While I start every triathlon hoping for an uneventful swim in which I also manage to swim straight, this year’s K-Town Long Course Triathlon was anything but!
Once again, Alasdair and I stayed at a Queens University residence the night before the race and biked 2k to the race site. Things were a little different this year, with Multisport Canada partnering with Somersault to put on the triathlon – body marking was different, and we had to show our race bib to even get into transition.
We got ourselves set up, and prepared to get into the water. I would be starting 8 minutes ahead of Alasdair.
For some reason, I often find this swim course difficult to sight.
My race began and right off the bat I had trouble seeing the buoys. I got kicked or whacked in the eye, my goggles were too tight, I had to pee, I was swimming to the wrong buoy at one point (I was not alone), and I had to swim around a patch of weeds about 3 feet wide! For at least the last 750m I felt pukey (despite the waves not being very big), but just had to keep swimming to get out of the water. Basically it was an awful swim. Given how it went I was expecting to see 50 minutes on my watch… and then I saw 54 – yikes! Unsurprisingly, Alasdair had beat me out of the water. While swimming I actually considered pulling out of the race, but I felt much better on dry land.
With such a bad swim (I was just so glad to be done!), I knew things could only get better from there.
Because my swim was so slow, there were very few people starting the bike after me. This meant that for most of the bike I felt like I was riding mostly on my own. I did pass a few people, and a few men passed me too. Overall the bike went okay. It was hilly, but the wind wasn’t too bad.
I set out on the run, which for once (at this race) wasn’t a hot one!! There were lots of people cheering for me as they waited for other athletes to finish either the sprint course or long course. Unfortunately I got side stitches after about 2k, which felt like sore abs from a lack of swimming lately. I didn’t stop at the first aid station, but at every other one I grabbed water and/or electrolyte as I went through. Once the side stitches were gone (it took a few km’s) the run was okay. I saw Alasdair when I was at around the 7k mark (I had gained on him, because he was having calf/Achilles issues). I was lucky to get lots of cheers when I finished too.
I crossed the finish line feeling that I could have run further.
After the race we rode back to Queens and went for a dip in Lake Ontario at the Gord Downie Pier at Breakwater Park. So refreshing!
With the K-Town long course triathlon held on the August long weekend each summer, my husband Alasdair and I have celebrated our wedding anniversary in Kingston since we first started doing the race in 2014, with the exception of last year when I was competing in the Canadian Orienteering Championships instead. This year, we celebrated 17 years!
We arrived in Kingston in time for the Saturday afternoon race kit pick-up, a walk around downtown and through the market, dinner at Wooden Heads (super yummy pizza) and a walk along the water back to our accommodations at Queen’s University.
On race morning, we rode our bikes 2k to the race site, and having arrived so early we were rewarded with a pretty sunrise at Confederation Park.
Walking into the transition area, we were greeted by automatic sprinklers soaking the ground and everything around, including the bikes and gear of the few people who had already set up! The sprinklers were turning on from West to East, so I decided not to set my stuff up yet in case the ones right by my bike were going to turn on. Some people tied plastic bags over the sprinklers (partially successful), and one clever guy cut the bottom off a plastic bottle and capped the sprinkler. It wasn’t long before someone else thought to cover them all with traffic cones. Problem solved!
After setting up, Alasdair and I were ready to race.
I was in the last wave, with Alasdair in the one before me. I jumped into the water from the dock and swam closer to the starting line, where others were treading water for the wave ahead of me. Once my wave started, I took off like a shot (ha!) and had another swim with almost no contact with other swimmers. Partly this was due to me being left behind, and swimming much of the 2k on my own! I had a very uneventful swim, other than having to deal with a bit of sun and some waves. When I turned and started heading for the final turn to shore, and realized that the waves were coming from behind me, I couldn’t figure out why other swimmers seemed to be benefitting from them and getting ahead of me, while I didn’t seem to be swimming any faster! Surely I should have been riding the waves too?
When I reached the dock, I had a very ungraceful exit from the water. I put my hands out and expected to be helped/pulled out by the 2 volunteers, but one was less successful than the other (he apologized!) and I struggled to get my legs up and out of the water (without being able to use my arms). It must have looked ridiculous!
