Friday, June 29, 2012

Welland Triathlon - June 23rd, 2012

I had some pretty lofty goals for this race. I was going to rent the same wheels (deep front and disc rear) that I used in 2010, finally break an hour for the 30k bike course, and maybe even go sub-2 hours for a 750m/30k/7.5k sprint. If it was ever going to happen, it would be on this course - it's about the flattest and fastest you'll find in Southern Ontario - but I'd have to take more than 7mins off my time from 2010.

Everything was going well with training and I had high hopes...then my house started falling apart on me, causing me to re-examine my goals. Then my world was turned upside down and I strongly considered dropping out of the race entirely, but decided that I had some great reasons to toe the starting line. I was racing to do my father proud, and to honour his memory.

Love you Dad.

Setting up.
We headed down to Welland directly after work on Friday and set up camp in a wonderful friend's backyard. I did a short run since I'd been too busy on Wednesday (building a bedroom) and Thursday (running errands and packing) to get any training in at all, and my legs felt pretty good. I'd made up a big batch of chicken fried rice to bring with us since it had worked so well for me all year, and ate it after the run, sitting around by the fire with good friends. We tumbled into the tent just before midnight, giving us just over  5hrs to sleep - about the same amount I'd been getting nightly for the past 2 weeks.

Don't know what I'm doing, but it looks like I'm asking
"what the hell am I supposed to do with this thing?"

I awoke at some point in the darkness to a train passing through, and found myself shivering - far from the overnight low of 17c that had been predicted, it was only 11c when I rolled out of bed at 5.15am and slammed my meal replacement shakes while dressing and braiding my hair. I hoped it would warm up before I had to get in the water; the forecast was calling for 25c by afternoon.

No problems getting on the road, grabbing a cafe mocha at the Tim Hortons, or parking at the arena. Found my rack, got a decent spot, then headed in to pick up kit. I even managed to get my timing chip right away this time (instead of having to run for it, like at Woodstock), and we picked up our volunteer shirts for the next day as well. I didn't really see anyone I knew, so I stayed pretty focused on my preparations; visited the washroom a couple of times, forgot to bring chamois creme with me to the bathroom so ended up doing rather indecent things in the transition area, drank a bottle of lemon-lime EFS while I got ready, and stuffed myself into my wetsuit. Of course, I'd forgotten to clip my nails, so I put another stinkin' nail nick in the neoprene. I'll have to fix it before Gravenhurst.

Not careful enough.
Swim start and finish.

Down to the canal, I hopped into the water to do a quick warmup - just out to the last turn buoy (visible in the photo above) and back to shore. The water was brisk but comfortable, and I was surprisingly calm; pretty much no pre-race nerves at all. Then again, with the stress and heartache of the week before the race it's possible that my nerves were just burnt out. The warmup went ok, and when I got back out the combination of sunshine and the wetsuit kept me from getting chilled, and I spotted Cathy near the duathlon start so went over to say hello.

Fending off the attack of the rubber hug monster.
Duathletes, I am assured, hate to get wet.

Tri and dry.

As the 08:30 race start time approached, I kissed Tanker and headed down to get lined up in bib number order for the time trial start. Since I was #118 and the athletes would leave every 5 seconds, my time would be approximately 9 minutes and 45 seconds faster than whatever the clock displayed when I crossed the line - not that I had any idea of what time that might be.

Ready? Yeah, sure..

Lined up to start.

While I stood in line, waiting to get in the water, I had a bit of inspiration - why not track down a marker and write "DAD" on my hand, where I'd see it while riding and running? Well, because this occurred to me at about 2mins before the start, that's why. With no possibility of being able to get my hands on a marker, I decided it didn't matter that I didn't have Dad on my hand; I had him in my heart, and that definitely wouldn't wash off.

As the line began to move, I shuffled down to the water's edge and stepped down off the bank. One of the girls ahead of me cautioned us that there was a slippery rock sticking up out of the gravel in the water, and to avoid it. Seconds later I step forward, lose my balance, almost fall on top of a girl in front of me and smash my left foot into another rock.

Artist's conception.

No time to worry about a possibly broken toe - things were moving and I was rounding the dock to the front of the line. #116, 117...and off I went, simply hoping that I'd be able to enjoy myself and put in a good effort.

I stayed pretty relaxed through the whole swim. There were a couple of times feet narrowly missed my face and once or twice when I got a bit tangled with a swimmer either overtaking or being overtaken, but nothing really off-putting. My stroke felt pretty good, I was swimming fairly straight, and sighting in the canal is largely a non-issue. The water was comfortable, my goggles weren't fogging this time (I had spat in them and swished them out before the start), and I was even passing some people. Rounding the last turn buoy and heading for the exit, I felt like I'd put in a pretty good showing; Dad would be happy, as he was an accomplished swimmer himself and the one who made sure I got my Bronze Medallion from the Royal Life Saving Society as soon as I turned 13. I gratefully accepted the hand of a volunteer as I reached the bank and clambered out of the water for the long run to T1.

Best swim ever.

750m swim: 15:22 @ 2:03/100m. 10/16 in W30-34, 157/355 O/A
01:08 improvement over 2010

I wouldn't know it until later, but I'd knocked 01:39 off my Woodstock swim time without having set foot in open water since. I just concerned myself with trying to stir myself into a run to get to transition and greatly appreciating the change for 2012 that meant we didn't have to run on a section of gravel anymore.

Run up: 01:55
00:54 improvement over 2010 (slightly different route)

T1 felt glacially slow, but I remained deliberate and managed to get through without forgetting anything - better to take an extra second or two to do things right the first time. Off the rack, out through the arch and to the mount line with no real issues aside from a very slow-moving brain.

