Posts Tagged ‘Rose City Triathlon’

  • 2k swim, 90k bike, 21.1k run
  • Chip Time = 5:10:12
  • Category Place = 14/38
  • Overall Place = 78/286
The usual set-up, with my 2014 addition.

The usual set-up, with my 2014 addition.

This past weekend marked my return to long course triathlon in nearly two years having taken last year off to address some injuries and regroup.  It’s been a long process involving many long days of running in near-zero visibility and -stupid degree temperatures, numerous ridiculous leaping and skipping drills down the public Friendship Trail here in town in front of my neighbors, a rigid functional strength building program (which isn’t much more manly than the leaping and skipping drills) and, yeah, lots of other tedious stuff.  It has not been an easy road, like, at all, and Sunday was the first real opportunity to see it all in action.  Of course, there’s been some signs along the way this year that things have going well with new PB’s set at the Around the Bay 30k in March (click HERE  for results) and the Binbrook Sprint triathlon one week ago, but my focus and interest has always been on long course.  So this was the first ‘official’ test of the season in my mind.

Truthfully, despite my training successes so far, I was very nervous going into this event given my outdoor training season had been delayed almost an entire month thanks to Mother Nature being a total bitch throughout late March and early April, and this event itself being pushed forward two weeks.  I just didn’t have the immediate confidence I’ve had prior to competing in this event in the past, so this was going to be…interesting…and I’m chalking it up as a ‘successful failure’.

Swim: 32:54

Pace: 1:39/100m

This was actually the one part I wasn’t so worried about, as I love open water swimming and I have become pretty confident in the open water.  I’m still working on getting my 2k swim down under the 30 minute mark and I had some pretty lofty hopes of that happening Sunday, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

After setting up in transition, it was time for the traditional ‘Plucking of the Arm Hair’ ceremony where Kelly helps me into my wetsuit by coaxing my Nineteen Rogue swimsuit up my arms and over my shoulders with the assistance of a pair of industrial rubber gloves and copious amounts of baby powder.   Oh, it’s quite the process – believe me.  Check it out:

See how much fun this is?  (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

See how much fun this is? (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

Eventually, we managed to wedge all my bodily folds into place and I made my way down to the swim start with approximately 15 minutes to go.  The water was brisk, but completely bearable which was a nice surprise. The last report I got was that the water in the canal was still at Arctic temperatures but, thankfully, the water had warmed up a bit in the past two weeks.  I had a short warm up paddle and a pee before taking my place in the scrum of swimmers on the starting line.  I love this part.  I love the camaraderie of athletes all joking, shaking hands and wishing each other luck just before the madness is about to ensue.  It’s the total calm before the storm.  Different from the past years’ event, we were all to start in waves as opposed to one big mass group so any hopes of swimming with the coach again this year (click HERE  for a reminder) were shot as I was to be in the 3rd wave and she starting in the 4th wave five minutes behind me.  Oh well.

As per my strategy, I lined up on the inside of the course with a smaller group apart away from the main pack of swimmers in my wave.  When the horn sounded to signal the start our wave, my group went out fast and I fell in line behind some other swimmers whom I figured were going to have faster swim times; ‘Let’s see how long I can hang on’  I thought to myself.  This time around though, this strategy ended up being a mistake.

The swim start (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

The swim start (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

For the first 500m or so, it was all good and we maintained a pretty fast pace leading up to the first turn around, but just short of arriving there, we rejoined the main group of swimmers who were swimming to the outside of the course.  Now, either my group wasn’t as fast as I thought, or the buoy was closer to the shore than last year meaning we had actually swam a longer distance on a diagonal in order to get to it.  I’m thinking it was the later.  As we maneuvered around the buoy, I had to go over, around and even under some of the other slower swimmers all wearing the same white swim cap.  It was madness and I ended up swallowing a few mouthfuls of water in the process (luckily I don’t have a panic mode while swimming).  The second turning buoy comes fast and I worked to get ahead of as many swimmers as I could to avoid another melee and upon turning, it was suddenly WHAM! – straight into the oncoming current.  Furthermore, I had now lost the heels of other faster swimmers in the confusion and for the next 200-300m  I was all over the place trying to get around and past other swimmers.  I must have been swerving all over the course like a drunken driver making his way home after a night out.

