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2007 PanAmerican & Canadian Duathlon Championships

Date: Sept 15, 2007
Description: 10km run/40km bike/5km run
Location: Foley Agricultural Hall; Township of Seguin, ON
Race Name: 2007 PanAmerican & Canadian Duathlon Championships
Race Website:

I hardly know where to start with this race report.  I think I am still in shock!  This race was quite an experience for me, in more ways than one!

This was one of the key races of my year.  Until a few weeks ago, I had planned to race as per usual in my age-group, but on the encouragement of my teammates and fellow competitors, and with a season of strong results (so far!),  I decided to apply to OAT for an elite card and race for the first time in the elite category!!!  This was especially intimidating for me because I have never ridden my bicycle in a draft-legal race before.  Being so far in the country, I’ve never even trained in a group situation before.  Needless to say, I was pretty nervous about the bike portion of the event…mostly I was concerned about accidentally causing harm to my fellow competitors or myself!  Shortly after I decided to race as elite, the event was also granted the title of “PanAmerican Cup”, which only added to my anxiety.  In the end though, this did not affect the size of the women’s field in any way….it remained very small, with only 4 competitors: myself, Magali Tisseyre from PQ, Anne-Marie Madden from BC, and Nicole Vogler from AB.  For sure it would have been nice to have a bigger field, but it did help calm my fears about the bike….surely I could handle cycling in a pack of 3 or 4?!? 

Unfortunately, my lead-up to this race was not what I had hoped it would be.  Following a strong race at the Ottawa 1/2 Iron 113 Triathlon, I came down with a bacterial infection requiring antibiotics.  In the two weeks between these races, I have never felt so fatigued, or slept so much in my entire life.  The infection, combined with some other ongoing health issues which seemed to culminate in the weeks before this event left me undecided up until the Thursday before the event of whether or not I would/should/could actually race!  Very little training was completed in this time, and what was done felt sub-par for the effort.  My goals of learning how to mount and dismount my bike with my shoes clipped into the pedals was not accomplished as I did not take the chance to practice.  Basically I felt very unprepared and completely unsure of how my body and mind would respond to the effort.  Because I was so unsure of whether I would race, I didn’t do my usual race planning or mental imagery leading up to the race. 

I drove up to Parry Sound on Thursday afternoon (the race was on Saturday) following some medical appointments in Peterborough.  Once I arrived, I immediately stopped in at Bialkowski Trysport, where David helped me out by putting some draft-legal aerobars on my Litespeed road bike.  Unfortunately, for this race, my shiny new GURU had to stay at home in my garage!  Once the bars were securely in place, David showed me to my home-stay for the weekend, which Steve Wyrozub had kindly organized for me.  I stayed with a wonderful woman named Charlene, an avid multisporter who I learned would also be racing on Saturday in her age-group.  I SO enjoyed staying with Charlene and her mom, Betty, who was visiting for the week.  They both welcomed me into their home with open arms and provided just the environment I needed before my race.  I have never before felt so at ease so quickly upon meeting someone and entering their home.  It was great!  

Friday morning dawned bright and sunny.  I took a stroll along the bay on the fitness trail and lazed through the morning before heading over in the afternoon to check out the race course.  Bad idea!  Gusty winds quickly replaced the gorgeous blue skies with ominous black clouds.  By the time I was out on the bike course in the early afternoon, the temperature was dropping, the wind was howling and the skies were threatening to open at any moment.  Luckily the rain held off during my quick tour on the bike and waited instead until I was previewing the run course to start pouring…well, better today than tomorrow, I thought.  I had to return to the Agricultural Hall at 5pm for the mandatory elite pre-race meeting.  Here we reviewed all the important details of race day: the course, start time, rules, doping control, penalties, and awards.  Because the women’s field was so small, the race organizers opted to start the men’s and women’s fields together at 11:30am.  However, on the bike portion, there would be no drafting allowed between men and women.  One could only draft off fellow racers of the same sex.  The main rules stressed were draft-legal bike set-up, the helmet and two-finger strap rule, and staying off the centre line of the road.  8 people would be chosen for doping control…4 women & 4 men.  Of course, this meant that the entire women’s field would have the pleasure of peeing in a cup after the race!  Saving the best for last, the prize money breakdown ended the meeting.  The race winner would receive $500 with a race prime of $400 if that person was also a Canadian.  While the men’s field held a lone American competitor, the all-Canadian women’s field guarenteed the winner a prize purse of $900. 

