Tuesday, August 2, 2016

2016 MSC Kingston Long Course Triathlon Recap

Posted by CheapRunnerMike

We had a great long weekend here in Ontario and we spent the weekend with family up in historic Kingston.  My sister Emily lives there and she had taken the kids to her place for the week and Michelle and I made the drive up on Friday after work.  I did the Kingston race last year and loved the course, and my sister decided that she would sign up to do the race herself this year, her first real triathlon!  Sunday was race day and I was registered for the Long Course (2K swim, 56.2Kbike, 15K run).

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In the race last year I had blown up a little bit on the run in some pretty hot conditions.  I was determined to do better this time around and had my eyes on an Age Group podium spot.  I was looking for a bit of redemption and wanted to see how much I had improved over last year.  The weather wasn’t supposed to be too hot, but the weatherman was calling for rain all day.  Not exactly ideal.

When we woke up on race morning it was a bit cloudy, but no rain.  The forecast had changed and it looked like we would stay dry, though temperatures did get up into the high-20’s as the race wore on.  Michelle was volunteering at the race as well, so early Sunday morning the three of us all headed out to the race site.  I helped Emily get her bike racked and guided her through the pre-race routines, then it was time for me to get my transition area set up and jump into Lake Ontario for a quick warmup swim.  The 8:00 race start was upon us.

Swim - 2000m
33:30 (1:40/100m), 3rd AG

The swim was out of the harbour at Confederation Park and was pretty calm by Lake Ontario standards.  We were quite sheltered in the harbour and once we left it’s confines it got a little choppier but nothing too bad.  I started the swim beside my buddy Luke (who went total beast mode and took 5th place overall) and we swam beside each other for most of the first half of the swim.  I guess that means I can hang with Luke for almost 2% of a race.  The swim is an “L”-shaped course, and when we made the turn at the midpoint we were swimming right into the chop.  I’m a little guy and really get thrown around once the water gets rough, but I found some feet and managed to hold on pretty well (thanks to whoever you are random swimmer).  I was getting pounded by waves to the face and drank quite a bit of water, and sighting was difficult with all the bobbing, but I knew I was still swimming well as I passed a few of the red caps that designated the Pros and Elite Age Groupers who went off a minute before us.  I came up to the dock at water’s edge and slung my leg up as a couple of volunteers helped to pull me out of the water…the swim felt good and I was a minute and a half faster than last year.  Progress!

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Bike – 56.2K
1:34:29 (35.7kph), 3rd AG

The Long Course athletes were all racked near the swim exit so I was at my rack before I even had the top of my wetsuit stripped off.  My transition was a touch slower than usual, possibly because of the longer run to the bike mount line in my bike shoes (as I still haven’t mastered leaving my shoes clipped in), but it was the same for everyone else out there and it was still only 1:04.  The bike starts right in downtown Kingston and we quickly made our way past Michelle’s volunteer spot right at the LaSalle Causeway and then up a steep hill at Fort Henry.  From there is was pretty much a straight out and back on hilly highway.  The roads were in decent shape and the traffic wasn’t too bad.  The first hill was a bit tough as I didn’t really have my bike legs going yet (another thing I’ve been struggling with, the early hills), but once I was a few kilometres in the hills were no trouble.  We were dealing with a bit of a headwind on the way out as well, so I knew not to worry about my speed too much as I would make it up on the return trip.  A couple of guys passed me early on but that was really about it.  Every now and then someone would zoom by on a descent…I would basically be spun out and still cranking with everything that I had while they were just coasting.  Yup, the disadvantages of being a little guy.  No worries though because I would always scamper up the next hill and blow by them.  Fun little games of cat and mouse.

Just before I hit the turnaround in Gananoque I felt a sharp sting in my left thigh and let out an expletive…I looked down and there was a wasp stuck in my shorts.  I flicked it away and tried to block out the throbbing pain.  I’ll spare you most of the details, but it still looks really nasty today and it is red, swollen and very itchy.  If it doesn’t get better soon I’ll have to give in and go see the doctor about it.

