July 15 marked my return to triathlon after a 3 year absence. I chose to participate in the Gravenhurst Sprint Tri which incidentally was same race site as my very first tri back in 2005.
I went into the race feeling pretty comfortable with my bike and run, given I had logged some really good miles already this year. I love cycling, and had prepped to do my 5th Ride To Conquer Cancer back in June (another amazing event that went extremely well for me from a fitness viewpoint). And with all the fantastic running I did with my Team Running Free Newmarket mates on run days and workshop evening runs I was feeling good about my run.
The main concern for me was my swim. I did not have a lot of time in the water leading up to this race, and my pace was pretty slow. I was feeling more fluid and my stroke was improving, but it was nowhere near my form from 3 years ago.
As I arrived at transition very early on race day, the Give It A Tri folks were just getting their race prep talk. The sky was overcast but looked like it wanted to clear. I got checked in, picked up my kit, got my body marking, and set my transition spot all in good time with nobody else around me (an advantage of getting there early). Soon after this, my good friend and chiropractor Dr. Josh Nikkanen, my sister-in-law, and my wife’s cousin and his girlfriend all showed up to get themselves ready to race. I even saw an old friend from high school. With all these familiar faces around me, I felt like it was going to be a good day.
As our pre-race meeting began, the clouds moved on and we were bathed in sunlight. I managed a bit of food and a quick run down part of the run course to warm up. And then it was time to head over to the docks to board the Segwun steamship to be taken out to the deep water start. This is one of the most amazing race starts in any race in the region, and one of the main features I love about doing Gravenhurst. These historic steamships add such charm to the event, and it’s totally unique.
After the short trip out to the start buoys, we all jumped into the water (for which we clearly did not need a wetsuit as it was really warm after the immense heatwaves we’d had). A brief warmup and the steamship horn sounded to send us on our way.
It was pretty congested where I was, and I wish I had moved over a bit for the start to find a more open “lane”, so I had to maneuver around some folks to get open and pick up my pace. But, this is what racing is all about right?
After I was able to find some room, I was able to hold my pace fairly well to the finish where we climbed up the custom built stairs at the docks and made our way down the boardwalk and across the road into transition. If you’ve never done this race, the distance into transition from the water is at least 300 meters, maybe more. So you can’t waste time. I quickly checked my watch and saw that I was 3-4 minutes faster than any training swim I had done, so I knew I was in for a good day.
I had a decent T1, got out on the bike course, and was able to find my rhythm very quickly. I made up a lot of time and felt very comfortable. This bike course is slightly uphill for nearly the first km as you exit town, then has various sized rollers and turns but also a bit of downhill elevation all the way out to the turn around. Some sections are open, sunny and flat while others are shaded with trees on both sides of the road. The course is open to local traffic, but it was never an issue while I was on course. The ride back to transition has some gradual uphill, especially around km 17 or so, then it’s dowhill for the last km.
T2 was decent as well and I was off on the run. The cottage road used is a pretty steady stream of up and down rollers for the whole run. You really don’t get a lot of flat road to just open up and let it go, so it does challenge you a bit. It was full sun and very little breeze by now and this run is hot! So I made sure to hit each aid station for water – one to drink and one went over my head at each one.
I felt really good on the run, finished with a time that I am happy with and an overall time of 1:25:00 for the race. Seeing my friends and family on the race course added to the fun and the fact that I was lucky enough to pull off 3rd in my age group certainly added to the day. Of course I had all my Team Running Free gear on – tri tank, run visor, bib belt, Fox River socks and was happy and proud to stand on the podium for pictures in all that gear.
I highly recommend this race to anyone who does triathlon, or is thinking about doing a tri. They have Give It ATri, Sprint, and Olympic distance races and they always sell out because they are capped at 300 (which is the capacity of the two steamships used to take the athletes out to the swim start).
The course is in beautiful Muskoka; it’s fun, challenging, picturesque. The race organizers (Multisport Canada) do a great job of providing a well supported race. It’s my favourite course and I will be back next year to take on the Olympic course.
Good luck with your training.
Yours in health,