Exiting the water (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

Exiting the water (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

Another few 100m’s in, around the half way mark, I ran headlong into members of the first wave ahead of me; it was an entire flotilla of yellow swim caps spread out over the course.  Usually, I’m pretty adept at weaving between and among slower swimmers, but this was a solid mass of neoprene bodies – side by side – approximately 20 swimmers wide; total roadblock.  I didn’t really see any other choice but to swerve all the way over into the middle of the swim course in order to get around them (aside from bullying my way through, which, while I have no problems doing this sometimes, with more ‘challenged’ swimmers I figure it’s just unsportsmanlike).  I veered around them knowing full well I was adding unnecessary distance to my own swim in doing so but, hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

I continued to fight the current all the way into the third turnaround and by this time I was swimming pretty much on my own again. I could feel a few hands slapping my feet but other than that, I was pretty much in the clear as far as slower swimmers directly ahead of me were concerned.  In the last 300-400m, I picked up the pace a bit trying to steal back some time and exited the water in 32:54, well off from not only my best time here so far (31:48), but what I know I am capable of.  Not that I was terribly disappointed considering that I now had to make not only my longest ride f the year so far, but also my longest Brick run to boot; so one minute in the grand scheme of things is nothing.

Bike: 2:41:18

Pace: 33.5/km/hr

My transition was a bit slow (2:00), but I was being meticulous in making sure my shoes were on properly and everything was set up just so since I haven’t had the long opportunities on the bike yet, so I knew comfort was going to paramount with any chance of a decent bike split.

On the bike course

On the bike course

I entered onto the course uneventfully and got up to my cruising pace of 35km/hr  rather quickly, making sure to take in some water and focusing on getting my breathing back in check.  So far, so good; it was cool out but not cold and everything seemed to be turning over well.  Then we turned onto Feeder Rd. to head out of Welland and – BAM! – directly into a headwind which never – ever – let up for the rest of the ride.  Seriously, I fought the wind as best as I could for as long as I could and at every corner I thought to myself ‘okay, just get around this corner and there will be a tailwind’  but, nope, it was just more headwind.  There was simply no escaping it so I just accepted it and pedaled on.  It is what it is.

All things considered, my legs felt good as did my energy levels as I was being conscientious to fuel every 15-20 minutes or so as I am prone to forgetting to do (hence my shitting the bed in 2012 when I completely bonked in the last few kilometers from the finish).  I kept reminding myself that this was merely a practice day for my feeding strategy prior to my last completion of the season in September since I haven’t had that opportunity yet this year, not having done the distances I normally would have by this point.

At the 60k mark, I did something I have not yet had to do in a triathlon…stop to pee.  I’ve experimented with on-the-bike evacuation before, but I’m nowhere near that kind of mental dedication (or stubbornness for that matter) yet so I opted to pull over and let’er rip…directly into a headwind.  I’ll spare you the gory details.

Heading into T2

Heading into T2

The upside to this is that I felt, like, 3lbs lighter, and the minor cramping I was experiencing in my stomach subsided immediately.  The downside is that, while the entire stop might have only cost me, say, 1 minute in total, I had now lost my pace group heading back onto Feeder Rd. for the long 15k straightaway back into Welland…right into that damn wind.  Now, riding into the wind sucks at the best of times, but without pacers or even other cyclists in the vicinity, it’s particularly tedious…and it was.  I knew I had lost my ideal pace, but I had little choice.

As I turned back into Welland near the end of the ride, I emptied my water bottle and had the last of my Shot Bloks, got out of my cycling shoes and proceeded to spin out the legs a bit as I coasted into the dismount line to begin what I already knew what was going to be the hardest part of the day.  But isn’t it always?

I dismounted the bike nearly 10 minutes off my best 90k time (stupid headwinds, got through T2 fairly quickly (1:25) and after tucking my motivation into my jersey, proceeded out onto the run course to really begin embracing the suck.

Run: 1:50:59

Pace: 5:16/km

heading out onto the run course (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

heading out onto the run course (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

I already know that I haven’t spent enough time running off the bike – this became very apparent in Binbrook.  My last (and only) long run off the bike a month ago didn’t go particularly well either and it was with lots of anxiety that I started the half marathon on on this day.  I tried to find the right gear as I exited transition onto the run course.  Kelly was there in the early going as were some of my fellow TryForce gang and that was enough to get my mind past the nervousness and back onto the task at hand.  In the first 500m  or so I passed by my coach going in the opposite direction (she was, maybe, a minute or two behind me) and noted that she must have had an amazing bike (and swim). It did however light a little bit of a fire to get into my race pace to stay ahead of her.  Kristin from Legacy Performance with whom I have worked with on my run technique (click HERE) over the off season reminded me from the sidelines to loosen up my shoulders and give myself a shake out.  Yes, it’s true…I tend to run like a ‘football player’, I know.  I’m trying to loosen up and I am usually pretty successful with it during my training runs, but after 2 hours and 40 minutes of being aero, well, I was a bit stiff in my upper body.  Thanks for the reminder, Kristin.

