After a full season of triathlons last year I decided to devote this year entirely to bike racing. I had all but forsaken triathlon. I hadn’t accounted for the Pan Am games throwing a wrench into the cycling season which left me with no races between the end of the July and Labour Day weekend. I decided that would be a good time to stretch my triathlon muscles. I knew I would be strong on the bike but I hadn’t been in the water since Ironman (exactly one year prior to this event) and I had only run twice since then. It would be a tough race but I wanted to give it everything I could to see how much I had lost in a year in the two non cycling disciplines.
I left that morning from my dad’s place in Alliston in his soft top Jeep (my wife had the car with her in Toronto) and the weather was looking good. It wasn’t too warm but warm enough that I didn’t need my wetsuit for the swim. When I got to park in Orillia I made sure to double and triple check my transition bag. Since it had been so long since I had done a tri I was worried I would forget about some important detail. It quickly came back to me and I had my transition setup worked out exactly how I wanted it.
The 750m swim was a beach start on Lake Couchiching. The beach faced east so we had to swim into the sunlight on the way out–I’m glad I had my tinted goggles with me–and then a backlight on the way in. The swim was an elongated rectangle although the buoys didn’t seem to line up properly. We sort of had to swim to the left a little to get to the first buoy and then back right straight out from the beach for the remainder of the first half of the swim.
I felt good in the water when the race started but could tell my pace was much slower than last year. My arms started to burn a little about halfway through and I realized how sport specific fitness can be lost in just one year despite having a well conditioned aerobic system from cycling. It took more than 18 minutes for me to get out of the water; almost seven minutes slower than my usual sprint swim time. I was looking forward to the bike, I wanted to see how much I could push out on the bike. I tried to treat it like a TT but forgot about how high my heart rate is when I get out of the water. Rather than trying to bring it down, I got on the bike and started hammering. I knew from crit racing in Chicago a few weeks before that I could handle the output and the elevated HR for the duration of the bike. My bike split was good but not as good as it should have been. It didn’t help that I took a wrong turn just as I was coming back towards T2. The one thing I noticed is that triathletes don’t practice cornering enough. Because of crit racing I was able to go through the several 90 degree corners along the course without needing to brake at all (except when slower triathletes held me up). Just like in bike races I was able to pass several riders in the corners.
When I got to the run I was worried that my monster effort on the bike would ruin me for the run but surprisingly I was able to push about a respectable pace throughout the 7km run. I averaged just over 5:00/km, slightly slower than my marathon pace but not bad given my complete lack of run training. Overall I was still able to beat my sprint triathlon PB. The unexpected result encouraged me to think about getting back into triathlon for the 2016 season. I might try to train for one or two events next year but bike racing is still my priority for the next few years at least.