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Race Recap: Toronto Triathlon Festival 2015

June 22, 2015 Leave a comment
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On the summer solstice, the sun rises over the CN Tower in downtown Toronto. A perfect morning for a race

Yesterday was the 2015 Toronto Triathlon Festival, my 2nd time racing this Olympic distance event.  At the end of the day, as I was removing my bike from the transition area to head home, one of the volunteers stopped me to ask how my race went.  “Fantastic”.  It was the only answer I could give, and it’s still the only answer I have now.  A lengthier blog post with stories and pictures is much more interesting, so here it comes.  There were ups and downs, but at the end of it all, it was Fantastic.  I can’t wait to race again next year!

The alarm went off at 5:00am.  Those are the perks of having amazing cousins who live in a condo less than 2km from the race site and who are willing to put you up the night before (even when they’re not in town themselves).  Coffee, breakfast, and out the door by 5:30am, and in the transition area before 6:00am.  The weather had been forecasting 80% chance of thundershowers all day for the past week, even up until I went to bed the night before.  This morning the skies were blue, clear, and it was a perfect day.  Take that, weather network!!

Last year it was still dark when we left the house.  Perks of racing on the summer solstice!

Last year it was still dark when we left the house. Perks of racing on the summer solstice!

Transition set up and such wasn’t too eventful or interesting, so let’s cut right to the race!  My goal, as I wrote last week, was simply to improve on last year’s race (same distance, same course).  Here we go…

The Swim

Last year there was no opportunity for a warm up or water familiarization.  Your wave was called, you jumped in off the pier, and within a few minutes the horn went off and so did you.  This year they created a section to let people swim a few laps to the side before their wave started.  Huge win.  I jumped in the warm up section and my chest instantly clenched.  The water was 14C – so fucking cold.  I couldn’t put my face in for the first few strokes.  But it helped a lot.  When I jumped in again for the actual race I wasn’t nearly as cold.

graceful as ever...

graceful as ever…

The swim was good.  It felt effortless – which is to say, during the race, it felt lazy.  I was breathing well, my stroke was smooth, and had very few collisions with other swimmers.  I thought for sure I was swimming slow because it felt so easy.  I was relaxed, breathing well, and wasn’t even cold.  The course felt long, but I just kept pushing.  About 3/4 of the way through I realized I was pulling unequally hard with my right arm, and my right shoulder was about done.  I tried to start favoring my left arm instead, but it just didn’t have the same power, so I switched back.  It worked fine, but my right shoulder felt like trash when I was done.  All said though, I think, one of the better swims I’ve had.  My wife called out my splits when I got out of the water.  “Roughly 30 minutes” she said.  Amazing!  I was ahead of my goal pace.  What a great start!

2014 Swim: 34:29

2015 Swim: 31:19

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The Bike

The bike ride is an amazing route along the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway, up to Eglington Avenue, and then back.  It’s a very gradual uphill outbound, and the equivalent downhill return.  I expected the uphill to be a bit of a slow climb for me, and it was.  But not as slow as I expected.  I did better than I usually do using my gears to help the climb.  That was rewarding.  The downhill though is the story of the bike ride.  That was fast and smooth, I was able to get into my heaviest gear, lean into the aerobars, and CRANK.  It felt so good to go so fast.  I was in love.  Of course, I didn’t go that fast for that long, and not nearly as long as I went slowly uphill, but it was a lot of fun.

The first/last quarter of the ride along the Gardiner Expressway and through the CNE grounds are relatively flat.  On the return I started to fatigue.  In hindsight, I should have taken some calories in during the bike beyond just my sports drink.  My lower back was tired.  My shoulder, still barking from the swim, was now straining in the aerobars.  My hamstrings were starting to bark.  I tried to adjust my pedal stroke to keep focusing on a full circle effort and using all the muscles in my legs, but the adjustment was too late.  As beautiful as the first 3/4 of the ride went, the last 1/4 was a grind.  I didn’t lose much power or speed, but I beat myself up in the process.  And I was about to pay the price…

