Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wasaga Beach Olympic Triathlon 2016

Another race report? Who does back-to-back Olympic tris when they are supposed to be training for a half ironman?

Well, when you win a free entry to the second Olympic, what are you going to do, say no? I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the Recharge With Milk racers of the day for Wasaga Beach this past weekend (hilariously, the other racer of the day was Alasdair, Kyra's husband! So we'd be at the same race again for the second weekend in a row! How cool a coincidence is that?)

In addition to the free race entry, they also sent me a pretty sweet prize pack.

I seriously asked the Puralotor lady if she was sure this was the right box when she brought it out of the back room. It was a lot bigger than I expected.

So much swag - and good quality, too. I've been using the giant cooler as my transition bag since it actually has enough room in it for all my stuff, unlike any of my other bags. Hey, it'll work until I get a real transition bag, anyway. The race belt has come in handy already, and I know I'll make use of the arm sleeves this fall. Plus the hoodie, towels, buff-type-thing, etc. Go enter that contest for Lakeside or Georgina if you haven't already! I'm even wearing Recharge with Milk socks as I write this race report!

So enough free advertising for the milk people already. The race report! I didn't have a plan for this race, really, since I was treating it more as a training day. Or that's what I intended. HA. Best laid plans and all.

Usual stuff.
The Olympic had a late start time (10:30) which made for a nice leisurely morning. I had to drive over from the cottage where we were spending the weekend, which unfortunately was basically the exact same distance I'd have had to drive if I'd come from home, so no time savings there. D'oh. But it was an uneventful drive and the race site has lots of parking, which is always a plus. I arrived way earlier than necessary, got my stuff set up, and then killed time saying hi to a couple of the Tri Chicks, my Iron Canucks teammate Kristin, and Kyra and Alasdair (who I ended up parking right next to. We just can't keep away from each other!).

I wandered along the beach for a bit to check out how it looked (sandy, shockingly enough), and heard them announce there had been a course change for the bike. Since I hadn't bothered to look at the bike course maps at any point, or done any research at all on it, that was fairly meaningless for me. I'd have had no idea if they hadn't said anything! (for those curious, due to a lack of police officers, they turned the bike course into a simple out and back).

Swim exit. Note the lack of waves in the water. YAY!

There was also a lot of talk during the pre-race briefing about exactly how the run would work, with the two loops, but I couldn't make head or tails out of it and just figured it'd all be clear when we actually did it. These things generally make a lot more sense when you do them. And it's not like I'm front of the pack and have to worry about leading people. There's always someone for me to follow.

Possibly during the briefing. Possibly just a random picture of transition. I have no idea.
Then the usual - wetsuit, start walking to the beach, have Kyra point out I'm still wearing my hat, back to transition to ditch the hat, etc. Usual nonsense.

The lake was warm and calm, so I swam a short warm up. Even with the minimal waves, the marker buoys still seemed hard to spot, though. But hey, just a training day, right? I did make sure to look at the buildings around the swim exit to try and find something I could use for sighting on the way back into the beach, Oh, a nice bright big yellow awning, Perfect.

This buiding was behind the swim exit. Looks good for sighting, right? Hmmmmmm.....
Hung around for a bit waiting for my wave to start, since my group would be in the fourth wave. Then it was off for one of the calmer swim starts I've had this year. No one kicked me or groped me or anything! I was almost insulted. What, I'm not good enough to swim over?

I'm 37 people from the left. HA. I dunno, in there somewhere in a purple cap.

Swim: 31:59 
Overall: 125/345
Gender: 41/126
Age group: 8/17

The swim out was uneventful. I had to sight a little more frequently than usual just because I often couldn't find the buoy on the first attempt, but I was right on target. Soon enough I made the turn and did the short part of the swim than runs parallel to shore. No major issues here and I was swimming alongside a fairly large group.

And then we turned back towards shore.

Fuck. The buildings in the distance were an indistinct grey blur. I couldn't at all make out the yellow awnings that marked the one by the swim exit, and forget spotting the exit arch itself (I know it's brown because of the whole chocolate milk sponsorship thing, but it would be so much better if it was a bright orange or yellow!). And I couldn't see the next marker buoy because the sun was in my eyes. OK, just start swimming towards shore, eventually we'll get it sorted out.

I rapidly found myself swimming completely alone. I could see the line of swimmers I had been in veering off to the left, and one lone swimmer pretty far off to my right. I was sighting frequently and thought I'd identified the right building on the shore to aim for, and I was on target, but the fact that there was no one close to me and that big group still heading towards the left made me question myself. At one point I even stopped to tread water for a few seconds until I spotted the marker buoy - and sure enough, I was aiming right for it. So I got back to work and soon found myself closing in on the shore. I think a lot of people swam some extra distance, though! Funnily enough when I stood up in the shallows to run out of the lake, my watch read bang on 1500m.

Overall, nothing to complain about with this swim. My first 'real' Olympic triathlon swim, since Goderich (when they have a swim!) only has a 1000m swim.