All in all, I was pretty happy about the way my running legs were holding up off the bike.  As I passed through the first aid station manned by my TryForce peers things were going fairly well and their encouragement helped me get into a rhythm.  I knew it was going to get more difficult (much more difficult) in the later stages, but for the time being ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning didn’t feel so heavy and my heart rate was smooth and even, unlike what I experienced in Binbrook the previous week.  So that’s good.

Finally done!

Finally done!

Unfortunately, the “cool” weather they had predicted the day before (and, in fact, it was just that during Saturday’s sprint event) had instead become hot and humid…and me without my sun block.  Crap.  By the 10k  mark I was a gross sweaty mess (as usual) and I was pouring as much water over my head as I was pouring down my throat in an effort to keep from overheating.  I took cups of ice, sponges of cold water, anything they handed me in a matter of fact providing it was a single degree cooler than the air on Merritt Island which was getting to the point of feeling like breathing in hot soup.  I don’t know what it is about Merritt Island, but it always feels hotter than it probably is.  I followed my new routine of walking through the aid stations in order to get the water in as well as give a quick break to the soles of my feet which were by now burning from running on completely saturated soaks which, I have to say, is my least favorite part of racing.

As I kept watch over my time (on the new Ironman Timex I got for Father’s Day) I knew that meeting my personal best was not going to happen on this day but I still wanted to turn in as best a run as possible to the end. By the time I crossed the finishing line I had run a time of 1:50:59  which ended up being only two minutes slower than the personal best of 1:48:59  I set here back in 2011 (click HERE  for more details)…not too bad for a comeback year I guess.

In summary, my overall time doesn’t seem that impressive, hence the ‘failure’ part of my original sentiment.  However, I did have a quicker swim time than both my previous outings at the full distance and my run was only two minutes off the pace.  What ending up killing me were the headwinds out on the bike course which, is completely beyond my control.  Sure I haven’t done the same volume of training on the bike that I might have by this point in other years but, all in all, I didn’t suffer…much.  Had I gone harder on the bike which I know I am capable of, I inevitably wouldn’t have had the run that I did, so I’m considering this as my ‘success’.

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Challenge #3 complete (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

So while I fell short of my ultimate goal of going under the five hour mark, I’m still happy with the performance given the challenges I’ve been addressing the past two years.  I have one more ultimate challenge this season aside from my other planned events (see my EVENTS  tab) this year and the plan now continues to spend more time running off the bike and drop a few more pounds prior to September.

Onward and forward.

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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.

  • 2k swim, 90k bike, 21.1k run
  • Goal Time = 5:00:00
  • Chip Time = 5:05:26 (click to see official Sportstats page)
  • Category Place = 11/53 (M 40-44)
  • Overall Place = 97/402
  • Fuel: 1 (57 ml) btl. 5-Hour Energy Shot (pre-race), 2 btls. Perpetuem (bike), 1 pkg. Chomps (bike), 1 GU gel (run)…and bucket loads of water, coke and cold sponges.

The usual set up, pink towel n’ all…

Well, my whole 2012 Ironman triathlon journey was officially opened this past weekend and, although it was not opened with the huge can of ‘whoop ass’ as I had initially hoped, it was still a successful venture.  Sunday represented my first official crack at three of my 2012 season goals, which I have largely kept secret this year.  Specifically, I was hoping to beat my Half Iron PB I set at this event last year with time of 5:02:25.  Instead, I limped away this year with a 5:05:26 finishing time and a good training day to boot.  But, being the positive son-of-a-bitch that I am – cuz that’s just how I choose to roll, homeslice – I am not going to focus on the negatives so much and instead review the overwhelming positives that I also managed to achieve.

The day began as well as I might expect it would after a largely restless night providing little sleep (as it typically is in my case), and I scarfed down a little breakfast, got dressed, rechecked all my stuff that I had carefully packed the night before, racked Lucille on the back of the car, squeezed out a poop, pet the cats, hoped in the car and, BAM!, we were on our way.