The Race Course   

The transition area was held on a paved basketball court just outside the Foley Agricultural Hall, with the finish area located just behind it in a grassy field. 

The run course was a short 2.5km loop that started on the road outside of the Hall and turned right down a dirt road that had a short roller before turning out onto the shoulder of old Hwy 69.  This part of the course involved an out and back gentler incline/decline before heading back to the dirt road, through the transition area to a turnaround beside the finish line.  This allowed for a very spectator friendly course as well as plenty of opportunity to scope out one’s competition during the race!  The initial 10km run consisted of 4 loops, and the race ended with another 2 loops for the final 5km effort.

The 40km bike course was 6 loops basically out and back along old Hwy 69 with a spectator-friendly turnaround in front of the Hall each time.  Very nicely paved, but not a particularly challenging course….the winds, not the terrain, provided the major resistance on the bike.  A cool aspect of the bike course was that we got to use the main lanes of the Hwy while any cars passing through had to stick to the shoulder. 

The Plan

As I mentioned previously, due to my indecision, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about a race plan for this event, like I would normally do.  I had never raced any of my competitors before, so I really didn’t know what to expect.  With a race start time of 11:30am on Saturday morning, and me wide awake by 6am with nerves and not knowing what to do with myself in the intervening hours, I spent most of Saturday morning laying in bed listening to my tried-and-true pre-race motivational music and visualizing different race scenerios in my mind….although I had no idea how I would actually do and was very unsure of how my body would feel, in each scenario I went through, I made sure to picture myself as the eventual winner of the race. 

The Race!

I arrived at the race site just after 10am and was immediately met by my Nuw Theory teammate Len Gushe.  I quickly bundled up to keep warm while Len shared lots of positive thoughts and race strategy to consider.  Went to the transition area and got through the bike and helmet check-in without too much difficulty.  Set up my area…this consisted of dumping all my things into the small blue bin that was provided.  The big debate was over what to wear since the weather was a chilly 11degrees with gusty winds…but every once in a while the sun would peak out and share some warmth.  Watching the age-groupers was no help, outfits varied from the bare essentials to jackets, vests, and tights!!  I followed my typical warm-up routine: 20min jog followed by 10-15mins of drills/accelerations, and actually felt quite good.  Finally decided to wear my normal team race suit but with gloves on and arm warmers left in the transition area in case I wanted them for the bike.  I stayed covered up until the very last minute with Len acting as my personal sherpa!

Run #1 – 10km

I lined up behind the guys and watched as everyone took off like a shot.  Immediately I was running alone, in dead last.  The first thought through my head was something like, “Oh God, this might have been a big mistake!!”  I tried not to worry too much about it and just run my own pace.  Unfortunately, I felt like I was moving in slow motion while putting forth an unusual amount of energy to sustain the apparent snail’s pace (compared to everyone else) that I was maintaining.  I completed loop #1 of 4 in dead last.  Now normally I do like to start “slow” and negative split as I go so I was still hoping I would be able to reel in the girls ahead over the remaining loops.  By the end of loop #2 I had caught Nicole, but Anne-Marie and a flying Magali remained ahead.  In fact, Magali was continuing to build her lead.  Nicole made an attempt to talk race strategy when I caught her on the run, but I wanted to concentrate on my own effort, so I moved ahead of her without letting her finish her thoughts.  On loop #3, half-way through the run, I would normally have started to pick up the pace to negative split, but was actually feeling pretty badly at this point.  My legs were not feeling like their normal peppy selves at all…likely a combination of flatness/staleness from the miserable two weeks before the race, combined with some numbness from the cold temperatures.  I couldn’t help comparing how I was feeling with the 1/2 marathon I had run two weeks prior at the Canadian and how much easier that had felt even AFTER a 2km swim and 90km bike…..yikes!  At some point Nicole passed me back again….Magali kept getting further and further ahead.  I started to wonder if I could even finish this first 10km, let alone continue on with the rest of the race.  I began to entertain thoughts of dropping out of the race.  I’m not quite sure what kept me going.  Even repeating the words of one of my motivational songs “Runner, when the road is long, feel like givin in, but you’re hangin on” didn’t seem to have its usual effect.  Somehow I made it through that final loop and into T1, a full 1:44 behind Magali, 17secs down on Nicole and 8 seconds down on Anne-Marie.

