Niagara Triathlon Report

My initial plan for the summer had been to take a couple races off after the Peterborough Half-Ironman, so I originally hadn’t been planning on racing the Niagara triathlon. However, I was pretty motivated after the half-Ironman, and actually wanted to get back in another race.

I was looking forward to the shorter distance, and really trying to work on speed. Blair had also given me a hard time about how slow my transitions were at Peterborough. Comparing some of the transition times, I realized that I could knock a minute or so off my overall times just by getting in and out of the transition area faster. So one of my main goals for this race was to get my transitions down under a minute.

Speaking of transitions, before the race, I noticed a fellow competitor spraying PAM all over his legs and arms. I asked him about it, and he told me that it was to help the wetsuit slide right off!! I’ll have to add PAM to my race bag for the next one!!

SWIM: 700m – 15:53 (2:17/100m)
14/17 M25-29, 120/298 Overall

I had a decent swim in Peterborough, but for some reason, didn’t feel good again in this one. I wanted to hammer through it, but it seemed long (I’m sure it was more than 700m), and I ended up getting passed near the end of the swim by racers from the second wave. Not off to a good start.

However, I focused on sprinting through T1 and getting onto the bike, and was rewarded with a 1:08 T1 time.

BIKE: 24 km – 43:06 (33.3 km/h)
5/17 M25-29, 64/298 Overall

For the first time ever, I also tried leaving my shoes clipped into my pedals. I had practiced getting into them a couple days before the race, and thought I had it worked out. However, I had some trouble with the straps slipping out of the buckle, and it took me a kilometre or so to finally get my feet into my shoes. I’ll have to work on that if I really want it to save me time!!

I had heard horror stories about the huge hill up the escarpment, and it lived up to it’s billing. I passed a few people going up though, and after that, flew through the flat top section. I thought I was going to die on the descent as we went three wide through the turns, but rolled in safely off the bike.

RUN: 7 km – 28:25 (4:04/km)
6/17 M25-29, 47/298 Overall

The run course was flat and fast, and for not pushing it too hard, I came out with a good time. For the most part, I was running on my own, but still finished with a strong sprint to the finish.

Total: 1:29:27, 8/17 M25-29, 55/298 Overall (Full Results )

Overall, it was my best overall result yet in a triathlon, however, I would have liked to place better in my age group. I was disappointed in the swim, but did manage to improve my transitions, which is what I came to work on!

A year after my first duathlon, I returned to Peterborough. This time though, instead of racing in the sprint duathlon, I would be doing the Half-Ironman, my first time at a true long distance triathlon.

This race was my focal point for the 2006 season. I began preparing for it back in March, first working on getting comfortable running again (Waterloo Half-Marathon), then getting in all the triathlon racing I could during the month of June. I had worked up to 90km bike rides, and had done the 2km swim in the Muskoka Triathlon. I felt pretty good about the training I had done, though I had treated many of the races leading up to Peterborough as “glorified training days”, using them as my long brick workouts. If there was anything I was worried about, especially after my Muskoka experience, it was the half-marathon run after the long bike ride.

Despite being the focal point of my season, I tried not to set too much of a time goal – I just hoped to survive!! I didn’t really know what to expect trying to put it all together, so I figured I could be anywhere from 5 hour 15 minutes up to 5 hours and 45 minutes. Quite a big window, I know!!

As we did last year, Blair and I headed up to Peterborough on Saturday afternoon. The race site conveniently has a campsite attached to it, reserved for triathletes for the weekend. Being surrounded by fellow competitors creates a great atmosphere for the weekend, and we sat around the campfire with our tent neighbours on Saturday evening and shared our triathlon stories. Blair was only doing the sprint race (I couldn’t convince him to brave the half-Ironman), but as he said, at least I would have someone to drive me to the hospital afterwards!!

