Somehow I got it into my head that start time for this race was 9am. We arrived at 7:30 with plenty of time to pick up kit and get Tanker situated in transition before suddenly hearing that the transition area would be closing at 7:50am.
Yeah, so 8am start. Not 9am. Whoops.
By the time I had our kit and got Tanker's number plate on his bike, I had all of 10mins to change (inside my Chawel) into my bathing suit and get at least my lower half stuffed into my wetsuit (which they'd just announced would be legal, contrary to expectations) before we had to vacate transition. With no time to hit a portajohn, that was the only thing getting vacated.
I rubberized myself as best I could, wandered down to the swim exit, and plunged in to flail my way through the water over to the starting area. My total "warm up" was about 50m, and my suit was in need of adjustment.
I waited with the other pink-capped women while the men's wave went off, thankful that at least the water was warm - a pleasant change from Woodstock! I was also grateful that Tanker and I were just doing this race for giggles; between my ongoing hamstring injury, Tank's shaken confidence on the bike and the ridiculous rush due to my start time SNAFU, performance was not the word of the day.
|Idiocy, as usual, was.|
At 8:03am the horn sounded and I plunged forth to see if I could at least make it through the damn swim without drowning or having to kick on my back (because that was humiliating at Woodstock).
I actually felt ok as I headed for the first turn buoy - my arms were turning over and I wasn't feeling gassed or sore. Probably would have been better if we'd managed more than 5-6hrs of sleep per night all week, but it was a little late for that know.
|Hey, I'm doing it!|
There was only one problem: despite being able to sight the buoy without issue, I was having no luck actually keeping myself on course toward it. I kept drifting off to my left, and my corrections seemed ineffective at best.
|The red line is not the fast line.|
I must have swum at least an extra 50m just due to my inability to move in a straight line. The advantage was that I had plenty of clear water around me to do my own thing - the disadvantage was that I had a lot of catching up to do.
I did eventually manage to get my navigation under control, right about the time I hit the first turn buoy. I actually felt pretty good as I stroked my way through the rest of the course and commenced passing people. I did in fact swim the whole thing as I'd hoped, and felt fairly strong.
Unfortunately, it would later turn out that I should have started in the first wave. So, apart from my own rather pathetic lack of skill in the water leading to a slow time of 22:30 (at 2:15/100m), we ended up with an additional 3 minutes being tacked onto team ill advised racing inc.'s swim result.
|I wasn't much faster running into transition, either.|
1,000m swim: 25:30 @ 2:32/100m
8/9 relay teams
8/9 relay teams
So yeah, I only beat one person out of the water - the guy who'd never swum in open water before, and who was wearing a shorty jet ski wetsuit...backwards. Fortunately, Tanker was ready and rarin' to go shred the bike course!
|Passing a random chick leaving the mount line|
|Through the first loop|
Not that you'd know it from the photos, but I heard from Tanker later that he found the bike course quite a challenge. Apart from the joy of having to ride up the Niagara Escarpment (repeatedly), the nature of the trails themselves were plenty to keep him on his toes...and occasionally off his bike, either to walk something that was just too sketchy looking or picking himself up from something it might've been better to walk.
I feel slightly less wussy about my spotty history with the bike course here after hearing Tank say afterward that he'd "never been so terrified while having so much fun."
I hung out in transition, having changed into my running kit under my Chawel and thrown on a sweater to try to keep from freezing on the cool, windy, overcast morning.
|Bikes and racks|
Trying to judge the time Tank would be back from playing in the dirt based on his first loop, I took a caffeinated gel at about 9:40am in anticipation of the run to come. I wished I could run over to the portajohns as I needed to pee (I'd been staying well hydrated while I waited and shivered), but I couldn't risk not being there when Tank got back. When it passed 10am and the trickle of mountain bikes coming into transition all but dried up I started to get a bit concerned, but just before 10 past my sweetheart was charging hard toward the dismount line.
