Thursday, July 30, 2015

Small Victories - Bala Falls Race Report

This would be the 3rd year in a row I've done this race and the 4th time overall doing it.  It is one of my favourites in the Recharge with Milk Series.  The last 2 years I've won my AG.  I'm always gunning for the number one spot but this year has not been ideal in terms of my training and what I've been able to do.  I was most worried about my run, which is normally my strongest leg.  I can count on one hand the number of times I've run this month.  ONE HAND.  That's not a lot.  And I think the last time I did a brick was at Eagleman.  So there was that as well.  I knew this race wasn't going to be pretty.  Period.  All I could do was go out there and give it everything I had and see where I netted out.

G and I usually drive up and back the day of, which makes for a very early morning as Bala is about a 2 hour drive from the city with no traffic, of course.  We hit the road around 5:40 am and the race started at 8:30 am so we had a *bit* of time.  Of course, leaving that early you get to see this.

Not too shabby.

I was super tired so I napped on and off.  It was during one of these naps that my eyes suddenly flew open and I blurted out "I forgot my helmet!"  I glanced at the clock, hoping we might have time to turn around but no.  I asked G if he had an extra one in the trunk.  Apparently not.  Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck was all I could think.  I'm such an idiot.  I had put my aero helmet on the dining room table, in it's bag.  I had meant to tie the bag to my tri bag but forgot.  So when we rushed out of the house, I grabbed everything BUT the helmet.  G gave me crap and asked my it wasn't IN my tri bag given there's a spot for it.  I said I couldn't make it fit.  When we got home, I got specific instructions on how to properly pack my triathlon bag, ha ha.  Anyway......

G reminded me that they usually have retailers at the races and worst case scenario, I could get John Salt to make an announcement that someone was looking for a helmet.  So I figured either way I'd find something.  We made a pit stop that ended up being a bit longer than I would have liked.   Because I had forgotten my helmet, I was anxious to just get to the race and figure out what my options were going to be.  I also wanted to make sure I got a warm up swim in.  I don't like feeling rushed before a race.  I'm already a little wired up, rushing just makes it worse and I generally forget something.

We pulled into Bala with about 45 minutes till race start.  Not ideal for me but it was what it was.  We walked into the park and went to rack our bikes.  I spotted Du, Tri and Run and saw that Steve had some helmets there.  I decided that I was going to be the owner of a new helmet, rather than rely on someone to go to their car to get one.  So once I had gotten all my race stuff sorted out, I ran over and bought a helmet.  Steve just laughed at me when I told him my predicament.  At least the helmets were on sale so I wasn't paying full pop.  It still ended up being close to $200 though.  GULP.   That hiccup dealt with, I went and got my race bib, timing chip and my body marking done.  I double checked everything in transition and then grabbed my wetsuit.  G wandered over and said he was going down to the water so I went with him.  We were in the second wave together so I wanted to get into the water sooner rather than later.  I got myself into my wetsuit and then zipped G's up.  He was busy trash talking with our friend Pat so I went in and started swimming.  It was perfect, albeit a touch warm. I did my warm up and made my way back to shore. 

My wave was huge.  For some reason us 40-44 year old women were grouped with the 45-49 y/o men and the men 50-55.  Normally we're last or second last at least.  This is the second time this year they've done that.  Woodstock was the same.  At least we'd be on the road before everyone else so I figured that would make for a less chaotic bike.   The Elite wave went off and my wave started to file into the water.  I stood at the back and off to the side.  As usual, I didn't want to be a part of the melee.  I found G and kissed him good bye.  The horn blew and I stood there while everyone waded in.  I hit my watch and waded in slowly.  I watched the pack pull away and then I started swimming.  I made my way to the outside of the group, closer to shore.  This was probably my best decision of the day.  I got into a groove and just swam.  I didn't run into anyone.  I worked on my sighting and was surprised when I passed the first marker.  It came up quicker than I had anticipated.  I kept plugging away, keeping my breathing even.  The next thing I knew, I was at the first turnaround buoy.  What, already?   The best part?  I got there without stopping or panicking.  This was HUGE for me.  To be able to swim that first 250m of a swim calmly and in control, well, I can't remember the last time I did that, if ever.  I rounded the buoy smiling to myself and telling myself that I was doing awesome and that I was going to do this entire swim without freaking out. 

