Bracebridge is a great race; I thought so when I did it 2 years ago, and this year confirmed it. In fact, I’m now wondering what was wrong with me that I didn’t do it last year – what probably seemed like a good reason at the time wasn’t.
I went to bed the night before with pain in my right shoulder, and I woke up with a tightness in my right hamstring, but luckily both were long gone by the time I had breakfast (bagel with peanut butter, apple, and 2 cups of coffee) and hit the road.
Due to logistical concerns that I won’t bore you with, I was travelling to the race solo. Though I love having a cheering section, and there were lonely parts of the day, I did appreciate being able to focus like a laser on being organized before the race. Having gotten to the site with a little under an hour to spare, I still didn’t get everything perfect.
From the “Don’t Do Anything New on Race Day”
Somehow, I had left my Saucony Triumphs in the gym locker room at work, and I couldn’t access it on a Saturday while packing. Luckily, I keep a pair of Mizuno Wave Riders with other running gear in my desk for emergencies (like, I forget to pack running gear) and I’ve used them mostly for treadmill runs. So they were my shoes for race day.
I dropped a lot of cash on aerodynamic hydration accessories. While I also got a double bottle cage for my seat-post, I focused on a hydration system that would let me drink while riding. I’m pretty proud that I got it installed correctly, as I’ve seen pics of some jury-rigged setups in some triathlon Facebook groups that would make MacGyver puke. At least, I thought I had it correct; can you see what I did wrong?
I won’t tell you yet, you’ll find out around the same time I did if you keep reading.
I did do a small swim warm-up to make sure the wet-suit was on properly, but ideally I would have done even more swimming before the race. I crossed the river and back, that’s it.
I hadn’t cleaned and oiled my chain the day before, but I had inflated my tires.
I packed both gels I planned to have on the race course in my race belt, and set up my running shoes in transition with laces untied, but the silly part is that I thought I hadn’t, and ended up fretting over it a little during the race.
Besides actually having a swim warm-up, which never happens to me, the other big hit for me was being able to make two trips to the port-a-potty before the race, and not over-hydrating, which meant not having to take any pit stops during the entire race. Let’s break down the legs:
|A view looking toward the Swim Exit|
Bracebridge maintained its usual format of having a seeded swim start. You simply line up by bib number. Marshals got everyone organized in batches of about 50 people at a time, and it looked like everybody tried to find people close to them in number so it made things really straightforward. Everyone wore red bathing caps, so there was no identifying your age group by colour, but I still like the format, and I think having different colour bathing caps might confuse people into trying to get into waves. When you reach the front of the line (the end of the dock – you are already in the water), the final marshal calls out your number to confirm (I was 107), and finishes the countdown which is 5 seconds from the previous swimmer and you’re off!
The first part of the swim is with the current. I honestly think the current was negligible; someone had commented that they’d seen leaves on the surface that “weren’t in any hurry”, and I couldn’t see much difference in pace from the downriver part to the upriver part. There was no line of sight between the start and the turn-around, so sighting to the next buoy was important, and also was a great way to prevent collisions, but you didn’t have to sight too often. I had the sinking feeling that I wasn’t pacing myself well, and I had to make a persistent effort to calm myself down and not swim too excitedly, so that I’d have a good pace on the second part of the swim.
On the way back, sighting became nigh impossible. The sun was reflecting off the water and directly into our eyes. Sticking close to the shoreline seemed like a good idea because the current would be weaker, and it would keep me on the right side of the buoys, so as long as I was seeing dazzling sunlit water ahead of me, I figured I was doing fine. Besides a minor bump or two with other swimmers, the rest of the swim was uneventful. I could swear I saw some bikes whizzing by along the river, but when I look at the maps, the bike course did not go past the North shore of the river. I still have issues with the seam of the wet-suit bunching up by my neck as I swim, which causes a lot of irritation and makes me lose time when I stop to re-adjust it. I need to find a fix for that which won’t stop me from being able to open the zipper and take off the wet-suit when I hit transition. I finished in 28:12, and that gives me an official pace of 1:52/100m which I’m pretty happy about. The thing is, that’s based on 1500m exactly; my measurements show 1575m in 27:42 which gives me a crazy pace of 1:46/100m!
|Courtesy of MultiSport Canada|
My biggest challenge in transition seems to be getting the Garmin off my wrist before pulling off my wet-suit, only to put the Garmin back on again. I just don’t like the idea of the wet-suit getting damaged by me trying to fit the watch in under the sleeve. Other than that, I think it went pretty well, as 2:35 is actually a pretty good T1 time (in fact, it’s a personal best!). I tried to take a sip from the straw of my aero-bottle while running the bike out to the mount line and nearly knocked a tooth out… I won’t try that again.
