Right up until we actually got to the race, I wasn’t totally sure I wanted to do this. I mentioned before that I have been struggling with actually wanting to race but I’d already paid for the event and I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. All week I went through the motions of getting ready and it worked – I found myself at the race and had a great time!
The Day Before
The race was in Red Deer and had a 5:45 am start so we drove up on Saturday. Before we left I spent the morning finding all my race gear – most of which hadn’t been used since last summer. Buy a tri-top has been on my wish list for almost a year so I went out and bought one and figured I would just try it out at the race. We loaded the bike, my transition bag and some stuff for the evening into the car and left the city around 4 pm.
Once we got to Red Deer we went to package pickup and grabbed my race numbers and swag bag. The package pickup was at the race location so I was able to look around transition and figure out where everything was. My swag was pretty good – a very stylish bamboo t-shirt (that fits, and looks flattering), hair products, nail polish, some different fuel samples and a few other odds and ends. From package pick up we went to our hotel – it was adequate and not particularly comfortable but since it was cheap it worked out fine. We were both starving by this point so we had dinner, did a little last minute gear prep and then crawled into bed. I stayed up way too late (11:30 pm) watching TV and reading “Life as We Knew It”.
The Morning Of
Our bed time had been too late, and our bed not that comfortable so I was pretty groggy when the alarm went off at 5:15 am. I put on my tri shorts and tank, threw on a hoodie and sweats and made a PB bagel to eat while I waited for my heat. The car was already loaded up so we were out of there pretty quickly.
We arrived at the race around 6 am and I put some air in my tires and then set up my gear in transition. I brought pretty much the same stuff as last time, but this time I remembered a bag to transport it all in. I also tried out some new fuel – Arrowroot cookies for the ride and giant Swedish fish for the run. I packed a lightweight jacket, long sleeved shirt and t-shirt into my transition bag just in case the weather didn’t cooperate.
Then I got body marked and picked up my timing chip. I had another quick walk around transition and ate some raspberries. There was a pre-race meeting at 6:45 am and then the first heats were called to the pool. My heat wasn’t until later so I went to the observation deck to watch the swimmers and try to eat some more. I managed to get down two bananas, most of my PB bagel, half a hash brown and a 250 mL chocolate milk before it was my turn to line up.
The Swim – 750 m, 19:24 (149/201)
I think it was around 9 am when my heat got called. Unlike my last race, you were put into a set heat of four swimmers (based on time) and then were placed into a lane when one was empty. I actually liked this more than the continuous feed – it felt more organized and I felt like the swimmers I were with were a good match to my swim time.
My swim was pretty uneventful. They called our lane, we all hopped in and after 1 length of figuring it out we had all fallen into a swim order that we kept until the end. Swimming still isn’t my strength but I felt comfortable with my pace and stroke. Early on in my lap counting I got distracted and forgot if I was on length 6 or 8 – I went with 6 so was pleased when the counter signalled my last lap sooner than I thought. I hopped out of the pool and ran out to transition.
Transition 1 – 2:30
I pulled off my cap and goggles as I ran and once I got to my bike I tossed them onto my towel. I put on socks and bike shoes and then my race belt and glasses. I ran into trouble when I went to put my helmet on and my hair was up in a bun. I tried to yank it out and my hair elastic got super stuck – I pulled the whole mess into a low bun, jammed my helmet on and grabbed 3 cookies. The lovely volunteer was waving to me at the bike out and I ran past her, trying to shove a couple of cookies in.
The Bike – 20 km, 42:26 (79/201)
It was a long run out and I’m not a graceful bike mounter but I finally got my ride underway. My legs were really tired and I was breathing heavily as I started the ride but I figured it would go away and sped up my pedalling. I wanted to keep my pace around 30 km/hr since I was aiming for a 40 minute ride.
The route was pretty and easy to follow but had a couple of hills. I drank a little water and finished off my cookies as I rode. The turn around points were also very tight so I had to slow down and unclip to keep myself comfortable. Luckily, both hills were on the way out so I got to start the way back with a nice downhill ride. I passed a few people on the bike but other than that it was pretty quiet.
Transition 2 – 1:28
I ran in after the dismount line and quickly racked my bike. I took off my helmet, switched my shoes, jammed my hat on over my rats’ nest of hair and grabbed a handful of Swedish fish for the run.
The Run – 5 km, 24:57 (38/201)
The run was on some beautiful pathways that led down into the river valley – which unfortunately meant there was a giant hill on the way back! I mentioned it to a volunteer on my way down and she told me not to think about it yet – I’d have lots of time on the way up. Hah…
I didn’t run with my Garmin so I used the km markers and my watch to keep track of my pace (I wanted a sub-1:30 finish but wasn’t sure if I had enough legs left for that on the run). It was nice and shady along the trails and I only saw a couple of people.
I had a cup of Gatorade at the turn around point and then headed back for my last 2.5 km. The hill was as awful as I had thought and I cursed my lack of hill training the whole way up. My cross-country coach always used to tell us that we’d recover the same but finish faster if we ran up a hill compared to walking up and while I’m not sure if it is true, I still use those words to keep me going up hills. I got to the top and knew it was only a few hundred metres to the end. I like a good finish so I pushed it and still managed to finish with a smile.
Total time – 1:30:53 (83/201 overall, 22/93 females and 7/32 in my age group)
I just missed my 1:30 goal but was still very, very happy with my race. I found Jon, grabbed some water and Gu and just hung out near the finish line for a while watching racers finish. Usually I just take off after a race but we couldn’t access transition until all the runners were out and it was such a nice day anyways.
This was exactly the race I needed to re-motivate my training. I was pretty pumped about how well it had gone and how strong I’d felt. My swim was definitely an improvement – about a 2:34 /100 m pace compared to almost 3:00 last year – and my run and ride felt good. I’ve got some things to work on for next time – improving my swim, getting my transitions quicker and getting more comfortable getting on/off my bike, plus generally upping the fitness level – plus the drive to actually do those things now.