(Tarnished) Gold Medal for ActiveSteve!

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Howdy all! Welcome to another edition of my race result reports. This report will fill you in on all the gory details of my recent Kayak Triathlon, the Ottawa Riverkeeper Kayak Triathlon. This race consisted of a 5km paddle, followed by a 20km bike, topped off by a 5km run. I raced in this one last year, and got a nice second place finish, just behind Mike Caldwell. This year, I had a newer, faster boat, a newer, faster bike, and an even greater desire to be victorious. Also, Mike wasn’t going to be in this one. So, I was planning to give it my all and not accept anything less than a first place finish. And that’s just what I got, or at least initially. I got the medal, I got the prizes, but then found out later that I actually only came in second place… again! Read on for the whole story. You can also check out some pics that the lovely Jody took at the race.

My preparation started in the past couple weeks with me doing some nice long bike rides with some of my triathlete training buddies. In one of those rides, I was asked if I’d be interested in using a pair of race wheels for this triathlon. Would I? Of course. And these weren’t just some run of the mill race wheels, but Zipp 404s. I realize that only means something to about 5-10% of my regular readers, but for those of you in the know, you’ll be duly impressed I’m sure  A huge thanks goes out to Darren for lending them to me, they were truly awesome!

Then there’s the issue of the weeks preceding the big race. To start with, two weeks before the race, I spent most of the week in Montreal for work. Then, the week of the race, I spend much of it in Toronto, again for work. This made things a little trickier for training, but I still managed to get in some good runs and biking, and then crammed in long sessions on the weekends. Also, Jody’s parents were also in town for the week before the race, so Jody and I were busy with some hosting duties as well. Of course, the bonus to that was that I would also have some ‘fans’ on the course to see me tackle the race.

Now on to race day. The weather was looking quite agreeable when I woke up. I had my bowl of Vector (no, they’re not sponsoring me, but I’ll mention them anyway), and my 1 Liter of Eload, my favourite sports drink in the world (no, another non-sponsor). I wasn’t feeling super-fast, but I never seem to on race day. The boat was already on the roof, and the bike was all ready to go. It was actually a little trickier than I thought, as my rear drivetrain is a 10-speed cassette, whereas Darren’s wheel was a 9-speed set-up. Sounds like a minor detail, but in reality makes things very tricky, as the indexed shifter couldn’t work. Luckily, I was able to change from an index shifter to a friction shifter. Yup, it’s techno-babble, but the long story made short is that I was able to use the wheels after all.

Getting to the race site, I got to work getting my gear set up, getting some help along the way from John, who helped ferry my gear between the car and the transition area. Walking along the beach I noticed that there weren’t all that many kayaks lined up at the waters edge. There were a few that looked faster than mine for sure, but there were only a dozen or so kayak triathletes in the race it looked like. That meant my chances weren’t too bad, but all it takes is one person to be faster, so I wasn’t sure how things would go yet.

The time was upon me to hit the water. I had on my tri-suit, as usual, and had also outfitted my new kayak with some custom foam fitting, so that it was more molded to my body. This would help me get more power transfer from my stroke to the water. I paddled out to the start line and held myself there waiting for the gun to sound. The start was much cleaner than last year for sure, having no problem clearing the field, and not running into anyone. Right off the bat, things looked good. The paddle leg was a double loop this year, instead of the single long loop of last year. I was right at the front of the pack this time. I was in a battle for 2nd place the whole way. Why not 1st? Well, there was this one girl just absolutely smoking us on the water.

Later on, I found out she worked at Trailhead, and was racing on what she described as likely the fastest boat in Ottawa. I think she was being a bit self-deprecating, as she was clearly an excellent paddler. Regardless, I couldn’t really dwell on the paddling leg, as I had to hit the bike pronto. I did indeed hit the beach in second place, and didn’t want to lose any time on transition. I ran up the beach to get my bike. I had a little problem with that transition, as my bike was caught up in the rack. I even knocked over another bike, and had to set it back up. Oh well, first race of the year, things don’t always go perfectly. Without another thought, or any frustration about it, I ran out with the bike. As a result of the troubles, I was officially in third place, as the standings were determined by mat crossings, not the beach landing.

