The latest stop on the Subaru TriSport circuit brought a large number of triathletes and duathletes together for a multisport meet at the Kelso Lake Conservation Area just outside Milton, Ontario. The first outdoor triathlon this season brought enormous crowds of athletes and spectators to this great rural setting, only half an hour from the chaos of Toronto. Although, the forecast was a little scary at times during the week the weather turned out to be incredible with tons of sun and very little wind, conditions perfect for racing.
I arrived at the park slightly before the gates were scheduled to close giving myself plenty of time to get prepared and ready to race. Even though I was running off less sleep than usual, I felt fresh and couldn’t wait to test my training against the other duathletes in the 159 person field in the Du.
After a lengthy drive through the park, I finally found a spot for my vehicle and got all my gear together and assembled Barry’s Cannondale and wheeled it down to the transition zone. The transition area was a buzz and jammed with athletes and bikes so it was tough to find a spot for my ride. I ended up squeezing in on the last bar of my wave (I couldn’t see an over flow section) and the bike racks were so full that I couldn’t leave my bag around the bike so I pulled out my essentials and laid them out tight to the wheels. To make room for other athletes I took my bag over to the side of the zone to the fence line hoping I would not have to make an emergency visist to the bag during the race.
Due to time constraints during the week, I unfortunately was not able to get over to Running Free to stock up on gels and bars for this race so I had to make my way up the hill to the post-race “village”. I spotted a vendor selling gels and purchased a few to take along on the ride. After getting them prepared and taped to the bike I had around fifteen minutes to warm up. I found a nice, quiet spot to stretch out and also watch the first wave of triathletes commence their swim. After working out most of the tightness in my upper body, I proceeded to run a few hill climbs and some quick sprints to wake up the leg muscles. Feeling a little more limber I was off to the starting line for the 5 minute count down and instructions from one of the race officials.
As the official counted down the final seconds we crept to the line and pushed off along a cool, shaded lane of dirt and stone. I have not trained on this type of surface so it took some time to adjust to the feeling of rocks pushing through my racing flats.
The start of the 2k run was a slight incline which separated the group quickly. I attempted to stay near the front runners (some I recognized from other runs and I am aware of their talents) hoping they would set a solid, fast pace. The first kilometre seemed to rush by in an instant and then we were guided around the turn and back past the other racers following us along the narrow path. By this time the leaders were slowly pulling away but were not too far out of reach which was very encouraging. We gradually closed in on the transition area from a steep, gravelly decent to the timing mats at the gate. At this point I was in 6th spot and hoping to complete a speedy transition.
I rushed to my bike, clipped on my helmet, got my cleats on in good fashion and made my way to the bike course happy that I had not dropped many spots during the change, as was the case in Waterloo. I mounted the bike smoothly on the fly and got clipped into the pedals. It was now a huge mix of athletes on the bike course with a lot of late wave triathletes and other duathletes required to share the road.
The first stretch on wheels for us was the park’s main driveway (with a few speed bumps) that took us out to our first real public road of the race. I was making good time on Barry’s Cannondale and could sense I would be stronger today than in the past as the bike was just made for speed.
As this race was very close to family and friends I was fortunate to have a helpful cheering section just as I turned out from the conservation area. I used their support to grab some extra energy and started cranking it out heading north on Tremaine Road on my journey to the dreaded “6th Line Hill” that everyone had spoke about leading up to the event.
It was a short ride on Tremaine to a controlled left turn onto Campbellville Road where I was among a large number of riders bunched together minutes away from the climb. We got our tempo up moving down a hill toward the right hand turn at the foot of the 6th Line which tested my turning for the first time on this bike. I didn’t want to take a big chance on this turn so I made space for myself and went wide around the bend. Meeting us around the turn was our big challenge of the day, the 1.3 kilometres of slow, pumping accent up the escarpment that brought everyone to crawl as they made their way through the high gears.
Although, I was not intentionally attacking the hill, I seemed to be moving up a quicker than the riders around me which inspired me to push forward as I huffed and puffed up this intense slope. As I approached the top I began to beam in delight that I had made it up one of my biggest cycling tests to date making up several spots lost along the way.
With this obstacle in the books, it was time to fire the burners and I started to get up to speed making my way through the crowds of athletes along the rolling hills of the Milton high lands. Most of the rollers of asphalt up here were gentle and I geared through them very smoothly gaining many more positions than losing. At around the 7k mark, a group of seven riders, myself included, broke out from the rest of the pack and battled back and forth for most of the next 20k. As we caught the next groups we would line out, down the middle yellow line, and make our pass then scatter back into formation to avoid drafting and the penalties associated with getting caught. During this long stretch of racing we made a couple testing turns that almost put me down due to the pebbles on the wide spot of the corners. In both instances I had my cleat come out of the clip but I was able to catch myself before the bike could slip out from under my weight. These novice mistakes forced me to make some time up to catch the group so I could use their pace to keep my position near the leaders of the duathlon.