We arrived on site bright and early and I was able to rack my bike, get registered, drop another bowel bomb, chug back a 5-Hour Energy Shot before getting set up in transition relatively easy without much obstacle; so far, so good and still thirty minutes to go until the swim start.  Unlike the previous years where I would typically be running around like a chicken with its head cut off by this point, I felt cool, calm, prepared and focused.  Shit, somebody might actually mistakenly assume I knew what I was doing.  Good for me!

  • Swim: 2k (33:44)
  • Pace: 1:42 /100m
  • Gender Place: 7/53
  • Overall Place: 54/402

This year I have added a new tool to my triathlon arsenal, namely, a Nineteen Rogue (review to come) wetsuit and this was my first opportunity to take it out for a test swim.  I know that a huge race day ‘No-No’, but the overall purpose of this race was to also test out my potential 2012 Ironman racing strategies and I have no real issues or fears regarding open-water swimming nor using wetsuits so I wasn’t much worried – apart from getting the damn thing on that is.  Fortunately, my girlfriend was also along for the ride this year and stepped up to her role as ‘race day helper monkey’ admirably by lending a helping hand.  So with the assistance of about three quarts of baby powder, some careful tugging and prodding, not to mention a few accidentally plucked armpit hairs, we managed to successfully wedge my chubby ass into it.  Twenty minutes to go.  Perfect.

The swim start…

I waded into the water with about 10 minutes to go for a quick warm up including some ‘water running’ to pull the wetsuit perfectly into place, I began to mentally take myself through the swim course.  Now, I have to mention here, that I have worked very  hard on my swim technique throughout the off-season months this year, specifically, with my kicking.  I have increased the number of times I work out in the pool per week and, therefore, the overall mileage, as well as focusing primarily on the amount of time I spend working on my kicking drills, which, has been about 100% considering that I usually skipped kicking drills altogether.  Now, I spend approximately an hour (1k) dedicated solely to kicking during each work out even before I begin my regular swim set, so this was to be my first chance to apply that training to an actual event for effect.

Just prior to the mass open water start and learning from last years’ debacle I positioned myself on the outside of the course by the starting line buoy near the front of the pack (even larger than last year at 402 participants strong) to avoid the whole ‘Beyond Thunderdome’   crush of brawling athletes, and with the customary rounds of ‘have a good race’, ‘be safe’,  and the ‘who’s-going-to-be-drafting-off-who’  exchange, etc. and so forth with my team mates, we launched our headlong into the 2k  swim at the sound of the horn.  We were off.

The flying fists and elbows, not to mention ‘knees of death’ were nowhere near as brutal as last year thanks to an enlarged starting line so getting into a quick and steady rhythm was fairly easy to accomplish right off the bat.  I had previously decided to go ‘all out’ on the swim and proceeded to leap frog from swimmer to swimmer up the pack until I was comfortably in the top fifth or sixth of the group.  A quick mental check told me I was swimming comfortably, breathing well, my heart rate was under control, the new wetsuit felt great and, above all else, I was KICKING!  I fended off the few off-course swimmers that happened into my path by powering past them and arrived at the turn around points on target while avoiding the congestion of swimmers and was feeling pretty pleased with myself.

You may not realize it here, but I am actually kicking!

After the second turn around, the first glitch began to take shape.  I had come out of the second roundabout a little wide as my goggles had begun to fog up and I ended up on the far outside of the group near the shore and not quite on line with where I wanted to be.  I remedied the situation quickly by pausing for a second to wipe out my goggles and proceeded to getting back on course.

Mental note to self:   de-fog my goggles prior to the start with the ‘ol spit n’ polish technique.

The rest of the swim was uneventful as I got back on track and made a second self-assessment to learn that I felt fairly un-fatigued so I proceeded to power through the final 400m or so to the exit point passing another dozen or so fading swimmers exiting a whole minute quicker than last year.  Had it not been for that quick side-track in the middle, I might have saved myself another whole minute but I was happy nonetheless and exited in close proximity with two other strong swimmers from my club and started the long run into T1 feeling positive.  Over all, I was 54th out of the water and 7th in age category.  Good first show.

  • Bike: 90k (2:32:58)
  • Pace: 35.3 km/h
  • Gender Place: 7/53
  • Overall Place: 54/402
  • Transition: 1:53

My transition to the bike was as smooth as can be expected with little issue.  I found my bike, got out of my wetsuit, got my breathing under control, got suited into my helmet, race belt, glasses, etc., and peeled out to the mounting line just behind another team mate of mine who must have also had a good swim.  Immediately after mounting and getting going I felt something happening immediately behind me with a rough grating noise and then the rear of my bike began to push out from under me before it suddenly righted again.  Looking back, another dipshit rider had (I assumed) tried to pass me in the chute and went down sending his own bike sliding underneath mine.  Thankfully, the triathlon gods were smiling on me and Lucille again and we avoided another crash just we had in Cancun back in September.

