For the Second Time, I am 50% Iron

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Good day everyone! Well, a week has already passed, and I now realize that I haven’t written up a post about my most recent racing accomplishment. I’m sure by now some of you are getting bored reading all my race stories, but I feel a certain duty to write them up anyway. Think of them all as a snapshot in time for me,ActiveSteve . The most recent race was the Canadian half-iron distance triathlon that I raced here in Ottawa. It’s not the first time I’ve thrown my spandex in the ring for this one, and happily, I can report that I pulled off a personal best. Since that time, the weather has been absolutely magnificent here in the nation’s capital, so I’ve been more focused on being outside biking, running and hiking rather than typing away on my computer in the basement of the house. But without further ado, allow me to fill you in on race day and the results. I’ll try to keep it focused for you all, but no guarantees :-). For starters, you can check out the awesome pictures that Jody snapped of me on the course. You can also, as always, poke around on the race results to see it by the numbers. After your done with those, y’all come back now, and click the read link for more, okay?

After having a look through the pictures myself once again, I’m realizing that some of these triathlon pictures must be getting a touch boring. After all, they seem to look the same in most races. Me swimming, biking, and running in the same outfit each time, in various states of physical distress πŸ™‚ Of well, at least I have proof that I race each time, right? I think to kick off this race report, I’m just going to run through the results right off the bat, with my estimates stated as well. At the highest level, I’d stated the desire to finish in under 5:10. On paper, I wrote a personal goal of 5:05. On the course, I dreamed of a 5:00. In the end? A respectable 5:03:47 finishing time. Good enough for 6th in my category, and 18th overall! Close to my best performance in a race of this caliber. Sweet. Also bested my previous time of 5:11. Nice to know I’m still improving.

On the individual legs, it broke down a bit like this:
The Swim (1.932km) – hoped for about 32 minutes, pulled out with 36 minutes.
33rd fastest swim time of race.
The Bike (90km) – hoped to average 33.5 km/hr. Pulled off 33.6 km/hr
26th fastest bike time of race.
The Run (21.1km) – hoped to hold a 4:45/km pace, finished with 4:47/km pace.
19th fastest run time of race.
Transitions – hoped to stay around 4 mins each, pulled off 2mins., then 3mins.

Now, looking at all those numbers of paper, you’d generally assume I nailed it, and generally speaking, I’d say that is true. HOWEVER, I was personally a bit disappointed in my swim. Last time, I pulled off 32 minutes. This time, I was 4 minutes slower! Meaning what? Well, I could have been sub 5 hours had I been swimming at my best level. Obviously I haven’t been very diligent with my swimming, and now I can only lament the fact that it lead to my slightly slow swim. Too bad, but what can you do right?

Overall, I felt great pretty much the whole race. However, for completeness, allow me to just throw down a few words on each leg.

Pre-Race

Well, the week leading up to the race was ok. I wouldn’t say I actually tapered or anything. Rather, I went out for a torturous 27km run in the rain on the Sunday before, and also did a couple hard runs and bikes during the week. After all, this isn’t a marquee race to me, just part of my overall training and racing plan for 2009.

The Swim

Race morning, and the weather was going to be awesome for the day. Jody and I got up early enough to have a bite to eat, and for me to hydrate, get dressed, and slap on the sunscreen that I’d need. At the race site, I set up a nice little transition zone for myself, and had plenty of time to finish my prep and get to the water. I didn’t do any warm-up, but had no huge ambitions in the water anyway (in retrospect, I shoulda been a bit more aggressive I think!). The swim was a single loop, and the water was nice and calm. I had earplugs in, so my swim was very quiet and relaxed. I traded strokes with a few folks the whole way, and generally felt smooth and relaxed the whole time. Running out of the water I felt just a touch draggy, but I blamed it on the uphill jog to the T-Zone. Wetsuit was stripped down from my upper body, and I was focused on a fast transition. The trick? Mental run-through during the swim. After the fact, I found out I pulled of a sub 2 minute transition. Basically, ran in, put on socks, shoes, helmet, shades, hydration pack, and was out. Bingo bango!

The Bike

Now for my best event, the bike. You might have picked up on the fact that I decided to wear a hydration pack rather than fuss with bottles in this race. There are a couple reasons for that. First, 90km is a long enough ride that you need extra fluids, and I didn’t want to mess with mixing and/or dropping bottles. I wanted to focus on my form and pedaling as much as possible. Secondly, when I did the iron-distance race, I enlisted poor Jody to be my ‘camel’, getting bottles ready and exchanging them for me. I decided since she is nice enough to come out to all my triathlons and snap pictures, I should just let her do her thing. This way, I’d also be able to stay in my aero position for most of the ride.

The bike leg was 6 loops of the canal, totaling 90km of mostly flat riding. The loop started from hog’s back and heading down to Laurier , then turn around and blast back. Like most races I’ve done along the canal, the downtown direction was met with headwinds the whole way, slowing down the lightweight like me. However, the return ‘uphill’ part was tailwinds all the way. I’m apparently good at uphill with tailwind, as I seemed to always fly away from others on this part of the race.