I made the turn and began the ride back to Kingston with the wind at my back.  I had a bottle of Gatorade that was nearly done and I knew I was approaching a bottle exchange, so I figured I would give it a try.  I downed what was left of my Gatorade, tossed the empty bottle, and when I got to the exchange I called out for HEED (the on-course electrolyte drink).  I slowed down and stuck my arm out, elbow bent and ready to receive the handoff…maybe it was still early on in the race and the girl handing off didn’t have her technique down, but she just slammed the bottle into my hand and there was no chance I was going to make that handoff.  A word of advice to volunteers at bottle exchanges…have your arm easy with your elbow bent to allow some give in the exchange, and also jog along with the cyclist as you make the handoff…it really makes it a lot easier.  No more electrolyte drinks for me, and really not a lot of water left either for the final 20K of the bike.  I decided I had better pop a salt tab and hope that would be enough to carry me home.

There was a little bit more cat and mouse on the homestretch but nothing too exciting…I guess a bee sting and a botched bottle exchange was enough action for one ride.  I did notice a number of people drafting out there on the course, and not the questionable “am I 5 metres or 4 metres” kind of drafting, more like the wheel-sucking variety.  This is becoming a bit of a disturbing trend that I’m finding in the local races, even when MultiSport make the effort and have Triathlon Ontario Officials riding motorbikes along the course.  Guys, if you are drafting off the cyclist in front of you, YOU ARE CHEATING.  Please stop.

With my rant over, I made my way back across the causeway, past Michelle and into transition…more progress as the bike was over 3 minutes faster than last year.  All that was left was the run, and the temperature was rising as the sun was now out and had burned away the clouds.

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Run – 15K
1:07:17 (4:29/km), 5th AG

A decent T2 of 1:07, which accounted for the long run to the rack with my bike, then the long run from my rack to the run out which was right beside the bike in, and it was out on the run course for some redemption.  I was feeling the heat right away and knew that I would need to be hitting every water station and taking in fluids as well as dumping cold water over my head.  The heat wasn’t going to be an excuse this year.  Within the first kilometre I caught Strava buddy Zindine (who had zoomed past me at the end of the bike) and he reminded me to watch my pace and hold back.  I was doing my best to not go out too quick but was still running around 4:00/km.  I eased off as best I could and eventually settled into a nice 4:20-4:30 pace, right where I want to be coming off the bike in a longer race.

I saw a few friendly faces on the run course as the Sprint athletes were already on their way to the finish line and I cheered them on as we passed each other.  I reeled in a few people but didn’t see anyone that was in my age group.  I knew at least one guy passed me on the bike (Tim Chaplin, whom Zin had warned would be my competition before the race) and I figured there might have been one other guy as well. I just kept running my race though and tried to keep the pace in the desired zone.

Once the course passed the old Kingston Penitentiary the Sprint athletes had their turnaround and the race was a bit lonelier.  I was running solo now and the Long Course athletes wouldn’t be coming the other way for a few more kilometres.  I ran by Emily’s house just before entering the park to run the Rideau Trail…I thought I might see the kids out there but they were likely already headed down to the finish line.  As I entered the park a few of the athletes began to come by, including Luke who was looking really strong.  The park is full of short but steep hills and descents and if you haven’t saved your legs it will eat you up.  That’s the spot I began walking water stops last year, which led to walking hills, which led to well, just walking when I was tired.  I felt good though and began to take in some delicious flat Coke at the aid stations while continuing with the water and dumping of water.

Nearing the turnaround just shortly before the park exit a began to hear footsteps coming up from behind and the next thing I knew the woman that won the race went blowing by me…that girl was flying!  I hung with her for about a kilometre but her pace was just too rich for me at that point (she smoked the run, fastest female).  It was up a big hill once we left the park, with a turnaround at the top, then down the hill to the second turnaround before heading back into the park and retracing our steps.  I ran past Team Sheri teammate Kristen and got a high five and I managed to pass a couple more people along this stretch.  The big hill at the Penitentiary was tough and dropped my pace a bit but I hung tough and didn’t walk at all…as my reward I was greeted on the other side of the hill be Emily, who was just about to hit the turnaround for her race!  A great big high five and some shouts of encouragement to each other and I had all the motivation I needed to get to that finish line.  I was able to pick up the pace again over the last couple of kilometres when I saw the kids and gave a strong kick through the finish line where I had the familiar feeling of Steve Fleck calling out my name (and pointing out that I was one of Sheri Fraser’s athletes) followed by a handshake from John Salt.  I collected my finisher’s medal as well as the finisher’s t-shirt that the Long Course athletes received (nice touch MSC!) before downing a couple cups of water.  As for redemption?  Four and a half minutes faster on the run than last year.  That sounds like vidication to me!  I crossed the line with a time of 3:17:26, which was 10 minutes faster than last year and good for third in my age group.  Funny enough, Michelle asked me the night before what sort of time goal I had in mind…I said I would like to shoot for 3:20, to which she said, “Nah, you’ll do it in 3:17:30”.  So ya, she’s totally taking the credit now!

