed!

Total time for all 3 legs was 1:26:04, good enough for 11th out of 17 women (1 DNF), 3rd out of 5 in the 30-39 age group (1 DNF). Maybe not spectacular results, but I was very happy with my efforts - I was able to dig much deeper than I expected, and pulled out some times that surprised me! Finally climbing in the car by about 5pm to make our way home, I knew I had earned a post-race reward; a giant bowl of chicken soup from Pho Shizzle:

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