Race report: K-Town long course triathlon

This year’s Multisport Canada/Somersault K-Town long course triathlon was to be held at a new venue, Canadian Forces Base Kingston, instead of Confederation Park downtown. The change was made in part to maximize safety on the course – athletes would have a more protected swim and wouldn’t have to bike across the metal grate bridge.

Prior to the race I finally got to meet Cory, an athlete I follow on Instagram but who I hadn’t yet managed to see in person. Thanks again Cory for introducing yourself!

2k swim

The new swim course was in the Great Cataraqui River north of Highway 2 (from HMCS Cataraqui) instead of in the St. Lawrence River (open to Lake Ontario) south of Highway 2. We were told it would be calmer. Alasdair and I were to start in the same wave, which meant we should see each other more during the race.

We got into the water from a dock, but this meant (for me at least) that once I was in for my quick warm-up, I wasn’t getting out again (too hard to get out). I didn’t want to get in too early because I’d have to tread water until the start, but I didn’t want to wait to the last second either.

The 10 second countdown started and we were off, with me right behind Cory. Sadly, I only got to draft off of him for a couple of swim strokes, because then he was gone! We swam shore side of a buoyed boat lane. For this race we had to keep the buoys to our right, swimming about 1 km north east along the shore, 25 m across, then back even closer to the shore.

With about 500 metres to go, the swim course got very weedy. It was also at this point that I noticed a current in my favour, however, my motion-sickness never likes it when things don’t align, so my swim strokes at a different speed than the waving weeds was not pleasant. My hands were non-stop hitting weeds and I had them sticking to my head too, wrapped around my face. At one point I hit rocks (or something!) with my left hand. I later heard from athletes who cut their hands and feet during the swim.

With only a couple hundred metres to go, some swimmers ahead of me seemed confused – they were swimming at a strange angle away from shore. Maybe they were looking for deeper water to get away from the weeds?

Overall, my swim was fairly straight, and I passed at least one person (but most passed me as usual). As I approached the swim exit I could see that the blowup swim arch was off to the side, and had fallen over. There was a very slippery mat at the swim but volunteers warned us and helped us out if needed. Then I set out in bare feet running about 200 m or so on pavement back to transition!

55k bike

While getting myself ready to bike, I ate half a homemade muffin. The bike route was only slightly different than the previous course, which meant lots of hills, with more downhill on the way out (never a good sign!). I passed around 3 people, and played leapfrog with one woman (I overtook her on the downhills, she caught me on the uphills). I saw 3 dead skunks, forced down 2 homemade energy bites, and stopped at the bottle exchange to fill my own bottle with F2C. There was a nice downhill to finish the bike course. I saw Alasdair just before the turnaround in Gananoque.

15k run

Before even starting the run, I knew the heat was going to be my enemy! Thankfully, there was a light breeze coming off the lake. The run course crosses highway 2 via stairs and a pedestrian bridge, then does a loop through the Royal Military College (RMC). The course was mostly flat, with one very big exception, the long climb up the Fort Henry Hill (because forts are always built up high!). When I reached the first aid station, I was super disappointed to discover that it had run out of drinks. This meant I didn’t get one until 4k into the run, after having conquered the Fort Henry hill (with a run/walk combination). I was pleasantly surprised to see my friend Lisa at the aid station! The run down the hill was the best part of the run course.

Picture by Lisa

The 15k course included 3 loops at RMC, which meant that I saw Alasdair multiple times. At each aid station I poured water on my head and drank F2C and/or water. I ran the entire 15k, other than the steepest parts of the Fort Henry hill, and as I went through the aid stations. There was great support from cheering spectators at RMC.

Alasdair was waiting for me just before the finish.

I enjoyed some post race pizza and my first ginger ale in years (I’m not a pop drinker but felt like something sweet). We watched the end of the awards, and then we soaked our heads with a hose before heading out!

Race stats:

  • Time: 4:55:09 (7/8 women 45-49, 39/64 women, 146/218 athletes)
  • Swim: 57:05 (2:51 min/100m)
  • Bike: 2:06:22 (25.9 km/h)
  • Run: 1:47:13 (7:08 km/h)

Race report: Welland long course triathlon

While we’ve raced at Welland many times, this was to be our first time doing the long course here (2k swim, 50k bike, 15k run). It was a super early morning, with a 4:45 AM alarm and 5:30 AM departure to get there in time. Alasdair was to start at 8:18 and me at 8:24 (we were seeded based on our predicted finishing times).

Pre-race and ready to go.

It always amazes me how much space some athletes take up in transition. I’m a minimalist (I put the 2nd water bottle on my bike after I took the picture).

All set up.

My Twitter friend Christine was racked next to me.

2k swim

Due to some construction at the Welland International Flatwater Centre, the swim start had to move a little from its normal location (this time further away from the building). I did a very short warm up swim, then waited onshore with Alasdair. I went into the water just after him, staying near the shore until it was my wave’s start. For the first time ever I wore a black swim cap! Not ideal, as it is not very visible if you’re trying to keep your eye on athletes in the water. Apparently they were supposed to be silver. I thought it odd that the black caps went to the slowest athletes (I was in the last wave – only the swim/bike athletes started after us).

The countdown from 10 started and the race began! Thankfully, I had a pretty uneventful swim! Absolutely no breathing issues, I swam fairly straight, and I had my fastest swim race pace this year. I did not say fast – I said fastest!

We swam down the recreational waterway (a long way!), turned right at a green buoy, crossed the waterway (took me a few seconds to spot the green buoy on the other side because we were swimming into the light and it was in the shade), turned right, swam back towards the building, turned right at the last green buoy and headed diagonally to the swim exit. The volunteers were great there helping people out of the water (on rocky ground). The run to transition was also different (no stairs this year) because of the construction, but it was a longer run to get to our bikes. I ate a homemade apple muffin while I got ready to ride, then ran out of transition with my bike.

