Wednesday, 5 October 2016

2016 Cultus Lake Triathlon

The time had come and gone for my last Olympic Triathlon of the year. On September 18th, I participated in the Cultus Lake Triathlon.

The Saturday before had been very cold and rainy, so I was mentally prepared for a cold, wet race.  Luckily, the weather turned out to be sunny and cool.

Jen and I woke up early to make the drive to Chilliwack.  Transition was open from 6:00am to 7:45am.  I knew I had plenty of time, but did not want to rush my setup.

We parked the rental car, aired up the bike tires, and filled the water bottles before paying for parking.

I then made my way to transition to setup. I won't bore you with all the minutia of my setup.  I'm written it several times before.

I did however make some changes to my bike this race.  As I've mentioned in previous races, I've had issues trying to find an easy way to take gels on the bike.  Well, I am happy to announce, I think I have found a solution. I bought a soft bottle at a Dollarama, and after a few tests on my long training rides, it has proven successful.  I also bought an X-lab stealth pocket to keep it in. The zippers on the pocket have large tabs and are very easy to open and close.

After setting up my transition area, I checked my land marks.  After the Swim-In entrance, I was the second row, second section.  On the Bike-In entrance, take a left, second to last row, second to last section. Bike-Out was the same as Bike-In and Run-Out was the same as Swim-In.

After prepping everything (physically and mentally) in transition, Jen and I made our way to the water.  I did some stretches and put my wetsuit on halfway.

We watched the half-iron distance start their swim as more and more people made their way to the water front.  Transition had just closed and everyone was preparing for the swim.

A fellow SeaHiker swimmer saw me and we started chatting.  I felt extremely embarrassed because the whole time we were talking, I thought she was some one else.  Once I realized that it was Kelsey, I apologized profusely.

I gave Jen a kiss and started toward the water for a warm up swim. The water was very nice, not too cold, but not too warm either.  There were quite a few athletes opting to swim sans wetsuit.

The water entrance was super rocky and it took me a while to make my way into waste deep water. Once in, I sat for a bit, bobbing my head in and out to acclimate my body to the water temp.

While doing my warm up swim. I saw Brice, a guy who rode with me on Coach Powell's Tuesday Outdoor Cycling Sessions. He is a very strong biker and runner, so I assumed he was a good swimmer too.

We chatted for a bit and we met a guy from Lytton who was doing his first triathlon.  He had been from the Chilliwack area, but had not been back in 18 years.  He was very excited about being back in the area and about his first tri.

As the Sprint distance athletes took off, the male Olympic distance athletes made their way out to the start 'line'.  I swam under the dock and made my way to the back of the pack.  A few of us grabbed the underside of the dock to keep from having to expend energy treading water.

We all began chatting about the water temp and previous races.  One guy asked me about the swim at Alcatraz while another asked me about my training for Arizona 70.3.

I also saw Ward, who I met in Hawaii in March of 2015.  His wife was on the Team in Training tri-team for Lavaman and he had come along for support.

The call was made for us to move closer to the start line.  I positioned myself in the back as the pack moved up.

I made a mental note of the buoy and my sight line and then we were off.

The Swim

I made sure to start off in the back and slow. Even with a slower start, I found myself among several thrashing feet.  I kept calm and focused on the sunlight seeping through the clear water. My body was used to the water temperature and it was business as usual.

While swimming toward and sighting the first turn buoy, I noticed that there was a slight current pulling me toward the center of the swim loop.  I was confused on how there could be a current in a lake.  Just as I was having this thought, the water began to turn choppy.  This was a lake! The only other lake I've swam in with any kind of current was Lake Superior.  The only thing I could think of was if the support boats beyond the turn buoys had moved and created a wake of some sort.

I adjusted my line and made it to the first turn buoy.  As I rounded the buoy, I took a brief moment to find the next turn buoy (while swimming breast stroke).  My (ongoing) goal, was/is to make an Olympic distance swim in under 30 minutes.  With this in mind, I kept my breaks very short.

Once on my way to the second turn, I noticed yet again that there was a current.  Only this time, the current was pulling us out, away from the swim loop.  At this point, I did not care why there was any kind of current. I simply adjusted for it and kept swimming.

I rounded turn 2, took a very brief, breast stroke, sight break and continued swimming.  At this point, we were very close to the opposite shore and the water was shallow enough to see the bottom.  The water began to have an odor or gasoline.  I figured it was just from all the boats docked nearby.

When I sighted, I noted that I was veering too far to the left and adjusted accordingly, all the while making mental notes for the second lap.

Another swimmer was so far off to the left, a volunteer on a paddle board had to stop him and point him in the right direction.

Somewhere between halfway and three quarters of the way between turn 2 and turn 3, the leaders in the female Olympic distance passed me. This made the end of my first lap and my second lap a bit more crowded, but by this point any anxiety was out of my system.

