Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Woodstock Triathlon - May 27th, 2012

Everyone was watching the weather for this race. In the days leading up, we had near-record heat and humidity, and thunder showers were in the predictions for Sunday around noon. It was looking hot, sticky and possibly wet...none of them in that fun way, either.

That's not the camera - I'm blurry due to not being awake yet.

Morning broke with a bit of rain at 17c as I dragged myself out of bed. I'd discovered the night before that the race was a 9am start rather than 8am as I'd thought, but I'd pretty much failed at getting good sleep during the taper and still had to roll out of bed by 05:30 in order to be at the race site by 7am. Why so early? Because I have friends who will be there, and I have a tendency to run out of preparation time while I yap with people. One nice, though slightly odd thing: there was pretty much zero pre-race anxiety going on. I'm usually at least a bit jittery, but I suppose having convinced myself that I was just racing for fun as a season opener tune-up finally worked. This may have led to me being a little too laid back, though, as you'll see.

Slowtwitch member Kentiger did the GT12.9 on this spectacularly oldschool setup.

We arrived on schedule thanks to the 401 not being closed this time (it was shut down the Sunday morning of the inaugural Woodstock race weekend in 2010) and found Slowtwitch member CeeCee at the registration desk. A hug and a chat later, I had my race number, then went to pick up my swim cap (flaming pink again) and bag-o-swag. Entering transition, I was the first one at my rack, so got the coveted end spot! Another reason it's good to show up early.

My wetsuit repair looks like a Superman emblem, and I'm ok with that. Worked perfectly!

I laid out all my gear and visited the portajohns to *ahem* make race weight, then ran into Kentiger and Slowtwitch member M~, with whom I have a season-long wager on the swim leg; whoever has the slowest swim time at the end of the season gets stuck with the pool noodle of shame. He was supposed to race against me at Woodstock, but has come down with a nasty infection that his cute little boy brought home from daycare and the doc said no go. Yes Mark, you do still get points for showing up anyway, but you'll have to forgive us if noone shakes your hand. I did, however, offer a handshake and good luck wishes to BeginnerTriathlete member 2paz, who was racing the duathlon that day.

Less than an hour to race time, I make sure everything is ready to go in my transition area. My shoes are on my little mat beside my bike, smeared with BodyGlide to ensure easy entry, and my hat is sitting on top of my running shoes. My AeroDrink bottle is full of water and I have a flask with 4 shots of EFS Liquid Shot Kona Mocha (which tastes just like Häagen-Dazs' coffee flavour, my all-time favourite ice cream) in my Dark Speed Works Speedpack on the top tube. My aerohelmet stis upside down on the aerobars (bike is racked by the front of the saddle) with my race belt and sunglasses laid out in the helmet. I decide to hit the portajohns by the swim exit and apply chamois creme, then figure it's time to move my transition pack out of the TZ. Setting it down by the outside of the fence, I think once more if I have everything I'll need out of the bag...hmm, well this wetsuit thing might come in handy. Too bad I forgot the little 3-legged folding stool I usually use to put it on back at the house! I've since added this to my pack list - no idea how I'd managed to forget it. It was raining fairly steadily at this point, which made me a little nervous given that my rear tire was quite worn. I hoped it would clear up before I got to the bike.

My sherpa and I on the beach.

With just over 30mins to race time now, I figure I'd better start wrestling my way into my suit. Without the stool I get to do an awesome little balancing act while still only three-quarters awake - hope anyone watching enjoyed the show, which was probably like some lame one-man version of a Three Stooges sketch. Got it onto my legs and pulled partway up before realising I was missing one more rather key element; I hadn't picked up my bloody timing chip yet! With my wetsuit crotch at my knees and cap & goggles in hand, I waddled over to where Tanker, Kent and Mark were chatting at the edge of transition to ask Tank if he'd mind going and grabbing my chip for me. See what I mean about a little too laid back? At least I figured it out before the race start, and my sherpa saved me a few minutes that I could use to work the neoprene into position before he returned with my chip and zipped me up.

