Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Race Report: Iron Girl Canada 2017

I'd been looking forward to this race for a while, knowing my girls Amy & Sam would be there, along with a whole crew of Tri Chicks, coach Nancy and Natalie, and a few other assorted people I know (Janice, my friend from Milton Kristi, Jana, other people I'm sure I'm forgetting). Annnnd...well to be honest I'd looked at previous years results and had an age group placing on my mind. A hard effort on the bike and a not-entirely-sucky run would likely do it to hit the top 5.

Up early to go pick up Sam and drive to the race, snag a parking spot, and fortunately we got there early enough I was able to get a decent spot on the rack in transition. As I memorized the location of my rack, I started counting and realized there were five full racks of bikes for women 40-44. Holy crap. I've done races where there have barely been five racks for all women total! It was at that point the sheer size of the race started to sink in, and I was feeling some pretty heavy doubts about that age group placing thing. Really, you think you can be a top performer when there's this many people here? Over 700 women and over 180 registered just in your age group? Come on!

The Iron Canucks racing - Amy, Sam, some girl who looks weirdly tall in this picture, Louise

Can you spot Sam setting up her stuff in the background?

It's like 'Where's Waldo?' but with Iron Canucks around here.

So many 40-44 year olds
The news from the L.O.S.T race in Oakville the day before had been 8 degree water (yikes!) so we went to check out the swim exit and get our feet wet. Fortunately, because wind patterns weather blah blah blah stuff I'm sure a meterologist could explain, the Grimsby section of Lake O doesn't roll as often as the northern shore of Lake O, and it was downright pleasant. Probably 20 degrees (doable without a wetsuit, although I wore mine because security blanket).

So much calmer than at Niagara two weeks earlier!
Since the lake was looking calm we decided to swim the 500m from the swim exit to the start as a warm up, which I'm really glad we did. I was a little panicky feeling at the start and it gave me time to get my nerves settled down, plus observe the landmarks on the shoreline so I'd have some sense during the race about distance.

Shook out my pre-race nerves, watched the first wave start from the shore, then got in the water to make my way out to the deeper part of the start area. Floated (and let's be honest here, peed - we were all doing it, guaranteed) while the next two waves went off. I wanted to start further out from shore since the race encourages weaker swimmers to hug the shoreline and walk when they need to, and Coach Nancy had told us to make sure to stay further out with the stronger swimmers, and we'd be less likely to be caught up in congestion and flailing limbs.

Time: 10:26.9 (2:05/100m)
Overall place: 152/704
Age group place: 53/143

10 second warning, and we were off. I started at the front which was the right move - didn't get tangled up on anyone, and no one swam over me. Wasn't able to latch on to any fast feet, unfortunately, and just focused on trying to swim straight for the distant swim exit buoy. It was a very undramatic swim, except every time I turned to breathe towards shore I could see what looked like a seething mass of yellow and white swim caps. I was very glad I was clear of that!

At the swim exit I hit a bit of a traffic jam and used the opportunity as I was standing there waiting for the exit to clear to hit the lap button on my watch. I was a little disappointed to see I'd been longer than 10 minutes on the swim - I had tried to swim pretty hard and was hoping to be 9:xx. Ah well. My swimming remains competent and unspectacular!

I have no memory of Coach Nancy taking this picture. Post swim delirium?
T1: 1:48

Achieved my goal of beating my T1 time from Niagara two weeks ago (same transition set up, right down to being on basically the same bike rack in both races!). It felt like everyone else in my age group had come out of the water at the same time and it was kind of mayhem. Wetsuits and swim caps flying everywhere. I skipped putting on socks, which saved some time, but my wetsuit is still a huge pain in the ass to get over my feet. I really need to try some surgery on it to see if I can't improve things there.

Looks like I'm about to drop my bike here. Thank you Danielle for the picture!
Hit another bottleneck leaving transition when the two people taking up the whole road in front of me were sauntering towards the mount line like they were taking a Sunday stroll. I managed to sneak around them and get safely mounted and on my way. Eventually.

Time: 36:03.9 (speed 33.27 km/hr)
Overall: 17/704
Age group: 2/143

And this is where I really felt the difference between a mixed gender race and a women's only race.

I said 'on your left/thank you' a lot.

No one passed me.

It was pretty awesome. Although my legs were like 'um you know we have to run after this, right?' and my heart rate, once my HRM finally started picking it up properly, was up in scary 'how long do you think you can really hold this?' territory. Shut up legs, just push as hard as you can and we'll worry about the run later.

