Race report: Goderich Olympic triathlon (or a roller coaster of a swim, non-stop hills and a plea to share the road)

Ever swim an “uphill” course more reminiscent of a roller coaster than the swim leg of a triathlon? I now have. This year was my 3rd time doing the Goderich Olympic triathlon, a 1 km swim in Lake Huron, a 42.5 km bike, and a 10 km run. In 2013, my first time racing in Goderich, I feared a wavy swim and endless hills, because that’s what Alasdair said it could be like. Instead, the water was dead calm and the bike course was less hilly than normal due to construction. In 2014 I gave blood 36 hours before the race (1-888-TO-DONATE in Canada) and had zero energy from the get go (it was also the alternate less hilly bike course). 2015 brought the return of waves and all the hills! In addition, the temperature forecast for the day was low 30s with a humidex near 40 degrees Celsius. Winds were to range from 15 – 17 km/h.


On Saturday we picked up our race kits at the Goderich YMCA (race bibs, swim caps, sample products, nice t-shirts!) and bought a couple of the “I share the road” bumper stickers they were selling to support Julie Sawchuk, one of the race organizers who was struck by a car and badly injured during a bicycle ride last month in training for the race (she is currently paralyzed). When you’re driving a car, van, truck, bus, motorhome, tank or motorcycle, please, SHARE THE ROAD! Imagine that cyclists are your loved ones – you might drive differently! Do it for Julie. Do it for me! And do it for my kids, who want their mom to come home after every ride. Please.


We checked into our motel, where Alasdair made friends with the resident bird.


Apparently this little guy loves standing on short hair

We did a 20 minute bike ride on the residential streets near our motel, and then went down to the main beach (where the race swim would be) for a 10 minute swim. The water was pretty calm.


View from up top (salt mine below)


After our swim

After dinner at Crabby Joe’s, we went back to the waterfront to relax on the beach and read.


Sunset on Lake Huron

On Sunday morning the alarm sounded at 6 AM, and by 7, we were at the race site, having eaten our breakfast (oatmeal with yogurt, a banana and blueberries for me) and checked out of the motel. I was surprised how many people were there already 2 hours before the start of the race.

We racked our bikes in the cool handmade wooden racks, picked up our timing chips and went through body marking. The volunteer writing on my arm and legs asked me how old I was, and I said, “40”. Before she could write on my leg, I said, “No, wait – what year is it? 2015… okay, I’m 41!” With that done we went back to transition to get all our things set up.


Alasdair’s blue bike behind and to the left of mine

Alasdair and I were able to rack our bikes next to each other because there were no set spots (other than general areas set aside for Olympic solo, Olympic relay, sprint duathlon and try a tri athletes). We had lots of time for bathroom trips – no portapotties at this race; rather, real bathrooms with sinks (and very short line-ups).


My usual pre-race routine. 😉

We found out just before the 8 AM pre-race briefing (which began with a welcome by the Mayor of Goderich – nice touch) that the race was starting at 8:30, not 9! No problem though – we were ready to go at that point.

1 km SWIM

While there were no white caps visible on Lake Huron, there were waves and it was choppy. The waves were coming in at an angle of course, not straight at the shore.


Almost time to race!

It wasn’t until I got into the water for a short warm-up swim that I realized how much fun the swim was going to be! Not only did the waves make it difficult to actually see where you were going, they made it hard to breathe!

I lined up between the flags at the start line, not quite waist deep in water (shoreline too rocky for a beach start). I didn’t want to be right at the front, but that’s where Alasdair and I ended up. All 83 Olympic solo athletes were starting at the same time, with the relay swimmers starting 5 minutes later. The horn sounded and we were off, heading straight out toward our first orange turning buoy. Unfortunately a big barge that was out there had moved, so we couldn’t use it to sight from. The orange buoy was hard to spot – imagine swimming along, and just as you lift your head to look, you are in the trough of a wave, with the crest blocking your view! Now imagine just as you rotate your head to breathe, a wave hits you smack in the face! I lost count how many times I swallowed water or choked on it as I tried to breathe. Sometimes I didn’t even try to breathe and instead came right back up again on the same side after another 1 or 2 strokes (normally I breathe bilaterally after every 3 strokes). I had to work to time my breathing, and sometimes lucked out by being on the crest of a wave.