I stood up and another volunteer reached for my hand so that I wouldn’t slip, then I was passed to the next volunteer who did the same. They were super helpful!
It was a very short run to the transition zone, where I saw only a few bikes left (so disappointing!), got ready for the ride and had a quick pee break.
56 km Bike
The bike course is mostly an out and back to Gananoque, with a short little loop near the end. I was not happy to realize that we had a tailwind at the beginning, which would mean that as we returned towards Kingston in the second half of the ride, we would have the wind against us as we would be climbing hill after hill after hill!! This was definitely not my finest K-Town bike leg. I spotted Alasdair when I was about 3k from the turnaround. At one point, I frantically brushed my chest several times to get a wasp or hornet or something like it off me!
After quickly swapping my bike gear for running gear and making a quick pee stop, I headed out for my run.
15 km Run
On this hot day, I was grateful for each and every aid station, where I got ice to put down my top, splash water on myself, and drink water and/or electrolytes. The volunteers were fantastic. At the 1k mark, I got a side stitch, and spent about half of the run fighting it. While I ran the entire course – with the exception of the aid stations and the last real uphill outside the Kingston Penitentiary – I wasn’t running very fast. I was hot, and I just didn’t have it in me! I spotted Alasdair when I was about 2 1/2k from the turnaround. As I approached the finish line, I got lots of cheers from spectators and athletes who had already finished – it was great!
In the end, I finished in 4:48:56.6, my slowest K-Town yet!
After post-race food and awards, I won a bag of Stoked Oats as a draw prize. Then we packed up and rode 2k back to our car, stopping just before we got there at the awesome Gord Downie Pier at Breakwater Park. What a fantastic place to jump into the water and feel refreshed!
Time: 4:48:56.6 (7/9 women 40-44, 53/60 women, 151/185 athletes)
Overheard in our Kingston hotel: (father to 4 or 5 year old son) “You know what, Lucas? Tomorrow some people are doing a TRI-ATH-A-LON! They are going to do a MARATHON, and then CYCLE, and then you know what?” I have no idea what, since the elevator doors closed, but that was enough to make us smile! No wonder some people think we are crazy!!
Sunday morning we arrived at Confederation Park at 6 AM for the 8 AM start of the 33th K-Town Long Course Triathlon (“The Legend”). It was to be the 3rd year that Alasdair and I took part in this race, a 2k swim, 56.2k bike, and 15k run. Since we picked up our race kits the day before (swim cap, race bib, t-shirt), all we had to do was pick up our timing chips and get body marking done. I had my spot in transition set up pretty quickly, so I spent the rest of the time sitting on a bench, laying on the ground, or chatting with people. With less than 5 hours of sleep the night before, I was pretty tired.
The sun rising in the sky over the Royal Military College made for some pretty pictures.
This race features an in-water start, with athletes jumping or diving off a floating dock and swimming to the start line. I didn’t want to get in too soon, knowing that I’d have to tread water until the race started. With about 10 minutes to go, Alasdair and I wished each other luck and I jumped into the water. I was in the 3rd wave (with all women), and Alasdair in the 2nd. There was one wave of swimmers after me.
The horn sounded, I started my watch, and off I went! I swam very straight to the first turning buoy, and shortly after turning had to stop to fix my goggles when I saw one of the straps dangling in front of my face. I swam fairly straight to the next turning buoy, but had to adjust my goggles – again – when they were really fogging up and I had trouble seeing the buoys. I was a bit surprised (and disappointed!) to see how quickly the wave behind me caught up to me (their blue swim caps became visible around me). I noticed a bit of chop in the water in this section too, and was having a little more difficulty swimming straight. The last long section before turning to the dock was likely my most crooked, as it seemed that I had to keep correcting my course. Just before the very last turn, I started to feel sick to my stomach when I saw the weeds below the surface moving one way with me moving another. It was awful! I tried to swim with my eyes closed but that didn’t help. Motion sickness is no fun. As I approached the dock, where volunteers were waiting to pull us out of the water, I hoped to see less than 48 on my watch (last year’s time) but would have been satisfied with 50 given the goggle-fixing and course-correcting. I was horrified to see almost 54 minutes!! At that moment I gave up on beating last year’s race time (4:22 and change).