50k bike

What should have been a 56k ride became a 50k ride, again due to construction. Instead of riding down to Lake Erie, which is beautiful (but windy!), we did a route with one section of it that we had to ride twice. It meant that Alasdair and I got to see each other multiple times! The first time I spotted him he was about 4km ahead of me (I was 2k from a turnaround).

While normally bike courses are completely on roads, for this race we rode a few hundred metres on a bike path (again because of construction). This was fine, but getting from the path onto the road wasn’t fun – there was gravel that I wasn’t thrilled to ride on. Thankfully, I stayed upright and my tires were fine.

I can’t be sure, but I was likely the only athlete scouring a creek along the road for turtles – I saw 5 on one log. I also saw a mamma duck on a log with at least 4 babies standing closely around her.

At around 30k I caught Christine, but sadly she wasn’t feeling well after the bike so she called it a day.

I did a great job (for me) drinking lots on the bike – one bottle of Nuun, and about 2/3 of another one with water. Unfortunately, I put the Nuun in the wrong cage, so just after starting the ride I had to grab the water bottle, hold it super tight in my teeth (I thought I was going to drop it for sure!), put the Nuun in the more accessible cage and put the water one back. Success! I forced down a super dry granola bar, but had to wash it down with water!

With about 15k to go my right glute started giving me trouble, tightening up on me. I figure it was a result of my 39k Bruce Trail run the weekend before the race. I had to frequently get up out of the saddle to relax it. My pace started to slow. Let’s just say I was happy to be done the bike! I wasn’t sure I would be able to run… I took two bites of a banana and then headed out. It was kind of demoralizing to hear people finishing the race while I was just starting the run!

15k run

After a slow transition (had to pee and reapply sunscreen), I headed out on the run course, an Endurance Tap gel in my shirt (I was a little worried about not having eaten enough). At this point, I should mention that it was 32 degrees Celsius, feels like 35 with the humidity. It was ridiculously hot. Thankfully, I quickly realized that my glute wasn’t going to be an issue on the run! I hadn’t reached 1k when I saw Alasdair for the first time. Because we would be running 2 loops of the course, I got to see him multiple times. My plan was to run from aid station to aid station, stopping at each one to grab electrolytes and water, to walk while drinking them, and to also pour water on my head! As soon as I saw small blue towels at an aid station, I grabbed one, soaked it in an ice cold bucket, and stuck it down my shirt! I then continued soaking my towel at each aid station. Looking forward to the next aid station was a good way to break the 15k down into manageable chunks. I passed 8 of them, so I didn’t have to wait too long each time to cool myself down. I felt pretty good, all things considered. At times we had a very slight breeze, which felt amazing. I never did have the gel. I cheered for and encouraged other athletes as I ran, some who were further along the course than me, and others further behind. We were suffering together!

At the start of the run it was hard to imagine running in that heat for 15k, but somehow, I did it.

And the best part of the race? Getting soaked just past the finish line with a garden hose by one of the awesome volunteers (thanks Andr√©!!). All things considered I’m pretty happy with my race.

Post-race!

Thanks Multisport Canada for another great race!

Race stats

  • Time: 4:46:17 (13/14 women 45-49, 51/74 women, 170/228 all athletes)
  • Swim: 56:04 (2:48 min/km)
  • T1: 2:54 (includes pee break)
  • Bike: 1:50:35 (27.1 km/h)
  • T2: 4:01 (includes pee break and sunscreen reapplication)
  • Run: 1:52:43 (7:30 min/km)

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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: Barrie sprint triathlon 2021 (a return to racing after Covid-19 hiatus)

I’m not sure anyone was quite as excited to be back at a triathlon start line as one particular athlete in my wave at the Barrie triathlon – she whooped it up and let everyone know how much she loves the sport. I’ve never heard anything like it! She was pumped (and the rest of us couldn’t help but smile and laugh)!

It wasn’t too long ago that I was pretty resigned to the fact that there would be no race season at all for a second year in a row… and then Multisport Canada announced that races were on! Woot! We knew it wouldn’t be the usual triathlon racing experience, but we didn’t care – we were happy for the opportunity to get back out there. After a mountain bike crash in June (tire slipped on a wet root and I fell hard on my back) and a long recovery period, I was just relieved to be back swimming, biking and running 10 weeks later. Never mind I had only been swimming 2 times since the fall of 2019!

Our return to racing – and our first time doing the Barrie race (taken over by Multisport Canada this year) – would also be my friend Kris’ very first triathlon! Since we spent the night before the race at her place, she had 2 in-house triathlon coaches to ask for advice. And ask she did!

Pre-race in a time of Covid-19.

On race morning we didn’t arrive at the race site as early as we normally do, so by the time we set our stuff up in transition and got our wetsuits on, we had less than 15 minutes to go before we were to race! This added to the pre-race nerves. After a very quick warm up swim (just a few strokes!), I was ready to go.

Alasdair and I were lucky enough to be starting in the same swim wave, with Kris a couple of waves behind us.

Almost race time! [Photo by D]

I can’t tell you how great it was to hear familiar voices (like Steve Fleck at the microphone), see familiar faces, and to simply be back in the triathlon community again. I didn’t have any time goals for this race – getting to the start and finish lines would be enough for me this time!

750m SWIM

The horn sounded and off I went, wondering if my shoulder was going to give me any trouble (seems I upset it playing disc golf recently). Thankfully, my physiotherapist ensured that it didn’t! My swim started okay but it didn’t take long for me to have a mini panic attack after losing my breathing rhythm. I switched to the breaststroke, then front crawl with single-sided breathing on the left, then single-sided breathing on the right, then eventually I got my rhythm back, and by the time I hit the first turning buoy, it was all good. I figured I was swimming much slower than usual (since I hadn’t been practising!) and might see 30 minutes on my watch when I stood up, so I was pleasantly surprised to see 21 – still slower than usual, but not as slow as I expected. Then it was a long run into transition (I spotted Alasdair heading out with his bike as I was running in), peeling off the wetsuit, putting on my sunglasses, helmet, socks, shoes, and race bib, grabbing my bike and heading for the transition exit… but on the way there, I thought “Oh no! I forgot my race bib!” So I dropped my bike and ran back towards my stuff, but before I got there, I realized I was wearing it! So I ran back to my bike and off I went. Clearly this was a first race in nearly two years!