2014 Bike: 1:23:18

2015 Bike: 1:23:47

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The Run

Remember that part on the bike where I should have taken in calories?  Remember those back and hamstring pains?  Yep – as soon as I started out on the run I remembered them too.  I had two gels in my jersey pockets for the run, one of which must have fallen out during the bike ride.  The other was consumed within the first kilometer.  In my run training I was used to running on sore quads – the pains in my back and hamstrings were a new distraction and I did a poor job of shutting them out.  My run was embarrassing if not a little funny.  I had so little left in the tank at this point.  The run course was perfectly flat, with a nice breeze coming off the waterfront.  It didn’t matter.  At best I was running a 2:1 run/walk ratio and pushing through a real mental grind.  In those first few kilometers I talked myself out of DNF’ing.  By about the midpoint my back and hamstrings stopped barking.  I was back to the usual running aches that I was used to, and I started to string some longer running stretches together.  But it was still slow and with a lot of walk breaks.  And over the course of the run, the sun got higher in the sky and it got noticeably warmer.  It was a tough run.  I beat myself up too much in the swim and the bike and didn’t leave enough in the tank.  Whoops.

2014 Run: 1:14:17 (yuck)

2015 Run: 1:17:04 (double yuck, but honestly not as bad as I had feared)

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Overall, including transitions?

2014: 3:17:40

2015: 3:17:57

[sigh]  I didn’t quite make my goal of improving on last year’s results.  It’s amazing how, over a 3hr+ race, 17 seconds makes all the difference.  That being said, I had a great swim, and a great bike, and I know I gave everything I had to give on the run.  So I’m happy with it.  Maybe I should have taken in some calories on the bike?  Or maybe I should have just tied my damn shoes a bit faster?  Whatever – it was a great race!

Though, a bit of a beef with the final results.  Look at the picture above:  I’m crossing the line pretty damn close to 3:20:57, and I know my swim wave started 4 minutes after the first wave.  So my time should be the clock less 4 minutes, right? Math?  Maybe the wave started late?  Who  knows.  But I saw the time when I was coming through the finish chute and thought for sure I had – just barley – best last year’s time.  Rats.

Amazing day.  Amazing race.  I missed a PB time by a mere 17 seconds.  I feel really good about it.  And as much as my body aches today (and boy does it ever) I’m happy with my race.  Now to take a few days to recover and start to think about what’s next.

All photos credit to my amazingly supportive wife, who not only got up at the shit crack of stupid to stand around in a park for 3+ hours while I raced, but she actually had fun, cheered me the whole way, and managed to get some great pics with nothing more than an old iPhone4.  I love you so much sweetie.  Your support means everything to me!!!

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Race Preview: Toronto Triathlon Festival

June 19, 2015 5 comments

TTFLogo

I’m actually really nervous about this race.  I shouldn’t be, but I am.

Someone asked me the other day how many triathlons I have done?  This will be my tenth.  5 Sprint distance races, 3 Olympic distance races, and 1 Try-a-Tri, and now this one.  Ten races in what is now my 5th summer in the sport (which is really cool, and should probably be a separate post in it’s own right).  In fact, I even did this race last year – I loved it, and I did really well at it too!

Why am I so nervous?  I think because I feel underprepared.  A funny thing happens somewhere around your 5th summer racing/your 10th race – you start to care about more than ‘just finishing’.  As my wife said to me a few weeks ago, there’s no doubt I could walk onto an Olympic distance race course tomorrow and finish.  It might be ugly, but I would finish.  And that used to be enough.  Somewhere along the way I started wanting more.

I’ve put in the work.  I joined a Master’s swimming group – granted I’ve been out less than 10 times since I’ve joined, but that’s still a lot more (and better) swimming than I’ve trained in the past.  And I’ve also joined a cycling group, which has really pushed me on the bike.  Today is the 19th of June – less than half way though the calendar year, and with all of summer still ahead of me – and I’ve already swam more than I did either of the past two whole years.  I’ve biked 60% as much so far as in all of 2013 and 40% as much as 2014 (when I was bike-commuting to work).  I’ve even run already almost 60% as much as I did last year.  That’s a whole lot of numbers-mumbo-jumbo to say: I’ve put the work in.

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2013 vs 2014 vs 2015 (to date) full year training volumes

But my last few training sessions have all been rough.  Both of my runs this past week – both <8kms – have been absolute slugs.  My legs hurt, my heart rate was elevated, and I just felt off.  My ride this past week, and in fact all of my rides so far this spring, while I’ve been putting in the work have felt tough and the split times have been slow.  My bike feels like it’s 20lbs (that’s a lot for a road bike), and even the easy gears feel like a lot of work.  And while I’ve put a lot of quality work into my swim, it’s been over 3 weeks since I last got into the pool.  The quantity of work is there, but the quality feels gross.  I don’t feel like I’m peaking for race day – I feel like I’m about to stumble over the start line.  Which isn’t to say I don’t think I can finish, but I’m nervous about doing well.

