Welland Triathlon Weekend

Posted: June 29, 2013 in Races
Tags: , ,

Here, finally, is my belated race report(s) from last weekend.

  • Day One – Welland Sprint Triathlon
  • 750m swim, 30k bike, 7.5k run
  • Chip Time = 1:48:42
  • Category Place = 12/26
  • Overall Place = 69/279

This year was primarily about having fun.  Part of that fun was participating in some shorter distance triathlons as well as participating in more relays as part of a team, and this weekend was a great opportunity to do both at the local Multisport triathlon weekend in Welland.  While Saturday afforded me the opportunity to do the sprint triathlon, an event I haven’t participated in since switching to long course, Sunday also provided me the chance to swim 2k swim as part of a Half Iron distance relay team.  Maybe doing two events back-to-back doesn’t exactly classify itself as ‘fun’ in some people’s book, but I was certainly looking forward to challenge.  I’m guess I’m just that kind of crazy.

Here we go again.  Cycling shoes are already clipped onto the bike...

Here we go again. Cycling shoes are already clipped onto the bike…

Swim: 11:47

Pace: 1:35/100m

Division Rank: 4/24

The swim is unique in Welland that it is a “staggered start” having athletes leave in 5 seconds intervals to, apparently, cut down on the whole “washing machine effect” that most triathlon swim starts will inevitably turn into.  Personally, I like swimming in a washing machine so I wasn’t very excited for this particular swim start, and being that I was the 143rd swimmer to start meant that I would have a lot of obstacles along the 750m  course.

In fact, I hit my first obstacle – #142 – approximately 6 arm strokes into my swim.  And so it went, leap frogging to and around each and every swimmer ahead of me.  My last Welland sprint outing 3 years ago had me out of the water in 12:38  and I knew I should be able to crush that so I dodged wide to avoid as many swimmers as possible, sighted regularly, and dropped the hammer at the half way point just for good measure.  All in all, it was a good swim and I bettered my previous time by almost a full minute exiting the water in 11:47  (I slipped a little getting out, so it might have been even a few seconds quicker).  This time was also good enough to qualify as my new personal best at the 750m distance.  More importantly, I still felt fresh and relaxed.

My motivation all season.

My motivation all season.

Bike: 52:22

Pace: 34.4km/h

Division Rank: 11/24

I had decided earlier that I was going to try something I have not yet tried in triathlon; getting into my cycling shoes on the bike sans socks. I practiced maybe, well, exactly twice before and it went smoothly enough so I decided to give it a whirl under race conditions.  I’m not sure what I was spooked about as it was all easy enough and made for not only a quicker T1 transition time, but also a faster T2 as well.  Hey, yay for the little victories.  The rest of the ride went pretty well too.

All my previous competitions this season have thus far been swim/bike competitions so I decided to hold back a little on this particular ride anticipating my needing to run afterwards.  Even still, I only got passed three times, instead doing most of the passing around other the slower rides ahead of me.  My nerves may have gotten the better part of me though and I may have held back a little too much as my time was nearly a full two minutes longer than back in 2010.  It was windy out though, especially the long out-and-back along Feeder Road, so that’s going to be my ultimate excuse.  I just put my head down, kept my cadence at a constant 95 rpm  and focused on maintaining a speed above 34 km/h.  I made sure to hydrate and towards the end, proceeded to brace myself for what I already anticipated as the hardest part of the day still to come.

Making our way to the swim start.

Making our way to the swim start.

Run: 40:35

Pace: 5:25kph

Division Rank: 15/24

Yup!  Welcome to the shit show, folks.  This particular run represented a lot of firsts for me this year; first brick run, first run in nearly a month, and longest run in the same time.  Needless to say, that given the injuries and lack of running I’ve been able to actually do comfortably, my run fitness is nowhere near where it was at this time last year.  I knew the best I could do was start off smoothly and hope that ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning would kick in and get familiarized quickly.  They didn’t.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  For the whole duration of the 7.5k  they never ached or pained at all.  More accurately, it was my cardio that suffered the most as I am no longer accustomed to running off the bike with my heart rate already soaring.  For those of you who have been there, you can undoubtedly appreciate the feeling of trying to run when your heart is already beating out of your chest.  Eventually, your heart adapts and then you can on with the business at hand…unfortunately, mine never did.  In short, it was all I could do to keep going…period.  I walked through the aid stations (and maybe even an additional time) and just concentrated on getting to each kilometer marker in turn.

Coming out of the water on Day One.

Coming out of the water on Day One.

I got a nasty surprise at one of the aid stations when a volunteer girl, instead of asking if I wanted to be splashed with water (it was extremely hot and humid), took it upon herself to throw a cup of Heed right in my face.  Great!  So now I’m suffering, winded, and sticky from head to toe with performance goo.  Whatever, thankfully it was almost over.

Despite the craptastic run, the race did end on an extremely high note as I met my eight-year-old step daughter just before the finish and she joined me hand-in-hand at running down the finisher’s chute across the finishing line.  Forget the medals, forget the new PB’s, getting to share that experience with her and see the excitement in her face was the most memorable moment for me so far this season; it actually made the last seven and half agonizing kilometers all worth it.  Despite my eminent shittiness on the run course, I was still only a minute behind my last outing finishing the 7.5k  in an appalling 40:35.  Not bad given my lack of run training I guess.

