Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tri For Life Olympic Triathlon - Race Report

Better late than never?

Life has thrown me a few curveballs lately, thus the lack of posts.  Thanks God (as my mom would say) for triathlon as the regular routine of training has assisted in keeping me focused and (mostly) sane.

I competed in my first Olympic distance triathlon on the 17th.  The Tri For Life triathlon is part of the 3 Disciplines race series.  I did the Motor City sprint triathlon in June that was also organized by 3D and I can't say enough good things about this race organization.

Having never done this distance I was at a loss as to what to expect both from the race and from myself.  What I ended up with was a mixed bag of results, a couple of good lessons that I will take with me to Steelhead, and an appreciation for the Olympic distance.

We were advised during the week leading up to the race that the water temperature in the lake we were to swim in was almost 80 degrees and as a result we could not wear wetsuits.  My first reaction was to panic.  How could I do a swim without my wetsuit?  I then gave my head a shake and remembered that I have been swimming 2-3 times per week for the last 7 months diligently!  I swim 1800-2400 metres regularly without problem and have been doing open water swims once a week - albeit with a wetsuit - for the last 2 months.  I CAN swim 1.5 kilometres and I can do it without a wetsuit.

Otter Lake is across the border and 2 hours away from where we live.  Sydney and I packed our bikes into the Flex and headed out at 4:45 a.m.  Crossing the border was no problem and the website directions were perfect.  I choked down a whole wheat tortilla with Nutella before we left - I hate eating so early -and brought another to eat an hour before the race.  I also brought one of my homemade direct energy bites to eat 15 minutes before the start.

Parking was a breeze as there was a huge field about 5 minutes from the race venue where volunteers were on hand to direct cars.  We got registered in no time, body marked, grabbed our chip timers and went to set up transition.  This was a small race as it's only the second year so transition consisted of two long racks on either side of the transition area.  I nabbed a spot close to the bike out/in and set up my stuff.  I was pre-occupied with getting into the water to do a test run of the swim without a wetsuit and as a result didn't do my bike warm up.  This would come back to bite me later.

I was able to get in and warm up for ten minutes.  The water was warm and got deep really quickly.  I actually felt pretty good swimming without the wetsuit and was comfortable.  It felt a little strange swimming in my tri shorts and top (I think a singlet would have been better) but nothing that freaked me out.  I had my new Garmin 310XT set to multisport to keep an eye on my times and could wear it on my wrist without having to worry about getting my wetsuit off around it.

The Swim
All Olympic distance women went off in the second wave a few minutes behind the Oly distance men.  I stuck to the back of the group so as to avoid getting run over by the faster girls.  Automatically I was in a groove.  I felt comfortable and did not at all feel any panic.  This was good!  I sighted every ten strokes or so and my line was perfect.  The course was a bit of a hexagon so you had to really keep an eye on the next buoy but I was having really great luck staying on course.  I did notice that the majority of my wave was up ahead but I didn't let it get to me.  I managed to avoid getting hit until about 250 metres from the end when I caught a couple of stragglers from the men's wave and the sprint distance swimmers were converging.  I got through it though and swam until my hands hit the ground.  Success!  I was stoked to have gotten through that entire swim without once hesitating or stopping.  Then I looked at my watch.  WTF?  Did I stop for a sandwich along the way?  In retrospect I realize that I've always been so focused on not freaking out that I actually forgot to race.  So, for Steelhead, no more thoughts of controlling panic.  I can swim the distance.  I must now focus on swimming faster!

Official time - 38:50 (8/10 AG)

A quick run up the beach and across the street to transition.  The no wetsuit made T1 a breeze.  I got into my shoes, helmet on, glasses on, and GO!  T1 time was 1:40.  Given that Steelhead will involve my stripping off my wetsuit I'm not sure I can have a transition this quick.

