This past weekend I raced my first triathlon of the season -- and the first tri I've done in 20 months -- up in Guelph Ontario. It was the Guelph Lake 1 Triathlon, part of the Subaru Triathlon Series and I competed in the Olympic distance event (1500m swim, 40K bike, 10K run).
The race was Saturday morning and I had to get up way too early…I was out of bed by 4:15 so that I could pack up the Jeep and hit the road for the 2 hour drive. Saturday was the first day of summer and therefore the longest day of the year, and it sure felt like it. I saw the sun start to bring the day to life shortly after 5am…that just ain't right.
I arrived at Guelph Lake Conservation Area right around 7:00 and the race was set to start at 8. I went and racked my bike, got my bib and swag bag and then went to body marking. Once that was done I went about setting up my transition area.
I kept an eye out for people I might know as I knew there were a few folks from the Wednesday Splash n Dash competing as well as Don from Masters Swim. I spotted Don coming into transition and we wished each other well then I got ready to head down to the beach for the swim start.
I was really looking forward to the swim for the first time ever in a triathlon and I was curious to see how I would do. In the past I have had some panic set in at the swim start, getting a little claustrophobic out in the water with the crush of people on me and I've never felt good getting out of the water, being dizzy and light-headed. This year would be different though…I had a wetsuit for the first time and more than anything I knew my hours in the pool would pay off. I was hoping to have a swim under 30 minutes, a 2:00/100m pace.
1500m Swim - 25:24 (1:42/100m, 4/30 in Age Group)
I was in the second wave and we were off at 8:03. I took off at the horn and tried to get going, but I took a pretty good swat to the head knocking my goggles askew. I kept going for a minute, but my goggles were filling with water so I just took a second to clear them and get them back on properly. This quick break also allowed my to find some clean water and settle into my own rhythm. The swim was going great. It was a pretty basic one loop out and back swim with just two turns to worry about. I made a real effort to spot well so that I could swim as straight as possible and it seemed to work as I only once found myself swimming off course.
I made my way back to shore swimming past all kinds of red caps (athletes from the first wave) and plenty of blue-cappers as well (second wave like me). This was a real confidence boost, as was the great feeling as I came out of the water and made the sprint up the beach to T1…I felt awesome, no dizziness at all and everything was going … ahem … swimmingly.
I hit T1 and the first thing I noticed was that there were still a LOT of bikes on the Men's 35-39 rack…like almost all of them. I didn't know it at the time, but I was 4th out of the water for my age group (of 30 athletes) and I had done the swim in a little over 25 minutes…much faster than my goal time! I ditched the wetsuit and got geared up for the 40K bike…I was in and out of T1 in 2:09, just a little slower than I would have liked but I wasn't rushing anything. I wanted to make sure I had everything I would need.
40K Bike - 1:08:48 (34.9kph/21.8mph, 6/30 in Age Group)
The bike was something I was really looking forward to. I love my new bike and couldn't wait to race with her. The course was a 40K out and back over rolling countryside. The roads were pretty good for the most part, with the exception of some really rough surface at the start/finish. There were also quite a few corners, something that I learned I will need to work on…I had quite a few guys open a gap on me in the turns.
The bike did great on the hills and was so nice and light. I never felt like I was working too hard and just kept my legs spinning the whole time, working the gears in aero. It was a blast! Coming back was mostly downhill so I was able to build some really good speed, so much so that on one of the shorter climbs I actually passed a couple of cars that were out for a (slow) drive. Any of the motorists who found themselves caught up in the middle of our race were great…very slow and very careful, which was greatly appreciated.
I hit T2 after a 1:08:48 bike, which I was very happy with considering the course was a bit hilly and had some rough patches coupled with a number of corners. I had been shooting for 35kph and ended up at 34.9kph, so we'll say I hit the target. As I crossed the mat heading into T2 I heard the announcer call my name…"There's Mike Cooke from London, who is having himself a great race today!" It was a nice boost, as was a rack that only had 3 bikes on it so far…I was sitting in 4th place in my age group after the swim and bike, and I was heading into my strength, the run.
