This was the final event in my triple header and the first time I'd actually done this particular race. I wasn't sure what to expect after having raced the two previous weekends. My legs took quite the beating at the Bread and Honey 15km the previous week so I took it really easy in the week leading up to the race. I felt completely exhausted as well. So much so that I skipped running with my group as well as my Thursday morning gym workout. I hadn't ridden my bike since the previous week either. I was hoping that would actually be a good thing and that my legs would feel fresh. The bike was 10km longer than Woodstock so I figured I'd need all the help I could get.
Saturday morning rolled around and I was up at the ungodly hour of 4:45 am. So wrong for a weekend. But I wanted to be at the race site early so G said we had to hit the road at 5:45 a.m. I'm not one of those people that can just roll out of bed, get dressed and go. I need to wake up before I get rolling. That hour also gives me time to re-think everything I've packed and make last minute wardrobe changes. The temperature was going to be similar to Woodstock although it was supposed to remain overcast, which can sometimes mean it can feel a bit chillier. So, at the last minute, I packed my Team RF jacket just in case.
It took us slightly under an hour to get to Binbrook, which is just outside Stoney Creek. We pulled into the conservation area, parked in one of the grassy lots and got our stuff out of the car. As soon as I stepped out of the car I noticed two things. One, the air was chilly, which made me happy I brought my jacket and two, they had obviously just cut the grass the day before because the ground was covered with cuttings. This meant that it was going to be a really messy day. As in grass getting in everything kinda messy. A-ma-zing. Sure enough by the time I got my bike into transition, my wheels were covered in grass cuttings and I had a pile that had formed around my brake pads. Oh well, nothing I could do about it and everyone else had to deal with it as well. I just made sure I cleaned off my brake pads once my bike was racked in transition and I did my best to not get grass all over everything. I figured I'd probably be picking it out of strange places by the end of the day (I wasn't wrong).
Race registration was a breeze so I opted to hop in the porta potty line while it was still small-ish. Then it was off to finish organizing everything in transition. It took me a while to get myself sorted as I kept forgetting to do things. For example, I placed my cycling shoes nicely on the towel with my helmet on top and then forgot about my sunglasses. They were still in my bag, which I had placed away from my bike by the fence. Off I went to get those. After I put my glasses in my helmet, I did a short little run. When I came back I looked down at my towel and realized that I hadn't undone my cycling shoes. Ugh. I went over everything twice before I decided things were good and I could do my swim warm up.
I couldn't find G in transition so I figured I'd slowly make my way down to the water. Just as I left transition, I saw him in the porta potty line. He said he'd come and find me. For once we were starting in the same wave so I knew I'd see him before the gun went off. It's just wrong to start a race without my good luck kiss.
I had read the Binbrook pre-race report so I knew the water was cool-ish. It was 64 degrees which made it wetsuit optional. I saw ONE dude with no wetsuit. 64 is cold by this little lady's standards so I opted for a wetsuit. Really, who am I kidding? Given the choice, I will ALWAYS opt for a wetsuit, even with my newly improved swimming abilities. I wandered in and let the cold water seep into my suit. The first part of the lake was sandy but within about 5 steps the bottom turned into this disgustingly slick mess. It was so slick I almost wiped out. I used that misstep to propel myself into the water. I figured I might as well get it over with. It was cold. Given that it was overcast, I figured I might very well need my jacket on the ride. I swam about half way out to the first buoy and floated around for a while. I swam back to shore and did that all over again, a bit harder this time around to really get the blood flowing. When I got back to shore and came out of the water, I started to shiver and my fingernails started to get a little purple. Back into the water I went. I stayed submerged for a bit until I saw G.
