Olympic – 2:23:21 (PB) – 22nd overall, 4th age group
This race wasn’t originally a part of my calendar. However, a bit of a knee injury meant I couldn’t race Bracebridge, but as it’s part of the Multisport Canada series, I could just switch my registration to Lakeside. This is a definite benefit of registering for series races versus one-offs. This also meant I was coming into the race very relaxed, just wanted to enjoy it, but was also very confident in my condition. As I hadn’t raced this course and a precise Olympic distance since 2015, I was pretty confident I had both a personal course best and distance PB in me.
Race day weather was setting up to be interesting. Barely a hint of wind, but the air temperature was quite cold to start, warming up by the time we would be running. I decided to include a jacket on the bike as I wasn’t in for the win, so preferred to take the time to be comfortable. In the past I had raced this race in just my tri kit and found that when too cold I can’t breath deeply, so you end up losing a lot of time out on the bike.
Swim – 1500m – 30:57 (2:03)
Two laps of a local pond make this one of the easier swim courses in the area, rarely any waves to speak of, and less murky than a lake. We lined up between the start buoys, and the only tricky part is that these are quite close together meaning that the athletes pack in tight for the start. On the gun I faced some moderate congestion, but tried to set a pace that was the balance between starting out too hard, and getting caught behind too many. Lots of folks seemed to swim out wide so I just kept to the left and made straight shots to each buoy. My only natural swim talent seems to be going in a straight line without sighting that often.
The first lap was basically uneventful. I was able to concentrate on my three current technique focus areas (earlier catch, no pause in the kick, hips up), and for the first time really got the sensation of moving forward through the water. This is opposed to the kind of thrashing, on-the-limit sense I usually have in races. Unfortunately, though much more comfortable, it didn’t translate to a particularly faster time. Perhaps, as Coach Scott suggested, it’s time to push it a bit more into the red.
By the second lap I had a bit of congestion issues, which is a bit odd because this is when it usually spreads out. A swimmer from my wave came veering over from my left at a 45 degree angle and literally climbed onto my back with his stroke. He rode me like a captured porpoise before carrying on in that direction heading god-only-knows-where. I couldn’t help but wonder how someone could have gotten this far in the swim at the same pace as me, and be so bad at sighting and direction. Sure enough, at the 2nd last turn buoy he came charging up again at another jaunty angle. It was clear that he was actually a much faster swimmer than me but was simply swimming all over the place. This was also the time that the fast swimmers from the wave behind came plowing by, but this group was politer than usual and went around me.
Bike – 40km – 1:05:08 (36.8 kph)
Coming up from the swim it was great having my kids as well as my buddy Dan and his kids cheering me on. However, looking at my watch and seeing 31 minutes I knew I had again left myself a lot of work to do on the bike and the run. I also knew I was going to be taking an absolute holiday in the first transition, and indeed took 3 minutes longer than usual – drying off, putting on socks, shoes, gloves, and jacket, and doing a regular mount versus a flying mount. However, I was playing the long game of a delayed transition so that I could bike at full speed.
Sure enough, as soon as I got the pedals turning I was working my way past people. In the end I passed 55 people on the bike portion. I had heard the announcer say that Scott Finch was out of transition ahead of me, so used this knowledge as a bit of a rabbit to chase (in the end Scott out-rode me by a minute). I caught Garvin Moses relatively early and him and I ended up playing leapfrog for the duration, with Lisa Goetz and Aaron Coady joining in for portions. The differences in riding styles were apparent, with Garvin and Lisa plowing by on the downhills and flats, and me bouncing by up the hills. It was great having some folks around my pace as solo riding can get a bit tedious over 40k.
Vehicle traffic was a bit of an issue on the course. At one point I was catching a slower rider when a car went by me. It then pulled between us and hit the brakes so as not to pass the slower rider as a police-controlled stop sign was coming. This led to a dilemma as I was in the aero bars with the car braking hard right in front of me, so I swung out and passed it on the left, having to ride on the yellow line. I knew the officer at the intersection saw this and had a lingering thought in the back of my mind: Is on the yellow line the same DQ as crossing the yellow line? If it’s to save yourself from running into the back of a car at 40kph can you appeal? I just had to try to ignore these worries and ride on.
The other issue was a truck pulling a boat that again went around me then pulled in. However, this one was going the same pace as me as I think it was waiting to pass Garvin. This time my thought was: Is there a legal drafting distance to a vehicle as opposed to a fellow racer? I didn’t want to drop too far back as I knew it would only be there for a second until it had space to pass, but at the same time could definitely feel the draft. It didn’t last long enough to matter this time, but led me to wonder about rules around outside assistance and drafting, and whether these scenarios are even covered in Triathlon Ontario rules? Hypothetically it could significantly impact a race.
I finished off the bike by taking the last kilometre to sit up, stretch out, and catch my breath. With the stitch issues I’ve been having running, I really wanted to unfold myself from the aero bars for a bit. It also gave me a chance to take off my gloves and undo my jacket, speeding up transition 2. It did mean those I was riding with all pulled ahead near the end, but I was confident that if I was running stitch-free, I could bring most back.
Run – 10km – 42:33 (4:15min/km)
All I really aim for in the Olympic distance run is low 4’s. This can be 4:05, this can be 4:25, just dictated by feeling and breathing. This is why past races when a stitch pushed me over a 5 minute pace is depressing. However, this time things felt good and I immediately began ticking away at a 4:10 pace. Garvin vanished up the road, but I passed a couple others and only Aaron came with me. The challenge was I was now looking at a long empty stretch of road ahead, as the times of others plus wave starts just happened to make a several minute gap ahead of me.
With no one really to chase, cheering on Jessey The Elf and Brandon Schaufele was a bit of a break from the monotony of a 2-lap course, and I decided trying to unhitch Aaron would be a bit of a motivator (nothing personal :D). It was also good to see Tim out there doing his first Olympic distance race. The run was pretty straightforward, trying not to twist an ankle on the gravel road, and holding a brisk pace. I came across the line knowing I had definitely set a PB for the distance.
A wonderful day and a full 14 minutes off my Olympic distance PB, even with an extra 3 minutes in transition 1. It’s really a great feeling to have the work and the condition all come together on race day and feel like you can really put together a time reflective of this condition. This was a solid ending to the 2017 race season, with only a run, a charity ride, and a potential duathlon lingering for the fall.
However, I was still a full 10 minutes behind 3rd place in my age group. I’ve always had in mind 2:10 as the target time if I hope to make the Age Group World Championships one year, and this race was another good indicator of this target. Top 3 in my age group went 2:07, 2:12, and 2:13. So while I can celebrate the improvements over the last 4 years, I also know there’s a ton of work left to do. I need to take 4 minutes off the swim, 4 off the bike, and 2 off the run. This is no small feat as these gains get exponentially harder as speeds go up (ie. dropping a run from 44 minutes to 42 minutes on the 10k takes less training than 42 minutes to 40 minutes).
So, can I do it? At some point I will hit both my personal physical limitations, and age-related losses will set in. However, I do feel like I’ve got a lot of gains still left to come (as long as I stay healthy). There’s only one way to find out, and I’m stoked going into the winter season which is actually my heavier training load as I don’t have to contend with a taper and recovery cycle from racing. So here’s to spin bikes and trainers, snow runs and treadmills, and getting up in the dark to swim!
Thanks as always to 3Sixty5Cycling for supporting me this season!