Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Triathlon Saguenay Race Report

WARNING - This post contains coarse language and explicit content

When I started running last summer, I wasn't expecting that a year later I would be swimming 1.5km in a river, riding 40km and then finishing with a 10km foot race. Well, that's what I just did last Saturday. Let's start at the begining.

This winter, a few of my childhood friends told me they were doing a triathlon in our hometown of Jonquiere, QC, about 1000 km from my home in Toronto. Even though I was running, the idea of doing a triathlon had never entered my mind. Well, I said yes.

Fast forward to Friday, the day before the race. I'm at my friend Jean's (Jean is a man name in French, kinda like John) cottage and we're loading the bikes in my car. We've decided to drive the bike course, ride the run course and ... swim the swim course. The race course is right "downtown", about 25 minutes from the cottage. We get there, drive close to the end and decide to ride the last part, which is pretty darn hilly. The roads look like they haven't been maintained in 30 years. We then drive to the transition area and ride the 5k run course, which we will have to do twice tomorrow. Hmmm. The course crosses the river three times. There is one bridge and two dams. To get to the last dam, there is a huge hill. Doesn't feel too bad on the bike, but we ARE standing on our pedals.

To the swim. We slap our wetsuit on and head for the river. We have to sign in at the lifeguard station and the lifeguard says we MUST wear a life jacket. We laugh. She gets mad and says that she can't stand triathletes, that people have been ignoring her all day and that we can all go to hell. We jump in the water and start swimming. The current, contrary to what we had been led to believe, is not too bad. The water is about 72 degrees. We swim about 500m and head back. We drive around and come back at 6PM to get our bag. Very basic: a bib and a technical shirt: the shirt is really nice.

I'll skip the social part, but it was nice to see my old friends, some of which I hadn't seen in 20 years.

Only 3 of us were signed up for the race: Jean, 45, from Calgary, Dan,44, from Edmonton and me, TriJD, 44, from Toronto. It just happens that Dan and me have the exact same birthday. The 4th guy, still living here, ended up not being able to race for health reasons.

It's Saturday morning, 6 am: Race Day! Jean makes a batch of smoothies. I'm not too hot on milk product before a race, but they tell me it's a tradition so what the hell. Quick coffee, potty break and it's time to load the cars. We arrive there at 7:30 for a 9-ish start. It's a small race with less than 100 athletes between the Sprint and the Olympic. There's also a team, a U13 and U15 tri as well as Sprint, Olympic and Team duathlons. I would say about 225 people. When we show up, people are signing up because the weather is nice. We get marked. At my previous tri, they put your number on your arm and your age on your calf. I like the age one. We go to the transition area to set up. In my previous tri, there were people of all shapes and sizes. Not here. Everybody looks intense and seem really intense. There are VERY few chicks. Only 5 out of 45 in the Olympic and 12 out of 40 in the Sprint. I go to the potty one last time before putting my wetsuit on. All of a sudden, they announce that we're starting early because the train, which intersects the run loop, is early! I go back to make sure my stuff is ready, put Bodyglide where is required and put my wetsuit and cap on. The weather is perfect: about 20C (70F) and the water is the same temperature.

Swim - 1500m - 32:08:00

When we were kids, I've always been the least athletic of my group of friends. They were all in the waterpolo team so I pretty much know that I'll have the worse swim. I have my full length wetsuit, they have short ones. They will start the Olympic first and then start the Sprint when we're all in our second loop. We get in the water and a guy yells GO! and we're off. I start well behind and on the outside. The first leg is with the current so we're cruising down the river. I just swim, breathing on both sides. The water is flat. I'm swimming with a bunch of people and we're colliding quite a bit. We swim under a bridge and I hear my name: I look up and a couple of our support team are waving. I wave quickly and keep going. Shortly after I finish my first loop I hear the splash of the Sprint guys. As I turn the last corner and start my last leg, 3 or 4 guys with yellow caps swim right over me. I swim a bit more to the outside and plug along. I see feet and I just follow them to the finish. I get out of the water and pull the top of my wetsuit off. I look at my rack and see my bike. Amazing, Dan's bike is still racked! I start stripping. The transition area is on asphalt and I don't want to hurt my wetsuit so I try to be careful. I'm stuck! Fuck it, I'll buy a new one. I step all over it and get out of it. I throw the wetsuit on the bike rack and look at my stuff. I look on the ground and my chip is laying there! I put it back on. I can't think. I start chanting "sock, sock, shoe, shoe, glasses, helmet go". Thank's AG podcast! I unrack and as I start running I see Dan running up to the rack. We say "HEY" and I'm gone.

Bike - 40 km - 1:21:13 - includes T1 (2 minutes?)

