Race Report: MultiSport Canada Bracebridge International Duathlon - Provincial Championships 2015

Sunday, August 9th marked my second time competing in the Triathlon Ontario Provincial Duathlon Championships.  Last year, the race took place at the end of my first season of coaching with Ignition Fitness and it was about trying it out and seeing what would happen.  This year, I had more at stake and a desire to secure a spot on Team Canada for the 2016 World Age Group Duathlon Championships in Spain.

The day before, I wondered how it would all play out, as I caught wind of some speedy guys coming out to tear up the sprint distance race course.  But I didn't spend much time contemplating the race, because I had to pack and lay out my gear, before heading to bed by 8:30 p.m.  My alarm was set for 3:45 a.m. the next day to give me time to make the two hour drive to Bracebridge and still arrive early enough for a decent warm-up and to score a good spot in transition.  I often have a restless sleep before a race, as I dream about it and worry that my alarm won't wake me.  This night was no different.

Leaving the city at 5:00 a.m., before the sunrise, was a new experience for me.  I rarely drive to races the morning of and likewise, I am hardly ever on the road that early.  Crossing the Bloor Street Viaduct and seeing the pulsating lights of the Luminous Veil, turning on CBC Radio and catching a radio documentary out of Scotland, flying up Highway 400 - I tried to drink it all in.  As day slowly began to bloom on the horizon, fields became visible in the morning light and the Holland Marsh appeared around me as a hazy sea, dotted with the occasional rooftop of a house, floating in the fog.  When I got far enough north, I tuned into the Moose 99.5 FM, our favourite radio station to listen to when visiting friends' cottages.

About 30-40 minutes before arriving in Bracebridge, I started yawning and considering why I hadn't booked a hotel room the night before.  (Answer: the $180+ price tag, that's why!)

Unloading my bike at the race site, a familiar voice greeted me and Daryl Flacks walked by, Tim Hortons coffee in hand.  (I remember that detail because I have given up caffeine, but that morning, I would have gladly had a cup.)

I made my way into the transition area and saw, to my pleasure, a separate duathlon area.  A number of athletes, including Larry Bradley, Garvin Moses, Andrew McLeod, Kevin Gallagher, Howie Walker and Shayne Dumouchelle, were already setting up or arriving.  The big guys were out!

Mind you, those were the familiar faces.  What had me curious were the unfamiliar names and faces, and a lot of the pre-race chatter focused on the new guys that had competed the day before.  Triathlon Ontario and MultiSport Canada had paired up for a "Du-the-Double" weekend, offering prize money to the top male and female athletes that competed on both days.  Totally neat idea.  I have much respect for both organizations for launching the challenge, and also to the athletes that took part.

Pre-race, Daryl and I went out for a warm-up ride, which I enjoyed because we got to have a good conversation and I admire his talent and work ethic.

Around the time that we arrived back into transition, someone mentioned that David Frake had showed up.  Many in the duathlon community will know him as the national champion and past winner of the world age group duathlon championships.  He is also known as the Frake Train.  I suspect many of us were quietly recalculating our final race positions, assuming he would be on the podium.  Before the horn blew, we learned David was competing in the relay.  Phew.  (He posted the top bike split of the day.)

On to the race...

Up the hill we go...

First Run (10 km): 39:46
Before embarking on the first run, Andrew jokingly said he would pace off of me.  I agreed, suggesting he could return the favour on the bike.  Unfortunately, only a kilometre or two into the run, I was battling the urge to quit.  I just felt lethargic, despite the perfect conditions and the energy of my competitors.  I worried about my shins, which had been hurting all week.  I reasoned with myself that at that moment, I actually felt pretty good, so let's just keep on going.  Andrew, perhaps sensing that I wasn't going to push the pace, took the lead and together, we ran with Daryl for a good chunk of this split.  Eventually, Daryl dropped back somewhat and Andrew and I entered transition together.  Looking back at this split time, I'm not satisfied, because I had a faster time on a tougher run course at Gravenhurst.  But I've learned from the experience.

T1: 0:34
Knowing Andrew was nearby, I hightailed it through transition without any issues.

Bike (40 km): 1:11:41
Just beyond the mount line, I heard Andrew yell something in dismay, and I worried I had cut him off.  I later learned that his shoe had fallen off the pedal.  It didn't stop him for long, because he passed me moments later and I was in pursuit.  We were both slowed by a van that was in turn caught behind some triathletes riding two and three abreast.  Andrew made his move and passed the van, and I dropped back a bit.

Somewhere beyond the 10 km mark, I heard the familiar whrrrr of some 365 Wheels and a familiar red flash, and there went Daryl.  It's possible that some other duathletes passed me around the same time (my memory eludes me), as I saw Daryl up ahead in a cluster with some other cyclists.

Overall, even though my bike split is my relative weak spot, I'm pleased with how it came together.  Once I got a (caffeinated) gel into me, my cloudy mood lifted (surprise!) and the world was a wonderful place.  I enjoyed the scenery -- likely not a good thing, during a race -- and I pushed up the hills.  The terrain reminds me of rides north of Toronto to towns like Kleinburg and Musselmans Lake.  Some sharp hills, gradually sloping vistas and some fun descents.

I held my aero position well and tried to focus on pedalling, remembering advice given to me at Sweet Pete's during my RETUL bike fit session.  I finished a full bottle of water and both gels, right on track with my plan from HEAL Nutrition.  As a result, coming into transition I felt much stronger than I did at Gravenhurst.

The challenge for me going forward is to hammer harder on the bike and use the strength I've built this season, rather than pace myself slow enough that I have fuel in the tank at the end.

Coming into transition

T2: 0:40
I racked my bike right on top of my shoes, which slowed me for a few seconds, and then I was off.

Second run (5 km): 20:35
"Okay, so that's the way the run is supposed to feel," I thought to myself.  A couple weeks earlier, at Gravenhurst, my glutes hurt with every step during the first couple kilometres of the second run split.  I felt fine this time and looking down at my watch, I saw my pace hovering at and below 4:00/km.  Excellent.  Let's go hunting.

I carried a small water bottle so I wouldn't need to slow at aid stations.  That helped keep me relatively hydrated and I eventually passed a couple duathletes.  One looked particularly strong and so I surged and kept my foot on the gas right onto the grass and to the finish line.

Yes, a smile!

Looking at the results, Larry battled it out and placed third, Andrew took sixth and Daryl ninth. I came in tenth and second in my age category, earning a spot on Team Canada.

Brian Moore, a day after winning the sprint du, took home the additional honour of provincial champion at the international distance.  He has a wealth of natural talent and after meeting him and speaking to his parents, it's clear he works hard at the sport.  Congrats to Brian!

Brian Moore, Provincial Champion

Thanks to Ignition Fitness, Sweet Pete's, Foundation Physiotherapy, Yorkville Chiropractic Centre and HEAL Nutrition for your support on this fun journey.  Special thanks also to my partner Rob for his ongoing support, including helping load the car at 4:45 a.m.!