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Triathlon de Joliette race report

First: It did not rain. Which is indeed, for me, a first.

Second: It was bloody cold. Which is indeed, for me, NOT a first. (See what I did there uh!!!???)

Preparations for the Triathlon de Joliette, which is in itself a preparation for the Tremblant 70.3 Half Ironman, went well. I swam, I biked and I ran my legs out. The bike was solid. The legs felt good. Thanks to my new swim coach, I felt motivated about my upgraded swim skills. I was well prepared to race under summer conditions (it was a balmy 32°C on Saturday and I had a nice warm up run, warm not being only a figure of speech). I was nearly blown off my bike as well but the winds were supposed to die down on Sunday. The forecast for Sunday was 16°C, overcast. Decent enough. Cold-ish for the bike, but solid for the rest.

I spent most of Saturday preparing my gear. For a running race, you dress, you pick up your fuel belt and race belt, cap, sunglasses and you’re pretty much ready in 10 minutes. For a triathlon, you pack more stuff and gear than for a 2 weeks vacation. Goggles. Back-up goggles. Chain lube. Tools. Pump. Toilet paper. Electrical tape. A complete wardrobe of clothing to cover most conditions (you will be spending 2h in the transition area setting up your stuff. That’s the conundrum… You spent 2h in transition setting up your stuff because you brought so much stuff in the first place to cover all possibilities prior to the race in the transition area… my head hurts.)

Anyway. Come Saturday evening, I felt as ready as I’d ever be, ate my pasta and went to bed for a good night of sleep (gone are the pre race jibbies – at least until Tremblant).

I woke up early, had my traditional pre-race oatmeal, packed my stuff and drove alone to Joliette (Diana and Sabrina would join me later on). I intended to arrive before most competitions were underway so I would be able to park near the course.

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Finish line in the back. I am jealous of the Elite – they get a nice comfy blue carpet for their feet and a cool bike rack. We get to deal with overused curved metal poles (it’s always funny to see the 6’10 » athletes arrive and try to rack their oversized bike on those fairly low poles).

The forecast for the race at 10:05 was not 16°C anymore. It was more like 10°C, feels like 8°C. Ugh. That’s fine for running a 5km wearing a skimpy suit and swimming in a floating armor, but biking was getting a bit more complex. Before leaving home, I added a pair of socks to the bag (it’s triathlon, who the hell wears socks). When I arrived in the transition area, I started wondering what I would wear during the bike leg. Would I stop and put on socks? Arm warmers? Would I put the arm warmers under the wetsuit? Clip on shoes and do a flying mount – this simplifies the use of toe cover, but complicates socks usage. Would I put a jacket on (which I didn’t have – only a polar fleece, not exactly the most areodynamic and windproof option)?

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The swim exit is near the blue and purple tents to the left. The bike disembark line is all the way back near the grey building. Longest transition runs ever. Barefoot in a converted parking lot. Fun.

At one point I decided that I would wear the toe cover, arm warmers, not do a flying mount and would decide on the fly if I was to wear socks and jacket. With that in mind, I fiddled with all my gear until I was satisfied with positioning of everything down to 1mm. Triathletes are really just active engineers. I then waited chatting with others, listening to music until the delayed pre-race meeting was held (I was kinda happy for the delay, it meant Diana and Sabrina should arrive in time for the swim start).

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I think I could have moved my cap slightly to the left. The pump is in the way. Must be moved to the back. 0.003s saved on next transition.

Immediately upon putting on the wetsuit, it felt… odd. I thought it was the crumpled arm warmers inside, which I removed. Still felt odd. I haven’t put on the wetsuit since Esprit triathlon last September, and it felt… constrictive. Heavy. Weird. I need to practice a bit more with it until Tremblant… In any case, I was barefoot, shivering and I couldn’t wait to go in the water – which ironically was about 10°C warmer than the air outside. Once we were told we could, I went to warm myself up – and then realized how strong the current was. It was difficult to stay afloat behind the buoys, waiting for the gun. Which went off quite unexpectedly. In any case, roughly 100 yellow swim caps went on with little hesitation. The race was on.

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Hint: I have a yellow swim cap. Seriously, top left with the goggles strap over cap (mistake right there) starting his watch. You can identify me clearly by my aero nose.

What a hectic start. Because of the current, I ended up starting pretty much in the middle of the bunch (picture is misleading – there were a lot of people behind me). Whereas I should have been at the back. Oh well. I ended being kicked, punched, pulled, you name it. At one point, my goggles got kicked pretty hard and water got in. The waters were fairly choppy as well and I drank a fair share of it. I decided to slow down, fix the goggles and at that point I was left alone. Swim went relatively uneventful afterward, but I was still a little nervous and I do not think my improvements of the last few weeks carried over very well, plus the wetsuit seemed to restrict my movements a lot more than I was used to. In the last 250m I calmed down and concentrated on technique a bit more. When I arrived at the end of the swim section, the leaders of the next wave had caught me (and 1-2 had passed me as well). I had wanted to avoid that, but there was nothing I could do. I tapped my watch to mark the end of the swim and switch to transition mode (or so I thought… more on that later) and started the jog to my bike. Moving from a floating position to a jogging position always feels numb, and this was no exception. Couple that with a fairly long jog and removing the wetsuit while you run… I was in a haze. I heard a huge « let’s go Guillaume » which really surprised me – it wasn’t Diana or Sabrina, and I wasn’t wearing my race bib so no one could read my name. I realized afterward that it must be my swim coach – only person that could recognize me in a wetsuit with a swim cap and goggles.