I rounded turn 3 and began to swim past the start dock.  I could hear spectators on the dock cheering.  At this point, a man in an orange wetsuit was pacing me. He was not drafting me, nor was I drafting him.  His swim and direction was too sporadic for me to draft.

Now onto the second lap, I recalled all the mental notes I made on the first lap. My line from turn 3 back to turn 1 was tighter and I made sure to angle in from turn 1 to turn 2.

After turn 2, Orange Wetsuit Guy passed me and cut in. WAY in.  He must have remembered the current too, but overcompensated.  If he had sighted a bit more frequently, he could have lined back up sooner.

My line was much better on the second lap.  I kept it tight and sighted often to keep it that way. I could feel myself starting to push a bit harder the closer I got to the end.

I rounded the last buoy and lined myself up with the swim exit.  As I swam in, I noticed that one swimmer had missed the last buoy and cut the last turn.  I could hear officials shouting at him.

As I made my way closer to the swim exit, I could see (when I would take a breathe) spectators to my right watching from the dock.  I could also see all the athletes in front of me stranding up and walking through waste deep water to exit.  Not I.  I know from my SeaHiker courses that swimming through water was easier than walking through it.  I must not have been the only one to notice this, because I saw a spectator point at me, point at the other athletes, then whisper something to his son.

I swam as far in as I could before popping up and exiting the water.  I stumbled a bit as I stood and so did the guy behind me.  He grabbed my should for support and apologized.  I barely even noticed he was there, smiled and told him not to worry.

I pulled my goggles to my forehead, keeping them on to ensure I had both hands free, and began to strip off the top half of my wetsuit.

As I ran up the ramp, I saw Jen.  She took the photos above as I jogged down the path to T1.  Usually, I have to walk this section, but made it a point to jog and better my time.  Jen even noticed that I was not walking as she jogged beside me.

So, I want to break from my usual format to talk a bit about my goals for this race.  This race was the last race before I travel to Arizona for my first Ironman 70.3.  My training had been going great and all of my disciplines had been improving.  My goal was to go for a personal best (PB) on this race. I knew I had the bike strength, my swim had remained strong, and I had done a 15k race a few weeks before and knew I could push hard on the run.

My swim time was not my best, but it was not my worst.  It was pretty much right were all my other Olympic distance swims had been.  Although a bit disappointed to have not broken my 30 minute barrier, I knew it was not a bad time and that I still had alot of race left to make up for it.

I ran into T1 and found my bike very quickly.  Surprisingly, there were still quite a few bikes around mine.  Usually, all the bikes around me are gone.  I stripped off the rest of the wetsuit and started getting ready for the bike.

As I ran out of transition with my bike, I forgot to mount my watch to the bike mount.  I shrugged it off and told myself I would do it later.  I never did.

As I approached the mount line, I could see it was getting very crowded.  I made it a point to run a bit past the mount line to get ahead of everyone else.  This strategy worked until a woman ran right up in front of me and started to get on her bike.  After avoiding a collision with her, I was on my way.

The Bike

As I took off out of T1, I thanked the volunteers and entered the roundabout. We took the second exit onto Colombia Valley Highway and began on a slight downhill.

The course was not a closed course and the shoulder was not very wide.  The road was busy with cyclists and cars which made passing an issue.

As the course continued, we began to climb.  It was to early in the race to push, so I took the climb very casual.  My legs needed time to adjust to the bike and there was plenty of race ahead of me.

I rounded the top of the hill and began my decent.  As always with downhills, I picked up a good amount of speed.  I carefully passed a few other cyclists while avoiding traffic.

At the bottom of the hill, there was a sharp left turn.  I knew from the race info this was there.  It was very similar to part of the Escape From Alcatraz course. I negotiated the turn and soon found myself on a nice flat section.

I began to once again pick up speed and soon found myself in a position to pass 2 other athletes. One of the athletes, wearing a white tri-suit, was drafting off another.  I could not remember if this race was draft legal or not. I figured it had to be, given that this guy in front of me was doing it.  Regardless of whether it was legal or not, it was not how I raced, and it was not how Arizona would be raced.

Every time I tried to pass, White Tri-suit would block me.  I got upset and decided I'd had enough.  I came off the saddle and sprinted past both of them. Oh, and I found out later that the race was NOT draft legal.

The course took us through the main street of Yarrow and at this point the pack had spread out quite a bit.  I found myself alone with little shoulder room and continued car traffic.

At about the 11k mark, I had caught up to another athlete.  As we approached a right turn, there was some confusion. The race guide had said to cut through a parking lot at this point and the course arrow was quite a ways from the actual turn, pointing us down the back parking lot.  I ended up following the athlete in front of me into the back parking lot.

