I’ve heard a lot of great comments about this race, so I had been hoping all year that my work schedule would allow me to put it on the calendar. Fortunately I had the weekend off so I signed up just before online registration closed and started packing up my gear. I had been checking the forecasts for a few days leading up to the race so I knew I wasn’t in for the sunny skies that I’ve been lucky enough to have for all but one of my races this year. Come to think of it, I don’t think it has rained any other weekend this summer! I was staying about an hour away from Orillia for the weekend, so I packed up the car in the dark and drove through pretty heavy rain for most of the way. Fortunately the rain let up just as I pulled into the parking lot which made transition set up a lot easier. The race site is awesome with parking right next to transition so I could leave a lot of my stuff in the car to keep it dry while I got set up. I was also pleasantly surprised with how dry the transition area was. I have been to races where the whole transition area is almost submerged following heavy rains which makes things a little more difficult…and usually results in your gear giving your car that awesome ‘wet dog’ smell by the time you get home after the race. The rain was holding off, and the roads seemed to be drying off so I elected to bump up the pressures in my tires a little before racking my bike. This would come back to bite me later!
Registration was smooth (as they always are at the trisport events) thanks to the awesome volunteers and staff, and I had plenty of time to squeeze in a quick warm-up before heading down to the water. The running start led to quite a bit of contact once the horn went off, and during the first 25m there seemed to be people continually grabbing my ankles. I don’t mind a bit of contact if you are making a legitimate attempt to pass, but the people that actually close their hand around limbs of other swimmers to try and pull themselves by really get on my nerves. I had started out to the side and tried to swim a straight line for the first turn bouy, but unfortunately the chop on the lake made sighting difficult and I think I swam a pretty good zig zag to the turn. My age group was in the third wave for this race so there was lots of traffic from the waves in front at both turns, but at each bouy I was able to find a decent amount of space to get through. I found a pair of feet to follow for the last few hundred metres which was immensely helpful as the combination of the chop and my goggles fogging prevented me from seeing where I was going. I came out of the water at 12:20, not my best swim, but not too bad either considering the conditions.
It seemed to be a pretty long run with my bike to the mount line before I could get going and try and catch up some places I lost on the swim. The first few kilometres of the bike course wind through side streets and feature a few small climbs as well. It took me a while to get up to speed but I soon fell into a decent rhythm. The rain had started again while I was swimming, but unfortunately in my efforts to distance myself from some strong riders I knew were behind me I got careless and took a turn too fast for the conditions and wound up sliding across an intersection on my rear end. I was quickly on my feet after assuring the policeman controlling traffic I was okay (without realling knowing if I was!) and after putting my chain back on I resumed the race. After getting back up to speed I took a quick inventory of my injuries, and it seemed I got off pretty easy. I had a small patch of road rash on my elbow, and I could definately feel some damage in the areas covered by my shorts, but as my shorts were still intact I figured it couldn’t be too bad. I quick look at my wheels confirmed that they were still rolling true (gotta love Reynolds!) and I had gone down on my left side so I knew I wouldn’t have bent my derailleur or hangar. Needless to say I was a lot more cautious from that point on, but it is a fast course with only a handful of hills and lots of flat, straight sections. I would love to race it again when it was dry! Being in the third swim wave has one big advantage – great fishing on the bike course. There was a consistent string of cyclists in front to reel in which makes it far easier to focus and keep a strong effort than when you are riding alone. One of the top cyclists in my age group caught me around the halfway point, but unlike other races I was able to hang on for the rest of the race. I was able to pass him a few times, but my breakaways were very quickly reeled in and he resumed racing out in front. I wasted a few precious seconds trying to pull my feet out of my shoes which resulted in me losing contact with him as we wound back through the side streets again on the way into transition. My bike time for the 33km wound up being 56:46 which I was very happy with considering the crash and subsequent cautious riding!
After a quick T2 it was time to unleash the Newtons! I pushed the pace to catch up to the athlete I had lost on the bike and ran with him for the first 2km. In my haste I hadn’t counted bikes on the rack, so I asked him if he knew how many were in front. He replied that there were three bikes on the rack before he got there, so I assumed I was in fifth place off the bike. I knew this particular athlete was a strong runner, and had outkicked me in a sprint finish before, so I knew I needed to open a gap as early as possible. At around 2km I started feeling a little stronger and started to push the pace. My heart rate was appoaching redline, but I was pretty sure I could keep the pace for the remaining 5km. My efforts were soon rewarded as I heard the other racer’s footsteps get farther and farther behind. I was determined to not look over my shoulder and just keep pushing as hard as I could to open the gap, and at the turnaround I could see I had build a decent but not insurmountable lead. I could see two other runners in striking distance and set my sights on them, passing the second with a little more than a kilometre to go. I had seen the very speedy Matt Reid approaching the turnaround and knew there was no way I was going to catch him (in this race or any other!), but I had caught everyone in trail of him so I hoped that put me in second as I ran past transition toward the finish. Having not run this race before, I underestimated the distance to the finish and launched my finishing sprint a little early! I took a quick look over my shoulder as I was fading and saw that the coast was clear. 25:33 for the 7km run, definately a PB for me, and good enough to clinch second place in my age group.
Despite the poor weather conditions I had a great race. 12th overall, 2nd age group which is my best showing in a Subaru series race yet. It was also a great Team Running Free turnout as I saw the bright red jackets and tri tops everywhere I looked. I visited the med tent after the finish to get cleaned up and took my spot in the line of bleeding triathletes. I got off pretty easy with just some road rash, a small tear in my tri shorts, and no real damage to my bike. Of course I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in an emergency room waiting to get a tetanus shot since I was badly overdue. Anyways, Orillia is a great race which I look forward to doing again. I learned some valuable things from this race as well that I’d like to pass along. Get a tetanus shot on your schedule when you are due (about every 10 years), do not wait 15 years until you actually need it or you end up sitting in an emergency room for 2 1/2 hours on a sunday afternoon. And for the guys, if you actually needed additional reasons why speedos are inappropriate race attire – think of your unprotected rear end skidding along asphalt at 30+ km/hr.