Race report: Gravenhurst Olympic and sprint triathlons

Doing back to back triathlons in Gravenhurst has become a thing for Alasdair and I. Thankfully, the longer Olympic race was on Saturday this year, and the sprint on Sunday. New for 2022 were assigned start times based on predicted finishing times. Theoretically this should reduce passing on the swim, bike and run. Unfortunately, this also meant that Alasdair and I were to start more than 40 minutes apart (on different boat runs), and would only see each other once over the course of the two races.

Saturday Olympic triathlon

Pre-race with gear ready to go.

1500m swim

With Alasdair on the earlier run of the boat, I walked to the docking area on my own, listening to two loons calling in Lake Muskoka. I was in the 1st of 3 waves on my boat. The boat arrived at the location where we would jump off super early, so everyone waited on the boat until about 8 minutes to go. When they told us to start jumping in, I was one of the first (plugging my nose with one hand, and making sure my goggles stayed on my head with the other!). As I resurfaced I did bit of a gasp due to the cold water. My ears and face were chilly, but I knew I would warm up quickly once I started swimming. Waiting at the start line I barely had to tread water, because my wet suit helped me to float.

This year the swim course changed very slightly at the request of the boat operator, who wanted to let us out in deeper water. So we swam away from shore, then made a sharp turn back towards shore and basically swam a straight line to the swim ladders at the dock. I happened to swim pretty much the entire way to the left of a woman in a bright orange wetsuit (99% of triathlon wetsuits are black), which really helped me in sighting! I knew that she was doing the breaststroke when sighting, so I was confident she knew where she was going. I had to sight less often. I was grateful to not have breathing issues on the swim this time (something new to all 3 of my races in 2021), and I was able to see very well with my new goggles! At last year’s Gravenhurst Olympic distance race I think I had to adjust them 4 times! I chatted briefly with the orange wetsuit lady along the dock, and it turns out I helped her swim straighter too!

40k bike

Having done this course many times, I knew to expect lots of rolling hills. What I was surprised to see were 2 dead snakes and a dead muskrat! At 10k I met Alasdair, but then didn’t see him the rest of the race. Shortly after this point I tried to shift into my big chain ring and my chain fell off. Thankfully, it was a pretty quick fix, but my fingers were then covered in chain oil! My stomach wasn’t happy in the last 10k, so I was glad to get off my bike. I had a granola bar in transition as I got my helmet, socks, shoes, sunglasses and race bib on, then headed out for the run.

10k run

My stomach was still not happy when I started running, and I really hoped it would feel better soon, because 10k of hills would be awful! After about 2-3k it was back to normal. I was thankful for the cooler temperatures – traditionally this race has been in July, when it can feel like 40C with the humidity. Instead, it was about 20C. Unfortunately I had very annoying bugs following me for most of the race – I was actually stung or bitten by two, one on my leg, and one on my back! I stopped very briefly at each of the aid stations for a quick drink of electrolytes, then was on my way again. I think my favourite part of this run course is the last km, because it’s downhill or flat! Alasdair was there to cheer for me in the last few hundred metres, and just like that, I crossed the finish line!

Lucky me, I won a pair of leg warmers as a draw prize.

Race stats

  • Time: 3:26:39 (5/7 women 45-49, 41/86 women, 227/340 athletes)
  • 1500m swim: 43:01 (2:52/100m)
  • T1: 2:26
  • 40k bike: 1:29:06 (26.9 km/h)
  • T2: 2
  • 10k run: 1:10:06 (7 min/km)

Sunday sprint triathlon

We helped this Snapping Turtle off the road on the way to the race.

We arrived at the race site in the rain, and heard our favourite announcer Steve Fleck saying that because of possible thunderstorms a decision would be made just prior to the departure time for the first boat as to whether the swim portion would go ahead (or whether we would all be competing in a duathlon – run/bike/run). I prepared as if the swim would go ahead, but didn’t put my wetsuit on. Thankfully, the decision was made to go ahead with the swim (the storms stayed away!), so I put my wetsuit on. Leaving transition and heading for the boat, I didn’t get too far before I realized that I hadn’t gotten my helmet out (it was tucked in my bag away from my bike). I got it out, then headed back to the water.

750m swim

I headed for the boat and was really really early, but so were 3 other athletes. We had a good chat! Once again Alasdair was on a different boat, but this time, I wouldn’t see him at all during the race! I was in the 2nd of 3 waves on my boat. Much to my disappointment, I had some breathing challenges early on, so I immediately switched to right side only breathing until I calmed down. And then all was good! No orange suit guide this time, but I swam pretty straight again.

20k bike

I was just about ready to grab my bike and head for the mount line when I realized my water bottle was in my backpack! I ran to get it, ducking under 2 bike racks as I went (and again on the way back) – bags must be tucked around the edges of the transition zone so they are not tripping hazards. After finishing the Olympic distance bike course in my big chain ring, I forgot to change gears so it was ready for the sprint race! Somehow I couldn’t figure out why I was having trouble at the start line. I ended up biking the first 5k in the big chain ring (I never do that!) before I figured it out. I decided to push harder for this race, and ended up riding faster than the day before. It was a good ride, and I didn’t have any stomach issues.

