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Bluewater Duathlon

Date: July 28, 2007
Description: Chase Format Duathlon & Triathlon in celebration of the race’s 25 year anniversary!
Location: Sarnia, ON (Brights Grove Public School)
Race Name: Bluewater Triathlon & Duathlon; Ontario Triathlon Series
Sport: Triathlon/Duathlon
Race Website:

I first read about this race in a feature in Triathlon Magazine Canada entitled “Five Races You’ve Never Heard of….But Should Have”.  It was the only one of the five featured races that was located in Ontario and a possibility for me to get to.  A little later on in the season I found out that in celebration of its 25th year anniversary, the race would be held in a chase format, with the female duathletes starting 20mins ahead of the male duathletes (16mins ahead in the triathlon) and $250 of prize money for the overall winners of the races, regardless of sex.  Well, I couldn’t resist such a challenge!  Organized by Ken Walker along with the congregation of St. John-in-the-Wilderness Anglican Church, I had also heard rumours of a great atmosphere, amazing organization,  and an out-of-this-world post-race meal.  So, I penciled it into my race schedule with a question mark after it…it was, after all, a 5-hour drive from Roseneath to Sarnia, and was being held less than a full week after my Olympic Tri at McKellar.  I wasn’t sure how the body would feel, or about the logistics of getting to the Saturday morning race. 

The wednesday before the race I made the decision to go for it.  On the website it mentioned the possibility of billeting with a family for the night before, so I gave the contact, Anne Hitchins, a call.  Anne and her husband John kindly offered to have me stay over at their own house, although they were already hosting two couples, a puppy, and a baby!  With accomodations taken care of I spent Thursday night and Friday morning preparing in order to leave immediately after work on Friday afternoon….now I know why most races are held on Sundays…you need Saturday to prepare, pack, and travel!!  I’ll spare the details of my voyage through Toronto on a Friday evening during rush hour….lets just say I spent a lot more time in the T-dot then I wanted to!  Traffic was horrible!  It is always a shock driving through the city after spending so much time on the local quiet country roads.  I arrived at the Hitchin’s house around 8:30pm on Friday night and spent a couple hours relaxing and enjoying their company out on their back deck before heading to bed.

Race Morning

I slept like a log through the night….unusual for me before a race and in a strange bed.  I got up at 5:00am to eat and then headed back to bed to snooze for another hour.  John and Anne left for the race site to help out at about 6:15am and made sure to knock on my door before they left as I requested.  About an hour later I followed Kyle and Gary (two of the other athletes staying with John & Anne) to the race site about 10mins away.  We arrived close to 7:30am and the school was already bustling!  Luckily, in addition to the school parking lot, there were many side streets close by to park on.  Registration was well organized and located in the school gymnasium…so lots of room.  Along the walls were posted race information, diagrams of the race course, and previous year’s results, which was kind of neat.  In addition to the bathrooms inside the school there were also two porta-potties located by the transition area as well as some public park washrooms located on the far side of the parking lot.  I didn’t have to wait in line once the entire morning!  At 7:50am a pre-race meeting was held for all athletes and it was officially announced to all that due to the northerly winds blowing across the water, the swim would be cancelled for safety reasons.  Always a hard call, especially when the swim was also cancelled last year, but better safe than sorry, and I think most athletes can appreciate that.  So the race was turned into one giant duathlon, with all the ladies starting 20mins ahead of the men and teams, and with the first two people to cross the line winning $300 and $200 respectively.  The meeting ended with a prayer given by the Reverend of St. John-in-the-Wilderness Church before everyone headed out to warm up.  I did my usual warm up: 20mins of jogging followed by 5-10mins of drills/accelerations usually interspersed with 1 or 2 last minute pit-stops!   

The Course 

One word: FLAT!  Both run courses were completely flat, while the bike course had a few very gentle inclines and declines out towards the turnaround, which I found a welcome change from all the grinding away in the wind.  Most of the bike (an upside-down L-shaped route) had a crosswind and for the most part the roads were well-paved, one section apparently had just been re-paved the day before!  There was only one short section of rough road.  

Run #1 – 2.8km  

8:30am saw the ladies head out onto the 2.8km run course…which I suspect was a little short looking at the times!  As usual my plan for the first run was to take it conservatively….there would be lots of race still left to go hard without trashing the legs in the first 10mins!  I found however, that my sentiments weren’t shared as the top women started quite speedily and I had to pick up my pace in order not to give them too much time on me!  I concentrated on turnover, feeling strong,  and not pushing too hard.  I finished the first run in 5th place, about 30seconds down on the leaders, in 9:34:05.