I motored along at a comfortable pace.  I was very conscious of keeping my breathing in check so that meant not pushing the pace too hard.   I figured I'd wait until I rounded the second buoy and was making my way back to shore, then I'd think about picking up the pace.  I made my way around the second buoy with minimal jostling.  I kept my head down and just swam, when I did sight I realized I was off course a bit so I corrected and started to push it.  I was passing a lot of people through here as well as some of the folks from the first wave.  I kept swimming until my hand scraped the bottom, then it was time to get up and go.  I started running and fumbled with the zipper on my wetsuit.  I got it open and realized I still had my goggles on so I pulled them off and then squirmed my way out of my wetsuit.  The sleeve got stuck on my Garmin but I eventually pulled it off. 

Swim:  13:48

I ran up to the rack I thought my bike was on and realized it was the wrong one so I ran back around and found the correct rack.  Ugh.  There was another girl there getting ready to head out on the bike.  I had no idea if she was in my AG or not as there were 3 women's AG's grouped together in my wave.  I struggled with getting my wetsuit off.  I was totally off my game.  I finally got it off and tossed it on the ground.  I grabbed my newly purchased helmet, put it on, slipped my shoes on and off I went.  My legs felt crappy running through transition.  I could only imagine what they'd feel like when I started riding. 

T1: 1:12

The Bala bike course is hilly.  The worst part is that it starts on a climb.  But that climb means that you can rip it on the downhill and fly up to the dismount line on the way back.   I hopped on the bike and started spinning my legs.  That climb never feels great but today it felt particularly crappy.  I could feel the lactic acid in my legs almost immediately which is never a good sign.  I kept it in my small chain ring and spun up this climb.  Once I got to the top, I flipped to the big chain ring and proceeded to hammer.  I tried to really give it on the down hills so I could use the momentum to get me up the climbs.  My legs were really not liking this.  Normally I can give it on the bike, but today it felt like a struggle.  I didn't want to go all out either because I wanted to save something for the run.  I chugged along, passing people from the first wave.  I didn't see anyone else from my AG at all.  Eventually I saw a woman going the other way wearing number 136.  I was number 137 so I figured she was in my AG.  She had a pretty good gap on me.  I pushed on, hoping that no one was coming up behind me.  I hit the turnaround and unclipped to make the turn.  Yup, my bike handling skills still need work, ha ha.  I had seen my friend Pat pass me a few minutes earlier and I was wondering where G was.  Either he had a really awesome swim and was on the road ahead of me or he was having an equally crappy day.  It was the latter.  Shortly after the turn around, G caught me and passed me.  But he didn't get that far ahead of me.  I kept him in my sights and eventually caught him and passed him.  A few seconds later, he passed me again and that was that.  But I never lost sight of him, which meant that he wasn't having the best day.  Just before the 25km mark, I could see a girl up ahead and I pushed it up the hill to catch her.  As I rode up to her I saw her bib.  #128.  Jordie.  It was Jordie Seaton who raced in the 35-39 year old category last year and has now aged up.  She was always on the podium.  I had yet to race against her this year.  I knew her run was strong so I was going to have my work cut out for me.  I caught her and rode as hard as I could for the next 5km.  I wanted to put as much time as possible on her before the run.  I flew down to the dismount line and jumped off my bike.  My legs felt like jello.  The run was definitely going to be interesting. 

Bike:  53:25

I ran into T2, racked my bike, yanked off my helmet and pulled on my shoes.  Again, struggling a bit to get them on.  I ran out of T2, missing the usual pep in my step.

T2:  53s

The first part of the run course is on grass and then you run up the same hill you bike up.  I think the run course is tougher than the bike because you go off the main road and onto the cottage roads.  There is one very steep nasty climb but, everything is shaded which is nice.  It was already baking hot and it was only about 9:30.  I shuffled up that first hill, gasping for air.  I felt AWFUL.   This run was going to be ugly for sure.  I made it to the top of the hill and turned down the first cottage road.  This portion was an out and back so it gave you the opportunity to see where everyone was.  As I was making my way out to the turn around, I could see a female coming back.   I got closer and saw her bib number - 136.  And then the name.  Fiona.  I then noticed the NRG race kit.  Aha.  Well.  Fiona is a rock star and has been racing tris at a high level for a long time.  She was looking strong, I figured there was no way I was going to catch her.  I just had to hold off the girls behind me.  I cheered her on as she went by.  I also saw G just up ahead.  I wanted to try and reel him in but I had started to develop a stitch so it was making my running even more painful.  I slowed down and tried to control my breathing.  As I made my way out of the first cottage road, I spotted Jordie making her way in, passing a LOT of people as she went.  Crap.