5k run

I was grateful to be running under cloudy skies – no rain, just the threat of it. I decided not to stop at any of the aid stations, and even convinced myself to run all the hills (including a pretty steep one). I felt good on the run, and amazingly, my pace was quickening as I went. Normally I start at a pace I can’t maintain and slowly lose steam. For whatever reason, I actually negative split this run (faster 2nd half than 1st).

Me expressing disbelief to Alasdair near the end as I was negative splitting the run.

In any case, it was a great way to finish the race!

And then I won another draw prize, this time a merino wool base layer (top). Yay!

Race stats

  • Time: 1:43:31 (4/6 women 45-49, 58/110 women, 179/325 athletes)
  • 750m swim: 23:35 (3:08/100m)
  • T1: 2:39
  • 20k bike: 43:16 (27.7 km/h)
  • T2: 1:44
  • 5k run: 32:17 (6:27 min/km)

Gravenhurst, we’ll be back!

A big thank you to our friends Emma and Brian for the best race accommodations out there!

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Race report: Gravenhurst sprint and Olympic triathlon double header weekend 2021

If you think starting a triathlon by yelling “Cannonball!!!” and jumping off a boat is a great idea, then the Multisport Canada Gravenhurst race may be the one for you!

Alasdair and I decided to once again do both the sprint and Olympic races, with the sprint on the Saturday and the longer Olympic on the Sunday. We were very lucky to be spending the weekend nearby at our friends’ cottage.

Saturday sprint

Driving to the race site in the pouring rain, I wondered what the weather would have in store for us! However, the rain pretty much stopped as we arrived. Walking our bikes into transition, we passed 2 members of the race crew sweeping water off the road where we would be running our bikes out of and back in to transition.

As part of the Covid-19 protocol, we had to wear masks in the transition zone and at registration, and we had to show that we had done the Covid screening. I set my stuff up in transition and was ready to go (that’s Alasdair racked beside me)…

Using a bag to keep shoes dry.

… or so I thought! Good thing I realized a few minutes later that I hadn’t taken my helmet out of my big triathlon bag!

750m swim

There was one boat that would ferry athletes to the swim start, in 3 separate groups. Alasdair and I were lucky enough to be on the same boat and starting in the same swim wave (i.e. at the same time). I always like to be one of the first to jump off the ship in my wave so I have more time to swim over to the start line and relax for a couple of minutes before the race starts. Before jumping off I heard the announcer say that someone had done a back flip off the boat. I was the 2nd to jump off in our wave, with Alasdair right behind me.

When the horn sounded, I started swimming, but it wasn’t long before I had a mini panic attack, just like in Barrie a few weeks before (prior to this year, it had only happened once – during my first triathlon in 2010)! I did breast stroke, then front crawl with right side only breathing, then got my bilateral breathing back and all was good. The rest of the swim was fine!

I reached the ladders at the dock, looked at my watch and saw 20-something minutes. I climbed the ladder, and started running to transition. I unzipped my wetsuit, removed my arms from the sleeves, and then took off my swim cap and goggles. I crossed the road, and did the long run around and into transition, where I caught up to Alasdair, who was getting ready to ride.

I removed the rest of my wetsuit, put on my helmet, sunglasses, socks, shoes, and race belt, and took off (before Alasdair). “See you when you pass me!” I said.

20k bike

It didn’t take long before Alasdair passed me, after which I was pelted with very hard rain! Thankfully it didn’t last long. At the turnaround point (it was a hilly out and back course) he was less than 3 km ahead of me.

I felt strong on the bike leg and was happy with how it went.

Back in transition I racked my bike, removed my helmet, put on my hat, changed from cycling shoes to running shoes and took off.

5k run

Near the beginning of the run, which starts on a gravel path, someone cheered for me by name but I didn’t see who it was (I found out the next day it was Carley!). For once this run was not hot and humid! Normally the race is in July when it always seems to be uncomfortably hot! Instead the temperature was ideal. At some point before the turnaround, Alasdair and I passed each other. I felt strong during the run, and ran the entire hilly 5k, with the exception of a few steps when I walked while drinking from a cup.

Near the end of the run I spotted Alasdair waiting (and cheering) for me. As I neared the finish line I heard the announcer Steve Fleck say my name and call me the other half of the Paterson duo. I was glad to be done, and wondered how the next day’s race would go!

Unusual race spectator! Apparently its owners were also racing!

After the race we headed to Boston Pizza’s patio for our first meal at a restaurant in more than a year! The last time we ate at a restaurant was when we biked 30k for breakfast on a patio and then biked home.