No, I did not see the photographer. Clearly. FOCUSED.

T1: 2:21

A 2 minute T1 is what happens when I put my helmet on backwards and the official makes me re-rack my bike before I can fix it.

Bike: 1:11:12
Overall: 86/345
Gender: 17/126
Age group: 3/17

So that whole 'this is just a training day!' thing lasted until I made the first pass on the bike.

Bikes are fun. Passing people on the bike is even MORE fun.

Yeah. I had a good time with this. 40k is kind of my racing sweet spot I think on the bike - long enough to be a challenge, but short enough you get to really push hard. Plus, I made double triple extra sure my rear wheel wasn't rubbing or off centre and it just felt FAST. Very happy with this effort on a mostly flat and straightforward bike course!

(I didn't count how many people I passed, but I did count how many passed me. Big fat zero. BOOM.)

(admittedly all the fast guys were in the first couple of swim waves so were already ahead of me)


This would be way sexier if I was in aero. Damn it.
T2: 1:12

Well at least I managed to get through this without attracting the attention of any officials.

Run: 56:48
Overall: 104/345
Gender: 24/126
Age group: 5*/17

*I was initially listed as third, then fourth, and then suddenly when I sat down to write this I was down to 5th. Kind of ruins the whole symmetry I had going with finishing 4th at all my MSC races this year...

Double loop run. Ew. Not my favourite, especially when it's mostly on a fairly narrow shoulder and you have to deal with passing other runners and the people heading back towards the finish. And the scenery was nothing to write home about, since it was mostly going past some fairly derelict looking cottages and run-down motels. This is not a particularly scenic race, to be honest, other than the swim.

Heading out for the run.

I had low expectations for my run performance in general, since this was supposed to be a training day and I'd done a 10 mile long run the day before. I spent most of the run waiting for my legs to notice what we were doing and decide Oh Hell No We Are Done With This Bullshit.

Starting the second 5k and feeling a little loopy...
But it never happened. It ended up probably one of the best feeling runs I've had all summer! The heat didn't bother me at all (it helps that some cloud cover blew in just in time for me to start running), and I felt downright good. Even pushed the pace a bit towards the end. Kind of makes me wonder if I could have gone under 55 minutes if I hadn't run that 10 miles the day before the race!

Total time: 2:44:07
Overall: 102/345
Gender: 23/126
Age group: 5/17

Finish line smile. Can I have a Crest contract now?
So hot damn. Super happy with that finish time! I hadn't really set any goals for this (training day, ha), but if I had something like 2:55 would probably have been it. Under 2:45? Sweet! I really enjoyed the race overall, and would definitely like to do it again. In fact, I really enjoy the Olympic distance in general. It kind of makes me want to focus on that distance for a season. The swim is long enough to feel like a challenge, the bike is long enough to be fun, and the run isn't so long I hate myself. And the 10k run is way more in my wheelhouse than the longer stuff.

Post race/pre jumping back into the lake with Kristin. 

Next up, Barrelman! I'm really glad I won the entry to this race - I was feeling pretty blah and unenthused about training for and doing Barrelman again, but having a great day at Wasaga has reminded me just how awesome doing a triathlon can feel. I'm excited to wrap up the last big week of training this week and then it'll be taper time.

(And then time to think about what comes next, but that's a whole different kettle of cats and let's not talk about that now. Big decisions to make there.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Goderich Olympic Triathlon-oh-wait-Duathlon 2016

Back for another crack at the Olympic distance at Goderich this year. Training has been solid for the last couple of weeks, but I've been lazy and haven't felt like updating the blog. Refunds available on request. Oh wait...

I had glanced at the weather, but had really only just paid attention to the temperature and the lack of rain, so I was pretty excited to have a great race day. Until I got a Facebook notification from Kyra Saturday night asking if I'd noticed the wind forecast.


40 km/hr winds, out of the West?

I was about 95% sure we wouldn't be swimming in those circumstances. Perfect weather for big waves on Lake Huron. And sure enough, when I got the race site as soon as I saw the lake I knew the swim would be cancelled. There's no way the lifeguards would be on board with the number of people they'd have to rescue out of the swells!

It's hard to capture the scale of the waves with my iphone. Trust me, swimming in it wasn't happening. Surfing, maybe!
After confirming the lack of swim, I checked in to get my kit and set up my transition area. Setting up for a du takes a lot less time, since there's no swim gear to mess about with. I felt like I should be doing more as I killed time visiting the bathroom, applying a second layer of sunscreen, and chatting with blog reader Brian-from-Oakville*, who introduced himself to me during the briefing.

*I think. I'm terrible with names. I'm so sorry if I have that wrong! Congrats on what looked like a great race!

Running shoes on at the start? This just feels wrong.
The organizers split us up into three small waves for the start, which was a great move on their part. The run course is on a rail trail, so starting everyone at once would have led to some potential bottlenecks. I was in the second wave, and tried to mentally prepare myself for a solid but restrained 10k. When I'd realized the night before that we probably wouldn't be swimming, I'd switched my mindset on this race to it being more of a training day. Overall, running 15k was probably a better option for my Barrelman training overall anyway, so I wasn't terribly disappointed in the swim being cancelled.