20km BIKE

The bike course was 4 loops with a slight uphill on the way out and a slight downhill on the way back. Unlike someone I know, I already knew how many loops to do – I didn’t have to do math to figure it out. I actually liked the looped course, which I’ve only done once before (at Welland). It meant I got to see Alasdair on every loop, and Kris twice when I was on my 3rd and 4th loops. The road was a little rough in some places, but otherwise, the ride was unremarkable. I will say though that not enough people said “On your left!” as they passed.

5km RUN

I ran my bike into transition, racked it, took my helmet off, changed shoes, put my hat on, had a quick drink of water, and headed out for the run. Sadly I had to stop to pee (at the portapotty just outside the transition zone). Remember that slight uphill on the bike? It felt more than slight on the run. The run course was 2 loops along a waterfront trail. On my 2nd loop I got chatting with a guy who told me about a latin phrase he knew that essentially meant “One foot in front of the other, ferociously!” I’m sure it will continue to come in handy in future races!

[Photo by D]

And then I heard the voice of the athlete who was so excited to be back – turns out her name is Shannon. I spotted Alasdair on both loops, and heard Steve Fleck give him the most awesome welcome to the finish line: ‚ÄúAlasdaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaair Paterson!‚ÄĚ I’m not sure where I was on the run course at that point, but think it was not long after the turnaround – clearly the sound travels at the waterfront! I spotted Alasdair again waiting for me as I neared the finish line.

I was glad to be done, and to be honest, found the race harder than a sprint would normally be. I’m out of race practice and still building back up from my MTB crash! It’s a short triathlon season this year, but it’s so good to be back!

There was none of the usual post race food, awards, or socializing with other athletes (except for the ones packing up their stuff when we were), which we really missed – that’s part of the fun! Instead, we were encouraged to get the heck out of transition as fast as possible. We did, but we stuck around to cheer for my friend Kris, and for other athletes still finishing.

[Photo by Nikki Cole at Barrie Today]

It was so fun to have a triathlon newbie with us! Who is next?!

Three happy finishers! [Photo by D]

Results

  • Time: 1:43:38.8 (10/11 women 45-49; 64/86 women; 199/245 athletes)
  • Swim: 22:25.9 (2:59 min/100m)
  • T1: 2:32
  • Bike: 41:52.9 (28.65 km/h)
  • T2: 2:01
  • Run: 34:47.6 (6:57 min/km)

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Race report: Lakesprint sprint triathon relay (team Triathalasaurus)

While Alasdair and I have done a few sprint triathlon relays before, this was our first with our daughter, who is finally old enough to do one leg of a sprint distance race.
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Pinning the race bib on – “You’re going to poke me!”
Team Triathalasaurus was ready: Alasdair would swim 750m, I would bike 20k, and Ailish would run 5k. Never mind the fact that she was sick with a cold, and had only done one training run. She’s a fit kid with a summer of soccer behind her.
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Team Triathalasaurus ready to go!
After a late arrival at the race site and somewhat frantic pre-race preparations, the horn sounded and Alasdair took off in wave #1 with the young’uns! 100243-abf8ec-1003840680 Ailish and I waited in the transition zone, and waved him down as he entered, since he didn’t get a chance before the race to see where my bike was racked. I struggled to get the timing chip off his ankle, but eventually succeeded, running my bike to the mount line, being cheered as I ran by at least one of the other relay teams. I reached the mount line and a volunteer yelled, “Great job!” to which I replied, “Thanks! I haven’t done anything yet!” This was my first time biking with people in the first wave of a triathlon, so it was definitely weird. The first few people who passed me just zoomed past – whoosh! I was actually a little worried that I would get in the way of people at corners, since I brake slightly before turning! I needn’t have worried – much. After rough road at the start, the course turned straight into the wind and hills, which immediately dashed my hope of maintaining 30 km/h, but I was still going to try. When I reached the turnaround, there were 33 riders ahead of me, when normally there would be hundreds and I couldn’t possibly keep track. I was a little surprised to have someone say “On your left!” as I was doing a 180 degree turn around the pylon at the turnaround point. I’m not sure if he actually intended to pass me at that point (crazy), or whether he was just giving me advance warning that as soon as I came out of my turn, he was going to pass me (reasonable!). In any case, we both made it around the cone safely. The last 5-7k were my favourite, because I had the wind behind me and it was a net downhill. Just before the end I spotted my friend Irina, who was taking official race photos. I finished the 20k ride in 40:28.5, for an average speed of 29.65 km/h. Not the 30 I was hoping for, but oh so close!
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Thanks for the pic Irina!
I racked my bike, and then Alasdair grabbed the timing chip off my ankle and put it onto to Ailish’s. She took off for her 5k run. Alasdair and I went out to the road to cheer for other runners while we waited for Ailish. We weren’t sure exactly how long she would be. Alasdair eventually walked further along the road, while I waited near the finishing chute. And then there she was! She turned it up for the last 100m and sprinted to the finish (later telling me that this made her feel like she was going to puke). She did great!
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Good thing I have dozens of race shirts, since she steals mine all the time.
We really enjoyed racing together as Team Triathalasaurus! IMG_7011 And Ailish is thinking she might do a try a tri next summer… 100243-3d3f05-1003846897
We stayed for the awards, and then headed out.
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Swimming for 16 minutes is exhausting you know!
I’m looking forward to doing another relay – such fun! Stats:
  • Placing: 7/13 relay teams
  • Swim: 16:05.6 (2:08 min/100m)
  • T1: 0:44
  • Bike: 40:28.5 (29.65 km/h)
  • T2: 0:31
  • Run: 29:12.8 (5:50 min/km)
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Race report: K-Town long course triathlon 2018