SWIM: 2km – 37:56 (1:54/100m)
25/34 M25-29, 244/501 Overall

After a decent swim at Guelph, I was actually feeling pretty good about hitting the water heading into this race. Despite the weeds, the water was calm and warm, and conditions were good. I took advantage of another mass start, and made a conscious effort to always be drafting someone. Swim cap colours were chosen based on expected swim time, and I choose one that put me with a group that would go a couple minutes faster than I expected, just so I would push it that much more. It worked well, and when I glanced at the clock after the first lap (it was a two loop swim with a short run across the beach in between), I was surprised to see that I had finished lap 1 in about 17 minutes – much better than my 2:00/km goal!! I slowed a little on the second lap, and came out of the water at about 36 minutes. With the long run up to T1, I finished the swim just under 38 minutes, two minutes better than my expected time.

BIKE: 90km – 2:42:51 (33.2 km/h)
18/34 M25-29, 111/501 Overall

After my relatively good swim, I took my time through T1, and made sure to take in water to help battle the heat. I hit the bike hard, and was flying through the first half of the course. Around the 25km mark, with my average speed up around 38km/h, I started to notice that I was going down a lot more hills than I was going up, and also figured that I had a pretty good tailwind! I knew the way back might be a challenge!!

I hit the turnaround after 1:15 on the bike. My first thought was that I would have an awesome bike time if I could keep that up! However, my excitement quickly turned to dread when I felt the wind in my face, and hit the first couple hills on the way back. I struggled to keep the speed up, but gradually, the average fell off. By the 65km mark, my legs were starting to burn climbing the hills, and I was hating every second of riding into the wind. I breathed a sigh of relief when I made the turn back out of the wind for the final 10km. I rolled into T2 just ahead of my goal for a 2:45 ride. However, the effort I put out battling the wind had taken its tool, and I could feel the cramps setting into my quads. I knew I would be in for a treat on the run.

RUN: 21.1km – 2:03:48 (5:53/km)
22/34 M25-29, 265/501 Overall

I didn’t think it was possible for me to feel worse on a run than I did in Muskoka. Well, I was wrong. VERY, VERY wrong. I headed out onto the run after racing for 3 hours and 25 minutes. I remember thinking to myself that with a good run, I could be down around 5 hours!! Those thoughts quickly went out the window as the burning in my quads got worse and worse. I stopped for Gatorade at the first aid station, and my quads immediately siezed up. I could hardly even walk. I staggered to the side of the road, and actually lied down in the grass. I stretched for nearly five minutes, and for a brief moment, debated turning around and calling it a day – I still had 20km to go!!

The thought of having to tell everyone I know that I didn’t finish was enough to force me to get up and get moving again. I started walking, then turned that into a shuffle, and finally a slow jog. The rest of the run, I alternated between walking and shuffling along. I drank all the Gatorade I could, and switched to Coke around the 14km mark. With 3km to go, I finally found a little bit of energy to run, and looking at my watch, realized I had 18 minutes to break the 5:30 mark. I had been running with a couple people who were thinking the exact same thing, and we managed to cross the finish line with a little over a minute to spare!!

Total: 5:28:40, 18/34 M25-29, 182/501 Overall (Full Results )

What a learning experience this was. My first taste of real long-distance racing resulted in disaster on the run. I did some research on cramping, and while I think I was well-hydrated, I’m sure I neglected the electrolytes, and finally realized why people take salt pills during these events. I am going to experiment with my nutrition on some long training rides and see if I can sort it out. It would have been smart to do a couple long brick workouts before the event to figure this stuff out, but I’ll treat it as a learning experience. Despite the difficulties I had, I am already looking forward to my next long-distance race!!!

After last week’s Muskoka Long Course race, and with the Peterborough half-Ironman looming on the horizon, the Guelph Lake Olympic-distance triathlon on Sunday, June 25th was almost something of a glorified training day. However, still being relatively new to the sport, I am after all the race experience I can get!!

With disastarous swims in the past two races, I really wanted to use this one to get comfortable in the water before the half-Ironman. The race organizers decided to send us all off in a single wave, which would be great practice for the half-Ironman. I also do a lot of open water swimming at Guelph Lake, so I was hoping that a familiar setting would help me to get more comfortable!