short 10km time: 37:11  

T1: SLOW!  I knew I needed to get in and out as fast as possible to ensure I could hook onto the wheels of Nicole and Anne-Marie on the bike, but I was already feeling cold from the run and wanted my arm-warmers on for the bike.  Helmet, shoes, forget the glasses-no time-then struggled getting my arm warmers on over my gloves.  FINALLY I headed carefully out to the mount line in my bike shoes and hopped on my bike…darn, missed clipping in…just calm down Melissa…got it on the second attempt and was off.

Bike: 40km Draft-Legal 

Immediately ripped open a GU energy gel and chased it down with some Gu20 sport drink….the way I was feeling, I needed all the extra energy I could get!  Put in an initial burst of speed and before I knew it I was on the wheels of Nicole and Anne-Marie.  The much-dreaded and feared bike portion of the race had begun and here I was exactly where I hoped I wouldn’t be…in a pack.  (okay, I know it was only 3 of us, so try not to laugh too hard at me…remember I had no experience whatsoever)  The first loop was spent getting organized.  We all took turns pulling and decided that the leader would veer off to the left as a signal for the rider behind to take over.  This being the first time I had ever done this, I found I really needed to concentrate on what I was doing-it certainly made the time fly by!  It was actually kind of fun at first, but very different to what I am used to.  Instead of putting my head down and just grinding away the whole time (like poor Magali was doing way ahead of us) it was more like interval efforts: go to the front and give’r, then pull over and basically coast until your next turn/interval.  Weird.  Even in a pack of 3, on such a windy day, you could really notice the difference in effort needed to pull versus draft behind.  For the first half of the bike I felt like we were working pretty well together.  Unfortunately, the splits we were getting didn’t seem to reflect that.  We remained about 80-90secs behind Magali.  I did not envy her being out there alone in the wind.  Onto the 4th loop and the race dynamics suddenly started to change.  Anne-Marie took a turn to pull and when she moved to the left Nicole did not move up.  Finally, I pulled out from behind and took over from Anne-Marie instead.  Unfortunately, this was the story for the 4th loop….Nicole would only take very short pulls, or opt not to pull at all.  I started to get frustruated.  Normally in a non-drafting event, I can use my strength on the bike to make up time in a race.  With the drafting, I felt unable to use my strength to its normal advantage and was frustruated with the games that were being played when the focus should have been on catching Magali.  Anne-Marie was frustruated too…two or three times on the 4th loop she went blasting past me, encouraging me to jump on and try to drop Nicole.  Finally, I think on the third try, we managed to break away.  I know Nicole is not happy with her race and was feeling pretty badly when she finished, so this was likely a sign of how she was feeling.  It was about this time that our splits from Magali started to suddenly improve.  Anne-Marie and I took turns pulling through the 5th loop together….I was pushing pretty hard at this point, my focus was on catching Magali.  At the start of the 6th and final loop our split had decreased to about 30secs.  We caught Magali at the far turnaround on old Hwy 69…actually, it was more like she was waiting for us….she kept looking behind and was pretty much just coasting.  As she said when we caught her, she had tried her best!  I am so impressed with her tremendous effort out there on the bike alone, it was an incredibly gutsy performance.  We headed back towards the transition area for the final time together and I’m not sure when it happened but at some point I took my turn to pull and when I looked back, there was no one on my wheel!  So I pushed into T2 alone, with what someone told me was about a 20sec lead. 

40km bike time: 1:08:47

T2:  I awkwardly dismounted and ran/shuffled into the transition to rack my bike.  Changed my shoes, grabbed a gel and my hat and was off.  Left on my gloves and arm warmers to save time. 

