Posted by: Tina | July 26, 2010

Penticton Peach Classic Triathlon – Race Report

My second Olympic distance triathlon is now behind me, as I finished the Penticton Peach Classic on July 18, 2010. It was a great day, and I was much faster than in my first Olympic distance triathlon.

I started the day with very little sleep – probably close to 2-3 hours total. I realize that it is a good thing to feel nervous before a race, but it is frustrating to have my sleep so profoundly affected. After a night of tossing and turning, I was up for good by 4am. I started the day with a solid breakfast this time, although it took me at least half an hour to muscle down the toasted peanut butter banana sandwich. One of the many things I need to figure out for future races is what I can eat at the start of the day that doesn’t make me nauseous but also fuels me for the race.

We loaded the bikes (my coach, Kristina, was also doing the race) and headed into town to set up transition. My husband dropped us off and we immediately got our timing chips and had our bodies marked. I set up my transition area and was ready to go by 6am. I decided to do a short warm-up jog along the lake shore to get some of the nerves out, and then headed back to squeeze into my wetsuit.

Race timeThe Swim
I am happy to report that the swim is where I saw my biggest improvement. The week before the race, I actually thought I might have to stop doing triathlons because of how dizzy I feel when swimming in open water. However, now that I am using swim ear plugs, all dizziness is gone and I can actually focus on swimming, rather than on trying not to puke. The day before the race, I even went for a practice swim on the course and didn’t get sick despite extremely choppy waters.

The morning of the race, the lake started out calm, although there was a bit of chop by the time we were halfway out. I’m not sure if it was chop from the other swimmers, or if a breeze had picked up. The women started five minutes behind the men so it wasn’t a very crowded course, which was nice. The hardest part of the swim was coming back, as we had to swim directly into the sun, which made sighting extremely difficult. I had to stop a few times and really look around to get my bearings. I basically swam buoy to buoy, rather than sighting on something far in the distance. Mostly, I just followed the splash of other swimmers.

When I got to the beach, I got up and ran out, rather than dawdle out like I did in my first triathlon. My family and some friends were right there to cheer me on and it gave me a great boost to see them all. Still, it took me a few seconds to remember that I actually had to start getting changed until I saw other athletes in front of me removing their wetsuits. My transition was faster in this race because I wore what I was going to wear for the entire race under my wetsuit, and I decided to ditch the socks. In transition, all I had to do was strip off the wetsuit, goggles, earplugs, and swim cap, then pull on my bike shoes, helmet, and sunglasses, and stuff a few Guus into my rear pockets. Then I was off. Total swim time was 31:14, and my first transition was 1:49, both huge improvements over my first Olympic race four weeks earlier.

The Bike
Back from the bikeThe best adjective I can use to describe the bike portion of the race: awesome. I am very familiar with the road out to Naramata as I basically spend my summers biking it, so I knew which gear I needed and when, and how aggressively I could take hills. I powered up Vancouver Hill out of Penticton and then rode hard on the entire bike portion. Don’t get me wrong, I got passed by others, but I also passed my fair share of athletes. It felt great to be on the road on a beautiful, completely windless day. When I got to where the downhill started on my way back in to Penticton, I looked down and saw that I was at 1:18 for time, which was much faster than the 1:40 it took me to do the same 40km a few days before. I flew down the hill and into transition. Total time on the bike was 1:22:15, another huge improvement over my last triathlon and great by my standards on a very challenging course.

The Run
The transition to run was pretty straightforward – rack bike, helmet and shoes off, then running shoes and pace watch on. My time was 1:11 in transition. I felt optimistic after the great bike in which I successfully pushed hard. I was looking forward to the run course because a) it was gloriously fabulously pancake flat, and b) it was a 2-loop course so the run could be broken up mentally into manageable chunks. I gave my daughter a kiss as I charged out of transition (too fast as usual). Then… disaster!

It was payback time for pushing so hard on the bike. 300 metres into the run, my quads cramped into rock hard lumps weighing down my legs. I tried telling myself it was just mental and to run through it, but my body laughed in my face and screamed “Walk, you fool!” So I had to walk. And walk. And walk. Nobody else was walking. Why was nobody else walking? I wondered if I would be able to finish and if I would have to walk the whole 10km. I watched the backs of other athletes pull away from me. Thankfully, after about 1km, the cramps subsided and I was able to start jogging, but slowly, much slower than my intended race pace. My heart rate was fine, but I couldn’t go any faster because my legs were warning me that any faster and they would cramp again.

Thankfully, by the time I finished the first course loop, I felt like I could pick up the pace and I was able to complete the second loop in close to race pace. I was very happy to get back on to Lakeshore Drive for the final stretch of the run. Near the finish, my coach (who obviously finished way ahead of me) ran alongside for the last 100 metres cheering me on, and I was able to pick up the pace for the finish. My final run time was 55:44, slower than my first triathlon, but respectable enough.

Finish LineThe Finish!
After I crossed the finish line a volunteer had to remove the timing chip from around my ankle because I didn’t even want to bend over to take it off. Then, hugs and kisses with the family, and massive amounts of the most delicious watermelon I have ever tasted in my life. The organizers had a pretty good finish line spread – chips, watermelon oranges, cookies, chocolate milk (!!!), coke, Gatorade, and water. It was great, especially for my kids who kept exhorting me to go back and get more food and drink for them. All I could eat was watermelon.

Only about 10 minutes after finishing did I even think to ask what my time was. It turns out my final time was 2:52:12, smashingly better than my first Olympic distance race despite the slow run. My goals for this race, written just before midnight the night before, were to push harder on the swim and the bike, have not much left at the end of the run, and have fun. I achieved all three goals, although I realize now that, although I pushed it on the swim and the bike, it was clearly to the detriment of my overall race. I didn’t have much left at the end of the run, not because I ran fast, but because my legs were hurting. What I learned is that, although triathlon consists of three separate events, it is more than the sum of those three parts. I clearly have to better learn¬† how to pace myself over the entire race, not just within each specific event.

Now I get to apply what I learned just five weeks after this race. The Kelowna Apple is on August 22, 2010. I am registered.

[Photos at Flickr]

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Responses

  1. Just discovering your blog–cool! I’m sure there are much more interesting or pertinent things to say but one thing thing that puzzles me right now is: why is there such an emphasis on transitions? Yours were something like 1.5% of total race time (?), which doesn’t seem like that much, and I imagine that the most you could expect to save on top of this is maybe 0.5% (?)–transition time seems to be essentially rounding error! I guess time saved in transitions is essentially “free”…

  2. Hi Michael! It’s something I wonder about as well. I guess it is “free” time, as you said. At my racing level, it probably doesn’t matter too much unless you’re looking to beat yourself with small gains. If you look at the difference in time between my T1 for this and my last race, there is quite a difference (3:12 vs 1:49). At a competitive level, I think it does matter more. It is a fun game to play with yourself anyway – what can I do to get faster? Thus, the ditching of the socks on my part.


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