After Friday’s “Destructo-Dog” incident, I was able to replace most of my gear with some help from friends and a little luck.
Unfortunately, bad luck struck again when I realized that one of my new shoes was missing an integral piece of hardware from the bottom (and not something that could be transferred from my old pair). Thankfully, it was the right shoe that was a dud and Miles had only destroyed my left. So, I raced in one brand new bike shoe and one old. You gotta do what you gotta do!
We packed up and drove to Muskoka on Saturday morning in pouring rain. There was a ton of precipitation in the forecast and I was just hoping it would clear out before Sunday. I got lucky and had clear skies long enough for registration and bike check-in – it was pouring buckets again a little later when my friends were there.
Logistically, this race was a bit of a nightmare if you didn’t stay at the on-site hotel (which is pricey and had an annoying two-night minimum in place). There was absolutely no parking allowed on-site so we were asked to park at a separate location a few miles away and ride our bikes over, then take the provided shuttle buses on race day. Luckily I was able to have hubs drop me off so I didn’t have to worry about that.
I arrived shortly after registration opened and there weren’t too many people around yet. I went through the motions easily, received my wrist band and race kit, and racked my bike. I met up with some friends to do a little shopping at the expo before hubs came back to pick me up.
We grabbed a quick lunch and went to check in at our hotel where I spent some time getting my gear organized (locked in the bathroom away from Destructo-Dog, of course) and relaxing before dinner with the gang. After dinner I had a relaxing soak in the tub, double checked that I had everything laid out for the morning and turned in early.
We made the short drive to the site around 6am, where once again hubs dropped me off with all of my gear. It was still dark when we arrived but I got busy prepping my bike and laying out my transition gear. The place filled up quickly, but I was able to meet up with almost all of my friends who were also racing. We chatted nervously and exchanged good lucks as the start time drew nearer. No matter how early I arrive, I almost always find that the time passes too quickly and I’m scrambling to the start. (First wave was 8am; I was in wave 4 at 8:18.)
It was a very cold morning, around 8C (46F). I was bundled in a bunch of layers to stay warm and fortunately we were able to keep our dry-clothes bags with us all the way down to the beach were we dropped them off just before heading into the water. I didn’t get a final reading on the lake, but it was reported to be in the 15-18C range (60-65F). Definitely cool, but it didn’t feel too bad against the brisk morning air.
Soon enough, the pink caps (all F30-39) were called to the water to wait for our start. I used the time to make sure my goggles were adjusted properly and swam back and forth for a few minutes. I felt good and ready to go!
Result: 40:39 (2:01/100m)
19/35 F30-34, 100/228 females, 395/825 overall
The course was rectangular in Peninsula Lake. As they say in Muskoka, at least the swim is flat! My wave opened up very quickly and I never felt crowded, even from the start. It was nice because I never got pummeled, but this also meant I didn’t have any feet to follow. I was essentially swimming alone almost the entire time, which is definitely not what I expected.
We started off swimming into the sun and it was hard to see the buoys, but I was able to follow the flow of traffic for the most part. After making the second turn, the sun was behind us and it was a lot easier to see where I was going. At that point it also felt like we were on the way in, even though there was still a long way to go.
I was feeling good in the water and staying under control, which is ultimately what I wanted. I had no idea where I was time-wise so when I finally glanced at my watch approaching the swim exit, I was pleased to see 40:XX. We had to climb a staircase out of the lake, with volunteers helping to pull us up.
I started running up the hill and almost missed the wetsuit strippers. I had completely forgotten, but took full advantage when a couple of volunteers waved me over. This was very cool and it came off in 2 seconds flat. From there we had a long uphill run on freezing pavement to transition. My feet were not happy by the time I made it up.
This was by far the biggest transition area I have ever experienced, but I found my rack easily and my bike was right near the end. I tossed my swim gear aside and geared up for the bike. I took the time to pull on arm warmers and gloves (it was freezing, remember) and I was glad I did; I left them on for the entire ride. Unfortunately I didn’t stuff my goodies deep enough into the rear pockets on my shirt and stuff fell everywhere as I pushed my bike out. I had to stop, back track and a kind volunteer helped me pick up the pieces and re-load. Gah!