I was also hoping that I could get through the race without the cramping in the legs. I had drank Gatorade on the bike for the first time in Muskoka, and decided to change my strategy and stick to water and Power Gels for this one.

SWIM: 1.5km – 29:56 (2:00/100m)
14/22 M25-29, 126/346 Overall

Finally – a respectable swim split!! So far this year, I hadn’t been able to get under my goal of 2:00/100m swim pace. For this race, I threw out all the things I had been trying to change with my stroke, and just swam naturally, how I have been all my life. I got into a good rhythm, and kept it going for the whole thing. With the mass start, I also had people to draft the entire way, which was a first for me and I’m sure it helped. I got out of the water and headed onto the bike feeling good about my swim for the first time ever!!

BIKE: 42km – 1:18:00 (32.3 km/h)
6/22 M25-29, 84/346 Overall

With a good swim behind me, I was hoping to follow it up with a good ride. I had continued playing with my setup, and had brought my seat back down a little after Muskoka. However, my knee still felt sore. The ride was windy, and also seemed longer than 42km. I eased up in the last few minutes, in an effort to save the legs for the run.

RUN: 10km – 42:20 (4:14/km)
4/22 M25-29, 39/346 Overall

What a difference from the week before! Despite a little soreness in my knee, I felt strong coming off the bike and into the run. It felt great to be passing people, and I knew that I was moving up. I ran consistenly the whole way through, without any sign of cramping. The run course offered some shade, and with the heat was nowhere near as bad as Muskoka, I was able to finish strong! I was very happy to see the results and have the 39th best overall run split!

Total: 2:33:17, 7/22 M25-29, 60/346 Overall (Full results )

Overall, this was by far my best triathlon race yet!! It started with a good swim, followed by a decent bike ride, and I managed to save enough to have a strong run. Despite Blair beating me for the fourth race in a row (he finished just ahead in 2:31:01 and was 4th in the age group), I was very happy with the results, and am feeling good heading into the half-Ironman!!

The Muskoka Triathlon on June 18th was my first really big race of the 2006 season. This race, which offers $20,000 in elite prize money and a number of qualifying spots for Ironmans Canada, USA, Florida and Wisconsin, attracts an all-star field, including Olympic champion Simon Whitfield and many other top pros.

Blair and I headed up to Muskoka on Saturday afternoon. Arriving late, and with a stop at the Dairy Queen located next to our hotel (can’t you tell we are the serious triathletes?), we settled in for a few hours sleep before our early 5am wake up call!!!

This race, with a 2km swim, 55km bike, and 15km run, was my first triathlon longer than a sprint. Heading into it, I wasn’t too intimidated by the bike and run, however, I was worried about the swim – especially after my performance in Milton. Race day was sunny and hot – gruelling conditions for my first taste of long course racing!

SWIM: 2km – 42:37 (2:08/100m)
49/57 M25-29, 542/745 Overall

What a demoralizing feeling to come out of the water and see the rack that was jammed packed with bikes mostly empty. The water conditions were great, but I still struggled to find my rhythm on the swim. My stroke changes still aren’t feeling natural, and I felt off the whole way through this long, long swim. Seeing the empty bike rack, I knew that I would have some work to do on the bike and run if I wanted to have a good showing in the age group!

BIKE: 55km – 1:42:33 (32.2 km/h)
38/57 M25-29, 343/745 Overall

Leading up to this race, I had been tinkering with my bike setup, trying to find a good aero position. I had moved my seat higher, trying to get a more aggressive position over the aerobars. However, I hadn’t tried this position out on a long ride, and I paid the price. The extra leg extension felt uncomfortable, to the point that by the time I got off the bike, I could feel tightness in my IT band along the side of my left knee.

The heat, combined with the challenging, hilly course, took it’s toll during the ride. I pushed early on the bike, but by the last 10km, I could feel my legs starting to burn. However, coming out of T2, I was still looking to have a good run.

