Sunday, June 1, 2014

2014 Woodstock Sprint Duathlon Race Report

I've been ruminating on this blog post for too many days already. I think it's time to spit it out, or move it to the next stomach so to speak (to stay within the bovine terminology). Mooooo?

It was a first of all kinds of sorts and I am a little overwhelmed by all the thoughts and feelings that have been inhabiting my brain since. Not sure if I will succeed in putting these thoughts into words, but I'll give it a try. So, where do I start? Maybe with this list. 40 steps to 40. Yes, again, I am reminding the Internet that I changed age groups this year and that a list of milestones should help keep me sane while I train for the biggest challenge of my life, the Ironman.
Age is just a number
Number 7 on this list: Complete a Duathlon. Now, you should know that I take lists seriously. And when I put this one on the list, I meant it. It had to be official, an event that I wanted to sign up for, and thankfully Mother Nature brought us the Polar Vortex this year, which provided a perfect opportunity for a Du since I am not yet ready to give myself a brain freeze in a lake that just thawed 4 weeks ago. Swimming in 15C/61F water? Brrrrrrrr.  I'll skip, thankyouverymuch.

And so I signed up for Woodstock Du and vowed that I would stay away from lakes in May races, at least in Canada. My race bestie, Carol, who was going to be braver than me and do the Sprint Tri, decided to drive up with her mom the day before and sleep at a hotel nearby. Great idea, I thought, and so I asked them to pick me up in the afternoon (after I finished my 5h ride and brick run) and drive me up there too.

After we checked into our hotel room, we went to visit the Pittock Conservation Area to get acquainted with the race venue. Carol tried the water as well, and was not impressed.
The place was absolutely gorgeous though, and it was the perfect summer day, if I dare to say. We walked around for a bit and we could see that slowly but surely, the transition area was coming along.
I found the Du start!!
Must not forget, I am #361.
I hope they don't want us to ride our bikes into the ground
Getting closer... #361, where are you?
Swim exit. Not going in there, nope nope nope.
We went to eat at Kelsey's and I had the yummiest salad - some mix of greens, beets and goat cheese, followed by a refreshing scoop of strawberry sherbet. We returned to the hotel where we prepared our race bags, kits and snacks, then turned off the lights at 10:45pm. I didn't get the best sleep, but who does before a race anyway? I am not expecting to sleep much the night before the Ironman, so it must have been part of the program, at least subliminally.

The next morning we woke up at 6am, a bit foggy eyed, but with the energy levels intact. For breakfast I had a Pretzel-bagel with egg, cheese and bacon from the nearby Tim Hortons and managed to drink half a coffee too. I took a banana and a gel to go, put on my Coeur kit and off we went to Pittock Conservation Area once more, but this time, to race!
I racked my bike and set up my little slice of real estate, then went to body marking and to pick up my bib. We returned to the transition area where Carol and I took our usual selfie and shared with the whole world that we were ready to kick some ass.
My camera
Carol's camera
I thought that it would be fun to share both perspectives. Deal with it. Besides, selfie is now in the dictionary and it's legit.
I also met my coach, who was ready for his own race. Another brave soul to sprint Tri that day, and he had to remind me that I was a whimp for not jumping in the lake with them. Whatever, coach... whatever! Enjoy the shrinkage. :-P
My coach and I. I love this guy!
Soon enough, the transition area was buzzing with activity. I saw a few more familiar faces, but the one I wanted to talk to was Phaedra. I went to give her a hug as I knew how nervous she was about the swim. Brave soul number three in my books! I am surrounded by crazies so much courage! Despite her reticence for getting in the water that day, I had no doubt that she was going to dominate the field. She has this energy around her, she's like the energizer bunny.
I also went to say hi to Jade, who is our club's Duathlon star, and often all around champ. She gave me a few words of encouragement and I told her that most likely I'll see her at the podium.
Can you feel the groove?
And just like that, it was almost show time. While Steve Fleck, the race announcer, was going on and on about how cold the water was and how people could switch to a Du if they wanted, I went to the port-a-potties for the third and last time, then on to warm up the legs, that were feeling rather spectacular even with 5h of biking in them the day before. What about that, huh? This could only mean one thing: it was a good day to RACE!! Boooyah!

I admit to feeling a bit confused by the run-bike-run schedule of events, but I was planning on my mental reflexes to kick in so I can make it in and out of the transition area through the right gates. I arrived to the run start just on time, with maybe 2 minutes to spare before the horn went off. You can see me in the picture below walking in front of the man in black shirt and shorts. I had never seen my Coeur kit from behind, thank you race photographer!
Anyway, it was time to run this 5k. The course was a bit hilly, but I loved the mix of trail and pavement, and the highlight was that I went over a dam, twice (4 times if we count both runs). I rarely run in this setting, actually never. I had no idea what kind of pace I would be able to sustain, but I knew that I was going to keep the foot on the gas pedal and hope for the best. And that's exactly what I did. Although my 10k pace in the last (paved, downhill, city) race was around 4:55min/km, I had only a 5:14min/km in me that day. But given my HR average of 175bpm, I know that I raced the hardest I could and managed not to pass out before the bike.

I had a quick transition and no issues starting the bike fast and furious, putting to test my passing skills. On your left!! I had to say it quite a lot and it gave me confidence that I could drop the hammer on this course and not suffer too much. The guy in front of me in the picture below is already suffering. He got chicked.
It helped tremendously that we drove the course the night before with Carol and her mom and I knew exactly what to expect. A few rollers, but overall, straight forward: turn twice to the right, a u-turn, then twice to the left, and you're done.

