Doubling Down in the Dead of Winter

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Good day my friends! As most of you are well aware, I like to train. I also like to race. Sometimes, I may bite off a little more than I can chew. This post will be an ode to one of those instances. As my title alludes to, I made the great decision to race in two races in one day! Unprecedented? No, as I did the same thing last year with no ill effects. However, this time, things didn’t quite go as planned. Regardless, please read on to learn about the fun I had at the Frost and Fire Winter Triathlon in the morning, and the Mad Trapper Night Race in the evening, and find out where the wheels fell off!

I suppose I might as well do the cowardly thing right off the bat and make my excuses. You see, I’d been battling a flu / cold for over two weeks on the day in question. Even as I write this, over three weeks have passed (and 3 races!), and I’m still coughing a fair bit. I know I should have listened to my body, but the Snowman Award was up for grabs, and it’s always so much fun that I just couldn’t skip out on either of the two races.

Frost and Fire Winter Triathlon

First up in the morning was the Frost and Fire Tri. I’d done this race last year for its inaugural outing, and decided to give it a whirl once again. Last year, the race was plagued with horribly cold weather, and was a tough grind, and I had hoped this year things might turn out a  bit better. Unfortunately, in spite of the best efforts of the organizers, mother nature threw them another curve ball. How so? Well, let’s just say she huffed and puffed and blew the house down!

Last year, there was only a small tent for participants to seek shelter from the elements in the farmers field. So this year, they tripled the size of the tent. Unfortunately, 2/3rds of it blew away the night before! Not only that, but all the groomed tracks were completely covered in blown-in snow before the event got underway. So once again, we arrived to a cold, wind-swept race site, trying our best to stay warm, and figure out where the snowshoe and ski tracks were!

Frost and Fire Results

As you can see above, I managed a time of 1:40 for the entire race. However, that wasn’t an easy task at all. I seeded myself at the front of the race, hoping to do well. The snowshoe leg would probably be my best bet of doing well, but was also the shortest leg, at a mere 2.7km. I went out hard, and was rewarded by spending most of it in 4th, and for a few brief shining steps, finding myself in 2nd place! It was great. Whereas the show was quite soft and hard to find footing in the main track, I found spots beside the track that were quite crusted over, giving me a chance to ‘float’ past my competitor friends 🙂 Towards the end of the snowshoe I faded a little bit and slipped into a pace line of 4 other racers, coming into the first transition in about 7th place (but importantly, with all the leaders).

I tried my best to pull off a fast transition, slipping on my ski boots and running out. I fought a bit with gloves and poles before finally gliding off, ready for 2 laps of 4.3km each, for a total of 8.6km of skiing. I’ve been taking skate ski lessons, and had hoped to focus on strong technique. However, nothing could prepare me for this monstrosity. While the terrain was relatively flat, it was all buried in 20cm of fresh snow for a lot of it. Imagine trying to skate ski in sand. Yeah. Not fun. I didn’t know what to do. Not only that, but you couldn’t even pole well, as the tip would sink 2 feet down, on account of a non-packed trail! It was horrible. With a sinking heart, I contemplated throwing in the towel. However, realizing everyone else would be suffering, and that I wasn’t actually being passed, I figured I’d grin and bear it.

When I finally cruised back into transition, my spirit was crushed. Luckily, it was just a nice 5k road run out and back (albeit with some climbs), to finish the race. I re-grouped, and pushed hard to the finish line, trying to claw back any time I could. My end result was a respectable 9th overall, with a 5th in my category. The race was wrapped with awards at a local restaurant (for an extra charge surprisingly). This was a good spot to trade war stories with my fellow racers. No one got our unscathed. I was also there to cheer on the winners, who are people I train with. Very cool to be a part of ‘the team’.

Anywho, to close off on this race, you might as well watch my race review, if you haven’t seen it before. Sadly, I have no pictures from this one. Too focused on racing, staying warm, and getting the filming done!

