Triathlon Canada’s Provincial Championship and one of the only two world qualifier races in Ontario took place on Saturday October 28th. Hosted by the
OVERDRIVE RACE & RELAY SERIES at the iconic Canadian Tire Motorsport Park formerly known as Mosport in Bowmanville Ontario.
55 years old this road circuit has hosted every professional driving series from Formula 1, to Nascar Trucks, Indy Cars, IMSA and a host of other incredible racing events.
– Derrick McKay
Thanks to Derrick and his visions to ride an actual bike around the race track I found myself registered for what was the third year event of duathlon racing. For the first time at this venue both sprint and standard distance duathlon were the only event running on the Saturday. The race course is very challenging with hilly terrain sharp corners and all the twists and turns the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park has to offer. Not only is the race course wonderful to race as an athlete but it is also an incredibly spectator friendly venue. Indoor and outdoor seating and spectating huts on lots of the race track corners. The sprint races happened to start at 9am and the standard distance race was scheduled for 1:30pm.
Driving down the night before I stayed in a hotel just 20:00 from the race site. I was traveling solo as the family stayed home because the weather forecast looked to be less than favourable. For once when I awoke the next morning I didn’t feel rushed to get to the race site so I took my time and left the hotel around 10:30. I had packed a cooler of food with everything I would need for a couple of days, it looked like I was camping for a week with the amount of food I brought. This was all a precaution after suffering food poisoning mid race this summer in Gravenhurst. Read about that here. I woke up with the sun that morning and had been keeping my eye on the weather which was calling for >1mm of rain and cool temperatures around 7 degrees. As the morning went on cloud cover set in and the temperature was dropping. At 6am it was around 13-15 degrees but by the time I arrived at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park the temperature had dropped 4-5 degrees. Also the 1mm of rain well it was already there and I started to have a bad feeling that the forecast was inaccurate.
Lake Ontario is just below Bowmanville and the weather coming off the lake changed and changed quickly around 11am.
I arrived to the beautiful and warm venue and found the Sprint races still underway. All the action was being announced over the PA system and I observed from the warmth and comfort of the #F2C Nutrition Recovery Zone indoors. This gave me time to catch up with F2C Nutrition CEO & President, Greg Cowan. We chatted about life, business, the weather and Fyn 2018 ITU Multisport World Championships Festival. After all the reason I was racing Saturday was to get a qualifying spot so I can go a race in Denmak representing Canada.
As friends and fellow athletes started to fill the venue we were told that at 12:00 we would get a chance to pre ride the track to familiarize ourselves with the corners and layout. So I headed down to the infield where I unloaded my bike and set my tri bag under an umbrella in the transition area. By now the rain was really starting to come down and we had learned that numerous athletes had crashed earlier on in the day due to slippery conditions on the race track. Allowed out on the track to get my first look at what it was going to be like I eagerly took the most of my two laps to get the lay of the land. What I didn’t realize until I got back was that the temperature had continued to fall and the rain got worse and worse.
With the race start moved up to 1:00 now because of the declining whether I was starting to get cold. Wet was a given and I had packed lots of clothing for rain in cool weather but not for torrential rain also…. Pre race check I found myself with wet feet, cold hands but still good spirits all things considered.
Run 1 – 10.4km
I’m still not sure how many people started the race but I feel like it was less than 20 of us total out on the race track. There were people who had shown up and refused to race and I don’t blame them one bit as it turned out to be a wise decision. I on the other hand was determined to get myself a world qualifying spot no matter what.
Derrick gave us the count down and we were off. 1 lap of the infield (2.4k) and then out on the track for 2 laps (4km) to make up the 10.4km distance.
The first part of the opening run was wet gravel and standing water sections, you felt like you were running a cross-country race. Out on the track things were starting to get interesting as I looked down and checked my pacing I was right on track, perhaps even a little ahead. This however was short-lived and as I ran the first half of the track lap I was indeed warming up and my hands were not cold but something else was starting to hurt with every stride. My back….. great shooting pains now in the for front of my mind I had only completed 4km. It was going to be a long day. Days before the race I had my L4 & L5 vertebrae out of alignment after a week of imbalanced body and the flu to boot. I knew there was always the possibility that they would not stay in place but had been trying to medicate with anti inflammatory meds after seeing my chiropractor. As the kilometres ticked by I fell off the pace. I was running crooked and lumbering along favouring once side of my body. With just one lap to go I was in a lot of pain as every step I took it felt like a lightning bolt was being shot through the left side of my body. I had been passed by nearly everyone at this point as I tried to run 5:00/km… With every competitor who passed me commenting “you ok” or “is your back alright” my spirits were down. I can’t imagine how awkward I must have looked as I channeled my inner Lionel Sanders / Forest Gump and hobbled along. Heading into T1 I made it to my bike and tried to bend over to take off my shoes and just couldn’t. It took me a few minutes to get my back to relax enough to allow me to get my wet running shoes off and buckle up my helmet. While this was happening a courteous Triathlon Ontario official had actually come over asking if I was “ok” and wanted to know if I had fallen or was injured… Through now chattering teeth I managed to tell him I was fine, it was only my back……
Bike – 40km(well almost)
Hobbling across the mount line I got on my bike with a grunt and off I went. Slowly but surly I was able to get my legs to start tuning faster and faster. After a few kilometres I found myself reeling in and passing athletes that had gone by me on the run. After lap 1 my back had settled down and I was feeling so much better. With such great bike fit from Scott at Dundas Speed Shop I no longer had any pain at all. Lap two I started to get comfortable with the turns and wet track surface and got more aggressive with my handling. Lap 3 the wind was starting to pickup and the rain relentlessly came down but my hands were starting to get very cold and braking was getting a little dicey. Lap 4 I really started to feel the cold and my legs had slowed down now and my pace was dropping. I made the decision to head into transition should I not be able to warm up on the next lap. I put “the hammer down ” but nothing happened, like a car running out of gas I was running out of steam…. into transition I went.