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. IMG_6636 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. IMG_6639 2k Swim 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! Race stats:
  • Time: 4:48:56.6 (7/9 women 40-44, 53/60 women, 151/185 athletes)
  • Swim: 51:43.2 (2:35/100m) (8/9 women 40-44)
  • T1: 2:11
  • Bike: 2:07:12.3 (26.51 km/h) (8/9 women 40-44)
  • T2: 3:10
  • Run: 1:44:41.4 (6:58 min/km) (7/9 women 40-44)
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Race report: Wasaga Beach Olympic triathlon

What a relief to have calm waters in Georgian Bay at Wasaga Beach for the Olympic triathlon on Saturday, after last year’s waves made me seasick and caused me to throw up in the water! With a temperature of around 27 degrees Celsius feeling like 31 with the humidity, and cloud cover for most of the race, the weather conditions were actually pretty good!

We arrived at the race site around 8:30 AM, with Keaghan and Ailish in tow. I racked my bike, went through registration to pick up my race bib, t-shirt, swim cap, timing chip, and to get body marked, and then went to the volunteer tent to get the kids organized. They were assigned to volunteer at the finish line for the Olympic race – specifically, to removing timing chips from athletes’ ankles. This may be Ailish’s least favourite volunteer assignment, having done it before and having experienced the sweatiness and stinkiness of many, many ankles.

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With one of my favourite volunteers!

I went back to transition to get myself organized and all set up, only to discover that another athlete had moved my bike to take the rack location I had chosen. Not cool! I decided to leave that section of the rack completely, because who knows what she might do to my stuff during the race!

After I was all set, I went back to find the kids down by the finish line, where they had found some shade to hang out in until they were needed. That time came sooner than expected when Jason Vurma (Multisport Canada VP and Operations Director) asked the kids (obviously volunteers in their race crew t-shirts) if they’d like to hold the banner for the first finishers in the Try a Tri race. Only a small amount of brotherly/sisterly love (read fighting) occurred during this task – from what I could see.

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Keaghan and Ailish holding the tape at the finish line of the Try a Tri (they were told to hide behind the posts, so that they wouldn’t be visible in race photos, which are taken from the other side).

I went back to transition for the pre-race meeting, only to suddenly realize that we hadn’t paid for parking, so I ran back to the car and dealt with that! I listened to the end of the pre-race meeting, then headed to the water for a very short warm-up swim. I was to be in the 4th of 5 waves, with all women 35+ and relay swimmers.

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Pre-race.

1500 m SWIM

For the most part, the swim wasn’t very congested for me, and I was only swum over a couple of times by people in the wave that started 3 minutes after me when they caught up. I think I swam pretty straight, but had a hard time in the last section sighting the yellow rooftops that were close to the swim exit – at least one person thanked me after the race for suggesting them, because the Recharge with Milk swim exit is brown and pretty much impossible to see. A black and white cow print would be better! In any case, I was prepared for a slow swim because every single one of my triathlon swims this year have been slower than my 2015 swims. I was somewhat surprised to see “only” 39 minutes on my watch – I beat last year’s time by less than a minute, but that was in crazy waves and had me stopping more than once to retch! (So, the improvement wasn’t really an improvement.) I swam until my hands started to hit the sand, then got up and walked a bit before running the rest of the way out of the water.

2016-08-27 | 2016 MultiSport Wasaga Beach Triathlon (Saturday)
Done the swim!

I got to yell a hello to Keaghan and Ailish as I ran past – they weren’t yet on finish line duty.

I had my smoothest wetsuit removal so far this year, so yay for small victories! A quick change of gear and pee stop and I was on my way!

40 km BIKE

During the pre-race briefing, we were told that the bike course had been changed the night before because they would have less police coverage at intersections than expected. It was turned into an out and back. This course is a pretty fast one, although there are a few hills. For the first 15 k, I was averaging right on about 30 km/h, which I was pleased with.

2016-08-27 | 2016 MultiSport Wasaga Beach Triathlon (Saturday)
Near the beginning of the bike ride.

I passed more people than passed me (but there weren’t too many behind me after the swim!). ¬†One guy had me confused and concerned when he rode close to the shoulder on the other side of the road (the side for oncoming traffic) for at least 500 m! I finally caught him and hold him to ride on the far RIGHT side of the road. He just looked at me. Weird. He passed me later, and rode on the right. I later passed him and never saw him again. If I had seen a race vehicle I would have flagged them down – it was so dangerous!

Around the 15k mark, I started experiencing an abdominal cramp that just got worse. I tried to alter my breathing, I lifted my right arm way up and tried to stretch it as I rode – nothing. No change. I had to slow my pace. I started wondering if I’d even be able to run. I imagined myself joining the kids and volunteering at the finish line. It was quite painful. At one point, I thought it was gone, but nope, I felt it again. And then, at just before the 30 km mark, it totally went away! I picked up my pace again and tried to finish strong. Despite my cramp issues, I forced myself to keep drinking my gatorade and to down a 2nd gel.

Back in transition, I quickly changed gear, peed again, and headed out on the run course.