Ready to go!

I said goodbye to Kent and Mark and headed down for the water, knowing I didn't have much time for a warmup, so I jogged a little bit through transition on my way down to the beach. There were a lot of athletes already swimming as I waded in and was almost immediately asked by a girl "um, do you have a blog?". I said I did, and she said she'd seen it and quite enjoyed it; thanks for your kind words, reader! Rinsing my goggles, I wished her luck and set out for a warmup. Fortunately, the rain had just been a passing shower, and the sun shone through the clouds as I began to stroke through the wonderfully warm water. I'm always astonished by how pleasant Pittock Lake is this early in the year!

Someone built a sandcastle on the beach.

I swam out about level with the first orange buoy - maybe 100m. Was feeling sluggish, but had to get things moving. I tried to pick up the pace a bit on the way back, but it's impossible to tell in the murky water how fast I'm moving, and I had to sight more often than usual to avoid other swimmers coming the other way. The last thing I needed was some skull-on-skull action! Giving Tanker one last kiss, I wandered down to watch the first two waves set off, then lined myself up over to the left of the starting area; I'd been pulling to the right quite a bit during a non-wetsuit open water swim on Saturday afternoon, and there's a bit of a current in Pittock Lake (which is actually a dammed portion of the Thames River) running from left to right as I looked at the swim course.

Somewhere around 09:08 the air horn sounded and I dove into the water to begin the 2012 tri season. While there weren't many in my wave (maybe 35 all told?), I seemed to keep coming into contact with people. I started off easy rather than getting sucked into the trap of trying to sprint off the line and wearing myself out early, just trying to focus on good stroke mechanics and a steady turnover. Someone tried to swim over me almost immediately, but ended up going around - I tried to catch on to some feet, but bodies seemed to be moving in all kinds of strange directions. Taking a moment to sight, I was heading to the inside of the orange sighting buoy so corrected a bit to the left and enjoyed a bit of open water. I wasn't feeling great, but I wasn't in bad shape, either - I wished I'd had more than one quick swim in my wetsuit prior to the race to get used to it, but then I realised that this was the best practice I could possibly ask for to get me ready for the rest of the races this season.

That's me in the bottom right-hand corner.
The milk carton buoys are neat, but near invisible when looking from the water.

I made the first turn buoy without too much difficulty, but reached it at exactly the same time as two other girls in my wave, and we ended up somewhat stuck together for the next leg. I tried to use this to my advantage; knowing that I was tending to drift to the right a bit, I was perfectly happy to stroke along with a girl just off my right side. I could see she was sighting every 5 or 6 strokes, so as long as I was just to her left, I should be perfectly on track. This worked great until we'd almost reached the second turn buoy (which happens quickly with the current's assistance), but then I seemed to pull away from her. The glimpse I caught while making the turn showed me that I was actually in the front third of my wave, and had overtaken one or two of the people in the wave ahead of mine. Good deal!

Unfortunately, as I turned toward the shore it rapidly became apparent that my goggles had fogged too badly to see the swim exit. I couldn't see enough people around me to keep me on course without sighting, and after a couple of attempts to make sure it wasn't just brain fog I still couldn't see where I was going. I paused, pulled my goggles away from my face to rinse them, then had to empty and re-position them as best I could. Fortunately, it worked perfectly - the optics of my Sable MT101s were back to their usual crispness, and I was still solidly course. Back to work!

Current runs from the 1st turn buoy to the 2nd.

Now, of course, I found myself surrounded by swimmers after losing the time while sorting out my goggles. I calmly started stroking again, leaving most of them behind as I headed for shore. I was feeling pretty good about my swim time, as I'd seemed to get along pretty well, but I wouldn't have a clue of what sort of time I'd managed until after the race - I removed my watch and handed it to Tanker before the start, and was racing "naked" with nothing but feel to guide me.

750m Swim: 17:01 @ 2:17/100m. 3/11 in W30-34, 122/179 O/A.

