Thursday, September 03, 2009

Calgary 70.3 RR (much delayed)

My pre-race breathing in AB was great. I wasn't even allergic to my aunt's hyperactive puffball of a sheltie. No knock on Soxy, I quite liked him.

Pre-race was nothing special. More nerves than I've had in years, last time I was this wound up for a race was probably 2006. I was also a bit off the workout schedule as trying to fit in workouts around visiting/being a good guest was awkward. This was my first big race where I wasn't either with family or friends from the club the day before the race so things were a bit odd. My hostess in Calgary was great but next time I think I'll book a hotel for the night before for my own peace of mind.

It didn't help my nerves that finding information on the race's website was difficult, there were some things that had no information whatsoever and others where you had to do some serious interpreting, such as realizing they were using different names to describe the same shuttle pick up point.

The anxiety all came to a head when I dropped off my bike - other people were doing rides on the course, why hadn't I? I should have had a tune-up on my bike, what if something went wrong? Should I have gone for more runs?? It took an effort to walk away from my bike, I was actually shaking with nerves.

After an early dinner and early to bed I managed to unwind enough to get to sleep early.

Race morning, however, was pretty much all zen - that's the point where there's nothing more you can do except get out there and go, I love that! I was up super early for a big breakfast. Then it was time to pack my transition bags, as this was a point to point bike course there were two transitions so you had to pack accordingly. I had a big bag full of my swim gear (this would later by my warm up/dry gear bag), a big T1 bag full of bike gear and a T2 bag with just my runners and a hat. The T2 bag looked so underfull that I threw in a couple of gels to pad it out a bit.

I got to the shuttle area in time to catch one of the first buses, despite the fact that my swim start was an hour after the first wave - I like to have lots of time to set up in transition and I also wanted to give myself some breathing room in case there were SNAFU's with the shuttles.

We dropped off our T2 bags then got on the buses. Lots of quiet, tired and nervous folk on the bus. Turned out the woman sitting next to me was only nervous, not quiet or tired. We chatted the whole way up to the lake (probably to the dismay of everyone seated around us!). She was doing this as her first ever triathlon, I'm a firm believer in doing small tris before taking on something big but as this was the morning of the race of course I was telling her she'd have a great race.

I was in early enough to pump up my tires, walk through transition and hit the loos without much crowding or waiting. The closer it got to the race start the harder it got to move around transition (it was super tight) and the longer the lines got for the porta-potties. I was happy to have missed some sleep in the morning to avoid dealing with the craziness.

My swim time was coming up so I dropped off my T1 bag (checking for the 50th time that I did, indeed have my helmet), got into my wetsuit and then dropped off my dry goods bag. There was space to the side of the swim start/exit for a warm up swim, although very few people were making use of it. The water was cold enough to be shocking when I got in but turned out to be the perfect temperature for a wetsuit swim.

The swim was okay. It was a very small wave (supposedly 120 but as only 78 finished I think there were a number of DNS's) but somehow I started too far back as I couldn't find a decent set of feet to draft off. I decided to go for speed rather than sit behind someone too slow. Mentally I stayed focused the whole way, a big accomplishment especially after my Squamish day dreaming.

Somewhere along the way the line "No excuses" popped into my head - meaning I'd trained all year for this race and there were no excuses for doing anything less than my best. I don't usually have mantras like that but it was pretty cool, anytime I wanted to back off it'd pop up. I didn't have a rocking swim time but I ranked pretty high overall so either I had a great day or the majority of racers were bad swimmers. Also, the water got a bit choppy as I was getting out, so that likely affected later waves.

T1 was slow as we had to put our bike shoes on prior to entering the bike enclosure - a long way to run in cleats. After the fact this made sense as there was no space in transition so people sitting down to put on shoes would have blocked other racers, but it was annoying at the time.

Getting on the bike was great. I felt good from the get go, I have photographic evidence that I was immediately working on my calorie debt - the photographer at the T2 exit caught me sucking on a gel.

The tailwind on the bike was great, somewhere near the start I was on a false flat going 41km/h without putting in a ton of effort. I tried to get into a rhythm without going to hard at the start, which I usually do at Oliver.

The turn onto Grand Valley Road put us heading directly into the wind and on the long ascent. It wasn't a steep climb but it was very long and steady with no real breaks or changes in the incline. I could deal with the headwind as I knew it meant a tailwind the rest of the way ("no excuses") and I tried not too go too hard, save it for the later part of the bike.

The first of the aid stations was giving out regular bottles of Powerade, not sport tops, which was annoying, and the race's biggest screw up that I saw, but not insurmountable. Once I got onto the fresh pavement I could drink without spilling too much, although I did end up with a fair amount of Powerade on my bike.

My swim wave started after the 6065+ and M5055 waves so I got to pass a lot of people on the bike. Nothing like getting pumped at passing someone then seeing they're 71!

There were some wicked crosswinds coming down Horse Creek Road as it neared the A1 hwy but after that it was a strong and steady push to the finish. I played leapfrog with a couple of people and tried to joke with one, she didn't quite know what to make of it but I was having fun. When Jean-Yves passed me near the top of a hill I tried to chase him and failed miserably, unsurprisingly, but hit my race speed max of 67km/h.

The course was beautiful and mostly on quiet country roads, but there seemed to be no transition from that to Glenmore Trail with a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam (caused by us!), it was a bit strange.

I had a much quicker T2 as all I had to do was change shoes and head wear and go. Unfortunately my legs felt toasted and heavy on the run. That just-off-the-bike deadness never went away.

I may have gone too hard on the bike, or I may not have eaten enough, but I never really felt light and quick on the run. It was also quite humid, which did not make breathing fun. I tried to initially walk only the aid stations but the run course was surprisingly tough and my lungs weren't cooperating so I had to walk quite a bit. I also had cramps but they faded fairly quickly.

I kept going forward and ran when I could, walked when I couldn't and tried to stay positive. "No excuses" meant I couldn't lose it to panic attacks and frustration like I did in Oliver. I got caught by my bike leapfrog buddy and tried to heckle/cheer her on but she didn't seem to see the fun in it. I beat her in the end, in case that matters!

The last few km were super tough but I realized that I had a PR pretty much guaranteed so wasn't too upset at having to walk most of the last 2 km. I did manage to run for the last few hundred meters - got to impress the fans!

It was an interesting race. Considering the logistics and the fact that it was the first time they ran the race, I think the organizers did incredibly well. There were a couple of things they could definitely have done better, but I'm confident they'll have that figured out for next year. I think it would be a good race for someone who was training for their first Ironman as the race mimics the IM experience quite a bit in terms of the racers prep with the transition bags and level of support. I still like the independent races though!

I enjoyed the race and may well do it again next year, much as I don't like supporting the Ironman brand. If the wind is the same and I have my breathing figured out I could have a pretty skookum time.

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