Enough with the choppy race swims! Had I known what we would be facing on race morning, the weekend might have looked a little different…
This was to be my 3rd time racing in Wasaga beach – in 2013 I had a great Olympic triathlon, and in 2014 I raced my first ever international Olympic duathlon, when high wind and waves forced a cancellation of the swim (it was a 10k run, 40k bike, 5k run instead). The last few years have brought wild weather and rough conditions for the Wasaga races – John Salt of Multisport Canada Triathlon Series thanked the athletes for sticking with the race!
We decided to bring the kids with us for the first time this triathlon season – as volunteers (we’ve been leaving them home to avoid ridiculously early wake-up times for them – and grumpy travel companions for us). Friday night we stayed with our friends Myra and Doug in Owen Sound, and then Saturday morning we left at 7 AM for the 1 1/2 hour drive to Wasaga Beach. We arrived around 8:30 AM, plenty of time to get ready for the 10:30 AM race start and to get the kids set up for volunteering. The weather forecast was a high of 22 degrees Celsius feeling like 25, possible light showers in the morning, winds of 10 km/h, and partly sunny in the afternoon – it sounded promising. And as we drove through Meaford on our way to Wasaga, the waters of Georgian Bay looked dead calm… could it be?
I put my bike in the transition zone and then went through registration with Ailish, getting my race bib, swim cap, and timing chip, and getting body marked. I took the kids over to the volunteer tent where we grabbed shirts for them, and then we headed to the finish line, where they were to fill water cups and hand them out to athletes who had just finished the race (Ailish had me email the volunteer coordinator a couple of days before the race to say that she “really really really didn’t want to remove stinky timing chips from sweaty ankles” at the finish line!). They were put to work right away, since the try-a-tri was already underway (and they have volunteered before, so they knew what to do!). I left them and went back to set up my stuff in transition. I must say that bringing the kids leaves less room for nerves, since I have to be thinking about them too!
I had lots of time to make repeated portapotty visits, check on the kids, chat with Irina from Perpetually Moving Target, and watch an older gentleman from the try-a-tri run the wrong way through the transition zone to start his run, necessitating a climb over the fence (I was worried he was going to fall!).
After the pre-race meeting in the transition zone, Alasdair and I mugged for the race photographers, but I had no idea he was making a face!
With a 10:30 AM race start, there was just enough time for the waves on Lake Huron to pick up! I went down to the water before Alasdair, and asked another triathlete to zip my wetsuit up. I went for a short warm-up swim, discovering that the waves were in fact quite big, but maybe not as big as the ones in Goderich two weeks ago… However, given my experience there, I knew I would feel pukey by the end. I zipped up my swim coach Mat’s wetsuit and then found Alasdair. We wished each other good luck, and then lined up for the race, with Alasdair in wave 2 of 4, and me in wave 3.
We started in the water, but when the horn sounded, athletes starting running and walking further out, where eventually we would reach deep water. Wasaga Beach has many sandbars, so that even after I started swimming, I looked up and noticed people walking, so I started walking again, and then eventually started swimming for real. The start of the swim was perpendicular to shore and nearly directly into the waves. Swimming toward the 1st turning buoy, it was hard to see and hard to breathe. I felt sea sick before reaching that first turning buoy (and was thinking, “I do this for fun!”). The smell of gasoline from one of the rescue boats didn’t help matters. After a sharp left turn, the waves were coming from the right side, which wasn’t as bad. I did manage to swallow some water and make myself choke, but I recovered and continued on to the 2nd and last turning buoy. By the time I got there, I really was not feeling well. After turning, I was swimming toward shore, with the waves nearly directly behind me. As I swam they lifted me up (like a roller coaster) and I was feeling awful. I started burping, and not too long after the turn I felt my mouth go tingly and I threw up (liquid only) and then had a huge burp. I didn’t know how I was going to get to shore – I felt so awful and thought I might puke more. However, I was not yet at the point of flagging down the lifeguards on paddle boards for help! I stopped frequently to sight and try not to vomit. The distance to shore seemed so far. I was thinking that if ever waves were this big again, I would switch to the duathlon (I later realized that there was no duathlon that day – it was the next day – Sunday). I didn’t know if I would continue the race after the swim or stop and go volunteer with the kids. I decided to start the bike, and if I continued to feel awful I would quit.
Normally I swim right into the shore as much as possible, but this time, as soon as I could touch the ground I stood up. I commiserated with the athletes around me about the terrible swim, and started taking my wetsuit off while continuing to walk to shore (it is shallow quite a ways out). It felt so good to be done that swim!
I took the rest of my wetsuit off, and left it with my goggles and swim cap in the transition zone. I grabbed my helmet, sunglasses, socks and shoes, grabbed my bike and headed out for the bike course.
* Note: I have found that Sportstats.ca gives wonky placements. When I look at the actual times of the swimmers in my age group, I see that I beat 5 women, and this is what Sportstats says (I was 11/16), but my bike and run placements are wrong. So the placements you see here are the result of me going through each athlete in the list and seeing how many I actually beat on each segment. Hence no “overall” stats per race segment – I’m not combing through 275 athletes! Surely the computer should be able to do this accurately for them?!
