Monday, 22 September 2014

Barrelman - Race Report

Tyr declared that there shall be wind and storm.  Bravely we strove forward into the tumult and conquered the distance.

No race pictures.  I was busy.

"We won't have to worry about sunscreen." I said, as I laid out four piles of items in the motel room.  Swim gear. Bike gear. Run gear. Street clothes.  The street clothes included my tri shorts and top.  It's what I was putting on when I got up in the morning.  I will lay out the bike gear in T1 when we get to Welland.  The run gear goes into the bag that the volunteers will place by my spot on the bike rack in T2. Swim gear plus the wetsuit is how I start the race. The forecast was for full overcast, rain, thundershowers, and wind. All they got right was the wind.  The race would be sunny with barely a passing cloud.  My neck and shoulders are all burned.  

Saturday morning I was so on edge that after the stop at the bank and variety store, I went back to the house for more items. Jen reminded me that I've planned it out.  i have everything.  I let Jen drive so I could worry without watching for traffic.  The undertaking of triathlon requires all these little things be put together, everything in its place.  I reviewed my lists, and knew I had all of the essentials, but there were some variables unaccounted for, mostly due to the weather. I wanted to have all of the "just in case" items on hand.  Being so well prepared made me worried.  We had everything, so we must be forgetting something. 

I forgot the tire pump.  I will add that to the list. 

The drive was about an hour and a half. First stop was registration in Welland.  Leave the bikes there.  Then to Tim Hortons for lunch.  Over to Niagara Falls and T2 for the athlete briefing.  Lastly, the motel. I cheaped out and got the $60 motel on Lundy's Lane instead of the $90 motel across the street from T2. Dinner was next door at Magnolia for Chinese food with lots of rice.  I always have rice the day before.

The athlete meeting dragged on and on.  Dude, you don't have to give us a turn-by-turn account of the bike course.  We all saw the map.  Just make sure there's signage on course.  You just need to tell us of any unusual turns or obstacles.  He said that the chance of a train using the crossing was minuscule.  Then he conceded that a couple years ago they had a train.  They get trains, and planned for it, and would record and clear the pause time from our stats.  Oh, and surprise! due to construction, they added 2.5 km to the bike course for a detour. T2 isn't staged yet, so we can't go find our spots in the bike racks. It's good to know where to go. 

We were up at 5.  No alarm clocks required.  This was the day.  To gauge the weather, we went out into the early morning gloaming and looked for stars.  Was it overcast or not?  It certainly was warm.  That was fine then. Rain isn't a problem if it's warm enough. We included long sleeves in the kit prep, if needed.  The rain started just as we left the motel. It was a light rain with full overcast.  It looked like it could go on all day. We put on the tattoos with our race number and age.  Jen read the directions, and it emphasized applying them dry.  She held it to her arm for a minute, and nothing happened.  It was still on the paper.  Lets read the directions farther. Do not soak. Apply dry, then wet it.  we got water, and okay, that's better.  Her age and number, 22 are the same.  She told me that my age, 49, was on the wrong leg. I put it on the left instead of the right.

We drove past the buses to the far end of the parking lot so it would be shorter to walk when bringing our bikes back at the end of the day.  It was a long walk up the parkway from T2 to the parking lot, and it's a big lot. Carrying the heavy bags across the parking lot to the bus, we almost forgot the wetsuits. Maybe we should have put them in the bags too.  The bus ride was through rain to Welland, where it was raining. We staged our bike gear in T1.  An hour and a half to go.  

I was wearing my new Ironman Wisconsin tri top.  I did a test bike and run, and it feels great.  It's my big upcoming race, which is going to consume the bulk of my free time over the next year, so I want it right there in front of me, as a statement of what I'm about.  The rain threat was going to mean wearing a long shirt for warmth.  I settled on my Welland 2010 shirt.  It fits snug, and looks good in bright red to match my shoes.  It was in my run bag in case I needed it.  

