This race wasn't even on my radar this year, being injured and such, but since the season was going pretty well, I decided to give it a try despite not having biked more than 70K this year. A 2km swim, followed by a 90km bike - one way or another I would have finished it (and I wasn't going to tell my physio about it). But life is more exciting when you walk on the edge, and all signs pointed to a pretty good outcome to my IT band and knee woes. I am no expert, but a few months of running and biking without pain is rather encouraging. Hubbs was also signed up, as were a few of our friends and members from our FMCT tri club. I was the only one to do the swim-bike, but I didn't feel much out of place.
Welland Half-Iron triathlon before, I knew most of the bike course and the swim didn't scare me, especially knowing that it was going to be held at the spanking new Flatwater Centre, in the same canal as the Welland swim.
Zin and I took a hotel room in Niagara Falls and left the boys at home because they weren't in the mood to spend yet another weekend spectating and cheering on random strangers. It's better not to argue with teenagers. On Saturday we arrived at the Flatwater Centre shortly after lunch and we picked up our race kits, checked out the place and chatted with friends. Because we were getting hungry, we drove downtown Welland for a bite. The city was deserted and we had a hard time finding a place that was open for lunch. We settled on a restaurant that was serving all day breakfast and I had a club house sandwich with fries and Zin a burger and a salad. It was decent and cheap, and we were happy that they didn't turn us down since they were closing at 2pm. With happy bellehs we returned to Flatwater Centre for the mandatory pre-race briefing, then we dropped our bikes in T1. It was a rainy and very windy day and I was hoping that the next day would have better conditions because I was not in the mood to pick up a fight with Mother Nature.
|Pre race selfie with hubbs|
After dinner we went back to our hotel where we finished setting up our bags and nutrition. Alas around us, the party was just getting started, so I informed Zin that I was going to sleep with ear plugs and that he better have a good alarm clock so we don't miss the shuttle. I read for a bit, then went to bed - I don't even remember if it was 10pm yet. The alarm went off at 5am and it took us only 45 minutes to shower, get ready for the race, pack all our belonging and leave. We stopped by the nearby Tim Hortons for breakfast and I had an English muffin with peameal bacon, an orange juice and a raisin bagel on the go. At 6:15am we picked up 2 more friends on Clifton Hill and all together we drove to T2. Parked our cars, Zin dropped his run bag, then the shuttle took us to Welland in about 30 min time. I don't know if we were the first bus to arrive in T1, but John Salt was already there with camera in hand and a welcome for all of us as we stepped off the bus. It put a smile on my face. I love John's passion for his Multisport races and this is what drives me to come back year after year. He makes us feel like family.
I dropped my wetsuit bag in transition, checked that my tires were still inflated and that a raccoon did not eat the gels off my bike. Then I went to get body marked, where I found Nicole, who surprised us all by volunteering at the race. She's always been a joiner, indeed. I love her to bits.
Kyra is just a few feet behind me, and I can see Sam and Emma too.
Below are pics taken by Nicole of me, Emma, Sam and Zin as we were running to transition. Hello there, friend!
Wasaga race still fresh in my mind, I told myself "NOT AGAIN!!" and hoped that it would go away. I drank some water 10 minutes later and it disappeared as quickly as it came. Phew, back to business.
Zin passed me close to the 30k mark and he made me smile as I could hear him from afar, howling like a wolf at me. It could have only been him, lol. I still had a lot of water in my bottles, so I decided to skip the first bottle exchange. I kept eating gels at 25 minute intervals, then a homemade energy bar at 50km. That's when I started drinking my Endura as well. I remember a LOT of turns on this route. And the chip seal by the stinky canal, twice (when did we turn around??). I kept passing people, but I also got passed by a lot of men. I remember passing at least 3-4 people in the swim bike event. And NO girls passed me at any point in time. Now that was really promising.
After 40km though, the wind started to slow me down. I tried my best to keep my head in the game, but I could see my speed going down... and down... and down... I remembered my speed last year in Welland and my finish time of 2:48 and change. Yes, I was 10 times better trained last year, but I felt that I had no excuses but try to match that result this year. The effort that I was putting on just didn't feel hard enough (see Strava file), but then I still had 30km to go. Hard to know when to sit back and relax and when to push to the max when all you've done this year were "all out" races. So after taking a bit of a break, so to speak, I started fighting for it. I really, really wanted to keep that speed. Since I don't train with power, all I had for metrics were my heart rate and my breathing. I truly went by feel, chasing the panting, hard breathing and burn in the quads. Here are some pretty graphs.
After being convinced that the course was going to be long because of the km markers that kept coming later and later after my watch had beeped, it ended being short by 1.1km. I was really enjoying the path along the river when all of a sudden we turned a corner, and there was the dismount line. I felt utterly confused, but also very happy that I was done. I struggled to get off my bike and almost face planted when my leg hit the bottle that I was carrying at the back. The bottle fell, but I kept going because I needed to reach the mat! The volunteer wanted me to take the bottle, but I yelled "I don't care about it!!" and it was so true. At that moment, all that mattered was to reach the finish line.
As soon as I stepped into transition, I felt my legs giving up. I used my bike to hold myself up, then the medical volunteers arrived and I gave them my bike saying that I needed to lie down. I could not see properly anymore and I pretty much collapsed, unable to move. Legs had seized up and were hurting from knee up just like after a marathon. After about 5 minutes of looking at the sky, I was able to sit up and cheer on my friends who just started arriving in transition. After a little while, I returned to pick up my lost bottle, then took my bike to its spot at the other end of the transition. My legs could not bend much at the knees, so it was pretty hilarious to see me walking around I suppose. I knew that I was done, but I still had to go to the finish line to grab my medal, hat and return my chip. I took the (long) walk there, told them that I was done with my race and they gave me my bling. I wasn't going to walk another 100m to get inside the chute for a finish picture that didn't make sense anyway, so the photographer took my pic right there outside the chute. I don't quite like that picture, so I'll share a selfie instead.
Kim and Hector and trying to relax. Since I had not found my dry clothes bag with my phone yet, I asked Kim if she could check the results and tell me how I did. She looked and gave me the news : 1st in my AG, 2nd OA. I could not believe what I was hearing. I was absolutely stoked!! My first ever podium and I finished (almost) on top overall. I jumped out of the boots and my legs were feeling FANTASTIC. Seriously, I was ready to run a marathon!! Quite the difference with 20 minutes prior, so I am convinced that these boots did the trick. (mental note, start saving for a pair NOW).
I went back to the finish line to wait for hubbs and picked up my dry clothes bag on the way. Since I had finished, my vision was blurry and I could barely see around. I was thinking that I may need food, but I didn't want to miss him coming in. He finished about 10 min later, then we waited around for the rest of the troops. I managed to get food eventually, but the blurred vision didn't go away. It stayed with me for about 3h and it was starting to worry me, but I knew that it happened before when I put in a long efforts. I read later on that it's a combination of low blood sugar and low tension, so not to worry. But it's something that I need to ponder on for sure.
See the results, 2 days later and she was still not in the list (she is now).
I am extremely happy with the outcome of this race, as I know that I went there and gave it all. All our friends crossed the finish line, many of them with sweet PRs. I can't wait to go back next year and get a taste of that mist from the Falls on the half marathon as well. ;-)