But I know this course, and it suits me well.  It’s flat and fast.  I’m a power cyclist (strong legs, can pump a heavy gear for a long time, not good at all on hill climbs), and a confident swimmer.  And I’ve done this race before, and loved it.  This all gives me confidence.  Last year I finished this same course in 3:17:40.93, which is currently my Olympic distance Personal Best.  I think I can beat that!

So, if you happen to be awake at 6:54am on Sunday morning, when my swim wave goes off, send a cheer my way.  Or, ya know, go back to bed!

easier faster

Fun With Numbers: Bike vs. Run

June 5, 2015 2 comments

BikeRunimg via http://www.clarksd.com/potato/walk.htm)

Happy Friday everyone!

Ok, we all know I’m a crappy runner.  I’m slow as mud.  My heart rate skyrockets and I’m sweating like crazy after two steps.  It’s nuts!  And I’ve always thought the solution to fixing this is more running.  But maybe it’s actually more cycling?

According to this article from ironman.com, for triathletes, weekly running effort (in distance) should not be more than approximately 20% of weekly cycling effort.  Further, the difference between your open run pace, and your run pace off the bike should be no more than 12% for Ironman distances, or 6% for 70.3 distances (which, I’m going to extrapolate down to 3% for Olympic distances, though it really doesn’t matter).  If the difference is greater, the reason for the slow run could be caused by a lack of bike durability as much as a need to improve pure open run ability.

How would this apply to me?  Looking at my own race history, my last 5 open 10k runs have averaged 64.5 minutes to complete.  The 3 Olympic triathlons I’ve completed, the 10k run component has taken me, on average 76 minutes to complete.  That’s a ~10% increase, suggesting I’m spending a disproportionately low amount of training on the bike.

Have I been?  In 2014 I logged 1,590kms of cycling and 469.14kms of running.  Running = 30% of cycling distance.  So far in 2015 I’ve logged 705.89kms on the bike, and 241.04kms of running.  Running = 34% of cycling distance.  Since May 1st I’ve logged 201.73kms on the bike, and 80.06kms of running.  Running = 40% of cycling distance.   Yep, my running is well more than 20% of my cycling, and it’s going in the wrong direction.

What does it mean?  Who the hell knows.  It’s an interesting thought exercise, at least.  And assuming you take the logic of this article as fact (which, it’s Friday, so sure) I need to get my ass on the bike a lot more.  Apparently that will help with my tri run?  Seems as good as anything to try – it can’t hurt, and it sure beats the idea of more running volume as the solution.

Do you cycle to improve your run?  What other tricks to you use?

Some days you get the bear…

April 28, 2015 1 comment

GRCC

Last night’s ride sucked!

I should qualify that statement a bit.  1) I’m really glad I went.  2) I have several takeaways to make future rides better.  3) I’m then gonna chalk this one up to a crappy ride and a good story, and close the book on it.  No discouragement.  Some days you get the bear, some days the bear gets you.

Last night I had my second ride with the Grand River Cycling Club.  Monday nights are a routine 43km easy ride (or recovery ride).  Looking back at my race log my 40km bike split is often in the 1:25:00 to 1:35:00 range.  Last night 43km took me 2:03:00!!!  The previous and first ride I did with the club was just over 2 weeks ago, the Sunday morning “touring pace” long ride, which we did 73km that day.  That ride went reasonably fine.  Yesterday went terrible.

Let’s pause there for a second: 73km touring pace went fine, 43km easy pace was a disaster.  What the hell happened?!?

I knew this was going to be tough for an “easy ride” right from the parking lot – a chilly 5°C – where every other rider had riding tights, shoe covers, and other warm riding gear.  Here I was, looking the part of the newbie, in my shorts, breathable summer cycling shoes, and a light spring jacket.  Earlier in the day I was in a running shop buying a few gels for tonight’s ride (foreshadowing: right now would have been a great time to take one of them.  Strike 1) and I saw some clearance runners tights on sale.  I thought about buying a pair, but cheapness frugalness prevailed.  Those tights would have been really nice right about now!  Strike 2

I pulled my bike out of my car and started to get it ready: put the front wheel back on, which I wrenched on there pretty tight, and dug the half full water bottle out of my swim bag and put it onto the bike.  The ride is heading out from a park, so there was nowhere to fill it back up.  Should have brought it into work in between for a fill… whoops.  Strike 3

The ride set out and was uneventful for the slightly downhill first half of the route.  We were a large enough group to ride 2-up, so I had some great chatter with a few other riders, one of whom was at last week’s “easy ride” and told me the group this week was really pushing it relative to last week.  It felt a hair slower than race pace to me – something I shouldn’t have a problem sustaining for 40+km, but at times was hardly easy.  It probably took more energy out of me than I realized, and should have popped a gel right around here.  Strike 4 (starting to see the problem yet?)