This was most definitely my choppiest race swim yet. Not even 50 m from the start, people all around me seemed to be bobbing, looking around trying to see which way to go! I saw Alasdair just in front of me fixing his goggles (I would later find out he got kicked in the face and nearly had his contact fall out). I soldiered on, eventually reaching the first turning buoy. We turned left around the buoy, and the angle that the waves were coming at us seemed to make things slightly better. I found it really hard here though to see the next turning buoy. At one point I thought I was swimming right behind Alasdair, and when I got beside the swimmer, I realized that it was him. He never did see me though. I passed him, kicked him (oops!) and then kept on going. Turning left again toward shore made things slightly better again, I think, but this buoy wasn’t that easy to find either. I noticed a drone flying above us as we swam (likely the photographer’s, as there was one last year). Finally I made the final turn and headed for the yellow flags, which were at the swim exit. In that last leg I was feeling a bit sick to my stomach, not nauseous but wondering if I might throw up. Sea sickness + wild waves is not a great combination! Thankfully the waves were generally pushing me toward the flags, which were tall and easy to spot!

I stumbled out of the water, looked at my watch (29 something – slow!), and started running to the transition zone. I had trouble finding the strap of my wetsuit zipper, but got it eventually. I stepped into a bucket of water (kind of like a small kiddie pool) to rinse the sand off my feet (only race I’ve ever seen this at), which is nice because then you run into the transition zone on asphalt (not much opportunity for the sand to just fall off on its own). I reached my bike, and shortly after, Alasdair arrived. We commiserated on our crappy swims.

Check out Alasdair’s elevation profile of the swim (should be flat!), which is the first grey section (2nd big chunk is the bike, 3rd is the run)! The X-axis is time. The green is his speed and the red his heart rate (heart rate monitor not effective in the swim).


That was one hilly swim!

You can see aerial footage of the swim here (OverYonderVideoWorks): https://vimeo.com/136552190 (5 minute video – see the waves make the swimmers go up and down)

Swim stats:

Swim time: 29:26 (2:57/100 m – my slowest ever triathlon swim pace)

Women 40-49: 8/10

All athletes: 65/83

T1: 1:40

42.5 km BIKE

I headed out on the bike before Alasdair did, after taking my wetsuit off (no problems this time!), putting on my helmet, socks and bike shoes – straight up a steep hill. On another pretty good climb near the beginning (which Alasdair apparently watched me climb as he rode), I said to a couple who were cheering, “I think I’m over my sea sickness!” which resulted in laughter. About 15 minutes into the ride, Alasdair caught me. I thought he might pass me before that.  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stay with him on all the hills, so I watched him slowly pull away. This ride has very little flat roads – it is continuous rolling hills, some bigger than others. Unfortunately, there were no km markers on the bike, at least none that I could see, until I saw one on the pavement (painted) that said 30 km! That’s it?! I thought surely I was further along than that. I later saw a couple of other painted markers but they were not very visible. I really had no idea how I was doing as I went along. There was some wind, but it wasn’t bad. Going up one hill, a man passed me and said, “How’s your morning going so far?” During the ride I ate one peanut butter chocolate ball (though I wasn’t really feeling like eating anything yet, but knew I should), half my gatorade (I drank so much lake water, I wasn’t that thirsty!), and a third of a granola bar.

At one point I saw a woman stopped near the top of a hill.  I asked her if she was okay and she responded that she couldn’t change out of one chain ring, that her cable snapped. I said that the same thing happened to me this spring in Kingston! She asked if there was anything she could do about it, and I said no, she needed a new cable. She would be able to continue riding, but with difficulty.

For the last 10 km I had a 71 year old man drafting me (illegal), but he was encouraging at the same time (only 20 minutes left! only 10 minutes left!).

As I was running into transition, I heard the announcer say “Kyra Paterson from Waterdown…”. I tried to put my bike back on the rack handlebars first, it didn’t fit, so I had to turn it around completely. I quickly removed my helmet, changed my shoes and took off.

Bike stats:

Bike time: 1:31:27 (27.9 km/h)

Women 40-49: 6/10

All athletes: 52/83

T2: 1:04

10 km RUN

The run starts up the same hill the bike begins on, but you only run part way up the hill, then turn onto the Goderich to Auburn Rail Trail. With the exception of a couple of spots at the beginning, it’s essentially a slight uphill run to the half way turnaround point. I took an opportunity to step off the trail and pee while only one other athlete was around (of course, I made the mistake of announcing it, so of course he turned to look!). That’s one unfortunate thing with this race – no portapotty in transition! There were more water stations on the run this year, which was very much appreciated on a hot summer day. I expected to see Alasdair after I reached the 3 km mark, and ended up seeing him somewhere between the 3 and 4 km marks, but there were no distance markers at all on the run, so I’m really not sure. At the turnaround there was an aid station, where I asked a little boy if he would trade places with me. He shook his head, but a smaller boy said, “I will!” and proceeded to run a couple of steps. Then he said, “I biked 15 km!” As a side note, I have to say that the volunteers everywhere were great, from race kit pick-up to on course volunteers. Thank you volunteers!