Swim time: 16:04. 2:08/100m. It was better than my swim time last year in Rouyn by more than 3 minutes, but there was no current in Rouyn, so I do not know what my real improvement is. When I passed the timing pad after the swim (16:44) which was about 100m after the swim exit, I was 30/33 in my group. I will improve my swim!

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Run to T1!

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Errr. Where did my stuff go?

Then came T1. I had positioned my bike near the entrance to the bike course (I like to give myself leeway to decide whether I clip my bike shoes or run with them). That was a long run from swim exit. Looking back, this has to be the weirdest and most confused time I spent in transition. Even in Rouyn, where the weather was much worse, or Montréal where the run to my bike was even longer (I think), I didn’t feel that hazy. First, I went to the wrong bike. Then, since I had not worn my wetsuit in a while, removing it felt alien. Sluggish to put on helmet, and I then hesitated a bit to see if I put my socks and arm warmers or not. From the video below, it looks like I’m in no hurry at all. Frankly… I could have shaved a good 15-20s in T1, possibly even more. It might not seem much, but it would have moved me up two spots in rankings.

T1: 3:20. Bad. That bad:

 

Clearly, I am concerned about the speed my competitors are sprinting through T1 and trying my best to catch up to them.

On to the bike. Since I had decided against all warm clothes, I was wondering if I would end up shivering on the bike. It turned out that no, I was not freezing, my toes were fine with just the toe cover and I started mashing the pedals. My target was to hold my effort at about 105% of my FTP (which means about 265W average). We were warned that the course was technical. There were quite a few turns, and since the course was two back and forth loops of 10km (so 4 stretches of 5km, more or less), it meant that there weren’t many long straight stretches of road. And it got windy. I decided that I would not go in aero tuck on the bars and would rather use the drops of my road bike (for the triathlon neophyte: I will not ride with my arms stretched in front on those little bars and I will use the curved handles on the road bike). I didn’t want to fight the bike, and wind + driving with my elbows didn’t appeal to me. I think it ended up being a wise decision, although I realized I need to practice cornering. There were a few slow corners, the 180° turnaround slowed me down as well and once or twice there were slower people riding too wide (one had to be honked by an official to move over), but otherwise I am extremely satisfied with my bike split.

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Meep meep.

Bike time: 33:54. 35.4km/h. Being a technical course, I am extremely happy with this and I hit my power target. When I hit the timing pad (which was slightly after getting off the bike), I had moved into 19/33, and my bike split was 9/33 in my group (and that is from official splits, and it includes me fooling around in T1 – so probably 7 or 8th in reality).

Transition 2. For those familiar with T2, it actually starts about 500m from the disembarkation line. You undo your shoes while biking (it’s velcro, it’s easy), remove your feet from the shoes, place them on top of shoes, continue pedaling and then easily jump off from the bike and run to your transition spot with your bike. That, unfortunately, didn’t go as planned. I had decided to put toe covers on my shoes, and that made undoing my left shoe a pain… literally. I fiddled for to long in a weird position. That and the cold weather made my left calf cramp. Solid cramp, the kind where you can visually see your muscle contracted in a very twisted way. In any case, I had to shake off the cramp (it subsided slightly before I got off the bike) but I didn’t manage to take my feet off the shoes before, so it ended up being a bit on the slow side because I didn’t want to trigger back the cramp. It ended up being ok and I didn’t lose much time.

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This is right where I cramped. My shoes are untied and I was trying my best to fake a smile for the camera while being in total pain.

T2: 1:50. Fine

At this point I start the run, and I look at my watch to keep a killer pace. And my screen looks weird. It’s showing a xx/100m pace. It’s around there I realized I have no clue how the triathlon mode works on my watch and it has been recording my whole activity as an open water swim. BLEH.

Diana was right. It’s like running naked. I hate it. I have no clue how fast I’m going, how slow. I’m passing people left and right and not many are passing me, so I’m guessing I’m doing ok… But I have no clue. So I just run as fast as I can, sprint a bit at the finish line and with that, my sprint triathlon is finished.

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Complete euphoria.

Run time: 20:49. 4:10/km. Very good. What I could salvage from my watch told me I actually ran a bit faster (difference being the location of the timing pads). I have a feeling if my watch had worked properly, I might have pushed it a bit and shaved an extra minute. Frankly, I thought I was running at 4:30/km and told myself that’s fine, pushing yourself won’t change much. But there is big mental boost by going under 4:00/km, and I think I could have done it, had I known. Oh well, lesson learned – RTFM and learn how the watch works. Run was 9th best in my age group, and that moved me up again in the rankings.

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The groupies can’t get their hands off me! I bet she won’t wash that glove, ever.

Overall, I finished at 1:15:57. 113/217 male, 17/32 M40-44. I’m fairly happy with this. It’s a work in progress. I know that fixing some easy steps (T1…) would shave me a minute, and the run might have shaved another one…

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Picture time with members of my fan club.

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Sabrina inspecting the bling bling.

For me, every May will mark my yearly progression update, as it is pretty much in May 2013 that I started getting into some kind of decent physical fitness. Look for another update soon this week for musings on what has happened in those last two years.

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