Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ingonish Olympic Triathlon 2014 - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (Toe)

So this past weekend was the Ingonish Triathlon, held in lovely Cape Breton. I have been going to this Triathlon for 4 years now and it has always been fun. this year I decided that I would step up a distance and go for my first Olympic length tri, which is listed as 1.5km/40km/10km. In this case the bike ride is actually 43 km due to finding a reasonable spot for the turn around. So a slightly longer ride over very hilly terrain? Sounds great!

Anyway, this year I did a lot more swimming in the pool to get ready for this event, though I knew my swim was still going to be slow. I really need to get in the pool even more and in the lakes when possible and try to get this swimming thing under control. Still this was going to be mostly for fun, to learn pacing and experience the longer distance, with a greater push towards next years racing.

So the lake was cold in Ingonish. Yup cold. Here we are the end of June and this year it was 17C (maybe) and the air temperature race morning was 10C (maybe). Brrr. And I don't do cold water well.

With setup complete and the race brief given, we were allowed a small prerace swim warmup. I got in the water and tried to get warm, but it wasn't working. Still, I knew I just had to stick to the plan of taking my time at the start of the race and getting into a groove.

As the race started, we all began the wade out to deeper water (in this lake that is actually quite a walk). As I started to try and swim, I instantly had my breath taken away when my face hit the water. I knew I had to get moving to build up some heat, so I resorted to the breast stroke for a bit, occasionally putting my face in the water. Eventually by the first buoy, I got a hold of my breathing, got comfortable and was capable of doing the front crawl. Unfortunately, the main group was quite far ahead of me, so at this point it was a solo effort.

Really, once I got into a rhythm, it wasn't too bad. My swim is slow to begin with, but the wetsuit helped me a bit and things were going fine.

This swim course is a two loop course, so you come back to the start and go around the first buoy. As the water is very shallow, you generally stand up and run around, and as I did, my foot went into a rut in the sand and I tripped. My feet were crazy numb though, so it just felt like I scraped it or something. Carry on I said.

Eventually I got out of the water quite near the back of the field in 34th place, all alone pretty much and saw the clock read 35 minutes. Sigh. I think most of that was the incredibly slow start, so in that case I guess the part I actually swam wasn't too bad. I just need to figure out how to warm up quicker at the start or something.

Off to the bike, which for this race includes a 300m run on a gravel path. Luckily my feet were very numb. Unfortunately my hands were also very numb, so getting into my cycling gear was tricky. I did and passed a few people in transition and off I went (just imagine a nice bike picture here).

All along the bike ride I did my best to keep my heart rate under control. I wanted to keep things in the low 140`s on average. On shorter sprint distance rides, it isn`t hard to ride a little aggressively, as the 20km distance is much easier to recover from for the run. But this distance meant I needed to be smart.

I started to pass a lot of riders on the way out and after the turn around passed a few more. I had tried to take count of where I might be, but alas, I was so far back that I lost count. As well, my feet were still incredibly numb. I was hoping I might get feeling back in them prior to the run, but that didn`t seem to be happening.

On the way back I was starting to intermingle with the Sprint distance triathlon cyclists, so any attempt on my part to keep track of my position had gone. Also my bike computer momentarily stopped working, though I knew the course well enough to know where I was.

As I came into the dismount line, I was just catching another rider, so I had to sit up a bit. That wasn't bad as it gave my legs that little rest they needed to come back to life for the run. Officially I am listed as having done the ride in 1:20:30 at 31.3kph, though this included the long run from the swim, and my fumbly switch to bike gear. My computer listed the ride as closer to 33kph and a ride of about 1:17. Ideally I wanted to keep the ride around 1:15 but I was also quite sure I didn't want to over extend myself, and there were a few moments were I had to slow due to road conditions. So ultimately I am not too unhappy with the result. It was the 10th fastest bike of the day.

My dismount went well, my T2 went well, and I was off running.

I immediately passed a couple of runners and settled into a pace. My aim was a sub 40 minute run. Again though, this course is not designed for PBs anywhere. The 10km run course is a 2 loop affair, with a series of quick steep ups and downs and next to no flats. So it is hard to get a decent groove going. Still I knew I could make up a little more time on people as we all run the same course.

The weather was starting to heat up a bit and it was getting quite warm. And after lap one, I finally started to feel my feet. My left foot felt really bad though in the toes and I thought, hmmm, what did I do during that swim? After another short bit, my foot just down right hurt. Momentum though carried me on.

With 2 km to go I had another couple of people to pass and they had slowed quite a bit. I picked up my pace in this downhill section as good as I could and passed them. Hitting the final few hundred meters I gave it my all and ran hard to the end.

I hit the finish line at 2:37:47. Dang, not the 2:30 I had hoped for, but with that disaster of a swim, I guess it wasn't all bad. I did check my Garmin though and it was 40:50 for the final hilly 10km run. Not the sub 40 I wanted but a decent run regardless, and the 6th fastest of the day for an average pace of 4:05. It looks like I took about 40 seconds to do my second transition, which is not too bad either for this course.

Following the run, I went back to my bike and finally took off my shoes. Blood was covering my right foot. I had sliced open my toe during that swim. Ouch. It was also black with a bruise and at first I wondered if I broke it. But it didn't seem like it after I cleaned it up. Still, ouch.

So while everything didn't go as planned, I took home some valuable experience racing longer. My pacing was decent on the bike, allowing for me to have a great run (minus the foot issue). Basing my pacing on heart rate turned out to be a valuable experience, so a big thanks to Coach Jeff at Kinesic Sport Lab. I also know I need more work on not only the swim itself, but dealing with cold water.

I ended up 3rd in my age group, which is funny as I always end up 3rd in my age group in Ingonish. I also got to get away to a great area of the world for the weekend and do some nice hiking as well.
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