Thursday, August 1, 2013

Kickin' it Old School: Bala Falls Triathlon - Retro Edition

This past weekend saw G and I hit the road for yet another race.  Yes, I know, we just raced last weekend.  I am tiring myself out just thinking about all the running around and racing we've been doing as of late.  No wonder I feel like I'm overdue for a vacation.  Good thing I have one coming up next week (wheeeeee!). 

The last time I did this race was in 2005 so I suppose that almost qualifies as retro, ha ha.  I had also registered for it last year but got injured a couple of weeks out and couldn't do it so it was definitely on my radar for this year.  It's a fun little race with a lot of crowd support given it's somewhat remote location.  Bala is in the heart of Muskoka area cottage country so it's a long haul from the city.  Roughly 2 hours if the traffic is good.  At 5:00 am on Sunday, it's safe to say the roads are pretty clear.   Leaving at 5:00 am meant that I was up at 4:00 am.  That's just plain wrong on a Sunday unless I'm getting on a plane to head to some far flung exotic destination.

This race has always been a popular one and with the introduction of the "Retro" theme it's popularity seems to be increasing.  What is this Retro theme I speak about?  Well, John Salt and Co thought it would be great to pay homage to the early days of triathlon and all the crazy gear that people used to race in.
Dave Scott and Mark Allen in the legendary Iron War in Kona 1989
Canadian Triathlete Lori Bowden in the mid 90's.  Source
No idea who this guy is but that's an awesome speedo! Source
Can you imagine spending 8+ hours racing in nothing but a speedo?  I can't even imagine the chafing that must have occurred.  Seriously.  Those guys were hard core. 

Anyway, the gang at Multisport Canada created a whole separate category for folks that wanted to race in retro gear.  There were prizes for best costume and best bike.  Oh there were some gems let me tell you.  The best part was that the top 2 males overall both raced in speedos and old triathlon crop tops and they were both under 25 years old.  They were barely even a year old when the legendary Iron War took place between Dave Scott and Mark Allen. 

The Folks in the Retro Category.  The interpretation of Retro was quite different as you can see.....
The race site itself is probably one of the nicest on the circuit.  The water in Moon River is beautiful.  It's quite shallow so there have been years where it's been a non-wetsuit swim because the water temperature got above 25.5 degrees Celsius.  It was headed in that direction on Friday (it was 24.5) but by Sunday it had rained and a cold front had come in and dropped the temperature by 2.5 degrees.  Even if it was a non-wetsuit swim, you are able to wear your wetsuit for safety reasons but you then become ineligible for age group awards and given my goal this year to podium in each one of these races, I would have to swim without a wetsuit.  So, I was happy hear that the temperature had dropped.    The last time I did this race, I had a panic attack in the swim.  I have been really good as of late, I've been swimming strong and haven't had any issues.  I figured that would be the case once again, especially since I was actually excited about swimming here.

I was in the 4th wave and G was in the 2nd wave so after my warm up I met up with G on the beach and we watched the first wave go off.  I got my good luck kiss goodbye and then G was off.  I was surprisingly relaxed.  I situated myself in my usual spot, off to the side but at the front.  The gun went off and I dove in.  I pulled ahead fairly quickly.  I could see one person slightly off to my right and then another person off to my left a little further back.  Perfect.  I tried to settle into my groove but for some reason I couldn't.  I kept getting water in my nose as I turned my head to breathe.  So I switched from my normal bi-lateral breathing to breathing on my right side every stroke.  That was a mistake.  After about 150m, I started gasping and the panic set in.  I started to freak out and actually contemplated quitting the race.  I stopped dead in the water and did some breast stroke.  The first buoy seemed so far away.  I was overcome with the feeling that I couldn't continue.  I rolled on my back and did come backstroke.  I glanced up to see a horde of swimmers coming at me and I started to panic again.  I rolled back over, did some more breast stroke and tried to talk myself off the ledge.

It went something like this:

Scaredy Cat Me:  Just throw in the towel, the boat is right there, you don't really want to do this.

Stubborn Me:   WTF are you doing?  You know how to swim, stop being an idiot, put your face back in the water and swim dammit. 

Scaredy Cat Me:  But the boat is right there!

Stubborn Me:   You've GOT THIS!  Besides if Kim (swim coach) knew you quit, she'd kill you.   If she can swim 40 some odd kilometers in Lake Ontario without a wetsuit then you can SUCK IT UP AND GO.

That seemed to flick the switch again and I was good to go.  I made it around the first buoy without too much panic.  By the time I hit the second buoy my breathing had finally settled down.  I was definitely working hard to try and catch up.  I caught a few folks and passed them as I made my way into shore.   I hit the shore and glanced at my Garmin, surprised at what I saw.

Swim:  13:20.  I thought for sure it would have been slower than that.  I then got pissed at myself for having the freak out because I would have been sub 13 minutes for. sure.  Stupid illogical brain.

I ran into transition, a little wobbly.  I struggled with getting my wetsuit off my left arm and then couldn't keep my balance while trying to peel it off my legs.  There were a couple of other women that were coming in so I was rushing big time.  I finally sorted myself out, grabbed my bike and headed out for the ride.

T1:  1:26.  Pretty good considering I felt like I was all over the place.

