Monday, July 22, 2013

Belwood Triathlon Relay - Saturday, July 20th, 2013

When racing for fun alone, you'll always achieve your goals.

After some really horrific storms on Friday that did massive damage in our area, we crossed every available appendage in hopes the thunderstorms would clear out before race time as I slammed back a single meal replacement shake and fixed my suddenly re-broken watch strap with Krazy Glue. It didn't look that hot, though - a few drops of rain fell as we left to hit up Tim Hortons for Café Mochas and a couple of timbits for Tanker, and there were nasty looking clouds in the sky on the way out to Belwood Lake Conservation Area.

Aim for the clear spot!

Shouldn't he be watching the road?

Breaking up as we get closer.
By the time we arrived, picked up race kit and got ourselves set up, the sun had chased the clouds away and was rapidly starting to warm the air. Not, fortunately, to the sticky, sweltering mess that last week had been before the storms washed the heat and humidity from the air - it was shaping up to be a truly beautiful summer day. We breezed through setting up our transition site, chatted with a friend who was also competing in the relay division, and chuckled a bit at a girl who wandered into transition with no clue whatsoever of what she was doing - we did, of course, point her in the right direction, but it still amazes me that with race day information on the MultiSport Canada website and in the pre-race email freely available, some people just can't be stuffed to educate themselves.

Lack of sunglasses apparently turns me into a pirate.

I don't think we actually forgot anything!

Pre race business went smoothly as I sipped on a bottle of eLoad, and I was into my wetsuit in plenty of time to get a warmup swim in. Belwood Lake was very warm at 77f/25c so there was no need to acclimatize to cold water, but I needed to get my arms and shoulders working and let my heart rate get over that initial spike. Tanker zipped me into my wetsuit - which is fitting a fair bit looser these days - kissed me and sent me on my way down to the beach. Grand River Conservation had increased the flow through Shand Dam in the week prior to the race to ease flooding threats on the Grand River, causing in a 1 meter drop in the water level of Belwood Lake - the shore was a bit mucky as a result, and there was a lot of murk in the first few metres where swimmers' feet had churned up the silt. I got in, threw on goggles & cap, then swam out past the first orange buoy - I was feeling pretty good (despite a mouthful of water from a rescue boat wake as it headed out), and wanted to get at least 250m in, because I planned to swim fairly aggressively. Reckoning that the first leg was probably around 300m, swimming out to the halfway point would get me nicely limbered up. I made my way back in again with about 3mins before the first wave start, which would give me 11mins to try to keep loose as relays would be in the 3rd and final wave with the 50+ men and 40+ women.

The wave ahead setting off - photo credit My Sports Shooter.

Clapping and cheering as the first two waves set out, I swung my arms around a little and got a great heads up from one of the course photographers - the mats they'd laid down to cover the gravel run-up to transition from the swim exit concealed some small potholes and other tripping hazards, so I'd have to watch my footing so I didn't take a spill or roll an ankle. I thanked Bob for the warning and then waded down into the water, noting that most people had wandered out a few feet past the two green buoys that were the official start line. I stayed behind, partly because I'd rather pass people than have them swim over me, and partly because I play by the rules. I felt awful for a young man who set out just a minute or so before my wave - he was in a red cap, which denoted he was supposed to be in wave 1, and he was starting with a 7min disadvantage! There are advantages to arriving early.

Soon enough, the horn sounded to send us on our way and I quickly settled into a good rhythm. It was a relatively small field and I was able to swim without much contact, but I did find myself on a decent set of feet in the first few yards; they seemed to disappear after 50m or so, though. I sighted on the first orange buoy, which looked an awfully long way away, but reassured myself I'd already been there and back - in fact, had already done 1/3 of the total swim distance as warmup. I just kept my turnover steady, aiming to swim at what would be a comfortable pace for 400m and just try to hang on through the latter half. My strategy seemed to work fairly well, and my navigation was bang on - I was passing a lot of people and came down squarely on top of the first green buoy, seeing some yellow caps from wave 2 as I made the turn toward Shand Dam.