Yeah I was in a good mood at the start. Camera hog! Photo via Heather Bell
10k run: 57:40

An unspectacular run. I kept it easy and relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. Almost lost my visor going across the (rather pretty) wooden pedestrian bridge thanks to the crazy wind, which told me I was going to be having some good times on the bike. Fortunately, the rest of the run course was completely sheltered from the wind. I spent some time contemplating how grateful I was the organizers had put the 10k run first instead of last, letting me get it out of the way early, at least.

About 2k from the finish it suddenly occurred to me I was wearing socks. I don't wear socks with my bike tri shoes, ever. Hmmmmm. Obviously I didn't want to test how socks would feel in them in a race (and my tri shoes are a fairly snug fit even with bare feet), so I figured I'd have to strip off the socks with the shoes and then let Post-Bike Emma figure out the whole getting them back on for the run thing.

Heading in from run #1, salt mine in the background. Photo via Heather Bell.
T1 - 1:03

Man is T1 easier when you are taking off shoes instead of a wetsuit...

Heading out of T1. Photo via my mom.
Bike 42k: 1:29:55

OK so the bike. Ugh. Pretty much my one goal for this race was demolish my bike time from last year, and not only did I fail at that, I was almost 2 minutes slower.

Heading out of transition, and I can't get my $#@$ing left foot clipped in. Photo via Heather Bell.

STILL WON'T CLIP IN. Great start to the ride. Photo via Heather Bell. 
The first part of the bike was fine. After getting the first two bitchy hills out of the way, there was a nice 12km stretch with tailwind. That part was fun.

Guess which segment had the tailwind...

The rest was...not headwind, that's for sure. This bike course is hard. Hard in a way I normally like (rolling hills of fun!), but climbing hills into a headwind...that's a lot less fun. By the time I got back to transition I was glad to see the last of my bike for a bit.

And. Last night when I was cleaning my bike I discovered my rear tire may have been rubbing a little bit. I'm not 100% sure, but AUGH. I didn't check it over that closely when I swapped out the trainer tire last week, so there's a chance. Frustrating to screw up something so simple!

T2: 1:24

Not bad. Had to turn those damn socks back rightside out before I could put them back on. If I'd thought about the duathlon possibility earlier I'd have brought a second pair!

Run 5k: 30:02

I made essentially 0 effort to push the pace on this one. Since I'd decided to treat it as training rather than an all out race, I was pretty unmotivated. The scenery was still pretty nice! And I'm happy with how the run felt overall after the bike.

And done. Yay!
Total time: 3:00:02 (D'oh)
Gender place: 11/33
Age group place: 5/7
Overall place: 43/84

Overall, not a particularly memorable race, at least in terms of my performance. The duathlon format doesn't suit me at all, really. I'm far too average a runner and end up way behind after the first run. You don't lose nearly as much ground as an average swimmer. I did pass a lot of people on the bike, but at a certain point you just can't make up that much ground.

The race organization, though, is fantastic. Race Huron does a great job with this triathlon (duathlon), the course is challenging but fun, and I will definitely be back again. I need to throw down a much faster time on that bike course!

Chatted with a few people after the race, including Kyra and her husband, and had another person introduce himself as a blog reader, but due to the aforementioned sucking at names thing I can't remember his name to give him a shoutout. My Goderich race report is one of the more highly trafficked pages here, I'm sure because there aren't exactly a lot of race reports out there!

Post race with Kyra and Alasdair. I think my hair makes it obvious just how windy it was... photo via my mom
Then after checking to see if I'd won any draw prizes (no, dang) I packed up and headed home. Not exactly the day I'd imagined I'd have at this race, but a solid day of training nonetheless!

Whoever does the graphics for this race does a great job.
Next up...another crack at the Olympic distance. What??! I won the Racer of the Day contest for Wasaga this weekend, so I will unexpectedly be doing the Olympic tri there on Saturday! Fingers crossed we get to swim! I won't be racing this all out since I'm supposed to be peaking my training for Barrelman right now, but I wasn't about to say no to a free race entry + swag. So the approach here will be Catered Training Day With T-shirt. I'm looking forward to it!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Barrelman 2016 - week 2

Back into the training groove this week!

Monday: 10k run with Sam
Tuesday: TR Washington +1 (1 hour threshold intervals); 2000m swim
Wednesday: 5x1000m track work; 2000m swim
Thursday: 1200m swim; TR White +2 (1:30 tempo/sweetspot) +5k brick run
Friday: rest day
Saturday: 73k ride
Sunday: 19k long run; 32k ride

Overalll, pretty happy with how that week shook out. It was tough not having my usual Monday recovery day - by Thursday I was pretty much exhausted and really needed that Friday off!