T1 (includes run-up): 5:48
94 KM (58.4 mi)
Result: 3:06:32 (30.2 KPH – 18.8 mph)
9/35 F30-34, 43/228 females, 274/825 overall
We pushed our bikes out of transition and onto the road, hopped on and the fun began! I had been nervous about (a) being cold and (b) what this grueling course had in store for me. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. The sun was out and the temperature felt near perfect, and I handled the course just fine. It didn’t feel nearly as tough as I had remembered so either I was having an ‘off’ day when I rode it, or taper + race day adrenaline had an enormous impact.
I felt strong throughout, used my gears effectively to manage the hills and had the time of my life. I was smiling like crazy the whole time, chatting briefly with fellow athletes whenever possible, thanking every single volunteer, spectator and police officer that I could and even singing to myself (I was singing Yankee Doodle at one point. Not sure where that came from…)
Meanwhile I made sure to stay on top of my hydration, nutrition and salt while ticking off the course markers every 5K. I even navigated the bottle exchange successfully, chucking an empty bottle into the hockey net provided and accepting a new bottle.
The last third of the course is by far the toughest, especially since there were three long stretches of rough gravel. This photo is from when I rode the course in August, but it had not changed.
These sections even included significant uphills and downhills, and it was a challenge to say the least. It was a relief to get back onto smooth pavement again.
Before I knew it, we were making the last few turns back towards the race site. I silently thanked my awesome bike for getting me through the ride safely and without any mechanical issues. Always a relief!
I love my bike!
T2 went much more smoothly than T1.
21.1 KM (13.1 mi)
Result: 2:02:03 (5:47/KM – 9:19/mi)
14/35 F30-34, 54/228 females, 314/825 overall
The first matter of business was to unload the huge handful of garbage stuffed in the back of my top, which I did at the first aid station. I realized that I had forgotten to remove my 2nd spare tube and tire levers from my pocket in transition and almost threw them out, but decided I could suck it up and carry them through the run.
I had my handheld water bottle with 2 salts and 2 Gus stuffed in the pouch, so I didn’t end up taking anything from the aid stations (except two partial water refills).
We started out on the main road (uphill, of course), which felt pretty awful with the sun pounding down. The temperature was comfortable, but the sun still felt hot. The hills were just plain cruel. Right off the bat, I could feel that my right quad was on the verge of ceasing up. I was terrified that it was going to cramp on me, especially with the hills, but thankfully it eventually relaxed and left me alone.
Other than that, I was feeling pretty decent through the first half. This meant, as I later realized, that I took off a bit too fast. I found myself running side by side with my new friend Jake, a 21 year old running in Luna Sandals. We got to chatting and ended up sticking together for almost the entire run. The company was nice for the most part, and chatting was helping the time pass.
I was also watching out for my friends on the out-and-back course, getting a huge boost every time I saw one of them.
I was happy to make the turn-around and start heading back towards the finish, remembering that the elevation profile clearly inidicated a net downhill second half. Unfortunately, the wheels started coming off. I was beyond tired as the kilometres went on, crawling up the hills and even adding a walk here and there. My buddy Jake had tons of pep and did his best to encourage me on. He stuck with me, even as I told him over and over that he should go on ahead and finish strong.
The last few miles felt like a death march and I was surprised when I finally flipped my Garmin display to total multi-sport time, to see that I was still in good shape for sub-6:00. I trudged on, finally hearing the crowd and making the never-ending run all around transition to cross that line. I heard them call my name and even got to run through a banner - that was a nice touch!
Did I win??
I got to meet Ririnette who was volunteering at the finish line as a “catcher.” I was doing fine on my feet, but it was nice seeing a friendly face (and giving her a big sweaty hug – oops!) after finishing, and she carefully led me to chip removal where hubs was waiting as well. Thanks, Riri!
After the race (and after seeing all of my friends finish) we had to get back to the car parked a couple miles away (again, logistical nightmare…). This was no easy task with bike, gear bags and puppy in tow, especially for an exhausted 70.3 finisher. We started hoofing it with me pushing my bike along the hilly roads but I only made it a mile or so before I had to sit down. I started feeling sick in the sun and I was just too tired to keep going. I ended up sitting on the side of the highway while hubs went ahead to retrieve the car.
All in all, it was a fantastic day and I had a blast. The challenge was worth it and it feels great to check this one off the list. I’m so proud of all of my friends who had great races out there. It was fun to share the day with everyone. Now I am even more excited for what next year has in store for us.