Race Report: Provincial Duathlon Championships (MultiSport Lakeside Duathlon)

Thinking I had slipped under the radar without posting a summary of this race, I learned that I was wrong. So here goes...

The MultiSport Lakeside International Distance Duathlon doubled as the Ontario Provincial Duathlon Championships. In the weeks leading up to this September weekend, I suspect any athlete tapped into this scene could sense the online and in-person enthusiasm growing, due, in a large part, to the efforts of Jesse as well as Larry Bradley.

As chatter continued online, it became obvious that the event would bring out just as competitive a field as the National Duathlon Championships at the Toronto Triathlon Festival, if not more.

I enjoy Lakeside, having competed there three times out of the past four years. Part of the experience for me each time is staying at the same bed & breakfast, set among the corn fields west of Woodstock. (All the rain this summer must have been good for the crops. I checked and I couldn't reach the tops of the of the stalks, even standing on my toes.)

This time, I had the added bonus of driving out to the race with Jesse and his girlfriend Emma, and we stayed at the same B&B. Jesse had competed on Saturday morning and after a quick trip home to change, was ready to return to Lakeside, with plans to live tweet the Sunday race. On the drive, we alternated between chatting about the duathlon scene and best choices for TV binge watching.  When the conversation shifted from Netflix,we talked about creating a discussion forum on Jesse's site, grooming talent within the duathlon scene and his trip to the USA Nationals. After stopping in Woodstock for a pasta dinner, we were off to our bed & breakfast.

I was determined to enter Lakeside full of energy. A month prior, a busy summer at work and in training had taken its toll, and I didn't feel mentally or physically strong at the MultiSport Toronto Island Duathlon.

Two weeks prior to this race, I took a mini-vacation spent an extra long weekend on the island of Bermuda. I intentionally kept the trip unstructured, making it a go-with-the-flow experience, which was what both my partner and I needed. While I didn't bike, I did run almost daily and the gorgeous scenery, heat and humidity, and surprisingly sharp little hills keep things interesting.

The week prior to Lakeside, I increased my hours of sleep as well as calorie and carbohydrate intake. Roger wrote some speed and interval work into my program, which helped keep my legs moving and ready for the effort of the race.

Race Day
We weren't sure what conditions to expect upon arriving at the venue. Racers the day before faced cold rains that turned the gravel roads and transition zone into pockmarked mud pits.

Okay, perhaps it wasn't quite this bad.

That me think of this blog by Obsessive Runner Andrew Chak comparing road runners and trail runners. Admittedly, I fall more into the former than the latter, though I do appreciate a good run through Toronto's ravines. As I arrived, I saw that thankfully, conditions had improved significantly.

My warm-up time passed quickly and I spent it trying to do just that: warm up (and stay warm). Heading out on the bike course to ride out a few kilometres, I returned shivering and considering wearing a jacket for the race. Instead, I donned arm warmers and thin gloves, hoping that in addition to adrenaline and body heat, they would be enough to keep me warm.

First Run (10 km): 40:05 - Many familiar faces gathered at the start line, including Larry Bradley, Darryl Flacks, Garvin Moses and Grahame Rivers. I met Shayne Dumouchelle and later connected with Scott Finch and Andrew McLeod. All of these gentlemen had been podium finishers this season at various duathlons. Notably absent were Jesse Bauer, Chris Marentette, Michael Gratton and Spencer Summerfield, who had all raced the day before, as well as Brad Reiter and Ryan Allison, who sat this weekend out.

All these fierce competitors meant the race would be fast.

The gun went off and the athletes burst forward, with about a dozen setting a fast sub-3:45/km pace. I kept my cool and stayed with them, figuring the rolling hills and length of the first run would help spread out the pack, which it did. I gradually passed several guys, while watching with admiration as Larry, Darryl and Scott duked it out for the top three positions. They have such speed and consistency - way to go, guys.

And away we go...

Rounding the corner to begin my second 5 km lap. Smiling!

By the end of the first run, I had climbed into fourth place, with a time of 40:05 on the deceivingly challenging course. Despite all my visualization beforehand, I actually hadn't been on these roads since 2012 and that 10 km passes much faster from the comfort of home!

