Race Report: Guelph Sprint Duathlon 2015

It was a day of firsts. On June 21, I raced the Subaru Guelph Lake sprint duathlon for the first time and tried some new adaptations to my race day strategy.  Something clicked and I placed first overall – itself a first for me.

Registering for this race was pretty much a game time decision: I signed up just seven days in advance.  When one of my usual events, MultiSport Canada's Binbrook weekend, was cancelled this year, I began looking elsewhere, hoping to squeeze in a second duathlon by the end of June.  When transportation fell into place, I decided to register. 

For this race, I planned two tests:

(1) Experimenting using a quick release kit for my Garmin 310XT, allowing me to switch it from wrist to bike and back again.  Until now, I've raced the bike portion of duathlons without any metrics.  I prefer seeing numbers!  For this race, I secured the Garmin to my right aerobar using the provided hardware.  I had to adjust the position of my right arm to accommodate and so I plan to switch it to a barfly before my next race.  

(2) Using the data up front as the impetus to try hammering throughout the bike, instead of my usual approach, which is to reserve energy for the final run.  (Side note: I still got passed on the bike, with much respect to the strength and speed shown by Michael Gratton, who called out an encouraging greeting as he went by.)

On with the traditional race report...

First Run (2 km): 7:11
I went out hard, just like at Woodstock.  A competitor in another age group caught me, passed me, but then fell back at the turnaround.  The surface of the road was mostly clear asphalt, which helped offset the challenge of the rolling hills and the high humidity.  Happily, the thunderstorms the forecasters predicted the night before were nowhere to be seen, but on this part of the course, the sun was blazing and the breeze largely absent.

T1 (0:52)
The duathlon bike racks sat at the far end of the transition area.  It was quite a hike to the bike exit, but I had a great spot, next to Tim, an athlete from London, who was riding a sweet Guru with a funky paint job.

At this point, I'll say that I was surprised by the lack of security in the transition area, as compared to the MultiSport Canada series.  Each entrance had a sign restricting the area to athletes only, but no one enforced it and spectators seemingly roamed freely throughout the space.  It made me nervous, considering I've already had my bike stolen in February and back in 2013, a triathlete had theirs stolen from the transition area at a Somersault event.  Hopefully, Subaru will dedicate more resources to security in the future.

I was first into and out of transition and passing the mount line, unexpectedly, I executed a true flying mount.  I'm not sure where that came from, but I think I'll keep it.  

The view from our bike rack.  You'll see the exit way out there in the distance. 

Bike (19 km): 33:52
Ah, the bike. As promised, Watson Road was bumpy and that, coupled with a fierce headwind, made for a good workout.  I tried to alternate hammering it with breaks spent pedalling at lighter gears.  I wasn't satisfied with the speed I maintained, although I knew everyone faced the same conditions. 

Finally off that road and heading east after the 5 km mark, I heard the smooth whir of Mike Gratton's bike passing by. I thought to myself, "If I'm going to be passed, I'm happy it's by a class act like him!" I tried to keep him in sight but somewhere between 10 km and 15 km, I lost him. His bike split was just over 2.5 minutes faster than mine - well done!

About 1 km out from transition, I flew down a hill, only to smack into a sharp pothole, cursing under my breath when I realized that, yes, it was the same pothole I hit during my warmup. 

T2 (0:54)
With my Garmin safely back on my wrist, I grabbed a mini water bottle and took off.  Mike's front wheel spun gently in the breeze as I passed, which motivated me, because I imagined he was only steps ahead.  (In reality, it was the wind and he had been gone for 1.5 minutes, but hey, some positive visualization is a good thing.)

Second Run (5 km): 18:49
Setting out on the course, I focused on keeping my cadence fast, posture tall and mindset positive.  I imagined a run from the day before, when a friend poked me and said, "I'm pressing the turbo speed button, let’s go fast now."  A fun mental image!

In the hot sun, I began catching triathletes, until eventually, I reached Mike, somewhere between 3 and 4 kilometres.  I gave him a half handshake / half high five on the way by.  “We got this,” I said/mumbled/gasped.

In the final 200 or 300 metres, zipping up one last incline, I glanced back and realized that no one was on my heels at that time.  I turned to pass the transition area and began running down what felt like an unusually long finishing chute.  I smiled, knowing I was actually about to win the race.  (Well, so I thought, until the announcer said I was the second or third-placed duathlete!)  I realized I'd have to go check the results, but only greeting some of the incoming athletes and hydrating. 

Crossing the finish line - my time was 1:01:40

Mike arrived shortly after and we congratulated each other. Cory Gould, Steve Schmidt and Bill Horwich rounded out the top five in quick succession. 

Knowing that I’m training for the international distance duathlon, even after winning the race, I fretted that I was resting on my laurels, and so I went out for another run and ride.  (Rob later texted and told me – lovingly – that he despises people who are out for extra miles while he’s still racing.) 

Well, I always seem to have some sort of funny incident at a race and this time was no different.  With 30 minutes to go before the award ceremony, I rode out on my bike, half wondering what was causing the squishy noise.  I only rode ten minutes before turning around, as I was on a schedule.  Climbing the final hill toward the race site, it was getting tougher and tougher to maintain speed.

It turns out my back tire had gone partially flat, likely as a result of that sharp pothole I hit both during warm-up and the race.  Adrenaline pumping and stomach growling, I made it back and dashed to the ceremony, trying to laugh at the thought of almost missing it.

Winning the race felt a little unreal then and it still does.  As I said to coaches Roger and Tommy, I’m used to chasing, rather than being chased.  But I will admit, having dedicated so many hours to this sport, it feels great to win first place.  

I don’t have a picture of the medal ceremony, as the Subaru photographer wasn’t at the duathlon awards, so here’s a selfie of the medals and me.

Medals in the image are larger than they appear in real life!

It’s been an exciting and challenging journey, starting coaching with Ignition Fitness in December 2013 and growing over the many weeks and months since then.  I have never dedicated so much time to a “hobby” and, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I keep surprising myself with the results.  A challenge this season will be to shake off the anxiety and have fun during races, while still striving to go faster, a balance I achieved at Guelph. 

Many thanks to my coach, Roger, for patiently charting the course (and recharting it, when I go astray) and guiding me in this sport.  Thank you to my fellow duathletes, who have been so helpful in sharing advice, including (most recently) Jesse, Spencer and Daryl.  We're blessed to be part of a tight knit community of mutually supportive athletes.

Up next is the MultiSport Canada Gravenhurst International Distance Duathlon in July.  See you there!