Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Peach Race Report

My long delayed, and just plain long, weekend race report.

Race: Peach Classic (Penticton, BC), July 15

Distance: Olympic

Goal: Under three hours. I knew I wouldn't get a PR as the course is hard

Actual Time: 2:51:42 (includes 2 minute penalty - apparently I was drafting)

The Gory Details:
I knew that this would be a tough race, both becuase of the course and because it was the provincial championships and there'd be some fast folk. I was looking forward to it, however, as I'm getting to a point with racing where I find the challenge fun.

It turned out there were 20 people from LETC in the race, which was almost half our members and an amazing turn out, even better as we had both the coaches racing. We later claimed a couple of others to our number, but those details will come later.

Our hotel was very close to the start area so it was an easy and relaxed morning. I think I've got race prep figured out now so I had everything I needed and there was no panic. I got body marked and in to transition reasonably early and was set up with lots of time to spare. I did a run and bike warm up then gabbed with fellow LETCers and other people I knew and took my time getting into my wetsuit.

The men started 5 minutes before us so we cheered them on then lined up ourselves (thanks to Stephanie/Tim for the picture).

The swim course is pretty basic - swim from the Peach to the SS Sicamous and back. They had to change the direction of the swim this year (out on the beach side of the buoys, back on the lake side) as water is quite shallow and last year people were walking in the shallows on the return leg of the swim.

I placed myself so I'd have clear water, conveniently forgetting I need to practice swimming in a melee, and sighted off the Sicamous rather than following the buoy line. I ended up swimming almost entirely alone as most people followed the arc of the buoys rather than taking the shorter direct route. As I didn't do any drafting on the way out I probably didn't get that much of an advantage.

I felt slow in the water and was a bit frustrated, but I was only a little slower than previous 1500m swim times.

I had a quick transition then hopped on my bike. The course started with a flat out and back along the beach, essentially retracing the swim, and past my motel. Once we came back past transition we went up Vancouver Hill, a steep climb of about 1 km. The course then went along the Naramata Bench and followed Okanagan lake North. I'd thought Vancouver Hill was the worst of the hills but it was rolling hills from there and with few flats and quite tough.

I got quite aggressive, for me, on the bike and went hard on the course. I enjoy hills and am weaker in comparison to other riders on the flat so this was my kind of ride. Eventually I was with a group where we would leap frog each other depending on our strengths, generally me passing on the uphills and getting caught on anything vaguely flat. I spotted a woman in red about 500m ahead of me and decided she was going DOWN. We were a similar pace so it took some effort to catch her but I eventually managed to pass her. This turned out to be a fateful moment as the TriBC officials whizzed by on a motorbike and yelled something incomprehensible - not sure what it was but I got a penalty and two minutes added to my bike time so I guess I was doing something wrong. (I go out of my way not to draft so it took about a while to stop being angry about this.)

Red Lady and I leapfrogged a bit but I believe I beat her to transition, I was having so much going down Vancouver Hill (67kmh max speed) at the end that I forgot about her.

A quick T2 then onto the run and totally different race strategy. The course was just over 1 km of flat (same stretch of beach as the bike out and back) then 3km of a steep climb, the end of which conned you into thinking it would eventually flatten out but was gentle rolling hills to the turn then back the way you came. My goal was to take the run at tempo and if I had anything left after the turn around to pick it up on the downhill then go hard on the flat at the end.

One of my other goals was to beat the leaders out of transition, meaning I wanted to be out on the run before anyone finished the race. I was successful and got to see the leader loping in, making it look easy.

As both coaches were racing and I knew Andrew would be in the front pack so I counted the men as they passed me, when I saw Coach Drew he was 15th. I stopped counting as I didn't expect to see Coach Alan, who'd only just figured out asthma issues after several years of being unable to train, so soon but he was only 6 or 7 back from Andrew. Obviously the breathing difficulties are behind him! The coaches ended up 18th and 20th overall.

I was ready for the ascent, mentally at least, so I kept an even tempo and just kept moving forward. I saw almost everyone else in the group as I was climbing, the only person behind was Teresa, who'd dropped her chain on the bike. I tried to yell encouragement but it got a little tiring (I have to do races where I know less people!) as I was somewhat out of breath on the hill.

After the turn around I saw Teresa was close on my heels and hoped I could stay head of her. Near the bottom of the big hill she blasted by me, yelling "C'mon Alison!" There was no way I was going to keep up with her so I just watched her go. Hitting the flat after 3km of running downhill was a bit of a shock, it was surprising how hard it was.

As I neared the playground and water park across from the beach I spied Claire and my youngest nephew. I tried to do the run-by high-five with him but missed so had to backtrack and do it again!

My legs came back a bit after that and I picked up the pace as I neared the finish and managed to do my traditional 200m sprint to the end.

The run was 55min, my slowest yet for an oly but considering the course I'm happy with it.

The post-race barbecue was a lot of fun as we had four club members on the podium, Andrew and Martina won their age groups, this was provincials so they are also provincial champions, and Jessica and Stephanie came second in theirs. The second woman overall had trained with us once or twice so we decided Rachel was ours as well. Then Joanne's uncle came second in his age group so we claimed him too! We're a greedy lot!

It was a hard race, by far the toughest Olympic course I've done, but it was a blast and I think I'll be back next year.

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