Race report: Welland Rose City triathlon double header (sprint and give-it-a-tri)

Why do one triathlon on a Saturday when you can do two? It wasn’t my idea (really!), but it didn’t take long for me to agree to end the 2021 triathlon season with a bang by doing back to back races in Welland. The International Flatwater Centre is a fantastic venue, and Multisport Canada puts on great races in the Rose City. Covid-19 precautions were in effect, with masks in transition and at registration, a covid check, and races spread over 3 days with less athletes in each race.

When we received an email with our individual starts times a few days before the race, we realized that we would have less than an hour between races, and race kit pickup for the give-it-a-tri would start – and end – while we were doing the sprint race. But on race morning Alasdair got it all sorted out – the race crew knew that two crazy people would be coming to register late!

When we first arrived at the venue we accidentally racked our bikes on the give-it-a-tri rack, but we hadn’t set our things up, so when we realized our mistake it was easy to switch to the sprint racks. I left my bike, went through registration, and then got my things organized. I put on my wetsuit and headed down the stairs to the water. I had lots of time before my race, so I watched other people start, found some shade to wait in, then eventually found a random athlete to zip me up! I did a short warm up swim, found Alasdair, and waited for athlete #86 to be called to the start line!

Sprint triathlon

750 m swim

Almost ready to go!

For this race, we were seeded based on our predicted finish times (of the swim? or the entire race? I can’t remember). This meant that the fastest athletes would start first, and the slowest last. One swimmer would start every 30 seconds. The swim start was incredibly well organized. There was a 2-sided digital clock so the race crew and the athletes in the water warming up could read it. My start time was 11:42:30, so a couple of minutes before that I was called up, and went into the water from the dock. I treaded water until my start time, then when the clock hit 11:42:30, I started. Alasdair must have forgotten to seed himself when he registered, because he was placed nearly at the back of the pack 20 minutes after me!

If you’ve been following my triathlon adventures this summer, you will know that I’ve had mini panic attacks on the swim for each of my races so far, the Barrie sprint, Gravenhurst sprint, and Gravenhurst Olympic. Well I’m not sure if it was the solo start, but I had the most relaxed swim of any triathlon yet this summer! My only issue was a bit of water in my goggles, which I quickly tipped out. I was so relieved to have a good swim!

I made my way up the stairs to transition, took the rest of my wetsuit off at my bike, put on my helmet, sunglasses, socks, shoes, and race bib and headed out with my bike. It was quite a long run to the bike mount line.

20k bike

The bike was 5 loops of a closed road course which is relatively flat. There are two 180 degree turns per lap (and two 90 degree turns) – it’s a backwards L shape. As I started my 3rd loop, Alasdair started his 1st. He passed me and then I chased him for the remainder of the ride. Athletes had to count their own laps, or use a bike computer or watch, or use the Sportstats clock on the race course (hard to read when you’re riding fast!). Thankfully, I didn’t lose track! After my 5th lap it was a long run back into transition. I racked my bike, removed my helmet, put on my hat, changed my shoes, and headed out the run exit.

5k run

The run was 2 loops on a path along the recreational waterway. It was while running that I really started thinking how crazy it was to be doing another race after this one. I even considered not doing it, and just cheering for Alasdair! Speaking of Alasdair, as I was starting my 2nd loop, he passed me on his 1st. One thing I’ve missed this year is seeing the age of other athletes on their legs (no body marking this year) – it helps to know if you should actually try to catch someone or keep ahead of them if you know that they’re in your age category! Of course, I might not have had any fight in me anyway!

I was grateful to cross the finish line, but didn’t have time to relax! I grabbed a mask, put it on, and went back to registration, where I confused the volunteers who looked at me funny trying to register while already wearing a race bib! We sorted things out quickly and off I went. I grabbed a juice box, downed that, and headed back to transition to move my bike and all my stuff to the give-it-a-tri rack. I organized my things again, forced myself to eat half a muffin so I wouldn’t be starving during the give-it-a-tri, and then at some point I found Alasdair. It was already time to go down to the water.