After a very short run to transition, a quick pee, and a change into cycling gear, I headed out of the transition zone for the bike segment of the race.
Given that I was one of the last swimmers out of the water, there wasn’t any congestion at the bike mount line! For the first 27 or 28k of the ride, we were riding into the wind, and my speed was slower than I would have liked. I played leapfrog with an athlete named Caroline from 10k to the turnaround at 27 or 28k, at which point the wind was behind us and I took off! She was pretty excited at the turnaround and yelled to the police officer there, “Are you having FUN!?” I had such a slow swim that not a single person passed me on the bike! However, I did pass 6-10 people (who later all passed me on the run!). On the ride I noticed interesting things for sale: a dozen worms for $3.50, and antique wooden tables for $25. I also spotted some cool wooden carvings (an eagle, a witch, and I’m not sure what else), and I saw some sort of bird of prey way up in a nest at the top of a hydro pole. I think Alasdair was about 5k ahead of me when we passed each other. The second half of the bike was way more fun, and my speed rose to around 30km/h or so. Near the end of the ride, I caught the slower of the sprint triathlon athletes still out on the course. The most congestion I encountered was down the last hill, across the lift bridge, and where I had to cross into the “middle” lane of the road where we ended at the dismount line. I drank a bottle of gatorade, half a bottle of water, and managed to force down 2 gels and a mini granola bar during the ride.
I quickly changed into my running gear, made a pitstop at a portapotty, and headed out on the run course. I knew right away that I had no speed in my legs. I had hoped to try to run at a pace of 6 min/km, to avoid going out to fast and then fading as the km’s passed. But my first km was at a pace of 6:12, and for once, my legs were the limiting factor rather than my cardio. Only a few km’s in, I threw out any time goals for the run, and it became a game of “one foot in front of the other” and “just finish”! I was disappointed, but there was nothing I could do. I had a great run in Gravenhurst on a hot, hilly 10k course just a few weeks ago, so this time it just wasn’t my day! I do wonder whether the aerial ropes course we did 5 days before the race took more out of my legs than I thought (so much fun!!). It might have been around the 5k mark that I spotted Alasdair. Or maybe sooner. It was after I spotted Irina finishing her sprint run (thanks for the cheers Irina – sorry I had nothing to return!).
I have to say that the volunteers on the run course were FANTASTIC! There were frequent aid stations, with volunteers asking whether we wanted water, ice, heed, pretzels, fruit or gels. I drank heed a few times, water other times, and every time poured water on my head. It was far hotter than I thought it was going to be. I also poured ice in my tri top and ate it as I ran. Some of the volunteers were super enthusiastic. I loved the sign that one volunteer was holding around 11 or 12k that said, “Justin Timberlake is at the finish line with puppies!” (Or maybe it was Ryan Gosling!) It was just after this point that there was an aid station with a kid holding a hose – I got a total soaking and declared it “my favourite part of the whole race!”
At 12k I got a side stitch that I couldn’t shake, and my pace slowed until the end. I had to walk a couple of times too for a few seconds.
This was one race that I was very relieved to be done with! At the finish line I received a finisher’s medal and finisher’s hat, had a quick drink of water, then found Alasdair. He beat his time from last year by about 20 seconds, while I was 18 minutes slower (in fact, I was slower on the swim, bike and run segments). Next year!
After downing some chocolate milk and chatting with other finishers, we grabbed our post-race food (pizza, fruit, pretzels) and sat to watch the awards. Alasdair had a secret, which he revealed just before the awards – by being the 90th finisher (90 was randomly selected by the race organizers before the race began) he was the “racer of the day” and received a $310 credit for 2XU compression gear. Awesome!
And, according to the announcer Steve Fleck, the compression gear will put him on the podium in the future! If only.
