This was my third time racing at the popular Subaru series races of Guelph Lake I, and my second doing the 5i50 distance. The 5i50 is so named because in the triathlon, at least, total race distance totals 51.50km, although the duathlon version covers 52km, comprising a 2km run, 40km bike, and a final 10km run.
Having started my season a full 4 weeks earlier in Ottawa, I’d hoped to be running nice long training distances before this race date. Unfortunately, I only squeezed in a couple of long runs, and even worse, my body let me know a full two weeks out that we were pushing it a bit hard on the training front. As a result, I had to ease up for the final 12 days before racing, making for a bit of a longer taper than I had planned.
At least I entered into the race with fresh legs.
Guelph Lake Conservation Area hosts the Guelph Lake I and II races in June and August, respectively. It’s a gorgeous site. We left the house a bit late, but arrived at about 7:10am, and found a fair line-up entering the conservation area. Thankfully that was moved along quickly by the friendly GRCA staff, who were abundant in number.
After navigating the slow moving parking queue in the mown field on-site, we schlepped across to drop my bike at transition and then on to complete registration. As usual with the Subaru series, the 5-step system is pretty efficient, although the line of triathletes waiting to drop off waiver forms and pick up of packets/swim caps was outrageous [Advantage: Du!]. Body marking, timing chip pickup, race bag and shirt pickup were all done in a matter of minutes, leaving me extra time to set up my gear and get warmed up.
This year’s pleasant surprise was finding that the transition zone was paved with that hardpack quasi-paving material. Carpets were down as runways for the barefooted athletes, and though I’m sure the loose bits of gravel kicked up still caused some woes, the effect of having a hard surface in transition is great for the most part [I still remember the mud and straw of the transition area at Belwood last year in July — it dried so solidly in my bike shoe cleats so that by mid-race, I couldn’t clip back into my pedals!].
With the Try-a-Tri running later Saturday afternoon, and the sprint races scheduled for Sunday, the race site was humming with a mid-sized crowd of 5i50 tri and duathletes, and a small group of spectators — of whom a good 10 belonged to team McKnapp.
Subaru series races always seem to have ample space for the site to sprawl. Lots of vendors, many volunteers to assist with registration/pickup, many portapotties, and clear directions on where to go. For anyone missing those directions there’s usually a volunteer or series staffer around who can provide direction.
The waves of triathletes were underway from 8:00am, leaving us duathletes lots of time to warm up and spectate from up above on the roadway before our 8:20 start. As my friends rolled into the venue, I got to greet and do pictures with them while still having more than enough time to do a bit of a run, some stretching, and then queue up at the start line.
The brightest light in my pre-race prep was the surprise arrival of Lightning McQueen, to whom I dedicated this season. What a great boost just before the start.
Run 1: 2km – 08:30.7
Found a good spot in the start mob — third row back, but on an outside edge. I had set an aggressive target of 4:15 per km, and was pleased to hit it bang on. It’s hard to predict what your body will do in a race vs. what you can achieve in your training, but I felt good even pushing myself to this for the first 2km. Out and back and into transition, where I took a good swig of my Hammer Fizz, switched shoes and threw on my helmet to run back out for the bike. Transition time, though, was a disappointing 1:46. Way too slow. That’s partly due to rack location (duathlon racks were the furthest back from the bike entry/exit) but more due to my own slowness. It’s my consistent slow time, at least.
Bike: 40km – 1:14:58
I train on these roads, and have raced Guelph Lake several times, so I knew that the bumps, rough pavement and potholes on the first 4km of bike course along Watson Road were terrible. But after that, the pavement gets a bit better on County Road 22, and then becomes positively pristine for the remainder of the way, until you turn around and come back. There was no wind to speak of, so it was a great day to bike.
My mount was much faster at this race than it was in Ottawa. I’d gone out to practice the night before, mounting and dismounting the aero bike. It sounds simple, but the geometry and balance of the bike, as well as the positioning of my behind-the-seat water bottle cages, necessitates a good mounting technique. As I hopped on during the race, I gave myself a little cheer for having found a faster way to get on the bike. Even my wife commented later that it looked faster and less awkward than my usual style. No flying squirrel, which is truly fast (and awesome to watch) but still faster than previously.
All the same, I had trouble finding rhythm for the first half of the bike. For the first 10km, my quads were screaming, I guess mostly about that first run. And then I realized that I was having trouble drinking from my bottle, which I had sealed extra tight for the bumpy start of the ride to avoid losing all my hydration to splashing.
On a flat stretch, I removed the bottle lid, took out the bit of plastic cling wrap I had added to seal it, put the lid back on, and then drank way easier from there on. The Hammer Heed and Fizz combo wasn’t tasting very good in the heat, and I actually barf-burped at the 15km mark, but I managed to take enough of the mix in — and keep it in — to stop my body from cramping up or bonking later.
When I hit the turnaround at 20km, my legs suddenly kicked into gear and I found some more speed. Unfortunately I’d already been passed by just about everyone in the field, all of whom seemed to be effortlessly putting in the miles faster than me.
Coming back into the park, once again, the crowd slowed for the final speed bumps and approach to the dismount. I hammered in past a few more people and made my way back to transition. My speed for the first 20km averaged low, but I did make over 37km/hr for 10 of the final 15, averaging just under 35km/hr for the final 20km. That’s more like what I had as a goal for the ride in the first place. Not the 32km/hr I averaged over the whole course..