Heading out on the bike; photo via Ted.
I was definitely in my happy place. Once I hit the turn around, the number of people in front of me had really thinned out, which made things a lot easier - less having to pass clumps of people, more just passing individuals. I hadn't been able to see the numbers on anyone's legs due to the bright sunlight, but I was pretty sure I'd made good headway through my age group. Coming in towards the finish there was one woman wearing a brown tri suit who caught my attention because she looked really fast, but I couldn't quite overtake her and she got into the chute slightly ahead of me. Then we both got tied up behind someone who had full on dropped her bike on the ground. Bike in and out was just not destined to go well for me!

T2: 0:59

Transition was empty.

Like, really empty. I surveyed all five 40-44 bike racks.

No bikes.


The Tri Ontario official standing near my rack saw the expression on my face, laughed, and gave me a thumbs up.

Oh boy. Time to fly through this transition and see how long this lasts..

(I was, in fact, second off the bike - that woman right ahead of me coming into the chute? She was in my age group, and also a cancer survivor, so her bike was racked on a special rack for survivors right by the bike out/in, which I think is a pretty awesome thing for the race organizers to set up! Survivors also get special bibs and swim caps, and an awards category to themselves as well).

Time: 26:13
Overall time: 1:15:29.8
Overall: 21/704
AG: 3/143

I got out of transition before the woman in the brown tri suit, but she caught me pretty quickly, running at a blistering pace. She didn't have an age written on her leg, so at the time I didn't know she was in my age group, but I had a feeling (she ended up winning not just our age group, but also the survivors category as well). I settled in to what felt like a maintainable pace and braced myself for a stream of people to start coming past me - but it didn't really happen. In mixed gender races I can count on a pretty much never ending series of guys blowing past me, but without the men, I found myself actually catching up to and passing people! That just does not happen to me on the run!

I wasn't looking at my watch (although I did take a few looks at my heart rate monitor until I decided that that was information I was perhaps better off not knowing, because dear god how am I not dead?!), and just focused on trying to catch the people in front of me. I could see someone not far off who I was pretty sure was Jana and focused on her, trying to slowly reel her in. At the turn around a woman with a 41 on her leg went past (damn - but she was motoring and I mentally congratulated her) and then shortly after I saw Natalie heading the other direction, looking unbearably cheerful and like this was the greatest thing that had ever happened to her. 'This is so FUN!' she yelled to me. I was like WTF dude no it isn't it HURTS SO MUCH. But knowing she wasn't far behind did help motivate me to maintain my pace. If they are going to catch you, I said to myself, make them work for it. Don't make it easy!

Amy wasn't far behind Natalie and we high fived, and then I was looking for Sam but somehow missed her completely. Probably too focused on not having my lungs forcibly exit my body. Sucks I missed her, that's the best part of the run out and back! Getting to tell your friends how much racing sucks!

I caught Jana around 3k in. I can't remember exactly what I said to her (something about it hurting, probably), but she seemed to agree with me on the subject.

Finally I was into the final km and coming up the hill that is way bigger on the way back than it was on the way out. Coach Nancy was waiting at the top to yell encouragement at me, which I was completely incapable of absorbing because all my brainpower was being used to just keeping my legs moving and all I managed to say was 'can't.....breathe....' and then she left to encourage a TriChick going the opposite direction while Ted took my picture.

This actually looks a lot better than I was feeling at this point. Note Coach Nancy is ON A MISSION to motivate everyone. She's the best!
And then I was sprinting for the finish and I could hear people yelling my name and Oh Thank God that's over.

Heading for the finish, pic via Danielle and the awesome Iron Canucks cheer squad.
Guys. You guys, these splits.

I mean, on the one hand, I've run a half faster than that pace, but after having to completely rebuild my run fitness since March? I'm over the moon happy about running that speed over 5k after a hard 20k bike. And negative splitting! Things are starting to come back together!

I downed the bottle of water I was handed at the end in about 12 seconds, got my medal, got congrats from Danielle, waited for Natalie and Amy and Sam to finish, and checked the results.

Age group place achieved, and almost cracked the overall top 20.

Wait for it...

Amy, me, Sam, back in the lake after to try and cool off and de-stink a bit before the drive home. I was terrified the entire time we were taking this picture that Sam's phone was going to fall in the lake!

Picking up the Big Bling (thank you Amy for taking the pic!)
Enjoying the podium a little too much (pic via Nancy)

You guys the back is engraved! I didn't even notice until this morning!

Still can't quite believe it, really. I'm pretty proud of this race. Swim was fine, I pushed hard on the bike, and I didn't blow up on the run.