For some reason I always look really haggard coming into T1.

Emerging from the water, I was a bit shaky getting to my feet on the soft, silty bottom but somehow managed to get my legs pumping and shifted to a run. Unzip suit, pull out arms, cap off, goggles off, start pushing the suit down to my hips as I run into transition. Umm, where's my bike? I hadn't remembered that there was another rack between the entrance and my row, but I kept moving and found it without too much trouble. I'd like to say that I sagely sized up the number of other bikes there to get an idea of my position after the swim, but I really do turn into a gibbering moron as soon as the horn goes, so I just got down to business trying to get out on the bike as quickly as I could.


One problem: it feels like I'm moving in slow motion. The tree above my bike has crapped maple keys, twigs and leaves into my helmet, I'm doing some kind of weird pee-pee dance trying to strip off the legs of my wetsuit, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to fall on my head trying to put on my bike shoes. Sunglasses, race belt and helmet go on first; you can be disqualified for doing anything with your bike without a helmet on, and I'd hate to find out that grabbing onto it to keep yourself from collapsing into a heap is included in that rule, so I always get my bucket on ASAP. Probably not a bad idea anyway; if I do fall over, I'll be less likely to hurt myself!

Admiring my bike, apparently.

Against all odds and working with an IQ roughly equal to my shoe size, I eventually get everything sorted out and head out to the mount line.

T1: 1:17, a 3 second PR!

Outta here!

Bad news: you have to run up a little grassy hill in order to get to the mount line, and my legs don't want to work. At all. They hadn't felt too hot during my 15min shake-out bike or 20min run the day before, and now they're practically on strike. I finally make it up to the mount line with 2 other girls right around me, manage to hop on the bike and get clipped in, then start slogging up the big stinkin' hill out of the conservation area.

Sure, I'm smiling, but I'm internally screaming "WORK YOU STUPID LEGS!"

Cresting the hill, I finally think to turn on my cycle computer. I am consistently awful at remembering to do this during races, so no big shock. Spinning up to speed with a bit of a tailwind to start I run smack into the first of a whole series of rolling hills. Big ring? Nope, not right now. On the bright side (pun not intended), the sun was shining brightly by now and the roads were almost completely dry.

Jeebly, getting to the mount line is taking forever!

Just to make things extra special, though, the wind was from the East-Southeast - after climbing to the intersection and making the turn onto Oxford Road 33 we were riding into a headwind. I did manage to get it into the big ring though, and took a shot of gel as I cruised downhill near the 5k marker. My cycle computer showed 10:08 for the first 5k, so a little slower than 30kph after the hill out of the park. Not too shabby for me.

The whole of the first 2.5km are climbing.
Riding out through the farmland, I was having trouble getting comfortable in the saddle; my hips didn't want to roll forward into my comfy position, and I was getting some chafing action. Not fun, but nothing terribly new - I've had issues with this for as long as I've been riding in aero. Try to ignore it and get the legs firing, because there's more climbing to come.

As I rode, my lack of training on my tri bike this year took its toll; my shoulders and neck weren't very happy, I was still having trouble settling into my position, and I definitely wasn't putting out earth-shattering wattage. On the bright side, I think only about a dozen people passed me - I only saw one girl in my age group get by me, though apparently another slipped past without me noticing. I wouldn't have been able to give chase anyway; just didn't have the legs! I passed the 10k mark at 20:04, having made up a couple of seconds with the downhills.

Not pictured: some very agricultural aromas.

After a long climb that had me down in the mid-teens for speed and thanking my lucky stars that we'd had a semi-tailwind for the longest stretch of the course, I finally reached the turn-around at 15k, just about bang on 30mins from the time I'd started my cycle computer. I failed to gear down enough and ended up out of the saddle for a couple of moments to spin back up to speed, then cruised downhill and took another gel.

