Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Woodstock Sprint Triathlon - May 25th, 2014

You know how sometimes you're positive a movie is going to suck, yet you still find yourself watching it anyway?

I got about 2.5hrs of broken sleep on Saturday night, which is coincidentally about the amount of training I did on Saturday during the day. A seriously poorly planned run on a very challenging trail had knackered me right out, so I knew better than to hope for much in the way of performance, but after waking up around 2.45am I just couldn't get back to sleep. I laid in bed until 5:45am, then got up to make myself breakfast.

Oh, joy - knee and back are already grumpy. I munched a half-toasted bagel and contemplated just going back to bed, but figured I'd already paid for the race. Got Tanker out of bed, loaded up all of my gear, grabbed coffee and buggered off to Woodstock - I'd just have to rely on pudding power.

It was cold. I got myself an end rack position, then apparently tried out some dance moves to warm up.

I have no idea what I'm doing here, so I'll just wave.

Now vogue.

I saw a few people I know, and said hello. Visited the portajohns a couple of times, and walked the swim-to-bike and bike-to-run paths I'd need to remember in order to find my stuff. I laid everything out in my usual methodical fashion, because my idiocy when racing knows no bounds. Proper setup = fewer chances to screw up.

The key is to outsmart myself in advance.
Unfortunately, I'm poorly equipped for the task.

With a half hour left before the start, I knew I had to get my wetsuit on and get in the frigid water. While the temperature near the shore was reported as 16c/61f, they'd taken a measurement out in the middle of the lake as well: 14c/57f. I almost wish they hadn't told me. Trust the chub indeed.

How the hell am I supposed to pack all this flub into this tiny thing?


I eventually managed to cram myself into my rubbery coating, then had to get Tanker to zip up both my trisuit and my wetsuit for me. In an unforeseen development, my left knee had decided it hated the pressure of the neoprene, and was even hurting while walking now. This was gonna be awesome!

Also: I did my own bodymarking, and it looks like I got drunker with every number.

Into the lake, and I'm starting to shiver before I'm even in far enough for the water to flow in through the bottom of the zipper. I get my cap & goggles on, then stick my hands and wrists into the water to try to acclimatize. With less than 20mins until the race start, I'm not feeling at all confident. No open water swimming has happened yet this year. I did manage to get to something resembling race weight and spent quite a bit of time working my suit into position, but it still feels very snug as it hasn't been stretched out since last September. Um, yeah totally nothing to do with being a little over race weight.

I'm supposed to put my face in this liquid ice?

So I swam about 100 metres out, then swam that same 100 metres back. I felt like crap. I didn't seem to be acclimatizing to the water - my face just kept feeling colder and my arms started to get tired. The whole "switch to duathlon" option that had been offered by the race directors was looking pretty attractive, but damnit I was going to do this thing even if I did it poorly. So, I stood near the edge of the water and shivered while the wave before mine went off.

Tell my why "race weight" is a good thing again?

With the elites and under-30 crowd safely well out in front, I lined up near the inside start buoy and got myself back down into the water. The sun was actually warming my black rubbery coating a bit, which was nice, but I didn't want the cold water coming back in through the zip and back of my neck to be too much of a shock once I actually had to start swimming.


There was a horn. There was splashing. I dolphin-dived in the direction of the distant green turn buoy and waved my arms and legs around a bunch. Forward motion happened. Really the swim was pretty uneventful: I got stuck behind rows of feet quite a few times and had to pop my head up to try to find a way 'round (lest I be kicked in the face), I got a couple of mouthfuls of lake water, I felt freakin' cold as I got out into deeper water. Fatigue set in, but I kept on thrashing about with as much vigour as I could muster and took to breathing every stroke cycle for a few moments here and there just to try to get maximum oxygen into me. Fortunately, my stupid knee was fine with actually swimming; it just didn't like walking in the wetsuit.

Despite my lack of recent open water experience and the breathing-every-second-stroke (which can tend to throw me off course), navigation actually went pretty well. I could go a dozen or so stroke cycles between sighting without doing the fabulous zig-zag that has plagued many of my prior triathlon swims. I came down right on top of each of the turn buoys and got 'round them fairly effectively. I was really tired by the time I hit the first one, but remembered that there's a mild current running toward the second turn since you're actually swimming toward the dam. By the time you make the second turn, you're almost done, right? This is what I kept telling myself. I did actually pass a bunch of people in my wave who went out a little more vigorously than they could sustain, and even a few poor souls from the first wave who were suffering from some combination of chilly water, lack of open water experience and/or swim fitness issues.

