The weeks leading up to the Triathlon Ontario Duathlon Championships were very frustrating for me. I had penciled this race in as my big event of the year and was getting very excited to test out my fitness against a strong field. Unfortunately, my goal was sent off course after a fluke slap shot in hockey caught the right side of my ribs and slightly cracked a bone.
During the next two weeks I could not run at all and had to stick to the road bike (couldn’t get into aero position on TT bike) in order to get in some training. Without being able run, I was seriously considering a DNS and was starting to feel like I had wasted a summer of training.
Thankfully, after two weeks of riding only, I got through a test run without too much pain. This gave me a full week before the race so I decided to ramp things up for the first few days of the week to see how the ribs would react. Although, there was some cramping in that area, the actual pain was insignificant so I elected to make the trip to Cobourg to try my luck on Saturday.
With the 2013 World Championships awarded to Ottawa just one week earlier, the last minute rush of athletes wanting to qualify made for an interesting competition. Many of these folks traveled from the Ottawa region in hopes of punching their ticket for a hometown championship and I had not raced some of these athletes and was not sure what to expect.
Wanting to race well, and not knowing exactly what to anticipate from my body on this day, I made sure to get in a long, solid warm up. I could tell right away that my legs were not as fresh as I would have liked (due to the over training to get back from injury) but I was looking forward to racing some speedsters like Kevin Smith and Jesse Bauer for the first time in a long time. I knew they would put the boots to me on the run so I hoped to keep it close and shorten the gap on the bike to make it respectable.
As the horn blasted, I burst from of the gate to avoid the stampede and then let Kevin and Jesse take the lead as we headed out on the two loop run. I knew Mr. Smith would be in around the 33 to 34 minute range so I was not going to get caught up in that game and just slipped back a little and settled into a steady pace. Jesse, on the other hand, was willing to match Kevin’s run and hooked himself on his right hip as we headed out for our first view of the quiet neighbourhood.
During the opening 2.5k, I could feel I was not reaching my usual pace and the two leaders were quickly fading into the distance. I did not feel drained of energy but my legs just did not turn over or have the jump I am used to in the first run. Circling back from the turn around, it was obvious that it was going to be tough to compete with them, even with a faster bike, so I put my focus on holding third.
With the tail wind on the back section of the loop, I felt like I got back to the start of the next lap in alright time but my watch was telling another story. I was hoping to drop into the 36 range without stressing the system too much but now I was already well off that pace and I had someone running off my heels.
This was a nice little kick in the pants that I needed. I found some more power to start the next 5k run and could see I was opening a tiny space between fourth and myself. By the time I got to the far end of the route, I was around 100 metres clear and assumed my bike would extend that lead. I then used the wind to push even harder to transition and made my first 10k more presentable at 37:30.
Transition was not totally smooth as I did run into some trouble getting into the bike zone. I was headed into the proper “Run In” gate until a bunch of spectators and volunteers started to direct me to the finish line? Thankfully, the Sportstats guy was paying attention and stopped me before reaching that mat. I ended up losing around 15 seconds in the confusion but remained calm and finally got to my bike.
Once again (Welland Half Iron Du), I opted to ride with my cycling shoes instead of my tri shoes. The 10 seconds of extra transition time would be easily paid back with extra power on the bike so I quickly slipped into my better shoes before grabbing my ride off the rack. As soon as I reached the mount line I knew I was set to roll and I quickly made my way out of town to the country side along King Street.
Passing a number of triathletes along the way, I felt like I was negotiating the head wind well as we travelled east for the first 8k, or so, section on the highway. The speed then increased with a right hand turn towards the lake. I used this short road (Archer Road) to catch my breath before we were directed out to the east again along Lakeshore Road. On Lakeshore, I finally caught a glimpse of the triathlon race leaders so I kept my eyes peeled for Kevin and Jesse.
It wasn’t very long until I noticed the lead duathlete with Mr. Bauer only a few hundred metres behind. I was not sure if I was making up as much time as I wanted so I hurried to the turn around and then used the tail wind back to hammer on the gas. At the turn around I had a triathlete hook on to my back and he stayed there for a number of kilometres before making a pass when I reached King Street again.
I didn’t care so much but was disappointed when he did not continue to pull away. We were in a zone with a lot of wind assistance but I was not able to use it to the fullest or I would have been too close and risk a drafting penalty. I thought I would be able to get past him but I think it would have been a slow pass which can lead to issues if an official comes by without seeing the whole lead up.
Eventually, I decided that I was losing time so I powered up and put out a full effort to make sure I passed this rider and then got far enough in front that I would not get in his way. This lead me into the north portion of the course so my timing was not great as I now had a gradual uphill and head wind to contend with. Thankfully, I saw the 25k marker and knew I could handle the next 15k at a higher effort without blowing up too badly.
Having raced on this section in the past, I knew the hills would soon be upon me. I was now in a relatively open space on my side of the road and was starting to see the leaders zip past as they descended back to town. I tried my hardest to close the gap even more but on one of the more steep climbs I did not use the correct gearing and grinded my way up which cost me a bunch of seconds and energy. My train of thought was it was the last climb and the downhill would allow me to rest on the other side. Thinking back, I should have been less lazy and flipped down to the small ring and scurried up the hill and then hammered it back to Cobourg.
Oh well, another lesson learned. I did end up having a decent ride in the end and posted the top bike split for the duathletes. As usual, I then compared the ride to my triathlon competitors and felt like I left some time out on the course. (Thankfully, Kevin and Jesse had enough of a lead that it didn’t make a big difference in the end so I am not thinking “what if?”.)
Back to the race, I came off the bike in third position and got the bike racked in solid time. As I did not see any other duathlete on the bike within striking distance, I was confident that I could bring home a podium finish so now I had to decide how much effort I would place on the final 5k? I started out on the run and my legs did not love me at all. I could tell I was not going to be pushing a great split so I thought I would coast it out and hope a triathlete would pass me and wake up my legs.
I kept up my shuffle but nobody really pushed from behind so I just cruised it to the turn around and watched the bibs to make sure nobody was sneaking up on me. With no duathletes in sight, I pushed on to a 21:00 split over the 5k to bring it home in 3rd Place Overall and 1st in my Age Group.
This was the best result for me at the provincials (fourth attempt) so I was happy that I decided to race and excited to get back to racing after the frustration of my injury.
It was also nice to catch up and cheer on many friends in Cobourg so I must congratulate all those who competed!
Great races to Falcons – Peter H, Joe and Jade!
Awesome work to friends – Mark K, Patryk B, Brad M, Richard P, Roger H, Eric T and Duncan M!!!!
Also a huge congrats and thanks to Kevin Smith for taking the Ontario Duathlon title. I have known Kevin for a number of years through the sport and he really has been a positive influence on my duathlon pursuit.
And a job well done by up and coming duathlete, Jesse Bauer. It was great to chat with this young talent after the race. Keep up the great work!
I would not continue to be in the game without the help of family, friends and sponsors. Thank you all!