Race stats

  • Time: 1:42:56
  • Swim: 21:04 (2:48 min/100m)
  • T1: 1:58
  • Bike: 45:17 (27.82 km/h)
  • T2: 1:18
  • Run: 33:19 (6:39 min/km)
  • Women 45-49: 3/5
  • All women: 33/51
  • All athletes: 94/132

Give-it-a-try

400m swim

My start time for the give-it-a-tri was 2:02:00, with Alasdair 40 seconds behind me. I knew this meant that he would pass me during the swim. The swim course looked so short compared to the sprint course – I was so glad to have done the longer race first. When athlete #210 was called up, I headed for the start line. I had another relaxed swim (!), and before I knew it I was heading back to transition. Sure enough Alasdair beat me there, but he only headed out with his bike a few seconds before me.

12k bike

I was so disappointed when I found out that we had to do 3 laps of the bike course (12k), and not 2 (10k). I was mentally prepared for only 2! Thankfully, another 2k wasn’t a big deal. When I started biking I felt that my legs were definitely more tired than they were at the beginning of the sprint! I chased Alasdair the entire race, but it was a losing battle – he was pulling just slightly further ahead with each loop.

2.5k run

I spotted Alasdair heading out of transition on foot as I was running back in with my bike. The run was 1 loop of the course we ran in the morning. At this point, I was really glad that I was only doing it one more time! Alasdair passed me when I had between 500m and 1k to go. And then not a moment too soon I too crossed the finish line, for the second time that day!

Race stats

  • Time: 1:02:25
  • Swim: 12:09 (3:02 min/100m)
  • T1: 2:26
  • Bike: 29:08 (25.95 km/h)
  • T2: 1:31
  • Run: 17:11 (6:52 min/km)
  • Women 45-49: 3/5
  • All women: 16/51
  • All athletes: 43/101

After the second race we were finally able to relax! We chatted with Race Director Jason Vurma, then headed for the water to cool off before heading home.

With Race Director Jason Vurma

Thank you Multisport Canada for adapting and putting on races this summer! We were so thankful to be back racing. See you in 2022!

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Race report: Guelph Lake II try-a-tri

This is part II of my triathlon double-header. Read part I here.

Earlier in the summer, Alasdair and I talked about the possibility of riding our bikes 45k to Guelph Lake to do the sprint triathlon relay, and then ride home after the race. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that riding 120k that day (since I would be riding 30k in the relay) might not be the best idea, in particular because I hadn’t ridden more than 60k at once lately, and because we’re doing the Barrelman 1/2 ironman in 2 weeks. So, last week I scrapped that idea and decided instead to do my first ever triathlon double-header: the sprint triathlon relay in the morning, and the try-a-tri in the afternoon. It would be my first time doing a try-a-tri since 2010 when I first started racing (I did the Milton try-a-tri first, then the Guelph Lake I try-a-tri before switching to sprints). I only told a few people and most said, “WHY?” Why not?

So after the sprint relay, I registered for the try-a-tri and got body marked again (the volunteer had to scratch out the 454 from our relay and add 1003 to my leg!). I needed to eat something, but wasn’t sure exactly what to eat that wouldn’t upset my stomach. I had a peanut butter sandwich and a banana during the sprint awards, and hoped that would do! I had moved my bike from the relay rack to the women aged 40-44 rack before the awards, so all I had to do was set my stuff up, and that didn’t take long.

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All set up in the transition zone and ready to head to the lake for a short warm up swim.

375m Swim

With about 30 minutes to go before race time, I headed for the water to put my wetsuit on. Ailish showed me the awesome sign she made for me during the sprint relay!

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She zipped me up, and I went for a short warm-up swim. I was to be in the 3rd of 4 waves. Many of the athletes were first time triathletes, so I decided to line up in the front row of swimmers – I didn’t expect to be the fastest, but I was certainly more comfortable and confident than newbies!