Race stats:

  • Time: 1:41:29.8
  • Swim: 22:52.5 (3:02/100 m)
  • T1: 1:54
  • Bike: 42:20.1 (28.35 km/h)
  • T2: 1:09
  • Run: 33:15.9 (6:39/km)
  • Women 45-49: 5/6
  • All women: 57/97
  • All athletes: 184/280
Very cool t-shirt design!

Sunday Olympic

1500m swim

Once again, Alasdair and I were in the same swim wave, but this time, I was 1st to jump off. Then it was Alasdair. As he resurfaced, he said, “I lost my goggles! I forgot they were on my head!” He had forgotten to put them on his eyes before he jumped. Thankfully, there was a lifeguard right there on a floaty thing, and she ducked under the water and came up with them as they were on their way to the bottom of Lake Muskoka! “I love you!” Alasdair said. Crisis averted.

The race started and I felt that my breathing was good and I’d be fine this time – but then, sure enough, another mini panic attack! I completely lost my breathing rhythm. This time I did breast stroke longer, then did front crawl with right side only breathing for probably 100m. I figured I would calm down and start front crawl again. And it worked. I decided then that if it happened again, I would immediately switch to just breathing on the right.

Because I did the breaststroke for so long, and because there weren’t many swimmers in each wave, it wasn’t long before everyone was long gone and I felt completely on my own. By this time my breathing was fine, but I couldn’t see a soul, not even a lifeguard. “Am I alone out here?” I thought. “Are the lifeguards with the pack of swimmers ahead?” It was a slightly disconcerting feeling. I focussed on swimming in the right direction, because I didn’t want to end up in the wrong bay like I did once before!

Sometime after the 1000m mark (my watch beeps every 500m on the swim), I saw another swimmer!! I immediately thought that they had passed me, but then realized that was impossible – we were the last wave to jump off the ship, and the next wave had to be picked up at the dock and brought out to the start, meaning a 40 min gap between waves. I wasn’t that slow! I soon figured out that the silver swim cap meant the person actually started ahead of me, so I had caught someone. However, I knew I was swimming slowly when I got close to a lifeguard towards the end of the swim and she cheered for me, telling me that I was doing awesome and I was almost there! I told her I was having trouble seeing (my goggles kept fogging up). By the time I got to transition, Alasdair was long gone.

40k bike

Not only did the Olympic race double the length of the ride, but it also very likely doubled the number of hills! My legs were definitely more tired than for the sprint race, so I was biking more slowly.

10k run

However, my legs felt better than expected when I started the run. Once again, the extra distance on the run added a lot more hills! But like the day before, I ran the entire course except 2 times when I stopped to drink from a cup at an aid station. I find that if I give myself permission to walk, it’s the beginning of the end and I start walking more and more! At around the 3 1/2 k mark I spotted Alasdair running towards me. At the run turnaround one of the race crew, who clearly had seen me racing the day before, said “Two times?? Two times??” I was thankful to finally reach the last 1k of the run course, which meant the uphill sections were all done! Once again, Alasdair was waiting near the end of the run, ready to cheer me on. I was glad to be done! Overall, my pace was slightly slower than the day before, totally reasonable given that I didn’t start with fresh legs!

Race stats:

  • Time: 3:29:26.6
  • Swim: 45:24 (3:01 min/100m)
  • T1: 2:20
  • Bike: 1:30:39.2 (26.47 km/h)
  • T2: 2:00
  • Run: 1:09:05 (6:54 min/km)
  • Women 45-49: 5/6
  • All women: 51/62
  • All athletes: 220/269
Love the little person jumping off the boat!

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Race report: Gravenhurst Olympic and sprint triathlon double header 2019

Jumping off a steamship is so fun we decided to do it twice in one weekend! Alasdair and I headed to the Gravenhurst area to stay at our friends’ cottage the night before the Multisport Canada Gravenhurst Olympic triathlon. With a midnight arrival and our alarms set for 5 AM on race day, it was going to be a short night!

Saturday: Olympic triathlon

We have done this race quite a few times before, but this year, there was only one steamship ferrying athletes out to the swim start, and we would be on different “runs” of the boat. I would start 50 minutes before Alasdair.

We went through registration, got ourselves organized, and headed for the boat. Alasdair and I said our goodbyes, and I joined the pink cap wave on the boat. We would be the 3rd wave to jump off the ship, which would then return to pick up waves 4 and 5.

1500m swim

I was one of the first to jump off in my wave, swimming over to the start line and treading water for a few minutes while waiting for the horn to sound. Once we were all off the boat, it headed back for shore, which caused one man to yell, “No! Don’t leave us here!” And then, “I guess we’re in now.” Everyone laughed.

The race began and we headed for shore. My swim was pretty uneventful (how I like it!), and I was pleasantly surprised by my time. I ran along the dock, crossed the street, ran all the way around transition, and headed into transition and straight for the portapotty!

