When Triathlon Ontario announced that Provincial Champs was at the Toronto Triathlon Festival I decided it would be a good opportunity to jump in a fast and fun race on tired legs after Welland. But after last weekend not going to plan I was really motivated to race well and hopefully get a boost of confidence in my fitness. I know its there, but it has also been a while since I've run to my potential in a tri.
After a quick stop in Dundas to pick up some new goodies from Scott at Dundas Speed Shop (more info to come!) I got to Ontario Place for race briefing and kit pickup, then met up with Team Switzer at Amanda's sister's place about 10k from the race site. After a short bike/run along the waterfront we had a nice chill evening getting everything prepped for the race. I think the more I work and the busier I get, the more I appreciate the weekend getaways to local races.
While Amanda's dad Kevin was up insanely early for the Olympic race, we had a relative sleep-in for our race start at 9:30. Despite the weather forcast not looking good for Sunday we really couldn't have gotten any luckier with conditions. Warm-up felt good, except for misjudging time and only getting in about 20 strokes in the water before getting back out to line up.
I took the start out hard hoping to latch onto some fast feet and avoid pulling too many of my strong teamLPC teammates with me :) The first buoy was about 200m in so it was pretty crowded to get there, but nothing I haven't dealt with before. After that it was another 100-150m to the turnaround so I put in a big effort to try to get clear of the main large group. I may have been a bit optimistic with my top end pacing, and around 500 I was starting to suffer. I saw my Hurdle Project teammate Prakash Pandya come up beside me nearing the final turn, and after some crappy navigation I got out of the water just a couple steps behind him. Little did I know this was shaping up to be a great battle!
When I got to my bike in T1 I discovered that someone must have dropped my helmet and the visor and rear extension of my helmet had popped off. I had lost my psychological edge of looking super cool! But in all seriousness, I'll occasionally welcome the unexpected so I can learn to adapt in a race situation. I put the pieces aside and got on with it. I got on the bike a step ahead of Prak and we were both very motivated to throw down a big effort.
When Prak flew by me in the first 3k of the bike I thought he was crazy going that hard...but I know he is a fast runner and I didn't want to give anything up on the bike. When we got on the Gardiner we were hammering and quickly got through the handful of speedy swimmers, and everyone from the earlier wave. I spent most of the ride out to the turnaround just trying to get my breathing and heart rate under control while not allowing him to get more than 50-100 meters on me. It was definitely a bit of a shock to the system going that hard with most of my training geared towards steady-tempo half IM efforts. But I knew I had good fitness, I just had to go to the hurt box to get there!
I had a bit of momentum coming off the turnaround so I decided I'd give it a go and see if I could get a lead. It was definitely the most fun I've had on the bike in a non-drafting race. We were pushing each other HARD, partly to work together...partly to try to get away :) I was really impressed with his bike fitness as a relative newcomer to the sport. I thought that was my chance to get a gap starting the run but neither of us were letting the other get away. Around 15k went by me again and got about 10 seconds on me, but through the technical section back to T2 we came back together and got off the bike almost side by side. After another slightly slower than usual transition to gather my various helmet pieces together I had a few seconds lead again hitting the run course.
I held onto the lead for about half a mile until Prak came past again...at which point I gave up on trying to keep my effort in check and knew I'd be red lining to the finish. I kept him within 5 seconds up to the turnaround at 2k when we got on Lakeshore. I was running fairly well but lacking a bit of top end speed so I was relying on my endurance and willingness to suffer and try to break the hour barrier - I've been within 30 seconds three times. I saw James, Mark and a few fellow LPC athletes on the way back which helped carry me to the finish.
After the later waves came through I ended up in 3rd, behind Prak and another LPCer Lee Rantala, and we were all within 30 seconds of each other. I once again just missed breaking an hour...it will have to wait until sometime when I'm back to focusing on short-course and building my speed. My swim and run were nothing special but I was really happy with my effort and it was right up with my best sprint races overall. And I was able to take the Provincial Championship for my age group and I get to decide if I want to take a spot to Worlds in Cozumel next year.
