Jun. 16, 2008

Be careful what you wish for...

Yesterday I raced in the Muskoka Long Course triathlon up in Huntsville (I'll post a few photos when I get them). 2K swim, 55K bike, 15K run - an unusual distance but there's a lot of history to the race. I raced last year and was actually a few minutes faster then, but this time I managed to snag a qualifying spot for Ironman Canada this August!
Ironman Canada
This is very exciting, but I've got lots of hard work ahead of me and only ten weeks to prepare. Should I have just passed over the opportunity? Well as Yogi Berra once said, "when you come to a fork in the road, take it!" At least this time my long rides won't be with ice on the ground, like the lead up to my Ironman Western Australia race last December. This also means that my former "A" race, the new Muskoka 70.3 race back up in Huntsville in September, is now my relax-and-have-fun race.

This year I managed to travel up to Huntsville the evening before the race and get a good night's sleep. I stayed with some friends who had rented a rustic little cabin in the woods at Algonquin Woods Cottage Resort. Last year I drove through the night and had a cat-nap in the parking lot... The "resort" was full of triathletes, as I arrived at 10:00 PM I could see people tuning bikes in the other cabins. I left for the course at about 6:20 AM, a few minutes ahead of my friends, so I missed the excitement when they noticed that they had a flat tire. They got it changed quickly, but it meant that they didn't get to boggle at the big-ass snapping turtle crossing the road around the corner.

The transition area was pretty calm and I only forgot one thing. Swimming goggles! I bought a new pair from the Enduro Sport tent and I now have a new favourite pair. My old goggles had lousy forward vision (looking "up" while swimming with your head mostly facing down.) It was nice to see all my team mates getting set up and to share some encouraging words. I filled my one water bottle with... water... from the Gatorade barrels and then went off to get my race number, timing chip and get body marked. As transition started to clear I returned to the Gatorade barrels looking for a couple of gulps of fluid before heading down to the start, but they were dry. That's when I discovered that the Huntsville Centennial Centre has no water fountains. Silly man, that's what the vending machines are for. I ended up quenching my thirst from a bathroom tap before picking my way barefoot down the stony road to the starting area. Note to self: buy some disposable sandals next time, bring extra water. The water felt nice, but there seemed to be a bit of a counter-current in the lake. Got a good warm-up swim in and then paddled about waiting for my wave (7) to start.

I got a great start at the front on the swim and managed to get a decent draft until the first course marker. Then we began catching the back of the wave ahead of us and I couldn't keep track of who was worth tailing. The swim felt good, but I was surprised by my time. After the race some knowledgeable friends said that the swim must have been mis-measured as everyone's times were slow. The last section of the swim, which followed a small river, was pretty congested because I was passing through the tail ends of several previous waves of racers. My time for the 2K (at least!) swim was 34:55, 9/89 in M45-49, average speed 1:45/100m.

Muskoka Triathlon - Near the end of the Bike CourseI was pretty dizzy getting out of the water and walked up the road and back into transition. Lost a few AG places that way. In transition I had no problem getting my wet suit off but experienced some abdominal cramping getting my shoes on. Still managed to give a shout-out to a friend as she went by with her bike. Time spent in T1, 2:32.

For the first few K on the bike I felt like I had no power but I got settled pretty fast. I caught my friend and we spent at least 15K swapping positions depending on the terrain. I didn't notice her damaged gear levers at first, she'd had a low speed crash somewhere before I caught up to her. I felt like I held my own on the bike and the road conditions were generally good. There were a few stretches that were pretty awful though, lots of lost bottles and spare tubes. The worst stretch for me was after the section I'd been warned about; some big smooth lumps of asphalt that nearly launched me into the air at a pretty good speed. I was down on my aerobars at the time and I noticed afterward that my handle bars had twisted down about 20 degrees! I tugged them back up to level and pressed on. I guess I need to tighten them before the next race... In spite of the road conditions I reached 73 kph at some point on the course. Last year in the Peterborough Half I experienced some really sharp pains in the back of my thighs which I couldn't explain. I felt the same sensation in this race to a lesser extend, and I'm pretty confident that the source is hamstring tightness. I'll have to work on that. My time for the 55K bike was 1:44:53, good for 33/89 in M45-49, average speed of 31.5 kph. T2 was 1:03.

Muskoka Triathlon - Hitting the Finish LineOut on the run I suffered a bit this year. Just tried to take it steady all the way but after about the 5K mark I started taking walking breaks every few K. Just didn't have the energy. I saw lots of TTC team mates and other friends out there though, and exchanged a lot of "high fives". Toward the end a friend showed up on his bike to offer some encouragement, he'd cycled over from Bracebridge and was about to head back again to join his family for lunch. The final downhill stretch to the finishing chute felt great. I might not have enjoyed it so much if I'd know that another friend was catching me! He crossed the line about 10 seconds behind me, but his adjusted time was pretty close to 3:00 ahead. My 15K run was 1:18:32, good for 42/89 in M45-49, average speed of 5:15/K.

My final result was 3:41:53, good for 25/89 in M45-49 and 232/777 overall. My swim was considerably slower than last year (3 minutes), but that is probably down to a mis-measured swim course. My bike was slightly faster than last year in spite of a bit more caution on parts of the course. My run was also 3 minutes slower than last year, under easier weather conditions, so that part I have to take responsibility for.

Overall, I have to say it was a great day for a race, well organised with good weather (unlike the crazy storms that hit Toronto) and with lots of friends around. But enough of these little sprint races, time to start training "long"...

Father's Day note: Nuthin' happened. Thanks Chris! :-(
Update - a nice card the day after...

Listening to: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger by Daft Punk from Discovery.

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