I usually find other people’s race reports to be a little boring, so I’ll try to keep this short and succinct. This was my first time doing this particular race, and I only found out that the distances 3 weeks beforehand; a busy summer had me dropping from last year’s Olympic distance training levels to ‘Sprint’ levels (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) but Orillia upped the bike-run distance by 60% (33km bike, 7km)! I was under-trained, and being underprepared is going to be a bit of a theme in this story.
An 8AM start time meant getting up a 4:45AM, and this doesn’t lead to a sharp mind by the time you’re at the race site; I hadn’t filled my water bottles, and been unable to get my bib pinned – but I had a saviour (via his mom): Trevor Clark. This young man finished 3rd in Junior Men, he’s friendly and incredibly polite, and obviously has a great future ahead of him. Most important to me, he had an extra race belt!
To calm my pre-race nerves and fears, my wife gave me the following advice: “This is something you enjoy; go out there, and take your time, you’ll be sure to finish, and have fun doing it.” Words to live by, for sure. I hit the water with barely a minute to spare, and though Lake Couchiching is big enough to have some chop, the swim was smooth and simple, and sure enough, I was enjoying myself! The swim was over all too soon.
I found the bike course to have a lot of nice variety; country houses, farmer’s fields, shady treed lanes. There were a couple of times where I saw a turn coming, and rather than try to pass shortly before the bottleneck that would result, I kept my gear light, my cadence high and simply enjoyed the ride. It probably made my ride more efficient. There were some riders whose *bike budget clearly overpowers their swim ability* who passed me at the 8k, 15k and 25k (!) mark, but I was pleased to see an overall mix of athletes who were able to hang together (alternately passing and being passed) with bikes of various qualities and fitness levels of which to be proud. Climbing over Highway 11 near the 28km mark was nasty, as the hill was steep, and fatigue was starting to set in.
Both of my transitions were not the fastest, but it didn’t bother me since I was treating this race with more of a ‘smell the roses’ attitude anyway. The run course was all road, so I opted for my cushioned Salomons rather than my Zoot racing flats, and suffered no problems. It felt like I had a conservative start with a strong finish for a negative split, but after reviewing the statistics that doesn’t seem to be the case. The course was nice and flat, and the final half kilometer was through the park, allowing for lots of cheering (Spectator tip: “Way to go” and “great job” are always welcome but “All downhill from here” is like music to my ears).
Post race food is plentiful, and some of those snacks are right up my alley (the key ingredient is chocolate, people). World Endurance Canada still knows how to run an event (maybe more rack space though guys?).