Monday, February 17, 2014

2014 Race 2 - Tri the Oval 3

So the 3rd installment of the great winter triathlon Tri the Oval took place this past week. It is  race that was started when Halifax got a permanent outdoor long track speed skating oval and is a 5km skate, 5.5 km bike ride, and 4.2 km run (give or take on any of those distances).

This is a hard event to prepare for and the organizers always do a great job of dealing with crazy Halifax winter conditions. This years issue - rain and high winds and soaring temps over night, switched to a dump of big wet snow, followed by a temperature drop and high winds. Whew. Regardless, they managed for the 3rd year to get a race happening.

Due to the number of people and the relatively smallish size of the course (it is held totally on our local Commons which is a little over 1km in diameter) the organizers (MC and AD) like us to go off in 2 waves. This year I went in wave 2, oddly getting the nod as one of the faster skaters.

Huge kudos to the Halifax staff who worked really hard at getting the oval into skatable condition for us after the nights storm.

I actually practiced skating quite a bit this year. Lats year I had an issue with my calf which prevented me from skating, but this year that seemed to be gone. And while overall speed and grace is not my strong suit on skates, I could managed a decent overall bit of speed.

While waiting for the Wave 2 start, we were lucky enough to have a nice warm cup of coffee provided by our local favorite coffee roaster, Java Blend. I was bundled against the wind for sure at this point.

Finally the time arrived for the Wave 2 warm up. The oval was setup with an inner lane blocked from the racers. This allowed officials to be on the ice safely and for use to warm up without getting in other racers way. Wow, was the wind ever blowing. Gust were up to 80 km/hr at this point. That made on side of the oval very slow and one super fast.

We lined up when the first wave was completely done and as quick as possible we were off!

At first I kept up with many of the other skaters, but not wanting to die completely in the first few laps, I settled down a bit and allowed some people to pass me. There were a few super fast skaters on speed skates that were really flying. 2 of them passed me twice! Still I managed a strong showing, beating the 14 minute mark for my fastest skate yet in 3 years and getting off the ice with the 12th fastest skate of the day.

My goodness I look graceful and fast!

I got to the bench, quickly removed my skates and helmet and switched my biking helmet and trail shoes. Often referred at as the 4th discipline of triathlons, transitions can make or break a race. I managed the 4th fastest of the day. Nice. Then it was a quick run to the bike racks.

I quickly got on my Norco 26 inch BushPilot which I borrowed from the great guys at Sportwheels in Sackville. It was a really comfy bike and I quickly started making up some time on the faster skaters. I did have one mishap where I was coming in a bit fast to the final corner on the first lap, tried to break too hard and flipped the bike, losing the chain int he process (and a glove). But I got it all back together and kept going. What felt like a nasty wound only turned out to be a scrape, nothing bad.

Luckily that was the worst thing of the ride and most of it looked rather like this instead.

The course was 3/4 of the way on icy, snowy paved path and then 1/4 of the way on deep slush / mud. Overall a fast course that required a bit of bike handling to ride fast. It was 4 loops to make up 5.5 km and I managed the 3rd fastest ride of the day in 14:05. Not too bad considering my tumble cost me a few valuable seconds.

By now my quads were burning as I dismounted (cautiously due to the ice and my previous fall) and racked my bike. I headed for the run and quickly noticed the total lack of feeling in my feet. I assumed, though, that my feet were in fact still attached to me and ran off to start the first of my 3 (and a bit) laps.

The run was around the Commons and was probably 2/3rds on ice covered sidewalks and 1/3rd through crunchy snow covered hilly terrain. It was a good sight more fun to run on than last year which was mostly held in knee deep slush (ha ha). The crunchy "off road" trail running was the best part and was easy to run in, the sidewalk too some special attention.

I started to make up some time quickly on the run and passed a few people who were a bit faster than me on the skate. My legs were screaming, but I felt good. My overall pace wasn't too fast, but when I looked at the end results that was the story of the day for most. I ended up with the second fastest time for this 4.2 (ish) km course, running it in 20:03 for a 4:28 min/km pace. 

  The last minute switch to trail shoes was a very good idea

At the end I flew down the final stretch of sidewalk, carefully took the last turn and crossed the timing mat in 50:20.  And while I could try to compare it to previous years' times, each years course is different, so comparison aren't really useful. But I can compare my finishing place, which ended up being the best I have ever had on one of these events, 3rd overall.

Only a few of us were brave enough to stick around for the awards due to the on coming blizzard, but I was awarded a very nice hand made "cassette sprocket" bronze medal for my placing (very Olympic-y). Oh and a rather nice box of chocolates as well, mmmmm.

Thankfully we had some more coffee and yummy cookies waiting for us after the race. Those were so good.

And a huge shout out to the volunteers cheering us on in the "fun" weather, to Tim for the great photos, to Tri NS officials and Speed Skate NS  and the race directors Marie Claude and Andrew. All around great effort to pull this off. 

Now it is time to clean up the bike, ugh.

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