Sunday, 12 June 2016

Woodstock Race Report: The Tortoise and the Hare

This past weekend I took part in the Woodstock sprint triathlon; season openers for both myself and MultiSport Canada. After the race, my coach, Alex VanderLinden (who came in 2nd, by the way), said that the first race of the season usually goes one of two ways: Really well or really poorly. Unfortunately for me, my race fell into the latter category. 

My week of training leading up to the race went really well — I was hitting all of the times I wanted in the pool, I felt that I was as strong as I've been all year on the bike, and my legs were feeling great on runs. The Saturday before Woodstock I had a three hour ride followed by a run off the bike. My legs held up for the first two and a half hours on the ride, but those last thirty minutes were painful. I was dreading my run, but when I got my shoes on and hit the pavement my legs felt great. I cruised through the run like it was nothing. That brick workout left me feeling very hopeful for Woodstock. However, most of my training was not reflected in the race. 

Swim — 11:59

The past week was kind of funny when it came to swimming. My times were great in the pool and I felt really strong leading up to the race, but on Tuesday I decided to use my wetsuit one last time to make sure it was fitting well. I just got this wetsuit in December, and I’d only used it once or twice before Tuesday, so after my swim that night I was very surprised to see that it was a women’s wetsuit. This was my first new wetsuit — the last was an old hand-me-down with it’s sleeves torn off from a former coach — so I had no idea what to look for when I was buying it. The guys at the store took me to the men’s rack — that’s right, men’s — and I tried on a few. I found one that fit well and that was that, I bought it. Flash forward to June 7, six months down the road, and I am only just realizing that my well-fitted men’s wetsuit is really a women’s wetsuit which just happens to fit me perfectly. I know that I shouldn’t have just trusted the salesmen when they handed me a random wetsuit, but I assumed that they knew I was a guy and that I would therefore prefer a guy’s wetsuit. Anyway, my bad. Luckily, when I went to return the suit the following morning, the big boss was very apologetic and he let me exchange it for another one that said Men’s on the inside. Embarrassing. 

The second problem with my swimming last week also came about on my Tuesday night swim. So I was wearing the wetsuit and on my very first lap I came to the wall and went to do a flip turn. However, I glided much quicker towards the wall leading up to my turn than I normally would without a wetsuit on, so halfway through my flip, both of my heels slammed against the edge of the wall. Needless to say, this hurt a lot. I took a moment to make sure I hadn’t cut myself and to see if I could still swim and then I continued with my workout. After the swim, though, I could barely walk. Both feet hurt so much. I assumed they’d be fine by morning, that I’d just bruised them, so I decided to sleep it off. The next morning they were even worse. I was sure that I would have to call off my weekend racing plans, but luckily for me, by Thursday and Friday they were feeling much better. When Saturday morning rolled around I couldn’t feel a single twinge of pain in either foot, so I was ready to race. 

My swim felt great. I was in the second wave, just a minute behind the elite and pro racers. I had a good, quick start and established a good position for myself in the group. From what I could see when I looked up to sight, I believe that I was in the second group of my wave, and I was happy with that. At around the 200m mark I started to worry that I might be pushing too hard, and that, while I still felt strong, I would soon tire and slow down. That didn’t happen, however, and I continued to feel strong throughout. I managed to catch a few stragglers from that lead group I mentioned, and I even passed a couple of swimmers from the elite wave. Coming out of the water I had no idea what kind of time I’d swam, but I felt like it was pretty quick. It ended up being 11:59, so around 1:35 per 100m. My goal before the race was to swim under 12 minutes, so 11:59 was a great time to see. That new men’s wetsuit did a good job. 

Bike — 36:32

Lately I have been feeling very strong on my training rides, so I went into Woodstock expecting a good bike split. It just wasn’t my day, however. From the very start I could tell that it was going to be a struggle on the ride, and I spent most of the 20k trying to settle into a rhythm which I just couldn’t seem to find. It was a pretty windy day, and the crosswinds were incredibly strong, but I’m not going to blame my underperforming on the conditions. I think that, had there been no wind at all, I still wouldn’t have had the best of rides. For the last 5k or so I accepted that it wasn’t my day on the bike and I just focused on not getting passed by too many people. I kept telling myself that I’d make up for the slow ride when I got out onto the run. That didn’t really work out as planned.

Run — 20:04

I don’t know when I last ran over 4 minutes per kilometre in a triathlon. A couple of years at least. The run is where I usually make my biggest moves, where I can jump from the top 30 to the top 20 or even the top 10. I also pride myself on not being passed on the run in triathlons. I’m pretty sure that, before Saturday, I have only been passed on the run once or twice in the past three years of my triathlon career. Saturday’s run broke that streak, however, when two or three runners passed me over the 5k. When I got to the halfway point turnaround I convinced myself that I could catch a group of racers that I’d just seen running the other way a couple of hundred metres before. My legs didn’t seem to get the message, though, and I didn’t generate much power for the rest of the run. Same as with the bike, in the last couple of kilometres on the run I came to the conclusion that all I could really do was accept my position in the race and work damage control for the rest of the run. I’m actually proud of my damage control, because with less than a kilometre to go, another racer caught and passed me. This time, however, I didn't let him get away and I mustered up my last bit of energy to pass him and open up a gap of twenty metres or so. I held what felt like a sprinting pace for the last 400m of the race, successfully holding off any other potential passers. I crossed the line in 20:04 for the 5k and an overall time of 1:10:33. Not the kinds of times I was looking for, but I can at least be proud of my resolve in the final kilometre.

Around the 4k marker I passed a turtle slowly making its way across the running route. I didn’t think much of it at the time — I was too busy telling myself that I couldn't stop to walk, that I was almost done — but now, after having some time to think about the race, I think that it was fitting that I saw this unenergetic, slow-moving creature on one of the worst runs of my triathlon career. I know that in the story the tortoise beats the hare, but next race I hope I run more like a rabbit… I’ve done enough turtling for one season. 

Great first race as a member of the MultiSport Canada Ambassador team
As always, MSC ran a great event. Results aside, this was a great race. A great venue, great volunteers, and extremely well organized. Oh, and the nasty weather report which called for a thunderstorm on Saturday turned out to be wrong -- Only sunny skies could be seen all day. Can't ask for much more when it comes to triathlons. My next race is at my cottage in Barry's Bay on July 3rd, and I'll be back to competing in the MSC Recharge with Milk series in Gravenhurst. Now I'm ready to get back to training hard every day, getting ready for the next race.

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