Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Subaru Niagara sprint triathlon - race report

A bit of a birthday race for me, as some lovely friends paid for my race entry as a gift. Thanks guys!

I was not overly optimistic before the race:

My plans/goals for this race changed substantially over the week leading up to it, as the weather forecast solidified into ‘so hot you’ll be lucky if you don’t spontaneously burst into flames in the full sun’. I have a long history of not running well in super hot and humid weather, so I gradually shifted my goals from ‘I’m going to rock this thing hard’ to ‘I’m just going to aim to finish in one piece and not get dehydrated’.

Ready to go

It’s called the Niagara triathlon, calling up images of the Falls and Clifton Hill and such, but it’s actually in Grimsby, which is a mere 25 minute drive from my house (‘Grimsby triathlon’ would be a much less sexy name). Practically my home town race! So no need to get up super early or rush out the door. Made it to the race at a reasonable time, got my stuff set up, and connected with a couple Iron Canucks teammates and a couple of lovely ladies I know via twitter (although I did manage to humiliate myself by saying hi to one of them without cluing in to who she actually was. I am awkward).

Can you see the orange turn buoys waaaaaaay off in the distance? Yeah, 750m looks really far when it's marked out like that.
The lake was looking lovely, but wow did the swim course look long. It was already getting unbearably hot out so I was glad to squeeze myself into my wetsuit (even MORE fun than usual in high humidity!) and jump in to start warming up. The water felt great, and it gave me a chance to test my new toy’s open water swim mode (I have acquired a Garmin 920xt and oh man do I love this thing).

Just need to get back to this flag in one piece.
After warming up for a few hundred meters, it was time to tread water while I waited for my swim wave start. The in-water start was a new experience, and I liked it. I was able to line up towards the side (closer to the shore) and avoid the mayhem and craziness of the main pack. That did mean swimming a bit further, but that’s a small price to pay to not get kicked in the head.

Swim (750m)
Time: 16:23 (2:11/100m)
Placing after swim:
Overall: 180/339
Gender: 59/119
AG: 10/17

I need to get faster so I don't have other people cluttering up my swim exit pictures. #priorities Oh, and since I didn't pay for the race I sprang for the pre-pay option on the race photos. Was it worth the $20? You be the judge.
I had probably one of my best open water swims yet in this race. I was calm, I was comfortable, my sighting was on target, I even caught a few feet here and there. By the end I was even passing some of the slower people from the previous wave! This race was looking up!

OH GOOD the photographer captured the moment I realized I'd hit 'pause' instead of 'lap' on my Garmin when I exited the swim. Destined to be a cherished memory. How is it that simple button presses keep defeating me??
T1: 1:39

T1 was fine, other than the watch mishap. But I got out of my wetsuit without too much struggle, and out onto the bike course.

Bike (25k)
Time: 47:57 (31.28 km/hr)
Placing after bike:
Overall: 127/339
Gender: 27/119
Age Group: 7/17

Hooray for bikes! Weeeeeeeeeeee!

The first half of the bike was all smiles and sunshine and speed and awesomeness. Just doing what I do best, passing people and loving life.

Someday I will learn that when the first half of an out and back bike feels awesome?

You probably have a tailwind.

This is now much less fun.
And so reality smacked me in the face immediately on turning around.  Please enjoy this graph of my average speed:

The back half of the bike was pretty un-fun. Just aiming to get it done, knowing that what awaited me at the end was going to be a hot and miserable 7k run. 
T2: 1:04

T2 went fine. Can’t complain. Not really worrying about transition times this year, focusing more on just getting through them without doing anything silly, like leaving transition with my bike helmet still on. Surprised that one is so close to being under a minute. Huh. Felt longer.

Run (7k)
Time: 41:56 (pace 5:59/km)

And the run.

The run was the worst.

Why do I look happy in this picture? I think maybe my brain had melted due to the heat.
Usually when I run off the bike I’m thinking ‘boy I’m running slow’ and then I look at my watch and see I’m actually running surprisingly fast.


I actually was slow, right from the start. Maybe I psyched myself out with the whole running in the heat thing. Maybe I cooked my legs too much battling the headwind on the bike. And have I mentioned how INSANELY HOT AND HUMID IT WAS?? Maybe it was a combination of all that stuff. But the run was miserable right from step one. It just got hotter and hotter and my only goal was to make it to the next aid station, where I could douse myself with water and gulp some Gatorade and then re-start the struggle over again.

So many people running past me. Didn’t care. Not one little bit.

