Of all the complaints racers make about race conditions, the one complaint you don’t expect to hear on the May long weekend is in regards to excessive heat! The traditional 11 AM start made for some pretty balmy conditions on the course, but otherwise you couldn’t ask for a better day. Warm temperatures, bright sunshine and calm winds certainly trump 4 degrees in rain falling sideways or hail – both of which seem to be common occurances on May 24 weekend. This race usually draws a good number of the local pros and top age groupers looking for an early season test of fitness, and this year was no exception. Knowing this, and knowing the weather was going to draw out even more competitors I didn’t give myself a specific goal in terms of placement. I spent a lot of time over the winter working to improve my running biomechanics, and thanks to those efforts and my Newton shoes I picked up from Running Free I have been running much faster in training than the previous year. For this race I specifically wanted to test my running, so I planned to lay down a fast but comfortable first run, hold back a little on the bike to save my legs for the second run.
Thanks to the awesome staff, volunteers and the host venue Creekside Church, all the pre-race administrative details went very smoothly and in air conditioned comfort! That was definitely a nice touch! The line-up at the registration table confirmed my suspicions that the weather had indeed brought a few more last-minute entries (like myself). Transition set-up went smoothly – I am always amazed how much lower the pre-duathlon stress level is knowing that you don’t have to save a bunch of extra time at the end of your warm-up to shoehorn yourself into a wetsuit. After a quick ride to make sure my bike was behaving as it should, and a quick run with a few pickups to get the heart rate up I was ready to go.
The horn went off and I worked to establish a pace that was fast, but also sustainable over the 4km. 4km is not a long run, but its long enough you can’t take off at an 800m pace and expect to stay off the front of the pack. But in every race I have done there are a few racers that do just that, and I have learned to let them go – they always find their way back! There is a hill about 500m into the run that provided me an opportunity to catch and pass a few of the overly ambitious starters and put a bit more of a gap between myself and the chase pack behind. A glance at my Garmin told me heart rate was of no use as it was jacked well over my red line, but my pace was good and more importantly I felt great. I picked my way through the runners from the first wave and ended up hitting transition at 14:41. There were at least two in my wave in front, but I didn’t know how many in my age group had signed up as elite age groupers and gone out with the first wave. Regardless I was pretty confident I was in the top 5 or 6 as I headed toward the bike exit.
I got passed a couple of time early while I was working to slip my feet in my shoes, but I was soon able to set down a comfortable cadence and pass a few that got by me early. I had ridden the course once before and knew that it was rolling with a net uphill for the first 8 or 9 km so I worked the uphills picking off riders from the first wave as I went. This was my first race on a triathlon bike as all my races last year were done on a road bike, and it was a huge difference. I was able to comfortably hold a higher speed than during some really killer efforts the previous season and with the exception of a twinge in my IT band during the middle 10k of the race I felt really good. Most of the marshalls seemed more concerned with centre line violations than drafting as there were several early DQs, but no motorcycles patrolling the course that I saw. At about the halfway point I was passed by a pair of riders taking turns breaking wind for each other which was irritating as their drafting provided them a little extra speed which I was unable to match while racing legitimately. It happens, 99.9% of the riders I saw out there were racing honest. After the turn around it is pretty much a straight shot back to transition and a couple of other riders caught me in the last 5 km but I was able to hang on until crossing the line with a bike split of 49:24 – my second PR of the day.
After a quick transition it was back out in the heat for the final 4km. I was able to settle in to a manageable but somewhat uncomfortable pace out until the turnaround. At the turnaround I noticed I had a good amount of space behind me, but I was starting to catch the runner in front. I increased the speed a bit on the next slight incline and with 1 km to go I was just behind a runner from my age group. I used a little extra momentum from the next downhill to make a decisive pass as I didn’t want him getting a second wind for a finishing sprint still 500m from the end. It worked and I was able to drop him without having to launch a premature finishing kick. By the time I rounded the corner toward the finish I had caught another runner, but was unable to read the age on his calf. I made a move on the outside, and he clearly was able to read my calf because he blasted by me a second later. I usually have a decent finishing kick, but the terrain towards the finish is quite uneven and I was unsuccessful at building any sort of sprint and conceded that the runner in front had me as I crossed the line on his heels. It was upon shaking his hand at the finish that I could now clearly read the 30 written on his calf which ended up putting him in 4th in the 30-34 age group and me in a close 5th. I ran a 15:21 final 4km which according to the results was the fastest split in the age group so I had pretty much done what I could, just came up a little short in the end.
A fantastic to finish to one of the best May long weekends I can remember in a long time! Looking forward to Milton in a couple of weeks.