A very solid field of duathletes including Team Canada duathlete Kevin Smith of Oakville, 2007 Subaru Series winner Zach Steinman, 2008 Subaru Series leader Bruce Bird and several athletes from Ottawa (that we do not get to race too often) assembled in the small eastern town of Cobourg.
I was not certain of my participation until the morning of the race due to a recent knee injury that had me avoiding running for several days leading up to this highly anticipated weekend. I was out for some interval training when I began my first speed pickup only to have a grinding sensation on the right knee stop me in my tracks and force me to walk home.
This has been a smaller issue for the past month or so but it was only a stiffness lasting only a few minutes during quicker runs. I figured it would either go away in time or explode into a season ending injury but if I wanted to get the races in I would have to train trough it. After personally treating it for the past few days, I was hopeful that it would allow me to compete as I hate to sit out in any sport due to injury. Not a great mindset in this sport but we only have a few events left so there is all fall and winter to heal.
The First 10k
As expected Kevin Smith went out quickly with his great running experience and talent. Ottawa resident, Matthew Pieterson went along with Kevin showing his great speed, as well. The chase group including Zach, Bruce, Adrian Lawson and Randy Fontaine who stayed back a few hundred metres going at a pace more manageable to ensure energy for their bike portions. I ended up solo for much of the run in 8th, taking care not to push the knee too much but maintaining sub 40 pace.
From a few tests this week I knew the injury was not an issue on the rides so I wanting to push the bike as hard as I could on a challenging course. Coming through the final 5k lap (we ran 2 loops of 5k), I picked it up a little but had Guelph native, Ross Horsley, on my tail just 13 seconds behind. He just beat me by two spots in Orillia last weekend so I knew his bike skills were going to be tough to hang with.
I went back to putting on my bike shoes in transition after a disastrous experiment in Orillia but actually felt very good about my change over and left side by side with Ross (had his shoes already clipped on the pedals). I jumped on my bike at the mount line and got rolling in a smooth fashion, able to pass Ross who was having a little trouble getting his feet into his attached shoes.
The first seven kilometres took us out the east end of town and were pretty flat. Ross and I were a minute or two behind most of the top racers so they were slightly out of sight as we made the corner off of Queen Street to the paved country roads. We battled back and forth for the first 10k until his power came into play on a long, winding hill. He was still in reach but probably around 300 metres in front as we negotiated the corners and rollers of the scenic farm lands.
Unlike many Subaru races, the duathletes made up much of the front runners so we did not see many other cyclists until the 17k area when Matthew started to come down the other side of the road leading the spread out group of leaders. By this point, Bruce’s amazing cycling had brought him into second with Kevin a little back in third. I could see the turn-around up on the approaching hill and got a sudden burst of confidence knowing I was staying on pace with all these great duathletes.
In an attempt to keep focused and away from over analyzing the numbers, I did not bring a stop watch or bike computer so I was not sure, until this point, how fast Ross and I were traveling. I was just going as hard as I could and now some of the few top triathletes were getting tracked down by the QR Seduza.
I found my second wind bringing it home and wanted to bridge the gap between Ross before the change-over to our final run. We were both moving at a high rate across the back roads of Cobourg. Patiently I was able to inch closer and eventually overtake him as we hit the flats and then turned into town. As we reached our final turn onto the street leading to the transition zone, Ross over shot the road so I made it to the dismount line first and then got to the rack with him busting his butt to get back on track.
I set up my transition well with a controlled dismount with shoes intact on the pedals, running my bike without stopping forward momentum. This saves a lot of valuable time in tight races and something I have been able to practice and improve on lately. I got my bike on the rack in decent time and then slipped on my racing flats again for the final 5 kilometres. Making my way to the exit of the corral I could tell my legs were rubber, burnt up from the effort to reel in Ross on the bike.
Having a good idea that I would not be able to push my knee into a higher ranking than seventh, I decided to stay close to Ross if he made a move and hopefully have a little kick to keep seventh. I was confident we would have nobody else behind us so my focus was on one person coming out onto the run course.
As we hit the road from the short trail leading from transition, Ross blew by me with great form. This was not good as he was looking incredibly strong and I was going in the opposite direction. I made one sudden push but I did not have his energy and I was now just running to finish without doing any extra damage to my knee.
Without my watch I could not tell my splits but I was probably closer to 4:15 per km than what it shows on the stats page (most athletes were pretty sure the 5k was a little on the long side so this would make sense). This is slower than I would like and could have been an opening for a chaser so I kept my eyes on the bibs after I made the turn at the halfway pylons.
Thankfully, everyone that may have had a chance to catch me was in the triathlon so I was able to relax and enjoy the tail wind that brought me home. I actually made it through the 5k having only Ross pass me so I was happy that I was able to keep a respectable pace without putting any additional stress on my body leaving next weeks season ending Subaru Race a possibility.
Although, this was not my fastest Olympic Duathlon, I was able to take away a lot of positives from this year’s provincials. Last year, I finished in the 20’s with a weaker field after a horrible bike portion in Guelph. This year I made it up to 8th and 2nd in my five year AG.