Over the weekend of July 16/17 the town of Gravenhurst played host to what I would consider my new favourite venue for Duathlon and triathlon. The major showcase this year was certainly on the duathlon racing because the following was taking place:
- ITU Qualifier for Standard Duathlon (Saturday) #penticton2017 #tricanQ
- Provincial Duathlon Championships both Saturday and Sunday
- Du the Double Challenge
Saturday was the International Duathlon (10k,40k,5k), Sunday the Sprint Duathlon (5k,20k,2.5k) and this was my first time racing the longer distance. With the future of age group worlds going completely draft legal I have been planning on stepping up to the challenge of the longer distances. Before the upset in my training (hormones etc) prior to race season I was on an accelerated and upward trajectory in training. On the mend now but still not 100% I went into the weekend with high confidence and positive thoughts. I had set two goals for the weekend 1) Complete my first every international Duathlon 2) Qualify for Penticton and get one of the only two spots available on Saturday. I knew going in that a shot at the prize money for both days would be off the table for me and the sprint would be just for fun the following day.
As you can see below I finished 5th OA both Saturday and Sunday. With a very competitive field and a challenging course I don’t think there was a better venue. I reached one of my goals by completing the international distance Duathlon but fell short of my qualifying spot for Penticton by less than a minute. In hinds sight that should not have happened but it was my own fault for not knowing where I was in the field of racers. I have re written this part of my report a few times out of frustration so this is a much more positive version than previous. I made a plan for the international du and that was to run 4:00/km for the opener, bike steady to the half way point and try to negative split it if I felt I had enough in my legs. The last run, my kryptonite would be at a faster pace if possible than the first run. I fuelled properly on the bike and took in 3 gels during my ride with fluids, this was very beneficial as I was able to stretch my endurance a great deal.
Failing to qualify has been a tough pill to swallow because as I crossed the line Saturday and heard the announcement I was hoping for “Spencer has taken the last qualifying spot” but in reality I had not and the race leader had actually been in my age group the whole time. At the time I though “damn right I did!” and road that high for the rest of the weekend. At the awards I was shocked to see that I was 3rd in my AG after thinking I was second, perhaps with the age adjusted results I still had my spot. Well I left it there all the while telling everyone that I had indeed qualified. The lesson learned here is always check the results, read the sheet closely and talk with officials because otherwise this happens. Keep in mind that this was Saturday and I raced Sunday still in a positive mindset because I just didn’t know I was wrong. Monday rolled around and I found out that I had failed to qualify and I was devastated, I still feel a little defeated really. I haven’t decided if I will be traveling to Montreal to try to qualify again at Esprit or not. I have been licking my emotional wounds all week and sulking around but slowly feeling better about everything. Updates to follow on this but back to the action for now.
10km – 40km – 5km
Saturday – Day 1
On Friday Laura, Harper and I drove up to Gravenhurst on our first ever family adventure. With Harper only 16 days old we were not sure how she would react to the travel but all in all she did great! She was asleep for most of it and that was just fine by us she loves car rides. Arriving at the hotel we checked in and unloaded what felt like an entire house of stuff, bike and now a stroller and lots of diapers!!! Once settled in I went out to preview the transition zone and bike course. I drove the first 10k of the bike and got a sense of the terrain “hilly” course mostly rollers with a few longer climbs. Nothing above 6-7% I wouldn’t say. With the course fresh in my mind I tried to go to sleep as early as possible. After 9 hours but only about 6.5 of them sleep morning arrived and with it the fresh cool air of northern Ontario. Harper has been a great sleeper but it is still in small intervals so it’s tough to get deep sleep. My usual morning routine kicked in at 5am and I got my race bag ready and showered for the day. Consuming my usual toast with jam for breakfast….. Laura and Harper were up by now and after making sure both of them were settled and fed it was time to head to transition and get all set up. Arriving on site I racked my bike, got body marked and hung out in transition with my Ambassador shirt on. Thanks to Darren and Hector for volunteering and providing fast service at race kit pickup / body marking! Fielding questions from participants I was joined by Darryl Flacks and we chatted in transition about the race and what the day would bring. Shortly after the usual suspects arrived Andrew McLeod, Matt Straatman, Brian Moore and Garvin Moses. Little did I know that there was a another super fast athlete on site, Sean Delangethe who turned out to be in my age group….I didn’t know this until it was too late. With a deep field of competitors and so much on the line over the weekend I could tell it was not going to be an easy go to place well and told myself I would be happy with top 10. After racing Bracebridge last year with horrible results I knew that with the field just as deep I was going to have to go for it!
The first run started out at a brisk pace but I stuck to my guns and kept to my planned pacing. This was the hardest part of the whole day… holding back on the first run to make sure I had enough for the rest of the race. The winner of any Duathlon is rarely if ever determined by the first runs performance on its own. Leaving the start line we weaved our way out of the park and up a hill that climbed out-of-town. At the 2km sign all of a sudden it felt like someone stabbed me in my right Gastrocnemius. I have had problems in the area in the past after hard efforts or intervals but never so soon into such a slow paced run.
The gastrocnemius is located with the soleus in the posterior (back) compartment of the leg. The lateral head originates from the lateral condyle of the femur, while the medial head originates from the medial condyle of the femur. Its other end forms a common tendon with the soleus muscle; this tendon is known as the calcaneal tendon or Achilles Tendon and inserts onto the posterior surface of the calcaneus, or heel bone.
The rest of the run was very repetitive up a hill, down a hill, up a hill and so on and the whole time the intensity of pain increased in my leg. I did my best to bury the pain and just keep on moving but the hills really aggravated it that much more, hopefully I would not have problems on the bike. Daryl Flacks and I ran together for the first few km as we watched the leaders disappear over every hill. I had set a pace alarm on my Garmin Fenix 3 to alert me when I was running too fast or slow and that really helped to keep me honest and on pace. In hindsight I should have run this 10k at 3:45-3:50/km but not having raced the distance before and with a challenging bike ahead of me it was good to pace myself. Returning into town the last 1km is downhill and at this point I was running solo with no one around. You could hear the roar and noise of transition and the race site as you approached and that really got me focused for the next part of the race and my speciality the bike.
Bike – 40k
Right out of transition we climbed a hill out-of-town this first section is about 1km and has twists and turns the whole way. Once I was able to clear the build up of riders I settled into my usual high cadence around 95rpm. It was shortly after this point I took in a Gel with caffeine and some fluids from my aero bottle. I really liked this bike course it was truly a challenge for everyone riding. With lots of short hills and long sweeping corners I hit 57km/hr on a short decent and carried the speed right up to the next hill. For me the riding was all fairly similar t for the rest of the race, keeping a high cadence and shifting early this allowed me to carry speed up and over the top of every hill. On the large downhills sections I got into an even more aerodynamic position and freewheel as mush as possible giving my legs a break. The disadvantage to being a light rider is that I have to work harder to go down hill fast… but climbing hills is the opposite. I surprised myself on a lot of the short climbs because for the first time in a while I was riding past people in the aero position and not leaving the large chain ring. My quads and hips felt good but my calf was screaming at me and with every pedal stroke it tried to spasm. It took everything in me to keep power on the pedals and not easy up. I just kept going over my pedal stoke reminding myself to keep pulling and pushing equally, “pedal in a circle nice and even” i kept telling myself. I tried to distracted myself but the pain was so sharp. Despite all this the first 15km flew by and at this point I had caught Garvin and we continued to battle for the next 25 km. I passed him shortly after the turn around but he quickly went by me again. This went on and on despite my best attempts to pass him. I pushed 330+w sprints for 300m on 4 separate occasions but he held on. The first 20k took me 32:00 and I knew I was on pace for a great bike time. I actually managed to negative split this bike course with a finishing time of 1:03:00 proving that I had enough in my legs to push hard back the remaining 20km. I averaged just over 2km/hr faster the second half and even with the hills and the longer first run my legs were feeling not too bad, except for the calf.
By the time we got back to town I had managed to pass Garvin and keep him behind me. This was in the last 2km of the bike where I took the downhill corners at full speed and in aero position the whole time. A lot of people say I ride like I am fearless and while I don’t think that is true I do have excellent bike handling skills. Corners don’t scare me and I have complete faith in my bike and know what it is capable of so I guess that makes me a more confident rider. Entering T2 I was in a good spot for 4th because as it would turn out I had the second fastest bike split for the day behind Andrew McLeod.
Run 2 – 5k
By the time I got my bike racked and shoes on Garvin was already in transition. I chased him out of transition but as soon as we hit the up hill climb I faded and fast. My legs were heavy but at least still moving the now shooting pain in my calf was slowing me down tremendously. I watched Garvin pull away and I just couldn’t reel him in again… My second run is my weak point but getting better. I did manage to run a faster split than the opener and managed a 5k time of 19:22 for the lat run. While the time was good especially after such a challenging first run and long bike I just wish it was better. The positive from this is I now know what I am capable of racing when it comes to international length Duathlons. I gutted out the remaining 4k of the run and as those last few hundred meters approached I had a moment of I won’t make it….I was in so much pain and suffering at this point.
Crossing the line was just a feeling of relief in a way I had taken 5th place overall at what was probably the most difficult demanding race I have ever had. I was physically exhausted but had finished my first ever International Distance Duathlon. As I stood in the finish chute I was gasping for air and was asked by numerous people if i was “ok”… I said I was fine but in reality I should have gone and sat in the medical tent for a few minutes while trying to regain bodily function…. When I crossed the line I thought I had secured my AG spot for the ITU Qualifier…. like I mentioned at the beginning of this post I thought I got it and so did everyone else. I don’t want to talk about it much because it’s a sore spot but just remember to CHECK THE RESULTS as soon as they are posted…………
I had completed the race, achieved one of my goals and had executed the perfect debut race at the international length in my opinion. There will be more of these in my future I like the longer distance racing and hope to complete a Powerman in the future to really test my endurance.
Part 2 of this report is coming it will be a summary and give details into day 2 the Sprint but for now this is all I have had a chance to master up.
Thanks as always to the following!
- Coach Gabbi Whitlock – Balance Point Triathlon #OrangePower
- John Salt – MultiSport Canada & Recharge With Milk
- Chris Day – 3SIXTY5 Cycling
- Synergy Center Physio – John Smallwood
- Pursuit Health Management – Jan & John Barry
- Oxford Dodge Chrysler Jeep – James and Elizabeth Bennett
- Canadian SADS Foundation
- Jennifer Broxterman – NutritionRX