Monday, July 25, 2016

Race Report: Canadian Standard National Championships (Ottawa Triathlon)

Smiling after the race, despite all the suffering during the race.


Brutal.  

That's the main word that comes to mind when I try to describe my experience at Nationals (the Ottawa Triathlon weekend included the Canadian Age Group Standard National Championships).

I'm going to do my best to keep this report as positive as possible, though I admit that is hard to do. The best thing that I can say about the race though is that I learned a lot.

But first, let me get the negative stuff out of the way: it was not a fun day.  It was hot, miserable, and not even a triathlon. I have a lot of work to do on my running, which has suffered from a change in my training that never really got followed through on when I lost my coach in April.  That's my own fault though, and I am definitely not afraid to own my mistakes.

Going into this race, I had really lowered my expectations.  It's hard to explain why, but I've felt very little motivation over the past few months.  My training hasn't been very consistent.  And I haven't been very healthy.  I caught a cold or something after Tremblant that lasted for weeks, then I thought maybe I had strep throat at the beginning of Nationals race week.  Not ideal.  Anyways, despite lowered expectations, I was still looking forward to racing in Ottawa and I was excited to be out there with so many familiar faces on the course.

As race day approached, the nerves started to set in though.  As much as my motivation has been lacking, I do care a lot about triathlon and I want to do as well as possible (obviously being realistic as well).  Jenn and I did a pre-race warm-up on Friday morning, then I went to the office with my coworkers well aware that I would be leaving early to prepare for my race.  After work, I cleaned my beautiful Argon 18 E-117 Tri+, then Gilly and I rode over to drop our bikes off and pick up our packets.  We flew through pick-up, then caught a ride home (thank you!!) with Joe and Jen. It was a dreadfully hot day and we weren't really looking forward to running/walking the 3k home (but how great is it to live so close to the race site!).  When we got back to our house, we had a nice dinner (grilled chicken, roasted veggies, grilled asparagus, and quinoa topped with guacamole - yum) with Jenn and Evelyne.  I painted my nails while we relaxed after dinner, then packed my gear before bed.  My dream of an early bedtime somehow slipped away, and before I knew it the clock was past 9:30.  We had a very early 3:35 wake-up call, so I had been hoping for a bit more sleep, considering I couldn't sleep at all on Thursday night. Oh well!

Race Day: 

We made our way to the race site bright and early, but the day started to go off the rails immediately after stepping foot on site.  A guy walking by said, "I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but they've just made the race a duathlon." Cue panic.

The swim was meant to take place in Dow's Lake, which had always been a source of anxiety for pretty much every athlete ahead of the race.  Dow's Lake is definitely not known as a place you'd want to swim. It's part of the Rideau Canal, and after a very hot summer with not a ton of water flowing through, it was looking quite gross.  But the race organizers kept insisting that it was fine for swimming and had passed all the required water safety hurdles from the ITU.  So as much as I didn't really want to swim in Dow's Lake, I had accepted that I would be swimming there come race day. Not to mention, I rely on the swim to put me in a good position for the bike and run. Coming out of the water near or in the lead helps me stay focused on my own race, rather than get caught up in chasing other girls.  But the water quality test results didn't come in on time, and the organizers had to cancel our swim (as well as a few other races).  Eventually, the test results came in and the water was fine, so later races did include the swim, which was very frustrating for me.

Run #1 (2.5k):  


This was my very first duathlon (and likely my last). I had no idea what to do pace wise for the first run, particularly since it was 2.5k. So I mistakenly did what I always do in my swims, I sprinted to get out ahead of the pack.  That lasted about 3 minutes, then the group caught up to me and a few girls started to pull away after we crested the hill. They had us doing one lap of the run course for our first run, which was a lovely 2.5k loop with a hill to start. I definitely took that out too hard.

T1: 

The great part of a duathlon is the transitions are significantly simpler. Take off running shoes. Put on bike helmet and shoes. Go. No bibs in the race since we had sweet race number tattoos, so that helped too. Also thanks to Jenn for reminding me that I could loosen the internal straps on my aero helmet, so it was much easier to put on than in Tremblant!