The first sign of trouble came around the 2/3 mark.  Riding on a reasonably flat stretch, I was near the front of the group, when I started to fall back from the bike in front.  I tried to close the gap, but I couldn’t.  Riders from behind started to pass me.  I moved from the front of the group, to the back, to behind very suddenly.  I couldn’t catch up.  I was working hard, but not making up ground.  After a few tough km, one of the other riders looped back to ride with me (very nice of him).  He commented that my chain sounded a bit loud, and maybe it was sapping some of my energy efficiency.  I felt like I was laboring, no matter what gear I was in.

Then I heard a sudden loud pop.  My chain ceased briefly, after which I couldn’t switch down out of my big cog.  Something broke (and I’m still not sure what).  I was now limited to the heavy half of my gear options, and the ride home was almost fully uphill.

By the 3/4 mark the clouds were parting and the sun was coming out, and so was the headwind.  A few flags we past were blowing stiffly against us.  By now it was close to 8pm and distinctly colder than when we set out.  I was tired, cold, and starting to get very hungry.  I was thinking back to the morning’s 3,600m swim, to the food I’d eaten during the day.  To the gels I bought, but hadn’t taken yet.  To the running tights I could have bought, but didn’t.  I was falling apart.

My buddy rider stuck with me all the way back, over 2hours to ride 43km.  My hero!  He looked like he was coasting – barely going fast enough to ride a straight line while I was pushing for all I had.

I threw the bike in the car, cranked the heater, ate 2 gels, and drove home to warm up.

I think a few things conspired to make yesterday’s ride a complete shit show:

  1. First, I think I need to point a bit of a finger at the engine (aka my early season lack of fitness).  While the first ride may have been okay, I’m still getting my legs back, and did spend a week in between eating and drinking and sitting on my ass in Cuba.  It’s not lost on me that the engine needs some serious work!
  2. This was my first crack at a Masters Swim in the morning on the same day as a Club Ride after work.  I had swam 3,600m earlier that day already, which itself is an amount I’m still getting used to.  I need to figure out how to manage my energy and calories better on Mondays if I’m going to keep doing both
  3. Unless it warms up quickly (and I really hope it does), I need to invest in some warmer cycling clothes!
  4. I need to take my bike into the shop.  The shifting needs to be fixed, but something wasn’t right before that – not sure if the chain just needs to be oiled, or if something’s rubbing against a wheel (is it possible to put the front wheel back on too tightly??).  My bike was working against me – it needs some TLC!

Yesterday’s ride sucked, but there’s be others soon (as soon as the bike is back from the shop).  Some days you get the bear, some days the bear gets you.  Next week I’ll come back stronger!

The Next Phase

April 27, 2015 3 comments

DCuba15

I love vacation!  I spent last week in sunny Cuba with 14 great friends, weather almost 30°C warmer than it is here now at home, with a Rum Punch in my hand the whole week, and not a cloud in the sky.  That was the life for 8 days.  I did a pair of token 20 minute sessions in the gym at the resort, but we’re not fooling anyone here: I did absolutely zero training last week.  And I loved it!

This trip was on the calendar for months, and I always viewed it as a line in the sand (pun intended).  Up until now I’ve been going through the motions of winter off-season training: hour-long sessions on the spin bikes at the gym, morning treadmill runs watching whatever the gym televisions had to offer as distraction.  Winter base training, mostly done indoors, and sporadically adhering to my training schedule.

But Cuba has come and gone – amazing a trip as it was – and now it’s time to ramp this shit into gear.  Off-season training is over.  May rolls in at the end of this week, so I’m officially declaring it race season!  And I’m really excited.