40k bike

I ran out of transition with my bike, getting caught up behind slower riders in a narrow no passing lane at the beginning of the ride. Eventually, I passed them and took off. This race course has rolling hills, and is a straight out and back. It too was pretty uneventful, although it did start to rain in the last 5k. This is also where I saw Alasdair for the first time, as he was starting out on his ride. The worst part of the ride was at the very end, where traffic was backed up because of cyclists, and we had to ride along a narrow shoulder in between the vehicles and the edge of the pavement. In that narrow space someone came flying by and passed. It was a pretty dangerous section but thankfully everyone around me made it through unscathed.

10k run

After another quick portapotty break, I headed out for the run, which is always hot, humid and hilly! But not this year! Instead, it rained, there were puddles, and I loved it. No heat and humidity! I was pretty thirsty though, and wondered if I was drinking too much at the aid stations – at one point I was on the verge of getting a side stitch, but I’m not sure if it was related. I think I saw Alasdair when I was at 7k. I remembered this run route as being downhill at the end (it’s an out and back) but it took forever to reach the last downhill! A final run through the park and I was done!

There was pizza, oranges, pretzels, Martin’s apple chips and juice/pop after the race.

We headed out in search of a bit of relaxation before doing it all again the next day.

Race results:

  • Time: 3:13:43
  • Swim: 36:47 (2:27/100m)
  • Bike: 1:25:28 (28.08 km/h)
  • Run: 1:04:13.5 (6:25 min/km)
  • Women 45-49: 9/15
  • Women: 58/126
  • All athletes: 212/355

Sunday: sprint triathlon

Our morning view.

The next morning, we headed back to the race site for round #2! My calves were tight, and I wasn’t sure how they were going to respond to racing again. Time would tell!

Alasdair and I were in the same wave for the sprint, which hardly ever happens! This meant that we got to go on the boat together, and jump off the boat one after the other! Because of the wind, the boat was having trouble holding in place, so for our wave, they turned the bow of the boat toward the start line and had people jump off both sides of the boat. This got everyone off the boat faster.

Ready to head to the boat.

750m swim

While we were treading water waiting for our race to start, the megaphone being held by the lifeguard in the kayak at the start line stopped working. She tried to yell, but it was really hard to hear. However, athletes who heard her say “2 minutes to go!” yelled to everyone else. After an inaudible 10 second countdown, the race began and I lost sight of Alasdair, who started just to my left. I felt like I was swimming pretty straight, and as soon as I realized that I was swimming the same speed as someone doing the breaststroke beside me, I stuck behind and to the left of her so that I could draft, knowing that she was looking up and knew where she was going, so that I had to sight far less often. For the second day in a row, I was pleased with my swim time. As I got close to my bike in transition, I could see Alasdair sitting on the ground getting himself ready to bike. I took my wetsuit off as fast as I could, grabbed my socks, shoes, sunglasses, helmet, and race bib, struggling to clip it together. I took off, dashing around athletes who were running too slowly for me – I wanted to catch Alasdair, who was just ahead of me (20 seconds?).

20k bike

At the beginning of the ride, I could see Alasdair, but then I lost sight of him. I pushed as hard as I could on the bike, and found that my calves weren’t a problem. Within approximately 250m of the turnaround, I spotted Alasdair coming towards me, so I yelled to him (because he had his head down). I hadn’t lost much time to him so far. I continued to chase him, but didn’t see him again on the ride.

I approached the end of the bike route, which was way better than the day before – there were hardly any cars and it was easy to ride by. I reached my spot in transition, and headed out on the run as quickly as I could.

5k run

I hoped to be able to run at a slightly faster pace than in the Olympic race, knowing that I only had to run half as far. It was a hotter run, but it felt like it was going well. I had no side stitches, and only grabbed a drink once or twice at an aid station. Just before I hit the turnaround, I spotted Alasdair. I figured he was still about 500m ahead of me. This was unusual, though he was being careful not to run too fast because of a lingering Achilles issue.

My pace actually sped up toward the end, even before the last big downhill. In the end I crossed the finish line in 1:34:43.1, about 5 minutes behind Alasdair. It turns out I was slightly faster on the swim, bike and run compared to the Olympic the day before!

I was amazed to discover that I had finished 5/25 women 45-49! And I was in the top 1/4 of all women. I don’t usually place that high!

Clearly I should do back to back triathlons more often!!

Race results:

  • Time: 1:34:43.1
  • Swim: 17:55.2 (2:23 min/100m)
  • Bike: 42:35.5 (28.18 km/h)
  • Run: 28:59.7 (5:47 min/km)
  • Women 45-49: 5/25
  • Women: 40/184
  • All athletes: 136/382

If you’re looking for a unique triathlon to try, this is a great option. We’ll be back!

