It may have been a triathlon, but this one started with a pre-race in-water dance – well, at least for 2 people!
It had been 5 years since Alasdair and I raced the Niagara sprint triathlon in Grimsby, but we were looking forward to trying out the course again. We arrived at the race site with plenty of time to get our race kits (swim cap, t-shirt, product samples), pick up our timing chips, and go through body marking.
We got set up in transition, and in between visits to the portapotties, we went down to the water to check out the swim exit. Because of the record high water level in Lake Ontario this summer, the beach at Nelles Beach Park was gone! We would have to walk 600m north-west to a new starting spot to start the swim. The swim exit had the potential to be injury inducing if you didn’t exit at the right spot, where you could stand up on the tiny bit of sand that appeared as the water receded.
Ready to race, we headed to the start and struggled into our wetsuits. We were both starting in the third wave. I did a quick warm up swim, and waited with Alasdair in the water. Pre-race music was playing, and when “Sweet Caroline” came on, Alasdair started to sing along. Next thing I noticed, a woman grabs Alasdair’s hands and the two are dancing in the water!! The dance done, we cheered for racers who started in the waves before us. And then the horn sounded for us and the race began!
In short, my swim sucked. Swimming away from shore toward the first buoy was extremely congested and we were swimming into the waves. Turning at the buoy, there were so many people that I couldn’t actually swim – I did the doggy paddle! Alasdair apparently had a conversation with someone there. The traffic jam continued, and as I headed parallel to shore, not only was it hard to see the buoys because of the waves (if you looked up while in a trough, you couldn’t find your way for love nor money!) but I took an uppercut to the jaw, and later a smack on the back of my head! Turning to shore, the waves pushed us in, but my stomach didn’t exactly like the waves! I had no trouble getting out of the water, but there were people giving a hand to those who needed it. As I approached my bike in transition, I saw Alasdair heading out with his bike.
I had very little memory of the bike course, other than the massive climb up the Niagara Escarpment. When I hit the hill, which is just a few kilometres into the race, I was slightly surprised by how steep it was! I didn’t remember having to stand up for it before. I passed people on the hill (not that I went quickly!), including probably 10 walking it. One guy nearly crashed but caught himself! After the hill, the course is relatively flat. I had quite an unremarkable bike, other than becoming discouraged early on, thinking my ride was going to be slow after that crazy climb! I spotted a rider ahead of me drafting the woman in front of him – when she passed someone, he went with her. He was riding very close to her, so eventually (after he had been doing this for a few kilometres) I caught him and told him he couldn’t do that – he was drafting. He said, “I know!” and took off! My favourite part of the whole race was the ride down the escarpment. I did brake, but enjoyed the speed!!
I remembered this run as being fairly flat, and I was right. It’s an out and back, so I figured I’d see Alasdair at some point on his way back. There’s one spot where the runners are on either side of a park, so it was entirely possible we would pass each other there and not be able to say hi! As it was, I reached Alasdair when I was about 1 km from the turnaround. The temperature on the run was way more manageable than I was expecting it to be. I was prepared for hot and humid! I did get water and gatorade a couple of times but I wasn’t desperate. I heard Alasdair cheer for me about 100m from the finish, and while I knew I had already missed my sub 2 hour race goal, I intended to finish under 2:02 if at all possible! In the end, I crossed the line in 2:01:53.
I grabbed a cup of alcohol free Erdinger beer, found Alasdair, chatted with other athletes, packed up my stuff in transition, grabbed food, and sat down to watch the awards. We chatted briefly with the race winner, Jessey the Elf, who also happens to be one of the lifeguards who keep me safe at the Flamborough YMCA, and a member of the Waterdown Fighting Koalas. He’s a “Vegan Canadian Professional Triathlete determined to make the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.” Go Jessey!!
We called it a day, and headed home. Grimsby, we’ll be back!
Swim: 21:48.3 (2:54 min/100m)
Bike: 54:47.7 (27.37 km/h)
Run: 41:27 (5:55 min/km)
Women 40-44: 8/16
All athletes: 230/335
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