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Cobourg Olympic Triathlon & Worlds Qualifier!

Date: August 11, 2007
Description: 1500m swim/40km bike/10km run; 2008 Worlds Qualifier
Location: Cobourg, ON (Victoria Park)
Race Name: Cobourg Triathlon; HSBC Triathlon Series
Sport: Triathlon
Race Website:

This is the third year I have participated in this event, either in the triathlon or duathlon.  How can I resist when not only is it so close to home (30 mins!) but so well organized and a beautiful venue to boot!  This year I planned on racing in the Olympic Triathlon since it was a qualifying race for the 2008 World Triathlon Championships being held in Vancouver next June, with two spots per age-group.  This was the reason I have been forcing myself into the pool 2x/wk since last November!! 

Considering how important this race was, you would have thought I would have taken it easy the week before, you know, tapered a little or something!  But no, with my real focus on the World Long Distance Du’s in October, I trained through the week, and even accidentally over did it a little……On my weekly tempo run I decided to tack on some 30 sprints to the end of the workout.  Felt good at the time but later realized I had absolutely trashed both of my hamstrings!  They were so sore all week that I could barely get through my daily routine.  I contemplated going for a massage but ended up doing it myself with my “stick” and finally on Friday afternoon (the day before the race) they started to feel normal again. 

I have decided that I don’t like racing on Saturday.  It just does not leave enough time to prepare after working on Friday, let alone travel to the race. (luckily didn’t have to do this on this occasion)  So I was feeling a little frazzled on Friday night after working all day, doing groceries, making supper, cleaning my bike,  packing my bags, and looking up all the race info.   I didn’t get to bed until after 11pm with the alarm set for 4:30am to give enough time for my big breaky to digest before the 8:30am race time!  Whew!

The Venue

I don’t know if any of you have ever been to Victoria Park in Cobourg.  If not, I highly recommend it.  Located on Lake Ontario, it is absolutely gorgeous with smooth sandy beaches and clear blue waters.  I have heard time and again people comment with awe and surprise about how they did not think “Lake Ontario” (said with a slightly disgusted look) would look like this! (usually they are from Toronto and expect slimy waters with poor water quality!)  Farther back from the beach is a wide area of park with lots of green spaces, picnic areas, toys for the kids, a nearby marina and downtown Cobourg only steps away.  Altogether just a lovely place to spend the day with the family. 

The Course:

 As I mentioned, the swim took place in the super clear and cool water of Lake Ontario.  In the past 3 years, waves have never been a problem, they tend to pick up in the afternoon.   The 1500m swim consisted of a single loop in the shape of a triangle, starting with a diagonal line before cutting back horizontal to shore and then back in to the beach.   The 40km bike is known for being very tough, and is an out and back route into the Northumberland Hills (where I live!) with the first and last 6-7km being relatively flat before you cross over the 401 and into the hills for the remainder of the course.  Typical country roads….not the smoothest, but could be worse!  The flat 2-loop 10km run is held in a quiet neighbouring subdivision with a turnaround at 2km and a slightly different route followed back to the transition.

I’ll save you the suspense and sum up my race here.  It can be summed up with one word: “Meh”.  Poor sighting on the swim, saddle sores on the bike, and tight hamstrings on the bike & run, along with some GI issues, all resulted in a sub-par performance.  Read on for the gory details!

The Swim – 1500m

I did my usual race warm up, struggled into my wetsuit and headed down to the beach with about 10mins to spare.  Waded into the water and dunked my head under once to get used to the temperature and check out the goggles for potential leakage!  The start was weird.  Since we were heading off in a diagonal direction some people were out in deeper water while others were just up to their ankles!  I had a friend advise me to stay wide in the shallower water in order to run for longer.  Well, I like to start on the outside away from the fray anyway, so this worked well.  I ended up running and then doing dolphin dives for a while.  I’m not sure if this was faster than just swimming or not, but it seemed to work okay.  The only thing was as soon as I started doing the dolphin dives, I could feel my hamstrings seize up from the explosive push-offs.  Oh dear.  Finally the water was deep enough to settle into actual swimming.  My plan was to breathe every stroke and sight every 5-10 strokes as this seemed to work well in McKellar.  Well, not so much this time.  Every time I sighted I seeemed slightly off course, angled this way or that way, any way but the direction I wanted to be in!  I pretty much felt like I was veering all over the place, especially for the first two buoys!  It was kind of frustruating.  I’m not sure if it was the diagonal direction or the fact that it was a bigger body of water, but this swim definitely did not go as well as my last Olympic distance open water swim.  I veered along alone until the first turn where I came together with some other red swim caps who seemed to be going about my speed and decided to try my hand at drafting.  I did this for a couple minutes before we started running into some stragglers from the wave ahead and I lost the feet and couldn’t find them again!  So it was back to swimming alone again.  Strong swimmers from the following wave were starting to pass me by then (nothing makes one feel slower!)  and I remember admiring their strong, smooth strokes and wishing I could do that!  Finally (after what seemed an eternity!) I made the second turn and began the push back to shore.  I tried to pick up the pace here to finish strong.  Still pretty much alone, I had absolutely no concept of where I was in relation to the rest of my wave (all women under 45).  I felt like I was last!  At one point, I was passed by someone, and tried to tag along for a ride, but they were much too fast and I couldn’t hold on for the life of me.   The end of the swim was weird as well.  There were a couple sandbars where you could have alternated running, dolphin diving, and swimming, but at that point I was feeling pretty tired and frustruated with my swim so I just slowly waded into shore, totally breaking the rule of not standing up until your fingertips are brushing the sand.