Time: 4:40:56.8 -10/12 women age 40-44, 41/49 women, 135/155 athletes
2k swim: 53:58.2 (2:41/100m) – 11/12 women age 40-44, 45/49 women, 145/155 athletes
56.2k bike: 1:59.05 (28.32 km/h – last year 29.1 km/h) -9/12 women age 40-44, 38/49 women, 132/155 athletes
15k run: 1:43:13 (6:52 min/km – last year 6:14 min/km) -10/12 women age 40-44, 41/49 women, 135/155 athletes
This year when I signed up for the K-Town Long Course Triathlon (2k swim, 56.2k bike, 15k run), I knew what I was getting myself into! Last year, K-Town was my longest ever triathlon, in preparation for September’s Barrelman (1/2 ironman – awesome race! highly recommend it!). The race was taken over by Multisport Canada Triathlon Series in 2014 from a group of volunteer organizers who had run it for 30 years. I was hoping for a PB this time, but would happily settle for a night in Kingston with Alasdair to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary!
Saturday morning we headed to Kingston, but because of crazy traffic, we didn’t arrive at the hotel until around 4 PM, so we scrapped our plan to do a short swim/bike/run. We checked into our hotel right next to the race venue (Confederation Park), walked 2 minutes to the park to register (where we picked up our race bibs, t-shirts, swim caps), bought a new race belt for Alasdair from Du, Tri and Run at the race expo, dropped our stuff at the hotel and went for a delicious Greek dinner at Greco’s. We went for a walk along the waterfront in the direction of the run route, and hoped that the white caps on Lake Ontario would be long gone by morning…
After a 5:30 AM wake-up, breakfast of a banana, muesli and yogurt with fresh blueberries and a spoonful of peanut butter, we packed up our stuff and headed for the race site, which we could see from our hotel window! Despite being so close, we arrived later than we normally do, meaning that we had less choice in where we racked our bikes in transition, but there was still lots of room left!
We picked up our timing chips, went through body marking, got all our stuff organized in transition, and optimistically put sunblock on – I’m not sure why, because it doesn’t seem to help! I’m seriously considering getting spray sunscreen to use after the swim and after the bike while I’m in transition!
When a couple of late-arriving women were talking about how there wasn’t much room left on the rack, one said no problem, just move people’s stuff over a bit… another athlete looked up and if looks could kill…!
After the pre-race briefing, Alasdair and I zipped each other’s wetsuits up and then said our goodbyes. I was starting in wave #1 at 8:00 AM with the pros, and Alasdair in wave #2 of 3 (each wave separated by 4 minutes). I jumped from the dock into the water, which I found much weedier than I remembered it being! I swam to the start line about 75m away, which was between 2 yellow buoys, which themselves were between sail boats and motor boats docked at the marina and a much bigger boat offering tours of Lake Ontario. I treaded water for about 10 minutes (didn’t feel much like doing a warm-up swim), wondered why I was feeling my right hip flexor, and hoped that it wouldn’t cause me any trouble (it didn’t)!
The horn sounded, I pressed my watch to start the timer, and I was off! There wasn’t much congestion at the start, and it was easy to see the first green buoy that we had to swim to before turning right, but then I had some serious navigational issues! I never went off course (much!), but for the life of me I couldn’t see the green turning buoys (maybe because they were so far away?), so I swam from orange buoy to orange buoy – the sighting buoys in between the turning buoys. I got caught in some congestion more than once, had to stop swimming and find my way around people, and had to sight more frequently than usual since I couldn’t see the buoys. I tried drafting several times but it never lasted long. I felt like the swimmers were going the wrong way, but likely it was just me! When I reached one green buoy, I thought we were turning there, but the person in front of me kept going, so I did too (I figured she must be right!). It was a bit choppy out there, and several times when I went to breathe I got a mouth full of water; other times I had to rotate my body more than usual so that I was up out of the waves in order to breathe. Thankfully, there wasn’t enough chop to make me feel seasick. At one point I got a strong whiff of gasoline from a boat (hate that!). Eventually I turned right and started heading back, sighting first off the blue cap swimmers in wave #2 who caught and passed me, then by watching for the tour boat. Our last turn was a left – I got my left ankle caught in the yellow rope under the buoy but I managed to shake it off after 2 or 3 strong kicks, and then I swam straight for the bright coloured t-shirts of volunteers on the dock (maybe placing groups of brightly coloured volunteers out on the swim course would be helpful for navigation!).
