1. I had a knee injury that forced me to miss most of 2016 but it's all better now
2. As soon as my knee was healed I tore my rotator cuff. Swim training has mostly consisted of drills and hot tub time.
Alright now onto the race report!
As the above memes may suggest, the past nine months have had some ups and downs in terms of training, injury, and in real life for that matter. Last July I had been sidelined for a couple weeks with a knee injury when I registered for Ironman Canada 2017. I certainly did not expect that I wouldn't race any more in 2016, and at the New Year I would still be questioning whether I would be healthy and fit enough for IMC in the summer.
Fortunately over the past few months things have started to come together, so after far too long between races, I finally kicked off my 2017 this past weekend at Paris to Ancaster. To be honest my biggest goal for P2A was simply to get myself into some decent early season form on the bike after a lot of missed training time from July to December. The forced motivation of starting in the elite wave this year certainly helped get me out of bed at 5AM and onto the trainer throughout the winter. With a strong and consistent winter and spring of training under my belt, I had accomplished that goal before hitting the start line. The race itself was just a bonus.
I've done P2A the past three years now, but I already feel like I have some history with this race. After pacing like a maniac in 2015, the race kicked my ass. Last year I made it my mission to crush it. I basically solo time trialed, leapfrogging groups throughout the race and had one of my best days ever on the bike. I thought I had it figured out...it's only two hours anyway, right? Well P2A wasn't finished with crushing my soul...but with more fitness and motivation than ever, round 3 was kinda like those stubborn rams on Planet Earth who don't stop fighting until one falls of the mountain and dies from exhaustion.
actual photo of me fighting with the race course
I also knew that with the last two years being near perfect conditions we were likely due for a bugger of a day. And sure enough, when I checked the weather the day before this is what Sunday had in store. Note that this race is a west-to-east point to point course, so that 65km/h wind would be a headwind. The entire way.
This year starting with the big boys I knew that I would have to be prepared to start hard, and frankly pace pretty recklessly, given that this race attracts multiple continental pro's and cyclocross National Champions from North America and Europe. Being fairly confident that I was the only age group triathlete in the elite race :) I knew I wasn't going to be racing for the win, but why the hell not give myself a chance! I wasn't going to turn down the opportunity to battle up front and try to hang on for dear life with the big boys.
I started hard and slotted in with the main bunch on the opening 10k of rail trail. I didn't want to go too bananas knowing that it would be far more important to have some legs for the middle 30k which are primarily on road, and the stretch of rail trail from 50-60k that would be entirely into that crazy wind. But I also didn't want to be on the wrong end of a split so early on. The climb at 10k was the first sorting out, and a lead group of 20ish split off the front and I fought hard to just catch onto the back of the next big group of ~30 riders as we got onto the first gravel road section into the wind.
That's me way back there!
I knew the top-20 were legit riders and were likely gone already, but I had safely gotten on the right side of the first major split to stay in the top 50-ish. The pace seemed like it slowed down to a crawl so I moved near the front, then I realized why. It was taking 350W+ to go about 22km/h into the wind. At the first farm lane section I had gotten far enough up that I was once again on the right side of a split in the group and just focused on not getting dropped.
More gears plz!
I just tried to get things back under control over the next 10k and made sure to get towards the front of the group before any off-road or headwind sections where there was a potential to split up the group. The trail sections were much tougher than the last two years with a ton more mud, and a few of the farmer's field sections were slightly rerouted from last year...to much rougher sections. On one of the field sections the crosswind was so strong that it was blowing my front tire sideways through the mud, but my only thought was "this is so hard, its AWESOME!"
From 25-40k a few of us started to get the front of the group a little more organized (of course with 90% of the group not pulling through once), and there was another group of 10-15 riders less than a minute up the road. I started to get really frustrated with the lack of shared work and that we weren't making up any time. I pulled through once and another rider said "Why are you pulling so hard?"...seriously?! I get that for just about everyone else there they were riding more tactically and wanted to finish as high up as possible. But I was there for one reason. To HURT!
We were at the critical point of trying to bridge a gap, when either everyone just looks at each other and start worrying about placing within your group, or someone cowboys up and does the work alone. I decided it was time for a hero pull and I put my head down at ~500W and bridged a 30 second gap in about three minutes. I found out afterwards that the group ahead was being led by multiple time CX National Champion Mike Garrigan, which likely had something to do with how long it took us to catch them.
I knew I was going to pay for that in the final 5k but I didn't care. Not that I didn't care about my result, but this race for me was more about putting out a huge effort on a hard day than worrying too much about my final placing. Our big group rode mostly together from 45-60k and I suffered like a bugger to not get dropped on a crazy rough field section and again on the final climbs before the mud chutes.
Mike Garrigan attacked just before Powerline and got off the front of our group that was now down to 20ish. I had nothing left to go with him, and unfortunately that was the difference between finishing 60th and 80th. Powerline was very different from previous years as it had been torn up for construction or something, but that didn't make it any easier. I got through it still in touch with the group and saved whatever I had left for the final climb to the finish. My legs were cramping and I was in more pain than I've ever been on a bike going up Martin's Road to the finish. But I managed to NOT fall off my bike and rolled in at the back of the group.
So at the end of the day, just when I thought I had it figured out, this race once again kicked my ass. I ended up finishing a few spots down from last year which was a bit disappointing at first. I'm sure I can attribute that to my tactics, which from a racing standpoint probably weren't the smartest. But racing in the elite wave I wasn't just going to let everyone go and race my own race...I wanted to get in their and mix things up for the experience (and the suffering). And the way things shaped up throughout the race I am much happier with my effort knowing that I put in a ton of work and managed to bridge a big gap that nobody else could...rather than sandbagging in the group and having a sprint left for the finish. I guess that's why I like triathlon better than road racing :)
I still managed to keep my top-100 placing if I want to give it another go next spring. But if I want to finish higher I would have to put a lot more emphasis on this race in my training than just using it as a spring rust buster. So for now I have made my peace with P2A...I'm sure there will be a round 4 some day, but maybe not next year.
So all that I really have on the horizon right now will be a local tune-up before 70.3 Syracuse, which is my big prep race leading into Ironman Canada. The down side of an Ironman year is that weekends become far too valuable for training to justify racing more than a couple times in the 10-12 weeks leading into it. But I am also just starting to get some swim fitness back after a long winter of hardly being in the water at all. So for the next few weeks I'll be starting to ramp up some bigger mileage and start pushing my swimming a bit. Til next time!