Getting down in K-Town: Duathlon Race Report

Last Friday afternoon, Rob and I made our way eastbound on the 401 to the K-Town (Kingston) duathlon weekend.

 Road trip!

Despite having raced in the Skechers Performance MultiSport Canada Triathlon Series for several years, it's a venue I haven't experienced, as the timing just hasn't worked out.  I've also had some hesitation about doing it, because the race takes place on a long weekend and as a city dweller, that's one of the ideal times to get away to relax at a cottage.

But when I reached Kingston, I thought to myself, "why in the world did I wait so long to do this one?"  (Full disclosure: I've said the same thing in the past about both Gravenhurst and Bracebridge race weekends - apparently, this is a theme for me!)

We decided to treat this trip as a long weekend away, planning extra time in Kingston and a visit with family in Belleville after the race, as well as a winery tour in Prince Edward County.

Side note: living in the heart of Toronto, I see the cars vs. pedestrians debate that happens every time a street or thoroughfare is shut down for a sporting event.  I therefore think it is important that we support the tourism industry in the towns that we visit for our races.

And there was no shortage of things to do in the beautiful limestone city, as Kingston is known.  Arriving around dinner time, we dropped off our gear at the hotel and caught a cab downtown.  Despite the rain that had started in the area, the square behind city hall was packed for a concert -- people were literally dancing in the streets!

We had a relaxing dinner at Sir John's Public House, a restaurant that occupies the building used by Sir John A. MacDonald for his law office between 1849 and 1860, where I sampled vegan haggis for the first time.  Think nuts and beans and veggies with a taste reminiscent of vinegar.  (Perhaps I haven't done it justice.)  After a brief walk around the neighbourhood, we went back to the hotel to crash.

The next morning, we hailed a cab to go down to the ferry docks, only to learn that our Thousand Islands cruise had been cancelled due to the ferocious winds.  I gazed out onto Lake Ontario and realized that it was the right thing to do.  I also hoped the weather would settle down for race day.

On the bright side, I got to check out the race site as it was being set up by staff and volunteers.  Tourists were taking pictures among the bike racks and children frolicked beneath the metal bars.  The transition area is a highlight of this event, situated in a park alongside Lake Ontario, with boats docked, Old Fort Henry in the distance, and city hall looming above us.

To me, it underscored the hours of work that takes place behind the scenes before we athletes show up on race day - not to mention after we all leave.  My thanks to John, Jason and the team from MSC for everything they do!

That evening, a group of duathletes, family members and an honorary duathlete (AKA triathlete)  gathered for dinner together at Milestones.  It was a fun opportunity to get to know one another outside of the race day and - believe it or not! - talk about things other than our sport!

I got into a deep conversation with Dianne Flacks, partner to MSC Ambassador Daryl Flacks, about the fentenyl crisis facing our province and how the City of Windsor (their hometown) is dealing with homelessness.  Really thought-provoking and powerful stuff.

Of course, we eventually returned to duathlon talk!  Daryl and I spoke about one's mindset and the difference between races were you give it your absolute best versus those where you know you've held back.  Regardless of your results, you hope to have more of the former than the latter.  That is the heart of what this sport is all about to me: performing at your best and when you don't, picking yourself up, learning from the experience, and trying again.

Okay, so let's get to the race itself.

The morning was cold.  I'm talking "turn on the seat warmers for the drive to the race site" cold.  I was a little anxious about cycling on the metal bridge and climbing the hill east of the city, so I rode out onto the course and saw that they weren't a problem at all, despite my vivid imagination.

Returning back to transition, I looked around and it struck me how welcoming this race series is to athletes of all ages and abilities and interests.  People were taking part in a variety of events, from your typical sprint to long distance to run/bike and relay.  This race was hosted in partnership by MSC and Somersault, an Ottawa-based series, both of which work really hard to build our sport and encourage new people to join the community.

MSC Ambassadors goofing around in transition: 
Tory Jones, Spencer Summerfied, Daryl Flacks

The transition area was pretty social.  Randy, a former duathlete / turned triathlete / turned duathlete had happily returned to the fold and was ready to race.  Next to me was Clive, an Ironman triathlete who was doing his first short course event in three years.  They both did a great job out there and here's hoping they're both back for more soon!

