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Guelph Lake Sprint…sometimes it just isn’t your day!

Despite the popularity of the Guelph Lake triathlons, I had never raced this venue before.  Since I am unable to race the favorite Muskoka chase this year I thought it might be fun to give Guelph a try.  My stepfather was racing the sprint, so I decided to sign up for the shorter distance and ride out to the race with him which would also allow my wife to bring the family along later and not have to hang around for hours of pre-race details.   Although if you have to hang around somewhere for hours in the blistering sun, the Guelph Lake conservation area is an awesome place to be!

Based on previous years results I figured I had a very good chance of taking my age group, but my overall placing would be totally dependent on the amount of ridiculously fast sub 25 year olds out of the Guelph RTC.  My week leading up to the race was a little thrown off by a short lived, but particularly dibilitating round of stomach flu on tuesday which left me with little more strength than what was required to climb up the stairs to bed.  But after sleeping 12 consecutive hours, I bounced back quickly the next day; although for the remainder of the week I felt lacking my ‘extra gear’ during my tougher workouts.

I have raced a couple 10k races this year, but this would be my first triathlon of the season which resulted in a few items not making the race bag, and a little more time setting up in transition than normal.  I had just enough time for a 15 minute warm-up on the bike and then it was off to put on my wetsuit -something I am notorious for leaving until the last minute and than frantically searching for someone to zip me up while my wave lines up on the beach.   This time I had time for about 10 whole warm-up strokes before a volunteer on a paddleboard pointed out that the first wave was going in 2 minutes so I might want to get out of the way!

I lined up on the inside at the front for the second wave since it seemed a litte more crowded front and center.  The horn sounded and I did a couple dolphin dives and then set out at almost a sprint pace to attempt to find some room early on and catch some fast feet.  I don’t like going hard from the gun as I feel it results in a slower split overall as I never am able to quite shake the fatigue that developes from going at redline pace for the first 75-100m, but unfortunately everyone else seems to do it, so if you hang back you run the risk of being stuck behind a wall of near-exhausted slower swimmers that you have to pick through.  I found some room and a fast swimmer early on that I stuck to for the first couple hundred meters as we slowly left the pack behind.  I eventually lost him as the fast start started to catch up to me and I faded a little.  By the first turn bouy I was starting to feel a little better and picked up the pace as I started to move through the slower swimmers from the first wave.  The crowds increased and by the time I hit the final turn bouy to head for shore I was finding it harder and harder to find open water.  In the last 100m I picked up the pace and started to drive the legs a little harder to get the blood moving.  I exited the water second in my wave (and age group) and started up the hill to transition.  I quickly realized I had maybe burned an extra match or two in the swim (or maybe I still hadn’t recovered 100% from the flu) because the run up to T1 hurt bad!  My legs were burning and all I can think of is that I still have to bike and run! 

After a very rusty and terribly botched transition I hit the roads.  My legs felt heavy and I struggled to hit a decent rhythm for the first few kilometers.  I was mashing the gears up the first couple of hills and just couldn’t seem to get any momentum.  A few guys I passed early on caught and passed me as I struggled to find my legs.  I caught them again a short time later and used a short (legal) time in their draft to gain momentum for a pass that would stick.  This time it did stick, I had my legs turning over 100 cadence, and my average speed was starting to approach a respectable number!  Life was good!  I checked the time as the overall race leader passed me on the way down from the turnaround to gauge my deficit, and was little disheartened to see I had lost almost four minutes to him as I hit the turn.  After the turn I really started to feel good.  It was great ‘fishing’ and I was reeling in the riders from the first wave like crazy, and it was the first race in my life that I had not been passed on the bike leg!  The roads are pretty rough on the way back into the conservation area, and with about 3k left to go they became a lot rougher…so bad in fact that I had trouble remaining on my saddle.  Something was definitely wrong.  I looked down and sure enough I had blown my rear tire.  Had the roads been smooth I likely would have continued as I knew the tire had been glued on by a former pro cycling team mechanic, but I really didn’t want to risk damaging the rim…or my butt.  I hopped off my bike and pulled out my last chance to salvage the race – a can of self sealing CO2/latex.  Unfortunately it didn’t work, and as I didn’t see the need to bring a spare tubular (what can go wrong in 20km that can’t be fixed with a can of Pit Stop?) I was out of options.  Racers were now passing me by the hundreds as I walked my bike the last 3km, and I certainly appreciated the ones that offered to toss me a tube, or CO2.  It wasn’t exactly how I envisioned the race, but it was a nice day, and I actually strangely enjoyed the walk as I was reminded by every rider who offered to help of what makes this sport so great!

Once back inside the conservation area the shoulders turned to grass and I got rid of my shoes and was able to run with my bike for the remainder of what would be the slowest bike split of the M30-34 age group!  Despite developing a bit of a side stitch running with the bike, I was anxious to get out on the run and pick up as many spots as I could. 

As I started the run, I didn’t feel particularly good, and the 1pm start time meant the heat of the day was at its peak.  My Garmin was thoroughly confused after the bike/walk incident and wasn’t providing me with much useful information aside from heart rate.  My pace didn’t feel particularly fast as I tried to pick off as many of the ones that passed me on the bike as I could.  I crossed the line in 1:21:31…more than 15 minutes behind my goal…and thoroughly enjoyed the mist tent by the finish.  After checking the results (look down….waaaayyyyy down) I was surprised by my 18:49 5k run split as I really didn’t feel great and half expected somewhere in the neighborhood of 19:30.

It was a beautiful day, and I had fun despite some bad luck.  Looking back at the results and my Garmin I realized I had close to a minute lead until the flat, and was in good position for a top ten overall finish, neither of which I have accomplished in a Subaru series race.  But there will be more races, and unfortunately more flats, just hopefully not at the same time!     

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