We went down and checked out the water, used the washrooms in the arena, and sat in there waiting.  Some kids were on the ice in the arena for hockey practice.  That would be funny with 700 triathletes in the stands getting out of the rain.  It didn't happen though.  Everyone has their stuff to do, and we put on the wetsuits.  I lost Jen in the crowd on the way to the water.  Her wave was first, right at 9, so she was straight away into the water, in her light blue cap. The rain let up and the sky brightened to the south. They're off!  I was next at 9:05.  My cap was white. 

By second turn I caught a couple blue caps, and had the later wave, in gray caps going by me.  The water was clean, with perhaps 6 - 10 ft of visibility.  It was completely black below in the dim morning light.  We went north under the bridge, made a rectangle across the canal, then back under the bridge. I could hear people cheering from the bridge, but I didn't slow to look at them. I need to concentrate on my breathing, rhythm, and sighting. I wondered how Jen was doing, and ended up near shore in the rocks.  Have to keep mind on task.  Just do the swim, and see her after the race.  

At the southern turn, I headed across the canal again, sighted, and not only couldn't see the buoy, but there were no people, just a couple guys following me.  This was the wrong way. They didn't set up a rectangle at this end, just a V and back to the start. He might have mentioned that at the athlete briefing.  He went on about how pleased he was with the swim-in, and how the counterclockwise course allowed us to avoid the rocks near shore.  He could have told us they changed the shape. Maybe it's a mistake, and the buoy was out of position.  The map clearly shows a rectangle at this end.

Swim exit is always a chaotic time. There's my wife at the railing. She said hi, and told me that Jen was long gone. I peeled the wetsuit off, trying not to lose my nose clamp this time.  Then I needed to pee, and found a porta potty conveniently located on the run up.  Ah! That's better.  My Speedplay pedal clips make running in the shoes even worse than the Look pedal clips were.  The pavement was wet, so I wasn't going to run to the mount line in my socks.  I awkwardly skipped along out to the road.

We biked over the bridge which we had just swum under, and headed south towards Lake Erie.  The wind was a strong 30 - 40 km/h which back in Wisconsin I said would be murder to bike through.  I hunkered down low, and chugged slowly through it. It was murder.  About 20 minutes out, there was Jen!  We said hi, and I carried on ahead fighting the wind.

There's a short stretch where the route returns along itself, and the race leaders were just coming by on their way east to Niagara Falls.  I'm almost an hour behind them.

I came upon a great big painted turtle, right in the middle of my lane.  He was the length of a football, tucked in hiding from all of us going past.  I went past a guy changing a flat.  
Lake Erie was all choppy whitecaps glistening in the sunlight.  Triathlon needs to be done inland like where we swam. The sun was out now. I realized that skipping the sunscreen was a mistake.  It needed to be in the run kit along with the long sleeves.

Heading north away from the lake, the wind was at my back.  Yay! The next turn was a shock.  Left, into the wind. At the turn, a woman had gone off the road and tumbled into the ditch.  The volunteers stationed there were helping her up. It was open fields, and the wind was strong and gusty.  I was reduced to 17 km/h, my slowest yet.  There were plenty of trees earlier, keeping the wind off us, but this spot was awful.  I stayed as low as I could, my face a few inches above the handlebars.  My neck was aching already, and we still had hours to go.  

Soon we were heading north and east.  With the wind helping, I was doing 35 - 40 km/h.  Whee! that's fast riding.  This was the fun part.  My regular steady pace was low enough that when passing I could get up on the pedals to pump my speed up and pass with some authority.  "On your left".  What's a good thing to say going by? Some people thanked me when I said "on your left".  I didn't get why.  In the wind, some people passed me and yelled things, but the wind was loud and I couldn't hear them.  I mostly went with "good luck", or even, "go get em" when they passed me.