As I caught up with her, she asked if I had followed her.  I told I did and that I doubted it made any difference.  If anything it would have slowed us down more. We had a laugh and pedaled on.

Around 13.5k, I took a right turn and thanked the volunteer stationed there.  A few minutes alter I heard a shout, "Those 2 cut that last corner!"  I turned to see that White Tri-suit had caught up with me.  Minutes later he passed me and yelled at me for cutting the corner.  If I had had time I would have answered back, but he was on a mission to catch up with the other rider to let her know the folly of her ways as well. Keep in mind, this was the same guy who was drafting on the first part of the course. I ended up passing him when he stopped at an aid station.  I opted not to stop.  I had everything I needed with me on the bike.

This part of the course was very open and flat.  There was no car traffic and I was able to gain speed. I was feeling really good.

At 18k, we turned into a headwind.  I took this as an opportunity to practice getting comfortable in my aero bars.

The course continued through flat farmland and I was making excellent time. Although at the time I did not know it because I could not see my watch.

I eventually caught up with Brice.  This was a great feeling because Brice is a very strong cyclist.

I then caught up with the female athlete from the parking lot.  I asked her if she was called out for 'cutting the corner' as well.  We had another good laugh as I explained, "If I podium in my age group, which I never do, I'll decline the award." She pulled ahead as we continued on the course.

Around the 25k mark, I was making a move to pass her again, when I felt something weird on the bike.  I looked down and saw my bike wheel did not look right and the bike was not responding as usual. As I passed my new-found friend, I asked if she could take a look at my bike tire to tell me if it was flat.

It was.

I pulled off to the side of the road, took a deep breathe, and began to get what I needed out of my repair kit.

I knew then and there that my goals for a PB where gone.  I was not upset though.  I knew how to change a flat and I had everything I needed to do so. Although this would make a PB impossible, it would not hinder my ability to have a great race.

As I was changing my tire, almost every athlete who passed me asked if I was alight, if I had everything i needed, or if I needed help. Those who did not offer assistance just shouted encouragement.  A great atmosphere to be in for sure!

I did learn 2 things from this ordeal that I need to change before Arizona.  First, I need to get valve extenders that are threaded. The valve extender I had on my spare tube was not threaded, and it was difficult to air up the tire without the small washer that keeps the valve stem in place. Secondly, I need a different valve for my CO2 cartridges.  The one I currently have has a twist valve.  I need one I can just press and inflate.

After some time, I had my wheel sorted and started back up.  I was unable to get my back tire aired up as fully as I would have liked, but still pushed on keeping a close eye on it. I kept such a close eye on it, that at one point I almost missed a turn.

I passed several people who had seen me on the roadside as I made my way back toward downtown Yarrow, passed the parking lot, and back to the hills.

I remembered the downhill with the sharp left from before and made sure to get into an easy gear before making that turn in the opposite direction. I pushed up the hill pretty hard.  I think this was me venting my flat tire frustration.

After a few rolling hills, it was back to the roundabout and then the mount line.

I approached the mount line, knowing that Jen would be worried.  As she cheered, she could see the frustration in my face.  I told her I had a flat, but still felt good about the race.

As I entered T2, volunteers were waving us through, but not the way I had mentally mapped out.  I had planned on running in, taking an immediate left, then turning right into my row.

The volunteers were directing us to go straight.  So I went straight, then turned left at the end of the bikes, and left again at my row.  Luckily it was the same side as the swim in direction so I knew exactly where to go.

I racked my bike, and began to transition from a biker to a runner.

The Run

As always, my adrenaline was pumping and I started off too fast. Afters slowing to a more sustainable pace, I could feel that I had pushed too hard on the last leg of the bike.  I was frustrated and wanted to finish the bike before there any other malfunctions.  I was now paying the price for that frustration.

The run course took us down a beautiful path with the lake to our right and very nice houses to our left

About 5 minutes in, I had to stop and stretch my calves.  I knew I was not getting my PB, but I decided I was still going to stick with my run plan.  Just like my 15k a few weeks before, I was going to pick a pace, stick with it, then push hard at the end.

A little after 1k in, the path turned to sand. I tried to stay on as much packed sand as I could.  I saw Kelsey coming back on the first out-and-back.  She was surprised to see me on the course after the flat. We gave each other a high five and words of encouragement.

The first out-and-back turn around was about 1.5k in and as I rounded the turn, 2 guys passed me while cheering me on.  It was a great feeling.

Soon after that, I took a moment to adjust my shoes before going back onto the sand.  This time, I had to walk as the sand was messing with my hips.

I grabbed some water at the aid station and began the 'out' on the second out-and-back.

I saw Kelsey again and, once again, exchanged high fives and encouragement.

As the course took us into a shady path through a campground, my pace began to slow. I had no idea why I was slowing.

