Race Reports

My First Olympic Distance – UBC

Wanting to get my season started earlier this year, I decided to sign up for the UBC race in Vancouver. My friend, Kay, agreed and we decided to make a weekend of it.

After some discussion of the relative merits of sprint vs Olympic distance, as well as the relative competitiveness of each category, I signed up for the Olympic distance (1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run). Kay, with her own goals in mind, signed up for the sprint.

In th days prior to the race  we eagerly watched the weather forecasts – it looked like being a cold day. There followed much angst (and googling) regarding how to dress on the day.

Soon the big day arrived and we packed up our gear and made the five hour drive down to Vancouver. Once there we quickly mobilised our bikes to go and check out the course before it got dark.

UBC tri KS (7)

Photo credit Seekaytri

The course looked simple enough, but the run from the pool to transition was incredibly long. We discussed the merits of having shoes at the swim exit. The temperature was also a concern, it was cold! Again, I wondered if I had an appropriate clothing plan.

The next morning I was up early as I had to get my bike safety-checked and my transition set up before my allotted heat time of 8:20, plus I was still on the fence over what to wear. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not nearly as cold as I had feared (though, be assured it definitely was very cold).

I chatted to some of my fellow competitors, and still no consensus. I don’t really own a lot of cold weather tri gear, with most of my events taking place in the sunny Okanagan, so the options open to me were somewhat limited.

I knew I didn’t want to spend a lot of time changing. I might not be in with a chance of winning (in fact might, does not really describe my nonexistent odds of winning very adequately at all), but nevertheless, my time is important to me and I didn’t want to waste it unnecessarily; this was a race after all. I left my fleece on my bike, just in case, and headed down to the pool.

At the poolside we were given a ‘dry bag’ which would be handed to us as we exited the pool. In it I put my shoes, (switch into bike shoes and leave them in transition awaiting my return for the run) and a towel. At the last second I threw in the thin long sleeve top that I had put on when I woke up that morning; not really triathlon attire, but…just in case.

The swim was 1500m and snaked up and down the 50m pool: up and back in each lane, duck under the lane rope and repeat. After eight lanes, get out, return to the start and do it again. The start was delayed by about an hour, I waited nervously. When we were finally called, we were instructed to line up based on our expected finish time, then, one at a time, at ten second intervals, we were started.

Immediately I missed having had a warm up, there had been spare space in the pool for a warmup lane. I had attempted to do a dry land warmup, but it clearly had not been adequate: I was struggling. It took me nearly 400m to settle into a rhythm, during which time around ten people passed me. All I could think was that I must have really overestimated my abilities! (Of course, in reality it could just have easily been their underestimations).

The walk back to the start was a welcome reprieve before more mind-numbing laps. People were still passing me and I had no idea of how fast I was (or wasn’t) going. It certainly didn’t feel fast.

When I finally got out of the water we had to walk (Walk! Not run, this is a pool!) – walk really quickly – almost all of the way around the pool to the door and out into the sting of the six-degree air. We were handed our dry bags and there were tents available for changing.

I stayed with my semi-minimalist strategy; I towelled off the worst of the water, put on the shirt over my tri top and pulled on my shoes. I jogged up the lengthy hill to transition, switched shoes, grabbed my helmet and bike and headed for the mount line.

The bike course consisted of four fairly flat loops. By the first turnaround, I was really regretting not putting my gloves on.

Should I stop and put them on?

No, that’s a waste of time – tough it out!

The route was shaded by trees on the way out, but shards of sunlight pierced through for the return trip. They felt so nice; the temptation to stop and stretch out like a cat in the sunbeam was almost impossible to resist.

I kept going.

I focussed on my breathing and my heart rate (both good)

…and how damn cold it was. My mind was really starting to wander in the second half.

I thought about the upcoming run, my cats and sunbeams (did I mention how cold it was?), last nights dinner, todays lunch, this blog entry…How much farther 40km is than my usual 20km (and how much longer Ironman would be than this). I seemed to be going so slowly.

Am I on lap two or three?

Finally, I completed my last lap – I could not have been happier, and turned back to transition.

I couldn’t really feel my toes, and my fingers refused to co-operate in changing gear or braking, but I made it to transition, changed into my running shoes and headed out.

At the start of the run I focussed on going slowly to allow the blood to return to my extremities. As I ran I suddenly realised that I was actually going to do this – my first Olympic tri – I knew I could finish! It really is quite new for me to be able to line up the start of events such as this, safe in the knowledge that I am capable of completion.

I ran on.

I should have taken off my sweater at transition, it’s too hot now. I felt jealous of the athletes that had started later, just for a minute. I tied my shirt around my shoulders and carried on.

As I came to the last couple of kilometres I gave my body the command to speed up – just like I always do.

Nothing.

OK…This speed is probably good.

I saw the finish.

How about a sprint?

No.

I crossed the line solidly (and at the speed I had been maintaining throughout the run). People commented that I was still smiling. Of course I was – I had just finished my first Olympic distance triathlon!