10 km RUN

This 10 k course at Wasaga Beach has historically been one of my fastest ever triathlon run paces. Last year, I ran it at a pace of 5:45 min/km. But right off the bat, I knew I wasn’t going to beat that this year. My first kilometre was 6:05, and I got slower from there. On the bright side, with the kids at the finish line, I got to see them 3 times, when I started my 1st loop, 2nd loop, and when I finished. I spotted Emma and Alasdair within the first kilometre (it’s a 2 loop 5 k course), as well as Kristin my new Monday morning swim buddy. They were all finishing their first loop. The cloud cover was particularly nice during the run, meaning that it wasn’t too hot! I did end up pouring water over my head at some of the aid stations though – felt so good. I¬†encountered Emma, Alasdair and Kristin again later as they were heading for the finish line and I was starting my 2nd loop. So depressing to see others finishing and to know that you have to run the loop again! I think I prefer out and back courses – though with 2 loops, athletes do get to see each other more frequently! I had no issues on the run, other than¬†being limited by cardio. My legs felt fine! In the end, I finished the run at a pace of about 6:20 min/km, and the triathlon with a final time of 3:11:37, about 6 minutes slower than last year. I got a great high five from Ailish as I reached the finish line!

2016-08-27 | 2016 MultiSport Wasaga Beach Triathlon (Saturday)
Getting a high five from Ailish at the finish!

2016-08-27 | 2016 MultiSport Wasaga Beach Triathlon (Saturday)
A rare smile! Must be at the finish!

After the race, I found Alasdair and we enjoyed a carton of chocolate milk – so refreshing after a long workout. In fact, Alasdair (and Emma!) had entered a contest earlier in the year, and both ended up being the Recharge with Milk racer of the day. The title came with a pretty sweet prize pack – a free race entry, chocolate milk for a month (valued at $30), a cooler on wheels, and all kinds of Recharge with Milk swag (a sweater, hat, race bib holder, ice pack, towel, and more!).

We watched the awards, and before packing up our stuff I checked the race results and noticed that I didn’t have a run time or finish time. Apparently I wasn’t the only one. I went to the Sportstats tent and gave them the finish time on my watch, which they used to give me an official result and a run time.

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Post-race. [Photo credit: Ailish]
Before leaving Wasaga Beach, we spent a while swimming at the super crowded beach (though the water wasn’t too bad!).

Race stats*

Given the technical issues with timing, race stats aren’t quite accurate. In my age group there were 17 athletes, but final times for only 14 of us.

Time: 3:11:17 (7/14 women aged 40-44, 81/126 women, 208/344 athletes)

1500 m swim: 39:57.5 (11/17 women aged 40-44, 72/126 women, 242/344 athletes)

Run up (from beach to transition): 0:38

T1: 2:17

40 k bike: 1:22:53.5 (11/17 women aged 40-44, 64/126 women, 233/344 athletes)

T2: 2:25

10 k run: 1:03:28.2 (7/17 women aged 40-44, 63/126 women, 209/344 athletes)

 

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!

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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!

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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…

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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.

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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!!

 

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

Stats:

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

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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: Belwood sprint triathlon

A flat tire on our car 200 m from home, a slow motion goose crossing, and 2 baby raccoons who weren’t sure which way to run off¬†the road made for a somewhat eventful drive to the Fergus area¬†for our 2nd time doing the Multisport Canada Triathlon Series Belwood sprint triathlon! (On the bright side, the tire was only flat on the bottom!)

On our way to the race we passed a cyclist with a big backpack, who we figured must be racing, and wondered how far he was riding to and from the race. I spotted him arriving, and it turns out he rode 27 km to get there. Alasdair has always wanted to ride to a race, so we’re hoping to do it later this summer (because we’re crazy)!

Our 7:15 AM arrival still left lots of time for me to register (picking up my swim cap, race bib, t-shirt, timing chip and sample of Martin’s Apple Chips – yum!) and set up my stuff in transition. I discovered that I didn’t have any gels with me, and neither did Alasdair, so he went to buy a few from one of the on-site vendors.

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Photo taken by Malcolm, who finished 2nd in his age group, despite losing 9 minutes on the side of the road with a technical problem with his bike!

I left Alasdair in transition to scramble to put his wetsuit on in time, and headed to the water to find someone to zip my wetsuit up and to do a short warm-up swim. I also joined in on a group picture for Trysport Niagara (one of the race sponsors) for anyone wearing a Nineteen brand wetsuit (there were more of us, but apparently we were the only ones willing to get in the picture). Turns out Alasdair was in there too!

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I’m in the purple cap crouched down, and Alasdair is right in the middle of all the people who are standing. The man directly behind me (Terry) was competing in his 200th triathlon!

750 m SWIM

The race was to start at 8:30 AM, with Alasdair and I starting in the same wave, the 3rd and final one. I told him that my plan was to draft off of him for the entire race. I was kidding, and once the race started, congestion meant he lost me pretty much immediately anyway! My swim was very uneventful. I seemed to be sighting well, and felt that I was swimming okay. I did have to stop twice to fix my left goggle lens, and a couple of times to get around someone, but otherwise, it was a pretty straightforward swim. I was disappointed – yet again – to see 17:58 when I stood up in the water.

2016-07-09 | 2016 MultiSport Belwood Triathlon
I look sickly white but I think it’s the sunblock on my face!

It was quite a run to the transition zone, where I spotted Alasdair at his spot. A quick pee stop and a change into biking gear, and I was off. I headed out with my bike, knowing that Alasdair wasn’t too far ahead of me.

30 km BIKE 

The first 15 km were great – I was averaging over 30 km/h, and felt strong. I spotted Alasdair just before the first turnaround, which was at the 10 km marker. He didn’t notice me. Just after 15 km, we turned into the hills and ¬†30 km/h wind, and my speed dropped drastically! My ride was pretty uneventful. At one point, a man was drafting me for a few minutes, and I almost told him to stop when he pulled ahead. It was quite a pretty ride, with views of rolling farm fields. At one point, a man rode a horse with a cart around a track on a property just on the other side of the road. I forgot the nasty wind for at least a few seconds. When I finished the ride and arrived back at my spot in transition, I had nowhere to put my bike! Someone had left their bike where mine was supposed to be. Another athlete helped me to move bikes over to make room for mine (above my running shoes, hat, etc.).