Run #2 – 5km

Magali caught me about 100m into the run.  As usual I started slow, and as a result lost my precious 20sec lead!  My body was still feeling pretty lousy, and I had a side-stitch for good measure.  I didn’t really feel like I had that much left to give over this final 5km.  Magali moved ahead and I tucked in behind her (as much as I could seeing how I’m pretty much double her size!), hoping that following her footsteps might ease the effort.  She led for a while before pulling over and asking me to take my turn “breaking the wind”.  So I did.  This was the story for the first 1 1/2 loops of the 2 loop run.  We kept crossing paths with Anne-Marie who gave us big smiles and high-fives each time, but was unable to make up any ground.  At the end of the 1st loop my left quad was feeling just on the verge of cramping up…I prayed it would hold out until the finish.  With about 1.5km to go, I moved over to let Magali take her turn only to have her wheeze out “I’m sorry, I can’t..” so I stayed in the lead up and down the slope on Hwy 69.  With less than a km to go just up a short steep climb after the water station, I threw in an experimental surge to try to break away, which didn’t work.  Magali stuck to my shoulder like glue.  I tried again with about 300m to go, and this time it worked.  I kicked into a higher gear, which Magali was unable to find and ended up taking the win, by just 8 seconds.  I was horrified later looking at my finishing photos by the look on my face, but it just shows the amount of effort I put into that final kick.  This was not an easy win by any means!  I crossed the finish line and held up the banner like we were instructed to do so at the pre-race meeting the day before.  Then I got a little teary…I really couldn’t believe I had done it!  But that didn’t last long as the many congratulations began and I had to immediately sign my life away to the doping control officer!

short 5km run time: 18:29

Results for Elite Women:

    1 2:04:26 ANTHONY Melissa       
    2 2:04:34 TISSEYRE Magali                              
    3 2:06:41 MADDEN Anne-Marie                                    
    4 2:07:37 VOGLER Nicole  

Post-Race Thoughts

What a learning experience!!! 

This race really reinforced to me (and probably to anyone who watched) that “it ain’t over till its over”.  I went from last place and feeling like quitting, to somehow coming out on top of the event.  Unbelievable.  Never will I consider dropping out of a race again!

I have had several people compliment me on my “smart” race plan.  But as you now know from reading this report, it was not any kind of perfectly executed plan that won this race….I really feel like it was mostly luck – Beginner’s Luck!!  If Magali had chosen to take it easier on the first run and bike with the group, she would have had much fresher legs for the final 5km and the race result would likely had been much different.  Now I understand why in the ITU races you can win one weekend and finish 3oth the next.  So I am thankful to be the lucky winner on this day, but I know it could have easily gone the other way. 

Drafting on the bike totally changes a race.  I’m not sure how I feel about having to deal with tactics and strategies during the race instead of just focusing on my own effort and race plan.   It definitely changes and affects the whole racing experience. 

Post-Race & Doping Control

It has been years (since the mid-90’s when I was on the National x-c Ski Team) since I’ve had to deal with doping control.  Pretty much immediately after crossing the finish line I was read the rules and asked to sign my agreement.  From that moment on, I had exactly 60mins to check in, but an indefinite amount of time to produce my sample….which was good, because I had absolutely no urge to urinate at all!!  I was given a waterbottle to start on and must have gone through about 5-6 of them before finally being able to do the deed hours later.  From the moment of crossing the finish line until the sample is produced, the doping control officer cannot let you out of their sight.  I felt so bad for this poor girl who had to follow me around the entire afternoon: talking to fellow competitors, teammates & friends; attending the awards ceremony, receiving a free (and absolutely wonderful) massage from Stacey the massage therapist on site, running to the bathroom…not for a pee, but for some GI issues (typical after a hard effort….I am SO sorry doping-control girl!!), all the while providing me with an endless supply of waterbottles….safely sealed, of course!!  FINALLY, literally after hours of waiting, I was able to provide an ample sample.  It’s a little strange peeing with someone else in the stall with you (I prayed I would hit the cup and not embarrass myself with poor aim!) but by the time I went, I REALLY had to go, so I had no trouble with a “shy bladder” whatsoever.  That pee however, opened the floodgates, and I was running in and out of the bathroom about every 10mins or so for the rest of the day!  Back to the doping control station I was instructed in picking out and opening up a kit and separating the goods into “A” and “B”samples.  pH was tested with adequate results, I reported the  vitamins and medications I was on-those antibiotics- and after I signed my name a couple more times, we were good to go!!  Apparently no news is good news. 

