Awoke to pouring rain outside our hotel in Collingwood, with our new Gore-Tex rain jackets conveniently packed in the laundry room at home. The forecast had been clear 48hrs prior when I last looked.
|Rather less clear.|
|Not an encouraging start.|
The owners of the hotel were kind enough to lend us some stylish Niagara Falls souvenir rainwear when I called and asked for a couple of garbage bags to make ourselves some hobo ponchos. The difference: we had hoods!
|Getting a lot of use out of that hood, I tell ya.|
We got Café Mochas and made it to the race site with plenty of time, despite a couple of flubbed turns. I had lots of time to go through the new bike check-in procedure (with wrist and bike bands to ensure no stolen steeds), get myself ready, and even boogie a little.
|World's worst go-go dancer.|
Pre-race talk done as I stuffed myself into my wetsuit one last time for the season, and I was pretty relaxed - I was just out to enjoy the day, and the rain was part of that. Through five full seasons of triathlon this was only the second time I'd had to deal with foul weather (the other being my first tri ever), so I couldn't possibly complain! The poncho and a hoodie were enough to keep me warm up until the start, and I felt awful for the people who were doing the swim without a wetsuit.
|That's a river. On a beach.|
Into the water, I got a couple of hundred metres of warmup in before heading back to the beach for the start; my first open water swimming since Belwood back in mid-July. While the water was chilly and I had a bit of that fatigue that always accompanies the first 200-300 set of a swim, my suit and stroke felt pretty good and I know I've been strong in the water this year. In any case, I'd just go out easy and see what the morning held.
|Other than rubbery dorks.|
The rain stopped not long before the first wave went off. I was the the 4th wave, in a stylish pink cap (again!), as MultiSport Canada was trying a new concept: seeding by predicted finish time. I'd estimated I'd probably go about 3:05:xx (with little bike training and no real taper to speak of), so I was in the 2:52:xx-3:09:xx category - the theory is that you end up with fewer people swimming over you or passing on the bike, plus you're more likely to be racing the person next to you. I can't say I found that much difference. I did, however, realise that I'd forgotten to apply BodyGlide to the back of my neck - since it was up in my bag in transition and I'd no hope of retrieving it before the start, I'd just have to hope I wouldn't end up with a wetsuit hickey.
After a final kiss from Tank my wave set off, and I had fairly clear water for most of the swim, partly because I refused to kill myself running through the sand bars and mostly just plodded and dolphin dived - I didn't want to spike my heart rate too much off the hop. There was a bit of a ground swell running that meant you could either sight really well (if you timed it right and hit the crest of a roller) or bloody poorly (if you were in the trough). I got a good rhythm going and seemed to be swimming fairly straight, though it felt very slow. Wasaga Beach is a bit deceptive like that; the water is incredibly clear, and you can see the little ripples in the sand all the way out to the far turn buoys, where the depth is at least 15 feet. Since the bottom drops away almost imperceptibly, it seems as though the ripples pass beneath you slower and slower as you swim out from the shore. With no landmarks except the buoys to give you perspective, it can trick your mind into thinking you're hardly moving at all.
I was, however, passing people from my initial position at the rear of the wave. I ran into some feet near the second turn buoy after a fairly uneventful swim out, and got a bit stuck behind a couple of ladies until I managed to power past and make my turn toward the shore. My navigation had been excellent, and I passed within a metre or so of each buoy - now into the final stretch, I used the big yellow awnings of the building by the swim exit as my landmark and continued to scoot past others. My calves gave some warning that they weren't liking the chilly water - they tried to cramp a bit, and I had no choice but to dorsiflex my feet to ward them off, but it resolved without incident or too much loss of speed. I was able to nearly surf the swell now, and as I reached the shallows it was astonishing to see how quickly the ripples zipped past beneath me. I swam on until I was in less than 2 feet of water, actually pulling myself along the bottom with my hands before standing on what turned out to be the second last sand bar.
|I believe I can fly!|
Wading in, I decided I was done swimming so started to unzip my wetsuit, when I stepped down off the sandbar into waist-deep water again. With my goggles pulled up and my suit undone, I wasn't going to dolphin dive, so I just plodded along for the 8 or 10 feet to the final sandbar and finally picked it up to a bit of a run as the water receded to calf and then ankle level. By the time I hit the timing mat I was in full stride with the top of my suit off, headed for the run-up to T1.
|Obligatory haggard post-swim photo.|
1,500m swim: 30:31 @ 2:02/100m
3rd in W30-34 - PR at Olympic distance by 01:18
The run to transition is a bit nasty, as you have to hop a curb and then run up a sharply ramped bit of pavement, through the fenced-off entryway, then pull a sharp turn to get to my rack position. I was gasping a bit as I made the swim entrance, but knew I could catch my breath at my bike a bit as I changed.
