|Our hotel is dead centre of the arch in this pic.|
|Seen on the walk from the parking lot to transition on race morning.|
I love Muskoka.
|Setting up transition, examining one of the patched nicks in my wetsuit.|
|Our pimpin' rides to the swim start.|
Donning my wetsuit during the pre-race meeting (even remembering to use BodyGlide on my neck!), I wandered down to the pier with Tanker and got him to zip me up before I got on the boat. We have a method of stuffing me into my suit that gives my shoulders more maneuverability, so I didn't want to trust just anyone with the task. I boarded the RMS Wenonah II and walked up to the foredeck to wave goodbye to my sweetheart before we headed out onto the lake.
|Yeah, sure. Ready. Whatever.|
I zipped a few other people's suits up for them, and then it was time to line up to jump off the boat into the water. I left my goggles off until the last minute, as I planned to spit in them, put them on my face (under my cap), then jump in and give them a rinse in the lake. This all went reasonably well, but the drop from the side of the boat was a little further than I'd expected (sure looked like more than 6' from the ledge) and I should have plugged my nose rather than just holding my goggles on my face - I didn't enjoy that snootful of water. I would also discover after the race had ended that the bottom of my right calf sleeve got rolled up a bit as I jumped in, though that wasn't nearly as unpleasant a sensation as inhaling part of Lake Muskoka.
|Blowing a kiss to my sherpa.|
We had a few minutes before start time, so I decided to try to warm up a bit - swam maybe 50m before heading up to the offshore side of the start line buoys. I wasn't really nervous, but I wasn't feeling terribly comfortable, either - just unsure about how the day would go. Being in the 3rd wave, we were set to start at 08:40, but my watch was back on land with Tanker so I had to rely on the "X minute warning" announcements.
|Leaving the dock.|
Soon enough, the Wenonah II blew her steam whistle and all the women under 45 years of age set off in a mass of pink swim caps. I rapidly felt some contact with other swimmers, but found some clear water...as I swam rather badly off-course, ending up headbutting one of the guards on her board. I had pulled badly off to the left, and had to swim back about 30m to the buoy line. Great.
I made it back and ended up in another pack of swimmers from my wave, only to be kicked in the jaw and elbowed in the left eye. Nature of the game and all, but not much fun. My left calf tried cramping up on me a bit, but it calmed down again with a bit of focus. I finally made it to the left turn into shore, started swimming away, and then found myself badly off-course again. This time I'd pulled off to the right, heading for the wrong side of the spit of land by the wharf - thank gawd for the banana buoys! Still seemed unfair that I either had clear water and poor direction, or was on course and getting beaten up.
|Swimmers coming in to the dock.|
Back I turned to try to get in a decent line again, but I'd spend the rest of the swim pulling slightly to the right, having to correct several times. It wasn't until the last 200m or so that I finally seemed to start swimming in a straight line and pick up a bit of speed; I wasn't swimming badly beforehand (navigation issues aside), but I had trouble finding a comfortable rhythm. Still, considering most of my recent training swims had only been about the same distance as the race course, I can't complain about the results - I was able to conserve some energy and still swim reasonably well. I was a bit lightheaded coming up the ladder at the dock, but able to push myself into a run fairly easily; not bad for probably having swum an extra 100-150m. Apparently, I led a small pack out of the water.
Holy crap, I beat some people!
1,500m swim: 34:19 @ 2:17/100m. 14/22 in W30-34, 166/283 O/A.
The run to T1 is a long one in Gravenhurst, and I'd been warned that the dock was slippery, so I just focused on a light stride and didn't bother myself about the couple of people who passed me. I managed not to fall on my face turning into the transition area (the timing mats were slippery, but thankfully the volunteers warned me about it), found my bike easily in its fairly prime rack spot, and methodically went about getting myself ready for the bike. I was glad I'd left Dolph in the small ring and quite a large cog, as the start of the bike was a moderate climb, but I realised I'd forgotten to place the left pedal at the 10 o'clock position for easy mounting. In a turn of good luck, it happened to be sitting in perfect position anyway, so I was pretty happy until I left the grassy field of the transition area - I'd changed to a new set of cleats for this race (still Look Keo Grip greys), and they actually seemed to be more slippery for running than the old, worn-out ones!
|Don't slip don't slip don't slip!|
Mounting just after the line, I had a bit of trouble getting clipped in, but just started pedaling anyway. I did manage to get everything sorted before I hit the meat of the climb, which took an immediate toll on my legs - I could tell this wasn't going to be any kind of earth-shattering performance. Thinking of every hill repeat I'd done this year on my tri bike (total: zero), all I hoped was that I'd be able to make it through before Tanker got too bored waiting for me and wandered off.
|How long do I have to run with this thing before I can ride it?|
The bike course is stunningly beautiful, but as with so many scenic roads the pavement is bloody awful. So horrible, in fact, that before the 5k mark I'd changed my goal from trying to salvage some dignity to merely trying to make it through the bike safely. I also paid attention to hydration, as it was already getting hot and the sun was laying it on full force. Passing the 5k mark in 11mins, I took a shot of my EFS Kona Mocha/Vanilla blend and just tried to keep hammering as best I could. I'd already had to get out of the saddle to climb a short, sharp hill, and this was looking like a "lite" version of the Muskoka Long Course bike.
