...this race didn't unfold as I'd hoped in its buildup, training or its execution.
It's was kind of a crazy whirlwind in the weeks leading up to, and the days around the race. We've been under the gun for Sato's business issues the last couple weeks and training&racing had to accommodate the bigger issues of getting her office fully staffed again. House, toddler and my work demands filled out the rest of the free time docket.
With that being the situation, we flew into Calgary just 4 days prior the the race. Sato got down to training a new staff member at her office in the city, while I focused on tapering and childcare at my parents house in out in Okotoks.
Registration and bike check in both had to happen early in the morning the day ~before~ the race, so we drove up to Edmonchuk 2 days early. The extra day allowed a quick survey of the race transition area, the downtown race headquarters and other venues around the city. I felt a little bad for the all the foreigners that were trying to ride their TT bikes around the city - it was still Edmonton after all. Big diesel pickups and pot-holey roads aren't a great match for Euro's on twitchy TT bikes.
Still, the city had spared few expenses and the venues themselves looked great.
How do I get in??
London's Hyde Park was a soggy muddy mess with ridiculous amounts of walking, so Edmonton's dry Hawrelek Park seemed quite civil in comparison. With large walking spaces between the tents and solid ground underfoot, we were quite happy. This was despite the annoying need to be bused into the park. All vehicles were to be parked up by the university and athletes and spectators could only access Hawrelek via one of the many shuttle buses.
2500-ish bikes in transition
As usual, the night prior to the race was quite fitful and I needed to check the clock every 2 hours or so, all night long. My wave start time wasn't until 1030AM, a uniquely late start, but transition shut down at 9AM so I still had to leave early given the awkward logistics of finding a parking garage and using the shuttle bus.
Owing to my own stupidity and lack of time, I didn't make it to any of the team Canada course familiarization sessions to review the swim, bike or run courses. This ~would~ come back to haunt me. Dumbly, I assumed having done the Canadian nationals race here 2 years ago I could simply go on autopilot.
Got transition set up and tweaked - ONLY bike, shoes, helmet and bib number. Nothing else, or it will be tossed out by the officials! It was like a military barracks in it's ruthless cleanliness; no little towel or marker of any kind was allowed.
Out at 9am and off to watch wave after wave of earlier heats hitting the water. Approximately 2500 racing the sprint distance today. Finally my time was drawing close, so I slathered up with olive oil and squeezed into my new wetsuit. Dumb me, again. I had only got in a single practice with this new Aquasphere Phantom suit, so figuring out the zipper was a bit of a task. With the help of some nearby old ladies (their heat wasn't for a while yet) I was finally encased in cozy Yamamoto #39 and jogged into the first of several paddocks where 100s of athletes were corralled.
The 'walkout' in Edmonton is always nice, a bagpiper leads the way and we trot happily behind him toward the water (like doomed rats following the pied piper?). At water's edge there were more paddocks for us to await our turn. The 40-44 year old women heat departed just in front of us, and we needed to give them 12 minutes before we could toe the blue platform. The 12 minutes felt like an eternity so I cracked jokes about drowning with a friendly Yank and Brit whom I was standing beside. In my mirth, the open Hammer Gel I was nursing dribbled brown goo all over my hand. When we got called to the line I quickly gulped down the remainder and licked what I could from my wrist.
Then when I tried to spit in my goggles, I had none, because there wasn't enough time to clear the hammer gel from my mouth. Blerg!
Doing the best I can with my goggles, one foot in the water, leaning out nervously... HORN!!!!!!!
Dive!!! Flail madly!!! Form? ... No form!!!
Everyone goes like bats out of hell the first couple hundred meters. I hit it quite hard, but realize when sighting that I'm only mid pack, at best. Quite humbling. Everyone at this race is a quick swimmer. The pack mostly stays as a wide horizontal line almost all the way to the first buoy.
One pleasant surprise - this is not the same duck pond I swam in 2 years ago! The city has dropped about 1.5 million into upgrades, and while it looks like a pond on the surface, it looks like kits pool minus the black lines underwater. Seeing the bottom clearly and other swimmers underwater makes things much easier and less worrying as I frequently gulp down waves that hit me when I try to breathe.