I knew the bike was going to be hilly.  As soon as you leave transition, you're climbing.  I kept it in my small ring and spun my legs out up the first climb, passing folks as I went.  Once I crested that first climb, I flipped it into my big chain ring and let 'er rip.  This course is mostly rollers.  There are a couple of climbs where you can get a bit of momentum on the downhill and there is a quasi flat section just after the 10km mark.  I tried to stay in my aerobars for most of the ride except on the two larger climbs.  I probably should have switched to my small chain ring for those climbs but I didn't. By 20km in I was hurting.  My quads were burning as were my girlie bits (sorry TMI!).  I am having all sorts of problems with that as of late.  I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable on my bike and I'm attributing that to the fact that I haven't been re-fit on it since I bought it in 2007.  A lot has changed since then.  I'll be rectifying that this Friday and I'm sure that experience will be a post in itself.

Back to the bike.   Just past the 10km mark I got passed by a girl in my AG.  This seems to be recurring theme in races and further evidence that I really need to work on my cycling.  I tried to keep her in my sights but she was a strong rider.  I really hoped she wasn't a good runner.  I motored along, keeping my eyes peeled for any other women that passed me.  There weren't any thank goodness, only speedy old guys who can't swim to save their lives, ha ha.  Other than the few climbs and the discomfort late on the bike, I felt I rode fairly strong.  The last 500m or so is a screaming downhill into transition so I let it rip until I had to make the sharp turn.  Daring for me, as I'm usually on the brakes.  I hopped off my bike and booked it into transition.

Bike:  55:40 - that included the long run in from the dismount line.  My Garmin said I averaged 33 kph.  Pretty good for a hilly course!

I ran to the rack and saw 2 other bikes there.  Again I had some balance problems while trying to remove my cycling shoes so there was a bit of fumbling.  I also pulled out one of the 8 million hair clips I had in my hair as I ripped my helmet off.  Annoying.  I yanked my Wave Sayonaras on, grabbed my visor and raced out of transition into a big field of muck.  So much for my nice new white shoes.

T2:  00:55s - a little slow but still under a minute.

I remember this run being super hilly with lots of out and backs.  You basically follow the same road you ride on and make your out and backs on 2 different side roads both of which are hard packed dirt and shaded.  So coming out of transition, you almost immediately start climbing.  As soon as I get out on the run, I'm totally in my element.  I am happy to turn myself inside out and chase people down.  I can handle the pain.  As soon as I got on the main road, I started picking people off one by one.  Watching for any woman with a 40-44 on her calf.   As I made the turn onto the first dirt road, I caught sight of the woman that passed me on the bike.  Excellent.  Target acquired.  Just as I had hoped, she was not moving too quickly.  I caught her just before we made the turnaround and flew by her.  My legs were hurting and once again I had shin splints.   Annoying.

I could see a lot of women behind me and I figured I had better keep up the pace.  My wave had women 40-49 in it so I knew that some of these ladies were probably in my AG.  I hit the road again and once again started climbing.  It wasn't far to the next turn off and as soon as I turned in, I remembered The Hill.  It was short and very steep.  Tough to run down and even tougher to run up.  My pace slowed considerably as I went up this.  My legs and lungs were burning.  With that out and back done, I was back out on the main road.  I was coming up to a couple of women and checked both of their calves.  Both of them were in the 35-39 AG.  I then recognized one of them as the owner of the other bike that had been in transition when I arrived.  SWEET.  That meant that there was a good chance that I was first in my AG.  Oh please, please pretty please....

I made it to the turnaround and grabbed a cup of water from an adorable little girl.  I thanked her and really started to book it.  The way back was mostly downhill and there were sections where I was hitting 3:30/km's.  Yeah those Wave Sayonaras are pure freaking magic.  I was passing dudes left right and centre.   I had one last climb and then it was that flying downhill to the finish.  I let my legs go and I booked it into the finishing chute.  I could hear people yelling GO PHAEDRA (you get your name on your bib if you register early) and that just pushed me even harder.

Hauling it towards the finish line! Pic courtesy of Barbara Goss

I came into the finishing chute to hear announcer Steve Fleck say that I was the fourth woman overall to cross the finish line.  Say what?

Run: 33:01 (my Garmin said I ran 7.79km vs. 7.5 that the course was listed as being.)


My friend Babs refuted that and said I was actually the third woman.  What what?  I'd believe that once I saw the results.  We got our post race goodies, ran into Jordan, another friend of ours who did the swim / bike and hung out for a bit.  We then wandered back to transition and packed up all our stuff.  I figured they'd have the results up by time I got back.  Sure enough they did.  I wedged my way in and found myself on the second page.  45th overall finisher, 3rd place woman and....first in my age group!  YEAH BABY.

Take that stupid illogical brain.


Just for kicks, I took a look at my stats from the first time I did this race way back when.  Back then the age groups were in 10 year increments instead of 5 years so I was in the 30-39 year old group.  The distance was also slightly different.  The swim and bike were the same but the run was only 7km vs. 7.5km   My times were as follows:

750m swim:  17:54  And yes, that time also included a freak out.
30km bike:  1:02:28
7km run:  33:35

Total time:  1:53:56

I've come a long way baby.  I'm starting to think that whole thing about women reaching their peak at 32 is a crock of smelly you know what.

As much fun as this race is, I'm not sure G and I will go back again next year.  It really makes for a long day if you drive up and back in the same day. Although I'm sure we could be convinced if we happened to be vacationing at a cottage up there....so I'll leave that door open for now.

Next up on the race calendar is the Bracebridge Sprint on Aug 10th, the day after we get back from our holidays.  As I like to say, no rest for the crazy!

Speaking of crazy, just a reminder that today is your last day to enter my Crazy for Clif giveaway!

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