The track work on Wednesday was particularly good. Not so much from a pace perspective (I've lost some speed since last summer), but my legs and butt hamstring feel fine even after some effort, so I'm cautiously optimistic and will try some more track work again this week. To stay on the safe side I'm avoiding doing much hill running, though, since uphills have a tendency to aggravate things.

5 am on the track is dark, yo.
The long run Sunday went pretty well, too, although my legs feel tired today. It's been a while since I've run 19k, plus I did the 'recovery' bike ride after which frankly wasn't overly recovery like. I should start using my road bike for those. It's so hard to resist pushing hard when you are down in the aero bars and there's a tailwind/slow moving cyclists to catch and pass/strava segments. The long run felt good, at least from a physical standpoint. I was bored out of my damn mind through the whole thing, though. I may have to start listening to music again, or podcasts or something if I can't get Nicole or some other willing victim to join me for those.

Post long run picture taking, because I was too sweaty to get back into the car right away.
Saturday's long ride was uneventful up until the very end. I was getting close to home when I passed a slow-moving cyclist, wished him a good morning, and didn't think much of it.

A couple of minutes later, he goes flying past me. Cool, whatever, he was just taking a break when I went around him.

Except no, he gets a hundred meters ahead of me and slows down again. OK. Passed him again, said something about it being a nice day, which he ignored.

And a few minutes later, a repeat. WTF, dude! And then he AGAIN slowed down in front of me. At that point I was turning towards home so I didn't get to see if we'd play the same game a third time, but that was seriously annoying.

So annoying, in fact, that it powered me to a local QOM on the final downhill of the ride. HA!

 This week's plan:

Monday: rest, glorious rest
Tuesday: swim; whatever TR interval torture is on tap for the week. Something wonderful I bet.
Wednesday: run at the track; open water swim*
Thursday: bike to and from work (weather permitting); swim
Friday: run, TR easy ride
Saturday: long bike + brick run
Sunday: long run, swim

*haven't been in open water for a while and really missing it. Definitely going to go this week if the weather cooperates!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Barrelman 2016 - week 1

Well, recovery time is officially over - last week marked 8 weeks until Barrelman, and I was feeling ready to get back into training again. So I fired up Trainerroad, loaded up the 8 week half iron specialty plan, and got things off to a pretty good start.

I'll essentially be repeating the 8 weeks I did before Muskoka. The idea here is to maintain my fitness through to Barrelman in the swim and the bike, and maybe improve things a little bit on the run if my back cooperates. As my husband is now in training for a fall marathon, his training gets to take priority and I'll be fitting mine in around his as much as I can.

Last week's workouts:

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 1700m swim; FTP test
Wednesday: track ladder (8k); 2000m swim
Thursday: TR - Gibraltar (1:45 tempo)
Friday: 104k solo ride
Saturday: 2000m swim; 10k run; 40k easy bike
Sunday: 17k run

Monday I saw my physiotherapist re: that damn sciatic thing. Fortunately the post race irritation had largely cleared up by that appointment, so we mostly spent time putting together a rehab routine I can do a few times a week to hopefully strengthen some of the weak spots in my back. And he did some ART that was like magic. For the first time in a long time all my runs last week felt...good. No nagging tugging in the hamstring, no hip pain sitting at my desk, just feeling normal. Fingers crossed we've got this thing figured out!

Tuesday was that little FTP test thing.

It really never gets any easier. Pleased with a 6 watt increase, which is going to make the VO2 stuff just THAT MUCH MORE FUN. Excuse me while I cry for a few minutes. I have a real love-hate thing going on with Tuesday night trainer rides.

Attempt at cute instagram photo fail #1. 
Wednesday I went to the track and did a ladder workout to see how my hamstring would feel. It felt fine! But it was really hot. But I kind of missed doing intervals. So I guess I'll be trying some more speedwork out this week and seeing how that goes.

Attempt at cute instagram photo fail #2. Don't stand in front of the tree, dumbass. A lot of work goes into the insta pic, OK? You can't just throw any old picture up there...

Friday I did a solo century since I had used a vacation day and had the morning free. All things considered I'd rather do those long rides with someone else along to keep me company, but sometimes a solo ride is great for clearing your head. And it's nice not to have to worry about keeping up with someone or that you are going too fast.

Plus I finally got to try out my birthday gift jersey. I want to order all the stuff from Cycology. 
Saturday rain screwed up my plans to do a brick, so I ended up at the pool with Sam instead of biking or running.

Pretty much how Sam and I train.
Then I ended up running at lunch and biking later in the afternoon and I don't know. It was a weird day. Good workouts, though! And Sunday I went up to Milton to run long with Nicole, which is pretty much the best idea I've had in weeks. I have been really unenthused with running, especially long runs, for a while (I blame the heat and humidity. I am so over it). But Nicole and I had a really great run! Getting a solid feeling 17k in has improved my mindset on running about 1000%, and it's absolutely from running with a friend. The miles are so much easier with company. Thanks, Nicole, I really appreciate you changing your run plans so I could join you!

