With a B.Sc. and an M.Sc. each, Alasdair and I decided we were perfectly suited to running a highly scientific clinical trial in the days leading up to the triathlon season opener at the Woodstock sprint triathlon in the Multisport Canada Triathlon Series. With a sample size of 2 and no control group, we would test whether eating canned beets, or drinking beet juice, was more effective. No, we didn’t define “effective”, we just got on with the clinical trial!
Saturday morning my alarm went off at 5:15 AM, and by 6:15 AM or so, we were on our way to Woodstock. Apparently we chose a good route, because we encountered no traffic to speak of, arriving at Pittock Lake Conservation Area before 7:30 AM and snagging a great parking spot.
After racking my bike and setting up my spot in the transition zone, I went to register, picking up my race bib (#202), t-shirt (which reflected Woodstock’s status as the “dairy capital of Canada” – who knew?), and timing chip. The on-site announcer let us know that the water temperature was 20 degrees Celsius (great temperature for an early season race!). With an air temperature of 13 or 14 degrees Celsius, and not too much wind, we were in for good race conditions!
I mentally (and physically) walked through the swim to bike, and bike to run transitions so that I would be able to find my bike easily during the race (i.e. from the lake, I walked into transition and figured out the route I would take, counted the number of bike racks, etc.), and when I returned to my bike, another athlete said to me, “Is this your bike?” I told him that it was, and he told me that one of the race officials taped up the end of my handlebars with black hockey tape where a plastic or metal cap had fallen out long ago. He said that another bike near mine had the same treatment, and that some race series won’t even let you race if your bike is missing that piece (apparently it’s a safety issue). So, I was lucky!
Leading up to this race, I had my fair share (some may argue more than my fair share) of bike issues, from a snapped shifting cable in April to a flat tire and a broken freewheel in May, to squeaky pedals threatening to just fall right off in early June. I had been training with a spare wheel from Bicycle Works in Waterdown for the 2 weeks before the race because of my broken freewheel (need a bike shop? Bicycle Works is the best!), until mine was repaired and I got it back the day before the race!
After listening to pre-race instructions and taking a few more pictures, we were off to the water to do a warm-up swim. Mine was about 150m.
The water wasn’t cold at all, though I wouldn’t have wanted to swim without my wetsuit! It wasn’t long before the race started, and at 9:03, my wave (#2) was off!
Alasdair almost always starts before me, so it was weird to start in the wave before him! I knew this meant that he would be working hard to catch me during the race – I just didn’t know when he would do it! I had extra incentive to push hard and outpace the chaser!
My wave was women 40-44 and men 25-29, so I lined up behind the guys. The swim start was great, and other than swallowing water a few times from the slightly choppy water, to trying to avoid getting kicked by the woman breaststroking beside me, the swim to the first turn buoy was unremarkable. Getting around the buoy wasn’t easy – I happened to arrive at the same time as too many others! My favourite part of the swim was the segment after this turn, because we had the current with us and it was pretty smooth sailing. I turned at the last turn buoy and headed for shore, but with less than 100m to go I got whacked 4 or 5 times in a row by the breaststroking woman. I accelerated to get away from her! And just like that, the 750m swim was over.
I had a heck of a time getting my wetsuit off my legs (early in the season, out of practice!) and had trouble with one of my right shoe straps, but otherwise I had a straightforward transition. I headed out of the transition zone (forgetting to look to see if Alasdair had beat me out of the water – unlikely given the 3 min deficit) and up the grassy hill to the mount line.
One very impatient athlete yelled at others around him “C’mon people!” because clearly they weren’t getting on their bikes fast enough. I had to fix 2 straps of my left shoe that had come undone, but I wasn’t in his way.
Almost as soon as we got out of the park, I wanted to pass someone, but another rider was blocking me. I asked him, “Are you passing him?” and he replied, “I’m trying to!!” He sped up and did get out of the way, at which point I was able to pass. Later he must have passed me, or me him, and he said, “You again?” We ended up leapfrogging each other for the entire race, with him saying to me at one point, “You have to teach me how to ride the downhills!” I expected Alasdair to pass me on the bike, and told my new friend Drew as I rode past him that I couldn’t let him catch me! Less than 250m after I made the turnaround at the half way point (10k), I saw Alasdair! Next time Drew and I passed each other, I told him that we had to pick up the pace, that “my husband is on our tail!” He laughed. I was not feeling incredibly fast, and would have preferred slightly less wind (though there wasn’t much!). I had a gel with about 5k to go, and proceeded to get my right hand all sticky! In the last few kilometres of the race, I was sure Alasdair would pass me, and I expected those passing me to be him… but, I made it back to the transition zone before him (and before Drew)!
My transition to the run was smooth, and shortly after starting my run, Drew passed me and we chatted for a minute… I asked him his name, and then he asked me, “Do you run fast downhill too?”
I looked at my watch and thought there was no way I would beat last year’s race time of 1:32:35.7, but as I ran, I didn’t pay too much attention to the 1k splits, just ran as hard as I could comfortably (and maybe not so comfortably when I got bilateral side stitches!). I was sure Alasdair would pass me on the run, but I didn’t see him until shortly after I turned at the half way point. With 2.5k left, it looked like I would beat last year’s time, and with 1k left, it was almost certain! Despite the side stitches I was managing to hold my pace (no wonder I had side stitches – I was running faster than I ever do!).
For once during a race I actually felt like I could have run further (though I was really glad I didn’t have to!). In the end I beat last year’s time by more than 3 minutes, in a time of 1:29:26.2, having been faster on the swim, bike, and run segments compared to last year!
Alasdair beat me by 15 seconds on the swim, 51 seconds on the bike, and 4 minutes 28 seconds on the run, with a finishing time of 1:24:20 (1 minute 20 seconds faster than last year).
We had chocolate milk, pizza, fruit and pretzels after the race, and stayed for part of the awards, but unfortunately we had to leave to take Ailish to Buffalo for a basketball tournament.
Triathlon #1 of 2015 was a great race for both of us!
My bike is currently in the shop getting new pedals in preparation for my next race! And as for our double blind placebo controlled multi-centre clinical trial? Clearly beet juice is more effective, because Alasdair was faster than me… or, maybe canned beets are more effective, because I improved the most over last year… or, maybe it’s all in our heads!
Overall placing: 241/361
Gender placing: 74/148 women
Category placing: 14/23 women aged 40-44
Swim: 17:07 (2:16/100m, 238/361 overall, 86/148 women, 11/23 women aged 40-44)
Bike: 41:48 (28.72 km/h, 250/361 overall, 80/148 women, 12/23 women aged 40-44)
Run: 27:35 (5:30 min/km, 242/361 overall, 74/148 women, 14/23 women aged 40-44)
And for comparison…
Overall placing: 225/281
Gender placing: 56/84 women
Category placing: 12/14 women aged 40-44
Swim: 17:35 (2:20/100m, 260/281 overall, 56/84 women, 10/14 women aged 40-44)
Bike: 42:56 (27.95 km/h, 217/281 overall, 52/84 women, 11/14 women aged 40-44)
Run: 29:08 (5:49 min/km, 227/281 overall, 56/84 women, 12/14 women aged 40-44)