I took another shot of gel at 15k and kept pushing, and then a thought struck me as my motivation was wavering; when I'd been out running on Friday night I had seen a little ice cream counter called "Two Scoops" that advertised the legendary Kawartha Dairy ice cream. As soon as I was done racing and we got back to the motel, we were going to walk up there and have my first taste of ice cream since September 2011. All of a sudden, motivation came surging back, though I can't say it was accompanied by any increase in speed. I thanked all of the volunteers and police officers, and soldiered onward.
Through the turn-around at 20k in 44mins, it was looking like close to 1:30:00 for the bike, which would make it tough to go sub-3 for the race since I knew my swim had been a bit slow and the run was going to be very hot and punishing. All I could do is keep turning the pedals over, trying to ignore a growing ache in my left hip and glute - I suspect when I changed out my cleats on Wednesday night before the race I mis-aligned the left one (despite having traced around the old one with marker to try to avoid this exact problem), and it was tweaking things a bit. Still, it was tolerable, and it's not like I was going to get off and walk.
|Waving and saying hello to my sweetheart.|
Further shots of EFS at 25k and 35k to keep the fuel flowing, and then tucking the one remaining shot in my flask into the back pocket of my tri suit for the run, I rolled on back toward transition while drinking in the beautiful scenery. I spotted Tanker in a shady spot on Muskoka Beach Road; we had brought his cyclocross bike along with us on the Gran Fondo rack so he could cycle a bit of the course, as he'd heard just how pretty it was and wanted to see for himself. A nice lift with 3k left to go!
Coming back into the residential area, we wound our way through tight streets and I found myself among a few other athletes. Turning into the coned-off lane to the dismount line - a no-passing zone - I was on the brakes hard trying to stay back when I actually heard someone on the sidelines (a Triathlon Ontario official?) comment "Is that 5 metres ladies? It looks a little tight". Miffed at being accused of drafting when I was trying my damndest not to run over the timid descenders in front of me did nothing for my sense of humour, but I managed to dismount safely in spite of people stopping right in front of me and made the run through the enormous transition area to my rack.
40km bike: 1:25:16 @ 28.1kph. 14/22 in W30-34, 219/283 O/A.
My left hip and glute were still very achy as I ran into transition, and I hoped they wouldn't be too much of a liability on the run course - I'd have my work cut out for me just hauling my fat butt up the hills about which I'd been warned as the sun and 30c heat tried to melt me into a puddle. I moved reasonably efficiently through changing from bike shoes to run shoes and ditching my helmet for my running hat, but the sheer distance between the bike in and run out arches led to a very slow time.
Down a bit of fitness trail and up onto the road, the run course wastes no time in starting to beat you down. Most of the first kilometer is climbing up a winding road, the payoff for which is a flat and then a bit more rolling before I managed to snag a cup of HEED at the 1.5km aid station. As the reality of the day and the course set in, I abandoned all thoughts of going sub-3hrs and made one simple deal with myself: I'd run the whole thing. Dozens of athletes around me had dropped to a walk, even some of the obvious studs who were passing the 9k mark as I was still finishing my first kilometer. I know from experience that walking is addictive: once you start, you don't want to stop, and even if you manage to run again you're more likely to drop back to a walk once things get tough. If I could just keep running, I'd be satisfied, no matter how slow the pace.
With that in mind, I concentrated on my form and breath. I couldn't afford to start death whistling, and I'd need as much efficiency as I could muster to minimize the damage cause by the hills. I held back on the downhills to try to keep from tearing my quads apart, focused on driving with my knees on the uphills, shortened my stride as much as I could to stay as light on my feet as possible, and relied on my Compressport R2 calf sleeves to keep me from cramping up. I wanted to get in a bit of EFS Liquid Shot at the second aid station near the 3k mark, but instead of the two cups of water I requested I got nothing at all. The two young ladies (aged maybe 9 and 11 years) were a little overwhelmed, so no water for me. Bugger. Very glad I decided to run a bit more slowly in the effort to get every drop of HEED into me that I could at the first station, and I thanked the volunteers anyway though I must admit it came out rather sarcastically - I wasn't at my best.
There are times when you're faced with a decision: you can gut out some nastiness for no other reason than you're stubborn and take a sick pleasure in doing something that few in their right mind have any desire, or you can call it quits knowing that noone would really blame you. I'm not very good at the latter, so on I ran toward the aid station at 4.5km, still passing those at a walk but seldom being passed. I tried to muster some words of encouragement to those who looked like they were having a tough time, mostly to keep myself from thinking about how much I wanted to walk. I will say, though, that the kilometers seemed to tick by more quickly than I would have expected - I wondered if I'd even be able to break an hour for the 10k with the conditions, but didn't focus much on time, just on keeping my forward motion and not redlining myself. Oh, and swatting the deer flies that kept trying to bite me. That's right; I couldn't outrun a stinkin' fly.