T1: 01:20
00:03 improvement over 2010

For once I had no issues at the mount line - I'd racked my bike with the left pedal up, about halfway down the 12-25 cassette in the small ring. I clipped in easily and immediately spun up to just over 105rpm as I made my way through the residential area around the arena, then shifted to the big ring as my legs started to respond and I neared the tunnel on Canal Bank Street. I even managed to start my cycle computer just after mounting! If I wanted to break an hour, I'd have to average a little more than 30kph to account for the time running between the mount line and the timing mat at the bike in/out arch, which meant I'd have to complete each 5k section in under 10mins.

Artist's conception.

I was a little ahead of 10mins coming through the 5k mark and feeling strong with glutes firing well to put out power. I took a swig of EFS liquid shot (Kona Mocha mixed with Vanilla for a vanilla latte concoction - noms!) and kept drinking while I passed and was passed. I had banked a little more than a minute through 10k, reveling in the light winds and sunshine - it was such a beautiful day to be racing that I couldn't keep a smile off my face, especially seeing the legions of water lilies in full bloom on the old canal along Feeder Rd. I made it through the turn-around and took another half-serving of EFS liquid shot as I faced a minor headwind, my only thought to keep on pushing as I'd now banked almost 2 minutes.

Gorgeous day for racing.

I saw Cathy just after the turn around and gave her a cheer - despite my head start (as the first duathlon run takes longer and starts later than the tri) she was right on my heels! I was starting to have a little more difficulty keeping my hips rolled forward, which made me a little more uncomfortable in the saddle - symptom of not having spent nearly enough time on Dolph this year. The rough pavement on the longest part of Feeder Road wasn't helping, but I kept cranking away and had 3mins banked by the time I took one more full dose of EFS liquid shot at the 25k mark.


Coming back through the tunnel and into the residential area, I shifted to an easier gear to spin out my legs a bit - they had been complaining, but I hadn't been listening. I hoped I hadn't overcooked the bike too much, as the day had warmed up quite a bit and I'd have my hands full just trying to cope with the heat without having to worry about dead legs! As I approached the dismount line, I saw my cycle computer just tick over 56 minutes - even if I badly flubbed hopping off and walked to the mat, I should still be under the hour mark.

Tanker gets the award for "most awkward-looking photo".

30km bike: 56:32 @ 31.8kph. 4/16 in W30-34, 175/355 O/A.
03:38 improvement over 2010. 

T2 went ok; nothing really remarkable, though my glutes and hamstrings complained loudly when I bent over to put on my tri loafers. I managed to stir myself into something approaching a run and get moving toward the transition exit, but I felt like I was moving through treacle.

T2: 1:03
00:09 improvement over 2010, 2nd fastest ever.

They had changed the run course routing at some point in the last 2 years so that there are now two out-and-back sections rather than just a single turn-around. I prefer the simpler course, but since the route was so well marked it didn't make that much of a difference. I spent a lot of time doing furious math to see what I would have needed to swim and what I'd need to run in order to go sub-2 hours with the sub-57min bike my cycle computer had shown.

Hot and sweaty.

I did my best to limit the effects of the heat and sun by sipping a bit of water at every aid station and dumping the rest on my chest and back. I know I took a cup of HEED at one of them (and managed to remember NOT to dump it over my head - hooray!), but can't for the life of me remember which. I saw Cathy just after the first turn-around, gave her a high five and told her she was about to catch me - lucky for me the duathlon 2nd run isn't as long as the run for the triathlon (5k vs. 7.5k), and I just barely managed to pass the du turn-around point before being overtaken.

T-rex impression redux.

Most of the run is just a blur in my memory now - I thanked all of the volunteers, smiled and gave high fives to a few people, and death whistled my way along in the sunshine. I do remember hearing someone coming up behind me at the second turn-around, so I told him to take the inside line as I went wide around the pylon; no point in both of us ending up in a heap of tangled arms and legs! I had my usual moment, somewhere around the halfway point, asking myself why the heck I sign up for this kind of abuse...but then pushed onward, knowing that I do it because I love it, and had a particularly good reason to do the best I could today. 

Back across the canal and into the final stretch, I dug to my toes to see if I could find any kick in there for the finish line and came up with just a little extra. I laid it all on, hoping like crazy I would see something less than 2:09:xx on the clock as I approached. To my delight, as I spent the last drop of my "go" in the chute, the clock had just ticked over 2:07:00!

Thanks for the push, Dad!

Final time: 1:57:22.6. 5/16 in W30-34, 54/148 Women, 187/355 O/A
06:58 improvement over 2010.

I could barely stay on my feet as I was offered a bottle of water and had my chip removed by volunteers, and got my handshake from John Salt. Fortunately, as I stumbled in a daze out of the chute my sweet, faithful sherpa found me and put up with my little moment of cockiness as I said "that's what sub 2 hours looks like". We hung around for the awards and draw prizes and said hello to a few other people whom we know that had come out, but my head wasn't really in it - all I could think of was my Dad, and how I hoped I'd done him proud.

Cathy and I after the race.

Tanker and I - I'd be lost without you, sweetheart!

1 comment:

  1. Amazing Blog. You are very inspiring. I too am doing Gravenhust again this year but my training has slipped a bit this year. Recently divorced, house up for sale, and 2 deaths in my family as well have my emotions up and down. Thanks for sharing. Sorry to hear about your father's passing but I'm sure he was with you the whole race. Great result! I finished Gravenhurst at the bottom of the pack last killed me, but hope to make some improvements this year. Keep up the great work. Cathy


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