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Race report: Gravenhurst Olympic triathlon (most unique swim start in Canada)

I might be in my 7th year competing in triathlons, but I made a rookie mistake in this race! I was a lemming – in other words:

“A person who unthinkingly joins a mass movement,

especially a headlong rush to destruction.” (Oxford Dictionary online)

But that’s not how this race began! Alasdair and I were staying at the cottage of friends, and arrived at the race site early enough for me to be the first one in my age group to rack my bike – actually, only one bike in the entire transition zone was racked before mine. That was a first for me!

I snagged the prime spot on the rack (closest to the “bike out”).

I went through registration, getting my race bib, t-shirt, product samples, timing chip, and body marking done, then set my stuff up in transition. By 6:45 AM all I had left to do was put my wetsuit on – and visit the portapotty a few times!

All smiles pre-race!

Alasdair and I walked down to the water where we would finish our swim, so that he could get a good look at the swim course and figure out how to better pick his route – in previous years he had nearly swum into a nearby bay instead of directly to the swim exit. He warned a few people before the race to be careful what they used to sight…

Way in the distance behind me you can see an orange sighting buoy. Pretty visible, right?

The race was set to begin at 8:30 AM, which meant that all triathletes had to be at the boat dock at 8 AM. Just before this, there was a pre-race briefing in the transition zone, during which I put my wetsuit on. Alasdair and I walked to the dock, and waited with everyone else to be called onto the boats by our swim waves. We were both going to be on the Wenonah II, the bigger of the 2 steamships that would take us out to the swim start line. Unlike last year, we actually knew we were boarding the same boat, so after my wave boarded, I waited for Alasdair where he couldn’t miss me so we could actually hang out together. We stood chatting with Dave, who has the same swim coach as us, in the fresh air on one of the upper decks. But Alasdair got cold and had to go inside (with motion sickness, I need the fresh air!).

1500 m SWIM

And just like that, I was standing at the door of the boat and jumping 3 feet down to the water! I was the third one in my age group to jump, and was briefly winning the race as I swam to the start line! But we had to wait for everyone in our age group to jump off the boat before the race began. I learned my lesson the first time I did this race when I was one of the last to jump off, and had to swim very quickly to the start line because they were yelling that the horn was going to sound! Now, I make sure I’m one of the first off the boat. The steamship whistle sounded and the race was on!

As I swam to the first and only green turning buoy, where we were to turn left, I felt that I was swimming well, finishing my stroke and powering through it (no wimpy arms!) and swimming in a direct line. I turned at the buoy, and couldn’t see the orange sighting buoys, so I followed the people ahead of me. Each time I sighted, I had the same problem – no orange buoy! So, I kept following the people ahead of me, and headed for the big building at the shore. I wondered why I couldn’t see the sighting buoys, until eventually a motor boat just to my right yelled, “You have to go waaaaay left!” I looked up and left, and yikes! I was waaaaaaay of course – but I wasn’t the only one! Remember those swimmers I was following?! Well they were off course too. So I swam like mad to get back on course, kicking myself for not having stopped earlier to find the sighting buoys (and ensure I didn’t go off track)! Eventually I made it back onto the course, and after a ways I reached the dock and the ladder we had to climb to get out of the water. I was mentally prepared to see 40+ on my watch, but was “pleasantly” surprised to see 37+. Last year, I did the swim in 33 something, so I was rather disappointed!! (I have no idea how much further I swam than I should have – I don’t have a GPS watch.)

2016-07-16 | 2016 MultiSport Gravenhurst Triathlon (Saturday)
Not lost after all!

I ran along the dock to the road, across the road and along the grass all the way around the transition zone. I reached my bike and had my quickest wetsuit removal so far this year, put on my helmet, sunglasses, socks, bike shoes, race bib, had a quick pee and headed out.

40 km BIKE

It was a little congested at the beginning of the bike course trying to get around slower moving people at the multiple intersections right in town. But before long, we were more spread out and it wasn’t too bad. The course was rolling hills through the pretty countryside, with lots of shaded areas – in fact, wearing sunglasses made it quite hard in some places to see the very rough road when I was in the shade. The first 5k was my slowest, but some others were over 30 km/h. The ride felt pretty good. One guy was drafting right behind me for a short time, so I turned and said, “You know you’re not allowed to draft, right?” And he replied (rather annoyed) by saying something about just trying to pass. I thought that I might see Alasdair about 2.5 km from the turnaround, given his 4 minute head start on the swim, my 4 minute slower swim this year, and him being a bit faster on the bike – turns out that’s pretty much where we saw one another (I was 4 minutes from the turnaround). The second half of the ride was easier; however, there was a bit of congestion with cars on the route at a couple of intersections. I had a gel at 5k and 35k, and most of a gatorade bottle, but didn’t need the water I had with me. I stopped to pee at a portapotty just inside the transition zone, then grabbed my bike and ran to my spot, changed into running shoes, a hat, and took off.