I made my way out on the road and felt the heat slap me in the face.  My right glute was starting to bug me and I could feel the familiar pinching as I ran.  I dug my thumb in as I ran.  I slogged it up the next climb, my running legs slowly starting to find their groove.  I grabbed water at the aid station and sucked it back before I turned onto the next cottage road.  This was the one with the big hill.  As I started to make my way down it, Fiona was on her way up.  She was working.  I just wanted to be done.  I could see G up ahead of me once again.  My stitch was starting to subside, thankfully.  I made it down the big hill to the turn around and then it was back up the big hill.  G was literally just ahead of me so I picked up the pace.  I caught him and tickled his butt as I ran up beside him.  We both mumbled something about how hard this was and I passed him and continued on.  I saw Jordie once again and she had gotten a lot closer.  I figured she'd catch me soon. 

I turned onto the road and started climbing again.  My nerve pain flared up and I dug my thumb into my glute again.  I ran and worked at poking around in there.  I could hear someone coming up behind me and sure enough, it was Jordie.  She blew by me.  I hoped that pass had only relegated me to third and not anything lower than that.  Since I"m only racing 4 of the series races, I really need all the points I can get.  I knew there was no way I was going to catch her so all I could do was just run as hard as I could for the remainder of the race.  I hit the turn around and knew that it was mostly down hill from there.  I have lost so much speed this year.  There are sections of that course where I would normally run sub 4 min km's.  This year I was lucky if my Garmin saw 4:10's.  But, that's my reality right now. 

Thanks to Mike Cheliak for making me smile and getting the shot.  :)

I was totally dying by the time I got to the 6km mark.  All I could think about was getting to the finish line.  My legs were screaming at me.  I crested the last hill and let it rip on the downhill.  I turned into the finishing chute and could hear Steve Fleck announcing people.  As I came down the chute he announced my name and said that I was the 4th woman to cross the line and would probably be one of the top 5 ladies of the day.  What?  I thought about it and realized that I hadn't seen very many girls in front of me.  Sweet. 

Run time:  34:28.  Almost a full minute and a half slower than last year.   That is the face of exhaustion right there.

G crossed the line shortly after I did and then we stood under the misting tent.  It turned out to be a scorching hot day.  I saw Fiona and congratulated her and we stood and chatted for a bit.  G and I then went to transition to pack up our stuff.  I went to the results board to see where I ended up overall and was shocked to see that I was 2nd in my AG, and 3rd place over all.  I looked down the list for Jordie's name and she was listed several spots below me.  I'm not sure how that was even possible unless she started in the first wave.  Which is what must have happened.  I made up all my time on her on the bike.  Riding with Morning Glory is paying off.  Now I just need to get back to regular running with some speed work thrown in.  Maybe come Toronto Island in a few weeks, I'll be almost back to my old self.  Hopefully I won't forget my helmet, ha.

It was a tough day but it's always a lot of fun.  And, it was nice to see a fellow "Old Broad" on the top step of the podium.   Of the top 5 women, 3 of them were in the 40-44 year old AG.  Pretty darn impressive.

Tomorrow we're off to Newfoundland for a mini vacation so things might be REALLY quiet around here.  I'll be back just in time to race Bracebridge.  Woohoo! 


Wendy at Taking the Long Way Home said...

Phaedra! Awesome work!!! Now to enjoy a little rest...

alison @racingtales said...

Pretty impressive considering you didn't feel good! And what a way to start a race, with only 45 mins to set up AND buy a helmet! I would have been a wreck. I like a good hour to faff around. So funny when you talk about having trouble getting your wetsuit off but then your transition time is 1:12! You are moving fast even when you think you're slow, I'm sure of it! Congrats on 2nd in your AG and beating some formidable competition! I don't think I want to do any races you're'll kick my butt!