07.16.16: Gravenhurst International Distance Duathlon

It was just moments after we had gotten home, mid-martinis, celebrating another successful race weekend at the Belwood Conservation Triathlon and Duathlon Races, when a crazy thought crossed my mind.

What they say about ‘post-race high’ is true. This is the feeling of euphoria after finishing a race, leading one to believe that they can accomplish absolutely anything. I’m quite familiar with this feeling as it was what led me to sign up for my first marathon a few years ago. I trained for months in preparation for this season… but with the intention of racing sprint distances (2.5k-20k-5k).

In exactly a weeks time, MultiSport Canada would be hosting the Ontario Provincial Triathlon and Duathlon Championships in Gravenhurst, Ontario. This race also happened to be the 2017 International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships Qualifier Race in Penticton, BC. If I register, I would have to race my very first Standard Distance Duathlon (10k-40k-5k). Untrained for this distance, and with less than a week to recover from the Belwood race, it seemed unwise to register for Gravenhurst. There definitely wasn’t enough time to recover and taper for a race twice the distance that my body was trained for.

So naturally, I signed up!

A week later, we were on our way to Gravenhurst. We arrived at the venue two hours later. With feelings of excitement, mixed with nerves and a hint of regret, I got out of the car and set up the bike trainer to do a short warmup. Before I knew it, I found myself in a sea of athletes at the race start. Then, the gun went off.

10k run, 40k bike, 5k run: my plan was simple. I’ve ran many 10k’s and my goal was to achieve a negative split (run the second 5k faster than the first). Through the rolling hills, I ran calmly with hawk-like focus. It wasn’t until the turnaround when I realized that I was just behind the lead group of athletes. Confidence boost = check! Running into transition, I saw my friends and I yelled ‘negative split!’ with a big smile on my face. At 4:00 min/km, I was having a good race.2016-07-16 | 2016 MultiSport Gravenhurst Triathlon (Saturday)

My game plan for the bike was to pedal comfortably. I knew that it would be the hilliest course I’ve ever raced on and I would have to fuel properly to prevent bonking. I always attack on the third run and I wanted to ensure that I had enough fight for my last 5k. I counted one kilometre at a time, hydrated every 10 minutes, and maintained 95-100rpm for the duration of the bike. I wasn’t nearly going fast enough at 29.7kph to keep my placing and undoubtedly I’ve fallen behind due to my calves painfully seizing at the 30k mark. The last 5k of the bike felt like an eternity. I sped up my cadence to spin out my cramps and re-focus for the last run. I rolled into transition feeling defeated.

I ran out of transition for the last haul. My plan of attack was to pace a 4:15 and finish strong. I ran a little slower at 4:22 but when I crossed the finish line, I felt accomplished and proud.  Despite any hopes of qualifying for Penticton disappearing into thin air, I took my wins. I completed my first Standard Distance Duathlon and I competed with the best and the most talented athletes that I’ve seen. Although I didn’t finish on the podium, the post-race high sure was back.

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I learned two conflicting lessons that day. 1) training 101: it is not wise to put your body through something that it isn’t ready to do, and 2) don’t be afraid to take risks and believe in your capabilities. My body wasn’t ready for this distance but I did it anyway. The only way that I could survive this race was to condition my mind to believe that I can push my body beyond its limits.

There was a third lesson: don’t lose hope so quickly for what’s meant to happen, will happen.

I opened my email a week later… I am going to Penticton after all.

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all race photos courtesy of ZoomPhotoInc.

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