10 k RUN

The beginning and end of this out and back run route was slightly different this year, but the course was still very hilly. I reached the first km marker in 5 minutes and 3 seconds (very fast for me!), so I wondered if the sign was in the wrong spot. It was only 22 degrees, so the temperature was perfect for running. The sun was out and there wasn’t much shade. There were multiple aid stations on the run but I didn’t stop at the first few for anything, then grabbed heed a few times, walking a bit through the aid stations. Two or three times I poured a bit of water on my head, but it wasn’t too hot. I saw Alasdair at around the 3 km mark. I ran all the hills and felt strong on the run. At 7 k I had a cramp but thankfully I was able to get rid of it by changing my breathing – it only lasted 100 m or so. In the last few hundred metres I spotted Alasdair, who cheered for me as I ran by. I remember in the past the last bit of the run seeming to take forever, with a big loop around the park, but this time, it didn’t seem that way. In this last section lots of people were cheering for me by name – most read it on my bib (and somehow they all pronounced it correctly)! Kathleen (whose husband Paul also did the race) cheered for me and snapped a couple of pictures.

Nearing the finish line. [Photo by Kathleen – thank you! Love it!]
And then I heard Steve Fleck announce, “And Kyra Paterson will be our next finisher!” I crossed the finish line in 3:06:12.9. I was a few minutes slower than last year, which was on a different, flatter bike course. The last time I did this same course was in 2013, when I finished in 3:11. Clearly my swim could have gone better, but my bike was good and my run was great! I’m really happy with how my run has progressed – holding a sub 6 min/km pace on a hilly course is a big accomplishment!

After the race, I found Alasdair and we had our cartons of chocolate milk, pizza, pretzels, and fruit, and watched the awards presentation. It is always so impressive to see what the older athletes can do – there was an 84 year old man named Bob who completed the international duathlon (10 k run, 40 k bike, 5 k run). Amazing!!


This is the dock that we ran along at the end of our swim.


Time: 3:06:12.9 – 11/16 women 40-44, 52/98 women, 193/272 athletes

1500 m swim: 38:50.8 (2:35/100 m) – 13/16 women 40-44, 70/98 women, 214/272 athletes

T1: 1:55

40 k bike: 1:23:47 (28.65 km/h) – 10/16 women 40-44, 43/98 women, 183/272 athletes

T2: 2:03

10 k run: 59:37.8 (5:57 min/km) – 11/16 women 40-44, 52/98 women, 193/272 athletes

Post-race pic at the cottage [Photo by Sarah].
We will definitely do this race again. I highly recommend it. But register early, because there’s a cap and it sells out early every year!


Race report: Gravenhurst Olympic triathlon (jump off a steamship and swim to the start line!)

Ever wonder what it’s like to jump off a steamship? If you’re looking for a unique triathlon experience, look no further! The Gravenhurst triathlon put on by the Multisport Canada Triathlon Series includes a steamship ride to the swim start line on Lake Muskoka, and then a swim back to shore (sprint and Olympic distance races only – the try a tri starts from shore). The inspiration for this race was the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.

Jumping off the steamship (the “Segwun”) 1 or 2 athletes at a time! [Photo by My Sports Shooter]
This was to be my 3rd Gravenhurst triathlon, having done the sprint in 2011 and the Olympic in 2013 in a time of 3:11:22. Before this year’s race, I said to friends that a finish of less than 3 hours would be an amazing race for me.

On race morning we woke up in a Gravenhurst hotel at 5:30 AM, and were at the race site just after 6:30 AM. We racked our bikes, picked up our race bibs, t-shirts, and timing chips, got body marked (bib number on both arms for me – not sure why the right – and age on left calf), and set up our stuff in the transition zone.

One last picture before putting our wetsuits on.

After multiple bathroom trips it was time for the 7:45 AM pre-race briefing, during which we got details on who would be boarding which steamship at 8 AM for the 8:30 AM race start (the Segwun and the larger Wenonah II).

1500m SWIM

After the pre-racing briefing, everyone headed to the boats, where we boarded in reverse order to our swim waves (first in last out). According to the Town of Gravenhurst website, the Segwun was built in 1887 and is North America’s oldest operating coal-fired steamship. The Wenonah II is a larger replica and was launched in 2002: “Combining all the style and grace of 1907 vessels and the modern conveniences such as air-conditioning and an elevator, Wenonah II truly offers a luxurious setting.”

See if you can spot Alasdair and I just prior to boarding the boats. [Photo by My Sports Shooter]
Just before we boarded, my eyelids started burning – I hadn’t put my goggles on yet, and hadn’t used new sunscreen, so I wasn’t sure what was going on! My wave (“white caps”) was called and Alasdair and I said our goodbyes. I boarded the Wenonah II and took a seat where there was fresh air (starting the race with motion sickness would have sucked!). Athletes could sit or stand on any level and get cups of water from the bar. Thankfully, it was overcast and not too hot (all zipped up in our neoprene wetsuits!).  The day’s weather was to be 30 degrees Celsius and humid, but we weren’t there yet.

