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