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Orillia Sprint Triathlon

Date: August 19, 2007
Description: 750m swim/33km bike/7km run; 2008 Worlds Qualifier
Location: Orillia, ON
Race Name: Northern Triathlon; Subaru Triathlon Series
Sport: Triathlon
Race Website:

I put off signing up for this race until the morning of.  I need to stop doing that though…it is an expensive way to race!  The reason being those same hamstrings you might remember reading about last week in my Cobourg race report!  Well, they had apparently healed up fine after that race but on Monday I headed up to Parry Sound to Bialkowski Trysport, a sponsor of my triathlon team “Nuw Theory”, to pick up my brand-spankin-new custom-made GURU tri bike!  This was very exciting for me since I have been riding the same bike (a Litespeed road bike with clip-on aerobars) since I started competing in triathlons back in 2002.  I could hardly wait to take the new bike out for its maiden ride on Tuesday afternoon but initially the positioning felt so weird that I was sure I had just wasted a lot of my hard-earned cash; I would NEVER be comfortable on this machine, let alone race on it!  However, by the end of the easy 2hr ride, it was becoming less intimidating.  The next day I hopped on the bike for a second ride and immediately felt an ache in my left lateral hamstring (by the distal musculotendinous junction).  It wasn’t enough to stop me from riding, but ached consistently throughout the ride, and then post-ride as well.  I could definitely palpate a tender area back there as well.  Crap.  Woke up the next morning to the disappointing realization that the ache was still there.  Time for an action plan: icing, foam roller, the “stick” and a couple rest days were in order.  This seemed to do the trick, by Saturday I was pain-free and an experimental ride on the GURU (now with the seat slightly lowered to ease the tension on the hamstrings) went well.  I decided I would race on Sunday but would take it a little easier on the bike: cautious on the corners due to my lack of confidence on the bike and focusing on a higher cadence to decrease the stress on the hamstrings. 

 The Venue

A setting to rival Cobourg, the Orillia Triathlon is held at Couchiching Beach Park on the shores of beautiful Lake Couchiching again with lots of grassy picnic areas and nearby hard-packed multi-use trails.  Another perfect location for a race and to spend the rest of the day with the family.   LOTS of free parking and easy to navigate to, Orillia is also within about 2-21/2 hours of quite a few city centres/large towns, making it a popular race destination. 

The Course

From a beach start, the swim is a short 750m rectangular loop in a clockwise direction.  I have heard people comment (especially after yesterdays swim) about a current in the water that tends to pull everyone wide.  Personally, I haven’t noticed it.  After the typical initial twists and turns to leave the city, the bike route is also a rectangular route with a nice mix of hills and flat sections.  Watch for deteriorated road surfaces around corners and on some short sections of the course.  The run is an out-and-back course through the neighbouring streets that is mostly flat with a few slight grades. 

This year, race morning dawned bright and COLD!  Our first taste of the fall weather still to come, it was about 5-8 degrees when I arrived on site at 6:30am on Sunday morning.  I opted to drive up that morning: up at 3am and out the door just after 4am.  It was dark, cold, and I was tired!  But at least I was pretty much the only car on the road!  I kept a vigilent eye out for wildlife and luckily the one bunny rabbit I saw wisely decided to turn and run in the opposite direction!  Arrived on time and went through late registration very quickly.  Set up my transition complete with my new bike and chatted quickly with some teammates.  I was looking forward to my 20min warm up jog with drills & accelerations….it would warm me up!!  By the time the race started at 8am, the sun was shining, I was bundled into my warm wetsuit and wasn’t even thinking about the temperature anymore.  It was time to race!

The Swim – 750m

Unfortunately, I had a brutal swim.  Not because I didn’t feel good, on the contrary, I felt strong and eager to go for it in this short 750m segment.  I had equipment issues.  Yes, you heard me right…..goggle issues.  For some reason, I just could not get a good seal on my face.  Now, I don’t do a swim warm up, but just before the start I will hop in the water to get used to the temperature and make sure my goggles are okay.  So, I hopped in and to my horror found they were leaking, and no matter how many different ways I attempted to position and tighten them, they continued to leak.  With my old spare pair up in transition and the race start 30sec away, I realized with a sinking feeling that this swim might not go as planned.  Sure enough, they filled up right away.  To make matters worse, I had chosen to start on the inside and was getting bumped, kicked, and jostled from all sides!  I ignored the water for as long as I could (not very long!) but really couldn’t see anything so for the first time in my triathlon career I actually stopped in the swim to tread water and empty my goggles.  I would repeat this 3 times in total before finally giving up and basically swimming with my eyes closed, only opening them to sight every 5-10strokes or so.  It was brutal.  Half the time I had no idea if I was even headed in the right direction.  It was the most physical swim I have ever been in…because I wasn’t able to see, I kept running into slower swimmers from prior waves (I was in wave #3) doing breast stroke.  A kick to the body was the typical signal that I needed to alter my course a little.  The most frustruating part was that my body felt great the whole time, and I wasn’t able to swim to my (limited) potential! 

