Gravenhurst Olympic Triathlon

Posted: July 18, 2014 in Races
Tags: , ,
  • 1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run
  • Chip Time = 2:40:19
  • Category Place = 19/45
  • Overall Place = 70/300

In lieu of my father’s recent passing and all the imminent shittiness that went along with it over the past two weeks, I decided to press forward with my planned Olympic triathlon in Gravenhurst, Ontario last Saturday.  I decided that a brief getaway out of town, a nice and easy scenic ride on the Friday with Kelly through the rolling hills (not to mention the fast burn the following day), and a comfortable stay at the Four Ninety Bed & Breakfast would be ideal to get my mind off things and maybe burn off a little pent-up stress and frustration.

Oh, and there was always the added bonus of finally getting to use this bad boy:



Yeah.  Take it in bitches.

This Thule Vertex bike rack (click HERE) was the latest investment into our healthy lifestyle and this trip served as it’s maiden voyage.  In short:  It’s awesome.  I love it.

But on with the story…

We left for Gravenhurst, located in the gorgeous Muskoka County, early Friday morning and after about a dozen bathroom breaks and a mid-trip Butter Tart pit-stop in Barrie we arrived in the parking lot at the local Bike Shop (yes, that’s actually its name) for suggestions on a nice route, some gels, and with one quick wardrobe change we were on our bikes and riding out of town in near record time.

We followed Bethune Rd. out to Doe Lake Rd. and onwards to Uffington Rd. and past the pretty riverside cottages along Mathiasville Rd., before returning back along the glass surface of Airport Rd. and back again to our B&B to get settled in. They say pictures say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s 5000 words worth about our ride:

Rural amenities.

The rural amenities.

Nearing the end down Airport Rd. back into Gravenhurst.

Nearing the end down Airport Rd. back into Gravenhurst.

The wharf.  Definitely NOT the ship we would be riding.

The wharf

Mathiasville Road.  Yeah, this didn't suck.

Mathiasville Road.
Yeah, this didn’t suck.

Fancy a swim to cool down?

Fancy a swim to cool down?

All in all, we covered approximately 55 kilometers together with a few roadside breaks. I do enjoy these easy rides with Kelly as a way to warm up ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning prior to the next day’s test.  Plus, it’s really nice to explore together and get off the beaten path after stupid amounts of time driving.  Later we enjoyed a nice pasta dinner (butter chicken fettuccine) on the patio of Boston Pizza over-looking Muskoka Lake and began the process of packing and getting ready for competition the next morning.  Truthfully, I knew that my training has not exactly been stellar over the past two weeks given the circumstances, so I figured that the event was either going to be an epic success thanks to one big release of anxiety and sadness, or it was going to be an epic blow up of Big Bang proportions.  Either way, it was going to be therapeutic to get it out of my system.

This particular triathlon has been on my bucket list for a few years now, but since they only have availability for 300 athletes or so, I’ve always missed the registration cutoff as it tends to fill up quickly.  The allure comes from the opportunity to start the swim in the middle of Muskoka Lake after jumping off one of the steamships and swimming back to the wharf again to begin the bike/run. How awesome is that?  So I was pretty excited given that the swim leg is easily my favorite.

Tell me this isn't cool as shit.

Tell me this isn’t cool as shit.

Anyway, we got a good night’s sleep and in the morning and after a breakfast consisting of a muffin, a glass of ozonated water (thanks Jeff!) and a healthy protein shake courtesy of our B&B hosts we made our way down to the wharf to set up and get ready.

Swim: 26:55

Pace: 1:45/100m

Now, I don’t know if it was the “special” ozonated water, or if I was still feeling overly lethargic or what, but I didn’t really have any of the pre-race nerves prior to the start like I normally do.  I still had my prerequisite poop and whatnot after officially registering, but other than that, it was all rather serene as Kelly and I made our way down to the dock to board the RMS Segwun  that would ferry us out to the middle of the lake.  This was a pretty neat experience actually.  I prefer open water starts and this was about as open water as it gets, never mind the grandeur of being out in the middle of a picture-perfect lake.  After a five or so minute ferry ride, we jumped off the boat and swam to the swim start to begin.  The water was absolutely beautiful; warm and smooth.  This was going to be awesome.

That's me.

That’s me…I swear!

I was scheduled to be in the first wave consisting of the pros and elites and men under the age of 45 so I lined up near the front on the inside of the course next to a girl in a pink cap who, later, I would learn was Kristin Marchant, an elite athlete who would ultimately be second out of the water and finishing third overall.  We talked casually for a few minutes (my still being oblivious to who she was) when another athlete suddenly pressed past us to position himself immediately in front of us.  He really seemed to want to be in the front and first out of the block.  Eventually word was given that we were set to begin in approximately a minutes time and this dude in front turns and informs us that he hasn’t swam 1k all summer.  Umm, really?  So either he was a total pro swimmer with no fear at all, or he was a complete moron ( a la Captain Boogie Nights from Goderich a few years ago), but I guess that would all be revealed in 60 seconds time.

Finally our start was signaled with a horn blast from the RMS Segwun  and we were off…and right over the numb nut in front of us.  He couldn’t have taken 4 strokes before about a dozen of us had steamrollered right over him in a mixed flurry of knees and elbows.  I kind of felt sorry for him as that was no way to begin a race but, hey, what can you do?  You can’t help stupid.

Pretty buff, huh?

Swear. Pretty buff, huh?

