Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Ingonish Standard Distance Triathlon, June 2016

Well here we go, the first Triathlon of the year for me and I decide to once again try my hand at the Standard or Olympic distance triathlon.  Two years ago I did my first and only Standard distance in Ingonish and did not do as well as I had hoped. I had wanted to hit a sub 2:30 for my debut, but instead languished with a 2:37. A lot of that had to do with a horrid swim in frigid water.

But on to this year. This winter I have been really hitting the pool a lot and trying to get my endurance and comfort levels up in the water. As I mentioned before, I hurt my Achilles in April and it limited what I could do as I was letting it heal. While I could swim, I had to limit my kicking in the water. So I relied on a lot of pull buoy swims. I figured I could at least build my endurance and since this swim was almost guaranteed to be wetsuit legal, I knew that my kick was useful but not critical.

I had also hoped to get open swims in starting at the beginning of June. Instead I only got in the water 2 weeks ahead of the race. Still I managed 4 swims and grew my confidence. My second open water swim lead to my new wetsuit tearing at the seam, a new one was rush mailed to me, but it had a hole in it. My old one was on stand by but I did manage to do some last minute repairs and use the new suit (Aquasphere and MEC were really good about this and still let me return it after the race, thanks guys).

So morning of the race and the weather was awesome, warm temps in the air and under the water. In fact it was almost too hot with someone shouting out that it was 21C. That is crazy for this time of year, but still wetsuit legal. I got checked in fast and headed to the water as soon as I could. I got in, got through some of my anxieties and felt comfortable. With the bright sun I opted for shaded goggles.  Anyway, our group lined up for the start and away we went.

I hung back a touch at the start as I knew this would help me avoid any panic. And while this meant the lead group would work away from me, having a comfy start would be so much more important. A few dolphin dives, and a few breast strokes and my worries went away and I was quickly into a good rhythm with my front crawl.  I soon caught up with some other swimmers and worked my way through and around them and before I realized it, lap one was done.

Around the start buoy and off I went for lap two. I was pushing comfortably hard but not overdoing it. I passed a few more swimmers and was feeling really good. Sighting for the final buoy / shore was tricky with the bright light but I kept a fairly straight swim happening. I hit the shore with a time of 28:27. A sub 30 minute swim was my goal, I blasted through that by 1.5 minutes. Last time I swam in a time of 35:43. So yeah, that hard work seems to have paid off. I was 17/30 overall for the swim. Last time I was 34 out of 36.

To the bike! It is a long haul from swim out to transition at Ingonish. Close to a 400 m run on crusher dust and sticks. But I don't shy from that and managed to get the fastest T1 time with a 2:32, including stopping to fix my ankle timing chip enroute. I got out of the wetsuit, helmet on and away I went on the bike to hopefully catch some other competitors.  

I zipped past a few riders to start then settled in to a decent rhythm on the bike, 40+ km to go and I didn't want to burn out early.  I passed Adam as he had to stop to deal with a massive cramp a few kilometers in. That's tough as I know he has worked hard and is a beast on the bike (and had a great swim). I figured he would be back though and I knew I needed to put some distance in while I could.

One of the huge downhills had a torn up section of pavement which we needed to slow down for. I played it very safe and slowed to a crawl. After that it was pristine pavement and big hills. As I approached the run around I was able to start to count the riders ahead of me and found I was currently in 11 place.  But I also saw that Adam was now only a minute or so behind me. And a head wind came up. Wowza.

I managed to get to just past 30 km before Adam managed to pass me, but I did mange to work my way to up 9th by that time, falling to 10th as another rider passed me with about 5 km to go. Now I was settling into my position and saving what I could of my legs for the run. My endurance for long rides was nearing its end as I hadn't been able to get out as much as I wanted in those last 2 months. Still I crossed the line in a time of 1:17:34 which compared to last times 1:20:30 showed a lot of improvement. That was good enough for the 9th fastest bike split of the day (though Adam should have had at leas that or more if he didn't have to stop for so long).

T2 and another win for Ian! 31 seconds, a full 7 seconds faster than the next person meant I had a great change from bike to run.

Off to the run. My really big inner goal was a sub 40 minute 10km run following the bike. On this course it is tough. Steep short hills, heat and it is not the easiest place to run. I kept the pace steady to start knowing that the first steep hill is the worst. As I crested it, I could start to see a few other runners within striking distance. Ideally I wanted to catch them as early as i could, know that I didn't want to drag them along to the finish. Within 1 km I caught up to Adam, then Iain before the 3 km mark.

As I approached the start of the second lap I was now catching up to mark as well. But his 400m lead was still not the easiest gap to get through. I watched my average pace and pushed as hard as I dared and by the 7th kilometer, I passed mark. The race was mostly downhill and I pushed through the tight muscles to the finish line.

39:36. I got my sub 40min 10km. Two minutes faster than my last time. In fact I finished in 2:28:38 compared to 2:37:47, 9 minutes faster than my previous best. Faster in all legs and I was feeling really good. No aches and pains. 6th overall and 2nd in my age group. A success for sure. I was feeling so good we spent the rest of the day hiking and the next day as well.

This triathlon is really great and I hope to get to continue to go back and enjoy both it and the awesomeness of the Cape Breton Highlands.

With my Achilles issues over, i can get back to finding the early season speed I had as well. Things are only looking up.
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