Bike – 40km  

I have to admit I was kind of dreading this bike ride.  Once again I was not looking forward to aggravating and creating new saddle sores in my nether regions from a 40km bike ride in my un-protective race shorts.  Add to that a flat course where optimally you are not changing position the entire ride (= constant pressure with no relief!) and you have one unhappy and uncomfortable cyclist!!  Needless to say I spent a great deal of time on the bike shifting around in search of a comfortable position…which I would find, for a few minutes, before the pain would start again and then the search would begin anew!

I took it easy in the first few km’s of the bike: took a gel, drank some Gu20, and negotiated out of the neighbourhood and onto the main road before settling into my aerobars for the ride.  Unsure of the biking talents of the girls ahead of me, and always aware of the men looming behind, I worked pretty hard on the bike.  It was tough grinding away in the wind on the flat sections…give me rolling hills any day!  But I also enjoyed the challenge.  Before the 15km mark I pulled into the lead and had the unique (for me!) opportunity to follow along behind the race vehicle.  This ensured that there was no way I could accidently go off course, which is always much appreciated!  I found it challenging to remain motivated and keep a good pace up there all by myself, so I tried to constantly think of the men charging up from behind in order to keep myself going.  The turn-around at 20km was a welcome sight and was where the fun began!  From then on, my race was one long, constant, cheer!  I have never been cheered on so much in my life!  Not only did the majority of the other female competitors offer words of encouragement and support (you go girl, keep ahead of those guys!) but I also received tons of positive feedback from the male competitors as well!  It was all this support that kept me pushing for the rest of the bike and onto the run course!  With this extra and unexpected boost, I was able to finish the bike in a final time of 1:05:25. 

Run #2 – 10km

The cheering continued.  Into and out of transition, the whole crowd offered their support.  Out onto the run course I was cheered on by all the volunteers, spectators, competitors coming in on their bikes, even the friendly girl on the bike who was my guide along the run course!  Thank you everyone!  It really did make the run that much easier…plus it makes you feel like you can’t slow down!!  While the first run seemed short, I think this 10km was pretty accurate.  I felt surprisingly good, tried to keep my breathing under control and my turnover high.  Once I realized I had a bit of a lead over my chasers, and that I would finish safely ahead of any men, the run became about maintaining a strong pace and not blowing up!  Again, even though it was flat, like the bike it was tough, and I was very glad to see the sign for 9km’s and then to enter the park towards the finish line!  Finished the run in 37:16:09, the second fastest run time overall for the day!  Yey!

Total time was 1:52:16 for first overall. 

Full results can be found at:

A Note on Nutrition:

Breakfast: muesli at 5:00am

Bike: 2 Gu gels (initially and at 25km); 1 waterbottle with Gu20

Run #2: water; carried a gel

Results: good, no cramps, no bloating, no sloshy stomach!!

Post-Race Festivities

Being the first to finish the race gave me plenty of time to enjoy the laid-back and friendly party atmosphere after the race.  Music was playing, hot-dogs were sizzling on the BBQ and the church ladies had spread out an absolutely amazing amount of food in the school gymnasium including various sandwiches, chili, watermelon, drinks, and TONS of baking (a specialty of church ladies!) including cookies, tarts, squares, brownies, cakes, breads…..basically a post-race triathletes carbo heaven-on-earth!!  I had to take a few pictures to show my family for proof!  Many athletes, including myself, headed down to the gorgeous sandy beaches of Lake Huron after the race to cool off in the water.  While the waves were HUGE and definitely not safe for swimming, they were perfect for relaxing in afterwards!  Once the last competitor had crossed the line, draw prizes and awards (including the Caboose Award for that final finisher!!) were handed out.  Age-group awards went 6-deep and money prizes were given to the top 2 overall finishers.  This happened to be two ladies this year: myself, and Allison Poe from London! 

Final Thoughts 

I am so glad that I decided to do this race this year, despite the distance of the drive down.  It was a pleasure to meet and stay with John & Anne Hitchins, I feel like we are old friends already instead of having just met them.  Thank you John & Anne for opening your hearts and home to me and for making me feel so welcome!  I wish I could have stayed longer.  The organization and atmosphere of the race was just amazing.  You could tell it was the 25th anniversary….everything went off without a hitch.  The venue was perfect; the course was scenic, challenging, and well-marked.  My fellow competitors were supportive, encouraging, and an inspiration out on course.  Thank you all!  I will definitely be making this race a yearly tradition!   Congratulations to Ken Walker and St. John-in-the-Wilderness Anglican Church for doing such an amazing job hosting this event! 

Thanks for reading

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