Tales of triathlon, travel, and trails

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Lake Chaparral Olympic Distance

It turns out I have a little bit of talent for time-trial (flat) and Olympic Distance (short) races. To me, that just seems wimpy. Can’t everyone and anyone do a short, flat triathlon? But if I think more about it, I guess it actually is a specific type of racing that not everyone is good at. In the Tour de France, not everyone can time trial well. There are time trial specialists just like there are sprinters and mountain specialists. And in triathlon, although now a lot of the top Ironman athletes are coming from ITU short course racing, it doesn’t always work in reverse, that long distance athletes are good at short course. Unfortunately for me, I love the challenge of long course triathlon precisely because I’m not good at it! Not that I’m particularly good at the short stuff but I do place significantly better in Olympic or Sprint distance races than in Ironman.

This also reminds me of this article in Outside Magazine. If you apply yourself fully then short races are every bit as difficult and impressive as long races. Gwen Jorgenson racing ITU Olympic Distance and destroying the competition is definitely just as remarkable as Rinny/Daniela/Rachel racing Ironman. I just have to start remembering this and believing it myself!

Anyway, Michelle asked me with a few days notice if I wanted to jump into an Olympic Distance triathlon in Calgary. Not one to say no to a challenge, I entered the Chaparral Triathlon.

When the gun went off Sunday morning, the lake was warm and calm but I felt like a brick being dragged through the water. Not sure what the problem was but I just wasn’t feeling it. I couldn’t get a good rhythm going and instead of gliding through the water I felt more like I was fighting the water to get it out of my way. I actually really wanted to call it a day at that point because I just felt so off. In reality I didn’t swim too bad, just normal for my swimming now with no swim training.

The bike course was 5 laps of a 7.8km loop. The officials had made a big deal of enforcing a 12m draft zone which was clearly impossible with 350 athletes on a 7.8km loop. I also never saw a race official but I don’t think drafting was a big problem at this local race.

Right away I actually felt pretty good with two wheels under me. Michelle had just told me I run better off the bike in training when it’s a big gear session so I just decided I was going to push some big gears and hopefully big watts on the bike and see what happened on the run. The first lap was really nice, the course was pretty empty so it was smooth sailing. Throughout the race the course got more and more busy so it became a bit of a game of dodging other athletes. There was one pretty significant hill that obviously we had to climb 5 times. I felt better and better throughout the ride and for the first time ever, I came away with the fastest women’s bike split! Thanks Michelle!!

I think I came off the bike as second place woman (what?!), although I only found that out after the race by looking at the results. And it didn’t really matter anyway because I was promptly passed by 3 women and then another a few km later. What else is new! My run didn’t feel too bad. I was running better than I expected but still not up to the standard I should or could be running.

I didn’t have my personal photographer (Rob) with me at this race so this is the only photo I have!

Overall I finished as 6th woman overall, 3rd age group! And of course when I actually get a podium, there is no podium for prizes or photos! I’m really happy with this race especially considering I didn’t do any training specific to Olympic Distance racing. I’ve really enjoyed this year off Ironman, so maybe I’ll continue it into next year, unless of course I get a lottery spot into Norseman 🙂




Whistler 70.3

I had really great plans of running a bunch in between Coeur d’Alene 70.3 and Whistler (5 weeks) and of course, those plans got blown apart. I feel like I haven’t been able to get anything going this year, no real consistency or big blocks of solid training which has been frustrating but I’m working on changing that for the future. So with no real runs under my belt, coach Michelle and I decided this would be a tutu race. Just go out and have fun. Really for me, every race is a tutu race because I don’t like to put performance goals on myself, but this one actually involved a real tutu.

Betty sisters pre-race

I stayed in a big condo, the Gluk-haus, with my Betty sisters Mel and Quinn, coach Michelle, and all the hubby’s. One big happy family!! It was an awesome time and I think we all decided we got along well enough that we could do another family trip (hopefully with Rob!)

Pre-race swim in Lost Lake

The couple days before the race were filled with last minute preps, meeting new friends, and eating as many carbs as possible. The carb count in our condo was out of control. Whistler is a two-transition race so logistics are a little more complicated but the shuttle system worked really well between T2 and T1. We did not pre-swim at the race venue and instead opted to swim in Lost Lake closer to our condo. We did a small ride on the course Saturday morning and the only thing I gained from that ride was there was really no flat! All up or down! Fun!