10K Run - 38:35 (3:52/km 6:11/mile, 2/30 in Age Group)
I threw on my shoes, watch and visor and hit the 10K run course. It stayed entirely within the park and had a few little rolling hills. The legs were a bit jello-like at first but I was still putting down a good pace. Once the legs felt normal I was able to up the speed a bit more. It was really getting hot at this point so I had a couple sips of water, but most of my cup ended up being dumped over my head. I was passing a few people and nobody really passed me…it was a strong run. As I came towards the end of the run I started to notice that my watch was off at the kilometre markings, which was strange but not entirely unheard of during a race. My watch has been off by as much as 500m over a 10K race before, so I didn't think too much of it and continued to drop the hammer and take time out of my pace.
I made the turn to the finish line and saw 2:19:xx on the screen. I couldn't believe it. I had wanted to break 2:30…so ya, I think I might be able to break that goal. As my wave started 3 minutes after the official start my finish time was 2:16:30! Unbelievable! My previous best in an Olympic race was 2:37:52, and that was on a nice flat course with a shorter swim. This was incredible. This was the result of lots of hard work through the winter and spring. I was so proud. I found the results not long after finishing and saw that I had placed third in my age group and 25th overall (out of nearly 400).
I was able to get up on the podium to get my bronze medal and even got to mug for a few photos (thanks for the pics Kevin!) After that I dropped the top on the Jeep and set off for a beautiful drive to the cottage on an amazing sunny day.
What a great day and an awesome race, right? Well, the post title says there's a recap and an apology. Here's the apology part.
I didn't have access to a computer over the weekend as I was at the cottage, but when I got home on Sunday night I went to upload my GPS data and take a good look at my results. I ran a sub-39 10K. While I have run that fast before, I certainly haven't run that fast off a 40K bike. My watch showed 8.843km, nearly 1200m short of 10K. I went to the race website and pulled up the course map. I went into the Nike site and viewed the map from my GPS. There was a second turnaround. I missed it. I don't know how, but I did. I continued looking on the race website, this time for a contact email, and proceeded to send this.
Sent: June 22, 2014 6:03 PM
To: "Subaru Triathlon Series"
Subject: Guelph Lake I Result - Olympic Triathlon
I'm not sure where I should send this, but...
I didn't mean to -- I honestly didn't even know I had -- but it seems after looking at my results and my GPS today, I cut the second out and back of the run. I can honestly say I didn't see anyone out there directing me to turn and I can't remember ever missing a marked turn, but I obviously did.
What really sucks is that I had a great race and would have still had a great race if I ran that second out and back. I would have easily PR'd and smashed my goal for the day. Instead I have to explain to all the people I told that I didn't actually do as well as I thought, and that the medal I earned wasn't earned at all.
I placed third in my age group, Men's 35-39, and received a bronze medal. I try to teach my kids to do the right thing and this is where I need to lead by example. Please let me know where to send it, and please accept my apologies.
From: "Subaru Triathlon Series"
Date: June 23, 2014 at 10:24:41 AM EDT
Subject: RE: Guelph Lake I Result - Olympic Triathlon
We appreciate your honesty. Your kids can be proud!
We will contact our timer and have this result modified. We will be sure
that the appropriate third place finisher get his medal mailed to him.
Do not worry about having the third mailed back to us as we have quite a few thirds left over :)
Subaru Triathlon Series
So yes, I cheated…and I'm sorry. I figured out that if I had run the second out and back I would have taken another 5 minutes and would have come in at about 2:21 and 5th in my age group. I would have been thrilled with that…too bad. Lesson learned -- KNOW THE COURSE. I had looked at the course map, but I hadn't studied the course map. Big difference (obviously.) Once I knew the medal wasn't mine, I didn't want it and wanted to do whatever I could to make it right. To Bob Hayes of Toronto, congratulations on third place and I'm sorry you didn't get to enjoy your moment on the podium.
Have you ever "cheated" during a race?
Do you study course maps before a race?