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!


  1. The number of times I looked like a headless chicken looking for my spot in transition... Great race and report!

  2. Congrats to you! I think it's great you got to do the swim in cold/tough conditions. Great training for your and will prepare you for bigger challenges ahead!! Nicely done.

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