So, what's up this week!

Monday: 10k run with Sam (already done, it went great!)
Tuesday: TR, 60 minutes of some sort of interval horror I'm sure, I don't even want to look; swim
Wednesday: Run trackwork, maybe OWS
Thursday: TR 90 minutes sweetspot/tempo + brick run; swim
Friday: REST
Saturday: long ride
Sunday: long run, swim, recovery bike

As per usual, this is all pretty tentative. Scheduling is complicated and hard sometimes. Especially swimming on the weekends. That one is the absolute worst, although that Saturday morning lap swim Sam and I went to was pretty much deserted for the first 45 minutes, so I might have to hit that one up again!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Muskoka 70.3 - post race thoughts

So, it's been over a week since the race. The medal is hanging on the bulletin board at work with my other tri medals, I've worn the finisher hat every time it was even remotely appropriate, I finally cut off the athlete bracelet, and I've had a chance to think about the whole experience and what I'd like to do next.

Also, there has been a lot of refueling.
I am, overall, really satisfied with how the race went. For the swim, I came out of the water right where I expected to be. I still can't seem to find a faster gear in open water, so that's something to work on.

On, the bike, well, I'm still positively buzzing about how well that went! To hold a faster average speed over the hills of Muskoka than I did at Barrelman last year? I mean, come on. Couldn't really be prouder of myself (while still feeling motivated to do even better!).

The run, I'm not really satisfied with. The time was fine, and about what I expected, but I do feel like I mentally gave up a bit, so I'm not fully satisfied with the effort. I know I have a faster half iron run in me, it's just a matter of getting the training to line up and my head on right. It's always good to have goals and something to work on, right?

Pic my husband took as I headed for the finish. If only there was a way to bottle that feeling! This is why we keep coming back and doing more races...
So, last week I took things pretty easy. I did a short and easy open water swim on Wednesday night with the club, mostly for the chance to socialize with people, if I'm being honest. But the swim helped me feel a little more human and a little less sluggish. Thursday I took the road bike out for a short ride, which was a lot of fun, at least until I noticed the looming thunderstorm rolling in and had to make a mad dash for home (made it with 2 minutes to spare!). Friday a short run which was OK. Running and I have some negotiations to do, I think. It's always the one where I feel the fatigue the longest after a race.

Just me and the road bike, having a little fun.
Saturday, Laurence was looking for company for his last really long ride as he trains for Norseman, so I offered to join him for 90k or so. Which somehow ended up being 115k and included climbing Rattlesnake Point for the first time ever, on my really inappropriately geared for that hill triathlon bike. (locals know about Rattlesnake. I don't even like to drive my car up that hill. The blog post in that link does a pretty good job of capturing what it's like, although the grades still surprised me).

Getting to the top of that hill without falling off my bike or coughing up a lung? One of the highlights of my year so far, really. Although next time I'm either taking the road bike or getting a new cassette for the tri bike. With the 11-25 I basically ran out of gears at the bottom of the hill and had to muscle my way up the whole thing. That's not a great feeling.

I did not stop and take pictures at Rattlesnake. This was long after when we stopped to get Cokes. BEST THING EVER.
Another short ride yesterday and I'm feeling pretty good, other than my sciatic nerve acting up and reminding me it can be a real asshole. Physio tomorrow for that, but it's fairly mild so shouldn't be too big a deal.

More roads to explore and Strava segment leaderboards to climb...
This week I'm going to try and get back into my usual routine of workouts, but keeping things easy and light. No real plan, just aim for a few swims, bikes, and runs and see how the body holds it together.

Next week, though, it'll be 4 weeks until Goderich and 8 weeks until Barrelman. Back to the training grind, because I want to kick some serious Barrelman ass this time around and improve my times in all three sports. Assuming decent weather, it should be a great race, and I'm ready to gear up and put in some hours to make sure of it!

Also, more cheesecake to eat so I better get back to training ASAP.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

IM Muskoka 70.3 race report

Oh boy, where to begin. I say this every time, but this one, this is a really long one.


Without really planning it this way, I ended up on vacation the week before the race. That certainly helped the taper! Perhaps a little too much, as I ended up not doing all the taper workouts I'd planned. But relaxing next to the pool/lake while the kids played was a pretty good way to rest up for the race.

Taper done right
Thursday night I decided to deal with an ongoing issue with my heart rate monitor. It's a basic Garmin chest strap, which I've been using for over a year now, and the readings had gotten wonky in a 'this thing definitely needs a new battery' sort of way. I read up online, and commenced very carefully removing the screws, since I saw several warnings about how easy it is to strip them.

Yeah. First three were fine. Stripped the last one.

So, no heart rate monitor for the race. OK, that's fine, I have a Vivosmart HR that can broadcast my HR over ANT, I just have to remember to turn on broadcast mode before the race. It has a tendency to lose the plot while I'm in the aero bars, but it's better than nothing.

I figured, if that was the worst screw up of the weekend, I'd be in good shape.

