Wednesday, July 26, 2017

2017 Bluewater Olympic Triathlon Recap

Posted by CheapRunnerMike

The Bluewater Triathlon in Bright’s Grove is one of my favourite races out there, clearly evident by the fact that this past weekend was my sixth year in a row competing in the Olympic distance triathlon. It is a wonderful local race and it is conveniently located just down the road from our cottage. The race supports a local church and is known as much for the post-race “pig out” as it is for the race itself.

Michelle, Jackson and I left the cottage bright and early on Saturday and made the short drive down to Bright’s Grove…Jackson was going to be helping Michelle out as she was volunteering at one of the run aid stations. I dumped my bike in transition and then went to grab my race kit while Michelle figured out where she was going to be stationed. It didn’t take long for me to get everything ready and set up my transition area, leaving me with plenty of time to socialize with some of the many people I knew who were doing the race. I chatted with Spencer, who was back to defend his Sprint Duathlon win from last year, as well as Abe, who was out to try and knock me off as the top 30-39 year old male. I finished second overall in the Olympic Tri last year, which was good for first in my age group…Abe was second in the age group and has had his sights set on taking me down in this race since last year. We had a side bet for this one too, as whoever wins the age group receives a big bottle of beer from Refined Fool, a local craft brewery. It was decided that whoever won would have to buy the other guy a Refined Fool. Good deal.


Swim – 1100m
18:14 (1:33/100m), 3rd OA / 1st AG

The swim is supposed to be 1500m, but in reality it is about 1100. To be fair the run from the lake to transition might just make up that extra 400m. The swim here is beautiful, always one of my favourites. It is in Lake Huron and hugs tight to the shore…the water is clear and cool, perfect conditions with a wetsuit. This morning was overcast and rain was threatening, but the lake was calm as can be, a sheet of glass. I managed a quick warm up and then just hung out on shore waiting for the start. I took up my position right in line with the first turn buoy, which was a mere 50m from shore. The horn went and I busted it from the start to the turn , trying to avoid the crush of people hitting that turn at the same time. I was successful as I was the second or third guy there, which gave me plenty of clean water for the rest of the race. I just settled in and found my rhythm, cruising along nice and easy. It didn’t take long to get some separation from the field and I was swimming in second or third position most of the time. The lead swimmer was way out front and there was no catching him, but I went back and forth with another guy for second spot. He seemed to pull ahead a couple of times but I noticed he was off line and going out pretty wide, so I knew that if I just held my line I would be out front once we made the turn back to shore. Soon enough we came to the final buoy and I put my head down and swam hard to the swim exit, trying my best to be second out of the water. As I approached the shore I took a quick peek to see how close I was and I could see/hear people yelling at me…not cheering, but yelling, “You’re on the wrong side!”. The shoreline in Bright’s Grove has a bunch of groynes that protect the beaches from eroding away…basically they are metal walls that go out into the water. The water level is higher than previous years and the groyne is therefore a bit lower and apparently not as easy to see. Since I didn’t have anyone in front of me to follow I guess I didn’t notice that I had in fact swam up the wrong side of the groyne. It took a couple of seconds for this to register before I had my “oh $h!t” moment, then I turned around and began to swim back around the groyne to the swim exit side. Of course this meant that the guy I had battled all through the swim with was able to pass me and I had to settle for third out of the water. A bit frustrated but I knew I was still in a good position. Swim time was 17:10, 18:14 by the time I raced up the stairs and along the long path into T1.


Bike – 40K
1:03:27 (37.8kph), 8th OA / 1st AG

Onto the bike and the pancake flat ride. There was a little bit of wind but not enough to really do much damage. I had to work slightly harder with the wind in my face but the slight tailwind evened things out on the way back. I passed a few of the sprint athletes as well as some duathletes and was settling in nicely. I popped a salt tab and was downing water and Gatorade, getting my nutrition taken care of. It wasn’t long before Chris Balestrini went flying past me, trying to chase down the leader. Chris has won the Olympic Duathlon here for as long as I can remember but he has focused on triathlon this year…bad news for us triathletes! He has been coming out on Wednesdays to our weekly Splash n Dash and you can see the improvements in his swimming. It won’t be long until he is a serious threat to the big boys as there aren’t many faster runners out there. Anyways, Chris flew by me and then I was quickly passed again by Mike Coughlin, who I had just met before the race since we racked our bikes beside each other. He went by like a rocket and left me in his dust. No worries, my game isn’t biking guys down…if I chased I knew I would blow up on the run. I just continued to focus on keeping a nice high cadence and holding steady watts. I kept the power just under 90% FTP and managed to hold it there the entire ride, right where I had planned to be.