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That’s me about to dive into the water!

My strategy paid off, as I had very little congestion. I had a pretty good swim, and seemed to go straight. The buoys seemed so close – 375m is not very far! We swam out to a buoy, turned right, swam to the next buoy, turned right, and headed for shore. I swam until my hands started to hit the sand, got up and saw 9:30 on my watch – not bad! I walked a few steps then ran out of the water, across the sandy beach, and up the long hill, around the transition zone, and in. The run was longer than usual, because low water levels in the lake made the swim start further out than usual.

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Checking my swim time.

I had a bit of trouble getting my wetsuit off, and had to brush pebbles off my feet before putting my socks on (remember, we were set up on gravel). I grabbed my bike and off I went!

10k bike

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Heading out on the ride.

My goal was to ride as hard as I could and to see if I could maintain 30 km/h over 10k like I did over the 30k for the relay. I had trouble clipping my shoes in, but eventually got going. My legs felt tired and I pretty much knew right away that I wasn’t going to manage that pace. But I did what I could. I thought I passed a lot of people during the sprint relay, but I passed even more during the try-a-tri!

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Finally clipped in!

Having just ridden the course in the morning (and then some), I knew exactly what to expect and the ride went pretty quickly. I had a stomach cramp for a while and figure it may have been the peanut butter sandwich. On the way back, climbing the last big hill, another athlete was riding down the hill on the other side of the road, completely out of control, wobbling this way and that, screaming over and over! I thought for sure that she was going to crash. I don’t remember now whether it was arms or legs flailing, but it was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen on a bike. When she passed me I turned back to make sure she was still upright – somehow, she was! She must have been absolutely terrified!

I reached the dismount line, and was a bit disappointed that I didn’t go as fast as I would have liked to. I didn’t actually know what my time was – I wasn’t paying really close attention. I was surprised to see that I was the first woman on the 40-44 rack to rack my bike (it was empty!). This meant that I was currently in 1st place. Two women arrived while I was still there. I removed my helmet, changed my shoes, and took off – I even decided to leave my hat, not wanting to lose any more time than necessary!

2.5k run

I was sure that I would be caught on the run, but apparently I started out at a pretty good pace – near the beginning, I heard Alasdair say, “Nice pace!” I wasn’t sure if he meant it or was trying to be encouraging! With every step, I expected to be passed by a woman with a 40, 41, 42, 43, or 44 or her leg. I wasn’t used to being in the lead – in fact, this was the first time ever! Shortly after beginning this run, I remembered why I hated running at Guelph Lake – it’s hilly! And of course close to 2 PM, it was hot! With such a short run, I tried to hold the pace I started with, but had no idea how I was doing – I wasn’t looking at the watch. I resigned myself to being passed by stronger runners, and just decided to do the best I could.  I passed an aid station but just ran right through – no stopping for water (or someone would surely pass me!). Before too long, I hit the turnaround, at which point I’d be able to see the people hot on my heels. I was surprised that they were all men! No women about to pass me. With about 200m to go, I heard the voices of 2 women, and resigned myself (once again) to finishing 3rd. They passed me, I looked at their legs, and saw 20-something! Still in the lead… I reached the last uphill, a spectator told me and other runners to push hard for the finish, I turned the corner, ran down the hill, and then was joined by Ailish as she ran part way down the hill with me. I couldn’t talk at that point! She later told me it was hard as she had to dart in and out of spectators. I crossed the finish line, and the announcer told everyone that KIRA had finished.

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Very close to the finish line.

A volunteer took my timing chip, another gave me a finisher’s medal, and a third gave me a bottle of water. I found Alasdair and Ailish, and then this awesome fan blowing cold mist!

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Loving the cool air spray through the fan.

