I had a great experience doing this race last year, so when the registrations opened up for 2011, I had no hesitation for signing up. I always have specific goals whenever going into a race, whether it happens or not depends on the day. I wanted to get a PB from last year which was 5:08 or something like that. So here is a little summary of my day as it progressed:
Swim – 35:50
I wouldn’t compare swimming in the the Welland Canal to Muskoka area, but it wasn’t that bad.
So the horn goes off at 8:30 and it was a mass start. I stayed towards the back area as I didn’t want to get clobbered during the swim. It’s always chaos during the first few hundred meters if you’re not in the front (and fast). I’m swimming away and I soon forget how weird it is having people all around you; they touch your feet, shove you around, etc. etc. I’m sure it’s not intentional, but it’s still a bit annoying. I also start to panic a little during the first few hundred meters. It’s just a mental thing, but once it spread out a bit, it was all good.
Now that I got a hold of myself, it was all about the pacing and what not. I was even able to enjoy the ‘sights’ of this swim. It was interesting seeing people on the ‘shore’ running along the swimmers. It was also quite interesting seeing people on top of the bridge and cheering you on. Yes, I did notice that. I wanted to stop and wave to these crowds, but I’d get caught up in the draft.
So if you’ve done any open water swimming in a race, it just feels like things goes on and on. That’s how it was today. Mentally, I was just thinking about the rest of my day, my plans for my bike and the eventual run.
I stepped things up a bit towards the end of my swim and started passing people. It’s always a good feeling to do that. I checked my Garmin once I got out of the water and it was 35 minutes and change. I’m satisfied with that.
So was a semi long jog to the transition area. The race organizers put this rubber mat to cover the sharp rocks leading to the transition zone, but it wasn’t enough. Good thing I left my flip flops on. I get into my bike gear and take off.
Bike – 2:39:41
From what I recalled last year, this course was basically flat. I really enjoy doing these flat courses especially after doing Milton with that monster hill and training down in Lake Placid region. When I did this race last year, I averaged 34.3km/hour which I wanted to do better. I have my Garmin set to 10k lap times, so I’d be able to keep track of things. I didn’t take off too fast initially, but stepped it up after the first 10k. Things were going just fine and dandy (I was averaging around 34.8k) until the 63k mark. The strap on my Garmin broke and the watch flew right off my arm. Oh f*ck! I wasn’t going to leave my $400 watch on the road. I stopped my bike and ran back like 150M to get this thing. There were 2 oncoming bikes which saw me and avoided. Thanks guys, that could have been bad.
I grab my watch, stuffed it in the back pocket and resumed the cycling. I’m a guy whose all about statistics, so not having instant feedback really annoyed me. I was now racing all on ‘feeling.’ What a concept!
I also found things a bit frustrating seeing people who were clearly drafting. I would race past these groups only to get passed by them minutes later and then having them slow down. Sheesh.
Anyways, I was really glad to see the 80k marker, only 10k more left! I finished just shy of my goal, which was fine by me, all things considered.
Again, it’s back to transition. I see local triathlete and all around good guy, Roger Hospedales hanging around transition after doing the bike. He wasn’t planning on running at all. Man, I wish I could do the same!
Run – 1:50:44
I knew I had to keep my pace at a reasonable pace so that I don’t blow up. I kept things at around a 5:00 min/km and it felt good. I kept at this pace for the next 10km or so.
The organizers have changed the run course big time which is really neat. It would consist of basically 2 loops on the same path and the little bonus at the end for the finisher. I liked this especially compared to the course last year where you would run on this non-paved train tracks (who could forget that?!).
It was also great (for me it was great, I’m sure others didn’t think the same) seeing people ahead of you and cheering them on as they were ripping it on their second loop while you were on your first. I had several friends and other Running Free colleagues on the course.
My legs started cramping up around the 16k mark or something. I slowed things down and even walked. I knew that I wasn’t going to PB today, so I made the best out of things and made this race all about a quality run. The sun was out now, but it wasn’t too bad overall. I’d say this was one of those ‘no excuses’ days where you can’t blame the weather for having a performance that wasn’t what you intended.
It’s always a good feeling seeing the finish line and having people cheer you on. It almost took away the pain. I managed to do a 5:13 or so. Not a PB, but I was content.
Oh for those who are wondering, I’m the goofball with the “Frosted Flakes” jersey.
Race Review and Verdict
- The course seems even flatter now! An awesome one to do if you plan on aiming for a PB.
- Police and volunteers were all over the bike course so you don’t get lost. It was helpful.
- Pretty decent ‘value’ as you get a medal, a sweet headsweats cap (the mark of a triathlete right guys?), and a technical shirt.
- Post race food was great with Hero Burgers, and Milk (unfortunately, I am lactose intolerant), among the usual stuff.
- The long run up from the swim exit to the transition zone. Just remember to bring your shoes!
- I personally like having a cotton long sleeve shirt like last year, but yeah, I’m being picky now.
Highly recommended if you plan on doing one of these things. Friendly atmosphere overall. I give this a 4 out of 5 stars.