So, only 4 days back from vacation I kicked off this morning with a 4:15am alarm clock and drove in to Guelph for my swim with The Guelph Marlins masters swimming program.  I’ve swam with them a few times over the past few weeks (again: sporadically), but it’s time to start making this a regular thing.  3,600m swims first thing in the morning are a great way to get the day started (and to make you want to eat all-the-things all day long).

My bike is packed in the car for my after work ride with the Grand River Cycling Club, another group I’ve just recently joined.  Like The Marlins, I’m hoping cycling with a group will help me stick to a schedule, and help me push my training by getting out there with much stronger riders.  Tonight’s planned ride is an “easy recovery” 43km – I guess “easy recovery” is a relative term, and seeing as this will be my second time out on the bike this year it might not be so easy.  That being said, looking back at my data from last year, I didn’t get to my second training ride for the year until… never (yep, excluding races and lots of bicycle commuting, I only went for one single training ride in all of 2014.  Yikes!!!  No wonder my cycling last year was rough!).  I don’t care if it currently feels like 5°C out there – I’m looking forward to this one!

I haven’t joined a running group this summer, and I don’t intend to.  I enjoy the solitude of running alone (or the occasional LSD run with my wife), and frankly scheduling a third group around 3 weekly swims and 3 weekly rides would be a nightmare!

I’m 13 days away from my first race of the year, a fun tune-up 10k run at The Sporting Life 10K.  I do this run annually with a cousin of mine, but it also serves as a gut-check reminder that race season is here and real!  My goal for this race is 59:59 – after last year’s 1:00:07 frustration, I want so badly to run my first ever sub 1hr 10K.  After that, I start to focus on the Toronto Triathlon Festival (Olympic Distance), only 9 weeks away.

It’s coming on fast and furious – summer is here (even if the weather doesn’t know it yet) and race season is right around the corner.  Time to start the next phase of my training.  Time to get to work!!

Friday Stray Thoughts

July 25, 2014 2 comments

FridayImage by Glenn McCoy

Happy Friday everyone!  For those of you looking for a little light lunchtime internet distraction to tide you over until quitting time, here’s a few Stray Thoughts for your Friday Afternoon

– – – – –SubaruMy third – and likely final – triathlon of the season goes this weekend.  This time, my first ever Try-a-Tri distance race at the Subaru Grimsby/Niagara Race (they can’t seem to get their marketing lined up.  Is it Grimsby?  Is it Niagara?  Let’s pick one folks!)

Anyway… I’m looking forward to this one:

1) It’s a FLAT course – should be fast, and fun

2) It’s an all-out intensity effort, as opposed to an endurance effort (which is new to me)

3) It’ll be done in under an hour

4) I’m racing with a couple buddies from high school who are tackling their first tri.  Really excited to see them pull this off.  And for the celebratory beer after 🙂

What’s breaking my brain is the 1:15pm race start time.  I’ve not done an afternoon race before.  I’m not sure how to handle this.  I have a morning routine – when to wake up, what (and when) to eat.  What do I do now – do I sleep in?  Do I eat a big breakfast?  Do I eat lunch?  Do I go for a walk or a jog in the morning?  Do I drive down early, or hang around at home in the morning?  I’m being a little OCD here, but my routine is broken and I’m not sure what to do about it!

Anyone out there with any advice for an afternoon race start?

– – – – –

broken bike

I may have had a little crash last week (about 10 days ago), while bike commuting to work.  A bit scary at the time – fortunately it amounted to just scrapes and bruises in the long run.  All things heal.  My commuter bike, however, needed several hundred dollars worth of repair work.  Yikes!

(no, that’s not my bike above – that’s just a stock picture.  I’m not on the ball enough to have taken a pic of my own bike)

Thus, I haven’t done an ounce of biking since my last race 2 weeks ago (well, if you don’t count the ~3km from my house to the crash site that one morning… which I don’t).  The cuts and scrapes on my arms and legs have kept me out of the pool.  I did manage one training run this week – a quick slow treadmill 5k at the gym on Monday that felt TERRIBLE!  Seriously – it’s a treadmill; I know exactly what speed I’m running at, and how long I’ve run it for.  I KNOW my numbers used to be better than that.  Where has all my fitness gone this summer?!?  Apparently racing every other week, and not doing much of any training in between, does not constitute maintaining the fitness you built in the off-season.  Whoops.

– – – – –

weight-loss-scale

The nice thing about that one trip to the treadmill (and the gym in general) is that I got to step on the scale there.  I am losing fitness, for sure, but I’m also losing weight (proof, I’ll assume, that weight loss is much more driven by diet then by exercise).  My weight is at an all-time post-highschool low, and dropping.  Which is good.  Which is really good.