On the road to Muskoka
Friday morning we packed up the car and drove to Deerhurst, where we'd somehow managed to snag a room at the last minute (and hopefully some other lucky person got our cancelled room at the Super 8). We checked in (we ended up with a huge corner room in the main building! bonus!) and spent the afternoon playing in the lake and the pools before I checked in to the race and we got some dinner. It was a fantastic, relaxing, wonderful day with the family.

Required photo
So this was crazy fun, but perhaps not the best choice of activity before a race?

Immediately after this was taken I fell off. Head first. Yeah I'm probably lucky I didn't pull a muscle. Worth it to play with the kids, though! We're going to have to go back sometime and do it again.

Saturday, it rained.

And rained.

And then rained some more. Fortunately the kids were happy to play in the indoor pool (and at one point in one of the outdoor pools, the crazies), while I anxiously watched the weather and hoped for a break in the rain so I could take the bike out for a last ride. Unfortunately, that never really happened. So instead of a last Saturday workout, I got another rest day. What can you do!

Have a nice camp out, Bad Wolf.
I dropped the bike off in transition, checked over all my stuff to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything, and then we headed into Hunstville for a pasta dinner at East Side Mario's with my tri club.

So much stuff.
I was restless after we got back to the hotel so wandered around for a bit, took a few things down to the car to make my husband's life easier on Sunday morning, and took some pictures.

Oh sure, now that transition is closed for the night, the sun comes out.

Sleep tight, bikes!
Race day

I was having a surprisingly good night's sleep when the power went out. Which wouldn't have been a big deal, what with being asleep and all, except losing power made all the various electronics we had plugged in go a little nutty. My Garmin 310 and 920 both buzz when disconnected from their chargers, so they were vibrating, and my husband's ipad, which was providing us with white noise, went all BRRRRRRRP and boom, wide awake in the middle of the night.

So it was a bit of a restless sleep after that. No worse than before any other race, though. And soon enough I was out of bed, eating a handful of Mini Wheats, downing a bottle of NUUN (breakfast of champions!), and getting my stuff organized to head down to transition at 6 am.

I set up my transition area, checked over my bike, got my body marking, said hi to Sam who was setting up one rack over, and mostly tried to stop feeling like I was about to throw up. I also hit a snag when I set up my transition area - I couldn't find my Garmin 310, which I use as a bike computer. I went back up to our room to drop my cell phone off with my husband and look for it, since I knew I'd pulled it and the 920 off their chargers at the same time, so it had to be up there somewhere. No luck. I was surprisingly zen about it, though, and in the interests of not stressing myself out with a frantic search, I made the snap decision to go without and hope it'd turn up later. (I later found it in the bottom of my purse??!! I have no idea how it ended up there instead of in the bag of stuff I was taking down to transition).

After one last trip to the bathroom (so worth staying on site just for that), I headed back downstairs and sort of wandered aimlessly around transition until I spotted Fab getting his body marking, and we went down to the swim exit to meet the rest of the team for a quick picture, and then we walked to the swim start.

We bypassed the people who were organizing the swim waves and snuck on to the beach to get into the water. Totally recommend this, by the way. I was able to get my wetsuit and goggles on properly, and then spent about 15 minutes chatting with a random guy about the race as we watched the first three waves head out. It was pretty cool to see, although I could tell the first part of the swim was going to be heading straight into the rising sun and I had no idea how the hell I was going to see the marker buoys. I also spotted Zin heading in with his wave and grabbed a quick hug and good luck wishes ("when it starts to hurt, go harder" was his final advice. Thanks coach!).

As the fourth wave lined up, it was time for me to get into the water and get ready. The five minutes between waves passed unbelievably fast, and suddenly the horn was sounding and we were off!

The swim

Time: 39:01
Pace: 2:03/100m
Overall: 581/1128
Gender: 165/357
Age group: 43/72

Since my wave was all female, I had this bizarre idea that we'd be more polite to one another.

HA! Nope. I was glad I had the Welland experience to draw on. That shit was full contact craziness for the first few hundred meters. Fun stuff. I couldn't see the buoys but pretty much just followed the crowd, because what the hell else was I going to do? I hadn't counted how many there were before the turn, so I was just hoping the people at the front wouldn't swim off into the middle of the lake and lead us all off course.

We made the turn, and started passing people from the previous wave. Oh, I hope they all made it - I saw at least one person treading water. But no time to have sympathy! I've got buoys to sight and HEY DON'T KICK ME IN THE FACE. Ugh. OK, readjust goggles, get on with this thing. Around the next corner into a good rhythm. Count the strokes, check your sighting every ten. Right on target. Weird, how am I swimming so straight? Oh fast feet coming by, see if you can draft even for a few seconds. nice. Another turn, heading towards the finish. I don't see it. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming. Ack, breaststroker. Go around, no need to get kicked in the face again. Count the strokes, sight, there's the finish! Yes! Ewww it's getting shallow. I don't like seeing the bottom it looks gross. Almost there. Get on the right side of the volunteer and YEAH!


Really, the swim went great. I wish I knew what I did to swim so straight, because I was bang on target every time I checked my position. Even the track from my watch looks like a perfect map of the swim course.

Yay! I survived!

I used the wetsuit strippers (fun!) and then started the long run (hahahaha I walked the hill part) up to transition. Seriously, that is a shitty, shitty run.

Photo via a friend of an Iron Canuck. Thanks stranger!
Got through transition and it was out onto the bike. Time to have some fun!

T1 (includes a 400m or so run to the transition zone) - 5:11

The bike

Time: 3:03:55
Pace: 30.67 km/hr
Overall: 344/1128
Gender: 57/357
Age group: 15/72

The start of this bike was very different than most races I've done. Since most of the 'fast' waves of athletes were ahead of mine, I was riding with a very different group than usual. Everyone was being super tentative and it was a little frustrating, until we made the first turn and I was able to get some clear space to start hammering.

I have no idea where the photographers were on course, so here's a random bike picture.
I rode this essentially blind to my performance. I had completely forgotten to turn on the heartrate broadcast mode of my Vivosmart, and Garmin in their infinite wisdom puts that mode behind a complex series of menu screens and button presses - not something I'm capable of doing while riding. Seriously, it takes a minimum of eleven button presses/taps/swipes with the thing to get into that mode, which is just dumb. So I had no heart rate feedback. And with no 310 on my bars, I had no easy way to see my speed, either. I don't usually look at my 920 while I'm riding because I have to turn my wrist to see it and that tends to make me drift to the right. I didn't even have the screen set up to show much useful information, since I didn't want to mess around with it before the race and risk screwing something up. So I had time of day, current speed, distance, and cadence. I knew what time I'd left transition and was able to make some occasional calculations on the fly based on that and the distance, but mostly I rode this by feel.

Which kind of worked.

Kind of REALLY worked.

This was seriously one of my most favourite rides ever. Once I started to catch up to some of the other faster riders, it got really, really fun. Lots of back and forth with the same people. A woman in my age group that I played cat and mouse with for probably 40k before I finally managed to drop her for good. A hilarious guy with a 61 on his calf who would yell things at me about 'young legs' when I would pass him on the uphills, and then he'd laugh as he passed me back on the downhills. The guy who would say 'oh it's P2 lady' every time I saw him. I was strong and happy and I could tell every time I glanced at my watch and ran the numbers that I was right on target. The hills were as much fun as I expected/remembered from the training ride, and I only had to briefly redline on a couple of the steeper ones (in retrospect, swapping my cassette for a more climbing friendly one would have been a good idea - but I don't regret the choice not to spend that money. I never ran out of gears, and the steep hills were all pretty short so the gearing wasn't an issue).

Sticking my tongue out to get more aero. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
I fueled this ride with Scratch + NUUN in my between the arms bottle and frame bottle, and topped off with some plain water from my behind the seat bottle. That let me bypass the aid stations. I also took a gel about halfway through. Overall I fueled it nicely, although I think I prefer to have something solid and salty during the first hour on the bike.

Yay bikes! How is it that the number on my arm always gets rubbed off instantly by the wetsuit, while the age written on my calf might as well be permanently tattooed there? Makes for some interesting conversations with strangers for the week after a race...
Coming back into transition I was pretty pumped. I could see on my watch I'd been over 30 km/hr average speed for the bike. 94k with 1000+ metres of elevation change and I averaged over 30??!! I still have to pinch myself to believe that really happened. Thank you Trainerroad. All those hours paid off.

Coming back into transition (pic via a friend of Coach Nancy - this is why you wear the team uniform! You get loads of pictures from people you don't even know!)
Of course, I still had to run...

T2 - 3:15

Racked the bike (lots of empty spaces on the rack, that's always good), ditched the helmet, changed my shoes, grabbed my visor..and bathroom break. No, peeing on the bike did not happen. To be honest I never feel like I have to go until I get off the bike, so porta potty it was. Good because it meant I was hydrated, I suppose. I came out of the porta potty ready to run...and realized I had no idea where the run out was.

ROOKIE MOVE. I cannot even believe I did that. I had to ask someone. And the funniest part is I'd seen it about 20 times while walking around transition the day before and morning of, and somehow my brain just didn't absorb the location.

So, hey, off to a great start there.

The run

Time: 2:10:42
Pace: 6:11/km
Overall: 436/1128
Gender: 89/357
Age group: 22/72

Oh this run. Still processing this run in my head at this point. I look at the time and I kind of can't believe it, because it felt a lot worse than a 2:10 half marathon.  With all the walking I ended up doing I feel like someone made a timing mistake somewhere or something!

To back up a bit, my run training since Around the Bay really wasn't what I wanted. First recovering from that race, then the issues with sciatica, and I lost several weeks of training time. Then it got hot and I was doing all my runs in the heat and just couldn't do the longer runs I really should have. And I could feel, off and on, that hamstring/sciatic issue lurking and I didn't want to injure myself. So I ran, and I trained, but it wasn't with the intensity or distance I had originally planned.

And. I underestimated the hills on this run course. I'm not a great hill runner at the best of times (on group runs with the girls, I almost always fall behind on the uphills because I have to slow down a lot to keep from going totally anaerobic). Hills on the bike = yay. Hills on the run, hell no.

That all added up to a less than stellar run performance. I ran the downhills and felt pretty comfortable. I ran the gradual uphills by telling myself I had to run to the next aid station before I could walk. I walked the steep ones. There were no flats, because Muskoka is a bitch like that.

Heading out on the run, feeling happy. HA. Sucker.
As I headed out onto the run course, I saw a couple of my Iron Canucks teammates (first Norbert, a few minutes later Laurence) heading into transition on their bikes and we yelled encouragement at each other. I knew they were both stronger runners, so I wondered when they'd catch up to me.

OK Muskoka hills. Let's do this thing.
About 2k into the run the race leader passed me heading back towards the finish. So hey, there was one of my goals - be out on the run before the race leader finished! Because the run course is an out and back, I knew that would mean I'd get to see lots of people I knew heading the other direction. That's a big bonus for me in a half triathlon - I love seeing my friends and teammates. As a steady stream of athletes heading towards the finish started appearing, I was keeping an eye out for Zindine since I figured he'd be the first person who I knew that I would see.

Coming into town, though, I crossed paths with our club race captain Kris. Soooooo jealous of him heading to the finish. I didn't know it but Zin had had a flat on the bike, and that slowed him enough that a) I had a better bike time HAHAHA SORRY but I have to take that victory even if it is on a mechanical and b) we missed each other in town because I was in the first out and back when he headed back towards Deerhurst. D'oh. I had held things together pretty well on the run until this point, but at around 7k the hills in town showed up and were steeper and much more annoying and mentally, I was Done with running and triathlons and mostly just wanting a nice cold drink and somewhere to put my feet up.

But I kept moving, and, as I toiled my way through the out and back ups and downs in town, pretty much hating running, I did see first Norbert and then Laurence coming up behind me. Yay! I got a bit of a boost of energy from that. And going through downtown was nice - so much enthusiasm from the spectators, it was awesome. And then I spotted Phaedra manning an aid station and I told her 'this is so hard' and she was like 'duh'. Heh. Props to the aid station volunteers, you guys rule.

Finally, just as Laurence caught up to me, we hit the 'halfway' timing mat (it was really at 11k, so more than halfway, thank god) and it was time to turn around and head back towards Deerhurst. There's something about a turnaround that always helps, mentally, and I 'ran' a few strong km chasing Laur as he pulled away (stopping to walk the aid stations). And I started to see more of my teammates - every few minutes I was exchanging high fives and smiles and encouragement* with people. Awesome.

*I may have yelled a lot about it sucking. I'm kind of a Debbie Downer late in races...

Ugh I'm so tired...
...photographer!! Smile! Look like you are enjoying yourself!

Finally, finished with the town portion and back out to the highway.

God the highway sucks.

Long rollers and boring and so far in between aid stations and wow did I really hate that highway.

There was a lot of walking.

A lot of bargaining with myself to start running again.

The 6 hour overall finish time goal was slipping away, but if I could just keep running, at least most of the time, I could still beat my worst ever half marathon time. That was, seriously, my main goal for the run at that point - just be faster than that awful women's half marathon I ran back when I first started running. Faster than 2:15*. Get the legs moving. Down this steep hill. OK when we get to the last steep uphill you can walk. Ahhhhhhhh. Walk walk walk walk OMG there's Sam! Oh no why is she so far back?! Oh she had a bad bike ride. I wish I could do or say something to help. She's telling me to run and I'm all lol nope but she looks good! Of course she's heading downhill. Easier to look good heading down. Fingers crossed for her her run goes well.

*as it turns out, I misremembered the time on that half. It was really 2:12:52. I should probably check these things before I turn them into goals. But hey, still beat it!

Up the long hill to Deerhurst. And then the sweet, sweet run around transition and down to the finish. People lined up cheering! My wonderful husband and kids yelling for me. Love them to pieces. Big high five from Natalie (just like at Barrelman!!).

You gotta grab the high five
Under the big blue finish arch.

Oh wait that's not the finish. Shit. That's farther up! Damn it! Keep going!

Pure joy.

Total time: 6:02:04
Overall: 438/1128
Gender: 90/357
Age group: 22/72

I got my medal from a really friendly volunteer who escorted me over to another volunteer to get a bottle of water. And that was Irina!!! I gave her the biggest hug, completely ignoring how bad I'm sure I smelled. She knows what's up, though, she's been on both sides. A sweaty hug isn't the worst thing I'm sure.

And so there it is. Done. Hard to believe. I'm tired and happy and sore and I want to do it again and I never want to do it again. There's a lot of feels around this one.

Post race thoughts, what comes next, coming up in a few days.