This course is described as rolling with a couple of bigger climbs to keep people honest.  Coming from the flatlands of Essex County it was way more than what we're used to.  I discovered something in Italy though - I love to climb hills.  And given that I'm relatively light it lends well to rollers.  I started hammering on the bike and immediately heard a clicking noise.  I looked down to see that my cadence sensor, which has been strapped to my bike since last September without any problem had come loose and spun around and was hitting my pedal on every stroke.  I figured I'd live with the annoying sound until suddenly it spun a little more and was now hitting the spokes on my back wheel.  The last thing I wanted was to break a spoke over something so stupid so I had to stop.  I got to the top of the next hill and hopped off my bike.  I didn't have anything to cut the zip ties with so had to screw around with moving it until I got it to a spot where it was tight enough and would hopefully not get loose again.  I lost 3 minutes screwing around with that!  So frustrating!  I hopped back on, got into aero, and went.  I started passing people and was able to pass 5 women in my age group (there were ten of us) and many others.  I diligently drank all of my aerobottle and was only passed by two people (men) the entire 40k distance.  The only frustration was once we hooked back up with the Sprint distance people toward the end of the bike course it got to be a little hairy out there.  There were a lot of mountain bikes and people that were obviously unfamiliar with race rules.  They were all over the place and there were a couple of close calls when I passed.  I guess "on your left!" doesn't mean the same thing to everyone?  I got to the end of the bike course feeling really good about my bike and feeling pretty fresh despite the heat (it was over 90 degrees).  For Steelhead I will FOR SURE check my bike over for mechanicals beforehand.  Otherwise I was really pleased with my performance on the bike given the hilly course.

Official time - 1:23:30 - 17.8 mph avg (3/10 AG)

Again, nothing unusual to report.  I did take the extra minute to put socks on since I was worried about blisters.  Given the heat I knew I'd be dumping water over myself and my feet would end up soaking wet.  That, coupled with a 10k distance could prove painful.  VERY glad I did this and I will definately do it at Steelhead.  T2 time was 1:11.

I felt awesome as I headed out on the run.  The heat wasn't bothering me, my legs felt great, and my pace was awesome.  I was on pace to do a sub 1 hour 10k which I've never done before (don't laugh all you speedsters out there) and totally felt like I could hold it.  Then mile 4 hit and I got a stitch.  Since I don't get stitches I didn't really know what to do.  It seemed to feel better when I pressed on it so I ran like that for a few minutes but then the stitch spread across my whole stomach.  What was happening?  I wanted to cry.  I had to stop and walk and even that was painful.  I watched my average pace get higher and higher and my hope of a sub three hour Oly go out the window.  I started a pathetic shuffle/walk.  The slower I went the more I felt the heat.  It was awful and I was so upset!  Finally, with about 1k to go I decided that I could either be out there all damn day or I could suck it up and run the rest of the way.  I started to run and the stupid stitch was gone.  Too late though - the run was blown.  I was passed by only one woman in my age group during the run.

Official time - 1:08:28 (5/10 AG)

Total time - 3:13:37

The woman that passed me on the run?  3rd AG.  Very bitter pill to swallow.

Next up is the big dance at Steelhead.  I'm excited and nervous.  I'm down to race weight and feeling strong.  I've had some really good workouts that make me worried that I'm peaking too early and some crappy runs that make me worried that I can't do it.  I have no idea what to expect out of myself time wise but know that I want to cross that finish line feeling that I left it all out there and that I ran the best race I could run.

Good luck to all who are racing in the next couple of weeks.  Not sure how much updating will occur and although I haven't been a diligent commenter I am keeping up daily with all of your blogs.  And there will definately be a Steelhead race report.


  1. Congrats on a great race!!! Even with a few problems you did a fantastic job! Can't wait for your Steelhead report! Go out and Kick some A$$!

  2. Great race! I'm sorry you got stitches on the run. That sucks. I wonder if it is nutrition related... You bike split looked awesome, even with the 3 minutes of messing with the cadence sensor. The Steelhead course is great, depending on which way the wind is blowing. Hopefully, it will be blowing South so that the hills coming back into transition are easier. The majority of the course is flat/rolling, but there are some toughies out there. The run course has some tough hills too, but you're going to rock it. Let me know if you have any questions about it. Congrats on a great race. Steelhead is going to be awesome! Good luck with final training...

  3. You ended up having a great race and learned some things along the way. Hope you aren't disappointed!

    As for the swim... ugh, I often find myself so relaxed that I'm not racing. :) As for the bike - you couldn't have done much for that sensor and handled it right. And the run - side stitches are the worst. I get them and I have yet to find a way to get rid of them

    Way to power through!