Woodstock Swim/Bike, or “Confessions of a Dumbass”

Posted: May 27, 2013 in Races
Tags: ,
  • 750m swim, 20k bike
  • Chip Time = 51:58
  • Category Place = 1/1 (3/6 Over 30)
  • Overall Place = 4/14

The triathlon season is officially upon us and with it my first event in Woodstock his weekend.  It’s been two years since I’ve raced in Woodstock, however, in light of still not being able to run worth a shit due to lingering injuries, I opted to participate (albeit begrudgingly) in the swim/bike competition instead while I continue to heal.  I wasn’t terribly excited, it’s true, so I tried to maintain the glass-is-half-full attitude where it provided me a chance to go hard in both the swim and bike (both of which I have been working hard at) knowing I didn’t have to keep anything in the tank for the run afterwards.  Heck, maybe it might even be fun.

The Coach and a few fellow teammates of mine (Roberta, Cathy – my “Tri-mom” – and Steve) all arrived on scene together at 8:00am sharp and proceeded to go about the usual business of registering and setting up in transition.  The event itself is situated in the local and pleasant Pittock Conservation Area and I’ve always enjoyed myself here each time I’ve raced.  Heck, the last time I raced here I even surprised myself by medaling.  We signed in, picked up our race packets, got our body marking done, dropped off a little unnecessary weight off at the Porto-potties and then set about the process of getting mentally prepared to start, just like we’ve done many times before.  Truthfully, I didn’t have the usual onset of nerves or butterflies (well, none that couldn’t be left behind in the Porto-potty anyway) and was pretty relaxed about the whole thing…maybe too relaxed (as it would become apparently shortly).  Without the need to prepare for the run, setting up in transition is pretty easy.  Just throw your shoes on the bike, reset the bike computer, lay out your helmet and sunglasses and, Bob’s yer uncle, you’re ready to go aside from putting on your wetsuit and goggles.  Easy, right?

A pretty basic set-up.  Almost sad in it's simplicity.

A pretty basic set-up. Almost sad in it’s simplicity.

Not long afterwards, I donned my wetsuit and proceeded to make my way to water to get a quick warm-up in before the start.  It was decided earlier in the morning that due to the water and air temperatures that the event was going to be wetsuit mandatory; scary, huh?  Meh.  I don’t mind the colder water as I’ve long since made peace with it and have already been out practicing in the open water twice this year so I wasn’t overly worried.  I got a few minutes-worth of warm-up in before making my way back to shore to await the start of my wave.  T-minus three minutes and counting…

I situated myself a little away from the main pack on the extreme right side of the course right at the front, as has been my strategy in the past.  I find it’s easier to keep a line directly to the buoys without having to continually collide and fight for position with the other swimmers.  I don’t mind the neoprene gladiator games in the opening seconds of the swim so much but if I can avoid it in order to minus a few seconds off my time then great.  It’s a strategy that tends to work well and soon enough, we were off.

The plan was start quickly and fall into a steady rhythm to the first rounding buoy (being careful to sight accurately and successfully) and then once approximately half way around, drop the hammer and take it in for the last half as fast as possible.  In the first 200-300m, everything seemed fine.  The main pack drifted to the left of the course (following the usual ‘lemming effect’ I’ve noticed before) while I remained directly on target, so there was no one to contend but focusing on utilizing the proper stroke technique I have been practicing and just getting’ er done.  Similarly, my breathing felt natural and comfortable.  I rounded the first corner at the third-way mark of the course and I had made my way into a small group of swimmers from my wave as we proceeded to encounter the first of the swim stragglers from the first wave that left ahead of ours.  I’m happy that I was able to navigate around them with little challenge and when I reached what I felt was the halfway point on the course; I made the decision to open it up and make some distance on current group I was with.  This also happens to be the point where I made my “what a dumbass!” realization.

My day's inspiration.

My day’s inspiration.

Some people have asked me what goes through my head when I swim.  Sometimes, I’m humming song melodies to myself (‘Just Got Paid’ by ZZ Top tends to be a favorite), or sometimes I’m thinking about other mundane things I have to do that day or maybe later in the week.  I think race strategy on the bike and during the run, but not necessarily so during the swim.  It’s odd, I’m sure, but I’m typically pretty cool, calm and relaxed when I swim as I’m very comfortable in the open water where others tend to mentally stress, panic or freak out a bit.  What happened to go through my head at exactly this point yesterday went a little something like this:

“Hmm, I wonder how they’re keep track of the timing.”

I had remembered just then that I didn’t have a timing chip on my ankle.  Why I realized this at this particular juncture beats the living shit out of me.

“Hmm, maybe they’re using that chip on the back of the race number thingee.  Nooooo, I don’t remember seeing one of those either.”


“Holy shit, I think I forgot to pick up my timing chip!”

