Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sylvan Lake Sprint Race Report (otherwise known as the really late report)

"Some races are great days; others are great learning experiences.  Today was a bit of both."
(Posted as my facebook status after finishing this race.)

This weekend was my first triathlon of the season, the Sylvan Lake Sprint.  I did it mainly to get back into the mindset of multi-sport racing.  No amount of run races or brick training sessions can come close to simulating the full experience of a triathlon.

The other reason to do this race was the fact that they had a casual race for kids, 4-10 years old.  Now, it's possible that Sweetpea isn't actually 4 for a few months, and it's also possible I registered her anyways...


Race day starting bright and early for me.  We had talked about it and decided to take seperate vehicles, since neither of us wanted to deal with the children at the obscene time I was leaving.  Did I say "bright and early"?  Should have said "dark and early".  I got up at about 3:00 am so that I could get on the road by 4:00...

Finding the race sight was pretty easy.  I didn't get there right when they opened transition, but was still early enough to get a rack closest to the bike exit.  Since switching to my speedplay pedals, it's even harder to run in my cleats, so I like to minimize that.  And, don't even suggest I should run barefoot and learn the flying mount; I'm happy enough if I don't have a clipless pedal fallover, since I'm usually a bit dizzy after the swim.

 One thing I didn't love about this race was that I didn't know until I was there what time I'd be racing at.  I can have a bit of a sensitive stomach, and prefer to try to time my nutrient intake based on when I'll be going.  As it was, I ate prior to leaving, and again about two hours before racing.  I should have put off the first breakfast though.  I mainly ate because I felt like I should, but I wasn't hungry (probably because my body was telling me it was still night time.)

The time before the race went pretty smoothly.  I saw a couple of people I knew and chatted with them.  Also chatted with a couple of people I didn't know.  Before long, it was time to go to the staging area for my heat.


Since this was a pool swim, we had all given estimated times.  It was a 750 metre swim, so I'd estimated 16:45, based on the fact that I expected to be able to go 2:15/100 metres.  Now, having said that, I have had incredibly poor swim training lately, due to my muscle cramping issue.  I hadn't come out and said it (for fear of jinxing myself), but one of my unofficial goals for the swim was to get through it without my muscles seizing up on me.  By the time race day rolled around, things had been better, but I didn't know for sure.

Since the two girls I was sharing a lane with had slightly slower estimated times of 17:00, it was decided that I should go first.  I jumped in and took off.

Focus on not going too fast.  I almost always start off too fast.  Angie might have to beat pacing into me with a flutterboard at some point, because even when I think I'm holding back, I'm still usually too fast.

After the first three lengths (75 metres), I got passed by one of the girls in my lane.  My initial thought was that I was going too slow, and I was going to hold up the people in my lane.  Was I one of those people that gave an overly optimistic swim time?

No help for it.  I'm learning to let go of the uncontrollable aspects of races, and at that point, there was nothing I could do if it turned out that my lane partners and I were incompatible speedwise.  It just meant that somebody would have to do a lot of passing.

Suprisiingly, that somebody turned out to be me.  Within a few more lengths, I passed the first girl back, and shortly after passed the other girl.  The rest of the swim was a mix of me going "okay, focus on technique, don't raise your head so far to breath, don't flip your wrist on entry, feel the water", and passing.  I am pretty sure that I passed the girls in my lane about 4 times each.

Around 200 metres, I felt like crap, but by the time I was getting near the end, I was really into a rhythm.  I'd set my garmin to vibrate at 650, so I knew when I was getting close to the end (love the 910, since I suck at counting!)  Then the flutterboard was put down, I did one more lap, and out I got, heading to the pool exit!

Swim time: 18:16 (including about 30 seconds to walk to the pool before and get to the timing mat after.)  A little slower then I would have liked, but given the fact that I had to slow down regularly when stuck behind somebody, I consider it a solid swim.

T1 (Transition 1)

I headed out of the pool and along a carpet over the gravel parking lot.  Even with the carpet, I couldn't run, because the rocks hurt my feet too much.  Right before transition, it changed to a smoother surface, so I jogged the rest of the way to my spot.