Swim Time: 28:04 (45th overall)


Not the speediest.  I discovered that after running up to transition through the deep sand on the beach, my feet were covered.  Somehow this has never really happened before.  So I wasted a bunch of time trying to wipe them off with my towel before putting on my socks so I wouldn’t be too annoyed during the run.  Next time I’ll put my socks on in T2 instead, giving my feet a chance to dry and lose the sand over the course of the bike.

The Bike – 40km

Right from the get-go I was not comfortable.  The past couple weeks my ongoing saddle sore issues have just worsened despite attempts made to remedy the situation.  Without the added protection of padded bicycle shorts and on the bumpy county roads I was really suffering.  As well, I could feel the tightness in my hamstrings that had started with the dolphin diving on the swim.  The combination of these two things prevented me from ever really getting into the bike course.  I was not able to focus on being aggressive and really pushing the pace like I usually can on the bike, and my bike split reflects that.  The first 19km were especially painful and frustruating.  I knew I was not biking well, but I just could not find a comfortable spot on my seat for the life of me!  Then the leaders starting coming back and I counted the women ahead of me, 1..2…3…4….and I still had a kilometre to go to the turnaround!  It was realizing how far ahead the leaders were and how much work I would need to do to bridge the gap that finally allowed me to buckle down and focus.  In the end I would say I actually “raced” about 1/2 of the 40km.  But by the end of the bike leg I had caught all the women except for two, and another I entered T2 right behind. 

Bike Time: 1:11:13 (15th overall)


Much better transition this time around.  In behind the 3rd place woman and out ahead of her.  Grabbed my shoes, a hat, and a gel, and was off!

The Run – 10km

My run was defined by tight hamstrings and feelings of GI distress.  This prevented me from really being able to push hard on the run but luckily I was still able to maintain a strong tempo-like pace and keep a high turnover.  I was glad there were no hills to tax the hamstrings further and knew I would be visiting the porta-potties immediately following the race as long as I could hold it all together.  Forgot to look at my watch at the start of the 2nd loop, but the time was somewhere in the vicinity of 19mins which I was a little disappointed with, but shouldn’t have been considering how I was feeling.  I was able to push through the second loop for a negative split.  I also managed to catch both of the women ahead of me.  One midway through the first loop and the other at the beginning of the second loop to finish the race as the top female overall!!  Yey!  So even though I put together a “Meh” race, I was still able to qualify for the Worlds next year….looks like I’ll be working on my swimming over the winter!!

Run Time: 37:42 (4th Overall)

Total Time was 2:18:55 for 13th Overall and 1st Female

Post-Race Festivities

Sure enough, I ended up making frequent visits to the porta-potties throughout the rest of the day.  I skipped my normal cool down jog due to my upset stomach and tight hamstrings.  Instead, I enjoyed an easy spin on my bike (in my padded bike shorts and on smooth pavement!), followed by a relaxing dip in the water.  I signed my life away for Vancouver next year and stuck around for the awards and draw prizes with my eye on that Zoot wetsuit, but alas, it was not meant to be!  The post-race spread included watermelon, banana, bagals with condiments, tuna salads and vouchers for hot dogs or hamburgers from the concession stand.  Unfortunately my upset stomach didn’t allow me to partake fully so I can’t comment on the food. 

Nutrition Notes:

Obviously something went wrong somewhere….

Breakfast (5:15am): “Tropical” version of Oatmeal

Bike: 2 GU gels (initially and at 27km); 1 1/4 waterbottles of Gu20

Run: sips of water

 Results: slight cramping throughout; very thirsty on bike; some gas; GI distress which lasted throughout the day

Final Thoughts

Not the best race ever, but an amazing venue, awesome weather, and the incredible organization of the Multisport crew made for a great day.  My goal of qualifying for Worlds was achieved.  I highly recommend this race. 

Next Up: not sure!  Maybe Orillia next weekend followed by the 1/2 Irondistance in Ottawa on Sept 1st in preparation for October…..

Thanks for reading!

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  • Maybe I should get some tight hamstrings and GI distress because you were crazy fast on that run. When you came running by it was like I was standing still.
    I agree with you 100% with your description of the HSBC crew, then venue, and course. I could not have said it better myself.
    Congrats and all the best at World’s next year.

  • Hey Roger!

    Luckily I was still able to pull together a good (albeit very uncomfortable) run. But let me tell you I spent all afternoon, evening, and the next 2 days running in & out of the “facilities”….I’m just so relieved nothing happened DURING the race!

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