Needless to say, I was relieved when I finally exited the water, albeit with the dismal time of 13:27….4th in my age group but a brutal 134th overall!  YIKES! 


Had my helmut strapped on before realizing I still had my legs in my wetsuit!  Off it went and then opted to skip the socks on the bike and save them for T2.  On with the new shoes, which was slower than usual since they are more snug than my old pair and being new, still quite stiff.  I have yet to master the technique of mounting the bike with the shoes already clipped in…this is a goal for the next race since the distance in this race from the transition to the mount line resulted in a long, slow, cautious jog/shuffle that I’m sure was a big waste of time. 

The Bike – 33km

With my new bike and hamstring issues during the week, I was quite nervous about the bike.  Thankfully, all went well and I am quite happy with my first race effort on my new stead!  I know I will be able to make up lots of time in the races to come as I gain confidence, cornering skills, strength in the new position, aggressiveness, and perfect my shifting, especially when hill climbing.  My hamstrings behaved themselves and I didn’t notice them at all during the ride, despite a hard pace and cooler temps.  Even my saddle sores decided to lay low…they were there, but the pain was not excruciating, allowing me to focus on actually racing. 

As per the plan, I took it very easy on all the corners (my apologies to anyone who happened to get stuck behind me) and kept my cadence between 92-100rpm.  Initially I was passing lots of people from the waves ahead, by mid-race it was much more spread out.  In the last 5-10km of the race I caught a group of three riders who I had been watching over several km’s as I slowly gained on them.  From a distance it looked like they were drafting, and as I caught up I could see this was definitely the case.  As I came up behind them, I was passed by two male riders who yelled “break it up you guys”  as they passed the group.  As I went by the group of cheaters (two guys and one girl), I also made a comment about how they had been blatently drafting.  This is upsetting in any race, but especially in a race where age-groupers were competing for spots to the Sprint Triathlon Worlds in Vancouver next year.  The two numbers I remember are 959 (the girl) and 968.  If either of these people qualified for Worlds, they should be ashamed.  They did so by cheating and may have ousted someone who really deserves to go.  

Pretty happy with my bike knowing there are lots of ways I will improve in time on this new bike: 56:32…..1st in age-group, 44th overall.   


Survived the long slow shuffle in my new bike shoes back into transition.  Off with the shoes, on with the socks…fix a couple wrinkles, don my shoes, grab my hat and a gel and I’m off.  I know the socks are a waste of time, I’ll have to practice training a bit without them.  I just see so many people suffer from blisters from running without socks that I’d rather waste a few seconds putting them on then end up with an injury!

The Run – 7km

With the bike route being a rectangle, I had no idea how many women were ahead of me and by how far.  It was difficult to know how to pace the run…I am so used to doing 10k’s…this had to be faster than 10km speed but slower than 5km!  I started out quickly and felt good.  The temperatures were just perfect for the run.  I only took water once, at about 5km.  In the first couple of km’s I was passed by two quick-moving men.  Trying to keep them as close as possible for as long as possible helped me to keep up a good pace.  About a km or so from the turn-around I started seeing some ladies.  I had no idea if they had started in my wave or in the two waves ahead so I still didn’t know how I was doing. 

The run went well, much better than last week, with no GI issues this time.  I was able to keep up a good pace and finish with a nice strong final km: 25:46, 1st in age-group and 22nd overall.

Total Time: 1:37:56, 1st in Age-Group, 2nd Female Overall

Post-Race Thoughts 

Well, Suzanne Zelazo kicked my butt today with an awesome race…strong in all 3 disciplines.  Congratulations Suzanne!!  This was the first multisport race that I have competed in this year where I was not the first overall female.  It was good for me.  It reminded me of something that my parents always used to say back when I was in school and competing in x-c skiing and running.  They would always remind me that no matter how well I did in my races, “there is always someone better out there”.  So true!  But this is a good thing because it is this that keeps us motivated to strive for continued improvement and excellence!  So thank you Suzanne for being such an inspirational competitor!   Seeing how I move up into Suzanne’s age-group (the dreaded 30-34) next year, this will provide even more motivation to train hard through the winter!