I didn't intend to take more than a couple of sips of the on-course HEED on the run, but knew I'd be out long enough to need some calories, so the best place to get them was on the bike. I know I can tolerate 1oz of EFS Liquid Shot every 20min (240cal per hour), so I figured I'd take a shot at 5k, 15k and 25k, so I'd have a little more than 10mins (including T2) for the last gel to settle before heading out on the run. 

Hauling downhill into the park.

The last half of the ride was fairly uneventful. I made up a little more time, coming through the 20k mark at 39:52, but ran out of water just after taking my last gel at the 25k mark at around 49:44 - guess a little more splashed out on the run to the mount line than I'd expected, or I was just drinking more than usual since a bottle usually lasts me an hour. In any case, it meant I had nothing left in my bottle when I had to climb that final kick-in-the-teeth hill around 27k, so I think I'll stow a bottle in the seat tube cage next time. I managed to pass a few people who were apparently fading, but was only passed (I think) twice - after dropping back 10m to stay well out of the draft zone, I managed to hang pretty well with the last person (the lady who took 2nd in the W45-49 age group) who got by me with around 2km left to go.

Tootling up to the dismount line.

This kind of bit me in the rear, as I was behind her and another, slower-moving girl (presumably from the wave before mine) as I hit the no passing zone on the hill down into the conservation area. Neither of the two ahead of me seemed to have any confidence descending, or at least didn't go about it with my level of reckless abandon, so I was forced to slow considerably in order not to run them over. Lost a few free seconds there, but it's the nature of the course; I could always have made the effort to pass them before I reached the point where it was no longer possible.

30km Bike: 1:02:42 @ 28.7kph. 5/11 in W30-34, 135/179 O/A.

Not much of a run.

Smoothly unclipping and swinging my leg over before the dismount line, both ladies stopped dead in front of me with no room to get through, so I had to step down a few feet before the actual line and run it in. Once more, my stupid legs decided to go on strike; they were pretty sure that signing up for this was some kind of mistake that I'd realise sooner or later and let them rest.

Negotiating the bike between the wooden posts.
Apparently one of the elites did poorly with this.

As I trundled along to T2, I feared the worst for my run split - I could barely get my stupid legs to work for me even on the downhill! I hoped that the bit of a pause while I changed shoes would be enough rest to get myself sorted out. That is, of course, if you can consider trying not to fall over while changing from my bike shoes to my tri loafers "rest". The reverse of T1, I keep my helmet on as long as possible so I can still grab the bike to keep from falling on my head. Of course, I'm pretty sure that some of the blows I've taken to the head are the whole reason I sign up for this stuff in the first place, but that's beside the point - more brain damage isn't going to help any.

T2: 1:10

Stony double track in tri loafers. Sub-optimal.

I eventually made it out of transition and onto the double track trail up to the dam, thinking I'd happily cut off my left foot if someone would just pass me a cup of water, but knowing that MultiSport Canada races are awesome for providing aid stations really frequently on the run course. I whipped myself up into something resembling a trot, hit the double track, and promptly rolled an ankle stepping on an uneven section. Perhaps the Ultra Speeds weren't my best choice for this! Fortunately it hadn't gone over much and wasn't painful, so I kept on moving.

Not pictured: lots of little rocks and a couple of short but nasty hills.

The elites were just finishing up the run by the time I made it a couple of hundred yards out, and it was amazing to see how quickly they run - I'm pretty sure I could hang with their pace for about 100 metres, maybe less. Death whistling had begun on my part, and I tried my best to calm my breathing down as I headed for the dam. People were passing me from both the tri and the duathlon, but as soon as the death whistle starts I try to push the pace at my peril; I've blown myself up on a couple of training runs doing that. A fellow running back to the finish gave me a nice "good work, Mistress K!", so I replied with something similar - it turns out he's a BeginnerTriathlete member who'd recognized me. Nice to meet you Charlie, and great race!

Crossing the dam, I finally hit an aid station and got the cup of water for which I'd been yearning. While there was a bit of cloud cover now it was still very warm, so after a few sips I dumped the rest of the cup down my back for some cooling. Reaching the one road section, I saw Team SmackTalk member Adam directing runners to the fitness trail. Always the joker, he told me to go the wrong way, but not in any serious  fashion - next thing I knew, I was on the stonedust fitness trail that forms the loop of the run course.