T1 (38 seconds) - Zipping into transition, I had a number of other runners on my tail. I envisioned this might happen and since I wasn't sure about their cycling strength, my goal was to exit transition as quickly as possible. I thought Shayne Dumouchelle must be somewhere nearby and knew he'd be a threat throughout the race. I later learned he had dropped out after the first run.

My helmet buckle can be temperamental and again, it wouldn't click into place. (A new helmet is on my Christmas list this year.) I finally darted out of transition, taking care to avoid the mud I had spotted earlier that morning, and mounted my bike.

Bike (40 km): 1:08:29 - I figured the cycling course would be interesting (that word being a euphemism for so many more descriptive adjectives). Somewhere behind would be Grahame Rivers and I wanted to get as far ahead as possible before he blew by. The first duathlete to pass me would actually be Andrew McLeod, pushing me into fifth place. D'oh! My mantra at that point was "keep up, keep him in sight." Alas, that wasn't to be, as I bumped up against a Triathlon Ontario official that occupied the passing lane and appeared to be in the process of writing up a group of drafting triathletes. "Could I please just go around you?" I wanted to call out.

By the time I made it around the group, Andrew had disappeared among the other athletes ahead. Regardless, I felt strong and aerodynamic. Where were these headwinds everyone kept mentioning?

Turning eastbound on county road 96, I eventually came across Larry, stopped on the left side of the road. Calling out to make sure he was okay, I continued, sorry to hear that he was dropping out. Moments later, Grahame zoomed by, leaving me wondering what speed he was cranking out.

I felt strong throughout the race, until I turned southbound for the final 12-13 km of the course. That's when the winds hit hard. During the final 10 km of rolling hills, I lost speed as I shifted between gears. How could there be so many sharp little hills in such a short space? (Looking at the map, I now see it's almost a 10 km stretch.)

At the final turnoff toward transition, Greg Higgs caught and passed me, pushing me into sixth place. How rude! It's funny how the mental game plays out because I immediately found new energy, hit the gas and chased him back to the race site. Seeing him execute a flying dismount, I figured he would be fast in transition, and so I planned for the coming battle to the finish.

T2 (36 seconds) - Rack bike, helmet off, shoes on, go! In the haze, I was somewhat conscious of Roger taking pictures.

Paparazzo Roger crawled under a fence to take this shot

Second Run (5 km): 20:29 - Beating Greg out of transition, I launched into the second run in 5th place. There was a moment when I thought that if someone passed me, it would be over. There were several more moments when I considered taking a brief walking break. This run was tough.

I tried a little mental trick to help me push the pain aside and gain speed. (I've since replicated it at the Scotia half marathon. This tactic appears to work...) I passed a couple of triathletes to start creating cushion and build confidence. I would later learn I had the fastest second run split in the race.

For the final 2.5 km, I tried to push a little harder, to put some safe distance between me and those behind me and see if I could catch Grahame. With under 200 metres to go, I spotted him ahead and as he glanced back, I tried to hide behind a triathlete. (It made sense at the time.) No luck. So much for hide & seek! I sprinted, panting and gasping, trying to catch him before the finish line.

It all came down to this battle to the finish...

Favourite finish line shot ever. 

Overall Time: 2:10.14 - We crossed the finish 1.2 seconds apart, Grahame holding onto fourth and me taking fifth, with a smile on my face. What a showdown. A volunteer took my timing chip while I did my best to stay upright and catch my breath.

Scott, Darryl and Andrew took the top 3 overall spots on the podium, followed by Grahame and then me. Congratulations to each of you. It was a tough race with a number of unexpected twists, but I personally left feeling elated to wrap up the duathlon season on a high note.

Happy and sore racers. 

My thanks to the team at MultiSport Canada for making it possible for so many of us to take part in a sport we love. It has been an exciting season with you. A shout out to all the fellow duathletes that are sharing in the camaraderie and adventure of racing together. Last but not least, thank you to Roger and the Ignition Fitness gang for the coaching, guidance and strategy over the past 11 months. Looking forward to 2015!