7.5 km RUN

I headed out on the run feeling like I had to pee but not wanting to stop – I hoped that I wouldn’t regret my decision. The run route is along an old rail trail, and is slightly uphill on the way out. Right near the beginning another athlete asked me if I would undress him – or at least unzip the back of his tri top! He commented that we needed to find our running legs. I had a pretty good run here last year, and wasn’t sure I’d be able to do as well this time. However, my first few km’s were around a 5:33-5:38 pace, which was faster than last year’s 5:57 pace. I was able to hold off a couple of cramps, and did what I could to not drop my pace too much. I heard Alasdair cheering for me as I approached the finish line.

2016-07-09 | 2016 MultiSport Belwood Triathlon
Nearing the finish line!

In the end, my time was 2:09:08.5, which was a little disappointing, given that last year I finished in 2:04:36.1. My swim was 2 minutes slower (not sure what’s going on with my swim this year!), my bike 4 minutes slower, but my run nearly 2 minutes faster, so that’s something to celebrate!

After the race, we visited the Recharge with Milk tent for a cold carton of chocolate milk, and then chatted with Cody Beals at the Martin’s Apple Chips tent. Cody is a pro triathlete from Fergus who now has 2 Ironman 70.3 wins to his name and also has numerous other podium finishes. His very first triathlon was the Belwood sprint triathlon 10 years ago.

 

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We discovered that Alasdair and Cody share a love of physics and earth and space science. Such an approachable guy! Check out his blog at: codybeals.blogspot.ca

After grabbing the post-race food (pizza, pretzels, fruit, Martin’s Apple Chips – a local business and one of Cody’s sponsors), we headed for a picnic table near the swim exit where we could cheer on the last of the try-a-tri swimmers who were finishing their swims.

We spotted Romano, who used to own the Burlington restaurant Buonasera, where Alasdair and I got married nearly 15 years ago!

We stayed for the awards, and then headed home. Belwood, we’ll be back!

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Romano, my post-race hat twin.

Stats:

Time: 2:09:08.5 – 5/7 women 40-44, 46/81 women, 130/198 overall

750 m swim: 19:23.2 (2:35 min/100 m) – 5/7 women 40-44, 56/81 women, 145/198 overall

30 km bike: 1:03:40.9 (28.27 km/h) – 5/7 women 40-44, 43/81 women, 125/198 overall

7.5 km run: 42:51.6 (5:42 min/km) –¬†5/7 women 40-44, 46/81 women, 132/198 overall

Race report: Barrelman 1/2 ironman 2015

“Fast-paced” paddling? I wish!

The 2015 Pan Am games are long gone, but the new athletic facilities built for TO2015 will benefit Canadians of all fitness levels for years to come!¬†The 2nd annual Barrelman 1/2 ironman -put on by Multisport Canada Triathlon Series – began at the new¬†Welland International¬†Flatwater Centre (built for Pan Am canoe and kayak sprint events) and ended at Kingsbridge Park in Niagara Falls. According to the TO2015 website, the flatwater centre “boasts almost eight kilometres of deep, placid water, making it an ideal spot for hosting fast-paced paddling sports. In fact, the name Welland comes from a Celtic word meaning ‘good river’.” [Italics = my addition.] If only my swimming could be considered “fast-paced”! (I’m getting faster, but I’m not “fast”.)

Alasdair and I spent the week leading up to the race drinking copious amounts of beet juice (I’m still not a fan), and then carb loading and gathering our gear.

We arrived at T1 at the Flatwater Centre late on Saturday morning, going through the registration process to get our swim caps, bike stickers, race belts, t-shirts and timing chips. We racked our bikes, mine about as far from the bike exit as possible (which meant I had to run further in my bike shoes), since that’s where spot #454 was. We covered our bikes with seat covers and garbage bags because rain was forecast for later in the day.

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Bike racked by the handlebars because it’s more stable that way (but for the race, I racked it by the seat).

As we were heading to the van to change into swimsuits, I said something to¬†Alasdair about bikes being racked according to bib #, which he hadn’t realized, so he went back into transition to find that he had placed his bike on exactly the right spot of exactly the right rack, exactly where bib #190 was supposed to go! Weird. We swam for about 15 minutes without our wetsuits (it wasn’t too cold), chatted with another athlete (Doug from Ohio) and then drove into Welland to grab lunch at Pita Pit, which we ate back at T1 (sheltered from the pouring rain, thankfully!).

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Short swim done.

At 2:30 PM we attended the first of 2 mandatory pre-race briefings (you could go at 5 PM instead), which covered everything we needed to know for the swim, bike and run segments of the race (including the fact that normally when you cross the centre line on the bike – or the “invisible” centre line where one isn’t painted on – you are automatically disqualified, but for this race, in 2 places of the ride we were actually to ride on the wrong side of the road to avoid road damage caused by trucks transporting wind turbines!). While it would have been cool to have the pre-race briefing outdoors with athletes sitting in the stands, the rain (or wet seats) forced it inside.

After the briefing we headed to¬†T2 in Niagara Falls to see how the bike racks were set up and to find our spots. We¬†checked into our hotel, and had to leave our car for valet parking since the regular lot was full. We had¬†dinner at the Rainforest Cafe with Irina from Perpetually Moving Target, her husband and others from Fletcher’s Meadow Cross Trainers triathlon club in Brampton, including Emma from Running in Tune, who was doing her first 1/2 ironman!

We walked back to our hotel and got all our race gear ready.

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Everything ready to go!

Sunday (Race Day!)

