Monday, July 21, 2014

Belwood Triathlon - Saturday, July 19th, 2014

What an odd outcome.

The day did not start off well. I woke up repeatedly through the night, got up tired with dead-feeling legs, was late waking Tanker up (though he did an admirable job of still getting us out the door and to the race venue on time), and just generally wasn't feeling it.

Arriving at Belwood Lake, they had us park in a different area than previous years; closer to transition is good, but wheeling my bike through dew-soaked grass led to a huge build-up of said grass on my wheels, jamming them. Ok, get that (mostly) sorted out, and hit the gravel instead.

The gravel sticks to the tires, and gets sucked into the rear wheel cut-out of the frame. Paint is scraped, and the wheel is jammed, and I'm about ready to go the hell back home to get some sleep. I decide I'm not giving up just yet, get into transition, and apply the combination of water bottle + microfibre towel to both wheels since the idiot sand & gravel got all over the brake tracks as well. I actually had to remove the front wheel completely in order to get all of the clumps of grass out of the fork, and all of this was wasting precious preparation time.

Un. Happy.

I finally got both wheels spinning free, had to adjust my speed sensor (which had got knocked in toward the wheel and was being hit by the magnet), then did the million other small tasks that need to be done pre-race: lay out transition gear, visit portajohn, put gel flask in bento box, fill aero bottle, pick up race kit, bodymark self, etc.

Add happiness.

Derping is optional, but pretty much a given in my case.

By 8:10am I had stuffed myself into my rubbery coating and wandered down to the water, where both swim entrance and exit were in different locations than prior years. I listened to the pre-race meeting from afar, then got Tanker the Wonder Sherpa to zip me up so I could try to get in a warm-up swim...hopefully without hurting myself this time.

Thumbs up for keeping all my teeth!

I waded. I swam. I still wasn't feeling it. Out to the first buoy, hang in the water while I re-adjust bits of my wetsuit, then back in with a seriously paranoid amount of sighting to make sure noone's skull was going to introduce itself into my life in painful fashion. I arrived safely back by the shore filled with unlimited amounts of meh. As I told Tanker, maybe next year for my birthday weekend I'll just get drunk instead.

I might still end up in a rubber suit, though.

So, having got stuck behind walls of slower swimmers at a couple of races this year, I decided I'd line up with noone ahead of me this time. The horn sounded, and we leapt into water-churning action, and I almost immediately found myself stuck between two people. Ah well, I just swam as best I could and tried to keep the mutual groping to a minimum.

Navigation went fine through the turn buoys, though I did have a bit of a confused moment rounding the first one and seeing what looked like a whole bunch of people from the first wave (red caps - elite athletes & under-30 age groupers) hanging around the second green buoy when I sighted on it from the first turn. It was actually a line of small, spherical red buoys serving as a warning in front of the intake for Shand Dam, but that wasn't immediately apparent.

It wasn't until about the mid-way point between the green buoys that I finally found some clear water - I'd been right in the thick of things, though mostly not impeded in my progress by anything other than my own lack of swimming skill. For all that I was pretty tired during my warm-up, I felt ok and just kept stroking away. As I made the final turn, though, the current running toward the dam (or fatigue and technique falling apart) seemed to be pulling me off to the right of the swim exit. I swear I spent the final hundred metres swimming at an angle about 45 degrees to my actual direction of travel, but I did eventually make it into the welcoming arms of the big yellow banana buoys.

Hey, I even beat some people!

750m swim: 15:50 @ 2:07/100m
4/12 in W35-39
(Slightly miffed they didn't separate the run-up time this year - I might've been under 2:00/100m)

Off at something in between a shamble and a run to transition, I had no problems getting my wetsuit unzipped and pulled down this time, and fortunately the sweeping job the race crew had done to the crushed limestone trail we had to cross was decently effective in eliminating sharp things to step on.

Jeez, it sure looks like I'm moving!

Transition went ok - no problems finding my bike or getting most of my gear on. I noticed that the blister dressing on my right foot had partially come off during the swim (still trying to heal the hole that Mine Over Matter chewed in my heel) and made a note to be careful when removing my new tri shoes so as not to tear it off before the run. First, however, I had to get the damn things on my feet; the left shoe didn't seem all that interested in the idea, but caved under a little persuasion. The right shoe seemed to understand that I meant business and slipped on just fine, so off I ran to the mount line.

T1: 01:38
1/12 in W35-39

All those cones - it's like 2nd grade bike rodeo all over again!

I'd left myself racked in a nice, easy gear, but even at that I had to wonder if I'd done a good enough job getting the wheels spinning freely as I rolled out of the conservation area. My legs felt like I was churning through mud! It was, however, just the usual sluggishness coming out of T1.

Smiling as Tanker yells encouragement

I didn't really know what to expect from the bike course, other than some pain since I'd only done 1 ride over 20km on my tri bike this year (and that was 6 days before the race). Tanker had said it was pretty, based on his experiences being our relay cyclist, but as for pavement quality or elevation change I didn't know anything other than it was the Fergus area (thus probably little of the former and a lot of the latter). I decided to keep it in the small ring and just spin away, enjoying some good speed through the first mostly-flat 5km and taking a sip off my gel flask.

I swear I did spend almost the entire bike leg in aero.

