Monday, June 15, 2015

Welland Triathlon Report

The first triathlon of 2015 is officially in the books.

The short version of the story goes something like this

Start swimming. Think "Omigod I forgot how much I loved open water swimming!!". Enjoy a strong swim where I am passed by two people but I pass at least 15 others. Turn at the last buoy and head for shore. Think "The swim is almost over. That's sad. Now I have to hop on the bike for 30k. Bloody hell". Cycle the first 15k thinking "wow, I'm faster than I thought I was. All the half marathon training and winter cycling on the trainer must have paid off". Turn around at 15k and think "nope, that was just a nice tailwind". Cycle 15k into a pretty strong headwind and think "my shoulders and my a$$ are killing me". Finish the bike ride, pull on my running shoes and think "it's only 7.5k. That's like 1/3 of a half marathon and you rocked a half marathon last weekend. You got this!". Run 7.5k without stopping at a strong and steady pace and think "this is the easiest triathlon run I've ever had. I feel great. I love triathlons!" Cross the finish line with a smile on my face and think "when's the next one!"

The longer version is, well, a little bit longer.

We got there super early because this crazy girl decided a 1pm the afternoon before the race that she needed to buy her very first wetsuit. Why?!? Because at 12:30pm she read the race report online and learned that the water temperature in the canal was 15C/59F. The wetsuit mandatory cutoff is 14C and there was no way I was getting there in the morning and finding out that I couldn't swim. So I sucked it up, drove to our local triathlon store, said "do you have any wetsuits in my size?", spent 15 minutes trying to get the damn thing on, felt ridiculous in it and yet walked out with it anyway, a few hundred dollars poorer.

So we got to the race 90 minutes early so I could a) pee a bunch of times before putting on the wetsuit, b) put on the wetsuit and c) swim in it for as long as it took to feel comfortable. Doug, the smart man that he is, set up his transition zone and headed back to the car for 45 minutes where it was warm.

I racked my bike as several other triathletes were arriving. They were all new to the sport and asked me a bunch of newbie questions that made me smile as I remembered wondering all of the same things not that long ago. One of the newbies noticed my pump and proudly showed me his Animas pump. Spotting another T1 in the wild means instant bonding and we kept cheering each other on every time we saw each other during the race.

The donning of the wetsuit went much better the second time. It helped that I knew what to expect, I came prepared with a plastic bag to wrap around my feet (to help them slide more easily) and I was in and zipped (by myself) in less than five minutes. I made my way down to the water where a bunch of folks were milling around trying to decide whether or not to go into the now 16C water. I greeted them all and walked right in. I forced myself to simply tread water for a few minutes while the cold water seeped into the wetsuit (what a strange feeling that is) and I made sure that I wasn't going to start panic-breathing. The water felt cold but manageable and I had no issues getting used to the tighter feel of a wetsuit. I swam a few hundred metres, made sure I wasn't going to freak out and then happily floated around chatting to all the others who were brave enough to get in.

I had a few diabetes issues to figure out at the last minute. First of all, tucking emergency carbs into the pockets of my triathlon suit was not going to work because there was no way to get to them once the wetsuit was on. I ended up stuffing two packages of fruit chews and a ziplock bag with two dates into the arms of my suit. It felt weird but worked fine.

I had also planned to be able to stalk my continuous glucose monitor (CGM) in the time leading up to the race but, once I put the suit on, I could no longer see Rose. And, even if I could, it would not have mattered anyway as she lost the CGM signal, not to be found again until I was finished the swim and took off the wetsuit. So I went on feel and had one date (with salt) 30 minutes before the start and one  (again with salt) a minute or two before going in.

When the race started, I swam hard. I felt like I was swimming really fast and I had been told that I would feel that way but I wasn't sure if I just felt fast or if I really was fast. I passed a bunch of swimmers but that's typical for me. Swimming is definitely my forte in a triathlon.

Getting out of the wetsuit was tricky and awkward but I'm sure, with experience, it will be easier. It added a minute to my transition time but I wasn't too worried about that.

The bike ride was easy and fun for the first half and tough on the way back when I hit the headwind. I obviously have not had enough training on the bike and my body could feel it during the last 10k. I'll have to make a point of riding more and riding farther in the next month so that the 40k olympic distance ride doesn't feel quite so never-ending. I did have two dates (with salt) on the bike ride and drank a lot of NUUN in an effort to keep my electrolytes up and prevent a blood pressure crash on the run.

The run felt great. I approached it the same way I approached the half marathon last weekend. Run at a strong and steady pace, watch my heart rate and don't stop running. It worked well and, as I picked off the kilometres one by one, I enjoyed the moment rather than waiting for it to end.

I crossed the finish line with a blood sugar of 12. Not bad considering that I hadn't checked it before or during the race and had just done it all by feel. I had set a race day basal profile that was supposed to allow me to eat before the swim and during the ride which is exactly what I did. A glance at my CGM when I got home showed me that I had climbed pretty high (16+) during the bike ride but had dropped back down again by the end. So lows were not a problem but I hate being that high during a race. I'll have to tweak those basal numbers before the next race.

Here are the results for this year's race:
Swim 14:38.9 1:57min/100m (Overall 89/240 Gender 27/90 Category 4/18)
Bike 1:13:05 24:62km/hour (Overall 210/240 Gender 74/90 Category 13/18)
Run 51:43.7 6:53min/km (Overall 221/241 Gender 79/90 Category 15/18)
T1 3:23
T2 2:31
Total 2:27:50 (Overall 220/240 Gender 79/90 Category 15/18)

Compare it to the one I did two years ago:
Swim 14:30.00 1:55/100m (Overall 120/296 Gender 43/128 Category 7/20)
Bike  1:03:17 28.44km/hr (overall 224/296 Gender 81/128 Category 14/20)
Run 55:33:00 7:24min/km (Overall 262/296 Gender 105/128 Category 17/20)
T1 2:30
T2 2:39
Total 2:20:45 (Overall 243/296 Gender 99/120 Category 16/20)

The swim times are almost identical. Two years ago I was at my swimming peak, doing master's three times a week and super hardcore. This time I was nowhere near that level of swimming fitness but I did have a wetsuit. So perhaps it did make me faster.

The bike was a lot slower this year - no surprise there considering my lack of practice.

My run was 4 minutes faster which is great. It felt much better too. I remember really struggling in 2013 during that run.

No personal best and I obviously have some work to do if I want to place high on the bike and in the run but it sure was fun.

After a few days of trepidation last week I'm happy to announce that triathlon girl is back!!

Here are a few photos taken from Multisports' Facebook page, the fine folks who organize these great races.


  1. Excellent race write-up!

    I'm really glad the wetsuit worked for you. When I saw the picture on FB, I thought, "Oh no! Céline got a full-sleeve suit.They can feel tight in the shoulders, and she's never going to trust me again." Good to hear that wasn't the case.

    FWIW, I stash my emergency sugar (usually just one gel) in the ankle of my wetsuit. It's easy to get to, and I don't feel it during the swim at all.

    Welcome back to tri!

  2. I love your race report, congratulations on a race well done! I am happy you gave the wetsuit a try :) I also stick my emergency sugar in the ankle of my wetsuit, easier than trying to dig in through the neck. Looking forward to following your tri adventures!