Post-Race Festivities

Just had time to sqeeze in a 30min cool down jog before the awards and drawprizes got underway.  Everything was completed quickly and efficiently, which I know is much appreciated by all the travelling athletes anxious to hit the road.  I was actually home before supper and with the beautiful weather couldn’t resist going out for an easy spin with my husband Chris in the early evening.  We then enjoyed some delicious sweet corn I picked up from a local farmer on the way home….yum, the perfect way to end the day!

Nutrition Notes:

Breakfast: “tropical” oatmeal at 3:45am

Bike: 2 Gu gels (initially & at 25km) & 3/4 waterbottle of Gu20

Run: 1 sip of water, carried a gel

Results: felt good; no issues

Final Thoughts 

Despite the loss, I am happy with my race.  Especially with the swim issues and knowing I can make up time on the bike.  Another strong run continues to build my confidence in that leg of the race. 

Next race: 1/2 IronDistance TRIATHLON in Ottawa on September 1st.  This is in preparation for the Long Course Duathlon in Richmond, VA in October.  Yes, I am doing the 2km swim!!  I figure the fatigue I will feel after swimming for about 40mins will more closely mimic the fatigue of the 15km run I will do before the bike in Richmond better than the 2km run offered in the 1/2 IronDistance duathlon in Ottawa.  Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading!


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  • Great race Melissa…if I could even get some of your ‘takin’ it easy’ speed, I’d be happy. Looks likethe girl you mentioned was drafting on the bike picked up 4th in her AG…I believe Orillia had 4 spots per AG so she may have got one. Pretty crappy I agree.

  • Hey Mike…I know, I saw that as well.

    My husband thinks I should have reported them to the OAT official. I did this once before, last year at NOTL where I was with 2 guys who drafted the entire time. I memorized their numbers and reported to OAT at the end. I think they got 3mins added to their times. OAT prefers it if there is at least one other athlete to verify what you saw. I should have reported them yesterday but I sort of feel like a “tattle-tale”. I know I shouldn’t, because they are breaking the rules and it is not fair to everyone else. What would you do?

  • Tough after the fact since placings and any AG stuff is taken care of already. Would have been a game time decision to make really. I’ve never reported anyone but have always wanted to but in the end don’t let myself get caught worrying about that stuff and just try to focus on my own race. It will come back to them someday…just sucks for anyone that may have not got a worlds spot they wanted. If OAT is doing their job, they should be catching them…problem is, they never seem to be caught. I was at the Toronto Island Race and even though there was a bigger chance of drafting (and plenty of it) I never saw one race official on the bike course. In the end, what are you really going to do – unless OAT does a better job themselves, you don’t really want to do their job for them all the time.

  • Melissa,

    Another great race! You are truely an inspisring athlete with a great outlook on sportsmanship (re: taking second place with class).

    On the other note, rules (specifically drafting) are a great topic of discussion. I have seen this many times in my short racing life and have heard many stories of drafters getting away with bending the rules as the offcials cannot be everywhere on the course. It is too bad we have so many athletes looking for the edge by means of cheating. I don’t think I would mention names to the official but would definately make them aware that it is a concern and ask them how they can help eliminate the problem.

  • Thank you Mike and Larry for your comments!

    Obviously I also struggle with the drafting issue, “to tell, or not to tell”. After speaking with my husband about it after I got home, I was sorry that I did not report it. And I would have used names/numbers…
    It is too late now, I’ll have to live with my decision not to. You only have a certain amount of time after the race to report your complaint. Next time I won’t worry so much about what other people might think and instead go with my gut.
    I know there was an OAT official out there on a bike…I think they zoomed by me once, when I was almost done the bike. Speaking with a few people who’ve been around the triathlon block, apparently the official was told to stay near the leader…kind of a useless place to be when the leader is so far in front (as was the case in this race) and really the problems are likely just a little further back among the main chasers. Last year at NOTL I started in the first wave with the top guys and saw drafting the whole race AND the OAT official was there 2-3 times. Hovered beside them for a while, but never pulled anyone over. I couldn’t understand it because they were totally drafting on purpose and for the majority of the race. Afterwards when I reported it to the OAT official in transition I suggested he speak with the OAT official who was out on the bike to confirm my story. Only then were the 2 athletes penalized.
    It is too bad that this even has to be an issue. I would expect more from the athletes who share with me a passion for this great sport.

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