Except it coincides with lost fitness, and I don’t like that.  It probably suggests I’m losing more muscle mass than I should.  I don’t like that either.  Which isn’t to say that I’m not totally ecstatic about losing weight, and really happy that my eating habits (in general) are finally supporting this rather than hindering it.  But it also tells me I really need to get my ass back in the gym and do some strength work.  I find it very easy to remember to get out for a run, or a bike ride.  Well, relatively easy, at least.  Those are directly relate to my training goals (plus, going faster is fun)!  I need to remember to continue to hit the weights.  I think that’s going to be this off season’s #1 priority.

Yes – it’s mid July, and I’m talking off season already…

– – – – –

Have a great weekend everybody!  Good Luck to everyone racing or training this weekend!!!

Race Recap – Toronto Triathlon Festival

July 14, 2014 2 comments

TTF

I’m having a hard time writing this recap.  My thoughts are all over the place.  This race was many things – Intense, Exhilarating, and Wet.  Very wet.

I’m so luck to have a pair of very close cousins, who happen to have condos in the same building, right in downtown Toronto.  Amazing to be able to visit great people, and have crash space a 20 minute walk away from the start line.  Being so close meant I got to sleep in until 4:30 yesterday morning (I’m not kidding).  I was surprisingly awake at that hour.  My wife was not.  What a trooper she was getting up with me to come cheer me on (and take blog pics)!!

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Isn’t everyone out with their bike at 4:30am?

In transition before daybreak - the life of a triathlete

In transition before daybreak – the life of a triathlete

The forecast called for rain.  But it was dry when I woke up.  I was really happy – and celebrated way too soon.  The rain came.  Oh boy did it ever.  It rained rather heavily in the hour leading up to the race, while I was pacing around transition and waiting for the swim start.  The swim start was even delayed by about 10 minutes due to weather.

Rain!  The blue band across the top is my wife's umbrella.  She tried to stay dry.  It didn't work.  What a trooper!

Rain! The blue band across the top is my wife’s umbrella. She tried to stay dry. It didn’t work. What a trooper!

Once the race started, though, the weather was an afterthought.  This was my 8th triathlon, and the first time I wasn’t in the first swim wave.  It was kinda fun getting to watch the elite’s go off before me (and not have to start my swim with them).  8 minutes later it was my turn.

The Swim – 1,500m – 34:29

That's me, in the green cap and black wetsuit

That’s me, in the green cap and black wetsuit

The swim was a deep water start.  They had a floating pontoon perpendicular to the brake wall.  There was no warm up swim permitted (I’m not really sure why).  About 1 minute before our wave start, we all walked out and jumped into the water.  And swore.  A lot.  Holy shit that water was cold.  Really cold.  They announced the temperature as 17°C – they must have been lying.  I don’t believe ice baths are that cold.  It was really cold.  Pretty soon all the swearing subsided as we started to realize this wasn’t actually funny – it was really cold and uncomfortable.  And then the horn went off – no warm up, frozen muscles, and almost 100 men aged 25-35 tightly packed tightly against the starting pontoon.

They call the start of a triathlon swim ‘the washing machine’.  I’ve understood the term, but never truly experienced it.  Now I have.  It refers to the froth of water at the start of an open water swim, when a bunch of swimmers are tightly packed and competing for the same space.  Yep – that’s what happened.  I got kicked, and punched, and clawed (seriously triathletes: please clip your fingernails!!!).  Somewhere near the first buoy I remember having a thought – between the cold, and the collisions, if I was any less comfortable in the water than I am (and I consider myself a very confident swimmer), I might have been in trouble in that swim.  Sure enough, my wife would tell me later she was amazed at the number of swimmers who were pulled out of the water and DNF.  Even as late as the last buoy I took a heavy kick to my right shoulder and was worried I was actually hurt.  What a mess that swim was.

I’m not happy with a 34:29 swim – but it was a middle of the pack swim for my age group, and given the conditions, it could have been a lot worse.  The race goes on!

The Bike – 40km – 1:23:18

Heading out on the bike.  The road is a wet slippery mess!

Heading out on the bike. The road is a wet slippery mess!