Our alarms were set for 5:01 AM, 5:02 and 5:03 (really!), and by 6 AM we had eaten (oatmeal, yogurt, and a banana for me, pancakes, peanut butter and a banana for Alasdair) and were making our way to the lobby with a myriad of coloured bags with all our race gear and non-race stuff. All athletes were provided with bags since the Barrelman is a point to point race – we don’t return to the starting point when the race ends, but we need our run stuff to be at T2 when we get there on our bikes, and at the end of the race we need our wetsuits, goggles etc. to be waiting for us, as well as anything we were wearing in the morning before the race (e.g. sandals, long sleeved shirt – I wished I had had a winter hat and mittens like some people did!). This race forces you to be organized, or risk not having a critical piece of gear where you need it!

We had called the hotel desk and didn’t have to wait long for our van to be brought to us. Thankfully Alasdair found his timing chip in the van, which beat having to unpack all his bags searching for it (I had put mine – along with my food bracelet – on my sandals the night before so I couldn’t forget to put them on)!

We headed for the Fallsview parking lot, where we would leave our van and board a shuttle bus to the race start (T1) in Welland. We left our “bike to run” gear bags with a volunteer before getting on the bus, waited a few minutes for it¬†to fill up, and once we were on our way, it was about a 25 minute drive, getting us there by 7 AM. I¬†put my food for the bike ride in my bento box, gatorade, water bottles and bike pump back on the bike, and arranged the things I’d need for riding (bike shoes, socks, helmet, sunglasses) and set out the banana I planned to eat in transition.

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Everything ready

In between multiple bathroom trips I also covered myself in sunscreen and chatted with other athletes.

Standing in a port-a-potty lineup, another athlete pointed out a sign for canoe polo¬†world championships in 2018, and said “Who knew? I guess they have to create the sport first!”

I went down to the water to check it out – it was beautiful!

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The calm before the storm.

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The fog added a bit of magic to the water.

Shortly before the 8:59 AM race start, the Mayor of Welland gave a short address.

The weather was great, with a forecasted high of 19 degrees Celsius, 10 km/h winds, and no rain! Compared to last year, with thunderstorms forecasted (but not realized) and wind gusts up to 56 km/h, this was an amazing forecast!

I was hoping to be able to finish the race in less than 6 hours and 30 minutes, besting last year’s time of 6:47:11 (my first 1/2 ironman).

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One last picture!

2k Swim

After a very short warm-up swim, I attempted to get out of the water to the side of the spot where fresh gravel had been dumped to make it easier for athletes (I tried to avoid the congestion at this spot) and struggled with balance, but had a very helpful athlete extend his hand to me to pull me out! I went to find Alasdair, and sat with him on the dock for a short time before deciding to get back into the 21 degree Celsius water, because now that I was wet, I was getting cold! We said our goodbyes and wished each other well. I was to start in wave #2 at 9 AM, and Alasdair in wave #4 at 9:10 AM.

With less than 10 minutes to go, I decided to swim over to the start line – I didn’t want to go too early and have to tread water for a long time before the race began. I¬†elected to start on the far side of the white “pipes”, which were running along (not across) the canal. We were to swim in a clockwise rectangle, keeping the buoys to our right. I spotted a drone just past the starting line.

I had been told that there were yellow ropes under the water running the entire length of the swim, to which small sighting buoys were attached (for canoe/kayak distance measurement purposes). If you followed the rope, there was no need to lift your head up out of the water to sight (well, except to make sure you turned when you needed to!).

I found Irina at the start line and told her that she was going to pull me for the entire swim.¬†We listened to a recording of¬†O Canada (I don’t remember ever treading water for our national anthem before!) and then the horn sounded and the pros were off!¬†The race announcer encouraged us to high five the person next to us, to which I added, “or pee on them!”¬†And before we knew it, there were just 10 seconds to race time… the horn sounded, a whole bunch of people started their watches, and we were off!

So much for drafting off of Irina – she lost me fairly quickly. I’ll assume it wasn’t her who pushed off my head (!?) and then hit my hip. I did try to swim along the yellow rope, and had the joy of smacking a few of the¬†small orange sighting buoys when I swam¬†too close. At one point, I bounced one off my head and then kicked it with my foot! I did lose the rope for much of the course, and had to sight more frequently, but it was so easy – a narrow waterway, no huge waves, and a rectangular course.

My swim felt good. I was anticipating a time of about 45 minutes, but wasn’t really sure as I swam along what pace I was swimming at. At one point I¬†thought I saw the green turn buoy, but it was actually just the green swim cap of an athlete in the wave behind me who had passed me. Nevertheless, I¬†spotted the green turning buoy sooner than I expected (always a good feeling!), and turned to swim across the waterway. I turned again and headed back toward the Flatwater Centre. Half way through the swim and I already felt the need to pee!! For as much of the swim as I could, I tried to¬†draft off the swimmers who passed me (however, since they were swimming quite a bit faster than me, this didn’t last long). I had a very relaxed swim, and loved the venue! I really didn’t notice a current, if there was one. One last turn, and I headed straight back to the shore and the Recharge with Milk brown arch. I swam as close to shore as I could, and as I was taking my last stroke,¬†someone shoved me to the side (impatient much?! or maybe they lost their footing?).

I stepped out of the water, ran along a paved path and stripped my wetsuit down to my waist as I ran, then headed up about 20 stairs to transition, where I had my 1st pee break of the race (for anyone counting).

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Great cheers from the crowd along this stretch!

I pulled my wetsuit off, remembered my banana, couldn’t find my banana, thought “Did someone really steal my banana?”, looked inside my “wetsuit bag” (where I would put everything I used to swim before I headed out on the bike) and found it! Yay, my banana! I ate it as I put on my socks, shoes, helmet and sunglasses. I was already wearing my race belt, having put it on under my wetsuit.

Swim Stats

Time: 45:37.4 (2:16/100m)

Women aged 40-44: 21/34

All women: 101/163 (*Take the “All women” and “All athletes” stats with a grain of salt for this race – I didn’t double check the stats provided by Sportstats. I only verified women in my age group.)

