Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Guelph Lake 2 - Last test race before Barrelman

So, for my last race before Barrelman, I decided to do Guelph Lake 2. Originally, I picked this race because my brother lives nearby and we'd talked about doing it together (he'd do the Du while I'd do the Tri)...but given he's coming back from a foot injury, he made the right call not to enter this race!

The race was still perfectly timed. I was down in Essex visiting my parents for the week (more on the epic ride with my Dad on his 64th birthday in a future post), so it worked out well that my Dad drove me to Guelph for the race and my friend Brenda kindly offered to drive me the rest of the way home to Toronto.

Guelph is a bit longer than a traditional sprint - a 750m swim, 30k bike and 7km run. Basically I was planning to treat this race as a fun training day. I'd much rather ride my bike in races because I feel like it's better training than any outdoor riding I do on my own (where I am generally too worried about cars to get up much speed), so I am good with having a lot of training races on my schedule.

So...how did it go?

The Frantic Prelude to the Race

Got up at stupid-o'clock  in the morning to head out from my parents' house in Essex (Stopping for a Tim Hortons coffee and bagel on the way). Luckily, at 4:30am on a Sunday the roads are very quiet so my Dad and I made really good time...until we hit Guelph - then it took a long time to actually get to the conservation area. We made it though. Helped that my brother Stephen was coming to watch and got there early enough to give us directions!

My Dad dropped me off near the registration so I could get going while he parked (It was less than 30 min to start time...so I was cutting it close time wise). Dropped my bike in transition, made an urgent pit-stop (thanks to my brother for saving me a place in line), got registered, and got body marked in record time. Then I went back to get my transition area set up and put on my wetsuit when I realized I didn't have my watch with me. Yikes!!!

My brother called my Dad. In the best coincidence of the day, he'd forgotten the camera - so was at the car picking it up when I called. He found my watch and got it back to me with no time to spare before my wave start...well, with time enough for one quick pic with my brother, but that was it!

My coach had given me a warm-up plan for this race - and after seeing how useful warming up is, I was looking forward to it. But given my late arrival and frantic watch mission, I was lucky to get to my wave start. I didn't even get a single toe in the water before the start, much less my bike/run warm-up. Oops.

But, I was there and the weather was spectacular - so life was good! Even saw my friend Emma (doing her first Du!) and Brenda (who came a long way to spectate!) very briefly - although I was definitely flustered and had no time to chat!

The Swim

The race had been moved the day before the event because water quality at the normal beach was poor...so I wasn't sure what to expect at this, supposedly better, beach. Looking out at it - the water was very calm. This was my first triathlon in a tiny lake - so while I wasn't certain, I expected the water to be pretty warm. It was practically room temperature, which made for a very easy swim start. No acclimatization required. A lot of folks swam without wetsuits - but I generally swim a lot faster with mine on, so as long as I can use it in a race I will.

Over the course of the summer, I've become a lot more confident in my swimming compared to other people in my age group.At least at small races I can generally start at the front on my wave and not worry too much about people swimming over me. So for Guelph, I started in the front row with a pretty straight sight line. It was a good choice.

Right near the start, my left goggle started leaking (my own fault for not having a chance to warm-up and get my goggles perfectly sealed). I didn't stop to try and fix it - just wanting to get out of the water as quick as I could without drinking any of it (I heard that the water had a lot of bird poop - gross!). 

The challenge is that my right eye doesn't focus really well on it's own. It is hard to explain, but while I can see perfectly thanks to eye surgery 6 years ago, I can't quite focus when only looking out that eye. Think about looking at a line of text in a book. When looking out of my right eye only, I can see all the words, but my brain doesn't quite want to process them.

So, while swimming and only being able to look out of my right eye, I had to trust my instincts. Thankfully the course was very simple, so it was easy. I was a bit paranoid on the way back since I couldn't quite see the swim exit (although I had no problems seeing the marker buoys) - so I ended up keeping my head out of the water more than I needed. But other than that, I had an excellent swim. Came out of the water in 13:50 (4/25 in my AG) - and I was smiling too...