The run was hot in the sun, but I’d say that more than half of it was shaded. On the way back I spotted a horse and rider coming toward me on the trail – she turned off just as I reached her. First horse encounter for me during a race.

Around 6 km I got cramps that forced me to walk for about 30 seconds (conveniently at an aid station, so I was able to drink water and pour some on my head, as I had done at the previous aid stations). The cramps were quite a bit better after starting to run again, but I fought them off for the rest of the run.

At one point, a volunteer on a bike coming toward me said that something was around the corner, but I didn’t hear what he said. “What did he say was around the corner?” I asked another runner. “The bridge… I’d rather the finish line was around the corner!” The last bit of the run is downhill and then flat, so it’s a nice way to finish. I spotted Alasdair stretching under a tree just before I reached the finish line.

I was glad to be done! (Alasdair had a great race – well, maybe not swim – and finished in 2:49 and change.)

Run stats:

Run time: 1:04:11 (6:26/km)

Women 40-49: 6/10

All athletes: 56/83

Back at the bike rack I introduced myself to Emma, who blogs over at “Running in Tune“, and who I recognized from her blog – she just happened to be in the same rack as us. She snapped a picture for us.


Photo by Emma

I had not been done for long when we heard what we thought were the awards being announced. We headed over but found out they were for the try a tri, so we went over to grab food. We were disappointed to discover that they were running out of food – I got a few grapes and 2 orange slices, but there were no bananas or cookies left. They were offering egg or egg and sausage breakfast sandwiches, but that did not appeal to me after a long workout. We decided to just stop for lunch on the way home. Last year there was lots of food, including delicious turkey dogs!

While the duathlon awards were being presented, we decided to go for a quick dip in the lake to cool off. We came back to watch the Olympic triathlon awards. Alasdair was later picked out of the crowd (“Guy with the heart rate monitor!”) to win a door prize (he chose a race bib holder).

They had a live band playing after the race, which was neat.


Overall stats:

Time: 3:07:47

Women 40-49: 7/10

All athletes: 56/83

For comparison:

2014 (after blood donation, less hilly course): 3:04:04, with swim 21:44, bike 1:34:37 and run 1:04:55 (5/6 in age group)

2013 (less hilly course): 2:51:44, with swim 23:21, bike 1:24:57 and run 1:01 (4/5 in age group)

Goderich, you can bet we’ll be back! (Kudos to the organizers – Race Huron – just a few small tweaks and the race will be even better than it already is!)

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9 Responses to Race report: Goderich Olympic triathlon (or a roller coaster of a swim, non-stop hills and a plea to share the road)

  1. Emma says:

    So nice to meet you on Sunday! Nice work at the race – so glad I’m not the only one who has to find a bush now and then 🙂 Already trying to figure out if I can fit that race into my schedule next year, it’s a good one. Congrats to both you and Alasdair. Hope I can say hi at Barrelman!


  2. Irina says:

    Great race report! And you met Emma, yay!! I am discovering lots of cool triathlons this year. I think my next season is already penciled in 😉 This one looks pretty mean with all the hills though, even on the swim! But I am glad to see that you tamed the beast once more.


  3. Nice recap and great race! It sure was a tough course and you’re right, that bike (and those hills…) seemed to go on forever! Such a beautiful course and great volunteers…for sure a race I would like to try again. Congrats and good luck with the rest of your season!


  4. Chris Dunn says:

    Hi Kyra – loved reading this. My first triathlon ever was this event in 2014. I was looking at the results and noticed we finished around the same time.

    I love lake Huron. Love the challenging bike. Love the rail to trail run. Love the community spirit. It is by far the best deal at $65. Just can’t beat it. Doing Muskoka 70.3 (first half iron) this summer too. Enjoy your training – best of luck this year.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kyrapaterson says:

      Thanks Chris! I’m glad you enjoyed reading my race report. And I agree – it’s a great deal for a fantastic race. I like that it is small too. Good luck at Muskoka 70.3! You should consider adding the Barrelman in September to your race season!! It’s a great one! Check out my 2 Barrelman race reports, and the race site: http://niagarafallstriathlon.com/


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