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Muskoka Long Course

Last year’s Muskoka sprint race was my triathlon debut, and I pretty much decided right after crossing the finish line that I would be coming back for the long course in 2010.  I am originally from the Huntsville area so I know the course very well, particularly the run as my mom lives near the start at the high school, and my in-laws live just beyond the turnaround.  I have run that stretch of road many times, and hoped my local knowledge would give me an advantage come race day.  Of course they changed the course for 2010 to a shorter, but tougher 13k that takes place on the local roads around the race site.  So much for my edge. 

Race entries were down significantly this year (although the sprint numbers were up considerably) due mostly I am sure to the date change which placed it on the same weekend as Lake Placid and also resulted in the IM Canada slots being allocated to Peterborough instead.  3 former winners battled for top spot with Len Gushe in his first appearance on the 2010 Subaru circuit taking the win with an incredible ride allowing him to cross the line just ahead of a charging Wolfgang Guembel whose impressive 45:00 run split was just not quite enough.  Last year’s winner Sean Bechtel hung on to 3rd even after a crash at the dismount line. 

The swim start is a bit of a hike so I wanted to make sure I started out for the water in plenty of time.  I’ve had some less than stellar swims this year where I felt my times were well short of what I am capable of, and I think it was due to getting caught up in the frenzy and going out harder than I should.  My plan for this race was to hold back and find a comfortable rhythm for the first half of the race, then step it up if I felt good to try and minimize my time fighting the current in the river.  Having family in the area allowed me to swim the course a few weeks earlier, and I found the current to be fairly strong, so I adjusted my goal times by a couple minutes to compensate.  The start was a little rough, and every time I thought I found a gap between two swimmers to get through they would come together and I’d get squeezed out.  After this happened several times and I found myself trapped behind a line of slower swimmers I moved a little farther to the side and then made beeline for the first turn bouy.  After I found some room I settled down and felt very comfortable heading to the first turn.  Once I rounded the bouy I took a quick look around to see where everyone was.  The lead pack was out in front of me a good distance, and I had managed to swim off the front of the main pack behind me.  This worked well as I had open water for most of the lake portion of the swim.  At the second turn I caught a swimmer ahead and enjoyed a bit of a draft until we hit the river where I chose to swim close to shore where the current was hopefully a little weaker.  I increased my turnover a bit to keep a bit more momentum against the current, but a little while later I noticed that I wasn’t finishing my stroke.  I was starting to fatigue a little and the only way I could keep the higher turnover was by pulling my arm from the water prematurely on every stroke.  I know this had cost me some time because at this point I had been swimming side by side with someone for about 50m and as soon as I lengthened my stroke  I dropped them almost immediately.  I exited the water feeling like the swim had gone well.  For a swim that long my goal is around 32:00, but even the fastest swimmers were about :05 / 100m slower than average with the slower river portion.

2k swim time: 33:26  33 OA / 5 AG

With the exception of dropping my favourite pair of goggles (fortunately Running Free now carries Blue Seventy goggles!) somewhere during the run up to T1 everything else went smooth and I was in and out in a minute.  I had done the ride once in training and did not have a particularly good day; the hills really beat me down.  But it really is a beautiful course so for the race my plan was to just enjoy it and make sure I had some legs for the nasty hills in the new run course.  The ride out of town was fast thanks to a bit of a tailwind and the first few climbs went well.  I spun up the hills in an easy gear to save the legs and overtook several cyclists on the longer climbs.  I was also overtaken by quite a few but I knew this was going to happen so I stuck to my plan and let them go.  The ride seemed to go by quickly and my legs were feeling good.  I tried to take in as many calories as I could because drinking and running usually does not go well for me.   Everything went well until around the 45 km mark when my quads started to cramp up.  Standing everyonce in a while seemed to aleviate it somewhat.  On the ride back into town a slight headwind slowed what could have been a very fast last 5km.  With just a few km to go I ran into further cramping – this time the outside of my shins which was a new one for me.  The nasty part about this was they got worse when I stood up out of the saddle.  If I sat back down my quads cramped up.  Not much I could do at this point except ease up for the last few minutes before T2.

55km bike time: 1:38  55 OA, 9 AG

T2 went well and I was off up the hill to Brunel for the 13k.  The weird shin cramps went away quite quickly and I settled into a decent pace.  This was the part of the race I hadn’t thought out too much.  I know what my goal pace would be for a flat 10k run, but wasn’t sure how to approach a hilly 13k.  I did know however that the 3:38/ km pace my garmin was showing wasn’t going to last!   I decided to try and run and even 4:00 /km for as long as my legs were in agreement.  I quickly passed one of the female elites who had caught me while I was working through my bike issues, as well as a few in my age group.  One by one I picked off a steady stream of runners as I made my way around the crazy 4 out-and-back course.  My breathing was under control, I felt relaxed, my legs felt okay…until I hit the big climb at which point my quad cramps came back with a vengeance.  I had forgotten to add extra electrolytes to my bike bottle so I guessed that was the issue and immediately started taking in as much gatorade as I could from every aid station.  It did seem to help and I plugged away.  As much as my legs hurt, the km markers felt like they were flying by.  One of my goals for the season is to run sub :40 for 10k, but due to schedule conflicts I haven’t been able to enter a 10k this year.  I was a little dissappointed to pass the 10k marker in 40:03!  With a km to go I set my sights on a guy further ahead as I started the final climb before the long downhill to the finish.  At the crest of the hill he looked over his shoulder and picked up his tempo.  I gave everything I had for the last 500m but my finishing kick was weak and I crossed the line one step behind him.

13km run time: 52:05 – pretty close to my goal of 4:00/km and good enough for the 9th fastest overall run split of the day (sportstats says 10th, but the fastest was DQ’d for not running the entire course) and fastest in my age group. 

I ended up 24th overall, good enough for only 5th in my age group – apparently us 30-34 year olds had a good day out there!  Despite the fact that I couldn’t walk properly until the following friday I had a fantastic time.  The weather was absolutely perfect, I had a blast, and threw down a run I really didn’t know I had in me!  Congrats to the other RF athletes I saw on the course – Jon Dow and Larry Bradley, good luck to both you guys in your upcoming big races – IM Canada, and Timberman respectively.  A huge congratulations to all those Lake Placid finishers as well!  Hopefully we’ll see everyone back in Muskoka when it moves back to its usual June weekend in 2011.

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