Body contact was pretty much at a minimum - I did some unintentional fondling of people's feet, narrowly avoided a kick to the face, and had one person about 50m away from the swim exit reach over my shoulder then grab on and pull back, like they were trying to climb overtop of me. I did not appreciate this, but they disappeared almost instantly. It seemed to take forever as I stroked into the loving embrace of the big yellow banana buoys before my hand finally touched down on the bottom, and as soon as I stood up I almost wished I could keep swimming; I was a bit woozy, and stumbled around like an idiot in the water as I tried to get the neck of my wetsuit undone. The hook and loop there is really, really solid and I did poorly - I should have been trying to run up to transition, but instead I was barely walking as I flailed around at the back of my head. Eventually it occurred to me that I should move, and managed to coax my legs into a shambling trot. 

(Official photo by My Sports Shooter)

Waving to Tanker while still kinda stuck in my suit
While it felt like I'd swam pretty well, the results would tell a different story.

750 swim: 16:34 @ 2:13/100m
01:19 slower than 2013

You'd think that giant arse would help with buoyancy

Still, I was actually 10/19 in my age group, so it seems like maybe it was a slow year for most people. At least it wasn't as bad as the 17:01 I'd done in 2012. Hell, at least I didn't drown!

Into T1, where things actually went pretty well - it actually didn't look like any bikes had departed from my area of the rack yet, which is generally a pretty good sign. After the initial fight with the neck my suit stripped right off; I even managed not to tear either of the bandages off the wounds on my knee in the process! While I was sucking wind like I'd never run a step in my life, I managed to be fairly methodical about throwing on my race belt, sunglasses, helmet and cycling shoes. The first shoe was a bit of a pain as the heel kind of folded on me, but other than that no worries. I took off at a lope toward the bike exit, and discovered that the only thing my stupid knee liked less than walking in a wetsuit was running with the bike.

T1: 1:22
:01 slower than 2013

I eventually made it to the mount line, though I was running far too quickly for the official photographers to catch me (ha!) despite having to switch hands from right to left on the saddle, 'cause that's something I always forget. I ran past the line a bit, then things started working for me: I had remembered (for once) to rack my bike with the non-drive side pedal up so it was super easy for me to step in, I had no problems getting my other foot clipped in, and I got my cycle computer started right away. I'd even racked in a reasonable gear for the huge climb (and my tired legs)! I sat up as I ground my way through the gravel-strewn 160 degree turn, then up the big hill and out of the park, thanking the volunteers along the way.

Finding my way to flatter ground and sipping from my aero bottle full of eLoad sport drink, I did actually make it into the big ring and managed to stay there for most of the bike course. I was getting passed a lot, but I was doing some passing as well, and some of the people I passed weren't even on mountain bikes. My legs didn't have a whole lot, but at least the wind was fairly light and it was a nice day. I couldn't properly feel my feet, but that's nothing new - after doing Lakeside a couple of times, you kind of get inured to extremities being numbed by cold. I made it through the first 5k in about 11:3X - not great, but there is that big steenkin' hill.

So I'm riding along and a couple of vehicles come past me - a car and a red pickup truck. I don't know what is going on ahead of them, but they slow down a lot and this truck is taking up the whole lane. I have to slow in behind him because there's no way I can get past safely. Oh, ok - a car seems to have been turning off ahead. Now they're out of the way I should be good, as the truck has picked up speed again. Then he slows again, and I'm right along side him, petrified I'm going to get run off the road. He picks up some more speed, gets ahead of me, and then gets stopped at the intersection where the course turns right to head to the turn-around. Of course the police have stopped him to let other, faster athletes make their turns to head back to the race site...but this bugger has stopped RIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE ROAD. There's maybe an inch between his wheel and the pavement, which is bordered by a couple of feet of deep poured gravel. Even when I'm not getting over a high-velocity rendez-vous with a car hood, I wouldn't attempt cyclocross with my tri bike. So, myself and at least 3 other athletes were forced to brake hard, unclip, and dab our way through the gravel to make the turn.

Because I really needed something else to slow me down.
Once I got past the turning, I had to stomp pretty hard to get pedals turning again - I'd been pushing a decent-sized gear when all this happened and was more concerned with getting out of aero and on the brakes than downshifting. Damn my sense of self-preservation! I eventually settled back in, but my quads were now talking pretty loudly. I finally made the turn-around at 10k, took it rather gingerly to avoid any mishaps, and headed back toward Pittock.

The rest of the ride was without incident, despite a couple of people nearly getting a mouthful of my rear wheel because they couldn't be stuffed to give any sign they were coming up to pass as I tried to avoid cracks or stones on the road. I sipped my eLoad, cursed the rising wind, thanked the police & volunteers and managed to reel in a couple more people. Finally hitting the downhill into the park, I was aghast as I watched a female athlete ahead of me pass another competitor in the (highly emphasized by race staff) NO PASSING ZONE coming up to the 160 degree turn. I yelled at them, but they probably didn't hear me and clearly had no regard for other racers anyway. 

