Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Strathmore women's triathlon race report

Alright, where to start...

This race was my third triathlon and a sprint distance.  When I signed up for it, I was really excited.  It had a reputation for being a really fun race, and I love racing.  It meant that I got one race each month from June - Sept, which was pretty cool.

In the weeks leading up to it, the excitement waned somewhat.  As I get closer to my Banff Olympic triathlon, I'm realizing just how crucial it is to keep up with my training, specifically the long runs and rides.  It was going to make it tough to get those in on a race weekend, and tapering?  No way.  Only three weeks out from my "a" race, I can't afford to taper for another one.

Having said all that, I think my biggest mistake going into this triathlon was not setting goals.  I don't mean time goals, as I think it can be good to set goals that are not time related.  I didn't even do that.  I didn't set a goal to have fun, or to nail the swim, push on the run.  None of that.  Heck, even a goal of looking good for pictures might have helped.

The race day started nice and early.  I like to get snag a good spot in transition.  Close to the bike exit.  That way I minimize the time running in my bike shoes.  I know it means I'm on the far end from the run exit, but running shoes are designed to run in.  Bike shoes, not so much.

There was a pre-race meeting at 8:00, which was supposed to be mandatory.  Deanna (the race organizer) went over some basic guidelines and rules.  She also let us know that there was fresh roadkill (a coyote) on the bike course which would hopefully be cleaned up before we got there.

Then, it was time to wait.  My heat wasn't supposed to be until 11:00, so I had some time to kill.  My husband and kids were coming later in the second car, which makes all our lives much easier.

I went over and watched the first couple heats.  The relay swimmers went first, and some of them were FAST.  Not surprising, since I would assume, if they are doing the relay, they would pick their strengths.  The next swimmers were the 20 minute plus swimmers (500 metres).  There was a huge mix of strokes going on.   I watched for a bit, and then headed outside.

It turned out they were running ahead of time, and they were calling for my heat at around 10:30.  I headed in right away.  I wanted to line up near the front, since I expected to be one of the slower ones of the heat.  The heat was for 10-12 minute swimmers, and I have done 500 metres in about 11:45 quite a few times in training.

I quickly observed that where I lined up would make little difference.  With 6 lanes, and a continuous feed system, you were going to be swimming with people the heat ahead of you, and by the time you finished people from the heat behind would probably be sharing your lane.  I was pretty much on with that assessment.

The Swim

When I got to the front of the line, I headed over to my lane, then jumped in, right behind someone else.  (The time starts when you cross the timing mat, so no point in waiting.)  I pushed off, and caught up with her immediately.  I had to slow right down, then when I was about halfway down the length, both of the other swimmers in the lane (there were four per lane) had passed, so I was able to move over safely and pass her.

Then I tried to concentrate on getting into my rhythm and totally missed the boat.  Somehow, I just wasn't feeling the water.  I probably had 3 laps where there was nobody around me, so I had no excuse.  I just wasn't there, and I felt awkward and clumsy in the water.

Soon after that, faster swimmers seemed to join the lane.  I was being regularly passed.  I made one attempt to draft, but they were too much faster then me for it to be a possibility so I just went back to trying to get back into my rhythm.  (not too successfully)

Before long (because even when you feel clumsy, 500 metres isn't that long a swim), the lap counter put in the flutterboard to signal I had one lap left (amazingly I'd managed to count correctly this time, so already knew it).  I went there and back, and got out.

Swim time: 13:17 - even including 30 or so seconds to walk to my lane and walk out of the pool building, it's a good minute over the time I could have posted.  I have some thoughts on reasons, but that will be a whole other post...


I headed out the doors to transition and jogged down the carpeted area, then to my spot in transition.  Unlike my first two triathlons, I wasn't feeling too dizzy or disoriented from the swim, so I had no trouble finding my spot.  I was relatively efficient, though I felt like it took way too long to put my garmin on.  I'm hoping to have a bike mount before my next tri, so that should make it quicker, and I can secure it to my actual wrist while running out of T2.

Time: Messed up my garmin a bit, but have an accurate bike split on it.  T1 and T2 combined were 3:15, about 2:20 I would say was T1.

