Thursday, August 14, 2014

A visit to K-town - and my longest tri yet!

A while back, I heard about the K-town Triathlon in Kingston, Ontario. Now part of the MultiSport Canada series (the same group that will be putting on Barrelman in September) - it has two races. The one that drew my attention was the Long Course Tri.

Kingston's long course triathlon is a unique distance - partway between an Olympic and a half ironman. The swim is half ironman distance (2 km). The bike is 56.2km (compared to 40k for the Oly and 90k for the HIM). The Run is 15k (compared to 10 for the Oly and 21.1 for the HIM). It's the only race of it's kind in Ontario, that's for sure.

But doing K-town wasn't on my radar until I learned about Via Rail's Bike Train. The bike train is a summer initiative that allows you to check your bike (as is - no boxing!) on certain trains. One of the trains is Kingston/Montreal. When I realized that, I decided to give it a try (sorry) over the long weekend so I could go do my longest triathlon yet - a perfect prep race for Barrelman!


I got to Kingston two days in advance of the race because it made the most sense given the Via Rail schedule (there is only 1 bike train a day per direction). This was great because it gave me time to check out Kingston on top of doing the race.

On the Friday I arrived, I took a look at the waterfront, where the transition area was going to be (right in front of City Hall).

I also took a walk to look at the Causeway Bridge because the race website mentioned the need for a lot of caution while going over it. The bridge has a grate floor and lifts up when boats need to go through. I actually got to watch this while I was there checking it out!


On Saturday, I got up really early so I could go ride part of the bike course. During my hour long ride, I rode about 25k, including riding over the bridge and then up and down a fair number of hills. I admit, I was a bit surprised by how hilly Kingston was - mostly because I'd never been there before. Still - I had a nice ride and figured I'd be good to go on race day!
After making it back to my hotel (the Sheraton Four Points - about 5 minutes from transition), I grabbed a shower and then headed out for some shopping and sightseeing. One of my targets: Fort Henry. Now, the Fort was a few km away, but I walked there anyways. The fort itself was up on a hill (of course) overlooking Kingston.
On the other side, you could see what I believe is Wolf Island (but I could be wrong!). I loved the towers!

I wandered all around the Fort until I was exhausted and then sat back and watched some marching and weapons drills. They fired one of the big cannon (called a gun on a Fort) - and anyone that knows me knows how much I like cannon. They also fired a lot of muskets, including some neat group firing practice. I really enjoyed that - it went far beyond anything I'd seen before.

Before making the walk back to downtown, I stopped for a beer and watched some sailing practice. It was a nice way to spend a day!

