Monday, September 21, 2015

Big Move and Racing Cottage Country - Muskoka IM RR

August sure was a busy month! Not only was I stoked for this inaugural full-iron Muskoka race at the end of month, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to move in with one of my best friends Brendan. It was an awful taper plan but I made it worked.

Long story short, my fabulous friends from both ends of the country were able to help me out, big time. Definitely stating the obvious here but don't try to move and do an ironman in the same month on your own. :P

Sunrise Swim for Hospice

Andrew, Lise and I arrived in cottage country in Huntsville early and we had some time to kill. Andrew wanted to smash some beers as a new pre-race ritual. Even I decided to join in on the smashin' action (only 1 beer for me) at On the Docks Pub, which was in the heart of the town of Huntsville with a scenic view of the water. At the pub, Lise shamelessly signed us all up online for Sunrise Swim for Hospice, which was like Huntsville's version of Kona's "underwear" charity event.

The event was surprisingly very well organized with a guest speaker and good music and more food than you can imagine. We chit-chatted and made some local friends as this was their go-to swim spot.

The coolest propelled floating barge was used as a coffee/tea post swim hangout spot.


We stayed at a cabin, err cottage about 8km along the bike route from the expo resort area. The owner was great and shared a little bit of the rich history of the property. We learned that between the two nearby lakes exist the Guinness World record for the shortest railway line in the world. 

The water temperature was perfect for wetsuit swimming. The swim was also flat as a pancake and had no currents to worry about.

I was nervous but excited as I haven't done one in over 14 months. I seem to have a bad memory and always forget how hard these races are. I rode a bit of the bike course from Dwight Beach to SeeBreeze. The little SeeBreeze out and back was added subsequently to make the bike course the full 180km. Dwight Beach was pretty bumpy at times and you needed to pick your lines carefully to find the smoother patches. We drove the remainder bits from Baysville to the end of the two-lap-bike loop. 

Deerhurst Resort

Car was parked at a nearby unused air strip and then we got shuttled in. It was neat that the transitions tents were actually inside the Deerhurst Resort. We snaked our way into the swim start. I followed Lise into the front of the 1:10 corral to find her mom (credit for below pic).

Rolling Start Swim

Only 10 athletes were permitted to start at a time, which was slow. Andrew must had started near the front. Lise just made the group in front of me. I had to wait about a minute until the next release. Apparently they were too causal and eventually started rushing people to get them all out by 7am.

A very peaceful swim in Peninsula Lake and the buoys were easy to spot. I had no problem swimming. The problem was getting a good draft behind a big pack. Simple rectangle clockwise loop. We got out onto the 18th hole and got stripped on the greens. Luckily Lise's mom was able to spot me and help me get my wetsuit off. I scraped my elbow in an embarrassing fall a couple weeks earlier during a run across Burrard Bridge and had to gingerly peal off the neoprine.  

Flew Up the Hill in Transitions

Hector, who I met in Sweden this year, cheered me on at the hill towards the Deerhurst Resort. A solid 300m run up a little hill. I was moving quickly. The little spot inside just for me was good as not many people had arrived yet. I had no idea of my swim time at the time.

Taken Eve of Race

Beauty and the Beast Bike

The stick and lollipop two loop bike course consisted of small climbs + technical decents at Dwight Beach for the first third. One soul tried passing me at a technical turn of one of the descents and I was not impressed as he could had easily done it before or after the downhill turn. The locals definitely enjoyed a slight home course advantage as I was still struggling to pick my lines to avoid the killer bumps on the roads.

Silly SeeBreeze section out and back was when I got a time-check on my friends. A glimpse of Andrew biking in the other direction looking about 10 minutes ahead. Lise must had been a few minutes ahead at that point.

It took me a good 90 minutes to catch Lise on the bike. It meant that she absolutely killed it on the swim (1:03). I didn't exactly have a bad swim either, going about 7 minutes quicker than my best. The 4k pull swims this year has helped.

The second third of the loop consisted of Hwy 35 into Dorset and Hwy 117 out of Dorset. This stretch gets a bit flatter and more exposed. The second lap was when I felt a gust into my sails. My fingers getting numb and mind temporary loosing the ability to push. I had to take a good 1 minute break at the potty to get it back together for the last third.
The killer head winds from the last 2nd third would had meant a little tail wind on the trip back into Deerhurst. Yeah wishful thinking. Forested and more hillier. It's like the course knew, and took it away. The race was super fair, I don't think much unintentional drafting occurred as the people were all thinned out. 5 bikes length between everyone was plenty of space! 

My Way or the Highway Run

Two lap course consisted of mostly highway road (from Deerhurst Resort to Huntsville twice basically). I enjoyed the ends as there were lots of people cheering. The middle parts were unkind to say the least. 

It wasn't the run time I wanted, but at least I had good style. It was really nice of Jen to remind me my own words that the run required running "tough". I initially took the first 10k extremely easy. The thing is everyone gets jumpy coming out of T2 and wants to hold a strong pace. A guy that passed me early on running at 4 low minutes pace ended up only running 2 minutes quicker than me in the overall marathon. I just applied the brakes early on and held onto that slow pace that for as long as possible. Slow and steady worked for me. Slowly runners were turning into walkers but I held a steady pace. 

Highway heat and some rollers to get there wasn't exactly the easiest running. About 7km into the run was where one of our Hospice friends was cheering us on, Catherine! Andrew was the most encouraging runner out there, he gave me a turbo burst with his outgoing energy and words of encouragement. 

I enjoyed every little cloud cover that we would have from time to time. Stuffed ice in a few unmentionable places. 

Nerdy graph comparison to previous PB
Overall, not quite the sub 10 time I was aiming for but I'll take 10:18. First time in an Ironman cracking top 100 (finished 50th but no pros field) and better than top 10 in my age category (7th). I still have some room for improvement and to push harder for next time. :) Slowly creeping up the ranks. :D

It was nice catching up with a few familiar faces. Reconnected with Claire, nice to see her bounce back after Sweden, and with Kevin, former president of ubctc team.

Thanks for the continued support and for tuning in again. Time for some serious down time. :)