After three crazy weeks of having family visiting from South America, getting married (!!!), honeymooning/cycling in Spain, and then sleeping like crazy for a week and hosting a reception the night before the race, I wasn’t really sure what to expect at my first Olympic distance triathlon in three years. Fortunately, I don’t think any of the athletes could have asked for a better day at Gravenhurst Olympic Triathlon and Duathlon Provincial Championships, although perhaps some spectators would have appreciated if it was just a touch warmer.
My goals for the race had nothing to do with time. As with all my racing this summer, Gravenhurst triathlon was all about process goals and learning to race well at the front of the pack. Good news is, I’m getting better at it!
Swim (1500m, no data!)
As I remembered from racing here many times before, the steamships are SO COOL; it’s like the Canadian version of Alcatraz where you have to swim to shore. It’s really popular and always sells out well before the event.
I’ve been in the pool twice in the last three weeks, so expectations were pretty low for the swim. Paolina didn’t want a bad swim getting in my head (like it did at Ironman Texas and Woodstock Sprint), so she told me to swim without a watch, which meant I had to race without any external data whatsoever. I think I like this!
It wasn’t the straightest swim, but I’m calling it a huge success because of two things (lack of swimming notwithstanding):
- My form didn’t fall apart. I didn’t sprint the start (no point since I can’t keep up with the other Pro/Elite Age Group swimmers anyways) so I didn’t end up out of breath and tense like I have in the past.
- I found a good draft and stayed behind them, even though it felt like I was going too easy (that’s kind of the point, but easy to forget). I was drafting for probably 75% of the swim, much more than usual. This was a big goal for me this year!
I found out on Sportstats later that my swim time was 30:21 including the long run up from the water, and I’m pretty happy with that.
Bike (40km, 1:13:58)
I ordered my first ever pair of proper triathlon shoes several weeks ago, and of course they arrived the day before the race. Since this wasn’t an A race for me (and the bike course is relatively short by Ironman training standards, meaning I could likely deal with any issues) I decided to test them out a little on Friday then race with them on Saturday. This turned out to be a key decision later on…
I got on the bike and immediately realized I have no idea how to pace an Olympic bike leg. How hard should I go? Was it all out like a sprint, or should I back off a little and save my legs for the run? How much should I back off? Is feeling like you’re dying a good thing? (I ask myself the last one pretty regularly on the bike). And while we’re at it…how do I eat for this race? (I ended up taking a FRUIT2 maple bar from xact NUTRITION before the swim and another at the start of the bike).
I think I went out a little too hard, but settled in pretty quickly and started chasing down men because there weren’t any women around me. I had just reeled one in around 8k when I dropped my chain and seized up my crank, meaning I had to stop completely, unclip both feet and manually thread it back onto the chainring, losing about a minute doing so. It wasn’t ideal, but I’m actually kind of glad this happened because it was an opportunity to practice getting my head back in the game after an issue on the bike, and it worked spectacularly. (Actually, I completely forgot it had even happened until 15 minutes after finishing the race).
I had no idea of my position, because I am notoriously bad at listening to Steve Fleck on the mic as I come through transition – but I kept an eye on the athletes coming back as I got closer to the turnaround. Finally I saw the lead woman, and checked my watch – when I hit the turnaround a minute later and realized I was 2 minutes down on first, I was pretty stoked!
Mamiko Naguchi passed me with a few kilometers left on the bike, but I stayed close to her and we caught a couple other women shortly after. I still had no idea who was ahead, but stuck just outside the draft zone behind Mamiko as we went through some twists and turns before T2. And finally my triathlon shoes had their day: I was able to do a flying dismount and pass Mamiko on the dismount, to be, as I found out later, the first woman into T2 (I still wasn’t listening to Steve).
Finally, the part I know how to pace! The first two kilometers were all about finding my legs, so I wasn’t too bothered when Mamiko went by me. I know how a 10k should feel, and I was running strong for the first little bit, knowing that I should get to the turnaround feeling like I was about to blow up (somehow I always manage to run it in anyways). A few kilometers in I was also passed by Rebecca Dolson, and continued to run my race but managed to keep her in sight. When we hit the turnaround I realised I was in third place and considered putting on a surge on some of the downhills to try to catch Rebecca and Mamiko, but I think I would have blown up if I had. I was working hard throughout, but between 7 and 8km my legs just shut down and felt like jello. It was mental muscle that got me through those last few kilometers.
I navigated the gravel trail and grass finishing chute on shaky legs, and then realised that they were holding up a finishers tape at the finish line…and I have never had this before! I had a quick panicky moment trying to figure out what to do – run through it? grab it? hold it up? when do I drop it? what if I trip? – and decided to go with holding it up over my head, because I’ve seen other people do it and I think that looks really cool. I haven’t seen the photos yet, but I really hope it looked as awesome as it felt.
I was the third woman across the finish line in 2:32:21, but then Stephanie Summers threw down a fast 2:26:24 from three waves back and took first place woman a few minutes later, bumping me down to fourth.
So happy! I met a lot of process goals in this race, which precisely why I’m doing all this short course racing in my lead up to Ironman Louisville this fall. I also finished first in the Elite Age Group category, my first ever category win to go along with my best overall placing as well!
I was also quite happy to get a 14-minute personal best (including PBs in all three sports) and the fourth-fastest bike split by a woman, particularly since I was within a minute and a half of the second fastest bike split. And I love my racing machine of a bike.
Now that all the wedding stuff is done, I’m really looking forward to getting back into a consistent training program. I’ll be racing Kingston Long Course in two weeks, and hoping my trend of longer race = better placing holds up!