I caught my team mate relatively early but I knew it wasn’t the last I was going to see him for the day so I just focused on finding my pace and settled in and started taking in some nutrition and fluids to prep for the next 89  or so kilometers to come.

Booking into T2…

I settled into a good rhythm when a large cluster of riders happened to pass and being cautious to stay a few bike lengths behind them I used them to maintain my pace for approximately the next 35-40  kilometers.  I remember getting frustrated that nobody seemed to be paying much attention to the ‘No Drafting’ rule or even speaking to one another while passing other riders so I made a mental decision that I was going to instead focus on my own race and participate in a respectful fashion, even if that meant losing some speed to other riders by not drafting and positively urging along other riders as I passed them with the customary courteous ‘on your left’  and ‘thank you’.  For the most part, other riders seemed to acknowledge the gesture and thanked me while offering their own encouragement afterwards.  Yeah, I’m a tri-dandy for sure, but this is the way I prefer to race.

By the 45k  mark I was pretty much riding alone into the headwind and began experiencing some fatigue and discomfort in my quads, but I pressed on.  It was at this point that I was caught by two other team members of mine that are amazing cyclists and I used their momentum to pick up my pace again before resettling back into my own rhythm.  And so it went for the next little while…sip, munch, pedal, burp, sip some more, maybe squeak out a fart here and there, and pedal, pedal, pedal.  Until the 75k  mark that is, when I was caught by the other team mate I followed out of transition and passed early on in the ride.  Together we paced one another the last 25k  back into the city to T2.  By this time I could feel the stress building in my legs and I was ready to dismount and change up the focus to the run after an otherwise successful ride, representing another whole minute faster than last year.  I realized that even if I could manage to keep the same pace I did last year on the run I had already more or less made up the two minutes over last years’ time putting me nearly on target for my five hour goal.  Winning.

Upon dismounting the bike my girlfriend was right there to greet me with the Granddaddy of all motivation signs:

Who you calling Sissypants?

Am I lucky or what?

  • Run: 21.1k (1:52:27)
  • Pace: 5:20 /km
  • Gender Place: 16/53
  • Overall Place: 139/402
  • Transition: 0:51

Similar to leaving T1, I exited out of T2 approximately 15m  behind that same team mate of mine after a nearly flawless (in my mind anyway) bike-to-run transition which I have also been working on.  We left onto the run course one after the other and I knew it was on as spectators.  I will say here that this particular team member is an amazing runner for whom I am not fit to even tie his laces.  In short, he’s a lean, mean, running machine.  I decided that I would try and keep his pace for as long as I could just to see if I further use that momentum to bring me in under that five hour mark.  I knew it was a stretch, but my competitive male machismo had long since set in and I figured what’s life without a few risks, right?  Without chance, sport just tastes like chicken; skinless, boneless, boiled chicken served dry with a side of dust bunnies.  This was supposed to be a ‘learning day’, so why not see what I was capable of?  I had already had a good swim and bike, how bad could it get?

With this mentality I kept my pace approximately 20-25m  behind him for a good portion of the run sure I could pour it on if I had to.  And so it went…I kept my decent 5:00 /kph  pace up until around the 14-15k  mark when my quads started to scream with agony.  I have experienced the normal aches and pains and discomfort that come with running, particularly after a fast 90k bike ride but, seriously, this was excruciating; more so than I have ever experienced before.  I’d like to say here that I sucked it up and plodded on but, fearing that I was doing some damage to my legs somewhere I eased back my pace and resorted to walking through the aid stations to make sure I was getting every opportunity to hydrate.  Normally, I HATE  walking through aid stations so I admit to having felt pretty disappointed with myself, especially watching that goal time slip away when I was already so close to the finish.  But, hey, nothing ventured; nothing gained.  I’m pleased I gave it my all as well, and I’ve already made some mental notes to address what I thought my areas of opportunity for improvement might be (blog post to come).