Just prior to the race, I got out for a warm-up run with Tim Doris and Kevin Gallagher.  As we arrived at the 2 km mark, I thought, "We better turn around and get back ASAP."  We got back to transition just as MC Steve Fleck announced that we were mere minutes 'til race time.  My bladder made an announcement of its own and so I dashed to a washroom and got to the start line with just a couple minutes to spare.  Not my smoothest pre-race routine.  But hey, on the bright side, it's hard to get nervous when you're occupied to the very last second!

Let's go!

On the race, I led the first run from start to finish.  It was a foreign sensation as I'm much more familiar with chasing.  Once I got my head around it, I rather enjoyed it!

Heading onto the bike course, I set a goal to maintain a certain effort (I won't bore you with power outputs), which I largely did.  I was passed before the halfway mark by an unknown athlete (I eventually learned it was Adric Heney), who I then passed back.  He then passed me again, at which point I saw his duathlon bib.  Oh oh.  He passed me again and then I fell behind.  Regardless, I learned about the importance (to me) of being assertive and passing back and forth on the bike, and not giving up.

Heading out onto the second run, I knew I was in second place and I planned to chase hard.  I also began thinking about the road ahead, as I had heard there would be hills to deal with and soon enough, I found them.  (Thank you to the tourism staff at the old penitentiary for cheering us on as we climbed the hill after the turnaround!)  A thought pattern eventually crept into my mind, "Second place is great, first in your age group is wonderful!" and it came to fruition.

 In the end, Adric added another minute to his lead, running at a faster pace than his first run (wow - impressive!) placing him two minutes ahead of me for the overall win.

What do I do with this thing?

I was thrilled with an overall second place finish.  I was also a little confused.  I saw the ribbon stretched ahead of me at the finish line and for an instant, I thought I needed to tell someone that I'm second, not first, so remove the ribbon.  But for MSC races, the top three positions get the experience, so I grabbed it and held it aloft, savouring the moment.  (I also pondered whether I had frothy deodorant showing in my armpits.)

The duathlon top three: me, Adric and Tim

Shortly after, Tim, Kevin and Randy came blazing into the finish line, in third, fourth and fifth, respectively.  What a performance by such strong athletes.

Refuelled post-race and feeling human again!

What made this second place finish extra meaningful to me is that my dad, my step-mom and my partner Rob were all in attendance.  It's encouraging to do well when you're travelling by yourself and then it is even more rewarding when family is there to support you!

After the usual trading of race "war stories," I made my way over to talk to and congratulate other athletes, and to cheer on others just finishing.  Beth, an old friend from high school was competing in the long distance triathlon and another friend, Julie, was there to support her.  I later learned that Ignition Fitness teammates did exceptionally well that morning: Coach Roger won the duathlon relay, Phillip McCatty came third overall in the triathlon and Brenda won her age group in the long distance triathlon.

A change this year at MSC events is that everyone gets a medal.  That has been a standard at running events for years and now that we have it here, I think it adds a little more fun to these races.  Everyone can celebrate with a little bling after a hard effort.

This picture of the top duathletes really speaks to the sense of community and fun that we share.  Moments after the photo was snapped, Randy cracked a joke and many of us burst out laughing.  To build on an old, informal Queen's University motto, "we work hard, we play hard, and we laugh hard."

I sadly had to slip away from the awards ceremony before it finished, as Rob and I had to check out of our hotel by 1:00 p.m.  Congrats again to everyone who took part in K-Town and especially to those of you who were doing your first race.  We hope to see you again sometime soon!

Next on my race schedule is the Sunset Shuffle, a 6 km run on Toronto Island, which I'll be running twice as an easy run as part of my taper toward the World Age Group Duathlon Championships in Penticton, B.C., later this month.

Many thanks and kudos to the staff and volunteers at MultiSport Canada and Somersault.  I also want to recognize the many sponsors of the race series who make it possible for all of us to enjoy this sport so much.  Thanks also to Sweet Pete's, for helping make my bike into a speed machine!