I managed to stomp my way out of my wetsuit easily enough, then donned my helmet, glasses and race number belt. I told Tanker I love him, then started to run with my bike...the stupid way. Remember that whole thing at Woodstock when I tried to lead Dolph along by the stem? Yeah, did that again. I remembered about halfway to the bike exit (which was only about 30 feet from my rack position) and shifted to a grip on the saddle. Stupid tridork! At least I didn't get my hand caught this time.
|Time to get moving.|
T1: a leisurely 01:40
Either someone hit my bike or I managed to mess up the careful preparation of my crank I'd done when I racked, as the left pedal was not at the 10 o'clock position as I'd placed it. In any case, I got it spun 'round to where I wanted it after running a bit past the line to get out of people's way, saw a friend shooting photos at the mount line (and I swear he yelled "NOOB" at me, which is totally legit), and got the hell on with it. I even managed to start my cycle computer, then twist the mount around on the stem so it was in its proper position again after my idiocy in T1. I was feeling pretty good despite the rain starting up again, and had every intention of just cruising through the bike leg - my only goal was not to crash out, since I have so much invested in the Toad 50k next month. A number of people passed me, and I just let them go with no motivation to chase. I did pass one or two, giving lots of warning as I did so. I don't want to see anyone hurt!
Finding my stride after all the corners and the hairpin turn-around of the out-and-back section at the start of the course, I took a sip off my flask of EFS Liquid Shot around 10mins in, then passed the 5k marker shortly thereafter. I passed a couple of people fixing flats on the side of the road, making sure to ask if they were ok as I did so and happily seeing no injuries. I heard a strange noise from my bike, then realized it was my check-in band flapping; the sticky end had been wet when I'd put it on, and it hadn't adhered, so I tried to tuck it in and re-stick it so I wouldn't lose it. I'd shifted up through the gears to the big ring as I got my legs spinning, and despite my cadence sensor not reading (magnet out of position, I'm sure) I felt like I was rolling well. I was almost at 9k as I turned Northwest and hit the first real hill on the course: a short, sharp little thing on the way up to Crossland Rd/29. Shifting back to the small ring and keeping the cadence high, I tried to carry some speed into the start of the hill as I watched the people ahead stand to grind out the last of the grade. The tension on the pedals mounted, and I shifted to larger and larger cogs as the nose of my bike went vertical, then suddenly my legs spun furiously as all resistance disappeared! Shit, I'd dropped my chain!
I managed to unclip from my pedal, brake gently and set a foot down, then looked at the crank expecting to see the chain sitting on the bottom bracket shell. Nothing there. What the hell? I looked back at the cassette and saw with a sinking heart that the chain was loose and dragging on the ground behind the rear derailleur cage - I'd managed to snap it, and had no replacement. My race was over. We'll just go with the idea that I was putting out too much raw power for a mere chain to withstand. Damn it, stop laughing! It could happen..
|Well there's your problem.|
Other athletes passed me, with a heart-warming number of them checking to ensure I was ok. All of them groaned and commiserated with me when they heard I was fine, but wouldn't be finishing the bike leg. I took a couple of sips of water and counted my blessings: the chain hadn't whipped forward and taken a bite out of my leg (people have lost chunks of calf muscle that way), nor had it got caught in the spokes of the rear wheel and sent me sailing headfirst toward some real-world testing of aerohelmet safety standards. I'd even managed to get stopped without incident instead of falling over like an idiot! As I waited for a race vehicle to come along, I just had to laugh and be thankful that I hadn't really put too much of myself into this particular event. I noticed what looked like fog drifting from behind me, then realised it was actually steam pouring off me as I started to cool down from my efforts. It having been a fair while since I stopped and the stream of cyclists passing having petered out, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and set out on foot back toward the race site.