I get to the line, mount my bike, press START on my Garmin 305 and I GO. The course was a 20 km out and back, which we did twice. The first half is flat, with rolling hills and a couple of decent ones toward the end. The course cuts traffic on the road that goes to the closest lake and people are trying to get to their cottage. Some people are PISSED OFF. I'll learn later that some drunk (at 10am) tried to drive in the bike course and hit two cyclists, right in front of the cops. Un-fucking-believable! I'm not aware of any of this though. My bike is uneventful except that as I start the second loop, I get this urgent need to piss. This is disturbing. I'm squeezing gels out of my cool new Gel-Bot and drinking water out of my second bottle. I'm keeping my HR between 70 and 80% of my running max, which is 193. This is my second tri and I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm thinking that this feels hard enough. I'm a bit worried because I've never ridden that hard for that long. I'm going over 30 km/h except on the hills where it's all over the place. I endup with a hair under 30 km/h average, which I'm happy with because it's faster than my prior Sprint average and the course was harder. I slow down as I get close to the line, get off my bike and I'm running to the transition area. I know that Dan isn't far behind because I saw him about 500m after the turnaround.

Run - 10 km - 50:34:00 - includes T2 (1:30?)

I rack my bike like a pro, throw my helmet in my bag, put my cap on, strap my number belt on, switch shoes in 5 seconds and I'm just GONE! What did you say? What about that Garmin 305? As I cross the mat, I go to press on LAP and there's nothing there. Damn. Would you believe I have NEVER run without it since I bought it? I don't look at my HR on the run but I do like to look at my lap pace. It's set to lap every Km and I really like to follow my pace. Well, not today. Did I mention I had to pee? I also forgot to pee. I'm just out of the transition, I forgot my 305, I have to piss like a race horse. How am I feeling? I can't really feel anything below my ankles and my legs aren't responding quite as expected. I've done bicks but this is ridiculous. The race course immediately goes down hill. My quads feel like there going to give out and I'm afraid I'm going to trip because of my phantom feet. Within 5 minutes I feel ok. Not great but ok. I had planned on a 4:45min/km pace but I'm pretty sure I'm not doing it. I see one of the few girls ahead of me, maybe 50 meters. She looks strong. I don't think I'm going to pass her any time soon. I don't see anybody else. 100 people spread over a long course makes for a thin field. Other than my bladder starting to freak out, the fist 2.5 km goes ok, except that I can't go any faster. I don't pass anyone and nobody passes me. At the turn-around I grap a cup of water, drink a gulp and dump the rest on my head. The climb commences. I'm still following the girl. I can't get any closer. We pass a couple of people. The hill is brutal. As we get close to the bridge that brings us back to the line, the girl starts to accelerate. I understand that this is her last (only?) loop. Sprint, Du? I'm losing my rabbit. Sure enough she goes on the finish side and I go for another loop. By now, I've decided that I'm going to wait for some bushes and piss there. I'm downhill again so I'm in a better mood but I know what's coming. As I start the climb for the second time, I pass a guy who ventilates like he's on top of the Everest. I think I'm going to blow by him but he hangs on. I keep hearing him litterally breathing down my neck. No way this guy can't sustain that level of pain for another 2 km! My problem is that now, I can't stop to piss. He's right there. He can't finish before me. I'm breathing fine, he's about to pop. But I can't fucking accelerate. I didn't even look at him when I passed him. I have no idea what he looks like. I keep running. I wonder for a while if it would help to cry. I'm SO FUCKING TIRED. What if the wheezer has a kick? I can't imagine, he's getting worse. We get back to the top just before the last bridge, about 750m from the finish. We're on the bridge. As we get off the bridge, I hear my guy, about 10m behind me, pick it up. Fucker. As tired as I am, you're going to force me to sprint. I should punch you in the head. Well, my track sessions paid off. Just as he tries to pass me, we're about 400m from the line. I can do that. I just take the fuck off. He didn't even try. Never heard him again. I hear my name and number. I look around: no camera, thank god. I don't think I can smile. My friend Jean is standing there yelling something. I high-five him and keep going. A lady tells me to stand still while she takes the chip off. Are you kidding me? I've been going for nearly 3 hours and I have to stop and not move? I must have done it cause the chip is off. Where is the water? No one is handing out water! Are you shitting me? I go inside the building where the food is served and get me a bottle of water. I see a chair and sit in it. WHAT THE FUCK? I'm pissing in my tri-shorts! I forgot I had to pee! I get up and run to the toilet. I do what must be done and it feels great. I grab some food and go sit outside with Jean waiting for Dan who shows up a few minutes later.

Final time: 2:43:54

I'm really happy with this race. It was great. It was also the hardest physical challenge I've done yet. I cannot imagine doing an HIM or an IM, although I intend to do just that. HIM next year and IM whenever I can talk my wife into it.

No comments: