After last year's no-show, I was eager to sink my teeth into this course. I had an English muffin with Nutella for breakfast, and I decided to go with something a little extra: there was Cinnamon Toast Crunch on the kitchen counter and I had a bowl of that too.
I drove to Annie Williams Park with my wife, mother-in-law and the Lightning Kid in tow. I was a little surprised to see how small the transition and race area seeemed; the Sprint Triathlon had taken place the day before, so I guess it was only a fraction of the usual field of athletes I see at these events. I hadn't gotten there much before the official start time, but everything was so nicely contained that I had lots of time to organize my transition area and get my wet-suit on after getting my bib and race kit yet before the pre-race briefing.
The swim was in the Muskoka river, and the water was quite warm and pleasant. It was my first time experiencing the time-trial start. Athletes lined up by bib number along the dock and started 5 seconds apart. The crew did a fantastic job calling bib number blocks (about 50 at a time) and getting them organized. It was a little anti-climactic realizing the race had already started when I saw about 20 swimmers in the water (I was #128), but it was such a smooth way to go to see the people in front of you take off one at a time and have a little space of your own to start your swim in.
The course started going with the current - apparently, I have to say the current seemed negligible to me, in fact, I had to look up which part was upriver and which one was downriver on the Multisport Canada website. I did end up with a little physical contact with other swimmers occasionally, especially on the turns, but it's nothing compared to a normal mass swim. I honestly felt like I was keeping up a pretty good clip, and with a little sprint to the swim exit, I was out of the water in my fastest swim time for the Olympic distance.
Oof. This part was not the greatest. I like wearing my Garmin on the swim because I like knowing swim metrics, and I get little alerts for every 100 m I swim which helps keep me motivated, but I have to wear it on the outside of the wet-suit. That means I should remove it before trying to take off the wet-suit - that is not what I did. I ended up struggling with getting my right sleeve off.
Problem two: I didn't wear a one piece tri-suit. I simply feel more comfortable in my tri-shirt, but it's too loose to wear under the wet-suit without causing bunching and chafing on the back of my neck, so I have to put it on my wet torso in transition and that's always another tangle. The gels I had put in the pockets fell out and I had to pick them up.
Last but not least, based on a good riding experience the week before, I had decided to put on compression socks. I should have gotten body-marked on the back of my knee, because the socks hid my age (not that I mind that much), and there's no fast way to put on compression socks, at least not correctly. I simply had to eat that time cost.
The good news was I managed my Garmin correctly (although I hit the timers a little late in transition) and every leg got measured.
Exiting the park, I saw one fallen rider and one with mechanical problems, which should have been a bad omen, but wasn't (at least for me). In spite of there being a construction problem with a bridge in the first kilometer or two of the course, triathletes were able to cross the bridge unimpeded thanks to great co-operation between the race organizers, the provincial police, the district of Muskoka and most importantly the drivers who had to wait held up at the bridge (my thanks to all of you!).
Muskoka is notoriously hilly in general, but I found this course to have a few really good flat sections where you could really work up a good head of steam. I was seeing speeds over 30 km/h a lot more often than I usually do. Which is not to say there weren't leg-busting hills.... there were times where there was no choice but to stand on the pedals in the lowest possible gear.
I had someone call my name on the bike, it was the guy from TriMuskoka (whose name I can't recall - sorry buddy!). He told me he liked the blog posts - then passed me. Still, I get passed by lots of people without an attaboy for my writing, so I appreciated that.
I still struggle with maintaining focus and the right effort/pace in the middle parts of the course. I tried rolling through a few different mantras: Seek The Hard, Attah! I also thought about how much the Lightning Kid has grown and learned in spite of the fact that he's been dealt a hand that makes such things a little harder... I don't mind telling you I got a little misty on the bike course, but I tried to use that as a little inspiration.
I figured that it was my last triathlon of the season, and I should leave it all on the course and imagined completely destroying myself and being reborn from the ashes like a phoenix. That thought was a little melodramatic for my tastes and needed to be dialed back, but you get the idea.
There were some sharp 90 degree turns that made my teeth sweat a little, but if I'm honest I probably like a little excitement like that during the bike course. On the last 3 km or so, I made sure to really keep the effort level high, and after dismounting, I ran my bike into transition. I saw my family and started an ATTAH! chant which went over gang-busters with the crowd, but not with the Lightning Kid himself.
Here's a sample of what I was looking for:
I wanted to make up any uneccessary time lost in T1 here; racked the bike, took off the helmet and bike shoes, slipped on my Zoot triathlon racing flats (no laces) and I was off. I put on my hat as I exited transition.
I like a simple out-and-back; no keeping track of laps, and you get two cracks at every aid station. This course didn't have that much to look at (for Muskoka), but it was pretty flat, and better yet, there was plenty of shade. I had so much more strength when it wasn't being sapped by blistering heat. I really think it was the perfect weather that day; I had noticed headwinds on the bike sometimes, but it was worth it to get a cooling breeze on the run.
I got a chance to see a friend from high school on the run. He's a marathoner who did his first Sprint Tri the day before and volunteered to hand out water on the run with his son. The volunteers were super on the race all around.
I did a lot of checking my Garmin on the run and my pace on the way out was looking good for maybe even a PB, but it kept spiking over 90% on the way back even at paces too slow to make that grade.
With a little over a kilometer left, I checked my overall time. 2:49... not enough to beat 2:53 (what I thought was my PB - it's actually 2:52:38) - I wasn't going to make a 4 minute kilometer at that stage, but getting under 3 hours (and thus better than my last 3 Olympic distance races) was nicely within reached. I took a little walk break to make sure I had my best for the finish line and went for it. When I could see the end I started another ATTAH chant, picked up the Lighting Kid and carried him (a little bewildered) across the finish line.
Overall Time: 2:57:29
My best time since 2010, and a smidgen better than Muskoka 5150 which I called a stepping stone to this one. I was hurting after the finish line and I knew I did what I set out to do in terms of nearly destroying myself... I had to lie down, and couldn't really muster a good stretch.
I remember feeling similarly at Wasaga last time. The post race rewards of Hero Burgers and Chocolate Milk are a big draw for me, but I felt too lousy to really enjoy them... this time, after enough of a recovery break, I really savoured both, and the chocolate milk was one of the greatest things I've ever tasted....
The Multisport Canada series races are always friendly and I found this locale especially good with local support and manageable terrain. I think I'd put in my Top 5 races.
Labels: race, review, triathlon