Shortly after my second brush with disaster on the 15th Side Road turn we found ourselves back on the 6th Line, making our way back to the big hill and a chance to bomb it down the slope of the Niagara Escarpment. By the time we reached the crest a few of us had created a little gap from the four other competitors giving us plenty of space on the road. After a slight hesitation on my behalf, I hit the hill in line with the others making sure I had some room to move just incase someone bailed ahead of me. I had a very fast decent tucked nicely on my aero bars not wanting to loose any ground on the two that hit the hill before me. As advertised, the left back onto Campbellville Road approached quickly so I started to apply the brakes just before the base of the slope and made the corner comfortably, able to jump out of the saddled to power back up another little hill on the way back to Tremaine Road.
I knew my fans would be waiting patiently for my return but since Tremaine angled down to the park I was flying by them a little faster this time and was only able to give them a little wave of appreciation for cheering me on.
Again pumped up from my cheering section, I made my way back down the park entrance and pedaled my way past more riders trying to set myself up for my goal of a top 15 position. Little did I know I was doing much better thanks to my best ever bike time, which turned out to be 16th out of the 159 participants.
Next on the race agenda was Transition 2. I prepared well in advance for my dismount and touched down right at the line for a solid start to the change over. As I ran to the bike rack my glasses dropped from my jersey but there was no way I was going to back track (the reason I buy very cheap one!) and grab them. When I reached the bar I was only behind one other guy on my rack which really was surprising given the bikes stationed there before the race. Everything seemed to be flowing nicely and the new elastic laces worked like a charm (I used them for the very first time). As I was slipping on my second shoe and just about to take off my helmet, my first error of the day occurred. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that my bike was falling. I continued to slip on my shoe and looked up to see the whole rack had collapsed as the two of us had jarred it enough to pop out the stanchion to my left. I guess there were so many people on this rack to start the race someone probably pulled the stand too close to the end of the pipe. The smallest vibration down the bar would send it to the ground. I wasn’t sure if it was when I put my bike on or if the other gentleman had created a little ripple along the pole but it had toppled over and we both scrambled to get our bikes back vertical. Thankfully, some very helpful fans were standing on the other side of the fence and saw this and quickly got the bar back on the stand and saved us a great deal of time.
Finally, onto the 7.5k run to end this event and my legs were feeling the effects of the longer ride and the uphill trail climb to get the run started took a lot more out of them. Due to the number of triathlon waves out before us there were still a great number of athletes out on the trail before us. Most of them were in the same boat, slowly making their way down the trail. After a kilometre of running too slow for my liking, I started to shuffle my feet with a lot more purpose and started to make up a lot of ground through the masses.
At this point we were still climbing upwards to higher ground but I was pulling away from the others and had only been passed by one runner, the same gentleman from the rack debacle who I know from past races is a better runner and didn’t want to burn myself out trying to stay with him. After a brief stint on the road we headed into another conservation area lane and up into the trail system that included a steep climb into the bush. This trail traveled up to a loop where we finally started to move downhill. At this stage of the race I felt rejuvenated and really started to pick up the pace. Back down the trail and along the driveway towards home I continued to make positive stride and positions. It felt good to find this hidden energy and the folks I passed graciously complimented my kick back to Kelso. After doubling back much of the trail into Kelso a new twist sent us out past the ski chalet where we all parked. Remembering this section of the park from the walk in at the start of the day, I knew nobody was going to catch me so I kept pouring on the gas and made up a number of spots (not sure if the were in the Du or not but didn’t take any chances). After a slow start to the run I came home with the 5th fastest leg to finish over 2 minutes quicker than my total race goal of 1:33:00 with a final chip time of 1:30:44. This placed me in 6th overall!
During the first two postings on the results board I was listed 3rd in my 5 year age group but they must have changed that age grouping just before the awards ceremony and I was bumped to 4th in an expanded 10 year age category. Oh well, that part was out of my control and I was very pleased by my effort and desire to race on this particular day. I have poured a lot into training lately and the gains have been amazing. I would like to send a special thank you out to Syd Trefiak for sharing a whole lot of knowledge with me and getting me on the right track this season. It is very much appreciated!
See you on the course!