Really not that exciting - it went by too fast!! See, that's why I don't do sprint races. the fun doesn't last enough! I don't even remember if I ate something during the bike. I don't think so, but I remember that I drank two or three times. That is always memorable because I'm nervous when I grab the bottle from its holder between my legs and I pray that I don't lose balance and wipe out like a fool.

Last but not least, after another fast transition, I went out to run again, on the same course as the first 5k. But this time, we turned around a bit earlier - and I could not wait to see the end! Funny how it goes from "is that all?" when you finish the bike to "are we there yet?? I am dying out here!" ten minutes later. I ran once more as hard as I could. I also had a gel after 1km and took some water with it. I remember the hurt, and sprinting hard to the finish, leaving it all out there. I saw this guy ahead of me and he looked like a giant. I did not want him to take my spotlight in the finish picture, so I had to pass him.

Here are two pictures showing Mr. Corum getting chicked too. By a 5'3" thing with short legs and a big bottom, but so much heart and courage! Boom!
I finished the race, then immediately had a big asthma attack and walked back to the entrance to the transition where I asked to be let in to get my puffer from my spot, but I was not allowed in and someone had to go find it for me... all this time I was coughing and wheezing and I was very uncomfortable, trying not to panic. Since this operation was taking quite some time, I had to sit down and another volunteer offered me her puffer and someone else a bottle of water...Thankfully my puffer showed up eventually and I could get up and walk over to the finish area to get something to eat.

Then I went to look at the results and my eyes almost popped out of my head. 5th in my age group, the most competitive group of all with 22 women. I also had the third fastest bike. Excuse me??
Time: 1:21:55
Run 1 (5k): 26:02 (average HR 175)
Bike (20k): 40:29 (average HR 170)
Run 2 (2.5k): 13:12 (average HR 175)
T1: 1:14
T2: 1:01
So just like that, I found myself going from the middle of the pack to top 10 female, and so close to the podium!

I was ecstatic. I never thought that I was going to finish in the top 10, but from the moment I placed myself at the starting line, I had this quote from the Coeur blog in mind, and it stayed with me the entire race:
[The Coeur girls] They are some of the friendliest people you’ll know but they do tend to race “lights out” and if you’re in their age group and you slow down in the finishing chute, you’re going to get passed.
I went there to represent a company that gave me a chance to show off their colors wherever I race.
I went there to show my coach that his plan works and that I can make him proud.
I went there to show myself that I am something more than a "middle of the pack with no ambitions" girl.

There are many factors that contributed to me having such an amazing day, but being part of a team with so many fit and fast women, it definitely helped. Most days I don't feel that I belong and seeing the race pictures above makes me cringe to no end. I am not one of them champions, or even girls who can qualify for Kona or go to the worlds. I am not fit and fast, I am a mom of two teenage boys who is still trying to lose the baby fat after all these years. But I am dedicated and work hard to become the best that I can be. This is what drives me, a desire to be better than my yesterday's self. I am realistic with my fitness expectations, but when something like this happens, finishing towards the top rather than the bottom, it messes up with my head. It plants a seed - the seed of "what if".

I am glad that I had a Du on my "fun list" and that I got out of my comfort zone to race it. This was my first ever sprint distance too. I jumped from running a marathon into an Olympic tri, looking for something that hurts more. And until this Du, I did not find the hurt in the Olympic distance, not even the 70.3 But now I know what it feels like and I won't hesitate to push through.

What if...

And speaking of champions, Jade took first overall female and AG win in the Du, Phaedra won her AG and my coach took 2nd in his AG. Carol came in top 10 in her AG. At the end of the day, we all rocked Woodstock.
Carol and I after the race
Last word before I go (I promise) - I wanted to share two photos of a friend that I made during the race. She was also in the Du and wore the same Coeur kit. She noticed my kit first, then we kept encouraging each other during the race. We had to take a few pictures afterwards and I emailed them to her, thus getting the chance to know each other a bit better. We'll meet at other races this year, so look for these two foxy ladies and say Hi if you cross paths with them ;-)
Coeur twinsies!


  1. You did awesome, Irina! Great writeup too.

  2. Awesome, awesome job. You rock.

  3. Kicking ass and taking names! Nice sunburn arms too. Great work, sister!

  4. Congratulations that's terrific. I love that you are doing so well and your confidence is building. Great things will happen. Sorry about the asthma attack though, that sounds scary. Well done out there. Tri events have the bet atmosphere, fun!

  5. So amazing! You are SUCH an inspiration! You make me want to jump into DUs (except for that hurt part!)

  6. I LOVE everything about this!!! Funny, I started my blog just before I turned 40 - I had vowed to make 40 the best year of my life to date and I have to say, it was great but the years that followed were even better. ENJOY this journey - you are entering the BEST years of your life. Glad to hear you've signed up for a few more MSC races - I LOVE all their events. I raced 7 of their races last year, ha ha. I wont' be doing that again this year but I'll be out for a few more. Hopefully I'll see you and your infectious smile!! :)

  7. Thank you everyone!! I am really really happy to be starting racing again. Once I keep on hurting, maybe my smile will go away, but for now I'm having the best time!! You're all awesome for leaving me a comment.

  8. Woot! Awesome race report. Congratulations. It sounds like you had an absolute blast!