Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Steep Hills and Just Escaped the Rain - Westwood Tri Sprint RR

Nanaimo's Westwood Tri was first of the Dynamic Race series for the season. I decided to do this trip solo, as most people had already arrived days in advance. This was a bonus race for me, as I wasn't sure how quick I would recover after Nashville Marathon two weeks ago. In the end, I ended up making more friends than I bargained for racing this local race. I stayed with the Abbotsford Triathlon Club's headquarters at the Vancouver Island University (VIU) as they had nearly 20 or so members staying there. It felt amazing to be part of their culture, which reminded me of what our tri-club had back in the Subaru Western Canada days.

This short course distance was a bit unknown for me simply because my last 7 sprint events were all in the comfort of an indoor pool and these were all competed way back between 2005 and 2008. Nearly a decade ago, nine whole years of sabbatical in this discipline and this would be my first open water sprint. :)

A third layer unknowns was that this course was super fun with hilly challenges. Joe, race director, said "Tell your friends to race here if they like the challenge". I studied the course by riding it the day leading up to the race and the race morning to ensure I knew where to make gear change because those 15% grade towards the elevated lake didn't allow you to cheat on big ring.

A Norwegian friend and I biked from the ferry and we only had 30 minutes to make the 6km trip to race expo. Too bad it was pouring rain and steep hills, we quickly got a taste of this beautiful challenging course. In return the swim was pancake flat and as calm as a safe haven. Not a single wrinkle of wave on race morning.
Here it goes, a steep downhill to start the bike.
Photo Credit: Rainer Plendl

A small change to this year's bike course to the descent out from the lake made things safer. This was only the 2nd annual event in Nanaimo and many returnees brought their road bikes this time instead of their tri-bikes. More on which has a greater effect later!

Equipped with the power meter, this was really neat to see all the spikes on the hills. Changing gears was the name of the game as when you did settle in to a comfortable power, the course throws some turns and false flats to get you out of saddle again. A boxing match, in which luckily I was not penalized too much for not using my nice wheels.

The bike course was one out and back, the out part has an additional out and back. The standard distance went along the same course but headed out further along main Jingle Pot Road.

As we were heading back towards the hill to the lake, you had to ensure you take the blind turn with the right granny gear otherwise you won't be getting far.
What a fun course!
Photo Credit: Rainer Plendl

The run was a counter clockwise loop for us around the lake. Punchy near the beginning. You hear a loud echo in the middle portion from the lake from all the finishers. I heard the winner being announced as I was still half way around the lake. The final kilometre felt like a gut check, with a killer puncher hill. Once you got over the hill, a short steep downhill and you're not too far from the finish. I'm pretty stoked on the result: 5th overall and 2nd in age category but I was more happy that I finished this tough speedy event.

I was so glad to be done, the rain came pouring down on the poor standard people, as they were still on the bike.
Last stretch to finish!
Photo Credit: Rainer Plendl

We were welcomed with fresh pancakes and sausages from a food truck after the finish. Heated tent was a brilliant idea. A large chunk of the participants were BC locals and we were able to hang around and watch the sport we loved. So it was easy to make friends.

So back to the road vs. tri-bike debate. No race wheels, no road bike, and yet you can still perform very well on this course. It favours the power to weight ratio regardless of weight of the bike. My heavy (21lbs) tri-bike was averaging about 200watts on the course. I was surprised to hear from Martin (he pulled off the fastest bike split of the day) that he said he worked harder on his road bike in this year's race. He said he was slower than on his tri-bike from last year, despite the hillier course and heavier tri-bike. A tri-bike almost always wins in a triathlon. There simply isn't enough of a draft advantage riding individually to warrant the road bike, unless you prefer comfort and better handling, which comes at a cost of speed.

I think I'm hooked on this distance again. I think I'll definitely be back for next year.

PS - Thanks to Brendan for dropping and picking me up from the ferry.


  1. It was fantastic having you stay with us: you are an Honourary Member of Abbotsford Triathlon Club forever now!!!!! Sincerely Coach Mikey

    1. Thanks for the kind words and honourary membership Coach Mikey, the man, the legend! :)