My cheering section was so loud and enthusiastic as I ran into T2 with my bike that I was outright laughing. Great to have all that support!
Run 2: 10km – 51:49.7
Transition 2, from bike back to run, was slightly better, and I was underway in 1:29. Still not fast, but efficient enough. The cheering section was loudly encouraging again, and as I trucked back out onto the run course, I had one goal — to clock it at 5 minutes per kilometre. This was amended from my more aggressive pre-race goal of 4:55 per km, but a required adjustment, I knew, due to the heat and humidity of the day. Sure enough, by now it was 9:50am, and the temperature was soaring.
My first three kilometres were good — I saw I was pacing at 4:50, so I slowed it down to 4:55, and then crept back to 4:51. From there, wham, the heat took its toll. Down to 5:11’s, 5:20’s, even a dismal 5:34, before picking back up to the 5:10 range. The course is largely paved, but there are two sections that require running on grass and gravel where a road used to be. Both of these have turnarounds on them, and they tend to be pretty disheartening because you can’t get a sense of how far you have left to go — not to mention that it’s a slower running surface because of the grass and gravel. By the 6 kilometre mark, I was definitely feeling low.
I knew early on that I was overheating, so I stopped at each aid station to take two full sips of water and dump the rest on my head, before trudging a few more steps at a walk and getting back up to a run. It resulted in a major slow down overall, but it kept me moving.
I was channeling every single inspirational thought and mantra I could, but in the end, I had to just picture a magnet on the HR strap on my chest, and a magnet at the finish line pulling me in. The mantra became “Finish Line”. Over and over. One foot, the next, then the first one again.
By the time I hit the final 200m to the finish, I was feeling pretty woozy. I managed to speed up for the slight descent to the finish, but as the volunteer took my timing chip off my ankle, I had to hang on to the fencing to stay upright. For the first time in my life, I was officially overheated.
I collected my finisher’s medal and cold bottle of water, and parked under the nearest shady tree. In the end, I sought a cold pack from Medical, who were awesome about checking in on me for the next while, and spent the next 30 minutes trying desperately to cool off while still visiting with my awesome friends who were there as spectators. Chef d’équipe was great about getting the fluids in me (including procuring plain shaved ice from the snowcone station — brilliant!), collecting my post race snacks and even going and checking results. Within 45 minutes I was feeling magnificently better.
Final time: 2:18:32.5
I placed 9th overall in a field of 47 racers, and 4th of the 9 competing in my age group of 40-44 year old men.
I was less than a minute out of medals for my age group (for medals, they grouped together the 40-44 and 45-49 year old men). Sufficient to say that I’m angry at myself for not pushing harder on the first 20km of the bike, and for being so pokey in T1!
All the same, a top ten finish at this distance feels really good, especially considering I haven’t felt like I’ve had the miles in for a longer distance race. Given that the 40-44 Men’s age group took four of the top ten slots, I think it’s safe to say we had a good group. The field was small but very competitive.
Total race time was two minutes faster than last year. While I had hoped to shave more time off with the faster bike at my disposal, I am happy that I had a much faster first run this time, and I know I can do faster still — I look forward to it.
My supporters were amazing — getting up early to be onsite for 8am, and cheering their hearts out not only for me but for all participants. It’s such a great boost, and I can’t even begin to express how touching that was.
Finally, I consistently love the vibe at the Subaru series races. Perhaps because my first 4 faces were Subaru series, or for who knows what other reasons, I really enjoy showing up to compete in this series. And racing locally, on home turf? That feels pretty comfortable, as tough as the race itself might be.
I was much slower than I wanted to be on the bike, so I know what I need to work on. I’ve taken the bike leg a bit for granted since my first race two years ago, but it’s clearly becoming something to work on — now that I have a faster ride, I need to get accustomed to riding faster. I’ve also been riding without a bike computer on the tri bike, thinking I could rely on my Polar V800 on my wrist. Unfortunately, that doesn’t let me see my pacing easily enough in real time, which seems to help me govern my efforts. I’ve already added a Cat Eye wireless to my rig since the race, and sure enough, having the speed in sight makes me work harder.
As for my final run? Worse than last year’s 10km run at this same race. But clearly my body gave all that it could. And despite how awful it felt, I just kept running. I’ve got lots of summer left to work on my endurance, and I’ve already re-doubled those efforts.
With the weather being up and down this spring, but mostly down, we’ve all had limited chances to train in the heat. It certainly had an impact.
Next Up For Team McKnapp
We’ve got four weeks until Niagara takes place July 17. The sprint du in Grimsby challenges with a mix of trail and road running and a short but very steep escarpment climb on the bike. I raced here in 2014 and look forward to trying for better splits all around this year. It’s also a great venue — very small, but festive.
We’ll be on vacation in BC leading up to this race, and I’ve got a bike rented for the final four days of that, in Victoria, to allow me to train consistently. From Niagara it will be just two weeks to the “A” race in my season, the Kingston Triathlon Weekend, where the duathlon provides a unique 4km/30km/7km distance, and I get to share the race weekend with The Gazelle, who will compete in the long course triathlon.
So now, after a solid three days off, including a great recovery massage last Monday night, plus some light recovery workouts and a weekend back fully training, I’m looking forward to both Niagara and Kingston races, and pondering whether I can make a go at the Olympic distance in September.