|Rockin' and rollin'|
21km bike: 1:43:17 @ 12.2kph
9/9 relay teams
|Ripping toward our rack.|
A quick kiss and a swap of the chip strap from his ankle to mine, then I was on my way.
|Hoping like hell my hamstrings hold together.|
From the run exit, I was directed down a mowed pathway through the long grass between the parking area and the pond. This brought me out to the quarry driveway; the giant, paved hill that represents the start of the bike course. With no volunteers around and the only other runner I could see ditched behind me (having passed him as I ran across the grass), I wasn't sure if I was headed in the right direction. I'd looked at the new maps on the website, but every other year the run had started with a slog up the double track hill on the north side of the race site that the bike course now took down to transition. Was I running the wrong damn way?
I decided there was nothing else for it - I'd just keep on trucking, and if someone told me I was in the wrong place, I'd deal with that when it happened.
I felt surprisingly strong on the climb up to the trails, and finally found some peace of mind as I passed an aid station without the volunteers yelling "WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?" - they just kindly offered me water or sport drink, both of which I declined before darting into the forest.
It was a bit eerie not being able to see another soul during a race, but I thoroughly enjoyed the run regardless. The new course, I came to figure out, is the first 7.8km loop of the bike leg - the run around the pond afterward brings it up to the new distance of 9.8km (which the timing company lists as 9.5k for some reason). While being technical enough to keep your attention on foot, the whole thing is supremely runnable. I danced over roots and rocks, thinking that Sulphur Springs was excellent training for these trails, and just delighting in being surrounded by forest with nothing but the soughing wind as company. I felt fitter than I expected, and my injured leg was quietly getting on with its job even after I stepped wrong on something or other and rolled my right ankle a bit. Pure trail bliss.
|Though it may not look like it here..|
I grabbed a cup of water from the second aid station, having a sip and dumping the rest on my chest for cooling, figuring I must be about halfway through the run course by now. I had no way of knowing for sure, as the kilometers weren't marked and I wasn't even wearing my watch - I'd ditched it when Tanker was on his way into transition as knowing the time wouldn't have any impact on my ability to run. Fortunately my injury didn't seem to be a limiting factor, and I was able to push fairly hard...as plainly evidenced by the death whistle starting up no more than 6k in as I strained up a root-strewn climb.
I finally found another competitor on course just before I came out of the woods again, passing him as he walked and reassuring him there was a big downhill coming. Of course, I'd forgotten the short climb on the doubletrack that comes before the long, pounding descent. I saw a girl on her way up it as I puffed life a freight train on my way to the top, and decided to zero in on her as a rabbit.
Down, down, down the other side, back to quarry level again. I grabbed another cup of water from the last aid station near transition, having one more sip to wet my mouth and dumping the rest down my back. It wasn't terribly warm out, but I'd sweat while running in a meat locker, so it was welcome. As I pounded my way around the pond I passed my rabbit, plus two other competitors ahead of me - advantage of being a relay runner and having fresher legs. My damaged hamstrings were starting to talk now, but I knew I was only minutes away from being done - this was no time to let up!
Rounding the end of the pond and coming face to face with a blast of wind, I kept pushing hard as I came through the final turn and into the finish chute with damn near nothing left in me.
9/9 relay teams
Definitely not going to be tapped for the Olympic team at any point soon, though if the race organizers are correct about the distance being 9.8km I actually managed a 6:00/km pace through hilly and technical terrain. Even if it was only 9.5km, that's almost twice as far as I've run at one time since this idiot injury happened, and I think made for a pretty decent showing for an out-of-shape semi-cripple.
Official time: 3:09:15 (should be 3:06:15)
9/9 relay teams
It's a good thing we just do this for fun, eh?
|Team ill advised racing inc. - done with no major damage!|
We really couldn't have timed the finish much better anyway. Within 5mins of my crossing the line, the first of the rain that had been threatening all morning began to fall, and in no time it was positively bucketing down!
|Watering down my coffee, dammit!|
It was a fun day of racing with my sweetheart, and I'm just glad we both finished intact with smiles on our faces. What more could you really ask for?