I saw a bunch a familiar faces out on the course and cheered people on as I went by them. Once I hit the first turnaround I was able to check out my competition and see how close they were. It looked like Chris had put nearly a kilometre into me by the turn at 18K, but when I saw Abe flying by towards the turnaround I figured I had almost 3K on him, a gap that I knew would be hard for him to overcome. I kept pushing and rode the tailwind back to T2, nice and uneventful.


Run – 10K
40:21 (4:03/km), 8th OA / 1st AG

It was a quick 39 seconds to get through transition and out onto the run. The first section of the run is a left turn out of transition with a short little 500m run to a turnaround, then you run back past transition for a long out and back along the lakeshore path and road. As I made the left out of T1 I saw Shane from MEC (a local running/biking/outdoors store) heading the other way and gave him a cheer…he was competing in the Relay event and I knew he was a strong runner, so I was hoping I could try to claw back some time from him and use his pace as a motivator. I hit the first turn and took some water right away…it was still overcast but it was warm and muggy. These were the best racing conditions I can remember having at this race and I wanted to make the most of it. I saw a few more faces I knew as I ran back past transition, but no Abe. At this point I was just hoping he was doing okay as I knew he was battling some knee issues and wasn’t at 100%. I came to the next aid station at the park exit and I had to make sure I took some water there as that was where Michelle and Jackson were stationed. I could hear Michelle long before I saw her! I darted across the path and made the cup grab from Jackson and then took off with some fire in my belly. Right after that the rain came and it was quite welcome at that point. It was light and just enough that it felt good. I was holding the pace around 4:15, which felt very manageable…I didn’t see the sense in pushing too hard too soon. I cruised along and made it to the turn at 5.5K…I had made up most of the gap on Shane by this point as he was now about 300m ahead. There was another issue now though as the sixth place athlete, Andrew Scollard, had caught up to me while I was downing some ice water. Before he could actually pass me I started talking to him. We follow each other on Strava but had never actually met, so I introduced myself and we chatted for a bit. I told him he must have really been moving to catch up to me and he said he was chasing hard the whole way and was feeling it now. Perfect. I just kept talking away and staying right on his shoulder. We had upped the pace by now and were running in the low 4:00-range. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t able to recover from his initial effort to catch me but I was still feeling pretty fresh and was saving something for the finish. We came to the second last aid station and I scooted over to grab some water, knowing that Jackson and Michelle’s aid station would be where I made my move. Andrew was hanging on but I could tell by his breathing that he was near his limit. He wasn’t really talking to me anymore either. We came to the end of the road an entered the park with Michelle and Jackson there cheering me on. Just a half mile to the finish. We had just caught Shane, who was putting down a great run of his own, and I dropped the hammer. I took off and sprinted the final 800m. I heard footsteps chasing me and wondered if it was Shane or Andrew, but then I heard “go Daddy! I’m coming!” and realized it was actually Jackson chasing me! I made the turn into the finish chute and the little guy met me on the other side. Shane came in next followed closely by Andrew…I ended up getting him by 10 seconds in the end. The run felt great and I believe that I executed it perfectly…I could have pushed harder and gone under 40 minutes if I wanted to but I didn’t want to risk a blow up.


My final time was 2:03:34, fastest I have ever gone at this race and 3 and a half minutes faster than last year. I took 5th place overall and most importantly the age group win, meaning I win a big ol’ bottle of beer! We stuck around for awards and of course the great food spread…I enjoyed my hot dog, chili and of course the legendary butter tarts. Thanks to all of the volunteers that continue to make this a great race, thanks to Michelle and Jackson for being a great cheer squad while volunteering themselves, and thanks as well to Brad Reiter for the great photos. A special shout out to Ken Walker (along with his wife Deb and daughter Haley) who has been running this race for nearly 30 years now…thank you so much for all the work you do year after year. All of us athletes truly appreciate it!


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