Rules had been made to allow athletes to come in any time to get changed should they need to.
As I dismounted, cold wet and discouraged I racked my bike and headed over to my bag of cloths. As I was rummaging through the dry cloths I got out some tights, winter gloves and a fleece long-sleeved top. While I was getting changed I was asked by an official if I was calling it quits, to which I replied “no way” and he chuckled. I realized that I was shaking so bad I couldn’t do up my tights at the bottom nor could I get my hands in my gloves. I glanced at the bike racks and saw 3-4 bikes also racked by no athletes in sight. I asked where they people were that the bikes belonged to and was told that they were either pulled for hypothermia or quit the race.
In that moment it was time for a mid race check, was I going to continue, could I finish, how cold was I and what time was it. With the cold and wet I realized I had not been paying attention to any metrics, not power, speed or anything I was just counting my laps and hoping my legs would keep going. I was determined to finish the race and out on the windy bike course I went. Leaving the pit lane I was greeted with a sudden gust of wind form the side and I nearly road off the race track, like a cold splash of water to the face I had a moment of panic and snapped back into reality. Out on the course I just kept telling myself don’t stop, keep your legs and fingers moving. By corner 2 I could not feel my hands and I stared to wobble on my bike. At first I thought there was a problem with my front wheel and then the same thing with the back, surely I had hit something or had a flat causing the violent speed wobble.
Two things wrong with that, one there was nothing wrong with the bike of the wheels it was my arms and legs shaking so much that I was causing my own speed wobble from shivering violently. Two I wasn’t going fast enough to get a speed wobble (16-20km/hr). I must ave looked like I was in distress as I can remember a Triathlon Official pulling up beside me on his motor cycle asking if I was alright, he then proceeded to follow me around the race track. So with just 6 laps completed I made the decision to head into transition again and get off my bike.
This is where the day got even more interesting as I racked my bike and fumbled about my body had made the decision that this was all I could take…. Literally about to bow out of the race and join all those people inside in the warmth the race leader Matt Straatman came into transition having completed his 10 laps he was off on his final run. Officials and the race director made the call in that moment to cancel the rest of the bike portion of the race. Temperatures had dropped to near freezing with the wind chill. It was no longer safe to be racing our bikes. Everyone was flagged off the track and asked hoe many laps they completed and then given the option to finish the last run or call it a day (DNF). All of this could not have come at a more perfect moment because sure I was a danger to everyone including myself on the bike but I can still run. So call if luck, fait or whatever I put on those cold wet and frozen shoes and hobbled off on my cold wet stumps.
Kudos to everyone who even completed the 10 laps let alone the entire day, rock stars!!
Run 2 – 5km
The last run was well better than the first because by now I couldn’t feel my back, hell I couldn’t feel anything I just kept running. After 2 more laps of the infield which was soaked and slippery I crossed under the finish chute and it was finally over. I packed up my car, drove back up to the venue’s indoor facilities and had a long hot shower.
So in conclusion it was just an awful event form a weather perspective and physically I am surprised that I kept it together as long as I did. I am fairly sure I was hypothermic or nearly there and glad I pulled myself off the race course when I did. Thanks to all the Officials and medical support on site who kept check on people and kept us alive literally.
I am done for the season, done done… no more running, biking anything for a while. I need to let me back heal completely and spend some more family time at home. We are moving to a new house in December but out of our current residence almost a month before so to say life is busy is an understatement, I need the time away from training.
I will however continue to swim two days a week as that is an impact free way of maintaining my fitness. My body physically has taken a beating all year and mentally Overdrive was the straw that broke this camel’s mental back… Fingers crossed that the qualifying spots are still counted and that I did indeed get one.
Heres the note from Triathlon Ontario and Derrick
Due to an unfortunate turn in the weather, Triathlon Ontario Officials in consultation with the Race Director made the decision to end the bike portion of the race early. This was done for the safety of the participants, but resulted in some athletes completing more bike laps than others.
As this was both a Provincial Championship and a national qualifying race, athletes will have understandable concerns about placing, awards and qualifying slots. Triathlon Ontario is committed to providing clear and fair direction to everyone involved.
Triathlon Ontario is in the process of gathering the relevant information and consulting with the relevant authorities in order to provide the correct direction in this case. We understand the valid concerns of those involved and will proceed as quickly as possible consistent with providing a fair race.
Further information will be provided to the Race Director as it becomes available. Questions or concerns should be directed to Mike Mahoney at email@example.com.
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