One volunteer helped me out by pulling me up out of the water and onto the dock. I was shocked to see a very slow time of 48 minutes, and wondered whether it was the wind, waves, a long course, navigational issues, or just slow swimming! I made the very short run to transition, forgetting to unzip my wetsuit until I was nearly at my bike, but this time I didn’t struggle taking it off. Given my slow swim, I thought I might see Alasdair in transition (or he might even have left with his bike already), but he wasn’t out of the water yet. I chatted with the woman beside me, grabbed my helmet, sunglasses, socks and shoes and headed out.
2k Swim stats:
Swim time: 48:50.5 (2:26/100m)
Age group placing (women 40-44): 13/18
Gender placing: 64/78
Overall placing: 159/196
T1: 2:02 (included a stop to pee)
I had already given up on a race PB given my slow swim, but I wanted to push on the bike and later see if I could get a run PB.
I felt fast on the way out, with a tailwind and rolling hills. My first 5 km was under 30km/h (took more than 10 minutes), but every one after that until the turnaround was over 30km/h (one was 8:45 or 34 km/h!). Between approximately km 10 and 15 I felt like I was out for a Sunday ride because I was riding completely on my own! It was very strange… I didn’t see any bikes in front of me, no one passed me, and the leaders had not yet reached me coming back the other way. I had a weird feeling, like the race was over, it was the next day, and I was still riding along… But then, I spotted a rider ahead of me, and the lead cyclist passed me going the other way. Phew!
Not knowing how Alasdair’s swim went, I wasn’t sure when I would see him on the bike. When I finally did see him, I was just past the turnaround (or so I thought… after the race he clarified that it was more like 2k past the turnaround). I had considered using the portapotty at the turnaround but someone was in it and I couldn’t be bothered to wait. The second half of the bike course was into a headwind, with my speed dropping substantially – at least one 5k stretch took me more than 11 min. I was surprised as I went along that Alasdair still hadn’t caught me (thinking he was quite close to me at the turnaround), and twice I thought riders passing me were him when they said “On your left!” I realized after they had passed that he would likely say something other than that to me! Over the course of the ride I had most of a peanut butter chocolate ball (and licked the rest off my fingers!), a full bottle of gatorade and a chocolate coconut ball. The road was very congested (with cars) in the last km or so, as we approached the lift bridge just past RMC and before we reached downtown. We rode to the right of the vehicles (always a little nerve wracking) with police directing traffic (likely many frustrated drivers!). Because it was single lane only for the bikes at that point, I got stuck behind someone in the sprint race going slowly, but was able to pass her on the bridge because there were no cars. Then a guy in front of me was blocking me (riding on the left) so I saw the name on his race bib and said, “Daniel can you please move right?” and he said, “Sorry!” and moved over right away so I could pass. I was surprised that Alasdair still had not passed me, and hoped that he hadn’t gotten a flat (or crashed!).
I stopped just before the dismount line, unclipped, and ran into transition. I narrowly avoided colliding with another athlete who was sauntering around sans bike (?!), racked my bike, put my helmet on the ground, changed into running shoes, grabbed my hat, had a sip of water, ran out of my way to a portapotty in transition, and then out onto the run course.
56.2 k Bike stats:
Bike time: 1:55:52.9 (29.1 km/h)
Age group placing (40-44): 12/18
Gender placing: 51/78
Overall placing: 141/196
T2: 2:29 (includes stop to pee!)
My legs felt pretty good heading out along the road, as I wondered when Alasdair would catch me. I hoped that I could get a run PB for this course, and started out fast, with the first 3k around 5:35 – 5:40 per km. Side stitches convinced me to slow it down a bit. There were lots of runners on their way to the finish line, some doing the same race as me, but others doing the sprint triathlon or duathlon. It isn’t too long before the run course leaves the road and goes onto the beautiful waterfront trail, where some shade and wind was just what was needed! There are flat sections, but also some hills on the trail, including a couple of pretty short steep ones.
