Triathletes are planners… Managers of time. Experts in the field some would say.
Some of us plan racing seasons and training years to the finest of detail. We know where, and when we will race months in advance. In some cases, this is the only way for us to register for a race at all!
Some of us go as far as to prioritize races into different categories, issuing ourselves training taper periods accordingly.
A friend once mentioned that, “An ‘A’ priority race gets a 3-week taper, a ‘B’ priority race gets a 3-day taper, and a ‘C’ priority race gets a 3-hour taper…”
My friend trains too much.
On the fly…
But what happens when plans change? Some of us choose to challenge ourselves by registering for events on the fly… at the last minute, or without any real plan or performance expectations.
If you’ve never found yourself in this category, I highly suggest you give it a try. Great things can sometimes happen, and at the very least, you’ll rarely come away without learning something.
No big plans.
I had no real plans to race the Guelph Lake II triathlon. At the beginning of the race season, I intended to be very busy with other things through the Labour Day Weekend. But when plans changed as they often do, I decided to register myself for another race and throw my cards on the table.
This morning I arrived in Guelph planning for a highly-competitive age group race in highly-irritating humidity. As a race I had never planned for though, the strategy was simple, expect nothing, and give everything.
I’d never gone to a race on my own before. I usually always have my fiancee as company. She was busy this morning though; and I actually enjoyed the lonely drive to the site, and the ample time to warm up before racing. This was the first time I actually had time to do a warm-up this race season. I usually arrive just in time to be zipping my wetsuit within 30 seconds of my wave start.
Today was great. Again, with no expectations I was very relaxed, and standing on the beach at the Guelph Lake Conservation Area after a nice 40-minute warm-up, I felt ready to race.
At the sound of the gun I lead the charge into the water with 5 or 6 others who were quick to drop me behind them. I found myself pulling a chase pack of swimmers. Through the turn.
About halfway back to the beach with a little more than 300m to go, I was passed by a swimmer and was happy to enjoy the pull back into T1.
The rack was still full and as far as I could tell, there were no 25-29 AG athletes ahead of me but as I slipped out of my wetsuit I was passed in T1 by another guy in the group. For the first 10 km of the ride, he set the pace and as the terrain became a little more hilly, I passed him along with a few others.
For the first portion of the ride, I quietly cursed yesterday’s hilly & windy 80k but was soon to remind myself that today was about expecting nothing.
“Yesterday’s ride was great,” I thought.
At the 15k bike turn-around, I was in 8th place; and battled with a few others, including some extremely fast Junior Elite riders for the entire way back into T2.
Doing my best to avoid a tricky draft situation, there was a lot of sprinting and jostling for position involved for the final 7 or 8 km of the ride and at the dismount line, 5 of us entered T2 within 15 seconds of each-other.
At this point, the sun was high along with the heat and humidity. I had a pretty quick T2 and prepared myself for what would likely be the warmest run I have completed this year.
I split my watch at the T2 exit and clocked an even 4-minute pace to the 1km mark. This felt slow, but the worst part was that I knew it was going to get slower. I doused myself with water and drank a little bit… It helped.
My stomach was hardly enjoying the run; but this wasn’t a long race, and an additional 25 minutes of suffering was an easy sell.
I watched the pace diminish. 4.20, 4.25… Sour thoughts of yesterday’s training tried to creep back in… but with no expectations, there should be no need to find excuses. Today was going to be slow. That’s fine.
The run course had a few good hills as it wound through the roads of the conservation area. I kept hoping for an aide station between the second kilometre marker and the run turn-around.
Normally, 3 km is not a long way to go without water. Today seemed like a legitimate exception.
After completely losing sight of the 5 folks I had come into T2 with, I was happy to just run it in.
I made the same deal with myself that I always make in a situation like this: I would only give chase to someone in my age group, just in case I was in the running for a AG podium spot.
The remainder of the run was lonely though, and I wrapped up my slowest run split of the season with a 30:40 7k.
In the end, my finish time was 1:33:40.
A few finishers who started in later waves moved ahead of my rank, and this left me at 14th overall, and 2nd out of 34 in the group.
I noticed that on a good run day, I might have won the group as I only needed 2.5 minutes, and a 4:00/km pace would have done just that.
The Sportstats.ca results page makes everything pretty clear though.
In the group I was the fastest swimmer, the second-fastest cyclist, and the third-fastest runner. I suppose there were plenty of others with experiences like mine on the run course today, and with the heat, it is no real surprise.
Today’s race was a great finish to the season with the Subaru Series.
Best Performance vs. Best Effort.
I would argue that while this might not have been my best performance this year, it was definitely my best effort. And maybe this had something to do with the strategy…
Don’t be afraid to stray from the plan. Expect nothing, give everything. I highly recommend it.