Ever swim in 7 foot swells before? Me neither. With a race morning forecast of 38 km/h winds gusting to 59, it wasn’t a bit surprising! Lake Huron can be menacing!
But let me back up. My alarm went off at 3:30 AM, and when I woke up, I was really disappointed because I was sure I had a few more hours to sleep. I briefly considered sleeping until 3:45 but decided to get up. I ate my breakfast just before 4 AM, as late as possible before having to make the 2 hour drive to Goderich. We were supposed to camp at Point Farms Provincial Park the night before the race, but I worried that campers would be playing the Tragically Hip’s last concert and we would have trouble sleeping, so we stayed home instead. We left just before 4:30 AM, but somehow we got turned around on the way and ended up driving at least 45 minutes extra – we didn’t arrive at the race site until 7:20 AM for an 8 AM start – normally, we like to arrive 2 hours before the race! We still had to pump our bike tires, register, get our stuff organized in transition and make multiple trips to the bathroom! It was more stressful than normal, but slightly less stressful than it could have been – before we arrived, I saw on Facebook that due to 7 foot swells, the Coast Guard officially called the conditions unsafe for swimmers (just imagine the job of those poor safety boats). The race would instead be a duathlon (no need to struggle into a wetsuit or do a warm-up swim), with a 10k run, then 42.5k bike, then 5k run. I really didn’t want to swim in choppy water anyway! Last year’s race was the first time I felt sea-sick doing a triathlon. This year’s race was the 25th anniversary, and the first time the triathlon was changed to a duathlon.
Alasdair was still frantically getting ready, so we didn’t get a shot together.
This would be just my 2nd time doing an Olympic duathlon, so I’m still at newbie at figuring out how to pace myself for the first run. I was very grateful though that the longest run would be first!
The race started in waves based on bib number, with Alasdair and I starting in the 3rd wave. He took off with the lead guys, and I ended up at the back of the pack not too long into the run. The run starts with a hill, then continues along a grass path until it crosses the river and goes along the Goderich to Auburn Rail Trail. From this point it’s a gradual uphill to the turnaround. Unfortunately, there were no distance markers on the run, so I had no idea how I was doing. Alasdair was just under a kilometre from the turnaround when I spotted him (I didn’t know at the time exactly where we were in the course). It wasn’t until the half-way point that I realized I was running 6 min kilometres, which was my goal for this first run. I chatted a bit with the one runner behind me, who made me laugh when he said, “good job!” to some of the lead runners as they passed us going the other way – when they didn’t say thank you, he said, “you’re welcome!” I told him that sometimes I just don’t have the energy to say thanks, but I do try to wave or grimace at least! He understood.While I started out at the back of the pack, I eventually passed 5-10 runners. I managed to speed up a bit on the way back, and ended up with a slight negative split. I stopped for a quick pee in the portapotty just next to the transition zone (dodging spectators as I made my way there!), then changed my shoes, grabbed my helmet, bike, and headed for the mount line.
This bike course is never-ending hills, with the added fun this time of crazy wind. It starts with a big uphill, and the hills just keep coming. The first part of the race (going east) we had a tailwind, but I don’t know my speed because once again, there were no distance markers. I had a gel near the beginning, and rationed my gatorade to make it last the whole ride. As we made the turn south, I wondered how awful the cross winds were going to be, but they weren’t nearly as bad as I expected (I never felt like I was going to be blown over!), and nothing like the Barrelman 1/2 iron distance race in 2014. It was during this section that I asked another rider if she knew how far we had ridden. “About halfway” was her answer. A little further on, I encountered another rider, and asked the same question. I didn’t realize that she was wearing headphones (not smart!) and couldn’t hear me, but she eventually told me that we were at 22k – more than half way! Once we turned west, we rode into a headwind, which was even noticeable when riding downhill! Again, I passed about 5-10 other athletes during the ride. I had a gel near the end of the bike course, and was glad to finally notice a distance marker (35 km) painted onto the road. I have no idea if there might have been others – if there were, they weren’t very visible. It was a tough ride, but given the circumstances I did okay (I was 10 minutes slower than last year)! And at least I didn’t do the hills on a unicycle as one racer did! He participated in the try-a-tri, which was also changed into a duathlon. But over 15 km, he managed a pace of 16.4 km/h! Impressive!
I headed out on the run knowing that I didn’t have to run as far as I’d already run, and that at worst I had just 35 minutes of running left if I couldn’t go faster than a 7 minute kilometre. I had only just begun my run when I spotted Alasdair again. He was working so hard that for the first time he told me that he couldn’t hit my hand as we passed each other! I felt pretty good on the 2nd run, except for a cramp that was causing me a bit of grief. I asked a few older people who were walking along the trail if they wanted to trade places with me. No takers (but they did laugh!). It turns out I saved enough in the tank to hold a 6:15 min/km pace for the 2nd run. And looking at the race stats, while I was 7/9 women 40-49 on the 1st run, I was 4/9 for the 2nd – I slowed down, but others slowed down more! Near the end I said to one of the volunteers, “I hate hills!” and she laughed and said to others nearby, “She said ‘I hate this!'” and I replied, “No! I said ‘I hate hills!'” She laughed again. I spotted Alasdair just before I got to the finish, and then, just like that, I was done!I finished in 3:12:58, good for 5/9 women age 40-49 (and a new PB, since I’ve never done an Olympic duathlon in Goderich before)! Not too shabby! I’m really pleased with my runs.
After the race , we packed up our stuff, loaded the car, and came back to the race site for food (sausage on a bun, fruit, pitas, granola bars) and awards. I even won a draw prize, a $25 gift certificate for 360 Bikes ‘n Boards, a store in Goderich and one of the race sponsors. From their website, “We offer the best in Bikes, Scooters, Skateboards, Longboards, Paddleboards, Apparel, Snowboards, and more.” We headed there after the race and I picked out a pair of cycling gloves for Ailish. Thank you for the draw prize and for supporting the race!
This year the medals were handed out by Julie Sawchuk, one of the race organizers, who last year just before the race was hit by a car while training on her bike in Huron County. She suffered many injuries, the worst of which were a shattered T4 and burst L1 vertebrae, leaving her paralyzed. Needless to say her life was changed forever. I read her blog regularly and decided to chat with her briefly when the awards were done. She blogs at “Words by Julie” and is very inspiring. Check out her writing.Race stats:
Time: 3:12:58 (5/9 women 40-49, 20/33 women, 61/84 athletes)
10k run: 59:23 (5:57 min/km) – 7/9 women 40-49, 75th/84 athletes
42.5k bike: 1:39:23 (25.7 km/h) – 54th/84 athletes
5k run: 31:12 (6:15) -4/9 women 40-49, 56th/84 athletes
I look forward to racing in Goderich again!