There was a patch where they had cut up the pavement, leaving gravel for all of 1 ft.  No problem. Yet they stationed a volunteer with a sign to caution us. Much worse were the deep potholes just down the road from there, or the train tracks.  

I spent very little time on the areobars.  Into the wind it was too gusty, and I worried of being sent into the ditch.  The roads were in okay condition. There's a few sections of tar and chip, and some with nice new pavement.  It's mostly older back roads, with occasional cracks and potholes. Traffic is random and light. The tunnel under the canal is lots of fun.  I was ringing my bell all the way through there.  It's not too steep coming out.  The only hills to speak of on the course are the ramp up from the tunnel, and the overpass over the QEW expressway.  Otherwise it's a very flat area. 

I came to the Niagara River, and the 90 km marker, and more wind, from the north this time.  There's 2 extra km and you finish into the wind.  The river was beautiful blue and all sparkly in the sunshine. 

Pavement was dry, so I took off my shoes heading into T2.  I couldn't figure out the rack numbering. A volunteer asked my number.  Isn't it still there on my head?  The sticker is on the front of my helmet.  My bag was there at my spot.  I dumped it out and sorted into what I needed and didn't.  Gu - in my pockets.  Shirt - back in the bag. Shoes - swap these. The old ones into the bag to make sure they stay safe. Socks - What I'm wearing is still good.  Hat - it says Ironman.  

The weather was warm and sunny.  The run course has two steep hills; going up through the Dufferin Islands park, going down Murray St near the Casino. Coming down Murray street showcases the American Falls directly in front of you.  I barely noticed.  It's lovely, but I'm busy doing my thing.  I'm not nearly fast enough to be bothered by downhills the way some people are.  For me the big downhill was a good time. The faster runners would have a problem because it is very steep, and it's long. The sidewalks by the road were full of tourists, all very supportive.  Drivers not so much.  

A few people asked when I did Ironman Wisconsin.  Next year! Can't wait.  I volunteered there last week, so I could be there on site to get my ticket. One guy said he is doing Ironman Chattanooga next year.  Good for you!  It's a great sport.

I came to a guy with age 49 (like me), and he's got it on the wrong (left) leg like me.  I teased him about that.  

After coming down the hill, the path back to T2 is along the parkway road.  Pedestrians are warned not to cross in front of the runners.  "Excuse me," I called to them.  

I was really worried about Jen.  I got to T2 at 1:15 pm.  I estimated her at 30 seconds a kilometer slower than me, which put her really close to cut off at 2 pm.  That wind was a tough struggle. It was going to be close. If she was taken off the course, she would be there to wave when I went by.  Along I came to T2, and there was nobody I knew.  She'd made it. Hurray!  I powered on through my second lap, maintaining about the same run speed as my first.  Could I catch her perhaps?  No.  She's way ahead.  

The race was well organized.  Even towards the end, all of the aid stations had what I asked for.  I would ask for coke, and they had coke. I kept to my regular Gu schedule of one every half hour.  A minute later, a burst of energy comes, as if I've changed the batteries.  There were lots of people walking.  I know what that's like.  That's going to be me the second lap of IM Wisconsin, as it was in Mont Tremblant.  ...but not today.  

I carried on strong and hard as I could.  A kilometer out from the finish, there's Jen! coming out for lap two.  We high fived.  She made all her cut offs.  It was a tough course today.  I am spectacularly proud of her.

I finished at 6:28:42.  I couldn't find a food table. I got a chocolate milk, and did some stretching.  The sunburn didn't look too bad.  I opted to walk back along the course to wait for Jen.  I ended up at the first aid station chatting with the volunteers, as the last runners struggled by.  That's how I got my post-race banana.  From there I ran Jen in.  She still had power to do her run intervals. She finished at 7:45:01. 

Jen located the food.  It was in the pavilion. I didn't look there.  We weren't hungry, and yes, they had no bananas. We got the bikes and bags and walked them the kilometer to the car.

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