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Finish Line – Photo credit UBC Recreation

My friend appeared at my side and told me that my finish time was around 3:20. I had hoped to complete in under 3:30. Honestly the race had felt subpar the entire time, so I am thrilled that I could have beaten my goal and done so with such a solid performance.

3:19:13

I’m pretty sure there’s scope for improving that substantially in the future, but that’s for another day – hopefully a warmer one.

All that’s was left now was to cheer our friend Kay across the line in the sprint event – which I failed to achieve, she was just too fast, even winning her age group!

UBC tri KS (25)

Photo credit Seekaytri

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Race Reports

The Rustbuster – Lavington 10km

After the success of my Christmas runs, I didn’t really run for about six weeks. I could feel the shin splints beginning to rear their heads a d so I focused on cycling to try to maintain running fitness with a lower risk of injury.

The Lavington 10k is the first race of the Interior Running Association season. It is a beautiful course largely in the middle of nowhere, mostly flat bit with a few rolling hills. It seemed like as good a time as any to kick-start the 2015 season. The interior running Association is made up of local club runners, a slightly faster field than the more ‘generic races I usually partake in.

When I woke up that morning, I looked out of the window to try to ascertain the weather conditions, which would inform my clothing choices.

It looked cold.

I decided to throw a couple of different options into the car as I headed out to the race. After checking in and getting my number (and waiting in an incredibly long bathroom queue), I still didn’t know what to wear. It was very cold, but the sun was starting to peek through, so after much indecision, I opted for a T-shirt but long pants and gloves. It was risky, but I hoped it would warm up quickly and thus eliminate the need to carry a sweater for much of the race.

Thanks SeeKayTri for this picture!

Thanks SeeKayTri for this picture!

Right from the start, the field swarmed past me. I was ready for that, I had decided to start off slow, but still, as I looked back, there didn’t seem to be many people left.

I might come last!

Coming last is a constant worry for me, particularly in smaller, faster races; but I pushed it to the back of my mind and focused on maintaining a steady pace.

I saw the 1km marker.

Great, just need to do that nine more times…I can do that.

People were still passing me. I seemed to be running so slowly.

As if to underscore this point, at that moment, my friend Markus came past me, congratulating me on my ‘marathon pace’ as he did so.

Marathon pace?

This should be 10k pace!

Wow I really am slow.

Nevertheless, I ran on. I needed to maintain a good marathon pace for Ironman, so if today I couldn’t manage a 10k pace, I would make it practice for that.

2km marker.

Just need to do that four more times… I can do that.

I kept running, people kept slowly passing me, but my pace felt nice, my heart rate was good, this was sustainable.

3km

Just need to do that three, no, three and a bit times… (OK, I admit that little piece of math stumped me as I ran on).

Around this time I started to get a stitch. This was interesting as I haven’t really had that problem since I learned to run seven years ago. It wasn’t too bad though, I could still run, but it wasn’t going away.

4km took us into the shade of some trees, I briefly wished I has gone with long sleeves, but after about a kilometre (which felt like forever), we emerged back out into the sun (such as it was) again.

Then the stitch really kicked in. I tried all of the usual stretches, massaging, poking and swearing, none of them seemed to work. I wondered how much faster I would be able to go if I could breathe properly. That 3km was pretty miserable actually.

Luckily by 8km it was beginning to fade, there was light at the end of the tunnel.

Just 2km to go… I KNOW I can do that!

I began to zero in on a single runner ahead of me and slowly (oh so slowly) catching and passing them. The slower pace at the start beginning to pay off. As I came close to the finish I kicked up my speed a notch.

I passed two more people.

I came to the final turn, about 25m to go. Someone yelled that I would be under 65 minutes.

“He must be talking to someone else, I’m not that fast”

The next thought tumbled in:

“It doesn’t matter who he’s talking to, we started together, I’m under 65?”

There was one more person between me and the line.

I sprinted.

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I   Ran   So   Fast!

I could hear my friends shouting my name. If I had had even three more paces I would have passed her, but it wasn’t to be.

My final time was 1:03:37 a full six minutes faster than my last 10km race. I obviously wasn’t going as slowly as I had initially feared, perhaps it was an illusion caused by the proportionally faster field. A pretty good start to the year.

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Race Reports

An Abbreviated Triathlon Season

Having missed the majority of the 2014 triathlon season due to injury, as soon as I was cleared to return to try running again I was thinking about how many tri’s were remaining.

I managed to take part in three races during the final month of the season. I stuck with Sprint distance (750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run), partly because my training had obviously not been as effective as I would have liked and partly because I was still very much in the recovery phase and wasn’t sure of being able to run. I reasoned that a 5km walk was something I could definitely achieve if I had to.

 

Apple Triathlon

This was the site of my very first triathlon in 2012, so it will always be a bit special. I really love racing so close to home and this race is large and well supported.

The swim went off without a hitch, all of the practice of the summer paying off. I came out of the water feeling great.

I had made the slight miscalculation of having my bike fit changed (radically as it turned out) in the week before the race. For the record, I don’t recommend doing this, but I thought I would get away with it, especially since this race had gone from being my season goal ‘A race’ to more of a fun participation/test event.