I had a very consistent bike leg, able to push myself to maintain a nearly 34km/hr average speed over the 90km. It didn’t hurt that I had a bit of crowd support on my side on this leg. On lap 1, I noticed Haggaret and his whole family setting up to cheer me on! It was awesome. Liam had even decorated a poster and a great ‘crown’ telling me to go fast. It put a smile on my face and put some fire in my legs each time. Thanks Kev! Jody was also present all over the course cheering me on and snapping pics of me. As I hoped, I also managed to pass a few people on the bike leg, putting me a bit further ahead. I was passed as well, but only twice I believe. 90km is a nice distance in a race. Just when I was starting to get bored, I got the A-ok that I was done my 6 laps. Off to transition once more. Up to this point, I’d held my bladder tight, as I didn’t want to stop on the bike. However, I knew I’d explode if I didn’t stop for a pit stop in transition 2. Once again, visualizing the transition was the key.

I rolled in fast, and ran straight to my t-zone. Off with the helmet and shoes, on with the hat and runners. Ditch the hydration pack, then into the porta-pottie . It was a fortuitous decision, as when I emerged, I was set to run out where I thought the exit was. However, someone was already yelling at me and asking if I was starting the run. I said yes, and they kindly pointed out I had to run out the exact opposite corner of the t-zone. Oops πŸ™‚ On the plus side, it meant I’d be running by my stuff again, so I opted to pick up a bottle of nuun on my way by again. And just like that, in under 3 minutes this time, I was back out on the race course!

The Run

Ahh, the run. What can I say about running 21.1km after a long swim and a 90km bike at top speed? Well, it’s pretty much like running 21.1km at any time to me. That is to say, I don’t dwell on the other two race segments, but rather, get down to the business of running. Apparently, I’m not too bad at keeping the momentum going at this point. I’m always sort of surprised when I see other people’s race reports, especially when they talk about fast swims and bikes, but then the run leg always seems to be a lot slower for them. I guess in this case, it shows, given that it was my fastest leg comparatively, finishing with the 19th fastest speed! This run was another canal-side affair, with a straightforward 3-loop course. My focus was 100% on my pace for this.

I should point out that to this point, the race clock hadn’t really been displaying any times that meant anything to me. That, and I hadn’t properly started my race watch, so I really had no clear idea where I was in the time department. I felt good, and I seemed to be on track, but with no certainty. The first lap, my head was high, and I pushed myself pretty hard, hydrating as I went, and picking out runners in the distance as my ‘targets’ and running them down. This worked quite well, as there were racers from a few different racers out there, so a wide range of paces. I was also happy to notice that I blew past a guy that had passed me on the final lap of the bike leg. By the end of the race, I had beaten him by over 20 minutes!

At the completion of lap 2, I noticed the clock reading a time of about 3:29. Hmm.. I wondered if that might be a time of 4:29 for my race? Could it be? If it was true, it meant I had 31 minutes to polish off just over 7km. Could I do that? Well, my target pace was 4:45/km, but that would require about 4:28/km at the tail end of a long race. Well, better to try for it and leave it all out on the course, right? An my way out of the stadium for the final lap, I ditched my bottle (or rather, threw it towards Jody as she took pictures…), sucked it up, and ran hard. I mean real hard. You have to dig pretty deep to ‘sprint’ 7km at the end of a 113km race. I had no idea if I could do it, but thought positively about it.

As the kilometers ticked by, I was totally in the zone. I felt like I was absolutely blazing past people out there at this point. Looking back on some of the splits, I think I definitely was compared to some of my nearest competitors. Where others were struggling to not lose too much time, I was on a mission to GAIN time. Sadly, as I rounded the final bend, I stopped the clock around 5:03. So, although I felt like I was Usain Bolt in the closing kms , I really only maintained a pace of about 4:50 πŸ™‚ Crazy! However, the push was worth it, as I beat my previous time by 8 minutes, and I could tell by the small group of racers at the finish that I was in the top group of finishers.Sweeeeeet!

The Wrap-Up

Okay, race is done. Post is running long. How do I wrap it up? Well, with a shout out to the best paparazzi and post-race driver in the world. Jody! Thanks! After sticking around for a bit and loading up the car, we headed home, and Jody let me choose my post-race meal. Choice? Wendy’s. Probably not the best choice, but I hadn’t had Wendy’s in a while. After eating, I packed up some things, and Jody gave me a night pass to head up to Calabogie for a night of camping at Jim’s cabin. It was the perfect end to the day. Big full moon, campfire, drinks, friends, and a cozy night in the woods. And yes, I wore my medal πŸ™‚ 3 races left in my season, culminating with my attempt to run a sub 3:10 marathon in Hamilton. Till the next time, stay cool friends.

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