Once I got back to my hotel, I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing - only popping out for a quick bite to eat.
Race Day!
I woke up on race day and almost had a panic attack - my windows were all fogged up! But when I got closer I realized that was just the humidity fogging up the windows: no rain. Thank goodness!
With my hotel so close to transition and the race not starting until 8am, I had tons of time to get ready. I wasn't hungry, so I went out for my quick warm-up ride before eating a Honey Stinger Waffle for Breakfast (whatever works, right?) and setting up my transition area.
I got to chatting with a couple of girls whose bikes were racked nearby. Both of them were also doing their longest triathlon yet - and one was doing it in advance of Barrelman. So I wasn't the only one with that idea. As we put on our wetsuits, we were watching people start to get in the water. I had my normal pre-race gel and then wandered over to the dock. I wasn't worried...until someone said, "Wow, there are a lot of red caps in the water!" I had been told I was in the second wave, so this brought my head up very quickly.
The race start was a good 50-100m out in the water. Since no one on the dock knew the wave order, I just jumped in and swam out. Good thing too because apparently they changed the start order and I was now in the first wave. My swim out to the start gave me a decent (if short) swim warm up...just in time for the gun to go off! Phew! Fortunately, that water was actually beautiful - so it was very easy to swim in.
The swim itself was a weird parallelogram (probably the first time I've used that word since high school math class) - but I felt like I got into a decent rhythm pretty quickly. The buoys were well placed on the way out - although on the way back there could've been an extra one or two. Thankfully I had enough stuff in the background to sight off of.
According to the race, I finished the swim in 40:24 - but that included T1. My watch said I finished the swim in 37:30 - which means my transition time was around 3 minutes (I have slow transitions, I know). I was really happy with that swim time though!
Hilarity ensues: The bike
The bike was a bit of a rolling disaster - but only in a funny way. Nothing irreparable! About a kilometre into the bike I realized my watch was still in swim mode. Argh. I apparently failed to put it in multi-sport mode when I started so I had to reset it. I tried to do this on the go, but it was just way too complicated. Not wanting a repeat of TTF (where I couldn't see my speed/cadence the whole time) - I stopped for a minute and fixed my watch. After all, my coach really wanted me to pay attention to my cadence - and the whole race was meant to be a practice for Barrelman. I figured it was worth it. And I was right: best 30 seconds I've ever spent.
Of course, another 15 minutes or so after fixing my watch (about 10k into the course now) - I realized I had to go pee - I mean I really had to go. So much so I spent the next 15k thinking about how quickly I could get in and out of a porta-pottie at the turnaround. I am sure I'd read that there would be one.
And then I got to the turnaround. There was nothing! Oh no, I thought. I spent the second half of the course spending more time holding it in than I did worrying about my pace. In fact, there were several times I stood in my saddle just to give my bladder a break (this is so ridiculously funny in hindsight). And of course, the whole way I was thinking, No wonder people pee on the bike! But that was not an option for me.
And before you ask, I didn't see any convenient bushes or trees. Well, there were lots, but I would've had to wade through a lot of grass and weeds to get there. With my luck, it would've been poison ivy. So I held it. And held it. And held it some more.
Meanwhile my Camel-bak experiment (a way to drink on the bike) was a fail for this race because I daren't try and take even a sip of water. Also, I didn't quite have it fitted properly, so it slid a bit over to my left.
So there I was riding up and down hills, slightly lop-sided, in desperate need to pee.
56.2km has never felt so long.
Despite this comedy of errors, I made it back to transition (and to a porta-pottie) without any incidents. I admit, I was not smiling when I got off my bike. All I could think about was how badly I needed to go - and that I just needed to make it a few more steps!
 I finished the bike in 2:04:20. I was hoping to break 2 hours, but given my entertaining mishaps, no complaints. I learned a lot for Barrelman!
Almost home: the Run!
After taking my long-awaited pit stop, I headed out on the run course...just as the winner of the race - Cedric Boily - crossed the finish line. I actually got to see him just as I was headed out. He did the race in 2h47 minutes. Wow!
The run course was surprisingly hilly but there were a lot of aid stations, which broke it up nicely. I found the course very scenic and enjoyed the waterfront views and getting to run by Kingston Penitentiary. Fascinating building (just like you see in the movies) but kind of creepy too. Don't need to see that from the inside, that's for sure!
I forgot to have a gel in T1, so as soon as I was on the run I had a couple of shot blocks. I also started sipping from my water bottle. Given it was a decently hot and humid day, the fact I had only had two tiny sips of water so far in the race was no doubt a bad thing. This is why I like my handheld. I didn't have to guzzle water - I could sip it on the go. Worked like a charm.
At every aid station, I topped off my water (I drank a ton) - I was surprised at how nice and cold it was! And then, at pretty much all of the stations on the back half of the course, I also dumped a cup of water on my head. I was broiling by the end.
In terms of the run itself - I got into a decent pace and kept it up for much of the 15k (it obviously shifted on the hills). I had a sore muscle in my side from my lopsided Camel-bak (only used on the bike!) but I don't think that slowed me down too much. All in all, I finished the run in 1:27:02. A decent run on a hot/humid day - and I enjoyed most of it, which was nice!
Crossed the finish line in 4:14:34 (10/15 in my AG). Yes, I definitely was smiling as I crossed the finish line. It was an awkward smile - but a smile!
What I Learned

K-Town was an amazing triathlon to do. It was a beautiful race venue with amazing volunteers (Thank you to any who might be reading this!). It also was long enough to really give me a taste of what I'm in for at Barrelman. Specific lessons learned, included:
  • Check, double check, and triple check your wave start.
  • If you have a Garmin 910 - to put the watch in multi-sport mode - you need to hit Enter on the screen BEFORE you hit start. I really need to knock this one into my head.
  • If you're wearing a Camel-bak on the bike, fit is crucial. You don't want it to sit lopsided.
  • Sometimes it's worth stopping for 30 seconds in a longer race to fix/adjust an issue rather to spend hours being annoyed by it.
  • Double check if there are porta-potties on the bike course. Having to go is the most distracting thing ever. If you think you might need to go - go in T1! (For those of you that pee on the bike - well, I guess you don't have this problem. Personally - barring an incident, I am NOT going there ever. I am not fast enough that a minute or two in the loo is ever going to be an issue).
  • A visor (Got mine through the Toronto Triathlon Club) is actually great to wear on a hot and long run course....leaves room for you to dump water on your head at every aid station!).
  • Don't forget to smile and thank the volunteers on the course!