After about one thousand years of running, finally my watch showed 3.5k, but we hadn’t hit the turnaround yet.

I started wondering if I was remembering the race distance wrong – was it 7k? Or 7.5? Because I was pretty sure if it turned out to be 7.5k I was going to curl up in a ball on the side of the road and cry and then melt into an overheated puddle of tri kit and sadness.

Where is that damn finish?
But of course it was 7k – the route is kind of an out and back, but also sort of a loop so the distance from the turnaround back to the finish was shorter. And also featured my favourite Grimsby resident spraying us down with a hose. You da real MVP, Man With Hose.

uuggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhbleeeeeerggggggggggggggggggh. And then someone tried to hand me a non-alcoholic beer. No. Just No.
Stumbled across the finish line. Meh. Not my most enjoyable race experience, that’s for sure.

Total time: 1:48:59.6
Final placings
Overall: 147/339
Gender: 30/119
Age group: 8/17

Pretty much went straight from the finish line back down to the lake and jumped in.


And the lake ‘ice bath’ may have helped with the post-race recovery, because by the time I got home after the race I was feeling totally fine. And I had absolutely no post-race soreness or tiredness or anything. Which is…almost disappointing, since I was hoping this race was going to be an all-out effort and instead it ended up a kind of miserable slog.

Quality finisher shirt. The triathlons are killing it on the shirts this year.
But hey, it’s another tri in the books, and I got a really terrific swim out of it from which I can draw some confidence. And I’m going to chalk up the adequate bike and shitty run to the weather and move on to the next thing. Although I should probably consider some heat acclimation before Goderich, as there’s a good chance that is going to be a hot run too…

Monday, July 13, 2015

Kincardine Women's Triathlon - race report

I signed up for this triathlon back in January, mostly because it was close to my parent's house. I figured it would be a fun morning if they could bring the kids over to watch the race. And my friend Kim signed up too, so I would have some company! I was also intrigued by the fact that the race sold out in two hours - what on earth do they have going on in Kincardine that a triathlon would sell out that fast?

Going in I was looking at this race mostly as a chance for transition practice and getting some race experience in a low pressure environment. The sprint at Niagara next weekend will be my next chance to truly race, since I'll be coming off a rest/recovery week. This race I trained right through, so was going in decidedly NOT rested.

Making sure everything was organized the night before the race.
After a good night's sleep at my parent's house, on race morning Kim and I headed over to the race site, where we snagged what I think were some of the last parking spots close to the start/finish. Score! Always like it when I don't have to park a million miles away.

There was a lot of back and forth on the race Facebook page in the days leading up to the race, since the water temperature in Lake Huron was flipping around a bit. The day before the race it was looking like the swim would be cancelled because the water was going to be too cold. But when we got to the race site, the good news was that the water temp was high enough that the swim was on - although the race announcers were being decidedly cagey about the actual temperature, just saying it was 'acceptable'. I figured we were going to be in for a very cold swim, even in wetsuits!

Transition in the early morning sun.
Getting our kits, body marking, etc, was a painless process. The race site was compact and easy to navigate, and even had a few vendors selling awfully nice looking cycling clothing (although I resisted the urge to buy the discounted tri shorts that were calling my name).

I wonder if the pool lifeguards will appreciate that very bright swim cap? Love the graphics on the race shirt.

All set up in transition. Just before a frantic search for my sunglasses, which I eventually located inside one of my bike shoes. Too organized for my own good.
I got my transition area set up, then started the process of squeezing into my wetsuit. I made my way down to the lake about 30 minutes before the race start, figuring if the water was cold I'd want to maximize my warmup time to get used to it.

Kincardine beach at the swim exit. Really lovely beach.
Getting into the water was painful. Frankly it wouldn't have surprised me if an iceberg had floated by, that's how cold it felt. I ran into someone else from my tri club just before getting into my wetsuit (this is where it helps to be wearing the team kit! So you can recognize each other!), and we got into the lake together and bitched mightily about the temperature. Going in early was definitely the right choice, since it gave me lots of time to prepare - although my feet and hands adjusted to the water temp quickly, and my wetsuit kept my body warm, putting my face in the water the first time was horrible. I couldn't leave my face in more than a second, and I was wondering how on earth I was going to manage the swim at all! But after floating and paddling around a bit, I started feeling more comfortable, and eventually was able to swim some decent warm up lengths along the beach. Possibly my brain just gave up fighting and went numb from the cold.

Soon it was time to get out and line up for the start. Go time!

Second wave lined up for the swim start. I'm on the far right, turquoise wetsuit sleeve. Note how our swim camps are the same colour as the turn buoy in the distance... Photo via Owen Sound Sun Times.

Swim: 375 m in 8:46 (2:20/100m)
Overall place: 58/189

Thoughts during the swim:

Yep this water is still cold. I just got kicked. Damn it. I started at the outside, where did all these people come from? Kicked again! Auuuuuuuugh! I hate this! OK time to sight, look for the buoy. Wait, there's a million orange caps in the water I can't tell which orange blob is the buoy! look for the biggest one! Damn it! Kicked again! Breaststrokers! Everywhere! I cannot freaking wait for this to be over!

repeat for 8 minutes or so.

Another pic from the Sun Times, orange wave heading off to the first turn. Not sure if the people not wearing wetsuits are crazy or deserve mad respect. Maybe both.
I have NEVER been so happy to get out of the water. I never got into any sort of rhythm and spent a huge amount of time popping my head fully out of the water to figure out where the hell I was, which cost me all momentum every single time. But that said, I'm really glad I did it and they didn't have to cancel the swim, because now I have a much better idea of what's it's like to swim in a mass start, and also how much swimming in really cold water sucks. So I will be better mentally prepared the next time. I hope.

Once we reached the shore, it was a short run on the beach up to transition. I managed to get my wetsuit half stripped before hitting the timing mat, so that part went well at least! But I was exhausted from the swim - really, I just wanted to lie down and take a nap. Not so much from the physical effort, but more the mental effort. Swimming in open water in a race is definitely a work in progress.

Bike: 12k + T1 + T2 in 25:35
Overall place: 8/189
(I don't know my actual bike speed because although I thought I started my watch as I ran out of transition, I didn't press the button hard enough and then I didn't notice it wasn't running until I was 1.5k in. My speed over the part I did record was 32 km/hr, which seems about right)

Into transition, found my bike no problem, and geared up. That went OK, although since the official results combine the bike time with the two transition times I don't know the time breakdowns.

The bike itself went well. My main goal for the bike was to not let anyone pass me, and pass as many people as I could, which I did! OK, I did get passed by one person, but they turned out to be a guy on a fancy Cervelo who wasn't in the race. So I don't think that counts. That said, however, I definitely didn't push as hard as I could. I think there were two things going on. First, I was so off-kilter from the swim that I just wasn't in the right headspace for a short, hard effort. Second, I'm still very uncertain how to pace the bike leg so as not to blow up on the run. And that is leading me to hold back a bit on the bike. It's a tricky balance. In retrospect, I could definitely ride 12k on that course much faster without hurting my run leg.

The course was lovely - mostly flat (one small climb on the way out, and one small climb on the way back), and on a closed road so no traffic at all to worry about. I enjoyed it and as always would have liked it to be longer. I wasn't paying much attention to the scenery, but I know we were riding right along the side of the lake at one point. Very nice.

Running into transition, feeling proud of myself that I knew exactly which rack to look for. Photos via my mom!
Back into transition, where although I knew which rack I needed, I couldn't find my specific spot. It is amazing how very difficult that is when the adrenaline is pumping! Note to self: don't just memorize which rack to look for, memorize HOW FAR ALONG the rack your stuff is!

Where the hell is my stuff?
It was very gratifying to see how few other bikes were on the racks when I got to transition. I knew I could do well on the bike at this race!

Run: 3k in 15:20 (5:07/km pace)
Overall place: 28/189

Quick shoe change and then the run. This was decent. But again I just wasn't in the headspace for a hard effort, so I didn't push it to the redline. Short out and back with a little bit on a boardwalk, and some wonderful citizens of Kincardine spraying sprinklers and hoses over the running path!

Heading out onto the run course, It's like Where's Waldo, can you spot me!
The run was good. I think I was only passed by two people during the run - until right at the very end.

Finish line in sight! YES!

And then in the finish chute a woman came flying past me, and by the time I processed that the age on her calf was in my age group, it was too late to do anything about it. DAMN IT. I was seriously regretting that I hadn't pushed a bit harder on the run and stayed ahead of her! Especially when I checked the preliminary results and found I'd finished 4th for my age group!

Crossing the finish.

Final time: 49:40
Overall place: 13/189
Age group place: 5/32

However, the official results revised the placings a bit and I ended up 5th. Much less annoyed after that. Still, why must my age group be so darn competitive!

