Sep. 18, 2008

Muskoka 70.3 Report

So I came to Huntsville only three weeks after my Ironman Canada race out in Penticton... When the race was first announced I was excited to sign up and plan my season around it, but my last-minute qualification for IMC dropped the Muskoka 70.3 race from "A" to "B". I was also struggling to recover from two weeks steady work at the Toronto International Film Festival, where I had been helping people at the main Box Office from 6:00 AM to 1:00 PM every day while standing under a powerful air conditioning vent! I was definitely in a "participate" frame of mind rather than a competitive one, and I arrived directly from the Box Office with a heavy cough and sore throat.

I stayed with my friend Annette at her uncle's new cottage just around the corner from the Deerhurst Inn. She and Judy kept myself and two other racers well looked after all weekend. Also staying with us were several cyclists who would be acting as bike course marshals. I did my best to ingratiate myself with them!

Sunday morning I discarded my plans to wear a raincoat, bib shorts, winter gloves, cycling booties, etc. It still promised to be wet, but seemed like it was going to be warm enough. Not a repeat of Lake Placid... Getting to transition shortly after 6:00 AM was easy as we were staying behind the "iron curtain" of closed off roads and could get a quick ride down. I got my gear laid out beside my bike and covered what I could with plastic before heading down to the lake to check out the course for the first time... I was surprised how long and steep the run was from the swim exit to the transition area! Officially 300 m, but it seemed longer. After wandering around for a while chatting and scoping out the area I headed back up to finish my set up and grab my wetsuit. I decided to bring my running shoes along and put them beside the swim exit so I could pull them on as soon as I got out of the water for the long run.

I started in the seventh wave so I had almost forty minutes to wait for my turn. I got a good start though, placing myself at the front toward the left side. There were some sharp rocks at the start that I managed to identify and avoid, but the swim was pretty straight forward. I took it fairly easy because of my heavy cough. I started catching the previous wave of racers by the time I reached the first turn and had to maneuver through probably three different waves before I finally hit the shore again. The water was a bit choppy and the last stretch was quite weedy. Climbing up the swim exit stairs was an interesting moment, and there was a moment of anxiety when I couldn't spot my carefully placed running shoes! They'd just been moved a bit, but that would have been a race ender. I trotted up the hill to avoid a heart rate spike. 32:56 for the swim averaging 1:44/100m, and 6:25 for T1, which included that loooooong run up the hill from the lake.

The bike course was pretty tough. Lots of short sharp hills, a bad gritty section, a couple of unexpected sharp corners, frequent light rain. I managed to maintain a pretty steady if not stellar pace over the distance, averaging 30.56 km/h. I could have done without the extra 4K though, the course was over-distance because of the road arrangements. There was some bad drafting out there, but I was surprised to hear of the penalties meted out on climbs. That was not where the problem was. There seemed to be a lot of flat tires on the course too. One guy at about the 85K mark was wobbling forward on a very soft tubular. Some of the spectating pros I knew were at the side of the road on the final stretch cheering us all on and again on the start of the run. Big crowds along there, with a number of friends I didn't know had come up calling out my name. 3:04:35 for the bike, 3:13 for T2.

The run. This is where it got really tough! I wasn't feeling very healthy so I decided to speed-walk all the hills. There were a lot of hills... The rain came down pretty hard several times during the run too. There were two out-and-back legs on the course, they gave me a chance to see who else was out there ahead or behind me. I saw a lot of my Tri Club members and enjoyed the boost we were able to give each other. The last 4K of the run was sadistic hill repeats we had to traverse while within sight of the finish line. I didn't have much energy left at the end, and was walking more and more to favour an aching hip and sore feet. I effectively even split my run, averaging 6:13/km and turning in a time of 2:11:16.

Crossing the finish line at 5:58:25 was very satisfying and I sang along to the P.A. music while the finish line volunteers took my timing chip and gave me my new running cap and tee. It was great to see Annette right after the finish and so many other friends in the last 500 m. The spectators and volunteers were great everywhere and I enjoyed saluting and thanking them all day long. I was amazed that they hung in there all day through the rain.

After returning to the transition area in front of the Deerhurst Inn I had an agonizingly fabulous ART session from Cindy in my Tri Club's tent and then gobbled some food while watching the awards ceremony (at which I was once again not recognised for my accomplishments. Grin). I got a lift back to Annette's cottage and had a warm shower and a short nap. Finally in the early evening I retrieved my lonely Cervelo P2K from the nearly empty transition area and drove home through torrential rain. Good thing we didn't see rain that hard during the race.

But the day wasn't over yet! When I got home I changed and headed down to the Berkeley Church for the TIFF Staff and Volunteer Appreciation Party...

So is my season finally over? Can I at last relax and slowly sink into a pile of doughnuts? No! I've just realised that back in the spring I actually did register for the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon next month back! Argh. Time to return to the grind. Is there anything left to grind?

Listening to: Everyday Is Like Sunday by Morrissey from Viva Hate.

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