As our boat approached the start line, everyone seemed to shift to one side of the boat to get a look at the athletes on the other boat jumping off – someone commented that the boat seemed to tilt slightly with the shift in weight!

I wanted to be one of the first in my wave to jump off the boat, because the first year I did it, I was one of the last, and hardly had enough time to swim to the start line before the race started!

Only when they called the “blue caps” (Alasdair’s wave – the 2nd wave) to jump off the ship and I headed for the exit to line up immediately behind them did I see him and realize that we were in fact on the same boat (somehow I thought he was on the other boat)! In any case, we got to kiss goodbye and say good luck again! Had I known we were on the same ship I would have had someone to sit and chat with!

Alasdair swimming to the start line after having jumped off the steamship! [Photo by My Sports Shooter]
I was the 3rd white cap to jump off the steamship and I headed for the start line immediately. I had lots of time to get there (it was about 25m away), and even ended up treading water for 6+ minutes, the time between Alasdair’s wave starting and mine.

There were some funny people at the start line (which was between 2 green buoys). “Stop TOUCHING me!” one athlete said, as dozens of people were treading water in close proximity to one another. Laughter ensued. “Okay people, last chance to pee!” More laughter.

Blasts of the steamship whistle sent us off. I had another great start, having lined up further forward than where I used to start. I was swum over not too long into the race but I just continued on. I had trouble sighting the first and only green turning buoy at the 400m mark, at which point we would make a 90 degree turn to the left and swim toward shore. I could see the orange sighting buoys though, and just aimed in their general direction.

I felt like I was swimming well and fairly straight, with only minor adjustments needed to my course. There was very little congestion, though I did get smacked a few times on the feet and legs. I was aiming for the brown arch on the dock 1 km or so away, but it was pretty hard to pick out. As I got closer, it was actually easier to see the multicoloured clothing of the spectators on the dock and head for them! I was thinking that either I was swimming fast and leaving everyone in my wake (unlikely) or slowly and everyone was gone, since I felt like a good chunk of the swim I was alone.

I would have been happy to see 35 min on my watch when I reached the dock, but when I reached the ladder (there were 3 to choose from to climb out), I saw 33 something! I climbed the ladder and started peeling my wetsuit off almost immediately (according to the pictures, most people hadn’t started removing theirs at the point I had mine nearly to my waist).

Heading for the transition zone! [Photo by My Sports Shooter]
I ran carefully along the wet dock (they had warned us that after the first few swimmers, it would be wet and slippery), across the road, and avoided colliding with cyclists who were leaving the transition zone and crossing our path (in every other race I have done there is no criss crossing of routes, but it’s just the way the swim and bike work in this race venue). I was surprised to see Alasdair heading out with his bike! This meant that either: 1) I had a fantastic swim (and made up some of the 6 minute head start he had on me) and/or 2) he had a slow swim, and/or 3) he took a nap in transition! I continued running along the grass, around the transition zone, and in. I had no trouble finding my bike, and noticed that there were 4 left around me (I wasn’t the last swimmer!).

I decided to save time by peeing in my wetsuit before I took it off while I put my helmet and sunglasses on (yes, I rinse it out when I get home!). I struggled less to get my wetsuit off this time but sat down for part of it. I put my socks and shoes on and took off (my race belt with my bib number had already been on under my wetsuit).

Swim stats:

Swim time: 34:54.1 (includes run to transition zone) (2:19/100m)

Age group placing (women 40-44): 14/29

Gender placing: 64/136

Overall placing: 179/327

T1: 1:59

40k BIKE

Heading out of transition with my bike, I waited for a couple of seconds as 2 swimmers crossed my path.  I passed the mount line and struggled to clip my left pedal in – it took 4 tries! And then I was off, heading along Highway 169 on a different bike course than the usual one due to construction. Apparently, it was to be a less hilly ride. I found the route to be a bit dangerous at times, with riders on both sides of the busy Highway 169, and 2 cars going opposite directions in between.

I pushed hard on the bike, and played leapfrog with a rider named André, who at one point while passing me said with a big grin on his face, “Guess WHAT?!….. On your left!” only to be passed by me a short time later. It added some fun to the ride and helped to pass the time! Later I played leapfrog with a rider name Paul, who I would pass on the downhills and get passed by on the uphills. He said at one point, “It’s a shame we can’t pool our strengths!” At another point of the ride, a man and woman were out for a Saturday cycle but caught up in the race (looking like any other athlete, but without body marking/race bibs) and the man said to me when he passed me, “You’ve got GREAT cadence!”

I knew that I was at most 2 min behind Alasdair at the start of the bike, and didn’t think I would catch him, but didn’t want him to get too much further ahead! I figured I would see him close to the turnaround, and I did. He was less than 500m past the turnaround when we passed one another, but he didn’t see me (he was passing someone at the time and probably saying “On your left!”) I likely beat him on the first 20k of the bike to catch him so close to the turnaround.  I had about half a bottle of gatorade and my awesome chocolate peanut butter ball on the bike. Can’t believe I didn’t try them out sooner! At every 5k marker I saw that it had taken me less than 10 min since the last marker, so I knew I was riding 30+ km/h! It was a fast course, with no big hills, just rollers. I think the first half was a net elevation gain.