As soon as I got to the road, I jumped on, clipped in, and got to work mashing the pedals. My posse was there to cheer me on, including the entire Lawson clan! Thanks guys. I felt great on the bike. The wheels were solid on the road, and I got down low and aero to go as fast as I could. My work paid off, as I averaged 34 km/h, the fastest in that race! Sweet. The other nice part of that leg was that I passed the girl from the water, which would seem to mean that I was now in first place. Yay! All I had to do was hit the road and burn rubber, running a fast 5 km race. Seemed like it should work out, since I’ve been running pretty strongly this year.

I got back to the transition, and again had a little bit of trouble racking my bike. Where I had my stuff earlier in the day, someone had decided they should stick their bike in my way, so I ended up sort of throwing my bike back in the rack. I could deal with that later. The shoes got strapped on, the hat slapped on, and off I went. I felt strong, and pushed myself right off the bat.

The strong feeling was rather short-lived however. As just after I got up the first little incline, I started getting stomach cramps! What the fark? I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Had I drank too much on the bike? I later saw it was just half a bottle, so that shouldn’t be it. Regardless of the reason, it was clearly going to be a problem. I desperately wanted to hold onto my place, so pushed as hard as possible. The end result was a time I wasn’t too pleased with. I had ran a much higher pace during the half marathon, so I know I could have done much better, since I did feel physically fresh.

Luckily, I didn’t seem to get passed by anyone with the letter K permanent markered on their calf, so that meant that I should still be in first place. Along the way on the run, I was only passed by a few people. One of them had nothing written on their calf, so I didn’t know what race they were in. We made a little small talk, as we caught up and passed another racer. I then told him I had some cramps and that he should just keep on going. I never thought to ask what race he was in.

As I came into the finish chute, the computers were down, so there was no way to know whether or not I had won. I asked if any other kayak tri people had came in, but they weren’t sure. So I had to wait around in the blazing heat till they posted results. Well, when they finally did, there I was…. First place. Yippee, my first gold medal. Another guy was there, and started saying there was a mistake, as he had won. Hunh? Well, I checked his results, and saw he came in second in the paddle, then second in the bike, so just behind me. However, there was no result for his run, and he claimed a seventeen minute run. Crazy. Apparently, his chip didn’t register the time.

I was crushed. Unfortunately, I couldn’t vouch for him, as he had no markings on him, so I couldn’t say whether or not I had actually been passed by him or not. Due to my stomach cramps, I knew in my heart of hearts that there was a great chance that he had beaten me. Since we were tied at the start of the run, there was a great chance his run was faster than mine. Damnit. The waiting game then began, since I had to stand around waiting for the awards ceremony to begin. Jody and her folks had to head home, as we were expecting company. I told them I’d just bike home at the end.

I had finished around ten thirty, but the awards didn’t start until twelve thirty. At that time, it was finally announced that I was indeed the winner. When I got back from accepting, the other fellow came over to talk to me about the race, and again told me about his run. He was really nice, and I believed him. So much so, that I felt compelled to offer him half of my prize. I wouldn’t go so far as to talk to the director, as I really didn’t know if he had passed me or not. In the end, he told me to just take my prize and go. After all, it wasn’t my problem, but the timing people’s problem. I got back on my bike and headed home, deflated. I knew I didn’t really win.

The silver lining is that I’ll be racing in another kayak tri in August, where I’ll once again have a chance to legitimately pull off a victory. If you look at the official results now, you’ll see that the timing has been rectified. He did indeed smoke me on the run. My hat’s off to him for that run. Here’s hoping for a better run next race. I’ll leave things there for now, since I have a much bigger story to tell now as well, about Quest for a Cure 2007. Till then, take care of you and yours, and have fun.

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