Race report: Belwood sprint triathlon (Pan Am consolation event)

Just 6 days prior to the Belwood sprint triathlon at the Belwood Conservation Area in Fergus, Ontario, I had a bike crash and wondered whether I would be racing at all (for the record, I have no idea what happened, but I was riding along a quiet country road, about 65 km into a planned 90 km bike ride, when I looked up and was in the gravel shoulder at the side of the road… I briefly considered riding through it and down into the ditch, but instead decided to hit the brakes and do a slow speed tip onto my left side… I immediately felt pain in my right hamstring and wondered how seriously I’d injured myself… after brushing gravel off my left arm (no cuts!), picking it off my left lower leg and checking to see whether I had ripped my shirt or shorts (I hadn’t!), I made a beeline for home and ended the ride at 76 km… turns out I’d likely just whacked my leg on the crossbar when I fell, and by the next day there was little pain, only road rash on my lower leg).

After a 5 AM race day wake-up and breakfast (steel cut oats, yogurt, a banana and a spoon of peanut butter for me) we were out of the house before 6 AM and at our 2nd Multisport Canada Triathlon Series race of 2015 (and 3rd triathlon) by 7 AM. This was to be our first time doing the Belwood race.

We racked our bikes by bib number, which meant that this time Alasdair and I would be using the same rack – we ended up a few bikes away from each other because he didn’t realize we were on the same rack when he found a spot.  We made a quick stop at the Du, Tri and Run tent to say “Congratulations Daddy!” to new dad Steven (Rebecca you’ll be racing again before you know it!), picked up our race bibs, swim caps, t-shirts, and timing chips, and went through body marking (different this time – the addition of our bib number to one leg with the usual age on the other). We went back to transition to set our things up, and chatted with the other athletes.

Before the race began, the day’s announcer let us know that Canada had won the first gold medal of the Pan Am games, which got a pretty good cheer from the crowd! The women’s triathlon was also taking place at the same time as our race.

I was talking with a woman whose bike was racked very close to mine, and I said to her, “I’m only here because I didn’t make the Pan Am games.” “REALLY?” she replied, with a look of shock and awe on her face. “No!” I replied, laughing. (She got a pretty good chuckle out of it!)

B pre race 2
Nearly race time!

For this race (as a test), it was decided that – based on athlete feedback – some older swimmers (“masters swimmers”) would start in the first wave with the pros/elites (normally the swim waves go approximately youngest to oldest – they still need to balance the size of the waves so there aren’t too many athletes in any one wave). Alasdair and I were to start in the 2nd of 3 waves.

B pre race 1
That’s the dam behind us, which we were to run across.

We headed for the lake to do a short warm-up swim. I really did not like the algae/other plant matter under the surface of the water as I swam. It moved at one pace, and me at another, making me feel a bit motion sick! I was hoping it wouldn’t be a problem during the race. After my warm-up, I was relieved to find that I wasn’t dizzy like in Syracuse (hopefully a one-off!).

750 m SWIM

The horn sounded for the first wave at 8:30 AM, with us in our white caps starting about 4 minutes later. Alasdair positioned himself right on the start line, but I was a few people back (but not at the back of the pack as I used to do). My swim start was great. This was an “in water” start (as most of the races are), so there’s no sprinting from the beach into the water. I started swimming sooner than I usually do, diving in and experiencing very little congestion (that came later!). I got whacked on the feet quite a few times, swallowed water at least once, but otherwise had no issues (even the algae didn’t bother me – I think it was displaced by the swimmers in front of me). I was swimming straight, and tried to swim harder than I normally do. At the first turn buoy it was so congested we were practically doggie paddling around the corner! The next section was also pretty smooth sailing. Only the last part, when I was sighting the brown arches that we would run under on shore, did I have a tiny bit of trouble swimming straight – but nothing major! I swam until my arms hit the lake bottom, even though others were walking beside me (more taxing on the legs). When I stood up I saw 15:55 on my watch and was thrilled (may be my fastest sprint swim yet)! I started running to transition and saw Alasdair just ahead of me! He beat me by 16 seconds. The official race pictures show just 3 swimmers between us once we’re out of the water.

Belwood K swim
Starting to peel my wetsuit off while running to the transition zone. [Photo credit: My Sport Shooter]
Alasdair and I didn’t chat in transition, but we did get to smile (grimace?) at one another! I chatted with the woman beside me, who started in my wave and got to transition before me. She seemed happy with her swim – when I told her my time, she said, “THANK YOU! You made my day!”