RUN: 15km – 1:16:10 (5:05/km)
26/57 M25-29, 242/745 Overall

It was on the run that I realized how much more challenging long course racing really was. Excited to get off the bike and onto my strength, the run, I pushed through the first kilometre in just over 4 minutes. However, the swim, bike and heat soon caught up with me, and at the first aid station, I could feel cramps setting into my quads. I stopped to walk for the first time at about the 3km mark, and for the next 7km, I struggled along, alternating between running, shuffling and walking, taking in as much fluid as I could along the way.

Around the 10km mark, I was passed by a woman in her 40’s who was trucking along as if she didn’t even feel the heat!! I tagged along with her, and learned that she had done 17 Ironman’s!! No wonder this seemed so easy for her!! I managed to drag myself through the last 5km with her – thanks for the motivation!!! Looking at the overall run results, I wasn’t the only one feeling the effects of the heat and distance!

Total: 3:44:36, 33/57 M25-29, 312/745 Overall (Full Results)

My first taste of long course racing certainly was eye-opening. I have never struggled on the run like that before, or felt cramps in my legs that forced me to stop. The heat and poor hydration probably played a part in my demise. I managed to finish in the middle of the pack, however, after this, I knew the upcoming half-Ironman would be quite the challenge!!

PS – Blair kicked my butt on this race, finishing in a very respectable 3:31:47, 24/57 in our age group and 215th overall!!

The first triathlon of the 2006 Trisport series was held on June 4, 2006. Before the race, I was looking forward to this one, as I had worked hard in the pool revamping my swimming stroke based on the Total Immersion principles. While the weather in June can be cool, race day arrived with a bright, warm sunny day. The water was a little chilly, but I had borrowed a wetsuit and was excited to go!!

My arch-rival (and good friend) Blair was also racing, and I was looking to avenge the close defeat at Victoria’s Duathlon three weeks earlier. Blair and I had met up in Milton the weekend before the race to cycle the bike course and get a preview of the famed Sixth Line Hill, and were ready to go!!

SWIM: 750m – 16:33 (2:13/100m)
39/47 M25-29, 403/600 Overall

What can I say? Many, many things went wrong on the swim. Right from the start, nothing felt right. I got bumped around in the pack, thrown off my rhythm and it only got worse from there. I tried sticking to what I had practiced in the pool, but I kept wanting to revert to my natural stroke. I tried to stay relaxed, stick with it, but I ended up doing breaststroke, and even backstroke for 100m or so (in the wrong direction). What should have been a relatively easy swim turned into a devasting race-killer.

BIKE: 30km – 54:26 (33.1 km/h)
28/47 M25-29, 215/600 Overall

After the dismal swim, I struggled through my first ever transition with a wetsuit in almost two minutes. Why didn’t I ask Blair before the race how the heck to get it off quickly? I knew that if I wanted to have any chance of catching him that I would have to have an awesome ride. However, I struggled up the Sixth Line hill, and despite trying to push the ride, I still entered T2 almost six minutes back of my friendly competition.

RUN: 7.5km – 31:55 (4:16/km)
12/47 M25-29, 80/600 Overall

Finally, something I can do reasonably well!! With a brutal swim and average bike ride, I really wanted to push the run. It was a tough run course with a couple good hills and about two kilometres of trail running. It felt good to be passing people, despite the fact that most had started a couple waves behind me! However, six minutes was too much for me to try to make up on Blair. I didn’t have a chance and finished 3:09 behind.

Total: 1:45:49, 26/47 M25-29, 175/600 Overall (Full Results)

With all the work I had done on my swimming, I was pretty disappointed with this race. The swim killed me. My time was horrible, I was demoralized getting on the bike, and worst of all, I used way too much energy. I had also never swam in a wetsuit before, so I’m sure that didn’t help. On the bright side, my run was good and I felt strong right to the end.