Yes, my belly button is enormous!

I passed the second aid station at ~2.5k as the trail split, taking the right fork. It was some lovely running, on a well-groomed trail festooned with wild purple and white phlox and queen anne's lace. The only problem I had was that there was very little air circulation, and the scent of the flowers (while beautiful) got a bit oppressive. Passing the 3k marker wheezing away, I wondered why in the heck I do this kind of thing, but the stunning scenery and the thrill of racing brought me back to the moment. 

Grabbing a cup of HEED from the aid station at the halfway point, I just focused on trying to keep my stride fairly light and control my breathing. The last part of the trail loop includes a couple of really beautiful footbridges over wet areas with gorgeous wrought iron railings and arches - I'd love to take Tanker walking through there sometime to take some photos, but as there were no runners coming the other way due to the layout it did get a bit lonely out there. Fortunately, I do most of my training alone, so I'm used to running with only my own thoughts for company, but I do enjoy the camaraderie of racing. Closing the loop and passing another aid station just past 5k, I grabbed one last cup of water to sip and dump on myself.

Approaching the ultimate goal and apparently doing the funky chicken.

Off the trail and back on the little road section, Adam offered me vodka or beer, but I didn't even have the breath or brain for any retort but a wheezy chuckle. A short downhill after leaving the road, and then the nastiest part of the run - the hill up to the dam is only about 100 yards long, but it gets steeper as you climb and I was already gasping! Somehow I made it up there, declined taking anything from the last aid station, and made my way across the dam. To tell you how addled I was by this point, I'd been telling myself "less than a kilometer to go" since I passed the 6k mark. It's a 7.5k course. Stupid girl.

I managed to figure out my mistake a few minutes later, on the last little rise of land before hitting the 7k mark. Wondering if I'd have a kick, and if so, when to start it, I finally spotted the turn to the finish line with Tanker dead ahead of me and my legs took off of their own accord. Making the corner, I gave it everything I had for the last little downhill to the line.

7.5km Run: 42:04 @ 5:37/km. 7/11 in W30-34, 145/179 O/A.

Oh, sweet relief!

I got my handshake from John Salt, had my chip removed, then walked around to find Tanker. I'd definitely left it all out on the course; it took me at least 5 minutes to catch my breath! Not used to this fast, short course stuff anymore - my legs were killing me and I wanted to lay down and die. However, I'd also managed to set a 3min PR at this distance compared to the flat, fast course of the same distance in Welland, which I'd raced in 2010

Official results:
Total time: 2:04:11.5 - 5/11 in W30-34, 25/48 women, 137/179 O/A.

We had lucked out greatly, too - not long after I'd finished and got my post-race food, a thunderstorm rolled in during the award ceremony and Tanker and I went scuttling off to the car! While the oppressive heat on the run course made things tough for me, the storm would have been worse.

Post-race glow.

With a couple of days' perspective since the race now, I can honestly say that I'm quite pleased with how it went. My swim has historically improved through the summer as I've got more time in my wetsuit, and I know my bike split will benefit from more sheer mileage on Dolph; I've only really been seriously training on him for the last 2 weeks. As my bike fitness improves, my ability to run off the bike should come up as well, so I'm not fading quite as badly on the run.

Recovery courtesy of Compressport Canada.

When all is said and done, this was a great way to pinpoint the things on which I need to work as the year progresses, and a 3 minute PR is a fantastic way to open my season!


  1. Great work K! I enjoy reading your race reports! Good to see you again at Woodstock and good luck in your next race! Hope to see you around Cambridge!

    1. Thanks a bunch! Was just reading yours on BT - rough deal, man! Good on ya for gutting it out to the finish for that lovely wife and cute little boy of yours - hope you have better luck for the rest of your season, and I'm sure we'll bump into each other sometime.


Go on, have at me!