I ended up staying the night in Parry Sound instead of driving home right away after the race.  A good choice since I could barely walk after the race which would have made for a very uncomfortable drive home.  Charlene & Betty put up with me for yet another night…and with phone calls to family…and humoured me by watching my favorite movie “Saint Ralph” which I am no longer allowed to watch at home due to my husband experiencing overuse syndrome!!  Actually, I think they quite enjoyed it as they are from Hamilton and could recognize many of the locations used in the movie.  Sunday morning I hobbled out of bed and hopped on my bike to head over to David’s to switch my aerobars back.  Charlene joined me there and along with Marianne Bialkowski, we headed out for an easy spin.  In keeping with its fickleness all weekend, the initial blue skies turned black and we got poured on…it was cold, windy, and wet, so our ride ended up being pretty short, but good enough to fulfill its purpose of loosening up my legs.  I’m not sure if Charlene feels the same way, but I was glad we went!  I finally said my good-byes and ended my weekend adventure in Parry Sound by heading home around noon. 

Thank You’s

So many thank you’s to make, hopefully I don’t forget any…

First of all thank you so much to Charlene and Betty for providing me with a wonderful substitute home and family!  You really made the experience all the more enjoyable.  It was so great getting to know the both of you and to share in your own race experience as well Charlene!  Once again through this wonderful sport I have had the opportunity to meet more amazing people….I love how I am making these great connections all over the country!

Thank you to David Bialkowski for your assistance in helping me get my bike race-ready for this weekend even with all your other Race Director duties!  Also a big thanks to all of my other Team Nuw Theory sponsors and teammates for your help and support this season.  Len for all your listening and great advice; Kyle & Nic for your support and encouragement both on and off the course; Emily for all your drafting advice (all I could think on the bike was “whatever you do, DON’T LOSE THE WHEEL IN FRONT!!!”); and the rest for all your best wishes.  It felt great knowing I had so many people rooting for me. 

To everyone out on the course yesterday who gave me words of support and encouragement: Scott McCron, Rachael Simpson, Steve Fessenden, Carolyn Silvey, Megan McMillan, The VanBeurden’s, The Guembal’s, all the volunteers, officials and spectators who I haven’t named… was very much appreciated and really kept me going througout the race!

Thanks to Jim Wendland for not only cheering and providing splits but running all over the course taking pictures me! 

Steve and the Swyft crew, you put on a great event, congratulations!!

A special thanks to my fellow competitors.  To Nicole and Anne-Marie for getting us organized initially on the bike, and especially to Anne-Marie for taking control in the latter stages of the bike to get things moving when my lack of experience was becoming glaringly obvious!  To Magali for sharing the burden of the 2nd run and providing everyone with such an exciting race.  It was a privilege to be able to compete with all of you, and I thank you for the experience.  I really enjoyed meeting you!  

Of course the biggest thank you goes to my husband and family for all their love and support.  Although they were unable attend, I knew they were all thinking of me and waiting with baited breath!

A Note on Nutrition:

Breakfast: muesli at 7:15am (race start was 11:30am)

Run #1: nothing

Bike: carried 2 750ml bottles with Gu2O, and 1 & 1/4 while on the bike combined with 2 Gu gels.  I had my first gel immediately after the start of the bike and my 2nd at about 30km.

Run #2: nothing

Results: side-stitch on runs, feeling of low energy…likely due to illness not lack of nutrition

Up Next?

World Long Distance Duathlon Championships in Richmond Virginia on October 21st.  Currently signed up in my age-group so will have to decide between that and perhaps racing elite. 

 Wow, this was a really long report…thanks for taking the time to read it!