Next up is Muskoka, which attracts an all-star field and should be a good one!!

Victoria’s Duathlon – Blown Away on the Bike!

The month of May is here, bringing with it the start of the 2006 Subaru Triathlon Series . Looking through my summer race schedule, and with the buildup to the Peterborough Half-Ironman, I am planning a lot of races. Trisport offers a great deal with their Express Card, which gives you entry into all of their events. With the number of races I am looking at, it only made sense for me to sign up for them all.

May in Canada is not a great month for open water swimming!! So the season kicks off with Victoria’s Duathlon, held very close to home, in Waterloo, ON. After my good run in the half-marathon a few weeks earlier (full story), I was ready to tackle the 4km run, 25km bike ride, and 4km run.

Sunday, May 14th brought us a cold, windy, cloudy day. WIND – my nemesis!! I hate riding into wind!! I’ll take hills – at least you get to go back down! With the wind blowing, I knew I was in for a challenging ride! My good friend Blair showed up with his beautiful (and fast) new bike, and the friendly competition was on.

RUN 1: 4 km – 14:39 (3:39/km)
11/24 M25-29, 65/457 Overall

The pace set in the first run was blistering. My goal coming into this race was to break 15 minutes on the first run, and keep under 16 on the second. Just trying to keep up with the pack provided me with the motivation for a fast first run!! I rolled into the transition area about a minute ahead of Blair, and after a quick change of shoes, I headed out on the bike.

BIKE: 25km – 46:35 (32.2km/h)
15/24 M25-29, 160/457 Overall

With the race site close to home, I have had a few training rides on the bike course before the race. I knew what to expect with the hills, but I wasn’t prepared for the wind. After flying through the first 15km, with what I now realize was a very generous tailwind, I turned for home still ahead of Blair. After making the turn, it felt like I was riding into a wall! The wind was relentless, and I watched helplessly as my average speed fell. I’m sure it didn’t seem that bad to a lot of others, but after five minutes, I was spent! When Blair sped past me, I tried to turn it up again, but didn’t have the power left in the legs. I struggled into T2 30 seconds behind.

RUN 2: 4km – 16:05 (4:02/km)
10/24 M25-29, 83/457 Overall

The second run covered the same course as the first. Blair was only a few hundred metres ahead of me coming out of T2, and I knew I had the advantage on the run. My main goal was to track him down. I slowly gained on him, and by the 3km mark I was approximately 100 metres back. However, the bike had taken it’s toll, and despite trying to will myself into a sprint, I couldn’t find that finishing kick, and Blair crossed the line all of nine seconds ahead of me!! One more kilometre and I would have had him!!!

Total: 1:19:36, 14/24 M25-29, 112/457 Overall (Full Results)

Victoria’s Duathlon brings out some tough competition, so I didn’t feel too bad about the race. I was satisfied with my first run, but I was expecting a good one after all the running I had done in April. After getting killed by the wind, I know I’ll have to work on my biking if I want to do well the rest of the season!!

My first race of the season was the Waterloo Half-Marathon, which was run on Sunday, April 23rd, 2006 at 10:00am. I was feeling like I was in pretty good shape this early in the season, and set my sights on breaking an hour and thirty minutes for the first time.

I arrived at the race site an hour early in the cold, wet, rain. Thankfully there were indoor change rooms, and most of the runners stayed inside until the last possible minute. I warmed up inside, then headed out to the start line at 9:55.

After blowing up at the 11 mile mark in my first half-marathon, I learned the importance of pacing, and aimed for a 4:15/km pace. I still started out too quickly, and was under 4 minutes for the first kilometre, but soon settled in and found the rhythm. The rain was steady, but a running hat helped keep it off my face and made it bearable! I also wore hot-mitts and a long-sleeve dri-fit shirt to help keep warm.

Around the 12 kilometre mark, despite the mitts and the long-sleeves, I really started to feel the cold, and was wishing I had worn my tights under my shorts!! My toes were getting a little numb, and the rain showed no sign of stopping. I was still keeping up a good pace though, and washed down a Power Gel with some Gatorade at the aid station.