However, just prior to the final stretch to the finishing line, an interesting moment came when runners had to be escorted across a parade route that was in full progress at the time.  The police officer in charge of directing traffic kindly hauled the parade for me and I passed right in front of ‘Droopsy the Clown’  riding in his fancy convertible.  I remember seeing Droopsy’s disheveled face and thinking to myself, “Hey, bud, why so shitty?  Want to change positions?”   Seriously, sad clowns are not what you want to see at kilometer 20.5k  in a half marathon and I had about a zillion inappropriate pet names fly through my mind for him, believe me!  Thanks for the support, Droopsy!  Would it have killed ya to break character just for a second and flash me a quick smile as I suffered across your path?

Anyway, the last half kilometer passed in agony and I was able to at least pick up the pace just a little bit for a good showing at the end to cross the line in 5:05:26…exactly three minutes and one painful second slower than last year.  I was happy to see my girlfriend there at the finishers chute and hear that all-to-familiar cowbell bringing me home, knowing that a massage was only mere moments away.

So now I get to enjoy exactly one week off (well, maybe a short swim for shits n’ giggles) from training to recover before the focus shifts again to covering longer distances (oi vay), spending more time in the saddle and finding that elusive “Ironman” pace prior to Septembers’ event.  However, I do have some exciting race prospects coming up shortly including the Toronto Triathlon Festival and the Shore-to- Shore Friendship Triathlon where I get to time trial across the Peace Bridge into Canada.  How fucking rad is that?

So stay tuned sports fans, it’s going to be an eventful season yet!

The Welland Review

Posted: June 27, 2011 in Races
Tags: , ,
  • 2k swim, 90k bike, 21.1k run
  • Goal Time = 5:31:00
  • Chip Time = 5:02:25 (click to see Sportstats page)
  • Category Place = 17/38 (M 35-39)
  • Overall Place = 70/305
  • Fuel: 1 btl. Perpetuem (pre-race), 2 btls. Perpetuem (bike), 2 pkgs Chomps (bike), 1 GU gel (run)…and bucket loads of water and cold sponges.

Isn’t life grand?

Believe it or not, I’d been having mixed feelings about yesterday’s race.  I wasn’t really sure how I wanted to approach this race as it’s not my main A-race this year.  So should I go all out or should I take it more relaxed and just use it as a further learning opportunity for the Big Show come September?  However, it was also my first full half iron distance event this season…so why wouldn’t I go balls out?  Decisions, decisions…

I still hadn’t made up my mind even right up to the swim start as we all bobbed there waiting anxiously; wrists cocked in anticipation of beginning our stop watches.  I figured I’d just take it as it comes and simply see how it goes; no pressure, no problem.  With this strategy finally made up in my mind I relaxed a bit and exchanged a few giggles about peeing and warm spots and what have you with other swimmers, shook a few hands, shared a few well wishes with other team members (as you do) and, before you know it, like shit through a Canada Goose we were off.

  • Swim:2k (34:47)
  • Pace: 1:45 /100m
  • Gender Place: 12/38
  • Overall Place: 58/305

This was the largest mass start I have been involved in.  What has happened in my previous Sprint and Olympic events couldn’t even begin to compare to an open water start of over three hundred swimmers; it’d be like trying to compare the General Seating at a Barry Manilow concert with the mosh pit at a Nine Inch Nails show.  In short, it was like trying to swim in an ‘ol electric washing machine with the first 400/500m involving lots of clubbing, slapping, punching, kicking and jockeying around for a suitable space to swim.  I’m sure I gave as good as I got but this sure does spike your heart rate when every breath is a challenge and blows are raining down on you from all directions.

Mental Note to Self:  always look for the outside at the start.  Leave the brawling to those in the center.

This is Dan. Dan’s the Man.

Eventually, I found myself on the heels of another decently paced swimmer (again, I apologize for the toe tickling) and together we began to break away from the main scrum of swimmers for the rest of the first kilometer or so.  Eventually, my draftee began to fade while I was just beginning to find my stroke comfortably so I broke free and with a last tap on their ankle I passed thinking that maybe this person might appreciate the chance to draft off me for a while (whether they did or not, I have no idea).  Never let it be said that I am not gracious in competition.

The rest of the swim went smoothly and I was able to power in the last 200/300m pretty easily.  I was feeling good now and my heart rate was under total control – even more so than usual by this point.  So had it not been for that first melee at the beginning I might have been more on target to successfully completing my sub-30 minute 2k swim fitness goal, but I am happy nonetheless.  At least I wasn’t any slower than last year’s time at this distance (35:17).

Upon exiting the water I was instantly met with an explosion from the crowd and my team mates in particular (many of whom raced yesterday).  I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to have people erupt around you with encouragement and cheers – I might just be addicted.  As I started the long run back into transition I also noticed two of my other teammates just ahead of me (no doubt both having excellent swims themselves), so from pretty much that point forward it was definitely on like Donkey Kong.