I was feeling a bit off, so the biggest time waster in transition was taking a minute to puff my inhaler.  Instantly, I felt better, so even if I refer to it as a "time waster", I know it was worth doing.  Allergies are killing me lately!
My transition spot
Even though I haven't done a triathlon in ages, the actions of transition came very naturally.  Swim cap and goggles off while running, toss them down.  Put on race belt, sunglasses and helmet.  Roll on socks (yes, I wear socks) and put on shoes.  A victory!  I remembered to leave my bike shoes open - that was a mistake I made multiple times last year.

I then proceeded to forget my gloves, unrack my bike, and head out of transition.  (I've never used bike gloves in a triathlon before, and am well aware I don't need them for as sprint.  However, I am planning on using them for my half ironman, so had planned to practice with them.  Next time!)

T1 time: 2:20 (A bit slow, considering there was no wetsuit to get out of, but reasonable.)


The bike is still an area where I see a lot of potential for improvement.  Even though I've gotten faster and more confident this year, I still have a ways to go.  Having said that, I was looking forward to seeing what I could do.

In past races, I've always taken the bike pretty easy.  Now, granted, I realize you can't go too hard on the bike, or you'll burn yourself out on the run.  Still, it shouldn't be totally casual either.  I wanted to push.

And push I did.  I averaged a great pace on my way out, even with some (slight) uphills.  I was able to drink some, though not as much as I wish I could.  I still need to practice that.

I passed a few people early on, but not too many after that.  Pool swim races have people fairly spread out, so there isn't nearly as much passing.  I also got passed a couple of times, which didn't surprise me either.  I expected a bit of both.

Before long, I reached the "turn around" point.  Not exactly a turn around, because it was more of a loop, but back the other direction.  Wow!  What a wind.  Not only was the pavement a lot rougher in that section, but we were suddenly going into a massive headwind.  This is where I got much worse about hydrating.  I've gotten better about grabbing the water bottle while pedaling, but not in big winds.

Regardless, I kept going and tried to stop looking at my speed.  In general, I'm trying to focus mainly on my cadence and rate of perceived exertion.  If those match up, I'm good.  No point in pushing harder.  See, I really am getting better at not stressing!

Truthfully, the rest of the bike course isn't that clear in my mind, but when I rolled in, I was ready to be done the bike.  Yes, I've spent many more hours on the bike then I did that day, but I was ready to run!

I rolled into transition and around a couple sharp corners and saw my husband and kids.  Yay!  We didn't know if they'd make it on time to see me race.  My husband informs me that I took those corners at about a third the speed of most other people (a bit more work on bike handling, perhaps...)

Bike time (25 km course): 57:40

T2 (Transition 2)

Transition two went pretty smoothly, other then the fact that I had to actually tie my running shoes up.  Yes, I know about speedlaces, and yankz, but I just hadn't gotten them ahead of time.  On the shoes I raced in last year, it took quite a while to get them adjusted right, so I decided to just forgo them for this race.

T2 time: 1:19


Version 1 (For those people that have weak stomachs or don't understand certain "aspects" of running.)

I had an alright run.  Wasn't feeling 100 percent because my stomach hurt.  Pushed through it and managed to maintain a decent pace despite being in pretty serious discomfort at times.

Version 2 (For runners, and those that get us)

When I headed out on my run, I knew right away that I didn't feel great.  But, that's normal.  Just hang on, and it gets better right.  When I looked at my garmin, I was running a sub-6:00/km pace, so I figured I'd be okay if I just kept going.

It was around the end of the first km when I knew things weren't good.  Oh, my stomach.  Oh, my bowels.  Oh crap.  Literally.  I needed to crap.

Porta-potty?  Yeah right.  This was a sprint course.  It was *only* a 5 km run.  The likelihood of a porta-potty was almost nill.  I kept hoping it would get better, but I kept an eye on the side of the course.  Sparse trees, an occasional bush, residential neighbourhoods...  Just for the record, there are some circumstances where 5k seems really, really long.

The longer I ran, the more the pain built up.  I wasn't feeling like I would actually explode - yet (thank god), but it hurt.  It hurt a lot.  Ironically, it hurt so much that I think I forgot to notice the hills I was running up.  I passed a girl walking up the hill at about 2.5km.  She congratulated me for running up the hill.  Oh?  We were on a hill?  Bushes!  There were some thicker bushes!