Eventually Ailish and I went over to the results board, and someone from Sportstats put up 2 sheets of paper. I found my name, and saw that I was 1/32 women aged 40-44. I had won!!!

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Sharing the podium with the #1 male aged 40-44.

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Race bling!

After getting my post-race food, we sat down in the shade and waited for the awards to start. An announcement was made that a 3 year old girl was missing, and for everyone to look out for her. 5-10 minutes later the crowd cheered when we were told that she had been found safe. The awards started, and before long I was called up as the winner of the women 40-44 category – how exciting!

It was a fun day!

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With one of my #1 fans.

Stats

The race stats changed a little between the posted results at Guelph Lake and now. In any case, I still finished first!

Time: 50:23.4 (1/25 women aged 40-44, 8/141 women, 62/268 athletes)

375m Swim: 11:11.9 (2:59 min/100m – includes long run up to transition) (4/25 women 40-44, 34/141 women, 55/268 athletes)

T1: 2:12

10k Bike: 21:45.8 (27.57 km/h) (1/25 women 40-44, 8/141 women, 63/268 athletes)

T2: 1:27

2.5k Run: 13:47.6 (5:31 min/km) (3/25 women 40-44, 8/141 women, 62/268 athletes)

 

Race report: my very first triathlon (Milton, June 2010)

Anyone else suffering from triathlon withdrawal?

Here is the race report I wrote after my very first triathlon on June 6, 2010, a try a tri, with a 375m swim, 10k bike, and 2.5k run. Clearly, I was hooked!

“As you probably know, I have been inspired over the last few years by Alasdair and the other amazing athletes taking part in the Subaru Triathlon Series. I have watched many many races, cheering on first Alasdair, then Doug W. in his duathlons (equally inspired – he started running again for the first time since high school… and that was, well, more than a few years ago). I saw people of all shapes, sizes and ages, including a one-legged competitor, and men in their 70’s, and I figured if they could do it, I had no excuse!! At the end of last summer, I finally decided to do something about it, and at the beginning of September I started training seriously.

First step: learn how to swim! Okay, so I did know how to swim but I didn’t know how to swim and breathe… or at least, not properly. I could breaststroke no problem, but it isn’t the quickest stroke out there. So, I started hitting the pool, and while it was incredibly frustrating at times, I eventually managed to breathe without gasping, albeit only on the right side.  Learning how to swim by reading – books and on the internet – is, well, interesting. Thankfully I had some pointers from Alasdair and Kevin, and a few in-pool sessions with Alasdair over Christmas. I plugged away at it and eventually was swimming twice a week for an hour at a time, covering 2 km. But I was still breathing unilaterally. Last week I had a breakthrough and was able to breathe bilaterally. Woohoo! I also bought myself a wetsuit and managed to try it out twice for some open water swimming practice at Christie Lake. It was there I realized that the hardest part of triathlon may very well be swimming in a straight line.

Next step: increase running distance. Yes the try a tri run is only 2.5 k, but to get to sprint distance I will have to be able to run at least 7 k. I’m now at just under 16, when last fall I had only ever run about 5.

Next step: switch to upright bikes! I used to always ride the reclined bikes at the Y, but I switched to upright, then eventually got myself a brand spanking new road bike (a first road bike for me)!  Thankfully, I wouldn’t have to ride my mom’s old mountain bike for the triathlon after all! Also key was crashing my bike while barely moving on loose gravel, just to remind myself of how dangerous biking can be. I got the message, and remember every time I see the hole in my bike shorts.

And so, the day of my very first try a tri finally arrived. In the night I awoke to wild wind and heavy rain, and wondered what today would have in store for us! Alasdair and I loaded our gear and bikes and headed for Kelso Conservation Area in Milton, arriving just after 7 am. We parked the van and headed for the transition zone, teeth chattering as we went! It was cold and pouring rain. I racked my bike, then registered with Alasdair for our races (he did the longer sprint). We got our race numbers, had our body markings done (bib # on arm, age on leg), got our goody bags (including t-shirts), and headed for the try a tri transition zone. I prepped all my stuff (keeping it all in a garbage bag), and made a new friend – Laurie, also doing her first triathlon. After a final pee (this is me, after all), Laurie and I headed to the water for a warm up swim.