Reaching the 4.5k aid station, I got my 2 cups of water at last. I drank a bit, had half a shot of EFS Kona Mocha/Vanilla, washed it down with the rest of the first cup of water and then dumped part of the second over my chest and the rest on my back. I'm far too chubby to have good thermoregulation in hot weather, but this helps immensely if there's even the slightest breeze. Rounding the turn-around marker and heading back, I got another cup of water at the 5.5k aid station, but only had a sip or two before dumping the rest on me. I came dangerously close to giving myself a sloshy stomach and let go of an enormous burp (that I thought might have come out much worse) as I climbed another sun-drenched hill, but that was the closest I came to any G.I. issues for the whole race. Small victory!
Reaching the 7k mark I got 2 more cups of water, but only had a sip or two before dousing myself with the rest. It was shortly after this point that I climbed a truly nasty hill that started me death whistling; while I'd tried to avoid it until then, I knew I could start to push a bit more now that I was nearly done and I managed to pass a few people with a bit of authority on that climb. I'd take every bit of ego boost I could find at that point! The duathlon turn-around point marked just 2.5k left to the finish, and it was going to be a near thing whether I made it or blew myself up. I had come to the realisation very early on in the run that there's a rather more significant difference between faking it through a 2 hour sprint race than trying to bluff a 3 hour olympic distance, but it looked like I might just get away with it.
|In sight of the finish.|
One cup of water, one sip, and a final drenching at 8.5km, then hitting the 9k mark and the long downhill toward the sports fields. I tried to keep some momentum as I came to the short rise of the fitness trail into the park, but the legs were protesting that they'd been ill used and wanted this ended at once. I tried to ignore them as I hit the grass, telling myself that it would be easier to run on the softer surface, and headed for the chute. I saw Tanker again and tried to open up my stride, pouring out whatever I still had in me as I finally caught sight of the finish line and clock. My wave had started 10mins after the beginning of the first wave, and the display showed 3:09:38 as I closed in - I ran for all I was worth, crossing at about 3:09:45 clock time and elated that I had managed to break 3 hours on such a tough course.
10k run: 58:48 @ 5:53/km. 10/22 in W30-34, 159/283 O/A.
Upon seeing my results, it became apparent that there was some difference either in the time my wave actually started, or in when the clock had commenced its count. I hadn't quite broken the 3 hour mark, but I was still more than 5mins faster than my first olympic distance tri on a much easier course (Wasaga Beach in 2010), and only about 5mins slower than my olympic distance PR on a similarly less challenging course (Lakeside in 2011). Considering the training I had (and more significantly hadn't) done, I am very pleased with the final result, and very satisfied with the effort I put in. It was a tough day and a murderous course that led to 13 DNFs overall, but I didn't let it defeat me.
|Can it stop being hot now?|
Back to the hotel room after a delicious Kawartha Dairy chocolate milk and a Hero burger, I spent some time recovering with the aid of my Compressport calf and quad sleeves, a cooler to put my feet up, and an ice-cold Magners before heading out with my sweetheart for an afternoon and evening of enjoying the gorgeous town of Gravenhurst!
|With the world's best sherpa, just before he packed up my transition area for me.|
|Obligatory climb on the big Muskoka chair.|
|Logdriver mural on the side of a building.|
|Not as lovely as the real thing.|
|Canadian Shield in a small park along Muskoka Road.|
The next morning we rounded out our delightful weekend in Muskoka by volunteering for the Give-it-a-Tri and Sprint races - I was back down to the wharf on Tanker's bike by 06:45 after a magnificent cup of House Dark on the patio of Oliver's Coffee, while my sweet husband got the car packed up and checked us out of our cozy little hotel room. I joined the water safety team for the morning and got to kayak the swim course for both Sunday races, even getting to act as personal escort for the final swimmers in both the GT12.9 and Sprint, then hopped back on the bike once we were done on the water to help out at the final run course aid station. I'll leave you with some of the photos I was able to capture of the morning by sticking my Blackberry in a baggie in my PFD - what a wonderful end to a sublime getaway!
|Coffee at Oliver's.|
|Joining the water safety team.|
|I'm in a boat.|
|Slowtwitch member Kentiger warming up and saying hi.|
|GT12.9 athletes getting ready to start,|
|The sprint swim course seen from the starting buoys.|
|The Segwun unloading the first wave of Sprint athletes,|
|The Wenonah II unloading as the first wave waits to start and the Segwun pulls away.|
|The first wave of the Sprint heading for shore.|
|The final aid station on the run course.|
|View behind our aid station.|
|Farewell Gravenhurst - we will indeed return!|