I was so excited to take Sable (see here for the bike name explanation) out for the first race? Are there words sweeter to say than “on your left”? Again I think race excitement was making me a little aggressive with my pace at first, but I think I brought the pace/effort down well enough without slacking either. As I passed some athletes, I looked at their gear and their muscles and began to doubt whether passing them was the right thing to do. Still, if the speed I wanted to go at was faster than I needed to go to stay safely behind them without drafting, I really did need to pass, didn’t I?
One notable… observation, shall we say? I passed a female racer who’s tri outfit left something to be desired in the opacity department. Remember that Lululemon controversy? They were like that. Now this was a custom kit with a team name or something on them, but I felt bad about the view I had, and again, she wasn’t really going at a speed I wanted to match, so I passed her. Guilt absolved… until I hit a hill and my chain popped off. While I was replacing it she passed me and I went through the whole scenario again. Twice this happened.
|See how the front comes into a point?|
Sometime in the last 15 km or so, I looked down at my aero-bottle and noticed that the front had a flat surface facing into the wind. That’s not aero-dynamic! I do believe that I mounted it backwards, although I thought I’d prefer having the main chamber closer to me (there are two different chambers which can be used for different liquids, or the inner chamber can be used to store ice to cool the outer chamber… that’s what I did on race day).
My overall goal, one I’ve been chasing my entire triathlon career, is to average speed over 30 km/h. In spite of some tough hills and stopping to place the chain back on the ring twice, I achieved that goal… as long as you count the course as 42 km which it was (thanks to a last minute course alteration that was made for racer safety). In the books (i.e. Sportstats Website) doing a 40 km course in 1:23:09 makes for 28.9 km/h. Drat.
I noticed heavy legs as soon as I dismounted. With my cleats in a new position on the sole of my feet, I was a little unsteady heading back to my space on the racks.
This is where I got two pleasant surprises: my running shoe laces were untied so I could do them up right and quickly, and I had packed the second carb gel into the same pocket as the first (instead of on the opposite side, as I intended), but I still had it on me and wouldn’t waste time going to my tri-bag (which was off to the side, as Triathlon Ontario rules dictate, which I found out at Lakeside last year). I forgot to wear my visor, but ate the carb gel on the way out of transition. Time elapsed: 2:13. I should have gotten that under 2 minutes.
My legs were still heavy as I headed out of transition, but I knew that would pass, more or less. I was 3 for 3 on being a little aggressive with pace at the start; I could see my heart rate was too high, and I wanted to finish strong. The run course was quite enjoyable as it followed the river and trees provided plenty of shade. There were plenty of aid stations with water or HEED available every 1.5 km or so. By the time I was 3 km in, I felt quite settled; my pace seemed to be hovering close to 5:30/km, which was better than I expected. My legs were hurting, but I noticed that they were still responsive – when I told them to move, they moved and I kept good form.
As I closed in the last few kilometres, I saw the promise of a 55 minute finish, but again, the course was a little long, and I completed 10.43 km in nearly 56 minutes. I had thought about doing a cartwheel or something goofy across the finish line, but when you’re chasing a time goal, there’s no room for fooling around.
|Courtesy of MultiSport Canada|
I had two goals for this race overall going in, and beforehand I thought they might be at odds with each other:
Use it as a ‘B’ race to work on transitions and other race-day logistics
Beat my previous time at this race, and maybe, thanks to a heavy training load this season, achieve a Personal Best for the Olympic Distance.
I’m really happy to have achieved both of those things. While the new PB makes me happy, I needed the confidence that I know what I’m doing in terms of technique and strategy to carry me forward to the Barrelman Triathlon.