Race Report: Niagara Sprint Duathlon

 

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Switched up the uni — blazing red for Niagara!

Four races down, and now a few weeks to prep for the fifth — and maybe final, or maybe not — of 2016. So this would be a good time, then, to catch up on the last two outings, the Niagara Sprint Duathlon, in Grimsby, ON, and the Kingston Duathlon, my “A” race for the season in my hometown of Kingston, ON.

Here, to start, a snapshot of the Niagara race.

There’s no better way to put it than this. I was not into this race.

When I signed up, immediately after my 5i50 at Guelph Lake in June — which to review, was an immensely tough challenge — I wanted something  in the mid-sprint distance falling halfway between then and Kingston at the very end of July. Niagara is one I’ve done before, and enjoyed greatly, and it can be a day race with no major travel — plus the run distances were long enough to be pushing me towards Kingston’s longer sprint distances — so I signed up.

Unfortunately, as I’ve chronicled, we had to put our dog down a couple of weeks before the race, just before we headed west on vacation . Add on to that the post-vacation “I’ve trained but I’m not sure it was hard enough” doubts I always have and add on a very tender IT Band, and I was feeling quite out of sorts about entering this race. Registration was paid, though, and my body was more or less ready, so I followed through.

We drove to Grimsby the morning of the race. With a later start time of 9am, it gave us time to make the hour plus trek and still have lots of on-site time. Because this race site is small — Nelles Beach Park is not a big venue — and we’d been here before, I had little in the way of nervousness about arriving in time to get set up.  Sure enough, despite an unannounced and rather major highway closure, we made it in plenty of time.

[How do you know I’m not into a race? I don’t listen to a single track from my pre-race playlist in the car. Whoa.]

I was set up at a decent rack position in transition and doing my warm-ups well in advance of the race start — in fact, we had time to watch a bit of the triathlon starts from the roadway above Lake Ontario. It was a gorgeous day — sunny, low humidity, and very little wind, even beside the lake. Still, my head wasn’t in the game.

As the starter called us to the line, I was not even close to being mentally set. In a funny “does this mean something?” moment I also realized my heart rate monitor had stopped registering my heart rate — so my heart wasn’t in the race either, at the start. (Luckily that problem was quickly sorted out with some fresh water on the strap!)

I figured at this point that at the 2/25/7 distance, I could just go through the paces and get to the finish. Long story short, it went like this:

First run: The run course is longer than the posted 2km — about 2.4 km. My goal pace was around 4:30 min/km, which I thought was a wee bit aggressive on my part given my last race here, where even if you factor in the course length discrepancy, I ran about a 5:10 km pace. Granted that was two years ago, but still — this run course is about 1/3 wood-chipped trail with lots of tree roots to pick around and over, which is interesting but slows you down.  All the same, I hit a 4:20 pace.  Guess my fitness has improved since my first season of duathlon!

T1 was my usual minute-and-a-half range, at 1:35, which is still just slow.

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This way to the hill, guys!

Bike: I chose to ride my road bike out of respect for the escarpment climb. This is a good quad- and calf-burner in the first 5km of the course, which leaves many an amateur walking their bike up the final portions. It’s hardly Tour de France material, but the 9% grade is more than most of us get to climb on a regular basis, at least not over the span of a full kilometre. Fortunately, the bike course is only 25km, and there was a sub-10km/hr wind, so the time lost by not being aero on the tri-bike was bound to be minimal. Sure enough, I cranked through that climb and still made a pace of a hair over 30km/hr. Very pleased with my focus on the bike, which I’ve worked on. Even with the nice Ontario wine country views, I was focused on the race.  And descending that escarpment? So sweet. I descended at 67km/hr, even with my usual abundance of caution.

Second Run: I had a bit of a slow-down in transition. Due to the heat, I drank some water at my mat before heading out. Unfortunately then I choked on it. So I had to turn back for more water, which added a few extra seconds on top of the first delay. At any rate, I was back out on the course within 1:34.

Unfortunately, this is where my psyche just up and called it quits. I was barely even on the course and I was questioning why I was doing this — nobody was forcing me to be there, I reasoned. Why didn’t I just stop? Despite the good first run and bike, I didn’t want to be doing the rest of the race.

But the deal is that I don’t get to call it quits for a lack of mental stamina — so I distracted myself by counting  the signals from my watch for 500m segments to make myself feel better. Only 14 beeps of the watch ’til I’m done. Only 13 beeps. Only 12 beeps… 11 beeps… by the time I was down to 7 beeps remaining, I knew I was halfway and could just suck it up to the finish.

Finishing strong, with nothing left in the tank both physically and mentally.

Finishing strong, with nothing left in the tank either physically or mentally.

Trail sections and mental defeat aside, I held a 4:55 pace on the 7km run. When I crossed the line, I knew I’d done all I could.

I finished 17th of 50 duathletes overall, with a total race time of 1:38:43. I placed in my now predictable 5th in my age group (of 11) — about 3 minutes behind 4th place and well over 4 minutes behind 3rd. Not my best race for placing, but also not my worst. Mediocrity is becoming my specialty!

Positives: The run course has been tweaked to be better than it was last time I did it (2014). The Subaru Series from Trisport Canada is a great set of races, and this one especially showcases their organizational skills, passion, and dedication to multi-sport.  I quite like the Niagara venue for its smaller footprint and atmosphere, and the course itself with the quirky climb and trail runs, so it was too bad my head wasn’t in it. But my body was ready, even if my mind wasn’t, and I think that with all things considered, I did okay.  I was pleased with my ability to overcome the mental battle and put trust in my body. And again, I was pleased to nail my hydration and fuelling both pre- and during the race.

Next, it was time to rebound — to physically recover, yes but more so, to rejuvenate myself mentally in order to be prepared for Kingston, just two weeks later.

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