So just like last year the Leamington "Tomatoman" Triathlon (Leamington is a giant producer of tomatoes, made apparent by the Heinz plant encompassing about 90% of the town) was the final tune up before Welland, and it also served as Age Group Sprint Provincials. Amanda and I headed down to LPC headquarters the night before and had a 20min drive to the race site in the morning.
There were a lot of nerves at the race site prior to the 7:30am start time, and not just for the AG Worlds spots on the line (a feeling I understand having been there 4 years ago!), but also for the lightning hitting the lake about 1km from the swim start. There was some talk of it going to a duathlon, but after a torrential downpour during my bike warmup and a short 15min delay the race went off without issue.
Having learned from my mistakes last year and finding that there is a lot more chop and current in the (dirty and smelly) marina than it seems, I lined up on the far left of the start line hoping the current would push me towards the first turn buoy. After a few fast strokes I found myself to the left of a small pack of fast junior elite swimmers and let the current pull me towards them until I got in the draft. The water was quite choppy and a lot of swimmers were having difficulty navigating so I kept reminding myself to shorten my stroke and sight often. It seemed like every time I focused on that I would move through the string of swimmers, and I continued to keep the pace high and move forward. I came out with what felt like a good swim, and after a fast transition I got into the bike in 2nd place.
Knowing full well how much time and effort I have invested in the bike this year there wasn't much doubt in my mind in what I wanted to do on the bike course. But given how I felt on the bike in St Croix and it being my first "race" of the season, my goal was just to maintain a "relentless effort" on the windy bike course. And after years of racing on road bikes and cheap tri bikes, there was a bit of a psychological edge riding my pure TT setup of the P3 with 85mm front/disc rear, and my funky new Rudy Project Wingspan helmet. I took the lead at 5k, and at 10k I passed the leader of the duathlon that started before us. I have to say...of all the time and sacrifice I put into the sport, handling defeat, questioning why you're doing this, winning races etc., there is nothing that compares to the feeling of being on the rivet, chasing the lead motorcycle at 45km/h. That is what I live for in this sport.
But the feeling didn't last long, as Lionel Sanders - my sparring partner at LPC camp last year, and the only person in 5 years who has dropped me on the bike - was chasing HARD behind me. I pushed it as best as I could, hoping that he would push his luck trying to catch me. But damn, he is a tough bugger! He passed me with about 3k to go. Man its hard to stay focused when you get passed on the bike by a guy that you know is going to run a 15:30 5k. I just blocked all those negative thoughts out of my head and came into T2 18 seconds down. After another good transition he was about 100m up the road.
I knew that he is a world class runner, but I'm also confident in my running and my ability to put myself through hell when I have someone to chase. Unfortunately within the first step of the run my body wasn't agreeing with me. I sustained a bit of a foot injury the week leading up to the race, and while I didn't feel too much discomfort my calf was cramping right away from a week of walking funny trying to compensate for it. A few steps later it would not let up, and I found it very hard to try to let my heart rate come down a bit while running through it. It finally started to loosen up after about 1km, by which point Lionel was well up the road but I was at least limiting my losses.
After the first turnaround on the 2 loop course it was clear though that my run legs were just not there on the day. I just could not pick up my cadence and could not control my HR. With lots of fast little juniors chasing the 5k became pure survival, but with the amount of time Lionel and I put into everyone else on the bike our positions weren't going to change. I finished second in 1:00:29.
I was quite disappointed in my run given that if I ran anywhere close of what I am capable of I would have broken the hour barrier (the closest I have gotten was 1:00:07 last year) and could have easily been a minute faster. And it scared the crap out of me that I have to run four times farther in Welland. Not that I would have caught Lionel, who ran 15:40 off a 28:00 bike split and demolished Coach James' course record. But given my recent run training I know that it is not an accurate reflection of my fitness, and it could have been any number of things, but I am confident that my run legs will be there next time. I have a ton of positives to take away from this race. Probably my strongest swim-bike ever and led the race for 10k, good technical execution, just no run legs this time.
(CR holder, some guy with Batman suit abs, and me enjoying some CM)
But far more impressive than my result, Amanda swam strong through the rough water, lit up the bike course and ran to a dominating first career win!!! I got to see her riding hard in the lead on the out-and-back bike course, and then got to cheer her to the finish after taking 5 minutes off last year's race time! She is very humble about it but it was a breakthrough race for her and a fantastic performance. I'm hoping to find more pictures of both of us :)
So next up is Welland this weekend. It feels good to be back in race mode but I'm trying to stay focused in spite of the mental demons from this race last year. Luckily I vindicated myself from the whole wetsuite fiasco, as I had a spare wetsuit in my car for a fellow LPC athlete who had forgotten his at home for Leamington. I know I could not have prepared better for Welland and I am mentally and physically on a completely different scale than last year. But I am more nervous about this one than I have been for a long time. Maybe just because I am prepared to embrace the result, whatever it may be. I guess we will know in a week.