After 5k, though, things started to head upward. My speed, accordingly, plummeted. The downhill ride to the turn-around on the little extra section became an uphill, upwind slog and I seriously started to question my reasons for doing this stuff. There was a lot of passing happening, but I was mostly on the receiving end - I did manage to roll by a few people (some of whom were not even on mountain or hybrid bikes), but there were a lot more flying past me.

Another sip of gel around 15k, then relief at last from the headwind if not the hills. My legs would respond if I pushed them, but grumpily and with a tendency to slack back off as soon as possible. I didn't recognize any of the roads we were riding, but at least the pavement was decent, and the overcast day was still fairly mild. I'd have feeling in my feet to start the run (unlike at Lakeside), but I might not overheat. I was still having to put in a lot of effort on the hills, though, and was hearing the dreaded death whistle at times.

This pretty much sums it up.

There were some very pretty stretches, though, so Tanker was right in that respect. Coming up to around 24k I had one last sip of gel from my flask and things started to flatten out a bit, so I decided I'd throw it into the big ring and see what I could do. Oddly enough, my legs seemed to come alive at this point, and as I rounded the final corner onto Wellington County Road 18 I actually began to hammer along pretty well. I passed a couple more people, saw speeds in the upper 30s with the tailwind, and enjoyed cruising a familiar stretch through beautiful pine forest.

Arriving back at Belwood Lake
I geared down as I spotted the race venue so I could spin my legs out a bit before hitting the run course, and navigated my way through the forest of pylons back to the dismount. I could feel the familiar old strain in my left adductor - it seems whenever I ride tough hills on my tri bike, my adductors take a pounding. I wondered if it would be a problem on the run, but had to just focus on getting there first.

Passing the gatehouse

..and unclip.
30k bike: 1:05:10 @ 27.6kph
6/12 in W35-39

Into transition again knowing I'd rode about 1:05:xx, I figured there was no way I'd break 2 hours for this race. I'd run just under 41mins for 7.5km at Welland this year, but that was as a relay with Tanker rather than just off a hilly bike with a now-sore leg. I carefully removed my bike shoes at the rack to preserve my precious blister dressing, pulled on my trusty old tri loafers, and headed out to see what I could manage on the trail.

She has no confidence in my ability to stay upright.
Neither do I.
T2: 01:13
4/12 in W35-39

Hitting the crushed limestone of the Elora Cataract Trailway, my legs actually felt surprisingly good. My stride was light and easy, though I could tell I was right on the edge of death whistling right from the very start.

Approaching the dam crossing

I tried my best to keep my breathing under control as I trotted across the dam and into the foliage, almost looking at my wrist as I passed the 1k mark but remembering I'd left my watch behind with Tanker. I felt tired and ready to be done, but reminded myself that racing this was a gift to myself, so started to look around and appreciate being out on a lovely trail on a nice July day. Completely unbidden, the phrase "run for redemption" rose in my mind, though I had no idea how it would apply to my race.

I made it to the first turn-around a little faster than I expected, then grabbed a cup of water from the aid station at the fork in the trail. I had a couple of sips, then dumped the rest on my chest and back out of principle - it had stayed quite mild and overcast, but any bit of additional cooling I could get would help.

Large girl + black trisuit = bad at dumping heat.

I couldn't even really tell you what I thought about as I ran - I don't believe I really thought at all. I just kept trying to quell the death whistle and let my legs go. I do remember ending up in empty spots and seeing people up ahead that I didn't think I could possibly catch, then noticing them getting closer and closer as I ran on. I also saw a lot of people coming the other way on the long out-and-back section who looked pretty grumpy, then would return my smile as they passed.

If you're going to run, why not run happy?

I made the turn-around at the furthest point, then grabbed a cup of HEED from the aid station to get me the rest of the way home. Just a few sips, then drop it and focus on getting as much oxygen in as possible. My legs still felt unexpectedly good - my breathing/death whistling was my only limiter. Another lady on course even commented "You've got quite a whistle going!" as I passed her, and all I could do was laugh and say yes. That's two races in a row that someone has said something about my involuntary tea kettle impression.

Here is my handle, here is my spout.

The way back to the finish - despite being the longest stretch of the entire run course, into a headwind and with the sun coming out to heat things up - seemed to go very quickly. The kilometer markers rolled past as I just kept bopping along, still passing the occasional person. The dam hove back into view, and I used the few metres of pavement there to try to up the pace just a little - I knew I was within striking distance of the finish, and wanted to see if I could pull off a bit of a kick. It wasn't much, but I was still surprised to see 2:05:xx (meaning 2:01:xx as my wave had started 4mins back of the elites) on the clock.

While failing at the ill advised racing gang sign.
7.5k run: 37:38 @ 5:01/km
5/12 in W35-39

Official time: 2:01:26.3
5/12 in W35-39 - 34/72 Women - 135/204 Overall
(Full results here)

I am still trying to fathom how I managed that run. No wonder the kilometers seemed to go by faster than I expected! My fastest open 5k time (which admittedly dates back to 2010) is 25:41 at 5:08/km - how in the hell did I manage to run 7sec per kilometer faster than that for 1.5 times the distance at the end of a tri?

I have to assume that the cooler temperature and cloudy skies, combined with a real taper and some pretty effective carbo-loading, conspired to give my legs wings. In any case, I'll take it. Hopefully it's an indication of things to come in future, but even if it's not, at least I'll be able to say I once ran close to 5-minute-flat kilometers for something longer than the mile. Happy birthday to me!

But smell isn't everything.

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