My course was a bit meandering and I wish I had done a few more open water practices prior to the race. Toward the end I get on a good pair of feet. Passing is possible with a big effort, but I tuck in and look to save energy for the long long run to transition.
Hit the bank and run up the - sand? - OMG, this is the deepest softest sand I've ever tried to run in!
A total slog to reach the grass, then about 500m to the bike. My plan was to go a little easy at the end of the swim so as to have a fast run to my bike.
This fell apart as I couldn't get my wetsuit undone! Zipper goes up? or down?? Where the heck is the string? Is it already undone? Pull harder!!!? No, still not undone... Keep trying!! Crap, this race is going a little sideways....!
In the last 50 or so meters before my bike I finally caught the string and got the zipper down. Hallelujah! Thought I would be begging an official for help!
Got wetsuit off (need to practice that more as well) then running out T1 with the bike. About 15th or so place at the moment; not great but not terrible either. Flying leap onto the bike (I've always been good at that), get up to speed, feet into my shoes... Blerg!
Somehow the big velcro strap that hold my foot in has completely fallen out of it's eyelet. I have to cease pedalling and precariously try to re-thread it, while slowly coasting. This eats up 15 or 20 seconds but I manage to do it without needing to completely stop and get off.
Ok! Lets get this train back on the tracks: 2 laps of a 10km course.
I'm just reaching the first hill, about an 8% climb. Start passing a few people... Annoyingly, everyone is pretty quick and they aren't easy passes, but slowly and surely I keep passing.
They basically closed all the roads surrounding Hawrelek park for the race, so we had full run of the big roads like Groat Road and Saskatchewan drive.
The only bummer is that many of the roads have treacherous cracks across them about every 20 feet that make the whole bike bounce a little off the pavement. This makes it really difficult to get a solid tempo going. Being Edmonton, there was the mandatory odd scary pothole as well.
Overall ride was good, got passed 2 times and passed several of my rivals. It felt like an average TT effort, nothing special, but at least I seemed to be holding my own vs this competitive field.
Half way through the bike course there is a 'Y' section where racers can re-enter the transition area or branches back onto the course to do their second loop. Having not practiced - I took the wrong turn and rode up the to the.. dismount line??! Nooooo!
The guys were yelling at me to get off my bike but I yelled back I needed to do my second loop! At their gestures I did a 180 and rode slowly backward a couple hundred feet till I saw where I had gone wrong. Heading out on the correct loop I glumly considered this race wasn't exactly coming up aces so far.
Second loop was not bad as well, except for the officials motorbike which kept getting in my way. Frequently forcing me to sit up and freewheel while they blew a whistle at some slower moving guys that were getting called out for drafting.
Bike leg done - this time I took the correct turn and headed to the dismount line and transition 2.
Reasonably quick transition and off on the run. Immediately it felt like a real plodder, I couldn't seem to get up on my toes and run properly. Each footstrike was quite heavy, a long ground contact time. Within a few hundred meters some of the chaps I'd dispatched on the bike were re-appearing and passing me. Just felt dead and in survival mode, I could only watch them go.
Toward the last 500 meters or so I could hear some of the spectators shouting for a guy behind me, and the shouting was gradually getting closer! Arrg. Luckily the blue carpet was within site and I had heaps of speed available even if my endurance was malfunctioning.
So, I uncorked a proper 100m dash to the line and put some distance on my follower. Chatting with him after the finish line he admitted that he thought he had me, but then I suddenly doubled my speed as we approached the finish line and he was totally spent.
My American frenemy in background:
After finishing and having some nice words with fellow competitors I bailed and wanted to head out. I knew it hadn't been a banner day, and didn't even want to check the results.
Crossing the line, nice shot mom!
As it turned out, I got 9th, and was kind of happy as it was at least a top 10. My run ended up almost 2 minutes slower than expected (!!) and I lost time in a variety of other dumb ways, so it was a little hollow feeling in retrospect.
The last bit of misery was that we had to hightail it straight back to Calgary so moments after reaching the our car I disassembled my TT bike so it could cram into the trunk and all 4 of us piled in for a tiring several hour drive back to Okotoks that very afternoon!
I'm still not quite sure what to take from this final big race of the season. For now: this will marinate for a couple weeks before deciding what's next.