The wind was starting to pick up a bit, but I had it at my back as I crossed the shortest leg of the course and made the final turn to head for the shore again. I was starting to tire a bit, and realised that my form was coming apart as a result - I focused on really pulling with my lats and pushing my chest down, but it seemed to take forever to crawl my way along past the dam itself. I had really clear, open water at this point; all of the feet I had tried to follow had dropped away, so it was a solo effort into the finish. I tried to bring it in strong despite the overwhelming fatigue as I pulled toward the big yellow sausage buoys guiding me toward the swim exit, only standing up once I couldn't take a stroke without bottoming out. It was tough to hang on with the pace I'd set myself off the start, but the official race photos show me as 9th out of water in my wave, so mission accomplished!

How sad is it that this is the most flattering photo ever taken of me on the way to T1?
750m swim: 15:39 @ 2:05/100m (incl. run to T1) - 4/6 in Relay divison

The run to transition is a long one here, or at least feels like it - I'd actually love to see MSC set up a second timing mat like they do in Welland to keep swim and run-up times separate, as I'm pretty sure I put in my fastest-paced swim ever here. If I allow 1min for the run-up itself (which seems reasonable), I actually clocked a 14:39 at 1:57/100m; a definite PR, and a far cry from my absolutely pathetic 2:48/100m fiasco when last we did this relay (as part of that other series) in 2011. I pulled off my cap and goggles, but didn't bother trying to unzip my suit - I'd have plenty of time for that once I'd "passed the baton". I met Tanker at the our rack spot after hauling my butt as fast as I could into transition, pulled the timing chip off my ankle and secured it around his, then sent him off with a pat on the bum to pedal his heart out on the bike course.

T1: 0:37 - 3/6 in Relay divison

With nothing but time on my hands, I stripped off my wetsuit in leisurely fashion and turned it right-side-out again before packing it, my cap and goggles into the wet compartment of my transition bag. I wasn't feeling all that hot - my belly was upset, and I had a bit of a headache. I suspected that the murky water had caused the former, and the latter often happens if I don't do a proper cool-down after a hard effort. I hoped both would resolve before I had to go run, or else I'd be sorely letting my sweetheart down. While Tanker cranked away on a brand new route, I took a moment to post an update on facebook and take narcissistic photos.

You know, like a typical triathlete.

There was also an osprey wheeling around overhead near the bike in/out that was a treat to watch, gliding gracefully through the air:

Photo credit My Sports Shooter.
Tanker tells me that the new bike course involves a few more hills than the old one, with some sustained climbs in the last third - it was also slightly long, with his cycle computer showing 30.5km afterward. The wind had whipped up a fair bit, too, and was directly in his face through the middle section. He put in an amazing effort, though, and got high fives from all of the police officers as he thanked them along the way!

Look at that guy killing himself to try to keep up!

At least the last few kilometers had a tailwind.

I drank the rest of the bottle of eLoad, changed into my running shoes, and did my run warmup trotting over to a portajohn (having been cleared by the Triathlon Ontario official to leave the transition area as I pleased) to relieve myself before Tanker came back on the bike. I watched in awe as the race leaders came flying through T2, and got to see the first few finishers come in from the tri and duathlon. Just to be on the safe side, I also downed an apple cinnamon Hammer gel about 15mins before I expected Tanker to come in - my unhappy belly and head were feeling ok, so I just had to hope legs and lungs were good to go. I did some high knees and butt kicks to stay loose, then managed to snap a pic of Tank as he came hauling in from an incredible ride!

I'm so proud of him!
30k bike: 1:07:51 @ 26.5kph - 4/6 in Relay division.

I stripped the chip off his ankle and strapped it back on mine, then with a quick kiss I was on my way out of transition and heading for the Elora Cataract Trailway.

T2: 0:40 - 3/6 in Relay division.