By 18 kilometres, I knew that with a final push, I’d get under 1:30 for the first time! Despite the numb toes and aching hamstrings, I managed to track down two runners ahead of me over the last three kilometres, and crossed the line with approximately 45 seconds to spare in 1:29:16.2. I ended up in 20th place overall, and 3/18 in my age group! Sportstats has the full results.

Overall, despite some poor conditions, my winter training paid off and I set a personal best for the half-marathon!! It was a nice start to the year!!

This past Sunday, I competed in my first duathlon. Man, was it hot! 35 degrees Celcius (that’s about 95 Fahrenheit for our southern neighbours). For the first time, I realized why those nice light running hats are a good idea. By the time I got around to the second run, the sun was beating down on us. And I was lucky – I was only doing the sprint duathlon. 2 km running, 20 km on the bike, followed up with a 5 km run. Those crazy half-Ironman competitors had to run a half-marathon (21.1 km), and that was after a 2km swim and 90 km on the bike. I know how I felt after my half-marathon last year, and with the heat we had, I would not have wanted any part of that on Sunday!!

So, going into the race, I set some goals. I thought they were challenging for my first race, but definitely achievable. I managed to hit 4 out of 5 – I missed my time for first run. But I heard after the race that it was quite a bit longer than 2km, more like 2.5km. And I definitely felt like I was running those first 2km pretty hard, so I’m not too worried about it! Most importantly, my overall time was 1:09:47, which was about 2 minutes faster than my overall goal! Not too bad, for a first-timer. The results are posted here.You’ll find me right in around 27th place, which also is quite respectable.

I have to say that this seemed like a walk in the park compared to the half-marathon I ran last year. In that race, around the halfway mark, I looked down and saw blood seeping through the top of my shoe from where my blisters had formed and popped. Between the blisters and the burning, aching feeling in my legs, the last few miles were complete agony! And don’t ask how my socks looked when I finally finished. A bloody mess. Let’s just say that they went straight into the garbage. Afterwards, I couldn’t walk for two days. Oh, and my toenails fell off. So comparatively speaking, the duathlon was a breeze. I think it’s mainly because the bike ride is a lot less stressful than the running. I also felt a little better prepared, having actually trained up to the distance I would be racing.

On the whole, the weekend was a great time. Two of my friends were racing in the sprint triathlon, so we camped the night before. Our pre-race carb loading consisted of a few cold beers around the campfire! And we wonder why we’re not at the front of the pack! The race was well organized, and there were lots of goodies afterwards. Blair even one a nice Camelback hydration system in the draw afterwards. After one race, I’d definitely recommend the Subaru Triathlon Series for anyone looking for triathlon or duathlon events.

So, what’s next? Well, I’m looking at getting into a real triathlon. Which will involve swimming. Swimming is difficult to practice because it requires a little more planning and effort. Biking and running I can do out my front door (well, I have to go down a few flights of stairs, but you know what I mean). To work on my swimming, I have to look up the lane swim times, pack a bag, drive to the pool, change, shower, swim, shower again, change again, and drive back home. It’s a 2 hour process for less than an hour of training. But it must be done. I’m going to comptete in a Try-A-Try next weekend, so hopefully I’ll get into the pool a few times before then.

I’d also like to get more competitive, because that’s just the way I am. I have no idea what I’ll be like swimming, but at least now I know where I stand in the biking and running. My biking is where I think I can improve the most. I may need some bike upgrades – clip on pedals and aerobars are on my list. Hopefully I can get my average speed up a few km/hour by the end of the season. My running is pretty good, and should improve a little too. I actually had a great little run tonight after a couple days off. On my 5km training course, I ripped off a time of 19:40 – my previous best was 21:04. That feeling of being in a race has motivated me to try to step things up a notch over the next couple months. Tonight’s run was a good first step! Come back soon to see how I’m doing!