Monday, June 24, 2013

Guelph Lake I Olympic Triathlon Race Report

If you read my previous post, you should know by now how the day before this race went. I spent the day in Guelph supporting my friends, taking pictures and getting myself familiar with the venue as well as the race's logistics and mechanics.
I was a bit sunburnt and definitely tired for having been on my legs a large part of the day, but given how I had not done ANY workouts during the week due to my coughing problem, I knew that a good night sleep would be the answer to all my problems.

BUT, in my infinite wisdom I decided to say yes when hubbs suggested that we could eat Indian take out for dinner. Butter chicken and naan? Yum! I jumped up and down with joy, then we went to pick up our spicy treat. You can guess where this is going... I went to bed feeling like a science experiment gone wrong, with a volcano preparing for eruption inside my stomach. Cramps, gas, and stuff moving through places that I didn't know I had intestines in. First eruption came at 10:35, then another one at 11:29pm, 12:34am, 1:15am and finally 2:20am (I remember the times because I was walking by the alarm clock on my way to the bathroom). The sleep finally came after the purge ended. Indian food before a race? NEVER AGAIN.

Alarm clock went off at 5:15am and fueled by adrenaline, I jumped out of bed and after a quick shower, I put on my new pink tri top and my old trusted Sugoi tri shorts. I also put on a pair of socks to make sure I don't forget them for the run. Watch, RoadID, SpiBelt with safety pins, heart rate monitor, all good. Woke up hubbs at 6am and said, let's go. Had an oatmeal frittata for breakfast and a glass of orange juice. At 6:30am we were on our way and an hour later, through pouring rain, we stopped for a pee break and grabbed two bagels and coffee. So much water was coming down, it didn't look like it was going to stop any time soon. Here's what hell breaking loose looked like that day.

Crazy, right? Once I arrived on site, I was pretty sad. My first race this year and I was freaking out. I couldn't remember when was the last time that I had spent 1.5h biking in the rain. Handling my bike in unknown territory through puddles and oil patches didn't seem like ideal conditions to start the season and I heard about way too many bike crashes already this year.
Anyway, I told myself "it is what it is" and went to the registration tent where I got my bib, chip, bag of goodies and body markings in less than 5 minutes, then went to transition where I joined 3 other wet souls under a big umbrella. We tried to keep our spirits high with silly jokes and mutual encouragements, then we agreed that the best course of action was to get into our wetsuits, at least to keep warm since dry was now out of question. I wrestled with my wetsuit for about 10 minutes, then made sure that all my transition items were properly arranged INSIDE my bag (good move, not that it mattered much). My muddy shoes were left outside though, under the bag. It was too late to try saving those.
At the beach, I went in the water to warm up for my swim. Water temperature was just perfect. I did a bit of splashing around, then saw Zin who came to wish me good luck. Of course I asked for a picture, I was feeling great, finally!
Not even 3 minutes later we were asked to go to the end of the beach to start the swim. I was in the second wave, so I left about 2-3 minutes after the first. I placed myself towards the middle, it didn't seem too crowded and besides, I was sure that the speedies were already at the front. There was definitely enough space for everyone. As a matter of fact, for the entire swim I didn't come in close contact with anyone. Only at some point, a guy tried to pass me and bumped into me, but that was all. I swam for about 300m beside another lady, then we got separated because of our own sighting decisions. On my right, there was a guy going Tarzan style, he didn't seem able to put his face in the water. I passed someone doing the backstroke and another person doing breast stroke, I was afraid she'd kick me in the stomach with those legs going sideways. The Tarzan guy kept going strong and every time I would breathe to the right I would see him. Good for him!

I finished the swim in 33 minutes, which is a new PR for me. I was ecstatic!! You won't see this in the official results though because after the swim we still had to run up a hill to get to transition where the mats were. Oh well, even after the run, my time was still better than last year's Oly, so I'll take it!
Notice the mud, before and after the mat. There was mud everywhere. About 15 seconds after this picture was taken, I made a sharp turn into transition and fell in it, I bet it was quite the show. Someone asked me if I was alright and I had nothing bad to report. Keep calm and transition on. I decided to skip the socks this time, put on my bike shoes, helmet and bib, didn't care about sunglasses or sunscreen. I saw people leaving the transition with the bike on their shoulders to avoid the mud pits, but I decided to push mine through, at least I had something to lean on if I was going to lose my balance again.

Started my bike leg without further incidents and at this point I could care less about the rain that kept on pouring on. I was in my element. So much humidity, I could breathe better too.

The course was well marked and had police and/or course marshals at all turns, I didn't worry about getting lost. Lots of people to follow as well, there was a long line of cyclists ahead of me that I could see on forever. I passed a bunch of people, I was passed many times too, but I kept on powering up and down the hills and doing my best. I ate a gel after 20 minutes and drank mostly Gatorade out of my aero bottle. The rain was coming down harder and harder and sometimes it was tricky because of the cars that were sharing the road with us. For the most part, drivers were being good though, keeping their distance and remaining patient while we were passing each other.

Just before the turn around point I started to feel the need to pee. It took me less than a second to make the decision not to stop. I looked behind, nobody was close. I was going to slow down for the turn anyway, so I lifted my bum off the saddle and I did it. Like a boss!! By that time the rain was in full force so why even bother, I was going to get washed instantly. Feel free to go "eew" now, but I have no shame. I learned from the best, if you read Chrissie Wellington's book you should know how entirely natural this is in the triathletes' world. Which is why I'll never mention it again. But for a first, I just had to.

I finished the bike in 1:26:54, another PR for me. Given the endless hills and tough conditions, I am super proud of it.

Back in transition, I racked my bike, replaced the muddy bike shoes with my cold and wet running shoes and put back on my socks too. Made sure I had my Clif Blocks with me, then left on the run. The hills started right away and my legs were feeling tired. My goal was to stay under 6min/km overall and although hard, I found a pace which I thought I could manage until the end.
After 4k, I got not one, but two stitches, but I could run through them. I was chasing a girl in my AG that had passed me in the first 2k and I didn't want to lose her. Around 6-7k, she started struggling on the uphills and slow down. I realized that I may have a chance to pass her. I was certainly not going to be in the top 10, but why not go after a small victory? At the next water station, she stopped and I didn't, so I passed her and from that moment on, I pushed the pace and did not look back. I finished strong and still smiling even though my heart rate was through the roof. A 5min PR on a hilly run, after a night spent in the washrooms and 3h of sleep. An overall PR of 8 minutes since my last Olympic Tri, the Toronto Triathlon Festival in 2012. You can see my official results here and Runkeeper geekery here.
What started like a disaster waiting to happen turned into a blessing. My cough remained under control, it was warm enough for a rainy day, I didn't need tons of water or fuel, I just had to stick my tongue out to get a drink. I absolutely LOVED IT. Will I do it again? Absolutely. 


  1. Clearly you need to eat Indian food before your triathlons all the time : ) Great work!

  2. Great report, Irina!
    I love how you embraced each leg of the race and found ways to push yourself. All your hard work has paid off and you look fantastic in all the photos!
    Onward, with strength!

  3. Excellent report and Awesome photos! You're having so much fun, I love it! Congrats on a race well done!