Monday, August 28, 2017

Watching the Little Ducks and Pros - ITU Edmonton RR



What is a summer without a long road trip?  Not much fun.  So when Jen asked if I wanted to go back to Edmonton to race the ITU triathlon, it seemed like a no brainer.  I had raced the duathlon last year and wanted to try the tri this year.

We decided to do the road trip to give ourselves more flexibility.  Jen and I have friends and family across Alberta, so driving up meant we could catch up with most of them.  In the end, I met up with ten groups of friends.  Not bad for a six day trip.  One notable visit was catching up with our fabulous ex-Running Room manager, Lori, in Banff. I had pre-race beer and Elk burger. Life was good.


The ITU moved the race from the September long weekend to July after having two very cold years in a row.  But being in the prairies, nothing is a given.  The day before the race was warm and sunny, and the forecast predicted similar conditions for race day.  But we woke up to the sounds of rain drops.  Bummer, this could be another cold one...

Luckily the clouds cleared as we rolled into transition.  Ironically the rain had warmed Hawrelak lake overnight to a balmy 22.2oC.  This meant that we would have a no wetsuit swim.  Of all the scenarios for a 'most potential' swimmer, this was the least ideal.

There is:
  • wetsuit in salt water (most favourable)
  • wetsuit in fresh water
  • no wetsuit in salt water
  • no wetsuit in fresh water (least favourable and our situation)
  • There is also a no swim scenario, though that would be a duathlon... :)

Before the race, Jen ran into one of her class mates from undergrad.  He is also an engineer, and recently started triathlons.  We got chit chatting so much, that I completely forgot about the warm up.  Not good.

The swim course was two clockwise loops around the perimeter of the lake and around the little island.  You could tell that they had protected the water as you could smell chlorine.   My swim was at a pedestrian pace and I lost a good chunk of time to the leaders.  Surprisingly, the lake water felt much more comfortable than the air temperature. Since the pros would be racing later that day, they had an exit ramp leading onto the blue carpet which lead to the transition area.  It was a long run, but I enjoyed my TV time.

The bike course was a closed course with four laps around the University including two big hills.  The first was Emily Murphy, a steep punchy hill (this would be the same hill the pros would climb six times this afternoon), and the second was a long twisty climb along Groat road.  This was a really fun bike course.  You really had to engage by using all your gears and tuck in on the hills and tight corners.  They had repaved Groat road this winter, making that section of the course more enjoyable to ride.
From my experience racing here last year, I knew that attacking the climbs with a steady effort and recharging on the downhill would provide huge gains.  This strategy worked well for me as I was catching several men ahead of me and felt strong the entire way.  There were a few men surging past me on the flatter sections, but then I would easily drop them like a bag of bricks on the climbs.  I surged ahead of Jen at the top of Emily Murphy hill on my fourth lap and yelled out a couple words of encouragement.  But she was too busy admiring her bike in her own little bubble space.
Coming into the final corner of the loop
Hopping into T2
The run course changed from last year.  Instead of the 'super fast' three out-and-back loops of last year, we had two out-and-back loops counter-clockwise around Hawrelak park and along a gravel footpath to and across the truss pedestrian/cycling bridge where the turnaround was.  For those of you who looked at the results from last year, you may have noticed that Jen ran a 29min 10K split.  That would put in the same league as the Brownlees, Mario Mola and Javier Gomez!  Could she do it again?  (She was just shy.  But, the course was only 7.8 Km last year.  FYI, the ITU allows a 20% margin or error in the race distance, but that was too much).

This year, I decided to run based on my heart rate instead of pace.  I caught up to one guy in my age group comfortable twice, but unfortunately and annoyingly he surged at the last two turnarounds after realizing I was right with him.  I simply ran out of distance by the end, finishing 15s behind him.  Even though I felt great, I didn't have a faster gear to catch him a third time.  More impressively, I had run a huge negative split (4:12 pace first loop and 4:07 pace second loop)!  This has never happened to me in either a road or multi-sport races.  This new discovery taught me a valuable lesson about running on effort, rather than by pace output.  This is also something that Jen has been telling me for years, but I did not understand what languages she was speaking until now.
I finished 4th in my age group and qualified for Worlds next year in Gold Coast.  Jen and I both talked about going, though we need to think about the food choices and make a business case for it.
After our race, we stuck around to watch the pros race a sprint.  The women's field included Flora Duffy, Paula Findlay, Joanna Brown and Katie Zaferes.  At the start of the race, a couple ducks decided to swim in the lake in front of the pack.  It was really funny to watch them wag their tails to try and get out of the way.  After three failed attempts, they eventually flew away.  Flora Duffy and an American girl (Taylor Knibb) swam well and broke away from the pack on the first climb up Emily Murphy.  The group tried to catch up, but lost more time after every lap.  Duffy would win this race easily by almost a full minute.  It was interesting to see how hard the girls were pushing on the run.  Clearly every second counted for them.
Top 4!

The men's race had more depth, with Jonny Brownlee, Mario Mola and Javier Gomez all on the start line.  The men's race was much closer on the bike.  The ITU had set up a TV screen at the transitions so that we could watch the race.  At one point, you could see the men casual conversations coming down Emily Murphy hill.  The announcer predicted that they were going ~80 Km/hour down the hill.  In response, he said in admiration, "That's confidence on the bike, folks" ;).  The men were hammering the run.  It was mind blowing how fast they were going (about 3:00/Km) and making it look so easy.  One thing I noticed was that they all had their arms high and were pumping them hard.  One Australian guy forgot that the run was three loops and hammered past Mola.  It was only when the crowd yelled at him to keep going that he realized his mistake  Bad oops.  This was an exciting race to watch in person!  I would say that my race entry fee was amazing value.

Rainbow heart rate zones!




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