With so much emphasis in my training and racing this year being on pacing, fuelling, controlling my effort etc. it was a lot of fun to mix it up with some speed. It reminded me of my roots in the sport and I think after my long course adventures this year I might take some time to get back to basics and have fun getting faster next year!
The best part of the race was taking part in an event with so many friends and teammates. Amanda had an awesome race with one of her best swims ever and smoked the bike course with the top female split, and also earned a spot to Worlds. Now we just have to decide if we want to go next year in the new draft-legal format! And teamLPC dominated once again with a ton of awesome performances. It's inspiring to be part of such a strong group, it makes the championship races a lot of fun.
I still have a few things I need to work out before my next race at Muncie 70.3. I have a long overdue physio assessment and I'm tweaking my bike position slightly to try to avoid the issues I had in Welland. A fast and aggressive bike position is pretty meaningless if it affects your run afterwards! But it was nice to put Welland in the past and get some confirmation that things are still going in the right direction and I'm on track for some good fitness moving forward. I've got a couple more weeks of fine tuning before Muncie, then I get to look forward to a mini mid-season reset before IM training really starts up.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Last weekend's Multisport Canada Welland Half Iron did not end the way I had intended, but I have no second thoughts on the outcome. The reality of endurance sport is that regardless of your preparation sometimes things just don't go to plan, and it's not a reflection of your fitness or ability as an athlete. Get over it and get ready for the next one :)
Coming off the bike in third behind two pro/elites with confidence in my running was a position I've been working towards for 4 years in a half ironman. But the unknown and unexpected is part of the fun in this crazy sport. So I will take it for what it is – a matter of getting what I needed, and not what I wanted out of this race. To be honest I wasn't keen on sharing my thoughts on the race at first, but in sticking with my theme of transparency through the ups and downs of this IM journey, here's the scoop.
Welland and I have somewhat of an interesting relationship. I think I've had the race on at least some iteration of my race schedule every year because it's an awesomely fast and fun course. It's the race you do to set your PB, and then come back again to try and beat it. But Welland and I don't always see eye to eye.
The first year I planned on doing it I posted a DNS, having forgotten half my gear at the hotel room in Niagara Falls. In 2012 I finally had my first modest success at the half-distance, with a still-standing 2k swim PB, 2:20 bike and survived a 1:35 run. Since then I have put Welland on hold, consistently bringing down my run time on progressively harder 70.3 run courses. Last year when I ran 1:28 in Knoxville it didn't seem like a stretch to get close to 1:20 in Welland and go sub-4:15.
So after surviving some of the hardest 70.3 courses on the continent over the past three years I decided it was time to give Welland another crack. I didn't have any make-or-break time goals, but this was a goal event for me…I was fit and prepared, and I wanted to continue building on my progression at the half-distance. Swimming has been going ok, my pool fitness is good but I'm still working on finding my open water stroke. I'm riding faster than ever and my run at Around the Bay reassured me of my ability to run 1:22-1:24 on tired legs. So when I actually calculated my realistic goal times based on how training was going I came up with 4:10-4:14.
The only unknown I had was a minor but stubborn issue with discomfort and efficiency on the bike over the past month. I had chalked it up to fatigue and tightness from my long rides, but leading up to the race it was getting to the point that I was ignoring some pretty clear signs of muscle imbalances and overuse. I was hoping that tapering for the race would help shed any fatigue and tightness leading into the race, but it actually got worse during the week and it got to the point of just trying to not think about it before the race. Unfortunately hindsight is 20:20, and it seemed to me like a meaningless "niggle" that comes out of nowhere in taper week and disappears on race day. So with that mindset I was looking forward to taking some serious time off my 4:28 from Welland in 2012.
The swim course this year was in the opposite direction from what it typically is, meaning that we would be swimming under the bridge within the first 300m. Everyone in my wave crowded to one side of the start line, meanwhile I decided to start on the very far end in the middle of the canal with a clear line to the first turn. It made for the easiest swim start I've ever had, watching everyone battle it out beside me while I settled right into my pace, and just before the first turn around 500m I slotted in behind a small group.