Ready!
Ready (as I’ll ever be)!

I was surprised to find that the water was warm! Warmer than the air, and since we were cccccold we just stayed in the water. And before we knew it, the horn blew for the first wave of the try a tri. We were in the second wave, starting 3 minutes after the first. I deliberately started back a bit, knowing that I would not be one of the fastest swimmers (I did just learn to swim, remember!). Of course, by the time the race started, I already had to pee (this is me, after all). I started and got a few strokes in before quickly deciding to forego bilateral breathing and stick to my old friend – right side only breathing. I had a mini panic attack where all of a sudden the water and splashing and people and everything made me stop and think “OH MY GOD WHAT AM I DOING?! I CAN’T DO THIS! THOSE BUOYS ARE SO FAR AWAY!” Thankfully, I took a few breaths, did a few strokes of breaststroke, and was okay to continue. By the time I got to the first buoy (there were 4), I was fine, swimming pretty smoothly, and only occasionally got whacked by other swimmers (or kicking/hitting someone myself). Amazingly, swimming in a straight line was the least of my worries! One swimmer from the first wave was rescued by a kayak just a few metres after starting. Doesn’t help one’s confidence! In the end, I ended the swim before some of the swimmers in the wave ahead of me, so I knew I couldn’t have done that badly. Time limit for the swim was 20 minutes, after which you are out of the race. I knew that I could swim it in 10+ minutes in the pool, so figured unless I went WAY off course I could do it in less than 20! Unfortunately, I had forgotten to start my watch timer so had no clue how I was doing!!!

Out of the water and running...
Done my very first triathlon swim!

I walked the first few steps out of the water then lifted up my goggles and started running to the transition zone. By the time I got there my wetsuit was halfway off. I bent over to take the rest of it off and quickly got lightheaded. Stood right up, grabbed the bar that my bike was racked on, and removed the wetsuit one handed. Put my shorts on backwards – didn’t feel right – took them off, put them on again!

Putting shorts on backwards!
Putting shorts on backwards!

Put on my shirt, socks, shoes, helmet, race bib, took a sip of water, and I was off! Did I mention that I had to pee (more so than before)? I briefly considered taking a pitstop, but knew I’d be so annoyed with myself if I didn’t come in under 1 hour because I stopped to pee.

I had done the bike/run portion of the race in April with Alasdair so I knew what to expect. I passed LOTS of people on the bike, even going uphill! Apparently I’ve discovered my strong point.

Returning from ride
Returning from my first triathlon bike leg!

I came in from the bike and according to Alasdair, had an incredibly fast transition to the run. All I had to do was rack my bike, take off my helmet, and go! I don’t have clip in pedals, so I didn’t have to change footwear. By the time I was ready to run, I was seriously considering the bathroom! But… I kept on going.

So off I went, straight up the hill. What a way to start the run. I passed a few people on the run but mostly I was passed by others. I started out slowly (it did start with a hill) but the last 500 m I picked up the pace. I was happy to see Alasdair at the finish line – I knew that if I took much longer than 1 hour (my goal time) he would have left already to start his race. He told me to look at my time. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that I was under an hour – by at least 10 minutes!! Turns out my total time was 49:52.

Nearly there!
Done my first triathlon!

And later, when I went with Myra to get food and check out the race results, I couldn’t believe it when I saw that I finished 3/31 in my age group – women aged 35-39!!

Doug & I finished 3rd by age. copy
3/31

Wow! What a way to finish my very first triathlon!!”

What happened to you during your first race? Any wardrobe malfunctions like mine? Swim panic attacks?

It’s hard to believe that 2016 will be my 7th year of triathlon! Craziness!