Swim stats:

Time: 17:04.5

Pace: 2:16/100m

Overall placing: 182/286 athletes

Gender placing: 68/117 women

Age group placing: 5/16 women aged 40-44

T1: 1:45

30 km BIKE

Alasdair beat me out of transition (by seconds), but only because I struggled to get my wetsuit off (again!) and had to put socks on wet feet (he only puts his on for the run). It was very congested at the bike start – at the mount line, there were people trying to get onto their bikes all the way across the line instead of going further forward and moving to the side. So I lost a few more seconds to Alasdair – ha! I could see him for a bit on the bike, and we passed each other at the only out and back (he was just a few hundred metres ahead of me). I could still see him for a while and then lost him, but I pushed hard because I didn’t want him to get too far away. And, my plan for the day had been to go hard on the swim and bike, and see what happened on the run.

Belwood K bike2
Just starting the 30 km ride. [Photo credit: My Sport Shooter]
Since some of the younger, stronger athletes started after me, I got passed by more cyclists than I normally would. Most don’t say “On your left!” as they approach to pass, but I so wish they would (much safer). “On your left” saved me at one point when the rider in front of me said it to the rider in front of her, who was stopped on the road along the right side where we were riding (not on the shoulder) – I might have had to swerve last minute to avoid him had I not heard her!

I was feeling strong on the ride. At 10k I knew I was going 30 km/h, and at 20k I was still riding fast.

The bike route was hillier than I expected, but it wasn’t Syracuse! I played leapfrog with a couple of other riders during the 30k, which made each of us go a little faster than we might have otherwise (these races are not draft legal, meaning that you must stay 5 m behind the cyclist in front of you… if you get closer, you have 20 seconds to pass… and then, very often, that person then overtakes you… repeat… there are Ontario Association of Triathletes officials riding the course on motorcycles looking for drafting and other infractions). There was very little wind – perfect riding conditions.

And, I discovered my new favourite sugar boost on the bike – chocolate peanut butter balls! Yum!

In the end, I finished the ride in 59:52.4, a very fast race bike speed for me! Alasdair beat me by just under 2 minutes. He had left transition by the time I got there.

Bike stats:

Time: 59:52.4

Speed: 30.06 km/h

Overall placing: 156/286 athletes

Gender placing: 48/117 women

Age group placing: 7/16 women aged 40-44

T2: 1:17

7.5 km RUN

I felt strong starting the run, which goes along the Elora-Cataract Trailway, a former railway now refinished with “stone dust” according to the trailway website. I headed out over the dam, and turned off the trail for a short out and back section, where I met Alasdair who was not yet too far ahead of me. We high-fived and he (unbeknownst to me) winced in pain. The run course was pretty much flat, with little bits of shade here and there. I saw Alasdair again at the turnaround, at which point there were about 3 km left to run. We high fived again but before doing so I heard him say “softer” or “lighter” or maybe even “less powerful” or “don’t hurt me!” The volunteers at the run course aid stations did a great job despite being short on bodies.

At 5k I was suffering from bilateral side stitches, the left side worse than the right. Altering my breathing didn’t help. At the next aid station, I got water and walked a bit. When I started running again, the pain had lessened. I ran the last 2 1/2 k at a slower pace than  the first 5k, with my last and slowest km a 6:15 min/km pace.

I finished the run in 44:37.9, which I am still happy with.

Belwood K finish
Nearing the finish line. [Photo credit: My Sport Shooter]
Run stats:

Time: 44:37.9

Pace: 5:57 min/km

Overall placing: 172/286 athletes

Gender placing: 48/117 women

Age group placing: 7/16 women aged 40-44

In the end, I finished the race in 2:04:36.1 – sub 2 hours would have been nice, but I would have had to have a speedy run to make that happen! Next year!

B stronger
Recharge with Milk photo

Belwood Conservation Area is a great venue for a race, with parking nearby, lots of shade for after the race, and a quiet bike route in the countryside.

B post race 1
Watching the awards.

Overall stats:

Total time: 2:04:36.1

Overall placing: 172/286

Gender placing: 50/117

Age group placing: 7/16 women aged 40-44

B post race 3
Belwood, we’ll be back!