Yesterday started a little off schedule as I received a call at 1:00 am from the security company at work. Apparently, someone(s) decided it would be a good night to attempt to break into our office. When I got there the front, glass door had a huge hole from a rock. I immediately called the police and waited around for them to clear the scene. After they wrapped up their duties, I cleaned up the mess and made some repairs to door, patching the hole as best as I could with some cardboard. By the time I got home it was 4:00 am and I had the alarm set for 6:00 am to get up and travel north to watch the Muskoka 70.3.
Nolan ended up waking us at 5:45 am but my wife got him back to sleep right away. I knew 15 minutes would not be worth the effort to get myself back to sleep so I hit the shower and then quietly made my way out to the car. Leaving this early made for a quick trip to Huntsville free of traffic on the way to cottage country.
I ended up getting into my parking spot around 8:30 am and took my bike off the rack. I brought my cyclo cross bike to allow for easy transport around the race site. It was actually a good idea as I saw so much more this year compared to last year when I spectated in the pouring rain. I spent most of last year walking between viewing areas so I missed a lot of action.
As I reached the 1k marker on the bike course, the first of the pro men were just rolling by so I decided to get down to the backside of transition to cheer on my age group buddies. They were spread across the various waves so I stuck around here for awhile trying to catch them all before the mount line. I think Paul Bregin was the first person I noticed with his age group heading out 15 minutes after the pro men. After Paul, they started to flood through the gate including Syd, Bruce, Brian, Jim, Bill, Laura, Terry, Natalie, Andrea, Colin, John, and many others looking excited to hit the bikes.
After watching the bike mount area, I headed back down to the 1k turn at the top of the first climb. I saw a few others pass by here including Gavin and Richard so I was happy to see them continuing on their way. The 2k swim can be a very tough and intimidating task so I was just glad that they all made it through the first section.
After Richard flew looking very strong on his distinctive yellow Cervelo, I decided to make another move to check out the bike course. I ended up finding a great spot about 3k from transition on the top of a serious climb. I knew I had a long wait before the leaders would be back here but I used the time to grab a snack from my pack and cheer on the last of the waves heading out. These folks always seem so upbeat and appreciative of the support that you cannot help but cheer them on.
Once the last of the cyclists cruised past, I had close to an hour before the pro men would be in the area so I continued down the route and put in a bit of a workout myself on the very technical and hilly course. I got out to the 10k sign and figured I better head back to my spot to get set up for some photos. With some other fans out on this section, I received a lot of attention as they thought I was a racer from a distance. As I got closer you could see the disappointment in their cheering. I guess my pack back, baggy shorts and cross bike gave it away. HAHA
When I reached my viewing area, I had worked up a little sweat. Oh well, it was worth it to get an idea of the pain the athletes would suffer on this course. Just a few minutes after I was settled, I could see the top riders making their way around a fast sweeping curve in the distance. They were flying around the bend and down the hill on the other side of the valley that I was using as my vantage point. By the time they pumped their way up to me they were 91k into the ride and dead tired from the effort expended on the challenging track.
At this point my favourite long course triathlete, Craig Alexander, was in second only a few bike lengths behind the leader and in prime striking position with his running abilities. The rest of pro field was now in chase mode as they made their way by with locals Sean Bechtel and Wolfgang Guembel sitting nicely up the rankings.
On the ladies side, a number of the international pros (Mirinda Carfrae, Rebeccah Wassner, Kelly Couch) made it to the top of the hill before the Canadian gals. Magali, Paolina and Lisa had their work cut out for them but you could tell they were not about to quit. Along with the ladies came a number of the top age groupers from the early wave so I was getting excited to see how far Bruce had made it through the field. It didn’t take long to find out as he crushed the bike (an amazing 7th fastest bike split) and was making serious ground up on the entire age group contingent.
I waited at this spot for a little longer and watched as Paul and Syd passed by, both looking focused and ready for the half marathon ahead of them. I then jumped back on my bike and made my way back towards the run section of the course. By the time I reached the main intersection (the 1k marker on top of the hill), Paul was just about to catch Lisa Bentley and he was surging. I drove past and offered him some more encouragement as I headed deeper into the run course. As I progressed along Highway 60, I found one of Bruce’s main opponents, Darren Walton, making his way along the side of the busy roadway. I was going to estimate a split for Bruce but the Birdman must have been out on the switchback section that I did not travel.
In searching for the former Du’er, I biked out to the part of the course where the runners entered an asphalt trail along the east side of the highway that was about 6.5k from the finish. When I arrived to this location the official I spoke to mentioned the leaders had already gone down the trail quite some time ago. Since I wanted to see the finish, I decided to head back but did not want to get in the way so I let Wolfgang and Andrew Russell make their way down the path before I made my way back to the staging area at Deerhurst Resort.
Even though I cut some corners on the way back, I still missed the first 4 or 5 triathletes cross the line. I could tell by the athlete’s body language how they had done. Crowie had another amazing 21.1 k run (1:11:41!!) to take the title by 4 minutes over Richie Cunningham.
With so many fans congested in the transition area about a hundred metres up from the finish line, I figured I would just hang out where I was and wait for all the people I came to cheer on. Because of the gaps between starting times, this was a longer wait than expected but so worth it when I saw the excitement of the guys when they finished.
The first age groupers started to roll in around 40 minutes after the winners. I watched as a few 35-39 and 25-29 AG athletes ran down the final chute to the finish. I knew if Bruce was having a good run he would not be far behind. As expected he was not far at all and he had made his first year in triathlon an incredible story winning a the competitive 40-44 Age Group, placing him 16th overall and more impressively finishing FIRST overall of the non-pro triathletes. Not bad for a duathlete that only started swimming last fall!
Bruce’s results and progress this year have been very instrumental in leading me into the water for next season. As we competed on the duathlon circuit in 2008, we had some close races at the start of the year before Bruce really picked it up later in the summer, especially on the longer races where his cycling dominates. Seeing him succeed in the triathlon has showed me that I will be able to compete in my age group next year as long as I put the same effort into my swimming as I do with the bike and run. I don’t think I will have as big of a rookie season as the Birdman but even if I am a small percentage back, it will still be very respectable on the stats sheet.
Back to the race, as I continued to watch the finishing area I caught site of FMCT teammate Brian Hastings looking great down the final hundred metre stretch. He was closely followed by Syd (sorry I could not find you in the crowds after to congratulate in person!), Richard (FMCT), Peter (FMCT), Hans (FMCT swim coach), Laura (FMCT), and JJ (Running Free). I stuck around for a few minutes to congratulate all the Falcons for their great races. By this point it was pushing on 1:30 pm so I figured I should head home to help out with the family work around supper and bedtime.
On my way to my car, I saw Andrew (FMCT) looking very happy to see the finish. Then, on my way over to highway 11 (stuck in traffic for 30 minutes on highway 60 where the runners cross the road), I saw several others making their way back to the finish area. Jim (FMCT), Peter (FMCT), John (FMCT), Natalie (FMCT), Terry (FMCT), Kevin (Guelph buddy) and Andrea (FMCT) were only a few kilometres from the end of their races.
Unfortunately, when I checked the stats at home that night, I noticed Paul was not able to finish because of an injury. He was looking so strong the last time I saw him so I am sure he was disappointed. I was really hoping his injury string was done for this season. Hope you are back to 100% soon!
To all those I missed in the above message, great racing! I hope you all achieved your goals and are able to take some positives into your next challenge!
Also, I have to say a big thank you to my wife for letting me follow my friends around the course. I know she likes to read my odd story (just to make sure I am being a good boy, HAHA)!