Bike: 

I'm pretty familiar with the bike course, since I run it or drive it several times a week.  The road was not in great shape though, so there was a lot of pothole avoidance going on and by the end, my aerobars had come completely out of place so I could no longer shift properly. Yikes! BUT, the bike was a success for me.  The 40k went by quickly, I felt strong the whole time and tried to just stay consistent.  From what I heard, the lead girls were doing a bit of drafting, which is kind of unfair, but not much I can do about that.  I also likely went a tiny bit too hard, given that I knew I had girls ahead of me, but overall I'm really happy with my bike fitness. My cycling has come a very long way over the past few years, and I'm proud of that.  It was great to see some familiar faces volunteering along the course, and my the course was beautiful.  The canal really is lovely, and being able to race along it made me appreciate the fact that I live in such a beautiful city! Nutrition: 1 water bottle, 1/2 bottle with electolytes, and 1 Gu Roctane in Chocolate Coconut (first gel in about a year and a half, so that was an experiment).

T2:  Another quick transition to the second run. Not much to report.

Run #2 (10k): 


This face tells the story perfectly... sufferfest! Thanks to Rachel for the photo.

From the first step, I knew this run was going to be a disaster.  My legs were not responding at all and it felt like I was barely moving. Starting the run uphill didn't seem to help, and it was really only the fact that I saw lots of friendly faces (Ottawa Triathlon Club volunteers, Simon's family, Aaron, Stephanie - THANK YOU for cheering!!) that I was able to finish.  At times, I allowed myself to be mentally defeated in addition to physically exhausted.  It was very hot and humid by that point in the race, and things just did not feel right at all.  I ditched my hand held water bottle at the top of the first lap, because it felt like it was throwing my body off since I hadn't trained with it, but I really wish I had kept it since it had some electrolytes in it and I think I needed those.  I also took a gel at the top of the first lap, which really didn't seem to do anything at all. The whole run was a struggle and I just could not wait to be done.  However, I did try cheer for my friends, to remind myself that I was lucky to be out there running and to be grateful for the opportunity to race with friends surrounding me in my home city.

But I did get a smile in! Thanks to Stephanie for catching this one. 

The finish finally approached, but I had nothing left in the tank so I got passed literally at the line for 5th in my AG.  It was the first time that I couldn't even muster the energy to smile for the finish line photographer, and that makes me pretty disappointed in myself.

After grabbing water and some oranges, and finding some friends, I realized that I was really not feeling well at all.  So I walked over to the med tent to lie down.  My heart rate was pretty elevated (this was now about 10 minutes post-race) and I couldn't breathe.  So I rested with some ice packs and chatted with the really friendly doctors and medical volunteers for about half an hour.  Finally it was time to head home!

Post-race Reflections: 

There are a lot of good things to come out of this race, so I'm working on focusing on those.  I had a great bike ride.  I didn't have to swim in Dow's Lake (yuck).  I had so many friends out racing and volunteering, and therefore lots of encouragement along the way (thank you again and again). I got to practice overcoming adversity and adapting my plan on the fly.  And I got a kick in the ass to focus for the next month so that I'm ready for Timberman 70.3.  It was a humbling experience, and reminded me to respect the need to train and prepare properly!  Over the next month, my plan is to focus on my nutrition and hydration plan for Timberman, as well as get my butt running more!  Crossing my fingers that my 5th place finish is good enough to qualify for Worlds after the age adjustment.  Congratulations to everyone who participated in the inaugural Ottawa Triathlon race weekend. It was a small, but very competitive field of talented athletes!

Thank you to all the volunteers, to the race organizers (though I would suggest maybe moving the race next year to avoid the Dow's Lake issues), to my tri family, and to Team Coeur Sports!  As much as I suffered out there, at least I looked good doing it in my team kit.

Final Results: 

5th AG/26th woman

Run #1 (2.5k): 9:12
T1: 1:13
Bike (40k): 1:11:18
T2: 1:08
Run #2 (10k): 47:05
Overall time: 2:09:54

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