It feels like the first time…
- My success at the Orillia Tri when I didn’t feel I’d been adequately trained for it, and
- The difficulty of getting my family/cheerleaders up to the race site in time for the Sprint
I opted to move up to the Olympic Distance at Wasaga. I had done this race twice before (a personal best of 2:52 last year) and been to the venue every year since 2007. I think it might be my favourite race, and knowing I couldn’t break any personal records freed me to simply enjoy the race for what it was: a nice day out swimming, biking, then running. Not only was I better able to ‘smell the roses’ during the race, because my main focus was merely finishing, it was like being a first timer; a triathlon virgin, if you will. On to the details:
In spite of a traffic jam going up Highway 400, I was able to get to the race site with plenty of time to get my transition area, my gear, and myself set up just the way I like it, which goes a long way to keeping pre-race nerves away.
I got into the water, which is quite shallow for a good distance. Just to get water in the wetsuit and my hair wet (for putting on my swim cap), I had to lie down in a bit of a ‘flop’. In doing this, I lost my grip on my goggles, and though I noticed immediately, I was not able to find them. I asked other nearby swimmers if they had seen them: nothing. I began to get a little panicked and wondered if/how the swim could be done without the goggles – sighting is important at that distance and on that kind of wide open water. I began to look at other swimmers to see if anyone would dare attempt such a task. There were plenty with no wet-suit, but none without goggles that I could see. Though I had spiritually resigned myself to the bad luck I seemed to be having, my eyes continued to scan the water and though I was nowhere close to the spot I had been at when I lost them, with 2 minutes before my wave start, suddenly I found them floating in front of me. Nearby triathletes must have wondered what the heck I was giggling about, but I was definitely a happy camper and glad to be having a lucky day.
Our horn sounded and off we went. The first bit of the swim course is spent alternately walking, and doing dolphin dives, but the good news is that even when the water is deep enough to force you to swim, you can always see the bottom – good news for those that find open water swimming intimidating because you can’t see the bottom. In fact, I found a little trick: in a pool you swim straighter because the lane line gives you a visual cue.
Here, the little grooves in the sand bottom can be used similarly when you are swimming parallel to the shoreline, or with some mental reconfiguration, when you are swimming perpendicularly to it. It… almost works; let’s say it helps.
The last stretch of the swim is back to walking and dolphin dives, but interestingly, the timing company provides you a time it took to get from the water to transition if that interests you.
I always find the bike course to be simpler than they describe, apparently since the first section only uses one side of the street people need a lot of extra reminding of which side of the pylons to ride on, but I’m usually able to follow the leader, so to speak.
While the bike course is comparatively flat, and I always remember it as such, there are some slow climbs that deceive you, making you wonder where your speed went. I knew the Olympic distance would be a challenge for me this year physically, but I soon realized staying focused on keeping up the right speed would be a mental challenge I hadn’t practised enough either. Both the bike and run course have a nice mixtures of environments; the bike has some residential streets where you can see the blue water between some houses, some treed lanes and open farmers’ fields. Be warned though, if you stop and smell the roses here, you may find they smell like manure.
I got to see a wide variety of bikes passing me, which I find heartening: when somebody passes me on a bike that older/cheaper than mine, I know they’re doing it through heart and training/conditioning, not by spending money. I feel conversely guilty when I pass someone going downhill merely because I can go aero position and they can’t, but I’m not going to go any slower than I can out of a misplaced sense of honour either.
Overall, the bike ride was uneventful – that’s the way I like it, and it means everything was safe for all I observed.
I took my time again in transition #2, because I wanted to ensure my achilles tendon support band was on properly (I also needed a bathroom break – another benefit of the Wasaga course is that there are not only port-a-potties in the transition area, but there’s a public washroom just under a kilometer into the run course).
The first stretch of the run is along the beach road, which means there’s plenty of spectators – not just those that showed up to support the racers, but also some who just wanted some beach time and now have something extra to watch. As nice as that part is, I always look forward to hitting the boardwalk next, as I find the impacts softer. The crowds peter out somewhat and I find that’s where participants chat and give each other encouragement the most. The 5k loop has sections through a wooded park, along Mosley St (the main drag, if you will) and again through some residential lanes.
A couple of kilometres into the run, I experienced another bit of nostalgia: a stitch. You know, those cramps in your side you get when you don’t breathe properly? I doubt I’d had one since high school! Taking walk breaks (especially at the water stations) allowed me to keep the pain at bay. I finished the first loop at over 30 minutes, but I’m happy to say I picked up enough pace on the second loop to have a negative split.
But here’s the best part: as I’m nearing the finish line, I hear the speakers say:”…the next racer to cross the finish line will win a free wetsuit.” I couldn’t believe my ears! I scanned ahead and couldn’t see anyone between me and the finish line, so I started hauling it. You’d think achieving the best time possible is enough to overcome pain and fatigue, but it turns out the lure of free stuff trumps that. Woot!
Not only do I recommend this race to anyone, but also I’d recommend the experience of getting back to the basic joy of racing to finish, not to outperform.