The Bike

Had a quick transition for a change and got out on the bike course. The hardest parts were actually getting to the mount line (running uphill on grass in cycling shoes) and getting back down into transition afterwards.

The ride was pretty good. The course was full of rolling hills which meant I had to change gears a fair bit. I'm not quite smooth with the constant shifting, but I am getting better at it. The roads were pretty decent and mostly quiet except for one road that had far more traffic than I would have expected for a race. Fortunately for me, the traffic always seemed to be in the opposite direction (which was not good for people going the other way). My bike time was 1:04:35 (14/25 in my AG).

The Run

It was pretty hot by the time I got on the run, so I was glad I thought to bring my hand-held water bottle. The biggest issue was just as I was running out of transition I realized the GPS on my watch wasn't on, so I wasn't getting pace data (I have a different watch mounted on my bike to make my life easier - so I didn't notice this during that segment of the race).

I fixed it as I began the run, so it didn't affect my time at all. What it did affect was the pace/distance data the watch provided...so I never really knew how fast I was going or how far I had left in the run. Oh well! I settled into a pretty comfortable pace and just went with that. Ended up in a conversation with a guy for a good 15 minutes of the race which probably slowed me down a bit (oops) - but then I realized I was slowing down and picked up my speed again.

I actually loved the last few hundred meters running down a hill and into the finisher's chute. Talk about feeling like you're ending on a speedy note. Automatic finishing kick! Final time was 35:50 (pace of 5:08 and a finish of 7/25 in my AG). In hindsight, I could've ran faster - but overall, I felt pretty good with how I did.

Here I am coming into the finishing chute:

And crossing the finish line!

My finish time was 1:57:32 - which was good for 11/25 in my age group, 47/158 women and 215/453 overall! No idea how that relates since I haven't done a race at this sprint+ distance, but I'll take it. Maybe I could've run a bit faster - but truth is I am glad I didn't since I had to run another 12k later that day (Barrelman training after all) - and that was pretty darned hard as it was!


Heard my friend Emma finish the duathlon as I was running toward the finish, but I missed actually seeing her. I found out later she rocked the duathlon and placed in her age group. I was not surprised by that. She's awesome on hills if you remember from my ride with her a few weeks ago!

I did, of course, see my Dad, my brother Stephen and my friend Brenda! So awesome to have such great people at the finish!

Here I am with my Dad

And here I am with my friend Brenda and my brother Stephen!

Special thanks to my Dad, Steve and Brenda - for making the trip to Guelph, for taking awesome pictures - and for just being there to share the day. You guys are awesome!

PS - The Best Compliment Ever

During the race, a 20 year old girl actually made me tear up. We ran side by side for a minute or two around the 3-4km point...and she said something along the lines of, "Wow, I hope that when I'm 36 (In triathlon, everyone's age is written on their leg - so she knew how old I was) I am in as good of shape as you. You're built for this."

Little did she know that 3 years ago, I hadn't even made the decision to get fit yet. I thanked her for the compliment, said she was doing fantastic, and shortly thereafter ended up in front of her - although I cheered her on when I passed her a few minutes later after the turnaround.

After I left her, I admit, I got some tears in my eyes. I never in a million years would have guessed that someone would ever pay me a compliment like that. It's one thing to do all this stuff. It's another to realize that younger people might see me as a role model (for lack of a better word) - even a stranger during a race.

I've journeyed a long way down the road less travelled in less than 3 years. It is hard to remember sometimes just how far I've come - until comments like this one make me think about just how crazy and insane this road has been. Who would have ever guessed? Not me, that's for sure.

But if I can do it - anyone can!


  1. I looked for you after the race - I wish I'd realized you were so close behind me! i was in a bit of a finishing fog so I didn't hear them call your name. Great race, and I'm so excited to hear how Barrelman goes for you!

    1. No worries! It's always easier to hear the announcer before you cross the finish! I was probably 30 seconds behind you - just enough time to lose you! Laugh! Next time!