I was nearly convinced that Alasdair must have had a crash or a flat, but just before 5k he ran past me and we (very briefly!) commiserated on our crappy swim times (it turns out I beat him by 2 minutes). Later at an aid station I asked a woman if she could trip my husband when he ran by… she asked if he was behind me and I said no, ahead! The run course was an out and back, except for the part at the turnaround, which was a little loop through a park. I spotted bathrooms in a building and ran in to pee, considered splashing my face with cold tap water, but scrapped that plan when the water coming out of the tap was warm! I headed outside and kept running through the park, spotting a splash pad that I decided to run through (I could see an athlete doing just that ahead of me) but when I got there the water had stopped! I kept running and as I had done earlier in the run, I stopped at the next aid station to pour cups of water over my head. At most of the aid stations I drank a few sips of water, and Heed (like gatorade but nearly flavourless) once or twice. When I saw the volunteer I’d joked with about tripping Alasdair, I said to her, “Did you trip my husband?” and she replied, “I tried!!” At the next aid station I poured several cups of water over my head and shoulders, only to hear the female volunteer tell me, “That was Heed!” “Oops!” I said, and poured a couple of cups of water over me. Another volunteer, a man, poured two more cups of water over me to help rinse out the Heed! Thank you volunteers!
My run was slowing but not significantly. I still thought it was possible to get a run PB, but thought there was no way I could get a race PB. A couple of times though, I was hot, tired, doubting myself and just thinking that all I wanted to do was to simply finish! The beautiful rocky shoreline was so tempting… I could have sat there in the breeze all afternoon.
At one of the last aid stations there was a kid with a hose to soak athletes. I did a complete 360 and loved that water! So refreshing.
In the last 3km I picked up the pace a bit, and in particular the last km felt pretty good. I think I got my second wind. With about 2 km to go, I had to briefly stop as 10+ geese were crossing the waterfront trail and weren’t too happy with me! I let most of them go then continued along my way! There were some cute little boys volunteering offering pretzels at one of the aid stations, but I didn’t have any.
One of the awesome things about this race series is that race bibs are personalized – it means that strangers can cheer for you by name! “Go Kyra!” or “Looking strong Kyra!” or “Kyra, water or Heed?” – it makes a difference!
In the last 400m I said to the woman running beside me, “So close yet so far away!” About 100m from the finish line I gave one little girl a high five. There were tons of people on the street cheering for athletes in all 3 races. Unfortunately, I missed Pacman and the 2 guys in capes, who apparently were cheering enthusiastically and running alongside athletes. Alasdair told me that one of them yelled, “AlasDAR, sounds like ALL STAR to me!” After the race, Alasdair said to one of them, “You know how to do this!” and he replied, “You know how to RACE man!”
Just before the finish I heard Alasdair cheer for me. I picked up the pace for the last 100m, and was shocked to see 4:22 something on the clock!! It turns out I was just 31 seconds slower than last year! After a crappy swim (4 minutes slower than last year) and a slightly slower bike than last year (1 minute), I nearly made up the entire difference on the run (7 minutes faster)! I was 29 seconds/km faster this year on the run. Just goes to show I should never give up!
15k Run stats:
Run time: 1:33:39.9 (6:14/km)
Age group placing (40-44): 16/18
Gender placing: 55/78
Overall placing: 144/196
After the race, I found Alasdair and after downing a chocolate milk, we tried something new and each stepped into a bucket of really cold water (up to our thighs) that one of the race sponsors was providing for athletes. It was awesome!
In the end, I finished the race in 4:22:54.8, and Alasdair in 4:04 (a 2 minute PB for him)!
Final time: 4:22:54.8
Age group placing (40-44): 14/18
Gender placing: 55/78
Overall placing: 144/196
For comparison, here are stats from 2014:
Time: 4:22:23.6 – 160/198 overall, 51/70 women, 9/11 women 40-44