Now I found myself riding an unfamiliar machine, and recruiting muscles that, judging by their protestations, had never been used to cycle before

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Never mind, I was still having fun!

Perhaps predictably, my ankle hadn’t healed enough to run, so I was forced to walk for most of the run portion. Although disappointing, it was somewhat expected, so I had planned for it when considering my goals for the race.

I just remember thinking “Wow, a 5k walk is so much longer than a 5k run”

In the end I completed in 1:42:39, around a minute slower than last year, despite a five minute increase in my run split. I took 90 seconds off the swim and a full two minutes off on the bike – quite encouraging considering the limitations of my training this season. Looking back it was really too early injury wise, however I am still really glad I joined my friends and had fun that weekend.

 

Summerland Sprint

Two weeks after the Apple, I entered Summerland sprint, a much smaller race with a Kids of Steel event on the same day.

This was both my worst tri ever and my fastest.

The swim didn’t go perfectly, and I got a bit off course in the current, a bit slow but not too bad. The run into T1 was very short, leaving me feeling very dizzy as I switched to the bike. Slow down, deep breath….and go again.

The bike course is mostly flat and generally considered fast. But it felt like I really overdid things here, it felt awful, and I considered quitting, more than once.

Well. I may at times be untalented, unfit or unmotivated, but one thing I usually am is STUBBORN, and I was not going to record a DNF without a damned good reason (death in the family, preferably my own?). So on I went.

I started the run feeling sick and exhausted.

Luckily I had a plan. My gradual return to running was up to 3 minutes walking/3 minutes running and this was what I intended to do for this run.

“Just keep to the plan.

This gave me something to focus on. People I knew – and a few I didn’t – shouted encouragement as they passed on the return leg of the run loop.

“I’m keeping to the plan….”

And then, as if by magic, on my third run interval, I just kept running.

“Keep to the plan” my brain screamed

“This is really cool, let’s see how far I can go” a totally academic discussion was going on in my head on the merits of running, walking and defining pain or discomfort (well that gave me something to focus on!), whilst my lungs questioned whether I had ever run a step before in my life.

As I ran through the finish line I couldn’t stop smiling.

“I just ran 4k – just don’t tell my doctor”

I ended up with a best ever time of 1:34:18.

Maybe that bike wasn’t so bad after all…

Cultus Lake

The last race of the season was at Cultus Lake, an interesting little race with rather loose organization. I’m going to be polite and not get into a discussion of how the organisers dropped pretty much every ball they had at this one…

Cultus Lake is out of town for me, so I was staying with some family friends, always nicer than a hotel. Also, it came with my own personal cheer squad, though for some reason, they were reluctant to accompany me to setup at 530am and opted to come in time for the 8am start….

After a cold, delayed start, the swim seemed to be going well – it just seemed to be lasting forever – I couldn’t understand it, it felt like I was swimming well. Eventually I saw the final turn and headed for the swim exit and ran across the rocky ground to T1. I felt good as I headed out on the bike. The course had been described to me as pretty flat. I guess everything is relative, but flat wasn’t the word that leapt to my mind. I had not had a chance to fully scope out this course before the event and I regretted it now. I had no idea what to expect and therefore couldn’t plan a strategy for it, that was a silly mistake, I should have known better.

I did know better.

However, by the time I was climbing back up to the lake, I was feeling good. Coming into T2 I got held up by slower riders (YES Slower than me! Painfully slow and in a no passing zone)

Cultus 3 (1)

A whole stream of less than polite phrases came to mind which I won’t detail here, lest I lose my PG rating – how could they actually ride this slowly without falling off?

My cheering squad were there shouting my name, which never fails to give me a kick and make me smile. They had no idea how annoyed I was or that my bike leg hadn’t gone as well as I would have liked, they were just excited for what I was achieving in that moment – maybe I could learn something from that.

I was frustrated at the time, but later realised that only a few months ago I had never been held up by anyone, in fact it was probably me doing the holding.

Yes, there’s DEFINETLY something to be learned from that!

At least I was fired up for the run. This time I ran the whole 5km. It went out along the beach (just touch the sign at the end and come back!), I was taking care not to stress my ankle. The sand had the advantage of being a little softer to run on, but also made it harder. The course then took a small detour into a residential area before heading back to the finish, still I held back a little, scared to run hard in case I felt the familiar twinge, but I kept moving and finished pretty strong.

But when I looked at my time, my mood dropped… 1:45:17.

When I saw them at the finish, my friends told me that they thought the swim was long. A quick check of my time and those around me seemed to back this up – 24:08 for 750m! Around seven minutes longer than usual. I don’t recall any crazy currents à la Across the Lake, so I really hope that was mis-measured. One guy said his GPS recorded 990m. If that’s the case, then my time wasn’t so bad.

So all in all, not my best race, not my worst. A learning experience.

So now the season is over, it ended fairly well, just a few things to improve for next year:

  • Continue to improve efficiency on my swim stroke.
  • Cycling is still my weak link – must try harder.
  • Crack that 30 minute goal for a 5km run – Train smart to avoid injury.
  • Practice more efficient mount/dismount at transition.

So… that’s just about everything then, let’s get to it.

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