For those of you who aren’t super familiar with this kind of thing the bulk of your training ends between 10 and 14 days prior to the race at which point your body can no longer reap the benefits of high intensity or high endurance training in time for the race. Two weeks prior to the race I simulated the race over the course of 2 days, a 40 minute lake swim followed up by 2.5 hours of cycling with some triathlon club friends (interpret this as “go hard or go home”). The next night I ran a 2:05 half marathon at consistent but not fast pace. Based on that I took a good guess at what I thought were reasonable goals for the race coming up in 2 weeks. I figured 40 minutes swim, 3:10 on the bike and hopefully be able to hold things together under 2 hours on the run. That would allow me to go under 6 hours which I thought would be an excellent first crack at that race distance. If things went well I imagined I might be able to bike 32 kph with no wind and maybe run as fast as I did last summer at this distance which was 1:55. That would put me closer to the 5 hours 30 min mark for a best-case scenario.
During the 2 weeks prior to your race just because you won’t directly benefit in terms of strength or fitness you’re not going to benefit by laying on your back and getting fat, but you’re also not supposed to go out and do hard strength workouts. This wasn’t exactly how things panned out—Intervarsity Christian Fellowship held a leadership-retreat slash canoeing-adventure the weekend prior. I took it relatively easy i.e. not trying to race down the river, but I did solo a canoe for more than 4 hours but that’s another story. I wasn’t feeling to sore when I arrived back in Edmonton, Derek and I ran 32 minutes at 4:45 pace and I felt great. I headed to the pool Tuesday after work and that was a completely different story. My shoulders were super tight and I was having a tough time getting any speed in my turnover. Perhaps super repetitive use of relatively unused muscles was a bad idea, who would have guessed? I called things quits after only swimming a kilometer somewhat frustrated and, to be honest, more than a bit worried. Wednesday we (tri club) made our traditional trip out to the lake to go swim, I took it relatively easy and because I could focus on breathing in choppy water my shoulders didn’t cry bloody murder, I ran 26 minutes on 4:20 pace out of the water and could tell that I was starting to get antsy, not having done more than a 2.5 hour workout in more than a week.
Race morning arrived soon enough: I claimed the 5th best spot in transition for my bike, made good friends with a bottle of SPF 45, and put in about 600 calories for breakfast before 6:00 am. The race started at 8:00 am sharp and was 2 laps of the lake. I got in behind some good feet from the start and was able to follow in their draft and keep my sighting to a minimum. My first lap was 1X:XX but all I could see on my watch at the time was the 1, so I knew I was on track for a good swim but had no idea that I was on track for a really good swim. I lost the good feet for the second lap and breathed in a bit of water so I was a bit slower for round 2 but still climbed out in 36:27. Needless to say, I was surprised and also pleased.
I passed more than a dozen people in transition and ran into a bit of trouble knocking a bottle out of a cage while leaping onto my bike. I was concentrating on getting my foot into the dangling shoe and it cost about 20 seconds.
I cruised out onto the course, passing 3 and being passed by 3 others in the first half hour. I started eating at the 25 minute mark and got 400 calories in within the first 70 minutes. The wind was calm and the sun was in and out. By the time I reached the first aid station I had passed about a half dozen more people, this is where the bike course gets hilly.
I was no longer gaining quickly on those ahead of me and put in 200 more calories by the time I made it to the turn around. I passed a pair of guys in my age group right before the turn around. You needed to cross a cattle grate twice right at the end and I lost the same bottle again here because the cage was slightly bent and wouldn’t hold it tightly. I was passed by those two people whom I quickly re-passed. I had a tough time staying focused between kms 50 and 60 but by the time I made it to the big hill and ate a powerbar I was refocused and kept myself relaxed and my cadence high. It was a good thing I got that under control because a head wind cropped up and I really needed to concentrate on keeping an aerodynamic body position. I reeled in about 5 more people on the last quarter of the bike, including the top two females. I didn’t put in quite as much fuel on the return as on the way out, finishing the bike with 1050 calories in me. I didn’t want to start the run full and because I had met my target of > 280 cals/hour I wasn’t super concerned. I was off the bike in 3:05:34.
T2 was very quick and I passed two or three people there, I was instantly passed by one guy on the run, I ran the first 2 kms alone and was really concentrating hard to keep my turnover high, descending the hill into the park I could certainly tell that I had pushed hard on the second half of the bike and took a couple E-load salt tablets right away. A guy named Kevin slowly caught me from behind and I decided I would try and stay with him to see what kind of pace he planned on running. We cruised through the 5 km mark in 23 minutes. I said I thought I should have been closer to 25 and he agreed that he was a bit eager as well. We slowed gradually to an 8 minute mile pace and we stuck together at that pace for quite a long time. I took 200 calories of gel on top of the gatorade.
Kevin got away coming up hear break hill from the valley but I caught him at the top. We continued through the majority of the second lap together but coming up with 3 kms to the finish I walked an aid station trying to get in two full cups of gatorade, Kevin didn’t and put in a gap. I kept pace with Kevin (maintaining 8 min miles) for 1 more km but it was really starting to hurt and I couldn’t quite catch him. With 2 kms to go I couldn’t keep the 8 min/mile pace and Kevin started to pick things up. I slowly fell away, I took caffeine at the last aid station and walked the steepest portion of Heart-Break-Hill. I managed to run all the way to the finish but was having a terrible time doing so. With about 200 meters to the finish the lead female caught me and ran right past, you don’t need to give me a hard time about being beat by a girl because my mom already did. I couldn’t do anything other than try to keep moving at that point but finished the run in 1:45:54. Almost 10 minutes faster than my half-marathon personal best (without going for a bike ride).
Overall my time was 5:27:54, more than 2 minutes faster than my “best case scenario”. My last 2 kms took about 12 minutes, obviously falling back a bit from my pace earlier in the race, I guess those 2 minutes faster in the first 5 kms came back to get me at the end. Anyhow, all that turned out to be good enough for third place in my age group. So I’ve got a cool soapstone trophy and a big bronze medal (because this was the provincial championship).