One down…

  • Bike: 90k (2:33:38)
  • Pace: 35.1 km/h
  • Gender Place: 17/38
  • Overall Place: 64/305
  • Transition: 2:05

My bike transition wasn’t the quickest I’ve ever managed – far from actually – but once I was off I was set, comfortable and aero within seconds of entering the bike course.  Now, I am usually a hard pusher early on in the bike but I am trying to learn to be more patient and give myself a brief opportunity to recover properly and get established before really letting ‘er rip.  So after a few sips of Perpetuem and a small mouthful of Chomps energy bites (two of these bites per 10k is my latest race nutrition strategy) I focused on getting my breathing back under control.

Shortly thereafter, after the first major turn heading out of town I was joined by a small group of cyclists from an older age category and this offered me the chance to begin stepping up my tempo a bit.  I have learned that guys competing in their 40’s and 50’s can really spin their buns off, so the four of us tore ass over the next 35-40k or so.  Drafting in triathlon is, of course, illegal, but that doesn’t also mean that you can’t use someone’s momentum to motivate you keep pace which is exactly what I did.  Eventually, I realized that if I continued to match their pace I was likely not going to have anything left for the run so, although I hate to get dropped, best I ease off now and instead look to find them out on the run course later.  So I resumed my comfortable cadence again and watched them disappear into the distance.

Happy Coach crossing the line

The good news was that by keeping this pace (approx. 38 km/h) as long as I did I was able to catch all my teammates ahead of me – all but one that is.  The downside was that it also meant that the next leg of the bike was going to be long and lonely as I found myself riding in my own peloton of one, void of anyone else to push me or focus on catching, etc.  I almost wished I hadn’t passed my team mates as I would have had somebody to ride with but, alas, it was not meant to be.

For the most part, the next 40k or so was just an exercise in mental toughness – something I like to think I know a little about – forging ahead into the headwind all on my lonesome.  This also begs the question, where was the tailwind?  I mean, seriously, there seemed to be a new headwind or crosswind lurking around every corner, turn and bend in the road no matter what direction I happened to be heading in, but never a tailwind.  Talk about bad luck.

As I began to reenter back into Welland proper I checked my stop watch for the first time since exiting the water and realized that I was close to my sub-2 hour, 30 minute 90k bike goal so I tried to pick it back up again, but Thunder n’ Lightning were beginning to show the first signs of fatigue (too fast too soon).  I decided then and there that I really wanted a good run over an excellent bike spilt so I did what I thought was the smart thing and began to spin easier in order to flush out my legs and prepare myself for a hot and humid run.  I finished the bike only a mere 3:38 off my goal…something I can definitely live with.

Two down…

  • Alone on the run…

    Run: 21.1k (1:48:59)

  • Pace: 5:10 /km
  • Gender Place: 20/38
  • Overall Place: 106/305
  • Transition: 0:56

My run transition was much smoother this time around.  I entered into transition with two other triathletes and I was determined to be the first out – and I was – but with two other runners close on my heels.  The PA announcer was even playing it up a bit as the three of us hustled out of transition: “it looks like we have a little competition getting under way into the run course…” – damn straight, Howard.  Who can resist that kind of motivation?

I started onto the run course at the fastest pace I have ever attempted figuring I would try to shake these runners quickly before resuming my normal ‘race pace’. Who knew I was so competitive with myself?  I checked my stop watch to calculate where I was time-wise in relation to my goal time and to my surprise, it was still well under the 3 hour, 30 minute mark and here I was nearly 3k into my run.  Right on!  It was beginning to look like my sub-5 hour, 30 minute finish time was practically in the bag provided I managed to keep my cool and not to ‘blow up’ on the course doing something stupid.  So as I began to find my stride I began to play my favorite search and destroy game by focusing on the immediate runner ahead of me and then catch and pass them, before returning my focus back on the next person ahead and so on.  It sure passes the kilometers and helps to keep your tempo up.

Yeah, I’m not what you would call a pretty runner…

By mid-point in the run, I had managed to keep distance on my other team mates whom I would see after each of the turnaround points and, as in some cases, even widening the gap including my Coach, but it looked like she was running smoothly now and it wasn’t going to be easy staying ahead.  I’ve learned to never underestimate anyone in this sport as anything can and usually does happen.  I am happy that I was able to navigate through the aid stations quickly without stopping, while taking two cups of water at a time (one to drink and one to dump over my head).  This has proved to be something of a challenge with me in the past to the point that I seldom use aid stations anymore preferring instead to pass through quickly unassisted….but, damn, those cold sponges felt amazing!