So of course I signed up for Guelph Lake II. I'm not ready to be done triathlons for this year, and these shorter ones are just too much fun! One more go around at the whole 750/30/7 deal until I pack up the wetsuit for this year!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Race Report: Stroke & Stride Race 3; Gulliver's Lake

Held off on writing this up since I was hoping the race would add some pictures to their facebook page, but nothing yet and I'm starting to forget what I was going to say! Added some pics to the post via the race facebook page - thanks to the volunteers who took photos!

Last Wednesday I went out to Gullivers for something I'd never done before - a swim/run race. It was a spontaneous decision to sign up the week before, and I almost immediately had serious regrets. What on earth was I thinking, doing a race with my worst sport and the one I'm struggling with mightily lately? Plus I looked at some results from race 1 and 2 in the series, and it was looking like there was a good chance I'd be dead last. Some of the local ultra fast clubs were entering a lot of racers into these races and I was worried I'd be majorly out of place.

I watched the weather all day, since it's been a weird summer for weather with lots of thunderstorms popping up all over the place. I was almost hoping it would be stormy so I'd have an excuse to bail without guilt. But things seemed clear so with some trepidation, I was off to the lake.

The race site was full of very very very fit looking young people wandering around, and a distinct lack of anyone carrying wetsuits. That did not help my confidence levels much! But shortly after that some people I knew via my tri club arrived and it became clear I wasn't going to be the only one in a wetsuit. Whew. Still didn't help with the feeling I might be dead last and have everyone waiting on me at the finish, but at least there were other 'normal', non ultra competitive people there!

Managed to add the appropriate multi sport activity to my watch! Although I'd have set it up differently if I'd realized certain things about the swim...
Dumped my stuff in 'transition' and soon it was time to get ready. One of the race organizers explained how the swim would work - two loops, and at the end of the first loop we had to exit through the swim arch, run along the beach, re-enter the water at the start point, and swim the second loop. Hmmmm. If I'd realized that earlier I'd have set up my watch to time the two swim loops separately, but no time to fix it now! The race is about to start!

I don't know why this makes me laugh so much, but it does.

A much larger group set off in the shorter race (750m swim/5k run), then we waited for our smaller group (18 athletes). Most, if I'm remembering correctly, did end up wearing wetsuits.

Pic via race facebook. Standing and contemplating before the start.

Pic via race facbook. Discussing the course with some other competitors as we tried to figure out which buoys to swim around. I'm pretty confident I have it right, hence the pointing.

To my surprise when we started I wasn't immediately left in the dust, and in fact spent almost the entire first loop drafting another athlete. Unfortunately, when we exited the water at the end of the loop he got ahead of me and I wasn't able to take advantage of the draft on the second. There was a female swimmer near me and I was able to draft a bit from her, but then my sighting went haywire towards the end and I lost her as well.

Hitting the water at the start
One valuable thing I learned - when you have to exit the water halfway through the swim, maybe don't all out sprint the 50m between the exit and re-entering the water. I was so out of breathe that I could barely manage to dog paddle at the start of the second swim loop! I was not expecting that short run to affect me so much. Filed that away for future reference.

1500m swim: 29:22

Pretty happy with that swim, really! Any time I can get under 2 minutes per hundred I'm satisfied. Plus I suspect I swam some extra distance with my massive sighting issues over the last few hundred meters.

Into transition, got off the wetsuit, tossed a tank top over my bra (I wore tri shorts on the bottom), and off to do 4 loops around Gullivers for a 5k run.

Leaving transition to start the run. Pic via race facebook page.
I had decided to experiment a bit at this race and wore the shoes I plan to wear at Iron Girl without socks. They were fine up until about 4k, then I could feel hotspots developing. Had a solid, steady, unspectacular 5k run right up until there was 400m left when the ominous clouds that had been building to the west seemed to sweep closer and the wind suddenly picked up from nothing to 'oh shit this might blow me right over'. I hustled my butt over the finish line!

Running through transition on one of the loops. Pic via race facebook.

Total time: 59:01
Place: 13/18; 2/6 women
(I'm not really sure of these stats - they are the results on the race website but I think the time may not include transition, because by my watch it should be 1:01. and I'm almost positive the 'unknown participant' who finished just ahead of me was female and I should have been 3/7).

Maybe 5 minutes after I finished thunder was rumbling in the distance and I got out of there just before the heavens opened up and it started to pour.

It was pouring but oddly still sunny? I dunno, this summer weather has been super strange.
It was an experience - and I enjoyed it! Good organization, low pressure, and it was fun to do something a bit different. I'm considering signing up for race 4 in September; maybe do the 750/5k and do the swim without a wetsuit, just to push that comfort zone a little bit. Someday I may end up doing a race where wetsuits aren't legal and it would be good to get a little low-pressure experience swimming open water without one. No promises, though!