Over all, I was one full minute off my last Welland sprint outing.  The win was that I felt good, and despite my lack of cardio prowess on the run, my legs felt great.  Not so much as a stitch, ache, or tightness anywhere.  So, you know what that means:  Green light to begin run training in earnest.

But first, I had one more quest in sight, namely, doing the 2k swim leg as part of a relay team at the Welland Half Iron the next morning.

  • My cheering section off the bike.

    My cheering section off the bike.

    Day Two – Welland Half Iron Relay

  • 2k swim, 90k bike, 21.1k run
  • Chip Time = 5:14:52 (click to see official Sportstats page)
  • Overall Place = 3/14

My girlfriend will already contest for you that I am a special kind of crazy.  But, hey, I do love me my open water swimming so I thought it would be fun to also participate in a relay team for the Half Iron event on the Sunday.  Besides, it’s just 2k  and I can practically do that in a coma state, so I enlisted two friends (Rob the cyclist, and Marty the runner) and team “Fat and the Furious” was born.  The awesome literally knows no bounds.

Swim: 31:48

Pace: 1:35/100m

Division Rank: 3/14

I was really looking forward to this swim as the only competitions I have done this far, aside from the ‘Frank and Friends 10k swim, have all been short distances so I was eager to test my newly developed swim skills at a much longer distance.  And fuck that staggered swim start too; the Half Iron would be launched in the classic mass wave start depending on your age group, etc.; so welcome to the machine, bitches.

My particular wave was the last to start and comprised of the older age groups, the relay teams and the swim/bikers, but it was still a pretty large group of athletes.  It also inevitably meant that there would be lots of obstacles in our path by way of all the slower swimmers in the previous two waves.  Oh well, c’est la vie.

A little team camaraderie just prior to the madness that is the mass swim start.

A little team camaraderie just prior to the madness that is the mass swim start.

Following a short warm up, I positioned myself near the front on the far inside of the course as is my custom.  I find there is minimal opportunity to get stuck behind slower swimmers or having to dodge the uber-aggressive swimmers who think they’re going to go out fast and proceed to club and bludgeon everyone within arm’s reach in an effort to get an early lead only to die a slow, agonizing death in the first 400m.  You can easily identify these types of swimmers as they roughly wedge their way ahead of you into the front and ask you what your expected swim time is as maneuver past.  I just love swimming OVER – not around – these overexcited eager beavers and leave them flopping in my wake like an injured sea lion.  It’s a simple pleasure.

As it happened, my coach positioned herself right beside me so when the siren sounding signaling the start of our wave, we were literally swimming shoulder-to-shoulder.  We have spent a lot of time swimming together over the off season and now lately in the canal, so it felt very natural to see her stroking along beside me and using each other to pace ourselves.  In fact, we would swim this way, taking turns sighting for each other every 3-4 strokes, right up into the last 300m or so.  But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit.

The swim start for the Half Iron.  I'm at the front on the far right in front of the green buoy.

The swim start for the Half Iron. I’m at the front on the far right in front of the green buoy.

It must be said that the initial 400m  at the beginning were not easy.  I felt like a bag of nails in the water.  I began to worry that I was more fatigued from the previous day’s race than I realized, or maybe I hadn’t fueled properly.  Whatever the case, I just focused on trying to keep pace with the coach and hopefully hang on for as long as I could.  But, fortunately, that feeling didn’t last long.  After we passed the first marker, everything started to click and I suddenly felt smooth again, so I amped up the pace a bit and, as I might have expected, the coach followed in suit.  Having someone you know and trust to assist with sighting every few strokes definitely has its advantages and we ended up at each turn around right on the money.  Occasionally, I would surge ahead to get past a group of swimmers and she would draft behind until we were past and then move back up alongside me again; other times she would be the one to surge and I would draft.  Whether this was all intentional or not, I can honestly say that I was really enjoying myself and felt that a new PB for the 2k  was entirely possible.

At the last turn around, we headed directly into the current and the chop picked up significantly.  Swimmers were starting to slow down and others from the first two waves had resorted to breast-stroking.  I made the mental decision right there to pull to the outside of the course, drop the hammer, and just go for it.  That was the last I saw of the coach.  I figured she was either drafting behind, or had gotten caught behind other swimmers (she later claimed it was the later).  I exited the water in 31:48, nearly another full two minutes off my previous 2k  swim times.  Booyah!  That time was good enough for 3rd overall in the relay.  However, it also worthy to mention here that the first two swimmers for the first and second place relay teams were pretty crackerjack swimmers in their own forthright, including Canadian triathlon legend Tereza Macel.  So, just finishing in their not-so-distant wake in itself, well, let’s just say I’m chalking that up as an additional victory.

Team 'Fat and the Furious' on the podium.

Team ‘Fat and the Furious’ on the podium.

So, one long ass run into transition and one smooth chip exchange onto Rob’s ankle, and my day was pretty much done.  Rob had a hard day on the bike fighting the wind and heat and ended up with a 2:49:03 split for the 90k, and poor Marty – the ninja – had to battle the ever present humidity on the run course finishing with a 1:50:57 half marathon.  All together these times were good enough to place the ‘Fat and the Furious’ team on the podium in third place.  Not a bad finish to the weekend indeed.

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