Mad Trapper Night Race

The second race of the day is another perennial favourite of mine, the Mad Trapper Night snowshoe race. It’s really cool to watch a field full of headlights bobbing around as they race their way through the woods in the dark. As with all Mad Trappers, the focus is on fun anyway, so the only real competition is manufactured by those of us testing each other out. And of course, that means me! I was still stinging from the last race where I got pipped at the line, and wanted to see if I could kick some butt this time. My main adversary had also raced in the morning, so we were in the same boat. I figured that with a few hours of recovery at home, I should be good to go, right? Maybe not. Let’s see how that worked out…

In another funny twist, yet again this year, the night race was plagued by somewhat poor weather (read: there was a snowstorm!) on the lead up. Although it had been clear earlier in the day, by the evening, it was a full-on snowy stormy night. The past three years have basically had the same weather! The funny thing is, the crowds just get bigger in bad weather. But I digress. Due to the weather Deanna and I were running pretty late, and showed up pretty much right at the start time. Luckily, the race was delayed about 10 minutes on account of lots of other racers arriving late. Some had started wondering if I’d show, but of course, I wouldn’t miss the chance!

Headlamps on, snowshoes strapped to my feet, it was time to do the dance. I lined up at the front, aware of my competitors and where I should seed myself. The field was pretty much the same as the last race, so I settled in about 6th to 8th slot on the opening lap. James and I let the front runners take off, and we found ourselves in a little trio of racers. I felt OK, but not great. James also seemed a little tired, and at one point even pulled over to let me pass. For a brief moment, I thought that I would be able to just stay ahead and power my way to the finish ahead of him (I was probably in about 5th place now).

Mad_Trapper_Results

For most of the first lap, things just went along nicely like that, with me staying ahead of James and pushing along. However, with the last kilometer or so of the first lap, I started waning a bit, and let James pass me on the last big climb. I thought I’d just let things go at that, and stay behind him. However, he stopped for a drink at the Start/Finish, and I shot past again. As a result, I felt it was back in time for me to stay ahead, and pressed on bravely.

Unfortunately, the wheels fell off. Big time! See that graph above in blue? Notice how it shot up, stayed steady for a while, then just gradually drops off to nothing? Yup. That is my heartrate, and it shows quite dramatically where I fell apart, and got slower and slower, eventually falling off to a walk in the last 2km.

I felt horrible. I was completely parched, starving, and had no energy. I literally wanted to curl up into a ball and sleep on the side of the trail. I was cursing my body, and annoyed at the situation, but unable to do anything. Every now and again I’d get the bright idea to try and run again (usually on an uphill), only to crash back down. Eventually, if felt like everybody caught and passed me. I believe 7 people did so in the last km!

I was not a happy camper. A few asked if I was okay, and I just told them to race their race, and I’d be fine. The last person to pass me, Paul Shea, a fireman by trade, went the extra step. He offered to walk with me, to which I told him to race on. Once he finished, he got a gel from someone and BACKTRACKED to find me and give it to me to help me finish. I couldn’t argue and just ate the offering. This was probably my worst-feeling finish in a race since the last Ironman that I did where I don’t even remember certain parts of the run and had to dive in water to cool my core temperature down.

I know it was bad because at the finish, people didn’t even make fun of me, as they could tell I was a broken man. Even though there was beer at the finish, I didn’t pour a single pint for myself. I didn’t deserve it. However, I DID deserve the 3 brownies that I ate along with the delicious chili on offer. There was a nice festive atmosphere, but I was too pooped to really enjoy it.

So there you have it, a fun couple of races, but a disappointing way to cap off the day for me. In retrospect, I think I didn’t hydrate or re-fuel properly between races. I had gone home, and worked on some other stuff rather than focusing on me. As a result, I paid the price. Lesson learned, and time to move on, right? And move on was the key, as in 1 week, I’d be off for the next race, a winter triathlon in St. Donat, Quebec, but that’s for another post! Till then, stay hydrated, and enjoy the snow!

 

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