In the days leading up to the Multisport Canada Triathlon Series season opener at Pittock Lake Conservation Area in Woodstock, the weather forecast kept getting worse and worse. At one point, the forecast was for an 80% chance of rain, 35 km/h winds gusting to 53, with the potential for severe thunderstorms, and temperatures of 30 C feeling like 40+ with the humidity. Thankfully, the storms never materialized, the temperature was “only” 26 feeling like 31, the winds were “only” 30 km/h gusting to 50 something, and there was no rain! Because of the improved forecast, Ailish tagged along with Alasdair and I.
For once I knew there was no hope of me being the overall winner (ha!), as Lionel Sanders (the “green flash”) would be racing, a treat for the rest of us to be competing against such an incredible athlete (who focuses now on Ironman 70.3 and Ironman races). Google him, and you can see how amazing he is. And if you’ve never heard of him, read this article from 2014, which shows how he overcame drug addiction and a near suicide attempt to take the triathlon world by storm. Now he is a true contender for the Ironman Championship in Kona, Hawaii this fall.
After finding my bib number, I racked my bike, left my triathlon bag, and headed for registration.
With timing chip on my ankle and race bib in my hand, I headed back to set up my stuff in transition. I think I was all set up by the time Alasdair arrived, and the one pre-race picture we managed to take didn’t actually work, but I promise he was there too.
Alasdair and I were to start in the same wave this time for the 750m swim, with all women and men aged 40-44. It was the 4th of 6 waves. I did a short warm-up swim, and then waited while the first 3 waves set out. I lined up just behind three guys who I figured would be speedy, and they were (but I also tried to start a bit wide to be out of the way of the quickest swimmers). I had a clear path and encountered no traffic ahead of me for quite a while. I did get kicked in the head and someone swam over me, but it was fine! I’m pretty sure I kicked someone in the head too. For a while near the beginning I was swimming the same pace as a woman doing the breaststroke beside me (Depressing, but useful, I thought, as I wouldn’t have to look up ahead for the buoys – as long as she stayed beside me – I knew that she could see where she was going! Unfortunately, she actually left me behind.). My swim actually went pretty well, with no sighting issues. I swam a straight line to the buoys, and only swam into one tree (there’s a willow at the swim exit, with branches that hang over the water – I hit one as I swam past). However, I was disappointed for the 2nd week in a row when I stood up and saw 20+ minutes on my watch.
I ran towards the transition zone, getting my wetsuit down to my waist before I got there. I pulled my goggles and swim cap off my head as I ran, and dropped them by my bike. I was not surprised to see that most bikes on my rack were already gone. I struggled to get out of my wetsuit, and then felt dizzy when I had freed myself from it and stood up. I quickly sat down and put my bike shoes on that way. Sunglasses, race belt, helmet, and I was on my way.
The 20k bike starts with a long run up a grassy hill and along the grass until the mount line. I hopped on my bike and away I went. The ride starts will a climb out of the park, and then we hit the wind! Oh my, this is going to be fun, I thought! Within about 2 km the lead cyclist (Lionel) passed me going the other way. Other than one annoying rider who insisted on riding in the middle of the lane, making it hard to pass her (over and over as we were going similar speeds), rather than riding on the far right of the road as she was supposed to, the bike was unremarkable – except for the wind! The ride was essentially an upside down U shape, with the turnaround at one tip of the U. I spotted Alasdair coming towards me within a km of the turnaround. That section was nice with the wind at our backs, but then we fought it until the last 4k, when again we had it pushing us back to the transition zone. It was in this section that a very strong cross wind pushed me sideways and tipped me. I did not blow over, but I was very grateful to have been holding on tight with both hands!! A woman right behind me yelped, but I’m not sure if it’s because she saw what happened to me, or if it happened to her too. Soon enough, I was back at the dismount line and running all that way back to the transition zone. It was a quick switch to my running gear, and I headed out onto the run course.
This year the first 400m of the 5k run course were different, avoiding the gravel and a need for athletes running in opposite directions to cross each others’ paths. Instead, we ran on grass and just stayed to the left. A better course for sure. As I started my run it felt hard, and I thought I must be running very slowly. But then I reached the 1 km marker, and my watch said 5:35 – no wonder it felt hard! I did slow a bit as I ran, but it was a pretty good run for me, considering how hot it felt. I drank Heed and water at aid stations a few times, but mostly I just poured the water on my head. Within the first few hundred metres of the course, I spotted Alasdair holding his timing chip and walking back to the finish line. He decided to withdraw from the race and get a DNF (“did not finish”) rather than risk hurting his hamstring, as it had been bothering him since last weekend’s Milton sprint triathlon relay, and with a half ironman just days away, he didn’t want to take a chance. He had decided before the race that that’s what he might do, so I wasn’t surprised. This run course goes along a gravel park road, across a dam, and then on a nice path along a river or creek. As I was running, I was feeling that I wasn’t ready for a half ironman in 8 days! With about 500m to go, I said to a woman running beside me, “Can we be done now?” and she said “Yes, very soon, this is fun, isn’t it?” And I replied, “Fun and torture at the same time.” I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, and guzzled a couple of glasses of water.I found Alasdair and Ailish, who told me that they had announced my finish about 20 minutes earlier! Oops – they must have read the wrong name.
In the end, I finished in 1:36:19, a full 7 minutes slower than last year. I was actually slower on the swim, bike, and run this year.
After the race, I talked to my swim coach Mat about how it went, and he noted that everyone was saying the swim felt long, the bike was very windy and the run was hot. Some people thought the swim was choppy, but after last year’s Goderich Olympic rollercoaster swim and Wasaga Beach Olympic swim that made me puke, the water was nearly flat. I noticed a few waves but they were almost unremarkable.
Alasdair and I went to get our post-race food (pizza, fruit, pretzels, cookie), and sat at a picnic table waiting for the awards to start. He had to leave for a cadet event before they began, but Ailish stayed with me. Lionel was interviewed and athletes were able to ask him questions too. It was a bit hard to hear but very interesting. During the awards presentations I said to Ailish, “Would it be weird if I took a selfie with Lionel Sanders?” She encouraged me to do it. A few minutes later, I went to throw out some garbage, and saw that Lionel was having his picture taken with another athlete, so I decided to do the same. I asked if I could take a selfie, then asked his girlfriend Erin if she could take it instead. She was happy to do so. I told Lionel that I have raced against him before (Barrelman half ironman 2014), that I read his blog and that I have one too but “You probably wouldn’t learn anything from mine!” I wished him good luck and he did the same. So nice that he raced in Woodstock to support the Multisport Canada Triathlon Series. (Apparently Lionel and another athlete made a bet before the race: if Prakash was more than 13% slower than Lionel, he would have to wear socks on his hands for 48 hours. Guess who was wearing socks that went way up his arms after the race?)
Stats (as of the writing of this blog post, my results on Sportstats.ca are incorrect – I’ve sent a note to them and hopefully they will be corrected)
Bike: 43:27.4 (27.61 km/h)
Run: 28:56.7 (5:47 min/km)
Near the end of the draw prizes, my name was called! I have a new running top!
Before going home, Ailish and I swam in the lake for about an hour, and had a picnic lunch.
Another great race put on by Multisport Canada Triathlon Series! Woodstock, we’ll be back!
#MSCWoodstock #MSCtri #racelocal