http://www.zoomphoto.ca/event/19896/

http://www.zoomphoto.ca/event/19896/

I went and met the kids and we waited just a little bit longer and saw Emily cross the line as well…she did great and beat her goal time by nearly 20 minutes!  Great job Sis!  As soon as Emily crossed the line we went to meet her and Michelle joined us as well.  Then it was food tent, awards and back to Emily’s place before going out for a great dinner (just the adults) over on Wolfe Island.  It was a great way to finish a great day.

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Now it’s time for me to take the foot off the gas a bit and start my taper for Ironman Mont Tremblant, which is just three weeks away!  Thanks for reading, cheers!

Monday, July 25, 2016

2016 Bluewater Olympic Triathlon Recap

Posted by CheapRunnerMike

We’re into the thick of the triathlon season now and I was racing one of my “hometown” races, the Bluewater Triathlon.  Being in Brights Grove, it is pretty local to our cottage and this was going to be my 5th year in a row doing the race.  The race is put on by a local church and is known for having one of the absolute best post-race spreads in multisport, complete with hot dogs, chili, tuna & egg salad sandwiches and oodles of homemade cookies & butter tarts.  Simply put, I NEVER miss this race!

Last year I had my best showing in this race with a time of 2:15, good enough for 8th overall and 3rd in my age group.  I received a cool prize for my efforts, a beer glass from a local Sarnia brewer Refined Fool with the Bluewater Tri logo on it.  Sadly, only the age group winners received the big 650mL bottle of Refined Fool.  I knew I had to up my game and bust my ass in training for the next year if I was going to have a shot at the big prize.  People think that signing up for my first Ironman in August is what has had me putting in so many hours swimming, biking and running, but now the truth is out.  It’s all about the Bluewater and a big ol’ bottle of craft beer!

Saturday was race day and we left the cottage around 6:30 for the 30 minute drive to the Grove.  Michelle, my sister and my Mum were doing the Olympic Relay together so it was a full Jeep on the way there.  We got to the school that serves as transition and got ourselves all signed in and set up and before too long my sister and I set off to the swim start, which took place in the beautiful clear cool waters of Lake Huron.

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Swim – 1500m 1100m
16:49 (1:32/100m), 2 OA / 1 AG

Officially the Bluewater is a 1500m swim, but it actually measures out at 1100.  At least we get to feel really fast (my “official” split says my pace was 1:12/100m).  I’ve been swimming pretty well this year and now look forward to the swim as a chance to help get me out in the front of the pack instead of just getting out of the water ready to bike.  It has become a strength and I actually have confidence at the start line.  This race was no exception and I was fully expecting to be one of the first few out of the water.  I had a quick warmup swim with my sister and gave her a bit of advice on where to line up at the beach start and next thing you know we were off.  I sprinted hard to the first buoy which was only about 50m from shore and beat the majority of the pack there and missed out on the slap party (thanks Abe!), making the right hand turn with ease.  From there I settled in and steadied my breathing, working in a smallish pack of 4 or 5 guys for the next little bit.  It didn’t take long and I had separated from them and was pretty sure I was in second place.  There was one guy I could see up ahead and he was flying…there was no way I would be catching him in the swim.  I tried to sneak a peek behind me a couple of times and it appeared that I was swimming solo, just like being at Splash n Dash on a Wednesday night.  I just cruised the last half of the swim and tried to keep the leader at least in my sight.  I made the right turn to shore, which came up much faster than I had expected, and ran across the rocky beach and up the stairs to make the 300m run into T1.  I saw my Dad and he yelled at me “Number two!”.  Into T1 and off with the wetsuit…I saw Michelle waiting for my sister at her bike and yelled to her, but she was busy helping out some girls.  There was a Triathlon Ontario official in T1 and he decided to stand right beside me as I stomped my wetsuit off and strapped on my helmet.  I was very careful to make sure that buckle was done up before touching my bike!  He actually said “wow, quick work” or something to that extent and I was running out of T1 in just 54 seconds.

