I kicked off my 2016 triathlon season this past weekend at the MultiSport Canada Woodstock Triathlon. There is usually a pretty great turnout for this race as it is the first race of the series and Woodstock is in a nice central area for Southwestern Ontario. The longest race offered is a Sprint triathlon, so I was slated for a 750m swim, 20K bike and a 5K run…basically just a training day that would let me see where my racing legs were at.
Michelle and I drove down early Saturday morning and I was able to get my bike racked and bib picked up quickly, giving me plenty of time to set up in transition and say hi to a lot of familiar faces, many of whom I hadn’t seen since last season. This was also our London Triathlon Club club race, so I had plenty of team mates around as well (not to mention our team tent fully stocked with cold water and Gatorade – thanks Tom!). Even Coach Sheri showed up to race with Coach Scott in the relay…it was going to be a fun day.
The weather forecast was not looking very good leading up to race morning with rain, wind and thunderstorms being a near certainty, but race morning arrived with sunshine and a lot of wind. It was also getting hot and humid right away, and I was sweating as soon as I got in my wetsuit. A kiss from Michelle and a couple last minute well-wishes with a few other athletes and I popped into the lake for a quick warm-up swim (where I managed to smack heads with another swimmer, ouch!). I was in wave 1, and we were starting right at 9:00, one minute after the pros (an awesome field too, including Lionel Sanders & Alex Vanderlinden).
Swim - 750m
12:44 (1:41/100m), 1/27 AG
The swim was a bit dicey right from the start…everyone kinda freaks out and spazzes a bit, resulting in me taking a Jimmy Superfly Snuka-worthy elbow to the goggles, compressing the left goggle so tight all I could see was black and my right goggle slid halfway down my eye. I continued on through the melee for about 25m before popping my head up to fix them…back at it. As I cruised past a number of people I experienced something I have never had happen in a triathlon swim before…multiple times someone actually grabbed my leg. I’m not talking brushing my leg or tickling my toes, but a full on clutch accompanied by a pull back. Seriously, WTF? There has to be faster swimmers than me to latch on to!
I made the turn at the first buoy and started dealing with a bit of chop but I think I was handling it better than others as I continued to swim by people. I made the second turn and began heading back to the beach and even noticed that I was going by some purple swim caps, which belonged to the Pros and Elite Age Groupers that went off a minute before me. I hit the beach and saw 12:30 on my watch, a time I could certainly live with. A quick sprint up the hill to transition (T1 1:09, meh) revealed a very full bike rack…always a good sign!
Bike - 20K
34:39 (34.6km/h), 2/27 AG
I jumped on my bike and started up the first hill out of the park. This is supposed to be a no-passing zone for safety and there was one guy ahead of me put-putting his way up it…he was maybe doing 15. I waited and waited and finally got to the top of the hill and blew past him. Very frustrating, but I understand that it probably gets a bit messier as the race goes on and the hill gets more congested. Once I was out of the park and on the open road the wind came whipping by in full force. The bike course is an ‘n’ shape and the 30+kph crosswinds were hard to take. I saw a few guys out there with deep dishes and even discs and I really don’t know how they managed. About 2K from the turnaround I saw the green flash of Lionel Sanders blow by the other way and I have to admit it was pretty impressive. Not far behind was Alex Vanderlinden and then a steady stream of cyclists…I was sitting back about 20 spots or so. I made the turn and tried to stomach a gel (got half of it down I guess?) and then it was time to put the head down and really fight the wind. I had gone into the race hoping to nail the bike, going hard through the whole ride and seeing what my legs would have left for the run. This year was a much tougher ride than last and I still managed to beat my bike split…good progress. On the tough wind-in-your-face backstretch I was finally passed for the first time but nobody else caught me. I came down the hill back into the park (with no one to worry about passing this time), got my feet out of my shoes and hopped off the bike to run into T2 (1:02). There was an empty rack greeting Betty and I, again always a good sign, but as soon as I racked Betty the section of rack I was in fell down…ugh. I took a second to try and put it back but it wasn’t happening, so I slid my shoes on as well as my sparkly pink visor (#teamsparkle) and hit the hot & humid run course…it was already up over 30ºC (86ºF).
Run - 5K
19:43 (3:56/km), 1/27 AG
As I exited transition I yelled to one of the volunteers that the rack was down hoping that they would get it fixed before the other athletes got in there. I came out of T2 with Prakash Pandya right on my heels and he overtook me pretty quickly (not a surprise). I held onto him for a while but knew the legs didn’t have the juice to keep up…had to just hold a steady pace. I was closing the gap on another runner up in front of me who happened to be wearing a TRS Triathlon team kit…he represented TRS well as he pulled off to the side of the course just before 1K and started puking. Dark Mark would be proud. I made the turn to run across the dam and had the highlight of my race, Lionel Sanders barrelling towards me with a big lead. I figured I may not get this chance again so I put up my hand and yelled, “Hey Lionel, I need one of these!”. He got a bit of a smile on his face, maybe something to do with the goofy runner coming at him with a sparkly pink visor, rainbow tie-dye jersey and pink running shoes, but he threw his hand up and we connected on a picture-perfect high-five…seriously Zoomphoto, where were you on that one???
I grabbed a quick slug of water from Loe’s water station and made the turn, noticing that there were a few guys in hot pursuit. I just continued to hold a steady pace hoping that would be enough to hold them off. When one guy did get by me I just let him go as I saw he was in the 30-34AG, not mine. I heard footsteps the entire back section of the run but no one else got by me. Apparently every time he surged I did too (unknowingly). It was actually pretty fu on the way back as I saw a bunch of friends and team mates out on their run…cheers and high-fives from Coach Sheri, Abe, Luke and a few others. I came down the finishing chute and still had plenty of gas left so I gave it a strong kick. I saw 1:09:xx and knew I had beat last year’s time (in much tougher conditions) and had gone under 1:10 as I had hoped. It was a PR time of 1:09:15, good for 22nd overall and a win in my Age Group.
After the race I met up with Michelle again and we cheered people on at the finish line, grabbed some food, chatted with friends and enjoyed the party. Michelle had to head back to London to get to Kennedy’s swim meet so I said goodbye and shortly after I took off with one of my London Tri Club team mates to ride our bikes home to London…you know, because racing wasn’t enough. It was a great day and yet another great event put on by John Salt and his team at MultiSport Canada. Two more weeks and I’ll do it all over again down in Welland!