Strategy for the run was going to be similar to what I attempted in the swim - go out at what felt like a sustainable 5k pace and just try to hang on as long as possible. I hadn't put in a single run under 6:00 per kilometer since the Welland Half Iron 4 weeks beforehand, from which I'm not entirely sure I had recovered completely - I generally figure races of 60+mins take me about one week per hour of racing before I'm ready for another 100% effort, so I was about a fortnight shy. At least the course was nice and flat, and the day wasn't nearly so punishingly hot and humid as Welland had been!

A short out-and-back, then a longer one.

My legs actually felt pretty snappy as I headed out, so I had hopes of at least not embarrassing myself - well, any more than exposing my pasty white belly for all to behold. Maybe the real strategy was to blind the competition so they'd be unable to run; too bad it didn't work out, as I was passed like I was standing still by another relay team runner before I even managed to make it across the dam.

Do not look directly into the midsection without eye protection.
Also: the ill advised racing gang sign.

I was delighted to discover lots of shade on the course, and the wind that had been such a source of consternation for Tanker on the bike was actually doing a wonderful job of keeping the heat and humidity levels tolerable. I made the first turn-around feeling pretty good, bypassing the first aid station completely and heading out for the longer stretch of trail toward Fergus with the only little visible rise out of the way. I was starting to get very warm despite the breeze, so grabbed a cup of water at the second aid station and dumped all but a sip of it down my back.

Happiness in suffering.
By this time each kilometer marker seemed to be twice as far as the last one had been, and the death whistle kicked in at full force by kilometer 4. I had no idea exactly where the turn-around point would be, so was extremely happy when I finally saw the 5k marker on the other side of the trail as I knew it couldn't be much further. I convinced myself that I'd have a nice tailwind for the way back (not realizing that the trail curved so much), and redoubled my efforts to keep up the pace. I'd skipped the third aid station, but revisiting it after making the turn-around brought another sip of water to wet my mouth and a splash down my front to try to cool me down. 

I managed not to pee myself!
By the time I reached the 5k marker "for realz", my legs wanted to fall off and I'd have happily laid down in a shady ditch and taken a nice, long nap. My stride was going to hell, so I had to force myself to focus on leaning forward and using my glutes to push me along; flat courses challenge you to stay with the same muscle engagement for the duration, and some of the crushed limestone gravel on the trail was energy-suckingly soft. I kept telling myself that I only had 2km or so to go, and it was rather pleasing that I had been passing people throughout the entire course while only being passed once or twice. There are real advantages to having someone else do the bike leg while you take a bit of a rest! Eventually I made it back to Shand Dam, taking a brief look over the West side as I ran to take in the gorgeous view of the Grand River far below.

That looks far more comfortable than what I was doing.

Pushing with every last bit of energy I had, I tried to muster a bit of a kick for the finish, seeing 2:13:xx tick past on the clock as I gasped and wheezed. Finally my efforts were rewarded by the archway, the timing mats and my amazing husband cheering for me at the line.

I can haz collapse now?

7.5k run: 40:29 @ 5:24/km - 4/6 in Relay division.

I'd say it's pretty clear that my run wasn't up to much that day, as that's 13sec per kilometer slower than my open 10k pace last spring, but it's also one heck of a lot faster than I thought I'd manage. The only thing that really mattered was that we had great fun making our return to Belwood - so happy to have it back on the race calendar, and that we don't have to leave the MSC series to do it!

There's noone with whom I'd rather race!
Official time: 2:05:16 - 5/6 in Relay division.

After the race we scarfed down our Hero Burgers, then jammed out quickly to get on with the rest of our day...but that's a story for another time!


  1. Having competed in a road race Saturday and not being happy with my time, I resorted to the internet for some consolation. This is what I found: Run times can be expected to increase by as much as 10 percent with heat exceeding 85 degrees Fahrenheit... So your run was actually quite decent.


    1. Thanks for your consolation, John - I don't think I can claim it was quite that warm, but even a flat and well-groomed trail does result in slower times than the road. That's probably what got you, too, unless that baby hedgehog gave you the evil eye! Thanks for stopping by - that wasn't the Cambridge Highland Games 8k by chance, was it?


Go on, have at me!