Early on Saturday September 18th about 400 multi-sport athletes stood around the shoreline of Sulvan Lake in Lakeside, Ontario. A venue which permits Multi-sport Canada to host the last race of the season in Ontario.
In favour of potentially cooler weather, the race starts late at 9:30. This is great for out-of-towners as well. By 8:30 though temperatures stood around 9 degrees celsius and a brisk wind wasn’t making it feel any warmer.
In accordance with rules regarding air/water temperature differences wetsuits were made mandatory. The water was much warmer than the air, but coming out of the lake to race in the sub-10 degree air would have been asking for trouble without a wetsuit.
I stood in the water knee-deep at the front of the first wave and on the gun worked hard as usual to find myself near the front with nothing left to do but swim. After about 100 metres I was in a good rhythm swimming easily with a group of 2 others. At the second turn I found myself going slightly off-course on the heels of a swimmer in front of me. I pulled past him on the left and made sure I had a nice straight final few hundred metres.
Reaching the beach was a bit deceiving as the water became quite shallow and then deeper again on-and-off for the final 30-40 metres into shore.
As I stood up I found myself racing in with 2 others and was into T1 with a 1:26 pace and a 10:40 swim time.
This is where things became slightly uncomfortable though. Almost immediately upon ditching my wetsuit in transition I was reminded of the air/water temperature difference.
I took some extra time here to throw a beanie on beneath my helmet. I also grabbed a pair of sleeves to put on during the ride. In hindsight, perhaps I also should have made time for socks.
Onto the bike and shivering, working my bare feet into my shoes and still holding a pair of arm warmers in my teeth I began to question my coordinative abilities…
At the turn I counted myself in 5th place overall without knowing about any others in the 2nd or 3rd wave. On a final climb back to T2 I passed the 4th place rider and coasted into transition.
Dismounting with bare feet on the pavement was a good indication of how my feet were going to feel for the rest of the race. Or maybe I should say how they were not going to feel… I couldn’t actually ‘feel’ them at all.
Before settling into any kind of rhythm I was passed and sent back into 5th place. Since I was passed by a guy in my age group, I made the usual promise to myself that I would try my best to ‘race’. At the turn, still running in 5th, I could see that a few more runners were less than 20 seconds behind me.
With 2k to go I had picked up the pace enough to keep the gap between myself and 4th place from getting any bigger. It was still around 100m.
At the final marker I let my heart rate climb and brought the pace to somewhere around 3:40. The gap started to close slightly. About 500m out now and just 20 or 30m behind the 4th place racer I decided throw whatever was left into it. There was a small reaction but no big chase and I crossed the line as the fourth place finisher.
My overall position was bumped down 1 place after a 2nd wave starter in the 35-39 category finished in 3rd place. At the end of the day, 5th overall and 2nd place in the group.
The race is beautiful. Cold, but beautiful. True to form, Mr.Salt awaited at the finish line with a hand-shake and congratulations. This is arguably one of the most thoughtful and unique experiences provided by any race director around, and another great reason to get yourself out to an MSC race at some point next season.
I managed to get myself out to 5 races this year. What a great season for racing. Tackling sprint and Olympic distance races this year allowed me to keep my overall training volume down and spend a lot of time enjoying everything else including work, family and friends.
In turn, being less time-crunched allowed me to enjoy every single training session as well. If there was a 4-hour ride or a 90-minute run, it was never because I needed to log the distances. It was always because I was enjoying myself too much to turn around and go home.