Along the bike route, I noticed several wire cages in the gravel on the side of the road, which I realized were there to protect turtle eggs before they could hatch. I noticed one Ontario Association of Triathletes official on a motorcycle give a penalty to a rider in front of me for drafting.

At one point, the rider just in front of me accidentally rode off the road and onto the gravel shoulder (sound familiar anyone?!). I was anticipating a crash, stopped pedalling, and would have jumped off my bike to help, but he somehow managed to get back onto the road safely! I asked him if he was okay (likely just shaken!) but I should have instead said, “Nice recovery!”

The return half of the bike route should have been slightly downhill, and I think it was…but I also think Alasdair’s pace picked up on the return leg more than mine did, because in the end he beat me on the bike by about 3 minutes. I was really happy with my 1:17 min 40k ride, over 30 km/h! (Turns out it was my fastest triathlon bike leg yet, for any distance.)

I racked my bike, took my helmet off, changed my shoes, and headed for the portapotty for a quick pee (I knew I couldn’t run 10k comfortably without making the pitstop). I headed out of transition and onto the hilly run course.

Bike stats:

Bike time: 1:17:33.2 (30.95 km/h) (fastest ever race bike pace)

Age group placing (women 40-44): 11/29

Gender placing: 39/136

Overall placing: 164/327

T2: 2:02 (including pee break)

10k RUN

The run course is an out and back along a hilly country road. There is very little traffic, and even a bit of shade. Starting out I knew that I had more than 60 minutes to run the 10k if I wanted to finish in less than 3 hours, so it was doable. My legs felt tired at the start, but I forgot about them after a short time.

G K run
On the home stretch! [Photo by My Sports Shooter]
It was still overcast until I was at the half way point, when it suddenly got a lot hotter! I took a cup of water (or more) at every aid station, sipping a tiny bit and pouring the rest on my head or shoulders.

I ran for a while with Paul, the man I had played leapfrog with on the bike. He said, “This is different – you’re passing me on the uphills!” I told him that my husband was up ahead but that I likely wouldn’t see him until after the 3km marker, and maybe closer to 4.  And sure enough, right before the 4k marker I said, “There he is!” We high fived and he said “I love you!” as he went by. “Awwww!” said Paul. I replied, “I love you!” Running with Paul helped to pass the time and forced me to forget about the constant hills, if only for a short time.

A little later, when I was past the half way point and heading back, I spotted André running toward me – we met in the middle of the road and he high fived me!

I had no side stitches on this run, so I ran at a pace around 6 km/h, I think. My pace started to slow in the last few kms, and I started to doubt my sub 3 hour finish. I started thinking “forget the time goals, I just want to finish”. But, with 3 km left, it was still mathematically possible if I didn’t slow down any more. With 1 km to go, time was getting tight and I was slowing, but I decided to push and go for it. I reached the park with less than 2 minutes to go, and wasn’t sure how far I had to run in the park to reach the finish line. I hadn’t noticed where it was before the race and couldn’t remember from 2 years ago. Thankfully, I spotted it, glanced at my watch, and knew it was possible. I finished, looked at my watch, and saw that I had finished with 42 seconds to spare. I later realized that I had actually finished in 2:59:42.6 and had less than 18 seconds to spare, but I had done it! Must be the beet juice!

Done! [Photo by My Sports Shooter]
After grabbing a cup of water, getting sprayed by a kid with a hose, finding Alasdair (who finished in 2:47:15.5), and getting some chocolate milk and a Recharge with Milk towel, I went back to the kid with the hose and had him soak my towel, which I put over my shoulders. I returned to him a couple more times to soak me again – I told him I was just going to hang out with him (because by that point, it was pretty hot out)!

Run stats:

Run time: 1:03:14.5 (6:19 min/km)

Age group placing (women 40-44): 13/29

Gender placing: 53/136

Overall placing: 179/327

I would have liked a faster run, but I’m still thrilled with my race!

Overall stats:

Final time: 2:59:42.6

Age group placing (women 40-44): 13/29

Gender placing: 53/136

Overall placing: 179/327

For comparison – 2013 stats:

Final time: 3:11:21.8

Age group placing (women 40-44): 12/19

Gender placing: 58/100

Overall placing: 209/278

Swim: 41:56 (2:47/100m) – 18/19 women 40-44, 88/100 women, 258/278 overall

Bike: 1:23:25 (28.77 km/h) – 58/100 women, 216/278 overall

Run: 1:02:06 (6:12 min/km) – 12/19 women 40-44, 65/100 women, overall 221/278

Gravenhurst, we’ll see you again!

Down on the dock after the race. [Photo by a random triathlete!]