All athletes: 353/497

89k Bike

I grabbed my bike and ran to the bike exit, past the mount line, and got on my bike. It was slightly cool to start the ride but I warmed up quickly. The route starts along a recreational pathway but quickly meets the road.

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Apparently I was admiring the view! You can see the Flatwater Centre just to the right of me.

The first 30k felt great – I was averaging over 30 km/h. I saw¬†turtles sunning themselves (some with their necks stretched way up) in the water in the small waterway we rode next to (I counted 15-20) plus a cool little bird also in the water on a log. I had been playing¬†leapfrog with an athlete named Pamela, and when I pointed the turtles out to her, she said, “See, that’s when I wish I had my camera with me… I’d ask you to stop and take my picture!”

The wind was around 10 km/h, coming from the north east, so when we hit Lake Erie and turned left, we hit a headwind. We had that headwind for the majority of the ride, I think. Along Lake Erie is one of the most scenic stretches of the bike course. I enjoyed sipping my gatorade during the ride, and eating a soon-to-melt-so-you-better-eat-it-now chocolate peanut butter ball. Some athletes who passed me cheered for me by name (since I was wearing my bib on my back).

Of the people I passed on the bike, I only noticed one woman in my age group. I was passed by more people than I passed, since I started in the 2nd wave, meaning there were lots of people starting after me!

I got a side stitch around 55k (I never get them¬†on the bike!), and despite trying to alter my breathing, I couldn’t shake it. It forced me to slow a bit, and made it hard for me to force myself to eat some of my homemade granola bar – I really¬†didn’t feel like eating anything.

I stopped at the 60k aid station/bottle exchange for my 2nd pee break (thankfully, no lineup!). I forced down a gel at 70k. One athlete passed me on the bike and said, “Is it just me, or have we been fighting the wind the entire time?!”¬†I had another¬†gel at 85k, but in reaching for the gel, my right hamstring cramped up, I thought, “Oh no!” and had to stand up and let it relax! It was really¬†beautiful riding along the Niagara River.

I fully expected Alasdair to pass me at the end of the bike, since I was slowing down, but he didn’t. The¬†bike course was very well marked, with police at intersections where riders needed to have the right of way.

Coming into T2 with the side stitch, I was wondering how the run would go… I racked my bike, took off my helmet, took my bike shoes off, put my running shoes on, tucked a gel into my shirt, forgot my hat, and took off! I stopped for pee #3 on my way out of transition. Unfortunately, there was a line-up, so I had to wait close to a minute.

Bike Stats

Time: 3:10:02.2 (28.1 km/h)

Women aged 40-44: 17/34

All women: 89/163

All athletes: 362/497

21.1k Run

At the very start of the¬†run my stomach was super unhappy, but I can’t even explain what was wrong with it… in addition, I still had the side stitch!¬†I wondered how I would be able to run 1 km, let alone 21.1! The run course is a 2-loop course, which has athletes¬†running through downtown Niagara Falls and past the American and Canadian falls twice (the spray from the falls was great!).¬†Between 2 and 3k my cramps worsened, forcing me to stop and walk, then run again. Alasdair reached me at about 3k, at which point I told him about my stomach issues.¬†At 5k I stopped at an aid station for pee break #4 (!), had a drink of heed, a cup of water, and a few¬†grapes.

When I started running again, I felt great! My stomach was fine. Suddenly running 21.1km seemed much more doable.

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Running past the American falls

I stopped at almost every aid station to drink water and/or heed, and later in the race to eat more grapes (I really didn’t feel like gels, even though I had the one¬†in my shirt and they were offering them at the aid stations). I have to say that the aid station volunteers were fantastic! They did a great job calling out whatever it was they were holding (so you knew who to go to for what)! Thank you volunteers!!!

Somewhere along the run I started feeling chafing on my arm from my tri top, but it wasn’t bad!

On the second loop, I was catching Alasdair (but didn’t know it), and at the point I spotted him running toward me (an out and back) we were not much more than 1 or 2 km apart – it was then he told me that he was having knee and calf issues.

The run course was slightly different this year. At one point, we had to run up a few stairs and then down 3 sets of 9 stairs (I held the hand rail as I ran down, knowing that my legs were tired and not wanting to fall). They weren’t a problem at all.

The run course was well marked and the spectators in Niagara Falls were very enthusiastic. There were a few good signs along the route:¬†“This seemed like a good idea 6 months ago.” and “Smile if you peed in your wetsuit.”

The hardest part of the run (other than the first miserable 5k) was from 18-20k, which is a steady climb – not steep, but continuous. I was looking at my watch frequently, knowing that it was becoming more and more unlikely I was going to finish sub 6 hours 30 minutes. I pushed as hard as I could, and I skipped the last aid station.

I crossed the finish line in 6:30:31.3, or 17 minutes faster than last year (the ride last year was 3k longer, but I still would have beaten my time)!

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Exhausted.

After a few minutes of wandering around a bit, I was ready for chocolate milk, pizza, fruit and a cookie.

Run Stats

1st 10.5k: 1:13:53 (7:02 min/km)

2nd 10.5k: 1:14:07 (7:03 min/km)

Women aged 40-44: 24/34

All women: 98/163

All athletes: 374/497

Alasdair ended up finishing in 6:11, a few minutes faster than last year.

The Barrelman is a phenomenally well organized race! It’s a must do!

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You can’t see it in this picture, but my face, neck and arms were covered in crusted salt!

Overall Stats

Time: 6:30:31.3

Women aged 40-44: 20/34

All women: 98/163

All athletes: 374/497

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Picture by Irina

What a season 2015 was! 9 triathlons, including 2 sprints, 3 Olympics, 1 long course, 2 half ironmans, 1 sprint relay, our first race in the USA and new tri friends!! Can’t wait to see what 2016 brings!

Thank you John Salt and Multisport Canada Triathlon Series for a fantastic season! See you next year!!