Race Reports: August

What happened to August? And September? Just like that, they seemed to disappear. It's a conundrum: the more you pack into the summer, the more you get out of it, but the faster it goes.

So here I am, belatedly blogging about August. Last month, I had two races on the go, both of which took me to the Toronto Islands. The first, the Sunset Shuffle, is a 6 km road race hosted by one of our city's oldest running clubs, the Longboat Runners. The second race was a sprint duathlon hosted by MultiSport Canada.

Sunset Shuffle
This race is an absolute blast.

Friend, colleague and running buddy Deb introduced me to this event last year and it immediately became a fixture on my summer calendar. It's after work on a Thursday evening and it has an inclusive, community feel to it... and a free BBQ and party afterward.

Our gang brings along extra food and beverages so that we have a true picnic feast waiting for us when we get the run out of the way. Our table looked something like the one below, only ours had more food (as well as red wine and flameless candles).

Knowing that I had the MultiSport Canada Toronto Island sprint duathlon three days later, I didn't have a game plan until the afternoon of the race. Would I treat it as a training run with some intervals thrown in? Take it completely easy? Or push it to test myself? I chose the last option, rationalizing that my program usually includes speed work a few days before a duathlon.

I managed to turn in a time of 22:41, at an approximate pace of 3:47/km. That happily netted me 16th overall, fourth in my age group and absolutely a personal best.

Shortly thereafter, our friend Mayling crossed the finish line, claiming third in her age group. Together, we cheered on Deb, Jen and Rob as they finished strong. We then promptly cleaned up and got down to the business of having our summer's evening picnic and taking in the awards ceremony. We're already planning for next year...

MultiSport Canada Toronto Island Sprint Duathlon

This race is a staple on my calendar, as it was my first duathlon, back in 2007. The warm welcome and professionalism of the MultiSport team has kept me coming back for more, year after year.

Awaiting the ferry to the island, before sunrise

Rob and I - first two athletes in the duathlon transition area

This year, in a new twist, Rob signed up for the du as a surprise. The changes the dynamic for the better, as you both immediately have someone to chat with about the race experience.

I had an active month of August that involved travelling twice, an increasing training load and a busy period at work. In hindsight, I see how that contributed to my mood and energy levels at the start line of this race. A few minutes before the gun, I said to Rob, "I'm not excited about this race like I usually am."

Duathletes at the start line

That said, having learned over the course of the summer that I can generally keep up with people near the front of the pack, I toed close to the start line. Looking around, I saw Ignition athlete Jesse Bauer, who had won each MultiSport Canada race he contested this season, as well as uber-fast runners Chris Marentette and Mitchell Valic. To my right stood Garvin Moses, an all round strong duathlete that had already been on the podium this season. I mentally planned who to track from a distance and who to pace over the run.

First Run (4.8 km): 19:19 - Like several of the duathlons this season, we took off fast from the start line, hammering the first kilometre. As expected, Jesse, Chris and Mitchell took the lead, followed by Garvin. Only a kilometre into the first run, I began counting down the minutes until it would be over, which is never a good sign that early in the race! From behind came another speedy athlete, Phillip McCatty, and eventually, he, Garvin and I settled into a rhythm.

Garvin and I approaching transition

T1 (44 seconds) - Arriving early on race morning has its advantages. I had scored the best spot on the racks and pointed my front tire toward the exit. I left T1 ahead of Garvin and Phillip, and for the first time, successfully executed a flying mount onto my bike.

Bike (20 km) 32:37 - Overall, this time represented a new personal best for the distance. All of the training, as well as the new rear wheel cover, paid off.

On the bike course, I expected the placings would change and they did indeed. About 1 km out of transition, Garvin and Phillip passed me. I told myself to chase them, but alas, I did not do so effectively, and they kept gaining ground. In time, I caught Chris, Mitchell and another person ahead of me, moving into fourth place.

The roads of the Toronto Island seemed oddly busy that morning, which sparked some hair-raising surprises. At one point, a family of cyclists appeared, riding down the middle of the path, while athletes careened past them in both directions. Later, a maintenance van entered the roadway, effectively blocking an entire lane and slowing down lead athletes. Happily, I managed to avoid both incidents. Likewise, the thin paths and twists and turns bothered some of the cyclists. As I'd rode this course many times before, I felt comfortable staying in aero for the majority of the race.

Dismounted and approaching transition

T2 (46 seconds) - After executing a flying dismount, I hit a snag. As I ran toward transition, my rear wheel cover pulled my chain, which rotated my pedals, causing my shoes to catch the ground, sending my bike partially into the air. I held on and then carried my bike all the way to my rack.

Second run (2.8 km) 11:14 - Entering the second run, I had a single goal in mind: stay in front of Chris and Mitchell. Ideally, it would have been great to catch Phillip or Garvin, but on a short run like this, one can only make up so much time.

I kept a steady pace of around 4:00/km, again reminding myself that I had trained for this kind of situation. On the last lap, I could see Chris approaching steadily, right through until the final turnaround. At that point, I put the pedal on the gas until I could see the finish line in sight. Thinking Chris was further behind, I let up a little for the final few metres. Little did I know, he had pulled up right behind me! We nearly had a photo finish, with Chris just 1.2 seconds behind. (That number will come back to me a month later....)

The happy podium finishers

Despite the somewhat negative mental chatter, I scored a top five finish on my home turf, representing second in my age group. A couple other accomplishments: I finally nailed the flying bike mount and ran a faster pace during the second split. As a learning, for my next race, I made a note to think carefully about the taper, in order to arrive fresh and ready to go.