Sprint – 1:06:11 (PB), 20th overall, 4th age group
Coming off a 5k PB the weekend before, I knew I was in good shape. I had also been swimming 5x per week over the winter, and doing a load of cycling. With a previous sprint distance PB of 1:12:56, I knew this was well in reach and planned to go under 1:10, with 1:08 as the stretch goal. The race venue was Welland, Ontario, which is pan flat and known as a fast course in general, with the swim in a flatwater rowing centre. It was an early start to the day at 4:30am, but my family came along as the kids wanted to play at the local skatepark.
The great thing about local races is the sense of community. It was great to touch base with Jessey The Elf, Jeff Wylie, and others who I see online but only get to see in person on race days. Also good to see Coach Scott, Coah Laura, David, and other regular training partners.
Swim – 750m – 15:15 (2:02/100m)
I’ve learned over time to start my race just behind the strongest swimmers and go out cautiously. I find it better positioning to be the 3rd or 4th row right by the buoy line than to be the 1st row way off to the left or right. I also find that red-lining my heart rate in the swim is a recipe for disaster. So, I went off steady and watched the power swimmers fade away quickly, focusing on myself and my technique. It was a relatively low drama swim, with a bit of a crowd at the first turn, but I find that at my swim pace everyone is more cautious than me, so I just kind of slap my way through.
After the first turn I could sight the underwater cables that held the rowing lane line buoys out and back, which was a great benefit. The only downside was that by the time I was coming back the lead swimmers from the older wave were catching me, and were clearly doing the same thing as every one of them ran me over, one at a time. I bit of water in the goggles, but no big deal. Out of the water into the cheering crowd in the stands and I was a bit disappointed to see 15 minutes on my watch. Even with all that swimming this winter it was only my 3rd best pace in a race. [So time for a new swim plan.] It also meant I would need the ride and run of my life to hit my stretch goal.
Bike – 20k – 30:03 (39.9kph)
Through transition in a flash (still my best discipline), I ran my bike out to the mount line. On the way I heard Coach Gabbi say, “Go ride them down”, and this stuck with me the whole way. After each pass I would look to the next person and think, “Go ride them down.” The course is a bit gnarly out of transition with some tight multi-use paths and a 160 degree turn, so no chance to get my feet properly in my shoes for some time after doing a flying mount. When we got to the open road I reached down to do up the straps and they slipped right out of the plastic loop that you use to tighten them. This led to me faffing around with my straps for far too long while I was already beginning to pass other riders.
With my shoes finally on, I settled into a pace holding around 41-42kph. There was no wind on the start, and then no wind after the first turn, then no wind after the turn around, and by the end I was simply amazed to find that there was just no wind. No wind on a fast and flat course? Finding my bike legs? This meant HAMMER TIME! I passed one rider, then another, and another, and another. In all, I made up 74 positions on the bike, coming out of the water in 104th and getting off the bike in 30th.
The only drama on the ride happened to the one guy who passed me. He was doing around 45kph to get by me and we were approaching a junction where a driver had to turn right off the closed road but was stopped, arguing with the officer. Just as captain rocket-legs was approaching and going to pass on the right, the driver finally decided to go and proceeded to right-hook him. Fortunately he slammed on the brakes, but came to a dead stop while I flew by on the left. A kilometre or two later he passed me again with a chuckle and a comment, “Let’s try this again.”
Looking at my watch coming into transition I saw 46 minutes and change! This meant that I could bugger up the run and still beat 1:10 and even make my 1:08. Quick through transition again, and out onto the rapidly warming-up run course.
Run – 5k – 19:06 (3:49)
The best thing about the run course is finally getting a sense of where you are in the race, particularly as it was a 2-lap out-and-back course. Now, on the downside they managed a lot of sharp turns in a very short course, but everyone has to get around the same route, so at least it’s equal (except for the people who did only one lap, or started down the finish chute before realizing the missed the turn around, or bumped into people where those coming out of transition crossed those heading to the finish, or who bumped into people at the far turnaround where the arrow pointed us clockwise when we were naturally running on the right…ok, so the run course could probably be a bit better managed…).
I picked off a couple guys in my age group in short order, and at the first turn around noted Jon Gray and another runner I mistook for my age group ahead. They became my targets and I set a pace that was clearly ‘do or die’. Sure enough, with about 1.5km to go I got ahead. However, looking back it was clear they were coming with me so I would have to hold on. With 500m left the side stitch I get on my right side kicked in and I bent over and was hobbled (this has been bugging me since my mountain bike crash in October, perhaps time to check in with a doctor). Both went right by me at the end, and fortunately Stevie Blankenship was there to coax me across the line at the finish. Turns out that was the race for the podium, and I ended up 4th in my age group by 20 seconds.
However, how could I be upset with running a 5k PB on the tail end of my fastest race ever? (Note: My Garmin had it at 4.8k, but you know.)
Well, there’s nothing like peeling 6 minutes off the sprint distance! Clearly the cycling and running continue to come along exceptionally, although my swim is till my achilles heal. With 30 seconds between 2nd and 4th in my age group, that 2:02 pace is a killer.
It was a great end to the day though, getting to meet George Papadakos and Larry Bradley, and seeing Chris Balestrini warming up for the long course the next day. We got to celebrate with Jessy Desroneth getting yet another podium, and I stayed to cheer on the Centre Branch YMCA Tri Club folks doing the Give-it-a-tri later that morning.
Thanks as always to 3sixty5 Cycling for supporting me this season. I’m going to give the Middlesex Masters Swimming club a try over the summer to pick up some new swim technique tips and see if that helps. Lots of fun tours for the next few weeks, and the next race is the Bluewater Triathlon.