Given ‘er at the finish…

There was only one other team member ahead of me at this point, Dan, by about 2 minutes and I made closing that gap between us my new mission.  Dan is a beast on the bike (he’s no puss at swimming or running either) and managed to turn in a huge 2:27:10 bike split (avg. 36.7 km/h) but it looked as if he was beginning to feel a bit challenged now on the run.  However, as it did on the bike, I once again found myself alone on the course around the 17k mark so keeping pace was becoming more difficult.  With nothing else to distract your thoughts and focus, that agonizing pain in your legs increases significantly, let me tell you, as do those little gremlins in your head all trying to encourage you to either slow down or stop altogether.

One more glance at my stop watch and some more minor calculations and it began to dawn on me that not only was I well ahead of my finishing goal time, but actually within range of breaking the 5 hour barrier to boot!  Holy shit!  That was all I needed to find that extra life left in my legs and up the pace one last time as I began to exit Merritt Island towards the finish.  The distant cry of “Run, fat boy, Run!” from my family who had made it out to cheer (although I didn’t realize it at the time) also made me giggle (it’s an inside joke).  Also at that time, I passed through the aid station manned by those teammates who had raced yesterday and the added encouragement only fueled me further even though my legs felt like they had been left behind about 2 kilometers ago.

As I approached the last kilometer or so I spotted the last two runners ahead of me, neither of which was Dan, but both looked to be in my age group so the race was still on as I worked to close that last gap.  I caught them with only approximately 300m left to go and I pulled past I heard one of them exclaim excitedly: ‘Shit, you’re in my age group!’, followed by the sound of foot steps giving chase behind me.  As fans cheered us in, the three of us raced through the finish chute where I held on in the last few meters to finish 17th overall in my age category with a finishing time of 5:02:25; which represents an improvement of nearly 52 minutes over last years Musselman effort (5:56:47).  Not bad for a fat guy, eh?

Nothing left…

Dan was there waiting to congratulate me and I shared a round of hugs with the two other runners who had chased me in…smiles all around.  My Coach came in rather quickly only few minutes later and I was surprised by how much ground she had gained in the last 8k or so after she had spotted someone ahead of her that, apparently, looked like me.  So here I am torturing myself to stay ahead while she’s similarly punishing herself to catch me and, afterwards, it’s all hugs and Hero Burgers.  Isn’t this sport wonderful?

So race fans, it was an amazing weekend of racing and personal bests.  I have the day off today to go for a massage, pick up some groceries, BBQ my buns off and just generally relax in every sense of the word.  The next week is rather easy training-wise, so I’m figuring I’ll enjoy taking it slow for a few days before getting back at it again hot and heavy next week to initiate my third phase of training, including swimming in ‘true’ open water (think: big waves) sans wetsuit, basic bicycle maintenance, not to mention this elusive heat that keeps avoiding me this year.

Oh, and you probably guessed it, but I’m already figuring out how to shave off those extra two minutes for next year.

What an incredible day!  Today was the official kick-start of the big Welland Triathlon weekend with all the Duathlon, Sprint Triathlon and Try-a-Tri-ers all taking to the water…or bikes…or running…well, you get the idea.  As usual, our TryForce club was represented well; both as participants and as spectators.

It has been a privilege to train and know these people over the past months and years and they never fail to fill with an utter sense of awe over what they (we) can accomplish.  I could tell you some of their stories, of course, but I wouldn’t be doing them justice.

I genuinely get really motivated while watching new athletes – and that’s exactly what they are – to the sport and I vividly recall that feeling before my own first event; a heady mixture of adrenaline, excitement and fear…lots and lots of fear.  The good kind though.

So while I prepare myself for tomorrow’s first Half Iron test of the season, I’m going to step aside in this post and simply let these photos from today’s events tell their own beautiful story.  They really are all the inspiration I’m going to need this go around.

True commitment begins when we reach the point of not knowing how we can possibly go on and decide to do it anyway.

Tomorrow’s pre-race warm-up soundtrack:

  1. Feel So Sad  by Spiritualized
  2. Stranglehold  by The Nug
  3. 25 Miles  by Edwin Starr
  4. Just Got Paid‘  by ZZ Top
  5. Backwards Down the Number Line  by Phish