For as bad as the swim was, the bike went great!  The bike course was amazing – riding along the expressways of downtown Toronto.  It was a generally uphill on the way out, and downhill on the way back, with a bit of a headwind on the return.  The biggest challenge was the wet roads, and the puddles of standing water that needed to be dodged.  But credit to the race organizers – they had volunteers out along the whole course, and had a volunteer or a marking pylon at every standing puddle.  They were all over it.  They did a great job!!

Not much to tell about the bike ride – I put my head down and rode hard.  I kept comparing it to my last Olympic distance race, only 3 weeks prior, where the bike ride went so poorly.  This time, my back and my glutes didn’t give out on me.  I was riding just as hard, if not harder through the final quarter of the ride as I did in the first quarter.  I wasn’t wearing a pace watch, but my gut told me this ride went well.  And I was right.  Nearly 12 minutes faster than the same distance 3 weeks ago, and 8 minutes faster than my Olympic distance bike split personal best.  Hot damn!!  My wife gave me my time as I was running back into transition – what a motivator that was!!!

The Run – 10km – 1:14:17

500m to go...

500m to go…

There’s not much to say here.  I’m a shitty runner.  I have been since I started, and I still am.  I find it amusing that my run time split of 1:14:17 is 16 seconds slower than my run split 3 weeks ago.  Apparently I’m a very consistently shitty runner 🙂

Unlike last time, there was no back pain to slow me down.  There was no pain at all.  My heart rate was out of control, right from the start though.  I took a lot of walk breaks trying to control my heart rate, but every time I started running again it skyrocketed.  I tried to settle into a run/walk routine to manage this.  I’m not sure how well it worked.  I stopped at each aid station – drank the Gatorade and dumped the water on my head.  By about half way through the run the sugar from the Gatorade was playing havoc with my GI system, so I switched to water only.  I’m not sure if it made a difference.  It wasn’t a glamorous run, but it was consistent, and wasn’t worse than my previous Olympic distance run splits.  I didn’t give back the time I earned on the bike, so I’m happy with that!

The Finish – 3:17:40.93

IMG_0532

My biggest fan!

God that felt good – a personal best by 6 minutes!  Yeah Buddy!!!  My wife and cousin were there to meet me at the finish line.  So awesome having a cheering squad!!  And around my neck: a finisher’s medal.  Believe it or not, this is my 8th triathlon, and that’s my first finisher’s medal.  I guess they’re not as common as in running races.  It means a lot to me to finally have a triathlon finisher’s medal.  Very excited about that!

By the end of the run my GI havoc was reaching near critical levels.  There were burgers and free beer in the finishing area, and I turned them both down (I know!  Weird, right?!)  I took 3 bites of a banana – that was all I could handle.  It was a couple hours before that settled down.

The race was designed with the finish line being about 800 meters away from the transition zone, so my cheering squad and I had to walk back to pick up my bike & gear after.  And wouldn’t you know – the skies opened up again.  It POURED!  Easily one of the top 10 heaviest rains I’ve ever been in.  Ever.  My wife and cousin had their umbrellas – not that it made any difference – but me, I just let the rain fall on me.  I could hardly see.  I felt bad for the racers still on course (the sprint distance race had just started).  It was pouring rain.  I collected my bag from the bag check area – it was sitting in an inch deep puddle.  I went back to get my bike and transition gear – which was also sitting in an inch deep puddle.  Oh well – lay it all out to dry in the basement when I get home.  I’m not planning on any training rides or runs for the next few days!

It’s now the day after.  I’m working from home today – it’s easier to get up out of my chair and pace, and stretch, when I’m not in the office.  My quads are still buzzing a bit, but I really feel the fatigue in my traps, my neck, and all down my back.  Even my arms have a subtle dull ache, and there’s a really good scratch on one arm from another swimmer.  Tylenol and I are good friends today.  And I’m eating EVERYTHING in the fridge!!

I ache, but I’m really happy.  I set my sights on this as my ‘A’ race, and I feel like it all came together.  Smashing 12 minutes off my bike split from last race felt amazing, and not giving anything up on the run as a result felt pretty good too.  I even survived the frigid washing machine!  God I love this sport!!!

With my ‘A’ race in the books, the rest of the summer is all about fun and relaxing.  In 2 weeks I’m racing in the Niagara Try-A-Tri race with a couple highschool buddies.  I’m really looking forward to that.  Otherwise the rest of the summer is about swimming, biking, and running when I want to.  I won’t start thinking about next race season for several months still – for now, I’m just going to enjoy this one!

– D

 

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