He had done his warm up so we moved off to the side to watch the first two waves go. My plan was to stay off to the side but to at least move to the front this time. G's plan was to go right in the middle and take the shortest line. No thanks. I got my good luck kiss and wandered over to the outside of the right hand start buoy. Not the most direct line to the first turn but then again, my ability to swim in anything resembling a straight line is pretty much non existent so I hoped that perhaps it would somehow balance itself out. The horn sounded and we were off. I dove into the water and started swimming. I had open water in front of me, which was good, I didn't have to worry about swimming into anyone's feet. I had a few people around me which wasn't too bad for the first 50m or so then it seemed like those few people multiplied to lots of people. I started taking in water like I did at Woodstock so once again, the panic set in. I rolled over on to my back only to see a horde of white capped swimmers coming at me. CRAP. I tried to find clear space but I couldn't. I ended up accidentally kicking some guy in the head while I tried to get to clear space. A few seconds later, I found a pocket and immediately put my face back in the water and started swimming. I didn't want a repeat of Woodstock. I knew I was capable of a decent swim. I followed a set of feet to the first buoy and made my way around the turn. I was starting to get into a rhythm. This was good. I got into a really good groove heading towards the second buoy. A little too much of a good groove. When I looked up to sight, I had swum way off course. I had to literally turn myself 90 degrees to go in the right direction. Once I re-oriented myself, I found that same groove and rode it all the way back to shore. At one point when I was breathing, I thought I might have seen G but I wasn't sure. Everyone kinda looks the same partially submerged in a swim cap and goggles.
I stood up and started running ashore. I glanced down at my Garmin and it said 13:23. Sweet. 10 seconds better than Woodstock. Just as I started running up onto the beach I heard "Hey" and I turned around to see G. We had come out of the water at pretty much exactly the same time. Awesome. I yelled Let's Go and then bolted away into T1. It was a 225m run up to transition so that added a bit of time to my official swim time but it was still sub 15 minutes
I struggled with pulling my wetsuit off my left arm on the way into transition but I finally got my arm out just before I hit the timing mat. I ran as fast as I could to my bike. Instead of trying to do a million things at the same time like I did at Woodstock, I got my wetsuit off first, then put my helmet on, then dried my feet, pulled on my socks and then fumbled with my shoes. Turned out that I hadn't completely undone my left one so I was trying to wedge my foot in and it wouldn't go. I was pushing so hard my calf almost cramped. I realized what the problem was and undid the strap some more, shoved my foot in, grabbed my glasses and un-racked my bike. I was actually warm so I didn't even bother with my jacket. I took off and ended up running the wrong way around the racks which probably added about 10s to my transition time. I need to work on remembering where the exits are. I also think I'm going to forgo socks on the bike and put them on for the run. That way my feet will be dry by the time the run starts and I won't have to waste time drying them. I'll experiment with that in Welland and see where that gets me.
T1: 1:48 - MUCH better than Woodstock's 2:25!
I ran out of T1 into a pile of other folks. It was busy! I got on my bike and eased into the ride. I didn't start pushing the pace until we got out of the park. I was passed by a girl in my AG just before we got out of the park and I thought crap, I hope no one else catches me. As soon as I hit the open road, I went into my big chain ring, got into the aero bars and just hammered. I had heard that the bike course was fairly flat and fast. It didn't seem too windy so I hoped that there wouldn't really be any wind to contend with out in the open areas of the course. I took half Roctane at about 5km into the bike. I was also drinking the GU Roctane drink. G had picked up some in the States that week. I know it's a race and I shouldn't try anything new but I figured the bike was only an hour, if this bothered my stomach it would take a little while for my body to figure that out.
There were a lot of packs early on in the ride and I was doing my best to get by them or let them get by me. I yelled on your left so many times, I wish I had a loudspeaker with a recording just so I didn't have to keep saying it over and over. There were a couple of incidents where I'd yell on your left to a couple of people riding not quite two abreast and the one would come over to pass the other and almost force me over to the yellow line. I really yelled at one guy because I said on your left about 3 times as I came up to him but he still came over to pass the person he was behind so I had to slam on my brakes to let him go. I passed him right after that. It was like that for about the first 10km and then things started to spread out a bit. I finally got into a good rhythm. I toed The Line a lot during that ride. I'd push to the point where I could feel lactic acid building up in my legs and I'd keep going to see how far I could take it, then I'd back off. My mind wandered a bit and I started thinking about a passage in blog post that my virtual runner friend Chris had written the day before. He was talking about finding the "push off point" when running uphill. It's the point where you go from struggling to fine in a matter of seconds. I like to call that the sweet spot. You could be totally dying and then all of sudden the hurt subsides ever so slightly and then you're good to go. I rode that entire 30km playing hide and seek with that sweet spot. I'd get to a point where I thought I was going to implode, then I'd ease up ever so slightly and let the lactic acid subside, only to do it all over again. My cycling ability is not at the point where I could push through the lactic acid and keep working but I'm getting there. I had no idea how long that ride took me, I knew it was under an hour but my oxygen deprived brain couldn't do the math.