Anyway, I latched onto the feet of the pink swim cap girl (Marchant) and together with a small group of fast swimmers, we went out pretty hard towards the first (and only) turning buoy.  I managed to keep up for a few hundred meters but pink swim cap girl was on fire and eventually I had to drop back a bit.  By the first turning buoy I was approximately a hundred or so meters behind but still well ahead of the main field…swimming all on my own, exactly where I have become accustomed to being this year.  The turnaround was more than a 90°   turn and unfortunately I went a little wide.  Shortly afterwards, I saw the splashes of the feet in the lead group off to my side so I altered my direction and made an effort to make up a bit of that added distance.  I have to say, it’s hard to site in an open lake when all the reference points, including the islands and shoreline, look exactly the same, particularly with the morning sun is shining directly in your eyes, so I veered a bit off course once or twice more before I was able to realign myself and continue onto the dock.

I exited the water about a minute and a half behind the lead pack of swimmers in 11th  position, climbing out onto the dock to began the long run into T1 (my actual swim time according to my stop watch was approximately 24 minutes).  I do have to say, it was pretty awesome to run down the dock and into the frays of cheering onlookers (Kelly included), knowing they were all cheering for me alone as the main field of athletes were still in the water behind me.  A great start indeed.

So far so good.

Bike: 1:14:45

Pace: 32.1 km/h

I definitely have to work on my transition time as it took me exactly 1:47  to get out of my wetsuit, into my bike gear and out to the mount line to begin (I know I can do much better).  Anyway, once aboard Lucille we fell in behind a few other riders (who had also lingered in transition apparently) making our way out of the wharf up a long, gradual hill before hitting the town center and turning left onto the winding Muskoka Beach Rd. and out into the rolling countryside.  I already had a taste of what the ride was going to be like on the previous days ride with Kelly, so I knew it was going to be hilly and I was mentally prepared for that and the course certainly did not disappoint.  I settled into a pace that I knew I could maintain for an hour or so, arranged my nutrition where I could get at it easily and proceeded to get on with it.

Climbing out of the wharf.  I'm the stud on the right.

Climbing out of the wharf

Firstly, I’d like to say that the Muskoka Beach Rd. is beautiful and every bit as scenic as I had hoped; more so than what we experienced the day before.  However, it was also very challenging with the hills and crosswinds that tended to surprise you around hidden corners.  The road was also rough in a few places as you might expect, and on one occasion my aero bars suddenly tilted downwards after hitting a small unseen pothole.  Fortunately, I managed to quickly pull it back into place and pretty much carried on without further incident.  Whew!

For the most part though, the route was shady and cool so we didn’t have to deal with the added pressures of the heat and humidity they had been warning us about at the pre-race meeting. There were definitely some challenging climbs requiring me to get up and out of the saddle but, fortunately, what goes up must also eventually come down so these ascents tended to be rewarded with some fast breaking descents as well.  All in all, it was a fun ride…in the beginning.

Some of the original few riders I entered onto the course with broke away around the 10k mark while a few other riders dropped back so, once again, I was pretty much cycling on my own again. It seemed like today was simply destined to be one of those days when it’s just me having to create my own push which was fine as this has tended to be the case all year (in both competition and training), but towards the end, those last few climbs back into Gravenhurst proper were beginning to take a toll on my legs and I was glad to finally pull into T2 with a not-so-bad time given the conditions.

Time to get on with the suck.

Run: 55:40

Pace: 5:34 min/km

I already knew that the 10k run was going to be my Achilles Heel in this competition as I haven’t been running off the bike well this season, nor had I run much in the past two weeks in dealing with my dad.  Furthermore, what I hadn’t counted on was the significant degree of difficulty that this run course would end up being.

After tossing on my dad’s favorite sweat-stained CSL ball cap (my homage to my father today) and immediately upon leaving T2, we started the looooong climb out of the wharf again and from there, the climbs never seemed to stop.  In fact, if there were any flat sections along the route I’m not sure I ever noticed them.  Pretty early on, I had to give into the temptation of walking through the aid stations and, occasionally, on the hills as well as my heart rate had spiked significantly on that first climb and never quite recovered afterwards.  Needless to say there aren’t many hills to train on back in Ridgeway and I haven’t broken out the tire in quite a while (something I endeavor now to do more often).  It felt like you would no sooner get over one hill and another would begin immediately and I really struggled, getting passed over and over again by other members of my age group.  I wasn’t an overly happy camper at this point knowing that I wasn’t performing to my potential.

It wasn’t really until the 7.5k  mark that my legs began to feel somewhat normal again and my breathing began to regulate itself; much longer than I typically need.  Again, my brick sessions and run training having been going a bit off track lately so, really, this left little wonder.

Please don't let make me do no mo' hills.

Finally finished.

I finished as strong as I could in the last 1k or so and at least managed to give the appearance of doing well for the spectators benefit. In the end, I had finished 70th, a little over a minute behind my coach who looked to have had a really decent run (our swim times were identical, and I was less than a minute ahead in the bike).  Truth be told, I have some unfinished business here but, it was what it was, a chance to deal with my mounting sadness and melancholy and ultimately purge as much of it as possible from my system.  And while it may not have been the PB that part of me was hoping for, it was not the epic blow up either and the primary mission of blowing off steam was definitely accomplished.  I know now that leading into my next ‘Ultimate Challenge’ in September, I need to refocus on dropping weight (hence my going gluten free again) and getting more confident running off the bike, both of which I knew already.  Gravenhurst only cemented that fact.

Anyway, later, after an amazing breakfast back at the B&B of French toast with a mountain of freshly whipped cream and maple syrup (and bacon…lots of lots of bacon), Kelly and I took a leisurely drive around Lake Muskoka visiting the quaint townships of Bala Falls, Port Carling, Milford Point and Bracebridge followed by another fantastic meal of pulled pork egg rolls and battered perch (not to mention a few wobbly pops) on another scenic lakefront patio at the Creative Plate Eatery.


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