I made it to the second turnaround and saw the 2 guys again, who were encouraging me once again.

Once one the 'back' section of the out-and-back, I realized why my pace had slowed earlier.  I was now running downhill. Which meant earlier the course had a false flat.  I picked up my pace on the slight decline to make up for this new found realization.

As the course evened out again, i looked up to see the the female athlete from the bike course (the one who helped me determine that I had a flat).  She was very surprised and extremely happy to see that I was still in the race.  I shouted back to her, "A flat won't stop me!  It may slow me down, but it won't stop me!"

As the course took us through a residential area, I heard a man from his balcony shout,

"Almost there!"

I looked and shouted back, "Nope! I am only on my first lap, but I appreciate the encouragement! I'll see you soon!" We both had a laugh and I continued on.

Shortly after, i was passed by an athlete who looked very distraught. He looked at me and exclaimed that this was a "terrible course."  I had no idea what he was talking about.  I was enjoying the course.  It turns out, he missed the split to the finish line and had done an extra half lap before he realized it.  Later, as I approached the split, I made sure to ask one of the volunteers which was to go.

On the second lap, i saw the same familiar faces (sans a few who were on their second lap when I saw them).  I made it across the sand, around the first turn around again, and was about to round the corner to the aid station.

As I rounded the corner, I almost ran right into a family of 5 walking along the run course. Luckily, the mother was quick enough to realize what was going on and pulled 2 of her kids out of the way.  As I ran on to the aid station, I could hear her apologizing profusely.

I got some water and continued through the campground on the slight uphill.  When I made it to the turn around, I turned on the gas.  It was time to push.

I took full advantage of the slight downhill and used it to gain speed and momentum.  I saw the athlete I had met in the water who was from Lytton and cheered him on.

I was averaging 5:30/kilometer (30 seconds under my best 10k pace) and I only stopped briefly to grab some water to pour over my head.

I focused on my breathing and the cadence of my footfalls to keep my mind off of how hard I was pushing.

As I once again ran down the residential street, I was almost hit my a car backing out of their driveway. Luckily, I was paying attention to what was around me.

Soon, I was at 9k.  One 5-6 more minutes.  Keep pushing.

As I approached the split once again, I could see a group of spectators cheering.  And as I ran past the lap turn around I suddenly saw Jen.  She seemed very excited to see me and took photos as I rounded the corner.

All of a sudden, I was at the finish line.

As I crossed, I heard the announcer say my name and where I was from.  She then announced my time.  I looked at the volunteer who had given me my medal and asked if I had heard the announcer right. Then I heard the announcer say, "He is training for his first Ironman 70.3 with Coach Powell." It was great to hear a shout out to my coach.

Jen came over and congratulated me and I told her all about the race.

Kelsey came over and congratulated me and we shared our stories of the race. I also spoke to an older woman who had just finished her first triathlon. She was amazed that she was capable of so much.  I asked the all important question of, 'Would you do this again?' She laughed and said, "Yes, but not anytime soon."

Then, the female athlete who helped me determine if I had a flat, introduced herself to me.  Her name is Nikki and she is friend with a fellow Coach Powell athlete Diana (who I train with regularly). We shared our stories of the race and I thanked her for her support on the course.

Turns out she came in 3rd in her division!

I grabbed a protein shake and changed clothes before heading into transition to pack up.  One of the athletes from the duo I kept seeing on the run came up to me.

"So you do alot of these huh?"   He laughed and continued, "You really turned it on on that second lap!"  He went on to tell me that this was his buddy's and his first triathlon.  They had a blast and want to do more. We congratulated each other and then went on to pack up our gear.

Jen and I packed up the rental, grabbed something to eat, then headed to ikea.

Later that night I checked my times.  I was about 10 minutes over my personal best.  I know it was due to the fat tire.  But there are other factors too.  No triathlon course is the same.  Some have lots of hills and some are flat.  Some have shorter or longer bike and/or run sections.  This course had a slightly shorter bike and run section.

Nonetheless it still counts as an Olympic Distance Triathlon.

Swim:  0:33.23
T1:        0:03.53
Bike:    1:28.52
T2:        0:02.22
Run:     1:01.54  
Total:   3:10.22

Later, I uploaded my watch data and saw that it took me 15 minutes to change my flat tire. This means, I would have PBed by about 5 minutes!

I am not upset about the flat tire or my time.  I had a great race.  The flat was something that could not be avoided and would happen to me eventually.  I knew exactly what I needed to do and used it as practice for the next, inevitable, time it happens.

My goal was to PB.  If I did not have the flat tire, I would have.  In my mind, I still met my goal.

Thanks for taking the time to read my Cultus Lake Triathlon Recap.  This was my last Olympic Tri of the year.  On October 16th, I will be in Arizona, racing my very first Ironman 70.3 distance. Be on the look out for that race report.

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