Monday, September 5, 2011

Checking out the race site

If you haven't heard yet, I've got a race coming up on Saturday.  It's my "A" race of the season, an Olympic distance.  (1500 metre swim, 38km bike, 10km run).  All my previous triathlons have been sprints, which are about half those distances.

There's a few things about the race venue that have been stressing me out.  First of all, the water temperature is suspect.  Last year was the first year for this race and the weather sucked.  The week leading up to the race, it pissed rain and the water was a chilly 10 - 12c (50-54f), depending who you talked to.  I believe they officially stated it was 12, but a friend who did the race thinks they said that so as not to scare people out of participating.

The next thing I've been worried about is the bike course.  I'm still a bit of a chicken when it comes to descending hills.  This is a very hilly and curvy course, up and down.  I do fine climbing hills, but I'm well aware that I give up all kinds of free time if I hit my brakes on the downhills.  On the other hand, if it's a steep downhill followed by a corner, I don't want to take that at too high a speed...

One of the best ways to deal with worries of the unknown is to make them known.  Then you can either put the worries aside or deal with what they actually are.  So, given Banff is only a 1 hour drive for us, we headed out with my bike and wetsuit.

I'm trying to be a better blogger and take more pictures.  Unfortunately, our camera battery died before more pictures could be taken.  So, just take my word for it that the black figure in the lake is me...

First stop was Two Jack Lake.  I not only had my wetsuit, but I also had a neoprene cap and borrowed booties from Jen.  I've used the wetsuit and cap before, but hadn't swam in booties, so I wanted to try them out.  When we got there, I went to check the water out, and it was relatively warm!  When I say relative, I mean it.  It was still cold, and I think you'd be crazy to swim there without a wetsuit, but it was warmer then the river I swam in with my Uncle spotting; it was warmer then the time I swam in Ghost Lake, and it was warmer then it was the previous weekend when we camped there.

I didn't even need the booties, but I decided to swim with them anyways.  I wanted to find out how it feels to swim in them in case the water gets colder in the next week, which is certainly possible.

So, I went in.  It was still that shocking cold, and it makes it clear to me that I do need to get in the water before the race start.  I got my face wet, and swam a few strokes.  I had to get my head out of the water again to breath a bit and get accustomed to the water.  It probably took my about 3 minutes before I was comfortable, and then I could swim more solidly.

I didn't have anybody spotting me or swimming with me this time, so I didn't swim the actual race course.  I just swam parallel to the shore line while my husband and kids played at the edge of the water.  The water was great!  This lake is really clear.  When they use the word "pristine" in the race description, you'd think it just means "cold", but in this case, it also means "clear".  Granted, it probably won't be when the race happens.

After the swim I got out and took off the wetsuit.  Or tried to.  I tried to pull the wetsuit off over the booties, and that was a mistake because it simply didn't work.  If I'd been in a race yesterday, I would have blown my first transition time.  If I do wear the booties next week, I'll know to take them off first!

Then it was on to the bike.  This is a point to point race, so after I got everything I needed, my family drove to the town of Banff to find a playground.  I rode the Minnewanka loop.  I'd been a bit nervous about the heavy traffic and lack of shoulders, but the speed limit is low there and the drivers were all really good.  It probably helped that there were other cyclists on the road.   On race day, there will be a lane closure, so I don't need to worry at all.

There was a short uphill to get out of the parking, and then it was mostly downhill - into massive headwinds.  Having said that, I found the downhills were not nearly as bad as I feared.  I could always see what was coming, so I had plenty of time to slow down if need be.  Or, if there was an uphill following the down, I could just ride that speed up the other side.

There was only one uphill that required my granniest of gears (I don't actually have a granny gear, since I don't have a triple; I do have a compact crank though).  As I was riding up it, I saw a woman wearing a bike helmet walking up.  There was a man a little ahead of her pushing a bike up.  When I passed, I realized it was a tandem bike, probably rented from somewhere.  I was very grateful in that moment to have Bella, my nice road bike.  I wouldn't even have wanted to do that uphill with my hybrid (though granted, I do have an actual granny gear on my hybrid).

Halfway through the loop, I really had to pee, and stopped at a day use area that was packed with people.  I rolled Bella right into the bathroom and got a dirty look from one lady.  Sorry!  Not going to leave my expensive road bike outside.

Then, I continued the ride.  The views were beautiful.  It's in the midst of the mountains, and that's why I picked this race.  I actually passed a couple other cyclists.  (I rarely pass people training around my town, but that's because everyone that lives in Cochrane seems to already be an ironman.)  I finished the loop,  then rode into town to find my family.  I just did 1.5 loops.  On race day, it will be 2.5, but I mainly wanted to get a feel for the course.

In the end, I found that the water wasn't as cold, the uphills not as hard and the downhills not as scary as I expected.  Given that the goal for the day was to feel more comfortable with the race course, I'd call it a resounding success!


  1. You are going to have a fantastic race!! It is so gorgeous and the ride is awesome!! I'm so excited for you!!

    T1 is at the top of the hill too, and mount line is on the highway, so you get to start off downhill!!

  2. Great recon mission! Sounds like the path to success breeding success....

  3. you are going to great this weekend! Love the comment about the "trying to take pictures" check out my post today for info about pictures LOL. Cant wait to hear about your successful race!