Official Bike Time: 53:54 for an average of 33.4 kph. I have NEVER gone that fast on my bike during a race EVER.
I ran into T2 as fast as I could. I knew I had to catch at least one woman, perhaps two. I had a bit of a stitch, probably because I drank my entire aero bottle of GU Roctane during the bike. I was definitely well hydrated. I racked my bike, pulled off my helmet and my glasses went with it as one of the arms got caught in the strap. I didn't bother grabbing them as it was over cast anyway. I pulled off my cycling shoes and yanked on my Saucony's. I grabbed my visor and I was off on the hunt.
T2: 48 seconds - getting better!
The run was a mix of grass, trail, gravel and pavement, so pretty much everything. There were a few muddy spots and and some points the trail was so narrow that it wasn't easy to pass people early on. Of course I went out guns a blazin' like I normally do. That extra 10km on the bike definitely did a bit of a number on my legs. They didn't feel as fresh as they did at Woodstock. Although that could also be the result of doing a race each weekend leading up to this. This run course was slightly rolling. There was a short kind of steep hill that brought you out onto a dam. I got caught behind a few slower runners here as it was single track so it was hard to pass if there were runners coming in the opposite direction. Once you got off that path, it was onto the road. Much better. I didn't have to worry about my footing so much and I could just let loose, which I did. People could hear me coming as my breathing was pretty hard. I came up behind an older man who turned just before I caught him and said Wow, go get 'em! I smiled, said thanks and pushed on. I could see the girl who passed me on the bike about 500m ahead of me and that spurred me on to push harder. I caught her on the downhill at about the 2km mark. I kept looking for G as well. I didn't see him at all on the bike but I had a hard time believing that he was behind me. I finally saw him just before the turn around. He was looking strong. I was running almost all out but I think he put enough of a gap on me on the bike that I wouldn't be able to make up.
I kept passing people. I even caught one of the women in the 45-49 AG who passed me on the bike like I was standing still (she started in the wave after me). I was also hurting quite a bit. My pace slowed a bit as I climbed the hill back to the dam. I entered the Conservation area again, raced across the top of the dam, passing a few more people and then flew down the hill. I was trying to see where the finish line was but the course twists so much that I couldn't see it. I came up behind a younger guy who didn't seem to like getting passed as he tried to hang with me for a bit. I kept pushing and looking for the finish line. I wanted to be done, I was mentally starting to check out. I knew as soon as I hit the grass that the finish line wasn't far off. The crowds around the pylons started getting bigger and sure enough there it was. I ran across, completely spent, to be greeted by John Salt who congratulated me and shook my hand. Always a nice touch. He really goes the extra mile at his races and that's one of the reasons I love doing them.
Official Run time: 32:46. I didn't manage to have the fastest overall women's run split today but, I was in the top 3. The woman with the fastest run split was in the Elite category and the woman was the second fastest split was in the 30-34 AG. Not bad for an old broad!
Overall time: 1:44:02. Which is a PB for this particular distance. The last time I did this distance was at Toronto Island last August and that bike course is completely flat. Things are moving in the right direction. That time netted me 2nd in my AG. Woohoo!
In terms of the venue, it was alright. I quite liked the bike course. I wasn't crazy about the water, it kind of reminded me of Guelph Lake as did the long run up to T1. I didn't mind the run once I got out onto the road. I quite like running on trails but I'm not a fan of running on grass. Too much potential for a twisted ankle or a fall. I know there will always be some running on grass at these races but this was just a little too much for my liking. But because it's John Salt, I'll probably be back again next year.
Next up is a weekend off of racing and then Welland on June 22nd. Good thing because I need some time to recover.