The unveiling of the tutu!

Race morning dawned early as it always does. We were able to take one of the last shuttles to Alta Lake because the 70.3 was starting at 845am, 2 hours after the full. When we arrived, the suckers doing the full were already on their way through the rolling start. We had all made the mental note never to do a full ironman when a 70.3 was happening on the same day. The mental battle of seeing the turnarounds for the shorter course and seeing or hearing other people finish while you still have to go for hours would be awful.

The full ironman on the way to the swim start. No thanks! I’ve really enjoyed not doing an Ironman this year!

It was really cool to be in transition when full ironmen started to come out of the water. The 70.3 had a separate transition so we were able to enter and exit as we liked until our race start. We saw Rachel McBride come first out of the water. She was so happy and fist pumping her way through transition and on to the bike.

Over the 2 hours we were waiting to start, the wind really picked up. I think the full ironmen had a pretty flat and calm swim but the 70.3 swim was anything but flat and calm. We had full on white caps from the wind whipping down the lake. The first stretch into the wind was pretty bad, head on into the white caps. I felt fine, I’m not scared in the water, I just knew my time would be slower than usual. At the first buoy turn I completely misjudged the turn. I *knew* it was more of a 90 degree turn from the diagram but that didn’t process in my head when I made the turn and I couldn’t see the next buoy because we were staring straight into the sun. So I made the rookie mistake of following the crowd pretty sharp to the left. Sooner or later (more later than sooner) when I looked up and could finally see something, I saw I was WAY off course, basically heading halfway down the backstretch of the course! Never follow other people! Finally I made it around the second buoy and started the long stretch with the wind. I was able to slow my stroke rate a bit to try a surf with a waves. It was really fun and it really felt like I was flying. I had started at the back of the rolling start again so I felt like I was passing a lot of people (not sure if that was actually the case).

The last turn towards the finish was pretty brutal. I think this is where a lot of the weaker swimmers had trouble, or those that can only breathe on one side. I grew up in swimming lessons with the Canadian Red Cross and bilateral breathing is firmly entrenched in me. I breathe equally on both sides, I don’t have a weak side, which serves me well in conditions like this because I think it was important to breathe only on the right side, away from the wind, so you didn’t get a big gulp of water breathing on the left.

Swim was 39:07, a couple minutes slower than my “new normal” but considering the conditions, I think everyone was a minute or two slower than usual.

In T1 I threw on my special weapon for the day, my rainbow tutu. Right from the change tent I was getting comments and as I jumped on my bike I heard someone say “now there’s somebody who’s going to have a FUN day!”

Up the hill out of T1

As expected, the bike was hilly. No problem. But maybe one day I’ll actually do a course I’m suited to, because as much as I try, I am not good in the hills! Early on I rode up to a guy who saw the tutu and said to me “I hope my 4 year old sees you with your tutu. That will make her day. She doesn’t give two shits about me being out here but she would absolutely love your tutu!” That really made me smile.

Too bad for the photo bomber!

I did not enjoy the first half of the course. Our lanes were very narrow and there were a lot of people on course between the two races so I found the road very crowded. This was made even worse by the windy conditions making it harder for people to control their bikes. Most triathletes have sketchy bike handling skills at the best of times and I saw far too many athletes swerving all over the road. I found myself yelling “on your left!” a lot more than I would have liked.

We we finally passed Whistler village on the way to Pemberton, the road was fully closed to traffic so we had a lot more room to ourselves. The descent towards Pemberton was really fun, except for the poor guy laying on crumpled on the ground waiting for an ambulance. It was super fast but the whole time I was whizzing downhill I was dreading the climb back up. The turnaround was interesting. Rachel McBride was on her way back from Pemberton in first place just as a few of us were making the U-turn to merge with the 140.6 course. At that moment when Rachel passed, the girl in front of me had slowed so much to make the turn that somehow she flipped straight over her handlebars right in front of me and into the merging full ironman athlete lane (thankfully Rachel had a big lead so she didn’t cause anyone else to crash). It was crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it. The turn was tight, sure, but not *that* tight. She seemed to be ok so we all continued on.