It’s true.  I had committed the cardinal rookie error by failing to pick up my timing chip while registering.  Why, I’m not sure.  I don’t really have an excuse.  I’ve done this bunches of times before and I’m seasoned enough now that this should have been obvious and second nature.  Yet, I forgot.

Upon realizing my mistake, my next thought was this:

“You’re a dumbass.”

I mentally walked myself through the checking in process and couldn’t even remember seeing the timing chip booth, much less going to it and picking it up.  As I passed the next swimmer from the wave ahead of me I quickly checked his ankle and, sure enough, there it was.  It was official.  I’m an idiot.

But what could I do about it now?  Absolutely nothing so I might as well have fun.  So I refocused back on what was going on and noticed that I was approaching the end of swim and I had distanced myself pretty far from the main pack of swimmers so I sprinted for the shore.  It is also worthy to note that I still felt very fresh and probably could have dropped the hammer much earlier than I did.  Good to know for future events.

As I exited the water, I came out by myself about a minute or so ahead of the next group of swimmers.  I was quite pleased with myself (despite the rather subdued crowd reaction) as I noted the time on the digital race clock on the race board as I passed underneath it into transition as 11:57.  Not bad, and I know I can do better.

Still a bit disappointed with myself, I didn’t exactly fly through transition.  I stripped out of my wetsuit, sat down on the ground and gave myself a solid scolding for being such a dumbass, put on my socks and cycling shoes, removed Lucille from the rack and proceeded to make my way to the bike mounting line.  The rest was pretty uneventful.

Out of the Pittock Conservation area there are a few climbs and they were all into the wind.  But with every uphill, there is an inevitable downhill and I did my best to use that to my advantage to build up speed to carry me up the next incline.  The Woodstock bike course is a series of rolling hills so the entire ride goes something like this: upshift, climb, breathe, downshift, sprint, breathe, and repeat.  The only real challenge was the ever constant wind that always seemed to be your face while climbing making things a bit chilly, but nothing to complain about.  Oh, that, and a lone farm dog who was happily relishing in the opportunity to chase down and sprint alongside riders as they passed by his yard.  Eventually, Steve went flying past in the opposite direction obviously ripping the bike course up (Steve is a machine on the bike with legs that resemble tree trunks, and managed the course in an impressive time of 33:48).  The Coach was next, followed by Cathy and Roberta.  Everyone seemed to be having a fun time despite the focused look on their faces.  I could take a pot shot here at the Coach and mention that she always looks like she is being chased by Lucifer himself when she races but, hey, with the amount of medals and podium finishes she gets each season who am I to tease?

All in all, it was a good ride and I noted my time as I came across the Bike In timing matt as 51:58  (making my ride approximately 38:01 give or take some time getting out of transition).  Here, however, is where the real downside of the swim/bike competition takes place though.

"Quick!  Look cool!  Maybe they won't take 'em back..."

“Quick! Look cool! Maybe they won’t take ’em back…”

I’m done but nobody else knows that.  There is no finish line or ultimate fanfare.  There is no announcer to call out your name, success or time.  Your event is done when you unceremoniously dump your timing chip into an empty bucket while everyone else proceeds out onto the run course.  It’s rather like being left out of something special.   The people in and around transition are looking at you like “AWESOME JOB!  NOW GO RUN!!”  Except you can’t; your race is finished and you’re left standing feeling out of place.  The spectators then get confused and, before you know it, they’re gesturing for you to get the hell out of the way so they can see the real action.

In fact, a volunteer in transition actually came running over to me to see if I was alright.  “Are you okay?  Are you hurt?  Can I help?”  No.  But thanks.  After confessing my dumbass realization, the volunteer pointed me to the timing van and had me give them my approximate swim/bike times which they then inputted into their computer so I could reclaim a little of my dignity.  This is a testament to the great people and race organizers at Multi-Sport Canada that they actually trusted me to give them my race times without having the official proof just so I could still feel like part of the event.

In the end, my time was good enough for a podium position.  The good news was that I had placed first.  The bad news was that I was the only competitor in my age group.  However, I also qualified for a third place medal in the “Over 30” (I guess its official, I’m “old”) category.  However, I was most pleased with being the second fastest swim in the swim/bike competition behind a pro triathlete who also happened to be recovering from a running injury.  Not bad for my first event of the season I suppose…minus the dumbass thing of course.  The Coach finished 1st in her age category and fourth overall for the women, Cathy placed 2nd in her age category, and Steve placed 6th in his age group respetively.  All in all, a good day for the TryForce team.

In two weeks I will be participating in another swim/bike event in Binbrook after which, I hope to return to running a bit anticipating my participating in the Welland Triathlon weekend at the end of June – knock on wood.  And if there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that the first thing I will do when I get on site is to hunt out that damn timing chip booth!

  1. Who’s that sexy beast in the group shot @ 11:35?

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