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.


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.


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!


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.

run 1

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.


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!

Monday, June 13, 2016

2016 MultiSport Canada Woodstock Triathlon Recap

Posted by CheapRunnerMike

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).

2016 MultiSport Canada Woodstock Triathlon

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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).

2016 MultiSport Canada Woodstock Triathlon

All photos are FREE to download thanks to MultiSport Canada @MultiSportCan #racelocal #freeracephotos

Need photographic services at your race, event, gala, party, or other?  Are you in Canada?  Give Zoomphoto a shout!

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.

2016 MultiSport Canada Woodstock Triathlon

All photos are FREE to download thanks to MultiSport Canada @MultiSportCan #racelocal #freeracephotos

Need photographic services at your race, event, gala, party, or other?  Are you in Canada?  Give Zoomphoto a shout!

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!