Of course, I'm a complete moron, so thinking that I didn't want the chain to get wrapped up any further I shouldered the bike and walked along carrying it for over a kilometer. Still no race vehicles in sight, and the chain was banging against the spokes, so I set the bike down and wrapped it over the cassette before experimentally rolling it a foot or so...which of course didn't move the cassette at all. That's what "freewheel hub" means, dummy. With a bit of a slap to my forehead I continued to walk back toward the start wheeling the bike along by the saddle, wondering if I could still pin this stupidity on racer brain. I can't say that I was even angry, though; in 20 prior multisport races I'd never suffered a mechanical failure, so I can't complain when I do finally get one. Many others would trade their eye teeth for that kind of luck!
After walking about 2km back, I found two other fellows on the side of the road with their bikes, one of whom I had passed changing a flat earlier. Turns out they were both completely out of spares, having both suffered multiple flats, and were going to get a ride back with a local who had offered a lift in his pickup truck. This sounded like a damn sight better deal than walking all the way back in cycling shoes, so I loaded up with both of them, sat in the box of the pickup to stabilize the bikes, and ducked down below the cab of the truck to try to keep from freezing to death - it was windy and I was still soaked, though the rain had stopped again.
Spotting Tanker by the dismount line, I yelled to him that I was ok (absolute necessity after my only other DNF!), but my chain had snapped. I'd also come to the conclusion that I was going to do the run anyway - after all, I was there to race, and only doing so for fun! I spoke to the Triathlon Ontario official, assured her I was unhurt, and eagerly accepted the offer to do the run - neither of the two other fellows with mechanicals seemed inclined to continue, though. I gave her my bib number so she could make sure the results reflected my technical DNF, handed my now-useless bike over to Tanker, then moseyed into transition to change up for the run.
|Hope my shoes don't fall apart..|
T2: 01:50, because why rush at this point?
Heading out on the course again, I found myself in the company of the super studs who would finish in the 2hour-2:15 range - it was amazing to watch them floating past me almost effortlessly, as though I was standing still. My legs felt good as I started to get into a nice stride, just smiling and enjoying the wonderful feeling of being alive and fit and able to push my own limits. I grabbed a cup of HEED from the first aid station - it had been awhile since that single shot of gel, though without a watch I couldn't tell how long, and I needed to hydrate a bit. The course had changed since the last time I was here in 2010 - the boardwalk and park sections were gone, in favour of a simple, boring P-shaped loop along Mosley with a brief tour around a block or two of beachside cottages. I got a cup of water at the furthest point of the course, then headed back to Beach Drive on a long false flat downhill, feeling really strong through 4.5km before the sharp downslope to beach level. Spotting Tanker, I asked him to take my sunglasses from me as I hit the turn-around - the day was still quite overcast and I didn't really need them, but didn't want to put them on top of my hat for fear of losing them.
|Cargo shorts dude is unimpressed.|
Out for loop number two, I was starting to fade a bit from my initial enthusiasm, and even caught a bit of a death whistle starting around the 6k mark. I tried to shut that down as I fiddled with my race number belt, which didn't want to sit still; it usually sets ok around my hips, but today despite tightening it up a bit it just wanted to fall down my butt. I just kept my legs turning over, keeping the effort high but sustainable and grabbing one last cup of HEED to see me through the final 4km. I pushed hard to the furthest point, cheering on other competitors as I passed them and loving the couple making lots of noise with a vuvuzela from their front porch, then let it all unwind on the false flat downhill of Mosley as I started to pant and gasp.
|Back in the air.|
|Still having fun.|
Hitting the final stretch on Beach Drive, my stride opened up automatically and I poured whatever I had left in me into the finish. There was a bit of kick there, but not much, until I finally hit the arch and went airborne for the camera. I wouldn't know it until later, but I'd actually run within less than 2mins of my open 10k PR from last May.
|Artist's conception since I've had this written for a couple of days now,|
but it's Wednesday and the on-course photographer's pics aren't yet posted.
10k run: 54:11 @ 5:25/km
5/7 in W30-34 - PR at Olympic distance by 02:41
This race felt like a test of character - first to toe the starting line at all in the cold rain, and then to continue on to do the run after the technical DNF from the snapped chain. I'd like to believe I passed, and that in this case, DNF stands for Did Not Fail. After all, you can't control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.
|Cold-blooded chain murderer!|