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).
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!