I was looking forward to my first triathlon of the season after a decent start to the multisport year at the Subaru Victoria’s duathlon. As the week leading up to the race progressed the forecast went from bad to worse, and memories from a crash on a wet course in Orillia two years ago came flooding back as I studied the map of the bike course, which although flat does have a significant number of turns as well as two turnarounds on narrow roads. Nevertheless the day before race day I was encouraged that there was no thunderstorms forecast for race morning as I was looking forward to getting some feedback on my swim fitness heading into racing season and was worried about the swim portion being cancelled if there was lightning in the area.
I woke up race morning, grabbed a quick breakfast and a coffee for the road, and hopped in the car for the hour or so drive to the race site. The overcast skies at home grew darker as we approached Binbrook and by the time we got the race site it was raining steadily. I always like to arrive early, especially at unfamiliar races as parking can be difficult to find. However there was tons of parking available at Binbrook close to transition. One of my favorite features of the Recharge with Milk series is the positioning of the bike racks. Rather than have the racks at right angles to the flow of traffic through transition, the racks are positioned parallel so you can quickly get to your bike and be on your way and never have to backtrack. After a cautious bike warm-up I grabbed my wetsuit headed for the start line.
Once again, despite telling myself I would get the water early and get a solid swim warm-up in, I took too long getting organized and had to scramble to get my wetsuit zipped up and jumped into the water for a couple of minutes to loosen up before the horn. I was in the first wave and decided to line up at the far outside where the water was shallower. I figured that being able to run a few more steps before swimming would more than make-up for the slightly longer line to the first turn. I also prefer to have a bit more room at the start because I usually swim better if I can build into my race pace over the first hundred or so metres rather than have to sprint for positioning and then try and hold a fast pace. The horn sounded and after one dolphin dive the ground dropped away and I was swimming, and swimming way to hard. Although I knew I went out too hard quick looks to my left revealed a decent pack of swimmers has formed and I really wanted to beat them to the first turn. As I approached the first turn I could tell I was going to have some traffic and elected to take a line slightly wider to lessen the risk of a whip kick to the face. I took both of the first two turns wider than I would have liked, and never really got on anyones feet to pick up a bit of a draft. Heading back into the wind there was a decent amount of chop and I really worked to keep the turnover high to power through despite the fact that my excessive initial pace was starting to catch-up with me and I was starting to hurt! I got a bit of a second wind as we made the last turn for shore and entered some calmer water and gave a bit of a surge as I approached the beach. I exited the water in 12:23, taking into account the 250m run to T1 my time in the water was right around 11:20 or about 1:31/100m. I knew by how smashed I felt on the run-up that I had given all I had in the swim. There was time to be gained for sure, but only by better turns, and better sighting as I continually seemed to drift left of course.
The transition onto the bike was decent, not as smooth as I like as its the first time I’d had to shed the wetsuit in race conditions in a while, but I was soon on the access road on my way out of the conservation area. The first part of the Binbrook course features a few corners and I cautiously built my speed, knowing that losing a few seconds here and there by slowing more than necessary is far less than what you lose when you slide into the ditch with nothing but 2mm of lycra for protection. By about the 3km I was feeling good and started to up the pace a little. I slowly made my way through the pack, then dropped a couple places as I was passed by two very strong riders Andrew Buzzell, and Jim Sunners. I had expected Jim to catch me eventually, but I was hoping it would happen after the halfway point of the bike, and not in the first 10km! I put my head down and kept pushing as hard as I could to keep the gap to a minimum to give me chance at making up some ground in the run. At about the 10k mark the course turned out of the wind and for a short stretch I was able to hold over 50km/h until the first of two turnarounds. Unfortunately I made a small tactical error and found myself trying to power out of the turnaround, up a slight grade, and into a 30km/h headwind in the same gear I had used to average 50km/h! It took a while to build my speed back up by I was soon plodding along into the headwind, my heartrate climbing way into the red zone as I tried to make it through this section as quickly as possible, planning on easing up slightly when I picked up the tailwind on the way back to transition. I was able to navigate the second turnaround with slightly better execution than the first, and I was able to pick off a couple more riders in the closing miles. Until the last 5km I had been able to see the lead vehicle up ahead so I knew I was losing ground only slightly, and as I hit the dismount line I heard announcer Steve Fleck say I was in 6th place just over two minutes down on the leader. I quickly racked my bike and set off on the run course, pretty sure I couldn’t catch all of the runners in front, but determined to catch a few! Bike split was 45:16, and the course was slightly short according to my garmin which showed my average speed as 38.3 vs 38.7 km/h
The run course at Binbrook is beautiful, the first and last kilometers on trails through vary rolling terrain. The uneven nature of the trails does make it a little tough to fall into a decent rhythm, and I was glad to be able to pick up the pace a little once I hit the road. As I approached the halfway point of the run I could see the leaders coming back the other way. I had passed Andrew Buzzell to move one step closer to the podium, but it was clear that I wasn’t closing the gap on leader Andrew Bolton, and I was losing ground on a very fast moving Francois Cote. After the turnaround I used the slight downhill section to build speed for passes of Jim Sunners and Rhys Spencer, and moving into 3rd. At this point I couldn’t see the leaders anymore, but some of the top duathletes were now making the turn ahead of me on their 5k second run so I was able to keep my pace up by unsuccessfully trying to reel them in. I knew there were some fast runners getting off the bike behind me so I certainly didn’t want to inadvertantly start cruising once I had established a bit of a gap on the runners I had passed. I ended up running the final 7.5km in 28:02 to cross the line in 1:26:55.
It was a great result for me, and a good gauge of my fitness heading into my “A” races. I felt with the exception of a few seconds lost for cautious bike handling on wet roads, and some navigational issues on the swim I had left everything out on the course, and given that I crossed the line nearly 2.5 minutes down on second meant that third is absolutely the best result I could have achieved that day!
Thanks to John and the rest of the MSC crew for putting on another awesome race, despite some pretty miserable conditions. If I had a schedule which allowed it I would be at every single race this crew puts on! A big shout out to the give-it-a-tri racers who got underway right as the skies opened up and stuck it out while it proceeded to pour rain for the entire race. Thanks to the Recharge with Milk crew and their foil blankets to cut the chill while the racers stood around cheering the final finishers in the pouring rain, and also to Cam of BigRaceWheels who let me hide out under his expo tent!
I would encourage anyone to add the Binbrook race to next year’s calendar – great venue, fast bike course, and a technically challenging but fun run course. Next up – Joining the record setting numbers of athletes signed up for this year Welland Half Iron distance race, then time for one more big build before Ironman Mont Tremblant!