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Bike– 40K
1:03:36 (37.7 kph), 2 OA / 1 AG

Having done this race so many times already, and having checked the weather forecast, I knew that we were about to get baked out on the bike and run course.  For an Olympic I will typically only need one bottle of water on the bike, but the temperature was already high and by the time we hit the run course the humidex would be pushing 100º…not fun.  I have suffered through the run a few times so I knew I needed to get my fuelling right on the bike, despite it only being an Olympic.  That said, I made sure to down an entire bottle of water as well as a whole Gatorade, and I supplemented that with a Clif Bar, Gu gel and a salt tab.  It was a good thing I got all those calories and electrolytes in too, because I was busting my hump on the bike.  The course is flat and it was a good day to ride with not much of a wind to speak of.  I kept the pace high and tried to reel in the leader and picked my way through the women’s field as well as the duathletes.  As we came up to the Sprint turnaround about 10K in the volunteers were hollering “Sprint turnaround, Olympic turn right”…well I don’t know what I heard but I just kept bombing straight ahead through the intersection.  I made it about 50m before my brain registered the instructions they just heard and I slammed on the brakes and yelled back at the volunteers to confirm that I had indeed missed my turn.  Ugh.  Feeling stupid I stomped on the pedals as hard as I could and burned a few matches I probably should have been saving to try to make up for my mistake.

Coming up to our first of two turnarounds I was flying along averaging around 40kph and no one had passed me at all, but I still couldn’t see the leader.  I was eying up all of the other riders who had already made the turn and there was one guy there that I thought I might be chasing.  I put my head down and got to work.  Around this time I also started to see a few friends and London Tri Club teammates out on the course and it was a nice boost when we were able to cheer each other on.  Thanks Melissa and Paula!

I was back on the homestretch riding along Lakeshore and weaving my way through all kinds of traffic as I had caught up to the sprint race.  I even had to slow down almost to a stop just 2K from transition as there was a Jeep on the course who was (thankfully) going slow, but he was also blocking the entire road meaning I had to go slow.  We turned a corner and an opening appeared beside the Jeep so I shot through and then signalled him that I was passing him…again stomping on the pedals, again more matches burned.  I need to learn to deal with frustration a bit better Smile.  I rode my way through the neighbourhood and slipped my feet out of my shoes and jumped off my bike just before the dismount line.  This wasn’t without it’s own frustrations either as a guy decided to bring his bike to a complete stop and take his sweet time to unclip right at the line, managing to block everyone.  I yelled at him (I actually yelled at a few people on the bike course…I must have been in a bad mood) and narrowly missed a collision but I was off the bike course averaging 37.7kph, my fastest bike split ever.

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Run – 10K
43:44 (4:23/km), 7 OA / 1 AG

Another quick transition in T2 of 56 seconds and I hit the 10K run course.  After a kilometre plus of swimming and another 40 kilometres of biking I was still in second place and I still couldn’t see the guy in front of me.  I made the turn out of T2 and saw Tom cheering and taking pictures, supporting all of the London Tri Club folks out here for the race.  I saw Nancy on the short out and back leg that starts the run and we cheered each other on, giving me a boost to start my 10K.  It was scorching hot by now and there is absolutely no shade on the run course.  We run along the shore of Lake Huron for a while but there wasn’t a lick of a breeze to speak of.  Everyone was melting and you could see the struggle on people’s faces.  I was taking water at every aid station and drinking as well as dumping over my head.  There were plenty of people out with their hoses as well offering a sweet cooling mist of relief, which I also took every advantage of.

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I was hoping to keep my pace under 4:30/km for the run, which is slower than I would normally settle for but under the circumstances it was a reasonable goal.  I was also trying to reel in the leader and knew there would be some strong runners in the field that would love to run me down as well.  I was a couple of kilometres in when I saw the Duathlon leader Chris Balestrini go tearing by on the way to his win and he gave me a high five as he flew by…he was looking strong.  A little bit later I saw the second place duathlete Scott Finch go by and he looked like I felt…the heat was getting to everyone.