As an aside, wow do the results of this one ever illustrate the importance of the bike leg in triathlon - I mean, 58th fastest swim and 28th fastest run and I still ended up 13th overall? I know where my strength lies! (not that there has ever been any question of that)

BLING! What can I say, I like getting a medal.
Overall, I'm happy with how this race went. It was a real learning experience, which is more what I was going for than a serious race. And my kids got to see me bike and run (they missed the swim, unfortunately, because my parents had to park pretty far from the race site). I was so happy to have them there, especially since they did a kid triathlon last weekend. So they got to see that mom does the same thing!

Post race with Kim
Hung about for a bit afterwards to wait for Kim to finish the duathlon, and then to check the official results. Once we were allowed back into transition we packed up and got out fairly painlessly. This is a really nice race - really well organized, nice course, and really positive atmosphere. The volunteers along the bike and run course were quite enthusiastic! I'd definitely consider doing it again, especially if a small group wanted to, say, rent a cottage and make a weekend out of it. That would be super fun. Kincardine is a lovely beach town - and I have to say, although the water was cold, it's an absolutely beautiful clean sandy beach. The water was crystal clear and if it had been a touch warmer the swim would have been amazing.

The race swag wasn't bad, either:

Why are so many races giving out such hilariously bright shirts this year? This is a really nice shirt, even if I'm pretty sure you can see me FROM SPACE when I'm wearing it. The back says 'persevere' (photos taken in my mom's garden)

Nice bit of additional swag from the race kit - bike water bottle! I can always use more of those!
Next up, Niagara sprint tri! Unfortunately they've had to take out the big hill that is normally a major 'feature' of the bike course, but that just means I get another chance to see what I can do on a flat course. I'm looking forward to it!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Barrelman training update and a race this weekend!

After signing up for Barrelman, I got right into my first two weeks of training, with an 11 hour training week and a 13 hour week. I'm a little amazed at myself that I managed to find that many hours in the week, but it turns out if you look for them (and coordinate with your wonderful husband), you can pull it off. Also, #5amrunclub. Pretty much a necessity. There are advantages to training in the summer (holidays, lots more daylight hours), but disadvantages too (the kid's camp schedules change from week to week, too hot to run at lunch, my lunch hour pool is closed for maintenance). Juggling it all is quite the challenge!

Wow, that suddenly seems like not a lot of weeks until the race.
The hardest thing is, as always, swimming, just because there's limited times that pools are open, and limited times when I can find a partner to swim with at the lake (and I won't swim there alone for safety reasons). But I managed to get in all my planned swims, bikes, and runs! Off to a great start.

Swimming in the lake and the 50m pool have completely ruined me for the regular pool. 25m is so short! So many walls! Too much turning!
The training is going very well so far, which is excellent because it's pretty intense. Fortunately I find it fun (I better, or I wouldn't be doing it!). What's also really awesome is many of my favourite fellow athletes will also be at Barrelman, doing various events, and there's a big group from the tri club doing either the solo race or relays. At the end of the day the race itself is a solo endeavor, but there's going to be an amazing cheering section and supportive crew! I'm getting really excited about this!

Bike selfie fail. That's Sam in the background conquering Snake Rd. She secretly loves climbing, don't let her tell you otherwise. 
This week the hunger hit. I remember this from marathon training - there are days I could really just eat everything in sight, then go back for seconds. Mmmmmm, food. Daily Mile tells me I burned 8000 calories last week. That explains a lot. I need to buy another case of oatmeal from Costco. And maybe a barrel of trail mix, so I don't end up eating nothing but junk food all the time.

Canada Day poutine and fry feast. Seriously, food is just fantastic.

I'm doing my next triathlon on Saturday - the Kincardine women's tri. This is not a goal race for me; this is more about getting in some transition practice, and doing a race that my kids can watch without losing their minds from boredom. Since it's a super sprint (375m swim, 12k bike, 3k run) each leg is quite short and so they won't have to wait long to see me! I'm hoping we'll have a fun morning. And it will be kind of interesting to see what's it's like to go all-out over such short distances (I suspect it'll be rather like running a 5k race - very painful...)

Spending a lot of time getting familiar with this track these days. Building speed and leg strength. It's working so far.
My husband and I also firmed up our fall plans. Obviously Barrelman is my main goal, but he wants to go for a new half marathon PB at Niagara Falls, so I signed up too so we can make a weekend out of it. Plus Sam and Nicole will be doing it too (and anyone else we can talk into it!). It's a month after Barrelman so I won't really be doing any training specifically for the race, just recovering and then doing whatever feels right (hopefully some long leisurely admiring the fall colours runs and rides). It will likely be more of a fun thing for me than an all out race. But before I worry or even really think about any of that, I have a few triathlons to get through!