The Bike

The bike was the part that I felt really good about.  The course was a perfect one for someone like me - lacking confidence in taking corners and downhills quickly.  (For the record, I'm not so bad as to be a hazard, but I give up a lot of free speed in those situations.)  It was a bit of a mentally difficult course, since it was a gradual downhill most of the way out, with some steeper sections (though nothing I was tempted to brake on).  That means on the way back, it was a gradual uphill most of the way, with some steeper sections.  I prefer to get hills out of the way early in a ride, and have an easier time on the way back.  ;)

I pushed myself fairly hard.  I haven't yet been able to burn myself out on the bike.  I knew I ran the risk of it affecting my run, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to see how hard I could go.  On the way out, I was going close to 40 km/h for a good part of the time.  I passed 2 people early on, but then the road was clear and I didn't see anyone ahead of me.  When I reached the turn around, I could see why.  The next closest person was about 2km ahead of me.

I decided I wanted to try to pass that person so I pushed on the way back.  (not really fair, since she was on a mountain bike, and I was riding Bella).  I wasn't going nearly as fast since I was now going uphill, but I knew the course would effect everyone the same way, so I wasn't worried.  Truly, even if I didn't catch up, I wasn't worried; it just gave me something to push for.

I didn't get passed at all before the turn around, but did get passed three times on the way back.  (not surprising, since the people starting after me were all faster swimmers, so some of them would obviously be faster cyclists as well.  One of the people that passed me was also from Cochrane and we had a 10 second conversation while she passed.

With about 2 km to go, I caught up to the woman on the mountain bike.  She looked like she was in way too high a gear and was struggling.  I was glad for her sake that the bike was almost done.

Then, I was in the home stretch, and thankfully, the home stretch was not uphill.  I rode in, dismounted and headed into transition.  I'd pushed hard, but still felt good.

Bike time: 41:37 (official time was 44:52, including both transitions).


T2 was quick and efficient.  I wasted a tiny bit of time by dumping my second bike bottle over my head.  It was a HOT day, so I figured a few seconds to cool down would help a bit.

Time: a bit under a minute.  Could have racked my bike a bit faster, but overall, a good time.

The Run

The run part of this race was a challenge, and a good reminder to respect the distance, even when it's "short".

Right off the bat, I felt like walking.  Seriously.  I was less then a kilometer in, and my mind said: "this is hard.  It would feel good to walk.  There's lots of people walking."

It's true.  There were a lot of people walking.  That was about the point where my bike bottle cool down was wearing off and it was HOT.  I didn't walk though.  Don't get me wrong, it's fine to walk if you need to.  I didn't need to.

The run had a similar quality to the bike, gradual downhill on the way out, gradual uphill on the way back.  This time, I didn't mind though.  I was in kind of rough shape starting off the run, but by the time I was really going up, it was the final push.

There was one water station, but since it was an out and back, you hit it twice.  This was the one point in the course where I did walk.  Most races have paper cups that you can kind of pinch to make them easier to drink.  These ones were plastic and I couldn't manage to drink out of them while running.  In hindsight, I had hydrated well on the bike, so I probably could have gone without drinking on the run and just dumped them over my head instead.

Just before the turn around was a house with a hose.  Man that felt good!  Too bad it wore off quick.  My pace wasn't as good as I would have liked.  I didn't feel like I was working that hard, but my breathing was really heavy.  I just wanted some shade, or some breeze, or rainstorm.

Before long, I was getting close to the end.  The runners coming the other way were all looking very strong (and some of them probably were the strongest runners of the day because of how the heats worked.)  As I passed one of them, she said "the faster you run, the faster you're done".  That gave me an extra push and I picked up the pace a bit.  As I approached the finish line, I started my sprint and then saw my family.  I tried to give high fives on the way past, but my kids are 3 and 4, not the most coordinated, so I actually ended up coming to a near stop - 50 metres from the finish line (doh!).

After that brief stop, I had renewed energy and finished strong.

Run time: 30:01.  Yes, that's right.  1 second above sub-thirty.  Plenty of ways I could have gotten that second...

Overall time: 1:28:08  20/50 in my age group, and 61/250 overall.  A good bike split, but otherwise nothing too impressive, nothing too bad.

Some lessons learned from this race, but since this report has ended up long, they'll be saved for tomorrow.  :)
Post race, found some shade and about to munch on a bagel


  1. Great race! Way to go!

    I have done 1 tri where the swim was in a pool years ago but the rest have been open water. It does help with dizziness for sure though having the walls to orient you!

    I always think about the whole "faster you run, faster you're done" thing!


  2. Congratulations another great race!

  3. Awesome job Deb!!! Sounds like you had a great race!! I felt the same way on the run last year- the one thing I don't like about this race is that our heats tend to have us running in the heat of the day!

    You should be super proud of yourself!! You rock!

  4. Goals or no goals you did great! Wow you are so close to going sub 30 on your run!!! That is awesome! You are going to kill the oly!!! I can't wait!

  5. Congratulations on such a great race! Your placing was fantastic!!