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  • Melissa,

    What a great performance! I didn’t want to distract you when I was heading back to the car to pack up so didn’t introduce myself while you were stretching (in Runing Free colours!). After getting everything back into the car, I stayed to watch the first 10k and first loop of the ride. My little girl was getting a little cold so I couldn’t watch the entire race but I knew you had a game plan so I was confident you would have the end punch to pull it off.

    Awesome job!

  • hey babe,
    you are awesome, you should totally race elite, cause you rock. that race sounded really hard but way to stay mentally strong!! thanks for sending me this website, its cool, now i can keep updated with everything your up too!! miss you
    keep up the good work
    luv you big sis

  • Hey Larry!
    Thanks for the comment! That was one of the toughest races (mentally & physically) that I’ve ever done. One of these times you’ll have to introduce yourself to me! I seem to always miss meeting you! Are you happy with your own effort?


  • Hey Em!
    Great to hear from you!! Glad you enjoyed the race report, hopefully it didn’t take up too much time in your day to read it all!! I’m not sure why they’re always so long…..
    How is school going? I hear you have jumped right into ski training, you crazy girl! Dad said you were doing hill intervals your first week back…be careful!!
    We’ll have to watch Saint Ralph the next time we see eachother….Christmas I guess!!
    Miss you too!
    Love Mel

  • Congratulations Melissa. You have had an awesome race year so far. Hope wonderful things keep happening for you.
    Good Luck in the rest of your races. Your hard work has truly paid off.

  • Congratulations Melissa. You have had an awesome race year so far. Hope wonderful things keep happening for you.
    Good Luck in the rest of your races. Your hard work has truly paid off.

  • Melissa,

    One of these days I will have to make time to stick around longer after an event to mingle. I would love to talk multisport with people of your caiblre as it really inspires and educates me in my pursuit of my personal bests. I think my race went as well as I could imagine. I knew my running had improved and I pulled off a solid ride for my skill level.
    This is my first full year of duathlons as I started to run in 2005 to loose weight and then bought my first bike in August 2006 to mix things up. My progress has been a little better than my goals dreamed last winter so I cannot complain, but cannot rest on these results and will continue to push to improve next season.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • hey mel,
    congrats!! i checked and checked all saturday night and sunday for results and was finally told them by mom and dad. what an awesome result! you must be so pumped especially considering the two weeks leading up to it. i knew you had it in you from the start, wish i could have been there to see you finish …. “that’s my big sister”

    love sarah

  • Melissa – great race report and congratulations! It sounds like Team Running Free had a fantastic weekend – team members Bill Logie and Brad Brock won the KEen ADventure Sports Games – and a free all expenses paid trip to Australia for the Keen Road to Ocean Adventure Race…

  • Hey Melissa!
    I didn t have the chance to say congratulations! You really had a great race and you sure impressed me with that kick at the end! Looking forward to racing with you again…in Richmond maybe.
    I must say, i had seen your results before the race and i had a feeling you would come up strong!

  • Hi Magali!! I’m also sorry we didn’t get to chat more after the race…I was feeling pretty out of it! I spent a long time on the massage table and even longer trying to get my bladder to cooperate for doping control!!
    Congratulations to you as well, you put in an incredibly gutsy performance, and as I said in my report, the win could have easily gone to you instead! You kicked my butt in the first 10km…I had no hope of keeping up! And I can’t imagine what it must have been like out there on the bike in the wind all by yourself!! It was strange for me during the race to feel such a comradery with you and Anne-Marie…working together, and yet at the same time knowing that in the end, it was still a race!
    I am also looking forward to seeing you again and racing eachother in the future! We’ll have to talk more next time!

    Congratulations & Good luck with your training!

  • wow! great job mellisa. congrats on the win! i know exactly how you felt on the run. it really hard go like that. i’ve done it and its not something i’d want to do again. once again, congats.

  • Boy what a really great race season you’ve had! Saw you race in Parry Sound (the olympic tri) and Drummondville! Du or Tri, you’ve got a great future ahead, amazing run times. Race elite when you get the chance.
    Sue Warren.

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