So I hid behind a sign.

I slowed right down for the sharp curve, only to discover the gravel was gone - Tanker told me later that he and some race staff had done some hard work with brooms to clean it up. Thanks babe! In any case, I came in toward the dismount line at a leisurely pace, and carefully unclipped before swinging my leg over the saddle (which made my back complain a bit) just in time to watch the racer directly ahead of me crater, both he and his bike doing an unceremonious flip. I decided to come almost to a stop before stepping down, as I'd only rode my tri bike one other time so far in the last 8 months - I made it without incident, asked if the other fellow was ok (he assured me he was fine, and was getting back to his feet), and trundled off toward transition. I was seriously fatigued by this point, and knew I wouldn't have much left for the final leg.

Not pro, but I remained the right way up.

20k bike: 44:57 @ 26.8kph
0:31 slower than 2013 

It actually looks like I'm running!

My knee screamed bloody murder as I ran down the slope toward my gear, pleased to find that my end of the rack was still mostly empty by the time I got there - I must have been among a bunch of duathletes or something, as this was totally false reassurance. I hung the bike by the brake levers, whipped off shoes and helmet, and managed to slip into my tri loafers without much trouble. I'd actually had a secret fear about T2: my right big toenail is currently hanging on by a thread, and the 2nd toenail is also in pretty poor condition. I'd been having visions of trying to slip on my laceless shoes in transition and flipping one or both of them back, potentially tearing them right off as I collapsed into a heap of screaming pain.

This did not happen. That's about the only good thing that can be said for the rest of the race.

T2: 1:01
0:08 slower than 2013

Off I went to meet my fate on the run course. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the heat was definitely building. Just getting to the run exit and putting on my hat was a trial, then I had to run up the rise to the double-track driveway out to the dam, directly into the ever-stronger wind. It took me about a week and a half to make it to the 1km marker.

I was death whistling. I was hot. I felt fat and out of shape.

None of this improved.

Somehow I made it across the dam, then had to endure the horrible pain in my knee as I descended on the trail along the river. I couldn't open my stride at all - it just hurt too damn much. I just minced on down, then kept on trucking as best I could. The heat was really oppressive, and I just wanted to be done. I made the climb up to the road without walking (which is a bloody big victory, given how I was feeling), then trotted up the false flat to the turn-around and headed back toward the finish line, smelling Lily of the Valley growing along the road as I gasped for air.

Don't let the smile fool you.

Reaching the gate to the trail again, I grabbed a cup of HEED from a volunteer, had a sip, then chucked the cup and concentrated on getting down the hill without wrecking my poor idiot knee. All too quickly, the sharp climb up to the dam hove into view, and I just barely managed to make it up without walking...though I might have been faster if I did.

Across the dam once more, I actually started to feel just a little bit like I was able to run - the death whistling didn't stop and I still felt fat and out of shape, but at least I seemed to be making a bit of progress.

And t-rexing like friggin' crazy.
Of course, with only 1k left to go, finding my legs at last wasn't going to do me a whole lot of good. I finally made it to the last turn to the finish, hit the downhill and saw 1:32:xx on the clock. With absolutely no kick at all I waddled across the line and got my handshake from MultiSport Canada race director John Salt.

At least my suit is stylish.
5k run: 29:03 @ 5:49/km
0:10 faster than 2013
(I always run like crap at Woodstock)

Just enough wherewithal to flash the ill advised racing gang sign.
(Official photo from My Sports Shooter)

Total time: 1:32:55 - 16/19 in W35-39, 58/84 Women, 224/281 O/A

I wasn't feeling too bad about being 01:50 slower than 2013, until I saw the results - that lousy swim time burns me, since I've really been doing quite well in the pool and at races over the last year, and it's never a joy to find out you're in the bottom of your age group, gender AND overall. It's not like I had delusions of making the podium, but man, knowing that I could only beat 20% of the field (some of whom really were on mountain and hybrid bikes or swimming without wetsuits) kinda blows. I could whine about losing 30s-1min from the truck cutting me off, but at the end of the day you race what the conditions give you. It's also a matter of who shows up - looks like last year the same overall time would have got me 7/15 in the W35-39 age group and 48/94 women. At least this wasn't a race I'd spent months building for, though some day I really am going to put more focus on it and crack 90mins here.

I'd have liked to do the Vanderkitten suit a little more justice.

Nonetheless, it made for a decent training day, and all of the non-fitness stuff actually went pretty well - just not enough fat to keep me warm on the swim, but too much to haul around on the run. I'm not doing another full tri (some stand-alone running or cycling, then a relay with Tanker) until Mine Over Matter in July, though, so now it's time to dig in and build some fitness so the rest of the season can be a little less of a let-down. 

Fortunately my incredible fan club doesn't judge me by my results.

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