Seriously MultiSportCanada? The K-town medal was AWESOME (gorgeous design!) and the finisher's hat to go with the shirt was a nice surprise! Thanks for a great race!

And thanks always to my coach - Mark Linseman (of Loaring Personal Coaching) who continues to help me get better at swimming, biking and running - and at doing triathlons. He also manages to put up with my long-winded training reports every day. Seriously, even in Training Peaks, I have zero ability to be "brief."

Friday, August 8, 2014

Toronto Triathlon Festival - Fun Times in Fun Weather

Thinking back - and it's hard to remember the Toronto Triathlon Festival - despite the fact it was less than a month ago (although I am cutting it close with this race report!).

This wasn't the race I was expecting it to be. Coming off of an incredible time at Motor City, I expected to get a PR on this course - since I've had so much more training. But life doesn't always work the way you think it will. Instead of a PR, the race reminded me why I race: because I love it. Even when the weather isn't the greatest, I still can have an awesome time! Even going slow, even being afraid - I can still be awesome.

Be Awesome Today. That was the word of the day at TTF I think. And I came through with flying colours.

So how did the weekend go? Well, it was an adventure - including way more than just a race!

Volunteering - LPC Club Ambassador, TTC Booth, Pan Am Test Race

In the two days leading up to race day, I don't think I sat down very much. I volunteered a lot because I had some awesome opportunities - and I figured why not? TTF was a practice race for Barrelman - not an A race, so I figured some volunteering would just make the weekend more fun. And I did have a blast. Friday and Saturday were gorgeous making it easy to do stuff and volunteer!

As the teamLPC Club Ambassador for Triathlon Ontario for the race, I wanted to be at the expo as much as possible to talk with people about the benefits of joining the triathlon community and to hand out TO membership cards. I figured the registration would be the best time to meet people and to chat with them....much easier than trying to do it on race day - while racing! :)

And I was right - I spent Friday and Saturday afternoon outside the expo tent, catching people as they went from the ultra-long race briefing (which I could've given by the time I went to a briefing as a race participant) to the place where they got their shirts and race bags.

I found people generally more than happy to chat - especially the people doing their first race, some of whom were asking me for advice or making nervous comments (which I could definitely relate to)

Do I really need a wetsuit? Heck yes. Lake Ontario is cold!

How bad will the swim start be? Not as bad as you think. If you're nervous - stay near the back, count to 10 after the gun goes off and then get going.

I'm going to come in last: Don't worry about your time - just focus on being awesome!

It was actually kind of nice talking to these folks - because this was me not very long ago (like last year at TTF!) and to hopefully give them the encouragement other people have give - and continue to give - me!

All in all, this was great and I must have talked to at least 500 people over the course of the two days.

Volunteering - Toronto Triathlon Club Booth

Far be it from me to volunteer on behalf of only one of my triathlon clubs - so I volunteered for a session at the TTC booth as well - talking about the club, training, and various perks of being a member (like all the group training and seminar/workshops). The folks in the TTC have helped me an incredible amount over the past year and a half - offering encouragement, advice and friendship. Needless to say, talking about the club for a few hours was easy! I also got to get one of the club visors (which I wore in Kingston to great effect!)

Volunteering - Pan Am Test Race

On top of the rest of my awesome volunteering gigs, I also helped with the Pan Am Test Race on Saturday morning. Got up ridiculously early to walk to a friend's house where I caught a ride down (strangely, my scenic route there involved passing a 24h Tim Hortons...).

My volunteering role turned out to be an athlete chaperone for drug testing....which was actually quite fascinating. It was a pretty easy task, involving a lot of time watching/cheering for people while waiting for the women to finish their race. After that, I needed to notify/escort one of the athletes around before she got tested. Interesting process that's taken very seriously. I liked getting that interesting peek at the world of young elite athletes!