I practically snubbed the girl by turning my back on her and heading for the bushes.  Yes.  I did.  Right in the middle of the race.  I'm sure I wasn't completely obscured, but I figured it was the best I'd get, and thank god for what I got.  Does that make me a "real" runner now?  ;)

After the detour for the bushes, I felt better.  Not great, but better.  Passed the aid station and grabbed some water.  I figured it was close enough to the end of the race that the sports drink would have limited benefit and it didn't appeal to me at all anyways.  That's something I'll have to work on.  Sweet drinks completely lose their appeal for me quite early in races.

From that point, it was mostly downhill, so I picked up the pace.  It was starting to hurt again, but not in a way that I feared put me at risk of creating a viral photo that everybody shudders to see.  Besides, I think that guy qualified for Kona or something.

I wasn't totally happy with my pace, but not completely upset by it.  My garmin was measuring the course as a bit long, but when I reached the fourth kilometer marker, I did a bit of math in my head.  If I could run a 5:20 pace for the last kilometer, I could still break 30 minutes on the run.  Sadly, I didn't quite make it, running about 5:30 for the rest of the race.  Also, sadly, I didn't even come close to the 30 minute mark.  The course was almost half a kilometer long, and the majority of it was in that final kilometer.

You could see the finish line for a long time, which is good and bad.  Seems to take a long time to get there, but I like the point in the race when you can stop focusing on your pace or time and just focus on getting to the finish line.  I turned a corner and headed in.

I think this is the first race photo ever taken of me that I kind of like.  Love the fact that I'm actually airborne.
I crossed the finish line and was done.  That run had hurt more then just about any run I've done before.  If it was a training run, I'm quite sure I would have stopped, but in a race I pushed through.  I proved to myself that I can push through a lot more then I realized.

Run time: 32:21 (5.5km race) I would have loved to see a lower time, but this is one of my runs that I'm the most proud of.  I was in the most pain I've ever ran through (quick note, not the kind of pain that I felt could cause injury) and I still ran.  I averaged about a 5:55 pace throughout the race, even counting the time that I may have been completely stopped behind some bushes.

Overall time: 1:51:58  I'm happy with my execution of this race, even if there were a couple of challenges.  The time doesn't mean a huge amount, as it is a different distance from all my other sprints.

I thought this race was very well organized, but I doubt I'll do it again.  I just can't justify a hotel room for a sprint, and I'm not eager to drive for 2-plus hours at 4:00am again.

Coming tomorrow: The kids' race!


  1. Holy crap! Really, no pun intended, but a 5:55 pace she you had to poop on the run? That's awesome! I can barely do that when I'm feeling great. Sounds like despite the challenge, it was still a great race.

  2. I continue to be impressed with your abilities to push through it all! Great race report! Love that you made use of the bushes! I'm so glad I've never had to do that, all though during a 10k I was certain I would pee my pants but made it cross the finish line and just kept running to the porta potty.

  3. Congrats on a great race Deb! Sorry about your stomach troubles...I am in the same lucky boat as you and struggle with them a lot

  4. Great job!!! You ran a well executed race and stayed in control, even when elements conspired against you. Lots of people would have walked that run or bailed with the stomach issues, you just took care of business and then finished with a smile! Well done!

  5. Congrats on your race - you may not like the times, but I think that considering all your challenges, you did awesome!!

    Love your pic!

  6. Congratulations!! You did a great job despite the tummy issues. Any idea what caused that? Will you do anything differently next time to hopefully prevent the bush dash? I only had to do that once but it was on a walk! Worst feeling ever!!

  7. So I'm not the only one with stomach issues...mine have been happening more...ugh, no fun!

    Great race report and GREAT pictures...I am still hoping for the "AIR" picture.

    Great job on the Sprint Tri! I have one on June 16th to prepare for my first Olypmic on July 8th!

  8. I've had a couple GI issues during training runs. Luckily I was able to call my wife to pick me up. However, I always worry about getting those problems during a race. I have always wondered when I could call myself a "real" triathlete. Now I know! Deb... you are a triathlete!

  9. I hate the feeling of needing to have a poo while running :P way to go!!!! and it sounds like a GREAT tri overall. I admire anyone that can do all that....and in killer times to boot!!!!

    I love the race pic. You look like you are rocking it!

  10. Great job and I think stopping to poop does make you a real runner, though I'm not one yet :-).