The turnaround came and they had ice water…glorious ice water!  I downed a cup and dumped ice in my hat and liked it so much I had seconds…such a relief.  I was an absolute puddle by this point after dumping waters, getting sprayed by hoses and generally sweating like a whore in church.  Only 4K to go, but I thought I caught a glimpse of the leader before making the turn…I had him about 500m ahead.  It was the push I needed in the heat and I kept on the gas as best I could to try and run him down…I knew I had a shot.  With about 2K til the finish I came up right behind him, finally close enough to read his calf…O DU.  Nooooo!!!  “Dammit, you’re in the Duathlon!”, I said as I came up on him.  “I thought you were leading the Tri!”  I knew that I wouldn’t be catching first place now but I didn’t let up.  I don’t know that they were actually there or not, but I was hearing footsteps…I wasn’t about to let second place slip away.  I took the final turn to the finish with the cheers of my family (and Tom) and gave the strongest kick I could.  I crossed the line in 2:06:58 (30+ seconds ahead of third, so I wasn’t hearing any steps) and I took second place overall.  All that was left to be determined was if the winner was in my age group…my big bottle of beer was on the line!

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After crossing the line I downed a couple of bottles of water and had a wee lie on the ground before getting up to go find my family.  I found them and we went and sat in the shade of the picnic pavilion, cheering on runners as they headed down the finishing chute.  I also got to see a bunch of friends out there and chatted with everyone while we waited around for the awards ceremony.  I was called up as part of the overall podium and received a plaque for my efforts (but not a bottle of beer), and shortly after that they called my name as the winner of the 30-39 age group…whew what a relief!  All of the training came to fruition in a glorious giant bottle of craft beer!  I also got to share the podium with my buddy Abe, so that was pretty cool.  This guy’s swim just keeps getting better and once he reaches that potential I know I’m going to have to work even harder in my age group!

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All in all it was another great day at the Bluewater Triathlon and there is little doubt that I will be back next year.  Best triathlon prizes ever to go with a legendary post-race pig out, ya I’ll be back Smile.

The ladies did well in their relay as well, with Michelle beating her bike goal by nearly 15 minutes!

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And I guess the report isn’t complete if I don’t show a picture of the elusive big ol’ bottle of beer, so hear it is…Team Sheri teammate Paula also won her age group!

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Thanks to everyone at the Bluewater Triathlon, the volunteers here are outstanding and Ken Walker and his daughter Haley Walker do an excellent job organizing the event year in and year out.  Thanks to Tom for supporting all of us London Tri Clubbers and to my Dad for bringing the kids out and cheering us on.  Next race for me will be the Long Course at Kingston this weekend and then Ironman Mont Tremblant on August 21.  Cheers for reading!

Monday, June 27, 2016

2016 MSC Welland Long Course Race Recap

Posted by CheapRunnerMike

Triathlon season is now well underway with races going on almost every weekend here in Southwestern Ontario.  This past weekend I took part in my second triathlon of the season in Welland, down in the Niagara region.  Multisport Canada was putting the race on as part of their Rose City Triathlon Weekend, which featured short course on Saturday and my race, the Long Course, on Sunday.  The weather looked great with no threat of rain and some smoking hot temperatures.

The whole family would be going to the race and we set off for Welland on Saturday morning after Kennedy finished her swim practice.  It was a gorgeous day and we decided to drop the top on the Jeep and take the backroads as we didn’t have anywhere to be at a certain time.  It was a nice relaxing drive and we pulled into Welland shortly after 3:00, just in time to go to the race site and do a quick and easy bib pickup (one less thing to worry about on race day).  After that it was off to check in to our room (we ended up staying at the college dorm) and then off to Niagara Falls to grab some dinner.  We have a cool little restaurant there called The Boat House that has become our go-to for prerace dining when down in the region…a little bit off the beaten path, decent food at decent prices, cool patio and best of all, no tourists!  A big plate of spaghetti & meatballs later and we were heading back to our room in Welland (with a quick ice cream stop on the way!) to head off to bed.

Morning came and I was greeted by a splitting headache.  My allergies were in full force and decided full-on congestion wasn’t enough, so they threw in an upset stomach and the headache for good measure.  We went to grab breakfast and I could barely stomach a half of a bagel…not good.  Michelle looked at me and said I didn’t look good.  I certainly didn’t feel good.  Not much to do but dial back my goals and try to be realistic out there, so I got myself ready and we headed to the race site.