Time: 40:39.9 (2:42/100m)
Run up time (from water to transition zone): 0:37
Women 40-44 placing: 11/16
Gender placing: 77/105
I felt pukey at the start of the bike, but thankfully the feeling went away fairly quickly! I forced myself to drink gatorade and to have a chocolate peanut butter ball, even though I didn’t feel like eating and all I could think about eating after that swim was something in the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast)! Sadly, I hadn’t brought any of that stuff with me!
Less than 5k in, a squirrel ran onto the road in front of me, stopped, pondered life, and had me thinking, “I puked on the swim, and now I’m going to crash because of a squirrel!” Thankfully it made the right decision and ran off the road before I hit it or had to take evasive action (Alasdair later told me that he growls at them to make them clear the road – I will have to try that next time.).
Also near the beginning of the bike course, a police office made me laugh when he said, “Almost done!”
This bike course is mostly flat, with only 2 small hills. There were lots of cottagers/ residents out on the roads near the water cheering for us. I was passed by a few people at the start just after the mount line, but then I wasn’t passed by anyone else the entire race except for 2 guys at around 20k – this shows how terrible my swim was! I passed quite a few cyclists, including going up those 2 hills. I averaged around 30 km/h for the first 25 km, but when I hit the 25 km marker, turned the corner, and hit the headwind, my speed slowed! This ride was different in that I essentially biked it “alone”. No leapfrogging with other athletes. We were relatively far apart, and only as I caught and passed the other athletes did I have company on the ride! The police officers directing traffic were great – one woman in particular warned us of a tight corner.
Time: 1:22:30.6 (29.09 km/h)
Women 40-44 placing: 7/16
Gender placing: 44/105 (I’m pretty proud of this stat!)
T2: 2:01 (includes pee break)
My legs felt great at the start of the run. I saw the kids as I ran past the finish line to start the run, yelled “Ailish!” but unfortunately she didn’t hear me (it was loud with music, cheering etc.). She later told me that she wanted to see me to know that I was okay.
I dealt with a minor cramp near the beginning but managed to control it with breathing – it went away, and I had no more cramps during the run. I was averaging around 5:45-5:50 min/km, which is faster than I have been running in races lately, so I was pretty happy about that!
I didn’t see Alasdair during the race until the run, when I was at around the 1k mark, and he was at the 4k mark. I saw him again 2 more times, because we ran a 5k loop 2 times. As I ran along, another athlete asked me if I had heard a woman yelling “Run Forest!” (I hadn’t.)
I was able to hold my pace for the entire 10k run, not even slowing down to take any water or Heed at the aid stations. It wasn’t hot out, and I wasn’t feeling thirsty (normally I would have had something to drink). I also didn’t want to slow down and not be able to regain the pace I had been holding.
Just before the finish, while I was running along the beach, I spotted Alasdair, and heard him yell, “That’s my wife!”
Time: 57:30.4 (5:45 min/km)
Women 40-44 placing: 7/16
Gender placing: 61/105
Despite the crappy swim, I’m happy with my bike ride (though I know I could have gone faster) and even happier with my run. A tough day, but I’m glad I didn’t give up.
Women 40-44 placing: 10/16
Gender placing: 60/105
After the awards were given out, I won a hat when my name was the first one called for draw prizes! I left shortly afterward to go check on the kids at the finish line, and ended up helping them prep those stinky sweaty timing chips for Sunday’s races – undoing them, doing them back up nicely, and attaching them to the boards. I had fun (despite the smell)!
The kids got the same lunch as the athletes did (pizza, fruit, pretzels), and then we played at the beach for a while before heading back to Owen Sound.
For comparison, 2013 stats:
Swim: 38:41 (2:34 min/100m)
Bike: 1:18:02 (30.76 km/h)
Run: 56:56 (5:41 min/km)
Sunday Sprint Triathlon and Duathlon Volunteer Stint
Alasdair, Keaghan, Ailish and I all signed up to volunteer for the sprint triathlon and duathlon, so we drove the 1 1/2 hours back to Wasaga Beach to work the 1k/4k aid station with another family. While we filled cups of water and Heed and handed them out to athletes, Alasdair played his trumpet, taking requests from some of them.
Some he could play, and some songs he had never heard of! We had made a sign and put it just before the aid station so people could think of songs they wanted to hear.
One older gentleman asked for a song from the 1940s, which he hummed for Alasdair, but that didn’t help!
Two women requested Eye of the Tiger both times they passed him, and two men who weren’t even in the race offered him $15 if he’d go up the road to their friend’s house and play Reveille to wake him up!
We had fun volunteering, as we always do. Athletes are so grateful for a tiny cup of water or an encouraging word! Speaking from experience I can say that someone cheering for me when I’m thinking I’ll never finish means more than they will ever know. I’d recommend that all athletes find a race to volunteer at – these races wouldn’t be possible without all the volunteers, and volunteering is such a rewarding experience!