The climb back up to Whistler was actually not as bad as I thought it would be. My power meter never turned on for some reason so I have no idea what my power was but I felt strong and consistent enough that I just kept going. I got lots of cheers from people making the descent yelling “tutuuuuuuuu!” Lindsey Corbin passed me after the top of the climb like I was standing still and Jen Annett proceeded to do the same. Impressive.

Always looking at the scenery, not really focusing on racing

I biked 3:04 on a hilly course with less than ideal training and fitness leading into the race so I was very happy! Good to know I have something to improve upon!

I was pretty much alone in the T2 tent for some reason, so I had a fabulous young volunteer all to myself. She basically ran after me saying she loved my tutu and had seen me earlier and she wanted to help me because she was wearing a tiara. It was awesome. She got me water, put sunscreen on the back, and got me out of there super quick!

I felt pretty much like I always do starting the run, happy to be off my bike, but noticing I didn’t (couldn’t) come out too hot from T2, which I guess is a good thing, but my legs just felt a little flat. Then I noticed I didn’t have to proper setting on my garmin to lap every km so I walked for a bit trying to fix it to no avail so I just tried to forget about it.

At about 4km I came up to my friend Chelsey (who has run 100 miles TWICE!) volunteering at the Lost Lake aid station. As I ran up I saw only like a thousand kids and wondered why Chelsey was volunteering at the kid aid station. She had such great cheers for me and I find her so inspiring, it was awesome having her out there.

Lost Lake aid station. Photo from Chelsey!

At about 6km Gary in his black ninja kit came flying past me on the way to the finish. I yelled some words of encouragement at him as he ran into the distance. Then like 30 seconds later, I see his wife/my coach Michelle barrelling down the path after him! She was almost catching him! Turns out Gary kept his lead by about 20 seconds at the finish but he really had to work for that! Since Michelle can run so fast (off the bike or not) I’m just waiting until that speed rubs off on me! Hasn’t happened yet but one day it will!

At least I’m smiling

I kept a really positive attitude for probably 21.5km of the race. I had a little walk and chat with my Betty sis Alison, cheered for every girl wearing Betty I saw, and had so many high fives with my Betty teammates because there were 15 of us racing! The pro ladies continued to speed past me like I was standing still. I just can’t even comprehend how they can run so fast. I guess that’s why they’re pro and I’m not!

Both feet off the ground!

I was getting a little grumpy after 14km when we would see 1 sign for 14km and then another 14km sign a couple hundred meters later. The double 20km signs really pissed me off because I was really hoping the course was short but then, it wasn’t. The cheers for “Go tutu! I love your tutu!” really kept me going and I think any aero penalty or whatever is made up for in motivation coming from other athletes’ and spectators’ cheers. I almost missed the left hand turn to go under the bridge at the finish because all I wanted was to be done, so I started heading straight towards the finish before the volunteer basically had to throw me to my left to do a add-on down and around a bridge to the finish. Super annoying.

Finally the finish!!

The finish chute was fantastic as finish chutes tend to be. Immediately after crossing the finish line, Gary and Michelle were there waiting. I usually don’t have people I know that close to the finish line and they had like a hundred questions about my race! I felt like I could barely stand up at that point, let alone answer questions so eventually I had to tell them I just needed to lay down for a bit! I got very consumed with laying down and then chatting with Chelsey that over an hour passed (!) and when I found them again, I was feeling back to normal so I could talk better! I’m not great right after finishing races, I usually need to lay down in silence for a bit, which always freaks out the medical people so I try to do it in secret.

Oh man! There’s a ladder in my finish photo!

My run was 2:05. The same pretty shitty run I usually have but I have this feeling that one day, everything will just click, and I’ll run like I never have before. I know it’s in me, so I can’t wait for that to happen!

Even I think all these colours are outrageous

Overall I am very happy with my race. I kept a super positive attitude for almost the whole race, just the last km was a little grumpy-Amy. Although it was far from a PR (5:56) I ended up 15th in my age group. I have never been in the top 20 before so to make it to 15th totally blows my mind! Now I’ll aim for top 10, which is something I never, ever thought was achievable for me. I can’t wait to continue on with Michelle because she’s really helped me over the last 8 months and there’s more work to do! And maybe I should do more races in a tutu!