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We arrived at the race site, the Welland International Flatwater Centre, and I set up my transition area, got body marked and said hi to a few people including Coach Sheri who was there to cheer on and support a bunch of her athletes.  A quick farewell to the family and I was off for a short warmup swim.

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Swim - 2000m
32:37 (1:37/100m), 3/21 AG

I was looking forward to this swim for a while as the venue is incredible…by far the best open water swim course I have ever done.  I had done the exact same course back in September at Barrelman so I knew it was conducive to a quick time.  I hung out at the start line with Team Sheri teammate Kristen as we were in the same wave, set to go off at 8:30 just one minute after the pros.  The horn sounded and I took off.  The start was nice and clean, no real jarring for position for a change and I didn’t take a single elbow to the face.  I got into a good rhythm right away and had my stroke and breathing well under control.  My favourite feature of this swim course is the rope that runs the length of the canal that has the distance markers for the rowing that competes there…the swim course uses the rope to tie the buoys as well, and the water is crystal clear so you can actually sight off of the ropes under water.  I am a notorious zig-zagger, so this helps immensely.  I made my way to the rope within the first 100m or so and stuck with it the rest of the way.  A few other people had the same idea and the only time I came off the rope was when I had to go past another swimmer and when we had to cross to the other side of the canal at the halfway point.  To give you an idea how effective the rope line was, my watch measured the 2000m swim at 1984m…I am never that close let alone short!  I was passing a good number of people and very few people were passing me, other than one guy from the wave behind me that made me feel like I was just treading water…whoever you are you looked like a torpedo screaming by my!  I made the final turn back to shore and climb up the swim ramp to run in front of the crowd in the grandstand and up the stairway to T1.  There was a guy in front of me walking up the stairs so I gave him a heads up that I was coming and ran past him…I don’t get people who walk through transition, do they forget it’s a race??  It was a great swim for me though, pretty sure it was my quickest pace ever and I was over a minute and a half faster than Barrelman last September on the exact same course.  All that winter swimming is paying off!

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Bike - 56K
1:35:36 (35.2kph), 4/21 AG

There was a bit of a run from T1 to the mount line and then it was off on the roads to the west of Welland.  I was familiar with the course as it was identical to the first 56K of Barrelman…flat.  I was still feeling like garbage with a headache that was getting worse by the minute.  Now that I was out of the cool canal waters I could feel the heat…it was already 30ºC+ and the sun was blazing without a cloud in the sky.  The only relief was the wind, but we were riding into it, felt like a bit of a crosswind coming in on the front right shoulder.  I kept spinning quick and easy but I was not feeling good.  The legs felt tired and heavy and it didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere for the work I was putting in.  I passed a few guys right away in the first 5K and I saw Coach Sheri on the course as well taking pictures and cheering her athletes on.  She even told me I had a great swim, high praise coming from her!  After that first stretch I was riding all alone for a while with no one in sight ahead of me.  Eventually a few riders came up from behind to pass me, but the numbers weren’t overwhelming…I honestly was expecting more of them I felt so bad.  When we made the turn at Lake Erie to head back towards Welland I immediately saw a boost in my speed with no change in effort…maybe that wind was stronger than I had thought?  With the tailwind assisting me I picked up the pace and started to feel better about my ride.  I still physically felt like crap, but at least the mental game was getting better.  My headache was absolutely pounding by this point and I had loosed off the tension on my helmet as much as I could without having the thing bounce around too much.  I even tried to pop it up on my forehead a bit to get some air through as aero helmets are notorious for their lack of airflow.  My average speed was creeping up and I was able to get over 35kph, so I kept pushing and even managed to catch a few people.  There was still the occasional athlete going by me, but it wasn’t until the 40K point I saw someone that was in my age group...I put a mental marker on him to track him down on the run.  Just as we got back into town I was able to experience a race first…getting stopped by a train.  Another rider and I crossed the Forks Rd bridge and made the turn onto Canal Bank St and were greeted by the bells and flashing lights of a railway crossing.  A line of cars were stopped as well as another athlete, but the train was just sitting there, moving very slowly towards the street.  It looked like he was stopping, but who knows with a train and who wants to risk it?  The cyclist at the tracks was communicating with the conductor and we were given the go ahead to cross the tracks.  Probably not the best time to be shunting given there BEING A RACE and all.  Jeez.  With that potential mess out of the way we only had 2 to 3K to go until T2…with four of us stopped at the tracks it was hard not to ride in a pack, but especially knowing T2 was so close I backed off as much as I could to avoid any drafting penalties (I don’t think the other 3 cared, they just rode each other’s wheel).  It might have been a mistake on my part as the guy in front of me took his sweet time coming into T2 to get out of his shoes and dismount, managing to take up the entire lane while he was at it.  As soon as he pulled over near the dismount line I hoped off my bike and ran right by him into T2.  By now I was actually pretty happy with how the ride turned out, and it was one of my fastest bike splits ever.

