Going into the Guelph Lakes I weekend, I was feeling a little tired from a busy month of racing and training. This was my third duathlon race in four weekends and I have been putting in some solid training since January so it feels like time to rest. That will have to wait for a couple of days as the Guelph Lakes weekend has so many drawing features that I had to muster up the energy for one more race and man was it worth it.
Being the Club Championship weekend, I wanted to make sure to get the Fletchers Meadow Falcons some participation points by racing. Unfortunately, the duathlon does not qualify for the performance part of the OAT challenge so I could only offer up some vocal support to those competing in the Olympic Triathlon as they raced along.
For me, the next major goal is to break two hours in an Olympic distance duathlon. My previous best was at the National Championships in 2007 with a time of 2:04:56. Since that race in Parry Sound, I have had only a few opportunities to run the distance again and some of the courses were a touch challenging (to get the bike up near the 40km/h that I need with my running speed) or just a bit off on the measurements (Guelph Lakes used to have a 43km bike course), making it very tough to break that mark. This year Guelph Lakes I has changed the bike course to exactly 40k so I was pleased to test my new goal this weekend to motivate my tired body.
With a new plan in place, I was not as worried about my overall showing but just wanted to push the clock.
My pre-race strategy was to bring my old PB down and really push the bike to see where it would take me. Realistically, I knew dropping 5 minutes from my previous best would be a very long shot but I thought I would have a chance to run the 5k / T1 / 40k / T2 / 10k course in 0:18:30 / 0:00:40 / 1:02:00 / 0:00:40 / 0:40:00 for an overall time of 2:01:50. It would take a huge push on the bike and a solid final run (especially after hammering the bike) so I had to come prepared.
On race day the weather was almost perfect. Nice and sunny but just a touch of wind. As always, I used my early arrival to slowly get ready and then headed to the line where I saw some familiar faces that missed the Muskoka race. The field was a little bigger than last weekend’s race but not the size I was expecting. The sprint du in Guelph on Saturday had over 180 athletes so I thought this distance would attract close to 100 du’ers but only 68 registrants showed up. Oh well, many factors hurting the sport these days…
Now on to the race…Once Mitch sent us off for our opening 5k, I could tell my stride was not efficient but I was managing to hover around the pace I needed to hit my mark. I probably could have pushed harder but I figured that would cost on the bike so I wisely ran along in second place using my Garmin to pace me to the transition. The final kilometre was a little tougher on the legs than expected due to some small hills but I was able to keep shuffling towards the fenced in bike zone, reaching the timing mat in 18:30.
Once again, I used my improving transition to jump out to the lead on the bike as the faster runner used up valuable time at his spot in transition. The muddy grass (from all the rain on Saturday) made for a messy path to the bike mount, especially in socks. I got to the “Bike On” line and made another smooth entry to the bike course. Unfortunately, the mud and safety bumps on the way out to the road keep the speeds down so I lost some momentum in this area both times through but it is very difficult to guess how much time you actually lose. Anyway, I was finally out to the main roads and getting up to some pretty respectable splits. Before I left, I was told by OAT officials that I was twelfth onto the bike but had made up some spots (and lost one) so was making my way up to the overall leaders. With the wind in our faces on the way out, I had to really stay focused, pedal hard and remind myself that the average would get much better on the ride home.
I continued to make good progress and got ahead of a few more triathletes by the turn around marker. Now it was time to fly. As I was making great progress, Mark Keating (my personal positioning tracker, HAHA), yelled across from his bike that he counted my bike as the seventh bike. This was pretty cool to hear and I wanted more. I saw another rider in front of me and I passed him going up a hill at around the 25k sign. We were really getting a strong push from the wind on the way home and my average continued to climb. Hitting the 30k mark, I was finally the victim of Tyler Lord (again!!!) and another triathlete.
Unlike Muskoka, I was able to stay close to them. I was not right on their tails but happy to not have them gap me like Tyler did last weekend. By the time our ride had come to the park entrance, I had pushed my average up to 37.8km/h (although my final reading was 37.6 after the slow ride through the park and run to my spot on the rack) and hit the transition in eighth spot overall, first in the duathlon. My final bike time was 1:04:14 so I was off my wishful split and had some work to do on the run.
I quickly slipped on my racing flats and headed out to the 10k course through the inner roads of the conservation area. This is a run I have done several times but they changed it up at the end to eliminate the final hill after too many complaints. This loss of yardage required a newer branch that I had yet to see so I was not sure what to expect, but that would come later in the run.
Out of the gate on the final run, triathlete Mark Linesman settled in beside me. He is a very solid runner and I usually let the faster triathletes go past without much adjustment on my pace but if I really wanted to push my time I knew I could not allow this today. I geared up and hung on for all I had. He was moving well and I was excited that I was able to stay close. I used his pace as much as possible which kept me in a good position to break forty minutes. When we hit the first turn around I could see that Daniel Cain (a great young duathlete that is pretty well rounded on the bike and runs) was running second in our race, about one kilometre back. I could have let up knowing this but that forty minute mark was within grasp. I kept moving along the route watching my splits and hoping the course was close to the posted yardage.
Just after the 5k sign we hit the new section in the course. It was a gravel, off road vehicle trail cut through a field with a mild up and down thrown in for good measure. After making my way through the new out and back section my form was still holding up so I was getting more and more confident that this run would be close to my target. I pushed along the very familiar final few minutes of the run (as a duathlete I have run this section twice per event for over 5 races) so I could put my mind on cruise control and just keep my legs turning over.
The new finish line was constructed on the west side of transition where we usually run towards the final “hill of pain” (that they have eliminated). We had one final small incline up to the bike hold and then it was a very quick downhill sprint into the finishing corral. I used this speedy pathway to my advantage and did not slow down even though my position was secure. I broke through the imaginary tape with a final run time of 39:44 to best my previous 10k efforts in Guelph. The roll up of each individual section resulted in a new PB for this distance by exactly one minute at 2:03:56.
Although, I did not break two hours on this attempt it was very nice to pick up my second Subaru Duathlon win and to also better my 2007 PB. It was also a special day as I was able to enjoy the company of many FMCT Falcons! Our club had a tent set up where we got together after the race to socialize as we recovered from our races. I had a great time meeting many more members of this fantastic club and very happy with my decision to join after a couple years of sitting on the fence. I had researched tri and cycling clubs in my area for the past few seasons but never made the commitment until this winter. Excellent choice!