Course – 4- This is an excellent course for all ability levels
Organization – 3.5 – Fairly well organized
Pre/Post race facilities – 3.5 – Nice grassy area if it’s nice, but cramped building if not
Value for money – 3.5 – Average tri pricing
Fun – 4 – Hammerfest on the bike
Food – 3.5 – Normal fare, plus hotdogs and macaroni salad
Swag – 3.5 – T-shirt and reflective vest
Overall Rating – 4 – Fun non-technical race
Going into this season I decided that I didn’t really like swimming. Open water swimming was fun, but the pool was boring and tedious for me, so I decided to set my sights on Duathlons this year. The first one on my schedule was Fanshawe, where I had done the Tri last year and had a great time. The weather turned out to be great despite it raining in the early morning and looking threatening when we arrived. The clouds moved on, at least until after the race, and some parts of the course were quite hot.
The race started with a 2.5 run through some XC ski and hiking trails. I started out slowly speeding up as I started to warm up. Next time I think I will have to do a much better warm up so that I can push right from the beginning. By the end of the run I had made my way to 18th place, but was almost 2 minutes off the pace of the leader. I transitioned quickly trying to keep my shoes in some semblance of order so I would not have to search for them in T2. I jumped on my bike and headed out onto the 22km loop around Fanshawe Lake. The bike started with a flat grassy section into a fairly open trail section that allowed me to pass a number of competitors. The rest of the course was not very technical, but had some quick turns that were slick because of the rain we had in the morning and some rooty sections. There were also 2 creek crossings, but these were mandatory dismounts so nothing to worry about. In the first section of singletrack I got stuck behind someone who was obviously a very good road rider, but did not have much experience on trails as he was very slow on the tight stuff (where I couldn’t pass him) then would take off the as soon as the trail straightened out so that I had a hard time passing him. I was finally able to work my around him on a slightly technical section and took off. I pushed myself fairly hard, but tried to save some for the final 6 km run which I was a little worried about because my run training is not where I want it to be. The bike finished with a 2 km section of gravel and paved road where I hammered trying to put some distance on the racers behind me, then onto the trail we used for the first run. I transitioned into my running shoes leaving the transition area with a group of 4 runners. I decided that I would just stick with them and see what I had left in the last half of the run. I felt fairly good and was able to stick with 3 of the runners as one took off. The run course started on a grassy section through the park, and then moved onto some XC ski then hiking trails. The hiking trails were really nice and I enjoyed this section and just ran, not worrying about staying with anyone or watching my pace. This was the point where I felt the best and actually started to push the pace. After this section we headed back towards the finish line along the road. I was pretty sure that we were at about 6k 200m from the finish when we were turned back onto the trails from the 1st run again for a 1.8k section. This through me off a little as I had pushed it thinking I was done. I tried to keep a fast pace and passed another racer in this section. With 700m to go I thought I heard a racer behind me and tried to push the pace, running scared. Turns out it was my imagination, but it gave me the push I needed to finish strong. I crossed the line 8th overall and 3rd in my age group. I felt pretty good about my race, but now with some experience with a duathlon I know that there are places that I can really improve.
This race was a great early season race for those who are thinking about getting into Off Road Tri’s (or Du’s), or a good primer for the rest of the season. It is not technical, but is a very fun fast course. The race is well organized although they are a couple off things that can be improved. The marking on the bike course was lacking in some sections where although the may seem obvious, nothing is obvious when you are hammering through trails, and the last thing you want to do is go off course. Also the run course was first listed at 7.5 km then changed to 6 km, but turned out to be closer to 8. I didn’t have the chance to ride it and see what the distance was but based my pacing and the pacing of Jill and the other people I talked to this was the general consensus. But that is part of Off Road racing, it is an adventure and you never know what to expect. Grab your Mountain Bike and get out there; I will see you at XTC Guelph July 22.