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Run - 15K
1:06:10 (4:24/km), 1/21 AG

Another quick transition buoyed by seeing Michelle and the kids on my way in and it was out to the run course.  The 15K run consisted of 3 loops of 5K along the Canal path.  The run was in a great setting with no traffic to worry about and the opportunity to run in front of crowds in the WIFC grandstand 3 times.  The only negative was that there wasn’t a lick of shade and it was scorching hot by now.  At least there were plenty of aid stations to go by and they were well-stocked with water, HEED, Coke, ice, gels and cold sponges…you pass an aid station 12 times over the course of the run so support is never far away.  As soon as I left T2 I saw Coach Sheri again…she asked how I was feeling to which I responded, “Shitty!”.  The headache wasn’t getting any better and now that I was running I really felt the heat.  I made sure to start taking water right away and took a drink and dumped the rest over my head at each station.  I was flying out of T2 and clocked my first kilometre at 3:51…waaaaay too fast in this heat.  I made an effort to back off and decided that I should try and settle in somewhere around a 4:30 pace.  Less than 2K into the run I spotted the guy in my age group that I made a mental marker of and flew by him.  For as awful as I was feeling I felt like the run was starting out well.  I went by quite a few people on the first loop and only one guy passed me (some young 20-something whippersnapper).  I ran in front of the grandstand crowd and easily spotted Michelle and the kids as they were right at the path cheering all the runners on.  I blew them a kiss and grabbed some high-fives before setting out on loop 2.  My first 5K was a pretty speedy 20:43.  I went by Coach Sheri again and she was happy with my run so far and the number of people I had gone past…that’s easy to do in the first 5K though, it’s whether you can keep it up or not that really counts.  Everyone was bound to fade in these conditions, so I was just trying to not fade as quickly as the others.

Loop 2 was a lot more crowded as athletes were making their way from the bike to the run and I was feeding off of the competition and reeling plenty of runners in.  The heat was taking it’s toll but I just keep drinking water and pouring water and ice over my head.  I also started to add in some HEED on this lop to try and get some electrolytes in (I had also had an entire bottle of Gatorade while on the bike).  I saw a few teammates on the run and got high-fives from Stacy, who was looking strong as usual on the run.  Around the canal and by the family again where I told Michelle I would see her at the finish…22:38 for the second 5K loop, still hanging strong.  This last time by Coach Sheri she yelled at me to get some calories on this loop, which I bonked on not having a clue what to take…there was no way I could down one of the gels they were handing out.  Then she added on, “Coke!  At this aid station!!”  Light bulb!  Man did that Coke taste good…mmm, mmmmmm!!  I enjoyed the quick boost and picked up the pace a bit.  More people, more cheers, more encouragement given to other runners…all the while feeding my push to the finish.  I made the final turn and starting busting it with everything I had left…saw the family one last time and took the left turn to the finishing chute.  Across the line in 3:15:53, 4+ minutes better than my loose goal of 3:20, and a handshake from John Salt to seal the deal.  All of this despite tough conditions and never feeling even remotely good physically.  My time gave me 20th overall and was good for 2nd in my age group.  Pretty happy with this result, especially since I had basically written the race off just a few hours earlier.

podium

I spent the rest of the day nursing my headache (thanks again for the pills Stacy!) and hanging out with the family.  We went to Saint Catharines for dinner at one of our favourite local hangouts there, Bugsy’s, and then took the short drive to Niagara-On-The-Lake for some ice cream (yes, two days in a row!) before setting out on our drive home.  Having the family around to travel to races and cheer me on sure makes racing more enjoyable…I’m so lucky that they put up with my training and racing schedule.  Thanks guys!