Oh yes, I did a race too!

When I woke up on Sunday, I was relieved to see no rain! It stayed dry while I got to the race site and set up my transition area...and then, while I was inside a porta-pottie, it began to POUR! I admit, it was the only time I actually wanted to spend more time in one of those!

Putting on my wetsuit was a hilarious feat given it was sopping wet. Wow. Try putting on a wet wetsuit...I dare you! But, I got it on and managed to get down to the swim start.

Here we are all geared up! Go TTC!

The start was a little delayed, but only by 5-10 minutes. My wave was the second last to go I think. Here we are getting ready to jump in the water (we started in the water). That's me in the middle looking like I am praying. In reality, I was just psyching myself up to get into the cold water...which actually wasn't too bad since I was already soaking wet. A good use for that torrential rain earlier!

I actually had a great swim. Other than the fact the course could've used more markers - I swam pretty straight (I think) and felt fast. I finished 5th in my Age Group in 28:50 I admit, that seemed really slow in hindsight (only 3 seconds faster than last year), but I heard later that the course was long by 100-200m. If that's true, then I actually had a spectacular swim!

As an aside, who would've guessed swimming would be my best (in comparison to others in my AG) of the three triathlon sports?

It wasn't raining when I got back to transition after the swim - although it took me a little extra time because all my bike gear was soaked, even though it had been in a plastic bag!

Got on my bike, very happy because it wasn't raining!

Ha. No, I was not intentionally giving anyone the finger! Apparently I need to rethink my hand position on the bike!

There were no photographers on the bike course, which is probably good because they might have caught me without a smile on my face. It was wet and there were a lot of standing puddles, which made for a very nervous Jana!

But the truth is - in hindsight - I actually had a great ride up to Eglinton (that was the uphill part) - managing quite a good pace ~30k/mh for much of the way. Not that I knew this because my watch was in the wrong mode so I couldn't see anything! Argh. So I rode with no pace or cadence or anything...all I got to see was my time. Oops. Really need to figure out my watch!

So there I was feeling decently...and then I hit the turnaround. The downhill back from Eglinton should've been the easy part, but there was a fierce wind - and it started to rain. Just what I wanted!

I gave myself permission to ride at whatever speed I needed to in order to feel in control (which apparently was very slow...but at least I couldn't see my speed!). I also sang a lot to myself to ease my nerves. At one point I was riding into the wind and rain and it crossed my mind that a few years ago, I never would've dreamed I'd be riding on the DVP in the rain in a triathlon. That made me smile - and I knew that even though I was nervous, I wouldn't have chosen to be anywhere else at the time!

My final time was quite slow (20th in my AG): 1:25:23 - a few minutes slower than last year. That's okay with me though. I felt good for getting practice riding in less than fantastic weather - and for not crashing!

Got back to T2 where I had another slightly long transition before heading out onto the run course!

I wasn't smiling yet - but I was focused!

The run itself was pretty good. I was feeling great for being on solid ground (it's like a reward after the bike)!

I managed a pretty consistent pace the whole time, which was great. It wasn't quite as fast as I thought I could do, but given the bike - I was very happy with it! My run time was 51:58 (14th in my AG) - a couple of minutes faster than last year (avg. pace of 5:12 per km).

And then I was in the final stretch...

I crossed the finish line in 2:51:51 (13/27 in my AG) - about 2 minutes slower than last year, and a good 15 minutes slower than Motor City a few years ago. What a difference perfect weather (and Michigan's ultra-flat loop course) make!

When it comes to this race, I was pleased with how I did. I had my first chance to bike in a race in crappy conditions (although not as crappy as the Sprint racers - many of whom had to bike through a torrential downpour) - which proved to me that I could do it, even if I wasn't doing it fast. That's a big deal because there's no saying what the weather is going to be like in September for Barrelman!

A Note on Recovery

I was toast after this race for a solid week, much to my surprise. After racing Kingston (the next report I need to write) - I realized that much of that exhaustion probably had less to do with racing and more to do with the standing for hours and hours I did in the days prior to TTF. But in my mind, volunteering was well worth it because I had a lot of fun. And that's what this is all about - having fun and being awesome!